Total fluff, but that seems to have been by the design of making a "preposterous" book. Halsman's a clever pop portraitist, so this can perhaps be jusTotal fluff, but that seems to have been by the design of making a "preposterous" book. Halsman's a clever pop portraitist, so this can perhaps be just taken as a series of inventive variations in representing a single subject. The fact that that subject is Dali's mustache and this is framed as a kind of interview might make this more annoying or more essential depending on your interest in Dali's persona. Despite my interest in surrealism, for me that tips this towards "a little annoying". HOWEVER, this was in the library of a house I stayed in in Mexico City, which makes running across it at random nothing but a perk....more
Alberto Savinio is pretty interesting. That's covered a little better in my review of his Lives of the Gods. However, I think that whereas that materiAlberto Savinio is pretty interesting. That's covered a little better in my review of his Lives of the Gods. However, I think that whereas that material was from his earlier career, as was the enjoyably strange Tragedy of Childhood, this was later, his last in fact. It's not as annoying as Childhood of Nivasio Dolcemare, but it's far from his most worthwhile.
I think I was hoping for something more like that late work from that other great Italian fantasist -- Italo Calvino's Mr Palomar. But instead of wise and lively, if tempered by age, Savinio's proxy here, Signor Dido, is a little bit boring, a little bit full of mild pettiness towards family and milieu (the sort that masquerades as satire I suppose). In fact, an Italy fresh out of fascism at the time of these writings would have been ripe for a much harsher satire, but there's nothing like that among his targets. His scope is narrowed to immediate surroundings -- when he's able to subvert them via myth and magic, all the better, when he can only vaguely gripe about them, so much the worse....more
Unlike typical entries into the Macabre/Childlike zone of comics and pop-surrealist art (much of which, it seems likely, has drawn inspiration from CoUnlike typical entries into the Macabre/Childlike zone of comics and pop-surrealist art (much of which, it seems likely, has drawn inspiration from Columbia), at no point does this feel like a gimmick or throwaway shock effect. Pim and Francie dwell in an ambiguous put seamlessly realized world of dreams and nightmares where deepest fears drag themselves out from behind the surface mechanisms of old-style cartoons and comics. There's a heavy Fleischer influence here, and Fleischer always had a haunting, ominous undercurrent to begin with -- Jim Woodring, one of the only other artists to get this sort of thing right, pinpoints the formative effect of Bimbo's Initiation. But Al Columbia's clean bright lines trace pure horror in a way that, in anyone else's hands, would be far too on-the-nose. In fact, in his earlier works, it can be. But Pim and Francie's rictus of whimsy finds a disquieting balance all it own. Even the incomplete nature of the work ("Artifacts and Bone Fragments" reads the subtitle, remains of a universe that collapsed and disintegrated in self-terror) works to its advantage. What remains here, scorches and patched, are a collection of perfect moments, maps of the nightmare, slivers of anxiety and disaster that need no further explanation than the tumult of dread that any reader can supply from one's own interior reserves.
Spanning an entire era and grappling with the pivotal crises and conscience of the 20th century, this is almost overwhelming in scope and ambition, anSpanning an entire era and grappling with the pivotal crises and conscience of the 20th century, this is almost overwhelming in scope and ambition, an oblique secret history / remythololizing / psychiatric case history of a world in bedlam, spun with a pulp precision belying its beautifully formed turns of phrase and piercing images. However, Erickson's reach here may exceed core coherency. The actual primary narrative is a kind of conflation of The Man in the Castle with The Entity: parallel histories decoupled in causality but linked by a supernatural invasive force. And also: a series of men animated seemingly only by the need to trail a women, endlessly, whose hidden intimations of symmetry only give way to a kind of moebius strip, leading us... where exactly? To a women isolated on an island, abandoning and abandoned by the world, until the slurred collapse of history. Impressive and perplexing in equal measures -- perhaps the rift at the core of the 20th century can only be approached in through circling its incomprehensible center of gravity through imagines and nightmares where direct access fails. And of images and nightmares, questions over answers, this novel provides many....more
Sparely arranged and plotted, a single-scene stage play for four, two characters sent to kill another for political reasons and a philosophic interlopSparely arranged and plotted, a single-scene stage play for four, two characters sent to kill another for political reasons and a philosophic interloper in endlessly revolving oblique conversation. As with much great Duras, this is roiling beneath a placid surface -- desperation, madness, despair. Perhaps in staged form, rather than novel arrangement here, these aspects would become more present and forceful, instead, here, they're specters haunting an oddly detached text that only seems willing to circle around its points of greatest relevance. I'm giving this two stars as one of the slighter Duras novels I've encounter but don't be deterred. She's always entirely worthwhile....more
The monotonous poetics of life in a backwater. Here, in the alpine pastures of Romansch-speaking Switzerland. Here I was thinking that Switzerland wasThe monotonous poetics of life in a backwater. Here, in the alpine pastures of Romansch-speaking Switzerland. Here I was thinking that Switzerland was split between French, German, Italian linguistic regions, but it turns out that they have their own regional language. Arno Camenisch, then, is something of the poet laureate of this relatively small population. And for that, I'm happy to have this slight work of local cadences and little action. A year passes. Cows move between pastures. Cheese ripens. A ram breaks two legs and recovers. Tourists persist in annoying. ...more
Jim Woodring's Frank carves out one of the most singularly focused and unique dreamscapes in comics. This volume collects the earliest works from theJim Woodring's Frank carves out one of the most singularly focused and unique dreamscapes in comics. This volume collects the earliest works from the mid-90s, including the original, "Frank in the River". The early sensibility is perhaps less refined than it later became, but even so somehow emerged fully formed as itself at all points. Whimsy, wisdom, and menace, not only in balance but as inextricable parts of eachother....more
I'm totally happy to have the last book I read in 2016 be Nicole Claveloux's nonsensically pseudo-satiric stream-of-consciousness 1973 children's bookI'm totally happy to have the last book I read in 2016 be Nicole Claveloux's nonsensically pseudo-satiric stream-of-consciousness 1973 children's book. Also: psychedelic, post-modern, free-form etc....more
I must preface this by stating my fascination with the Anansi Spiderline books of the late 60s and early 70s, a series designed to cultivate new and eI must preface this by stating my fascination with the Anansi Spiderline books of the late 60s and early 70s, a series designed to cultivate new and experimental impulses in the Canadian novel. Some of them are phenomenal. Some are misguided, perhaps nobly so. This somewhat inexplicable trilogy of mildly innovative, rather sophomoric satires falls somewhere in the latter category. I have a problem where I find purportedly humorous writing with little other reason to exist beyond itself rather intolerable, and this is often just that kind of aimless satire of anything and nothing, or of soft targets with little socio-political bite. The prose itself is terrifically terrible, in such an apparently deliberate way as to be often splendidly horrible. I'll back this up with examples, I promise, which stand out in my mind despite not having the book on hand.
1. Bits of trashy euro film productions mingle with a journalist's attempts to interview several principles, mainly the the director and aging meat-head lead. The characters, the accents, and the film synopses are all just dreadful, but the journalist protagonist would seem to be in complete agreement with me here -- so much so that he succumbs to increasing illness and a complete inability to ingest food. Fascinatingly, he would seem to be an example of the bodily rejection of society that Chris Kraus posits in Aliens & Anorexia. This is a bit of an aside, though, to lengthy lampoons of the movie biz and ranting dispatches to unlistening press.
2. Weirdly enjoyable semi-ghost story, full of that fantastically awful prose I was promising, in the form of "fingers like buttered eels" that clutch at glands and "a flock of dogs" yawping on a hilltop. I think it might be a parody of horror writing? I'm not really sure what else it could be?
3. More focused, but also more determinedly stupid than the others, this takes the form of a globe-trotting fin-de-siecle spy jaunt with the the additional innovation of a decidedly coprophilic bent. Intermittently amusing, often interminably pointless, and commencing with the legendary first line "The Count was pink in colour." Colours get a lot of page time here, particularly those of bodily discharges....more
Before she became the groundbreaking theorist / novelist / detourned-conceptual-memoirist she is today, Chris Kraus was the maker of deft, smart experBefore she became the groundbreaking theorist / novelist / detourned-conceptual-memoirist she is today, Chris Kraus was the maker of deft, smart experimental films, culminating in her rarely-seen, under-acknowledged feature Gravity and Grace. The film took its title from Simone Weil but explored the modern emptinesses waiting to be filled by cult membership and the aimless but determined pull towards art. It didn't do well with audiences, critics, or festivals, it seems, and both the unwieldy production process and last-ditch distribution attempts at the Berlinale's satellite film market become mordantly despairing episodes here. But moreso, since this is Chris Kraus, they become the jumping-off points for conceptual studies of art and life, Simone Weil and Ulrike Meinhoff, philosophies of culture, body, and desire, S&M, performance art, and starvation. It's difficult to explain exactly how it all works, but it works with extreme elegance here. Even better than her first novel (and etc) I Love Dick, and far far ahead of the attempted Amazon series thereof (though I find the existence of that highly interesting in its own right)....more
Finely-constructed yarn of a desperate lover's oath that one party did not realize as such. The action swoops deftly around the central events, repeatFinely-constructed yarn of a desperate lover's oath that one party did not realize as such. The action swoops deftly around the central events, repeating and elaborating from two points in time, but the social structures of mundane adultery in the mid-century french countryside that support the story seem almost fantastically dated at this point. I'm sure the underlying desires remain largely unchanged, but the actual plotline is difficult to imagine unfolding in any contemporary context, and doesn't lend as much sympathy for the protagonist as was probably intended....more
A final road trip into the past, for two octogenarians returning to post-Katrina New Orleans. The middle episodes of Gifford's epic started to feel aA final road trip into the past, for two octogenarians returning to post-Katrina New Orleans. The middle episodes of Gifford's epic started to feel a bit redundant, but here, years later, he finds fresh perspective in Lula's stream-of-consciousness voice. In giving her voice to the final segment has a bit of a bit of Ulysses echo, which fits in some way, though they aren't otherwise similar whatsoever. And now I don't want to reach the last page of the seven-book omnibus I've been making my way through....more