LW's clubbable 2021

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LW's clubbable 2021

Editado: Ene 3, 11:36pm

This year is shaping to be a strange one, with a (possibly) lethargic first half and (probably) hectic second half. I'm in a kind of limbo at the moment, with too many uncertainties and other people's decisions affecting any long-term plans I'd make. So, as one simple thing I can do right now, that's entirely up to me... let there be this thread. :)

I don't make reading plans or go for "challenges" but I found my reading clumps around a few abiding interests anyway--for example, what I call "the 20th century blues", the inter-war decades, modernism in art and literature, all emancipatory trends--feminism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, etc. I read more non-fiction than fiction. I read more old/classic fiction than contemporary.

In a typical year I go through too much material to discuss everything (last year I read 222 books--a good hundred or so under my average), and the fact that quite a lot of it is stuff inexistent or difficult to procure in English makes me hesitant to talk about it. However, insofar I'd like to leave as authentic a record of this year as possible, I'll try to mark everything but expand on just a minority of titles.

Don't kiss me : the art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Jersey Heritage Trust, 2006

Héroïnes, Claude Cahun, Original Publication Date (OPD)--1925

The year began with a monograph on the life-and-work partnership of two extraordinary women, Claude Cahun (born Lucy Schwob) and Marcel Moore (Suzanne Malherbe). They met in Nantes in 1909 as girls of fifteen and seventeen, respectively, and remained together until Cahun's death in 1954. Cahun is the better known one, being recognised as one of the key figures in Surrealism and a pioneering "alternative"-thinker of gender, but even she has only relatively recently started to be valued as the pivotal artist she was. (A theme that comes up a lot when revisiting history of art.)

Heroines is a collection of prose pieces originally published in a literary journal. Almost all present famous female figures of myth or history--Eve, Judith, Salome, Sappho, Cinderella... seen, to put it mildly, under a different light. Cinderella, for instance, turns out to be a masochist absolutely delighted with the mistreatment she suffers at the hands of her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and agrees to marry the Prince (a shoe fetishist whose interest in women begins and ends at their feet) only after her fairy godmother convinces her that the torment of submitting to that match, therefore going against her nature, would be the greatest yet.

We have gotten used to "retellings" of this kind, but in 1925... The facsimile of the first batch can be viewed here:


The war and occupying Nazi forces found Cahun and Moore living on Jersey island. Remarkably, the couple launched a covert resistance campaign that lasted four years, until they were caught in 1944, imprisoned, tried and sentenced to death. They tried to commit suicide but were found on time and transported to the hospital, and eventually returned to the prison. They were released about a year later upon the arrival of the Allied forces, but Cahun's health never recovered from the prison experience. Moore survived her by some eighteen years and died by suicide.

Composite photo of Cahun and Moore:

Ene 4, 12:45am

The walk by Robert Walser (no relation!) is perfect. That is all.

Kurt Tucholsky's name will be coming up a lot this year. Sehnsucht nach der Sehnsucht (Yearning after yearning) is a collection of this unforgettable, tragically prescient man-of-letters' more or less light verse on the topic of love. While hardly a feminist, Tucholsky was clear-eyed about the faults of his own sex:

Frauen sind eitel? I bewahre.
Das ist nichts gegen männliche Exemplare. ...

(Women are vain? Gimme a break. That's nothing compared to male specimens...)

The hanging tree by Ben Aaronovitch--I'm afraid I forget what happened with the last page, but they are fairly amusing while they last.

Moving pictures:

I prattled about two 1970s French televisual Gothic delights here:


In addition to that, I saw Melville's beautiful-looking and impeccably directed Un flic (1972), with Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve at their most impossibly gorgeous. Not my favourite actors and a rather trite story, but the whole package is supreme eye candy (for those who can withstand 1970s homophobia etc.)

Last but not least, the only "category" of film I'll deliberately pursue while possible are East German movies made by the DEFA. These were a revelation to me just a couple years back, on a now-gone YouTube channel. Amazingly, the North American streaming service Kanopy offers quite a selection of DEFA films and I intend to see as many as I can fit.

Number 37 of those seen so far, Spur der Steine (The trace of stones), 1966, with Manfred Krug (the only one I recognised, thanks to his role in the Tatort series). The film is based on a novel (touchstoned) about a small band of workers who go about their job in a manner deemed "anarchic" by their uptight "good Communist" bosses. When the (sole) female engineer on site falls pregnant by her married lover--the Party conscience of the company as it were--the latter's hypocrisy and cowardice are shown up by the rude but honourable leader of the "anarchists".

The story delightfully doesn't go where an American movie would take it, repeatedly. The adulterer is a schmoe and a weakling, but also a loving dad, and funny on occasion. Balla "the anarchist" brawler and sexist pig becomes the girl's true friend. And she fends for herself without losing her sense of humour or respect for the workers.

Not in the top class of my favourites but a solid movie, and interesting for many reasons beyond purely filmic.

It was distributed and shown long enough to win a prize (FIRESCI) then bunkered until 1991.

Kathi and Balla, intelligentsia and labour, woman and man, overcoming differences:

Ene 4, 1:35am

>2 LolaWalser: The walk by Robert Walser (no relation!) is perfect. That is all.

Yes, it should be a compulsory New Year re-read!

I’ve got the book of Spur der Steine lined up on the TBR pile, hoping to get to it this year. Slightly intimidating in length...

Ene 4, 1:38am

>3 thorold:

I remembered you had read it but I figure it was another book of the author's. Frankly, unless the guy writes like an angel, I'd as soon recommend seeing the movie instead. Ooooh now I'll never make it to book-heaven... :p

Ene 4, 4:40am

Starring your thread.

>1 LolaWalser: How did I not hear of them before? I looked up Claude Cahun on my local library website: a handful of titles are available... as long as you're a fine arts student! I might have to befriend one just to get access to their library card...

>2 LolaWalser: >3 thorold: I've been meaning to read Robert Walser for years, but never got round to it. I've now placed a library hold on The Walk.

Ene 4, 7:04am

So glad to see you here, Lola! ;-)

Ene 4, 1:14pm

>6 avaland:

Lois! Thank you, gracious lady. :)

>5 Dilara86:

It is amazing that more hasn't been written about them way before. Cahun's photography is best known, they were both interested in experimental theatre, Moore worked as an illustrator in many venues--books, fashion... I suggest googling for Images under their names (e.g. cahun moore) to get some sense of what they did.

They are bound to become better known--and three years ago they became the first same-sex couple anywhere to be recognised with an official street name!

By the way, I didn't mention it before as there's so much, and this is probably a tidbit known to whoever knew of Cahun anyway--she is the niece of the symbolist writer Marcel Schwob and there are many connections in her early evolution to him and that generation.

Ene 4, 1:19pm

>1 LolaWalser: "So, as one simple thing I can do right now, that's entirely up to me... let there be this thread. :)"

Amen! I always learn a lot from your posts. Looking forward to following your reading this year.

Ene 4, 4:15pm

I’m also glad to see your thread. So far everything posted is new to me and fascinating.

Ene 4, 5:49pm

>1 LolaWalser: That looks fascinating and also somehow familiar... I feel like I've seen their work before. Maybe in my other life many moons ago as an art student. Anyway, thanks for the exposition on the book, and I'm glad to have it on my radar.

Ene 4, 6:46pm

>1 LolaWalser: Happy to lurk through your thread this year!

Ene 5, 3:02am

>7 LolaWalser: Seeing the street name sign brings up vague memories. I might actually have read an article about them in the Guardian... Anyway, thanks for bringing them to my attention. I've placed a hold on Le coeur de Pic. It may not be a perfect introduction to their work, but it is borrowable from my library.

Ene 5, 4:36am

I am going to enjoy this thread - plunging into European culture. I am sure there will be lots here to explore; Cahun and Moore to start with.

Ene 5, 5:36pm

Greetings, visitors, thanks for dropping by, and remember natter is welcome regardless of matter... :) (and yes I shall rhyme unconcerned for sense or shame...)

>12 Dilara86:

Curses! None of Deharme's books are available for circulation! and I lost my super-special uni lib privileges. Thanks for the ref though (adds entry to the infinite wishlist).

Last evening I was unexpectedly yet predictably gripped by an old book, Die drei gerechten Kammacher (Three just comb-makers) by the Swiss Gottfried Keller--a schooldays staple, at least in my generation. I actually bought this book for the edition, which is from 1918 (but a 1923 printing, my copy) by the legendary Kurt Wolff--well, he's a legend to me anyway... Wolff published first editions of Kafka and other young writers of the time and became known as a cutting-edge modernist publisher (not the only one, of course, that period was bursting with invention and progressive zeal). He escaped from the Nazis to the States (eventually) and continued publishing--he and his wife started Pantheon Books. But he was never to Americans what he was to Germans in the teenies and the twenties of last century...

I'm a "collector" mostly by default, but in the case of the Kurt Wolff Verlag I'd ideally want the entire catalogue. So far, alas, I have but five, one of which is this Keller.

The novella was first published in 1856 in a collection of stories about the imaginary but totally Swiss little town called Seldwyla at which Keller pokes fun in a more or less (mostly less) loving manner. Three poor journeymen work for a master combmaker and compete, in silent torment, to be the one who'll buy the shop off him when he retires. The poor sods work non-stop, sleep three to a bed and subsist mostly on cabbage, and yet rather than think to organise and present a united front to their outrageous exploiter, they suffer ever-longer hours with ever-decreasing pay. As the prospects for the shop get worse--they have enriched the master so much he decides to fire them all--they start competing for the one eligible girl within their reach, the town washerwoman's somewhat oldish and bizarre daughter.

The story is contemporary but the work system looks medieval--the journeymen are hired on a temporary basis and expected to take off in spring--skilled migrant labour then as now. They carry little ledgers with good conduct testimonies and references that they present in each new town. Completely at the mercy of the town authorities, the masters, and the weather.

The story ends with the youngest journeyman getting the insufferable girl, while the other two end up one a suicide and the other a lunatic. Almost to the end it still reads as a protracted joke, and then--bam! Swiss Realismus painting the need for Socialismus!

I meant to take a few pics of the beautiful Fraktur type and the woodcuts (by Ernst Würtenberger) but it turns out all the illustrations are right here and you can enlarge them too! In case you happen to be a woodcut nerd...


Under Moving pictures, in the eternal shuffling stuff around to put away, watched Claire Denis' Beau Travail from 1999, which I hadn't seen since it came out. Just as beautiful and upsetting as I remembered. A tale of jealousy and some other mess of feelings among soldiers in a Foreign Legion outpost in Djibouti. The scenes of training are my favourite, the emphasis, unlike in other films about soldiers, is on the grace and beauty of physical exertion, not its brutalising effect on the body (and mind).

Ene 5, 5:53pm

I don't think I have the background to appreciate your reading, but I am looking forward to witnessing it. My husband is/was a photographer and taught university photography classes. I think I know that photograph of Cahun and Moore.

Ene 5, 6:00pm

>15 sallypursell:

Half the time--OK, four-fifths of the time--I don't have the background to appreciate what I read, but has it stopped me?! Not so far! :) At some level this is me trying to feed all the hungry curiosities I had to leave behind to specialise.

Yes, I think the first half of the image above, with Cahun, is the one often seen as one of her auto-portraits.

Ene 5, 7:41pm

>16 LolaWalser: That was lovely, gentle, encouragement. I'll see you later.

Ene 7, 9:45am

“a schooldays staple” ? Interesting Swiss school kids

Cool edition and history of it.

Ene 7, 4:01pm

Heh, it's like posting about a story by, ummm let's say Hawthorne... but without the cool Vincent Price movie adaptations.

Just got a truly embarrassing haul from the library. Must read SOME of these first pronto.

The truth is that I'm in withdrawal with all the bookshops closed and this is sort of like shopping/browsing, the next best, in the circumstances.

Editado: Ene 10, 5:28pm

La piramide di fango by Andrea Camilleri

I've been reading these since... forever? but took a break a few years ago after one with a particularly sadistic murder of a woman. I get a kick out of the dialect, Salvo's character, his and the author's leftism, and, last but not least, because of a familiar sense of quiet doom descending on a Mediterranean scene pretty much like my own--and for the same reasons: a dying off, decay, pollution, corruption, political paralysis, stupidity, cruelty. If that seems vague, more often than not there are concrete (ha) analogies, for example the rampant and unstoppable destruction of the coast by illegal (or "legal") building, mafioso wheeling and dealing etc.

For these features I overlook the terrible women and foreigners--one could argue at least that that too reflects simply Italian truth, which is still one of a society extremely sexist and racist regardless of the good intentions of many.

This entry begins with a dead man on a construction site who didn't die there. The conspiracy Montalbano uncovers rings only too true to the reality of such settings.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, by Emmanuel Acho (2020).

This is an excellent primer for the current discussion about racism and anti-racism, covering everything from terminology, implicit bias, cultural appropriation, white privilege, systemic racism, interracial relationships and more. The writing is concise and the tone warm--hard to imagine "uncomfortable" conversations approached with greater care for the other side. The primary target audience are white Americans but no doubt any white person could profit from it. Acho, who I didn't know of before, is a Nigerian-American sports figure and football analogies and references are ingeniously and appropriately made. So, among other qualities, could be an especially apt introduction for a youngster in one's life.

Hilma af Klint, visionary (various authors) was published in the wake of the 2018 Guggenheim exhibition of af Klint's paintings. This is the second book about af Klint (1862-1944) I've read and complements the other by offering essays on theosophy, the context in which it (and af Klint and her art) developed, the connections made by "seekers" between spiritualism and science at the turn of the past century, and so on.

(Re)discoveries are always exciting. Whether one agrees or not that af Klint is the "first" abstract painter, beating to the title the usual row of white men--Kupka, Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian...--her (re)appearance means another salutary rethinking about what we know and how we see the history of art.

Af Klint was academically trained and worked, among other, as a scientific illustrator in a veterinary school. In her mid-forties she abandoned figurative painting and turned to creating vast mystical (and mysterious) canvasses bursting with a often familiar but highly personalised symbology. These projects were planned and sketched with the aid of numerous notebooks, many of which she destroyed before death, but what she left is being used to decipher and throw more light on the paintings.

Because so much or perhaps all of this work is therefore "illustrative" in a way, expressive of ideas, in the 1980s when she first came back to notice she was dismissed as somehow not a real artist, a lesser type of artist, and her paintings not real paintings but rather "diagrams". We can all ponder for ourselves whether it makes sense to judge what is and isn't art on the basis of "idea-content" behind it... Of course, af Klint's intentions were also scrutinised. Did SHE think she was making art or was she merely communicating mystical messages--or, not much more "artistic"--communicating with the spiritual world via her paintings?

Well, while she doesn't seem to have expanded on the question herself, what is certain is that she tried to get her work exhibited and after repeated failures to interest anyone, retreated into isolation, as far as the art world was concerned.

This case is a must for anyone interested in the roots of abstract art or pioneering women painters.

Note to self: could she have crossed paths with, or crossed the path of, occultist Strindberg? Just how large could have been the spiritualist scene in Sweden, and didn't Strindberg himself paint in service of mystical interests.

This picture to show the scale of the paintings:

Ene 10, 12:35pm

Sorry about the touchstones. They were there, now they are not, and nothing seems to work to bring them back. Oh, well, maybe later.

Ene 10, 2:34pm

The Moving pictures roundup.

Groundhog day, 1993. Never seen it before, although I knew the main premise vaguely--guy lives through the same day over and over--and thought I'd finally flesh out that bit of pop culture. I was under the impression that it's a children's movie so it's a good thing it's not. Also, I didn't know Andie MacDowell was in it or I'd never have started watching, can't stand her. Not a huge fan of Murray either. After such unpromising setup, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the script was great (barring some elements, like the caricaturally "brilliant" prowess in everything the hero achieves during his temporal loop imprisonment) and really moving. Not for the, yuck, romance (not that I grudge it), but the questions it raises--how many things in the past would we rewrite if we could? Which ones? But would it be fair to people around us, treating them like extras in our lives, manipulating their responses?

One might note this manipulation is all the hero can think about in the first part and it's precisely what he has to give up in order to break the spell.

So in the end, what CAN be done about the past mistakes? Nothing. but you can 1. slow down somehow 2. to recognise them 3. and try not to repeat them.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space, 1988--it just came to me, after watching the attack on the US Capitol, that I wanted to see this movie again. I swear I wasn't even making a conscious connection--THEN, I just wanted to unwind and relax with something colourfully silly with my dinner after a nerve-wracking day.

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, 2019. Strictly for the fans of the TV series. I love Essie Davis and her divine Miss Fisher, enjoy the retro music and the costumes, Phryne and Jack have great chemistry--mucho sizzle, love wins. Special plus for gorgeous location filming in Morocco.

Was amazed to hear about the fans crowd-funding the film and taking part in it as extras. Good vibes all around.

Ene 10, 5:52pm

Love the Montalbano TV show

Ene 10, 6:10pm

>20 LolaWalser: >23 baswood: Luca Zingaretti taking his shirt off in every episode of the TV series is fun, but I think I enjoy the books more. I only read about one a year, so it's a new challenge getting to grips with the dialect every time.

I thought I'd read that one, but I was thinking of the earlier short story "Il quarto segreto" which I read last year, that also starts with a corpse on a building site.

I think the touchstones get broken if you edit a post several times in quick succession. They usually seem to come back after a while.

Ene 11, 10:08am

>22 LolaWalser: We were supposed to go and see the Phryne Fisher movie last year however Covid happened. Thanks to your reminder I've requested it from the library.

Ene 11, 1:58pm

I love Groundhog Day! 🙂

Your comments on Hilma af Klint take me straight to The Blazing World, the Siri Hustvedt version (not the Cavendish one, which I haven’t read). I wasn’t aware of af Klint’s history or that Hustvedt must have had her (a non-Minnesotan Swedish counterpart!) in mind. Interesting

Ene 11, 2:16pm

>23 baswood:, >24 thorold:

I'm aware of the show but haven't watched it, like Mark, I find the books have a charm all their own. Plus I have a very definite image of Salvo and that bruiser doesn't look anything like him!

Sorta kinda... the poet/singer Francesco Guccini :)

Always glad to hear people like the show, though, because worry #188,967 keeping me awake at night is "the television is terrible, the cinema is in shambles, the theatre is moribund--what are poor Italian actors to do? Will there be any in the future? Finita la Commedia?"

>25 rhian_of_oz:

So cool! I have no other fans around me--I'd love to hear your impressions. The DVD extras by the way--do check them out!

>26 dchaikin:

I shall be watching Groundhog Day again for sure.

Hmmm, now I'm intrigued about that Hustvedt book again. I did start once but for whatever reason it was heavy-going for me. Maybe just a bad moment... I suppose there will be a lot of material coming out about af Klint yet. There is a lot of disparate stuff to consider and process, including (I forget where I got the hint of this) that she/her family weren't on the good side of history in the WWII.

Ene 11, 2:53pm

>27 LolaWalser: Hustvedt’s novel timeline perspective is “today”, which I think means 2015 or something like that. I don’t recall af Klint mentioned. It’s just the artist she creates has some parallels to af Klint that I’m thinking now are meaningful. I first read Hustvedt last year, and just really enjoyed being in her mindset.

Ene 13, 12:46am

From the MIT Press Reader, on the occasion of the publication of The Broadcast 41: Women and the Anti-Communist blacklist by Carol A. Stabile:

How the FBI Destroyed the Careers of 41 Women in TV and Radio

... there was a great deal of optimism after World War II, that people could use television to promote civil rights, democracy, to educate and uplift people. Then you have the blacklist. By 1950, many of the innovators who had written and worked on progressive programs prior to 1950 were out of the industry. They had been silenced by the force of the anti-communist backlash. A lot of the book is based on FBI files which I’m still receiving 10 years later. What’s revealed in these documents really emphasized that there was this whole other possible trajectory for TV. Imagine American television if W.E.B. Du Bois had been a news commentator at CBS. This was one of the things that the FBI was really concerned about. And this was a real possibility, CBS was actually talking about the whiteness of their newsroom and the need to have rich and varied voices. (...)

Reading “Red Channels,” I noticed that in an industry that was overwhelmingly male: 41 of the 151 people listed in the pages were women. That surprised me so I started looking at the profiles of these women, and found that it was a fascinating group. Anti-communists were casting a wide net so some of these women were classical musicians, some of them were choreographers or actors. A handful were writers, like Vera Caspary. Some were members of the Communist Party, such as Shirley Graham Du Bois, whose husband was W.E.B. Du Bois. Vera Caspary was also a member. Some of these women were liberals. Some of them were blacklisted simply for their support of the New Deal and Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the depression. There was a wide range of politics within this group, representing positions from across the spectrum of American left. (...)

CAS: The anti-communist movement begins after World War I, born out of the fear that there might be a revolution in the United States, similar to the Bolshevik Revolution. During World War II, the attacks on progressives in the media lessen. There are other things going on. It wasn’t an opportune moment to invoke fears of communism and socialism. But they start to ramp up almost immediately after World War II. There’s a lot of concern about the growing power of the civil rights movement. And even though “communist” is the name they give their targets, a lot of the fears are fueled by white supremacy and the fear of civil rights.

In fairness, in the United States, the Communist Party was the only party to support a federal anti-lynching law. The Communist Party, whatever else you want to say about it, had views on race that were far more progressive than either of the two official parties. Meanwhile, the FBI has been gathering information on so-called communists for as long as it’s been in operation. (...)

You didn’t even have to belong to the Communist Party. They had this term “fellow traveler” that encompasses anyone who wasn’t willing to publicly support anti-communist principles in politics. They smeared people and called them in front of The House Un-American Activities Committee. They promoted rumors and gossip, all of it without factual backing. (...)

People learned to self-censor. People who remained in the industry realized that there were topics that had become associated with communism that you couldn’t talk about. Immigration is one. (...) Writing about race, writing about women’s liberation, writing about immigration, all became very controversial. While there were people who still manage to do some of this work, it was not easy to do it and it certainly wasn’t encouraged. Can I give you just one example that I love?

SK: Please do.

CAS: Okay. Do you know the BBC program “The Hour” (2011), which was about a BBC newsroom in the 1950s?

SK: Yeah.

CAS: If you look at that alongside “Mad Men,” I think you get a sense of the long-term effects. In “Mad Men,” what you have is a fantasy of the 1950s in which women aren’t part of the industry at all. They just accidentally happened into it. They’re kind of stupid, and get pregnant without even knowing it, until they give birth. But if you look at “The Hour,” it’s a really different depiction of the struggle faced by women in that industry. There were women in the industry. I think that you get a lot of historical representations that are warped by the anti-communist lens. (...)

Ene 13, 8:54pm

Dang, I do need to read that Hustvedt. It was one of those books that I was SO HOT for and then by the time I got hold of a copy, I was busy with other reading and never picked it up. I loved the af Klint exhibition when it was in NYC—it was one of those shows that's an experience, and when you come out of it the world looks a bit different for a little while, though I'd be hard pressed to say exactly how or why. Have you seen the documentary on her, Beyond the Visible? It was very good.

Groundhog Day is one of those movies I can watch over and over again, no meta joke intended.

Editado: Ene 14, 12:25pm

>30 lisapeet:

The coincidence of Guggenheim's architectural spiral and af Klint's spiral symbolism must have made a strong impression. Although it's not clear that they succeeded in laying out much more than a chronological progression of her work--as I understand it, they are still far from deciphering all her "meanings".

I haven't seen that documentary but I subscribe to a German art channel which I think has it (I seem to recall the title)--they do have something on af Klint anyway. It's in my several-hundred-items queue, of course... :)

The Groundhog Day strikes me as very rewatchable. Brilliant screenplay, nothing superfluous, no idling.

Ene 14, 5:52pm

It was really striking in the Guggenheim, and I can't imagine a better venue for her work—especially the really large ones. I had the feeling the curators were leaving a lot of the associative work up to the viewer, though maybe that's charitable and they just didn't know what else to do with it other than hang it beautifully. But honestly, that was fine. There was enough explicatory text so you could engage with it however you liked, and I feel like I got a strong sense of what she was after from the show. Mostly I'm glad I caught it when it was here, which now feels like a million years ago.

Ene 14, 11:57pm

Solutions and other problems, Allie Brosh, 2020

Years ago I saw a strange little amphibian face in someone's avatar icon on Tumblr and immediately felt drawn to it--it wasn't just a doodle, it had an expression that spoke to me, even mistaking the wedge on its head for a fin (it was hair). The Tumblr-er directed me to the artist's blog. Later Hyperbole and a half came out, with one of my favourite comic tales of all time, about the cake and the dinosaur. Probably the best childhood story I know--or best-told, at least.

This book is just as good, but even more sad. I was aghast to read about the tragedies that befell her. But here is the book, the ultimate proof of life and struggle. I felt guilty at times at the laughter and uplift that had cost someone's misery first, but this is her gift to others.

Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly, 2020

Definitely the third Guerrilla Girls book that will go to my budding artist (niece). A graphic overview of the GG feminist campaigns to break the white male monopoly in the art world--and wider consciousness--from the beginning in 1984 to our days. It's gratifying to note that from the very start the GGs were intersectional, scrupulously paying attention not just to sexism but racism and other forms of discrimination. Long may they growl!

Aubrey Beardsley: Decadence and Desire, Jan Marsh, 2020

Not the book you'll want if you wish to pore over Beardsley's graphics in detail, being rather small (19x17 cm), but a nice quick overview with two welcome improvements over the most common volumes--the colour reproductions of some of his lesser-known posters, advertisements, paintings, and a modern attitude to the traditionally fraught questions about his sexuality (who knows!), character (rather nasty, probably!), friendships (not many! if any!)

Then again, lifelong illness ending in death at 25 might sour even an angel...

Ô dingos, ô châteaux !, Jean-Patrick Manchette, OPD 1972

I'm reading in order through a Manchette omnibus, this is the third title (of twelve; two I had read before). A young woman with a past of mental problems is hired straight out of the sanatorium to take care of a boy. Mere days later she and the boy are kidnapped by an assassin with gastrointestinal problems, and his aides, a couple of not-too-bright thuggish brothers. After this, it's all spoilers...

I see the NYRB Classics line has issued this one; that will speak to many people. I became a Manchette fangirl with La position du tireur couché and every subsequent book reinforced the sympathy. But it's difficult to predict who'd fall for him or not. Fans of noir and hardboiled--maybe, but in my opinion he actually explodes this genre, most cynically and amusingly. Maybe Willeford has a touch of similar anarchist tendencies... but it doesn't get to the zany carnevalesque proportions of the "nothing is sacred" mayhem in Manchette.

Rule of thumb, one and only, is that everything that can go wrong will go wrong--but you won't be sure for which side until the very last.

Moving pictures

A better person would skip this one, but I gotta keep track: Fritz Lang's last American movie, the 1956 Beyond reasonable doubt, is awful. How does anyone know this was directed by Lang and not by three raccoons in his coat? The boring story predictably told has the most hare-brained premise ever: a critic of capital punishment persuades his son-in-law-to-be (totally unenthusiastic Dana Andrews) to get himself accused of a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to death--in order to show how easy it is to get an innocent man onto the death row. The two of them concoct fake evidence but also take photos proving they are doing this, the idea being that when the time comes they'd reveal their cunning plan.

Well this goes exactly as you'd expect. The hapless father-in-law-to-be dies in an accident and the evidence of the fake evidence disappears with him. Oh noes! Execution it is. The fiancée (Joan Fontaine, for some reason looking fifty) laments elegantly throughout and there is a last-minute saviouring and a last-minute twist. The twist is not bad, I'll give it that, but also not sufficient!

I discovered that one of the local TV channels will let me stream some stuff. Saw a few eps of "Maude" with Beatrice Arthur. Previously I only knew her from a Threepenny Opera recording, and maybe two and a half eps of Golden Girls. I like her! And this is dated but also not so much! Did you know people were making fun of white liberal hypocrisy in the 1970s? Like, with the black maid, Florida, and the tokenism etc.

Ene 17, 5:40pm

I’m not familiar with Aubrey Beardsley, but that cover is gorgeous. Intriguing review. Enjoyed this whole post.

Ene 17, 7:17pm

Beardsley died at 25? I didn't know that. When I was a kid my parents had a copy of Aubrey Beardsley's Erotic Universe on the shelves, which I checked out for the potential dirty stuff and ended up really liking because of its cartoony lines and black-and-white work.

Ene 17, 8:12pm

>35 lisapeet:

Shocking, isn't it? He packed a lot in his last 6-7 years, but yeah, died a baby practically.

>34 dchaikin:

You may have seen some of his drawings and designs around, they are almost a cliché for some things, English aestheticism, Oscar Wilde... he also has so many imitators and epigones, people sometimes forget what a shooting star he was.

He had a unique gift for being beautiful, grotesque, perverse, and funny, all at the same time. A print from his most (in)famous set, the illustrations for Lysistrata (privately published):


Nice view of the original book here:


Ene 17, 8:25pm

He wasn’t shy. I think Aristophanes would be incredibly flattered.

Editado: Ene 17, 8:30pm

Haha, no on shyness! Then again, it was meant just for the eyes of a very select set of 100 special gentlemen... :)

Ene 18, 9:03pm

>33 LolaWalser: Thank you for reminding me about Allie Brosh's second book. Her Cake story is one of my favourites of all time because (even at 50) I can totally relate to it.

Ene 19, 5:58pm

>39 rhian_of_oz:

Isn't it wonderful! She makes one recall truly what childhood is like.

RidgewayGirl is also reading the book, I'm sure she'll be more eloquent than I was about it.

Ene 19, 6:00pm

I listened to this yesterday and am still thinking about it, so, for keeps:

SPECIAL: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in His Own Words (Democracy Now)

"While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. We play his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, as well as his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” that he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated."

Ene 19, 8:05pm

If there are any fans or even occasional watchers of early film--from silent through WWII, say--this group would love to see you:


That's where I post in more detail (sometimes) about films from that period so I won't be repeating those posts here.

I had a great time yesterday bingeing on Criterion Collections "closet picks"--they invite over film people and let them choose stuff from their catalogue.

Just a few favourites:

Agnès Varda’s Closet Picks

Kim Cattrall's Closet Picks

And this guy I didn't know but he picked both Varda and Claire Denis and so few men choose women filmmakers that was just heartwarming:

Joachim Trier's DVD Picks

Ene 22, 12:07pm

Oh, this saddens me so much...

Mira Furlan: Babylon 5 and Lost actress dies at 65

I didn't know her but knew many people who did, including my SIL and brother, and I'm not sure I know of another person loved by so many.

Ene 22, 1:09pm

>43 LolaWalser: That's really sad. Sorry to read this.

Editado: Ene 22, 3:27pm

Briefe an eine Katholikin (Letters to a Catholic {woman}), Kurt Tucholsky, written 1929-1931, first published (one letter) 1929; this selection 1970.

In 1929 Tucholsky published a Letter to a Catholic {woman} as a slim pamphlet in a red wrapper. As his correspondent notes in the Introduction, she had been very excited to see it on sale everywhere and discussed, as Tucholsky's articles were wont to be, by everyone. Tucholsky had published this letter with her permission but she wanted to remain anonymous--until she personally broke her anonymat to an acquaintance who irritated her by claiming Tucholsky was putting on a show and there was no "Catholic woman" in conversation with him.

At the beginning of this conversation lasting about 18 months or so, was Marierose Fuchs' critical article about the work of a number of popular cultural and journalistic figures, including Tucholsky. The article had been published in the Catholic periodical Germania, the official paper of the Deutsche Zentrumspartei (in the letters just "Zentrum"), in the Weimar period the leading party of the political (is there any other...) Catholicism.

Tucholsky replied to Fuchs personally, protesting some of what she said but also taking the opportunity to lay out his opinions on religion and politics in greater detail. They continued on to exchange letters and books, with the older Tucholsky falling into the posture of a mentor, not that there was ever any question of "converting" this good Catholic girl to his Communist-adjacent way of thinking.

Some details I wish to remember in particular: Fuchs (who btw was 72 when this book was first published in 1970) describing how anxious she was for the safety of Tucholsky's letters when she went rummaging in the wreckage after the war--she had buried them when the Nazis came to power--and how she cried when precisely the longest and most "beautiful" one turned up from the ruin missing pages--and how, rereading them after the war, she couldn't believe what she had found objectionable about Tucholsky's opinions as a young woman. Most important, her saying that he was right, had always been right.

Twice he urged her to read Kafka, and talked about having met him, in the most glowing terms.

From one of the last letters, February 21, 1931:

In life the fronts are never called: Catholicism and Bolshevism. They may be that, when one compares methods (there the two are again very similar)--but there is exactly that unreasonable self-overestimation that I so reproach the Church with. It can't compete even numerically. Believe me: already today there are countries filled with people who either belong to completely different Asian religions, or for whom the Church is nothing.

The fronts are called in the materialistic struggle: Bolshevism and Capitalism. Oh, yes, I know... "d' spirichual" {Tucholsky jokes in Berlin's idiom, "det Jeistige"}. Spare me the yarns: people want to eat, they want not to have tuberculosis... dear Fuchs, I have one objection against Christianity:

it has never helped anything.

What does the history of the Christian, the super-Christian, lands look like? Bloodcurdling. Then? Then it's nothing, serves nothing, helps nothing--after such a war you still want to talk about it? Comforting wounds... indeed. Who has so failed, must fall silent.

As Tucholsky went into exile, buffeted by ill winds between France, England, Sweden, the slight correspondence between two almost comically opposed people (in more than just the political sense) petered out. Four years later Tucholsky would kill himself, at 45.

There's a facsimile reproduction of a dedication he once wrote to Fuchs, its melancholy ringing so true for so many people uncertainly communicating from their "front" lines: "To Marierose Fuchs, who is to him so far and near..."

Ene 22, 1:20pm

>44 rocketjk:

Tragic. But she left much beauty behind.

Ene 22, 1:44pm

Ein ganzes Leben (A whole life), Robert Seethaler, 2014

Seethaler tells the story--the entire life--of one Andreas Egger, orphan, mistreated and exploited, given some breaks only to see them withdrawn, finding some joy only to lose it, leaving his alpine village for only the one trip in his life--eight years fighting and imprisonment in Russia--until almost the very end, when six months before death he climbs for the first time onto the local bus and goes sightseeing as far as the bus line extends and back.

If for some reason you wish to experience freezing to death in the mountains, all alone in the world, (but without actually doing so!), this is the book for you.

The descriptive passages about the mountain were my favourite. But what a bunch of stiff, loveless people. No savoir vivre at all.

Murderer's fen, Andre Garve, OPD 1962

A protagonist very much in the vein of Highsmith's Ripley, a charming, highly competent psychopath. Despite being engaged to a heiress who must make his whole fortune, while on holiday he cedes to temptation and seduces another English tourist, a beautiful and naive daughter of god-fearing parents. Since he carefully orchestrated the seduction so that no one else might suspect him, once back home he is VERY shook up to find the girl on his doorstep--and pregnant. Criminal shenanigans ensue. Well written.

Ene 22, 2:06pm

I hadn't realized that you'd opened a thread until I said to myself, "who is this LW? I should check out her thread." Yay!

Regarding Allie Brosh, my favorite of her first book was the one that introduced me to her work - Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving. At the time, we had two dogs -- an affable but spectacularly stupid greyhound and a pit bull mix who had been badly abused -- and the way she wrote of the mind of a dog really struck me as remarkably perceptive. This new book is, so far, more melancholic in tone and she's going deeper.

And I really liked the single book by Jean-Patrick Manchette that I've read. I should read another one.

Ene 22, 2:28pm

>48 RidgewayGirl:

Hello!, yes, it is I :) Nice to see you.

the way she wrote of the mind of a dog really struck me as remarkably perceptive.

I haven't had a dog since childhood, but oh yes. And there's more about dogs in the new one! Also a very sad dog story... well, not that the dog knew... I raced through it probably too fast, but as the sad things began piling up I became anxious to see her well & content at the end... but, hmmm...

Manchette is so much wicked fun. If you can find the one with "prone gunman" in the title, that would be my next rec (with due consideration that, first, his type of madcap extreme violence isn't a turnoff.)

Editado: Ene 22, 11:50pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: >49 LolaWalser: Which book is it that's about the mind of the dog?

Ene 23, 1:02am

>43 LolaWalser: I saw that yesterday before I went to bed. Did not help my mood at all :(

>47 LolaWalser: Seethaler's book sounds interesting. That's the same author who published a novel about Mahler earlier this year, right? Someone was recommending it to me at some point this summer (although I am not sure my German can handle it).

Ene 23, 1:33am

>43 LolaWalser: “stiff, loveless people” — Yes, that seems to sum it up. Interesting in a short book like that, but I don’t know where you can go with that sort of writing beyond that. I wasn’t hugely impressed by Seethaler’s Freud-book; I didn’t know he’d done Mahler as well (>51 AnnieMod:), but the reviews of the Mahler-book aren’t encouraging, so I won’t rush out to look for it.

>45 LolaWalser: Tucholsky is someone else I know embarrassingly little about — sounds interesting, though that book presumably isn’t the obvious place to start.

More Manchette is definitely on my list, somewhere ...

Ene 23, 3:42am

>47 LolaWalser: It looks like Robert Seethaler is having a moment on LT. I've just finished Le champ/Das Feld!

Ene 23, 7:23am

Ene 23, 11:00am

>50 dianeham:

Hi, Diane--please see Rhian's link >54 rhian_of_oz:--I hope you like it! :) Btw, those "dog stories" are just some of the stories included, Brosh writes about various episodes from her life (and there's a great "cat story" in the latest book too.)

>51 AnnieMod:

Yes. I'm still getting messages from people who've met her, how nice and warm and unassuming she was, just a good person... (who had been treated shamefully in Croatia, but that's on us to remember and exact apologies for).

I'm not entirely enthused about Seethaler... this was effective, it grabbed me and moved me, but I couldn't help feeling manipulated at the same time, everything was falling into place predictably. I told myself "I bet the guy writes screenplays"--and what do you know, he does. The dying goatherd at the beginning who disappears up the mountain being treated like Chekov's gun in the first act just cemented that sense of... potted emotional spread. "Have a dose of life wisdom" with your tea.

That sounds rather negative but I don't mean it that way, I did like "the message"...

>52 thorold:

Yeah, I'm not sure I'd rush to read another of his, I'm thinking this may be the best he can do anyway. But possibly his films are worth seeing? Wouldn't know, what with keeping company with dead people so much...

I think you might be interested by Tucholsky but yes, don't start with this. I'm in the midst of reading about half a dozen of his books so all recommendations are provisional... of his fiction, Schloss Gripsholm is best known but my own preferences for political non-fiction would lead me to recommend first something like Insel-Bücherei's recent selection »Vorn die Ostsee, hinten die Friedrichstraße«: Ein Lesebuch, which is short and varied and contains examples of his light verse (it helps to remember this was a wildly popular form, what with the political cabaret, theatre etc.) and hard-hitting polemic. If more than just a taster is OK, I'd go for the political satire of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.--I've almost finished it, along with another book about John Heartfield (Johann Herzfelde), "Dadamonteur", who illustrated it.

Tucholsky is one of those figures whose fascination grows with years--you keep wondering, why was no one listening? What if people had listened, really listened? Here is this guy who wrote, shouted, raved, protested, cried and wept before Nazism about Germany's capacity for Nazism.

Not that he was the only Cassandra either...

but all for naught.

>53 Dilara86:

Coming right over... :)

Ene 23, 4:14pm

>22 LolaWalser: I recently watched the Miss Fisher movie, as well, and I was not impressed. The show is of much higher quality in terms of writing and plotting, and the movie was a big let down for me when held up next to it.

It was, I'll admit, a great deal of fun to watch, though, once I had let go of the high expectations set up by the series.

Ene 23, 5:34pm

>56 Julie_in_the_Library:

You are probably right, I haven't seen the TV show since it aired (did buy the set though...) But I admit I don't recall it as anything other than playful fluff--with apologies to other fans; I don't consider this a failing for that type of entertainment. On the movie DVD Essie Davis describes Phryne as a kind of superhero, and surely she is, with her out-of-this-world skill set, charm, luck, wealth etc. A fantasy figure.

The plot was rather thin for a big screen movie, I agree. The visual side made up for it for me, but yeah... that's why I said, fans only. :)

Another thing I admired (as only the Ageing can :)) is that this was a couple of fifty-ish leads, albeit playing younger--good for them and everyone involved for having ventured and completed the story at that unromantic (for film, notoriously) age.

Ene 23, 7:47pm

>57 LolaWalser: "Another thing I admired (as only the Ageing can :)) is that this was a couple of fifty-ish leads, albeit playing younger--good for them and everyone involved for having ventured and completed the story at that unromantic (for film, notoriously) age."

Honestly, as a woman about to turn 30, it was refreshing for me, too. The way that the media usually portrays older woman doesn't exactly pain a flattering picture of the path ahead, after all. ;)

Ene 23, 8:02pm

Ene 26, 1:46pm

Les vieux fourneaux: ceux qui restent, 2014 -- first volume of a series translated as "Old geezers"

My library has only the first three volumes and I'd prefer to reserve final commentary for at least that larger part of the work--when or if I get to it. So this is just by way of a few quick notes. This came up by way of an anti-rec (so to speak ;))--sometimes those are as interesting as positive recommendations--but the reason I did borrow it is that the library description mentioned anarchism, which interests me. However, it's a topic I'd probably prefer in another medium--it's just interesting to see it also in a comic strip form--so am not sure I'll continue.

Three old men, Pierre, Emile and Antoine, are friends from early childhood and variously involved in, or sympathetic to, the leftist struggle. Pierre is the anarcho-syndicalist who still engages in acts of social rebellion. Antoine's granddaughter joins the trio; hers is the "millennial" voice. She has a little speech directed at a bunch of old people, with which I'm much in agreement (my translation):

You are irresponsible, retrograde, bigots, you sacrificed the planet, starved the Third World! In eighty years you made disappear almost all the living species, you used up resources, devoured all the fish! Each year fifty billion chickens are raised in batteries and people are dying of hunger! Historically, you... You are the worst generation in the history of humanity!

The old guys reply with a #NotAllOldPeople... and it's true, no? Some have fought the good fight... but in the end they lost and we all lost because they lost.

Alice, curiouser and curiouser, 2020 (no touchstone), is a beautiful large book accompanying the exhibition last year at the V & A museum. Of particular interest to me was the portfolio of illustrations by Kristjana S. Williams, an illustrator I didn't know before. Her take is inspired by Max Ernst's collages. Another very interesting section was on performing Alice. The designs are far freer than in (commercial) illustrations, presumably because with the latter the expectations of the public tend to the familiar.

The Third Walpurgis Night, Karl Kraus, written 1932-33, OPD 1952

Kraus was a Viennese and Austrian living institution, a man of letters and all-around critic of cultural and political life. He wrote and published a journal, Die Fackel (The Torch), that was for 36 years a thorn in the side of bourgeois complacency and right wing politics. And yet this last great salvo of his against barbarity and inhumanity was at the last moment suppressed by him, although it was already set and ready to print, because he feared for the consequences its publishing could have on the Jews still in Germany. Kraus died in 1936; the book was first published in 1952.

It contains essays on individual Nazis and Nazi sympathisers, Goebbels, Heidegger, Gottfried Benn, on various acts of barbarism that were accumulating every day ever more, on the "satirist's dilemma"--all of this analysed through the travails imposed on the German language, which means on thought itself. (In the introduction the translators make a case such as you can expect in drawing parallels between Kraus' Austria and Trumps' America.)

From Headlong into Servitude: When Madmen Lead the Blind:

What use is the addled brain, that malfunctioning mechanism, faced with a miracle of nature that bedazzles and stupefies us--the big lie of Nazism, which blatantly shifts its shape by the hour yet is never discredited, even when contradicting itself! (...)

"How could it happen?" It could happen because a minority seized existing weapons with which to create new ones, and now as a majority it confronts the groups it vanquished as well as defenceless individuals.

Moving pictures

I mentioned a bunch of silent/early movies in the other group. Of the newer ones, I watched Nicholas Roeg's Bad timing from 1980. Roeg's movies are reliably beautiful-looking, even when the narratives are lacking, and this one is no exception (and with the background of Vienna). But the film as a whole is a failure to me, mainly for the casting of Art Garfunkel in the main role which would have been difficult enough for a real actor. There is no plot properly speaking, everything hinges on our buying into the obsessive sexual relationship between Garfunkel's psychiatrist character and 22-year old Theresa Russell's "mad hippy chick". To my eyes Garfunkel has zero charisma, which emptied their interactions of all charge.

Curiously, Harvey Keitel has a small role as a strange police inspector. I don't know how does one cast Garfunkel as the lead in a story like that when one had an actor like Keitel right there... would have been something else entirely.

The sexual politics of the film suck donkey balls but that, at least, you can say is of its time. Russell is shot naked from head to toe and back to front and back but Garfunkel (and thank god for that) isn't.

Denholm Elliott plays Russell's abandoned Czechoslovak husband. The couple of times he showed up it was like a hint at some other, better movie happening next door in Bratislava.

Ene 26, 4:18pm

>60 LolaWalser: Denholm Elliott plays Russell's abandoned Czechoslovak husband. The couple of times he showed up it was like a hint at some other, better movie happening next door in Bratislava.
Ha ha nice

Ene 27, 3:28pm

>61 baswood:


The Vampire Cinema, David Pirie, 1977

Excellent book about movie vampires up to the date of publication, much better than what one might expect on average from this type of publisher and subject. Informative on the origins of the lore, Bram Stoker's watershed book, Universal's cycle with Bela Lugosi (et al.) and Hammer Studio's revival with Christopher Lee (et al.), and French, Italian, Spanish and Mexican vampire cinema with their own characteristic representations and features.
Many illustrations were new to me, which is quite remarkable at this point...

Vlad Țepeș enjoying dinner in the soothing view of his impaled enemies--a nearly contemporary woodblock print, from 1499:

Ene 30, 1:13pm

La rete di protezione, Andrea Camilleri, 2017

This one had a great hook, better than the whole story turned out to be. A man who had been going through his late father's stuff brings to Montalbano some enigmatic home films, all shot on the same day and time on consecutive years and ceasing with the father's death. The films are all of the same thing, a piece of blank wall. What could it mean?

Berlin city and court, Jules Laforgue, written 1880s, first published in 1922

I'm so glad I got to this years after buying it (there's no telling any more how many of my precioussss I'll manage even to open). I bought it more for the curiosity value--Laforgue being remembered primarily for his highly influential poetry--but it turns out to justify other interests too. Laforgue was only twenty when some friends got him a sorely needed job and he found himself designated French reader to Empress Augusta in 1880. She was then, like her consort, in her eighties--and both would by a good few years outlive tubercular Laforgue, who never saw thirty.

The job left Laforgue a lot of free time which he used to write (at least two books of poetry), hang out in the one cafe that provided foreign newspapers, sight-see, and--introducing a French term if not the passtime--to flâner, stroll around the unprepossessing but burgeoning capital. The German Reich was then less than a decade old--Laforgue mentions running into its engineer Count Bismarck on numerous occasions. Indeed he seems to have run into everyone who was anyone, the Wilhelmine court being characterised by a strange simplicity and ease of access. The Emperor and Empress lived in the main residence on the ground floor with only six servants on hand, and Laforgue remarks it happened often that people would enter it and run straight into one or the other of the sovereigns.

The descriptions of the people, the customs, the balls etc. refer to various French opinions that are on occasion reinforced or overturned--who knew Germans were fiends for dancing?--and all together build an engaging, witty picture.

Moving pictures

I need to rush before I've been watching too much and increasingly remember too little. First two forgettables (but track must be tracked), Konga, 1961, one of the better? worse? who knows? King Kong Knockoffs with nothing more to recommend it than Michael Gough as the vainglorious mad scientist--he was a good actor with a bill-paying (one presumes) line in schlock movie villains. The film poster artist apparently didn't bother to see the movie, Konga is pictured chimp-handling a blonde dame but actually he only grabs Gough.

Next I saw Alice sweet Alice, 1976, a slasher with Catholic nuttery and an evil kid. If this is your jam, bring on the croissants!

And then, quality--two DEFA gems.

Der Fall Gleiwitz (The Gleiwitz case), 1961, deals with one of the infamous staged incidents perpetrated by the Nazis in order to create a pretext for invading Poland. A commando unit led by one Naujocks (the details come from his testimony at Nuremberg) attacked the German radio station and left a dead body camouflaged as a Polish sniper. This man was one of several victims chosen from the concentration camps Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Breslau, transported to the site of these actions, drugged and then killed to schedule on site. They were referred to in code as Konserve--canned goods.

The film is amazing from every point of view. The style is beautiful but completely in sync with the hard-hitting story. Dialogue is minimal, with sound and music masterfully used to carry the story as much as what we are told. On Kanopy there is an extra with the film's editor, Evelyn Carow, who points out how her cuts harmonise with the sound effects. She also says, and I'm glad for that confirmation, that they (the filmmakers) were hoping that the victim's lacerating cry, one of the last scenes, would be heard as a scream for all the screams that were yet to come after August 1939.

Ene 30, 1:14pm

And then I saw Coming Out, 1989, which, in one of those "you can't make this up" twists, came out on the day the Wall fell, November 9. It was the first DEFA movie about homosexuality and to my mind the best such movie--early generation and mainstream--that I know. This is totally surprising and I was totally surprised by any number of things about this film.

My expectations were that, at best, it would contain the usual awkward and shy romance with maybe a smooch or two, all done in the usual apologetic-feeling fashion when it's straight people making a movie about gays for straights (er, um, sorry, we now must show you two men, oh dear oh dear, kissing--but it won't hurt, promise, lightning quick... there, done, all over now!)

Nothing like it--not only is there a proper sex scene with the central couple, the film is chock-full of gay goodness and for once you are watching something about gay people that doesn't seem to take place on a barren colony world in outer space. I'll enumerate... but first, it's not all ponies and rainbows.

At the start of the movie there are holiday fireworks but one of our young leads, the not-yet-nineteen Mathias, is having his stomach pumped in the hospital. When the kind doctor asks him later why he did it, Mathias is crying and only says he's gay, a homosexual. "That is no reason to cry", says the doctor.

The other lead, twenty-something Philipp, is a hip, sensitive teacher of German in high school. His newly acquired girlfriend Tania unwittingly sets off events when she invites over a friend who, it turns out, is Philipp's old schoolmate and they have some secrets. Philipp visits this man in order to make sure that he hadn't said anything about the old days to Tania--they were just boys, there was nothing to it--and finds him living with a man, quite happy and proud. That's the first thing to note, or maybe second after the kind doctor--there are gay male couples living together in this movie, there is life on this planet.

Well, Philipp messes up this visit and runs off into the night, increasingly confused about himself. Fortunately he finds a gay bar. Here again it's not like we may expect, some sordid hole with a few furtive people lugubriously glaring... the place is chock full with merrymaking guys, many wearing women's clothes it's true, but it IS the carnival. It's bright and fun and, here and there, nude, with much smooching etc. going on. Mathias sees Philipp and falls for him on the spot, but Philipp is busy getting drunk. At the end Mathias and Walter, an old man who wore a pink triangle in Sachsenhausen, escort Philipp home. Mathias and Philipp run into each other again in a huge overnight queue for concert tickets. The attraction is palpable but Philipp is reticent. Mathias invites him to his birthday party at the same gay bar. Will he go? Up until the last moment he doesn't know... but then leaves his girlfriend a note that he needs a few days to himself and not to call him.

The birthday party is another wonderful surprise. Mathias is there with his whole family--parents, sister and her boyfriend, cousins. No speechifying about allies etc., they are just there and accept Philipp like normal people normally would. Afterwards Mathias and Philipp go to Philipp's apartment and have sex and spend the night together. This is the best part of the movie, how this was done. The two guys have a good laugh before falling on each other--Mathias recites a bit of his grandmother's erotic poetry which cracks them up and breaks the ice... that laughter and tenderness are a moment of such reality and sweetness as I truly struggle to remember in any movie.

Worth noting too that both guys are shown completely nude although fleetingly--as far as I know East German cinema didn't go for nudity as much as some Eastern European cinema, and certainly I can't say I've noticed it anywhere as gratuitous.

After this, Philipp is still not completely ready to accept himself as a gay man. A colleague spooks him with the idea that Tania may be pregnant and his mother is worried about his "tendencies". He witnesses skinheads attacking an openly gay man and runs away. When Mathias comes to his door, he doesn't open.

However, they run into each other at the concert--only Tania is there and this time Mathias runs away.

Philipp is now free and goes off looking for Mathias but he's not showing up in the bar anymore. Eventually Philipp relieves his loneliness by picking up another young man. He is as sweet as Mathias but leaves leaves after sex with a casual "it was nice, bye". However, this is so great, that they included this incident, so right--Philipp isn't just "gay for Mathias", he is definitely a gay man who is gradually coming out, and first of course to himself.

Then he does see Mathias in the bar again... but with a new boyfriend, Lutz. Both Mathias and Philipp look very unhappy but we don't get the easy romantic happy end. Mathias dances off with Lutz and refuses to look at Philipp, who leaves.

The movie ends in Philipp's classroom. The rumours about his gayness have obviously reached other teachers. A bunch of them is sent to sit in on his class. Philipp watches them filing into the back bench, about to be put on trial. There is a long pause, when he says nothing, and then he smiles, says "Yes" and goes out. Onto his bike and into the city. He's come out and he's fine.

Ene 30, 1:22pm

>63 LolaWalser:

I've been enjoying your reviews. Of the movie reviews, The Gleiwitz Case looks particularly fascinating. I was wondering whether you knew about this movie, which I just read about via this New Yorker piece:


Ene 30, 1:37pm

>65 rocketjk:

No, I didn't know of that, thanks for the heads up. I've seen practically nothing of Arabic cinema, but documentaries like that one in particular would interest me very much.

Ene 30, 5:21pm

>63 LolaWalser: I loved the hook in La rete di protezione too — the resolution was a bit of an anticlimax, but maybe any resolution would have been.

>64 LolaWalser: Oh dear, I’m going to have to look for Coming Out now, aren’t I?

Editado: Ene 30, 8:55pm

>67 thorold:

If it's not too difficult to find, I'd love to hear what you thought. Mind you, it's not that there's anything original about the storyline or uniquely artistic or some such... it's really the fact of its date and provenance and how very like an ordinary romance it is that make it special. That homosexuality was treated so sympathetically and humanely at a time when AIDS made gays into pariahs (there's no mention of it), that these two guys are presented as just two ordinary people in love, that one is shown with full support of his family, that gay life is represented both by the partying and cruising in a bar (ETA: and later, in a park!) and domestically through a committed couple--it's all that together that makes it, as far as I know, really extraordinary.

I've been trying to think of any similar movie of that vintage or earlier but nothing really comparable is coming to mind... (can't find my Vito Russo at the moment...)--La cage aux folles? Arguably that was sympathetic, but it's also, well, a farce. Or the one with Rex Harrison and Richard Burton--I mean, props to good intentions but it's again a comedy about "characters" (and unlike this one, not acted by gay actors). There had of course been homosexuals in cinema for decades but, again, even with gay directors like Fassbinder I can't think of anything that wasn't angsty and melodramatic to the extreme, with "doomed" characters above all... there haven't been that many ordinary gay characters treated like normal people and with a familial and social network to boot. And a whole movie about them? The closest vibe to this I can recall is in Sunday Bloody Sunday, where Peter Finch and... Glenda Jackson is it?--amicably share the sexual attentions of Murray Head. But it feels more like something these two highly evolved people are able to do because they are unusual, cultured and quirky, not something that really exists on its own terms as "normal" in the great wide world.

Ene 31, 3:32am

>68 LolaWalser: The DVD's on its way...

The only one I remember particularly from that time with "normal" gay characters is My beautiful launderette. I'm sure there must be more. Jarman didn't treat anyone as normal, gay or straight...

Maybe things like Prick up your ears and Kiss of the spiderwoman? but they are set in fringe-cultures too. I suppose the obvious Wessie counterpart to Coming out might be Taxi zum Klo, but that's pre-AIDS.

Russo stops in the mid-80s. He also lists so many films with peripheral or stereotype gay characters that it's sometimes hard to see the wood for the trees.

Ene 31, 1:33pm

>69 thorold:

I did think of both Launderette and Taxi, but IIRC (it's been decades since I saw either) the former has a sad end? and aren't the guys hiding their relationship?--while Taxi is, in my recollection at least, sort of underground--a "real" representation of gay life but... edgy, very much "outsidery". Anyway, I hope you like it. Oh--I'm reading Puig's book as it happens, but I didn't see the movie.

Had another insomniac evening and ended up reading a whole book, Faïza Guène's La Discrétion (2020). This showed up amazingly fast from a library request I made just the last week, which I was inspired to do (plus a bunch of other related titles) after reading Marc Weitzmann's article in the New York Review of Books: A Rising Tide of Violence in France. Not sure the link will work for everyone, you may have to register (which is free).

Weitzmann doesn't discuss the book or any such stuff per se, I just went looking for newest titles that seemed related to his subject. I also have Weitzmann's own latest book on request, Hate: The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism in France (and What It Means for Us).

Guène's main character is a seventy year old Algerian woman, Yamina, who was brought to France as a thirty-something bride. The narrative alternates between the present in France and Yamina's early life in Algeria. Yamina and Brahim have four children, three daughters ranging in age from forty to mid-thirties, and a thirty-year old son. In what is described as a fairly rare occurrence for their environment, none of the children are "problematic". All, however, are struggling, burdened with their condition of children of immigrants, in particular of Muslim and Algerian roots. One way this struggle shows is in the difficulties they have in finding life partners.

The eldest daughter was married disastrously but briefly at seventeen; after that fiasco she became interested in feminism, women's rights. The daughters are torn between a "Western" consciousness of what they deserve in a relationship (which is also reinforced by the example of their unusually kind father), and the traditional Muslim notions about what makes a man desirable--"virility". But the way the latter is understood is paradoxically at the same time offputting, so the daughters are pretty much at an impasse. The sensitive Frenchman Thomas who breaks down and cries when he's dumped is seen as repulsive, but the swaggering Arab men are derided even more.

Son Omar, while raised as a "prince" at home, has his own problems reconciling that traditional exaltation of the male with the humiliation his low-paying stressful job (he's an Uber driver) imposes on him. He's never had a girlfriend.

This family fits to a T Weitzmann's sociological recapitulation of the problems of Franco-Algerians since Algeria won independence and the shift from the political to religious engagement. The parents correspond to an earlier wave that found in France jobs and certain freedom--a phase that would end in the early eighties. The children grow up between two countries, not feeling they belong anywhere. This is further complicated with economic problems, and the rise of Islamism in Algeria and elsewhere. Existential uncertainty created by alienation, racism, lack of prospects is for some resolved in religion--the more fundamentalist the interpretation, the more secure the refuge it brings. Others must exist in a state of tension and utilise "discretion".

Guène is often funny and Yamina is a beautiful character, as loveable as Driss Chraibi's mother.

Editado: Feb 4, 1:30pm

The Montreal Massacre, ed. Louise Malette, 1991
Because they were women, Josée Boileau, 2020

In the afternoon of December 6, 1989, a 25-year-old man who twice failed to make the grade for Montreal's Polytechnique walked onto its campus carrying a rifle, knives and ammunition, made way to a classroom filled with students, ordered the men out, and killed the remaining women. He then wandered around killing and injuring more women--his deliberate target--but in the process also injuring four men.

He killed fourteen women and injured thirteen more, plus the four men. The full tally of the victims may be longer, if one could unambiguously connect the subsequent suicides of some of the survivors and victims' relations, and of course there is no easy "tallying" of the trauma and its effects on who knows how many.

The massacre lasted about twenty minutes and ended when the killer turned his gun on himself. The evidence for his motives was all there from the start--before going out on this killing spree he had written and sent various letters, as well as having one on himself. The letter included a hit list of nineteen prominent women he had planned to or would have liked to murder.

He addressed the women he had gathered as "feminists" and one told him they were not feminists, just girls who liked science. This, of course, made no difference.

The 1991 book collects statements, letters, articles written by women and some men in the aftermath of the massacre. Some had been published in Montreal's newspapers but many had been refused, especially those coming from feminists.

Here's what made the abominable even worse: after the massacre, there was another, collective type of wrong committed against women--that of denial of the nature and import of the event. And then, immediately, at the same time, yet another--monstrous as it is, masses of men with privileged access to the media jumped not just to excusing the killer but blaming the victims. The litany of the recorded, public outbursts of misogyny committed by these men literally over the news about a heap of female corpses simply beggars belief.

It's monstrous, but not new. This has been happening and still is happening--that women have to excuse and justify their existence in public space, that they are not seen as people like men are people, that a woman in any but the most menial job is seen as stealing some man's "rightful" spot, and that women, therefore, will be blamed for the evil done to them--Eve paying for Adam's sin, as one contributor wrote.

I'm grateful for the second book because without it I probably would never have finished the first (which I started reading years ago). Boileau was a journalist and had followed the events--the massacre and the atrocious media around it--from the start.

Her book gives an up-to-date recapitulation of events, the background of Quebec as regards women's rights and the feminist struggle there from the 1920s onward, a description of the media representations of women as they changed through the decades up to the massacre, some statistics since the massacre regarding women's enrollment and participation at the universities including the Polytechnique, and extended descriptions of the fourteen dead women illustrated with family photographs.

Year 2014 marked a watershed in that it was the first time the commemoration of the victims in Montreal acknowledged anti-feminism; it was the same year when several female journalists who were young beginners at the time (and inadvertently ended being sent to the site because that's who hangs around late at the office in wintertime) told their stories of how they were forced to "sanitize" the news and suppress the anti-feminist and misogynist motivation of the killer--as if his reported words to the victims and their very composition didn't speak loud enough! To say nothing of his letters--which, btw, were made public only a YEAR AFTER the massacre--and procured through an anonymous source!--where he literally spewed his hateful motivation black on white.

(Unbelievably, after all that, a male psychologist would still insist, with a peremptory manner, on air in a televised debate, that it's in no way clear that the killer was a misogynist.)

But there is little to celebrate. The killer didn't stop women from enrolling at the Polytechnique; their numbers slowly but steadily grow. But so very slowly. More professors now than then are female. More university principals are female--but so few, compared to men. That, however, is still some sort of "good" news.

The bad news, however, is that since the Montreal massacre murderous mass violence against women has been repeated in Canada--and in the worst instance since, the 2018 targeted killings of ten women in the streets of Toronto, we have seen the same obfuscation and denial of the killer's motives, at the official level. Last year's commemoration by Major Tory didn't deign to mention the victims were mostly women and MEANT to be ALL women (ten out of twelve, because killing someone with a van is less precise than one might wish); no, gendered violence is the one instance where women ARE taken to be adequately described as "people". And men were everywhere given the usual primacy--it was repeatedly, insistently, "men and women" who came to the aid of the victims, those "people".

Where do we go from here? The Montreal killer, it turns out (they don't tell you these things until thirty years later) had had wannabe followers from the start. Too many incidents to mention, from Quebec to Kingston, Toronto, Vancouver. Within months of the massacre and in years after.

We know what the advent of social media did for these types, gave them platform, conferred networks, organised them. But they don't get born and raised on Twitter.

Editado: Feb 8, 2:48pm

Moving pictures

Old Boyfriends, 1979, directed by Joan Tewkesbury.

In recent years I've been trying to pay more attention to female filmmakers so I watched this, directed by a woman. And the direction is notably fine. But the story, written by two men, is ridiculous shit.

{lengthy bit deleted: on second thought, I don't care to remember in detail why I disliked this}

Next, My dinner with Andre, 1981. I'm glad I persevered past the first half hour because I got caught up in some themes but overall it's one of those things all too easy to criticise from the political and philosophical point of view. For one thing, I absolutely hate those bourgeois journeys of "self-discovery" in Tibet etc. {testiness deleted}

But I warmed up to it by the end, when the characters did seem to undergo a sort of catharsis.

Also saw the brilliant DEFA film Solo Sunny, 1980, directed by Konrad Wolf. His last movie, untypical for him and greatest commercial success, it's a story about a young singer's dreams and difficulties in love and work. Wonderful movie with an eternally young, beating heart.

Feb 4, 4:53pm

>68 LolaWalser: etc. — Well, I saw Coming out, and liked it very much. Thanks! Don’t understand how I didn’t know about it, apparently it’s an established tradition to show it annually on the 9th of November, too.
Very nicely done, they seem to have found a good line to steer that allowed them to explore the difficulties Philipp has in accepting who he is, without going all “strange twilight world of the homosexual” about it. I loved the brief scene with the woman in the coffee bar who shows Mathias and Philipp a picture of her son, and the scene with the old guy who tells Philipp about his past as KZ-survivor and “Aktivist der ersten Stunde”. That could have been a terrible cliché, but somehow wasn’t. And lots more...

And of course it’s lovely to see all that period DDR detail filmed in its natural habitat, among the clouds of Trabi-exhaust. Gherkin jars, sagging chipboard furniture, square plastic alarm clocks, and all the rest of it. Plus the splendidly Kaiser-Wilhelm-era school building (must have been the same public-works architect as the office where my West Berlin colleagues worked...).

The DVD came with interviews with Mathias Freihof (still quite a hunk all these years later!) and Dagmar Manzel, I don’t know if you got those as well. Interesting that they both commented on how relaxed it was making films before the Wende, with weeks and weeks of shooting time, and how they shot enough for about six hours of story and edited it down. And how lucky they were that the film didn’t flop, as the Berlin public lost interest in culture completely for a couple of years after 1989. Apparently there were a lot of people in the party cultural committees who were very nervous about the film and tried to have it shut down, but Heiner Carow was in a strong enough position to be able to go over their heads and get approval from some unnamed high-up. The usual DDR problem about the contradiction between notionally very liberal laws and the repressed conservative prejudices of the people in charge.

Feb 4, 5:40pm

>73 thorold:

Nooo, I didn't get to see any extras, I just streamed the movie from Kanopy. I'll have to get a DVD. Glad you liked it. You know, people do go on about the grey and grimy DDR and cheap this and that, but I guess I'm too inured by Syria, Egypt and my own brand of socialism--not to mention Cuba--to see what's the big deal. If there is anything more dismal than the council estates in England (and with all those obnoxious "stately homes" of the aristos to rub in the salt), I have not seen it.

The usual DDR problem about the contradiction between notionally very liberal laws and the repressed conservative prejudices of the people in charge.

Oh yes, the endless nannying of opinion is so freaking annoying. Half the movies I'm watching had run-ins with censors when they weren't simply shelved, and it's so pathetic in retrospect... I suppose though in a perverse way it's a testament to how important culture CAN be and once was--and I admit I'm commie enough to prefer that to the nihilism of the "dollar is all" commercialism. Almost. The actual examples of safeguarding are too stupid to countenance in reality, not to mention the damage to people's lives through that sort of bullshit.

Feb 5, 11:27am

>71 LolaWalser: thanks for the update on a truly terrible event and the aftermath. This one had passed me by - appalled by the support for the gunman on social media, which I suppose is still going on. However as you say it is the failure to recognise the killings for what they were at the time and since, that reflects the attitudes of society.

Feb 5, 11:56am

>75 baswood:

Yes, it seems many of us, especially outside Canada, had confusing or muted coverage of the event at the time. I was an almost-twenty uni student who read the newspapers but all I dimly recalled about it was that some mass shooting happened--egregious, but not especially notable for the wild American continent...

It does seem that more people, the general public, are finally recognising what them crazy feminist man-haters were pointing out from the start. If nothing else, the links between misogyny and propensity for fascism are only getting more obvious all the time. Just this morning I read in the New York Times about a "specimen" Trump supporter--The Misogynistic ‘Dating Coach’ Who Was Charged in the Capitol Riot. So, the readiness to talk about this is increasing, but the terrible thing is that it's not some belated intellectual tribute to feminist insight but simply a reflection of an increasing wave of fascism around the world--Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, India, Brazil etc., not just North America, have seen in the recent years far right attacks by misogynists.

The ADL has a good analysis--depressing reading, but necessary, I'd say:

When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy

Feb 8, 12:49pm

Lies sleeping, Ben Aaronovitch, 2018

These have all run together for me but it looks as if the next volume may be the last and answer the question of what happens with the hero's friend-turned-enemy, do they persist in villainy or get redeemed? At that time it may be more interesting to look at the motif of encroaching nationalism and the revival of English fascism as appearing in this series.

Le boys club, Martine Delvaux, 2020

Boileau's book above made me curious about francophone feminism in Canada and this was the most recent book to pop up in the library search. Delvaux is a professor of literature and a feministe militante, a phrase that is a tad less scary-sounding (or uncommon) in French than in English and means no more than a feminist activist.

Here she dissects aspects of male rule and male identity construction through the concept of the "boys' club", today most concretely and openly expressed in all-male gentlemen's clubs. Being private, these clubs are resistant to calls for gender desegregation such as we have seen addressed to public institutions like the army, schools etc. and thus remain examples of the patriarchal misogyny at its purest, in the West. The principles they are built on, the functions they fulfill are not, however, limited to them--they are only very easy to discern in that setting.

But they are present everywhere where men dominate, which is not far off from simply saying "present everywhere". Delvaux further analyses such fields like architecture (especially important as the shaper of the space our lives unfold in), the sports, the army, the media.

One minor detail intrigues me (but Delvaux doesn't comment on it)--that the phrase, as well as the best known examples still extant today, are English. It could be no more than the English is instantly recognisable (as a particular institution and concept) whereas a French translation would not be. Presumably no one imagines such "clubs"/networks of power didn't exist elsewhere.

Moving pictures

I picked this up thanks to Kim Cattrall's mention linked somewhere above.

Wanda, 1970, Barbara Loden

If you are even an average watcher of movies and telly, there is a character you have glimpsed thousands of times but never really seen. It's a woman--a wife, a mummy, a girlfriend, a ho, a salesgirl, a secretary, a cleaner, a druggie, a punchbag, third girl, a corpse. Nude or dead she may be in focus for a bit longer but her usual place is off centre, in the background or off the stage altogether.

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern got their play in some man's imagination; these women/this woman never does.

Loden wrote, directed and starred in a movie about that woman. The title is that woman's name. The camera is almost never off her, from the moment she gets up in the morning, puts on the curlers in her hair and takes the bus to the courthouse to get divorced.

Following Wanda is like following a sparrow on its last day of life. Considering how many sparrows there are, it always surprised me that we don't see more of them dead. I remember one such and I actually happened on it as it was dying. Probably I wasn't paying attention. What we are told to look at is so limited. Who we are told to look at is so limited.

The year "Wanda" came out was the year everyone talked about "Patton".

We keep getting blinded, but we CAN see.

Feb 8, 7:01pm

>77 LolaWalser: "Following Wanda is like following a sparrow on its last day of life. Considering how many sparrows there are, it always surprised me that we don't see more of them dead. I remember one such and I actually happened on it as it was dying. Probably I wasn't paying attention. What we are told to look at is so limited. Who we are told to look at is so limited.

The year "Wanda" came out was the year everyone talked about "Patton".

We keep getting blinded, but we CAN see."

Beautifully said. Thanks. I'll keep an eye out for that movie. Or, more likely, will have to go in search of it.

Editado: Feb 10, 2:40pm

>78 rocketjk:

I went a bit stream-of-consciousness there, glad to see it still communicated! :)

Criterion put it out in 2019 so it should be available, in the libraries if nothing else. There are some interesting extras on it, for instance Loden on Dick Cavett's show, and a few of her other works. But she never got to make another feature film... well, she didn't have much longer to live either, sad to say...

Feb 10, 2:17pm

>71 LolaWalser: coming in late but wanted to say I found this a very moving post. I have no memory of the 1989 event.

Feb 10, 4:20pm

>80 dchaikin:

In retrospect, that something like that flew under the radar speaks for itself. (And not a unique case either.)

I'm still reading a lot but in bits and pieces; still can't make myself stick with one book for longer than five-ten pages, although at least I'm trying to pick natural break off points...

I wish I had been in better form for this one:

Le Baiser de la femme-araignée (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Manuel Puig, OPD 1976

Two men share a prison cell, the homosexual Molina imprisoned for "corruption of minors", and the revolutionary Valentin. They appear as polar opposites--Molina is ultra-effeminate and completely given to the typically "female" concerns with love and romance, while Valentin suppresses his emotions because only the combat for society matters, not the private life. Neither understands the other and yet gradually they become closer, so much so that each one ends up doing something "outside" his own character, for the sake of the other.

This is very much a study of homosexuality and gender where the political moment, Argentina's leaden, fascist seventies, only serves as a pretext to bring together in extended intimate dialogue people who would never be capable of it otherwise. Valentin seems to get the most out of the exchange, to have been nothing less than enlightened. One would like to think that Molina, in turn, was strengthened by Valentin's acceptance but this is less clear to me.

Puig's voluminous footnotes on the psychoanalitical and philosophical studies of homosexuality and gender are a pointer but also an obstacle. What is happening to the two men is outside "theory", which is dismally dated anyway.

Molina understands himself as a woman and refers to himself often in the female gender. He does not fall in love with homosexuals, only "real" men. It's interesting how at different times both characters express the more open, progressive view of the genders--for instance, Molina retorting that there is nothing wrong with being sensitive and gentle "like a woman" and that the world would be a better place if men were more "like women"; but later, it's Valentin who protests against Molina's notion that it's right, "womanly", to suffer in a relationship (including intercourse), that being humiliated is natural. Molina's influence makes Valentin gentler, and Valentin's makes Molina fight.

A beautiful book, one of the few where I feel a decision to read it again.

Moving pictures

Well, this is just to have it noted somewhere... saw the anime Kamisama kiss (touchstones go to manga, but let that be).

This was the most "romantic" and perhaps youth-oriented of the ones I saw so far* but still quite enjoyable. A suddenly homeless girl, Nanami, rescues a god from a dog and finds herself entrusted with said god's shrine and spirit familiars. The latter include the fox-man Tomoe who is not happy that the new god he must serve is a clueless human girl. Nanami is possibly the best female character I've encountered in anime so far (especially for a teen girl), very kind but with a steely resolve. The spirits and demons Nanami deals with are worth the occasional high school subplots.

I discovered anime relatively recently and have a hundred thoughts about it all. I'm even still puzzled by my very attraction to it, given how much I dislike certain things about it--the way human figures are drawn, that creepy mix of Disney-childishness and XXX "adults only"... I'm not happy with the all-too-frequent misogyny, or the weird Nazisoid sympathies that pop up (on the latter I tell myself I could be losing a lot in translation)... but when it's good, it can be splendid.

I'm specially attracted to the surrealist, science fiction and Japanese folk fantasy elements, the casual way queer themes are often included (although stereotyping is not unusual) and the often sumptuous graphics.

*In order of seeing: Death Note; Puella Magi Madoka Magica; Claymore; Psycho-Pass; Neon Genesis Evangelion; Citrus; The Saga of Tanya the Evil.

Feb 10, 4:41pm

>81 LolaWalser: I've seen the movie of Kiss of the Spider Woman several times, but I really should read the book. I should probably watch the movie again, too, it's been a few decades. The movie is extraordinary.

Feb 10, 5:29pm

Great review of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Lola. I somehow managed to miss the movie, so I should read the novel before I see it.

Feb 10, 6:34pm

>81 LolaWalser: It's been a while since I read this, but I thought some (but not all?) of the footnotes were fiction and purposely used to pull the reader out of the story.

Feb 10, 7:33pm

>82 RidgewayGirl: I agree about the Kiss of the Spider Woman movie. Excellent and very memorable. It has always been intriguing to me that the two actors, Raul Julia and William Hurt, switched roles for the stage production. Would love to have seen that.

Feb 11, 1:17pm

>84 ELiz_M:

The notes are Puig's but the references, as far as I noticed, are all legitimate. As you say, they pull one out of the story--well, break the narrative flow in any case--and I'm not sure why he used them. The seventies were the time of first major gay rights activism in Spain (I think Puig lived there at the time?), maybe that has something to do with it? A need to educate readers, or even just demonstrate the topic belongs in public? I think it does confer a wider significance on the encounter, heralds something new in society, the personal as the political.

I will look around for what Puig may have said about this.

>82 RidgewayGirl:, >83 kidzdoc:, >85 rocketjk:

I must say I'm unlikely to see the movie now, because I loved the book so much. :) This is typical for me, but I'm also wondering in this case about the decision to film this, it seems so very the opposite of "filmable". So, okay, I may be curious on that account, how they went about it, but I'm certain to be disappointed.

But, I'll be very curious to hear what people who had seen the film first thought about the book, so, looking forward to that.

Editado: Feb 11, 1:45pm

>86 LolaWalser: "I must say I'm unlikely to see the movie now, because I loved the book so much."

I know what you mean and often have the same instincts. I've found the best way to handle the situation when my curiosity overcomes my reluctance is to approach the movie as a different creature entirely, rather than as a filmed version of the book. In a way it's like putting an emotional barrier between the two experiences. Sort of the same way I approach film bios. I know I'm seeing a dramatization, with a greater or lessor amount of artistic license, not actual history.

Sometimes I don't want to see a movie because I don't want the actor who plays a crucial role replacing my own mental image of the character. (In one of the later of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, Harry Potter complains about having to go around looking like Daniel Radcliffe all the time.)

Feb 11, 5:14pm

>86 LolaWalser: I saw the film quite a long time before I read the book, and — although both are a long time ago now — I’m pretty sure I liked both very much and wasn’t disappointed second time around.

Both the book and the film are basically in the form of a two-handed stage-play with a few little bits added on, as far as I remember them, so the transition from book to film isn’t as radical as it is for the average Jane Austen adaptation.

Feb 11, 5:51pm

>86 LolaWalser: I found this review in The Guardian that references the fictional footnote(s) as well as the reviewer's thoughts about their purpose:

"The novel is primarily written as dialogue, but also uses lengthy footnotes, official reports and stream-of-consciousness internal monologues. This experimental style rejects the use of a narrator, forcing the reader to take on this role. The dry and academic footnotes citing the latest psychological scholarship on homosexual behaviour (including one fictionalised report) are set in sharp contrast to the vibrant and complex character of Molina that they purport to explain. These footnotes have the effect of jolting readers out of the story so that they remain critically engaged."


Feb 12, 1:01pm

>89 ELiz_M:

Thanks for the article. I think we are applying "fiction" or "fictional" a bit differently here? Puig's references, as far as I noticed*, are to real psychoanalytical and philosophical works by real psychologists etc. and his footnotes largely descriptive--they present the opinions of (and opinions about, occasionally) actually existing works by Freud, Unwin, Marcuse etc. I'm not familiar with all of these books or more than shallowly with any of them, but some theses, like Freud's explanation of the origin of homosexuality etc. are too famous to mistake.

So, the way I see it is that these footnotes are part of the fiction, but they are not fictional in the sense of being about invented stuff. IIRC, the first one begins with "author's note"--this voice, which gives us the footnotes, presents comments such as may really occur in a discussion about the psychoanalytical theories of homosexuality.

For an analogy, it's like discussions of philosophy that occur in Iris Murdoch's novels. Her fictional characters talk about real philosophers.

*It's a pity the article doesn't identify the one "fictionalised report"--is it something invented from full cloth or ascribed to a real person?--to be sure, the footnotes too take a more careful reading in the context of the story.

The article: "These footnotes have the effect of jolting readers out of the story so that they remain critically engaged."

They may have this effect but I'm not sure that's all they are for (or what being "critically" engaged is worth). I didn't comment on the feature that pops up first when people talk about this book, Molina's "sheherazading" in the evenings, telling Valentin stories of films. But to me the footnotes were primarily a counterpoint to this hypnotic--and deceptive--storytelling--not so much something to stumble over as to keep queerness visible. I don't remember exactly, but I think they disappear as the men draw closer, when something "queer" actually happens.

Editado: Feb 13, 1:05am

Well, this is a curious coincidence... I'm following the online programming of Filmarchiv Austria and they just put up a movie about male prisoners, Houchang Allahyari's 1990 Fleischwolf. (ETA: posted only on YouTube)

Teenagers are imprisoned with adult men; a gay teen helps out his straight cellmate; someone has a naff idea of getting a team of female prisoners to visit and stage a performance of Romeo & Juliet for the men--I'm betting the last really happened, you couldn't invent that stuff.

Allahyari was educated as a psychiatrist and worked for years as prison therapist.

The film will only be available through Feb 18. English subs are burnt in. (Warning: there's nudity, sex, sexual violence, blood...)

Editado: Feb 15, 4:24pm

Nada ("nothing" in Spanish), Jean-Patrick Manchette, OPD 1972

Another excellent political noir by Manchette. A quintet of leftist desperadoes ranging in ideology from libertarian communism through various anarchist permutations undertakes to kidnap and ransom the American ambassador to France. The kidnapping succeeds, but the second part of the plan, as a previous reader of Manchette would know to expect, goes all Molotov-cocktail-shaped.

Manchette's own commentary from his intro to the book's first Spanish translation, in 1988:

...Nada limits itself to put on guard sincere partisans of direct action and armed combat, and to show how their activity, when it is separated from all offensive social movement, will be used by the State in the framework of what Italian leftists used to call "the strategy of tension".

Such a view is dated because it stupidly forgets to imagine direct manipulation of terrorism by the State's secret services, if necessary against its own subjects and even its own leaders, as we saw in Italy with the affair Moro and the so-called Red Brigades (as in France we did with "Action directe" and you in Spain with GRAPO, which your police don't even need anymore, when they can satisfy themselves with failing to evacuate a supermarket in which the ETA placed a bomb.)

Current readers, especially younger ones, may be startled to hear Manchette's characters decry the betrayal by and the rotting of liberal democracy (what, it wasn't Trump that killed it?); older ones need only think back to the revolts of 1968 and what incited them.

And note that nothing has been made better since--in fact, politically and economically we are globally spiralling into an ever-worse situation. And what are liberals offering? Band-aids of billionaire charity, if that. And the sheep are voting for their own slaughter, chuffed about how "democratic" the process is.

So yes one can sympathise with Manchette's quixotic anarchists. Silly they may be, but aware, and alive.



Alfred Lichtenstein probably wouldn't have cared to be seen forever mostly in uniform, but that's the image that survived the tumult of the century into which he had barely stepped before getting killed in 1914, at Somme. He was then 25, a Jewish middle-class son, with a fresh law diploma and a bunch of poems already published and esteemed.

The collection I read is presumably of all still extant--the last poems he had sent from the front to several friends; a good deal of what survived the WWI would get lost in the WWII.

Lichtenstein started out with many voices-- the uncertain beginner, now chirping now clowning--and found his home in an expressionist mode that produced visions of Trakl-like gloom and a pre-surrealist black humour. He had a literary alter-ego he had named Kuno Kohn, not a pseudonym but a heteronym, like Pessoa's, except that he didn't use him only to double his utterances, but as a scapegoat, an object of (personal) derision as well as pity.

Reading Lichtenstein's description of the grotesque Kohn--he is ugly, hunchbacked, has a beardless furrowed face and old eyes ringed with shadows--I had to think about Bruno Schulz's graphic representations of himself as a hunchbacked dwarf with a similarly stricken and anguished expression.

Both men projected an abject image of themselves that can't have been other than what the world reflected to them... as Jews.

If Lichtenstein appears less self-lacerating, maybe it's simply that he died at half the Schulz's age...

Another curiosity is the cycle of "soldier" poems Lichtenstein wrote in 1912-13, when he was just a recruit going through the obligatory military service. Time and again I had to remind myself that these predated war--so strong is his sense of imminent calamity and death.

I have to quote a little, just to give a taste of his music and (dominant) style, particularly where it so originally (IMO) mixes tragedy and black humour. E.g.:

Angst (11. April 1913)

Wald und Flur liegt tot in Schutt und Scherben.
Himmel klebt an Städten wie ein Gas.
Alle Menschen müssen sterben.
Glück und Glas, wie bald bricht das.

Stunden rinnen matt wie trübe Flüsse
Durch der Stuben parfümierten Sumpf.
Spürst du die Pistolenschüsse--
Ist der Kopf noch auf dem Rumpf.

(Forest and fields lie dead in rubble and shards.
The sky sticks to towns like a gas.
Everybody must die.
Joy and glass, they break so fast.

Hours flow dull like muddy rivers
Through the barracks' perfumed bog.
Do you feel the gunfire--
Is the head still on top.)

(I couldn't resist playing the poet a bit, trying to keep some rhyme. :))

From one of Kuno's poems:

Mein Sterben ist stumm
Und ohne Bilder...

Ohne Erlösung ---

My dying is mute and without pictures... without deliverance.


Moving pictures

From the Criterion set "When Horror Came To Shochiku", Genocide, 1968, directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu. Unusual for a largish presence of Western characters, American soldiers and one very disturbed Euro-babe. A swarm of insects intent on ridding the threat to life that nuclear-armed humans represent on Earth downs an American military plane carrying an H-bomb. Frankly the bugs have a point.

Also saw La esperanza, 1980, filmed by the Austrian Margarete Heinrich in Nicaragua shortly after the Sandinistas overthrew Somoza. I just learned of this filmmaker (died in 1994), one of the current online retrospectives at Filmarchiv Austria is dedicated to her. The trip to Nicaragua was partly supported by a feminist group and other leftist solidarity movements.

Heinrich's main focus are the campaigns for sanitation, hospitals, and adult literacy--at the time it was estimated that over 50 to even 80% of the population was illiterate. Clean water was almost unheard of, babies were dying like flies from parasites and starvation, and the US would still wage war on these barefoot people for decades, because the dollar is sacred and the interests of capitalists the only thing that matters in the world.

It was with a great relief that I turned to the epic of Gojira and Ebirah in Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, 1966. A fair match gallantly fought.

Feb 15, 6:07pm

>91 LolaWalser: (Warning: there's nudity, sex, sexual violence, blood...) Thats all too much for me.

Thanks for bringing John Patrick Manchette to our attention. It will be something I am sure I can pick up in my local bookshop.

Ah! the revolts in Paris 1968 I have been wondering for the last 50 years why they haven't happened again what's wrong with young people these days. I suppose the "save the planet movement" is the nearest thing, but far too polite and worthy. As for the Gilet Jaunes ...............................

Feb 15, 8:44pm

Manchette has been published in English recently by the New York Review of Books Classics, if you can find them, or if you read e-books. He is spectacular--mind you, it helps that I find his political stance so sympathique. And more than just the political, he's disarmingly frank in how he wrote for money and to a formula, what worked and didn't etc. No airs.

As to revolt... well the youth did step up at various times in various places, from Latin America to China. But the West and East alike were anaesthetised for a while by the fall of the USSR, the "end of history", as that neoliberal dope peddled. Those were terrible years for leftist Cassandras (not that any have been great), you couldn't hear yourself speak for the orgiastic din of privatisations, the robber baron mayhem going on in broad daylight, the rape of the commons.

And now here we are, hoping teenagers will yet save the world. Or at least pay our pensions and wipe our bums.

I wish I could find the dismantling of the "democracy" racket satisfactory, but in the end it's nothing my grandparents' generation already didn't know: the rich and the powerful never reform out of their riches and power; revolutions cost blood.

Who is ready to bleed?

Ever the question.

Feb 16, 2:20am

>92 LolaWalser: Thanks for putting Alfred Lichtenstein on my radar. I'll see what my library has. 25 is much too young to die!

Feb 16, 5:47pm

Yes, so very young. Hmm, it's as if a sub-theme were developing, with Beardsley and Laforgue...

on the sunny side of the street, I just received photos from my SIL's grandma's 100th birthday--but she ain't no poet! :)

Feb 17, 3:32am

>96 LolaWalser:
Yes, to cheer myself up, I'm thinking of making a list of authors who reached 100 (preferably still compos mentis)...

Editado: Feb 17, 9:53am

>97 Dilara86: You might find this list inspiring.
I don't know how many of them are or were still actively writing as they approached their centenary, though.

Feb 17, 2:17pm

>98 spiphany:

Fascinating list, thanks. I read an interview with Ferlinghetti not that long ago...

Feb 17, 3:01pm

>98 spiphany: >99 LolaWalser: I looked up "centenarian authors" straight after posting, found the list you linked to, and created a new LT list, to which you're welcome to contribute!

Feb 20, 10:56am

I don't know how that happened, but I finally found your thread only this week. I enjoyed catching up and will come more regularly now!

Editado: Feb 21, 10:25pm

>101 raton-liseur:

Welcome anytime. :)

Following a Club Read mention, read two of Zeina Abirached's graphic novels, A game for swallows and I remember Beirut. Abirached was ten when the Lebanese civil war ended, so her whole childhood passed in its shadow. The child's POV admirably reflects the terrible absurdity of war but is of necessity limited. The more history you can bring to the story, the more you will get from these reminiscences.

For example, Abirached's entire milieu and references are Christian, there is no specific mention of Muslims at all. There is no mention of who is the enemy or why is the city at war.


Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR, 2020,

collects hundreds of covers and illustrations from a spate of science magazines for youth and general public that flourished in the USSR. Science was wildly popular--I'd like to think on its own merits, but undeniably it was also thanks to the huge educational effort. And it is mostly science, not science fiction, that dominates these magazines, which is in itself remarkable.

There is a high-mindedness and idealism about these scientific dreams that recall some strains of Russian cosmism (and indeed, at least one prominent Russian space engineer, perhaps the greatest of all time, was a Tsiolkovsky-inspired cosmist). To Russians the space was naturally the domain of the infinitely curious, explorative human species; not, as in typical American science fiction, the next "Wild West" frontier for capitalists to subjugate and exploit and for men to wave their dicks about.

Where aliens are imagined, it's invariably as friends. Attention is paid even to gender balance, and from the earliest instances. Although male characters are more frequent, especially if there is only one human figure shown, girls and women occur almost as often in groups, and in the same situations as men, not subordinate.

It's worth noting that in Vasily Zhuravlev's film Cosmic journey from 1936 (begun in 1930) a woman ends up being sent to the moon instead of her boyfriend. And also that the Russian Valentina Tereshkova was not only the first woman in space, but to this day remains the only woman to have been sent on a solo space mission. In 1963.

I am deeply convinced that as a species we ought to approach space exploration from the idealistic and ethical POV such as the Soviets endorsed, not the mercenary, supremacist position of the capitalists.

To the Americans space became just another game to win, after they were shocked to find Communists making technological strides. For them planting the American flag on the Moon was a giant FU to the USSR--and too bad that there was no oil... But as for the "ideals" of the country that made this achievement, there will never be better comment than this:

Gil Scott-Heron - Whitey On the Moon


Que d'os!, Jean-Patrick Manchette, OPD 1976

The second and less successful novel about Eugène Tarpon, private investigator. Morgue pleine (No room at the morgue) was better. In this one Tarpon is entreated by a cop acquaintance to pretend-indulge some old biddy whose blind daughter, as she insists, had gone missing. No sooner does Tarpon lend a friendly ear to the old woman than it becomes clear something criminal and awful, with echoes of the WWII and French Nazi collaborators, is actually afoot.

The usual Manchette mayhem is scaled down, and given the presence of friends in Tarpon's life from the first book (a beautiful girl and an older Jewish man), I think these may be considered almost "cozies"--in his oeuvre. Mind you, horrific bodily injury still happens as casually as a howdyedo.


The diaries of Emilio Renzi, the formative years, Riccardo Piglia, 2017

This is the first volume of I think three, based on Piglia's real diaries but told somewhat obliquely through a figure of his alter ego Renzi. It's a treasure trove of bookish and cinematic pleasures, famous-writer mentions (Piglia was friends with Rodolfo Walsh, Humberto Costantini etc., met Borges, Cortázar, Puig and basically everyone), and complicated politics--this volume ends in 1967, with 27-year-old ex-anarchist Piglia a member of a small Communist group with Trotskyist flavour.


Il metodo Catalanotti, Andrea Camilleri, OPD 2018

The penultimate Montalbano? at least, I have only one more on request. The things I enjoy about Camilleri are there, and so are the things I don't enjoy; however, this time we get some unusual commentary on one aspect that I hated from the beginning, Montalbano's tortured long-distance relationship with Livia. So that's different.

The mystery may not be much but the victim is an interesting character, which is also a change from the usual.

Moving pictures

Had some sad news and medicated with binge-watching the 1960s Doktor Mabuse movies: Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960); Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse (1961); Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse (1962); Scotland Yard jagt Dr. Mabuse (1963); Die Todesstrahlen des Dr. Mabuse (1964). (The 1000 Eyes of Dr Mabuse; In the Steel Trap of Dr. Mabuse; The Invisible Claws of Dr Mabuse; Scotland Yard hunts Dr. Mabuse; The Rays of Death of Dr Mabuse.)

They are spooky, they are ooky, they contain every single pulp fiction horror trope: mind control, unfathomable evil, hypnosis, telepathy, criminal masterminds, gangster syndicates, mad cripples, invisibility, deranged psychopaths, assassinations, murderous clowns, masters of disguise, killer prostheses, plans for world domination, sharks.

Ayer, 9:37pm

L'énigme du pendu (The puzzle of the hanged man), Christian Jacq, OPD 1988

I have no recollection of when or why I picked this up; I knew Jacq dimly as an author of many books related to Egypt and Egyptology but never read him. This is a mild mystery (in what I see is a series) involving a retired Scotland Yard inspector Higgins. A dead man is found hanging from a tree, a sinister chair with diabolical carvings nearby, the man's shoes perfectly waxed, and a Tarot card, representing the Hanged Man, in his pocket. The suspects include a vicar, a deacon, a blacksmith, the squire, butcher, baker...
I was amused by the improbable "English" last names such as Waking, Laxter, Herald, or "Bettina" for an English Rose. The village is called The Slaughterers and a contested property (best of all) is Evillodge.


Days of thrills and adventure, Alan Barbour, OPD 1970

I started watching an old serial, Jungle Girl (1941), when I remembered I had this book. Barbour's nostalgia for childhood pleasures no doubt speaks to many. I'm old enough to sympathise, but must note just how strongly this entertainment was aimed at boys, white at that.

American serials were made with modest means and even humbler ambition (Barbour reserves "artistic" compliments for some European stuff, Feuillade and Lang) but they were not for that devoid of artistry and skill--in particular that of the stuntmen. Great stills capture their daredevil feats in profusion.

Moving pictures

There was more fighting the doldrums with 60s German Krimis, most of which I'd seen before: Der Frosch mit der Maske (1959); Der Hexer (1932); The Trygon Factor (1966)--the bad YT copy with the English soundtrack, featuring undubbed Stewart Granger, Robert Morley, Susan Hampshire etc.--Tim Frazer jagt den geheimnisvollen Mr. X (1964), Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972).

Also saw Underworld (2003), because it came up on a DVD search for Bill Nighy. His vampire chieftain Viktor is the best thing about it.

Then I saw All things must pass (2015), a documentary about Tower Records, a now-defunct music store chain. Thing is, when I came to the US in 1992, in New Orleans, the local Tower in the French Quarter became my main refuge. It stayed open until midnight and so it became a habit to end the daily grad school grind with a visit to it (as often as not accompanied by another to the next-door bookstore). Where else could I go? I left a fortune there and made a couple great friends. When I moved to NYC, although there were many more other attractions competing for my free time, I used to visit the Tower at the Lincoln Center at least a few times every week. This location had a classical section so huge that opera had its own room. Move over, Dante, I've been to Paradise too.

In the docu, Elton John's laments for the store speak for me. It was so dreamy, the infinite browsing, the meeting, the surprising, the desiring, the learning, the missing and the finding...

And then, Houchang Allahyari's I Love Vienna (1991), a warm-hearted film about culture clash. Very devout Mohammad Ali arrives in Vienna from Iran with his sister and teenage son, and must deal with the pressure European mores place on conservative Muslim habits, especially the views on women.