Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Best Book Review Ever?

Lobster, by Guillaume Lecasble, translated by Polly McLean (Dedalus, £6.99) This is part of a new series from Dedalus, the publisher of odd stuff, called Euro Shorts, which the publisher defines as "short European fiction which can be read from cover to cover on Euro-star or on a short flight." Well, if you are going to start with Lobster, you are going to have an interesting journey.

As you will not believe me if I summarise the book's plot myself, permit me to quote the first paragraph of the blurb. I assure you this is not idleness; it is to establish maximum veracity. "Aboard the Titanic, Lobster watches Angelina devour his father, before being plucked out of the aquarium himself. Just as he is put in the boiling pot, the ship hits the iceberg and the pot is thrown to the floor. Lobster survives, with some changes; he finds himself sexually attracted not only to a human, but to the very human who ate his father. He gives her one life-changing orgasm before their tragic separation, following an ugly incident in one of the lifeboats."

You are now probably saying one of two things. "You have got to be kidding," or, more urbanely, "French, is it?" No and yes. I am not kidding, and, yes, it is indeed French. It could be nothing else. Moreover, all the events described above have taken place by page 24; we have not even got to the frankly appalling incident on page 32 when Angelina makes an ill-fated attempt to reproduce Lobster's amatory prowess with another, less gifted crustacean.

[Full article here]

Friday, June 12, 2015

Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A jelly doughnut, a stream of bat's piss and a dose of clap


The Peacock Room was originally designed as a dining room in the townhouse located at 49 Prince's Gate in the neighbourhood of Kensington in London, and owned by the British shipping magnate Frederick Richards Leyland. Leyland engaged the British architect Richard Norman Shaw to remodel and redecorate his home. Shaw entrusted the remodelling of the dining room to Thomas Jeckyll, another British architect experienced in the Anglo-Japanese style.

Jeckyll conceived the dining room as a Porsellanzimmer (porcelain room). He covered the walls with 6th-century wall hangings of Cuir de Cordoue that had been originally brought to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Aragon. They were painted with her heraldic device, the open pomegranate, and a series of red roses, Tudor roses, to symbolise her union with Henry VIII. They had hung on the walls of a Tudor style house in Norfolk for centuries, before they were bought by Leyland for £1,000. Against these walls, Jekyll constructed an intricate lattice framework of engraved spindled walnut shelves that held Leyland’s collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain, mostly from the Kangxi era of the Qing dynasty. To the south of the room, a walnut welsh dresser was placed in the centre, just below the large empty leather panel, and flanked on both sides by the framework shelves. On the east side, three tall windows parted the room overlooking a private park, and covered by full-length walnut shutters. To the north a fireplace, over which hung the painting by American painter James McNeill Whistler, Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, that served as the focal point of the room. The ceiling was constructed in a pendant panelled Tudor-style, and decorated with eight globed pendant gas light fixtures. To finish the room, Jekyll placed a rug with a red border on the floor.

 Jeckyll had nearly completed his decorative scheme when an illness compelled him to abandon the project. Whistler, who was then working on decorations for the entrance hall of Leyland’s house, volunteered to finish Jeckyll's work in the dining room. Concerned that the red roses adorning the leather wall hangings clashed with the colours in The Princess, Whistler suggested retouching the leather with yellow paint, and Leyland agreed to that minor alteration. He also authorised Whistler to embellish the cornice and wainscoting with a "wave pattern" derived from the design in Jeckyll's leaded-glass door, and then went to his home in Liverpool. During Leyland's absence however, Whistler grew bolder with his revisions.

 "Well, you know, I just painted on. I went on ―without design or sketch― it grew as I painted. And toward the end I reached such a point of perfection ―putting in every touch with such freedom― that when I came round to the corner where I started, why, I had to paint part of it over again, as the difference would have been too marked. And the harmony in blue and gold developing, you know, I forgot everything in my joy in it." —James McNeill Whistler

 Upon returning, Leyland was shocked by the "improvements." Artist and patron quarrelled so violently over the room and the proper compensation for the work that the important relationship for Whistler was terminated. At one point, Whistler gained access to Leyland's home and painted two fighting peacocks meant to represent the artist and his patron, and which he titled "Art and Money: or, The Story of the Room". Whistler is reported to have said to Leyland, "Ah, I have made you famous. My work will live when you are forgotten. Still, per chance, in the dim ages to come you will be remembered as the proprietor of the Peacock Room."

The dispute between Whistler and Leyland did not end there. In 1879, Whistler was forced to file for bankruptcy, and Leyland was his chief creditor at the time. When the creditors arrived to inventory the artist’s home for liquidation, they were greeted by The Gold Scab: Eruption in Frilthy Lucre (The Creditor), a large painted caricature of Leyland portrayed as an anthropomorphic demonic peacock playing a piano, sitting upon Whistler’s house, painted in the same colours featured in the Peacock Room. He referenced the incident again in his book, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Adding to the emotional drama was Whistler's fondness for Leyland's wife, Frances, who separated from her husband in 1879. Another result of this drama was Jeckyll who, so shocked by the first sight of his room, returned home and was later found on the floor of his studio covered in gold leaf; he never recovered and died insane three years later.

Having acquired The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, American industrialist and art collector Charles Lang Freer, anonymously purchased the entire room in 1904 from Leyland's heirs, including Leyland's daughter and her husband, the British artist Val Prinsep. Freer then had the contents of the Peacock Room installed in his Detroit mansion. After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was permanently installed in the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The gallery opened to the public in 1923.
[source]

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Admiral of the Narrow Seas

Found this on line: 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

My favorite may be:

ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. One who from drunkenness
vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite to
him. SEA PHRASE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Deutschland, 1933

Let others speak of her shame,
I speak of my own.

O Germany, pale mother!
How soiled you are
As you sit among the peoples.
You flaunt yourself
Among the besmirched.

The poorest of your sons
Lies struck down.
When his hunger was great.
Your other sons
Raised their hands against him.
This is notorious.

With their hands thus raised,
Raised against their brother,
They march insolently around you
And laugh in your face.
This is well known.

In your house
Lies are roared aloud.
But the truth
Must be silent.
Is it so?

Why do the oppressors praise you everywhere,
The oppressed accuse you?
The plundered
Point to you with their fingers, but
The plunderer praises the system
That was invented in your house!

Whereupon everyone sees you
Hiding the hem of your mantle which is bloody
With the blood
Of your best sons.

Hearing the harangues which echo from your house,
men laugh.
But whoever sees you reaches for a knife
As at the approach of a robber.

O Germany, pale mother!
How have your sons arrayed you
That you sit among the peoples
A thing of scorn and fear!                        


Bertold Brecht

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pistols at Dawn

It is common knowledge that the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was killed in a duel by the French military officer Georges d'Anthès, who happened to be his own brother in law.  Pushkin accused him of having an affair with his wife, Natalya.

I've always heard the duel framed as essentially a murder - unlike d'Anthès, Pushkin was not a soldier.  Furthermore, the situation has always been framed as something Pushkin had to do to save face. 

Then I found this list.  I think some people just have it coming.

1816. Pushkin challenges his own uncle, Pavel Gannibal to a duel.
Cause:  Pavel "stole" a lady at a ball away from the 17-year-old Pushkin.
Outcome:  The duel was cancelled.

1817. Pushkin challenges Petr Kaverin, his friend, to a duel.
Cause: Kaverin composed some mocking poems.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1819. Pushkin challenges the poet Kondratiy Ryleev.
Cause: Ryleev tells a joke about Pushkin in a salon.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1819. Pushkin challenged by his friend Wilhelm Küchelbecker.  Ironically, Küchelbecker's most famous poem is an elegy on Pushkin's death.
Cause:  Mocking poems about Küchelbecker, specifically the use of his name as an adjective in the phrase "feeling küchelbeckerish and nauseaus"
Outcome: Wilhelm fired at Pushkin.  Pushkin did not shoot.

1819. Pushkin challenges Modest Korf, a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice.
Cause:  Pushkin's servant was drunk and was bothering Korf's servant, who beat him up.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1819. Pushkin challenges Major Denisevich.
Cause:  Pushkin was acting provocatively in the theater, yelling at the actors and Denisevich criticized him.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1820. Pushkin challenges Fedor Orlov and Alexei Alexeyev.
Cause:  Orlov and Alexeyev criticised Pushkin for being drunk while playing billiards and bothering the other players.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1821. Pushkin challenges Avis DeGuilly, an officer of the French service.
Cause:  A quarrel with unclear circumstances.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1822. Pushkin is challenged by Lt. Colonel Semyon Starov.
Cause:  Fought over the restaurant band in the casino where they were both gambling.
Outcome:  Both fired and both missed.

1822. Pushkin challenges 65 year old civil councilor Ivan Lanov.
Cause:  Quarrel during a celebratory dinner.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1822. Pushkin challenges the Moldavan nobleman Todor Balazs, the owner of the manor where he was a guest.
Cause:  Balazs' wife Maria did not answer a question of Pushkin's politely enough.
Outcome: Both fired and both missed.

1822. Pushkin challenges Skartl Prunkulo, a Bessarabian landowner.
Cause: Both served as seconds at a duel and could not agree on the rules of the duel.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1822. Pushkin challenges Severin Potocky.
Cause: Dinner discussion about serfdom.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1822. Pushkin is challenged by staff captain Rutkovsky.
Cause: Pushkin did not believe that a hail ball could weigh three pounds and laughed at the retired captain.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1822. Pushkin challenged the wealthy Kishinev merchant Inglezy.
Cause:  Pushkin was sexually harassing his wife, the gypsy Lyudmilla Shekora.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1822. Pushkin was challenged by ensign of the General Staff Alexander Zubov.
Cause:  Pushkin caught Zubov cheating in a game of cards.
Outcome: Zubov fired and missed, Pushkin refused to shoot.

1823. Pushkin challenges young writer Ivan Rousseau.
Cause:  Personal animosity towards him.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1826. Pushkin challenges Nicolai Turgenev, one of the leaders of the Union of Salvation, member of the Northern Society.
Cause:  Turgenev denounced Pushkin's poems, especially his epigrams.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1827. Pushkin is challenged by artilery officer Vladimir Solomirsky.
Cause: A certain lady named Sophia in whom Pushkin expressed an interest.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1828. Pushkin challenges National Education minister Alexander Golytsin.
Cause: Pushkin wrote a daring epigram about the minister and in return the minister questioned him extensively.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1828. Pushkin challenges the secretary of the French embassy in St. Petersburg, Lagrene.
Cause:  Unknown lady at a ball
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1829. Pushkin challenges Khvostov, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Cause:  Khvostov expressed his displeasure at Puhkin's epigrams, particularly the ones where Pushkin compares Khvostov to a pig.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1836. Pushkin challenges Prince Nicolai Repin.
Cause: Repin was unhappy about Pushkin's poem about him.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1836. Pushkin challenges  Semyon Khlyustin, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Cause: Khlyustin was unhappy about Pushkin's poem about him.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1836. Pushkin challenges Vladimir Sologub.
Cause: Unpleasant comments about Pushkin's wife Natalya.
Outcome: The duel was cancelled.

1836-37. Pushkin challenges French officer Georges d'Anthès .
Cause: Anonymous letter which stated that Pushkin's wife was unfaithful to him with d'Anthès.
Outcome:  Pushkin is wounded in the abdomen.  ies of his wound January 29, 1837

Monday, April 13, 2015

If there is a man on the moon, he's probably an Anti-Semite

By the end of 1909, Zangwill had failed in all of his much-publicized efforts to find land to house an autonomous Jewish polity.  When told that "a politically virgin territory can be found only in the moon," he responded, "Not even there, I fear.  For there is a man  in the moon, and he is probably an Anti-Semite."

[In the Shadow of Zion: Promised Lands Before Israel]