Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Polish Film Posters






Following a tip-off on teenagekicks blog I went searching for Polish film posters which have to be some of the most inventive and graphically sophisticated in the world. Lots to browse through at Polishposter.com. These are just a few of my faves.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Venus as a Boy


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).

Gilbert Adair - Innocents/Dreamers & Bertolucci


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

The Most Eclectic Reading List Ever?

I keep a record now of the books I read - something I haven't done since school and now intend to do for life! Looking back over the last few months it's got to be the most eclectic list of books I've ever seen. Do I have no critical faculties at all? (*=not for the first time of reading).

August
1. Corvo, Donald Weeks*
2. Timescape, Gregory Benford
3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
4. Moving Mars, Greg Benford

September
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

October
15. The Crown of Silence by Storm Constantine

November
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!

Today's Scrapbook Page #1

Today's Scrapbook Page #2

Today's Scrapbook Page #3

Today's Scrapbook Page #4

Today's Scrapbook Page #5

Samuel R. Delany Excitement

I know this is the geekish excitement of a collector but it's been a great week or so for my Samuel R. Delany collection.

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

Another Bookish Day in London

Bitterly cold, winter has suddenly descended, the shock feels a little like a handclap right next to the ears. R had to go to London for an interview with an agency which, knowing the moneygrubbing proclivities of these organisations, will probably turn up nothing. However, it gave me an excuse to waddle up The Charing Cross Road. Saw much, had little money. An 1836 manual of Catholic liturgy I thought I could get more for than the £10 asked but in the end it was left behind. What I did find was a first edition of Derek Jarman's Modern Nature which I've been looking for a long time. I've read it of course, many times, and probably waxed lyrical about it on this blog somewhere below but this was the first decent copy of the First Edition I've seen so it's now mine! In a moment that could only happen on the Charing Cross Road, as I was paying the owners started telling me what a good customer Jarman had been, popping in maybe once a week for five years; as soon as they said this I remembered all the references to books bought there, littered throughout his journals.


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

Scrapbook

Having been floating round Dennis Cooper's blog for a while and looking at his online scrapbooks and the few scanned pages from his paper books published on his 'official' website I was reminded to hunt out the scrapbooks I used to make a few years ago. Some of the pages below...

Today's Scrapbook Page #1

Today's Scrapbook Page #2

Today's Scrapbook Page #3

Today's Scrapbook Page #4

Todays Scrapbook Page #5

aenigmata Divina

The Angels

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

Car Trouble

Portsmouth is a dirty, rough, hard little city. I say little, because although you'd never notice, it's ringed by a tidal 'moat', a kind of defence system from the Napoleonic wars which is now crossed by the motorway and full of toxic mud. People still refer to 'Portsea Island'. It's a hard little city because of the docks and the navy. Three, four hundred years of sailors and the kind of people that a navy supports! The massive development at Gunwharf Quays is busy gentrifying the dockside and filling it up with ultra-violet neon, chain restaurants and outlet shops - most of the city is still tiny terraces, concrete flats from post-war bombing infill projects and so on. I mention this because although I've lived in Portsmouth on anf off for years, my car is bust. This means I'm walking more and seeing more of the city that you don't normally see from a speeding car. A forty-five minute walk to work each day - must be good for me!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Self Portrait as a Boy


From a picture my dad took...
acrylic on canvas

The Idea of Incest









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

Projects

As I'm trying to bring this blog up to speed I thought it was time for a quick update on which project I've mentioned in the past are still ON and which new things are going on. The Haiku book is OFF - at least for the time being. This is largely because of a couple of small publishing projects which have been selling pretty well.

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.

Silver Birch Junction

Spent some time yesterday - when I realised it was possible - putting together a second blog, this one exclusively for snippets of writing. There's a link to it on the right. I called it 'Silver Birch Junction' after a line in one of the first poems I posted there. A number of the first batch of poems come from a group of stuff I wrote while I was (and to a degree I still am) exploring the lines between brothers/lovers/same sex desire and family conflict and so on. I might make it clear here, before you read the poems - I don't have an actual brother...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Storm Constantine


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.

Frederick Rolfe/Baron Corvo in Venice

Being a fan of Baron Corvo it was tempting to spend an entire weekend trying to track down the places he lived, travelled, wrote, argued, traipsed in poverty, died and was buried. Some of this I did. I made the expected pilgrimage to the rather obscure tomb on the Cemetery Island and I tracked down the house where at least some of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole was written – before he was chucked out by his English hosts for the acerbic nature of the book’s commentary on the English in Venice – but in the end, it turned out these were not the overwhelming Corvine moments of the weekend. In fact it was the city itself which spoke more eloquently of Corvo than the particular sites. It was the trip to the Cemetery which made me think hardest of Rolfe; it’s isolation in the lagoon, its austere walls touching the water all the way around… It wasn’t the house where the book was written that touched me as much as the site when you turn around and look at the square in which it sits, it was the thought of how often Rolfe had walked through the square, how well he must have known the small statues and odd-angled buildings that brought him close. Above all, it was being out on the waters of the lagoon… the persistent image of the weekend for me was the imagined sight of Rolfe’s barcheta sails unfurled and resplendent with painted naked young men and the cross of St George moving through the mist with Rolfe working hard on his oar at the puppa. Venice has changed hugely in many ways since the first years of the last century, and in other ways, not at all. It is the timelessness of the place which brings Rolfe to life again on its streets.

Venice A Fleeting Impression

Coming into Venice for the first time is something strange and wonderful but also vaguely familiar. There is almost a sense of anti-climax inasmuch as the Grand Canal, the view across from the Doge’s Palace to San Giorgio Maggiore, the towering Campanille next to the Basilica of St Marks and the ever present Gondolas, they all look so familiar. Just as people say that stepping out of the station in New York is a little like walking into a movie set, so arriving in Venice is like stepping into the pages of a thousand books. It wasn’t until I’d been there twenty-four hours that I discovered the first page of the Rough Guide to Venice notes exactly this phenomenon. It’s not until you have spent your first three or fours hours wandering the tiny streets and heaving jet-tired legs up and down a thousand little bridges that you begin to sink into the place. It’s only after a while that it sinks into you and the realisation comes that this place is real and that you are there.

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 cafĂ©-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.
 
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