originality and lost causes

December 3, 2017

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach – The Colossi of Memnon in a Sandstorm

“I’m glad you came,” said Chalmers. He was sitting by the window and his face was very pale. Two tall candles guttered at his elbow and cast a sickly amber light over his long nose and slightly receding chin. Chalmers would have nothing modern about his apartment. He had the soul of a mediæval ascetic, and he preferred illuminated manuscripts to automobiles, and leering stone gargoyles to radios and adding–machines.

As I crossed the room to the settee he had cleared for me I glanced at his desk and was surprised to discover that he had been studying the mathematical formulae of a celebrated contemporary physicist, and that he had covered many sheets of thin yellow paper with curious geometric designs.

“Einstein and John Dee are strange bedfellows,” I said as my gaze wandered from his mathematical charts to the sixty or seventy quaint books that comprised his strange little library. Plotinus and Emanuel Moscopulus, St. Thomas Aquinas and Frenicle de Bessy stood elbow to elbow in the somber ebony bookcase, and chairs, table and desk were littered with pamphlets about mediæval sorcery and witchcraft and black magic, and all of the valiant glamorous things that the modern world has repudiated.

Chalmers smiled engagingly, and passed me a Russian cigarette on a curiously carved tray. “We are just discovering now,” he said, “that the old alchemists and sorcerers were two–thirds right, and that your modern biologist and materialist is nine–tenths wrong.”

“You have always scoffed at modern science.” I said, a little impatiently.

“Only at scientific dogmatism,” he replied. “I have always been a rebel, a champion of originality and lost causes; that is why I have chosen to repudiate the conclusions of contemporary biologists.”

Frank Belknap Long
The Hounds of Tindalos
Weird Tales Volume 13 Issue 3

some writerly advice

November 17, 2017

When I was a young bookseller in Oxford, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Agatha Christie at All Souls College. She was very grand but all sweetness, and I plucked up the courage to look for some writerly advice, asking how she came up with such complex novels that tie together so neatly. She told me she wrote the books as normal, all the way through, before pausing at the penultimate chapter. She’d then work out who was the least likely character to have committed the crime and go back to fix a few train timetables, alter some relationships and make sure it all made sense, before proceeding to the end.

Brian Aldiss
Interview with Guy Kelly in The Telegraph 31st October 2015

moulded from this clay

November 13, 2017

Humans are new here. Above us, the galaxies dance out toward infinity. Under our feet is ancient earth. We are beautifully moulded from this clay. Yet the smallest stone is millions of years older than us. In your thoughts, the silent universe seeks echo.

Anam Cara
A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Perhaps that had been one of the ineradicable faults of mankind – for even a convinced atheist had to admit there were faults – that it was never content with a thing as a thing; it had to turn things into symbols of other things. A rainbow was never only a rainbow; a storm was a sign of celestial anger; and even from the puddingy earth came forth dark chthonian gods. What did it all mean? What an agnostic believed and what the willowy parson believed were not only irreconcilable systems of thought: they were equally valid systems of thought because, somewhere along the evolutionary line, man, developing this habit of thinking of symbols, had provided himself with more alternatives than he could manage. Animals moved in no such channel of imagination – they copulated and they ate; but the the saint, bread was a symbol of life, as the phallus was to the pagan. The animals themselves were pressed into symbolic service – and not only in the medieval bestiaries, by any means.

Such a usage was a distortion, although man seemed unable to ratiocinate without it. That had been the trouble right from the beginning. Perhaps it had even been the beginning, back among the first men that man could never get clearly defined (for the early men, being also symbols, had to be either lumbering brutes, or timid noble savages, or to undergo some other interpretation). Perhaps the first fire, the first tool, the first wheel, the first carving in a limestone cave, had each possessed a symbolic rather than a practical value, had each been pressed to serve distortion rather than reality. It was a sort of madness that had driven man from his humble sites on the edges of woods into towns and cities, into arts and wars, into religious crusades, into martyrdom and prostitution, into dyspepsia and fasting, into love and hatred, into this present cul-de-sac; it had all come about in pursuit of symbols. In the beginning was the symbol, and darkness was over the face of the Earth.

Brian W. Aldiss
Greybeard

hoplite

One Sunday I tuned into a radio programme called ‘Homer’s Landscapes’, written and presented by Adam Nicolson. In it, Nicolson examined the journey Odysseus made to Hades, where he must feed blood, honey and wine to the ghost of Tiresias, in order to restore to him the gift of speech. Only Tiresias can offer Odysseus the directions he needs to complete his homeward journey. According to Nicolson, it is as if the Greeks believed that the body and taste of these things were essential not only to life, but to language too. This is a metaphor for poetry itself – for any attempt to make absences or abstractions concrete. The ghosts need their blood and honey, otherwise they’ll remain silent shadows.

Matthew Clegg
Feeding the dead is necessary

Picking up threads of skin

November 5, 2017

strapon2

5th November

A grim September Monster gobbled me up and shat me out in this cold, inhospitable November. That’s how it feels at any rate.

Brexit apparently will lead this ‘green and pleasant land’ into the black chaos of Lovecraftian doom; but before that dire fate overtakes us we must witness many MPs laid low because of their rampant misogyny. So much knee touching in the corridors of power. It’s almost as bad as the newspaper industry – and that’s saying something!

But, of course, our Parliament is a fantasy. The bizarreness of the events there, while mirroring the society surrounding it, should not surprise – pederasty, incest, all the convolutions of lust, all the varieties of betrayal are there in those dark corridors of power. The poor innocent suffering ravishment in her office after drinky-poos with the boss will, we are assured, become a thing of the past. And the heart-numbing, brain-toppling solution to this serial fiddling will be provided by the people who couldn’t be trusted to sort their own expenses! Yes, that’s right. Our jolly old MPs.

I would respectfully suggest now, that any male Member of Parliament prone to an inflation of lust when in the presence of a female / male person, simply doesn’t go there. Instead they should adopt the masturbatory obsession of Alex Portnoy. It’s safer for all concerned:

“Through a world of matted handkerchiefs and crumpled Kleenex and stained pajamas, I moved my raw and swollen penis, perpetually in dread that my loathsomeness would be discovered by someone stealing upon me just as I was in the frenzy of dropping my load. Nevertheless, I was wholly incapable of keeping my paws from my dong once it started to climb up my belly. In the middle of class I would raise a hand to be excused, rush down the corridor to the lavatory, and with ten or fifteen savage strokes, beat off standing up into a urinal. At the Saturday afternoon movie I would leave my friends to go off to the candy machine – and wind up in a distant balcony seat, squirting my seed into the empty wrapper from a Mounds bar.”

(Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth)

You get the picture? We as a nation can put up with MPs who frenziedly whack off in a bathroom. But we cannot endure their perverse, self-absorbed obsession for unwanted knee feeling, groping and whatever else goes on after a couple of vodka martinis – abuse of position or power by these lechers and political vagabonds verges on the criminal, and should be stopped immediately.

Firing squad at the ready…

And today is Guy Fawkes day. We can set fire to our raggedy-arse, petrol-soaked Guy which bears an uncanny resemblance to Jeremy Corbin – but not by design. Originally it was modeled on that hero of democratic principle, Jean-Claude Junker. Somehow our Guy’s features morphed into those of JC – probably after his criticism of Nigella’s Turkish Eggs recipe on his ‘special’ Gogglebox show…?

“When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast – ”

Winston Churchill allegedly said this to king George VI. However, he probably never did – despite all the quotes on the internet and the posters produced by a hundred and one different companies attributing this statement to Churchill. Which makes it an example of Fake History, I guess…

#

Ideas abound. A wrecked, ravaged bed this morning. I see the shoulderblades of women, enjoy breakfast after lovemaking, Pepsi and Coke in the refrigerator, fresh brewed coffee on the table, freezing rain in the window. There exists a large lyrical love of the surface of this world within me –

But enough. I have work to do. A bed to make with clean sheets…

a superfluity of ghosts

November 3, 2017

A ghost in darkness Vietnam

I remember thinking (facetiously) that with all the dying done in Southeast Asia there must be a superfluity of ghosts in that region. I’d been over there a couple of times and knew that belief in ghosts was a given among the general populace, and I thought that there might be an Asian man of science who, motivated by this belief, would have sought to investigate the phenomena. And then, of course, I came up with the idea of an American ghost, a soldier in the Vietnamese war, as the subject of his investigation…

Lucius Shepard
Interview with The Weird

choose the form of a cat

October 29, 2017

cat alert

FAMILIARS: Familiars like to live in a small box of earth, a dusty pouch, or pocket. Are fed on milk, blood and bread. On Birthdays, they should be given a small crumb of the Host. Are often toads, but almost never frogs. Most often choose the form of cat or bird in preference to smaller creatures such as mice, rats, bugs, lice, which are susceptible to the careless handling of pesticides. Are inheritable.

Barbara Ninde Byfield
The Glass Harmonica: A Lexicon of the Fantastical

All Souls’ Night, 1917

October 21, 2017

You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath –
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.

Hortense King Flexner