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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Spiderweb, a film by Paul Miller

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The Spider’s Stratagem (1970) is Bernardo Bertolucci’s adaptation of the Jorge Luis Borges story The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero; Death and the Compass (1992) is Alex Cox’s adaptation of the story Death and the Compass by the same author; Spiderweb (1977) is an earlier adaptation of Death and the Compass which is both shorter than Cox’s film, and also a more successful Borgesian drama.

Borges’ story plays Kabbalistic games with the familiar shapes of detective fiction, creating its frisson by the tension between an elaborate murder mystery and the intellectual puzzle which leads to its solution. In Cox’s extended version this is presented in an overbearing style reminiscent of Terry Gilliam at his most exasperating; despite a decent cast it’s also rather poorly directed in places. By contrast, Paul Miller’s adaptation runs for 30 minutes and conveys the story very smartly and efficiently. The setting is “Borghesia” rather than Argentina but the general style is that of a Hollywood detective story, American accents and all. The always reliable Nigel Hawthorne plays the cerebral detective Erik Lönnrot. Considering this was a graduation film it’s an excellent piece of work which the director himself has made available on YouTube. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Books Borges never wrote
Borges and I
Borges documentary
Borges in Performance

 


June

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Twelve Months of Flowers: June (no date) by Jacob van Huysum.

The month of June in paintings is overburdened by bland pastoral scenes and views of battles, the summer months being favourable ones for warfare. Pastoral content is still present in the following selection albeit with an attempt to show some variety. Leighton’s Flaming June is the most famous picture here. It’s also the most popular of the artist’s paintings, understandably so given its radiating an atmosphere of luscious (and possibly inadvertent) eroticism that he seldom achieved elsewhere.

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From Croham Fields, Croydon, Surrey, Just before the First Thunderstorm, Tuesday 28 June 1892 (1892) by William Henry Hope.

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June in the Austrian Tyrol (1892) by John MacWhirter.

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Flaming June (1895) by Frederic Leighton.

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Weekend links 211

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Secret Bloom (2014) by Natalie Shau.

Bloomsday approachs. “Reading Ulysses changed everything I thought about language, and everything I understood about what a book could do,” says Eimear McBride whose debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, recently won the first Bailey’s women’s prize for fiction. McBride was interviewed by Susanna Rustin last month, shortly before the award was announced, and her novel has now become one of those minor causes célèbres for being rejected so often it was eventually published by a new imprint set up by a bookseller. “If the publishing industry doesn’t take a risk then who will?” asks Henry Layte, the bookseller in question.

Speaking of risk, David Hebblethwaite coincidentally wrote a post earlier this week asking where the formal challenge has gone in science-fiction writing. (He mentions McBride in passing.) Nina Allen followed up with a post of her own. I suspect the books are still being written but they’re no longer being accepted by editors and publishers who want even more adventure stories, “sympathetic” characters, and easy reads. Novels that only aspire to be written equivalents of action films or computer games are doomed to be less exciting than their more kinetic competitors. The struggle between the values of art and the values of entertainment is an old one but it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. “Difficulty is subjective,” says Eimear McBride, “the demands a writer makes on a reader can be perceived as a compliment.”

Related: the following from Geoffrey Hill on “difficulty”:

We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most “intellectual” piece of work.

• The Quietus pulled out all the stops this week, interviewing Annette Peacock, Iain Sinclair (again), Alan Moore (again), and asking Peter Strickland, the director of Berberian Sound Studio, for a list of his favourite albums. Given the above, it’s worth noting that all those people have produced challenging work of their own in different media.

• “The Satyrs Motorcycle Club was founded in 1954 with seven members, but little did anyone know it would become the oldest running LGBT organization (and oldest gay motorcycle club) in the world.”

Trunk TV posted another great selection of television title sequences. The previous selection has been taken down for the usual tiresome copyright reasons so watch this one while you can.

• “Detroit techno and black metal have so much in common,” say Wolves In The Throne Room whose new album, Celestite, is predominantly a product of synthesizer technology.

• “Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”

• The secret of Nabokov’s sexual style: David Lodge reviews Nabokov’s Eros and the Poetics of Desire by Maurice Couturier.

• How long can you hold your breath? 2 models, 7 divers in an underwater shipwreck by photographer Von Wong.

• At Dangerous Minds: Paul Gallagher on The fantastic world of Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.

• Wizards of the Coast: Benjamin Breen on John Dee and the occult in California.

• More photography: Peter Guenzel captures strange lights in forests.

• Mix of the week: Bleep podcast 121 presented by Margot Didsbury.

I’m The One (1972) by Annette Peacock | Eros Arriving (1982) by Bill Nelson | The Dire And Ever Circling Wolves (2005) by Earth

 


William Strang’s Sindbad the Sailor

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Another collaboration between William Strang and JB Clarke, Sindbad the Sailor, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was published in 1895. The Sindbad text is from Edward William Lane’s popular (and bowdlerised) translation of the Thousand and One Nights; Ali Baba is from the translation by Rev. Jonathan Scott. The illustrations follow the same bold style as the Baron Munchausen book but with more detail and decoration. The compositions are also more careful which makes me wonder if the Munchausen book was a product of haste. As before, the book as a whole contains many more illustrations. The copies here have been slightly cropped and lightened to compensate for another poor scanning job by Google.

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William Strang’s Baron Munchausen

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The paintings and illustrations of Scottish artist William Strang (1859–1921) were much more typical of their time than the bold drawings in this 1895 edition of Rudolf Erich Raspe’s tall tales. Not all the illustrations are Strang’s work, some are by JB Clark, and there are many more in the book as a whole. Years later, the Gollancz publishing company was based next door to Lawrence & Bullen’s former home at 14 Henrietta Street.

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Below the fold

 

The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire