Weekend links 583

hlavacek.jpg

Faun (1897) by Karel Hlavacek.

A teaser trailer for Mad God, a stop-motion animated feature by Phil Tippett. 30 years in the making and not the usual saccharine fare. The director talks about his film here.

• For those who missed Johnny Trunk’s book about Sainsbury’s Design Studio several years ago (or would like more of the same), packaging design at the Sainsbury Archive.

• Mixes of the week: Ces Gens-Là – Avec Bart De Paepe by David Colohan, and Phased Induction Phototaxis by The Ephemeral Man.

• Smoking dope and comparing bad reviews: Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine discuss the early days of their collaboration.

• At the cat-loving Spoon & Tamago: This cat table gives your feline a seat in the table.

John Lurie‘s tales of Bohemian living with The Lounge Lizards in 1979 New York.

• Luxury assortment: the British artists behind Cadbury’s chocolate boxes.

Kevin Richard Martin’s favourite albums.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Skeletons 2.

Hymn To Pan (2008) by Blood Ceremony | The Great God Pan (2011) by Blood Ceremony | Faunus (2013) by Blood Ceremony

Weekend links 580

kausch.jpg

The Collective Lie We All Live By, a cut-paper collage by Allan Kausch from Maintenant 15, A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art.

• “It’s unusual that an album manages to be at once so much of its moment, yet so much outside it. Time was unmistakably a response to the electronic and synth waves that rose in the wake of punk. It was also a concept album about time travel, which couldn’t have been more pre-punk had it been focus-grouped that way.” David Bennun on Time (1981), ELO’s masterwork of science-fiction pop. The first song on the album, Twilight, is a thundering piece of synth bombast that prefigures Trevor Horn’s equally bombastic productions, and was used to memorable effect in the copyright-infringing animation made in 1983 for the opening of Daicon IV.

• New music: Disciples Of The Scorpion by The Rowan Amber Mill, and Shade by Grouper.

• “Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement“.

• “It’s time to farewell this project,” says Ballardian.

• At Wormwoodiana: the seven greek vowels.

• A playlist for The Wire by Douglas Benford.

Norman Blake‘s favourite albums.

Astronomia Playing Cards.

• RIP Dusty Hill.

Time (1973) by David Bowie | Time (1976) by La Düsseldorf | Time (1992) by Lull

Pynchonian cinema

tpa.jpg

(Pynchonian? Pynchonesque? Pynchon-heads can no doubt supply the most common descriptor but for now Pynchonian will do.)

Is it possible to identify a Pynchonian strand in cinema? This question came to mind while I was reading the end of Gravity’s Rainbow, and probably a little before then during a scene that takes place in the Neubabelsberg studio in Berlin. The Pynchon reading binge is still ongoing here—after finishing the Rocket book I went straight on to Vineland, and I’m currently immersed in Mason and Dixon—so I’ve been watching films that complement some of the preoccupations in the Pynchon oeuvre, at least up to and including Vineland. This is a small and no doubt contentious list but I’m open to further suggestions. Inherent Vice is excluded, I’ve been thinking more of films that are reminiscent of Pynchon without being derived from his work. Elements that increase the Pynchon factor would include: a serio-comic quality (essential, this, otherwise you’d have to include a huge number of thrillers); detective work; paranoia; songs; and a conspiracy of some sort, or the suspicion of the same: a mysterious cabal–the “They” of Gravity’s Rainbow—who may or may not be manipulating the course of events.

tpa2.jpg

The President’s Analyst (1967)
I’d be very surprised if Pynchon didn’t like this one. James Coburn as the titular analyst, Dr Sidney Schaefer, has little time to enjoy his new job in Washington DC before half the security services in the world are trying to kidnap him to discover what he’s learned about the President’s neuroses. This in turn leads the FBI FBR to attempt to kill Schaefer in order to protect national security. Pynchonian moments include a bout of total paranoia in a restaurant, Canadian spies disguised as a British pop group (“The ‘Pudlians”), and a visit to the home of a “typical American family” where the father has a house full of guns, the mother is a karate expert, and the son uses his “Junior Spy Kit” to monitor phone conversations. Later on, an entire nightclub gets spiked with LSD. This is also the only film in which someone evades abduction to a foreign country by the cunning use of psychoanalysis.
Is it serio-comic? Yes.
Is there detection? In the background: the CIA CEA and KGB agents have to work together in order to outwit the FBI FBR and discover who the ultimate villains might be.
Is there paranoia? You only get more paranoia in one of the serious conspiracy dramas of the 1970s like The Conversation or The Parallax View. (The latter includes the same actor who plays the All American Dad, William Daniels.)
Any songs? Yes. Coburn hides out for a while with the real-life psychedelic group Clear Light, and helps with their performance in the acid-spiked nightclub.
“They”? There are multiple “They”s in this one.
Pynchon factor: 5. Maybe a 6 for the LSD.

Continue reading “Pynchonian cinema”

Weekend links 577

preisler.jpg

Black Lake (1904) by Jan Preisler.

• Upcoming releases on the Ghost Box label will include a new album by {feuilleton} faves Pye Corner Audio, plus the surprising appearance of figures from Bruegel on a Ghost Box cover design.

Tilda Swinton and Olivier Saillard pay tribute to the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini. (Or to Pasolini’s costume designer, Danilo Donati.)

• New music: Spectral Corridor by The House In The Woods, and Re:Moving (Music for Choreographies by Yin Yue) by Machinefabriek.

• At Spoon & Tamago, Technopolis gets all the good things: “Giant kitty now greets commuters at Shinjuku Station.”

Anil Ananthaswamy on the ways in which psychedelics open a new window on the mechanisms of perception.

• Mixes of the week: Isolated Mix 112 by Suna, and GGHQ Mix #56, “An Unfortunate Kink”, by Abigail Ward.

• In this week’s impossible task, Alexis Petridis attempts to rank The Velvet Underground’s greatest songs.

• DJ Food unearths more flyers for London’s Middle Earth club, plus covers for the East Village Other.

• Global signals: Aki Onda on Holger Czukay and radio’s power to connect.

• At The Paris Review: Paintings and collages by Eileen Agar (1899–1991).

Will Sergeant’s favourite albums.

The Babel Tower Notice Board

Shaking Down The Tower Of Babel (1983) by Richard H. Kirk | Pärt: An Den Wassern Zu Babel (1991) by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Paul Hillier | The Black Meat (Deconstruction Of The Babel-Tower of Reason) (1994) by Automaton

Going beyond the zero

gr1.jpg

“But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice—guessed and refused to believe—that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chances, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the Rainbow, and they its children….”

Reader, I read it. It isn’t an admission of great achievement to announce that you’ve reached the last page of a novel after a handful of stalled attempts, but when it’s taken me 36 years to reach this point it feels worthy of note; and besides which, Gravity’s Rainbow isn’t an ordinary novel. Umberto Eco is partly responsible for my return to Pynchon. I’d just finished The Name of the Rose, a book I’d avoided for years even while reading (and enjoying) a couple of Eco’s other novels, and was wondering what to read next. Maybe it was time to try the Rocket book again? The thick white spine of the Picador edition—760 pages in 10pt type—would accuse me every time I spotted it on the shelf: “Still haven’t made it to page 100, have you?” For many people this happens with novels because a book is “difficult” (which I didn’t think it was), or boring (which it isn’t at all), or simply too long (page count doesn’t put me off). Back in 1985 I was looking for more heavyweight fare after reading Ulysses, something I’ve now done several times, so I wasn’t going to be intimidated by a novel which is misleadingly compared to Ulysses on its back cover. If anything the comparison was an enticing one. Pynchon at the time exerted a gravitational pull (so to speak) for being very mysterious, although this was a decade when most living authors, especially foreign ones, were mysterious to a greater degree than they are today, when so many have their own websites and social media profiles. Pynchon’s works were also referred to in interesting places, unlike his less mysterious contemporaries. I may be misremembering but I seem to recall a mention of the W.A.S.T.E. enigma from The Crying of Lot 49 in Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus!; if it is there then it’s no surprise that a writer so preoccupied with conspiracy and paranoia would find favour with the authors of the ultimate conspiracy novel. (And that’s not all. I’m surprised now by the amount of coincidental correspondence between Illuminatus! and Gravity’s Rainbow. Both novels were being written at the same time, the late 1960s, yet both refer to the Illuminati, the eye in the pyramid on the dollar bill, Nazi occultism, and the death of John Dillinger. Both novels also acknowledge the precedent of Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, another remarkable conflation of conspiracy, secret history, and wild invention.)

gr2.jpg

Pynchon had other connections to the kind of fiction I was already interested in. One of his early short stories, Entropy, had been published in New Worlds magazine in 1969, although editor Michael Moorcock later claimed to have avoided reading any of the novels until much later. And, Pynchon, like Shea & Wilson (and Moorcock…), made pop-culture waves. I think it was Laurie Anderson who put Gravity’s Rainbow in the centre of my radar when she released Mister Heartbreak, an album whose third song, Gravity’s Angel, refers to the novel and is dedicated to its author. As for the novel itself, in the mid-1980s this was still Pynchon’s major work, the one that fully established his reputation. Nothing new had appeared since its publication in 1973; Vineland, and the subsequent acceleration of the authorial production line, was six years away. The final lure was the refusal of the Picador edition to communicate very much of its contents: what was this thick volume actually about? The back cover is filled with praise but doesn’t tell you anything about the novel at all, while the cover illustration by Anita Kunz suggests a scenario connected with the Second World War but little else. (“This was one of the most complicated books I ever read,” says the artist, “and really hard to get the germ of the idea. Pynchon kept going off in tangents. I mixed up the art the same way the writer did and made an image that can be read in all directions.”) It’s only when you start reading the book that you find the connection between the novel’s dominant concerns—the development of the V-2 rockets used by the Nazis to bomb London, and the erotic compulsions of Tyrone Slothrop, an American lieutenant at large in war-ravaged Europe—subtly reflected in the illustration, much more subtly than the cover art on the edition that preceded this one.

Continue reading “Going beyond the zero”