Category Archives: genre

Synchronicity and Drs. P

Synchronicity and Drs. P

De veerpont (‘Heen en weer…’), one of the better-known songs of Drs. P.

We zijn hier aan de oever van een machtige rivier
De andere oever is daarginds, en deze hier is hier
De oever waar we niet zijn noemen wij de overkant
Die wordt dan deze kant zodra we daar zijn aangeland
En dit heet dan de overkant, onthoudt u dat dus goed
Want dit is van belang als u oversteken moet
Dat zou nog best eens kunnen, want er is hier veel verkeer
En daarom vaar ik steeds maar vice versa heen en weer

English rough translation, see untranslatability

We are here at the shore of a mighty river
The other shore is over there, and this one is over here
The shore where we are not is called the other side
Which will become this side as soon as we land there
And this then we call the other side, please remember well
This is important if you want to cross
And that is very possible, there’s lots of traffic here
And that is why I cross the river vice versa “to and fro”

When I was 23, I spent six months with my wife in Shanghai at Fudan University. Among the numerous great things that happened when I was there was meeting André.

André was one of a kind and we hit it off immediately. He had I believe only just finished high school and was 18 or 19 at the time. He was smart and creative, had theories on dancing (“when I dance, it’s all in the face”) and one on synchronicity which has stayed with me all this time. He was convinced that there was a Chinese equivalent to every American actor, and was thus constantly on the look-out for the Chinese Woody Allen.

Whether he found him or not, I don’t know, and – sadly – I also lost track of André. My wife and I were supposed to stay in Shanghai for a year but we left after six months, just before the Tank Man incident. I was young and when André and I parted ways I did not exchange addresses with him, thinking that if I was supposed to meet him again it would surely happen.

You probably ask yourself, what does this have to do with the Youtube clip above by Drs. P? Well, every country has a couple of artists, musicians or writers which are one-of-a-kind (sui generis). Drs. P is one of those people, he is a genius and cannot be compared to anyone within the Dutchophone area of Europe I live in.

However, I am convinced that every country in the world has its Drs. P. There must be one in Spain, New Zealand or the United States. Drs. P.’s sensibilities (word play, absurdism, playful narrativity, humor) must be synchronously present in every country in the world.

The question is for you dear reader, who is your country’s Drs. P. Or who is your country’s Woody Allen?

Eye candy #3

Moord in het Nudistenkamp

Moord in het Nudistenkamp (Eng: Murder at the Nudist Camp)

Honey West is a fictional character created by Gloria and Forest Fickling under the pseudonym “G.G. Fickling” and appearing in numerous mystery novels by the duo.

The character is notable as being one of the first female private detectives in popular fiction. She first appeared in the 1957 book This Girl for Hire and would appear in 10 novels before being retired in 1971. The character was also the basis for the short-lived TV series Honey West in the 1960s.

More Honey West here, from a fine collection of Dutch translations of detective novels. Probably the paratext (in this case the cover illustration) is better than the text itself.

Previously on Eye Candy.

No index

Report obscene mail to your postmaster[1].

To Gershon Legman, what would his blog have been like?

Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor (1968) – G Legman
[FR] [DE] [UK]

My copy of Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke arrived in the mail today, I had ordered it somewhat “by accident” after finding out about Neurotica magazine (a magazine Legman was involved with in the 1950s) via Scott McLemee’s new blog Quick Study. My first impressions are: no index (I have a British edition of 1969, but I do not believe it is present in the American edition either) but also no bibliography, of which my version says it is available in the American edition.

One of the first things I check in a non-fiction book is the TOC — I’m always interested in a good ontology — Legman in this case confirms that he essentially relied on the ontological model Freud first set forth in Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious(1905).

I read about 13 pages in this 700+ page book and found it clear and amusing. There were favorable references to Games People Play , Children’s Humor : a Psychological Analysis (1954) by Martha Wolfenstein (who was analyzed by the art historian and lay analyst Ernst Kris) and The Mask of Sanity (1941) by Hervey Cleckley.

Only now do I find out that Taschen and Simon & Schuster have reprinted Rationale. Maybe they have an index?

Simon & Schuster reprint

[] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Links: Freud’s Legacy by Richard Webster.

See also: Our society allows infinite aggressions

Easy access to id material without being overwhelmed by it …

‘Groovy Age of Horror Curt”s third post in a series Horror, High and Low on the merits and theory of genre fiction comes just in time as he is about to delve into the depths of Nazi exploitation fiction in a series he announces as The Nazis Are Coming. Needless to say, I am a bit of a fan of this guilty pleasure genre myself and I am happy that he introduces this chapter (other chapters have included vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein, nurses) with the cautionary words: as long as it firmly remains fantasy.

“I hope this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I, a hardcore liberal, no more endorse Nazism politically than I, a hardcore atheist/naturalist, endorse belief in the supernatural elements in the horror novels I review here. Nazis are bad for real life, but they obviously resonate powerfully in the imagination as embodiments of evil, sadism, and power. Like so much else, they’re good for fantasy–as long as it firmly remains fantasy. “

The emphasis on fantasy reminds me of the cathartic theories on gruesome fiction and the aestheticization of violence that were en vogue in the sixties and seventies.

Contrary to the cathartic theory, Curt’s current piece recognizes — by way of the theories of Ernst Kris, presumably from Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art (1952) — the possibility of being overwhelmed by id material, of not being able to distinguish the line between fact and fiction. This shines a particular light on media effects studies where for several decades, discussion of popular media was frequently dominated by the debate about ‘media effects’, in particular the link between mediated violence and real-life aggression.

An excerpt:

A more mature critical attitude, one that has made that reconnection, rather manifests a healthy flexibility described by Ernst Kris as,

The capacity of gaining easy access to id material without being overwhelmed by it, of retaining control over the primary process [i.e., while indulging it], and, perhaps specifically, the capability of making rapid or at least appropriately rapid shifts in levels of psychic function . . .

I think this truly positive account of genre fiction is what’s needed to put Jahsonic’s “nobrow” position on its firmest footing. I’m no more interested in Danielle Steele than Jan is, but now we’re in a position to say something about her–at least to the extent that we’re in a position to say something about genre fiction in general. Likewise, when Jan likens exclusively highbrow critics to someone who “only know[s] two colors, let’s say green and blue,” we’re now in a position to complete that metaphor by filling in the blanks of what the other colors represent that are missing from that palette–the warm colors, appropriately enough! —source

On a more personal note, Curt’s post above is the most articulate response so far since I started posting in the nobrow category. Curt’s blog Groovy Age has reinforced my position that one can only come to the nobrow if you know both ‘brows’.

Groovy Age is the only horror blog I read precisely because it knows its way around in ‘high theory’, referencing Freud and Ernst Kris. Fortunately Curt’s high theory does not detract from the sheer fun and excitement that oozes from its pages. I am already on the lookout for his 2008 nunsploitation chapter.

For the Italian aesthetician Benedetto Croce

Under construction: trying to align some random thoughts regarding genre theory and how much difference and repetition we need in our lives.

“For the Italian aesthetician Benedetto Croce (1866-1952), an artistic work was always unique and there could be no artistic genres.” quotes Daniel Chandler in his excellent An Introduction to Genre Theory. I’ve always opposed this take on genre theory because I have a hard time with modernist concepts such as authenticity, the cult of originality, the great man theory and the resistance of things to be generalized. I like generalizations. I am a lumper, more than a splitter.

Last week however, I went through a small film experience that was analogous to blind wine tasting, which re-balanced my perception of genre theory. I saw the trailer to David Lynch’s new film INLAND EMPIRE without expecting it because I was in a mainstream cinema. As I thought to myself …. this is something special, I came to realize that this was Lynch. And it dawned on me that Lynch’s work does not belong to a genre but is unique or sui generis (of its own kind).

Other examples of genre-defying artists abound: take someone like mannerist painter Arcimboldo, reggae musician Lee Perry, novelist Céline, filmmaker Jacques Tati and most if not all eccentric artists.

Quotes sustaining the lumper view:

“It can be argued that all novels, no matter how “literary”, also fall within the bounds of one or more genres. Thus Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a romance; Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a psychological thriller; and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a coming-of-age story. These novels would usually be stocked in the general or possibly the classics section of a bookstore. Indeed, many works now regarded as literary classics were originally written as genre novels.”

Quotes sustaining the splitter view:

“There is no great work of art which does not convey a new message to humanity; there is no great artist who fails in this respect. This is the code of honor of all the great in art, and consequently in all great works of the great we will find that newness which never perishes, whether it be of Josquin des Pres, of Bach or Haydn, or of any other great master. Because: Art means New Art” — Arnold Schoenberg

So I’m thinking about this interplay between genre on the one hand and uniqueness on the other. Has David Lynch’s uniqueness inspired a new genre or will his style of filmmaking die with him? What can be said about the cinema of Lynch? Where does one draw the line between the history of art and the sociology of art? Is there any way to develop a genre theory which includes both strains?

I thought of the concepts used by Ken Wilber (derived from Koestler) holon and holarchy and the concepts used by Deleuze difference and repetition. Also, Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblance and the species problem, an analogy from biology ……………..

A terrifying, fabricated documentary

The War Game (1965) – Peter Watkins [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

“A terrifying, fabricated documentary records the horrors of a future atomic war in the most painstaking, sickening detail. Photographed in London, it shows the flash bums and firestorms, the impossibility of defence, the destruction of all life. Produced by the BBC, the film was promptly banned and became world-famous and rarely seen.” —Amos Vogel, 1974

Phinn has just published a post on this film with links to the film on Youtube. I like the category pseudo-documentary –also called mockumentaries or quasi-documentaries — to which also belong such diverse genres as white coaters and cinéma vérité. Girish recently did a post on them, but this category was not included in it.

From Phinn:

The War Game Part 1 (of 5)

  • Part 2 (of 5)
  • Part 3 (of 5)
  • Part 4 (of 5)
  • Part 5 (of 5)
  • A great deal of highfalutin American and European writers left little or no impression on him

    Borges largely preferred genre fiction to literary fiction:

    André Maurois … wrote, “His sources are innumerable and unexpected. Borges had read everything, and especially what nobody reads anymore[emphasis mine]: the Kabalists, the Alexandrine Greeks, medieval philosophers. His erudition is not profound — he asks of it only flashes of lightning and ideas — but it is vast.” Maurois was mostly correct; Borges read everything, but there was a lot he didn’t finish, including “The Brothers Karamazov,” “Madame Bovary,” Proust and Thomas Mann. A great deal of highfalutin American and European writers left little or no impression on him (the major exception being the French symbolist poets, especially Paul Valéry). The last great modernist of 20th century literature drew his primary inspiration not from other modernists but from styles and modes of literature (fables, folk tales, ancient epics) that had become proud words on dusty shelves and from writers of prose and poetry such as H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesterton (particularly the Father Brown mysteries), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Irish fabulist Lord Dunsany, and Argentine “gaucho” poets, writers who, for one reason or another, Western literature had relegated to the twilight realm of the praised but unread. He preferred genre literature to the deep-dish classics. –“Borges: A Life” by Edwin Williamson via [Jan 2007]

    Underground canon

    Underground U.S.A. (2002) – Xavier Mendik, Steven Jay Schneider
    [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Whether defined by the carnivalesque excesses of Troma studios (The Toxic Avenger), the arthouse erotica of Radley Metzger and Doris Wishman, or the narrative experimentations of Abel Ferrara, Melvin Van Peebles, Jack Smith, or Harmony Korine, underground cinema has achieved an important position within American film culture. Often defined as “cult” and “exploitation” or “alternative” and “independent,” the American underground retains separate strategies of production and exhibition from the cinematic mainstream, while its sexual and cinematic representations differ from the traditionally conservative structures of the Hollywood system. Underground U.S.A. offers a fascinating overview of this area of maverick moviemaking by considering the links between the experimental and exploitative traditions of the American underground.

    I would recommend readers to pay particular attention to those articles [in Underground U.SA. by Steven Jay Schneider] that take issue with the representation of sexuality and graphic nudity in the underground canon such as [Elena] Gorfinkel’s work on taste and aesthetic distinction, Sargeant’s research on voyeurism and sadistic transgression and Michael J. Bowen’s work on the violent eroticism of what he terms the ‘roughie’. The work on the sexploitation film is interesting in terms of a discussion of taste formations and cultural distinctions, but more importantly (in terms of the aim of this book), the sexploitation film is interesting due to the fact that such films provide a ‘shadow history to cultural and social events’ of particular historical periods. —Rebecca Feasey, Scope

    And a Richard Armstrong review at Flickhead.

    Low, middle and high culture

    Popular Culture and High Culture: an Analysis and Evaluation of Taste (1974) – Herbert J. Gans [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    With all this talk on nobrow, low and high culture, maybe it’s time to define the concepts of these cultures a little better. The best effort so far defining low and high culture is the following schema by American sociologist Herbert J. Gans from his 1974 book Popular Culture and High Culture: an Analysis and Evaluation of Taste.

    High culture

    • Interest in creative process and symbolism
    • Preference for experimentation
    • Introspection preferred to action
    • Accepts different levels of meaning
    • Expects consideration of philosophical, psychological and social issues

    Upper middle culture

    • A less literary verbal culture
    • Figurative and narrative art preferred, especially if illustrative of individual achievement or upward mobility
    • Enjoys nineteenth-century art and opera, but not early music or contemporary art

    Lower middle culture

    • Form must unambiguously express meaning
    • Demands conclusions
    • Unresolvable conflicts not made explicit
    • Interested in performers, not writers or directors
    • Influenced by word-of-mouth judgement

    Low culture

    • No concern with abstract ideas: form must be entirely subservient to content
    • Demands crude morality with dramatic demarcations, but usually limited to family or individual problems
    • Performer is paramount: enjoys vicarious contact with ‘stars’
    • Considers ornateness attractive

    –Schema adapted from Herbert J. Gans (1974) by Stephen Bayley (1991)

    See also: culturehighlow

    Stephen King and Eugène Sue

    My previous post which mentions Eugène Sue got me thinking about Stephen King. Sue was one of the most popular novelists of the 19th century, yet he is now forgotten. King is one of the more popular novelists of the 20th century (according to the Index Translationum he is currently the 10th most popular novelist). Will his work be forgotten 100 years from now? Googling for “Stephen King” and “Eugéne Sue” brings up this quote on the best literature site on the net: Kirjasto:

    Thomas M. Disch has noted that “readers of such current melodramatists as Stephen King or Anne Rice ought to be highly receptive to Sue’s grand excesses” (Horror: The 100 Best Books, ed. by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, 1988). — [Dec 2006]

    Even if Anne Rice or Stephen King are forgotten in 100 years, horror fiction does not need ‘great‘ writers to survive. Horror is perpetually re-written. Horror and sex are at the center of the death-of-the-author-theories. Just as Faust was a reproduction of Don Juan, the writings of King and Rice are reproductions of The Mysteries of Paris and Dracula. Such is the nature of intertextualness. What some people perceive to be “great literature” is often no more than fanboyism and fashion. [Dec 2006]

    P. S. Doing the same search “Stephen King” and “Eugéne Sue” brings up Dumas and John Grisham. The context is the serial novel as it was published in two Parisian cheap, advertising-based newspapers in 1830s France: La Presse and Le Siècle. “There was serious money to be made: the papers would pay up to 100,000 francs for the exclusive rights to a novel by a top-ranking author. The most popular and highly regarded of these were not necessarily writers who have held on to their places in the literary Pantheon: who now reads (or has even heard of) Frédéric Soulié or Eugène Sue?”