Weekend links 513

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Water Tower (1914), Margaret Island, Budapest, Hungary.

George Bass on five ways The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968) predicted the way we live now. Nigel Kneale’s TV play will be reissued on DVD next week.

Ballardism (Corona Mix): three new drone pieces by Robert Hampson available as free downloads.

• Grace Jones: where to start in her back catalogue; John Doran has some suggestions.

Hal was the wry and soulful and mysterious historical rememberer. He specialized in staging strange musical bedfellows like Betty Carter and the Replacements or The Residents backing up Conway Twitty. Oh, the wild seeds of Impresario Hal. He was drawn equally to the danger of a fiasco and the magical power of illumination that his legendary productions held. Many years ago he bought Jimmy Durante’s piano along with Bela Lugosi’s wristwatch and a headscarf worn by Karen Carpenter. Some say he also owned Sarah Bernhardt’s wooden leg. He had a variety of hand and string puppets, dummies, busts of Laurel and Hardy, duck whistles and scary Jerry Mahoney dolls and a free ranging collection of vinyl and rare books. These were his talismans and his vestments because his heart was a reliquary.

Tom Waits pens a letter to remember Hal Willner

• The food expiration dates you should actually follow according to J. Kenji López-Alt.

• Blown-up buildings and suffocating fish: the Sony world photography awards, 2020.

• Rumbling under the mountains: a report on Czech Dungeon Synth by Milos Hroch.

Sophie Pinkham on The Collective Body: Russian experiments in life after death.

• Mix of the week: Spring 2020: A Mixtape by Christopher Budd.

Olivia Laing on why art matters in an emergency.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Bloody.

Blood (1972) by Annette Peacock | Blood (1994) by Paul Schütze | Blood (1994) by Voodoo Warriors Of Love

Weekend links 468

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“The atom shall work for peace…” Soviet poster promoting the benefits of nuclear power.

• RIP Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John Creaux, The Night Tripper. Dan Auerbach remembers the man whose return to funky form, Locked Down, he produced in 2012. Elsewhere, Michael Hurtt details Mac Rebennack’s pre-Dr. John exploits; some of his music from that period is linked at the end of this post. Entries at YouTube are inevitably skewed to the present but among the older clips you’ll find these: The Doctor and his band in full voodoo regalia miming to Zu Zu Mamou on the Something Else TV show; audio extracts from a Dutch festival performance in 1970, here and here; more quality audio from a 1972 concert in Syracuse, NY; and an hour-long Chicago TV show from 1974 featuring Dr. John, Professor Longhair, The Meters, and Earl King.

• More Tangerine Dream: all the soundtrack music for Vampira (1971), a drama-documentary directed by George Moorse for German TV. Recommended to those who like the group’s Ohr period.

• More Chernobyl: a photo-essay by Tom Skipp featuring survivors of the disaster, and from 2013, Hari Kunzru‘s report from the Exclusion Zone.

• At The Quietus: Lottie Brazier on The Strange World of Stereolab, and Ned Raggett talking to Liz Harris about her Nivhek project.

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

Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams, a DVD of the feature-length documentary by Darin Coelho Spring.

• Moon Wiring Club is back this month with fresh releases at Bandcamp, a YouTube post, and the EVP MVP Mix.

• Once the “Swingingest Street in the World”: Rob Baker on pictures of Carnaby Street 1924–1975.

• New video footage of Coil playing live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, 6th April, 2003.

Dean Hurley explores life after death on Philosophy of Beyond.

Tom Walker on Harry Clarke’s uncanny visions of Ireland.

Alex Barrett on where to begin with Alain Resnais.

• Martin Parr’s Soviet space dog collection.

Dennis Cooper winds you up.

Storm Warning (1959) by Mac Rebennack | Morgus The Magnificent (1959) by Morgus & The 3 Ghouls | Sahara (1961) by Mac Rebennack & His Orch.

Weekend links 463

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Eye 98: Beatrice Display Black, Sharp Type, 2018, and a detail from an original drawing for Lexicon by Bram de Does, 1989.

Issue 98 of Eye, the international design journal, is out this month. The new issue is a typography special but also features my review of Mark Dery’s Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey. This is the second time I’ve written about Dery’s book, with the new piece focusing more on Gorey’s work as a designer/book creator, and his place in the history of illustration.

Portal is a new release by Slovakian metal band Doomas, the artwork of which adapts one of my illustrations for Lovecraft’s Monsters. The band also have a suitably Lovecraftian video.

• Reading recommendations by M. John Harrison: the old (the excellent Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys) and the new (Underland et al).

I first started drawing in my Wake to count the number of rivers mentioned in an episode, one page alone counting 85. Gradually, I would be so moved by a line or a character I would colour them in, the most obvious being the 28 Rainbow girls to the more obscure nebulae, railroad tracks, hidden mythical islands and turn of the century lightships. Themes began to emerge which demanded documentation and always the sad, ecstatic relief of finishing a chapter merited some sort of coloured tribute. By the time I finished four years later, I simply drew a leaf to reflect Joyce’s metaphor on the last page: my leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still.

Susie Lopez on Finnegans Wake at 80

• Old ghosts at The Paris Review: a preview of The Spectacle of Illusion by Matthew L. Tompkins.

• At Dangerous Minds: Malcolm McDowell and the making of Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!

Herbie Hancock: “I felt like I stood on the shoulders of giants and now it’s my turn”.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 590 by Christian Löffler.

• The discography of Diamanda Galás is now at Bandcamp.

• RIP Quentin Fiore, graphic designer and book creator.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Haunted dolls.

Antique Doll (1967) by The Electric Prunes | The Doll’s House (1980) by Landscape | Voodoo Dolly (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees

Weekend links 436

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Cover for the now-defunct Cthulhu Sex magazine, volume 2, no. 23. Art by Chad Savage.

• Revising Lovecraft: The Mutant Mythos by Paul StJohn Mackintosh. Mackintosh was interviewed at Greydogtales in 2016 where he made a point that certainly chimes with my experience: “…the English-speaking genre community seems to have far more trouble with certain sexual themes than the mainstream literary community does, especially in Europe. […] A pity, because, for example, if H P Lovecraft’s worldview did owe much to sexual repression, then more mature engagement with that could really benefit the whole cosmic horror genre.”

• At Expanding Mind: Occultist and Aleister Crowley biographer Richard Kaczynski talks with Erik Davis about Jack Parsons, the “method of science,” the Agape Lodge, the women of Thelema, and the pluses and minuses of the Strange Angel TV series.

The Tell-Tale Heart (1953) is a short adaptation of the Poe story directed by JB Williams, and featuring Stanley Baker as the author. The film had been lost for 50 years but may now be seen on the BFI website.

• From July but more suited to the end of October: Paul Karasik on The Addams Family Secret: how a massive painting by Charles Addams wound up hidden away in a university library.

• Mixes of the week: Samhain Séance Seven: A Very Dark Place by The Ephemeral Man, Big Strings Attached, Oct. 2018 by Abigail Ward, and XLR8R Podcast 564 by Niagara.

• At Haute Macabre: Conjured from obscurity: lost, neglected and forgotten literature from Valancourt Books.

The Feathered Bough, a large-format collection of new fiction and art by Stephen J. Clark.

William Doyle on Music For Algorithms: in search of Eno’s ambient vision in a spotify era.

• The devils of our better nature: Daniel Felsenthal on Dennis Cooper and his new film.

Bone Mother, a short animated film by Dale Hayward & Sylvie Trouvé.

• “In Japan, the Kit Kat Isn’t Just a Chocolate. It’s an Obsession.”

Leigh Singer chooses 10 great films about the afterlife.

• “I am a haunted house,” says Sarah Chavez.

Psychedelitypes

Sex Voodoo Venus (1985) by Helios Creed | Sexy Boy (1998) by Air | Sex Magick (2002) by John Zorn

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook by Marjorie Worthington

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This is a curious book. Marjorie Worthington (1900–1976) was the second wife of William Seabrook, an obscure figure today, known—if at all—as much for the lurid details of his life as for his books. In the 1920s and 1930s Seabrook was a well-regarded and very popular writer, delivering to the American public reports of his travels in the dangerous and exotic parts of the globe. Worthington was a writer herself, the author of novels, short stories and biographies, in addition to this memoir, her final major work. By the time The Strange World of Willie Seabrook appeared in 1966 Worthington’s subject was largely forgotten, his exploits eclipsed by wilder figures, while the “unexplored” areas of the world whose exotic lure had fuelled much of his writing were no longer so distant or so strange in a world of continental travel. Seabrook wasn’t completely forgotten at this time; I knew his name, if little else, from a paperback of Voodoo Island that my parents owned. This was a retitled reprint of The Magic Island (1929), a best-selling study of Haiti and its voodoo culture which, among other things, popularised the concept of the zombie.

Seabrook’s name is hard to avoid if you’re reading about witchcraft or the occult in the first half of the 20th century. Aleister Crowley knew him and mentions him in his autobiography, while Crowley is discussed in Seabrook’s Witchcraft: Its Power in the World Today (1940). Crowley’s attitude towards Seabrook seems to have soured in later years, possibly because of some perceived slight or betrayal. The two men have a lot in common: both were the same generation (Crowley was born in 1875; Seabrook in 1884), both were addicts (Seabrook’s demon was alcohol), and both were fascinated by the outer limits of human experience. In Seabrook’s case this famously extended to eating human flesh, an experience he recounted in the follow-up to The Magic Island, Jungle Ways (1930). Marjorie Worthington gives a detailed account of this episode which was much more mundane than Seabrook’s printed version. When the African feast failed to materialise Seabrook decided to keep the incident in the book even if it meant staging a cannibal meal in Paris. One of the fascinating things about Worthington’s memoir is the frequent lurches of tone when Seabrook disrupts their generally placid domesticity with a hare-brained inspiration. If this makes him sound like an Jazz Age Hunter S. Thompson he wasn’t quite as mercurial, but the cannibal episode has a trace of the gonzo as the pair race around Paris one evening, looking for a convenient stove where Seabrook can cook the “rare goat meat” a friend has procured from a Paris hospital.

Worthington logs these and similar exploits with dismay, and one of the many curious aspects of her memoir is the unexamined nature of the attraction between herself and “Willie” as she calls him. Their relationship was an unusual one from the outset. Seabrook and Worthington were both married to other partners before they met; Worthington fell in love almost immediately but rather than go through the usual adulterous games the four people simply swapped partners and went on their way, all still married but now living with their opposite numbers. Worthington remained in love with Seabrook even though they were sexually incompatible, Seabrook having an obsession with bondage games whose outlet was provided by compliant women hired for the purpose. Worthington tried to be understanding but Seabrook’s fetishes and recurrent alcoholism strained their relationship, despite their mutual dependence. One of the ironies of the book is that Worthington recounts her abhorrence each time Seabrook retires to the barn for an endurance session with one of his new women but offers little detail as to what took place. This has the effect of stoking the reader’s curiosity which could hardly have been her intention. Seabrook told her he was interested in the mental effects caused by his bondage experiments—we see a photograph of one session on the cover of the new edition from Spurl—but the sexual dimension remains undiscussed.

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook isn’t an account of continual torment, however. Seabrook had many successful years, and the pair were friends with Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Aldous Huxley, the Astors and others. One of the best parts of the book concerns a journey by plane from Paris to Timbuktu at a time when international air travel was still a difficult and dangerous business. Worthington’s account of a noisy flight across the Sahara in a cramped aircraft that could only fly during the day makes contemporary moans about air travel seem like the whining of spoiled children. Her narrative comes alive when it assumes the character of travel writing, and she writes evocatively about her experience of the Sahara Desert. I’d have preferred more along these lines but for this it may be necessary to turn to Seabrook’s own works of the period, Air Adventure (1933) and The White Monk of Timbuctoo (1934).

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook is published by Spurl Editions on 25th October.