Category Archives: underrated

Floris and Blancheflour (is) (not) the missing link …

Floris and Blancheflour (is) (not) the missing link between European medieval literature and the Arabian Nights.

Many of the details, such as the Tower of Maidens (i.e. harem), eunuch guards, and the odalisques (white slavery) derive from material carried to the west via The Arabian Nights. The frame tale of The Nights (the king “re-marries” every night) is reflected in a plot element (“the king re-marries every year”) in Floris and Blancheflour.

The tale could be originally French, or possibly of Oriental origins, or a synthesis of motifs. Kathleen Coyne Kelly, in her essay “Bartering of Blauncheflur,” summarized the discussion of the sources as follows: “Scholars disagree as to whether Floris and Blauncheflur is an oriental tale that was adapted for Western audiences, or a tale whose European author simply supplied it with an oriental setting.”

Compared to other medieval romances, the story has not frequently been brought to the screen. In 1978 Fabrice Luchini and Arielle Dombasle (photo) portrayed Floris and Blancheflour in Perceval le gallois by Éric Rohmer.

RIP Christopher Gray (1942 – 2009)

RIP Christopher Gray (1942 – 2009)

Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International (1974) – Christopher Gray [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Christopher Gray is a British writer and activist, editor of Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International (1974). He was a member of the British SI and of King Mob.

Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International (1974) is an anthology of Situationist texts edited by British activist Christopher Gray. The original edition was designed by Jamie Reid.

Fashionable Contrasts (1792) by James Gillray is Icon of Erotic Art #44

Fashionable Contrasts (1792) by James Gillray

As well as being blatant in his observations, James Gillray could be incredibly subtle, and puncture vanity with a remarkably deft approach. The outstanding example of this is his print Fashionable Contrasts;—or—The Duchess’s little Shoe yeilding [sic] to the Magnitude of the Duke’s Foot. This was a devastating image aimed at the ridiculous sycophancy directed by the press towards Frederica Charlotte Ulrica, Duchess of York, and the supposed daintiness of her feet. The print showed only the feet and ankles of the Duke and Duchess of York, in an obviously copulatory position, with the Duke’s feet enlarged and the Duchess’s feet drawn very small. This print silenced forever the sycophancy of the press regarding the union of the Duke and Duchess.

The print was originally published by Hannah Humphrey on January 24, 1792.

It is Icon of Erotic Art #44.

Nikolai Gogol @200

Nikolai Gogol @200

Poprishchin (protagonist of the novel by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol “Diary of a Madman”.  by Ilya Yefimovich Repin by you.

Poprishchin, protagonist of Nikolai Gogol‘s “Diary of a Madman” painted by Ilya Repin

Nikolai Gogol will be 200 tomorrow morning (that’s the day after tomorrow, I skipped a day here). Like so many of us of the internet generation, we stumbled upon Gogol via Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.

He is an icon of 19th century literature, Russian literature, grotesque literature and fantastic literature.

“What an intelligent, queer, and sick creature!” —Ivan Turgenev

“I don’t know whether anyone liked Gogol exclusively as a human being. I don’t think so; it was, in fact, impossible. How can you love one whose body and spirit are recovering from self-inflicted torture?” —Sergei Aksakov

Gogol wrote in the literary tradition of E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Sandman) and Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy), often involving elements of the fantastic and grotesque. In addition, Gogol’s works are often outrageously funny. The mix of humor, social realism, the fantastic, and unusual prose forms are what readers love about his work.

“Sex Without Stress” is WMC #288

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OtuZjBc_H0

Sex Without Stress” by the Au Pairs

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. As I explained, I now do music on Facebook almost exclusively (join me there at Jan Geerinck with a brief note).

It’s been so long that I need to explain what WMC stands for: World music classics is an ongoing series of World Music Classics.

It had been a while since I’d heard “Sex Without Stress” by the Au Pairs.

Sex Without Stress” is a musical composition by the British post-punk band the Au Pairs first released in 1982. It was also released on their album Sense and Sensuality. The song is also featured on Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology.

From the lyrics:

“Would you like to express
your sex without stress?
Would you like to discover
physical conversations of different kinds?”

The Au Pairs were a post-punk band who formed in Birmingham in 1979. Musically they were very similar to bands such as Ludus, Gang of Four and the Delta 5. That is, the rhythm section was tight and funky (obvious influences were James Brown and Funkadelic), but the guitars were light and “scratchy” (like Subway Sect). All these bands shared a strongly left wing social outlook, but the Au Pairs stood out due to their frontwoman, Lesley Woods, being an outspoken feminist and lesbian: the band were greatly influential in this respect on the riot grrrl movement a decade later. Music historian Gillian G. Gaar noted in her history of women in rock (She’s A Rebel: The History of Women In Rock & Roll) that the band mingled male and female musicians in a revolutionary collaborative way as part of its outspoken explorations of sexual politics.

André Pieyre de Mandiargues @100

Yesterday would have been André Pieyre de Mandiargues‘s 100th birthday, had he not died in 1991.

Some quick finds:

Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues by you.

Les Incongruités monumentales, Robert Laffont, 1948.

The Devil's Kisses, anthology edited by Linda Lovecraft

Featuring his story “The Diamond”Catelogue of Bellmer engravings prefaced by Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Prefaced by Mandiargues

Le Merveilleux by Les Incongruités Monumentales by André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Arcimboldo le merveilleux, Robert Laffont, 1977.

His story La Marée and the 1967 novel La Marge were both made into film by Polish film director Walerian Borowczyk and it is de Mandiargues’s collection of pornographic items that is featured in Borowczyk’s Une collection particulière . He wrote several prefaces, amongst others to  Pauline Réage‘s Story of O and a catalogue raisonné of Hans Bellmer engravings.

La Motocyclette by Mandiargues

La Motocyclette

His novella La Motocyclette was the basis for Jack Cardiff‘s The Girl on a Motorcycle. He was also the author of works of non-fiction, such as a photography book devoted to Bomarzo entitled Les Monstres de Bomarzo and a book on Arcimboldo. His stories are collected in Le Musée Noir [The Black Museum] (1946) and Soleil des Loups [The Sun Of The Wolves] (1951).

His book Feu de braise (1959) was published in 1971 in an English translation by April FitzLyon called Blaze of Embers (Calder and Boyars, 1971).

One of his most controversial books is L’Anglais décrit dans le château fermé (1953).

Pierre Bourgeade III

Plexus with a contribution by Pierre Bourgeade

Plexus (? – ?)

Plexus was a French language magazine, started under the auspices of Planète science fiction magazine to which the late Pierre Bourgeade contributed.

Planète (The Planet) was a French fantastic realism magazine created by Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels. It ran from 1961 to 1972.

See also: plexus, http://journaux-anciens.chapitre.com/PLEXUS.html

Havelock Ellis @150

Havelock Ellis @150

Psychology of Sex by Havelock Ellis

Pan Piper was an imprint of Pan Books

Havelock Ellis (February 2, 1859July 8, 1939) was a British sexologist, noted for his seven volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex and for his translation of Against the Grain by Joris-Karl Huysmans.

He was an astute observer, a quote I use regularly is:

What we call ‘Progress’ is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance. —Havelock Ellis

Havelock Ellis

The sexologist and writer Havelock Ellis “looked like a tripartite cross between Tolstoy, Rasputin, and Bernard Shaw; was one of the many semi-pagan ideological nudists that England produced at the end of the nineteenth century; and never achieved full sexual arousal until his second wife urinated on him in his late middle age.” (Our Culture, What’s Left of it by Theodore Dalrymple)

His impotence and urolagnia

According to Ellis in My Life, his friends were much amused at his being considered an expert on sex, what with the fact that he suffered from impotence until the age of 60, when he discovered that he was able to become aroused by the sight of a woman urinating. Ellis named the interest in urination “Undinism” but it is now more commonly called Urolagnia.

His marriage

In November 1891, at the age of 32, and still a virgin, Ellis married the English writer and proponent of women’s rights, Edith Lees (none of his four sisters ever married). From the beginning, their marriage was unconventional; Edith Ellis was openly lesbian, and at the end of the honeymoon, Ellis went back to his bachelor rooms in Paddington, while she lived at Fellowship House. Their ‘open marriage‘ was the central subject in Ellis’s autobiography, My Life.

On sexual inversion

His book Sexual Inversion, the first English medical text book on homosexuality, co-authored with John Addington Symonds, described the sexual relations of homosexual men and boys, something that Ellis did not consider to be a disease, immoral, or a crime. The work assumes that same-sex love transcended age-taboos as well as gender-taboos, as seven of the twenty-one examples are of intergenerational relationships. A bookseller was prosecuted in 1897 for stocking Ellis’ book. Although the term homosexual itself is attributed to Ellis, he wrote in 1897, “‘homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it,” the hybridity in question being the word’s mix of Greek and Latin roots. Other psychologically important concepts developed by Ellis include autoerotism and narcissism, both of which were later taken up by Sigmund Freud.

On sadomasochism

A lot has been written on masochism, from Freud to Reik, but one of the best descriptions is by Havelock Ellis:

“The essence of sadomasochism is not so much “pain” as the overwhelming of one’s senses – emotionally more than physically. Active sexual masochism has little to do with pain and everything to do with the search for emotional pleasure. When we understand that it is pain only, and not cruelty, that is the essential in this group of manifestations, we begin to come nearer to their explanation. The masochist desires to experience pain, but he generally desires that it should be inflicted in love; the sadist desires to inflict pain, but he desires that it should be felt as love….” — From an unidentified volume of Studies in the Psychology of Sex

Many of Ellis’s texts are featured at the public domain library Gutenberg.org. I do wish I could lay my hands on an indexed copy of Studies in the Psychology of Sex for a reasonable price. He is, I feel, an underappreciated writer.

Introducing Gaston Burssens (1896 – 1965)

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Fabula rasa (1945) by Gaston Burssens (this edition 1964)

I am not much of a fiction reader, nor have I ever been much of a poetry reader. My favorite literature is books about books. Literary criticism or literary theory.

I make exceptions.

The best work I read last year was Michaux’s Plume[1] which happens to be a work of prose poetry, a genre which can be traced most readily to Baudelaire and Poe. A genre which is plotless but nevertheless more concrete than pure poetry.

Saturday I bought the work above. It is worth its price for the introductory notes alone.

Gaston Burssens (Dendermonde, February 18 1896January 29 1965) was a Flemish poet, usually classified as an expressionist. He died age 68 in Antwerpen en was buried at the Schoonselhof cemetery. He was a member of the “Activists” and studied at the University of Ghent. He also published previously unpublished work by avant-garde poet Paul Van Ostaijen after the latter’s death.

Fabula Rasa by Flemish writer Gaston Burssens is a collection of prose poems and random notes. It is inscribed by two mottos: “Rien n’est plus grave au monde que la bêtise” (Louis XIV) en “Rien n’est plus bête au monde que la gravité” (Stendhal).

The collection was first published by De Sikkel in 1945, and went by largely unnoticed, only appreciated by such writers as Louis Paul Boon. It was augmented and republished by de Bezige Bij in 1964.

Literary critic Paul de Wispelaere reviewed it in the chapter “De groteske wereld en de wereld van de groteske,” in his collection Het Perzische Tapijt (1966). In this essay de Wispelaere juxtaposes Fabula Rasa with the paraprose of Gust Gils, another Flemish writer who wrote in the tradition of the literary grotesque. Fabula Rasa’s Belgian-French counterpart is Plume by Henri Michaux.

While researching this post I also stumbled upon prose by Flanders’ cult poet par excellence Paul Van Ostaijen: De bende van de stronk (The stump gang, 1932, grotesques). I will want a copy of that.

Introducing Coyle and Sharpe

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFHxn_9aVq8]

The Warbler, 1963,  “man on the street” interview

Coyle and Sharpe was the name of American comic duo Jim Coyle and Mal Sharpe who appeared on television and radio during the early sixties, exhibiting their mastery of the “man on the street” interview, with humorous results.

Coyle and Sharpe began their comedy team in 1958 in a boarding house. In their official website Jim Coyle is described as a “benign conman who talked his way into 119 jobs by the time he was 25”. Mal Sharpe. At the time of their meeting, Mal Sharpe had just graduated college and was interested in the burgeoning scene that was happening in in the San Francisco area in that time.

In 1964, they were hired by radio station KGO in San Francisco to pull pranks, or as they jokingly referred to them, “Terrorizations”. The radio show was called “Coyle and Sharpe On The Loose”. Shortly after these broadcasts aired, they released two records: “The Absurd Imposters[1] and “The Insane Minds Of Coyle And Sharpe[2], which were released on the Warner Records.

The whereabouts of Jim Coyle are unkown, but in their website, a supposition is offered that he left the act to pursue a career in “tunneling” and that he died in 1993 burrowing under the city of Barcelona.

Mal Sharpe continued to do the “Man on the Street” interviews. In the year 2000, Sharpe hosted a centennial exhibit at the Whitney Museum, called “The American Century“. Coyle and Sharpe were featured in the Soundworks Exhibit for this presentation.

They have one record that re-presented their seminal comedy material in 2000 from Thirsty Ear, entitled Coyle And Sharpe-Audio Visionaries[3].

  • The Best of LCD: The Art and Writing of WFMU
  • RE/Search #11: Pranks!. RE/Search Publications, 1986.