Literature is perhaps the most intimate of all artforms. Most arts we bare witness to. Films, theater, painting and even music has the tendency to wash over us, sweeping us up in its emotional and formal movements and depositing us back on the ground again, changed a little maybe, but right back where we began.
Literature is different. Or, it can be. Because while other arts exist in the world, waiting to interacted with, literature only exists in your mind – or in the very best cases, inside that harder to reach internal fifth dimension called the imagination.
The page is not the art. The page is only a conduit. It’s only when we string the pages together, unlocking the form word by word and sentence by sentence like a sculptor chipping away at a block of marble to reveal the form beneath, that the art actually comes to life.
Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga is a perfect example. This is a book series so wonderfully strange, so overflowing with the wild and weird and savage and fantastic that it lives in the imagination years after setting down the last in the series.
These books are the kinds of treasures that you find at garage sales, Goodwills and dust-choked used book stores. Their covers emblazoned with incredible art work and their pages yellowed by time and too many owners.
Elric is the Albino Prince of Melnibone, an island located within the Young Kingdoms. For centuries the callous and cruel Melnibonéans ruled the continents, flying on dragons and fighting with unparalleled ferocity. Elric, born weak and melancholy rejects his people, preferring instead to wander across the continent, getting into adventures accompanied always by his Black Sword Stormbringer, a dreaded weapon that feeds on souls and brings Elric more strength and power with each body it shears in half.
The Young Kingdoms are filled with gods and monsters, wizards and mercenaries. The landscapes are brutal, grim and eerie. And Moorcock takes us on a tour of his world with a kind fantastic gusto and psychedelic abandon that’s both mind bending and awe inspiring.
If you’ve never walked with the Weird of the White Wolf or sailed on the Seas of Fate, cast-off whenever you get a chance. Series like this one are few and far between, and worth every turn of the page, every chip of marble.