Monthly Archives: January 2007

The best library in the entire multiverse

Excellent post by fellow Belgian Borsky and ‘pataphysician on his book shopping trip to Paris. He got to visit Un Regard Moderne, which was closed last time I was there.

I found the bookstore ‘Mona Lisait’ (Mona did read) at rue Danton #6. All old unraid books from stocks. I discovered a real treasure in the basement: two numbers of ‘Bizarre’ in minted condition. Some people would commit a murder for those, published by one of two revolutionary editors in the french language: Jean-Jacques Pauvert (the other one is Swiss Eric Losfeld). This legendary magazine from the fifties was the soil from which many pataphysicians realized their life purpose. Surrealism, dadaism and a thick layer of serious humor, with special issues about strange literature, naive art, literature studies etc. made Bizarre [1], [2] a holy grail to me. I only owned one copy for which I had paid a lot ten years ago. Now I tripled my collection for just a few euros (the poor librarian had no idea what she sold me).

Apparently Bizarre magazine was started by Losfeld and then taken over by Pauvert in 1955. From the French Wikipedia: “Il reprendra à son compte en 1955 la revue Bizarre crée par Éric Losfeld. ”

Losfeld had only edited two issues when Pauvert took over:

Revue BIZARRE N° 02- ( Seconde série )- Thomas Owen, Jean Ray, Jean Mayoux, Michel Carrouges, Jean-Hugues Sainmont, Camille Renault, Jacques B. Brunius, Paul Gibson, Jacques Yonnet, Michel Morphy, René de Obaldia, Philippe Soupault, Nick Carter, Claude Ernoult, R. Chomet, G. Klein, Mayo, Agnese, Henri Bouché, Michel Bonno, Guy Jumeau Revue BIZARRE N° 02- ( Seconde série )- Ed. J.J. Pauvert, Octobre 1955. In 4°, br, 95 pp.+ 6 feuillets gris-vert, Rédacteur en chef : Michel Laclos- Au sommaire : Thomas Owen, Jean Ray, L’ insaisissable- Jean Mayoux, Les machines célibataires de Michel Carrouges ( Fin )- Jean-Hugues Sainmont, Camille Renault, créateur du monde ( Photographies )- Jacques B. Brunius et Paul Gibson, Un peu moins de bruit- Jacques Yonnet, Univers virgule cinq- Michel Morphy, Canaille en soutane- René de Obaldia, L’ Heure qu’ il est- Philippe Soupault, Mort de Nick Carter- Claude Ernoult, Science-Fiction et réthorique des idées- R. Chomet et G. Klein, Bestiaire ” Digest ” de la S.F.- Illustrations de Mayo, Agnese, Henri Bouché, Michel Bonno, Guy Jumeau, J.-H. Sainmont- Annonce page 53: Bizarre publiera dans ses prochains numéros J.-L. Borges- ( Note personnelle: ?- )- Très bon état- Une première série a paru auparavant, édité par Losfeld, avec seulement 2 numéros : Gaston Leroux N° I – Granville N° II- La seconde série est éditée par J.J.Pauvert (46 numéros )- —source

More on the dis/similarities between Pauvert and Losfeld:

Eric Losfeld, the original publisher of the work translated here (THE NUN (Count D’Irancy)) for the first time, was a horse of a different colour altogether. It’s difficult to say whether Losfeld and Pauvert were rivals exactly, since despite their beginnings in clandestine publishing, their approach to it was quite dissimilar. Sarane Alexandrian,who does see the pair as rivals, summed up the differences rather well: “Jean-Jacques Pauvert. a eu une carriere bien differente, mais non moins interresante. Losfeld fut un surrealist editeur, Pauvert un editeur du surrealism; voila ce qui les distingue.”

Losfeld gives a good indication of his surrealist approach to life early in his memoirs. When on his military service in the 1930’s, he writes to Adolf Hitler:

“Monsieur, Je suis un soldat belge qui s’ennuie dans une ville de garnison qui s’appelle Namur . Je vous en rends personnallement responsible. En consequence, j’ai l’honneur de vous declarer la guerre.”

There is no record of what reply, if any, was received from Berlin . —Patrick J. Kearney via here.

To conclude, some additional info on Pauvert’s publishing and extra Bizarre covers here.

Il me semble avoir une dette personnelle à l’égard de Jean-Jacques Pauvert, comme tous ceux à qui ses livres apportèrent autant de bouffées d’air frais dans un monde trop policé. Le temps où l’on ne pouvait lire Sade, Pauline Réage ou Bataille semble bien éloigné. Mais je ne peux m’empêcher d’avoir une affection particulière pour certains livres de ma bibliothèque où son nom apparaît : Hollywood Babylone de Kenneth Anger, la revue Bizarre, la première monographie de Clovis Trouille, et beaucoup de titres de la « Bibliothèque Internationale d’Erotologie » qui n’ont pas tout à fait perdu leur goût sulfureux : Les « enfers », Le vampire, Métaphysique du strip-tease, Mythologie du sein, Eros du dimanche…

Borsky also informs us that Robert Anton Wilson has died.

Dream-like states in films

“We experience the cinema in a state of double consciousness, an astonishing phenomenon where the illusion of reality is inseparable from the awareness that it is really an illusion.” —Edgar Morin on the film experience.

New article at Wikipedia on oneiric film theory.

In a film theory context, the term oneiric (which means “pertaining to dream“) is used to refer the depiction of dream-like states in films, or to the use of the metaphor of a dream or the dream-state to analyze a film. The connection between dreams and films has been long established; “The dream factory” “…has become a household expression for the film industry”[1]. The dream metaphor for film viewing is “one of the most persistent metaphors in both classical and modern film theory”[2], and it is used by film theorists using Freudian, non-Freudian, and semiotic analytical frameworks.

Filmmakers noted for their use of oneiric or dreamlike elements in their films include Luis Buñuel [3], Wojciech Has [4], Andrei Tarkovsky [5] , Lars von Trier [6] Krzysztof Kieslowski (e.g., The Double Life of Véronique from 1991) [7]and David Lynch (e.g., Mulholland Drive)[8]. Film genres or styles noted for their use of oneiric elements include 1940s and 1950s film noir and surrealist films; moreover, oneiric elements have also been noted in musicals, thriller and horror films and in comic films such as Marx Brothers movies [9]. The French surrealist playwright and director Antonin Artaud argued that the American burlesque genre, with its bizarre, lush, costumes, and its mixture of dancing girls, comedians, mime artists and striptease artists, has oneiric qualities[10]. —Source

I was very fond of the Ado Kyrou books

Eros in the Cinema (1966) – Raymond Durgnat [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In a 1977 interview Durgnat said about Kyrou: “I didn’t read very much film criticism until I started teaching film regularly around 1964! There wasn’t much to read. I was very fond of the Ado Kyrou books.” If Raymond Durgnat can be compared to some of the more exciting French film critics such as Ado Kyrou, his publishing house Calder and Boyars can be compared to that of Eric Losfeld’s. [Jan 2007]

Influences: There are various people whom I read with interest because, whether I agree with them or not, there’s a genuine person speaking from a calibre of experience, not an automatic scanning mechanism. I’m thinking of Pauline Kael, who I rarely agree with; of Robin Wood, who I sometimes agree with; of Manny Farber. And Parker Tyler. At the other extreme, I’m very interested in certain theorists, particularly Jean Mitry and Edgar Morin. –Raymond Durgnat in a 1977 interview.

Music is the essence of Romanticism

“Music is the essence of Romanticism,” says Colin Wilson in Private Passions interviewed by Michael Berkeley on BBC Radio 3’s about his taste in music. He adds that Nietzsche wanted to be a musician but then decided against it because it would have been too dangerous for him.

Via Stephen’s This Space who admits being a bit ashamed embarrassed of having read so much Wilson.

Some more quotes from this programme:

“You can’t put philosophical ideas into music, the only thing that interests me.”

“Ritual in the Dark is a novel about a sadist, and I used Prokofiev as a leitmotif because it was a dark piece of music.”

Some seventies films

El Topo (1970) – Alexandro Jodorowsky []

Performance (1970) – Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell []

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Stanley Kubrick

Deep Throat (1972) – Gerard Damiano []

Last Tango in Paris (1972) – Bernardo Bertolucci []

La Grande Bouffe (1973) – Marco Ferreri []

Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973) []

The Night Porter (1974) – Liliana Cavani

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Tobe Hooper [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Les Valseuses/Going Places (1974) Bertrand Blier []

Jaws (1975) – Steven Spielberg []

Je t’aime, moi non plus (1976) – Serge Gainsbourg

Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) – Nagisa Oshima []

Taxi Driver (1976) – Martin Scorsese []

Isabelle Adjani and Roman Polanski watching a kung fu film in Le Locataire
Le Locataire/The Tenant (1976) – Roman Polanski [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Eraserhead (1977) – David Lynch [Amazon UK]

Una Giornata particolare/A Special Day (1977) – Ettore Scola []

John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977) []

Interiors (1978) – Woody Allen []

Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) []

The Brood (1979)- David Cronenberg []

Buffet Froid (1979) – Bertrand Blier []

By year: 1970 film1971 film1972 film1973 film1974 film1975 film1976 film1977 film1978 film1979 film

Title pages: Performance (1970)Women In Love (1970)El Topo (1970)Five Easy Pieces (1970)Zabriskie Point (1970)A Clockwork Orange (1971)Straw Dogs (1971) – Last Tango in Paris (1972)Deep Throat (1972) La Grande Bouffe (1973) La Maîtresse (1973)The Night Porter (1974)Ilsa – She Wolf of the SS (1974)The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)Les Valseuses (1974)Jaws (1975)The Story of O (1975)The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)In the Realm of the Senses (1976)Taxi Driver (1976)Eraserhead (1977)Pretty Baby (1978)Caligula (1979)The Brood (1979)


Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Joycean, Ballardian, …

Unfutz on Auctorial descriptives

Kafkaesque, Phildickian, Hemingwayesque, Orwellian, Joycean, Shavian, Ballardian, Shakespearean, Dickensian, Jamesian, Faulknerian, Brechtian, Pinteresque, Mametesque, Lovecraftian, Tolkienesque (or Tolkienian), Proustian, Seussian.

Any others?

Yes, there is Bataillean and Bretonian, Pirandellian, Beatlesque, Sadean (not to mention sadistic), Borgesian, Bellmeresque, Byronic (an interesting one because of its -ic-suffix), Freudian and platonic.

Once an author has been ‘adjectivized’ he has become a stereotype. Nevertheless, it is the ultimate compliment and the surest sign of longevity.

Wikipedia has:

Auctorial descriptives are a series of adjectives based on authors’ names, such as Kafkaesque, Brechtian, Joycean, Orwellian, Pinteresque, Sadistic/Sadism, Machiavellian, and Draconian.


Knots of indecision

In search of the roots of counterculture

Frontispiece to William Blake‘s Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793), which contains Blake’s critique of Judeo-Christian values of marriage. Oothoon (centre) and Bromion (left), are chained together, as Bromion has raped Oothoon and she now carries his baby. Theotormon (right) and Oothoon are in love, but Theotormon is unable to act, considering her polluted, and ties himself into knots of indecision.

While the phrase “free love” is often associated with promiscuity in the popular imagination, especially in reference to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, there are plenty of historical antecedents.

In 1789, radical Swedenborgians published the Plan for a Free Community, in which they proposed the establishment of a society of sexual liberty, where slavery was abolished and the “European” and the “Negro” lived together in harmony. In the treatise, marriage is criticised as a form of political repression. The challenges to traditional morality and religion brought by the Age of Enlightenment and the emancipatory politics of the French Revolution created an environment where such ideas could flourish. A group of radical intellectuals in England (sometimes known as the English Jacobins) supported the French Revolution, abolitionism, feminism, and free love. Among them was William Blake, who explicitly compares the sexual oppression of marriage to slavery in works such as Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793).

Another member of the circle was pioneering English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft felt that women should not give up freedom and control of their sexuality, and thus didn’t marry partner Gilbert Imlay, despite the two having a child together. Though the relationship ended badly, due in part to the discovery of Imlay’s infidelity, Wollstonecraft’s belief in free love survived. She developed a relationship with early English anarchist William Godwin, who shared her free love ideals, and published on the subject throughout his life. However, the two did decide to marry. Their child, Mary took up with the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley at a young age. Percy also wrote in defence of free love (and vegetarianism) in the prose notes of Queen Mab (1813), in his essay On Love (c1815) and in the poem Epipsychidion (1821).

Sharing the free love ideals of the earlier social movements, as well as their feminism, pacifism and simple communal life, were the utopian socialist communities of early 19th century France and Britain, associated with writers and thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier in France and Robert Owen in England. Fourier, who coined the term feminism, argued that true freedom could only occur without masters, without the ethos of work, and without suppressing passions; the suppression of passions is not only destructive to the individual, but to society as a whole. He argued that all sexual expressions should be enjoyed as long as people are not abused, and that “affirming one’s difference” can actually enhance social integration. The Saint-Simonian feminist Pauline Roland took a free love stance against marriage, having four children in the 1830s, all of whom bore her name. —Wikipedia

Pure examples of ‘high’ or ‘low’ art

Litlove at Tales from the Reading Room on one of my favourite subjects, by way of John Carey, one of my favourite nobrow art and literature critics whose The Intellectuals and the Masses was one of the more enlightening reads of 2006:


I’m currently reading John Carey’s What Good Are The Arts?, a book designed to provoke all art-lovers into a steaming maelstrom of outrage. …

Carey will ultimately dismiss the distinction between high and low art as impossible to maintain, but I think we can do something better than that with it. First of all we have to stop seeing the categories of high and low as being mutually exclusive. Quite a lot of operas, for instance, will include elements of farce, or romance, or pantomime, just as a television cartoon ostensibly for children, like The Simpsons, is a fantastic example of relentlessly subversive, parodic, allusive elements disguised under a sugary outer coating. So it’s incredibly rare, in my opinion, to come across a pure example of ‘high’ or ‘low’ art. What we get is far more complex and mixed up than that. The way I would distinguish between those high and low elements, is to see ‘low’ or commercial or mass media art as being formulated in order to satisfy the desires and expectations of its audience. Take Mills and Boon/Harlequin romance books, for instance. … The whole point of these books is that they comfort and reassure readers by providing them with exactly what they want. By comparison, we might define those ‘high’ elements of art as the ones that challenge or question our expectations, whether they be about the world we live in, or the way that an artwork ‘ought’ to be put together […]

I like litlove’s analysis of what makes the difference between high and low culture:

  • Low art comforts, satisfies and reassures audiences’ expectations
  • High art challenges and questions audiences’ expectations

But I disagree with the statement “it’s incredibly rare to come across a pure example of ‘high’ or ‘low’ art.” I believe that the overwhelming majority of cultural artifacts lack this ambiguity, unresolvedness and ambivalence; this simultaneous jarring and soothing I desire so. Coming back to the proposed low art/high art definitions, the keywords are audience and expectations, but also — from the perspective of the author — demanding (of the audience), which reminds me somewhat of Walter Benjamin’s assessment:

The masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator. –WAAMR, Walter Benjamin, 1936

The keyword in Benjamin’s quote is demanding:

As I wrote in the introduction of my Literature/literature page:

Literature is a term (­like taste, culture, quality and style) that carries its own value judgement: Literature (with capital L, also called literary fiction) is associated with serious, complex, difficult and demanding works like Modernist literature (e.g. James Joyce) and experimental novels (e.g. Nouveau Roman).

On the other side of the spectrum are popular fiction and genre fiction, which are perceived as easy, accessible and of low literary merit. aims to show that good works can be found in high and low literary genres, and the more interesting works are to be found where high and low intersect (Cervantes, Stephen King, Simenon, Georges Bataille, …). [Oct 2005]


Litlove’s invoking of romantic fiction also reminds me of a recent post by TeachMeTonight who is teaching a romance fiction class and who demonstrates that there is still a divide between literary fiction and genre fiction and thus between low and high culture:

This quarter at DePaul I’m teaching a brand new class on popular romance fiction. … In a curiously appropriate twist, my course competes for students this quarter with another Senior Seminar for majors: a course on James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s as though my colleague Jim and I had agreed to divide the literary world between us, with one course focused on what is perhaps the most highly-regarded novel of the 20th century (indeed, the book voted “best novel of the century” a few years back) and the other devoted to the most popular genre of the 20th century. By some odd coincidence, the students in my course are all women. I guess the boys have better things to do. […]

A final post by which divides cultural critics in those who defend and reject high/low culture:

Be it resolved:

that commercial culture is compromised culture


F.R. and Q.D. Leavis
Robert and Helen Lynd
Richard Hoggart
Helmut Minow
John Berger
Christopher Lasch
Neil Postman
Noam Chomsky
Hilton Kramer
Stuart Ewen
Christopher Lasch
Thomas Frank
Benjamin Barber


Lloyd Warner
Herbert Gans
John Carey
John Docker
Warren Susman
H.S. Bhabra
Robert Thompson
Tyler Cowen
Charles Paul Freund

See also: culture war‘high culture’‘low culture’



I was advised on all hands not to write this book

Oscar Wilde

I was advised on all hands not to write this book, and some English friends who have read it urge me not to publish it.

“You will be accused of selecting the subject,” they say, “because sexual viciousness appeals to you, and your method of treatment lays you open to attack.

“You criticise and condemn the English conception of justice, and English legal methods: you even question the impartiality of English judges, and throw an unpleasant light on English juries and the English public—all of which is not only unpopular but will convince the unthinking that you are a presumptuous, or at least an outlandish, person with too good a conceit of himself and altogether too free a tongue.”

I should be more than human or less if these arguments did not give me pause. I would do nothing willingly to alienate the few who are still friendly to me. But the motives driving me are too strong for such personal considerations. — from the introduction to Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions (1916) – Frank Harris

The publishing houses of Western counterculture

Last August I asked whether anyone knew of the German and British equivalents of Eric Losfeld’s Éditions Le Terrain Vague, an editing house I admire for its readiness to publish works of ‘high art’, works of political subversion and the works of erotic avant-garde which accompanied the post-war European sexual revolution. Thanks to the comments by Andrej Maltar I have been able to fill in these gaps. If anyone else knows of other publishing houses that played this role in the rest of Europe (Spain, Italy, the former Eastern Bloc or the Scandinavian countries), please let me know. Below is a little write-up on Jörg Schröder:

Typical cover of März-Verlag with their distinctive look – yellow with thick black and red types. März-Verlag is the German equivalent of similar Western publishing houses such as Eric Losfeld’s Éditions Le Terrain Vague, American Grove Press and Great Britain’s John Calder’s various publishing houses. März-Verlag was run by Jörg Schröder, who published Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Castaneda, Leonard Cohen, Robert Crumb, Fassbinder, John Giorno, Gerhard Malanga, Kenneth Patchen and J. G. Ballard. Jörg Schröder was also the german publisher of Histoire d’O and he ran the German branch of Girodias’s Olympia Press.

More publishers of interest:
Dalkey Archive PressAtlas PressSylvia BeachCreation BooksEdmund CurllLawrence FerlinghettiMaurice GirodiasGlittering ImagesGrove PressEric LosfeldHeadpressNew DirectionsObelisk PressOlympia PressJean-Jacques PauvertRE/Search publications (V.Vale and A. Juno)Barney RossetTaschen