James Branch Cabell
Taboo (1921) is a comic fantasy novel by James Branch Cabell. Set in a world where history and fantasy collide, where a lowly pawnbroker can encounter monsters, gods, and devils, Taboo is a follow up to Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, which was the subject of an obscenity trial pursued by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. In 1923, after winning his case, Cabell made sure to immortalize the event with a revised edition featuring a "lost" chapter where Jurgen is persecuted for his writing by grotesque Philistines. In Taboo, one work in a series of novels, essays, and poems known as the Biography of the Life of Manuel, Cabell explores the cultural environment that led to his work's persecution, inventing a whole world in which to air his grievances. "Since time's beginning, every age has had its literary taboos, selecting certain things-more or less arbitrarily, but usually some natural function-as the things which must not be written about. To violate any such taboo so long as it stays prevalent is to be 'indecent': and that seems absolutely all there is to say concerning this topic, apart from furnishing some impressive historical illustration..." While most authors in the midst of an obscenity trial would be content to let their lawyer do the talking, James Branch Cabell took the opportunity to reflect on the matter in the only way he knew how. In this work, written in the style of medieval history, Cabell tells the story of Philistia, a country dedicated to the persecution of all manner of ill-defined vice and taboo. Bold and satirical, this thinly veiled critique of his own, high-minded critics is essential to understanding Cabell's vision of art. Cabell's work has long been described as escapist, his novels and stories derided as fantastic and obsessive recreations of a world lost long ago. To read Taboo, however, is to understand that the issues therein-the struggle for power, the unspoken distance between men and women-were vastly important not only at the time of its publication, but in our own, divisive world. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of James Branch Cabell's Taboo is a classic of fantasy and romance reimagined for modern readers.
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