Monthly Archives: August 2008

Most of the evening was spent on

Most of the evening was spent on researching JRMS interview[1] with Gilbert Alter-Gilbert:

Genealogy of the Cruel Tale by you.

Gilbert Albert-Gilbert’s Genealogy of the Cruel Tale from Bakunin v.6, 1997) [1]

and especially Gilbert‘s intriguing “Genealogy of the Cruel Tale[2] a perfect example of the kind of thematic literary criticism I’m rather fond of. The chart reminds of the aestheticization of violence and cruelty in general, of which Nietzsche said:

“One ought to learn anew about cruelty,” said Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil, 229), “and open one’s eyes. Almost everything that we call ‘higher culture‘ is based upon the spiritualizing and intensifying of cruelty….”

For your pleasure, here is the wikified version (information is scarce on the 20th century authors mentioned):


Genealogy of the Cruel Tale is a chart by American intellectual Gilbert Alter-Gilbert documenting the origins of the cruel tale, which begins etymologically with Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam‘s Contes cruels anthology and has content- and style-wise similarities with cult fiction and horror fiction, Dark Romanticism and the roman frénétique, black humor, transgressive fiction, grotesque literature and folk tales. Sholem Stein says that it is a continuation of the research done by Breton in Anthology of Black Humor. Texts such as Walter Scott‘s On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition, Lovecraft‘s Supernatural Horror in Literature, Mario Praz‘s Romantic Agony and Todorov’s The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre also come to mind. Notably absent is Sade.


Most of the afternoon has been spent on

Charles Nodier. Infernaliana. Ed. Belfond, Coll. Poche-club fantastique n°42, 1966.

Charles Nodier‘s Infernaliana

Most of the afternoon has been spent on literary lunatics and morosophy, inspired by researching Charles Nodier‘s Infernaliana[2], brought to my attention by Au carrefour étrange[3]. One encounters[4] the recently discovered but already inevitable JRMS[5] on the way. Do listen to the latter’s current Studio One muxtape[6].

Les Hétéroclites et les fous littéraires is the subtitle of issue IV of Pauvert's Bizarre (April 1956), is dedicated to literary lunatics.

I’m kind of happy that I managed to dug out the special issue Hétéroclites et fous littéraires[7][8] from Bizarre at L’Alamblog and particularly satisfied with my translation of the French-language Wikipedia article on “literary lunatics“:

Fous littéraires is a French term used to denote outsider writers who have failed to attract any recognition, not by the intellegentiae, not by the public, not by art critics, not by publishers (since they are largely self-published), and which treat subject matter considered – at least by those who qualify these writers as fous littéraires – as offbeat and amusing, without this being the intention of the author. A prime example in this category is Jean-Pierre Brisset, French author of Les dents, la bouche, a poem which is untranslatable due to its reliance on paronymy.

The study of literary fools starts in 1835 with a bibliography compiled by Charles Nodier (Bibliographie des fous : De quelques livres excentriques, published by Techener in 1835) and is continued in 1880 with Gustave Brunet (aka Philomneste Junior) in Les Fous littéraires, essai bibliographique sur la littérature excentrique, les illuminés, visionnaires, etc., published by Gay et Doucé in 1880.

In the 1930s, Raymond Queneau continues the projet by spending years of research at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, fruits of which include Les Enfants du limon[9] (1938) and the posthumously published Aux Confins des Ténèbres, les fous littéraires.

Oulipo's official photo, taken in 1975, Georges Perec occupies the eleventh position from the right (counting the head of André Blavier on the table).

Official Oulipo photo, André Blavier in cardboard cutout on table

In 1982 Henri Veyrier published Les Fous littéraires, a work of Belgian surrealist André Blavier[10], a continuation of his predecessors (and work he had published in Hétéroclites et fous littéraires in Bizarre of April 1956) with an augmentation by Malombra/Roger Langlais estate. This veritable encyclopedia features more than 1000 pages and 3000 reviewed “auteur“s. It features inventors of perpetual motion, theorists who claim the answer to squaring the circle, the inexistence of hell, universal languages, the structure of the universe, medicine, algebra or human sexuality.

In 2007, a group of French-language writers, found the IIREFL (Institut international de recherches et d’explorations sur les fous littéraires, hétéroclites, excentriques, irréguliers, outsiders, tapés, assimilés, sans oublier tous les autres…) or in English: International Institute for Research on Literary Lunatics, Outsiders, Weirdoes, Assimilated, say nothing of the others….

Proving that I do venture outside at times:


after Sherrie Levine, after Edward Weston

Taking photos of photos seems to be my thing. With my new camera, after Sherrie Levine, after Edward Weston, I took a picture of this polaroid[11] by Guy Bourdin (Bourdin used the pola in [12]) yesterday night (which was museum night) at the Antwerp fotomuseum. There are some more of my snapshots of Bourdin’s polaroids[13].


2008 art intervention at MuHKA

My friend and I also had our picture taken[14] at the Guillaume Bijl installation TV Quiz Decor[15]. We were chased away by a museum attendant, but I managed to soothe her saying it was an art intervention.

Man of a thousand prefaces dies

Francis Lacassin dies, reports De Papieren Man.

Judex by Franju

Edith Scob, at her father’s masked ball in Judex (Franju, 1963), sourced here[2]

Francis Lacassin, (November 18 1931 in Saint-Jean-de-Valériscle (Gard), FranceAugust 12, 2008, Paris), was a French journalist, publisher, writer, screenwriter and essayist.

From 1964 onwards he contributed to the literary magazine Bizarre, published by Jean-Jacques Pauvert. He wrote on fantastic literature and detective fiction for Magazine Littéraire, and contributed to l’Express and Point.

He was also the literary advisor for Christian Bourgois‘s 10/18 series.

Connoisseur of popular culture, he was instrumental in giving comic books (already more respectfully known as bandes dessinées in France), its respectability as the ninth art and was a contributor to the film magazine Midi Minuit Fantastique and a co-screenwriter to Franju‘s Judex.

He prepared and prefaced a great many reference works, author profiles or series, most notably at Éditions Robert Laffont where he supervised the series « Bouquins » since 1982 including Eugène Sue, Gustave Le Rouge, Maurice Leblanc, Fantômas, Lovecraft and Jack London.

He was nicknamed the “man of a thousand prefaces”.

Bertrand Russell’s bad breath and Wittgenstein’s repressed sexuality

The Words by Sartre

Les Mots by Sartre

I bought and read Eco’s On Ugliness last Christmas, and a couple of days ago, a Sartre quote collected in that book resurfaced. The quote was taken from Sartre’s autobiography The Words and considers the smells of his childhood; the pleasant odors of women and the unpleasant but more serious odors of men. And then the bad breath of his schoolmaster which Sartre relished as the odor of learning and virtue.

I decided to investigate and Googling for Sartre and bad breath brings up The Great Unwashed[1], an article by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty:

“…Russell had such bad breath that Lady Ottoline Morrell refused to sleep with him for a while. Sartre was disgustingly dirty, and Connolly, left bathroom detritus in the bottom of his host’s grandfather clock ”

Etymologically attributed to Edmund Burke, the great unwashed is a phrase used to denote the populace, particularly the working class.

But here Doniger refers to the book Intellectuals by Paul Johnson which investigates the personal lives of philosophers and authors such as Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Bertrand Russell, Sartre and Edmund Wilson, to name but a few.

Sartre, Connolly and Russell’s peculiarities remind me of toilet philosophy and embodied philosophies, but also calls into question the supposed gap between art and life (i.e. the space where Robert Rauschenberg liked to work) and the conflicting views of the New Critics and later the neoformalists who wish to excise all autobiographical details from philosophical arguments; vs the hermeneutic and Freudian approaches, which dare to augment the text with its paratext.

I am all for the latter interpretive methods (also because of the prevalence of the former in Anglo-American philosophy), a key factor in this conviction was Colin Wilson‘s reading of Wittgenstein‘s philosophy in The Outsider. Conventional sources will point you to the Heidegger / nazism debacle, but the Wittgenstein example is much more enlightening because Wilson links Wittgenstein’s homosexuality with his reluctance to speak the unspeakable and his eventual arrival at the maxim in the Tractatus:

“What can be said at all can be said clearly; and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”

This phrase rendered Wittgenstein famous but is due to his repressed sexuality argues Wilson via Bartley.

Bartley‘s comment [on Wittgenstein’s homosexuality] help us to understand Wittgenstein’s attitude to philosophy. Wittgenstein possessed the disposition that is often found in saints and ascetics: a powerful craving for meaning and purpose, and immense self-disgust at his own failure to find them. […] It was this sense of failure, of living on the brink of an abyss, that produced in Wittgenstein the craving for certainty that led him to create the philosophical system of the Tractatus.” —Colin Wilson via The Misfits


“[In the Tractatus], Wittgenstein was led to define truth as tautology – a mere repetition of the same meaning. […] Wittgenstein agrees that there is such a thing as religious truth and ethical truth. But he insists that it cannot be put into words, and that any philosopher who thinks he is talking about these great universal truths is merely deceiving himself. —Colin Wilson via The Misfits

Happy birthday Mr. Roeg

Nicolas Roeg turns 80 today. He made his best creative work before 1986. Castaway was his last great film and he made several world cinema classics.


White of the Eye by Donald Cammell

Instead of focusing on Roeg’s own output, I’d like you to have this[1] clip from White of the Eye by Roeg’s brother in arms Donald Cammell (Performance, (1968), Demon Seed (1977), White Of The Eye (1987) and Wild Side (1999)).

I haven’t seen White but based on the YouTube footage and Cammell’s genius I declare it WCC #57. It looks like a slasher film, it is a slasher film, but most of all, it is a Cammell film.

P. S. the clip above was posted by YouTube user Truegore[2], who hosts some other interesting clips such as Viy[3]. Viy is WCC #58.

Isaac Hayes (1942 -2008)


Isaac Hayes died a couple of hours ago. He was 65. His best known work was the soundtrack for the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft.

I give you his a cult disco track “I Can’t Turn Around” (1975, above), which led 10 years later to “Love Can’t Turn Around[1], something between a cover and a rip off of the original, but an altogether better track.

Hayes recorded the track for his Chocolate Chip album and it saw him embracing the disco sound with the title track and lead single. This would be Hayes’ last album to chart top 40 for many years.


“Love Can’t Turn Around” is WMC #64.

Here are two more of his cult favorites:


Isaac Hayes – Breakthrough


Isaac Hayes – Pursuit of The Pimpmobile

“Fellow Americans, we begin bombing in five minutes.”


24 years ago today, towards the end of the cold war, someone smuggled a recording of a voice test by then president Ronald Reagan to the outside world.

The soundbite is now commonly referred to as Reagan’s “We begin bombing in five minutes” joke[1] and ran like this:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

On hearing the news, a leading Parisian newspaper expressed its dismay, and stated that only trained psychologists could know whether Reagan’s remarks were “a statement of repressed desire or the exorcism of a dreaded phantom.”


Reagan’s gaffe was sampled soon afterwards, most notably in 1984 on the appropriately titledWorld Destruction[2] by Time Zone (Laswell, Bambaataa and Lydon) and by Bonzo Goes to Washington, a one-off studio project that released “5 Minutes”[3] (“chopped and channeled by Arthur Russel) in the same year. I have no audio for the latter.

For the vinyl vultures, “World Destruction” is on Celluloid Records, “5 minutes” on Sleeping Bag Records, both cult labels.

“World Destruction” is WMC # 63. Enjoy.

For the record: Reagan was a funny president[4], although he did come over as a religious lunatic when you hear him on his 1984 presidential campaign where he comments on armageddon and mutual assured destruction:

“the biblical prophecies of what would portend the coming of Armageddon and so forth, and the fact that a number of theologians for the last decade or more have believed that this was true, that the prophecies are coming together that portend that.” … “no one knows whether those prophecies mean that Armageddon is a thousand years away or day after tomorrow. So I have never seriously warned and said we must plan according to Armageddon.”

Introducing “Uncertain Times”


Cristo Redentor” by Donald Byrd

The omnologist anglophone blog Uncertain Times[3] brings American voice actor and spoken word artist Ken Nordine[4] to my attention[5], from there it is a small step to American Space Age musician Fred Katz (one-time soundtrack maker for Roger Corman[6]) and American sound artist and humorist Henry Jacobs[7]. From there we go to Donald Byrd‘s interpretation of Duke Pearson‘s “Cristo Redentor[8] via Harvey Mandel‘s 1968 version[9].

John J. McNulty, the author of “Uncertain Times”, calls himself an omnologist; omnology is a neologism by Howard Bloom, which he defines as:

If one omnologist is able to perceive the relationship between pop songs, ancient Egyptian graffiti, Shirley MacLaine‘s mysticism, neurobiology, and the origins of the cosmos, so be it. If another uses mathematics to probe traffic patterns, the behavior of insect colonies, and the manner in which galaxies cluster in swarms, wonderful. And if another uses introspection to uncover hidden passions and relate them to research in chemistry, anthropology, psychology, history, and the arts, she, too, has a treasured place on the wild frontiers of scientific truth-the terra incognita in the heartland of omnology. —Howard Bloom[10]

In this sense, omnology is very much related to my adagium on connections:

“Wanting connections, we found connections — always, everywhere, and between everything.” Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum.

Think intertextuality, interconnectedness, nexus, six degrees of separation and my favourite metaphor: the rhizome.

Cristo Redentor” is WMC #62.

Vertere and WMC #59, 60 and 61

Don’t Turn Around” (1970) by Black Ivory.

The other day, while I was explaining my interest in etymology (recently rekindled by buying and reading Giambattista Vico‘s The New Science) and the way I bring it to my students, I took the word vertere as an example. From vertere is derived transverse, diverse, perverse, universe, subversion, etc…

I studied Latin for four years in high school, but the above example is the way I would have liked to have studied Latin, with relevancy to current living languages. Start with the prefixes and suffixes and then the verbs.

Prompted by the word “turn” (as in vertere) I make Black Ivory‘s (one of Patrick Adams‘s earliest productions with vocals by Leroy Burgess) “Don’t Turn Around” World Music Classic # 59. All good things come in three, so I give you two more tracks (WMC #60 and 61) from the same period by Skull Snaps, “My Hangup Is You[1] and the super-breaky “It’s a New Day[2].

More Jahsonic YouTube faves are here[3].

Also, while researching these tunes, I found Wanda Robinson‘s [4], a WMC in the making?.