Gahan Wilson was an American author, cartoonist and illustrator.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: