The latest announcement from Eureka Entertainment includes the welcome news of a debut UK release for Viy (1967), the Russian horror film directed by Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov. To celebrate this, here’s Esteban Maroto’s gorgeous version of the witchy folk tale as it appeared in Warren’s Dracula magazine in 1972. There’s more Maroto in the collected edition of Dracula which, like all the Warren publications, is now out-of-copyright. I don’t think there was ever a book 2 in the US but here in Britain we were lucky to get the entire run of Dracula in a single volume.
The Rhinoceros (after 1620) by Albrecht Dürer.
• “Today—Tolkien, Lovecraft, Miéville and M John Harrison!” Paul StJohn Mackintosh at Greydogtales explores HP Lovecraft’s lack of interest in fictional worldbuilding. The piece includes one of my book covers (ta!) plus a link to an earlier post I wrote about the cover designs of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium books. Since I’m connected to the thesis I’ll suggest that Lovecraft was resistant to the worldbuilding impulse in part because he was almost always writing horror stories. Having studied the genre at length he was well aware of the need to leave suggestive voids for the reader’s imagination.
• RIP Denise Johnson. All the obituaries mention the big names she worked with, notably New Order and Primal Scream, but being in the pool of Manchester session artists she also appeared on a couple of records by my colleagues at Savoy. Her voice is one of those you first hear on the PJ Proby cover of I’m On Fire, while with friend Rowetta she improvised her way through a Hi-NRG original (and a favourite of Anohni’s), the scurrilous Shoot Yer Load.
• At the BFI: Axel Madsen interviews Fritz Lang in 1967; Serena Scateni on where to begin with Nobuhiko Obayashi; and Roger Luckhurst reviews the spomenik-infested Last and First Men by Jóhann Jóhannsson.
• “Be more aware of the rest of the world!” says Jon Hassell, talking to Alexis Petridis about a life spent making music.
• John Boardley on the Renaissance origins of the printed poster. Worth it for the selection of engraved details alone.
• “What Ever Happened To Chicken Fat?” Jackson Arn on a tendency to over-abundance in Jewish humour.
• Erik Davis has a new writing home at Substack that he calls The Burning Shore. Bookmarked.
• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXII by David Colohan.
• Garry Hensey on The Strange World of John Foxx.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sergei Parajanov Day.
Letter M from Abeceda (1942) by Jindrich Heisler.
• At the BFI: Matthew Thrift chooses 10 essential Ray Harryhausen films. “This is, I can assure the reader, the one and only time that I have eaten the actors. Hitchcock would have approved,” says Harryhausen about eating the crabs whose shells were used for Mysterious Island. Meanwhile, Alfred Hitchcock himself explains the attraction and challenges of directing thrillers.
“Although largely confined to the page, Haeusser’s violent fantasies were even less restrained, his writings littered with deranged, bloodthirsty, scatological scenarios.” Strange Flowers on Ludwig Christian Haeusser and the “Inflation Saints” of Weimar Germany.
• Death, Pestilence, Emptiness: Putting covers on Albert Camus’s The Plague; Dylan Mulvaney on the different design approaches to a classic novel.
• A trailer (more of a teaser) for Last and First Men, a film adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s novel by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…James Purdy: The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy.
• Al Jaffee at 99: Gary Groth and Jaffee talk comics and humour.
• Steven Heller on Command Records’ design distinction.
• Czech Surrealism at Flickr.
• Solitude by Hakobune.
• Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares (1974) by Tangerine Dream | Mysterious Traveller (Dust Devils Mix) (1994) by System 7 | The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra (2018) by Anna von Hausswolff
• Saul Bass’s cult science-fiction film, Phase IV, has received a very welcome (Region B) blu-ray release from 101 Films. Everything is a metaphor for the unavoidable just now, but a film about a group of scientists besieged by a tiny and insidious biological threat can’t help but have additional resonance. The new release includes the original (and seldom seen) cosmic ending plus another disc containing several of Bass’s short films. Previously: Directed by Saul Bass.
• Music at the Internet Archive: Live at Metro (2007) by Sora, and three rare cassette releases by French synth-rock duo Fondation: Metamorphoses (1980), Sans Etiquette (1980), and Le Vaisseau Blanc (1983).
We must talk about Nightwood. The novel that sits between those early and late phases of her writing life, the tale of Felix Volkbein, Robin Vote, Dr Matthew-Mighty-Grain-of-Salt-Dante-O’Connor and many others, caught between world wars and each other, in the decadent cities of Europe. The novel follows the journey of Robin Vote, who is more “earth-flesh, fungi, which smells of captured dampness” than person. Sleepwalking through life, she nonetheless wakes up her fellow characters Nora, Felix and Jenny, who each try and pin her down, to no avail. It is a novel that defies synopsis. It is unsurprising that this remarkable book has attracted a “burgeoning body of interpretations”, as Tyrus Miller here notes; yet it seems that there are still new ways to approach it. Julie Taylor offers an affective reading, for example; Joanne Winning concentrates on Nightwood’s collaborative origins, exploring the fruitful and often overlooked creative relationship between Barnes and her partner, Thelma Wood. This is not just a case of considering that relationship as source material for the novel, but unpacking what Winning describes as their “lesbian modernist grotesque”. It is particularly welcome that Winning treats Wood as a silver-point artist in her own right.
Jade French reviews Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes’s Modernism
• The BBC’s Culture page discovers Tom of Finland but can’t bring itself to show much of his artwork.
• The art of Asterix: illustrator Albert Uderzo (RIP) at work.
• Clive Hicks-Jenkins on “a marvel of clockwork ingenuity”.
• The films Wes Anderson is watching during isolation.
• Greydogtales on six more strange tales that linger.
• Adrian Searle‘s favourite online art galleries.
• The Ghost Box label is now at Bandcamp.
• Twin Flames (Edit) by Lustmord.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Flamboyant.
Aurora Borealis (1865) by Frederic Edwin Church.
• December is over-stuffed with enervating cultural lists, most of them reminding you of things which received enough attention earlier in the year. Better value than these—and always unpredictable—is John Waters‘ choice of favourite films; unpredictable and enlightening are the Secret Satan selections at Strange Flowers which come in two flavours: books originally published in English and books translated from other languages.
• Flash Of The Spirit (1988), a collaboration between Jon Hassell and African group Farafina (with production by Hassell plus Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois), receives its first ever reissue on double-vinyl and CD next year. The last piece on the album is the 11-minute Masque (Strength).
• “In 1968, Federico Fellini decided he was going make the greatest homosexual movie ever made. What he meant by a homosexual movie, no one was quite sure, but it was going to be great.” Paul Gallagher on Federico Fellini’s delirious (and distinctly homosexual) Satyricon.
• “Here’s the typography of the next decade; the age of font minimalism is coming to a close,” says Rachel Hawley. I’ve been using Didones for the past decade so I’ll carry on happily ignoring the trends.
• “Cowley records a kind of utopian sleaze that’s breathtaking.” Brett Josef Grubisic reviews Patrick Cowley’s sex journal of the 1970s, Mechanical Fantasy Box.
• A promo video by Julian House for Paul Weller’s In Another Room EP which is released in January by Ghost Box.
• At Aquarium Drunkard: San Francisco Radical Laboratory and the Mysterious Moogist of Altamont.
• Mix of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. V – France III by David Colohan.