Sympathy for the devil

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After unearthing this book in July I finally got round to reading it. Guy Endore’s biography of the Marquis de Sade isn’t a great work of literature (and my paperback is also badly typeset) but it was worthwhile for the sketch it offers of the life and philosophies of the notorious libertine. Sade is of interest to me more for his importance to subsequent generations than for his works (although the one leads back to the other), not least the Surrealists who revered him as a revolutionary thinker far ahead of his time. But this interest isn’t really enough to warrant immersion in a major biography which would run to many hundreds of pages, and have to take account of the tumultuous historical era that Sade lived through: pre-Revolutionary France, the Revolution itself, then the Napoleonic period.

Guy Endore was a biographical collagist whose method in this and other books was to explore the life by stitching together with his own commentary extracts from letters and diaries and, where necessary, his own inventions. Most editions of Satan’s Saint proclaim the book as a novel but this isn’t really the case, Endore describes his text in the introductory note as a “novelized Ph.D. thesis”. The note also indicates the passages he was forced to invent when the documentary material was absent. Sade’s life was more turbulent than most, a continual round of family drama, pursuit by the authorities and serial imprisonment, all taking place during a time of the greatest national upheaval, so it’s no surprise that letters, diaries and other documents have been lost. Endore’s most substantial invention is the diary of Sade’s sister-in-law, Anne-Prospère de Launay, with whom the Marquis was besotted, and who he took with him to Italy when he fled his first court conviction and a death sentence. Endore attempts to explain (not always successfully) how the convent-raised woman could not only betray her sister and the rest of her family but also run away with a man accused of terrible sexual crimes. Less invention is required for the Marquis himself since some letters do survive, and his voice and opinions are present throughout his published writings. Given Sade’s enduring reputation it’s a surprise to discover how much of his life was consumed by familial squabbles, especially with his mother-in-law. The Sade family saga, like many of his novels, is a familiar human affair inflated to outrageous proportions; the hatred between Sade and his in-laws was mutual but each saved the other from execution.

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It’s that Rubens typeface again… First US edition, 1965.

Endore’s penultimate chapter steps away from the biography to present a talk given to students at the University of California in May 1962. The lecture allows the author to summarise his attitude to Sade which isn’t so much one of admiration but respect for a man who stood against the hypocrisies of his time even when his life was at stake. “I never killed anyone,” Sade said in later years, and Endore draws a lengthy comparison between Sade and Napoleon Bonaparte, the latter being responsible for the destruction of Sade’s published novels as well as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. The crimes of Napoleon were far greater than those of the man who spent 14 years of his life in prison, yet the name of Napoleon carries none of the notoriety that surrounds the name of Sade. Endore also notes the irony that without his lengthy terms of imprisonment the Marquis might have been as forgotten as he always hoped he would be. Prison compelled him to rage on paper against the world.

I have another Endore book, The Werewolf of Paris, lurking in the unread stacks but it will have to wait. Since reading this piece I’ve had an urge to revisit the novels of Charles Williams. Some metaphysical thrills are in order.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Satan’s Saint
The Execution of the Testament of the Marquis de Sade by Jean Benoît
The Marat/Sade

Weekend links 299

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Starman (2016) by Nyahzul Blanco. From the Saint Bowie exhibition at Stephen Romano Gallery, NY.

• “…[Dashiel] Hammett’s first-hand experience of political sleaze, industrial violence and the everyday routine of an agent allowed for a realism that brought hard-boiled fiction to new heights.” Oliver Harris reviews a new life of Hammett, a history of the American detective, and a study of film noir.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 177 by Vladislav Dobrovolski, The After-School Club by Melmoth The Wanderer, and Perfect Monolake by Rich Ears.

Inside High-Rise: product designs by Michael Eaton and Felicity Hickson for Ben Wheatley’s feature film.

Yeats is not the only respected writer to make use of the tarot: Italo Calvino, Salvador Dalí, and even Charles Williams, a novelist and theologian who belonged to the Inklings literary circle, also drew on the cards. Still, the cards remain firmly associated with the occult—and, while [Jessa] Crispin is sympathetic to that tradition, she aims to bring tarot to those who may be skeptical of that way of thinking. Her references are more literary than arcane.

Peter Bebergal talks to Jessa Crispin about making the Tarot literary again

Legowelt’s best free paranormal synth samples, occult instruments and lo-fi effects.

• At Dangerous Minds: a smorgasbord of sorcerous bad taste via Vintage Occult.

• Free download: Cavern of Anti-Matter live at Acad, Berlin, 2015.

• Conversing with your Subconscious: The Art of Adrian Cherry.

Diagonal Science is the debut album from Black Helicopters.

111 Photographs of 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI.

• More magick: occult documentaries of the 1970s.

• A Bosch-themed fashion feature by Tim Walker.

Cycloid Drawing Machine

Dark Star (1984) by Harold Budd | Dark Start (1994) by ELpH vs Coil | Dark Star Blues (2004) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.

Weekend links 297

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Crimson Metallic Emergent Skull Crystal Pendant by Kristen Phillips aka Floridxfauna.

The Noise-Arch Backup at the Internet Archive is 30GB of mp3s from noise-arch.net, a collection of cassette-based releases and artwork: “material represented includes tape experimentation, industrial, avant-garde, indy, rock, diy, subvertainment and auto-hypnotic materials…” 30GB is an intimidatingly large amount of material so it’s better to browse The Noise-Arch Archive, a selection of 468 releases.

• The week in erotica: Claire Voon on Ancient Erotic Dreams and Explicit Scenes in the New York Public Library Collection; Melanie Porter on Great Grandporn: Hardcore Pornography of the Silent Era; Cathy Camper on The Comics of Dale Lazarov: Illustrated Explorations of Sexual Inventiveness.

Void Beats/Invocation Trex by Cavern of Anti-Matter (Holger Zapf, Joe Dilworth & Tim Gane) was released this week. The opening number is Tardis Cymbals. Tom Furse condensed the 73-minute album into a 17-minute mini-mix.

Indeed, if you had to “place” ­Williams—put him alongside writers with whom he had something in common—it would be with the mystical autodidacts, the backstreet Rosicrucians more than with the pipe-smoking, tweedy Inklings. To that extent, the only unsatisfactory thing about Grevel Lindop’s book is its title. True, Williams went to Oxford when war broke out and became friends with the famous circle around C. S. Lewis. But he was not an Inkling in spirit. He was not at home in Oxford, and his arrival, far from consolidating the Inklings, actually broke them up by bewitching Lewis, and making Lewis neglect the central friendship of his life, that with ­Tolkien. Another scholar of Old English literature, C. L. Wrenn, said that meeting Williams made you realize why inquisitors thought they had the right to burn people. Tolkien agreed: “Williams is eminently combustible.”

Certainly, Williams’s books had an influence on the Inklings. Lindop is right to say that the central plotline of Many Dimensions suggests the story of The Lord of the Rings. In the Williams novel, it is a stone of great power, rather than a ring, but it has the same effect on those who bear it: They become its possession, not its possessor.

AN Wilson reviews Charles Williams: The Third Inkling by Grevel Lindop

• Russ Fischer recommends five films by Andrzej Zulawski (RIP). Possession (1981) is still the easiest to find, and a good place to start. I enthused about On The Silver Globe (1977–87) last year.

England’s Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground by David Keenan has been published in a revised and expanded edition by Strange Attractor.

The Preservation Man (1962): Artist and collector Bruce Lacey (RIP) filmed by Ken Russell for the BBC’s Monitor.

Barry Adamson: “I’ve been called the outsider’s outsider”.

• At Dangerous Minds: Six degrees of Marty Feldman.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 536 by Not Waving.

• The Alan Clarke page at the BFI shop.

Umberto Eco (RIP): Porta Ludovica

Possessions (1980) by The Residents | Possessed (1992) by The Balanescu Quartet | Possessed (2001) by Sussan Deyhim & Shirin Neshat

Orson Welles: The One-Man Band

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Vassili Silovic’s 90-minute documentary about the uncompleted films of Orson Welles’ later years was a revelation when it appeared in 1995. Orson Welles: The One-Man Band was shown on UK TV as The Lost Films of Orson Welles but “one-man band” is more appropriate, not only because of the bizarre song-and-dance sequence he filmed in London, but also because it’s an apt description of Welles’ approach to filmmaking. Directors who also write and produce are rare but not too uncommon; directors who write, produce and also act in major roles are in a minority. Welles did all those things and often much more, including editing, set decoration and providing voices for minor characters. The latter habit can be distracting in some of the films, especially Mr Arkadin where it often seems he was doing the voices for everyone who wasn’t already a known actor.

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The One-Man Band is a compendium of clips from footage bequeathed to his partner, Oja Kodar, together with interviews, TV appearances, a witty and duplicitous trailer for F for Fake, and other odds and ends. This was the first public airing of scenes from The Deep, an unfinished feature based on a thriller, Dead Calm (1963) by Charles Williams (later filmed by Philip Noyce as Dead Calm in 1989.) There’s also a sequence from The Other Side of the Wind, another feature that was closer to completion, and which may yet receive a proper release. The sequence showing Welles discussing The Trial with an audience is now available in full on YouTube. The London clips were intended for US TV, part of an unfinished special entitled Orson’s Bag. These were filmed in the late 60s, and the song-and-dance sequence is probably the strangest thing he directed. I’m more taken with the Tailors sketch which has Jonathan Lynn and the wonderful Charles Gray as a pair of disrespectful outfitters.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Immortal Story, a film by Orson Welles
Welles at 100
The Fountain of Youth
The Complete Citizen Kane
Return to Glennascaul, a film by Hilton Edwards
Screening Kafka
The Panic Broadcast

Weekend links 148

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Quantum Entanglement by Duda Lanna.

An hour-long electronica mix (with the Düül rocking out at the end) by Chris Carter for Ninja Tune’s Solid Steel Radio Show.

• “…a clothes-optional Rosicrucian jamboree.”: Strange Flowers on the paintings of Elisàr von Kupffer.

• A Paste review of volume 2 of The Graphic Canon has some favourable words for my contribution.

It is an entertaining thought to remember that Orlando, all sex-change, cross-dressing and transgressive desire, appeared in the same year as Radclyffe Hall’s sapphic romance The Well of Loneliness. The two novels are different solar systems. The Well is gloomy, beaten, defensive, where women who love women have only suffering and misunderstanding in their lonely lives. The theme is as depressing as the writing, which is terrible. Orlando is a joyful and passionate declaration of love as life, regardless of gender. The Well was banned and declared obscene. Orlando became a bestseller.

Jeanette Winterson on Virginia Woolf’s androgynous fantasia.

Jim Jupp discovers the mystical novels of Charles Williams.

Michael Andre-Driussi on The Politics of Roadside Picnic.

Les Softs Machines: 25 August 1968, Ce Soir On Danse.

• At 50 Watts: Illustrations and comics by Pierre Ferrero.

Soviet posters: 1469 examples at Flickr.

Oliver Sacks on drugs (again).

• At Pinterest: Altered States.

• Farewell, Kevin Ayers.

Darkest London

Why Are We Sleeping? (1969) by The Soft Machine | Lady Rachel (1969) by Kevin Ayers | Decadence (1973) by Kevin Ayers