Monday, July 31, 2006

Random Venice Notes

I've been today remembering my weekend in Venice, which, although I haven't checked must be nearly a year ago now. I know I blogged something about it at the time.

Strange how a city can be so 'in' you when, in reality you hardly know it as a place at all.

Frederick Rolfe lived the last years of his life in Venice, and died there. His grave is on the cemetery island - one of the few parts of the 'Rolfe Pilgrimage' I successfully completed on my visit. It was, of course, from there that he wrote his notorious Venice Letters.

Horatio F. Brown. An historian of Venice, the friend and biographer of John Addington Symonds lived a large part of his life in Venice and I've just started very preliminary work on his biography. A long project but I think worth doing since he was one of those people who seems to be the connecting point between just about every literary Victorian you can think of. In part but not in whole this was through his open-house evenings in Venice. More I'm sure on Brown in future on this blog.

The most beautiful statue I have even seen is in Venice. The only one every likely to tempt me to pygmalionism. The left hand statue as you look at the church of San Georgio.

The history, beauty and eroticism of Venice is a powerful mixture, which has culled greater hearts than mine in the past.

Delany Collection

I have been collecting the works of Samuel R Delany for a long time. He was one of the first Science Fiction authors who really grabbed my attention. He began writing as the Golden Age was coming to an end but where, if you wanted to have a book published by Ace, one of the biggest SF publishers of the time, you often had to cut pages and pages simply to make it fit into their rigid, small format - nothing like today where any promising young author is encouraged to sign up for a trilogy deal with each volume amassing millions of words. As a young, gay, black author wanting to write nothing bu Science Fiction and with enormous talent, Delany fairly burst onto the SF scene in the early 60s. There's something of this in Delany's best writing too. It is spare, and extremely economical. He is a writer who edits, often to excess. I can't prove this but it seems as if there is no impression of any edition of his work which has not had somewhere from a few to a great many texural changes made from the previous edition. Delany keeps lists of typos and small changes he would like to make from the text of one edition, waiting for the publisher to say they would like to issue the book again.

I am very aware that there are many omissions from this collection. The omissions from the photographs are my copy of Equinox which is on loan at the moment, my copies of the hardback firsts (both signed) of Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and The Bridge of Lost Desire. Also, not actually missing from the pictures but invisible by dint of being so slim is my copy of the Checklist.

Glaring omissions are some of the Gollancz yellow-back UK firsts - but I'm not a rich man. Also hardback firsts of some of his more recent books such as Atlantis are absent. Also, I'm still missing some of the nicer limited editions - Hogg in first edition for example, and it would be fantastic to be able to one day afford a copy of one of the specially bound copies of The Motion of Light in Water.

Having said that, there are one or two items in the collection which I'm particularly proud of. I'm very happy to have a signed copy of the advance typescript for 'Neveryona' which is mimeographed and includes all of Delany's hand-written corrections. Also, I like the copy of The Fall of Towers, the cover of which is signed by the illustrator.

This is the only part of my book collection in which paperbacks are particularly important and as I have something of a fetish for good cover illustration, collecting the various paperback editions and impressions is good fun.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Though the heat is repulsive, the benefit is evenings filled either with the drama of lightning storms or beautiful enough for long walks on the beach. Tonight at 8.30 R was paddling along in the sea beside me, under the pier, people still swimming and lounging on the pebbles, along the sea-front, weaving in and out of the long shadows that are cast by the Georgian, Victorian facades of the hotels and guesthouses. The tide was so low tonight that the normally steep and pebbly beach had its underskirt of sand exposed for yards down by the waters edge. The sand is flat and the sea comes in over it in hundreds of small waves, rouched like out-of-date curtains. Also when the tide is that low the submarine barrier across the Solent stands proud of the water - massive concrete blocks dating back to one of the World Wars to stop underwater access to the Naval Base. There are only two passages through it, one close to the beach, the other out in the middle of the Solent. Every year some stupid sailor with no experience sails right over the top of it and rips the bottom of their boat off.

The sky was huge this evening and looked like it should hold circling eagles.

PS David, I'm with you on the power of a storm. It's trite even to say it's awesome being that close to the power of nature - trite but true. A storm is something so exceptional in it's power. I heard lately that a bolt of lightning is ten times hotter than the surface of the sun. We only ever come close to that kind of power in extremis and when we do it is not just humbling but shocking, riveting... Porcelain Skull, you lucky so-and-so. I assume you mean 'riginal' Harry Clarkes. I have more of those disbound illustrations, I look at them a lot, it's possible to get quite lost in the intricacy of them. I'm actually not so taken with the Poe illustrations - not that I don't like them, I just don't think their his best... but the stained glass of his I have seen, now that's something magical.
Also, I meant to say in the last post that the list is of isolated books. The rest of the book is all about cult authors and so their books are dealt with in that section, this list was of books which stood out from the rest of the author's output as individual cult items.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cult Fiction

The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction has the following list of 67 books which "have won enough acclaim, abuse or affection to earn them - but not necessarily their authors - cult staus".

253 by Geoff Ryman (1998)
A Rebours by J. K. Huysmans (1884)
The Aerodrome: A Love Story by Rex Warner (1941)
All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa (1977)
Black List, Secton H by Francis Stuart (1972)
The Blind Owl by Sadlegh Hedayat (1937)
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen Gould (2001)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
Chateau D'Argol by Julien Gracq (1938)
Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi (1947)
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
A Conferderacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo (1923)
Corner Boy by Herbert Simmons (1957)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys (2002)
Delano by John Orozco (1998)
Distant Star by Roberto Bolano (1996)
Elvis and the Apocalypse by Steve Werner (2001)
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer (2002)
A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley (1968)
Fast One by Paul Cain (1932)
Funnymen by Ted Heller (2002)
Greek Love by Katherine Dunn (2002)
The Golem by Gustav Meyrink (1915)
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (1992)
Hadrian VII by Baron Corvo (1904)
Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton (1941)
Hear of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1902)
Heartland by Wilson Harris (1964)
A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov (1840)
The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury (1975)
The History of Luminous Motion by Scott Bradfield (1989)
Homeboy by Seth Morgan (1990)
I am Still the Greatest Says Johnny Angelo by Nik Cohn (1967)
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass (1969)
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (1940)
The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller (1996)
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa (1958)
Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (1964)
Lost Horizon by James hilton (1933)
The Magic Christian by Terry Southern (1959)
The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (1908)
The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil (1930)
The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki (1815)
Moscow Stations by Venedikt Yerofeev (1997)
Pavane by Keith Roberts (1968)
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve (1998)
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
Q by Luther Blissett (1999)
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (1903)
Rock Salt and Glissandos by Steve Fisher (1991)
Some Hope: The Patrick Melrose Trilogy by Edard St Aubyn (1998)
Sppon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (1915)
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass (1959)
Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal (1976)
The Tribe of Palos Verdes by Joy Nicholson (1997)
The True Story of a Vampire by Eric Stenbock (1894)
Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis (1992)
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (1966)
Vernon God Little by D. B. C. Pierre (2003)
The Vulture by Gil Scott-Heron (1969)
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1920)
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon (1996)
Wonderful, Wonderful Times by Elfriede Jelinek (1980)

I love The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction because, like this list - which in the book is padded out with substantial paragraphs about each book and why it merits inclusion - it is such an eclectic mix of things which I have mostly never heard of and acts like a million signposts to interesting new worlds.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Storm Chasers

Nothing so grand in reality but the heatwave here broke this evening with the mother of all thunderstorms. R and I have something of a thing for thunderstorms so we drove down to the sea-front to watch. I've just had an operation and so today is the first time I've driven the car since. Lightning like I've never seen before, I swear the multiple, horizontal forks stretched the entire length of the Solent. And whilst the sky along the Solent looked like an 'electromagnetic disturbance cloud' special effect from Star Trek, the Isle of Wight was being hit by huge ground strikes something like once every ten seconds at the height of the storm. Gosport too taking a pummeling but the city-haze there turning the lightning orange. The sea-front was lined with people standing, watching, soaking up the gentle but almost hot rain. This at 10.30pm. An eerie atmosphere compounded by the fact we were standing just down from the fun-fair with it's coloured neon adding more tones to the night air. The whole thing both exciting and exhausting (for me at least). Glad we went to watch, but perhaps shouldn't have: the glued up holes in my chest are beginning to ache just a little again...

Michael Francis Itkin

The two copies of Manroot which I'm moving out of my collection and which are excerpted from below belonged originally to a character called Michael Francis Itkin aka Rt Rev'd Itkin - Mar Itkin and St Mikael of California.

One copy has his ownership signature in it, the other had his bookplate, which has since come away from the inside front cover.

I know a little about Autocephalus and Old Catholic churches and sects and clearly Itkin found his place amongst them. I've never come across one quite so, what's the word?, syncretist, as the Moorish Orthodox Church of which Itkin was a bishop and now saint. On the face of it, their website (from which most of the information below is taken) appears to be that of a straightforward sect of the old catholic church but take a look around and it leads you, through all kinds of colourful characters to all kinds of colourful places; links on their front page take you off to the 'Union of Radical Magi' and the 'Writings of His Holiness, Patriarch Hakim Bey' (Bey is otherwise known as the anarchist writer, Peter Lambert.

It's one of those Internet sites, utterly serious in intention, which leads to places fascinating and strange to most people, and yet vaguely attractive in their own baroque way.

The bookplate of Michael Francis Itkin
from the website of the Moorish Orthodox Church

One of the seminal figures in the elaboration of the "gay church" movement in the 1950's and 60's, and one of the earliest exponents of that which would - decades later - come to be known as Liberation Theology was Michael Itkin, later known by his religious name of Mar Mikhael and canonized by the Moorish Orthodox Church in America as Saint Mikhael of California (Feast Day, May 6th). In a time and an age when homosexual persons were marginalized and oppressed by the Church as much as by the forces of the traditional social order, Mar Mikhael took a selfless stand in defense of his people and their rights and for the rights of all the oppressed and for social justice generally.

The idea of an Old Catholic/Independent Orthodox ministry specifically to Queer folk was intorduced by Bishop George A. Hyde, presiding bishop of the Eucharistic Catholic Church, in around 1946. The first divine liturgy celebrated by that jurisdiction specifically for Queer folk took place on Christmas Eve of 1946, in the Cortton Blossom Room, a gay bar in Atlanta, Georgia, with 85 people in attendance. Hyde led the small group for many years, officially announcing its existence and mission in 1954, in "One" Magazine, the periodical of the Mattachine Society. That announcement attracted many followers, including one Michael Itkin, whom Bishop Hyde first licensed to ministry in 1955 and then ordained to the priesthood on May 6, 1957."

Much more about the trial and tribulations of this 'turbulant priest' to be found at this website
from The Gay Activists by Don Teal (Stein & Day, New York, 1971)

"Itkin ... is a one-man resolutions mill, and next to Leo Laurence is the sotrmy petrel of the San Francisco gay scene, working hard to be more militant than anyone else except when questions of violence are raised. More angry and unrestrained even than Leo, he is adamamtly pacifist, and also an exceptional theoretician."

The Radical Jesus & Gay Consciousness. Communitversity West, Hollywood CA, 1972
The Hymn of Jesus. Pax Christi Press, New York, n.d. [believed to be 1963]
Faith & Practice of the Brotherhood of the Love of Christ. Pax Christi Press, New York, 1966
The Spiritual Heritage of Port Royal. Pax Christi Press, New York, 1966
Statement on Hallucinogenic Drugs. Pax Christi Institute Press, Washington, 1966
Towards Christian Resolution. Pax Christi Press, New York, 1966

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Manroot #3

August 1970

Manroot was a 1970s poetry magazine, experimental, mainly lesbian and gay, great illustrations, contributors some now obscure and some not included Marylin Hacker, Paul Mariah, Victor Borsa, and posthumously Frank O'Hara. I am culling a few less relevant items from my collection these two issues are included but before I let them go I thought I would memorialize them a little here...

Blue Love


perhaps it was your voice
humming softly in a crowded room
that carved a thrusting forest
through a deep-veined sun --

perhaps it was your voice
that lengthened in my skin
and blew a hissing waterfall
into my blood;

perhaps -- no, I'm certain now
it was your voice, because
with every syllable a beach
creamed in my brain

and measured histories in inter-
vals between your breath
showed visions of a flaming Rome

with Nero laughing through
your ancient face


you walk towards me when
I wake and when I sleep I feel
your naked shadow
on my skin --

you walk without a name, and yet
with every name, and I seek
to hold your coming with
my lips, describe into my eyes
your arms your legs
your loins and always tenderly
your face;

you walk towards me in the shadowing
of day. Always I see
new mysteries in your eyes, new promise
in your stance. Hold

me in the palms of both your hands
and fuck
my dreams away.

Victor Borsa

Moon, July 1969

their hour comes now
will go about wearing
black arm bands

will go about apologizing
to their victims
for the anachronism
of death

will go about begging
their cause
the smallest
will get you
a yellow
of wolfsbane
for your buttonhole.

Cheri Abot

Manroot #4

February 1971


In your breath two cold rivers
and your arms hold an entire rock.
Joy shoots out from your eyes
and in the hollow of your heart
a bird flies beautiful circles.
In the night we lie in a pool
of cool air.
A stream keeps covering you and
uncovering you.
All the next day I walk back and
forth through your life,
the sound of a tree swaying in wind
repeating itself.

That was last year in a better time.
Today we are hungry at each other's breath.
I feed you from a long pole.
Spikes surround me.
I wear a necklace of terrible teeth.
We disgaree about so much.

Through the long colonades of my memory
an army is making camp.
Through the short stemmed flowers
of your recollection
a bee is working itself into sunlight.

Greg Kuzma

Where is the Wild

where is the wild
duck of my youth, the pivoting
of wings against a growing
sky (my eyes holding art-
ificial petals of a rose
too near
diffuse formations of
a wishbone V)

where is the youth of chimera
seas, the flow of my first
hungry dreams (delerium
of bare-footed night came darkly
then as rain)

where is the dog of my first
dawning, the shivering light
of my flesh --
where is the first mouth of my lover,
the snow of my first
blizzard heart?

Victor Borsa

You think because it is raining we can't
Ride the rains. Hold the image,
Tie down the reins. Sloop, spin, swirl---

What a slippery joy in hanging on

Sliding in wet-leather embraces,
Stop. Changing of gears
Into a different measured stroke

The piston's momentum, the fireman's carry

Before skidding into a position
Of discharge/let go/let the floods come/
Let the bodies sprawl in disobedient

Patterns, only to recover the virile

Manhood upon which we had slipp,
So joyfully. The return to wet imgaes:
Pegasus' wet handlebar wings realigned,

The remount, taking the middle road.

Paul Mariah.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Harry Clarke

Clarke was born in Dublin in 1889 and, as an illustrator, has been pretty much overshadowed by Beardsley. Clarke's work is lusher, more intricate, sometimes more twisted and, in a way much more purely decadent than Beardsley. Illustrating paid the bills but Clarke's medium of choice was stained glass and his designs - some of which can be found through the links below - are some of the most sumptuous stained glass ever devised.

Grandma's Graphics well worth checking out the rest of Grandma's site too.

Biography on a site which is also worth checking out in its entirety.


Monday, July 17, 2006

The Evolution of Pattern

For reasons I will ennumerate in another post I've become interested in creating my own patterned papers and in tessalating designs. The pictures are some of my first efforts. The pink one didn't quite work as I hadn't worked out how to join across the tessalation line properly. The brown bubbles I realyl quite like but then again, I'm big on stippling at the moment! The feathers is my favourite so far and was done with the possible future publication of a couple of poems by a Victorian poet called Roden Noel in mind - one of the poems is called 'Ganymede'... hence the feathers etc.

Wall and Self Portrait

From time to time Dennis Cooper runs themed days where he asks people to send in photos/artwork on a particular theme. Two I missed recently were the 'interiors' day (asking people to send in a picture of the space they live in) and 'self-portrait (younger)' day which is fairly self-explanitory. It struck me that one picture of the wall I look at while I'm sitting at my desk would cover both... The wallpaper is not my choice, we've only recently moved in and the decorating hasn't got as far as my study yet.

Key to the wall: two photos bought years ago from ebay (top two); b/w photo of flower head by my partner (middle left); photo of swan fountain in local park (middle); old photo postcard of St Mark's Square in Venice (middle right); b/w photo of poppy seed head by me (bottom right); acrylic self portrait in black and gold of me as a boy from a photo by my dad (far bottom right); one-off book I'm making and may never finish aenigmata divina based on part of a sermon by John Donne (mantlepiece left)... the rest is rubbish...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The End of Hibernation

Time to come snuffling, stretching and yawning out of the hibernation that this blog has been wrapped up in for the past few months...
Who links to my website?