Weekend links 211

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Secret Bloom (2014) by Natalie Shau.

Bloomsday approachs. “Reading Ulysses changed everything I thought about language, and everything I understood about what a book could do,” says Eimear McBride whose debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, recently won the first Bailey’s women’s prize for fiction. McBride was interviewed by Susanna Rustin last month, shortly before the award was announced, and her novel has now become one of those minor causes célèbres for being rejected so often it was eventually published by a new imprint set up by a bookseller. “If the publishing industry doesn’t take a risk then who will?” asks Henry Layte, the bookseller in question.

Speaking of risk, David Hebblethwaite coincidentally wrote a post earlier this week asking where the formal challenge has gone in science-fiction writing. (He mentions McBride in passing.) Nina Allen followed up with a post of her own. I suspect the books are still being written but they’re no longer being accepted by editors and publishers who want even more adventure stories, “sympathetic” characters, and easy reads. Novels that only aspire to be written equivalents of action films or computer games are doomed to be less exciting than their more kinetic competitors. The struggle between the values of art and the values of entertainment is an old one but it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. “Difficulty is subjective,” says Eimear McBride, “the demands a writer makes on a reader can be perceived as a compliment.”

Related: the following from Geoffrey Hill on “difficulty”:

We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most “intellectual” piece of work.

• The Quietus pulled out all the stops this week, interviewing Annette Peacock, Iain Sinclair (again), Alan Moore (again), and asking Peter Strickland, the director of Berberian Sound Studio, for a list of his favourite albums. Given the above, it’s worth noting that all those people have produced challenging work of their own in different media.

• “The Satyrs Motorcycle Club was founded in 1954 with seven members, but little did anyone know it would become the oldest running LGBT organization (and oldest gay motorcycle club) in the world.”

Trunk TV posted another great selection of television title sequences. The previous selection has been taken down for the usual tiresome copyright reasons so watch this one while you can.

• “Detroit techno and black metal have so much in common,” say Wolves In The Throne Room whose new album, Celestite, is predominantly a product of synthesizer technology.

• “Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”

• The secret of Nabokov’s sexual style: David Lodge reviews Nabokov’s Eros and the Poetics of Desire by Maurice Couturier.

• How long can you hold your breath? 2 models, 7 divers in an underwater shipwreck by photographer Von Wong.

• At Dangerous Minds: Paul Gallagher on The fantastic world of Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.

• Wizards of the Coast: Benjamin Breen on John Dee and the occult in California.

• More photography: Peter Guenzel captures strange lights in forests.

• Mix of the week: Bleep podcast 121 presented by Margot Didsbury.

I’m The One (1972) by Annette Peacock | Eros Arriving (1982) by Bill Nelson | The Dire And Ever Circling Wolves (2005) by Earth

The Book of the Lost

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A recurrent feature of the music landscape of the late 80s and early 90s was the “soundtrack for an imaginary film”, a sub-genre that proved especially popular among the electronica crowd when DJs realised they needed a description to justify their collections of downtempo instrumentals. Two of my favourite examples were produced away from the dance world: John Zorn’s Spillane (1987), and Barry Adamson’s solo debut Moss Side Story (1989), both of which took their thematic cues from crime novels and film noir. The artists on the Ghost Box label haven’t gone down the imaginary film route but many of the tracks on the Belbury Poly and Advisory Circle albums are reminiscent of TV theme tunes from the 1970s. The closest you get to an imaginary film in the Belbury sphere is the unseen giallo horror in Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio with its score by Ghost Box allies Broadcast, and a title sequence by Julian House.

Given all of this, The Book of the Lost, a collaboration between Emily Jones and The Rowan Amber Mill, is a logical next step: a CD collection offering a theme from a forgotten TV series “shown on Sunday nights in the late ’70s and early ’80s” which broadcast four of the equally forgotten horror films upon which the accompanying songs are based. Between each song you hear a brief snatch of dialogue, just enough to whet the appetite without getting too involved. One of the films referred to, The Villagers, belongs to that current of British folk-horror that runs through Witchfinder General, and Blood on Satan’s Claw, to Ben Wheatley’s intoxicatingly weird A Field in England. Pastiching aside, all projects of this kind depend upon the quality of the music, and the folk-inflected songs here are very good, as is the Book of the Lost theme itself which is as spookily evocative as Jon Brooks’ Music for Thomas Carnaki.

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If that wasn’t enough, there’s a special numbered edition of the CD which comes packaged in a die-cut slipcase (above) containing cards giving details of each of the films. In addition to promotional artwork there’s also a synopsis, a production history and even a cast list. Other films are mentioned in passing—The House that Cried Wolf, Ghosts on Mopeds—that imply there was a lot more happening in Wardour Street in the 1970s than we previously suspected.

The Book of the Lost isn’t officially released until January but it’s available for purchase now at the project website.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Outer Church
The Ghost Box Study Series
A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Ghost Box

Weekend links 167

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Poster by Luke Insect & Kenn Goodall.

In recent years I’ve had little patience for British cinema: too much dour “realism” with little of Alan Clarke’s vitality, too many comedies that aren’t funny, too many Hollywood calling cards, too much Colin Firth… So it’s been a pleasure to see Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio followed this month by Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England, a pair of films that stand out by daring to be different in a medium which seems to grow more creatively conservative with each passing year. A Field In England adds to the micro-genre of weird British films set around the time of the English Civil War. In place of witchfinders and devil worshippers we have magic, murder, madness, and a field of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Wheatley, like Strickland, takes risks that wouldn’t be allowed with a bigger budget which makes me excited to see what they’ll be doing next. A Field In England is already out on DVD & Blu-ray. The trailer is here. The director talked to Mat Colegate about the genesis of the film (spoiler alert). There’s more big hats and cloaks in this list of ten 17th century films.

• “I like to look at men…the way they look at women,” photographer Ingrid Berthon-Moine says about her pictures of sculpted testicles.

Roger Dean has finally sued James Cameron over the designs for Avatar. Will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

• Google has taken its Street View cameras to Battleship Island, “the most desolate city on earth“.

• The strange fantasy novels of Edward Whittemore are available again in digital editions.

Julia Holter talks about her forthcoming Gigi-inspired album Loud City Song.

• At Pinterest: Maneki-neko, the beckoning cat of good fortune.

Beautiful Books: Decorative Publishers’ Cloth Bindings.

• The abstract paintings of Hilma af Klint (1862–1944).

Lee Brown Coye illustrates August Derleth in 1945.

Bill Laswell’s discography intimidates the collector.

• Mix of the week: Kit Mix #23 by Joseph Burnett.

• The Soundcarriers: Last Broadcast (2010) | Signals (2010) | This Is Normal (2012)