Oz Bizarre: Barry Humphries

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Oz Bizarre: Barry Humphries

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 22, 2011, 8:40 pm

I had no idea the fellow who prefaced the Tartarus/FOAM Gawsworth biography of Arthur Machen was responsible for Dame Edna, another (and for all I know the finest) installment in the apparently always entertaining history of female impersonation. In addition to "managing" his various stage personae, Barry Humphries was involved in The Arthur Machen Society and is a devoted collector of decadent and erotic literature and art of the 1890s.

In 1965 he compiled and published Bizarre, a collection of off-center, decadent and erotic texts and images, for Elek Books. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Many of the texts are impossible to find (or too costly to bother) elsewhere. Many will find it similar to - and more entertaining (and certainly less expensive) than - the Atlas Press expansion of Remy de Gourmont's Book of Masks.

Here is Humphries discussing his bibliophilia and favorite novels:


Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 7, 2011, 4:58 am

Many thanks for this - I was aware that Humphries was a major collector and an authority on Decadent literature, and I've always wanted to know more.

Will look out for a copy of Bizarre - the Atlas Press edition of the Book of Masks is one of my favorites.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 23, 2011, 1:54 pm

I have read that he was in attendance when Maggs Bros. Ltd of London auctioned off Donald Weeks' collection of Frederick Rolfe material (which I think went, en bloc, to a library - public or university, I am uncertain- in Leeds). He is living my dream life - financially able bibliophile-wise.

tammikuu 23, 2011, 6:01 pm

I'm curious about Humphries' autobiography. Not too bothered about Edna, but I think that Barry must have lived an extraordinary life.

tammikuu 23, 2011, 7:41 pm

Let's not forget he also took over for Tim Curry when Rocky Horror sequeled into Shock Treatment.

I bought a copy of Bizarre last year at a book sale hosted by the branch of the public library by my parents' house (where I spent my formative years instead of playing sports or having friends). I made the decision for purchase based on nothing better than recognizing the compiler's name. It's entirely possible never even looked inside the book except to figure out how to tag in for myself in LT. Now I'm motivated to make better.

tammikuu 24, 2011, 1:08 pm

I believe that Humphries was part of the glittering London scene around artist Andrew Logan from the early seventies. This included Curry, along with many other flamboyant characters.

I notice that Humphries' Bizarre is subtitled "With material taken from Bizarre . . and other sources" What does that refer to?

tammikuu 24, 2011, 2:00 pm

I also recall reading somewhere that fellow thespian eccentrics Pee Wee Herman and Crispin Glover had similar collections of the amatory and antiquarian. Glover's What Is It? would certainly be considered "decadent," given its subject matter.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 2011, 8:22 pm

6: Thank you for asking that question. I would never have investigated on my own. Bizarre was a journal published by Jean Jacques Pauvert in the late 1950s in France. He is a relative of poet Andre Salmon and had/has an interest in gamy erotica; he was involved in the publication of works by Sade and Louys as well as The Story of O and Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon.

It is good to be acquainted with this Pauvert:


tammikuu 24, 2011, 8:31 pm

Very interesting.
I'm going to have to review Sade, again. (For the countless time?)

tammikuu 25, 2011, 1:15 pm

8: Thanks, I'd never heard of that Pauvert's Bizarre, which looks fascinating. (There's a very expensive copy currently up on eBay, with a lot of scans.)

The other Bizarre, by John Willie, seemed unlikely, but not impossible!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 25, 2011, 3:01 pm

Here's another link: more data on Bizarre magazine:


helmikuu 9, 2011, 3:18 pm

My copy just turned up - what a fabulous book! Many thanks for the tip.

Writers from the table of contents: Huysmans, Stefan George, Masoch, Satie, Machen, Schwob, Mirbeau, Beddoes, Saltus, Shiel, Verlaine, Corvo, Jepson, Gawsworth, Jarry and Lafcadio Hearn - and that's just the ones I've heard of. Outsize, copiously illustrated in black and white.

Humphries says ". .there are photographs and merry japes galore, for this is essentially a family book, and one which we confidently expect will stand on every shelf between Pears Encylopaedia and Mrs Beeton." Mine will go between The Book of Masks and Breton's Anthology of Black Humor

helmikuu 10, 2011, 10:11 am

I saw the Breton anthology cheap in a local bookshop a few months back, and have agonized ever since for not having bought it. The Book of Masks anthology is new to me, and has gone straight onto the wishlist. I found de Gourmont's Book of Masks on Internet Archive this morning, and am looking forward to spending time with it this evening.

helmikuu 10, 2011, 2:31 pm

The las Press version of The Book of Masks is extended with extracts of texts by the various writers de Gourmont discusses, with modern critical commentary. Like all las Press books, it's beautifully designed.

Last time I looked at the Amazon reviews for the Anthology of Black Humor there were lots of aggrieved punters complaining that there weren't enough gags in it. That's not really the point, of course, but it's a great selection of short texts by Breton's favorite writers.

helmikuu 10, 2011, 6:10 pm

...lots of aggrieved punters complaining that there weren't enough gags in it.

That's interesting, because when I espied it, it was safely hidden on the "Humour" shelves. A quick look convinced me that it would be more ideally located in the "Literature" section. I assumed that it would be waiting for me amidst the Diberts and Seinfelds until I returned. Alas, I was wrong.

The obligatory emoticon follows -


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