Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
Friday, November 25, 2005
Had to write a quick note about this book. A young man grows up on South Ronaldsay in Orkney suffering bullying and abuse. He slowly becomes aware of his singular gift which is to give people the kind of sexual experience that makes them see angels. He embarks upon a journey to the mainland and through Scotland ending up in London working as a hustler. The story is told from his point of view at what we know is the end of his life. He tells the story while he he is inexorably turning to gold, inside and out - a precious metal, but in this case also deadly. The book is short, compact and beautiful. The magic realist touches are extremely subtle and underplayed and even in the turning to gold I had the feeling that it might still possibly be a description of disease wrongly interpreted by the narrator. Whether writing about Orkney or London, the tone is evenly sharp, lyrical and balanced between beauty and horror. Truly a haunting book (with a beautiful cover).
The last item on my reading list below (the last thing I read) was Gilbert Adair's 'The Holy Innocents'. It's the book on which the Bertolucci film 'Les Innocents' (The Dreamers) was based - kind of - a film I mentioned in an earlier post. Since I finished reading my paperback copy I did a bit of poking around. Turns out, first off, that 'The Holy Innocents' is an excruciatingly expensive first edition, particularly for a novel published in 1988. Why this is, I'm not yet sure but if might have something to do with the strange publishing history.
Adair wrote the novel (his first full length adult novel) and published it in 1988 with Heinemann in the UK and E. P. Dutton in the US. But, it appears he was not happy with it. He held off selling the film rights for almost a decade until, eventually, Bertolucci asked. Given that the book is a kind of cinephile's wet dream, Bertolucci would have seemed the perfect choice. So the film was made, with Adair himself working on the screenplay and telling Bertolucci, reportedly, to be "totally unfaithful" to the book. At the same time, Adair decided to rewrite the novel as the book that he actually wanted and this published as 'The Dreamers'. So he has effectively written this story three times: novel - screenplay - novel. The second novel-version coming out at the same time as the film in 2003.
There are significant changes. First, Matthew, the young American student who beomcomes sexually entwined with a French pair of brother-sister twins, is much more straighforwardly bisexual in the first book than in the film or the second book. The first book has a sexual menage between all three in all directions and the twins are in a fully-sexual relationship before they meet Matthew: in the film, although the viewer is encouraged for a while to think that the twins are in fact incestuous, it turns out that when Matthew makes love to Danielle for the first time, it is in fact her first time too: Matthew and the male twin are not overtly sexually connected in the film either which is not the case in the first book. The first book sees the threesome plunge into a much greater depravity than the film although the sense of isolation is the same. The film also re-introduces the parents and the idea of a suicide on the back of parental discovery is brought into play.
I saw the film first. I enjoyed it, it's very sexy, has the incomparible Michael Pitt playing Matthew and the central section where the characters are caught up in their own, depraved, isolated world has a real sense of claustrophobia and dark tension. However, I was disappointed by the end which seemed weak, and I felt it lacked the depth of psychological truth that the first book had. I shall be looking out for the second version in book form which I haven't yet read.
More about Gilbert Adair here.
The copy illustrated is the 1989 E. P Dutton first US edition.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
1. Corvo, Donald Weeks*
2. Timescape, Gregory Benford
3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
4. Moving Mars, Greg Benford
5. The Orphan, Robert Stallman
6. No Other Gods, Mario Stefani
7. Harold’s End, JT LeRoy
8. My Friend Prospero, Henry Harland
9. November Reef, Robin Maugham
10. The Immoralist, Andre Gide
11. The World, The Flesh and Myself, Michael Davidson
12. The Sign, Robin Maugham
13. Sarah, JT LeRoy*
14. Return to Neveryon, Samuel R Delany
15. The Crown of Silence by Storm Constantine
16. The Way of Light by Storm Constantine
17. La Luna by George Malko
18. Venus as a Boy by Luke Sutherland
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling*
20. The Holy Innocents by Gilbert Adair
I was moving house in October!
First I received three items from one souce, the great Kelly Freas, SF illustrator who died recently is having his estate sold off. From there I purchased two cover proofs for different impressions of the Ace Book's edition of 'Fall of the Towers' both signed by Freas and the book itself signed on the cover by Freas in one of the editions.
Second, today came six issues of 'The New York Review of Science Fiction' all with (mainly) uncollected articles by SRD and all previously the property of Lee Balantine the famous SF editor and publisher.
Third, in the late 60's one of SRD's best stories, The Star Pit was turned - by him - into a two hour radio play and broadast on the New York station, WBAI, and it was so popular it was repeated for many years. Finally someone has digitised the play and it's available for download here. Which is a fantastic find!
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Also, unusually, spent some time in some 'new' bookshops and found a copy of 'The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction'. Great little book for those moments when someone enthusiastically mentions some book or author as if you really should have heard of them... will now go running to this book for the background.
The nicest part of the day tho? With Winter drawing in and the sy dark by four o'clock, walking through the backstreets between Charing Cross Road and Covent Garden with R, keeping each other's hands warm, watching the street performers, taking hot chocolate and cookies at the best cookie stall in the world.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
From A Sermon by John Donne
That there are distinct orders of Angels, assuredly I beleeve ; but what they are, I cannot tell ; Dicant qui possunt ; si tamen probare possunt quod dicunt, saies that Father, Let them tell you that can, so they be able to prove that they tell you true. They are Creatures, that have not so much of a Body as flesh is, as froth is, as a vapor is, as a sigh is, and yet with a touch they shall molder a rock into lesse Atomes, then the sand that it stands upon ; and a milstone into smaller flower, then it grinds. They are creatures made, and yet not a minute elder now, than when they were first made, if they were made before all measure of time began ; nor, if they were made in the beginning of Time, and be now six thousand years old, have they one wrinckle of Age in their face, or one sobbe of wearinesse in the lungs. They are primogeniti Dei, Gods eldest sonnes ; They are super-elementary meteors, they hang between the nature of God, and the nature of man, and are of middle Condition ; And, (if we may offencelessely expresse it so) they are aenigmata Divina, The Riddles of Heaven, and the perplexities of speculation.
I have a passion for the old Oxoford University Press books with their blue bindings and gilt titles. There was much more variety than 'The Oxford Book of Such and Such Verse' and one of my favourites is, 'The Sermons of John Donne - Selected Passages'. The above is perhaps my favourite quote from the book.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
A confession: I find the idea of incest sexy. I haven't the slightest interest in father-daughter incest but hearing, reading or watching on film when mother and son, brother and brother or brother and sister get it on turns me on. Three intense films: 'The Dreamers' (aka les innocents) by Bertolucci - young American student gets dragged into a menage with a brother and sister with dark, tense, incestuous undertones. 'La Luna' also Bertolucci, a mother and son thrown together by the death of the father and by the son's heroin. Critics hated it - As a teenager I watched it on TV late one night on Channel Four and it invaded my fantasies for weeks - largely because of the beautiful Matthew Barry. 'The Cement Garden' an adaptation of Ian McKewan's first novel of the same name, a family of kids left alone in the house begin playing 'family' in a fucked up way, Andrew Robinson sexy even through the grease and spots and lank hair.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Boris Orloff by Rev's Edwin Emmanuel Bradford: I recently produced a handstitched booklet in a limited edition of 50 of this short story first published in the Boys Own Paper in the 1890s by the eccentric uranian poet and Church of England clergyman. There was a small privately printed edition by Timothy D'Arch Smith which Tim used as Christmas gifts but this was some time ago. It's a thoroughly sentimental tale of a romantic friendship between Victorian schoolboys - not at all the usual fare of Boy's Own.
Rolfe at Oscott: Two Letters: This was a happy accident. I discovered two previously unknown and unpublished letters by Frederick Rolfe from the time just after he was forced to leave Oscott. Again published in a handmade, handstitched booklet limited to 50. These have been selling very nicely and I'm alreay half-way through the edition. Ironically, I was so keen to get them out that just after I finished them yet another letter relating to Rolfe and Oscott came to light. I'm saving this for another time and in the hope that there may be yet more in the same archive.
Upcoming: I have permission to publish a short story by the now little known and underrated Forrest Reid. It is, I think his first published work dating to 1909. I'm in the process of trying to organise some illustrations. Likewise, trying to organise the illustrations for Rolfe's 'Three Venetian Tales' first published in Blackwoods Magazine. These last are going to be something more in terms of production as I think I will be creating three separate booklets and slipcases to house them in.
Wishing: The plan for the future is to continue to find obscure bits of queer literature that might have a small niche audience. I'd like to be publishing more modern work as well, although copyright concerns become more intense at that stage, and bibliographical/checklist material.
Friday, November 11, 2005
I simply don't understand why Storm Constantine is not more widely read and appreciated as a fantasy author. Her Wraeththu Trilogy are edgy urban fantasies, barely fantasy in the genre sense at all and full of beautiful, adolescent same-sex desire and sex. I have a set of the first Wraeththu Trilogy now in first edition and signed but as a measure of how undervalued they are, Macdonald, who published the first two in hardback and then pb, went to publish the third and realised how many they had left in stock of the first two and only issued it in paperback. It was left to an enterprising private publisher to put out the third in Hardback which he did really well, copying the first two in every detail except for the name of the publisher.
I've just finished the Magravandian Trilogy - much more firmly in the fantasy genre (and I'm not normally a fantasy reader at all) and found the subtle, political, deeply psychologically truthgul books, again with just about every form of sexual congress imaginable from brother-sister incest to male rape and everything in between - all of which was told truthfully in the context of a fine story over three books - and yet still she isn't up there in sales terms. Buy the Wraeththu books - buy the Magravandian Trilogy: Sea Dragon Heir, Crown of Silence, Way of Light.
I was there for only a weekend and impressions are still fleeting. I was with the perfect travelling companion – someone who didn’t mind in the slightest simply wandering with no direction and no ambition.
Fleeting impression: St Mark’s Square at night. I would hate to guess how this must be in the height of summer but in October on a mild night, the lights come on, a slight mist is rolling in off the lagoon, three or four expensive café-bars are spread out around the edges of the square and each has a band – a curious combination of classical trio or quartet always augmented by an accordion. By some unspoken agreement the bands regulate themselves so they do not all play at once and a small crowd of those on a budget, who can’t afford to sit at the tables and drink, moves from one side to the other as the bands take it in turns to show off. And in the middle of it all, a completely ordinary middle-aged couple, tourists in tourist clothes, holding each other close and waltzing in the middle of St Mark’s Square, oblivious to the world… I guess they will still think of that evening in twenty years time.