Weekend links 497

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Poster by Zdenek Ziegler for Roma (1972), a film by Federico Fellini.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a short history of Straight to Hell, a long-running fanzine launched by Boyd McDonald in 1971 dedicated to true stories of men having sex with other men. The post gives an idea of the contents but for a deep dive I’d suggest Meat (1994) at the Internet Archive, a collection of the best of the early editions of STH. Related: “Straight to Hell was an immensely popular underground publication. John Waters, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Mapplethorpe were fans; Gore Vidal called it ‘one of the best radical papers in the country.'” Erin Sheehy on Boyd McDonald’s determination to kick against the pricks.

• RIP psychedelic voyager and spiritual guide Richard Alpert/(Baba) Ram Dass. The Alpert/Ram Dass bibliography includes The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964), an acid-trip manual written in collaboration with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner from which John Lennon borrowed lines for the lyrics of Tomorrow Never Knows. But the most celebrated Ram Dass volume is Be Here Now (1971), a fixture of countless hippy bookshelves whose first editions were all handmade.

• “An Einstein among Neanderthals”: the tragic prince of LA counterculture. Gabriel Szatan talks to David Lynch, Devo and others about the eccentric songwriter, performer and voice of Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, Peter Ivers.

• For the forthcoming centenary of Federico Fellini’s birth Stephen Puddicombe offers suggestions for where to begin with the director’s “exuberant extravaganzas”. Related: Samuel Wigley on 8½ films inspired by .

• “I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and entering his apartment was like crossing into another dimension.” Collin Miller explores the Chelsea Hotel.

• “More green tea, professor?” The haunted academic, a reading list by Peter Meinertzhagen. Related: Our Haunted Year: 2019 by Swan River Press.

• “30 July, Yorkshire. Thunder, which is somehow old-fashioned.” Alan Bennett’s 2019 diary.

• More acid trips: Joan Harvey on the resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs.

• At Lithub: Werner Herzog’s prose script for Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Tief gesunken, a new recording by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

In Heaven (1979) by Tuxedomoon | Die Nacht Der Himmel (1979) by Popol Vuh | Roma (1981) by Steve Lacy

Foiled at last

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I’ve already written about the design for this story collection from Swan River Press but the gradient layout does nothing to convey the splendour of the foil-embossed printing. In the past when I’d suggested to publishers that foil printing might be an option the idea was always turned down for reasons of cost. My original intention for The Far Tower was for the design to be printed in a metallic ink so it might resemble the gold-on-green cover of the Yeats book which was the model for this volume. Metallic inks don’t always work too well, however, especially on a darkish background, so I said to Swan River “Or we could do it in gold foil…” To my surprise and delight they said “Why not?” So here’s the result. A great end to the year. The book is available here.

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And back in October, I posted what everyone thought at the time was the final design for Of Mice and Minestrone, a new book of Hap and Leonard stories by Joe R Lansdale. The Hap and Leonard books are popular works (there was a TV series based on them a while back) so they’re subject to the demands of the marketplace which in this case required a cover more in line with the red/white/black arrangement of some of Lansdale’s related titles. I’d already done most of this as an additional draft during the work on the first design so the reworking wasn’t too time-consuming. The rodent in the soup is more visible in this version which is another point in its favour. Of Mice and Minestrone will be published by Tachyon in May next year.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Far Tower: Stories for WB Yeats
Of Mice and Minestrone

Weekend links 496

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Fahrenheit 451 (1966) poster by György Kemény.

• “The novel is constantly assailed by people wanting to conscript it to their own ends. (Other art forms are not similarly burdened; someone yelling ‘What about global warming?’ between numbers at a Keith Jarrett concert would be recognized to have made a category error.)” Jonathan Clarke on the demands that literature should nurture empathy.

• The first three features by Alejandro Jodorowsky—Fando y Lis (1968), El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973)—return to Britain’s cinema screens in January (well…two of them return; I’m not sure that Fando y Lis has ever been shown in cinemas over here). All three films will be given overdue blu-ray releases by Arrow in March.

• “What distinguishes Oulipo from other language games, is that its methods have to be capable of producing valid literary results.” Tony White reviews The Penguin Book of Oulipo: Queneau, Perec, Calvino and the Adventure of Form, edited by Philip Terry.

But from a present-day perspective, it is also remarkable the extent to which cafés, busy conduits for knowledge and sentiment, resembled later digitally connected systems. The larger establishments offered not just a huge selection of newspapers, domestic and foreign, but also reference material—maps, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, language lexicons, address books—for writers struggling with their research, or merely trying to settle an argument. The combination of hard facts and caffeinated opinion firing through the steamy analogue ether constituted a local area network of extraordinary reach. In the pre-digital era, the Viennese café offered the greatest possible concentration of current knowledge—for the price of a mélange.

From the Strange Flowers guide to Vienna, part 2

• “People like Edmund Wilson and Isaiah Berlin, they have to love Zhivago to prove that good writing can come out of Soviet Russia. They ignore that it is really a bad book.” Jennifer Wilson on Vladimir Nabokov’s fighting spirit.

• Master animator Richard Williams died in August so here again is the exceptional adaptation of A Christmas Carol made by his studio in 1971.

• Hearing a person: Annea Lockwood remembers her partner, composer Ruth Anderson, whose death was announced last week.

• The London Review of Books has relaunched its website. The paywall is currently down until mid-January so dig in.

Live In Paris by Pharoah Sanders, a previously unreleased ORTF concert recording from 1975.

• Unrising sun: Amos Chapple’s photographs of the polar nights of Murmansk.

Mary McNamara on the rescuing of 200 historic Hollywood backdrops.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 623 by Aida.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sandy Dennis Day.

The Desert Is A Circle (1970) by Shades Of Joy | The Desert Is A Circle (1971) by Paul Horn | Holy Mountain (1994) by Axiom Ambient

Shades of Darkness

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The end of the year in Britain is as much a time for ghost stories as the end of October, and this is one Christmas tradition (one of the few…) that I’ve always been happy to support. In recent years all of the best of the British TV ghost stories have appeared on DVD, along with some of the minor ones, but exceptions remain. Shades of Darkness was a series of hour-long supernatural dramas made by Granada TV in the 1980s, and so far seems to have only appeared on disc as a now-deleted Region 1 set.

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The series comprised two short seasons in 1983 and 1986, and dates from the period when Granada was in serious competition with the BBC for well-crafted period drama. Granada’s flagship production was the long-running Sherlock Holmes series, an attempt to film all the Holmes stories with Jeremy Brett in the lead, a mostly successful endeavour that was only compromised at the end by Brett’s failing health. Shades of Darkness shares with the Holmes adaptations some of the same production team (producer June Wyndham Davies and director Peter Hammond) together with well-chosen rural locations in damp and autumnal Lancashire and Cheshire.

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I’d only seen one of these films before, the adaptation by Ken Taylor of Walter de la Mare’s most anthologised story, Seaton’s Aunt. The story is a good choice for a series where the human drama is given as much space as the supernatural although the film doesn’t capture the subtleties or the insidious horror of de la Mare’s best writing. (The copy at YouTube is also blighted with Norwegian subtitles throughout.) I doubt that any adaptation of Seaton’s Aunt could satisfy me but it’s good to see Mary Morris in one of her last roles as poor Seaton’s malign and domineering guardian.

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More successful are Afterward by Edith Wharton, another popular entry in ghost-story collections, and The Maze by CHB Kitchin in which Francesca Annis’s post-war housewife is tormented by memories of a dead lover. Kitchin’s story is an odd inclusion among the familiar tales, and I wonder how it came to be chosen when it doesn’t seem to be subject to the same republication as the others. MR James biographer Michael Cox is credited as an executive producer on some of the films in the series, which suggests he may have advised on the story selections, but not on The Maze. Kitchin was a writer best known for his detective novels but he’s received more attention in recent years for a number of novels with gay themes. The Maze includes a character coded as gay who isn’t treated as an outright villain, an unusual detail in a story first published in 1954.

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Elsewhere, Hugh Grant has an early role in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover, and there are three adaptations by Alan Plater, one of which, LP Hartley’s Feet Foremost, is another frequently collected story which Plater surprisingly mishandles. Plater’s adaptation of The Intercessor by May Sinclair is better, with John Duttine in the role of a writer trying to work in a haunted farmhouse. I saw Duttine on stage a few years after this when he played a similar role as The Actor in the first theatrical run of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. It’s possible that The Intercessor secured him the part.

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All these films are currently on YouTube with the exception of the final episode in season two, The Last Seance by Agatha Christie. Watch them here.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Return: a ghost story
Nigel Kneale’s Woman in Black
“Who is this who is coming?”

Weekend links 495

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Angelus Novus (1920) by Paul Klee.

• “Compared to [László] Krasznahorkai’s earlier fiction, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is funnier and more stylistically accessible—despite its length and seemingly endless sentences—but it is also his most unremittingly ruthless work,” says Holly Case. Elsewhere: “Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming may not bring joy or consolation, but reading it is a mesmerisingly strange experience: a slab of late modernist grindcore and a fiercely committed exercise in blacker-than-black absurdity,” says Sukhdev Sandhu.

Zeitraffer (“Time-lapse“) is an exhibition devoted to Tangerine Dream which opens at the Barbican, London, in January. Also coming in January is a new album, Recurring Dreams, by the current iteration of the group which will be available on CD and double vinyl. I was impressed by the last TD release, Quantum Gate, so I’m looking forward to this even if it is only a reworking of popular pieces from the Virgin years.

• RIP Gershon Kingsley, an electronic music pioneer best known for the silly but fun albums he made with Jean-Jacques Perrey, and for being the composer of that evergreen synthesizer novelty, Popcorn.

The first major study in English of ancient Greek sexuality—especially the way relationships between men were both common and celebrated as a perfect embodiment of love—A Problem in Greek Ethics helped set the stage for the modern-day gay rights movement. But it did so surreptitiously, behind closed doors, as required by the times. Symonds printed it privately in 1883; a print run of just 10 copies reduced the risk that it would fall into the wrong hands. The typesetter complained about the content. Symonds circulated it cautiously, to people he trusted or had reason to think would be discreet. Until now, researchers believed that only five copies survived.

Rachel Wallach on the discovery of a sixth copy of John Addington Symonds’ landmark study

Contagious Magick of the Super Abundance is a book of art by the late Ian Johnstone, former partner of John Balance and cover artist for some of the last releases by Coil.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2019. Thanks again for the link here!

• At the BFI: Hannah McGill on the umbrellas of cinema, and Jasper Sharp on 10 essential films by Yasujiro Ozu.

• Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak, talks to Claire Lobenfield about creating the soundtrack for Midsommar.

Joker and Chernobyl composer Hildur Gudnadóttir: “I’m treasure hunting”.

Joshua Rothman on how William Gibson keeps his science fiction real.

Samantha Rose Hill on Walter Benjamin’s last work.

Scientific phenomena photographs of the year.

The Dream Before (1989) by Laurie Anderson | Angel Tech (1994) by The Grid feat. Sheila Chandra | Angel Tech (1994) by Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell