I’m rereading Writing on Drugs by Sadie Plant, a book which is brilliant in its lateral connections, arguing amongst other things that the Industrial Revolution in England goes hand in hand with the legal use of opium as recreational drug.
Speaking of opium, I’ve published a photo of an oozing, exuding, secreting and leaking poppy seed head.
But that’s not what I wanted to show you.
Flaubert on ‘a book about nothing,’ cited in ‘Writing On Drugs’
On page 47 in Writing on Drugs is Flaubert and he is cited stating his desire to write ‘a book about nothing‘ (‘un livre sur rien’), in other words a plotless novel, an antinovel as it were.
“What strikes me as beautiful, what I would like to do, is a book about nothing, a book with no external tie, which would support itself by its internal force of style, a book which would have hardly any subject or at least where the subject would be almost invisible, if that can be so.” (Flaubert, Letters 170).
Did Flaubert fulfil his ambition?
Maybe he did. The closest he came to writing about nothing was in his Bouvard et Pécuchet and Dictionary of Received Ideas.
I wonder if this plate is part of Cranach’s illustrated version of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible? Anyone?
It’s funny on how returning to the blogosphere after saying goodbye to it for quite some years, I bump straight into an old virtual friend when searching for “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili + Bomarzo + elephant”. The friend in question runs the fascinating culture blog Journey to Perplexity .
The reason I googled the words above was that my Dutch edition (translated by Ike Cialona) of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili claims that Colonna’ work inspired these works of architecture:
One thing leading to another, as they usually do, I found this  fascinating woodcut (depicted above), of which the colour palette reminds me of Japanese woodcuts.
I wonder if the plate is part of Cranach’s illustrated version of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible? Anyone?
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.
La Grande épidémie de pornographie (1882) is a caricature by Albert Robida first published in the May 6 issue of La Caricature.
La Grande épidémie de pornographie (1882, image left) is a caricature by Albert Robida first published in La Caricature. It is reminiscent in form and content of Pornokrates by Félicien Rops, which appeared three years earlier.
The litho fits squarely in the late 19th century debate on naturalist literature and the writings of Emile Zola, which were equated at the time with pornography. There is a fine caricature titled Naturalisme by Louis Legrand which illustrates the ‘warts and all‘ naturalism which was criticized in numerous anti-Zoalist tracts. This anti-Zoalism is an important episode in the development of the etymologies of pornography and erotica, since the first traceable instance of the use of the term pornography as an expletive is in the essay “La littérature putride” (1868), directed against the French writer, although Zola never wrote anything even remotely pornographic.
This anti-Zoalist diatribe helped the notoriety of Zola’s “putrid” novel Thérèse Raquin. Zola capitalized on it for publicity and referred to it in his preface to the second edition. Then there was Albert Millaud who in 1876 denounced Zola’s novel L’Assommoir even before its publication was complete: ‘It is not realism, it is smut; it is not crudity, it is pornography.’ (“Ce n’est plus du réalisme, c’est de la malpropreté ; ce n’est plus de la crudité, c’est de la pornographie”).
Towards the end of the century, three complete anti-Zola works appeared: La Flore pornographique (1883), Le naturalisme ou l’immoralité littéraire (1894) and Zola contre Zola (1896). They were all written by the same author, a French bookseller by the name of Antoine Laporte. His pamphlets are most enlightening. Negative criticism is often the best guide to a work. Where else would we find out about the emasculation scene in Germinal?
French censorship largely left Zola in peace. No major trials are recorded. In England, the powers that were reacted differently. English censorship was led by the National Vigilance Association who targeted Vizetelly’s unabridged mass-market translations of Zola’s work. A personal disaster for old man Vizetelly.
See also: Criticism of Zola by Max Nordau in his book Degeneration
Somewhat of a surprise was waiting when I finally held all 700+ pages of Marie Bonaparte‘s The Life and Works of E. A. Poe: a Psychoanalytic Interpretation in my hands and skipped to the psychoanalytical interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Loss of Breath.”
There, on page 373, Marie Bonaparte utters what any man dreads to hear: that he is impotent. Ouch. Poe must have turned in his grave when he heard of his post-mortem psychobiography and Bonaparte’s concern with his vita sexualis.
In “Loss of Breath”, my favourite Poe story, Marie Bonaparte finds the ultimate proof of Poe’s impotence. She equates the breath of Mr. Lackobreath, the sorry protagonist of the tale, with “pneuma,” “life force,” hence “sexual potency.”
To strengthen her argument, she cites Baudelaire who once said “There is not in all of Poe’s work a single passage that tends to lubricity or even to sensual pleasure“.
Lemma dedicated to Poe’s impotence in the psycho-analytic index of Marie Bonaparte’s ‘The Life and Works of E. A. Poe’.
Not only was Poe impotent, according to Marie Bonaparte, he was a “repressed sado-masochist and necrophilist” (299) and his body of writing was the product of neurosis.
Illustration: photo of a silicone packer by Canadaworker from Wikimedia Commons.
See also my two previous two odes to the flaccid phallus, the limp male member: Un priape marchant sur des pattes de coq and votive phallus.
RIP Thierry Jonquet
RIP Thierry Jonquet, sometime collaborator of Jacques Tardi, author of the nouveau polar français, author of Mygale (1984), currently being filmed by Pedro Almodóvar as Tarantula.
Thierry Jonquet’s Tarantula was blurbed as “An unholy collaboration between Sade and Sartre, with occasional comic interventions by that honorary Frenchman Jerry Lee Lewis”
Tip of the hat to De Papieren Man
RIP Simon Vinkenoog, 80, Dutch poet and writer.
Vinkenoog with Spinvis in a totally Fela Kuti-esque track
Simon Vinkenoog (1928 – 2009) was a Dutch poet and writer. He was instrumental in launching the Dutch “Fifties Movement“.
In the Anglosphere Vinkenoog’s name is associated with the Albert Hall poetry event (and the film Wholly Communion) and his connection with IT magazine.
He was one of the Néerlandophone beat writers. The same cultural climate that begot the beat writers in the United States engendered European counterparts.
These countercultures must be looked for in two spheres, the sphere of European counterculture and the sphere of European avant-garde.
In France this was the Letterist International, in Germany perhaps Gruppe 47; visually and on a European scale there was COBRA.
Vinkenoog was born in the same year as Andy Warhol, Serge Gainsbourg, Jeanne Moreau, Nicolas Roeg, Guy Bourdin, Luigi Colani, Stanley Kubrick, Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, William Klein, Roger Vadim, Yves Klein, Jacques Rivette, Alvin Toffler, Ennio Morricone and Oswalt Kolle.
I’ve mentioned Vinkenoog , , , , ,  and here.
Posted in avant-garde, counterculture, cult fiction, death, Dutch language, European culture, experimental, fiction, literature, poetry, Simon Vinkenoog, subversion, underground