Weekend links 528

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The Rhinoceros (after 1620) by Albrecht Dürer.

• “Today—Tolkien, Lovecraft, Miéville and M John Harrison!” Paul StJohn Mackintosh at Greydogtales explores HP Lovecraft’s lack of interest in fictional worldbuilding. The piece includes one of my book covers (ta!) plus a link to an earlier post I wrote about the cover designs of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium books. Since I’m connected to the thesis I’ll suggest that Lovecraft was resistant to the worldbuilding impulse in part because he was almost always writing horror stories. Having studied the genre at length he was well aware of the need to leave suggestive voids for the reader’s imagination.

• RIP Denise Johnson. All the obituaries mention the big names she worked with, notably New Order and Primal Scream, but being in the pool of Manchester session artists she also appeared on a couple of records by my colleagues at Savoy. Her voice is one of those you first hear on the PJ Proby cover of I’m On Fire, while with friend Rowetta she improvised her way through a Hi-NRG original (and a favourite of Anohni’s), the scurrilous Shoot Yer Load.

• At the BFI: Axel Madsen interviews Fritz Lang in 1967; Serena Scateni on where to begin with Nobuhiko Obayashi; and Roger Luckhurst reviews the spomenik-infested  Last and First Men by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• “Be more aware of the rest of the world!” says Jon Hassell, talking to Alexis Petridis about a life spent making music.

John Boardley on the Renaissance origins of the printed poster. Worth it for the selection of engraved details alone.

• “What Ever Happened To Chicken Fat?” Jackson Arn on a tendency to over-abundance in Jewish humour.

Erik Davis has a new writing home at Substack that he calls The Burning Shore. Bookmarked.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXII by David Colohan.

• Garry Hensey on The Strange World of John Foxx.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sergei Parajanov Day.

Romantic Rhino (1981) by Ananda Shankar | The Lone Rhinoceros (1982) by Adrian Belew | Blastic Rhino (2000) by King Crimson

A Czech Machen

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Cover art is a detail from A Woman on a Path by a Cottage (1882) by John Atkinson Grimshaw.

The fiction of Arthur Machen doesn’t inspire a great deal of illustration, probably because his best writing is more concerned with the description of particular places and the feelings those places evoke, rather than the depiction of illustratable scenes or events. I did make the attempt myself, however, when I started a series of illustrations in 1990 that were intended for a Savoy Books edition of The White People. This never materialised for a variety of reasons, and I never finished the series of drawings although the work did yield one picture (below), that I’ve always been pleased with.

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Some of these drawings may now be seen in Temnota nepomíjí, an edition of Machen’s stories from Czech publisher, Malvern, almost all of which are appearing for the first time in translation. I’m told by the translator, Patrik Linhart, that the title in English would be “Darkness is undying”. As for the cover art, I approve the choice of John Atkinson Grimshaw, a painter whose sombre, autumnal views could cover an entire series of Machen books. His work is often seen today in connection with MR James but being a predominantly urban artist his work seems a better match for the Apostle of Wonder.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ibrahim Ineke’s The White People
The White People
The Bowmen by Arthur Machen
Rex Ingram’s The Magician
The Great God Pan

L’Image, 1896–1897

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L’Image was a short-lived French publication dedicated to the art of contemporary wood engraving. Short-lived it may have been but its position at the birth of Art Nouveau means that many of its smaller graphics have been recycled ever since in studies of the period. One of these graphics, a fleuron by Jean-Jacques Drogue, was the subject of an earlier post when I was tracing the origin of a motif used for many years by my colleagues at Savoy Books. I eventually found Drogue’s fleuron in a collection of rather poor scans at Gallica, a good resource but one whose web interface (and often the materials themselves) leaves much to be desired.

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All the images here are from a collection of the entire run of L’Image at the Internet Archive which are much better quality and which include the early issues missing from Gallica. The most notable thing about the earlier issues is the way they combine the Art Nouveau style with Symbolist art; in addition to an engraving by Carlos Schwabe that I hadn’t seen before there’s a very Symbolist piece about nocturnal Bruges featuring art by Georges de Feure.

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Continue reading “L’Image, 1896–1897”

Saki: The Improper Stories of HH Munro

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I thought I’d written about this some time ago but it appears not so the present post can serve as a way to honour the talents of the late Fenella Fielding. The obituaries this week have inevitably emphasised her roles in the Carry On films, a series of alleged comedies that I’ve never liked, and which weren’t much liked by several of the actors who appeared in them. Fenella Fielding did much more than this, of course, especially in the theatre, on radio and in television, including appearances such as the one here from a collection of adaptations of the peerless short stories of Hector Hugh Munro, better known as Saki. Granada TV made a whole series of these in 1962, broadcasting this anthology in 1985 following the death of producer Philip Mackie. Fenella appears in the second story, A Holiday Task, as the forgetful Mary Drakmanton, and she fits so well with into Saki’s world that I really wish I’d suggested to my colleagues at Savoy Books a reading or two by Fenella from Saki. She enjoyed reading Colette for Savoy, and chose the selections herself, one of which concerned Colette’s homosexual friends. Given this, I can imagine Fenella teasing out some of the sly gay humour that runs like a scarlet thread through Saki’s Clovis stories.

The other pieces in this Granada collection are The Stampeding of Lady Bastable, The Way to the Dairy, Sredni Vashtar and A Defensive Diamond. The story editor was Gerald Savory who later did such an excellent job adapting Dracula for the BBC.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Fenella Fielding reads Colette

Weekend links 419

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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