Weekend links 313

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The Sullen Son (1921) by Rose O’Neill from her Sweet Monsters series (also here).

10 hours of Popcorn (1972) by Hot Butter. Related (and linked here before) 79 different versions of Gershon Kingsley’s original. If that’s not enough, there’s at least 100 more out there.

• Mixes of the week: Touristica Mystica Sigillistica by Gregg Hermetech, FACT Mix 554 by The Body, and Secret Thirteen Mix 187 by Dalhous.

• Another electronic cover version: Trans Europe Express by Cobby & Mallinder.

In the 1950s people like Pierre Schaeffer and John Cage were saying: “But there are all these sounds in the world, and if you listen to them carefully enough you will hear the music that they speak.” This immediately opened up a new world; it’s enriching once you’ve educated your ear to that, because when you’re annoyed by the sound of the street you can make music out of it. You can make music out of almost everything!

Eliane Radigue discussing her career with Paul Schütze

Patricia Highsmith’s Snail Obsession and Two Weird Tales of Monstrous Mollusks.

Youth and Alex Patterson remember the making of Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb.

Strange Flowers pursues Sheila Legge and other Phantoms of Surrealism.

• Revealed: Cambodia’s vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle.

Alan Moore describes the cover of epic novel Jerusalem.

Ashgabat: the city of the living and the city of the dead.

• In praise of the tram by Christian Wolmar.

Taxidermists at DC’s

Brian The Snail (1982) by Pigbag | Slow Loris Versus Poison Snail (1996) by David Toop & Jon Hassell | Popcorn (2000) by Gershon Kingsley

Leather Cthulhu

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A couple of the projects I’ve been working on for the past few months have yet to be made public but this one from last September has finally shambled into the light of day. The Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales is a collection of 23 weird tales by HP Lovecraft (some of which are his collaborations with other writers) published by Barnes & Noble in their leatherbound Collectible Editions series. Anyone who’s held one of these volumes will know that they deserve to be called tomes rather than mere books; they’re heavy and lavishly produced, with detailed designs embossed on the front and back boards in a variety of metallic inks.

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One of my drawings was used a few years ago inside the big B&N edition of Lovecraft’s collected fiction; more recently I also designed a cover for a B&N paperback edition of the Cthulhu Mythos tales but the brief on that occasion was for something quick using pre-existing artwork. Given that the Mythos stories are my favourites in Lovecraft’s oeuvre I would have preferred to have done something more elaborate so I was very pleased when asked last year to create a new design for this hardback edition. The design on the front panel presented some challenges as I didn’t want to have an isolated head with wings but I also didn’t want to reduce the Cthulhu figure to such an extent that detail would be compromised. (This type of embossed printing imposes a limit on the amount of detail you can put into the design.) The compromise was a frontal view of what I consider to be another Cthulhu Sphinx, after the more elaborate sculpted design in my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu. I find myself wondering now how this creature might look from the side.

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The photos of the boards are courtesy of Betsy Beier at Barnes & Noble, and they show how much more effective the printed design is when you have the light reflecting on it. I’m now eagerly awaiting the arrival of a physical copy. The book will be out at the end of the month, and among the extra features there’s an introduction by Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, my drawing of R’lyeh on the endpapers, and (if that wasn’t enough) a poster reproduction of my Cthulhu Rising picture.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Gods of HP Lovecraft
Lovecraftiana calendar
Providential
NecronomiCon Providence 2015
Yuggoth details
A Mountain Walked
Lovecraft’s Monsters unleashed
Lovecraft’s Monsters
JK Potter and HP Lovecraft
Cthulhu Labyrinth
Tentacles #4: Cthulhu in Poland
Cthulhu Calendar
S. Latitude 47°9, W. Longitude 126°43
Resurgam variations
De Profundis
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Cthulhoid and Artflakes
Cthulhu for sale
Cthulhu God
Cthulhu under glass
CthulhuPress
The monstrous tome
Cubist Cthulhu

Weekend links 272

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No Passing (1954) by Kay Sage.

• More Lovecraftiana: She Walks In Shadows, an illustrated all-woman Lovecraftian anthology, will be published in October. Related: “The octopus genome and the evolution of cephalopod neural and morphological novelties“, a study that’s been filtering through the press as “Do octopuses have alien DNA?”

• “The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society,” says Kenan Malik in his TB Davie Memorial Lecture.

Sunn O))) with Attila Csihar at the Berlin Heimathafen. Related: Here’s what you missed at Sunn O)))’s sold out Berlin gig.

Caillois is fascinated by these “beveled buildings,” truly abundant in the Fifteenth, along with an unusually high incidence of blind walls, false façades, and merely ornamental windows, each beloved of his phantoms. In the parts of the arrondissement developed during the postwar period, Caillois’s attention is drawn instead to the ventilator shafts and drainage grates that dot the streets. These structures, built to clear away rainwater or aerate underground garages, have a secret function, according to him. Noting their uncanny similarity to some of the settings in the Weird Tales of HP Lovecraft, he speculates that they may have been constructed to provide the entry points for an extraterrestrial invasion of our planet.

Ryan Ruby on Roger Callois and the phantoms of the Fifteenth Arrondissement

• “I’m really into big moments,” says Julia Holter whose new album, Have You In My Wilderness, is released next month.

Adrian Utley talks to Peter Zinovieff, co-inventor of the EMS synthesizer. Related: What the Future Sounded Like.

• “Tarkovsky’s Solaris is the anti-2001: A Space Odyssey,” says Marissa Visci.

• Mix of the week: Gizehcast #17 by Rutger Zuydervelt.

Modernist architecture on film.

Thaumaturgy at Tumblr

The Call of Ktulu (1984) by Metallica | Cthulhu Dawn (2000) by Cradle of Filth | Cthulhu: A Cryo Chamber Collaboration (2014) by Various Artists

In the Key of Yellow

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My Easter weekend was profitably spent watching True Detective again, a series I enjoyed even more the second time around. For the past year I’ve been pondering off and on the connections the series makes with the suite of weird tales that Robert Chambers published in 1895 as The King in Yellow, and also the relationship between Chambers’ book and the chromatic preoccupations of the 1890s. The influence of Chambers on later writers such as HP Lovecraft is well established; this post traces some of the less obvious connections and correspondences.

1: À Rebours (1884) by JK Huysmans

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It begins, as many things do, with the bible of the Decadence. Neither Huysmans’ novel nor its dissipated central character, Des Esseintes, have much to say about the colour yellow but the first edition came packaged in a yellow wrapper, a common feature of French novels of the period. This detail is significant in light of the following connection.

2: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde

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The decade that came to be called the Yellow Nineties opened with the publication of Oscar Wilde’s only novel. The influence of À Rebours may be felt most strongly in the chapters where Dorian indulges his senses and a passion for precious stones. Then there’s this famous section describing the unnamed novel that Lord Henry gives him to read:

His eye fell on the yellow book that Lord Henry had sent him. What was it, he wondered. He went towards the little, pearl-coloured octagonal stand that had always looked to him like the work of some strange Egyptian bees that wrought in silver, and taking up the volume, flung himself into an arm-chair and began to turn over the leaves. After a few minutes he became absorbed. It was the strangest book that he had ever read. It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him. Things that he had dimly dreamed of were suddenly made real to him. Things of which he had never dreamed were gradually revealed.

It was a novel without a plot and with only one character, being, indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian who spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their mere artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called virtue, as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call sin. The style in which it was written was that curious jewelled style, vivid and obscure at once, full of argot and of archaisms, of technical expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that characterizes the work of some of the finest artists of the French school of Symbolistes. There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids and as subtle in colour. The life of the senses was described in the terms of mystical philosophy. One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner. It was a poisonous book. The heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain. The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and creeping shadows.

Two things are connected here that coalesce in Chambers’ stories: the colour yellow, and the idea of “a poisonous book”, compellingly readable and thrilling in its capacity to corrupt. The “repairer of reputations” in Chambers’ story of the same name (the first in the King in Yellow cycle) also happens to be a Mr Wilde. Yellow is still only a detail at this point, but not for long.

Continue reading “In the Key of Yellow”

Intertextuality

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): in the upper half there’s the big sun from Bob Peak’s poster for Apocalypse Now, in the lower half a radical reworking of Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead.

In 1990, shortly after the first season of Twin Peaks had finished showing in the US, Video Watchdog magazine ran a feature by Tim Lucas which attempted to trace all the various cultural allusions in the character names and dialogue: references to old TV shows, song lyrics and the like. This was done in a spirit of celebration with Lucas and other contributors welcoming the opportunity to dig deeper into something they’d already enjoyed. This week we’ve had a similar unravelling of textual borrowings in a TV series, only now we have the internet which, with its boundless appetite for accusing and shaming, can often seem like something from the grand old days of the Cultural Revolution.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): a more subtle allusion to Apocalypse Now.

The latest culprit ushered to the front of the assembly for the Great Internet Struggle Session is Nic Pizzolatto whose script for True Detective has indeed been celebrated for its nods to Robert Chambers and The King in Yellow. It’s also in the process of being condemned for having borrowed phrases or aphorisms from Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (2011). See this post for chapter and verse.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): It’s not very clear but that’s a boat from The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

If I find it difficult to get worked up over all this pearl-clutching it’s because a) it shows a misunderstanding of art and the way many artists work, b) True Detective was an outstanding series, and I’d love to see more from Pizzolatto and co, and c) I’ve done more than enough borrowing of my own in a variety of media, as these samples from my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu demonstrate, a 33-page comic strip where there’s a reference to a painting, artist or film on almost all the pages, sometimes several on the same page.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): Ophelia by Millais.

Cthulhu is a good choice here since Pizzolatto’s story edged towards Lovecraft via the repeated “Carcosa” references. You’d think a Lovecraft zine of all things would know better than to haul someone over the coals for borrowing from another writer when Lovecraft himself borrowed from Robert Chambers (and Arthur Machen and others), while “Carcosa” isn’t even original to Chambers’ The King in Yellow but a borrowing from an Ambrose Bierce story, An Inhabitant of Carcosa (1886). Furthermore, Lovecraft famously complained about his own tendencies to pastiche other writers in a 1929 letter to Elizabeth Toldridge: “There are my ‘Poe’ pieces and my ‘Dunsany pieces’—but alas—where are any Lovecraft pieces?”

Continue reading “Intertextuality”