Current Reads #3
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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.
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:
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.
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.
How is 2666? I have read a couple of Bolano's smaller novels with the intention of building up to 2666.
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.
"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.
>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.
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).
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).
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.
Henri Duchemin and his shadows, down and out in Paris with a touch of back humor and strangeness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
thank you both. I had not heard of either of those titles.
Beyond Enlightenment especially looks very good.
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