The Weird (2012) – [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
I’m into weird stuff and anthologies. So I’m happy with the new book The Weird, dedicated to 20th century literature in the category weird fiction, a book I discovered while researching Dino Buzzati (check out this  and this ). It was put together by Jeff VanderMeer and his wife Ann.
‘Axolotl’ by LoKiLeCh
Yes, there is a but.
The cover of this anthology is ugly beyond belief.
Beyond belief is perhaps putting it too strongly and I don’t like negative criticism without at least providing an alternative.
So why not have put an axolotl on the cover? A good choice since there is also a short story by my favourite author Julio Cortázar in the anthology titled “Axolotl” and the axolotl is a creature like the star-nosed mole and the baby armadillo by Dora Maar which belongs in the category ‘fantastique naturel‘ and the fantastique is the natural precursor of weird fiction.
Courtship in the edible snail, Helix pomatia (Photo by Jangle1969)
Having recently seen the documentary film Microcosmos (to be viewed in its entirety on Vimeo here), I’d like to share these two pictures of snails mating.
These images are instances of zoological horror or the zoological fantastique, depending on your view.
Mating garden snails (Photo by Carla Isabel Ribeiro)
Both horror and the fantastique are just as much rooted in fascination as in revulsion, ergo in ambiguity of emotions. And what could be more ambivalent and cause more ‘mixed feelings’ than slimy slugs and snails ‘getting it on’, an act which may involve hermaphroditism, firing love darts (a source of the Cupid myth, state some sources), apophallation (gnawing at stuck penises) and even sexual cannibalism?
Of course, the attentive reader will have noticed that in the photo of ‘Courtship in the edible snail, Helix pomatia’ the soft bodies of the snails look exactly like the labia majora of an adult female human mammal.
It needs not to be said that the whole field of animal sexuality is highly fascinating and has been represented in art not often enough. Apart from Microcosmos, there has been Green Porno and the magnificent films of Jean Painlevé (Acera, or the Witches’ Dance comes to mind).
Posted in aesthetics, eroticism, fantastique, grotesque, horror, life, nature, visual culture
Tagged fantastique, gastropoda, grotesque, sex life
RIP Jacques Sadoul, 78, French writer and book editor, working in the so-called ‘mauvais genres‘.
Illustration: Cover of Les Filles de Papier, 1971. Ed. Elvifrance. The title translates literally as Paper Girls, meaning, Girls in Comic Books.
See portrayal of women in comics, French fantastique, French science fiction.
Detail of Last Judgment fragment
Of all the works I re-examined while reading Hans Holländer‘s Hieronymus Bosch: Weltbilder und Traumwerk, the detail of The Last Judgment (Bosch triptych fragment) is the one that caught my attention most. Just look at this delightful brightly coloured critter!
Ultimately, I find it very satisfying that nothing of the work of Bosch can be said with certainty.
So: in praise of uncertainty!
Posted in absurd, aesthetics, art, culture, fantastique, grotesque, irrationalism, Northern Renaissance, surrealism, visual culture
Tagged Bosch, grotesque
The Seven Deadly Sins (2011) is a video animation by Belgian artist Antoine Roegiers based on The Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Vices by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Bruegel is the best-known Bosch follower and Karel van Mander called him “Pieter the Droll” in his Schilder-boeck:
- “Oock sietmen weynigh stucken van hem, die een aenschouwer wijslijck sonder lacchen can aensien, ja hoe stuer wijnbrouwigh en statigh hy oock is, hy moet ten minsten meese-muylen oft grinnicken.”
- “There are few works by his hand which the observer can contemplate solemnly or with a straight face. However stiff, morose or surly he may be, he cannot help chuckling or at any rate smiling.”
- – Here reprinted in F. Grossmann’s translation (Bruegel, The Paintings, [London, Phaidon Press, n.d.], pp. 7 ff.)
The Four Seasons are a series of four paintings by Joos de Momper, allegorically depicting spring, summer, autumn and winter in the form of anthropomorphic landscapes. As of 2013, all four of these paintings are in private collections. At least one of them is believed to be in the collection of Robert Lebel. I saw all four of them over the weekend in Lille, France at the superb exhibition Flemish Landscape Fables. This weekend is your last chance to get a look at them.
Two cones from the Perspectiva Corporum Regularium by Wentzel Jamnitzer
The Jamnitzers were a family of goldsmiths who lived in the 16th century. They worked for very rich people and filled the ‘Schatzkammer‘ of Northern Europe with highly luxurious items, fuelling the general economy.
However, it is their works on paper which interest us here.
Grotesque with two hybrid gristly creatures facing each other by Christoph Jamnitzer from the Neuw Grottessken Buch
First there is the father, Wenzel Jamnitzer (1507/08 – 1585). He is the author of Perspectiva Corporum Regularium (1568), a fabulous work on perspective and geometry. Of special interest in the Perspectiva is a series of architectural fantasies of spheres, cones and tori.
Second there is the grandson, Christoph Jamnitzer (1563–1618). Where his grandfather favoured mathematical precision and the sounding voice of reason, the grandson, author of Neuw Grottessken Buch (1610), favoured sweeping curvilinearity, abject grotesqueries and feasts of unreason. The most famous print of Neuw Grottessken Buch is the Grotesque with two hybrid gristly creatures, shown left.
If you see the work of grandfather and grandson side by side, both Jamnitzers seemed to have been plagued by the sleep of reason, the grandfather suffering from nightmares of abandonment and the grandson challenged by nightmares of being overwhelmed by the dark forces of nature.
Two chimerical creatures, both with drooping breasts, watched over by three disembodied grotesque masks, after Arent van Bolten.
It’s been quite difficult to trace the provenance of the above print. It depicts two chimerical creatures, both with drooping breasts, watched over by three disembodied grotesque masks.
First, via Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture, a paper on chimaera phylogeny by Sven Drühl I found the unidentified print above. Searching some more, The Cabinet of the Solar Plexus says that it is by Hendrick Goltzius.
However, the inexhaustable Marinni contradicts this and attributed it to Arent van Bolten (c.1573 – c.1633).
End of quest.
Two footed phalli stabbing each other
A grotesque figure holding a club and spurning another grotesque
Two other favourites from that series include a grotesque holding a club spurning another grotesque and two footed phalli stabbing each other while surrounded by two grotesque drooping masks that resemble an elongated scrotum, that last a real find for the metamorphic genitalia category.
Note the similarity to Les Songes Drolatiques (1565) and the Varie Figuri Gobbi (1616, ‘Various Hunchbacked Figures’) by Jacques Callot.
PS. Europeana.eu has easy access to all of the prints.
Never mind the bollocks, here’s Rabelais
As I noted in a previous post on satirical pornography or pornographic satire, Rabelais‘s masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel is more emetic than erotic.
There is however a strain of eroticism to be found in Rabelais, a strain of the bawdy, ribald and burlesque variety, which dates back at its earliest to the Ancient Greek Milesian tale.
The Milesian tales are the earliest instances of erotic literature in the Western world. They directly influenced Apuleius‘ The Golden Ass, Petronius‘ Satyricon in antiquity. They were mentioned in Traitté de l’origine des romans. Aristidean saucy and disreputable heroes and spicy, fast-paced anecdote resurfaced in the medieval fabliaux. Chaucer‘s The Miller’s Tale is in Aristides’ tradition, as are some of the saltier tales in Boccaccio‘s Decameron or the Heptameron of Marguerite of Navarre and the later genre of the picaresque novel.
Googling for “buttocks” in Gargantua and Pantagruel five-book series. I came across the tale of Han Carvel’s ring and the blazon and counterblazon of the bollocks in the Third Book. I first mentioned the poetic genre blason here when I posted the Blazon of the Ugly Tit (1535) by Clément Marot.
Rabelais‘s blason and contreblason du couillon (Eng blason and counterblason of the bollock(s)) respectively sing the praise and disparagement of the male testicles. First, there is Panurge‘s blason in “How Panurge consulteth with Friar John of the Funnels“, then Frère Jean‘s contreblason in “How Friar John comforteth Panurge in the doubtful matter of cuckoldry“.
These rhapsodic lists and enumerations of adjectives are extremely poetic juxtapositions and show how the novel, which was a genre in its nascent state was allowed a maximum of formal and content-wise liberties. In this sense, 16th century literature is quite amazing.
The c. is short for couillons (bollocks).
Panurge‘s praise of the bollocks (275 adjectives):
- Mellow C. Varnished C. Resolute C.
- Lead-coloured C. Renowned C. Cabbage-like C.
- Knurled C. Matted C. Courteous C.
- Suborned C. Genitive C. Fertile C.
- Desired C. Gigantal C. Whizzing C.
- Stuffed C. Oval C. Neat C.
- Speckled C. Claustral C. Common C.
- Finely metalled C. Virile C. Brisk C.
- Arabian-like C. Stayed C. Quick C.
- Trussed-up Greyhound-like C. Massive C. Bearlike C.
- Manual C. Partitional C.
- Mounted C. Absolute C. Patronymic C.
- Sleeked C. Well-set C. Cockney C.
- Diapered C. Gemel C. Auromercuriated C.
- Spotted C. Turkish C. Robust C.
- Master C. Burning C. Appetizing C.
- Seeded C. Thwacking C. Succourable C.
- Lusty C. Urgent C. Redoubtable C.
- Jupped C. Handsome C. Affable C.
- Milked C. Prompt C. Memorable C.
- Calfeted C. Fortunate C. Palpable C.
- Raised C. Boxwood C. Barbable C.
- Odd C. Latten C. Tragical C.
- Steeled C. Unbridled C. Transpontine C.
- Stale C. Hooked C. Digestive C.
- full blason here
Frère Jean‘s disparagement of the bollocks (440 adjectives):
- Faded C. Louting C. Appellant C.
- Mouldy C. Discouraged C. Swagging C.
- Musty C. Surfeited C. Withered C.
- Paltry C. Peevish C. Broken-reined C.
- Senseless C. Translated C. Defective C.
- Foundered C. Forlorn C. Crestfallen C.
- Distempered C. Unsavoury C. Felled C.
- Bewrayed C. Worm-eaten C. Fleeted C.
- Inveigled C. Overtoiled C. Cloyed C.
- Dangling C. Miserable C. Squeezed C.
- Stupid C. Steeped C. Resty C.
- Seedless C. Kneaded-with-cold- Pounded C.
- Soaked C. water C. Loose C.
- Coldish C. Hacked C. Fruitless C.
- Pickled C. Flaggy C. Riven C.
- Churned C. Scrubby C. Pursy C.
- Filliped C. Drained C. Fusty C.
- Singlefied C. Haled C. Jadish C.
- Begrimed C. Lolling C. Fistulous C.
- Wrinkled C. Drenched C. Languishing C.
- Fainted C. Burst C. Maleficiated C.
- Extenuated C. Stirred up C. Hectic C.
- Grim C. Mitred C. Worn out C.
- Wasted C. Peddlingly furnished Ill-favoured C.
- Inflamed C. C. Duncified C.
- full counterblason here
Posted in 1001 things to do before you die, absurd, comedy, cult fiction, European culture, experimental, fantastique, fiction, French culture, genre, grotesque, humor, irrationalism, juxtapoetry, literature, poetry, subversion, surrealism, theory, transgression