Weekend links 411

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The Temple of Love (1911–24) by Herbert E. Crowley.

• My film viewing in the 1980s involved a considerable amount of backtracking: watching any film noir that turned up on the TV while chasing the early works of David Cronenberg, and various “New Hollywood” classics on television or at repertory cinemas (when such things were still plentiful). Contemporary fare by comparison was often a lot less attractive, although I’d be waiting for new work from David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg while pursuing obscurities (usually the banned or censored) on videotape. Popular films seldom generated actual loathing but throughout the decade I nurtured a persistent hatred for the works of John Hughes, an animus that can still return today when I read yet another nostalgic article about his oeuvre.

The monoculture of the 1980s was writ large on American cinema of the decade. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-rippling actioners to John Hughes’s adolescent confections, bombastic, generally upbeat films characterised the decade of the yuppie.

Christina Newland offers a welcome riposte to the pastel-hued retrospectives in a piece entitled “Reagan’s bastard children: the lost teens of 1980s American indie films”. While not exclusively teen pictures, I’d have mentioned three low-budget films written by Eric Red: The Hitcher (1986), Near Dark (1987) and Cohen and Tate (1989).

The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Works & Worlds of Herbert Crowley is a lavish (and costly) study of the strange comic strips and incredibly detailed drawings of Herbert E. Crowley (1873–1937). Mark Newgarden interviewed Justin Duerr about rescuing Crowley’s art from undeserved neglect. I missed an earlier interview by Steven Heller with Temple of Silence publisher Josh O’Neill. There’s more: The Wiggle Much a Tumblr devoted to Crowley’s comic strips and other artwork. (Ta to Jay for the tip!)

Pandemic is an interactive film by John Bradburn for The Science Museum. “A pandemic is causing heart failure–how far will you go to create a pig/human hybrid to provide donor organs?” The multiple choice begins at YouTube; there’s also a behind the scenes feature at the Museum blog, and a trailer. Anyone who remembers a certain scene in Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man! may hesitate before playing.

Given the plain palette of so much 1969–70 rock—jammed-out bluesy boogie in the Canned Heat and Allman Brothers mode, nasal pseudo-country harmony singing à la CSN&Y and their afterbirth—it is tempting to imagine an entirely alternative history for rock. It’s a parallel world where Fifty Foot Hose’s Cauldron, United States of America’s self-titled album and synthedelic oddities from Syrinx, Silver Apples, Beaver & Krause and Tonto’s Expanding Head Band were just the run-up to a giant leap into the electronic future.

Simon Reynolds in an excellent piece on one of my favourite musical sub-genres, electronic psychedelia

• The week in animated film: Emerald Rush, a video for an extract from Jon Hopkins’ new album, Singularity; Awaken Akira, a short homage to Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel/film by Ash Thorp and Zaoeyo; Extra (1996), a video by one of the Akira animators, Koji Morimoto, for music by Ken Ishii.

Tenebrous Kate on The Powers of Darkness & The Powers of the Mind: The Legacy of Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon. Related: a look at the film’s shooting script and pressbook.

• At Dangerous Minds: John Gray, the pre-Bosie lover of Oscar Wilde, and the man whose surname is memorialised in Wilde’s most famous creation, Dorian Gray.

• Skewing the Picture: China Miéville posts the full text of an essay from 2016 about the rural weird.

• Share a pastrami sandwich with TED Klein in Episode 65 of Eating the Fantastic.

• More Hodgsoniana: The Land of Lonesomeness, a short story by Sam Gafford.

• At The Quietus: Barry Miles on William Burroughs’ years in London.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Curtis Harrington Day.

Night Of The Assassins (1977?) by Les Rallizes Dénudés | Night Of The Earth (1980) by Chrome | Night Of The Swallow (1982) by Kate Bush

Weekend links 385

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• It won’t be out until late January—and then in the UK only—but the blu-ray premiere of The Mystery of Picasso (1956) by Henri-Georges Clouzot was announced this week. The initial run of the discs (there’s also a DVD) will include a booklet containing my essay about the film, something I was very pleased and honoured to be asked to write. Clouzot’s remarkable study of Picasso drawing and painting for the camera was made immediately after his masterwork, The Wages of Fear (also newly available on UK blu-ray), and this new edition will include two short extras, one of which, A Visit to Picasso (1949) by Paul Haesaerts, is an excellent precursor/companion to the main feature. More on this subject later.

• At the Internet Archive: an almost complete run of The Twilight Zone Magazine (1981–1989). While masquerading as a TV-series spin-off, TZ under the editorship of TED Klein was an excellent periodical devoted to horror and dark fantasy. In addition to running original fiction by major authors (Stephen King was a regular), the magazine contained features about older writers such as Lovecraft and Machen along with book reviews by Thomas Disch, film reviews by Gahan Wilson, interviews and more.

• “Bram Stoker was gay,” says Tom Cardamone in a review of Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal. I’ve not read Skal’s book so can’t comment on its claims but his earlier Hollywood Gothic (about Dracula on page and screen) includes some discussion of “sexual ambiguity” in Stoker’s work.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 625 by Elena Colombi, Secret Thirteen Mix 235 by Rhys Fulber, and XLR8R Podcast 514 by Tommaso Cappellato.

Help, Help, The Globolinks! is a previously unreleased electronic soundtrack by Suzanne Ciani, out next week.

La Région Centrale (1971), Michael Snow’s epic of landscape gyrations in two parts, here and here.

Alexander Calder and the Optimism of Modernism: Jed Perl in Conversation with Morgan Meis.

• Illustrations by Lynd Ward for The Haunted Omnibus (1935) edited by Alexander Laing.

Daniel Dylan Wray on the gay-porn music of disco pioneer Patrick Cowley.

• It’s that man again (and his drawings): Ernst Haeckel: the art of evolution.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Steve Erickson presents A Black Psychedelia Primer.

Bootsy Collins‘ favourite albums.

Picasso (1948) by Coleman Hawkins | Pablo Picasso (1976) by The Modern Lovers | Picasso Suite pt. 1 (1993) by David Murray Octet

A Mountain Walked

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Art by David Ho.

This may be a frustrating post for some since it concerns a limited edition anthology that sold out almost as soon as it was announced a year or so ago. Even though the book was published last year it’s taken a few months for my copies to arrive. A Mountain Walked is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos stories compiled by leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, and published in the US by Centipede Press. Anyone familiar with Centipede’s more luxurious volumes will know that they don’t do things by halves, and this weighty tome is no exception: a large-format hardback (the signed edition is also cased), with heavy paper stock, colour printing, tinted sheets and a bulk that runs to almost 700 pages.

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Art by David Ho.

Many of the stories are reprints but there’s also new material from contributors including Thomas Ligotti, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, the late Michael Shea (to whom the book is dedicated), Patrick McGrath, TED Klein, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell and many others. The artwork also ranges widely; I’d not seen anything by David Ho before but he’s very good, hence the samples shown here. But there’s also a variety of other work, even a Lovecraftian Peanuts comic strip by Julien Baznet. I was pleased that my Cthulhoid picture was placed with the introduction, it makes up for my never having responded to Mr Joshi when he wrote to me years ago asking if I’d be interested in contributing something to Necronomicon Press.

Since the book was so successful there’s been talk of doing a cheaper reprint. In the meantime, bloated Lovecraftian plutocrats (Yuggothcrats?) will find very expensive copies for sale on eBay. A few more page samples follow.

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Continue reading “A Mountain Walked”

The White People by Arthur Machen

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Aklo: A Journal of the Fantastic, Spring 1988 edition, edited by Mark Valentine & Roger Dobson. Illustration by Alan Hunter.

1: The White People

The White People by Arthur Machen was written in 1899 but not published until it appeared in Horlick’s Magazine, January 1904. The magazine, which ran for just over a year, was edited by Machen’s Golden Dawn colleague AE Waite which no doubt explains the unlikely venue. HP Lovecraft enthused about the story in Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927):

Less famous and less complex in plot than The Great God Pan, but definitely finer in atmosphere and general artistic value, is the curious and dimly disquieting chronicle called The White People, whose central portion purports to be the diary or notes of a little girl whose nurse has introduced her to some of the forbidden magic and soul-blasting traditions of the noxious witch-cult — the cult whose whispered lore was handed down long lines of peasantry throughout Western Europe, and whose members sometimes stole forth at night, one by one, to meet in black woods and lonely places for the revolting orgies of the Witches’ Sabbath. Mr. Machen’s narrative, a triumph of skilful selectiveness and restraint, accumulates enormous power as it flows on in a stream of innocent childish prattle, introducing allusions to strange “nymphs,” “Dols,” “voolas,” “white, green, and scarlet ceremonies,” “Aklo letters,” “Chian language,” “Mao games,” and the like. The rites learned by the nurse from her witch grandmother are taught to the child by the time she is three years old, and her artless accounts of the dangerous secret revelations possess a lurking terror generously mixed with pathos. Evil charms well known to anthropologists are described with juvenile naiveté, and finally there comes a winter afternoon journey into the old Welsh hills, performed under an imaginative spell which lends to the wild scenery an added weirdness, strangeness, and suggestion of grotesque sentience. The details of this journey are given with marvellous vividness, and form to the keen critic a masterpiece of fantastic writing, with almost unlimited power in the intimation of potent hideousness and cosmic aberration.

Lovecraft borrowed Machen’s naive narrator a year later for The Dunwich Horror: Wilbur Whateley’s diary is written “by a child of three-and-a-half who looked like a lad of twelve or thirteen”, and makes reference to “Aklo”, “the Dho formula” and “the Voorish sign”. (The journal in The White People refers to “a wicked voorish dome”.)

Lovecraft wasn’t alone in being impressed by the story, it’s long been regarded as Machen’s greatest piece of short fiction with good reason:

…it remains the purest and most powerful expression of what Jack Sullivan has called the “transcendental” or “visionary” supernatural tradition. Most other tales in that tradition, Blackwood’s The Wendigo, EF Benson’s The Man Who Went Too Far, and Machen’s own The Great God Pan, merely describe encounters with the dark primeval forces that reign beyond the edge of civilisation; The White People seems an actual product of such an encounter, an authentic pagan artefact…

TED Klein, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986)

Continue reading “The White People by Arthur Machen”