Paul Tompkins: Jan. 2012
Paul F. Tompkins presents…
The Fortean Fantasy
Living in Los Angeles, I am privileged to witness time travel on a monthly basis (thedeadauthorspodcast.libsyn.com). H. G. Wells’ time machine was not just a fanciful novelty with which to base a science fiction novel around. No, no. Why, only last week he was discussing Sherlock Holmes, the Cottingley fairies and the untimely death of Houdini with none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (paulftompkins.tumblr.com/post/15317117062/its-elementararianary) I very graciously asked Wells if by chance he would be so kind as to summon forth Charles Fort, but it could not come to pass. Instead, he fished from the great ethereal time stream this rare 1930 essay by Benjamin De Casseres.
[Left: Paul F. Tompkins as H. G. Wells]
Born April 3, 1873, De Casseres put in a decade with the Philadelphia Press before writing regularly for newspapers and magazines in New York. He also authored 22 books (with such titles as I Dance With Nietzsche and The Adventures of an Exile) yet it is lamented that “little is known” of him. None of his books are in print, and the manuscript of his 1,000 page diary, Fantasia Impromptu, languishes in the bowels of the New York Public Library.
A mysterious admirer of De Casseres tells us that “no-one has heard of Benjamin DeCasseres — he was greatly admired by many (including Jack London, Clark Ashton Smith, H.L. Mencken, James Huneker, Thomas Hardy, Charles Fort and Ayn Rand) but was something of a cult back between 1915-‘45. Ahead of his time, he wrote for posterity, but his time has not yet come.” Although Fort biographer Jim Steinmeyer referred to De Casseres as a “socialist,” he was in fact a “Nietzschean individualist,” something akin to Emerson’s Luciferian younger brother. The biographical note from his work, Second Book of Modern Verse, tells us that “… he is poet, essayist, critic, and satirist. As a poet his best-known work is in The Shadow-Eater, 1915.” What we do know, and what is relevant for our purposes here, is that he was a contemporary, friend and correspondent of Charles Hoy Fort. Here, for the first time, is his essay for the April 1930 issue of The Thinker, titled “The Fortean Fantasy.”
The Fortean Fantasy
To each one his illusion! To each one his private yarn!
Of them all, Charles Fort’s curious cosmology, unshackled by convention, routine or repetition, striding from
planet to planet in the seven-league boots of intuitive apprehension, is perhaps the most amazing.
by Benjamin De Casseres