Weekend links 644

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Yoshitoshi’s Ghosts (2004) by Paul Binnie.

• “The later Grand Etteilla series, printed well into the nineteenth century, and the present-day proliferation of Tarot decks, following ephemeral fads and fashions, all trace their origins to this beautiful and beguiling creation from the enigmatic Egyptophile at 48 Rue de L’Oseille.” Kevin Dann on the Livre de Thot Tarot (ca. 1789) by Jean-Baptiste Alliette, better known as “Etteilla”.

• “Death is not a subject he has ever shied away from, in his fiction or conversation. Indeed, he has measured other writers by how seriously they address it.” Richard B. Woodward on his friend, Cormac McCarthy, and McCarthy’s new novels. There’s an exclusive extract from The Passenger here.

• “…addicts, psychopaths, lovelorn outsiders, cult leaders, lesbian and gay icons…you name it, the vampire has become it.” Christopher Frayling on the perennial popularity of the vampire, and a new book collection of vampire film posters.

Robert Wilson‘s new production of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry is “a sinister, multilingual pantomime bathed in red light and looped in noise…fittingly violent, absurd, ominous and infantile”.

• “What kind of music goes with a show that originates in deep space?” Aquarium Drunkard on Sonny Sharrock’s final recordings, the soundtrack music for Space Ghost Coast To Coast.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine takes a fresh look at the health of secondhand bookshops in Britain.

• Tokyo nightlife photographed by Hosokawa Ryohei.

• New music: Approach by Lawrence English.

The Passenger (1977) by Iggy Pop | The Passenger (1987) by Siouxsie And The Banshees | The Passenger (1997) by Lunachicks

Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker

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This is another of those posts in which I brag about finding an old book in a charity shop for a lot less than you’d have to pay for it online. But it does give me the opportunity to say something about American writer/artist Norman Rubington and his alter ego Akbar Del Piombo, something I was sure I’d done already. One of the weekend posts linked to an article about Rubington’s work but my discussion of his collages is in the essay I wrote about Wilfried Sätty for the Strange Attractor Journal, a piece which isn’t available here.

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The engraving collages of Norman Rubington (1921–1991) were probably the first to use the form developed by Max Ernst for explicitly humorous purposes. They’re certainly among the earliest to take the lead from Ernst while aiming themselves at an audience outside the art world. There is humour in some of Ernst’s collages, of course, but it tends to be the black variety favoured by the Surrealists (and actually defined by them; André Breton’s 1940 Anthology of Black Humour was a pioneering study). Rubington’s small books exploit the comic potential of antique illustrations by repurposing them as the primary content in a series of absurd narratives; these aren’t “graphic novels”, they’re more like heavily-illustrated comedy routines. There were four books in the original series—Fuzz Against Junk (1959), The Hero Maker (1959), Is That You Simon? (1961) and The Boiler Maker (1961)—with a fifth title, Moonglow, appearing in 1969. Olympia Press published the books in France, with US editions appearing around the same time under the Far-Out imprint used by Citadel Press. My charity purchase is the 1966 New English Library reprint of an Olympia Press collection of the first two volumes. The olive-green Olympia covers always provoke a Pavlovian grab response when I see one on a shelf although I’ve yet to find a copy that wasn’t an NEL reprint.

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Continue reading “Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker”

Silver Machines

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1: How to Construct a Time Machine, 1899

III: Description of the Machine

The Machine consists of an ebony frame, similar to the steel frame of a bicycle. The ebony members are assembled with soldered copper mountings.

The gyrostats’ three tori (or flywheels), in the three perpendicular planes of Euclidean space, are made of ebony cased in copper, mounted on rods of tightly rolled quartz ribbons (quartz ribbons are made in the same way as quartz wire), and set in quartz sockets.

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Alfred Jarry testing a time machine, 1898

The circular frames or the semicircular forks of the gyro stats are made of nickel. Under the seat and a little forward are located the batteries for the electric motor. There is no iron in the Machine other than the soft iron of the electromagnets.

Motion is transmitted to the three flywheels by ratchet-boxes and chain-drives of quartz wire, engaged in three cogwheels, each of which lies on the same plane as its corresponding fly wheel. The chain-drives are connected to the motor and to each other through bevel gears and driveshafts. A triple brake controls all three shafts simultaneously…

Alfred Jarry

2: Dead Singers (aka All the Dead Singers), 1971

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“That’s all in the past now.” Beesley waddled to the other the side of the tiled room and wheeled the black Royal Albert gent’s roadster across the clean floor. He paused to flip a switch on the wall. Belly Button Window flooded through the sound system. They were turning his own rituals against him. Now the devil had all the songs.

“All aboard, Mr C.” Reluctantly, Jerry mounted the bike. He was getting a bit too old for this sort of thing.

[…]

In London he slowed down, but by that time he’d blown it completely. Still, he’d got what Beesley wanted. Nothing stayed the same. Tiny snatches of music came from all sides, trying to take hold. Marie Lloyd. Harry Champion, George Formby, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, Billie Holliday, MJQ, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Hawkwind. He hung on to Hawkwind, turning the car back and forth to try to home in, but then it was Gertrude Lawrence and then it was Tom Jones and then it was Cliff Richard and he knew he was absolutely lost. Buildings rose and fell like waves. Horses, trams and buses faded through each other. People grew and decayed. There were too many ghosts in the future. In Piccadilly Circus he brought the Mercedes to a bumping stop at the base of the Eros statue and, grabbing the Royal Albert, threw himself clear. He was screaming for help. They’d been fools to fuck about with Time again. Yet they’d known what they were getting him into.

Michael Moorcock, Ink Magazine

3: Silver Machine, 1972

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Cover design by Tony Vesely with Pennie Smith (not the work of Barney Bubbles as stated elsewhere).

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A dead singer.

Continue reading “Silver Machines”

Max Ernst’s favourites

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The cover for the Max Ernst number of View magazine (April, 1942) that appears in Charles Henri Ford’s View: Parade of the Avant-Garde was one I didn’t recall seeing before. This was a surprise when I’d spent some time searching for back issues of the magazine. The conjunction of Ernst with Buer, one of the perennially popular demons drawn by Louis Le Breton for De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, doubles the issue’s cult value in my eyes. I don’t know whether the demon was Ernst’s choice but I’d guess so when many of the De Plancy illustrations resemble the hybrid creatures rampaging through Ernst’s collages. Missing from the Ford book is the spread below which uses more De Plancy demons to decorate lists of the artist’s favourite poets and painters. I’d have preferred a selection of favourite novelists but Ford was a poet himself (he also co-wrote an early gay novel with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil), and the list is still worth seeing.

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Poets: Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Hölderlin, Alfred Jarry, Edgar Allan Poe, George Crabbe, Guillaume Apollinaire, Walt Whitman, Comte de Lautréamont, Robert Browning, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Achim von Arnim, Victor Hugo, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Solomon (presumably the author of the Song of Solomon).

Painters: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georges Seurat, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung, Vittore Carpaccio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Francesco del Cossa, Piero di Cosimo, NM Deutsch (Niklaus Manuel), Vincent van Gogh.

I’ve filled out the names since some of the typography isn’t easy to read. Some of the choices are also uncommon, while one of them—NM Deutsch—is not only a difficult name to search for but the attribution has changed in recent years. The list of poets contains few surprises but it’s good to see that Poe made an impression on Ernst; the choice of painters is less predictable. Bruegel, Bosch and Rousseau are to be expected, and the same goes for the German artists—Grünewald, Baldung—whose work is frequently grotesque or erotic. But I wouldn’t have expected so many names from the Italian Renaissance, and Seurat is a genuine surprise. As for Ernst’s only living contemporary, Giorgio de Chirico, this isn’t a surprise at all but it reinforces de Chirico’s importance. If you removed Picasso from art history de Chirico might be the most influential painter of the 20th century; his Metaphysical works had a huge impact on the Dada generation, writers as well as artists, and also on René Magritte who was never a Dadaist but who lost interest in Futurism when he saw a reproduction of The Song of Love (1914). Picasso’s influence remains rooted in the art world while de Chirico’s disquieting dreams extend their shadows into film and literature, so it’s all the more surprising that this phase of his work was so short lived. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Viewing View
De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal
Max Ernst album covers
Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie
Max and Dorothea
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier

Year by Angus MacLise

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The Ascension of St Rose of Lima (1896) by Aubrey Beardsley.

There’s something about the idea of renaming the calendar that I find very attractive even if this is only workable on a personal level. When the Gregorian calendar is a reinvention of the Roman calendar based around Christian holidays (and with the days of the week still alluding to Norse gods), it’s easy to feel at liberty to start again.

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Year (1962) by Angus MacLise.

The most famous example of calendrical reinvention is the French Republican Calendar which called upon a gathering of scientists, a mathematician and a gardener to rename the months and days of the year. In this system the 29th of July would be “Panic” (ie: the plant Switchgrass) in the month of “Thermidor” which runs from July 19th to August 17th. (For the record, this is the year 221 in French Republic time.) The French Republican Calendar may have been an inspiration for the Pataphysical Calendar invented by Jarryites (or Ubuists) which is also French, and a sight more complicated:

The pataphysical era (EP) started on 8 September 1873 [Alfred Jarry’s birthday.] The week starts on a Sunday. Every 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd is a Sunday and every 13th day of a month falls on a Friday. Each day is assigned a specific name or saint. For example, the 27 Haha (1 November vulg.) is called French: Occultation d’Alfred Jarry or the 14 Sable (14 December vulg.) is the day of French: Don Quichote, champion du monde.

The year has a total of 13 months each with 29 days. The 29th day of each month is imaginary with two exceptions:

• the 29 Gidouille (13 July vulg.) is always non-imaginary
• the 29 Gueules (23 February vulg.) is non-imaginary during leap years

So today, July 29th, would be 16th Tatane (“Shoe” or “Being worn out”), Transfiguration de St V. van Gogh, transmutateur, in the Pataphysical Year 140.

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Month XI from Year by Angus MacLise.

After the Pataphysical Calendar, Year by percussionist/composer/poet Angus MacLise (1938–1979) comes as a relief. This is a poetic renaming of the days of the year which MacLise published in a now very rare booklet edition in 1962. I’ve known about this for years but still haven’t seen a full text so it was a surprise to discover that the cover illustration was The Ascension of St Rose of Lima by Aubrey Beardsley, one of the artist’s later pieces which tends to Catholicism despite being used to illustrate his unfinished erotic novel, Under the Hill. It’s difficult to say why this was chosen by MacLise or his publisher, but it pre-empts the renewed attention that Beardsley’s work received from 1966 on. MacLise’s names for the days are beautifully evocative, and infinitely preferable to the many days which few in this country bother about:

smoke of the shore
day of the inner lid
day of the magic child
day of bessie smith
day of anna
rose over the cities
the fire is a mirror
hrungirs heart

The full text for November and December can be found on this page. If anyone knows of an online source for the full text of MacLise’s Year then please leave a comment. For those with Android phones, there’s a page here offering a Pataphysical Calendar app. Bosse-de-Nage says “Ha ha”.