The Vampyres Of New York

A NOVEL

by

R.E. Prindle

A Prospectus

 

I’ve been searching around for a more discursive format for a while now;  I think I’ve finally found one.  I have been a great admirer of the German Romantic writer E. T. A. Hoffmann for several decades now.  He has been described as a prolific author of twenty volumes in German although most of that remains untranslated.  Mostly there are collection of twenty or so from his tales.

Hoffmann was at one time very famous.  The opera Tales Of Hoffman by Offenbach is based on his stories perpetuating his name better than he could himself.  Then I got wind of a two volume work (a thousand pages) called The Serapion Brethren.  On the off chance that it was available I searched specifically for the title on Amazon as it didn’t come up under the author’s name.  And, lo! it turned up from some hidden corner of that giant book store.  Why it isn’t up front with the various collections is beyond me.  Having obtained my copy I am now half way through it.  A fabulous book.

I don’t think Hoffman fans are legion but I know there are a lot of us; if any of them haven’t learned of the existence of The Serapion Brethren the way is now clear, two volumes, less than fifty dollars on Amazon.  Not my point but I pass the info on.

The format Hoffman uses is perfect for what I want to do.  The idea of The Brethren is that a group of writers (artists) get together to discuss their stories written according to a serapiontic point of view.  Thus Hoffmann presents a couple dozen of his amazing stories within a framework of these meetings and discussions.

Hoffmann was an amazing psychologist far far ahead of his times.  In a generation since the advent of Anton Mesmer’s discovery of the unconscious, while Mesmer was still living, Hoffman takes psychology to a level such as Sigmund Freud nearly a hundred years on was able to borrow from it wholesale.  As Freud refers to Hoffmann by name it is certain that he read him while Freud a Jew brought up within German culture had access to all twenty volumes of his work.  Hoffmann was current of psychological matters while making his own contributions.  He refers to the Frenchman Phillipe Pinel of Paris’ Salpetriere Insane Asylum.  Pinel was the first to remove the fetters with which inmates were chained thus beginning a more human and understanding treatment of inmate.  Hoffmann himself visited insane asylums for study and reflection.

It was Pinel who first came up with the idea that the insane were afflicted with a Fixed Idea, the Idee Fixe of Pierre Janet who worked at the Salpetriere with the great Jean Martin Charcot in the last third of the nineteenth century.  Freud also picked up on the notion incorporating it into his corpus as ‘fixation’ or reminiscences.

Hoffmann’s stories are examinations of various fixed ideas or phantoms.  And what stories.  Mademoiselle Scuderi is one of the greatest stories ever written.  When I say stories, these are mainly novellas not short stories.  They are mostly 50 to 100 pages thus giving the imagination greater latitude with superior character development.

Hoffman himself was a very accomplished individual.  His first longing was to be a great composer hence music motifs abound.  Teaming up with La Motte Fouque, another great German Romantic write he wrote the music to Fouque’s great novella Undine while Fouque wrote the libretto.  Writing mainly after 1809 to about 1822 Hoffman was close in time to the great composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, Handel and others being very familiar with their work while being able to discuss it knowingly as a composer himself and in his early career a director of opera houses.  His knowledge of European music and art from its origins is encyclopedic.  He provides names you have never heard of that will send you scurrying to the internet to possibly find more info, view the pictures on images.

This is rich stuff for any artist/litterateur or musician.  Don’t delay, enrich your life today.

Thus in my using Hoffmann’s format I hope it will be possible to examine and interrelate disparate historical elements into a unified whole relating to today’s events.  While Hoffmann’s work is mainly fiction I intend to write accurate history that reads like fiction.  Hoffman himself fictionalizes certain stories in a historical manner.

For instance his terrific story The Singers’ Contest deals with a historical or semi-historical event in thirteenth century Germany between various historical Master Singers including Wolfram von Eschenbach who wrote the great German version of the story of Percival.

As a Romantic in reaction to the Enlightenment Hoffmann blends the fantastic or spiritual with scientific reality.  Indeed that is the point of his writing, identifying the religious side of the mind from the real or scientific.  It is that aspect of his writing that attracts me.

He opens his treatise with the story of a contemporary mad monk Serapion who thought that he was Saint Anthony living in the Theban desert while actually being in Germany.  Serapion insisted that he was in the Theban desert.  Hoffmann was very sympathetic insisting that following his inner wishful thinking or delusion ‘Saint Serapion’ actually was who he believed and was actually living in the Theban desert.

Of course as Serapion was merely successful in denying reality, a quite common occurrence as Hoffmann will show, in his insane condition he was neither the saint nor in the Theban desert; however he was successfully living the saint’s life as a hermit in a wilderness.  This conflict fascinates Hoffmann and it fascinates me.  I find that in our own society people, society’s leaders, are living fixed ideas that have little or no relation to reality while trying to impose these fixed ideas on the entire population of the world.  In other words as in Edgar Allan Poe’s great story, itself based on Hoffmann, the inmates are in control of the asylum.  Thus Poe’s story The System Of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.

As I envision my work it will deal with the problems caused by inner wishful thinking as contrasted with reality.  While the New York City of the Dylan period will be the central focus I see the work as wider ranging but closely related to the theme of Bob Dylan and the Vampyres Of New York.

As I envision it the work will be quite long and will be posted in chapters and sections as it is written.  I have already dealt with most of the issues as posted on I, Dynamo and Contemporary Notes so that my progress should be steady and relatively quick.  I expect to post one to two chapters or sections per month.  Feel free to make comments or suggestions.

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