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4 October 2011

The Order of the Dragon (Conan the Conqueror), Part 4

Heas of a WarriorIn our final installment we will examine the end of this novel and its denouement. The Heart of Ahriman—the foundation to resist Xaltotun’s magick—has been obtained by Conan after numerous adventures. This means that the Aquilonians do not need to fear his necromancy as they begin their final rebellion against the Nemedians—prior to expelling them from the kingdom for good.

Conan begins to knit together the sinews of his army, involving the Gundermen from the north and the Bossonians from the west, together with his Poitanian allies, under Prince Trocero, from the deep south. He moves around the south west of Aquilonia—not giving battle to Tarascus—and appearing and disappearing, almost at will. This is designed to destabilize the Nemedians.

The latter are also put off balance by Xaltotun’s growing ambition—together with his possible desire to bring back the ancient kingdom devoted to black magic known as Acheron. In the presence of the rival satraps—Amalric, Taracus, and Valerius—he is careful to speak only of a new empire of this earth—not a resuscitation of a magical one which is three thousand years old. Xaltotun murders the ex-priest of Mitra who brought him back to life—primarily as a punishment for his revealing too much about the arch-wizard’s ultimate plans.

 

22 September 2011

The Order of the Dragon (Conan the Conqueror), Part 3

Frank Frazetta - Conan the DestroyerIn our synopsis and analysis, we left Conan and Hadrathus discussing how to regain the initiative by seizing the Heart of Ahriman. Conan then heads south in the funereal barge of a follower of Asura — to make sure that he and Albiona are unmolested — and he quickly makes up the leagues necessary to visit Count Trocero’s Poitain in the deep south of Aquilonia. From there, he equips himself with a black stallion, and crosses the river into Zingara looking for a merchant who has been sold the flaming gem by Tarascus’ thief. The merchant in question was from Koth, and with foolhardy recklessness he had crossed into Zingara heading for the great sea-port of Messantia. Conan then becomes involved in a series of adventures to return the Heart to his control for the good of Aquilonia, and the ultimate defeat of both Xaltotun and the Nemedians.

 

16 September 2011

The Order of the Dragon (Conan the Conqueror), Part 2

ConanIn my previous installment, I had brought Conan up from the pits underneath the Royal palace at Belverus in Nemedia.  He was in the company of Zenobia, the slave-girl who had helped to rescue him from the pits, before Tarascus’ marrow-eating monkey would have burst into his cell and discovered him defenseless. Together they journey through secret passages in the castle before Conan becomes apprised of a hated voice.

 

13 September 2011

Doc Savage & Criminology

Doc Savage Magazine - March 1933

One of the more interesting things about the pulp star Doc Savage, the man of bronze, is that he carried out operations on the brains of criminals in order to correct them. These exercises in popular culture — the 181 pulp novels written by Lester Dent — are thus one of the most basic advocates for eugenics throughout the 1930s and ’40s.

It is also interesting to note, en passant, that Doc Savage is referenced by an old Kansan in Truman Capote’s famous non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, where it is suggested that the two desperadoes who murder the Clutter family could have their brains operated on to make them more docile and less violent, hence saving them from the scaffold. None of this came to pass (obviously). Yet the very fact that one could suggest — without shock and horror — that criminals could be experimented on in this way shows you the sharply divergent mores of the hour.

 

1 September 2011

The Order of the Dragon (Conan the Conqueror), Part 1

Frank Frazetta - ConanMoving on from my recent review of Robert E. Howard’s “Rogues in the House,” I would like to have a look at the only full-length Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon (sometimes known as Conan the Conqueror).

This piece again illustrates the subliminal racialism of the Howard mythos as well as providing a template for his mordant, pessimistic, and ultra-conservative views about civilization. Both tendencies are strongly in evidence in The Hour of the Dragon.

In this novel Conan has been reigning for a while as the king of Aquilonia, but trouble is brewing in the neighboring kingdom of Nemedia. The plot revolves around the reincarnation of a 3,000 year old magician, Xaltotun of Python in Acheron, in order for him to safeguard the stolen Heart of Ahriman and bring to power a circle of conspirators in both Nemedia and Aquilonia.

 

25 August 2011

Robert E. Howard's "Rogues in the House"

Conan the Barbarian

In this essay I shall seek to pick out a few themes from Robert E. Howard’s writing life, using one of his most emblematic stories, “Rogues in the House,” as a living illustration.

Howard certainly had (or imagined that he did) strong Irish roots which influenced much of his fiction in a Celtic direction. One only has to look at the nature of the Nemedian chronicles in the Conan mythos to see this. Not to mention his ever-present fascination with the Picts. This savage and ancient Scottish people are a recurrent motif throughout his career, ending with the Conan mythos, and best typified by his early Pictish king, Bran Mak Morn. One presumes, amongst other things, that Conan’s name is abstracted from the same name in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s august nomenclature. Conan Doyle, the world famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, had Irish roots via his Scottish ancestry.

 

18 August 2011

Wyndham Lewis' Tarr: An Exercise in Right-Wing Psychology

Lewis, Wyndham - TarrWyndham Lewis’ novel Tarr (an anagram of both “art” and “rat”) appeared first in 1915 as the Great War was raging, and it remains one of the great exercises in hard-boiled psychology. Most behaviorist prose tends to be shunted aside into genre fiction such as adventure and perhaps the noir detective novel.  Tarr is unusual in that it represents a fusion of high-grade literary fiction and the sort of psychology which animates the characters in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead — such as Dominique Francon, Howard Roark, and Gail Wynand, for instance. Critics at the time — if not seduced by literary modernism — spoke of a tough-minded work in which the main characters mean to “have their cake and eat it!”

The action revolves around five main characters, the eponymous artist Tarr, the radical bohemians Kreisler and Soltyk, and the two women, or items of love interest, Bertha and Anastasya. The esteemed critic Rebecca West once compared Lewis to Dostoyevsky on the basis of this novel and said that its character was Russian rather than English because of its undue interest in the human soul.

 

12 August 2011

Francis Pollini's Night

Pollini, Francis - NightFrancis Pollini’s Night was published by Olympia Press around fifty years ago and deals with the Korean War, but it is still relevant for all that. It concerns the Communist brain-washing techniques used by the Maoist Chinese forces on American prisoners of war during that conflict. These were based on various behaviorist ideas which were very much in the air at that time and were used extensively by the KGB, CIA , MI6, the French secret services, and other parallel or adjacent bodies.

The novel deals with a triumvirate of main characters over a two hundred page span. The first is the Italian-American GI Marty Landi, the one serviceman who does not break as a result of the Chinese questioning; Phillips, the leader of the Resistance in the prison camp; and Ching, the diabolical Chinese interrogator.

These Maoist techniques were based on certain Chinese conceptions about the plasticity of consciousness. Man’s mentality — particularly that of a prisoner of war — was considered to be extremely malleable and susceptible to toxic influences. The first thing to do was to remove all available authority figures. First, all of the accredited officers were taken away and put in other camps. Second, this went double for the non-commissioned officers who were technically closer to the men as raw recruits.

 

3 August 2011

Aeschylus' Agamemnon: The Multiple Uses of Greek Tragedy

John Maler Collier - ClytemnestraGreek tragedy is all but forgotten in mainstream culture, but there is a very good reason for looking at it again with fresh eyes. The reasons for this are manifold, but they basically have to do with anti-materialism and the culture of compression. To put it bluntly, reading Greek tragedy can give literally anyone a crash course in Western civilization which is short, pithy, and terribly apt.

Let’s take — for purposes of illustration — the first part of the Oresteia by Aeschylus, which concentrates on Agamemnon’s murder by his wife Clytemnestra. This work would take about two hours to read in a verse translation by Lewis Campbell (say). You will learn more about the civilization in those two hours than many a university foundation course, or hour after hour of public television, are capable of giving you.

The real reason for perusing this material, however, is the sense of excitement which it is capable of generating. Agamemnon and his entourage have returned to Argos after the successful sack of Troy and the destruction of Priam’s city.

 

 

29 July 2011

T. S. Eliot: Ultra-Conservative Dandy

Wyndham Lewis - T S Eliot

For a brief period in the late 1990s there was an attempt to demonize T. S. Eliot as an anti-Semite. This opinion was most ably canvassed by Anthony Julius’ T. S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form, but the attempt failed, and Eliot’s reputation as a poet now stands even higher than ever.

Thomas Stearns Eliot’s most controversial book was the collection of essays drawn from a series of lectures he gave in 1934 called After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy. In this book, Eliot argued for an organic society — primarily from a Christian perspective — and he took a decidedly non-philo-Semitic position, considering that the more organic the society, was the better its prospects.

It seems an utter travesty, at this date, that the most famous English language poet of the twentieth century should be treated in this way.

 

 

25 July 2011

Solomon Kane & Robert E. Howard

Howard, Robert E - The Hand of the KaneThis review will look at Robert E. Howard’s second most important hero to Conan the Barbarian—namely, the puritan hero Solomon Kane. Kane could have been a more ideological hero than Conan, yet the stories themselves don’t read that way.

For the purposes of analysis, I shall be looking at a curiosity that was published in 1968 by a hitherto obscure house called Peter Haddock limited. The volume, entitled The Hand of Kane, bears the imprimatur of Glenn Lord, the then executor for the Howard estate and was printed in Hungary (behind the Iron Curtain) to reduce printing costs. It consists of four stories about Solomon Kane all set in darkest Africa—a continent or template which Howard uses for dreaming and that gives free reign to his love of the supernatural.

Solomon Kane is a Puritan from the turn of the 17th century and is one of the most direct attempts in history to mine the Protestant heritage for heroic myths and motifs. The stories are slightly less developed than the Conan saga, but they are still very fine in terms of tales of action within a fantasy genre. Theologically we are never told what sect Solomon is in or was born into, so we have to presume that it was a mainstream Puritan or non-conformist current.

 

21 July 2011

Wyndham Lewis' The Apes of God

Lewis, Wyndham - The Apes of God (1930)The Apes of God happens to be one of the most devastating satires to be published in the English language since the days of Dryden and Pope. It appeared in a Private Press edition (prior to general release), and at over 600 pages it was the size of your average London telephone directory.

The Apes deals, in ultra-modernist vein, with a catalog or slide-show of dilettantes from the London of the inter-war period. It is, in reality, a gargantuan satire against the Bloomsbury Group and all of its works. The historical importance of the Bloomsbury Group is that they were the incubator for all the left-liberal ideas which have now hardened to a totalitarian permafrost in Western life. This is the real and crucial point of this gargantuan effort — an otherwise neglected work.

To recapitulate some of the detail: the novel concerns the sentimental education of a young idiot (Dan Boleyn) in the ways of Bloomsbury (apedom). During this prologue he meets a great galaxy of the millionaire bohemia so excoriated by Lewis. The chapters and sub-headings basically deal with his education in ideological matters (not that the simpleton Dan would see it in that way), and he is assisted in his insights by Pierpoint (a Lewis substitute), the Pierpointian ventriloquist and contriver of ‘broadcasts’, Horace Zagreus, as well as Starr-Smith. The latter is Pierpoint’s political secretary, a Welsh firebrand, who dresses as a Blackshirt for Lord Osmund’s fancy-dress or Lenten party which makes up a quarter to a third of the book.

 

15 July 2011

Conan the Barbarian & Robert E. Howard

Conan the BarbarianThis review will examine the work of Robert E. Howard and, in particular, his greatest creation the barbarian Conan. For the purposes of concentration and illustration, I will look at the comic strip “Zukala’s Daughter,” scripted by Roy Thomas, and featuring in the 1972 Fleetway annual in Britain. It happened to be one of the earliest numbered editions of the color comic known as Conan the Barbarian

Conan happens to be the superman (or Super-barbarian, in Fritz Leiber’s wiles) into which Robert Erwin Howard projected fantasies of undying masculinity, the heroic, adventure without end, heterosexuality, and a sublimated racial mystique. In this story a young and precocious Conan—drawn in a mannerist and Art Deco style—meshes neatly with one of the author’s poems about Zukala. Robert E. Howard was a prolific poet, and his Selected Poems are available on Lulu.com (the electronic publishing web-site).

In the piece known as “Zukala’s Daughter” (based on the poem “Zukala’s Hour”) the plot can be briefly summarized. To my mind, it is supremely well done—being positively filmic in its crisp and sequential execution. Conan arrives in a village on market day and discusses the price of a sword with a sword-seller. He does not have the money necessary for it, however.

 

9 July 2011

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible HulkThe Incredible Hulk is a Marvel comic which has been running for nigh on 50 years in a relatively unchanged format. In this review I will concentrate on liberal and illiberal or authoritarian and libertarian strands which co-exist within it. Most people are dimly aware (if only from Hollywood’s version) of Doctor Bruce Banner’s transformation into a green behemoth and fighting machine as a result of his exposure to gamma radiation from an atomic bomb test. 

What interests me here is less the wrap around—the late Major Talbot, Betty Ross and her father, the indefatigable “Thunderbolt” Ross (General), the adolescent and “hip” side-kick Rick, and so on—than a relationship between Banner and his nemesis. This is the eponymous figure known as the Leader. Like the Hulk, the Leader is green and results from the exposure of an intellectually challenged workman to gamma radiation in the work environment.

 

7 July 2011

Judge Dredd

Judge DreddJudge Dredd is the publishing phenomenon of British comics for the last 30 years, if not more. Nearly all of the strips have been written by John Wagner under his own name and a variety of aliases, while a great number of artists have worked on the sequences.

For this lantern-jawed Judge (part policeman, part vigilante, part judge, part jury) contains almost ludicrously denied fascistic undercurrents which only pedants bother to deny. Dredd’s personality and physiology never alters—he is the same from the first strip to the last—and the fact that he never develops but always remains unchanging is part of the character’s esprit. The graphic novel is a satire which can be read “straight,” and hence we detect its dangers for liberal orthodoxy. This has been commented on many times—that somehow, read as black farce, a “fascist” comic, no matter how unintentionally, has enjoyed massive sales and influence in non-compliance with Politically Correct norms.

 

1 July 2011

George Orwell's Ninety Eighty-Four

Orwell, George - Ninety Eighty-FourGeorge Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably the most important political novel of the 20th century, but the Trotskyite influence on it is underappreciated. The entire thesis about the Party’s totalitarianism is a subtle mixture of libertarian and Marxist contra Marxism ideas. One of the points which is rarely made is how the party machine doubles for fascism in Orwell’s mind—a classic Trotskyist ploy whereby Stalinism is considered to be the recrudescence of the class enemy. This is of a piece with the view that the Soviet Union was a deformed workers’ state or happened to be Bonapartist or Thermidorian in aspect.

Not only is Goldstein the dreaded object of hatred—witness the Two Minutes’ Hate—but this Trotsky stand-in also wrote the evil book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, against which the party defines its existence. The inner logic or dialectic, however, means that the Inner Party actually wrote the book so that it would control the mainsprings of its own criticism.

 

23 June 2011

Sarban's The Sound of His Horn

Sarban - The Sound of His HornSarban was the Persian pseudonym of John William Wall (1910–1989), a relatively obscure British diplomat in the Middle East, who wrote five volumes of Gothic stories, short novels, plays, and the like. These were gathered together in the books Ringstones (1951), The Sound of his Horn (1952), The Doll Maker (1953), The Sacrifice (2002), and Discovery of Heretics (2010). Wall wrote relatively little and was a perfectionist who never expected publication. Our main point of departure will be The Sound of his Horn.

In his book-length essay, New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis examines the novel as a reactionary phantasy. Amis was quite well-known at this period for contrasting science fiction (of which he was a literary historian) against fantasy fiction. He believed the former to be progressive, optimistic, and utopian with a center-left bias; whereas fantasy was crabby, archaic, often rural in setting, reactive, and pessimistic. It habitually wore a conservative mask — irrespective of the intentions of the author. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four would be the classic example here — whereby a democratic socialist and former demi-Trotskyite wrote the most devastating anti-socialist dystopia ever conceived.

 

17 June 2011

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the ChristFew films have been pilloried quite as much as Mel Gibson’s Passion, yet when I last checked it was one of the ten most financially successful films of all time. Indeed, the sheer success of this piece with Christians around the world led to a deescalation of the semi-orchestrated attack on the film. Nothing succeeds like success, and I remember with amusement watching a bus with an advertisement for Mel Gibson’s Passion on the side of it snaking through the town where I lived at the height of the furore. But what of the film itself?

The Passion of the Christ is a highly artistic and metaphysical film from an ultra-Catholic perspective. As a director, Mel Gibson shows an impressive aesthetic sense and great artistic originality. This is reflected in every detail. Even the color palate of much of the film has an ocher tint or wash that resembles the painting of early Renaissance masters such as Giotto and Cimabue.

Several scenes are especially striking: the ravens attacking the thieves who are exposed with Christ on the Cross and Simon being made to carry the Cross on behalf of the Savior. But most assuredly the depiction of the Devil or Satan as a shaven-headed and androgynous Supermodel has to go down as one of the most startling innovations in cinema history.

 

7 June 2011

Bill Hopkin's The Divine and the Decay

Franz von Stuck - The Spirit of VictoryBill Hopkins was one of the “Angry Young Men” group of writers who emerged in the 1950s. He was the most prominent of the “Outsiders” trio amongst the “Angry Young Men”—a groupuscule which consisted of himself, Colin Wilson, and Stuart Holroyd. 

His most outstanding contribution was a succès de scandale with the novel, The Divine and the Decay, published by MacGibbon & Kee in 1957—and his artistic credo, “Ways Without a Precedent,” contained in Declaration, the manifesto of the “Angry Young Men.”

Doris Lessing, in the second volume of her literary autobiography, Walking in the Shade, says that Bill Hopkins revealed a great talent at this time. She also goes on to mistakenly declare that he died tragically young! His greatest achievement remains The Divine and the Decay.

The Leap! (a.k.a. The Divine and the Decay) is largely forgotten today—yet when it appeared in the late 1950s it produced an absolute furor in the press; a cause célèbre which was almost unprecedented at the time. As an anonymous author, who wrote a foreword to the book’s deluxe second edition, put it: “an abscess seemed to have been punctured in the general culture.”

 

7 June 2011

Remembering Bill Hopkins (1928 - 2011)

Bill HopkinsA great man is dead.

Bill Hopkins (1928–2011), one of Britain’s most estimable Right wing intellectuals, died on Thursday, May 6, of heart and kidney failure in a north London hospital. He was born into a Welsh theatrical family in 1928. His father was the music hall artiste Ted Hopkins while his mother happened to be the theatrical beauty Violette Broderick. 

Bill enjoyed six or seven adventurous lives or stages, but he first came to prominence as one of the Angry Young Men in the 1950s. This was a media designation for a polyglot grouping of writers and intellectuals who had little in common save a certain radicalism of tone (the alleged anger) and the fact that they were all of the rising or post-war generation. The group included Ken Tynan, Lindsay Anderson, Kingsley Amis (who refused any membership of this group), Colin Wilson, Stuart Holroyd, John Osbourne, John Wain, Bill Hopkins, and a few others . . .

 

11 March 2011

The Strange Case of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange

Burgess, Anthony - A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange is a short novella produced by Anthony Burgess in a very short period of time—yet the author had doubtless dwelt upon an entire zoology before producing it. One of the book’s characteristics, which even the most casual reader notices, is the experimental language or deliberate argot that Burgess develops for his retinue of juvenile delinquents. They speak, stutter, roll around in their own minds, and tend to use words like hammers, meat-hooks, or early-morning razor blades.

The story essentially revolves around the leadership principle or alpha dog mentality of Alex (the leader of this violent troupe of hoodlums) and its subjection to Skinnerian Behaviorism—a technique of which Burgess is highly critical. Paradoxically, Burgess is a highly moral and cross-grained man—a believing Catholic for most of his life—who worried extraordinarily about this novel’s reception. For—to be sure—a short work which appeared to endorse or celebrate gang violence was the last thing that Burgess, a socially conservative Catholic, meant to bring to the table.

 

17 January 2011

Eugenics or Dysgenics?: Brian Aldiss' Moreau's Other Island

Aldiss, Brian - Moreau's Other IslandBrian Aldiss
Moreau’s Other Island
Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1980

Moreau’s Other Island by the science fiction writer Brian Aldiss was published over thirty years ago, but it still retains a certain “bite” in socio-biological terms.

It obviously re-writes H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau from the 1880s which, in and of itself, was one of the most magisterial examinations of all the moral questions around vivisection that had ever been penned (certainly up to that date). Aldiss definitely outdoes the moralising of John Cowper Powys’ novelistic treatment, Morwyn: or the Vengeance of God, and the only books with which it can be usefully compared are non-fictional. These were Savitri Devi’s Impeachment of Man and Professor Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation.

 

9 January 2011

George Steiner's The Portage to San Christobal of A. H.

Steiner, George - The Portage to San Christobal of A HGeorge Steiner
The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999

George Steiner’s novella, The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H., was published about three decades back and encodes a large number of the author’s non-fiction books which were released beforehand. This is especially pertinent to the analysis published in In Bluebeard’s Castle, for instance. 

For our purposes in this review, the dramatic or theatrical presentation of Steiner’s brief work is almost as important as the text itself. It was dramatized (the only one of the Professor’s works to be treated in this way) by the socialist playwright Christopher Hampton, and, on a personal note, I actually saw it in 1981–82.

The drama starred Alec McCowen as Adolf Hitler in a production which lasted around an hour and a half. He was later awarded the Evening Standard theater award for his riveting performance—particularly his oracular testimony or speech at the play’s close. The critical record suggests that it was performed at the Mermaid Theatre, but I seem to recall seeing it at the Riverside studios in west London. I went with a girl that I was rather keen on at the time, but she was nauseated by the whole thing and fell asleep.

 

31 December 2010

Arkham Asylum: An Analysis

The JokerArkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Story by Grant Morrison, art by Dave McKean
DC Comics, October 1989

Arkham Asylum claims to be among the most “adult” comics ever produced, and, although there are a few other candidates, it does merit this accolade up to a point. It has also inspired numerous spinoffs, including video games. Elsewhere I have written about a Batman and the Joker team-up comic from the mid-seventies, but this was deliberately circumscribed by the Comics Code Authority and lacked a mature sensibility.

Note: By “adult,” I am not referring to a predilection for transgression, low-grade, or “edgy” material here. Most of these attempts in popular culture are faintly ludicrous, it has to be said. No. What I am referring to is transgression of the philosophical limitations placed on such narratives by an insistent Dualism. This leads to a totally uncomplicated schema where the forces of light and darkness ply their trade in a Manichean way.

 

17 December 2010

Zeus Hangs Hera at the World's Edge: Arno Breker and the Pursuit of Perfection

Apollo and Daphne by Arno BrekerArno Breker (1900–1991) was the leading proponent of the neo-classical school in the twentieth century, but he was not alone by any stretch of the imagination. If we gaze upon a great retinue of his figurines, which can be seen assembled in the Studio at Jackesbruch (1941), then we can observe images such as Torso with Raised Arms (1929), the Judgment of ParisSt. Mathew (1927), and La Force (1939. All of these are taken from the on-line museum and linkage which is available at:

http://ilovefiguresculpture.com/masters/german/breker/breker.htm

The real point to make is that these are dynamic pieces which accord with over three thousand years of Western effort. They are not old-fashioned, Reactionary, bombastic, “facsimiles of previous glories,” mere copies or the pseudo-classicism of authoritarian governments in the twentieth century (as is usually declared to be the case).

 

10 December 2010

Stewart Home and Cultural Communism

Stewart HomeIn a recent article on this site entitled “Violence and ‘Soft Commerce’” Dominique Venner spoke about leftist radicals being absorbed by the system which they affect to detest. He was referring in particular to the collected manuscripts of Guy Debord, the left-wing revolutionary and situationist, whose pabulum was recently saved for the national library by Chirac’s minister of culture.

The same could quite easily be said of Stewart Home who has inveighed for years against the cultural establishment and the Turner prize, but now finds himself ensconced as the writer-in-residence at the Tate gallery.

Note: for those not privy to this magic circle, the Turner prize is the “leading” art bequest for post-modern work in the visual arts in Britain. It is the brain-child of Nicholas Serota at the Tate and only gives awards to anti-objectivist art from the last twenty years. If you’re wondering how you can have art-works without objects then read on . . .

 

1 December 2010

Blind Cyclops: The Strange Case of Fredric Wertham

Fredric WerthamIn 1954 an obscure psychiatrist penned a book called Seduction of the Innocent which almost put paid to the entire comic book industry in the United States. The whole incident is almost forgotten today, but it is highly instructive over how “fire-storms” and cultural wars can break out. It is also reasonably true to say that–unlike the parallel film industry–it took American comics about three decades to fully ingest and recover from Doctor Wertham’s assault.

Fredric Wertham was an Ashkenazic psychiatrist who basically applied half-digested ideas from social anthropology into the cultural realm. He definitely believed that many of the tear-aways and juvenile delinquents that he had to deal with in the late 1940s and early 1950s were the products of bad culture.

It’s instructive to point out that Wertham doesn’t seem to import any information from other disciplines or clusters of ideas. Like Boas and Margaret Mead, he believes that Man is totally socially conditioned when almost the opposite is true. Strongly influenced by real criminal cases, Wertham believed that young louts and hoodlums were the actual product of their violent “reading” material.

 

26 November 2010

Wyndham Lewis' Childermass: Black Metal, without the Music

Lewis, Wyndham - The ChildermassWyndham Lewis
The Childermass
New York: Riverrun Press, 2001

This novel is probably one of the most difficult written in the last century, but it is also very interesting in relation to the phenomenon of the mass media which surrounds us all now. Indeed, the prescience of certain “unfashionable” thinkers like Lewis (The Art of Being Ruled), L. P. Hartley (Facial Justice), or Ernst Jünger (The Glass Bees) is very striking the further we move away from them in historical time.

Do not forget what Lewis posited, in 1926, that unbridled market economics—not communism—would do for conservatism, and Jünger pre-figured a Mankind which is totally at the mercy of media . . . the latter invasive and vertiginous. This is decades before the US military began to link computers together in a way that would become the Internet.

But to return to Childermass, this book was designed by Lewis to be his Ulysses by Joyce; a work of uncontrollable ferocity and illisibility (that’s elitist unreadability). Believe it or not—Lewis believes in attacking the audience . . . a key component in all early forms of modernist art. In this respect, such intellectuals regarded themselves as at war with bourgeois life, partly by virtue of their own role as outsiders or critics of materialism.

 

19 November 2010

Frank Frazetta: The New Arno Breker?

Frank Frazetta - Death DealerFrank Frazetta was an artist who created countless paintings, comics, and book and album covers with a focus on the superhero, fantasy, and science fiction genres. He lived between 1928 and 2010. This brief summation will not itemize or describe the biographical profile of his career, but attempt to elucidate themes in what his art is about.

A child prodigy, born in Brooklyn, Frazetta started to draw and paint almost as he became sentient. He was certainly engaged in original artistic creation from the age of 2 to 4, and thereafter. This is itself both interesting and provocative, in that it reveals yet again (if it were needed) that real talent for anything creative is generic, biological, somatic, genetic, as well as inheritable across the blood-lines within an extended family. There are also occasional flibbertigibbets or leaps across generations — Man, in these matters, is 80 per cent Nature and 20% nurture, with even the social or environmental factors being a sub-set of ecology.

 

14 November 2010

Batman & the Joker

The Dark KnightThe Brave and the Bold
A Team-up comic featuring Batman and the Joker
D.C. Comics, #111, March 1974

This comic was published in 1974 by DC comics or National Periodical Publications. It retailed for twenty cents, and I bought it in the United Kingdom for eight new pence. The author was the veteran scripter Bob Haney, and it was drawn by Jim Aparo. None of the other contributors—the inker, colorist, letterer, or editor—is recorded. 

The whole point of looking at this comic is that it dovetails with the review of the film The Dark Knight elsewhere on this site. Yet there are important differences—the directness or crudity of the form, its clientele of adolescent boys, and the amount of censorship it was under pulls it in a dissimilar direction.

 

7 November 2010

Criminology, Elitism, Nihilism: James Hadley Chase's No Orchids for Miss Blandish

James Hadley Chase
No Orchids for Miss Blandish
London: Robert Hale, 1939

Chase, James Hadley - No Orchids for Miss BlandishNo Orchids for Miss Blandish was published in 1939 and later appeared in British editions by Robert Hale. Two films were made as a result of it (one of them by Robert Altman), and the Corgi/Transworld paperback editions have been sold all over the world. Millions upon millions of this book have been disseminated in pulp, cheap-papered editions in supermarkets and dime store racks. George Orwell was so shocked by it that he penned the famous essay “Raffles and No Orchids for Miss Blandish” as a consequence.

At this date, the provocative thing about this volume is its genuinely transgressive dimension in a world that exhibits multiple frissons. One of the most celebrated strategies in post-modernity is to “shock,” irrespective of quality or content. In the mid-’70s a conceptual artist called Manzoni marketed his own ordure in a beautifully crafted, gilded box. It was wrapped in gold leaf and lapis lazuli (an Ezra Pound favorite). What could be more “anti-social” than this? An Italian-American heiress bought it for $7,000 so that she could boast about it at trendy parties. Nonetheless, Chase’s pulp novel—which he put down on paper in under six weeks—is genuinely beyond the Pale of Dublin.

 

1 September 2010

A Polyp Devours its Feed: Paracelsus Unzipped—An Analysis of F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu

NosferatuF. W. Murnau’s 1922 movie Nosferatu, starring Max Schreck, begins with bourgeois sentimentality or its tableau. Yet this comfortable familiarity can be vitiated by intrusion, even obtrusion. Darkness occurs amid light; there is a hint of delirium, as well as madness and despair.  All of this has to be presaged by Knock—a villainous, if expressive, land agent. (Note: he doesn’t figure in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, from which the screenplay comes, and has more to do with Hans Prinzhorn’s The Art of the Insane.)

A sweep of the Carpathian hills follows on—and it indicates simple pleasures, often obscured. A negation (this is) that takes a wolf’s form; and possibly it’s a lynx, a wolverine, coyote, or mink. Certainly, it happens to be a wild cat who brings cold air; the latter forcing old peasants to cross themselves.

Whilst the young Jonathan Hutter, the land agent’s assistant, settles down to some reading. Has it taken root in his hand? One doesn’t know; but what becomes clear is its involvement with vampirism, a hidden necropolis, and even Satanism.

 

18 August 2010

Why I Write

KratosThis is always difficult to assess, but from this distance three different spear-points become discernible through the mist.

The first is an obvious desire for self-expression–yet, as always, the nihilism of Samuel Beckett needs to be avoided, where, during one part of the Trilogy, such as Molloy, he declares: nothing to express, no need to express, a blinding desire to stain the silence. I think that the aporia whereby post-modernism eats itself needs to be avoided.

Nonetheless, I believe that fantasy or the phantasia of the semi-conscious mind is the most important vector, aesthetically speaking. All of my fictional work comes out of the anima or that part of consciousness just beneath rationality. All of my texts–like Kratos or The Fanatical Pursuit of Purity, for example–are dreams.

 

7 February 2009

H. P. Lovecraft: Aryan Mystic

H P LovecraftHomo Homini Lupus; Man is a wolf to his kindred.”
–Plautus

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, the enfant terrible of modern or post-war German cinema, was born in 1935 of vaguely upper class stock. His father owned landed estates in Eastern Germany before the war, and his son lived in Rostock until 1945.

Syberberg’s doctoral thesis—very much in the Germanic tradition—concerned the notion of existentialism or the absurd in Dürrenmatt’s drama. He himself seems to have been influenced by two vast and yet “monstrous” paradigms: these were Brecht’s notion of epic theater and Wagner’s idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk—the total art-work.

Without doubt, his seminal achievement has to be Hitler: A Film from Germany (Our Hitler) which appeared in 1978. Although Syberberg was to later furnish a retrospective and documentary feel to his ideas in a non-fiction treatment, The Ister, in 2004. It comes across as a companion piece or dialectical counter-point to the previous work. It’s definitely not a mea culpa.

 

5 April 2008

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg—Leni Riefenstahl's Heir

Hans-Jürgem SyberbergHans-Jürgen Syberberg, the enfant terrible of modern or post-war German cinema, was born in 1935 of vaguely upper class stock. His father owned landed estates in Eastern Germany before the war, and his son lived in Rostock until 1945.

Syberberg’s doctoral thesis—very much in the Germanic tradition—concerned the notion of existentialism or the absurd in Dürrenmatt’s drama. He himself seems to have been influenced by two vast and yet “monstrous” paradigms: these were Brecht’s notion of epic theater and Wagner’s idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk—the total art-work.

Without doubt, his seminal achievement has to be Hitler: A Film from Germany (Our Hitler) which appeared in 1978. Although Syberberg was to later furnish a retrospective and documentary feel to his ideas in a non-fiction treatment, The Ister, in 2004. It comes across as a companion piece or dialectical counter-point to the previous work. It’s definitely not a mea culpa.

 

Likely June 2007

Opening Pandora's Box: An Elitist Defence of Modernism

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, the enfant terrible of modern or post-war German cinema, was born in 1935 of vaguely upper class stock. His father owned landed estates in Eastern Germany before the war, and his son lived in Rostock until 1945.

Syberberg’s doctoral thesis—very much in the Germanic tradition—concerned the notion of existentialism or the absurd in Dürrenmatt’s drama. He himself seems to have been influenced by two vast and yet “monstrous” paradigms: these were Brecht’s notion of epic theater and Wagner’s idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk—the total art-work.

Without doubt, his seminal achievement has to be Hitler: A Film from Germany (Our Hitler) which appeared in 1978. Although Syberberg was to later furnish a retrospective and documentary feel to his ideas in a non-fiction treatment, The Ister, in 2004. It comes across as a companion piece or dialectical counter-point to the previous work. It’s definitely not a mea culpa.

 

 

 

 

Books

Jonathan Bowden, Right (London: The Palingenesis Project, 2016)
Jonathan Bowden - Blood
Jonathan Bowden - Axe (2014)
Bowden, Jonathan - Western Civilization Bites Back (San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2014)
Bowden, Jonathan - Demon (London: The Palingenesis Project, 2014)
Bowden, Jonathan - Pulp Fascism (San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013)
Jonathan Bowden, Spiders are Not Insects (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2012)
Jonathan Bowden - Locusts Devour a Carcass (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2012)
Jonathan Bowden - Colonel Sodom Goes to Gomorrah (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2011)
Jonathan Bowden - Our Name is Legion (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2011)
Jonathan Bowden - Louisiana Half-Face (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2010)
Jonathan Bowden - Omnibus 2 (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2010)
Jonathan Bowden - The Art of Jonathan Bowden, Vol. 3 (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2010)
Jonathan Bowden - Goodbye Homunculus (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2009)
Jonathan Bowden - Lilith Before Eve (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2009)
Jonathan Bowden - Omnibus 1 (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2009)
Jonathan Bowden - A Ballet of Wasps (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2008)
Jonathan Bowden - The Fanatical Pursuit of Purity (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2008)
Jonathan Bowden - Al Qa'eda Moth (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2008)
Jonathan Bowden - Kratos (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2008)
Bowden, Jonathan - The Art of Jonathan Bowden, Vol. 2 (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2008)
Jonathan Bowden - The Art of Jonathan Bowden, Vol. 1 (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2007)
Jonathan Bowden - Apocalypse TV (London: The Spinning Top Club, 2007)

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