Serious houses: The Lud Heat Tapes, 1979

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Goldmark hardcover, 1987.

The old maps present a sky-line dominated by church towers; those horizons were differently punctured, so that the subservience of the grounded eye, & the division of the city by nome-wound, was not disguised. Moving now on an eastern arc the churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor soon invade the consciousness, the charting instinct. Eight churches give us the enclosure, the shape of the fear; – built for early century optimism, erected over a fen of undisclosed horrors, white stones laid upon the mud & dust. In this air certain hungers were activated that have yet to be pacified; no turning back, as Yeats claims: “the stones once set up traffic with the enemy.”
—Iain Sinclair, Lud Heat

A serious house on serious earth it is
—Philip Larkin, Church Going

“Serious” is a word with many meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary gives one of these as “attended with danger; giving cause for anxiety”, a definition that wouldn’t suit Philip Larkin’s poem describing a visit to a moribund country church, but which is easily applied to a longer cycle of poems by Iain Sinclair. Lud Heat: A Book of the Dead Hamlets is the collection of writings that lifted Sinclair’s authorial profile out of the poetry ghetto in which he’d been situated throughout the 1970s. He published the first edition via his own Albion Village Press in 1975 but it wasn’t until the arrival of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor a decade later that wider public attention began to turn in Sinclair’s direction. Lud Heat set out for the first time a series of observations concerning the peculiar and sinister qualities of the churches built by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 18th-century London: Christ Church, Spitalfields; St George’s, Bloomsbury; St Mary Woolnoth; St George in the East; St Anne’s, Limehouse; St Alfege Church, Greenwich; plus those built in collaboration with John James: St Luke Old Street, and St John Horsleydown. The book separates the poetry with prose pieces—diary extracts, accounts of a film viewing and an art exhibition—that anticipate the author’s subsequent explorations of London’s margins and esoterica. Like many of Sinclair’s later writings, the texts in the early editions are accompanied by a variety of illustrations: engravings, contemporary photographs, and a map of London drawn by Brian Catling that posits a network of “lines of influence…invisible rods of force” connecting the churches with each other and with significant locations such as William Blake’s house, Cleopatra’s Needle and so on. Paperback reprints omitted the illustrations* but retained the map which was redrawn by Dave McKean. The new version gave greater emphasis to the Egyptian symbols that Sinclair and Catling had scattered across the city: jackal-headed Anubis as as the presiding deity of the Isle of Dogs.

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Photo by Charles Latham from London Churches of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries (1896) by George H. Birch.

Lud Heat is a beguiling and potent book; it’s also a book that’s of its time in its suggestion of malefic “rods of force” scored across the capital. Sinclair’s map may be the earliest artistic development of a process begun in 1969 when John Michell published The View Over Atlantis, an elaboration of ideas set forth in his earlier volume, The Flying Saucer Vision. Michell’s free-wheeling speculations gave new life to the innocuous studies of Alfred Watkins, inflating amateur archaeological ruminations into full-blown Aquarian metaphysics. Where Watkins considered that “ley lines” (a term of his own invention) might have been ancient trading routes, Michell’s enthusiasm for the full range of Fortean phenomena transmuted the alleged paths into channels of unspecified “earth energy”, flying-saucer guides, and the axes of a sacred geometry. Other crank scholars were eager to follow Michell’s lead, leaving an opening for Sinclair to adopt the conceit for its poetic resonances; the New Age trappings were inverted to reveal a darker pattern more suited to London’s history of plague, murder and mass destruction. (The Hawksmoor churches had been built to compensate for the devastations of the Great Fire of 1666; two of them were hit by bombs during the Blitz, with one being damaged beyond repair.) This isn’t to suggest that Sinclair was borrowing directly from Watkins and Michell; in an interview he mentions an earlier precursor of both his map and Watkins’ ley lines in Prehistoric London: Its Mounds and Circles (1914) by Elizabeth O. Gordon. But something was in the air in the 1970s. Lud Heat appeared shortly before the release of a pair of albums that borrowed heavily from Michell’s books—Green (1978) by Steve Hillage, and Blake’s New Jerusalem (1978) by Tim Blake—and two TV serials that exploited the idea of ley lines as channels of earth energy: Children of the Stones (1977) and Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass (1979). Lud Heat stands apart from these works by concentrating on urban structures rather than isolated monoliths and ancient pathways. The suggestion that the city of London could be home to mysterious “rods of force” is an especially intriguing one, hence the appropriation of the idea by Peter Ackroyd in Hawksmoor and Alan Moore in From Hell. Any church of a sufficient size or age is a kind of time machine, maintaining in its appearance and its grounds a pocket of history separated from the changes that take place around it. The churches in Lud Heat are also batteries of stone, impregnated with the unspent energies of the dead who lie in their crypts. These latent forces overflow their containers, spilling into the streets beyond the church walls. Sinclair has always been adamant that his Lud Heat map is a fabrication; the degree to which he believes in the rest of his thesis is for the reader to decide. It is a fact that St George in the East is close to the location of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811 (Sinclair includes a illustration of the murderer’s corpse in Lud Heat), while Christ Church, Spitalfields, sits at the centre of maps of the Jack the Ripper murders; the fifth and most brutal of these occurred a short distance from that colossal porch on the opposite side of Commercial Street. “Dead Hamlets” also has many meanings.

Continue reading “Serious houses: The Lud Heat Tapes, 1979”

In Germany before the war

1: Fritz Haarmann (1879–1925)

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Arrow shows Haarmann’s attic residence in Rote Reihe, Hanover.

Haarmann was one of several serial murderers haunting Weimar Germany, variously nicknamed “the Butcher of Hanover”, “the Vampire of Hanover”, “the Wolf Man”, etc. for his sexual assault, murder and dismemberment of at least 24 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924. Haarmann also sold meat on the black market which led to rumours that some of the mince and other produce he sold was human flesh.

2: M (1931), a film by Fritz Lang.

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Thea von Harbou’s script for M is based in part on the Haarmann case although Lang’s child-killer is shown preying on girls rather than boys. Peter Lorre is superb in his first major role as the murderer, while Lang’s use of the new sound technology is remarkably inventive when compared to his stagey contemporaries in Hollywood.

3: M (1953), a film by Joseph Losey.

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Lang’s masterwork reworked as a Los Angeles film noir by Joseph Losey before McCarthyism sent him to Europe. This is one noir I still haven’t seen even though a major sequence takes place in that cult location, the Bradbury Building.

Continue reading “In Germany before the war”

More trip texts

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More psychedelia of a sort. Anthologist Michel Parry, who died last year, was a familiar name to British readers of fantasy, horror and science fiction for his themed collections: Beware of the Cat (1972; horror stories about cats), The Devil’s Children (1974; horror stories about children), The Hounds of Hell (1974; horror stories about dogs), Jack the Knife (1975; Jack the Ripper stories), The Supernatural Solution (1976; occult investigators), Sex in the 21st Century (1979), and so on.

Parry also compiled multi-volume anthologies throughout the 1970s, two of which have always stood out for me: the Mayflower Books of Black Magic Stories ran to six volumes presenting a wide range of occult fiction that included a number of obscure tales from Victorian and Edwardian writers; for Panther Books he compiled three collections of drug-related fantasy and SF stories that are just as varied, and may even be unique for the way they place authors as such as Lord Dunsany and Norman Spinrad together in the same volume. Both series are very much of their time—occult psychedelia!—and are worth seeking out, if you can find them. I emphasise the last point because it’s taken me a while to find a copy of Strange Ecstasies that wasn’t being offered for bizarrely inflated prices; my paperback habit has its limits… None of these anthologies have been reprinted so they’ll become increasingly scarce. For more invented drugs, there’s a good list at Wikipedia.

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Cover art by Bob Haberfield.

Strange Ecstasies (1973)
The Plutonian Drug (1934) by Clark Ashton Smith
The Dream Pills (1920) by FH Davis
The White Powder (1895) by Arthur Machen
The New Accelerator (1901) by HG Wells
The Big Fix (1956) by Richard Wilson
The Secret Songs (1962) by Fritz Leiber
The Hounds of Tindalos (1929) by Frank Belknap Long
Subjectivity (1964) by Norman Spinrad
What to Do Until the Analyst Comes (1956) by Frederik Pohl
Pipe Dream (1972) by Chris Miller

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Cover art by Bob Haberfield.

Dream Trips (1974)
The Hashish Man (1910) by Lord Dunsany
As Dreams Are Made On (1973) by Joseph F. Pumilia
The Adventure of the Pipe (1898) by Richard Marsh
Dream-Dust from Mars (1938) by Manly Wade Wellman
The Life Serum (1926) by Paul S. Powers
Morning After (1957) by Robert Sheckley
Under the Knife (1896) by HG Wells
The Good Trip (1970) by Ursula K. Le Guin
No Direction Home (1971) by Norman Spinrad
The Phantom Drug (1926) by AW Kapfer

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Cover art by Brian Froud.

Spaced Out (1977)
The Deep Fix (1964) by Michael Moorcock
All the Weed in the World (1961) by Fritz Leiber
The Roger Bacon Formula (1929) by Fletcher Pratt
Smoke of the Snake (1934) by Carl Jacobi
Melodramine (1965) by Henry Slesar
My Head’s in a Different Place, Now (1972) by Grania Davis
Sky (1971) by RA Lafferty
All of Them Were Empty— (1972) by David Gerrold

Previously on { feuilleton }
Trip texts
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
The art of LSD
Hep cats

Weekend links 227

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A Follower by Jason Grim.

Haunted Futures, a multi-genre anthology from Ghostwoods Books, will feature stories by Warren Ellis, John Reppion, Liesel Schwarz, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Blackmoore and others. It will also feature some of my illustrations but only if this this Kickstarter fund is successful.

• “…at issue here is restriction versus potential: protect a specific set of choices versus open the field to the exploration of everything.” Sam Potts offers a refutation of Robert Bringhurst’s design textbook The Elements of Typographic Style.

• “I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.” Morgan Meis quoting David Lynch in a review of David Lynch: The Unified Field, a new exhibition of Lynch’s paintings.

But among these novels only Moravagine, first discovered for English-speaking readers by Henry Miller and a direct ancestor of Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, has survived as an underground classic. A monstrous admixture of Lautréamont’s Maldoror, Feuillade’s Fantômas, Nietzsche’s Superman, Jack the Ripper and (according to the Cendrars scholar Jay Bochner) the deranged Jung and Freud disciple Otto Gross, Moravagine remains Cendrars’s most nihilistic and darkly comic other.

Richard Sieburth on Blaise Cendrars and his “Dada update of Dostoevsky”, coincidentally the subject of a post here earlier in the week.

• “…the duchess became enthralled with the idea of creating a garden of plants that could kill instead of heal.” Natasha Geiling on Jane Percy’s Poison Garden.

• Mix of the week: Kosmik Elektronik [part 3] by The Kosmische Club. More Kosmische musik: Agitation Free on French television in 1973.

• At Dangerous Minds: Secret Weapons (1972), 22 minutes of made-for-TV dystopian science fiction directed by David Cronenberg.

Project Praeterlimina, “a journal of daemonology, magic, and the human condition”.

The NOS Project: download Shed’s score for Murnau’s Nosferatu.

• At Lambda Literary: Toy, a poem by Evan J. Peterson.

Drew Daniel doesn’t want to play the listicle game.

Surrealism and Magic

Stuff in old books

Haunted Island (1973) by Agitation Free | Haunted Heights (1977) by Peter Baumann | Haunted Dancehall (1994) by The Sabres of Paradise

Weekend links 206

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Nova Express (2014) by Paul Komoda.

• Last week it was Kraftwerk, this week it’s Can in another astonishing 70-minute TV performance from 1970. For those who know where to look in the torrent world there are copies of these recordings circulating there.

JG Ballard: five years on. Extracts from introductions by John Gray, Hari Kunzru, Robert Macfarlane, Deborah Levy, James Lever, China Miéville and Michel Faber for a new series of Ballard editions.

• Mix of the week: Needle Exchange 147 by Inventions. Also at Self-Titled Mag: Suzanne Ciani on her Buchla beginnings, talking dishwashers, and why no one got electronic music in the ’70s.

• At Dangerous Minds: It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down, a Granada TV documentary from 1967 featuring Paul McCartney, Allen Ginsberg, International Times, Pink Floyd et al.

The Wonderful World of Witches: Portraits of English Pagans. A photo-special from the 1960s at LIFE. Related: From 1974, the US TV ad for Man, Myth and Magic.

• Suspicious Minds: Adam Curtis on Stephen Knight, Jack the Ripper, squatters, heists, From Hell, and why people no longer trust those in authority.

• Here be men with beards and syntezators: Andy Votel‘s Top 10 Early Patch-Bay Polymaths From Eastern Europe.

The New York Public Library has made 20,000 maps available as free, high-res downloads.

• An oscilloscope video by Vincent Oliver & Steve Bliss for Riff Through The Fog by Clark.

Anne Billson interviewed Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1990.

• At BLDGBLOG: When Hills Hide Arches.

Do gay people still need gay bars?

Pixelord Dreams

I’m So Green (1972) by Can | Nova Feedback (1978) by Chrome | Gay Bar (2003) by Electric Six