7.10.2012

King's Highway pt. 20: Gargoyles

I hadn't planned on covering Stephen King's 1988 coffee-table-book collaboration with F-Stop Fitzgerald (instantly one of my all-time favorite pseudonyms) Nightmares in the Sky. I'd read about it in The SK Companion (remember that one?) but hadn't thought about tracking it down. But, I found it on eBay for $2.99 while looking around for Danse Macabre ( which I found/ won for $.99, not bad), and it arrived at the homestead last night. Quick read (only 35 pages of text, shared with photographs) and then a hundred or so photographs of gargoyles around New York City. (Best street for gargoyles-viewing, according to editor extraordinaire Bill Thompson? 81st Avenue.)

More on the 81st gargoyles here.
While scouring the internet for photos/ supplemental info, I came across this entry from Bryant Burnette's excellent King-overview series "Ramblings of a Honk Mahfah." Which, while a great read, made me think twice about doing this entry. Seems little point in my doing one when this one's already fully-formed and comprehensive enough, so I'll just link to it (and I recommend his blog in general - hours of great reading in there) and add few little things.

I've always been fascinated with gargoyles.

No, not the cartoon from the 1990s. Though Michael "Worf" Dorn provided a voice for one of them, if memory serves.
Growing up in Germany, gargoyle-sighting was a near-daily activity while on the bus or on a field trip. And once a year, our elementary school would pour into the auditorium to be bored to tears by this art historian who would lecture us for four hours... a lecture I'd love to attend as an adult, but whose idea was it to put a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds in a theater and have a staid German professor tell us all about the evolution of architecture and light and shadow in Rembrandt, etc.? My friend Scott and I always tried to pay attention - mainly because we both thought of ourselves as friends of the arts, not like those other philistines - but it was too much even for us. Anyway - I recall one year, I think it must have been 1985, when he went on and on about gargoyles and showed us a gazillion pictures, and that might have been the only time he held our collective attention for longer than 20 minutes. (If the lecture had been re-branded "MONSTER STATUES!" maybe we'd have all gone along with it more)

Here is some technical info about them, for those of you who enjoy such things:

"Although still architecturally and artistically intriguing, gargoyles can be traced back 4,000 years to Egypt, Rome and Greece when the stone creatures were “read” by the illiterate public. A true gargoyle is a waterspout while a carved creature that does not act as a drainpipe is technically a grotesque. Many cultures throughout history have created fantastically fierce gargoyle sculptures that stir our imaginations, as the stone creatures stirred the creativity and imaginations of their sculptors. Gargoyles on churches were not decorative but instructional with the intent to “scare the hell” of out the public.

There was no longer any practical need for gargoyles after drainpipes were introduced in the 16th century, but architects, builders, and sculptors continued to incorporate gargoyles into their designs. Gargoyles were then used for symbolic, spiritual, decorative or whimsical purposes. Gargoyles stand guard, scaring off evil spirits. Myth has it that gargoyles come alive at night, protecting people as they sleep. These architectural nightmares in the sky are watching you even when you don’t see them."


King's essay for this (the above is not from it, by the by, just something I found on the web) refers to the made-for-tv movie Gargoyles, which I've never seen but now am very curious to watch. (As my friend Jeff puts it, "I can't argue with the assertion of it being the best made-for-TV horror film ever made...It's the best of the '70s, in my opinion.")


SK mentions how he and his youngest son Joe (better known these days as Joe Hill, author of numerous acclaimed works (among them, a just-published 2-parter in Esquire, "In the Tall Grass") watched it on his "brand new videocassette recorder" (ah, the 70s and 80s!) and how his son had nightmares, then immediately wanted to watch it again and again. I can relate - that was my (non-personal, obviously) experience  growing up with Joe's Dad, myself!

I was amused that one of the Netflix reviewers seemed unaware of who Bernie Casey is/was. Then, I felt old.
SK didn't have any involvement in this movie, by the way - just one he (and his son) like to watch
There's a fun overview of the movie here.

There's not much more to say about this one. I have to agree with Bryant's take on it, which is while it's a nice one to have, it's not essential. If you're a King collector, you likely have it already; if not, you're not missing too much, especially in these days of Google Image Searches.

Speaking of, this is a fun site for the 'Goyles of New York.

I'll leave you with a few more images... if you live in New York, take King's advice from his intro/ essay: don't stare at them too long at them. They don't like to be watched. They prefer to do the watching...

This one might be just fiction. Only JM DeMatteis knows for sure...

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kind words, and for the link!

    I've never seen that 1972 movie, either, but (like you) I've been curious about it ever since reading "Nightmares in the Sky." I'll have to check it out one of these days.

    Probably the best gargoyle story I'm aware of comes in "Lover's Vow," the third of the three stories in "Tales from the Darkside: The Movie." It was written by Michael McDowell (whose novel "Candles Burning" was completed by Tabitha King after McDowell's death), and stars James Remar and Rae Dawn Chong. Good stuff; probably the highlight of that movie.

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  2. That is interesting stuff about Tabitha King finishing that McDowell book - I had no idea about that. I saw that Tales from the Darkside movie years and years ago but have to track it down, it's been way too long.

    Thanks for stopping by and please drop by anytime you like. I'm happy to link to your blogs for anything I cover - great stuff over there.

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