Mervyn Peake — A Major Lapse By Me

Captivated by Lord of the Rings in junior high, I discovered the Ghormenghast Trilogy early in high school and spent a good deal of my sophomore year reading Titus Groan. Some of my (ahem) less intellectually-evolved classmates thought it was weird that I read thick paperbacks alla time and would ask “You still readin’ Tight Groin?” (hyuck hyuck hyuck). Perhaps because of all the shit I got, I never did finish the three books, but went crazy about the illustrations, which I thought were a superb example of a writer who was also an illustrator being the ideal person to do the visuals.

Then I screwed up and forgot about Peake for decades until after his passing I learned he was primarily an artist. Then I continued to screw up and only got a version of Alice in Wonderland that he illustrated (since he seemed like an unquestionable descendant of John Tenniel).

Just a while ago I stopped screwing up and got a copy of Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art compiled by Sebastian Peake and Alison Eldred, Edited by G. Peter Winnington (Peter Owen, 2006). I am beyond enchanted. Among dozens and dozens of prized new pictures, I think I now have the definitive rendition of Algernon Blackwood’s Wendigo.

R.I.P. Milos Foreman

I agree with the nay-sayers about Cuckoo’s Nest in that Nicholson is terrible in the top-hero role (unfortunately, James Dean was dead) and agree with the plus-note people that Louise Fletcher redeems the foul, dated sexism of the concept of Nurse Rached. (Kidz, it was this: stuffy, norm-obsessed, perfectly domesticated women were holding freed spirits and wild men back. Like they had that power.)

So I gotta get on the bus again.

But gotta admit those were interesting times.

 

David Bonetti, Part Two

When we visited him in St. Louis, we took the outstanding walking tour from his home. He showed us the house where one of my prime mentors/inspirations/parasitic-demons grew up, William S. Burroughs. Bit grand but unassuming, except for the peculiar sculptures that lined the walkway up to the house. (Obviously inhabited by people more like the author and less like the guy who invented the adding machine.)

“They insisted there should be no sidewalk notification of what this was,” said David, “because they were afraid of the hordes of weirdos that would show up all the time.”

Another obit:

http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/david-bonetti-former-post-dispatch-arts-critic-dies-at/article_da50d5f6-3ed3-5161-86af-e9858c1d3631.html

The Muse Hasn’t Gone Away — Merely Changed and Semi-Retired

When I regularly wrote poems, their beginnings were effortless, pure pleasure. The lines would start blooming in my head and I would write them down soon as possible. Sometimes took two or three sessions to complete a work. I would reread many times and do refinements and revisions, but those first flashes were all fun.

Only got a half-dozen (not-great) poems in the last 40 years. But occasionally a small piece of writing like a caption or a blurb or a short preview will suddenly start flowing out of the tap in my brain. Happened today when I was driving. Had to keep repeating the thing to myself until I could get to a keyboard. But I didn’t mind a whit.

Joyce Carol Oates and the Vortex of American Violence

Joyce Carol Oates just put this brilliant comment on Twitter:

all we ever hear is NRA. who exactly are the gun manufacturers whose merchandise is being peddled? whose guns are killing citizens, thousands a year? CEO’s certainly have names. the anonymity of NRA gives it a spurious aura, like “act of God.” blood on the hands of–exactly whom?

 She has the most profound understanding I know of American violence, its cover-up, and its eerie connection to a current of Edgar Allen Poe/H.P. Lovecraft that runs through the country.
If you haven’t read her incredible 1966 story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” you must.

It is a masterpiece beyond compare.

R.I.P.: John Perry Barlow

Complicated guy. I thought his politics were a mess, and that he got conned by Tricky Dick Cheney (real limits of libertarianism exposed) though he later denounced the heartless creep and others — but why is this system better than being a progressive, man? (I know, I know, the wide-open West, etc etc.) Bob Weird is my least-favorite Grateful Dead member, but I will say he and Barlow did a lot to undercut the hippie-doofus image of the band with frequent passages about guns and violence and murder. There’s some worthy links here. I intend to grab his book in June.

Le Guin Nails the Charm of Ace Doubles

In the introduction to the first Volume of her Hainish Novels and Stories she recalls from 50 years earlier::

The first three novels in this volume were published by Donald A. Wollheim, the tough, reliable editor of Ace Books, in the Late-Pulpalignean Era, 1966 and ’67. The first two, Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile, came out as Ace Doubles: two short novels by two different authors in one paperback cover, like two trains running towards each other on one track. When one train hit the other you turned the book upside down and started from the other end. And Ace Double was a very good deal for under a dollar. It was not a very good deal for the authors, or a brilliant debut in the publishing world, but it paid, it got you into print, it had readers.

And one of them was this high-schooler in Montana named Miles. I loved Ace Doubles because they were well-edited and of reliable quality. And even on my teeny budget I could get whatever ones appealed to me. Of course, the what didn’t occur to me is that, “Yikes, this low price means the writers didn’t get paid scrunt!” I didn’t read Le Guin until the unavoidable The Left Hand of Darkness, but some of my favorites included: James White Second Ending / Samuel R. Delany The Jewels of Aptor (1962);  Samuel R. Delany The Towers of Toron / Robert Moore Williams The Lunar Eye (1964); Fred Saberhagen The Golden People / Lan Wright Exile From Xanadu (1964); A. Bertram Chandler Space Mercenaries / Emil Petaja The Caves of Mars (1965); Jack Jardine and Julie Jardine (jointly as Howard L. Cory) The Mind Monsters / Philip K. Dick The Unteleported Man (1966); Lin Carter Tower Of The Medusa / George H. Smith Kar Kaballa (November 1969). I took a pretty extensive break from sci-fi from the time I graduated college until I moved to MA.