Thursday, June 23, 2005
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I have two Rolfe projects which never seem to get off the ground: an essay on the way that Rolfe conflated his sexuality and his religion into an erotic image of Christ throughout his writing and, further research leading to a more biographical essay on the significance of a boy called Robert Clement Austin on Rolfe’s life, which I believe was more significant than either of Rolfe’s main biographers ever noticed.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Monday, June 20, 2005
In the blind white flash
Of your fingers tracing line
On my thigh, I sink
Greenstick, rippled bark,
Spring wood bouncing back to stand
When it slips my mouth.
A finger in your
Most intimate flesh is like
Pushing through soft fruit.
Past the pier at Southsea, along pas the boating lake, the miniature golf and the tourist cabins selling whirly windmills and candy floss, the land and the sea seem to flatten out. By the time you reach the Royal Marines Museum, when you turn towards the sea, the whole world seems stratified. There’s a wideness and an openness. The beach is just shingle, dotted here and there with vigorous clumps of sea-kale and other rough looking plants I can’t name (Derek Jarman would know them, I’m sure they all grew in his garden). The subtlety of colour is makes this beautiful: the pebbles are blue-grey and brown and stone; the plants are chalky green-grey and russet in their low-lying domes; the shingle gives way to the sea which tosses between steel, murky green, green-black and sometimes, when the sun catches it silver foil; then the vast, wide band of the sky which today was bright pastel blue.
It hard work walking on the shingle bank but the exertion and the inevitable pummelling wind are what makes this walk worthwhile. Those things and the sense of vastness allow the mind to empty and the physical strain becomes almost relaxing.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
#1: The Adventures of Wonk
Two books, one called The Secret, and the other Fireworks from series 417 of Ladybird Books. There were written by Muriel Levy, described in the blurb as ‘Auntie Muriel of radio fame’. They were lusciously illustrated by Kiddell-Munroe. First published in 1941 these two books were my mum’s when she was a child and were battered even when she was reading them to me. Now they are so damaged that they are too delicate even for a bookshelf and are wrapped in a brown envelope and stored away. Wonk is a walking, talking Koala Bear and has his adventures with his friend, Peter, the boy star of the books.
The illustrations were erotically charged. As a boy my own age, I guess, Peter was always depicted wearing shorts and a top which clung to him like lycra. His bare legs were curved into slightly stylised renditions of a boy’s musculature. ‘Pert’ only goes half-way to describing the condition of his backside. One picture in particular shows him as the imaginary hero of a book he is reading, tousled hair and stripped to the waist he is tying a bearded pirate to his own mast. Most of all though Peter and Wonk’s adventures were full of dark, enclosed spaces, the illustrations making shops, bedrooms, cupboards and even a nightwatchman’s hut look like entirely private spaces, warm and inviting, often softened by lamplight or moonlight into places of secrecy, privacy and intense hidden eroticism.
#2: Willard Price’s ‘Adventure’ Books
A while series of paperback books called ‘something Adventure; Amazon Adventure, Undersea Adventure, African Adventure and so on… The heros were Roger (14) and his older brother Hal (19) who travelled the world collecting live specimens of animals for their father who supplied zoos. This is unadulterated Boy’s Own stuff.
I find it almost impossible to pin down why these books so affected me and had such a gentle eroticism about them. They certainly depicted a relationship of brotherly love of which I knew no real version. Certainly the boys spent an inordinate amount of time in their swimming trunks and the cover art often depicted this. Beyond the adventure and the art work though I think I simply fell in love with them. If there was identification then it was with Roger – lucky to be the beloved and protected younger brother. The fact that in Undersea Adventure Hal and Roger are looked after by a Dr Dick and play with a killer whale called Big Boy, probably escaped me at the time!
#3: Bosch Paintings
Hours in the library’s art section revealed the mysterious world of Bosch’s paintings. In particular the Garden of Earthly Delights, with the fish head that ate and then shat a whole human being, the tiny figures bent double with flower stems or flutes protruding from their arses, the lizard creatures, fish and fox creatures, it was all a source of wonder and attraction.
This must have to do with masochistic tendencies in early life. I could equate penetrating flutes and flowers not with sex but with a kind of sordid, enjoyable/endurable pain. This was the same kind of pain/pleasure that came from the school bully twisting my arm behind my back. Maybe I picked up on the religious sensibility of the painting although I would not have been able to articulate that. These paintings are very much about ‘being done to’ rather than doing and, I think, about being small, physically and theologically. At that time, I was small, not for my age but simply as a child. I was skinny, bony, whippet-like, I was the willing victim of all that could be ‘done to’ someone – especially if they were naked.
#4: Nuban Tribesmen…
…Or more specifically, the photos of Nuban Tribesmen by Leni Reifenstahl and George Roger. These I found scattered throughout all kinds of photography compliations in the library and maybe also in old National Geographics. George Roger published Le Village des Noubas in 1955 and it is from this account of his journey through Kordofa that his pictures of Nuban warriors come. Reifenstahl visited the Nuba on numerous occasions between 1962 and 1969. The photographs most reproduced and the one’s I saw as a child focus on the Nuban wrestling sport which involved wearing razor-sharp cuffs on the wrists with which to cut the opponent’s head. The wrestlers were dusted all over with white wood ash which, in Reifenstahl’s colour photos, forms a strange ghostly sheen on otherwise very black skins. The most famous of these pictures is Roger’s photos of a victorious Nuban wrestler riding on the shoulders of another warrior.
On the most superficial level these photos remain erotic today. The wrestlers are all finely muscled specimens of humanity. As a child there were two overriding factors which made these pictures so significant to my sexual development. First, they were the first opportunity I had to look unashamedly at naked adults men; their adult cocks were a source of great fascination. Secondly, these pictures were the first I had ever seen of naked men in physical contact with one another. I remember looking at the picture of the wrestler on another’s shoulders and my overriding response being that his penis must be squashed against the back of the other man’s neck.
#5: The Water Babies
My copy of the Rev’d Charles Kingsley’s book was illustrated by Tom Kerr. It was from the Golden Galley Series of Junior Classics in 1948. The illustrations were black and white line drawings scattered throughout the text.
The drawings, of course, show Tom the chimney-sweep naked as he is described in the text but something of the freedom of skinny-dipping, the dream quality of being able to breathe underwater and the magical nature of the transformation all combined to produce that strange thrilling sensation which would, in later life, transform like Tom into a full-blown, naked sensation named sex.
#6: Kidnap Stories
Any stories in which the young male protagonist was kidnapped, abducted, tied, bound/gagged… Most notably The Return to Witch Mountain, a book of the film (I have never seen the film) in which Tony is kidnapped with his sister and strapped to a gurney whilst medical experiments are conducted on him to try and unravel the secret of his telepathic gift.
Again we are back to my childhood masochism. In the book there are some pages of stills from the film, in full colour. Tony is there, strapped to the gurney, electrodes stuck to his chest, his head held by a thick canvas strap and stainless steel buckles holding him down. That was the place I wanted to be. Since childhood I have made discreet enquiries of a number of male friends both straight and gay and discovered that this kidnap fantasy I by no means rare and I suppose this is reflected in the number of children’s books with boy-kidnap as a theme of a part of the plot.
What is interesting to me and which I do not yet have an answer is why did my sexual positioning change? So much of these early sexual/sensual fantasies had to do with a kind of masochism and yet I have lost nearly all of that and would now identify firmly, if not with the sadist exactly, then with the one ‘doing to’ rather than the one being ‘done to’. Obviously, in this switch I am ‘doing to’ a fantasy or a real partner who in some way represents myself but as to why – I have yet to unravel that mystery.
1. Hogg by Samuel Delany
2. Equinox (aka The Tides of Lust) by Samuel Delany
3. The Carnivorous Lamb by Augustin Gomez-Arcos
4. Wild Boys by Willam Burroughs
5. Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White
6. Penterra by Judith Moffat
7. Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite
8. Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
9. Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley
10. The Wreaththu Trilogy by Storm Constantine
Just an ‘off the top of my head list’ for now. At a later date I will add and expand.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Sunday, June 12, 2005
More car boot sales today. Fontwell Racecourse, one I’ve not been to before but will be returning to. Nice size, nice range of stalls.
Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham (1st ed)
Ah King by Somerset Maugham (1st ed) nice early Maugham book but not in the best of condition
Honeycraft by Lawson (1945)
200 Miniature Games of Chess by J Du Mont (1942)
The Dorset Bedtime Anthology published by the Arundel Press (1st ed)
Then it was on to Chichester for the afternoon boot sale. I’m surprised, given our reputation at football matches and on Friday nights in town centres, that there hasn’t yet been violent incidents at car boot sales. Chichester’s is in the town car park, cars, junk and people crammed in. Can hardly get down the aisles, people pushing and shoving without actually speaking to each other, thoroughly unpleasant. Every other shopper there seems to be Eastern European. Cyrillic languages are pretty much equally spoken with English by strapping young Eastern European lads, all seemingly over 6’5’’ and all wearing tight white t-shirts and clothes from the 70s and 80s. Bought nothing here.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Today’s boot sale was at Bedhamton Farm. A small farm tucked between the London-Portsmouth railway line, the A27 and Portsdown Hill. It’s one of those places which has taken the Government’s advice to heart and diversified. Most of the growing space is devoted to Pick Your Own, the grow a maize maze every year for the public to pay to get lost in and then a spare field is left aside for car boot sales every week. For a first of the season, this was quite busy. Found a nice old copy of Boy Scout Tests and How to Pass Them (1933) which was full of fantastic Imperial hangover language and diagrams of how to knock your opponent on the head with a Quarterstaff and so win your ‘Master-at-Arms’ badge. The best thing about Bedhampton Farm Boot Sale of course is that you can go on to spend a good hour or so in the Pick-Your-Own Strawberry field, on your hands and knees on the fresh smelling straw between the lines of strawberry plants, looking through all the dark green foliage for that succulent, thick, bright red colour of a perfect strawberry nestling down against the earth. Lovely.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Ventnor is a bizarre place on the South-East side of the Island. It is built almost literally onto the side of the cliff. The roads in, out and through the town feel vertical in places (including of course, Zigzag Road!) It has the feel of somewhere isolated from the world, and this on an Island which, as a whole is often thought of as ‘insular’ in attitude as well as geography. The micro-climate created by the towering, wooded cliffs has made it the perfect place for the Botanical Gardens to grow South African and Australasian plant life and palm trees flourish is otherwise suburban gardens. People here live a different kind of life even to those on the rest of the island. They used to be to Islanders what the Belgians are to the French or the Irish to the English. But in recent years there has been something of a revival. It is a town full of antique and junk shops. In former years this would have been a problem but now, with the revival of interest in all things antique and junky, it’s something of a Mecca. A tiny new marina has tidied up the seafront and the Spyglass Inn on the end of the bay has always been popular. Mum and K and I had lunch there looking out to sea from their ‘boathouse’ dining room.
In the town found a selection of Victorian CDVs and Cabinet Cards, slightly overpriced and so I could only buy those I thought I would have a private customer for. But also a copy of ‘Satyrs Upon the Jesuits’ printed in 1703 and bound in with a series of other sections of poems and other writings by John Oldham. It may even be in the remains of it’s original binding. I am not a specialist in antiquarian books and still don’t know much about the book but I knew it must be worth more than was being asked for it!