Tag Archives: 2019

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.

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 Vladimir Bukovsky (1942 – 2019)

Vladimir Bukovsky was a Russian human rights activist and Soviet dissident.

The Soviet Story (2008), Bukovsky is the one with the bizarre shirt

I am a child of the Cold War and I can still remember where I was when the Berlin wall fell.

I used to be much more sympathetic to the left, growing older has made me lean more to the right. You know what they say:

“If at age 20 you are not a Communist then you have no heart. If at age 30 you are not a Capitalist then you have no brains.” […]

One of the greatest cognitive dissonances of the 20th century is the continuous attraction of communism, this dream of justice and equality (embodied by Sartre (Dirty Hands) , Che Guevara and the hippies) and the paradoxical contrast with the actual gruesome fiasco of the first communist system (and all subsequent communist systems). And yet, it’s not hard to see why communism, this Opium of the Intellectuals, holds such a powerful attraction at a time when the earth, a finite cake, is being greedily devoured which results in polluted air, polluted water and polluted nature, essential resources that should be common and free to everyone. That’s why I call myself a ‘commonist’ sometimes.

Back to the topic. The dissident Bukovsky, the man who wrote a pamphlet with the title Manual on Psychiatry for Dissidents (1974) at a time when thousands of dissidents were locked up in psychiatric hospitals all over the Soviet Union. This manual instructed potential victims of political psychiatry how to behave during interrogation to avoid being diagnosed as mentally ill

Bukovsky is interviewed prominently in the documentary film The Soviet Story (2008), featured on YouTube without subtitles for the parts in Russian language. The film has its flaws I’m sure, and it was financed by a right-leaning grouping of European political parties but it is nevertheless of interest.

There is for example the analysis by George Watson of the Völkerabfälle-episode and there is Françoise Thom‘s dictum that “nazism [is] an ideology based on false biology and communism is based on false sociology“.

RIP Nick Tosches (1949 – 2019)

Nick Tosches  was an American writer, music critic, biographer, a jack of all trades.

I admit that although he had had an entry on my encyclopedia since 2008, I didn’t really know Nick Tosches.

He seems to have been a bit of a drug head, as Burroughs had been before him.

He was into country music and rock, a bit of a rockist it would appear.

He died relatively young.

I give you “Erebos” [above], a spoken word track from Fuck The Living Fuck The Dead (2004).

RIP Harold ‘western canon’ Bloom (1930 – 2019)

Harold Bloom was an American literary critic.

Bloom interviewed by Charlie Rose on ‘The Western Canon’

He is perhaps best known for his book The Western Canon, to its supporters a work defending art for art’s sake, the absoluteness of aesthetic value and literary genius; to its detractors a defense of elitism and dead white males. This makes Bloom is a cultural critic in the tradition of Matthew Arnold who stated that “[culture is] the best that has been said and thought in the world” (Culture and Anarchy, 1869).

I discovered Bloom in the early 2000s in a period I was researching the nobrow concept.

His death has been a good occasion to dig into the university library and bring home The Western Canon and The Anxiety of Influence.

That last book has two remarkable poetic texts, “It Was a Great Marvel That He Was in the Father without Knowing Him” and “Reflections upon the Path“. That second page-length text I have been unable to identify.

The bulk of today’s research went to The Western Canon, it is arguably Bloom’s best-known work and it has had relevance outside of the lit crit world.

The notion of a canon has also recently shown itself the object of a political debate in Flanders, the region I live and where the right (NVA) has managed to include it into to the policy of the Jambon Government The opposition (the left) was against it. The culture war fought in our region is one akin to the clash of civilizations of Huntington, more specifically the west and how it tries to come to to terms with the renewed religiosity in the form of Islam.

That Bloom’s canonization of 26 authors was an apolitical process can be read on page 4:

“I am not concerned with . . . the current debate between the right-wing defenders of the Canon, who wish to preserve it for its supposed (and nonexistent) moral values, and the academic-journalistic network I have dubbed the School of Resentment, who wish to overthrow the Canon in order to advance their supposed (and nonexistent) programs for social change.”

If you’re not familiar with Bloom and what to catch up quickly, you may want to check the interviews Bloom gave to Charlie Rose.

Here [above] is one in which he makes a couple of amusing and astute observations on the western canon and its detractors:

“If multiculturalism meant Cervantes, then who could protest? [but] they are asking us to read extremely inadequate Chicano writers.”

and

“That ridiculous metaphor we now call ‘empowerment‘, which is cheerleading as far as I can tell.”

As can be deduced from these quotes, Bloom considered political correctness an enemy of the literary criticism trade.