RIP Clive James (1939 – 2019)

Clive James was an Australian-born author, satirist and critic working in the United Kingdom.

Clive James’s Postcard from… Los Angeles


I was introduced to his work in the 1990s when he presented tv series such as …on Television (1982-88) and Clive James’s Postcard from… (1989-95).

One of James’s ‘…On Televsion’ shows

His self-deprecating tone was priceless.

Querying my database, I found out James also expressed his political views. As early as 1969 he contributed “Wind Up Black Dwarfs” – a plea for realpolitik – to London OZ.

RIP Gahan Wilson (1930 – 2019)

In the United States, Gahan Wilson died. I saw his death announced on the Facebook page of Tim Lucas.

Gahan Wilson was an American author, cartoonist and illustrator.

The Sea was Wet as Wet Could Be” (1967).

I was unacquainted with the work of Wilson. Dave Letterman introduced him in the 1980s as the “guru of gruesome, wizard of the weird and the Michelangelo of the macabre.”

Me being European, Wilson reminds me of Tomi Ungerer (1931- 2019) or Roland Topor (1938-1997) and perhaps more of Topor, since like Topor, Wilson was not political.

Wilson’s appearance at David Letterman’s (March 30, 1982) when he published Is Nothing Sacred?.

Wilson is regarded as the only heir of Charles Addams (1912-1988) and often mentioned in one breath with Edward Gorey (1925-2000) .

The epithet ‘sick humor‘ sometimes pops up, although I have to disagree on this one, as, as a European, I am used to Hara Kiri, most likely the epitome of 20th century sick humor.

Since I found out about his death, I watched the “The Waitress” episode of The Kid (2001) and Wilson’s appearance at David Letterman’s (March 30, 1982) when he published Is Nothing Sacred?. I also listened to a reading of the wonderful story “The Sea was Wet as Wet Could Be” (1967).

“The Waitress” episode of The Kid (2001)

His cartoon “I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now…” is frequently cited as of his best work. In it, a non-suspecting man reading an optometrist’s ‘eye examination’ with the text cited is approached from behind by a knife wielding optometrist.

There are body horror elements in his work and the cartoon “Harry, I really think you ought to go to the doctor.”, in which Harry is a regular man with the head of a prawn, is positively Lovecraftian.

L'erotisme by Georges Bataille in the 10-18 edition

The ‘worries of pleasure’, or, the baseness of Western erotica vs. the exaltedness of Eastern erotica

This is the picture I referred to when in my previous post[1] I mentioned ‘something’ that kindled my interest in oriental erotica, perhaps for the first time.

It is the cover of the book Eroticism by French writer Georges Bataille as it is depicted in Onfray‘s book Le Souci des plaisirs which I bought during my recent visit to Pau and which I read last Thursday.

Bataille’s cover is illustrated with a photo of an Indian erotica masterpiece: a detail from the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, part of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.

When I was writing De geschiedenis van de erotiek I already speculated that the conception and experience of sexuality (and ergo erotica) in the east, cannot be that much different from ours in the west:

“In the West, there is an idea that the art of love in the East is more sophisticated than ours. Whether this is true, cannot be said with certainty. After all, what is sophisticated and how can we look into the bedrooms of countless couples who make love every night in the East? Do they make love like we do or is their business conducted in a more tantric way? Hard to ascertain, difficult to refute.” (Geerinck, 2011)

But Onfray seems to disagree and repeats trite clichés on the exaltedness of Eastern sexuality in ‘Le Souci des plaisirs’.

Onfray is right about one thing: the photo of the highly sexual Khajuraho Group of Monuments is totally out of place on the cover of Bataille’s book in the sense that Bataille’s Erotisicism is exclusively about western eroticism.

Bataille owes this to himself.

He should not have written:

“Numerous Indian temples solemnly remind us of the obscenity buried deep in our hearts.”

In the section “Les leçons de la couverture” (The lessons on book covers, pages 118-19) of ‘Le souci des plaisrs’, Onfray comments on this 10/18 edition of George Bataille’s L’Erotisme The subscript to the photo of the cover reads “Dieux et déesses hindous, couples mithunas et apsaras, temple de Kandarya construit sous Vidyadhara (1017-1029), Khajuraho, Madhya Prasesh, Inde.”

Onfray, surprised about the cover, asks rhetorically.

Obscenity? Really? Where?

He answers that obscenity seems to be a Western thing when he says that as far as the affirmation is concerned “that at the bottom of our hearts there is buried obscenity,” this probably holds true for Bataille and Sade and other “nihilists of the flesh”, but certainly not for the contemporary Indians of Khajuraho…” (“Sûrement pas pour les Indiens contemporains de Khajuraho…”)

So I wonder, is obscenity really a purely occidental thing, just as perversion? Is it a coincidence that sadism and masochism are two perversions of sexual love that first came to fruition in the west?

And what about Japan, notorious for its kinkiness?

Is Japan the exception that proves the rule?

Because if sadomasochism is typically Western, why is it to be found elevated to perfection in Japan, a country largely devoid of Christian influence?

Japan is usually regarded as part of the West, ever since its Samsung- and Sony-ization.

So is sexual perversion the dividing line in the East–West dichotomy?

Questions.

In search of the “breasts like two globes of ivory” citation

Yesterday, as I was browsing through my translation of The History of Erotica, because of my kindled interest in eastern erotica (brought about by Onfray’s book Le Souci des plaisirs (I’ll tell you about this later)), I fell upon the “breasts like two globes of ivory” citation which I had attributed to One Thousand and One Nights when writing my book. The only trouble, when I started googling, I could not find it in digital copies of One Thousand and One Nights, only in a Google Books copy of The Jewel in the Lotus.

Page 1 from "The Jewel in the Lotus"
Page 1 from “The Jewel in the Lotus”

Luck had it that the UA library has The Jewel in the Lotus in its collection so I got it today (13/11/19) and there it was, on page 1, “She hath breasts like two globes of ivory, like golden pomegranates ― beautifully upright, arched and rounded, firm as stone to the touch ― with nipples erect and outward jutting,” with a footnote sourcing it to Burton’s The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night.

Still, however hard I tried, I could not source it in that book.

But I read the entire Jewel book and here are some notes:

In the preface the The Jewel in the Lotus has “lucrative sinks of iniquity peopled by degenerate niggers,” without footnote, does it refer to Burton?

And on page 49, various descriptions of the female pudenda by Burton:

” When he beheld them stripped of their clothes, his chord stiffened for that looking at them mother-naked he saw what was between their thighs, and that of all kinds, soft and rounded, plump and cushioned ; large-lipped, perfect, redundant and ample, and their faces were as moons and their hair as night upon day”

“He cast a glance at the chief damsel and there was manifest to him what was between her thighs, a goodly rounded dome, like a bowl of silver or crystal.”

“parts softer than silk; white, plumply-rounded, protuberant, resembling for heat the hot room of the bath”

This being a work of sexual anthropology, it references many travelogue-like sources Such as Alexander Hamilton‘s New Account of the East Indies [1]:

“The Veyraugee, an austere type of Shivite holy man, is a sect of mendicant priests. An early traveler to India” thus described a Veyraugee: I have seen a fanciful Rascal, seven Foot high with a large Turband of his own Hair wreathed about his Head, and his Body bedaubed with Ashes and Water, sitting quite naked under the Shade of a Tree, with pudendum like an ass.”

Burton on harem castration on pp. 174-5, many of which I cannot find the source in Burton’s text:

“begged her to reveal her intent; and finally, after I was well secured, she said unto me: ‘I bear the intention of removing thy precious stones, the honours of thy yard. I must also apply the blade to thy pizzle.” –unsourced

“and I wept over myself for that I was become even as a woman, without manly tool like other men.” [2]

One of the most valuable bits of The Jewel is its bibliography, which shows some overlap with Ethnography : Castes and Tribes. Main sources are R. F. BurtonJean-Antoine Dubois (Hindu Manners), Paul LacroixKama Kalpa by P Thomas.

“The Turk ruled the Arab, for there thrived in him savage ambition. The Arab possessed subtle genius, but the Turk had keen emotional drive.”

Note:

“This pattern of temperament has certainly not changed, as witnessed by the current Middle Eastern crisis.”–p. 187″It was the starving negro hunting the elephant, the starving Arab hunting the Negro, and the ravenous Turk hunting the Arab to hunt the Negro.”, source: The Mahdi of AllahRichard. A. Bermann

The book mentions the braguette, and cites the Essays by Montaigne on this regard.

A few days later, it dawned upon me where I had found the “breasts like two globes of ivory” citation, it was in The Erotic Arts, there on page 84 is the famous quote. It refers to footnote 9 on page 444 which refers to Edwardes again.

But still, mysteriously, I cannot find it in Burton’s online texts.

Nine of the ten volumes of Burton's "One Thousand and One Nights"
Nine of the ten volumes of Burton’s “One Thousand and One Nights”

A few days later, I discover that my library has Burton’s translation in its collection, kept in the warehouse. I order it and when it came, surprise, nine volumes only, the tenth, which features the so-called “Terminal Essay” which I was most looking forward to, was not in the collection anymore, I imagine it stolen.

RIP Noel ‘abolish whiteness’ Ignatiev (1940 – 2019)

Noel Ignatiev was an American author and historian known for his radical views on whiteness.

He belongs to a category of extreme left-wing American professors to which also belongs Ward Churchill (“On the Justice of Roosting Chickens“).

These radicals came to my attention when I wrote a review of Whiteshift (2018) by Eric Kaufmann.

Googling for Noel Ignatiev does not bring up pages of left-wing political propaganda but pages of right-wing political propaganda. Of right wing white supremacists upset by what Ignatiev is saying.

Below is a transcript of a video of which you’ll find several copies on YouTube. It is a spliced video and I do not know where it was recorded nor who interviewed Ignatiev.

“My concern is doing away whiteness. Whiteness is a form of racial oppression, sure. The suggestion is that it is somehow possible to separate whiteness from oppression and it is not. There can be no white race without the phenomenon of white supremacy. If you abolish slavery you abolish slave holders. In the same way, if you abolish racial oppression you do away with whiteness, treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Interviewer: “Your views are fairly well received in academia” … “Yes the they are legitimate, not to say that everyone agrees but sure … I could not point to any examples where it has provoked political censorship … whiteness is an identity that arises entirely out of oppression … whiteness is not a culture … it’s not a religion, it’s not a language, it’s simply an oppressive social category …. Blackness is an identity that can be plausibly argued, black studies is a study of a people that has formed itself in resistance to its oppression. The task is to bring this minority together in such a way that it makes it impossible for the legacy of whiteness to continue to reproduce itself.”

I have not read books by Ignatiev but I do wonder how he would have gone about doing away with whiteness.

RIP Juliaan Lampens (1926 – 2019)

Juliaan Lampens was a Belgian architect whose name has become associated with brutalism.

Photo: detail of one of the Lampens facades. photo by Pirre Pluymers.
Photo: detail of one of the Lampens facades. Photo by Pirre Pluymers.

Brutalism is architecture which makes ostentative use of béton brut (French for raw concrete).

The aesthetic is the last phase in modernist architecture (before the advent of postmodern architecture) and it was heavily criticized by Charles, Prince of Wales, author of A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture (1989).

For lovers of the style, which includes myself, a big part of the attraction is that the imprint of the wood grain from the formwork of the concrete can be seen on the exterior concrete of brutalist structures.

Juliaan Lampens’s most famous building is the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kapel van Kerselare in Edelare, which I visited in 2014 and 2019.

They also bless new cars there.

RIP Darondo (1946 – 2013)

Darondo  was an American musician who released a couple of singles in the 1970s of which “Didn’t I” eventually became popular in the 2000s.

In view that his compositions never became hits, he was less than a one-hit wonder. However, the current upload of “Didn’t I”scored more than five million listens over the last five years.

Darondo’s voice has been described as a cross between Ronald Isley and Al Green.

In the paucity of his recorded material, he resembles Shuggie Otis and Sixto Rodriguez.

Somehow his death did not appear on my radar back in 2013. These however: Junior Murvin, Lou Reed, JJ Cale, Bobby Bland, Ray Manzarek, Vincent Montana, Jr., Kevin Ayers, Donald Byrd and Cecil Womack, did.