Gustav Meyrink’s Prague

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The Prague Ghetto, 1902, by A. Kaspara.

I looked away from him, and gazed instead at the discoloured buildings, standing there side by side in the rain like a herd of derelict, dripping animals. How uncanny and depraved they all seemed. Risen out of the ground, from the look of them, as fortuitously as so many weeds. Two of them were huddled up together against an old yellow stone wall, the last remaining vestige of an earlier building of considerable size. There they had stood for two centuries now, or it might be three, detached from the buildings around them; one of them slanting obliquely, with a roof like a retreating forehead; the one next to it jutting out like an eye-tooth.

Beneath this dreary sky they seemed to be standing in their sleep, without a trace revealed of that something hostile, something malicious, that at times seemed to permeate the very bricks of which they were composed, when the street was fllled with mists of autumn evenings that laid a veil upon their features.

In this age I now inhabit, a persistent feeling clings to me, as though at certain hours of the night and early morning grey these houses took mysterious counsel together, one with another. The walls would be subject to faint, inexplicable tremors; strange sounds would creep along the roofs and down the gutters—sounds that our human ears might register, maybe, but whose origin remained beyond our power to fathom, even had we cared to try.

(Translation by Mike Mitchell)

Watching Jiri Barta’s films again, and thinking about his unfinished adaptation of The Golem, prompted me to return to the source.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Stone Glory, a film by Jirí Lehovec
The Face of Prague
Josef Sudek
Das Haus zur letzten Latern
Hugo Steiner-Prag’s Golem
Karel Plicka’s views of Prague
Barta’s Golem

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

Weekend links 493

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Art by Rand Holmes for Gay Comix No. 1, September 1980.

• In the universe next door, Los Angeles in November, 2019 looks like the drawings in the Blade Runner Sketchbook (1982). The book has been out of print for many years but available online for a while, although seldom in a downloadable form. A recent upload at the Internet Archive remedies this. In addition to the familiar Syd Mead designs for flying cars and street furniture there are some Moebius-like doodles by Ridley Scott, and Mead’s design for Tyrell’s cryogenic crypt, a detail that would have formed part of an unfilmed sub-plot.

• RIP Howard Cruse, comic artist and pioneering editor of the first few issues of Gay Comix in the 1980s. Cruse produced work outside the gay sphere (I first encountered his strips in Heavy Metal) but the stories that he and other artists created for Gay Comix (later Gay Comics) were some of the first by lesbians and gay men chronicling their own lives, as opposed to porn fantasies or the more recent trend of bolting a token sexuality to a superhero. John Seven talked to Cruse about his career in 2007.

• “On the eve of the First World War Stefan George had started recruiting his own twink army…” Well, if you really must have an army… Strange Flowers presents part one of a guide to the city of Vienna.

In Wild Air, 2016–2018: all 72 of Heath Killen’s requests for a list of six interesting things from artists, writers, scientists, ecologists, musicians, historians and others. My answers are at number 55.

• “Satan is a friend of mine”: Sander Bink on a forgotten occult novel, Goetia (1893) by Frits Lapidoth.

• Picturing a voice: Rob Mullender-Ross on Margaret Watts-Hughes and the Eidophone.

• “They broke the rules”: Killian Fox on the film posters of the French New Wave.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jan Svankmajer Day.

Ogi No Mato (1976) by Ensemble Nipponia | Rêve (1979) by Vangelis | Blade Runner Esper “Retirement” Edition, Part III (1982)

The Righteous One

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Another week, another new book cover. Author Neil Perry Gordon was in touch earlier this year asking if I could create something for his latest novel set in New York City. Gordon’s previous novels have been historical narratives about the city’s Jewish community; The Righteous One (subtitled “A Cobbler’s Journey into the Dreamworld and Beyond”) follows suit but is slightly different in having more of a fantasy theme:

The Righteous One is the story of Moshe the cobbler, a gentle, sixty-year-old tzaddik—a righteous and saintly Jew—who is called upon to rekindle his divine connection to the Almighty in order to destroy the notorious New York gangster and rasha Solomon Blass, a man who uses his power of foreseeing events via his vivid dreams to advance his own financial interests.

For a guide to the visual content I was given this illustration from Camille Flammarion’s L’Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (1888), a picture whose antiquated appearance has often led it to be taken as a much older engraving. It’s also one of those occult or mystical illustrations you see reproduced in many books about magic or the supernatural without any reference to its origin.

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Neil’s request was for his book cover to show a similar barrier between the worlds with his cobbler character being caught between the wake world and the dream world. An engraved style wouldn’t have suited a story set in New York City (even the NYC of the recent past) but I also didn’t want the cover to look like a piece of typical fantasy art filled with Photoshop mists and translucent layers. The final design is modelled on the bolder art styles of Tarot cards, hence the flattened perspective, simplified colouring and distinct outlines. I spent some time researching old New York for this one as I wanted the buildings and street lamps to look accurate. Did you know those old “bishop’s crook” lamps come in a variety of different shapes? I didn’t until working on this.

The Righteous One will be published next month as a Kindle paperback.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Les Terres du Ciel

Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd

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Cover art by Grey Malkin.

The folk horror revival wasn’t really a revival as such, it was more an identifying of trends which hadn’t been noticed or named before, the grouping together and labelling of which created a sub-genre ripe for further exploration. Over the past few years I’ve done my share to promote this loose affiliation, but I confess to feeling a lack of interest of late. Or rather, I’m less interested in its current manifestations. Genres in any medium have a tendency to follow a growth pattern which eventually arrives at mannerism and stereotype; something that was fresh because it was new (or rediscovered) is pushed through repetition into formula.

One of the exciting features of the first flourishings of Hauntological music in 2005/06 was the absence of a discernible formula. The areas of interest, and their hybridisation, were unpredictable, especially the first few releases on the Ghost Box label. Folk horror was incorporated into the Ghost Box project from the outset but it was never the sole concern. The debut album from Belbury Poly, The Willows, contains a range of references to rural horror, with a title lifted from Algernon Blackwood, and two tracks referencing Arthur Machen. But another of the tracks refers to Pauwels & Bergiers’ unique and influential occult study, The Morning of the Magicians, while the cover design is styled like an educational paperback from Pelican books, or an Open University prospectus. Belbury may be an old village with strange customs but it’s also home to a modern polytechnic. Elsewhere on the label, Pye Corner Audio operated at a remove from the folkiness, unsurprisingly when Martin Jenkins’ music is wholly electronic. The first Pye Corner Audio album on Ghost Box, Sleep Games, featured a typical mid-century housing estate on the cover; many of the track titles–Experimental Road Surface, for example—are closer to Kraftwerk than Blood On Satan’s Claw. The late Mark Fisher was credited inside with “cover concepts and research” which may explain the quotes from JG Ballard, French anthropologist Marc Augé, and theory fictioneer Reza Negarestani. The final track on Sleep Games, Nature Reclaims The Town, suggests the triumph of the wild but urban concerns dominate the album.

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Cover art by Jackie Taylor.

Metropolitan horror and urban strangeness is the theme of Urban Wyrd, a two-volume anthology of new writings edited by Andy Paciorek which provides a welcome counterbalance to the over-ploughed furrows. This is a companion volume and sequel to Field Studies, a collection which featured my essay about the plays for theatre and television by David Rudkin. My contribution to the new collection, Phantoms and Thresholds of the Unreal City, is a discursive meander through the streets of Paris, New York and San Francisco, threading together the lives and works of a disparate group of writers, artists and photographers: HP Lovecraft, Eugène Atget, Robert W. Chambers, Max Ernst, Berenice Abbott, Roger Caillois, Fritz Leiber and others. My original intention was to write solely about Atget’s celebrated views of Paris but, as is often the case, one thing led to another and I ended up with something that’s more about the metamorphosis of cities and architecture by writers and photographers, and what their transformations may suggest to us.

The huge contents list for both books follows below. Both volumes are available from Lulu here and here, and at a reasonable price considering the page count. Books like this are always good for indicating further avenues of exploration. I’m looking forward to going for a wander.

Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd – 1. Spirits of Time

• Foreword
• Urban Wyrd: An Introduction by Dr Adam Scovell
• Spectral Echoes: Hauntology’s Recurring Themes & Unsettled Landscapes by Stephen Prince
• Quatermass and the Pit: Unearthing Archetypes at Hobb’s End by Grey Malkin
• The Haunted Generation: An Interview with Bob Fischer
• On a Thousand Walls: The Urban Wyrd in Candyman by Howard David Ingham
• Protect and Survive: Dystopian Drama – A Jolly British Apocalypse by Andy Paciorek
• The Bad Wires: Reflections on The Changes by Grey Malkin
• The Hands of Doom: A Short Perspective on Divine Intervention by Leah Crowley
• Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Spiritualist Missionary by Jim Peters
• A Tandem Effect: Ghostwatch by Jim Moon
• Interview with Stephen Volk
• The Cookstown Ghost: Poltergeist Phenomenon in Urban Ulster in the Nineteenth-Century by Jodie Shevlin
• The Last Key That Unlocks Everything: Ghost Stories by Andy Paciorek
• A Very Urban Haunting …The Echo of Noisy Spirits by Jim Peters
• These Houses Are Haunted: Supernatural Dwellings in Film by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Carmit Kordov
• Wyrd Technology by Andy Paciorek
• Voices of the Ether: Stone Tapes, Electronic Voices and Other Ghosts by James Riley
• Urban Witchcraft by Darren Charles
• Video Nasty: Moving Image in The Ring and Sinister by Andy Paciorek
• An Interview with Richard Littler – Mayor of Scarfolk
• The World Falling Apart: Jubilee by Stuart Silver
• Doll Parts: Marwencol by Andy Paciorek
• Chocky: The Haunting of Matthew Gore by Grey Malkin
• The Sun on my Face: Demon Seed by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Sara Hannant
• A Hive Mind: Phase IV by Andy Paciorek
• Wired For Sound: The Auditory in Horror by Andy Paciorek
• “We Want You to Believe In Us, But Not Too Much”: UFOs and Folklore by S. J. Lyall
• A Space Flower: Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Andy Paciorek
• Under The Skin of the Man Who Fell To Earth by Andy Paciorek
• Silent Invasions by SJ Lyall
• I Am Not A Number: The Prisoner by Stuart Silver
• All For the Hunting Ground: Wolfen by S.J. Lyall
• Urban Wolves by Richard Hing
• Reclaiming the “f” word. A conversation between The Black Meadow’s Chris Lambert and Pilgrim’s Sebastian Baczkiewicz
• Sounds from a Haunted Ballroom: The Caretaker by Andy Paciorek
• Uncanny Valley: Spielberg’s A.I. by Damian Leslie
• Sounds and Visions: MKUltra, Number Stations, Hallucinogens and Psychological Experiments in Film by Andy Paciorek
• Concrete, Flesh, Metal, Blood: The Worlds of Ballard & Cronenberg by Andy Paciorek
• The Eternal Snicket by Professor Phillip Hull (From an interview with Chris Lambert)
• The Voice of Electronic Wonder: The Music of Urban Wyrd by Jim Peters
• Age of the Train: Rail and the Urban Wyrd by Andy Paciorek
• Mind The Doors: Death Line by S.J. Lyall
• Step Away From The Meat: The Midnight Meat Train by Andy Paciorek
• Evil Dream: Q The Winged Serpent by Scott Lyall
• These Cities are Ours: Notable Kaiju in Cinema by Richard Hing
• Wild Rides: Taxis in Cinema by William Redwood
• The Photography of Jackie Taylor

* * *

Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd – 2. Spirits of Place

• Foreword
• Urban Psychogeography by Stuart Silver
• Spirit of Place by Andy Paciorek
• Through Purged Eyes: Folk Horror and the Affective Landscape of the Urban Wyrd by Karl Bell
• Glasgow’s Occult Ancient Geometery: The Obsessions of Ludovic McLellan Mann and Harry Bell by Kenneth Brophy
• Post-Industrialism and Industrial Music by Simon Dell
• Towering Infernal: The Inner City in Contemporary Horror Films by Andy Paciorek
• God Will Forgive Them: Dead Man’s Shoes by Andy Paciorek
• Phantoms and Thresholds of the Unreal City by John Coulthart
• Holy Terrors – Whitby: An Interview with Mark Goodall
• The Burryman of South Queensbury: The Past Within the Present by Grey Malkin
• Saturnine: An Urban Meander by Andy Paciorek
• Devil’s Bridge: The Satanic Rites of Aclam by Bob Fischer
• Urbex, Haiyko and the Lure of the Abandoned by Andy Paciorek
• Wyrd On-screen: Urban Fears and Rural Folk by Diane A. Rodgers
• Spontaneous Shrines (Flowers Taped to Lamposts) by Howard David Ingham
• Between Two or More Worlds: The Urban Mindscape of David Lynch by Andy Paciorek
• Suburbia by Richard Hing
• Welcome to The League of Gentlemen … You’ll Never Leave by Jim Peters
• A Search for Aberdeen’s Lost Treasures by Peter Lyon
• Scovell & Budden: Greenteeth by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Neddal Ayad
• City in Aspic: Don’t Look Now by Andy Paciorek
• Bricks and Stones in The Pool of Life by Cat Vincent
• The Trumptonshire Trilogy by Andy Paciorek
• The Derive of Doom by Chris Lambert
• Iain Sinclair: Spirit Guide to the Urban Wyrd – Interviewed by John Pilgrim
• Review: Concretism – For Concrete and Country by Chris Lambert
• Shadow of the Cities: The Weird and the Noir by Andy Paciorek
• Black and White Dreams: An Interview with K.A. Laity
• Occult Detectives: An Interview with John Linwood Grant
• The Art of Andy Cropper
• Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Peter Lagan
• Involute of Space / Time: An Interview with Will Self
• High Weirdness: A Daytrip to Hookland by Andy Paciorek
• Cyclopean Ruins and Albino Penguins: The Weird Urban Archeology of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness by Kenneth Lymer
• Sordid Smoke Ghosts: The Worlds of China Miéville by Colin Hetherington
• The Magic Kingdom: A Conversation with Walter Bosley by John Chadwick
• The City That Was Not There: ‘Absent’ Cityscapes in Classic British Ghost Stories by Anastasia Lipinskaya
• York: Albion’s Capital of the North by Oz Hardwick and John Pilgrim
• Urban Folklore: An Interview with Diane A. Rodgers
• Gripped: The Nine Lives of Thomas Katz by Howard David Ingham
• Place of Light and Darkness: Durham by Andy Paciorek
• Athens of the north: Edinburgh by SJ Lyall
• Service Station to Station by Andy Paciorek
• Miles Away: Hush (2008) by Andy Paciorek
• Sorcerers’ Apprentices and Industrial Witches: The Uban Wyrd as Magick in Leeds. West Yorkshire by Layla Legard
• Black as Sin: Possum and Spider by Andy Paciorek
• The Apartment Trilogy by Andy Sharp

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Year In The Country: the book
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies