Weekend links 17


Aladdin Sane (1973). Cover photo by Brian Duffy who died this week.

• Among the obituaries this week: artist Louise Bourgeois; poet and partner of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky; film director Joseph Strick, a man who dared to film James Joyce’s Ulysses; photographer Brian Duffy.

The dustbin of art history: “Why is so much contemporary art awful? We’re living through the death throes of the modernist project—and this isn’t the first time that greatness has collapsed into decadence.” Admirable sentiments but galleries and dealers have far too much invested in the corrupt edifice to let it collapse any time soon.

• Edinburgh film festival to screen ‘lost and forgotten’ British movies including the director’s cut of Jerry Cornelius film The Final Programme.


Delectable Bawdville burlesque boy Chris “Go-Go” Harder. Via EVB who have more pics.

Homobody by Rio Safari, “a scrappy diy zine about queerness”. Obliquely related: Lizzy the Lezzie, animations at the Sundance Channel.

• Richard Norris aka Time and Space Machine puts together a psychedelic mixtape for FACT. Fab stuff.

• Diamanda Galás has a message for critics: “Stick to reviewing plant life and leave the Witches alone.”

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine will be the first US survey of Gysin’s work in NYC next month.

• Geeta Dayal’s study of Another Green World by Brian Eno reviewed at Ballardian.

• For type-heads: font anatomy wallpaper by Sigurdur Armannsson.

If it was my home: visualising the BP oil disaster.

Antony Gormley’s Breathing Room III.

The Paris Review has a new blog.

• Bizarre juxtaposition of the week: John Martyn’s sublime Small Hours with, er… The Clangers.

International Times archive


The entire run of Britain’s first underground/alternative newspaper. Incredible. IT was never as flashy as Oz but ran for longer and arguably had the better contributors, among them William Burroughs. One notable feature was an avant garde comic strip, The Adventures of Jerry Cornelius, written by Michael Moorcock and M John Harrison with artwork by Mal Dean and Richard Glyn Jones. Heavyweight contributions to magazines tend to get reprinted, however, what I enjoy seeing in archives such as this is the ephemera which can’t be found elsewhere: adverts, reviews and illustrations like the one below. The site is a bit slow and it would have been good to have individual issues as PDFs but it feels churlish to complain. More archives like this, please.

Via Jahsonic.


Illustration by Stanley Mouse (1969).

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Realist
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others
Oz magazine, 1967-73

Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner


Patrick McGoohan as The Prisoner.

“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”

The Prisoner, which ran for seventeen episodes from 1967 to 1968, was the best original drama series there’s ever been on television. Period, as Harlan Ellison would say. Best because it grabbed the format of the TV adventure series with both hands to subvert the expectations of the audience and the people who were paying for it. Best because it dared to do this at a time when there was little precedent for experiment in a medium that was barely a decade old. Best because it had something important to say while still being entertaining. And best because it had Patrick McGoohan in the central role at the peak of his acting career.

Fiction can be anything, but to look at what we’re offered by TV channels you wouldn’t know it. Cop shows, hospital shows, detective shows and soap operas proliferate, ad infinitum. The Prisoner came out of Danger Man, an immensely successful post-James Bond spy series which may have been popular but, McGoohan’s presence aside, has little to recommend it today. It lacked the camp bravura of The Avengers and couldn’t compete with the budgets of the Bond films. But it’s fair to say that without it McGoohan wouldn’t have had the chance to do something radical. ITC’s Lew Grade thought he was getting Danger Man 2 with better production values; what he received—to his eventual dismay—was the kind of television one would expect if the staff of Michael Moorcock’s speculative-fiction magazine New Worlds had been given a fat budget and free reign. Like New Worlds, The Prisoner seized familiar genre themes but took them as a means to an end, not an end in themselves. The series borrowed from science fiction and spy thrillers—brainwashing and mind control, Cold War paranoia, the limitless surveillance and duplicity of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four—and used a drama format to say something direct and personal to its audience about individual freedom, the limits and excesses of the state, and the importance of being able to say “No” when the world insists that you capitulate.


Number Six by Roland Topor.

McGoohan was the driving force as well as the star. His own company, Everyman Films, produced the series for ITC; he planned everything with the writers, wrote three episodes and directed five of them himself. The Prisoner only lasted for a season and a half—cut short after Grade lost his patience—but the form was potentially endless, flexible enough to present a familiar Cold War spy story on the one hand, while having an entire episode play as a Western, on the other. In one of the later episodes McGoohan is largely absent when his mind is transferred to another man’s body and he finds himself living a new life, ostensibly a free man. (But freedom in The Prisoner is always circumscribed.) The last three episodes collapse everything that’s preceded them into intense and increasingly surreal psychodrama. Like Moorcock’s fluid character Jerry Cornelius, whose exploits were running in New Worlds while The Prisoner was being broadcast, McGoohan had found a vehicle to say what he wanted about the world using popular culture. It’s a coincidence but I’ve always found it apt that the cover illustration for Moorcock’s novella The Deep Fix (1966) included a figure obviously modelled on McGoohan’s Danger Man. The book’s tagline “Drugs took him into a nightmare world where logic ceased to exist” could be a description of a later Prisoner episode. Apt too that the first novel based on the series in 1969 was by New Worlds regular Thomas M Disch.


(James Colvin was a Moorcock nom-de-plume.)

The Prisoner was produced in the era of the social dramas of The Wednesday Play and Play for Today yet it remains relevant in a way its worthier contemporaries could scarcely manage. Social realism dates as quickly as yesterday’s news but allegory stays fresh. And it’s a dismal truth that the world of infinite surveillance has crept closer in a way that few would have imagined possible in 1968. The cameras that follow McGoohan’s Number Six everywhere are a familiar sight on Britain’s streets; a headline in yesterday’s Independent newspaper read: “Big Brother database a ‘terrifying’ assault on traditional freedoms“. McGoohan, who was raised in Ireland, would have appreciated the adherence of another Irishman, James Joyce, to the Luciferian cry of disobedience in Ulysses, “Non serviam!”—”I will not serve”. Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus defies God and his family; McGoohan’s Number Six defies everything else. That example, of the man who can “make putting on his dressing gown appear as an act of defiance”, is something we need as much now as we did in 1968. Hollywood is currently threatening a big-screen version but why wait for more compromised studio product when you can go to the source. Get yourself a deep fix—it’s a masterpiece.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Thomas M Disch, 1940–2008
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others

The Adventures of Little Lou





People ask me now and then what I prefer working on the most, and the answer is always the same—book design. The Adventures of Little Lou, a short novel by Lucy Swan for Savoy Books turned up today from the printers and it’s a good example of why I find this kind of work so enjoyable. For a start, the printers, Anthony Rowe Ltd, always do an excellent job. One of the things which makes CD design aggravating at times is the lack of care from pressing plants when it comes to print quality. But most of all there’s the pleasure of being able to make a book a beautiful object in its own right.

For this title we used gold blocking on the pages again and endpapers patterned with a red marbling design. The gold and red complements the dust jacket, and the scarlet swirls correspond to a number of motifs in the book, from the delirium of the characters’ drug states to the quantities of blood spilled as the story progresses. Lucy’s book riffs on David Britton’s Lord Horror and Meng and Ecker characters in much the same way that some of the New Worlds‘ writers of the late Sixties riffed on Michael Moorcock‘s Jerry Cornelius character, taking prior creations as a starting point for something new. This won’t appeal to a general readership; it’s vicious, offensive, scatalogical, wonderfully imaginative, downright nasty in places, and frequently very funny. But that’s okay, it’s a Savoy book, not another clunker from Jonathan Cape.