Borges on Ulysses

ulysses.jpg

Random House offering readers a guide to the labyrinth in 1934.

I’ve not done a Bloomsday post for the past couple of years so here you go. Via Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Non-Fictions (1999), edited by Eliot Weinberger.

A total reality teems vociferously in the pages of Ulysses, and not the mediocre reality of those who notice in the world only the abstract operations of the mind and its ambitious fear of not being able to overcome death, nor that other reality that enters only our senses, juxtaposing our flesh and the streets, the moon and the well. The duality of existence dwells within this book, an ontological anxiety that is amazed not merely at being, but at being in this particular world where there are entranceways and words and playing cards and electric writing upon the translucence of the night. In no other book (except perhaps those written by Gómez de la Serna) do we witness the actual presence of things with such convincing firmness. All things are latent, and the diction of any voice is capable of making them emerge and of leading the reader down their avenue. De Quincey recounts that it was enough to name the Roman consul in his dreams to set off fiery visions of flying banners and military splendor. In the fifteenth chapter of his work, Joyce sketches a delirious brothel scene, and the chance conjuring of any loose phrase or idea ushers in hundreds—the sum is not an exaggeration but exact—of absurd speakers and impossible events.

(1925; translated by Suzanne Jill Levene.)

Plenitude and indigence coexist in Joyce. Lacking the capacity to construct (which his gods did not bestow on him, and which he was forced to make up for with arduous symmetries and labyrinths), he enjoyed a gift for words, a felicitous verbal omnipotence that can without exaggeration or imprecision be likened to Hamlet or the Urn BurialUlysses (as everyone knows) is the story of a single day, within the perimeter of a single city. In this voluntary limitation, it is legitimate to perceive something more than an Aristotelian elegance: it can legitimately be inferred that for Joyce every day was in some secret way the irreparable Day of Judgment; every place, Hell or Purgatory.

(1941; translated by Esther Allen.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Portrait of the Author
The Labyrinth
The Duc de Joyeux
Dubliners
Covering Joyce
James Joyce in Reverbstorm
Joyce in Time
Happy Bloomsday
Passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
Books for Bloomsday

Weekend links 483

doetecum.jpg

Fantastic Sea Carriage (1556) by Johannes van Doetecum the Elder.

• I’ve grown increasingly tired of Kubrick-related micro-fetishism (despite contributing to it myself with previous posts) but this piece at Film and Furniture about the history of David Hicks’ Hexagon carpet design is a good one.

• “In hindsight, we can see how rarely one technology supersedes another…” Leah Price on the oft-predicted, never arriving death of the book.

• From Rome To Weston-Super-Mare: Eden Tizard on Coil’s Musick To Play In The Dark.

“It is,” the editor of the London Sunday Express had written nine years earlier, sounding like HP Lovecraft describing Necronomicon:

the most infamously obscene book in ancient or modern literature….All the secret sewers of vice are canalized in its flood of unimaginable thoughts, images and pornographic words. And its unclean lunacies are larded with appalling and revolting blasphemies directed against the Christian religion and against the name of Christ—blasphemies hitherto associated with the most degraded orgies of Satanism and the Black Mass.

Regarded as a masterpiece by contemporary writers such as TS Eliot and Ernest Hemingway, celebrated for being as difficult to read as to obtain, Ulysses had been shocking the sensibilities of critics, censors, and readers from the moment it began to see print between 1918 and 1920, when four chapters were abortively serialized in the pages of a New York quarterly called The Little Review. Even sophisticated readers often found themselves recoiling in Lovecraftian dread from contact with its pages. “I can’t get over the feeling,” wrote Katherine Mansfield, “of wet linoleum and unemptied pails and far worse horrors in the house of [Joyce’s] mind.” Encyclopedic in its use of detail and allusion, orchestral in its multiplicity of voices and rhetorical strategies, virtuosic in its technique, Ulysses was a thoroughly modernist production, exhibiting—sometimes within a single chapter or a single paragraph—the vandalistic glee of Futurism, the decentered subjectivity of Cubism, the absurdist blasphemies and pranks of Dadaism, and Surrealism’s penchant for finding the mythic in the ordinary and the primitive in the low dives and nighttowns of the City.

Michael Chabon on the US trial of James Joyce’s Ulysses

• Mix of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. III—France II by David Colohan.

• Another Not The Best Ambient And Space Music Of The Year Post by Dave Maier.

Sarah Angliss and friends perform Air Loom at Supernormal, 2019.

• Out next month: The World Is A Bell by The Leaf Library.

Amy Simmons on where to start with Pier Paolo Pasolini.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Candy Clark Day.

• Uccellacci E Uccellini (1966) by Ennio Morricone | Liriïk Necronomicus Kahnt (1978) by Magma | Ostia (The Death Of Pasolini) (1986) by Coil

Weekend links 463

eye.jpg

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 419

ellison.jpg

Cover art by Leo & Diane Dillon, 1975.

Art is not supposed to be easier! There are a lot of things in life that are supposed to be easier. Ridding the world of heart attacks, making the roads smoother, making old people more comfortable in the winter, but not Art. Art should always be tough. Art should demand something of you. Art should involve foot-pounds of energy being expended. It’s not supposed to be easier, and those who want it easier should not be artists. They should be out selling public relations copy.

Typical of the late Harlan Ellison to describe his vocation in terms of difficulty and struggle even when his prolific output made writing seem effortless. When my colleagues at Savoy Books published a Savoy issue of New Worlds magazine in 1979 one of the features they ran was an introduction by Michael Moorcock to an Ellison story collection. (They also published two books of Ellison’s around this time.) A copy of the magazine was duly sent to the subject of the essay since Ellison always liked to keep track of his print appearances. The back page of that particular issue is blank but for a few words in bold type from singer PJ Proby: “I am an artist; and should be exempt from shit.” Ellison cut this slogan from the magazine then glued it to his typewriter, no doubt transferring it to later models since it was still visible in the 2008 Ellison documentary, Dreams With Sharp Teeth.

My first encounter with Ellison’s work was also my first encounter with what became labelled the new wave of science fiction, via a reprint of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream in a book in the school library. I was only about 12 or 13 at the time, and found Ellison’s story so shocking and disturbing that it overpowered everything else in the collection. The only other story that made an equivalent impression at the time was The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft, so it’s perhaps fitting that Ellison gave my work a favourable mention in his introduction to the huge Centipede Press collection of Lovecraft artwork, A Lovecraft Retrospective: Artists Inspired by HP Lovecraft. I still haven’t got over that one. After the initial encounter, the Ellison-edited Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions were just as important for me as the paperback reprints of stories from the Moorcock-edited New Worlds: a handful of books that showed science fiction to be a literary form of limitless possibilities, as opposed to the stereotype of space adventure and future technology. The Ellison and Moorcock anthologies led me to William Burroughs, James Joyce and all points beyond; they also soured for me the preoccupation with space adventure and future technology which persists today.

My final connection with Ellison replayed his compliment in a small way, when editor Jill Roberts and I took extra care with the typesetting of Jeffty is Five for The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2. Ellison was the only author I’ve encountered in the digital age whose corrections were still handwritten comments on printed sheets; these had to be faxed to San Francisco then scanned and emailed to me (to this day I still don’t know why the oft-reprinted story required so many adjustments). It was awkward but amusingly so, a benign taste of a legendary bloody-mindedness and insistence on precision.

• “Laughing about an acid trip with members of Can and opening up about some of the ‘scars’ left from his association with Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life In the Bush of Ghosts, [Jon] Hassell is candid in a way that comes naturally to those who’ve lived life on their own terms.”

• Drone Metal Mysticism: Erik Davis talks with music scholar and ethnographer Owen Coggins about amplifier worship, sonic pilgrimage, “as if” listening, metal humour, and his new book Mysticism, Ritual and Religion in Drone Metal.

Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond; “Letters between the men who coined the term ‘psychedelic’ and opened doors to a different way of thinking about human consciousness.”

Artaud 1937 Apocalypse: Letters from Ireland by Antonin Artaud; translated and edited by Stephen Barber.

• “I thought female sexuality was an OK thing?” says writer and porn performer, Stoya.

• “How did a major label manage to lose a John Coltrane record?” asks Ted Gioia.

• Welcome to the dollhouse: Alex Denney on a century of cinematic cutaways.

• The trailer for Mandy, a new (and much-awaited) film by Panos Cosmatos.

• Rest in Anger, Harlan Ellison (1934–2018) by Nick Mamatas.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 659 by BD1982.

Emily Gosling on library music design.

Record Label Logos

The Deathbird Song (1997) by The Forbidden Dimension | Eidolons (2017) by Deathbird Stories | Deathbird (2017) by Tempos De Morte

Weekend links 417

coil.jpg

Cover of How To Destroy Angels (Remixes And Re-Recordings) (1992) by Coil. Artwork: Fine Balance (1986) by Derek Jarman.

• It’s that man again: “According to the late great short story writer Robert Aickman, the problem with our excessively modern world is not that it is strange, but that it is not strange enough.” Scott Bradfield on a writer who can no longer be described as neglected or overlooked.

• Coil may have expired over a decade ago after the death of John Balance but the posthumous releases persist. Latest of these is How To Destroy Angels, an album-length presentation of music (or audio) by Coil and Zos Kia (John Gosling) from 1983/84.

• “Two decades ago, a renowned professor promised to produce a flawless version of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated novels: Ulysses. Then he disappeared.” The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar.

• At Dangerous Minds: The Fool: The Dutch artists who worked for The Beatles (and made their own freak folk masterpiece). Previously here: The art of Marijke Koger.

• RIP Nick Knox. The Cramps were always best when playing live, as here in 1986 when they performed songs from A Date With Elvis on Channel 4’s The Tube.

• “The McKenzie Tapes is a collection of live audio recordings from some of New York City-area most prominent music venues of the 1980s and 1990s.”

• Beyond the veil: two extracts from Death by Anna Croissant-Rust, one of two new books from Rixdorf Editions.

• Impulse Responses: composer Deru on scoring with the Cristal Baschet.

Fleshback: Queer Raving in Manchester’s Twilight Zone Chapter 1–3.

• “Puzzler says he has cracked code to stolen Belgian masterpiece.”

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 657 by Beatrice Dillon.

Jenzeits

Death Have Mercy (1959) by Vera Hall | Oh Death (1964) by Dock Boggs | Oh Death (1967) by Kaleidoscope