MR James, R Kipling, D Welch – Three Ghost Stories for All Hallows’ Even

October 31, 2009

1

‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Count Magnus, there you are. I should dearly like to see you.’

‘Like many solitary men,’ he writes, ‘I have a habit of talking to myself aloud; and, unlike some of the Greek and Latin particles, I do not expect an answer. Certainly, and perhaps fortunately in this case, there was neither voice nor any that regarded: only the woman who, I suppose, was cleaning up the church, dropped some metallic object on the floor, whose clang startled me.’

Despite their capacity to create mortal fear, the presentation of ghosts must be delicately handled. They are sensitive entities, with a particular aversion to being overdescribed, which leads many of them to avoid the light. We must tread carefully, so that we don’t frighten them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

JG Frazer on the X-Factor

October 24, 2009

When this bejewelled exquisite lounged through the streets playing on his flute, puffing at a cigar, and smelling at a nosegay, the people whom he met threw themselves on the earth before him and prayed to him with sighs and tears. Women came forth with children in their arms and presented them to him, saluting him as a god.

Uh oh, wait a sec –

…as the young man ascended the stairs he broke at every step one of the flutes on which he had played in the days of his glory. On reaching the summit he was seized and held down by the priests on his back upon a block of stone, while one of them cut open his breast, thrust his hand into the wound, and wrenching out his heart held it up in sacrifice to the sun. The body of the dead god was not, like the bodies of human victims, sent rolling down the steps of the temple, but was carried down to the foot, where the head was cut off and spitted on a pike.


Is that a chisel in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

October 17, 2009

I’m definitely going to this. I’ve long been a fan of Gaudier-Brzeska, initially coming to him through Pound and Wyndham Lewis. Likewise Epstein.

But most of all I’m looking forward to seeing Eric Gill’s designs and sculptures. There’s an article on him here. Whenever I walk past Broadcasting House, with Gill’s sculpture of Prospero and Ariel (see the photo accompanying the article) I’m reminded of the story, related by Simon Loxley in his Type: The Secret History of Letters:

The governors of the BBC, viewing the work from behind the tarpaulin, were startled by what they considered the extravagant dimensions of Ariel’s penis, and Gill was ordered to make a reduction.

I hadn’t realised, until I read the book, that Gill had been a pupil of Edward Johnston, the man who designed the London Underground typeface. Perhaps I should have done, the famous Gill Sans typeface closely resembles Johnston’s iconic creation.

Hey, it’s not all sans serif round here though – we are nothing if not bookish after all. David Kindersley was an apprentice to Eric Gill (to continue the genealogy) and in 1959, infuriated by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation’s decision to go for a mixed case sans serif face for the signs on Britain’s expanding road system, produced his own MoT typeface.

[won’t let me link to the example of his road sign, sadly – you can see it on the link below]

The one on the right will be the familiar one, as it is the one that the Ministry of Transport eventually went with. There’s an article on the kerfuffle here, part of an excellent general history of road signs.

No, come back, seriously, I’m a wow at parties.

I would question the statement in that piece that it was Kindersley’s evidence that was found to be suspect though. According to Loxley it was the Ministry that had cited the (apparently non-existant) German evidence, and the dubious Californian evidence (the dodgy dossier of the late ’50s – Suez had nothing on it).  Kindersley’s typeface was more legible on smaller signs, and to my eye anyway, much more attractive. Difficult to see from the picture above, but it had been carefully designed for maximum utility –

Few of the letters are consistent with each other in the places where you would expect them to be. The top crossbar on the F ends with an upper serif and a slightly flared lower edge, whereas the corresponding section of the E has a double serif; on the E it is flared. the crossbar of the T is slightly flared, but has no serifs. The angled strokes of the Y are fatter, then taper, whereas the strokes of the V are of consistent width. The top of angle of the N has a small serif; those of the M have none. The bottom of the vertical stroke of the R has one small serif on the left edge, nothing on the right, whereas on the P there is a small serif on the left edge and a large on the on the right.
Kindersley had designed the alphabet this way to create maximum distinctiveness between the characters; he wanted there to be no confusion between them when view from a distance.

Few of the letters are consistent with each other in the places where you would expect them to be. The top crossbar on the F ends with an upper serif and a slightly flared lower edge, whereas the corresponding section of the E has a double serif; on the E it is flared. the crossbar of the T is slightly flared, but has no serifs. The angled strokes of the Y are fatter, then taper, whereas the strokes of the V are of consistent width. The top of angle of the N has a small serif; those of the M have none. The bottom of the vertical stroke of the R has one small serif on the left edge, nothing on the right, whereas on the P there is a small serif on the left edge and a large on the on the right.

Kindersley had designed the alphabet this way to create maximum distinctiveness between the characters; he wanted there to be no confusion between them when view from a distance.

It has a strongly British feel to it, weighty like old money, idiosyncratic and effective both in appearance and design, and would have reduced the size of the vast hoardings of directions that punctuate our roads. I wish they’d taken it up.

Kindersley married a very young wife late in his life, who survives him and carries on his work at the Cardozo-Kindersley workshop. They designed and executed the distinctive main gates at the British Library. Which, I think, brings us safely back to books, thankfully cocooned again from the world of fast cars and big willies.


Dear Person Who Found His or Her Way Here Using the Search Terms ‘Guicciardini’ and ‘Cheese’

October 7, 2009

I assume you were looking for a suitable cheese to have with a wine from the Guicciardini-Strozzi estate. If so, might I suggest a table pecorino? (NB: Not the hard, grating version, pecorino romano, which in its packaged supermarket form is disgusting.)

If, however, you were looking for mentions of cheese in the works of Lodovico Guicciardini, as I initially thought, then might I direct you to page 37 of the English translation (1593) of his Descrittione di […] Paese Bassi?

England

Thence come Cloathes and carsayes [kerseys] of all sorts, and of them great aboundance, both fine and course [sic], Frises, fine wooll, excellent Saffron, but no great quantitie, Tinne, Lead, Sheep skins, Cony skins, and divers sorts of fine furres, lether, Beere, Cheese and other victuals, and Malmesie (malmsey) brought out of Candia into England.

Read the rest of this entry »