Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monster Museum


It's a foggy, cold Sunday afternoon in November--in Norway, no less. Brrr--good to settle down in my library and read a few stories in this old book, Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum. Got the little table lamp on--certainly not enough light coming in through the windows. All nature is like a dark cave, or a mineshaft (call it a mindshaft.) 

This book has been fondly engrained into my memory, since childhood days, when I checked it out of my school's library. Clearly, the illustrations were what made it special, so uncanny. I ordered this book not too long ago, when I learned about it from fellow bloggers, similarly impressed by it. It seemed to be a popular book for libraries back in the day (Twelve Shuddery Stories for Daring Young Readers), so the tome is easily bought used for a few dollars. It was published in 1965, my own "publishing date."
The above illustration, for the story Slime, may be my favorite.  Earl E. Mayan was a classic illustrator, master of many pulp and mainstream magazine covers. But the bizarre collage/expressionist drawings for this book are unique, unlike anything else he did. One little addition to the mystery of this illustration is that his signature is upside-down. All the other plates in the book are upright. Was this an oversight, or an editor's belief that the work functioned better? As published the grimacing heads are upright, but the gravity of the drawing is defied, drips running upward. If seen as Mayan intended, the effect would have been much different, the victims fully immured within the depth of a monstrous entity with cat-like eyes. 

It's interesting that the book was envisioned as something for young readers.  Several of the tales have a humorous, or gallows humor bent, so perhaps that qualified. Actually, they are simply a variety of good tales reprinted from various horror and sci-fi publications of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It would be interesting to see what kids would think of this volume these days. Would it make a strong impression on daring young readers?

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