Archive for the ‘William Blake Month’ Category

Take-two Tuesday: William Blake Month — “The Fly”

October 4, 2011

This entry originally appeared on June 22, 2010 at 1:44pm.

Late post, am I right? I’ve been invovled in some deep bookfoolery which I will explain below. The heading of each of the chapters in a book I read last night/today is followed by a quote, and one such quote was from this poem of Blake’s.


via

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?


For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;


via

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

(William Blake, “The Fly.”)

So — the lateness in the day. Yes. Sorry, but I am not even firing on four let alone six cyllinders today. See, I went against all my usual instincts and quickly finished my yearly series last night wayyy ahead of time and I refuse to let that happen with my other obligations, so when I dropped the last in the series to the floor, I dug in to my pile and instead of snatching up The Tommyknockers (absolutely not touching it until July 2nd or 3rd or I will not be where I need to be for the 4th and I cannot afford any more Bad Days), I started this book my cousin Mary loaned me called The Descent.

I was initially skeptical and, at points, flirting with grogginess from the overabundance of sleep-inducing substances I pour down my throat every night in an effort to quiet the seven-headed rock dragon of my insomnia which makes the Balrog look like a Pound Puppy, but it was amazing shit, full of caves and sci-fi creatures and anthropology and linguistics and religious themes and Hell and mountaineers and Jesuits and everything else that rings my bell, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in to the throat of it. I powered through the layers of tylenol pm, Miller, and a slug of Ny-Quil I’d taken earlier, ignoring my sandy eyelids because I Couldn’t Stop Reading, and, having finally shook off any need for sleep and finished the last sentence and closed the book thoughtfully at around nine this morning, I can confidently say I’m a believer.


via

I slid it under my bed and lay reflecting on what I’d read for a few minutes, because I felt like there had been some unresolved plot points, then I suddenly did this herky jerky twitch and thought, “How many standalone science fiction novels are that long? Plus … it was set in ’99, but the cover was new. No dog-eared pages. Mary would’ve loaned it to me years ago if she hadn’t just recently bought and read it. It’s a new book.” Reprint. Why?


via

Totally excited by this chain of thought, I flipped my ass in the air, dove under my bed and grabbed the book back out of my piles and checked the front. HELL YES: among the author’s other books listed by the publisher is one titled The Ascent, which I think it is fair to conjecture can only be a sequel, so now that I’ve finished all the housework and cooking I’d planned previously to do in the hours of the morning I’d spent reading, I’m going to cruise out to the used book store by my house and see about scaring that bitch up for tonight — and see if there are more. Keep you posted. Don’t worry about the insomnia thing: I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.

William Blake Month: Prophecy concluded, or, this is the way the world ends

July 1, 2010

William Blake Month ends today (unless I change my mind), and I’d promised that America: A Prophecy would be continued, so here are excerpts from the rising action and “Finis.”


The terror like a comet,
or more like the planet red
That once inclos’d the terrible wandering
comets in its sphere.
Then Mars thou wast our center,
& the planets three flew round
Thy crimson disk; so e’er the Sun
was rent from thy red sphere;
The Spectre glowd his horrid length
staining the temple long
With beams of blood; &
thus a voice came forth, and shook the temple


That stony law I stamp to dust:
and scatter religion abroad
To the four winds as a torn book,
& none shall gather the leaves;
But they shall rot on desert sands,
& consume in bottomless deeps;
To make the deserts blossom,
& the deeps shrink to their fountains,
And to renew the fiery joy,
and burst the stony roof.


That pale religious lechery,
seeking Virginity,
May find it in a harlot,
and in coarse-clad honesty
The undefil’d tho’ ravish’d
in her cradle night and morn:
For every thing that lives is holy,
life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight
can never be defil’d.
Fires inwrap the earthly globe,
yet man is not consumd;


“Laura” by Ryan McGinley, 2010.

Sound! sound! my loud war-trumpets
& alarm my Thirteen Angels!
Loud howls the eternal Wolf!
the eternal Lion lashes his tail!
America is darkned;
and my punishing Demons terrified
Crouch howling before their caverns
deep like skins dry’d in the wind.

They cannot smite the wheat,
nor quench the fatness of the earth.
They cannot smite with sorrows,
nor subdue the plow and spade.
They cannot wall the city,
nor moat round the castle of princes.
They cannot bring the stubbed oak
to overgrow the hills.


“Wrath” by culcha on the d.a.

Who commanded this?
what God? what Angel!
To keep the gen’rous from experience
till the ungenerous
Are unrestraind performers
of the energies of nature;
Till pity is become a trade,
and generosity a science,
That men get rich by,
& the sandy desert is giv’n to the strong

What God is he, writes laws of peace,
& clothes him in a tempest
What pitying Angel lusts for tears,
and fans himself with sighs
What crawling villain preaches abstinence
& wraps himself
In fat of lambs? no more I follow,
no more obedience pay.


“Blood falls” by Ryan McGinley.

And the flame folded roaring fierce
within the pitchy night
Before the Demon red,
who burnt towards America,
In black smoke thunders
& loud winds rejoicing in its terror
Breaking in smoky wreaths from the wild deep,
& gath’ring thick
In flames as of a furnace
on the land from North to South


I think this is the Tacoma Narrows.*

His plagues obedient to his voice
flew forth out of their clouds
Falling upon America,
as a storm to cut them off
Dark is the heaven above, & cold
& hard the earth beneath;
And as a plague wind fill’d with insects
cuts off man & beast;
And as a sea o’erwhelms a land
in the day of an earthquake;


“Extranas formas aerodinamica” by profundorosso on the flickr.

Fury! rage! madness! in a wind
swept through America
And the red flames of Orc
that folded roaring fierce around
The angry shores,
and the fierce rushing of th’inhabitants together:

The citizens of New-York
close their books & lock their chests;
The mariners of Boston
drop their anchors and unlade;
The scribe of Pensylvania
casts his pen upon the earth;
The builder of Virginia
throws his hammer down in fear.


Then had America been lost,
o’erwhelm’d by the Atlantic,
And Earth had lost another portion
of the infinite,
But all rush together in the night
in wrath and raging fire
The red fires rag’d! the plagues recoil’d!
then rolld they back with fury.

(William Blake, excerpts from America: A Prophecy.)

*Along with the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was still a gruesomely hot topic in the overheard adult conversations of my early childhood in the Sound. I didn’t fully understand what happened in either case but my morbid imagination obsessed over the half-described tragic events and I was terrified of taking the car over the spans from island to island. I used to fold my little hands over my eyes as I sat on the couch in our trailer waiting for my dad to come home and pray he would take his car up on the ferry instead of driving over the bridge, and any loud noises from trucks going over the shabbily paved nearby highway were certainly the rumblings of another volcanic eruption which would bury us all in ash. I guess what I’m saying is I’ve always had an acute overawareness and fear of cataclysmic death. I have no idea why.

William Blake Month: Brooding cares & anxious labors that prove but chaff

June 30, 2010

Quit your job and go on tour.


“Tracy,” Ryan McGinley, 2009.

You recoil back upon me in the blood
of the Lamb slain in his Children
Two bleeding Contraries, equally true,
are his Witnesses against me
We reared mighty Stones!
we danced naked around them:


“Hysteric Fireworks,” Ryan McGinley.
Thinking to bring Love into light of day,
to Jerusalem’s shame:
Displaying our Giant limbs
to all the winds of heaven! Sudden
Shame siezed us:
we could not look on one another for abhorrence.


“Fire Flip,” Ryan McGinley.

O what is Life & what is Man,
O what is Death? Wherefore
Are you my Children, natives in the Grave to where I go


“Hanna in wheatfield in American flag chair,” Nicole Lesser. 2009.
Or are you born
to feed the hungry ravenings of Destruction
To be the sport of Accident!
to waste in Wrath & Love, a weary
Life, in brooding cares & anxious labours,
that prove but chaff.

(William Blake, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion.)

I do believe Mr. Blake is urging you to tune in, turn on, and drop out.


Paved paradise to etc.

Are you born “…to be the sport of accident and waste in wrath and love a weary life, in brooding cares and anxious labours, that prove but chaff”? No. I have said it before as a personal manifesto and I say again now despite my despondency this month and my dwelling over death and famine, that in the final analysis I do not believe we are born to feed the hungry ravenings of destruction, I cannot take the fatalistic, world-weary view that the average man is born cannon fodder in a long war between obscure forces richer and wider-reaching than we are.


Girl welder, 12, for the Australian Air Force, 1943. National Library of Congress collection on the flickr.

I can’t believe that is God’s plan for any single individual on this earth, no one can have been born for darkness and live only to push a wheel belowdecks to power someone else’s ship. I agree with this poem — shame and fear lead us to these empty lives of capitulation and lonely servitude to ideas forged by whatever money-hungry captain of industry’s self-serving philosophies are en vogue aided by the corrupt leaders of what could be beautiful religions. That is not the intent of our creation, I feel like that cannot be so, and if it keeps getting spread around that it is so, surely enough people are going to snap from their television-enhanced fast food comas and facebook opium haze and start a serious counterargument with words and deeds. I mean, they have to. If they don’t, then, my god, what is the point of existence even.

Oh, bother. It appears between this chain of thought and yesterday’s rants about Nazi propaganda that it is shaping up to be quite a week of Opinions. “I’m just a little black raiiinclouuuud …”

William Blake Month: Gentle sleep the sleep of death

June 29, 2010



Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water.
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s face.
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air:
Ah! gentle may I lay me down and gentle rest my head.
And gentle sleep the sleep of death.

(William Blake, excerpt from The Book of Thel.)

William Blake Month: “a Human fire fierce glowing”

June 25, 2010


“Leah bloodbath” by Nicole Lesser

America faints! enrag’d the Zenith grew.
As human blood shooting its veins all ’round the orbed heaven

Red rose the clouds from the Atlantic in vast wheels of blood
And in the red clouds rose a Wonder o’er the Atlantic sea;


Kate Moss by Ryan McGinley
Intense! Naked! a Human fire fierce glowing, as the wedge
Of iron heated in the furnace; his terrible limbs were fire
With myriads of cloudy terrors banners dark & towers
Surrounded; heat but not light went thro’ the murky atmosphere.

(William Blake, excerpt from “America: A Prophecy.”)

Damn. Sounds like America is in for it, yes? To be continued.

William Blake Month: She who burns with youth and knows no fixed lot; is bound / In spells of law to one she loathes

June 24, 2010

Some thoughts from Mr. Blake on free love, fidelity, procreative pressure, and the institution of marriage as it functioned (and did not) for ladies during his lifetime:


Jane Birikin and the dread Serge G.

… She who burns with youth and knows no fixed lot;
is bound
In spells of law to one she loathes:
and must she drag the chain
Of life, in weary lust!


Must chilling murderous thoughts obscure
The clear heaven of her eternal spring?
to bear the wintry rage
Of a harsh terror driv’n to madness, bound to hold a rod
Over her shrinking shoulders all the day;


Marilyn and Arthur on their wedding day. Marilyn’s dress was ivory but her veil arrived white, so rather than freak out or buy a new one she soaked it in tea overnight. She was an orphan and imminently practical.

& All the night
To turn the wheel of false desire: and longings
that wake her womb
To the abhorred birth of cherubs in the human form
That live a pestilence & die a meteor & are no more.

(William Blake, excerpt from Visions of the Daughters of Albion. 1793. Shockingly self-published.)


The Graduate (Kubrick, 1967).EDIT: It was directed by Mike Nichols, not Stanley Kubrick. Jesus-christ-bananas. How that got past me is a mystery. Mucho mas mucho thanks to Peteski for the heads-up!

Happy bride month, am I right? Goin’ to the chapel…

In all seriousness, William Blake was a sort of pre-feminist and a great admirer of Mary Wollstonecraft but for all his forward-thinking, he could behave curiously backwardly and contemporarily to the times in his personal life, almost as if his own wife, Catherine, did not count in his reckoning of the equalities of the opposite sex.


Audrey and Mel. She looks terribly unhappy and trapped. I do not believe this was their wedding day but rather shortly before their breakup in an ad for Givenchy’s L’Interdit, the first celebrity fragrance. I wear Givenchy Amarige when I am Really Me. But that is very rare. So often it is best to be Other Me-s, so I roll with Michael by Michael Kors.

As an example, when they had trouble conceiving, Blake openly advocated bringing another, younger woman into their marriage and relegating Catherine to second-class status in a different bedroom. My guess is he backed up his proposal by citing the timeless, good ol’ Rachel/Leah biblical argument, which reminds me that I get to hit Handmaid’s Tale next month.


Humbert and Lo’s toes. Lolita (Kubrick, 1962).

Okay, I went in to more insomnia-fueled bookfoolery and this entry is now uncomfortably longer than I’d prefer a Blake one to be. I’m going to split it up. Meet me in the next post. More Kubrick, even (I didn’t intend for that to happen but now that it has I’m on board). (edit: again, The Graduate is directed by Mike Nichols. Not Stanley Kubrick.)

William Blake Month: Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: “The Tigers of Wrath”

June 23, 2010


Berlin, Germany

The quote comes from “Proverbs of Hell,” a chapter in William Blake’s gnostic text The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The book has been interpreted as an anticipation of Freudian and Jungian models of the mind, illustrating a struggle between a repressive superego and an amoral id. It has also been interpreted as an anticipation of Nietzsche’s theories* about the difference between slave morality and master morality.

(the wiki)

*cf: in particular Nietzsche’s camel – lion – child model of human thought and behavior as outlined in Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen / Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (1883-1885).

Portions of this post appeared originally on December 5, 2009.

Movie Moment and answer to yesterday’s Blake trivia question: Manhunter (part 1) and nominal review of Red Dragon

June 22, 2010

ATTN: Spoilers like a bat outta hell. Stop if you’ve never seen nor read Red Dragon and Manhunter and are the kind of person who yells at people on the internet for posting spoilers of things that have been out for decades.

I was relaxing after dinner and I suddenly remembered yesterday’s random Blake trivia — forgot about that!

Okay, soooo, I used this picture yesterday in the “Tyger” post …

… because it comes from Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986). This is part 1 of its Movie Moment because I need to cover technical aspects a different day. Today I want to just sort of compare Manhunter and a more recent adaptation of the same fucked-up and riveting material. Manhunter is the original filmed adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon (1981), in which the writer William Blake plays a very large part of the dissociative disease that leads the antagonist to kill and sets off the action of the novel/film.


Manhunter, the original Red Dragon screen version.

In 2002, a different adaptation, whose title was the same as the book — Harris’s novels have a weird and haphazard history of screen-arrival in Hollywood — was released in light of the success of the year before’s screen adaptation of Hannibal (novel: Thomas Harris, 1999; film: Ridley Scott, 2001), a rather late-breaking sequel to the infamous film version of Silence of the Lambs (novel: Harris, 1988; movie: Jonathan Demme, 1991).


Red Dragon, second adaptation.

A totally different animal, not even attempting to remake in part the cinematic masterpiece that is the color-drenched, painstakingly-framed Manhunter, the alternate more recent film is what I consider a sloppy adaptation of Red Dragon. It is nothing like the very-admirable entry into the Harris genre that is Hannibal, which despite the replacement of Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster with Academy Award-nominee Julianne Moore as the infamous “[Hello,] Clarice” Starling managed, I think by virtue of Sir Anthony Hopkins’ reprisal of the sensationalist character of Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter combined with Scott Free productions’ attachment to the project in the wake of smash-hit Gladiator, to make quite the box office splash. As it ended up, that success was deserved.


Check out Vegetarian Times in the background. No. 1 favorite Hannibal still with A Bullet.

The Red Dragon revamp that followed it the next year, on the other hand, falls short of its predecessors due to cocky casting and the hasty pudding nature of the picture. It is almost unfair to stack it against such a stunning piece of eye candy and psychological discourse as Manhunter. But I’m going to anyway.


“The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun” — William Blake. Blake’s illuminated print-making process is actually still partially guessed at, as he never troubled to write down most of how he did it. Another post — I promise.

The novel Red Dragon, the first in the Hannibal Lecter series of books by Thomas Harris, has as its main detective not Clarice Starling, but rather a young FBI mindhunter named Will Graham. The book and 2002 film take its title from the antagonist’s personal inspiration (and devil with whom he dances) for his transformation to what he views as a higher being. This is a highly detailed, uniquely gnostic series of ritual murders which the “bad guy” bases around Blake’s work, particularly his illuminated manuscript print “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun.” The killer calls this multiply murderous, cleansing-by-blood process “Becoming.”

This antagonist is called the Tooth Fairy by the press, a name he loathes, but he’s tipped to the reader early on — by his preferred nomenclature as the Red Dragon — to be a shy and cleft-palated industrial photographic-development-expert named Francis Dolarhyde. Francis is an abused and orphaned soul with an unfathomably deep dark side due to psychosexual torture in his upbringing.

Meanwhile, young Will Graham is a bummed-out “good guy” chilling in Marathon, Florida with his family on the beach, trying to get his mojo back after unhappily closing the toughest case of his career as a profiler with the FBI: arresting former friend and consultant, reknowned psychiatrist, classical music fan, and noted long pig gourmand one Dr. H. Lecter — M.D., Ph.D., hella murderer.

As the action unfolds, the already tightly-strung Dolarhyde — who, as the Red Dragon, writes in supplication to Dr. Lecktor/Lecter appealing for help in his quest to purify his weak flesh and Become, further enmeshing the good doc in the plotohs — finds his demon not only hunted by highly-skilled semi-retired agent Will Graham and the FBI, but also must elude his own dark side’s brutal orders when he suddenly finds himself in an unlikely and empathetic mutual attraction with a plucky handicapped co-worker and falters in his faith in “Becoming.”

This complex character is played equally well by Tom Noonan in Manhunter and Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon. Noonan gets the edge for creepy wordless scenes such as rasing his head to the sunlight like an animal drinking in vital and engrammed diurnal directives; Fiennes has the advantage in the all-important following tattoo-revelation scene and Red Dragon cry of chagrined triumph at tabloid reporter and luckless human torch Freddy Lounds (Steven Lang, 1986; Philip Seymour Hoffman, ’01: winner Hoffman on that one — ♥ that dude’s freaky energy 4eva-evah).


YOU OWE ME AWE.

Totally disturbing scene.

Tormented by the demon with which he wrestles, Dolarhyde attempts to steal and eat the original Blake painting which has been, in his mind, masterminding his murders. He believes that by consuming the painting, he will stop the voices, visions, and impulses torturing his brain with which he valiantly argues.

He finds himself particularly rising in opposition to the Red Dragon’s orders that he murder Reba (infinitely worthy and perpetually underused Joan Allen plays her in Manhunter while shiny-eyed dope Emily Watson —I know it’s an unpopular opinion but this chick bugs the hell out of me — got the role in the revamp), the outspoken, sexually bold blind woman from the photo labs with whom he has fallen in love.


Punch Drunk Love, Cradle Will Rock, me shaking my head and saying “Boo.” (limited theatrical release)

Dolarhyde is a sadder, sympathetic and strangely more touching, conflicted character than the early Lecter (or even his later and in my book cheaply slapped together Hannibal Rising incarnation) and much more relatable than Dolarhyde’s equally compulsive 1988 series successor, Buffalo Bill — “it puts the lotion on its etc” — are ever portrayed to be, yet because of Dolarhyde’s disorderly mind and act-driven kills, the Red Dragon as a predator has scenes that are in some ways more resonantly chilling than any of the often-quoted histrionics hailing from either star of Silence of the Lambs‘ gruesome sideshow.

As an example, in the above screencap, the Red Dragon side of Francis’s beaten, slavish personality makes the nervous newly-dating Dolarhyde give blind Reba McClane a drink of water from a glass with not only ice floating it but also the anciently misshapen and hideously rotting false teeth of the author of his schizophrenia, Dolarhyde’s dreadful dead grandmother, which dental implements he fits in to his own mouth and bites his victims in a frenzy during his kills. (Hence the hated nickname.) That part is not a-okay with me.


Forensic expert showing an FBI-Atlanta PD task force meeting a plaster mold of Gramma Dolarhyde’s choppers.

Um. Yeah. All that biting and teeth stuff? And the yells from the Red Dragon and his grandmother to murder Reba before he accidentally tells her how they have him trapped in his own mind? That’s fucked up. And oh, god. When those teeth knock against the glass as Reba thanks him, raises it to her lips, and sips, there is not a cringe-free face in the room.

So. In Manhunter, the first jump of Red Dragon from novel to screen, Will Graham is played by William Petersen, and Brian Cox plays Lecktor — not a typo. The film spells it this way. (You may recognize my darlingest dearest awesome Mr. Cox, pictured below as “Lecktor,” from Rushmore, The Ring, or Supertroopers — he is a personal fave from Way Back).

In 2002’s adaptation of Red Dragon, Edward Norton performs the part of Agent Graham with Sir Anthony Hopkins reprising his role as Dr. Lecter. Hopkins did get to have a little fun, for once off of his familiar smug game of “fava beans” and psychological bullshit, because this whelp of a wolf among the lambs has just recently been chained in the Red Dragon storyline.

The Lecter of Red Dragon is still a young and relatively vengeful Lecter, pacing a gym on a harness and leash for mandatory exercise to keep the other prisoners of his psychiatric facility safe (no mask just yet), unthinkably pissed at Graham for having caught him several years earlier, even lunging for him in an unguarded moment of rage — Lecter is not yet completely at home in the role of Fucking With the Po-lice as is the maturing character encountered in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.

In spite of Hopkins’ fun stretching his wings, I still feel that Brian Cox plays him with a hair more dignity and better-hinged chilliness than Hopkins does, which gives Lecktor, vs. Lecter, that slender shoot of a just-germinating seed of polish-mixed-with-go-for-broke-ruthlessness which is so necessary for the character’s believable development in to who he is by Hannibal. I think Hopkins saw the chance to finally show the less-controlled, animalistic side of a character he’d been at home playing as an after-the-fact “tyger” — caged and angry but a careful planner — for a long time and jumped, maybe too high, at the opportunity for this gamier potrayal. Just an opinion.


“You think I’m stupid?”
“No, Dr. Lecter. I don’t think you’re stupid.”
“But you still caught me.”
“You had certain … disadvantages.”
“Disadvantages? Such as … ?”
“You’re insane.”

You are correct to recognize Petersen from the original, Las Vegas-set television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Fun fact: for Halloween 2002, the producers deliberately teamed William Petersen up in his role as Gil Grissom, the brilliant but troubled detective able to get in to killers’ minds, in pursuit of a nemesis freaky killer performed in the October 31st episode by Tom Noonan (Francis Dolarhyde, aka the Tooth Fairy) as a nod to their parts opposite one another in Manhunter. Noonan played a demented illusionist, escape artist, and master magician known as Zephyr. Near retirement, the Zephyr still had some scores to settle and a lot of pyrotechnic sleight-of-hand tricks up his sleeve before he was ready to call it a day. The episode actually ends in delightful ambiguity, but I will not spoil it.


Special thanks to wetpaint, a CSI: fansite, for the screencaps.

I used to wonder with great conflict why, having lost someone special to me to a real life version of this type of shit, I am okay with fare such as the Lecter film and novel shenanigans, CSI:, and the like when I am so vehemently opposed to so-called “true crime” and often even discussions of such stuff in company or on the news. I will leave the room on certain topics and I don’t consider that burying my head in the sand — I have seen all I want to see for now of what people will say “needs to be reported” like as some kind of lesson.


Fiennes and Watson in Red Dragon; my professor friend and I looked nothing like this during our deep conversation (below) — I just felt like I had not shown enough stills from it as opposed to Manhunter.

Not too long ago, I wound up one day in deep, private conversation after a where-am-I-going-in-life conference with a former professor I dearly love about Harris’s novels and perhaps Patrica Cornwell’s, or some line very similar, and I confessed that I felt conflicted about my reading of that type of material because of things I’d dealt with in the past. He surprised me by saying he’d also lost a friend to violent crime growing up and despised, as I did, the cult of violence and serial-killer-admiration that seems to grip the tabloid television shows and bestselling non-fiction shelves. Yet he, too, read with genuine enjoyment many series of fictional genre crime thrillers. He said that, like me, he’d often disgustedly questioned himself as to how he kept both opinions in balance, and why he differentiated between hating the one and being all right with the other.


We need this hero.

He said he’d read a great scholarly article just a few years earlier, and I cannot remember the writer he quoted because I am garbage and frankly slugging a margarita on the rocks right now (it’s hot where I live), which forever answered our question for him.

This psychological scholar and literary critic posited that the murder mystery — all the detective thrillers and suspense novels and cop vs. boogeyman films the genre spawns — even with a detailed portrayal of a base, disturbed and seemingly random monster like Lecter or Dolarhyde as their antagonist — far from the feeding of dark fantasy that we anxiously supposed, serves instead a need in humanity to see our fears realized (as we had already done in reality) but the conflict then resolved.


Couldn’t go the whole post without a Silence of the Lambs scene.

What he basically said was that every time he and I watched CSI: and Grissom caught the Bad Guy, or read a James Patterson book on the beach and cheered as Alex Cross brought in his latest nemesis, we were solving our friends’ murders and seeing the people who disrupted our lives brought to task for their wrongdoing. We were gaining our much needed closure. Even people who have not suffered loss but empathetically and logically fear it because they love people in their own lives and understand that the possibility of these lives being taken by cruel injustice is never far away, seek and enjoy that same positive resolution to this basic human anxiety as it plays out in genre crime fiction.


Lecter caged and contained, kept in by the Forces of Good and therefore shut up like a witch in a well of a fairy story. (temporarily in this case but you get my drift) The people of the village are Safe.

It blew my mind, and I almost wanted to reject it because it was so far from my self-loathing castigation, but it felt very true. I know he was right. I am no longer so guilty nor constantly probing myself for some latent and despicable, prurient interest in fictional depictions of things that in real life have caused me pain. I understand now that I am actually acting out in my mind, against a cathartic and safe backdrop, the conflict and agonized anxieties from which I shy away in real reports on the news, and deliberately seeking through a book in my hands a satisfactory resolution which will lay my mind at ease that justice has been reached — and, by extension, that justice can and will be reached in reality.

That strayed pretty far afield from Blake and Manhunter but I’m kind of not sorry.

All of this entry’s screencaps come from kpannier and thewadingegret on the lj; rottentomatoes forums; and personal grabs here and there over the years.

William Blake Month: “The Fly”

June 22, 2010

Late post, am I right? I’ve been invovled in some deep bookfoolery which I will explain below. The heading of each of the chapters in a book I read last night/today is followed by a quote, and one such quote was from this poem of Blake’s.


via

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?


For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;


via

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

(William Blake, “The Fly.”)

So — the lateness in the day. Yes. Sorry, but I am not even firing on four let alone six cyllinders today. See, I went against all my usual instincts and quickly finished my yearly series last night wayyy ahead of time and I refuse to let that happen with my other obligations, so when I dropped the last in the series to the floor, I dug in to my pile and instead of snatching up The Tommyknockers (absolutely not touching it until July 2nd or 3rd or I will not be where I need to be for the 4th and I cannot afford any more Bad Days), I started this book my cousin Mary loaned me called The Descent.

I was initially skeptical and, at points, flirting with grogginess from the overabundance of sleep-inducing substances I pour down my throat every night in an effort to quiet the seven-headed rock dragon of my insomnia which makes the Balrog look like a Pound Puppy, but it was amazing shit, full of caves and sci-fi creatures and anthropology and linguistics and religious themes and Hell and mountaineers and Jesuits and everything else that rings my bell, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in to the throat of it. I powered through the layers of tylenol pm, Miller, and a slug of Ny-Quil I’d taken earlier, ignoring my sandy eyelids because I Couldn’t Stop Reading, and, having finally shook off any need for sleep and finished the last sentence and closed the book thoughtfully at around nine this morning, I can confidently say I’m a believer.


via

I slid it under my bed and lay reflecting on what I’d read for a few minutes, because I felt like there had been some unresolved plot points, then I suddenly did this herky jerky twitch and thought, “How many standalone science fiction novels are that long? Plus … it was set in ’99, but the cover was new. No dog-eared pages. Mary would’ve loaned it to me years ago if she hadn’t just recently bought and read it. It’s a new book.” Reprint. Why?


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Totally excited by this chain of thought, I flipped my ass in the air, dove under my bed and grabbed the book back out of my piles and checked the front. HELL YES: among the author’s other books listed by the publisher is one titled The Ascent, which I think it is fair to conjecture can only be a sequel, so now that I’ve finished all the housework and cooking I’d planned previously to do in the hours of the morning I’d spent reading, I’m going to cruise out to the used book store by my house and see about scaring that bitch up for tonight — and see if there are more. Keep you posted. Don’t worry about the insomnia thing: I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.

William Blake Month: “The Tyger”

June 21, 2010

Holy cow, how’d I forget this one. You’ve probably been waitin’ for it. Exciting trivia question: what connection to Blake made me use the above picture from Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986). Answer will be posted up tomorrow if you don’t already know it.


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Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


via.

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart,
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


via

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Beware of kitty edition

June 21, 2010

There are more people on this earth who believe in reincarnation than do not. True story. Count them.

This liberated space is by way of introducing today’s Blake, which I know it is crazy I have not got around to that One Particular Poem about striped big cats just yet. I can’t believe the weird oversight of it. Someone take back my useless degree, please.

William Blake Month: Binding with briars my joys and desires

June 19, 2010


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I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.


In the ruins of St. Ebba’s Lunatic Asylum. Epsom, Surrey, England.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore,


Photographed by Ellen von Unwerth for her book Revenge.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

(William Blake, “The Garden of Love.”)

Binding with briars my joys and desires.

Who will take your dreams away?

William Blake Month: Art of the Nude (Naked Beauty and no view of Money)

June 18, 2010


Artist being attacked by editors and creditors, photographed by Andre de Dienes.

Where any view of Money exists Art cannot be carried on
but War only.

Art can never exist without
Naked Beauty displayed.

(William Blake, excerpt from notes on “Laocoön.”)

William Blake Month: the Poetic Genius is the true Man

June 17, 2010


Lindsay Lohan photographed by Ellen von Unwerth for GQ.

PRINCIPLE 1st
That the Poetic Genius is
the true Man. and that
the body or outward form
of Man is derived from the
Poetic Genius.


James Dean.

PRINCIPLE 2nd
As all men are alike in
outward form, So (and
with the same infinite
variety) all are alike in
the Poetic Genius.

(William Blake, excerpt from “All Religions Are One.”)

William Blake Month: Fathers and Friends; Mothers & Infants; Kings & Warriors

June 16, 2010


Photographed by Giasco Bertoli. Ladies’ Gun Club. The term is “Firearms enthusiast.” Never “Gun Nut.”

Forth from the dead dust rattling bones to bones
Join: shaking convuls’d the shivering clay breathes
And all flesh naked stands; Fathers and Friends;
Mothers & Infants; Kings & Warriors;


The Grave is a woman in Blake’s vision. cf: Kali, Shiva, Sekhmet, feral cats who eat their kittens, bathtub ladies from Texas making little angels to be the stars in their hellbound crowns — the Mother/Destroyer, yes? Just like Earth. Just like life.

The Grave shrieks with delight, & shakes
Her hollow womb, & clasps the solid stem;
Her bosom swells with wild desire;
And milk & blood & glandous wine,
In rivers rush & shout & dance,
On mountain, dale and plain.
The SONG of LOS is Ended

(William Blake, excerpt from “The Song of Los.”)

“The Song of Los” is the last of Blake’s so-called Continental Prophesies, where he shared his visions of the future for America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The excerpt just quoted concludes his prophecy for Asia and Africa.

Golly, good thing Blake was wrong, am I right. Agony and apocalypse, with naked children and flames and howls and shivering clay? In Africa and Asia? What a nut. How off base.

Ugh. Sorry, but as much as I enjoyed putting together DeDe Lind’s post, her comments about the Vietnam War and my subsequent reflections on those words with the ramifications of her centerfold’s popularity has resulted in a chain of thought about the twentieth century and where we’ll go next that has put me in kind of a foul mood. I will try to improve.




Catholic Charities donations for aid to orphans in Asia, wherein if you click through you can specifically target children in Vietnam. (It is very difficult to provide accounted-for aid there due to the corruption of many alleged non-profits run-roughshod-over by the government in their headquarters of what is now called Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon — but I know from long interactions that this branch of this particular outfit is trustworthy.)

The International Red Cross/Red Crescent, click through to see about making donations to help efforts to feed the starving children in the Sudan.

Is your guilt assuaged? Mine’s not. Not just yet.

William Blake Month: Proverbs of Hell

June 14, 2010


The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.

(William Blake, excerpt from “Proverbs of Hell,” The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.)

William Blake Month: the Spider’s anxious little heart

June 13, 2010


Gina Gershon photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth.

The Spider sits in his laboured Web,
eager watching for the Fly
Presently comes a famished Bird
& takes away the Spider
His Web is left all desolate,
that his little anxious heart
So careful wove;
& spread it out with sighs and weariness.

(William Blake, “Enion’s Lament.”)

I love this poem because it’s an unusual perspective: you begin by feeling repulsion for the spider, waiting in his web for a fly, and you end by pitying him. The idea of a spider having an anxious heart and sighing and being weary is surprising and touching. Sympathy for the devil.

William Blake Month: the torments of Love and Jealousy

June 12, 2010


Why wilt thou Examine every little fibre of my soul
Spreading them out before the Sun like Stalks of flax to dry
The infant joy is beautiful but its anatomy
Horrible Ghast & Deadly. Nought shalt thou find in it
But Death Despair & Everlasting brooding Melancholy



Thou wilt go mad with horror if thou dost Examine thus
Every moment of my secret hours. Yea I know
That I have sinned & that my Emanations are become harlots
I am already distracted at their deeds & if I look
Upon them more Despair will bring self murder on my soul



O Enion thou art thyself a root growing in hell
Tho thus heavenly beautiful
to draw me to destruction

(William Blake, excerpt from “Part I: Enmion and Tharmas,” in Vala, or, The Four Zoas: the torments of Love and Jealousy in the death and judgment of Albion the Ancient Man.)



All photos are screencaps from a collaborative short film put out by Lula magazine and the ubiquitous UK-and-now-THE-WORLD clothing store Topshop. Here is a linky to the video, which is unusual and beautiful and freaky, but as you are watching this artistic short film remember it is designed to sell faux-Bohemian low-quality overpriced clothes that will be out of style in six months to impressionable and likely self-loathing young women with eating disorders and disposable income. The fashion industry is so cruel with its kindness that I go back and forth on appreciation and hate.

I’m sorry, I went to the mall earlier to pick up some comfortable summer shoes with my grandmother and now I’m in a low mood. Nothing puts me out of sorts like that snake nest. Like, everyone is slithering over the top of each other and accidentally biting their own tails and dropping money on shit they don’t need, finances they have gained from the jobs they keep specifically to make a weekend trip to a goddamned mall and drape shiny fabrics over the viper shitpit of the system so it looks all pretty and coordinated while they sip complacently from some kind of frapped coffee bullshit drink packed with sugar and empty calories that they store in the cupholder of their child’s stroller. Their kids are with them, of course, because children must be taught to want made-up food like chicken nuggets and aspire to own over three pair of shoes. Seriously, I want to watch it burn, burn, burn.

I know that my Emanations are become harlots.

I think I’m going to go take ten and paint with the kidlet or something.

William Blake Month: “The Divine Image”

June 10, 2010


Robert Demachy. “Mignon.” 1900.

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is man, His child and care.


via smokeandacoke on the tumblr.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.


Cairo, Egypt, photgraphed by Philip-Lorca diCorcia for W.


And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.


(William Blake, “The Divine Image.”)

“All must love the human form — there God is dwelling too.” We say things like this all the time, but consider that Blake wrote in the 1700’s. He prefigured all the poseur Romantics and social reformers, but transcended their work, too. And he really was disgusted by the inequities of life on earth in the Western world at that time.


Ryan McGinley, “Jake.”

Blake writes all the time about how his visions lead him to see that people truly, genuinely, are the same beneath, that plants and animals and even handmade objects hold a universal grain of likeness to people, being all made directly or indirectly by God and inhabited by a hierarchy of spirits, demons, and angels — that everything around us, ourselves and nature and all the things we make, are reflections of God because of our being made in His image.


Ryan McGinley, “Hysteric Fireworks.”

Logically, it followed to him that to raise your hand against these fellow creations was wrong and could not be God’s will; therefore all systems that enforced human governance over one another or intrusion in to nature was against God’s plan and was a sinful conception of man which had nothing to do with redemption — this included most organized religion, education, and politics, all of which he felt were offensive, grasping human attempts to control and oppress one another, which was the same as to try to bully God.


McGinley again — a Morrissey concert.

He really saw with the eyes of his heart: and almost more than anything else he truly did not understand why there would be starvation, child abuse, and especially war. And he knew well enough that he was unlike his countrymen in that way to write poems reminding them that violence and injustice were not the right paths. They all assumed he was crazy, of course. But look at his message, especially his emphasis on religious tolerance (an easy jump for him since he believed all people were equal plus his visions told him all religions had it all jacked up to begin with). It pretty obviously is still relevant and resonant today.


Ryan McGinley, “Fireworks.” He’s my new fave, if you couldn’t tell.

It is a reasonable enough message. If God created us and all things, then we must be peaceful and loving to one another and the animals and natural resources around us, and love them for being reflections of God. It is the only right way to be. So why is it such a challenge, again and again? Everyone claims to want it, so why it is always out of reach is depressing and mystifying. Kind of like how “the one thing we’re all waiting for/ is peace on earth and an end to war” to quote Queen’s “The Miracle.” I know I just went from Blake to Freddie Mercury, but I’m a maverick! Good people quote the Beatles. Great people quote the Beatles, Billy Joel, and Queen. Take it to the bank.

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day — William Blake Month: A Proverb of Hell

June 9, 2010

One of the “Proverbs of Hell,” from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.


“Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of religion.”

I think the door does protest too much. Like, I didn’t even ask, dude.