Weekend links 463

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Eye 98: Beatrice Display Black, Sharp Type, 2018, and a detail from an original drawing for Lexicon by Bram de Does, 1989.

Issue 98 of Eye, the international design journal, is out this month. The new issue is a typography special but also features my review of Mark Dery’s Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey. This is the second time I’ve written about Dery’s book, with the new piece focusing more on Gorey’s work as a designer/book creator, and his place in the history of illustration.

Portal is a new release by Slovakian metal band Doomas, the artwork of which adapts one of my illustrations for Lovecraft’s Monsters. The band also have a suitably Lovecraftian video.

• Reading recommendations by M. John Harrison: the old (the excellent Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys) and the new (Underland et al).

I first started drawing in my Wake to count the number of rivers mentioned in an episode, one page alone counting 85. Gradually, I would be so moved by a line or a character I would colour them in, the most obvious being the 28 Rainbow girls to the more obscure nebulae, railroad tracks, hidden mythical islands and turn of the century lightships. Themes began to emerge which demanded documentation and always the sad, ecstatic relief of finishing a chapter merited some sort of coloured tribute. By the time I finished four years later, I simply drew a leaf to reflect Joyce’s metaphor on the last page: my leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still.

Susie Lopez on Finnegans Wake at 80

• Old ghosts at The Paris Review: a preview of The Spectacle of Illusion by Matthew L. Tompkins.

• At Dangerous Minds: Malcolm McDowell and the making of Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!

Herbie Hancock: “I felt like I stood on the shoulders of giants and now it’s my turn”.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 590 by Christian Löffler.

• The discography of Diamanda Galás is now at Bandcamp.

• RIP Quentin Fiore, graphic designer and book creator.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Haunted dolls.

Antique Doll (1967) by The Electric Prunes | The Doll’s House (1980) by Landscape | Voodoo Dolly (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees

Weekend links 250

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Untitled artwork by Melinda Gebbie.

• “Johnny Rocket is like a Chaucerian epic retold by David Peace with music by Bruce Haack and The Focus Group for a music hall located in Hell.” John Doran talks to Maxine Peake and the Eccentronic Research Council about their “psychedelic ouija pop”.

Allison Meier looks at a new exhibition of Victor Moscoso’s psychedelic drawings. Related: Julia Bigham writing in Eye magazine in 2001 about London’s psychedelic poster scene.

• “Oh to eye the very enfilade through which that orchidaceous entity would make his stately progress…” Strange Flowers on the eccentric Count Stenbock.

Melinda Gebbie: What Is The Female Gaze? The artist is in conversation next month with Mark Pilkington and Tai Shani at the Horse Hospital, London.

Pamela Colman Smith: She Believes in Fairies. The Tarot artist and illustrator in a rare interview from 1912.

• Minimalist posters: “a lack of nuance disguised as insight,” says John Brownlee.

• Saturday night in the City of the Dead: Richard Metzger on the John Foxx-era Ultravox.

The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble plays the Brandenberg Concerto No. 3.

• “In a weird way”: a brief history of a phrase by Ivan Kreilkamp.

Die Hexe: An installation by Alex Da Corte.

• RIP Daevid Allen

Istaqsinaayok

You Can’t Kill Me (1971) by Gong | Master Builder (1974) by Gong | When (1982) by Daevid Allen

More vapour trails

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Those covers everyone likes. My designs for KW Jeter’s steampunk novels from Angry Robot and Tor Books.

When I wrote a brief history of steampunk for Eye magazine last year I ended by somewhat provocatively declaring that until something better appeared this was the defining aesthetic of the moment. A year later, the movement (if we can use that term) continues to evolve despite the steady drip of complaints that it’s all reactionary, historically illiterate, and so on. Much of the ire remains nonsensical, and often seems to boil down to a common disdain for people enjoying themselves in some unorthodox manner.

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Design by Galen Smith after the Hetzel editions of Jules Verne’s novels.

If I hadn’t got involved on the art side I would have found it difficult to avoid being attracted by steampunk in one form or another since so much of it originates in areas I was already interested in, not least HG Wells and Victorian science fiction. The rapid evolution of the past few years means we’re currently seeing an aesthetic leaving behind its origins to become an international subculture. What’s striking about this activity—and this is something that doesn’t seem to have been discussed very much—is the way the whole thing has been birthed by genre fiction rather than by pop music, as was the case for the second half of the 20th century. This piece is meant to be a news post, however, not another cultural critique, but if I happen to write any more on the subject there’s something there that’s worth exploring.

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As to the news: this month finds my steampunk artwork manifesting in three very different locations in one of those odd coincidences of timing that occur now and then. First up there’s the Steampunk User’s Manual edited by Jeff VanderMeer & Desirina Boskovich, a follow-up to 2011’s Steampunk Bible. For the new volume I designed spreads for three entries by Jess Nevins from The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: Alternative History Edition.

Continue reading “More vapour trails”

Ulysses versus Maldoror

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Ulysses (1934), designed by Ernst Reichl; Complete Works of Isidore Ducasse (1967), designed by Pierre Faucheux.

On the design front, that is, not the writing one. Ernst Reichl’s design for the 1934 Random House edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (the first US edition) has a cover which isn’t so different to the many Art Deco-style bindings from around this time. Inside, however, there’s a significant innovation with his title spread, and the dramatic imposition of a huge capital letter. Random House was presenting Ulysses as a major artistic statement, a quality which Reichl’s design reinforces when the page-filling capitals recur at the openings of each of the novel’s three sections.

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I encountered the huge S on the opening page in a book about Joyce shortly after I’d started reading the novel for the first time, and for years was under the impression that this had been a specific instruction of the author’s, a typographic flourish to add to the rest of the formal manipulations. I’d suggest—insist, even—that all editions of Ulysses should adopt Reichl’s design. Martha Scotford at Design Observer looks at the book in more detail.

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Les chants de Maldoror-Poésies-Lettres (1950) by Lautréamont. Le club français du livre.

Pierre Faucheux went one further with his grandiose opening for Les chants de Maldoror-Poésies-Lettres by filling the opening of the book with Didot capitals which spell out M-A-L-D-O-R-O-R on each page before the title is reached. This is the design equivalent of shouting in the reader’s face when the book is opened; given the nature of the text I can imagine the author approving. I’ve no idea whether the idea was borrowed from Reichl but Faucheux was a very inventive designer who was quite capable of arriving at such a layout on his own. His cover for a 1967 reprint of the book (above) spells out the title by tearing up the earlier Didot capitals. Rick Poynor at Design Observer (again) looked at more of Faucheux’s covers for the Livre de Poche imprint, while at Eye magazine there’s an essay by Richard Hollis about Faucheux’s innovations.

Continue reading “Ulysses versus Maldoror”

Weekend links 181

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Cover of Eye no. 86 vol. 22, 2013, a type special. Detail from 1970s Letratone brochure, overprinted by character from the Marsh stencil alphabet.

The new edition of Eye magazine includes my essay on the evolution and aesthetics of steampunk. In the same issue Rick Poynor’s feature on the prints of Eduardo Paolozzi mentions a forthcoming book by David Brittain about the artist’s associations with New Worlds magazine in the 1960s. I designed the Paolozzi volume which will be published by Savoy Books in a few weeks’ time. More about that later.

Still on steampunk, KW Jeter notes its popularity among the younger crowd: “If some old fogey peering through his smudged bifocals can’t discern the cool and important stuff going on, such as the tsunami of anarchic multiculturalists using the steampunk scalpel to dissect the past and reassemble it like a two-dollar watch, that’s his loss; the readers are picking up on it.”

• Musicians interviewed: Rhys Chatham: “The reason I got into trumpet playing is because I wanted to play like [Black Sabbath guitarist] Tony Iommi.” | James Ginzburg: “One of the strongest feelings I had was that the act of sitting down and making dance music was like playing a video game…I felt disconnected from it…” | Julia Holter: “I love working with the voice, I love mystery, I love creating atmosphere.” | Roly Porter: “I sit at home and listen to folk and blues from before I was born. I listen to a lot of dub and reggae and classical music. These are all genres which to me seem really interlinked and influential.”

• At Kickstarter: From the director of Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, a short film entitled Do Not Disturb. “Two men are forced to share a motel room on a dark & stormy night. One man’s snoring starts to summon creatures into our world.”

The Notting Hill of the 1960s – with Moorcock’s marriage, children, celebrity, the editorship of New Worlds, the collaboration with JG Ballard, Brian Aldiss and the rest – became the proving ground for the shape-shifting Carnaby Street dandy Jerry Cornelius. But all the numerous Moorcock characters, those undying and born-again clones, have a part to play in his “multiverse”, a concept he developed alongside the earlier model suggested by John Cowper Powys. Moorcock’s astonishing catalogue of speculative fiction works to prove his key equation, which is based on meta-temporal parallel worlds drawn from HG Wells, Chaos Theory, String Theory, the Edgar Rice Burroughs of John Carter of Mars and the William Burroughs of Nova Express and the “Interzone”. Publishing all the strange rafts and pods of Moorcock’s prodigious science fiction and fantasy output, as Gollancz have done, is like assembling a ghost fleet, under the joint command of Dr John Dee and Admiral John Ford, with which to invade that uncertain continent we know as the past.

Iain Sinclair on the new series of Michael Moorcock editions from Gollancz.

• “What does science tell us about the relative dangers of drugs? Alcohol is by far the No. 1 most dangerous drug.” Some graphs from the American Enterprise Institute who no one would accuse of being a bunch of stoners.

• “I loved Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Ann Porter, Carson McCullers. There was a feeling that women could write about the freakish, the marginal.” Alice Munro at The Paris Review.

Elena Smith on Literary Parkour: @Horse_ebooks, Jonathan Franzen, and the Rise of Twitter Fiction. Related: Boris Kachka has a list of Everything Jonathan Franzen currently hates.

• Mixes of the week: Joseph Burnett compiles Adventures in Modern Jazz while Kier-La Janisse puts together a British Horror mix for Fangoria.

Explore the planet Mars, one giant image at a time.

• At BibliOdyssey: The Turner’s Manual.

A Crimson Grail (for 400 Electric Guitars) (2007) by Rhys Chatham | Arrakis (2011) by Roly Porter | City Appearing (2013) by Julia Holter | Debris (2013) by Faint Wild Light