Not a guide from myself but a sample book from 1923 produced by the Hampden Glazed Paper and Card Co. of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Seventy-six designs by different artists are arranged by theme—landscape, architectural and so on—the common thread being the way they all give prominent space to the paper that provides the background of the design. The restrained colour palette and use of space reminds me of some of the posters produced by Noel Rook and others for the London Underground at this time. This isn’t an isolated style, in other words, and the prevalence of the look in the 1920s may have filtered into the cover designs Edward Gorey was creating for Doubleday in the 1950s. Mark Dery’s Gorey biography mentions Japanese prints being an influence on Gorey’s covers but he would have grown up around books and poster graphics that looked like this, designs which themselves (via Aubrey Beardsley, Will Bradley and others) possess a Japanese influence.
Untitled glass sculpture by Richard Roberts.
• Lord Horror: Reverbstorm, my collaboration with David Britton, makes The Quietus list of Literary Highlights of 2013. At the same site there’s Russell Cuzner talking to English Heretic. “His methodology takes in magick, psychogeography and horror film geekdom, along with firm roots in Britain’s industrial music culture of the early 1980s, to form potent, novel topographies of an otherwise unconnected world of occultists and psychopaths.”
• A slew of London links this week: Geoff Manaugh on how the capital was redesigned to survive wartime blackouts, a piece which inadvertently explains why you see so much black-and-white street furniture in post-war films | Bob Mazzer’s photos of the London Underground in the 1970s and 1980s | Philipp Ebeling’s photos of the capital and its inhabitants today.
• “Science has become an international bully. Nowhere is its bullying more outrageous than in its assault on the phenomenon known as subjectivity.” David Gelernter on “The Closing of the Scientific Mind”. Related: “When Science Becomes Scientism” by Stanislav Grof.
• My favourite book about Orson Welles is This is Orson Welles (1992), a collection of Peter Bogdanovich’s interviews with Welles edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Bogdanovich’s interview tapes can now be heard at the Internet Archive.
• Brian Dillon on Dada collagist Hannah Höch who he calls “art’s original punk”, and Sean O’Hagan talking to another collage artist, Linder Sterling, who says “Lady Gaga didn’t acknowledge I wore a meat dress first”.
• The Last Alan Moore Interview? A lengthy discussion with Pádraig Ó Méalóid. Shunning interviews hasn’t done Cormac McCarthy any harm so if I was Alan I wouldn’t worry.
• And speaking of Cormac McCarthy, the headline of the week: “Cormac McCarthy’s ex-wife busted after pulling gun from vagina during alien argument“.
• Where the bodies are buried: Mick Brown presents a potted biography of Kenneth Anger who offers a few reluctant quotes.
• Helen Yentus designs a 3D-printed slipcase for a novel by Chang-rae Lee.
• Ralph Steadman‘s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 103 by Lustmord.
• Collage art at Pinterest.
Gratifying this week to see album cover art under discussion even if the heat-to-light ratio was as unbalanced as it usually is when pop culture is the subject. Jonathan Barnbrook, who also designed the Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003) packaging for David Bowie, wrote about the thinking behind the new cover on his blog. (And for the time being let’s note that this is still only a cover design, we don’t know what else is on its way.)
For my part I’ll point out that the artist-as-cover-image is the great cliché of album design, and the bigger the name the more the rule applies; Neville Brody complains about this in the first book of his work, as does Storm Thorgerson in the Hipgnosis books. In Bowie’s case the rule has been applied almost universally since his debut album in 1967, the only variations being illustrational ones or slight dodges like having his feet appear on the front of Lodger and his back facing the viewer on Earthling. Consequently the new design is a radical gesture from an artist who could have got away with a photo of himself du jour. By way of contrast, consider that Rod Stewart is a year older than David Bowie and presented the world with this artefact in October 2012.
Related: Hard Format responds to the cover, Chris Roberts on “Picasso resurrected in a Rolf Harris era“, and Alexis Petridis on The inside story of how David Bowie made The Next Day.
• The Quicksilver typeface, designed by Dean Morris when he was only 16, bought by Letraset and now an indelible feature of pop design from the 1970s. Morris describes his experience here (“they shunned rapidographs!”) and collects examples of the print history here.
When the days are short, we are closest to the medieval world. To the avoidance of mirrors where death improves our portraits every morning with a few more lines and shadows. What would once have been a sermon, a conjuring of hellfire, a phantom slide show, is now an entertainment. But before we can begin again, we have to kick free of the embrace of our inconvenient predecessors, that compost legion of the anonymous dead. They come uninvited, requiring us to sign up for what the late Derek Raymond called the general contract: a brief turn in the light, then extinction. Eternal darkness. How to live with such knowledge? William Burroughs admired the unswerving bleakness of Beckett’s gaze, the way he reduced compensatory illusions to zero. Nowhere left to crawl. And nothing to crawl on. Last breath is last breath. Stare into the abyss and the abyss will stare right back.
Iain Sinclair reviews The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead by Carl Watkins
• Broadcast’s James Cargill on Morricone, Minidiscs and Scoring Berberian Sound Studio. Related: Melmoth the Wanderer posts a new mix, The Curious Episode of the Wizard’s Skull, and more spooky sounds are on their way from The Haxan Cloak.
• A Firm Turn Toward the Objective: Joanne Meister on meeting the great Swiss designer Josef Müller-Brockmann.
• The Beatles of Comedy: David Free on the Monty Python team.
• The history of the London Underground poster.
• Impossible Architecture by Filip Dujardin.
• At Pinterest: Art Dolls & Sculpture