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Untermeyer, Louis

Entry updated 22 June 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1885-1977) US author, poet, critic and prolific anthologist. He is of genre interest for his Parody volume Heavens (coll 1922), whose framing device is an Afterlife fantasy [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in which the unnamed protagonist is offered a choice of 976 heavens including a number of "Literary Realms" themed for particular authors. Of the five actually depicted, "The Heaven of Queer Stars" spoofs G K Chesterton, whose Father Brown-like spokesman scores endless pseudo-brilliant debating points against a Mephistophelian opponent reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw; "The Heaven of the Time Machine" targets H G Wells, with a trip via Time Machine from a wonderful and hygienic but somehow still imperfect twenty-first century to the year 5,320,506, where Posthumans continue to deplore the present day and yearn for future Utopia; and "The Heaven Above Storysende" acutely mocks the mannerisms and literary devices of James Branch Cabell. Successful parody requires some affection for the victim: in real life, Untermeyer enthusiastically championed Cabell and wrote an introduction to the 1922 reissue of the latter's Gallantry (coll 1907). Heavens also includes a number of pastiches of well-known poets and their purported reactions to the Theory of Relativity.

Other works by Untermeyer which contain elements of Fantastika include The Donkey of God and Other Stories (coll 1932), comprising eight stories and invented legends set in regions of Italy, and several retellings of old tales for younger readers, such as Aesop's Fables (coll 1965 chap). [DRL]

Louis Untermeyer

born New York: 1 October 1885

died Newtown, Connecticut: 18 December 1977

works (highly selected)

  • Heavens (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) [coll: hb/C Bertram Hartman]
  • The Donkey of God and Other Stories (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932) [coll: illus/James Macdonald: hb/]
    • The Donkey of God (Berkeley, California: Lederer, Street and Zeus, 1951) [story: chap: from the above: pb/]
  • Aesop's Fables (New York: Golden Press, 1965) [coll: chap: selected and adapted by Untermeyer: illus/hb/Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen]


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