Current Reads #3

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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Current Reads #3

helmikuu 5, 2015, 10:46 am

This morning I began reading Cobra by Severo Sarduy A bit hard to summarize, so here's what the back cover blurb says:

The late Severo Sarduy was one of the most outrageous and baroque of the Latin American Boom writers of the sixties and seventies, and here bound back to back are his two finest creations. Cobra (1972) recounts the tale of a transvestite named Cobra, star of the Lyrical Theater of the Dolls, whose obsession is to transform his/her body. She is assisted in her metamorphosis by the Madam and Pup, Cobra’s dwarfish double. They too change shape, through the violent ceremonies of a motorcycle gang, into a sect of Tibetan lamas seeking to revive Tantric Buddhism.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 9, 2015, 3:38 pm

Not something I started reading yet but DBC Pierre's Lights Out in Wonderland: A Novel looks like it's going to be a fun read. This is blurb from the back:

This is the hilarious and outrageous tale of one man's fight against the decadent excess of the modern world, from the Booker Prize-winning author of Vernon God Little. Gabriel Brockwell, aesthete, poet, philosopher, disaffected twenty-something decadent, is looking to end it all with one last journey of excess. Taking in London, Tokyo, Berlin and the Galapagos Islands, Lights Out In Wonderland documents Gabriel Brockwell's remarkable global odyssey. Committed to the pursuit of pleasure to obliterate all previous parties, Gabriel's adventure takes in a spell in rehab, a near-death experience with fugu ovaries, a sexual encounter with an octopus, and finally an orgiastic feast in the bowels of Berlin's majestic Tempelhof Airport. An allegorical banquet and a sly commentary on the march towards mindless banality, DBC Pierre's third novel is an unexpectedly joyful expression of the human spirit.

Here also is a nice article about the book:

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 11, 2015, 9:19 pm

2> After reading the same attached article, I enjoyed reading Lights Out in Wonderland a couple of years ago. It's a rant against modern life reading like a parody of classic decadent literature, and apparently intended to be Against Nature on steroids whilst reintroducing literary decadence into the 21st C. I thought it a bit excessive in its excess, but of course, that was the point.

helmikuu 25, 2015, 5:07 pm

Fernando Pessoa Poetry Collection called A little Larger than the Entire Universe. Pessoa was Portuguese exponent of modernism in the early 20th Century but the influences of decadence and philosophy are very strong in his poems (other modernists, especially the anglo-american, worked hard to mask or negate these influences). He wrote under various pseudonyms (which were separate and distinct poetical figments of his) one of them based on Mário de Sá-Carneiro. So far I've already had my mind blown by him.

maaliskuu 14, 2015, 5:36 pm

Kooks by Donna Kossy

A Whitman's Sampler of the Weird, a cornucopia of the kooky, rants, conspiracies, cults, miracle cures, enigmas, and outtakes. A compendium of "the outer limits of human belief." A must-read for anyone devoted to the infinite capacity of human strangeness, personal idiosyncrasy, and doomed quests.

maaliskuu 31, 2015, 12:24 pm

The Sacred Hill by Maurice Barrès published by Macaulay 1929. This is probably the only Barres novel available in complete format and I have to say the translation is masterful. Barres himself was a top notch writer. I'd put him up there with Huysmans and D'Annunzio. Highly recommended.

toukokuu 27, 2015, 9:24 am

The Anatomy of Melancholy. The universe inside a box (and, along with Johnson's Dictionary, an excellent source for archaic terms of abuse).

toukokuu 27, 2015, 2:19 pm

The Familiar: Volume 1, by Mark Danielewski ... a similar "universe inside a box."

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 28, 2015, 11:03 pm

Love in 5000 Years by Fernand Kolney. Combines neo-Malthusian theory, anarchist (anti-)utopia, and erotica in the distant future where love and sex are accidentally reintroduced into a world where they'd been eradicated to achieve social harmony. Links symbolism/decadence with surrealism and SciFi. Kolney's brother-in-law was the symbolist poet and fellow anarchist Laurent Tailhade.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 15, 2015, 4:28 pm

I look forward to reading this one soon: The Dolls' Room by Llorenç Villalonga
A classic of contemporary Catalan literature, and a haunting and satirical portrait of a vanishing age, Llorenç Villalonga's The Dolls' Room concerns the decline of Don Toni and Dona Maria Antònia Bearn: aristocrats, cousins, husband and wife, and members of the decadent, age-old ruling class of a town that bears their name. Their story is told by the naïve family priest, Don Joan, who was taken under Don Toni's wing as a schoolboy. Describing the shabby grandeur of his benefactors' lives in their ancient, rundown family mansion, their grand but ruinous excursions to Paris and Rome, and the mysterious events that lead to their deaths, the humbly devote Joan is continually challenged, and perhaps titillated, by Don Toni's impious personality, his defiance of church authority, and his scandalous affairs. Partly condemning and partly admiring his devilish mentor, the pure-minded Don Joan's lurid "biography" of the Bearns is a testament to the eternal attractiveness of the libertine, and the lengths to which we go in justifying our own worst impulses.

heinäkuu 22, 2015, 12:41 am

Right now I'm reading Tony Duvert's Diary of an Innocent. A once praised but now mostly forgotten French writer of the seventies and eighties. He's loosely associated with the noveau roman. Only two of his books are available in English from Semiotext(e). Pederasty, critique of the bourgeoisie. Typical French fare, really.

heinäkuu 28, 2015, 11:20 am

Reading H by Philippe Sollers and Stormtrooper Families by Andrew Wackerfuss.

lokakuu 15, 2015, 5:34 am

Reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and, for the season, the fresh off the presses reissue Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti.

lokakuu 15, 2015, 6:10 am

>14 poetontheone: I started reading the Ligotti volume last evening. I have read some of his later collections but this is the first time I have tackled the earlier works.

How is 2666? I have read a couple of Bolano's smaller novels with the intention of building up to 2666.

lokakuu 15, 2015, 9:26 am

I'm a couple of chapters in to Ludwig II, The Mad King of Bavaria and I'm also reading Donald Tyson's amusing simulacrum of the Necronomicon.

lokakuu 15, 2015, 10:51 am

I'm reading Lykiard's translation of Maldoror. My favorite section is his appraisal of predecessor translations.

lokakuu 16, 2015, 11:11 pm

On Earth and in Hell by Thomas Bernhard -- a translation of his first book of poetry. "Decay" is a word that gets used a lot.

Disco's Out ... Murder's In by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone -- punk rock gangs, murder, violence, suicide, apocalypse, and the sketchier sections of Los Angeles in the early '80s.

The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer -- a thick doorstop of a book, full of the correspondence of Norman Mailer to just about everybody. Taking me a long time to get through, but highly entertaining.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 16, 2015, 11:55 pm

I enoy Thomas Bernhard. One of my favorite books in the world is his Old Masters. Also highly entertaining. There are extended vicious and often very humorous rants against his native Austria, its politicians, poets and citizenry, humanity at large, etc.:

"A likeable Englishman is a curiosity".

"Adalbert Stifter and Anton Bruckner ultimately produced only literary and musical refuse."

"Stifter in fact always reminds me of Heidegger, of that ridiculous Nazi philistine in plus-fours. Just as Stfter has totally and in the most shameless manner kitschified great literature, so Heidegger, the Black Forest philosopher Heidegger, has kitschified philosophy...."

"The Austrian judiciary is a dangerous Catholic National Socialist human grinding mill...."

This goes on for pages.

lokakuu 17, 2015, 12:35 pm

I read The Lime Works a few years ago. Pretty much the same deal. After a succinct narrative introduction, it turns into a long-form tirade against Austria, National Socialism, Catholicism, the middle-class, etc. Yet ironically, Bernhard was member of the conservative Austrian Farmers' Association. Although trying to specify the partisan loyalties of Bernhard seems like a fruitless and petty endeavor. I'm sure his political leanings were similar to that of fellow troublemaker Hunter S. Thompson

lokakuu 17, 2015, 1:45 pm

>15 pgmcc: pgmcc: I read Conspiracy Against the Human Race and Teatro Grottesco earlier this year as my introduction to Ligotti, so I'm really happy Penguin reissued these earlier collections. Loving it so far. As for 2666, I'd definitely recommend you read The Savage Detectives first, just because it's amazing. I liked By NIght in Chile very much, but Savage Detectives is just phenomenal. I'm only a little over one hundred pages into 2666, but I know it's going to be excellent.

>17 Randy_Hierodule: Ben: Tell me what you think of Lykiard in comparison to other translators of Maldoror, being that his is the only translation I've read.

lokakuu 17, 2015, 4:13 pm

The Savage Detectives is brilliant. A sex-crazed kaleidoscopic love letter to literature and reading. The current crisis of the Mexican drug cartels also Bolano's work in a new light, since the cartels are like a monstrous reincarnation of European Decadence: a lurid and luxuriously world built on death and murder, slowly rotting the Mexican nation-state from the inside. (The US consuming all their product like a Symbolist morphine addict doesn't help, as is our nation's penchant for flooding Mexico with guns, guns, guns.)

lokakuu 17, 2015, 5:34 pm

>22 poetontheone: & >23 kswolff:

Thank you for the comments on The Savage Detectives. I have it too and will prioritise it over 2666. I had heard The Savage Detectives was like a subset of 2666 but your comments make me think it is something else entirely.

lokakuu 17, 2015, 6:11 pm

Savage Detectives is also an excellent source for introduction to Mexican poets of the late 19th-early 20th century (as is Samuel Beckett's anthology of translations).

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 18, 2015, 1:39 pm

>>22 poetontheone:: The Lykiard translation seems good (I do not have Maldoror in the French and am not so in love with the book to seek it out). One of the translations Lykiard reviles the most is the Penguin edition (I cannot recall the translator's name), which is the version I first read nearly 30 years ago.

EDIT: it turns out I do have a French version to check against. This place is scary - reminds me of HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey (whose author I first read in a French translation of his interesting story, "les neuf milliards noms de Dieu" - which ends on the wonderful line I can no longer recall in French, but to the effect: "and the stars went out, one by one". Seek it out, en anglais).

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 17, 2015, 6:28 pm

>>21 kswolff:: I read pretty much every one of TB's novels in translation (except for Wood Cutters and Frost) - he is scathingly droll and has curious things to say of the institutions of childhood, the family and the state - etc. - but that typed, like so many other novels, poems, screeds, squibs and tirades I have processed, near perfect flashes of narrative return to mind by virtue of some occasional association, but I could not, in most cases, offer a summary to save my life. To any other unfortunate damned to eternal rereading ("is it really so unfortunate to be able to be so slack as to have the luxury of this anti-activity?"), I recommend an essay by Patrick Susskind on the topic of literary amnesia. It showed up in Harper's about a score or more years ago and I'll beef hooked if I can recall its title.

lokakuu 17, 2015, 9:26 pm

I'm nearly done with H by Philippe Sollers -- no capitalization, no punctuation, it's like the last pages of The Unnamable, Lucky's nonsensical speech in Waiting for Godot, and Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses all rolled in to one. Sollers, a founder of Tel Quel and semantic pal of Roland Barthes, wrote the novel after his trip to Communist China during the Cultural Revolution. Like Huysmans, he renounced his earlier radicalism and converted to Catholicism.

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a cheeky essay on the similarities between Communist Chinese and Catholic cults of personality:

From the essay:

This imagery of a religious leader sometimes called “The People’s Pope” matches some of the portrayals of his Chinese counterpart, a man often referred to now as “Xi Dada” (Big Papa Xi).

marraskuu 3, 2015, 7:30 pm

I just finished The Terror by Arthur Machen. It reminded me of The Other Side by Alfred Kubin. Very interesting!

marraskuu 8, 2015, 12:09 am

Started reading a new translation of The Iliad. Caroline Alexander is the translator. Last time I read The Iliad was in high school. Can't recall the translation I read. Fickle gods, endless war, besmirched honor ... plenty of things for the modern reader to relate to.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 8, 2015, 3:39 pm

I have always loved Martin Hammond's translation of The Iliad, which dutifully preserves the poetic structure of the original.

The Iliad is certainly relevant today in it's graphic depiction of the violence and futility of war. Sadly, humanity hasn't progressed very much in last 2500 years.

marraskuu 11, 2015, 11:04 pm

Finished reading Disco's Out ... Murder's In! by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone Another provocation from Feral House.

Also finished Frankenstein Underground by Mike Mignola. Beautiful visuals, kooky hollow earth mythos, eldritch abominations, and the Frankenstein monster praying to the Virgin Mary. It somehow all comes together and makes sense.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 15, 2015, 1:36 pm

I didn't enjoy Ligotti's earlier collections as much as I hoped, but I love Roberto Bolaño's 2666 more with every page.

Almost done with the wonderfully macabre and tender poetry collection The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell.

marraskuu 15, 2015, 11:52 am

Murder Most Serene is wonderful. Lush, decadent, decaying, death-filled, yet with the occasional archly comic aside. Wittkop's description of an autopsy is eerily beautiful, like a Gustave Moreau painting.

marraskuu 20, 2015, 11:21 pm

Little Dinners with the Sphinx by Richard Le Gallienne, a decadent short story book. I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far.

tammikuu 9, 2016, 1:25 am

Henri Duchemin and his shadows, down and out in Paris with a touch of back humor and strangeness.

tammikuu 17, 2016, 5:14 pm

syyskuu 14, 2017, 4:36 pm

Started reading Spells by Michel Ghelderode Quality stuff from the troublemakers over at Wakefield Press.

And I'm continuing to read The Combinations by Louis Armand, an heir to the encyclopedic, labyrinthine, doorstopper novels of Rabelais, Joyce, and Pynchon, and amply footnoted like Infinite Jest. Perhaps the best book of the 21st Century.

syyskuu 14, 2017, 5:04 pm

I'm on the downhill slope of Jake Arnott's The House of Rumour, and it might be of interest to those here. It spans the 20th century with cults, sci-fi writers, occultists, spies, aliens, Nazis, Trotskyists, musicians, transsexuals, and all manner of paranoids and conspirators. Each of the 22 chapters has a distinct narrator or central character (with just a single repetition so far), but they are all linked into an integrated manifold plot that is as much obscured as it is revealed by their separate subjectivities. It uses a number of historical figures as characters, but Arnott has done his homework, and the whole thing keeps its plausibility very well.

syyskuu 14, 2017, 10:20 pm

39: It sounds similar to the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 14, 2017, 10:28 pm

>40 kswolff:

Well, I didn't find Illuminatus! plausible. And the style here is more David Mitchell than Robert Anton Wilson. Maybe a bit like Pynchon's V.

syyskuu 15, 2017, 9:04 pm

41: Thanks! The Illuminatus! is a lot of things, plausible isn't one of them. I do like V.

I'm also reading Speer: Hitler's Architect by Martin Kitchen What a loathsome power-hungry thug wrapped in the skin of a bourgeois middle-class German human being. It somehow makes him worse than those pompous disgusting caricatures like Julius Streicher and Hermann Goering. Speer deserved the noose, not the opportunity to write those self-serving mendacious memoirs.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 16, 2017, 8:40 pm

Re-reading Umberto Pasti's The Age of Flowers, a gorgeously written novel; the language, even in translation, is beautiful. A quick read, and one of the most amusing and disturbing novels I've come across - blending as it does the literature of the decadence, the campy flamboyance of Firbank, and the distilled evil of Sade, obsession, horticulture and pathology. In it is the sensibility of Ovid, Kafka and Mengele. It is also a send up of colonialism and a reflection on the inconvenient phenomenon of random, violent death. I certainly hope the author will try fiction again.

lokakuu 17, 2017, 4:52 pm

Just read Subtle bodies a fantasia on voice, history and Rene Crevel a short biographical novel about the early Surrealist by Peter Dube. The novel is framed as a series of delirious flashbacks in the last hour of Crevel's life. It has become conventional to dismiss the Surrealists wholesale for occasionally falling short of early twenty-first century values. Instead, Dube confronts the notorious homophobia of key Surrealist thinker Andre Breton head on through his difficult relationship with Crevel, a gay man, and makes an impassioned case for the continuing relevance of the Surrealist revolution. It's beautifully written.

lokakuu 17, 2017, 5:08 pm

>44 Soukesian:

Thanks for that, wishlisted.

I'm so unfashionable myself, I hadn't even noticed the dismissal of the Surrealists, whom I consider still in advance of many of the values of our contemporary society.

lokakuu 17, 2017, 9:50 pm

45: I'm reading The Absolute Gravedigger by Vitezslav Nezval, a leading figure in Czech Surrealism. He was a contemporary of Breton.

Surrealism has always had relevance, despite the constant failings of its practitioners. Salvador Dali was a prolific pioneer and artistic genius. He was also a loyal bootlick to that sanctimonious thug Francisco Franco ... who Chevy Chase has assured me is still dead.

Breton's worst failing, in addition to his medieval view on human sexuality, was attempting to turn an artistic movement based on harnessing the dream-power of the unconscious into some kind of branch office for a joint-stock company. A necromancer should let Breton know that Surrealism is not an IKEA store.

syyskuu 26, 2020, 4:55 pm

I have just posted a review of Julian Barnes' 'The Man In The Red Coat' on Goodreads here:

The book is ostensibly a biography (of sorts) of Samuel Pozzi, surgeon, dandy and cultured man but "Pozzi's life played out against the backdrop of the Parisian Belle Epoque. The beautiful age of glamour and pleasure more often showed its ugly side: hysterical, narcissistic, decadent and violent, a time of rampant prejudice and blood-and-soil nativism, with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine".

There is sooo much decadent related material in this book, not least as the titular character was a friend of Jean Lorrain which gives Barnes reason to relate scurrilous anecdotes from Lorrain's pen and detail his feuds with, well just about everyone. It has a lot of photos (Montesquieu impersonating the head of John the Baptist etc) and is hugely funny and entertaining. It's my favourite book this year and I think devotees of the Chapel will enjoy it. HIGHLY recommended!



syyskuu 27, 2020, 4:51 pm

>47 Siderealpress: I had such a good time reading this book! I've heard that Pozzi was one of the models for Proust's Dr. Cottard, but I never understood that. Cottard seemed rather inept, socially, and Pozzi had to be (and this book confirmed it for me) smooth and cultivated.

I've also been meaning to mention for the longest time Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque by Tobias Churton. Your message jogged my memory.

syyskuu 28, 2020, 8:59 am

Both books have been on my list for while. I will dig them out. Thank you both for the nudge!

syyskuu 28, 2020, 6:20 pm

Occult Paris is ok but it's a hefty read made more so (for me at least) by Churton being so obviously a fanboy of Sar Peladin. But there is a lot of interesting stuff in it.

You might be interested in my review of Christopher MacIntosh's 'Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revolution:

Are there any other recent occult histories of the period anyone knows of?



syyskuu 28, 2020, 6:36 pm

Beyond Enlightenment by David Allen Harvey was worth my time.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 29, 2020, 2:02 pm

>50 Siderealpress: Yes - It was your review that made me pick up the Levi book and reshelf Churton's. That and flashbacks of interesting references in Richard Cavendish's The Black Arts (and some Colin Wilson things) which I read in installments in my high school library, whilst dodging classes (I'd have been a world-class scholar had I not discovered weed and the mobile hippies who provided it in my sophomore year).

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 29, 2020, 2:09 pm

McIntosh is very good. I'm a particular fan of his Rose Cross and the Age of Reason.

syyskuu 29, 2020, 3:08 pm

>53 paradoxosalpha: The name hadn't registered till just now: I also enjoyed his book on astrology, in my truant residency in the library. I think I still ... own it. The late fees must be magnificent.

syyskuu 30, 2020, 2:12 pm

thank you both. I had not heard of either of those titles.
Beyond Enlightenment especially looks very good.

lokakuu 11, 2020, 9:22 pm

Wolf Hunt by Ivailo Petrov. Like The Deer Hunter if it took place in Bulgaria during communist rule.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 4:38 pm

Started in Die Merowinger by Heimito von Doderer. Just one chapter in, and things are already deeply weird. Quite unlike Die Wasserfälle von Slunj which took quite a while to get going.

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