Wildeana 9

dine.jpg

Dorian Gray (1968) by Jim Dine; one of a series of prints for an illustrated edition. Rainbows didn’t become a gay symbol until Gilbert Baker’s flag design ten years later.

Continuing an occasional series.

• “…the Public is a very curious thing; it is sometimes perverse, and even obstinate, and it has evidently made up its mind to like the plays of Mr. Oscar Wilde.” Callum at Front Free Endpaper found a sceptical review of The Importance of Being Earnest in The Sketch for 20th February, 1895.

• “Wilde’s vision of Socialism, which at that date was probably shared by many people less articulate than himself, is Utopian and anarchistic.” George Orwell, writing in 1948, looks back at Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

Oscar Wilde between Paris and Brighton: Research at the excellent Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon blog following Wilde’s travels in the early months of 1891.

Wilde Ride by Anthony Paletta: “Oscar Wilde spent a year in the US and met the likes of Walt Whitman and Henry James.”

• There’s plenty of Wildeana at Pinterest.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

Weekend links 140

cards.jpg

Thanks to Callum for pointing the way to a beautiful set of playing cards designed by Picart le Doux.

Of cigars and pedants by Houman Barekat, in which Vladimir Nabokov has a problem with Henry James. Tangentially related: Post-Punk’s Nabokov: Howard Devoto and Magazine, live from Berlin, 1980. (Given A Song From Under The Floorboards, and lines like “I could have been Raskolnikov / But mother nature ripped me off”, I’d say it’s more accurate to describe Devoto as Post-Punk’s Dostoyevsky.)

• “I was introduced to Kneale’s work like most kids: by a fifty-foot hologram of a psychic locust and a British colonel deliquesced by five million years of bad Martian energy.” In Keep Me in the Loop, You Dead Mechanism Dave Tompkins looks back at Nigel Kneale’s TV play The Stone Tape. I reported my own impressions at the end of October.

• At The Quietus this week, Carol Huston on Lord Horror: A History Of Savoy Publishing. Michael Butterworth is interviewed, and the piece includes some quotes from earlier interviews by yours truly.

As the Massachusetts minister Increase Mather explained in 1687, Christmas was observed on Dec. 25 not because “Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian” ones. So naturally, official suppression of Christmas was foundational to the godly colonies in New England.

Rachel N. Schnepper on the Puritan War on Christmas.

• Maxine Peake and the Eccentronic Research Council have a seasonal song for you. Take the title, Black ChristMass, as a warning. The group recently played live on The Culture Show.

• Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Artlog is currently hosting Alphabet Soup, an online exhibition by different artists each depicting the letters of the alphabet. Start here and click forward.

Ornate Typography from the 19th Century featuring samples from the King George Tumblr. Related: Sheaff ephemera.

saturn.jpg

Saturn at Saturnalia. A Cassini image of the planet’s nightside.

Kenneth Anger interviewed by P. Adams Sitney. A 53-minute tape recording from 1972.

• At The Outer Church: James Ginzburg of Emptyset posts a winter music mix.

When Candy Darling met Salvador Dalí.

The psychedelic secrets of Santa Claus.

• At Pinterest: Camp as…

Saturn (1956) by Sun Ra | Permafrost (live, 1980) by Magazine | Uptown Apocalypse (1981) by B.E.F.

Cormac McCarthy’s venomous fiction

cormac.jpg

Cormac McCarthy’s venomous fiction

Richard B. Woodward
The New York Times, April 19, 1992

“YOU KNOW ABOUT MOJAVE RATTLESNAKES?” Cormac McCarthy asks. The question has come up over lunch in Mesilla, N.M., because the hermitic author, who may be the best unknown novelist in America, wants to steer conversation away from himself, and he seems to think that a story about a recent trip he took near the Texas-Mexico border will offer some camouflage. A writer who renders the brutal actions of men in excruciating detail, seldom applying the anesthetic of psychology, McCarthy would much rather orate than confide. And he is the sort of silver-tongued raconteur who relishes peculiar sidetracks; he leans over his plate and fairly croons the particulars in his soft Tennessee accent.

“Mojave rattlesnakes have a neurotoxic poison, almost like a cobra’s,” he explains, giving a natural-history lesson on the animal’s two color phases and its map of distribution in the West. He had come upon the creature while traveling along an empty road in his 1978 Ford pickup near Big Bend National Park. McCarthy doesn’t write about places he hasn’t visited, and he has made dozens of similar scouting forays to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and across the Rio Grande into Chihuahua, Sonora and Coahuila. The vast blankness of the Southwest desert served as a metaphor for the nihilistic violence in his last novel, Blood Meridian, published in 1985. And this unpopulated, scuffed-up terrain again dominates the background in All the Pretty Horses, which will appear next month from Knopf.

“It’s very interesting to see an animal out in the wild that can kill you graveyard dead,” he says with a smile. “The only thing I had seen that answered that description was a grizzly bear in Alaska. And that’s an odd feeling, because there’s no fence, and you know that after he gets tired of chasing marmots he’s going to move in some other direction, which could be yours.”

Keeping a respectful distance from the rattlesnake, poking it with a stick, he coaxed it into the grass and drove off. Two park rangers he met later that day seemed reluctant to discuss lethal vipers among the backpackers. But another, clearly McCarthy’s kind of man, put the matter in perspective. “We don’t know how dangerous they are,” he said. “We’ve never had anyone bitten. We just assume you wouldn’t survive.”

Finished off with one of his twinkly-eyed laughs, this mealtime anecdote has a more jocular tone than McCarthy’s venomous fiction, but the same elements are there. The tense encounter in a forbidding landscape, the dark humor in the face of facts, the good chance of a painful quietus. Each of his five previous novels has been marked by intense natural observation, a kind of morbid realism. His characters are often outcasts—destitute or criminals, or both. Homeless or squatting in hovels without electricity, they scrape by in the backwoods of East Tennessee or on horseback in the dry, vacant spaces of the desert. Death, which announces itself often, reaches down from the open sky, abruptly, with a slashed throat or a bullet in the face. The abyss opens up at any misstep.

Continue reading “Cormac McCarthy’s venomous fiction”