What a fitting discovery while badgering through the mountain of cheap book carts at Brattle Book Shop, when I happened across a fine copy of Jorrock’s Jaunts and Jollities. Originally published in 1838, this farcical book on fox-hunting and gad-about adventures, was written by Robert S. Surtees, who is an amusing stylist, to say the least. The overall tone of the book is very reminiscent of its predecessor picaresques, such as Humphrey Clinker, and it’s followers, for example Jerome’s Three Men On a Bummel… in which a cast of characters go off on a jaunt that allows the author to skewer them and the societies they are escaping from or escaping into.
“Another drink… I’m already sloshed!” While searching for old Rarotonga comics with Antonio Gutiérrez art, I happened across this strange gem from 1951, which apparently is the first appearance of Rarotonga. I’m sure there must be other examples, but so far I can only find a single cover of Rarotonga from the early series.
While randomly grazing the sweet grass of the intertubes, and reading about such things as the Comic Salon Erlangen and looking at Andy Konky Kru’s photos of the 2006 Salon, I stumbled across Skip Williamson’s blog on the history of Underground Comics. [Sadly the blog is defunct, after 2015]. Not only did this remind me of my first major comic book convention (at the Playboy Towers in Chicago) where I met Skip Williamson, but also of Skip’s terrific “Class War Comix,” published about five years later in Snappy Sammy Smoot (1979). In addition to the classic newstand headline: Agnew Breaks Wind, Thousands Die! this comic featured a paranoid schizophrenic Richard Nixon being replaced as President by an even more freaked out long-haired capitalist, Amphetamine Arnie.
One of the great satirical classics of Science Fiction is surely “Space Merchants,” by Fred Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, which skewers the American traditions of corporate greed, deceptive advertising, and the treatment of consumers as stooges, suckers, retarded fools, and miserable cattle. The story accomplishes this in a slick, almost effortless Science Fiction setting, which is fast-paced and chock full of sadistic irony. It’s important to remember the context of American society at the time of publication — 1953 — when the Cold War was in full swing, and the complete subservience to the Capitalist credo was not only the mood of the times, but was enforced by psychological warfare, not the least of which were accusations, blacklists, and finally the foaming-mouthed lunacy of McCarthyism.
Sophia and I were lucky last night because our friend, MaryAnn, scored some great tickets to the Preview show of “Two Men of Florence,” the first play by Richard Goodwin. We ended up in the first row center orchestra seats, actually, right in front of the author. Thanks, MaryAnn! It’s an intriguing play, which pits the scientific passion of Galileo against the vainglorious pursuits of Pope Urban VIII, who attempts at first to bring a “dialog” of ideas into the Church — owing to his magnanimous benificence — but later realizes that he has accidentally opened the gates of Reason which threaten the very foundations of a Church built on absolutist devotion. The sets of the play are remarkable, including a latticework of walls full of candles, and circular center stage upon which revolve the desks, chairs, and armatures of Galileo’s inventions. A semi-transparent curtain is occasionally whisked around this center of action, sometimes serving as a projection screen, or an effective scene changing device. The staging and movements are delightfully paced, with nary a figure making absurd entries and exits on wires or wheeled pavilions. The performances were excellent as well, not only the two lead actors, but also the supporting cast. The Pope’s friend and confident , and Galileo’s daughter, were especially standouts, in particular the moments when the daughter sings in Latin. Jay Sanders’ Galileo is fiery and sensitive, managing to convey his love of philosophy and the natural order of things without sounding snobbish or boorish. The rich language provided by Goodwin really shines through here, giving Sanders a line like this: ‘The moon. Full-bottomed Eve. Crafted by God as comfort to the fugitive earth. Let me see if I can peek beneath the hem of your borrowed radiance.’