Category Archives: literature

RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919 – 2021)

A Coney Island of the Mind by you.

A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was an American poet and publisher, co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.

Ferlinghetti was best known for his first collection of poems, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958) with sales of more than one million copies.

As the owner of the City Lights bookstore, Ferlinghetti was arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl, which resulted in a lengthy First Amendment trial.

RIP Bernardo Bertolucci (1941 – 2018)

And now Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci dies, 13 years the junior of Roeg, also one of the big names of European cinema.

Last Tango in Paris (1972) was the first of his films I saw. I’m sure if I would see it again, it would bore me to death. In contrast, Performance (1970) by Roeg (see prev. post) has aged better. Both films are a testament to the sexual revolution.

The last of Bertolucci’s film that I saw was The Dreamers (2003). I remember liking it and I guess that likely hasn’t changed.

Luck has it that YouTube has an entire copy of The Spider’s Stratagem (1970). Like Performance of Roeg, it is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges.

I’ve never seen it, I’ll watch it now.

Let me end (because I can) with this beautiful juxtaposition only marginally linked to Bertolucci:

Update 27/11: The Spider’s Stratagem is actually a pretty good film: very Italian, surreal, Borgesian and Chirico-esque.

RIP Michel Lemoine (1922–2013)

I finished another ‘roman dur’ by Simenon, L’Enterrement de Monsieur Bouvet, one might say a rather unremarkable novel were it not for the fact that it makes one realize that it used to be possible to lead a double life, to disappear many times in one’s life and start all over again elsewhere without leaving a trace. And were it not of course that this is a Simenon ‘roman dur’ and this is the only ‘genre’ I currently enjoy, and have for a year or three.

 L'Univers de Simenon, sous la direction de Maurice Piron avec la collaboration de Michel Lemoine

L’Univers de Simenon, sous la direction de Maurice Piron avec la collaboration de Michel Lemoine

Wile researching this novel, I came across L’univers de Simenon : guide des romans et nouvelles (1931-1972) de Georges Simenon[1](1983) by Maurice Piron and Michel Lemoine. It’s hard to believe that Michel Lemoine is the same person as the cult actor and director of French cinema of which I will post a photo.

Michel Lemoine in I Pianeti contro di noi (1962) - Romano Ferrara

Michel Lemoine in I Pianeti contro di noi (1962) – Romano Ferrara

I intend to read every ‘roman dur’ by Simenon

'The Move' by Georges Simenon

‘The Move’ by Georges Simenon

The Move (1967) is a ‘roman dur’ by Belgian writer Georges Simenon.

I intend to read every roman dur by Simenon.

The Move is both a flawed novel and at the same time one of his more interesting ones due to its near total plotlessness and focus on psychological detail.

Its sub-theme is a criticism of the anonymity of modern high rise, the lack of social control, a side effect of living in the banlieue, in the same vein as Jacques Tati’s films Mon oncle (1958) and Playtime (1967).

Its protagonist is an unwilling eavesdropper.

Another of its themes is an exploration of dark sexuality, a recurring motif with Simenon, such as in Un nouveau dans la ville (1950).

Related: Dick Bruna covers of the ‘romans durs’.

RIP Tom Wolfe (1930 – 2018)

Tom Wolfe was an American author and journalist widely known for his association with New Journalism, a style of news writing and journalism developed in the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated literary techniques.

The Painted Word (1975)

From Bauhaus to Our House (1981)

His best-known works are The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff but of interest to me are his essays.

The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House (1981)

He wrote The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House (1981), both critical of  high modernism and avant-gardism to the extent that they have been connected to the death of the avant-garde meme.

RIP Adam Parfrey (1958 – 2018)

Adam Parfrey was an American writer, editor, and publisher whose work centered on unusual, extreme, or “forbidden” areas of knowledge. He is perhaps best known for Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989), which he co-edited with Bob Black.

Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989)

Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989)

Rants and Incendiary Tracts (1989, above) is an anthology of 56 pieces of invective in the style of An Anthology of Invective and Abuse (1929) by Hugh Kingsmill.

Thanks to the death of Adam, I watched The Hate That Hate Produced (1955, above)

By the way, can anyone illuminate me on the cover photo of Rants?

Of obfuscation and elucidation 

I finally hold a copy of Lequeu : An Architectural Enigma (1986) in my hand, a book on the oeuvre of French visionary architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

It is a strange mix of obfuscation and elucidation by its author Philippe Duboÿ.

It drew — among many other things — my attention to the satirical vignette against Bertrand Chaupy (above), an engraving better known as the “turd engraving by Piranesi.”

Regarding the obfuscation in this book, Robert Harbison says in The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable (1993):

“Recently the idea has infiltrated academic consciousness that the eighteenth-century crank Lequeu, one of the world’s fringiest paper architects, is really Marcel Duchamp inserting himself Trojan-horse-like into the musty tomes of the Bibliotheque Nationale, whiling away countless hours creating a large hollow space in which a few hundred pseudo-eighteenth-century beings can roost.”

See on elucidation and obfuscation the dictum by Cioran:  between the demand to be clear, and the temptation to be obscure, impossible to decide which deserves more respect.

RIP Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014)

I only now became aware that Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014) passed away. He was best-known for translating the work of Marquis de Sade and the novel Story of O.

It is of course the work of Marquis de Sade that interests us here. It so happens that one of the translations of Wainhouse, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings is freely available online. And the most interesting item in that collection is “Yet Another Effort“, perhaps the first piece of writing anyone who wishes to acquaint himself with de Sade should read.

Here is that link[1].

RIP André S. Labarthe (1931 – 2018)

André S. Labarthe was a French actor, film producer and director.

He starred alongside Anna Karina in the 1962 film Vivre sa vie and was a celebrated television documentary maker.

He directed the documentary Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997) and David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999).

Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997)

David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999)