Howard/Seward

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Frank Belknap Long and HP Lovecraft, New York, 1931. Photo by WB Talman.

Two friends—HP Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long—visit the Egyptian antiquities in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1920s:

Tom Collins (for The Twilight Zone Magazine): I seem to recall a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that you two made together.

Frank Belknap Long: You mean the time we visited the Egyptian tomb? Well, the Metropolitan apparently still has it. This was way back in the 1920s. The tomb was on the main floor in the Hall of Egyptian Antiquities, and we both went inside to the inner burial chamber. Howard was fascinated by the somberness of the whole thing. He put his hand against the corrugated stone wall, just casually, and the next day he developed a pronounced but not too serious inflammation. There was no great pain involved, and the swelling went down in two or three days. But it seems as if some malign, supernatural influence still lingered in the burial chamber—The Curse of the Pharaohs—as if they resented the fact that Howard had entered this tomb and touched the wall. Perhaps they had singled him out because of his stories and feared he was getting too close to the Ancient Mysteries.

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William Burroughs, New York, 1953. Photo by Allen Ginsberg.

Two friends—William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg—visit the Egyptian antiquities in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1950s:

Allen Ginsberg: We went uptown to look at Mayan Codices at Museum of Natural History & Metropolitan Museum of Art to view Carlo Crivelli’s green-hued Christ-face with crown of thorns stuck symmetric in his skull — here Egyptian wing William Burroughs with a brother Sphinx, Fall 1953 Manhattan.

When I last wrote about the parallels between Lovecraft and Burroughs in a post from 2014 I wasn’t aware of Lovecraft and Long’s visit to the same museum exhibits that Burroughs and Ginsberg visited some 30 years later. I did, however, use the same photos which are posted here, a curious coincidence when Long wasn’t mentioned in the earlier post. This minor revelation is a result of reading the features in back issues of The Twilight Zone Magazine, one of which is an interview with an 81-year-old Frank Belknap Long. The coincidence is a trivial thing but it adds to the small number of connections between the two writers.

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A Cthulhu Sphinx from The Call of Cthulhu, 1988.

Lovecraft and Burroughs were both living in New York City at the time of their excursions, and both touched on Egyptian mythology in their writings, so their having viewed the same museum exhibits seems inevitable rather than surprising. A more tangible connection between the pair is alluded to in Ginsberg’s photograph note when he mentions the Mayan codices. A few years before the museum visit, Burroughs had been studying the Mayan language and the Mexican codices in Mexico City under the tutelage of Robert H. Barlow, the former literary executor of HP Lovecraft. Burroughs’ studies subsequently fueled the references to Mayan mythology that turn up repeatedly in his fiction, and he was still at Mexico City College in 1951 when Barlow killed himself with a barbiturate overdose, afraid that his homosexuality was about to be exposed by one of his students. Burroughs mentioned the suicide in a letter to Ginsberg. The connections don’t end there, however. After Barlow’s death the rights to Lovecraft’s writings passed, somewhat controversially, to August Derleth and Donald Wandrei at Arkham House, and in another curious coincidence Derleth happened to be one of the complainants against a literary journal, Big Table, in 1959, when the magazine ran Ten Episodes from Naked Lunch, and was subsequently prosecuted for sending obscene material through the US mail. Derleth and Arkham House are both mentioned in the court papers.

I’ve never seen any indication that Burroughs was aware of these connections but if he was I doubt he would have paid them much attention, he always seemed rather blasé about his intersections with popular culture. He did think well enough of Lovecraft (or at least the version of Lovecraft’s fiction as presented by the Simon Necronomicon) to invoke “Kutulu” along with the Great God Pan and the usual complement of Mayan deities in Cities of the Red Night. Years later I remember seeing something in a newspaper about him retiring to Lawrence, Kansas, where he was described as passing the time “reading HP Lovecraft”. (I wish I could give a reference for this but I don’t recall the source.) If so then I like to think he might have given Creation Books’ Starry Wisdom collection more than a passing glance when it turned up at his door.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Taking Tiger Mountain
The Big Fix!
Paging Doctor Benway
Birth of a Zimbu
Seward/Howard
Interzone: A William Burroughs Mix
Sine Fiction
The Ticket That Exploded: An Ongoing Opera
Burroughs: The Movie revisited
Zimbu Xolotl Time
Ah Pook Is Here
Jarek Piotrowski’s Soft Machine
Looking for the Wild Boys
Wroblewski covers Burroughs
Mugwump jism
Brion Gysin’s walk, 1966
Burroughs in Paris
William Burroughs interviews
Soft machines
Burroughs: The Movie
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
The Final Academy
William Burroughs book covers
Towers Open Fire

Trip texts revisited

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An update to a post from several years ago about the handful of significant books that appear in Roger Corman’s The Trip (1967). The earlier post was prompted by a DVD viewing; this update has been prompted by a re-viewing via blu-ray which yielded screen-grabs showing more detail. As I’ve no doubt said before, one of the pleasures of home viewing is being able to scrutinise film frames in this manner, something that was previously only possible if you were a writer with access to a cinema print.

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Corman’s film is probably the only feature from American International Pictures that contains any kind of extraneous intellectual reference. The AIP ethic was always “shoot it fast and cheap”, a production rule that had no time for winking to the hip contingent of the audience with books, of all things. Leave that stuff to the French. The Trip was still shot fast and cheap but Corman had been stretching himself increasingly while making his cycle of Poe films, especially with The Masque of the Red Death which had a longer production schedule, a British cast and crew, and a symbolic finale that sets it apart from its rivals at Hammer and other studios. The Trip is as far-out as Corman gets, the cut-up shots of Peter Fonda stumbling in delirium around Sunset Boulevard wouldn’t be out of place in any underground film of the period.

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The surprising thing about the books that appear in the scene where Fonda’s character, Paul, drops his acid is that they’re perfectly appropriate items of set decoration but only two of them—the unmissable copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and David Solomon’s LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug—would have been discernible to an audience. The latter inclusion is probably more to do with the three magic letters being so prominent on its cover than anything else, although it is the kind of book you’d find in a house owned by lysergic voyagers. The blu-ray detail now reveals more of the book hiding behind it although this one has eluded my attempts to search for a match: “The [something]….”? I thought it might be The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran but none of the editions prior to 1967 resemble the cover.

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The main discovery this time round was finding a match for the book hidden by Howl, a title that I now confidently declare to be the 1962 Avon edition of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. (The reds and blues of the cover art are more discernible in a full-frame shot.) When watching the DVD I thought those words might be “Hugo Award Winner” but couldn’t make out an author’s name, and “Award Winner” was a guess. The book might also have been written by someone named Hugo… Heinlein’s novel was a hippy favourite in the 1960s, one of several books together with The Prophet, Richard Brautigan’s novels and poetry, Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, etc, that were popular with turned-on readers. The irony of the author of Starship Troopers being mooned over by the love ‘n’ peace crowd wasn’t lost on the younger generation of SF authors but their criticisms didn’t travel outside genre circles. Heinlein could evade opprobrium for being one of the signatories of an ad in Galaxy for June, 1968, supporting the war in Vietnam because hippies en masse weren’t reading SF magazines.

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As noted in the earlier post, the book behind the Heinlein is a 1960 edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I was only able to identify because I own a copy of the same edition. Behind this there lurks another title whose identity is now going to nag at me. The cover decoration means it will be easy to find if it ever turns up somewhere. But will I remember it when it does? We’ll see.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alice’s Adventures in the Horse Hospital
LSD-25 by The Gamblers
More trip texts
Trip texts
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
The art of LSD
Hep cats

Weekend links 364

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Stop-Motion Happening with The Focus Groop is a new album by The Focus Group (now a Groop, apparently, à la Stereolab), and the next release on the Ghost Box label. Design, as always, by Julian House.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sypha presents…Voyager en Soi-Même: a Tribute to JK Huysmans’ Là-Bas. Related: Henry Chapront’s illustrations for a 1912 edition of Huysmans’ novel.

• At the BFI: Graham Fuller on Penda’s Fen and the Romantic tradition in British film; Pamela Hutchinson and Alex Barrett choose 10 great German Expressionist films.

• The Provenance of Providence: Chris Mautner on the Lovecraftian comic series by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows.

Luke Turner on Sunn O))): the ecstatic doom metallers turning rock concerts into “ritualist experiences”.

• At Dangerous Minds: The homoerotic “needleporn” art of Zachary Nutman.

Conor McGrady on the visual art of Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton.

• Collage and Mechanism: Anita Siegel’s art for Doubleday Science Fiction.

• Mix of the week: My name is Legion: Chapter 1 by The Ephemeral Man.

ChrisMarker.org is asking for small donations to help keep it running.

• 1967 is the year pop came out, says Jon Savage.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl goes online.

Groupmegroup (1981) by Liquid Liquid | If I Were A Groupie (1995) by Pizzicato Five | Group Four (1998) by Massive Attack

Weekend links 317

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Alphonse Mucha’s Le Pater, a book of mystical Symbolism written, designed and illustrated by the artist, was published in a limited edition in 1899. The book has been out of print ever since but Thomas Negovan at Century Guild will be reprinting it later this year.

• “Five axioms to define Europe: the coffee house; the landscape on a traversable and human scale; these streets and squares named after the statesmen, scientists, artists, writers of the past; our twofold descent from Athens and Jerusalem; and, lastly, that apprehension of a closing chapter, of that famous Hegelian sunset, which shadowed the idea and substance of Europe even in their noon hours.” George Steiner explores his idea of Europe.

Journey To The Edge Of The Universe by Upper Astral, 43 minutes of cosmic ambience, is a cassette-only release from 1983. The album has never been reissued so secondhand copies command excessive prices but it may be downloaded here.

• Mixes of the week: Three hours of ambience by Gregg Hermetech, XLR8R Podcast 446 by [Adrian] Sherwood x Nisennenmondai, and Secret Thirteen Mix 190 by Shxcxchcxsh.

Today [Angela] Carter is well known, widely taught in schools and universities, and much of what she presaged—in terms of recycling and updating (“old wine in new bottles”, she called it), or gender role play and reversal—has become commonplace in the culture. Despite this, many critics find it difficult to situate her work properly. This is partly because Carter is so sui generis (she has literary offspring but few antecedents), and partly because many struggle with the relationship of politics and aesthetics in her writing.

Kate Webb reviews two new books about Angela Carter

• Words that will forever pursue us: Tim Page on the late Michael Herr, “rock’n’roll voice of the Vietnam War”.

• From 2015: Luigi Serafini on how and why he created an encyclopedia of an imaginary world.

James Campbell on Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs: celebrating the Beats in Paris.

Fragile Beasts, an exhibition of grotesque print ornaments at Cooper Hewitt, NYC.

• Not before time, Guy Gavriel Kay wants to see an end to the plague of writing tips.

• David Bowie and Buster Keaton by Steve Schapiro.

Tom Charity on the films of Michael Cimino.

Alison Goldfrapp: photographer.

Golem Mecanique

European Man (1981) by Landscape | Europe After The Rain (1981) by John Foxx | Trans Europe Express (1994) by The One You Love

Brion Gysin record covers

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Shots (1977) by Steve Lacy.

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has been used on record sleeves. The life and work of Brion Gysin (1916–1986) is the subject of a new exhibition, Unseen Collaborator, that opened last week at October Gallery, London. The gallery page mentions Gysin’s connections to the music world: among other things, it was Gysin’s enthusiasm for the Master Musicians of Jajouka that gave those people and their music global prominence, with a little help from Brian Jones. But there are other connections, whether as a collaborator with Steve Lacy, or as a decorator of album covers. Some of these uses are posthumous but this small collection includes a few releases I’d not come across before.

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Troubles (1979) by The Steve Lacy Quintet.

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Orgy Boys (1982) by Brion Gysin.

A 12-inch single with Gysin reading from William Burroughs and his own writings. “Songs dedicated to his orgy pals: William S. Burroughs, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Fafa de Palaminy, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and John Giorno…”

Continue reading “Brion Gysin record covers”