Weekend links 443

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• Yet more Gorey: Mark Dery’s biography of the artist prompted The New Yorker to unearth a piece of cover art that Edward Gorey submitted 25 years ago. In the same magazine Joan Acocella reviews Dery’s book and examines Gorey’s life and art. At Expanding Mind, Erik Davis talks with Mark Dery about Surrealism, the gay voice, Penny Dreadfuls, and the occult and Taoist influences in Gorey’s work.

Moving Through Old Daylight: Mark Fisher, Jim Jupp & Julian House of Ghost Box Recordings, and Iain Sinclair in conversation at the Roundhouse, Camden, London, 5 June 2010. Topics under discussion included Nigel Kneale, TC Lethbridge, John Foxx, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, alchemies of sound, the homogenisation of culture, imagining space and the impersistence of memory.

• “A radical retelling of our relationship with the cosmos, reinventing the history of astronomy as a new form of astrological calendar.” The Space Oracle by Ken Hollings.

There was a deliberate, almost prickly quality to Fisher’s writing and thinking that is rare nowadays, when criticism is more likely to involve open-minded rationalizing than steadfast refusal. He was not one to frolic in ambiguity or irony. “Just because something is current doesn’t mean it is new,” he writes in K-Punk, as he wonders if a time traveller from the nineties would find any contemporary music as radical as post-punk or jungle had once seemed to him. When everything is cheerfully “retro,” Fisher argued, we lose our grasp on history—and, without a sense of why the past happened the way it did, our anything-goes embrace of “happy hybridities” is an empty gesture. “What pop lacks now is the capacity for nihilation, for producing new potentials through the negation of what already exists,” he writes.

Hua Hsu on Mark Fisher’s K-Punk

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on The Wind Protect You (1946), a novel by Pat Murphy which Mark describes as a forgotten precursor of Watership Down.

• “At once tiny and huge: what is this feeling we call ‘sublime’?” Sandra Shapshay explores the Romantic aesthetic.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2018. Thanks again for the link here!

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 572 by Nastia, and FACT Mix 683 by Casino Versus Japan.

A Child’s Voice (1978) by David Thomson, an overlooked ghost story starring TP McKenna.

• Jean Cocteau’s Orphée returns from the underworld via BFI blu-ray next month.

Rated SAVX: The Savage Pencil Scratchbook

Orpheus (1967) by The Walker Brothers | Orpheus (1987) by David Sylvian | Overture To Orpheus (2003) by Colin Booth

Weekend links 441

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Red Parrot on the Branch of a Tree (c.1771) by Ito Jakuchu.

• Reporter John Stapleton (later a fixture of BBC TV) visits the Portobello Road offices of British underground newspaper Frendz for newsreel service British Pathé. The date says 1969 but it’s probably 1971 since earlier that year the magazine had changed its name from Friends. Among the unidentified interviewees is Rosie Boycott, later the founder of Britain’s first feminist magazine, Spare Rib, and now Baroness Boycott. She may have predicted the former in 1971 but I doubt she would have expected a seat in the House of Lords.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis talks with martial artist and psilocybin explorer Kilindi Iyi about African martial arts, high dose psilocybin work, African-American psychedelia, Dr. Strange, and the metaphysics of darkness.

Bloom, the generative music app by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, is given a tenth-anniversary relaunch this month. The new app will also (finally) be available for Android as well as Apple machines.

Early on, I realized my interest in [William] Burroughs’ work was less to do with the cut-up novels and more with the documented research and investigation of the human condition, technology, control, travel, dreams, drug culture, shamanism, and Hassan-I Sabbah. Books like The Job, The Electronic Revolution and especially, The Third Mind with Brion Gysin were particularly important to me. […] As for integrating Burroughs’ work into the music, it’s not about the history of a literary collaboration, but rather the complete fusion in a praxis of two subjectivities that metamorphosize into a third. From this collusion, a new author emerges—an absent third person, invisible and beyond reach, recording the silence.

From 2017: Bill Laswell in a satisfyingly lengthy interview with Anil Prasad

Secret Satan, 2018: being the annual Strange Flowers “round-up of giftable cultural history with which you can unmistakably signal your degenerate cosmopolitan values”.

• Laurie Spiegel’s second album of electronic music, Unseen Worlds, was never given a proper release in 1990. This situation will be rectified in January.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 272 by Paulie Jan, and XLR8R Influences Podcast 12 by Ripperton.

• More Gorey: biographer Mark Dery and design historian Steven Heller discuss Edward Gorey’s life and work.

Rumsey Taylor on Roger Excoffon’s Choc, “the mystery font that took over New York”.

• More Nicolas Roeg: David Thompson on one of Britain’s greatest film directors.

John Waters picks his films of the year.

• RIP Bernardo Bertolucci

In Bloom (1991) by Nirvana | Bloom (2001) by Brian Eno & J. Peter Schwalm | Violet Bloom (2010) by John Foxx

Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey

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Cover design by Jim Tierney; photo by Richard Corman.

When so many current biographies are recounting the lives of those about whom we’ve already heard a great deal (see the new biography of Oscar Wilde by Matthew Sturgis), a book exploring the career of a previously undocumented yet worthwhile figure is especially welcome. Such is the case with Born to Be Posthumous, Mark Dery’s life of the elusive Edward Gorey: artist, writer, illustrator, book designer, book creator, bibliophile, theatre designer, cat lover and balletomane.

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The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963).

Gorey’s small books have long been one of the more curious fixtures of American culture: many of them look like children’s books but aren’t (unless the child is Wednesday Addams); others look like comic books but they aren’t comics either. The books are sometimes (but not always) Surrealist fables; or brief accounts of irreducible mystery; or sombre inexplicabilities; or camp ripostes to the pieties of Victorian morality; infrequently spiced with black humour and with lurches into outright horror. Gorey delivered his miniature tales in an idiosyncratic drawing style that combines a cartoon-like stylisation with the density of shading found in old wood engravings, a blend that would prove influential as his popularity grew. As Dery notes in his book’s introduction, without Edward Gorey’s work there would be no Lemony Snicket, while Tim Burton would be a skeletal shadow of his present self. (Given the latter’s current output, this might do him some good. But I digress.)

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The Doubtful Guest (1957).

In Britain, however, Gorey remains a cult rather than cultural figure, still overshadowed by better-known contemporaries such as Maurice Sendak and Charles Addams. Until the publication of the Amphigorey story collections Gorey’s books were produced in small editions with such a limited availability you were more likely to encounter his art on the cover of another author’s book than within the pages of his own. I became aware of Gorey’s work by gradual osmosis. The first substantial piece I read about him was his entry in Philip Core’s Camp: The Lie that Tells the Truth (1984), in which Core’s mention of an art style “recollecting Victorian engravings” marked Gorey as an artist to be investigated. Two years later he received a longer entry in The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural edited by Jack Sullivan. (Camp and horror: how many other artists sit so easily in both worlds?) But Gorey is absent from many books about 20th-century illustrators, and despite the sequential nature of his work you won’t find him in histories of comic art.

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Edward Gorey’s Dracula: A Toy Theatre (1979).

In a way it’s fitting that the work of a man who was adamant in his determination to avoid being pinned down should be so difficult to find. But it’s also a shame that the work of an ardent Anglophile should be hard to find in the country that fuelled his imagination. Among Gorey’s literary favourites Dery lists Jane Austen and Agatha Christie together with Ronald Firbank, Saki, and EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels. (The latter trio are all present in Core’s book on camp, which no doubt makes Gorey camp to the core. Whether he would have approved of being labelled as such is another matter.) I wasn’t surprised by the mention of Saki when so many of Saki’s story titles (The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope) sound like Gorey books, while many of the stories themselves are like Gorey scenarios in prose. Not all Gorey’s work is camp or comic, however; the 32 drawings that comprise the wordless masterpiece of The West Wing (1963) are closer to David Lynch or the “strange stories” of Robert Aickman, the latter an author that Gorey illustrated on several occasions. Dery emphasises how Gorey’s love of silent cinema contributed to The West Wing and other pieces, especially the serials of the Surrealists’ favourite filmmaker, Louis Feuillade.

Continue reading “Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey”

Weekend links 437

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Rawmarsh Road, Rotherham, 1975 by Peter Watson.

Steel Cathedrals (1985), a composition by David Sylvian (with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kenny Wheeler, Robert Fripp & others) was originally available only on the cassette release of Sylvian’s Alchemy: An Index Of Possibilities, and a video cassette where the music accompanied views of Japanese industry by Yasuyuki Yamaguchi. The video hasn’t been reissued since but may be viewed here.

• “If, as Arthur C Clarke famously observed, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then can we accept that any sufficiently advanced magic is also indistinguishable from technology?” asks Mark Pilkington.

• “I didn’t like the idea of cartoons as just funny jokes, they had to have some relevant piece of observation in them to do with the society we are living in,” says Ralph Steadman.

I listen to music all the time, and I’ll often seek connections across quite disparate genres of that whatever I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s an aesthetic or a feeling, sometimes a pattern or structure, but it tends to cut across genres. The thing I liked about black metal and doom metal is the slowness and weightiness of it, it’s like deep time but in music. Sunn O))), Xasthur, and other bands captured this black gravity of sound. And they also tend to eschew the traditional vocal-lead guitar set-up, and everything is in the slow-moving wash and texture of sound.

I found that in other genres like noise music (especially Keiji Haino), the European avant-garde with composers like Ligeti, Scelsi, and Dumitrescu, dark ambient artists such as Lustmord or vidnaObmana, and contemporary works like Chihei Hatakeyama’s Too Much Sadness, Rafael Anton Irisarri’s A Fragile Geography, or Christina Vantzou’s No.4. There’s a lot to talk about in terms of music and forms of sorrow or grief, certainly every musical tradition has that—the funeral dirge, requiem, lamentation, or whatever.

Eugene Thacker listing a few favourite musicians and composers during a discussion with Michael Brooks about Thacker’s new book, Infinite Resignation

• The fourth edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

• The Library of Congress has opened its National Screening Room, an online service for viewing films in the library’s collection.

The London Library discovered some of the books that Bram Stoker used for research when he was writing Dracula.

• “Oscar Wilde’s stock has never been higher,” says John Mullan, reviewing Oscar: A Life by Matthew Sturgis.

• Mixes of the week: RA Podcast 648 by Sarah Davachi, and Secret Thirteen Mix 269 by Sstrom.

• David Lynch directs a video for A Real Indication by Thought Gang.

• “Edward Gorey lived at the ballet,” says his biographer, Mark Dery.

• A new version of Blue Velvet Blues by Acid Mothers Temple.

• Photos of cooling-tower interiors by Reginald Van de Velde.

Aaron Worth on Arthur Machen: “the HG Wells of horror”.

• The Strange World of…Barry Adamson.

Glass And Steel No. 1 (1983) by Marc Barreca | Death Is The Beginning (1996) by Steel | Painless Steel (2000) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

Weekend links 428

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Straat met standbeeld (1934) by Carel Willink.

• “[Edward] Gorey, who died in 2000 at 75, was the unequaled master of—of what? Gothic whimsy? The high-camp macabre? Existential black comedy in the Firbankian mode? Essentially unclassifiable, he was, at the end of the day (and it’s always twilight, in Gorey’s stories), simply, inimitably Edwardian.” Mark Dery’s Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey, the first full-length biography, will be published in November.

• “In an East Prussian manor house, a Bohemian library, a Bulgarian railway station; in a Venetian citadel, a Breton harbour, a city in the Caucasus, characters encounter not only the vicissitudes of history but also the subtle influences of the uncanny.” Inner Europe by John Howard and Mark Valentine.

• “To the good men I offer the hand of friendship, to the foes of our sex I offer resistance and annihilation!” The next title from Rixdorf Editions (due in November) will be We Women Have no Fatherland (1899), a novel by Ilse Frappan.

• At Dangerous Minds: “The career of Penny Slinger, intrepid surrealist artist of the 1970s, is ripe for rediscovery,” says Martin Schneider.

• Mixes of the week:  FACT mix 668 by Smerz, and XLR8R Podcast 557 by re:ni.

• Dreaming of Walter Benjamin on Walter Benjamin Platz by Roger Gathman.

Alison Kinney on Ludwig II’s obsession with the operas of Richard Wagner.

• A trailer for The Other Side of the Wind, the final film by Orson Welles.

• A happy tenth anniversary to The Quietus.

Wizards (1982) by JD Emmanuel.

The Wizard (1964) by Albert Ayler Trio | The Wizard (1970) by Black Sabbath | Dancin’ Wizard (1973) by Sopwith Camel