Tag: criticism

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Time Travel in Paris

Painting (c) Todd Schorr Lisa Goldstein’s first novel, The Red Magician, won the National Book Award in 1983, in the category for “original paperback novel.” Strangely that is the only year that c

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The mystique of Keleck

My first taste of any artwork associated with Keleck (aka Kelek), was at Boskone this year, where Andy Gelas brought my attention to two French paperback editions of Conan. These were Conan Le Guerrier, and Conan Le Cimmerian, in the Titres SF editions from the early 1980s. Needless to say, the eye-popping contrast in red and black, and the the purity of design in these covers hit me like a sucker-punch in a Philip Marlowe story.   Le Cimmerian has a pure movie-poster effect, with that smashing red background, and the bare skin of the figures has a smooth air-brushed look, while the tightly delineated designs on the metal are all perfectly highlighted. The first thing I noticed about Le Guerrier is the darkness of the figure, of the rich draperies, of the stairwell vanishing into shadow. The hair is certainly done the same way as Le Cimmerian: frizzy threads in direct highlight against the background. But in Le Guerrier, the eyes, the skin, the deliberate brushstrokes on the wall, and the marble steps; they have a very different aesthetic from the super-slick air-brushing of Le Cimmerian. What is going on here?

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Another Blood Moon, Another Howling

What a hullaballoo was kicked up for the recent blood moon. You’d think that a total eclipse occurring when the moon passes closest to Earth only happens, say … once every generation. Oh snap! B

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The Surrealist Path of Harry O. Morris

It was great to finally read _Harry O. Morris - Artist Portfolio_ from Centipede Press. Flipping through the lush images that take up most of the 320 pages, you can journey through the strangeness that has characterized the long career of this remarkable artist. I am really lucky to have known Harry from way back when. We first met in Albuquerque in the mid-1970s. At that time, Harry’s friend and fellow artist, Leslie Hall, was working in the same office as my father. Leslie was a frequent visitor to our house and noticed that I was a rabid reader of science fiction. He recommended J.G. Ballard and loaned me a copy of the anthology,_ Terminal Beach_. This was a cool discovery for me, around the age of 13, when I suddenly became aware of the difference between New Wave science fiction writers and the various space opera and Campbellian authors that I had been reading. Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place, and I had a whole new appreciation of books by Spinrad, Moorcock, M. John Harrison, and Samuel R. Delany. Not only did I re-read Driftglass, with a whole new kind of poetic awareness, but I shortly devoured all of Ballard’s books, and soon found that Van Vogt no longer satisfied in the way that R. A. Lafferty, Roger Zelazny, and Stanislaw Lem did. So in this friendly context, I took more interest in the peculiar artwork of Leslie Hall, and his friend and collaborator, Harry O. Morris, who had both been working with the techniques of Max Ernst and Wilfried Sätty, pushing the surrealistic and horror aspects of those methods as far as they could go. At that time, I enjoyed being peripherally involved in Leslie’s art projects: cutting out old engraved plates from books with X-acto knives and moving the pieces of unrelated images around to create surrealist collages. Some of the images that Leslie came up with were published in limited edition portfolios by Harry O. Morris, including a set from 1982 called, Inclement Weather. Hanging around with Leslie Hall, soon resulted in meeting Harry O. Morris, who had been working on similar art projects. That is when I first found out about his Lovecraftian zine, Nyctalops, which is now considered a classic. I admired Harry from the start. Here was a fellow who clearly didn’t really “fit in” with the rest of society, and yet he had his own print shop and typesetting operation, and was creating some really astonishing and interesting art. Here was someone who I could talk to about the Franju film, _Yeux sans Visage_ [Eyes Without a Face], and who not only knew the film, but knew the horror of it, on a deeply personal level.

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Ka-chow! sneezes the roscoe.

The opening of Jack Womack’s _Going Going Gone_, injects us into an unpredictable world that wobbles between an alternate hipster-scene of New York City in the 1960s and the seemingly hallucinatory ramblings of a drug-addled protagonist, Walter Bullitt. The story begins in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, where the first person jive talk kicks in: “Soon as I spiked I turned my eyes inside. Setting old snakehead on cruise control always pleases, no matter how quick the trip.” Sprinkled through almost every sentence are hokey metaphors. The phone doesn’t ring, “those jingle bells“ do. And on the other end of the line is a Federal agent of some kind, who is so square that he can’t understand a word of the hipster-narrator. But the narrator is more like one of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers than a secret agent, and he himself was so startled by the phone that he almost made for the john to “drown his bagged cat.” To flush his pot down the toilet, get it?

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A Mirror Full of Noir: Tyador Borlú Gets Lost

Just finished China Miéville’s _The City and the City_, a very satisfying, even inspiring, book, rich with metaphor and symbolism. It is like a film noir, set in a mythical Eastern European city — I’m convinced it is partly based on Prague — where populations living in mutually incompatible paradlgms “unsee“ each other. The beauty of this idea is that, (quite beyond the metaphor,) it could be almost any *real* city; with populations that are utterly invisible to one another. Old and young, rich and poor, leftist and fascist, black and white: there are, in fact, far too many axes of unseeing in our everyday lives…

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The Life and Times of R.T. Gault

Who was R.T. Gault? As the editor of numerous websites on a range of subjects from literature to magic and the occult, Gault’s work became a magnet to seekers of esoteric literature. Gault’s essays and photographic galleries on the Tarot, Arthur Machen, and the Order of the Golden Dawn were extensions of his most ambitious work entitled Absolute Elsewhere, which was nothing less than a master list of all the visionary, esoteric and fringe works published in America during the second half of the 20th Century. Although extensive, Gault’s bibliography is not exhaustive — the works he selected and arranged in a year-by-year chronology and in order of their appearance — were carefully chosen and arranged. When viewed in sequence, the works capture an intriguing hidden history of American letters. Like a spider weaving an invisible web, Gault created a tapestry of strange, mind-bending, and mystical ideas, at once recognizable to those who have read the books being cited, and at the same time serving as a guide for newcomers. But who was R.T. Gault, anyway? No sooner had I become a casual addict of his website, Absolute Elsewhere, did the site vanish. After months of digging, I could find no information about R.T. Gault, and more than a year elapsed before I discovered that Gault was desceased. At that time, my attempts to find someone who knew R.T. Gault were fruitless, leading only to an obscure reference to Centaur Books and Comics in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Eventually, I decided to post my reconstruction of the _Absolute Elsewhere_ website, which I launched on New Year’s day 2010. Subsequently, I began to receive enthusiastic thank you emails from readers who had lost track of Absolute Elsewhere and were happy to see it back online. One of these messages came from Karen Price, who was married to R.T. Gault. It was a great to finally have a tangible lead to the mysterious editor of Absolute Elsewhere! Even better, Karen graciously agreed to conduct a wide-ranging interview on the Life and Times of R.T. Gault, which you can listen to or download here: an interview with Karen Price (May 2012) [37:37] http://www.yunchtime.net/podcast/KarenPrice_20120524.mp3 Richard Thomas Gault was known to most of his friends as “Ditch” Gault. He grew up around Indiana, Pennsylvania where his father, Thomas Gower Gault, was a Professor, and also served as Chair of the Geography Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Ditch Gault was a true rennaissance man, surrounded by books, and he was an eternal student, having racked up college courses on every subject in the humanities for more than a decade without ever having earned a degree in any subject. In the 60s he was an enthusiastic member of the counter-culture at the University, and became obsessed with politics.

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The Dark Knight: apologia for Dictatorship or Insanity, take your pick

Repost of Dark Knight Review (originally published July 2008) If you haven’t yet seen the film, Dark Knight, please do that first before reading this post, because you will definitely spoil the “tension” of the plot, assuming there is any. For some reason this film is a runaway hit, with critics pissing all over themselves to outpraise each other. From my perspective, despite some excellent cinematography and a stellar performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker, it is really just another Batman movie, but with a troubling dichotomy at its core that is getting scant attention. There are clearly two very conflicted subtexts in the film, one centered on Batman and the other on the Joker. Batman’s supposed internal conflict we are all familiar with — having to take the law into his own hands in order to fight evil — dating back to his first appearance in Detective Comics #37; on the other hand, unlike the ridiculous slapstick Joker that Burton and Nicholson gave us, Ledger pushes his exploration of the Joker’s mercurial psychology into whole new realms of uncharted territory.

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Biographies of Tanith Lee, James Tiptree Jr, and Jack Vance

In recent weeks, I’ve been on a biography reading jag, first tearing through The Hidden Library of Tanith Lee, then James Tiptree, Jr., the Double Life of Alice Sheldon, and This is Me, Jack Vance! The Hidden Library of Tanith Lee by Mavis Haut begins with a heavy academic tone, delving into the mythopoeic layers of meaning in Lee’s writing.   Although this is perhaps a necessary piece of work, since Lee’s writing is so dense with mythology, metaphor, and explorations of the subconscious, it doesn’t exactly flow off the pages. Fortunately, for all those pages which made me feel like I was treading in molasses, there were an equal number of more conversational sections, in which Lee’s many books in many genres are summarized.   There is also a long and valuable interview with the author which I have not seen elsewhere.   Not a book for everyone, but a must read for all of you Tanith Lee addicts out there, and I know you are legion! It has taken me years to get up the nerve to read Julie Phillips book on James Tiptree, Jr., one of the unique voices in sf literature.    Perhaps other readers of sf in the 1970s had the same introduction to Tiptree that I did:  reading through 800 pages of Again Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison, only to be shocked with 50 amp jolt of electricity in the concluding story, Milk of Paradise, which opens: “She was flowing hot and naked as she straddled his belly in the cuddle-cube and fed him her hard little tits.  And he convulsed up under her and then was headlong on the waster, vomiting.“ This was clearly a writer who could grab anyone by the scruff of the neck and rattle them around like a rag doll.