Weekend links 271

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Environment Transformer/Flyhead Helmet by Haus-Rucker-Co (1968). From Hippie Modernism at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

• From 2006: Weird Tales: The Strange Life of HP Lovecraft. Geoff Ward examines Lovecraft’s life and work for BBC Radio 3 with contributions from Neil Gaiman, ST Joshi, Kelly Link, China Miéville and Peter Straub. Meanwhile, Ned Beauman wonders whether Ford Madox Ford is “as scary as Lovecraft”.

• Alexei German’s years-in-the-making feature film, Hard to be a God (previously), receives a UK release this week. Paul Duane reports on an overwhelming viewing experience, while Nigel Andrews says it “may be the greatest film since the millennium began”.

• Mixes of the week: Adventures In Sound And Music, 30 July 2015, hosted by Joseph Stannard, and RCMIX9 by worriedaboutsatan.

As Nabokov insisted, “Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth.” The genre thrives because its deceptions are liberating. For Wood, the thrill of reading fiction is intimately connected with the awareness that fiction constitutes “an utterly free space, where anything might be thought, anything uttered.” The excitement comes when, as readers, we’re allowed to participate in this freedom and experience the fiction imaginatively, without being required to believe that it is true.

Joanna Scott on The Virtues of Difficult Fiction

• “Writing used to be a solitary profession. How did it become so interminably social?” asks Meghan Tifft.

• The original, real-life dystopian cityscape of Kowloon Walled City, and the artwork it inspired.

• The Long, Lonely Walk: Nick Ripatrazone on hallways in horror films.

New cover designs for the Essentials range from Penguin Books.

Lemi Ghariokwu: “How I designed Fela Kuti’s album covers”.

• “Do CDs sound better than vinyl?” asks Chris Kornelis.

• Magic Fly (1977) by Space | Human Fly (1978) by The Cramps | I Am The Fly (1978) by Wire

Weekend links 229

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Untitled (2007) by Remko van Drongelen.

• Another week, another Kickstarter project: Frank Woodward’s 2008 documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, was an excellent study of HP Lovecraft’s life and work featuring interviews with John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub, Guillermo Del Toro and leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi; the film also included a few examples of my Cthulhoid artwork. Disc copies of the film have been out-of-print for a while so Frank’s fund is hoping to raise money for a new Blu-ray edition featuring extended interviews and other extras.

• David Cronenberg’s debut novel, Consumed, “reads somewhat like a mashup of William Gibson, the king of near-future SF cool, and 1970s horror maestro James Herbert,” says Steven Poole. I’d have thought a more obvious analogy would be with JG Ballard; descriptions of Cronenberg’s narrative make it sound like Ballard’s concerns repurposed for our current era of electronically-mediated everything. Related: Crash by Sanyú, “adaptación de un fragmento de la novela de J. Ballard”.

• “To commune with the music of Cyclobe is to enter not just a strange world, but strange constellations – interdimensional, atemporal zones of carefully cultivated auras bordering wild, unstable forces.” Russell Cuzner talks to Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower about Derek Jarman, hurdy-gurdies and the deceptive nature of time.

…there are no rules in fiction even if creative writing programs everywhere have tried to make people believe there are. When I read fiction that has passed through the filter of too many workshops, I often get the feeling that I’m reading the same novel over and over again: the same way of being humorous, the same way of being candid, the same way of creating empathy.

Valeria Luiselli talking to Jennifer Kabat about fiction, cities and maps.

• The rationale behind Silent Partners: Artist & Mannequin from Function to Fetish is “to explore the way that the artificial human figure has routinely provided artists with the most direct and reliable route to visual realism. And then to work out why that makes us so upset.” Kathryn Hughes on a new exhibition.

• “It immediately throws up some interesting thoughts: Bowie as the young dandy and the obvious comparisons with Oscar Wilde and The Picture Of Dorian Gray, with the portrait that ages.” Designer Jonathan Barnbrook on the cover photos for David Bowie’s forthcoming album Nothing Has Changed.

• October brings all the music mixes. This week there’s a choice of FACT mix 463 by Dntel, Autumn’s Whirr by Café Kaput (aka Jon Brooks), and Suspected Rural Telephone Box Poltergeist by The Geography Trip.

• “…when you first go into the room it’s like entering a furnace… a furnace of sound.” Scott Walker talks to John Doran about recording with Sunn O))). The new album, Soused, is out on 20th October.

We are the Martians: the Legacy of Nigel Kneale, a new collection of Kneale-related essays and appreciations, edited by Neil Snowdon.

• Kim Newman is one of the contributors to the Kneale collection. Here he is on the main types of ghost story, and how to recognize them.

Issue 7 of Glitterwolf magazine is out on the 15th, and it’s a Halloween special.

Etai Rahmil makes mask-pipes from glass for weed smokers.

Accidental Cool Art

Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) by Donovan | Hurdy Gurdy Man (1970) by Eartha Kitt | Hurdy Gurdy Man (2009) by Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras

Tom Adams book covers

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Dust jacket for The Magus (1966) by John Fowles.

I pulled my 1982 paperback of John Fowles’ The Magus from the bookshelf recently. After flicking through the pages I decided to start re-reading it, having realised that in the thirty years which have elapsed since I first read it I couldn’t remember much at all about it. One thing I did remember, however, was the cover of the first edition, a painting and design I’d admired in the past without knowing the name of the artist responsible.

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American illustrator Tom Adams is the artist in question, and looking at his painting again it further occurred to me that his cover deployed an evocative but not wholly specific assemblage of figures and objects that I’d often seen elsewhere, notably on the first edition cover of Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. So it was no great surprise to discover that Tom Adams was also responsible for that cover painting. The Fowles and Straub novels are big books which slowly reveal their layered mysteries. Adams’ approach to illustrating them strikes me as an ideal solution when neither of the novels can be easily reduced to a single image. (This hasn’t prevented subsequent designers from trying.) Fowles approved wholeheartedly of the painting but this isn’t a particularly fashionable technique at the moment, the trend being to try and condense complex narratives into a single motif.

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Cover painting for Ghost Story (1979) by Peter Straub.

Looking for more of Adams’ art tipped me into an entire world of Agatha Christie book covers which were the artist’s main body of work for many years. Adams is understandably celebrated by Christie-philes (Paper Tiger published a book of his Christie covers in 1981) but outside Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown I’ve never had much of a taste for the classic detective story so this was a previously undiscovered niche. Here Adams sidesteps the chore of painting Christie’s meddlesome sleuths in favour of a remarkable display of grotesque Surrealism which—for a sceptic such as myself—makes the books seem potentially interesting. As with The Magus and Ghost Story there’s the same assemblage of evocative figures or objects but with an additional macabre twist. Many of these covers are so grotesque they could easily function as horror illustrations so it’s no wonder he was asked to illustrate the Straub. This Flickr page has many more examples (warning: wretched user-unfriendly Flickr layout in operation) as does this site. The artist has a website where prints of The Magus painting may be purchased.

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Continue reading “Tom Adams book covers”

Haunted: The Ferryman

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Another television ghost story from the 1970s, The Ferryman (1974) is no relation to the 2007 horror film of the same name. This 50-minute drama isn’t in the same league as Schalcken the Painter, or the other BBC ghost films, but it’s one I remembered and was surprised to find on YouTube. Haunted was a Granada production for ITV, and although it sounds like a series it seems there was only one other film in the run, Poor Girl (not on YouTube), a Turn of the Screw-like piece based on a story by Elizabeth Taylor (author not actress). The Ferryman is based on a story by Kingsley Amis, adapted by Julian Bond and directed by John Irvin, later to direct the BBC’s exceptional multi-part adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Interesting to see from Irvin’s credits that he also directed the now-forgotten Ghost Story (1981), a poor attempt to cram Peter Straub’s huge novel into a two-hour film.

The best thing about The Ferryman is seeing a very handsome Jeremy Brett playing novelist Sheridan Owen whose recent horror novel seems to have predicted events that he and his wife find themselves experiencing. (Ten years later Brett was back at Granada as my favourite Sherlock Holmes.) Despite some initial promise The Ferryman is less successful than you’d hope, possibly because of the weak and confused source material. With its middle class characters encountering the uncanny this could so easily have been a Robert Aickman story, and would have been far better for it. But it does serve a purpose in throwing into relief tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Schalcken the Painter
“The game is afoot!”

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown DVD

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It’s that thing again…

There’s much to loathe about this time of year—the short and dismal days whose appalling weather will persist until mid-March, the trees denuded at last of their leaves, the Chinese Water Torture of Xmas trivia—but the post this week at least brought some compensations. As well as the copies of Dodgem Logic there was a box of Penguin book cover postcards which I won in a Guardian Books giveaway, and also the long-awaited arrival of Frank Woodward’s documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown on DVD. I’ve mentioned this latter work before, of course, but I’ll repeat that it’s the best documentary to date concerning the life and career of HPL, and features several pieces of my own artwork as well as contributions from other fine Lovecraftian illustrators. Among the interviewees are Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, Caitlin R Kiernan, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell and Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi. The DVD is only Region 1/NTSC at the moment, but is available also as a Blu-ray disc if you need to see the aforementioned in high-definition. The film runs for 90-minutes and the disc includes an additional 70-minutes of interviews, a Lovecraft art gallery and more. Essential viewing for all aficionados.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lovecraft in Los Angeles