The hundred-year Voyage

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Today’s post at Wormwoodiana reminds me that David Lindsay’s unique novel of philosophical fantasy, A Voyage to Arcturus, was published a hundred years ago today. I designed a lavish reprint for Savoy Books in 2002, an edition which unfortunately used the re-edited text from earlier reprints instead of going to the original publication. This wasn’t done for lack of a first edition, it was more out of ignorance—nobody bothered to look into the history of the text—as well as convenience; Savoy’s earlier reprinting of Anthony Skene’s Monsieur Zenith the Albino had involved many weeks of text preparation, scanning pages from a photocopy of Skene’s very scarce novel, then running the copy through rudimentary OCR software and proofing the result. In Savoy’s slight defence, the reprint of Arcturus did correct a couple of typos that everyone else had missed.

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I still think the best feature of my design was the selection of Jean Delville’s remarkable Symbolist painting, The Treasures of Satan (1895), a picture used with the permission of the Brussels Museum of Fine Art. (They supplied us with a print of the painting together with a photo of Delville’s Angel of Splendour (1894) for the back cover.) With the exception of Bob Pepper’s artwork for the 1968 Ballantine paperback, previous reprints of the novel seldom reflected the contents on their covers. I’m no longer happy with the type layout on the rest of the dust-jacket, however, although the front cover looks okay. The Savoy edition included an introduction by Alan Moore, an afterword by Colin Wilson, a collection of philosophical aphorisms by David Lindsay, plus a couple of photos of the author which I don’t think had been published before. Despite its flaws, the book was well-received. The paper was heavier stock than is generally used for hardback fiction which made for a heavy and expensive volume but the edition still sold out.

Penguin are reprinting the novel next year in an edition which continues the tradition of unsuitable cover art. According to Lindsay site The Violet Apple the figure on the cover is from an illustration for a Dostoevsky novella, so what is it doing on Lindsay’s book? Cover art aside, the novel is in a class of its own, and very highly recommended.

Previously on { feuilleton}
The art of Bob Pepper
Masonic fonts and the designer’s dark materials

Weekend links 349

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• Before Stanley Kubrick fixed an image of Alex and his droogs in the popular imagination, artists could get away with playing on the threat of biker gangs as Wilson McLean does in this vaguely psychedelic cover from 1969. (McLean’s interpretation may possibly derive from a 1965 edition.) LibraryThing has a collection of Clockwork Orange covers from around the world which run the gamut of cogs, orange hues and variations on David Pelham’s famous Penguin design from 1972. Meanwhile, AL Kennedy celebrates 100 years of Anthony Burgess by examining the writer’s career as a whole, although the web feature still manages to get a photo of Malcolm McDowell in there.

• “Even bad books can change lives,” says Phil Baker reviewing The Outsider by Colin Wilson and Beyond the Robot, a Wilson biography by Gary Lachman. I wouldn’t call The Outsider a bad book but Wilson’s more wayward opinions (and later works) are best treated with scepticism.

• “Murtaugh refers to his subject’s ‘pervasive sense of doom’ and Welch himself speaks of ‘the extraordinary sadness of everything.'” David Pratt reviewing Good Night, Beloved Comrade: The Letters of Denton Welch to Eric Oliver, edited by Daniel J. Murtaugh.

• At The Quietus this week: Tinariwen bassist Eyadou Ag Leche is interviewed by Richie Troughton, Jane Weaver unveils a new song from her forthcoming album, Modern Kosmology, and Danny Riley explores the strange world of Ben Chasny.

• “A micro-history of cultural gatekeeping: once told by the censors what we may read, then by critics what we should, we are now told merely what we can read.” Ben Roth writing against the use of “readability” as a literary value.

• Yayoi Kusama’s amazing infinity rooms are at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, until May. For the rest of us, Peter Murphy’s panoramic photo is still online.

• More music: my friends Watch Repair have become visible enough to be interviewed by an Argentinian website. The group’s Bandcamp page recently made three new releases available.

• Yet more music: They Walk Among Us, a new song and video by Barry Adamson, and Anymore, a new song and video by Goldfrapp.

• Earth and The Bug announce Concrete Desert, a collaborative album inspired by Los Angeles and the fiction of JG Ballard.

• Bad Books for Bad People: Episode 7: The Incal – Epic French Space-Opera Comics.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 589 by Aisha Devi, and Secret Thirteen Mix 212 by Qual.

Eduardo Paolozzi‘s forays into fashion and furnishings.

Cooking with Vincent [Price]

Moroccan Tape Stash

• Tin Toy Clockwork Train (1986) by The Dukes Of Stratosphear | Clock (1995) by Node | Clockwork Horoscope (2009) by Belbury Poly

Weekend links 282

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Thomas Ligotti photographed by Jennifer Gariepy.

• More Thomas Ligotti (he’s been marginalised for decades, the attention is overdue): “Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe are fugues of the creeping unknown,” says Peter Bebergal who profiles Ligotti for The New Yorker, and gets him to talk about the impulses that produce his fiction; at the Lovecraft eZine eleven writers and editors ask Ligotti a question related to his work.

• As usual, Halloween brings out the mixes. This year there’s a choice of The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XII by David Colohan, Samhain Séance 4 : The Masks of Ashor by The_Ephemeral_Man, The Voluptuous Doom of Bava Yaga by SeraphicManta, Spool’s Out Radio #27 with Joseph Curwen, and The Edge Of The Holloween Oven – 10/26/15 by The Edge Of The Ape Oven.

Broadcast’s James Cargill has provided a soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s radio adaptation of The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale. John Doran and Richard Augood review the new and old versions for The Quietus. Related: Peter Strickland’s favourite horror soundtracks.

My mission was to make sounds that didn’t exist in reality, whether it’s a star ship or a laser or a monster or an exploding planet. You started with basic sounds that were acoustic and then you manipulated them. There’s a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when he falls into the well of souls and pushes over that statue and there are all those snakes? The sound of the snakes was made by pulling masking tape off glass. When the statue falls over and breaks the wall there’s the noise of lots of big rocks breaking. We just took some bricks and smashed them up and then slowed the tape recording down. I remember doing a lot of great scary effects using dry ice and a bunch of pots and pans out of the kitchen. You heat them up really hot and then you drop a load of dry ice into the hot pan so the rapid thermal change would make it scream.

Composer and sound designer Alan Howarth talks to Mat Colegate about working for films

Jordan Hoffman reviews Jacques Rivette’s legendary 13-hour feature film Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (1971). The film will be in cinemas next month, and available on DVD/BR in January.

The Stone Tape was originally a one-off TV drama shown at Christmas in 1972. Michael Newton looks at the BBC’s habit in the 1970s of screening ghost stories at Christmas.

Steven Arnold’s Epiphanies: A look back at some of the artist’s surrealist photographs.

Greydogtales just concluded a month of posts dedicated to William Hope Hodgson.

• At Dirge Magazine: Tenebrous Kate on seven songs based on dark literary classics.

Phil Legard opens some grimoires for a short history of signs and seals.

Micah Nathan on Tuesday’s Child, “LA’s best Satanist magazine”.

• “The Occult was a kind of awakening,” says Colin Wilson.

Shagfoal: witchcraft and horror-blues by Dante.

Jenny Hval‘s favourite albums.

The Attic Tapes (1975) by Cabaret Voltaire | Those Tapes Are Dangerous (1997) by The Bug | The Black Mill Video Tape (2012) by Pye Corner Audio

In the Mind’s Eye

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One of the posts last December concerned a short TV film by Alan Garner, To Kill a King, the final entry in the Leap in the Dark series which the BBC ran from 1973 to 1980. Each half-hour episode concerned the supernatural, presented in either drama or documentary form, which for me would have meant prime viewing but I don’t recall ever seeing the series. The Garner film was a strange piece of drama whereas In the Mind’s Eye (1977) is a documentary about ghosts presented by writer Colin Wilson. The film is almost more interesting for its production details than its subject, the Phantom Vicar of Ratcliffe Wharf, an alleged spectre whose murderous life is shown in a piece of unconvincing dramatisation. The Phantom Vicar was the invention of writer Frank Smyth who needed a supernatural story for the Frontiers of Belief section of Man, Myth and Magic during its publication as a part-work in the early 1970s. Smyth and friend describe hatching the tale then we hear a number of subsequent reports which show the story quickly became an East End legend. Between the interviews you get to see bits of the docklands area before the spirits of old London had been exorcised by redevelopment.

Previously on { feuilleton }
To Kill a King by Alan Garner
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
MMM in IT
Terror and Magnificence

Weekend links 189

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The Outsider (1956), 1963 edition; The Occult (1971), 1973 edition.

The cover of the 1973 UK paperback of Colin Wilson‘s mammoth overview of occultism can still be offered as a pinnacle of hyperbole. The book itself is a very serious and informative study but its success set Wilson on a path as a writer about the paranormal where he’d previously been concerned with literature, philosophy and psychology. For many critics this finished his already shaky reputation as a serious thinker. He continued to write about philosophy and literature in subsequent books but dubious speculations about Atlantis are always more commercially attractive than studies of Nietzsche, hence the proliferation of lost continents in the later part of a bibliography which the Wilson website lists at 114 titles. Wilson was a maverick intellectual whose curiosity ignored many of the boundaries that restrained his metropolitan contemporaries; he was also an autodidact of a type that seems to irritate the university-educated. Mentions of his name in British newspapers were frequently couched in sneering or dismissive terms. His current reputation can be measured by the lack of attention the news of his death has prompted in the UK at the time of writing. (That said, dying on the same day as Nelson Mandela was unfortunate timing.)

Savoy Books published an edition of Wilson’s crime novel, The Killer, in 2002. I designed that volume, rather badly, I think. In 2004 Robert Meadley wrote a book-length reaction to Wilson’s autobiography, Dreaming to Some Purpose, which can be downloaded for free from Savoy. In it Meadley mounts a robust defence of Wilson against the broadsheet termagants. Elsewhere: the only newspaper obituary so far is at The Times (subscription required); Colin Wilson on Desert Island Discs in 1978; Gary Lachman interviewing Wilson for Fortean Times in 2004; musician Anthony Reynolds discussing his collaboration with Wilson.

• “Art, music and a mind-blowing voyage of discovery”: Richard Neville on the late Martin Sharp. At Design Observer Rick Poynor looks back at Sharp’s book and magazine illustrations of the 1960s. Of particular note is Sharp’s contribution to the “Magic Theatre” issue of Oz magazine, a unique combination of collaged visuals and text which Alan Moore often refers to as a favourite work. (See issue 12 of Moore’s Promethea, “The Magic Theatre of the Mind“.)

• “The naked woman in art isn’t unusual, but we have trouble viewing the male body as a sexual, or artistic, object,” says James Polchin.

But how can anyone be bored when there’s always death to think about? Every day. Every hour. Don’t you? All the rest is just evading or glossing the real subject of our lives. Beckett, again, the maestro of death: Never but the one matter. The dead and gone. The dying and the going. From the word go. I too shall cease and be as when I was not yet, only all over instead of in store.

Jenny Diski on death and dying.

• A teaser trailer for The Dreamlands, a film by Huan Vu (Die Farbe) based on HP Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle.

• “On Watching Wages of Fear with my 11-Year-Old Daughter” by Debra Morris.

Abram Games’ “bat wings” BBC logo is 60 years old. See it in action here.

• At Strange Flowers: Romaine Brooks‘ portraits of her famous friends.

• At Front Free Endpaper: Mervyn Peake illustrates Treasure Island.

The Great God Pan (plus satyrs and fauns) at Pinterest.

Dan Wilson on “Electric Music” on the Victorian stage.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 414 by Julianna Barwick.

• The BFI chooses 10 great British rural horror films.

Dunwich – The search for Britain’s Atlantis.

The Grand Canyon filled with fog.

• The Bells of Dunwich (1975) by Stone Angel | O.O.B.E. (1992) by The Orb (feat. Colin Wilson) | Why We Make It Difficult On Ourselves (2010) by Anthony Reynolds & Colin Wilson