Weekend links 219

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Grendel Monster (2013) by Anna & Elena Balbusso.

Rick Poynor looks at the Guide de la France mystérieuse (1964), a fantastic (in every sense) doorstop of a volume whose collage alphabet by Roman Cieslewicz can be seen on the cover of Carnival In Babylon (1972) by Amon Düül II.

• Boolean mathematics, Charles Howard Hinton, The Voynich Manuscript, and the effects of surveillance on the political process: Adam Curtis firing on all cylinders as usual.

• At Strange Flowers: The Picture of John Gray, remembering the minor fin de siècle figure who gave Oscar Wilde a surname for his most famous creation.

In “32 Cardinal Virtues of Dennis Cooper,” Wayne Koestenbaum remarks: “Cooper’s quest for the unseeable is virtually religious. I mean: sedulous, abstract, perpetual, unrewarded, unreasonable.” There’s much more to be said of Gone, its power, its pain, its odd intrigues, but perhaps it will suffice to say that it is revealing: unlike Burroughs’ scrapbooks hidden away by some private collector, never to see the light of day, Gone (and its sister texts at the Fales Library) illuminate in perpetuity Cooper’s obscure quest for the unseeable.

Diarmuid Hester looks at Dennis Cooper’s scrapbooks

The Sallow Tree, a single by Lutine. More music: An hour of Julia Holter‘s St John’s Sessions performance.

• At Dangerous Minds: Christian televangelists listen to Stairway To Heaven forwards.

• Cathy Camper reviews Fearful Hunter, a graphic novel by Jon Macy.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 452 by Claude Speeed.

Roman Cieslewicz at Pinterest.

The Adobe Illustrator Story

The House of Julian

Unofficial Britain

• Amon Düül II singles: Rattlesnakeplumcake (1970) | Between The Eyes (1970) | Light (1971) | Lemmingmania (1971)

Weekend links 204

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RIP Steve Moore. We never met, unfortunately, but I was very pleased he asked me to create a cover for his unique occult novel, Somnium, in 2011. Prior to this we’d been connected by shared acquaintances, colleagues, and membership in the informal cabal that was (and maybe still is) The Moon & Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. Steve’s long friendship with Alan Moore (no relation) is well-documented, not least by Alan himself who made Steve the subject of his Unearthing project. One surprising connection for me was that Steve also had a link to Savoy Books. In the late 1960s he was working for comics publisher Odhams where he was able to copy for David Britton some Ken Reid comic art which Odhams had refused to print. Dave published the forbidden pages in his first magazine, Weird Fantasy, in 1969. In 2011 Steve talked to Pádraig Ó Méalóid about Somnium, and also to Aug Stone at The Quietus. Aug Stone penned a few memorial words here.

• “People love using the word ‘porn’ as long as there’s a partner for it. Pair ‘porn’ with something else and it’s usually a good thing. A celebration of style and culture. But that word on its own? Well.” Porn star Conner Habib asks why people have such a problem with porn actors.

Dave Maier‘s Russian cinema recommendations. Several favourites there including the magical and remarkable Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964) which, as Maier notes, isn’t really Russian but should be seen in any case.

Shakespeare uses verbal magic, cantrips and ditties, nonsense songs and verses throughout the plays, but in Othello he gives a glimpse of how powerful a spell becomes when it’s no longer oral, but fixed in material form. The fatal handkerchief is no ordinary hanky; it’s a love spell, and it was made with gruesome and potent ingredients (mummified “maiden’s hearts”) by a two-hundred-year-old sibyl in Egypt—Egypt being the birthplace and pinnacle of magic knowledge.

Marina Warner on magic.

• Mixes of the week: an hour of electro-acoustics and contemporary classical recordings sequenced by Laurel Halo, and (from 2010) 36-minutes of “umbral electronic hypnagogia” by The Wyrding Module.

• “This is the book that, 10 years later, inspired Richard Hollis’s landmark design for John Berger’s Ways of Seeing.” Rick Poynor on Chris Marker’s Commentaires.

• Is the Linweave Tarot the grooviest deck ever made? Dangerous Minds thinks so.

• Bobby Barry talks to Holger Czukay about his 1969 audio collage, Canaxis 5.

• “What Happened to Experimental Writing?” asks Susan Steinberg.

Aldous Huxley‘s lectures on visionary experience at MIT, 1962.

Laura Palmer will see Agent Cooper again in just a few hours.

Callum found a copy of The Gay Coloring Book (1964).

Metal Cats

Moonshake (1973) by Can | Lunar Musick Suite (1976) by Steve Hillage | Dark Moon (1993) by Holger Czukay | Boy In The Moon (2012) by Julia Holter

Marienbad hauntings

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Last Year in Marienbad (1961). Via.

In our age of cultural plenitude it can be salutary to remember the time when many things were easy to discover but often impossible to experience; albums, books, and especially non-American films could all too frequently exist as rumours, referenced but always out of reach. Two films in particular dogged me for years in this remote manner: The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) by Wojciech Has, and Last Year at Marienbad (1961), the film that Alain Resnais made from a very novelistic screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet. Philip Strick alerted me to this pair of films with tantalising descriptions in a time-travel chapter of his book-length study, Science Fiction Movies (1976). Marienbad isn’t a time-travel film as such (a later Resnais film, Je t’aime, je t’aime [1968] does deal with the subject, however, and even features an actual time machine), but it is sufficiently open-ended to allow a science-fictional rationale into its enigmatic spaces. Strick’s book covered all the familiar SF territory as well as looking beyond the clichés of Hollywood and the SF genre, hence the inclusion not only of Marienbad and Saragossa, but also Je t’aime, je t’aime, Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), Bergman’s The Hour of the Wolf (1968), Pasolini’s Teorema (1968), and Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). Most of these films, which were seldom shown on TV, I had to wait years to see.

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Marienbad page from Strick’s Science Fiction Movies.

I was reading Strick’s book in 1979, and since I was bored with generic clichés, and also reading a lot of reprinted stories from New Worlds magazine, I became a little obsessed with these inaccessible films, Marienbad especially. It’s difficult to say what was so fascinating about a few words of description, and a single photograph, but the picture seemed an unlikely inclusion amid so many pages filled with robots and spaceships. It promised a film that approached the themes of science fiction at the same oblique angle as many of the stories in New Worlds. A couple of years later I found a copy of the Robbe-Grillet screenplay whose pages of dogged description read like the kind of forbidding and formal exercise that Brian Aldiss had attempted in Report on Probability A (1967), a novel that first appeared in New Worlds. Among other similarities, both works share a dismissive attitude to character, presenting a trio of ciphers indicated by no more than their gender, and some initial letters. This confluence of influences, Marienbad included, fed into the chunks of New Worlds-derived prose I was writing at the time, trying to fix inchoate impressions on the page. I always failed each time I returned to that photo from Marienbad, the real charge—as I didn’t see at the time—being a result of the gap between the promise of the image and the inaccessible film itself. Finally seeing Marienbad in the late 1980s was a curious thing, like meeting somebody face-to-face after years of remote correspondence; the same readjustments needed to be made to accept that this was the reality of the work of art, not Robbe-Grillet’s embryonic version, or my own baroque imaginings.

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Screenplay book, 1962. Cover design by Roy Kuhlman.

If the above seems to strain for association by hauling a celebrated work of the Nouvelle Vague into a disreputable area then this essay by Thomas Beltzer is worth a read. Beltzer’s “Intertextual Meditation” compares Marienbad to The Invention of Morel (1940), a science-fiction novel by Adolfo Bioy-Casares which Jorge Luis Borges described as “perfect” (and which I really ought to read). If I’ve not written much about Marienbad itself that’s because it really needs to be experienced rather than described or explained. It’s a film that’s easier to admire than actually enjoy—I need to be in the right mood to accept its formalities—and given the choice I’d often sooner watch Providence (1977). But where Providence and other Resnais films have inevitably dated, Last Year in Marienbad remains out of time, a 20th-century dream held captive in 18th-century architecture where the airless rococo chambers might easily share a labyrinth with the hotel waiting-room at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

• Alain Resnais obituaries: The Guardian | The Telegraph
Last Year in Marienbad at film|captures
Marienbad (2012) by Julia Holter

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

Weekend links 177

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A new Wicker Man poster by Dan Mumford appears on the cover of the forthcoming DVD/BR reissues. Prints are available.

• The long-awaited release of a restored print of Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man approaches. Dangerous Minds has a trailer while The Guardian posted a clip of the restored footage. The latter isn’t anything new if you’ve seen the earlier uncut version, but the sound and picture quality are substantially better. I’ve already ordered my copy from Moviemail.

• “It’s a fairly bleak place, and it has this eerie atmosphere. East Anglia is always the frontline when there’s an invasion threatening, so there are lumps of concrete dissolving into sand, bits of barbed wire and tank tracks that act as a constant reminder. I really love it.” Thomas Dolby talking to Joseph Stannard about environment and memory.

Dome Karukoski is planning a biopic of artist Tom of Finland. Related: Big Joy, a documentary about the life and work of James Broughton, poet, filmmaker and Radical Faerie.

The desire to be liked is acceptable in real life but very problematic in fiction. Pleasantness is the enemy of good fiction. I try to write on the premise that no one is going to read my work. Because there’s this terrible impulse to grovel before the reader, to make them like you, to write with the reader in mind in that way. It’s a terrible, damaging impulse. I feel it in myself. It prevents you doing work that is ugly or upsetting or difficult. The temptation is to not be true to what you want to write and to be considerate or amusing instead.

Novelist Katie Kitamura talks to Jonathan Lee.

Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist opens on Wednesday at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.

Julia Holter turns spy in the video for This Is A True Heart.

Alexis Petridis talks to graphic designer Peter Saville.

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Al-Naafiysh (The Soul) by Hashim. From the Program Your 808 poster series by Rob Rickets.

Rob Goodman on The Comforts of the Apocalypse.

Post-Medieval Illustrations of Dante’s Sodomites.

• Annoy Jonathan Franzen by playing Cat Bounce!

Paolozzi at Pinterest

The Surrealist Waltz (1967) by Pearls Before Swine | The Jungle Line (1981) by Low Noise (Thomas Dolby) | Al-Naafiysh (The Soul) (1983) by Hashim