August 24, 2007

Luc Sante on Lovecraft

(I don't know if it's a joke, but the website Worldroots features this image of Lovecraft as a child with his parents.)

Here is Luc Sante's hilarious list of things that frightened Lovecraft:

"He was also frightened of invertebrates, marine life in general, temperatures below freezing, fat people, people of other races, race-mixing, slums, percussion instruments, caves, cellars, old age, great expanses of time, monumental architecture, non-Euclidean geometry, deserts, oceans, rats, dogs, the New England countryside, New York City, fungi and molds, viscous substances, medical experiments, dreams, brittle textures, gelatinous textures, the color gray, plant life of diverse sorts, memory lapses, old books, heredity, mists, gases, whistling, whispering—the things that did not frighten him would probably make a shorter list."

I'm looking forward to Luc Sante's book Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces, 1990-2005 which will be published in September by the excellent Yeti (part of a book series presented with Verse Chorus Press).

This quote comes from Sante's essay The Heroic Nerd in NYRB.

I thank my friend for pointing out my unfortunate similarity to Lovecraft, which caused me to finally read him.

Harold Pinter, A Wake For Sam, BBC TV 1990

Another find from my library browsing.

Harold Pinter, A Wake For Sam, BBC TV, 1990
Printed in Pinter's Various Voices.

"I first met Samuel Beckett in 1961 in Paris when my play, The Caretaker, was being produced. He came into the hotel walking very quickly indeed. He had a sharp stride and quick handshake. He was extremely friendly. I'd known his work for many years of course but it hadn't led me to believe he'd be such a very fast driver. He drove his little Citroen from bar to bar throughout the whole evening, very quickly indeed. We finally ended up in a place in Les Halles eating onion soup at about 4 in the morning and I was by this time overcome -- through, I think, alcohol, tobacco and excitement -- with indigestion and heartburn, so I lay my head down on the table. When I looked up he was gone. I had no idea where he'd gone and I thought, 'Perhaps this has all been a dream.' I think I went to sleep on the table and about forty-five minutes later the table jolted and there he was and he had a package in his hand, a bag. And he said, 'I've been across the whole of Paris to find this. I finally found it.' And he opened the bag and gave me a tin of bicarbonate of soda, which indeed worked wonders."

I'm glad I found this section for the fascinating tidbits about Beckett, but more importantly because my life is overwhelmed with heartburn and indigestion, and I'm going to find myself a tin of bicarbonate of soda.

[october update: the alka-seltzer works]

Melmoth the Wanderer by Maturin

I spent an hour this week browsing in the local public library. I found this amazing passage from Charles Robert Maturin's 1820 novel Melmoth the Wanderer (conveniently I could grab this passage, which I photocopied from a book called The Gothic Flame, from Project Gutenberg):

"The next moment I was chained to my chair again,--the fires were lit, the bells rang out, the litanies were sung;--my feet were scorched to a cinder,--my muscles cracked, my blood and marrow hissed, my flesh consumed like shrinking leather,--the bones of my legs hung two black withering and moveless sticks in the ascending blaze;--it ascended, caught my hair,--I was crowned with fire,--my head was a ball of molten metal, my eyes flashed and melted in their sockets;--I opened my mouth, it drank fire,--I closed it, the fire was within,...and we burned, and burned! I was a cinder body and soul in my dream."

The edition with the best cover seems to be the Spanish translation--Melmoth el errabundo:

Henri Michaux, By Surprise, Hanuman Books

I never noticed the nice paper and foil stamping of this Hanuman Book under its tiny dust jacket. Hanuman publications are truly pocket-friendly at 2-3/4" by 4-1/8".

By Surprise was published in France in 1983, one year before Michaux's death (1899-1984). Randolph Hough translated the book for Hanuman in 1987. It is one of Michaux's many texts on hallucinogenic drugs. I find his "drug books" fascinating because he had been writing hallucinogenic texts since the 1920s, but he didn't try mescaline or any drug like it until 1956.

At age 59 he described his early childhood years:


He avoids life, games, amusements and variation.
Food disgusts him.
Odors, contacts.
His marrow does not make blood.
His blood isn't wild about oxygen.


Dreams, without images without words, motionless.
He dreams of permanence, of perpetuity without change.
His way of existing in the margins, always on strike, is frightening or exasperating.
He's sent to the country."

August 23, 2007

Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue part 2

This post now resides on my other site 50 Watts:

August 22, 2007

Hanuman Books

I'll post about my two Hanuman Books publications this week.

Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue

This post now resides on my other site 50 Watts:

Antonin Artaud - Letter to the Medical Directors of Lunatic Asylums

"We protest against any interference with the free development of delirium."

Apparently in my dark ages I had the habit of tearing pages out of books. These days, I get upset when I accidentally crack the spine of a book. I don't know which is more pathetic.

I remember Artaud's "letter" came from one of those mass-market radical psych books from the seventies, probably RD Laing related. I associate these kinds of books with the hot and musty second floor of the Philadelphia Book Trader when it was on 5th & South. I spent too much time in there with my friend Vicky when we were teenagers in the early to mid nineties. Just down the street was the amazing Tower Books, which seemed to always be open (even in snowstorms), and actually stocked ATLAS and EXACT CHANGE books. I bought the first Atlas Printed Head books "Anti-Classics" and trade editions there. I'll be scanning all those in the near future.

Hope the scans are legible. Keep in mind that Artaud underwent some brutal electroshock therapy against his will. I imagine he wrote this after he was 'cured'. (I'll have to check this because I could be misremembering.)

Corvina Logo

This post now resides on my other site 50 Watts:

Bruno Schulz update

My friend John pointed out that Picador is selling Bruno Schulz's two story collections in one volume in the UK (that link is to Amazon UK). So you can easily get your hands on Sanitorium. Copies will probably start showing up in the US. Still, I imagine no American indie stores can stock it.

This is not my scan:

August 21, 2007

Stephen King's Night Shift mass market paperback, circa 1979?

I found this Night Shift cover in the folder with the Roussel postcard. I remember as a kid staring at it in horror. (Too bad the current cover edition is so generic.) I don't have the actual book anymore, just the torn off cover, so I don't know the artist's name. But wait, the internet has brought me immediately to THE EYE IN HAND site . . . which says the cover is uncredited. Oh well.**** [March 2008 I discovered the artist is Don Brautigam]

I read a lot of horror fiction when I was a kid, starting with Stephen King and then Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Ramsey Campbell. Luckily I didn't read H. P. Lovecraft until just last month. Lovecraft is truly terrifying and he would have broke my little mind and given me nightmares and ruined any trips. I wouldn't actually recommend reading him, but if you are in an extremely masochistic mood, and relatively secure in your sense of reality, check out "Whisperer in the Dark" in the fancy Library of America edition of Lovecraft's stories.

I can barely forgive my friend Ian Nagoski for suggesting that I read Frederic Brown's story "Come and Go Mad" a couple years ago. It is the most evil piece of writing I ever hope to read. Okay, I'm glad he told me about it, I just wish he gave me a warning.

***March 2008 update: I just discovered Millipede Press, dedicated to reprinting classic works of horror and crime. They feature the eye/hand painting on the cover of their Don Brautigam portfolio. Actually it's part of their "Centipede Press" collection of deluxe editions.

***Update: I found out Houellebecq (Wellbeck) read Lovecraft when he was seven. Now that is scary.

Karinthy, Voyage to Faremido and Capillaria

This post now resides on my other site 50 Watts:

Raymond Roussel postcard

I'm glad I wound up with this postcard for Mark Ford's book Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (foreword by John Ashbery / Cornell University Press). The book has apparently been remaindered, because it's selling for $5 on Amazon (I think I paid $30 a few years ago). I imagine this will scare publishers off from making more books like it.