Recently I came across an interesting anthology of prose, poetry and short fiction by the name Melpomene (ed. Gwendolyn Taunton). Firstly Melpomene is notable for being a themed anthology dealing with the following styles: French Decadent poetry, Symbolism/Surrealism and the French poetry of the Fin de siècle. Moreover the work deals with the darker side of existence, taking its name from Melpomene, the ancient Greek Muse of Tragedy. This alone is enough to make it unique.
The book is also beautifully laid out with amazing typography, illustrations, ornate page borders, and is broken into four thematic chapters – Liber Veneficium (Book of Magic), Liber Maeroris (Book of Sorrow),Liber Fatum (Book of Fate), and Liber Mortuorum (Book of Death). The overall tone and aesthetic of the book does great justice to the poets who inspired it and the influence of poets such as Baudelaire and Rimbaud is obvious.
There are some extremely stylised works within this book that are highly individual and unique. I am a very hard person to impress with literature, but there are a few writers within this book who are so radically different in terms of style, themes and overall aesthetic that they cannot be dismissed for what they are –the literary fore runners of a new style that is yet to be named. I am not exaggerating here; there are very few fiction writers I enjoy outside of classic authors – I am a very harsh critic, and I hope that you will believe my review for it is earnest. Some of the new writers featured in this book are destined to make big waves in the world of literature.
Because it is a themed anthology, Melpomene also contains pieces by famous authors such as Poe, Blake, Baudelaire and Verlaine to name but a few. This adds to the overall tone of the book, which is not one of melancholy but rather a very dark beauty which shines with a life and fire of its own.
If you enjoy French writers such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Verlaine, you will very much enjoy Melpomene for the writers have remained true to their roots and have paid a worthy tribute to the genre that inspired them.