The Last Ritual

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Starting the new year with a new cover, and another from the plethora I was working on last year. Art Deco occultism is the theme this time, a satisfying combination since the rectilinear Deco style is a good match for the sigils and thaumaturgic diagrams you find in grimoires. The publisher is Aconyte Books, a new imprint launched a year ago to produce novels that complement the games created by parent company, Asmodee UK. Arkham Horror is an Asmodee game with a Lovecraftian theme, and S.A. Sidor’s novel is set in the game’s world:

Aspiring painter Alden Oakes is invited to join a mysterious art commune in Arkham: the New Colony. When celebrated Spanish surrealist Juan Hugo Balthazarr visits the colony, Alden and the other artists quickly fall under his charismatic spell. Balthazarr throws a string of decadent parties for Arkham’s social elite, conjuring arcane illusions which blur the boundaries between nightmare and reality. Only slowly does Alden come to suspect that Balthazarr’s mock rituals are intended to break through those walls and free what lies beyond. Alden must act, but it might already be too late to save himself, let alone Arkham (more).

The design of the cover combines the look of much Art Deco metalwork, especially bronze door and grille designs, with the kind of inlay you see on Deco furniture and the more lavish leatherbound books of the period. Part of the brief was to show a magic ritual taking place but I thought it wouldn’t do to make the figures look too realistic, hence the stylised poses; Georges Barbier rather than Weird Tales. Another request in the brief was to incorporate the Yog-Sothoth sigil from the Simon Necronomicon (the bronze circle under the title). I think I’ve said before that the symbols in the Simon Necronomicon tend to be used a lot today as though they’re the only ones available, even though the book is only one of several unofficial attempts to imagine the contents of Lovecraft’s notorious grimoire. I’ve always favoured the George Hay-edited Necronomicon so the symbol at the top of the cover is the Yog-Sothoth sigil from the Hay volume.

The Last Ritual will be published in August 2020.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Psychetecture

Weekend links 62

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A plate from Tales of the Amur by Dmitry Nagishkin, a 1975 edition illustrated by Gennady Pavlishin.

• The week in Surrealism: Opera of the surreal gives Dalí an encore: Yo, Dalí, a previously unperformed work by Xavier Benguerel, receives its premier in Madrid. Meanwhile Tate Liverpool’s summer exhibition, René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle, is profiled here. “René Magritte has inspired more book covers than any other visual artist,” says James Hall.

If Rimbaud anticipated the Surrealists by decades, Ashbery is said to have gone beyond them and defied even their rules and logic. Yet though nearly 150 years have intervened since Rimbaud’s first declaration of independence, many readers in our own age, too, still prefer a coherence of imagery, a sameness of tone, a readable sequential message, even, ultimately, what amounts to a prose narrative broken into lines.

Lydia Davis on Rimbaud’s Wise Music.

Umberto Eco’s glimpse into the art of the novel | Return to Wonderland: an essay on Lewis Carroll’s world by Alberto Manguel | Heavy sentences by Joseph Epstein: On How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, by Stanley Fish.

And then there’s the mystery of what happened to him for those four months in London when we have no trace of him. Rimbaud mentions Scarborough in “Promontory” and talks about “Hotels, the circular façades of the Royal and the Grand in Scarborough or Brooklyn.” Since there’s that missing period in England, people say he must have gone to Scarborough, and have even checked hotel registers for that period, but as far as I know nobody has ever found anything. Someone even checked railway and train schedules in order to pin him to this real place. I seem to remember a French writer admitting that Rimbaud was never in Brooklyn, but kind of wishfully thinking that he might have been. Which is very funny. “Rimbaud in Brooklyn”: there’s a project for someone.

A Refutation of Common Sense, John Ashberry on translating Rimbaud.

Robert Jeffrey posts a video of his nine-year-old self giving Madge a run for her money in 1991. As Boy Culture puts it: “Anyone who feebly clings to the belief that gay can be prayed away should take a look at this and give up already…” Amen.

• The mathematics of Yog-Sothoth: Richard Elwes on Exotic spheres, or why 4-dimensional space is a crazy place.

For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry by Christopher Smart (1722–1771).

Lesbian pulp fiction, 1935–1978 and Faber 20th century classics.

As The Crow Flies, a new album from The Advisory Circle.

New World Transparent Specimens by Iori Tomita.

79 versions of Gershon Kingley’s Popcorn.

Minor Man (1981) by The League of Gentlemen.