Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Master of the Zombie Apocalypse

January 7, 2013

Disclaimer: if you have an intense fear of your mortality you might want to pass on this post. 

 

   

The public’s fascination with zombies never ceases to amaze me. TV shows like Zombie Hunters, Dead Set and Zombie Apocalypse receive huge ratings. And I know half a dozen bloggers who critique episodes of The Walking Dead with the seriousness of English majors analyzing Milton’s Paradise Lost.

    

I do not share this attraction for the “living dead.” Would someone please explain to me why zombies are always hungrier than stoned college kids? What’s the point of being dead if you need to spend all your time searching for live humans to snack on? Do zombies put on weight from eating the living? Are there Jenny Craigs for Zombies, aerobic classes for individuals with limbs that tend to fall off? Where did this morbid attraction with the living dead come from? Did Ivan Albright, Michelangelo of the Zombie Apocalypse, have anything to do with it?

    

Ivan Albright is not a household name but he’s well known in the art community. He stood out in the late twenties as an American painter working in a style that would eventually be dubbed Magic Realism. His paintings were meticulous; he used hundreds of brushes, some with only a single hair in them, and his canvases often took years to complete. But what really caught the public’s eye when Albright began exhibiting was the artist’s penchant for depicting people as if they’d been dead for several weeks. Standing before an Albright painting it’s hard not to hold your breath, so strong is the putrid sensation of decay, the rancid reek of the grave.

    

It’s beyond me how Albright convinced people to sit for portraits, but he did. A person would need a well-insulated ego to endure such a graphic, ceremonial, autopsy. My fragile ego couldn’t handle it. Albright’s masterpiece, Into The World There Came a Soul Called Ida was painted in 1929/30. Ida’s outfit would be considered racy in the 1920, and the items on her vanity (the money) suggest she might be a prostitute. She stares into her hand mirror with the enthusiasm of a corpse. Whatever her situation, Ida is long past her prime, as are the carpet, her clothes and the dying flowers in the bud vase depicted in this vanitas—artistic exploration of the fleetingness of life.

 

    

 

 

In 1943 Albright was commissioned to create the title painting for the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the story of a corrupt villain who remains forever young while his portrait, hidden away in his attic, putrefies with age and degeneracy. Hollywood wouldn’t permit the artist to sweat over this picture for years (as was his custom) and the painting had to be reworked to reflect the main character’s moral corruption during filming. The artist wasn’t particularly happy with the result, but today Albright’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is proudly hung in The Art institute of Chicago.

 

    

 

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Ivan Albright I suggest you Google him and explore his work. Zombie lovers should feel a strong kinship with him. Those of us who choose to ridicule the notion of the “living dead” will learn all we need to know about the impermanence of life while watching our faces age in bathroom mirrors.

    

 

    



Comments

21 Comments
Egads- he certainly was talented, but flattery was not in his arsenal. I would love to know what drove him. I don't get the zombie thing either. Some of my running friends wanted me to enter a Zombie race with them, where all the runners dress like zombies and then run. A little weird...
By: Shelly on January 7, 2013
I can't imagine anyone who'd want to hang up those kind of portraits in their living room or bathroom. I've never cared much for zombies either. They're so limited. They either shamble around (George Romero version) or run around (28 Days Later version) and eat people and that's about it. Most every zombie story, including The Walking Dead, focuses more on the living humans who inevitably are worse than their undead counterparts. That's why I've never written a real zombie story, just one flash fiction piece.
By: PT Dilloway on January 7, 2013
I have never, ever understood zombie mania. I also appreciate anyone's talents even if I don't like the subject matter or gut reaction to the depiction. I saw an Albright piece here in a traveling exhibit. While I can say I saw the genius, I wasn't entralled with the execution. But then what do I know. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on January 7, 2013
This type of thing is not my cup of tea and I have absolutely no interest in reading about it or hanging one of these awful pieces where I have to look at it often. I don't even find any brilliance in his work. Give me some Monet thankyouverymuch. Have a terrific day. ;)
By: Comedy Plus on January 7, 2013
Maybe Albrights style was so meticulous that by the time he was finished that is what his subjects looked like. Always an interesting lesson in Art History from the former professor.
By: Cranky Old Man on January 7, 2013
Seriously reconsidering the name Dorian at this point ;) I don't know what the obsession is with zombies. I myself just look forward to the chance at taking off a couple of zombie heads with shovels or what nots! Happy New Year my friend!!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on January 7, 2013
My kids would like the paintings (they know the Zombie Survival Guide inside out), but i'll live with what i see in the mirror, thank you.
By: mimi on January 7, 2013
I generally don't pay attention to zombie stuff (although Mike & I watched part of some Vincent Price zombie film once - that was interesting), but my dad & I were talking about them just last night on our weekly call! He was amused about my Facebook status about thinking the Waxvac commercials were at least more tolerable than the catheter ones - & then he said that he'd be afraid to use the Waxvac because it looked like it might suck your brains out of your head. And I said that it must be the first sign of the zombie apocolypse!
By: The Bug on January 7, 2013
No, zombies and other such stuff hold zero interest for me. Don't want to look at it, read about it, or watch it on the large or small screen. I'm much too straight laced and pragmatic to give it any thought. Sorry. S
By: scott park on January 7, 2013
i'm with you on this one. i fail to see the attraction. same with vampires. every other book i catalogue lately is about vampires etc. we even have a new genre called paranormal romance. it's very popular.
By: fran on January 7, 2013
I, too, question the hoopla surrounding zombies and their apocalypse. The only zombie item I can recommend is Zombieland, because I am a Woody Harrelson fan, and that movie was a comedy.
By: Val on January 7, 2013
Another one who doesn't know anything about zombies, except when I once mentioned that I bought pink Himalayan salt crystals at Trader Joes, somebody told me to be careful, those were suspected of causing the first stage of the zombie apocalypse. So every time I grind some of the crystals onto my scrambled eggs, I carefully watch my face in the mirror afterwards. :-)
By: Pixel Peeper on January 7, 2013
I don't do zombies, either--but those Dorian Gray paintings are fascinating!!
By: fishducky on January 8, 2013
I don't get this current fascination to zombies either. Interesting information about Albright. Not only the fact he was so meticulous that it took him years to do a painting but the subject matter, as well. Never have I heard of someone saying they want a picture that portrays putrid rotting flesh. While it seems morbid to me, obviously others would be "into" them.
By: Cheryl P. on January 8, 2013
I was not aware of Albright. Not the kind of piece I'd want hanging in the house, but fascinating and obviously rendered in a meticulous way. Thanks for an informative and fascinating post.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 8, 2013
I confess, I love zombie stuff. I'm not even sure why, but I do. One of my favorite shows is the Walking Dead. But, having said that, I would never, ever hang paintings like that in my house. Way too horrific for constant viewing.
By: Kianwi on January 8, 2013
I did hear a school of thought that suggested that around the time of the economic collapse popular culture turned from vampirism to the walking dead - which begs the question of what that says about society Someone put out a series of books taking old classics and inserting zombies - the most famous of which being Pride And Prejudice And Zombies - "A zombie in posession of brains is in need of more brains" I suspect it to be terrible
By: dont feed the pixies on January 9, 2013
Maybe his portraits looked like dead people is because they were. Who else would sit for so long but a dead person? Was he a grave robber, bought cadavers, or did he really have live clients that posed for months?
By: joeinvegas on January 9, 2013
I had to see what all the hoopla was about with The Walking Dead. If you have a truly sick sense of humor (which apparently I do), this is a very funny program. I am constantly amazed that people that dumb have survived the zombie apocalypse in the first place--LOL! Maybe people like them because since they're already dead you don't have to feel badly when they are killed--in gruesome and bloody fashion. [Why would dead people have any blood to splatter in the first place--she chuckles. Told you I can have quite a sick sense of humor.] But the artwork. Gross! I only want fleeting views of walking zombies. Staring at me from a wall every day--no thanks. And I can attest to the fact that they have a very dead quality to them because I watch The Walking Dead--ROFL! ;)
By: Rita McGregor on January 10, 2013
ewwwww wouldn't want to have a portrait of me self done by this dude! I'm too vain!
By: Kathe W. on January 10, 2013
I will be one of the few to admit that I love the zombie mania. I have no idea why, but I do. I even went to a zombie walk, which was great. As for why they have to eat the flesh of the living, it depends upon which zombie genre you are following. The '28 Days Later' zombies were just crazy insane and attacked anything that got their attention. It wasn't so much about eating. The 'Night of the Living Dead' zombies feel an intense pain. They can actually feel their bodies decomposing and the intake of living brain tissue temporarily takes the pain away. I am one of those weird people who would hang those pictures in my house. I love art that makes people ask about it. I then get to tell a story and it gets a definite reaction.
By: Brett Minor - Transformed Nonconformist on January 13, 2013

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