Lost All My Friends, Can’t Sleep For Bad Dreams

March 23, 2011

Amusement arcades on the shore house the more recent automatics, horizontal glass-topped boxes on four wooden legs, where a penny releases a number of balls which can be projected by means of a spring through a series of illuminated hazards to score many thousands of points. For really high scores there may be prizes.

The Unsophisticated Arts – Barbara Jones (1951)

2010: Year in Review

January 2, 2011

You are joking aren’t you?

In the words of Loudon Wainwright III: ‘Who in the world needs a review? Once was enough for me thank you’

(The only thing that I guess I might mention was that there was an amazing Ronald Searle exhibition in which the first item was drawing made in the Changi POW camp in Singapore, of a fellow inmate dying of cholera, which seemed to capture in its faint outline of skeleton and eye the very last ember of life in a man, the ultimate moment before death, the final point of humanity, so that just as death is the backdrop of satire this seemed to underlie all the splendid and proliferating grotesques and caricatures of his subsequent work. Pissed all over the Renaissance drawings exhibition anyway. Useful blogpost here.)

Still, lookit:

by Christopher Scoble

Yes,and one of those writers is Jocelyn Brooke! The other two are Richard Hooker and Joseph Conrad (eh? Oh, he wroteThe Rover there. Hmm.)

I should probably read that, shouldn’t I? Hmm.

Did I tell you I went down to Elham, the place where Brooke spent his holidays as a child? Don’t answer that, I know I didn’t. I half wrote a long piece about it which covered Memory and Loss and THIS COUNTRY which is sitting gathering dust in my drafts.

Maybe I should do a Doctor Who style trailer of what’s coming up in the next series on The Idiot and the Dog (which I’m thinking of renaming The Idiot and the Dog and the Fucking Albatross Around My Neck by the way).

*exciting nuclear war strings with endlessly perorating drums*






and… JOCELYN BROOKE! (that’s like the daleks bit – you know it’s coming you just don’t know when)

(obv when they do the tv trailers it usually means they’ve filmed at least some of it whereas when I write these words it means buggery fuck other than a platonic representation of the gossamer strands of mere noumenal conjecture that have haphazardly caught on the severed upturned and empty claw of my mind which strands are represented as the phenomenological fibs known as Fine Words, and as we all know fine words butter no parsnips).

It’s just I’m listening to this Rasputina album on spotify at the moment and I’m absolutely sure it’s very good but* it’s making it incredibly hard to concentrate. (*It’s got a song called Afternoon of the Faun on so perhaps I should have guessed, but it’s cunningly put near the end).

Don’t see why those without spotify shouldn’t have to put up with it –

See? idk is that any good? (This is where my critical faculties are at currently.)

I just want to listen to Waka Flocka Flame:

Maybe I should just rename it The Fucking Albatross.

Major New Discovery: 15th Century Portrait of Mark E Smith

November 5, 2009

Proof that he is indeed the one who stamps on all ages –

1485 Aesop's Fables Title Page

What You Need - A severed foot on a plate

From 1485. This is presumably the period he met Dr Johann Faust (1480-1540-ish), as related in that piece of documentary journalism Dktr Faustus –

Blind man, have mercy on me!

June 30, 2008

When I was about five or six, nothing produced a greater feeling of dread than a Mervyn Peake illustration of Blind Pew from a copy of Treasure Island given me when I was young. Peake’s Treasure Island illustrations use no outlines, but are composed of the finest etchings of pen, so that nothing is distinct but emerges as it were from a sea mist. The bullying, terrifying Pew himself seems woven from the very darkness around him, his blindness part of the fabric of the world in which he exists and seems a thing more powerful than sight.

The picture shows him moments before he gets trampled to death by a horse. He has taken a wrong turn, and the caption has him piteously pleading and wheedling –

‘Johnny, Black Dog, Dirk,’ and other names, ‘you won’t leave old Pew, mates – not old Pew?’

I still find it utterly hypnotic – no illustration or work of art has a more immediate hold over me.

Mervyn Peake\'s illustration to Treasure Island

This then was my introduction to Robert Louis Stevenson. Later I found out that those early compelling and precipitous chapters of Treasure Island were written almost as quickly as they are read; even to this day if I pick up the book I will find myself halfway through almost without realising it.

Since then I have read Kidnapped, its sequel Catriona, some of his essays and The New Arabian Nights. He is strangely impenetrable for one whose style is so open. He is like a window in a lit room on a darkened exterior, perfectly clear, yet impossible to see through. Was it just that his works were so simple that they invited no more than the most perfunctory analysis? The more I read, the less I felt this to be the case; The New Arabian Nights specifically present such a structure of mirrors and nesting boxes, and such a non-morbid preoccupation with violent death and a non-pious preoccupation with morality, while all rattling along in Stevenson’s typically brisk way, as to feel unique among things I have read.

This curiosity about his unmysterious but enigmatic writing has prompted me to go through his collected works from beginning to end – the Swanston edition.  I’ll draw my impressions as I go, and then after I’ve read it all, I’ll go into a biography and maybe some critical stuff to see how they match up. With writers who have this rather external, many-faceted gem-like appearance, opinions tend to differ quite a lot; as with Shakespeare, I can imagine people finding their own appearance in the lineaments of his writing.

It’s as well to set out what I know of him – a vaguely coherent congeries of facts, and half certainties –

  • Scottish, Edinburgh (the midden out back and the clean rational streets in front, being a sort of psychological ‘explanation’ of Jekyll and Hyde I came across once)
  • Father, a lighthouse designer?
  • Suffered health problems (tuberculosis?), causing him to eventually go to Samoa (and die there?)
  • First half of Treasure Island written very quickly (map of island came to him first? did he lose it as well?)
  • Wyndham Lewis’s not at all hostile description of him in Time and Western Man as ‘the sedulous ape’, and an observation about his cartoon like characters. [edit: as Martin Walker points out in the comments, this is in fact RLS’s comment upon himself, rather than Lewis’]
  • known as a fine essayist.
  • Got wife to help him with second selection of New Arabian Nights, known as the Dynamiter – an attractive image, like Elizabeth Jane Howard and Kingsley Amis writing bits of each other’s books.

That I think is pretty much that,

Oh, did he live in Sussex for a bit? Or have I made that up?

Next: What I Discovered Behind the Doors of Volume 1…

The Great Vortex

February 9, 2008

In theory lectures put on for the public are a great idea, in practice normal people like you and I are given cause to wonder what sort of person voluntarily attends a lecture that they don’t have to go to, or even in some cases pays to go to such an event, especially if the pubs are open. That’s not to say we should spend all our time catching the dew from the barmaid’s apron, it’s just by way of saying that you get a certain type at these things. (A type that would probably benefit from a drop of what does you good from time to time, truth be told.)

Still, as I went to one a week or so ago, the last laugh is on me. I did take the precaution of going to the pub first, feeling it was unwise to embark on such an undertaking without a Beatific Cushion of Alcohol to protect against any potential boredom. I also plead the excuse that the lecture was on Blast, that remarkable and explosive Vorticist periodical of two issues, whose creator Wyndham Lewis I have long been a fan of, while accepting that he is a ‘funny old stick’ as Mark E Smith once, with a considerable amount of cheek, called him. 

Some art critic called Richard Cork gave the lecture, held in a disconcertingly space age lecture theatre at the British Library (the windows seemed to reverse their polarity at one point, which had me briefly listening for the sound of bolts thudding shut across the doors and the hiss of escaping gas as an accompaniment).

As with most lectures on matters in which you’ve some sort of interest, this one seemed to consist of things I already knew, and things I didn’t really care about. CW Nevinson, for instance, produces nothing but indifference in me. His Vorticism and abstract stuff seems imaginatively lenten; conventional mutton dressed with radical mustard, the art end of what would become 20th century design. I see however that he’s credited with holding the first cocktail party in Britain, so props for that Charlie boy.

Corky also evidently has a bit of a pash for Bomberg, so he went on about him a bit, not entirely relevantly I felt.

Anything interesting?

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