Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Robert Fordyce Aickman was an English writer of what he called 'strange stories'.
Writing from the 1950s up until his death in 1981, his short stories are elegant, modern, and packed full of disturbing imagery. Dreamlike, yet pronouncing sharp insights into human nature and relationships. Reading his tales can feel as if they are veiled by a scrim. Not through lack of clarity in language, as his prose is some of the clearest you'll read - but there is an itching to see through the words, behind the story - and it is this discomfort that Aickman was an expert at producing, leaving you with a real sense of unease. And you're never entirely sure why.
His other life's work was as the co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association, formed to preserve the canal system that runs through the UK, and still active today. The plaque pictured is a memorial that was laid at one of the locks, also named for him.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
J. G. Ballard is the prime chronicler of the city dweller who, slowly and very sensibly, goes insane. High-Rise was written in 1975 and concerns the escalating occurrences in a group of ultramodern apartment complexes. He has revisited similar themes in subsequent books such as Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes and Millenium People; but as someone who said in 1982 that '... the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul', it is a topic being explored by its pre-eminent authority and seer.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
The Fall are now approaching their 30th year. Either you've never heard of them, or you have and think they're genius, crap, or both. 40 or so lineup changes but the same singer, Mark E. Smith, pictured on the record cover, who worked as a clerk on the docks in Manchester in 1977 and thought he'd start his own band.
They say music should be fun
They say music should be fun
Like reading a story of love
But I wanna read a horror story
'Dice Man' from the album Dragnet, 1979
Parking garages seem to be internationally interchangeable, although there are attempts to lighten the mood with neon fruit or jolly animals rather than stark numbers to distinguish floors. There is an elegance in their flat functionality which can be chilling. Harmful people and berserk vehicles can be easily imagined. Or other things, if neither cars nor people are present.
Monday, January 15, 2007
A film to cover the triptych of music/fashion/horror, Christiane F. is based on a true story of unglamourous drug addiction, set in late-70s Berlin with an underage cast, supplanted with performances and soundtrack by David Bowie. Its unretouched dirtiness holds a strong sway, with scenes that nowadays would be polished and Touche Eclat'd to perfection. The city itself is a star as well as the young actors.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
If at times you feel a sense of foreboding, a sinister undercurrent, in the course of day-to-day living in a large modern city, look to Fritz Leiber to have your suspicions confirmed. His 1941 short horror story 'Smoke Ghost' serves as the template for the urban horror subset, shockingly ahead of its time. Do search it out (and try Harlan Ellison's 'The Whimper of Whipped Dogs' as a 1973 companion piece). The sacrifices of city life will change its meaning, slightly.
Fritz Leiber was a fascinating writer who is probably more well-known for his sword and sorcery (his original term) books with his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser/Lankhmar series, but his horror writing was incredibly prescient, witty and surprising. His novels 'Conjure Wife' and 'Our Lady of Darkness' (1953 and 1977 respectively) manage all this, with OLOD having, for me, an added melancholy tone as it contained shades of Leiber's own life that are particularly affecting. But they will also frighten you, very much.
For more about Leiber, there is a very comprehensive website.
Who know that Terry Richardson was the spawn of photography genius? Well, not me obviously...this marvelously louche shot was taken by Terry's dad Bob for Italian Vogue in 1972. He sadly died in 2005 but his work is remarkable: ahead of its time, yet in retrospective it's The Look of the period.
What a thrilling discovery you were! Your populist but eerie arrangements, the ache in your beautiful vibrato, unusual subject matter...no wonder Julian Cope was obsessed with you, compiling an album called "Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker". Listen to 'Montague Terrace (In Blue)' or 'It's Raining Today' and see if you don't agree.