Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Night Music; Nocturnes 2.

"Ah, the music of the night.." and I am not talking Loyd Webber here. I am talking about the second volume of short stories by Irish author John Connolly, a follow up to his previous collection; Nocturnes. One of the very best short story collections I have ever had the pleasure to read, sitting comfortably with any Mr James or Robert Aickamn collection  or..well, you get the picture. I am not comparing writers here or suggesting there is a list of best to worst (the very idea of a list like that is groan inducing to me.) That first collection of stories was so good, by any standard, it was going to be a tough volume to follow up. And yet John Connolly has, knocking the ball right out of the park, to use a baseball metaphor, a sport I know nothing about. Actually, I know nothing about any sports. My brain, what there is off it, is a sport free zone.
              I had read one of the pieces contained within this book before; The Wanderer In Unknown Realms.John Connolly actually gave me a copy of this story himself, in a lovely wee ltd edition which is quite a treasure for me. I was lucky enough to spend some time in his company, with an old friend John Mc Mahon and John's other chum the writer Jeffrey Deaver. Actually very pleasant company despite the dark territory our conversations wandered through. There sometimes exists an inverse ratio between the talent of an artist and his social ease but in John Connolly one such talent mirrors the other. Affable, gregarious and as good a listener as a talker. Equally at home in a fancy resturant or in front of a camp fire, its an Irish storyteller tradition, I suppose. Talking for ones supper.
             The story is expanded upon, part of a longer narrative.; The Fractured Atlas-Five Fragments. The terrible history of a terrible book. Anyone who comes into contact with this evil book finds themselves on the receiving end of a gruesome fate. Innocence is no buffer for the horrors that follow, with truly bad things happening to good people.
              There are thirteen tales in all here. There are stories exploring arcane realms, pushing aside the thin veil that seperates us from them. The dark wilds are always closer than we could ever be comfortable with.
The Caxton Private Lending Library And Book Depository is a stand out tale for me, and the sequel, also contained in this volume.  It felt to me as though MR James and Robert Aickman had collaborated on a modern tale for a Pan or a Fontana anthology , wanting to give something back to the genres that sustained them. Also the personal notes on his inspirations and creative insights  which come at the tali end of the book; I Live Here. I found it pretty gripping stuff, almost conversational but hugely informative.
               This is a wonderful anthology. Go on, make room for it on a book shelf near you.

Who Heaven.

                                                          To be sure, a very heaven.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

The Unbearable Shiteness Of Being Bored.

Revisited two old friends in Phantasmagoria magazine this month. Two characters from a series I wrote for Fantagraphics many years ago. It works as a stand  alone and does not rely on any familiarity with that series( is not as though anyone remembers them anyway, I was and remain a pretty obscure read.) It is really just a bit of fun regarding two old chums passing time doing something they enjoy.
            PJ Holden who illustrated two of the issues continues with this wee daft yarn.
            He did a lovely job of the story within the story and I do enjoy the playful homeiness he brings to the page. Its not a superhero yarn and no one gets punched in the face, although some one does get swatted.

Werner Herzog' s Nosferatu.

By The Hoary Hosts Of Hoggoth! Werner Herzog is in the new Star wars television series The Mandolorian playing a smooth talking space slime ball. You could have knocked me over with the wonky arm of a gondark. He is such a talented man, a true Renaissance man, you never know where he might pop up or what he may be doing. Anyway, there he was, a voice I had not heard for some time(Since his amazing movie; Cave Of Forgotten Dreams probably, actually no. More recently I saw Grizzly Man, an uncomfortable vision if you know how it ends.) and I went looking for a copy of his version of the film Nosferatu, and found two versions of it.
             There is so much to like in this film. Its a nightmare to be sure, a pleasing terror in truth. Like a terrible dream you feel trapped in, awaiting exhausted and sweaty from that dream to fall deeper into another. The opening sequence in the boneyard proves itself a dream sequence and the soaring melancholy of the soundtrack draws you into a world where i was sure Geppetto sat behind a passing gable walk chiseling a son from wood, praying for the touch of the blue Fairy. Some of the haunting qualities of that soundtrack will stay with you long after you have seen the film, possibly even married to the singular vision of its director.
               Bram stokers estate would not give permission to film his novel so FW Murnau, a German film maker, not wishing to abandon the project, was forced to adapt the original text as best he could, introducing Max Schrek as the Count , producing a silent expressionist nightmare that has dazzled and inspired generations. This is a vision from an other century that transcends the ages which over the years has risen above the muddled creative beginnings to become something of a defining artistic triumph in its own right. That Werner Herzog wanted to remain faithful to that original vision is not surprising to me, yet he introduces a few tweaks of his own and makes much of his freedom to wrap it in as haunting a sound-scape as the original possessed such visual flair but had to remain silent.
                Its sad, haunting and timeless. A testament to all involved, in death as much as in life.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Bowie; Stardust,Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams.

..just picked this up, hot off the cosmic presses, the long awaited biographical fantastical story of David Bowie by Michael Allred, the equally cosmic comic soul who was born to do this. Cannot wait to...

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Ghost Of a Flea.

.                                                          .speaking Of William Blake..

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Peter And The Wolf.

             Heres a little bit of Bowie and a whole lot of Prokofiev. I used to drive my mates mad humming the main theme from this orchestral piece. They never suspected they had it good, off course, you ought to hear my strangulated version of Holidays in The Sun by The Sex Pistols. Then again, maybe not..
           "Are you bloody singing Christmas songs in the middle of July?" one of them once asked me. It is because Prokofiev' music touches people on that level, well I believe so anyway. Something other, something magical, something better. I was a big Bowie enthusiast growing up and it took me forver to find this album. I found it hanging on a peg on a stall in a hilltop market in Armagh, which was basically a table covered in illegal bootleg movies (Dreadful, they all looked like they were recorded on cellotape by a cameraman experiencing the horrors of drink.) and batteries. I was astonished to see it swaying gently in the hilltop breeze. Staring at it I felt like William Blake seeing angels dancing in the branches of summer tree leaves.
           I still treasure it.
           Much like the occasional Blakean vision.