Weekend links 320

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Palm Night (2016) by Nick Liefhebber.

• “Gortner includes reference to the little known Hollywood ‘sewing circles’ (code word for lesbian communities) of which Marlene became a part. This group included Ann Warner, Lili Damita, Claudette Colbert, and Dolores del Río.” Walter Holland reviewing Marlene, a “novelization” of the life of Marlene Dietrich by CW Gortner.

• “Challenges and all, Jerusalem ensures Moore’s place as one of the great masters of the English language.” Heidi MacDonald reviewing Alan Moore’s forthcoming novel. Photos of the slipcased paperback edition (a 3-volume set) appeared last week.

• “It’s unlikely that a gnawing sense of being unborn tops the neuroses of most writers these days, but I’d argue that Beckett’s Jungian insight is more commonly known today as anxiety.” Robert Fay on nihilism and the writing life.

• “So why would I be ‘great for this cover’? Good chance it’s because the book is aimed at a female audience and I am a female designer.” Jennifer Heuer on gendered book covers and being a woman designer.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 562 by M. Geddes Gengras, Secret Thirteen Mix 191 by Monica Hits The Ground, and a mix by Daniel Miller.

• Strange Flesh: The Use of Lovecraftian Archetypes in Queer Fiction, an ongoing series by The Punk Writer: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4.

• “For the Sake of the Prospect”: Lily Ford on the ways in which balloon flight transformed ideas about landscape in the 18th century.

• “Why did Google erase Dennis Cooper’s beloved literary blog?” asks Jennifer Krasinski.

• From Leeds to London: portraits of English cities in the 1970s by Peter Mitchell.

Phantasm is Dune

• RIP Jack Davis

Palm Grease (live, 1974) by Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters | Phantasm (1994) by Biosphere | Fizzy Flesh (1996) by Spacer

Weekend links 290

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The Royal Mint celebrates 400 years of William Shakespeare with new £2 coins. The “Tragedies” design gives Britain the Gothiest coin of all time.

• “I hate successful films that travel on an easy wave of ‘good taste’: for me, that is simply anti-culture.” Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli talks to Alexandra Heller-Nicholas about photographing Dario Argento’s masterwork, Suspiria.

• Mixes of the week: Für die Liebe II, an hour of ambient drift by Matthew Dekay, and Carwyn Ellis Mixtape No. 354 by The Voice Of Cassandre.

• Americans in Europe: Frances Mayes on the enduring mystique of the Venetian lagoon, and David Farley on the trail of Kafka in Prague.

“We’d read that Brion Gysin and William Burroughs had played around with some scientific equipment from Columbia University,” [Jim] Jarmusch recalls. It was “some kind of strobe light that they claimed, by placing eidetic pulses on the outside of your eyelids, could cause states of hallucination and trance. We found out how to check out this machine and experimented with … not fantastic results! In a way though, Luc [Sante] channels ghosts: he’s able to imagine and mentally reconstruct events and places from the past and weave them into stories. He can cross influences like Blaise Cendrars and JG Ballard with James M Cain and Raymond Roussel.”

[…]

If New York celebrates amnesia, perpetual transformation, accelerated obsolescence – and offers newcomers a blank slate, a chance to be born again – then Sante offers a mordantly heretical vision of the city. For him it’s full of layers and depths, of echoes and eerie reverberations, of occult whispers. “The tech crowd thinks that we can’t afford the past to be sitting on our shoulders. It’s a burden, a dead weight. We’ve got to innovate constantly. We have to … disrupt. But the 20th century is littered with valuable stuff – writers, ideas, daily certainties – that gets discarded and that needs to be picked up and looked at again.”

Sukhdev Sandhu profiles writer Luc Sante

The Edge Question for 2016: What do you consider the most interesting recent (scientific) news? What makes it important?

Bradley L. Garrett’s foreword for Secret Tunnels of England: Folklore and Fact (2015), a book by Antony Clayton.

Caitlin R. Green on the monstrous landscape of medieval Lincolnshire.

Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan by Brian Eno.

Arche (live, 2013) by Master Musicians of Bukkake.

A Year In The Country returns for another year.

Kafka (1982) by Masami Tsuchiya | Manhattan (1984) by Seigen Ono | Tunnel (1997) by Biosphere

Night Music in two parts

Night Music One by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Night Music I
The Hafler Trio – Soundtrack To “Alternation, Perception, And Resistance” — A Comprehension Exercise (1985)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 4/1 (Hankie) (1994)
Michael Brook – Earth Floor (1985)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 10/1 (Tree) (1994)
Biosphere – Startoucher (1994)
Black Lung – Rex 84 (1995)
Biosphere – Biosphere (1992)
Holger Czukay – Radio In An Hourglass (1993)
Rapoon – Rains (1993)
Clock DVA – Memories Of Sound (1992)

Night Music Two by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Night Music II
Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia – Dust (At The Crossroads) (1994)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 2/2 (Parallel Stripes) (1994)
Harold Budd – The Gunfighter (1986)
Divination – Errata (1993)
Coil – Dismal Orb (1992)
Biosphere – Mir (1994)
David Toop and Max Eastley – Rising Up Before Us Like Things (1994)
Angelo Badalamenti – Night Life In Twin Peaks (1990)
Coil – The Sleeper II (1992)
Jon Hassell – Empire II (1983)
The Grid – Virtual (1990)
Biosphere – En-trance (1994)

After signing up to Mixcloud earlier this year I’ve only managed to compile one mix so here’s an unseasonal attempt to compensate.

Night Music was a bona fide mix on cassette tape that I put together in 1994, intended as a response to Kevin Martin’s double-disc compilation from the same year, Ambient 4: Isolationism. The three previous entries in Virgin’s Ambient… series were fairly routine reworkings of the label’s back catalogue, collections of more-or-less ambient material with light electronica. Martin’s compilation concentrated on the darker, doomier end of the musical spectrum, and also pulled in music from outside the Virgin fold. It arrived as a considerable tonic after several years of diluted techno and psychedelic clichés being marketed as “ambient”.

Night Music is much more of a genuine DJ mix than Ectoplasm Forming. I didn’t have any proper mixing equipment at the time so had to record every other track onto stereo videotape then play back the tape while fading the rest of the tracks in and out from the CD player. The whole thing was recorded live to a C-100 cassette. Rather than run the mix as a single track I’ve kept the two sides separate; both sides were programmed with beginnings and endings so work better this way. I transferred the mix to CD several years ago, and still listen to it every so often. There’s a little too much Biosphere but apart from that I wouldn’t alter the track list.

As usual I’ll be away for a few days so the { feuilleton } archive feature will be activated to summon posts from the past below this one. Enjoy your wassail.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming

Weekend links 144

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Ruins 3 by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith.

“Dan wanted to do something on a really large scale and was looking at a lot of Piranesi and started talking to me about ruins. I then started looking at modern interpretations of this idea, I was obsessed with the post modern architecture of SITE, Disney fantasy settings, Busby Berkeley, Sotsass ceramics, Art Deco motifs in general, Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings, Arabic temples and on and on…” Rachel Thomas talks to Daisy Woodward about Imaginary View, an exhibition currently showing at Somerset House, London.

• A brief description of The Yokel’s Preceptor (1855), a guide to Victorian London’s gay underworld by William Dugdale. When do we get to see a facsimile of this document? The slang is a treat.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 054, a great selection by Biosphere of doomy ambience from the Post Punk/early Industrial era, 1979–1981.

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Stella (Ernest Boulton) with Fanny (Frederick Park) (c. 1860–1870).

While Stella and Fanny might be the most terrible show-offs, not to mention industrious sex workers, even they drew the line at coupling in public places. Over the course of the subsequent trial, and despite bribing witnesses, the prosecution failed to prove that sodomy had ever occurred, either between the two young men themselves, or within their circle of genteel “sisters”, or even in a dark corner behind the Haymarket with a passing guardsman. Eventually, and only after a second trial a year later, the young men were found not guilty and allowed to slip back into their lives of pro-am theatricals, touring together and separately in such limp pieces as A Comical Countess and A Morning Call.

Kathryn Hughes reviews Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna. Related: photographs of the pair.

The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale, a book of essays and a cassette tape dedicated to the television dramatist.

Sheltered and Safe from Sorrow: “Victorian mourning rituals, tombstones, epitaphs, and other creepy things”.

Crate digging and the resurgence of vinyl. Related: Men & Vinyl, a Tumblr devoted to men and their discs.

• Designer Shirley Tucker talks about her cover for the first edition of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

• More Will Bradley at The Golden Age (formerly Golden Age Comic Book Stories).

The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2), a new track by The Haxan Cloak.

Psychedelic Press UK | Related: Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?

Paris in colour circa 1900.

Twilight (1983) by Pete Shelley | Twilight (2000) by Antony and the Johnsons | Twilight (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd

Looking for the Wild Boys

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Calder & Boyars, 1972. Design by John Sewell.

This must be the first space novel, the first serious piece of science fiction—the others are entertainment.

Mary McCarthy defending The Naked Lunch in the New York Review of Books, June, 1963.

Mary McCarthy’s view—echoed a year later by Michael Moorcock and JG Ballard in the pages of New Worlds magazine—has never been popular or even particularly acceptable. William Burroughs gets touted as an sf writer by other writers, and John Clute gives him an entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, but Burroughs’ sf scenarios are guaranteed to offend those readers who prefer their narratives presented in a neat, linear form with detailed explanations of How The Future Would Actually Work, or the physics behind some piece of imaginary technology. The books which immediately follow The Naked LunchThe Soft Machine, The Ticket that Exploded, and Nova Express—all feature sf scenes or ideas. The latter was deemed sufficiently generic to prompt Panther Books in the UK to publish it three times as “Panther Science Fiction” although given the severe criticism that Moorcock sustained for trying to broaden the horizons of readers in the late 60s I don’t expect sales were encouraging.

The Wild Boys, published in 1971 (1972 in the UK), was Burroughs’ first novel after Nova Express, and his first book of fresh material after mining the stack of writing that birthed The Naked Lunch and the titles which followed. The novel is subtitled A Book of the Dead (as in the Egyptian or Tibetan Books of the Dead), and is certainly science fiction although I’ve never seen it marketed as such or noticed any sf reader include it in a list of notable genre novels of the period. My Calder & Boyers hardback offers a précis of the fractured narrative:

The year is 1988. The Wild Boys, adolescent guerilla armies of specialized humanoids, are destroying the armies of the civilized nations and ravaging the earth. The wild boys, who began in the pre-present past as petrol gangs, dousing their victims with petrol and setting them on fire for kicks, have grown to an army, dedicated to violence. One of them is used in a cigarette commercial. He becomes a new cult figure, a demi-god responsible for great destruction, and it is left to strong man Arachnid Ben Driss to exterminate the wild boys. He slaughters them, but the battle continues underground until all civilization collapses, revealing a future of horrifying dimensions. The originality of the theme and the very special Burroughs style together make this one of the most unusual science fiction novels ever, a prophetic exploration of the future, that should quickly establish itself as one of the classics of the present time.

That’s accurate, up to a point, although like many book blurbs it misrepresents the content somewhat. It also neglects to say how funny the book is. For anyone with a black sense of humour Burroughs has always been a great comic writer, and The Wild Boys has some prime examples, not least the opening chapter, Tío Mate Smiles, which is best appreciated in the author’s own reading.

Having gone through the novel in the past week, and going through its follow-up/appendix/remix Port of Saints at the moment, a couple of things occurred to me. The first was the way The Wild Boys strongly prefigures later works like Cities of the Red Night and The Place of Dead Roads. This is a fairly obvious point but it’s one that hadn’t fully clicked until now. The Wild Boys takes the problems of repressive control systems posed in the first few novels and offers a possible solution: a homoerotic utopia/dystopia where gangs of teenage boys hide out in depopulated regions, waging war against the rest of humanity with sex, magic and a mastery of weapons, including biological and viral varieties. While doing this they are steadily mutating so they can leave behind all human concerns with nation, family, laws and written language. Cities of the Red Night was Burroughs first novel after The Wild Boys and presents a less radical proposal, ranging through time with its anarchist pirate colonies and the six cities of the title. In The Place of Dead Roads Kim Carsons has his band of outlaw cowboys, The Wild Fruits, and the book gives us the conflict between the Johnsons—those who “mind their own business”—and the Shits: lawmen, politicians, tycoons, all the usual agents of Control.

Continue reading “Looking for the Wild Boys”