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Well, this is a new experience for me. I have never really had proper toothache before. I am determined, in the true spirit of sensual science, to enjoy (?!) it to the fullest.

Adventures in Stoicism and DentistryCollapse )

Bibliotheque

Inspired by goldmourn's tantalising bookshelf photos (tantalising because bookshelf photos make you want to reach through the screen and check out those volumes!), I thought it was about time I posted a few of my own.

Books (and other things) on shelvesCollapse )

Spel Ka-st

...I really have nothing much to tell you today, except that I'm hosting a migraine (the not-that-painful but nonetheless-annoyingly-persistent kind) and listening repeatedly to this song:



'Just A Lifetime', by The Legendary Pink Dots. It is from an album with the marvellous title of 'The Crushed Velvet Apocalypse'. Well, that sounds like my kind of armageddon! The whole album is really rather good - I've been listening to it on YouTube and shall put its physical incarnation on my Christmas Wish List, I think.

The Legendary Pink Dots: massively prolific, adrift in their own homemade psychedelic/faintly-gothic fug... fronted by the Thelemically-monikered Edward Ka-Spel... This sort of thing is on the periphery of my usual musical/cultural taste. Because they are not a 1970s group, they sound much more hygienic and arch than their earlier spiritual cousins. I can kind of imagine them having a friendly musical rivalry with Julian Cope. I've known of their existence for ages but not bothered to do any serious listening until now. (Maybe my brain on migraine pills is more amenable to this sort of thing...!) The LPD discography is intimidatingly vast, which daunts me, but I can see myself exploring it in leisurely, non-completist fashion.

Recommendations of albums worth hearing are most definitely welcome, if anyone out there happens to be familiar with this stuff... :-)

Lightnin’ Rod: Julian Cope in concert

Last Thursday, I had a lovely evening of music and subtle energies… my first encounter with Mr Julian Cope, singing, talking and Being Himself, upon the stage of the Exeter Phoenix. With nil apology, this shall be quite a burblesome summation of the occasion. (Ok, You Have Been Warned: Now Read On...)

As I started on my way to the place, there was weather god drama of a suitably tingly variety. I stepped out of my house into flickered drippage, wet stop motion description of the Vertical Plane…

…yep. It was Raining.

Tlaloc Drools, Julian Rules!Collapse )

Renascent

Yesterday, very very overdue indeed, I gave myself a much-needed haircut. Really, it is quite a relief to feel like myself again! Hair is psychologically significant, even if to own so is apt to make one feel rather superficial.



No Actual CapesCollapse )
When reading a Heavy Tome, it can be helpful to listen to the Right Kind of Music. What you need is an Auditory Lens with which to focus the mind’s ear to a pin sharp inward hearing of the words you are reading. I’m currently reading a Heavy Tome Indeed, and I do find that the words seep in more readily when gently pushed by a soundtrack that is either wholly instrumental or sung in some language other than English. Herewith: a glimpse of recent soundtraquerie.

Recently I received my copy of the new album by Monomyth, entitled ‘Further’. I was prompt in pre-ordering and so it came autographed - it is rare that I am following along the career of a current band, so it is a nice experience to have that personal touch. I really enjoyed their first, self-titled album (definitely recommended). This is not an area of music I’m really knowledgeable about (they describe their stuff as ‘Instrumental Space Kraut Stoner Rock from the Netherlands’) but I would say it does manage to be more than just a session of ‘spot the influence’. Yes, the influences are tangible, but it’s not one of those ‘serious rock Jive Bunny’ experiences - it’s not ‘classic rock bingo’.

‘Further’ has - how to put it? - fewer ‘memorable tunes’ (!?) than its predecessor, and I feel as though this is the kind of music that, for full effect, really needs to be experienced live with the entire person rather than only via the ears whilst sitting sedately on a sofa, but I can already point to favourite moments. My favourite piece would have to be ’Spheres’, which builds its stubborn, jagged, geometric repetitions with Fripp-like patience ’n’ persistence. This is a well-structured album, too. The best side-effect of the resurgence of the vinyl lp (if you ask me…) is the return of the 40-something-minute album. Here we have that classic format of side A: two tracks of roughly equal length; side B: short piece followed by Epic. The Epic in this case is ‘6EQUJ5’, in which you can definitely pick up echoes of that dogged ’n’ determined Düsseldorf Motorik Beat, along with guitar sounds that occasionally remind my (biased?!) ears of 1980s Beefheart/Magic Band. The splendid artwork (by Maarten Donders) is not best served by the limited canvas of CD packaging, but I bet it looks grand on the lp sleeve. Goes rather well as visual accompaniment to an inward voyage in search of the Prima Materia.

I also received Magma’s new… what… mini-album? EP?? It’s around twenty Earth-minutes in length, let’s put it that way, and contains a new version of an old familiar piece: ‘Rïah Sahïltaahk’. This originally appeared on their second album, ‘1001° Centigrades’. Apparently, Maestro Christian Vander was dissatisfied with the original arrangement. Having listened to both versions several times back to back, along with the live version that’s on the ‘Mythes et Legendes: Epok V’ DVD, I have to admit that the difference is not really that striking. The original version has its brass/woodwind element, whilst the new version has vibraphone and female backing vocals. The original has that slightly claustrophobic production common to lps from the early 1970s, whilst the new one sounds more clean and vibrant - well, no kidding. The lead vocals on the original are by the wondrous Klaus Blasquiz; Magma’s current male lead vocalist, Herve Aknin, sings in a very similar style.

There is nothing to complain about at all with this new version, although the live incarnation of it on the DVD has more Oomph and Zeuhl Energy than the studio effort. If you know the original, you'll kind of miss the brass on the new version. On the other hand, the added vocals on the new one, along with the presence of Philippe Bussonnet on bass guitar (a proper Zeuhl Knight as opposed to Francis Moze’s jazzier style on the original), add a little something. Argh - I dunno. I would say this new 'Rïah Sahïltaahk' is non-essential but well executed. If you particularly like this piece, or if you are the classic obsessed Magma aficionado who will buy anything they release, it’s a no-brainer; you want this. But if there is such a person as the mildly-interested consumer of Magma product (?!), he/she/they may happily pass on this one.

HOWEVER, let me say this: the packaging is very elegant (silver mirrored surface with black offset Zeuhl Griffe) and as always it is Joyful Indeed for any devout Zeuhl Kadett to be presented with a singalong Kobaïan libretto and a sizeable fragment of the Magma mythos (the story of Rïah Sahïltaahk is told in French; it’s a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of Hubris).

And that seems like a good place to terminate this travelogue of Musical Opinion Territory. Time perhaps to divert my attentions away from the potential Hubris of Album Reviewin’, back to the hoped-for Humility of Heavy Tome Readin’.

My thanks, as ever, for your company on this rrrramble. :-)

Caerdydd, chapter the third: Vainglory

On Friday, we took another train - this time in search of Castell Coch. (You get the train to Taff’s Well, then stroll to the village of Tongwynlais and up the hill to the castle.) This was the day of our anniversary, so it was befitting that we should save the most romantic of the local castles for the occasion. I had seen it twice before (once on a field trip from University, once with David on our previous visit to Cardiff); seeing it this third time, I was impressed more by its air of melancholy than its romance. The thing is, the 3rd M. of B. (yes, this is yet another of his projects!) had a tendency to lose interest in his buildings once they were completed. The planning, the design, the collaboration with architects, the imagining, the excitement, the construction… all of that was deeply interesting to him, but a finished thing held no allure. How very sad! It put me in mind of those books and films where there is a flourishing finale, THE END, and everything just stops. Many people regard weddings that way - a lot of fuss and planning and show, and THE END. What happens next? If you can manage to appreciate the non-exciting, non-glamorous stuff that happens next, perhaps you’ll do alright.

In fact, without the non-exciting, non-glamorous everyday stuff, the gilt fades, the lustre dims, you are left with an empty memory, gathering dust. The Bute family almost never visited Castell Coch after it was completed. At times, they used it as a quarantine sanatorium when their children were ill. When first I saw this place, I thought it so very beautiful and romantic. But now, walking through uselessly opulent rooms, I felt sorry that it had never been a home. On the few occasions when the castle was used, the family had to bring in servants from Cardiff. I stood in the kitchen and felt annoyed on behalf of the state of the art range: nobody habitually cooked on that thing! It was as redundant as an Aga in a show flat. What a shame - what a shame! And what a relief to know that though our house is nothing special from an architectural point of view, it contains real life; breakfast is eaten there, warm bodies sleep there, laundry is washed there. Upon leaving, somebody locks the door with care, in anticipation of returning very soon. You can get married at Castell Coch, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

Empty HallsCollapse )
The following day, Thursday, we avoided Cardiff, thinking it might be too full of NATO and police officers to be borne with good grace. Instead, we took the train to Caerphilly in order to look at its castle. The town of Caerphilly made me oddly nostalgic for the 1990s - it seemed not to have been touched since then, so I daresay it too was feeling the same way. We had elevenses in a café that was still serving that prototypic form of caffe latte that comes in a tall glass mug and consists of slightly-soiled milk. I have been ruined, I fear, by knowledge of coffee that tastes recognisably of coffee. Still, the establishment also served loose leaf tea (which pleased the David) and was so extremely clean that I almost wanted to drop my shortbread on the floor in order to enjoy the rare thrill of innocent trust that would assuredly accompany the eating of it anyway.

As we strolled through the town, I felt somewhat sorry for Caerphilly. It had very obviously seen better days. When you think of Caerphilly you think of cheese, and perhaps of the castle, but as for present-day prosperity I am not sure that it’s very lively. Still, we did spot a local landmark…



Enormous EdificesCollapse )
Time at last to relate the tale of our trip to Cardiff. I hope you like castles of the earth and castles of the air, for there are many of these herein.

I note with bemusement the fact that I seem fatally drawn to individuals who have converted to Roman Catholicism. I wonder why that is? I think it highly unlikely that I shall ever go that way (mainstream religion does not suit my constitution), but anyway - there it is. A Thing about Me.

I mention this only because of the Third Marquess of Bute. He was just such a convert. He impressed me well enough on my first visit to Cardiff, but somehow I appreciated him more fully on this second sojourn. It is always entertaining to poke through the leavings of these characters who have sufficient wealth, influence and imagination to enable fantastic things to be brought about - wondrous castles with preposterously exuberant interiors - but the 3rd M. of B. does seem to have had something more about him than mere whimsy. According to Vicipaedia, ’The Marquess’s vast range of interests… included religion, medievalism, the occult, architecture, travelling, linguistics, and philanthropy… A prolific writer, bibliophile and traveller, as well as, somewhat reluctantly, a businessman, his energies were on a monumentally Victorian scale.’

I wonder, do such people exist nowadays? What are we (our generation) building? What, moreover, are we imagining? Not A Very Great Deal is the only conclusion I can casually arrive at. We don’t quite know what to do with our rich folks these days (or they don’t quite know what to do with us). Gone are the days of paternalistic patronage, and so much the better, but that just leaves us with the dead weight of such frivolous nonentities as populate the shiny society pages, creatures content to be customers - clients! - rather than patrons, sponsors, mentors. Once upon a time, profound depths of excess were mined for rare and aweful jewels. These days, all we can muster is the occasional flamboyant celebrity, scratching out some further extent of shallows - channels for orts to float sewerwards. Distance long is not the same as distance deep. Doing opulence (decoration) well is, I fear, a lost art: or rather, having been cleansed of anything approaching the merest pose of spiritual intent, it becomes something merely selfish, gaudy and inutile. ‘Good taste’ instructs that the only appropriate expression of a rich man’s fancy is in minimalism. Discreet, faceless, apologetic, antiseptic… I like this not. Minimalism was worthwhile as a species of flamboyance: when orthodoxy takes on tints of the bombastic, rendering the outrageous humdrum, your ideal next move (stylistically speaking) is subtle, subtle, subtle, white, white, white, flat, flat, flat. Do that, cutting across hackneyed-gothic, and you have something. But it’s trite now. It’s beginning to look preposterous. It’s as if nobody has the guts to CHOOSE STUFF any more - to CHOOSE STUFF BECAUSE THEY LIKE IT.

Anyway… all I am saying is, ‘Give Fabudorability A Chance’.

With that in mind, let me take you to a strange kingdom.

A Strange KingdomCollapse )

Hyperbole Overload

Annoying discovery of the moment: the word ‘alchemy’ has become thoroughly meaningless. When you search for the word ‘alchemy’ all you get is a Vicipaedia article and about a hundred companies whose founders clearly have no imagination whatever. You can practically smell the thought process - “Uhhh, well, Clive, we could go with ‘synergy’ or we could go with ‘alchemy’… ‘alchemy’ is easier to spell, right? And it starts with an ‘a’. That’s, like, really positive, yeah?”

It is always a shame when words get bland. Think of the word ‘fantastic’. That really ought to indicate that the thing described has a beyondness, an aboveness, a quality of the dangerously imaginative. But these days, it’s ‘fantastic’ when you can successfully book a table at a restaurant, it’s ‘fantastic’ when someone hands you something over a shop counter, it’s ‘fantastic’ when something goes right in the most mundane way imaginable. ‘Fantastic’ - seriously?

Then there’s ‘incredible’. That word was originally intended to convey that an event or thing is beyond comprehension, that it’s unbelievable in the literal sense (which I have to qualify, because - inevitably - ‘unbelievable’ itself often gets handed out in response to things that are… hilariously believable).

And of course, we regularly tell each other that something is ‘amazing’ when it has not actually amazed us in the slightest, or that something is ‘marvellous’ when it is in fact no kind of marvel. Worse - we bandy the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’ and ‘starving’ and ‘torture’ when we really mean ‘it’s ok I guess’ or ‘it’s not up to much’ or ‘I’m looking forward to lunch’ or ‘that stings a bit’.

Maybe words are like drugs. The more you overuse them, the less effective they become? It feels like we need a massive shot of hyperbole these days even to move an eyelash. You can see this on any talent show where the participants have broken through the barrier of basic mathematics in order to offer A MILLION PERCENT. Careful, now. You might find yourself having to pay that back one of these days. You’ve just signed away your soul. The Devil himself (manifesting in the shape of Simon Cowell) is chuckling at you.

I searched for ‘alchemy’ expecting to have to wade through a bunch of credulous new age flannel, not… recruitment agencies and IT systems security firms. And restaurants. (Restaurants! “Would you like sulphur with that, sir, or may I suggest a little antimony on the side?”) And cosmetics firms, and media companies, and local community projects, and jewellery designers, and - lord save us - dentists. (Well, I guess the dentist kinda makes sense… if they still do mercury fillings?!)

Alchemy should be a powerful word, not a catch-all for some slick transaction resulting in ‘hey presto’. It should - it must - speak for those transformative moments in which one thing becomes another. It should be a word that reminds us that nothing is ever lost or gained… it only changes.

In All Things, I Know Myself To Be Mercury, Not Granite. That is something I need to remember, ponder, analyse and… accept.

Matters of Scale

We went for a walk yesterday, in one of the local nature reserves. I took my camera with me. When I go out with the intention of taking pictures, I often feel unequipped to make much of The View. Big landscapes - I struggle to do them justice, in the camera and in my appreciation of them. Maybe it's simply a matter of scale. Or maybe it's because sometimes they really do look like paintings you've seen. It's difficult to feel you're really there, in a way.

But small things always call to me. I use the camera's macro setting more than anything else.

Anyway, here's a series of glimpses of the way wandered.

 photo DSCF3336.jpg
We ate lunch on the bench you see here. This place is called 'Belvidere Meadow', and you can see why. Sitting there with my cheese and tomato roll, I began to mourn the loss of that old country stalwart, the Real Tramp. People who were itinerant, in a skilled and (semi-)purposeful way. Moving around to where the work was, or when there wasn't any work, the welcome. A skilled tramp, sitting on this bench, eating a cheese and tomato roll, I thought, would not be less rich than whoever owned the land.

Wind-Blown WanderingsCollapse )
There is a kind of poetry in euphemisms. At least, I have long thought so. Language - verbal or textual - has its own music, its own melody, harmony and counterpoint. Just as you inevitably show your true colours when responding to music, you reveal your nature with every word you say or write… quite helplessly.

I'm one of those people who hates ugly-sounding slang. At least, I leave it to others. Especially where life's nicest experiences are concerned, I don't want to hear anything… coarse. Shouldn't lovely things sound lovely when you nearly-describe them? Gross phrases claw down an embarrassment, a clumsiness, that nobody should feel at such moments. Worst of all is being offered something delicious in a way that makes it sound disgusting… c'est vrai dans la chambre, comme dans la cuisine.

(As usual I can't think or write about anything without invoking both Music and Food. There is no cure for this, so we may as well Play On.)

Swearing, now: short sharp Anglo-Saxon-action-words may be introduced when a note of percussion is required, but they blunt in overuse ('twas ever thus with tools!), and are too generic to be effective on their own (whether as friendly suggestions or insults). As dear Meredith suggests, 'If you really want to insult someone... say something about their nose.' (Honestly though, it is pretty backwardly Cro-Magnon to use anatomical terms as insults. I personally would never share my best talent with someone who used it as a synonym for 'idiot'.)

The one problem with habitual euphemism is that… you spot them everywhere. Recently I heard this song, yet another Purcell number (ahimé; my brain is still in Baroque mode). Is it just a straightforward incitement to music? Perhaps. But check out that arrangement - prancing on tiptoe, apt to tickle - and the breathless, confiding giggle of the vocal part - and that libretto!! Oh, Mr Tate!

Strike the Viol, touch the Lute;
Wake the Harp, inspire the Flute:
Sing your Patronesse's Praise,
Sing, in cheerful and harmonious Lays.


[Loving this sprightly version, sung by one Barnaby Smith with accompaniment from an ensemble called Les Inventions.]

*blink, moue* Well, darling heart… since you ask so nicely… ;-)

In fine: a song like this (whether or not it was ever intended seductively) is very much more effective (on young Cosmé, at least!) than any of our leering modern-day equivalents. The Baroque era had Purcell 'n' Tate; we get Kanye West and Robin Thicke. Unfair or what!!
[For anyone who has not encountered Meredith previously, let me explain him this way: he is my favourite character. He first visited me when I was fifteen-and-a-half years old (!) and has been ineradicably present ever since. I am fonder of him than I am of some family members. (This will, I'm sure, make sense to all writers of fiction.) Over the years he and I have sort of moulded one another, if that is not too horrid a phrase, so that now, when I look back, I cannot think of us as 'two sides of the same coin' but as something more like 'a forever-entangled wave 'n' particle combo'.]

On the frivolously-solemn occasion of Meredith’s birthday, not to mention it being our twentieth year of mutual mischief, I feel it is highly appropriate to give him the thing he most adores: Attention.

Boswell attends inevitably upon JohnsonCollapse )

Loitering Without Tent

A couple of Thursdays ago, I achieved a long-held ambition: I attended a writers' group. I'd known of its existence for ages, but living in my castle on the hill, far from the city, and being a stubborn non-driver, I wasn't in a position to do anything about it. But having gained the city's bounds, there's no excuse now to ignore the opportunity to meet other writers, with the aim of getting and giving useful feedback, moral support, or at the very least a drink and a nice conversation.

Cake May EnsueCollapse )

Last week at the bookshop, on the Big Table of Interesting Things, the display included a book with the intriguing title 'Princes of Victorian Bohemia'. Hmm, thinks Cosmé; instructive? The cover shows this photograph:

Anachronauts AhoyCollapse )

Oh Well. I don't have Mr Wynfield at my disposal, but I do have a camera of my own. Also, I wasn't in Renaissance Prince Mode on Thursday; it was more of a Listlessly-Awkard Edwardian Creature moment. Imagine Cosmé, wistfully adrift at some dully-genteel seaside resort, sulkily solitary but very much wanting a cup of tea… if only a kind person would take pity on the poor thing.

In the absence of kind strangers, one takes pity on oneself. (How very sad! And yet: occasional self-indulgence works wonders, I find. Don't you?)

The Lorn LensCollapse )

Legibly Yours, Mine and Ours

I did a thing the other day. I joined the city's library. The place is newly refurbished and open again at last, complete with all the added incentives that the municipal authorities seem to feel we need these days in order to entice us to borrow books - to whit: café, computer terminals, wifi, self-service issue and return points, and something called a 'fab lab'. (Apparently, amongst other contraptions, it features a 3D printer for public hire; I predict embarrassment of the 'no, sir, ma'am, you can't print that here' variety. What'll it be first - guns, or Intimate Stress-Relief Aids for the Frustrated Misanthrope?! No - I have it - e-readers! Surely that's got to be against library policy.)

Librarians, LibrarianingCollapse )

Meat and Two Veg

Good lord, I think there's something in the air - or perhaps the water. Something Springlike, some hint of Pan. Flicking through the local paper today in search of articles relevant to my workplace (one of my duties is to cut these out and stick them in a folder - exactly the right sort of soothingly simple task you want on a Friday morning after a dreadful night's sleep!), I noted the following two tales.

Tale the first: a man walks into a shop... so far so mundane. Unfortunately, this man was naked. More unfortunately still, he approached a member of staff whilst in this dangly condition and requested... some hair remover. (The paper did not disclose whether he expected the shop assistant to help him apply it there and then.) The man was arrested for indecent exposure, which presumably means he wasn't that hairy in the first place.

Tale the second: a man (a different man, not our non-hirsute friend cited above) removed all his clothes and climbed naked on to the high altar in the Cathedral. Excuse: "I want to get nearer to god." (So apparently, standing on a table in yer birthday suit is the way to do that...?) Sadly, this miscreant rather spoiled the farce by going on to assault an elderly woman on his way out of the place - from which I assume that his ruse to approach the Divine didn't work too well. :-/ Psychiatric assessment was recommended for this fellow - sighs of relief all round.

Tale the third, now... this was not in the paper; this I witnessed with my own eyes. At the railway station, going to catch my train, I spotted a man dressed as... a carrot. (Pause, to allow the mental image to sink in...) Not only that: he was carrying a real carrot, rather reverently, as if it were sentient, in his hand. (Go on - have another pause, on me.) Immediately, I thought: "This must be a stag do - right?" - but the fellow appeared to be on his own. My imagination wants to feel that he was invoking the spirit of the sacred root, but I have a feeling there may have been alcohol or money or both involved. Still - it takes all sorts, I suppose: exhibitionists, religious maniacs and vegetable-shamans included.

On days like this, I feel so boring!!

P.S.: patchy internet service and maniacal writing jag have kept me away from here for a few days. Comment catch up time is indicated, I feel - please excuse my truancy! :-D
Decadence is ever en train, chez moi. The other day, a day otherwise untroubled by anything more strenuous than a romp through the thesaurus, I went outside and discovered something foul and rank. (Please, if you are of a sensitive disposition, consider that your final warning.) The drain that leads to the septic tank was overflowing with feculent effluent (…try saying that sixty-two times after a stiff measure of Demerara rum). I was forced to phone the drain-unblockers (is there a one-word title for such pioneers?), who eventually turned up and dealt with the matter (taking most of it away in buckets). To add to the general air of excess and decay, I was charged £145 for the privilege of allowing my friendly local drain-unblocker to rid me of my unwanted gardenful of filth. I daresay a true decadent would have composed an elegy right there in the midst of this avalanche of overpriced shit, but I'm afraid words failed me just at that moment. (I did, however, manage to sluice the patio with disinfectant after the drain-unblocker had fled, clutching my big fat cheque in his mucky paws.)

I can only look to my betters to encapsulate the emotion that swelled through my quivering person in response to this unplanned diurnal upsurge of the night-soil that most properly belongs to the crepuscular churnings of the underworld.

Herewith, a song that I cannot hear without feeling it is essentially an exercise in extended sarcasm. Its title is 'O ravishing delight' (which is almost exactly what I exclaimed when I first laid eyes upon that ordure-ruined patio). The composer is Daniel Purcell, a relation of the more famous Henry of that ilk. The librettist, meanwhile, is William Congreve (it's from 'The Judgement of Paris', and it's the eponymous abductor of fit birds who sings this aria. Incidentally, I learn from Wikipedia that Daniel P. won third prize with his version in a contest to judge the best setting of the masque).

Here are the lyrics - and very delightful they are too.

O Ravishing Delight!
What Mortal can support the Sight?
Alas! too weak is Human Brain,
So much Rapture to Sustain.
I faint, I fall! O take me hence,
Ere Ecstasie invades my aking Sense:
Help me, Hermes, or I dye,
Save me from Excess of Joy.

I cannot find on YouTube the recording I have here at home, in which one Ryland Angel makes mincemeat of those Baroque twiddles that are so beloved of the counter-tenor in full chirp. Instead, have Alfred Deller's rendition.



When the line about Hermes is reached, I can't help but mistake the word for 'Homies'. "Help me, Homies, or I die" - it could be a line from any gangsta rapper's violent soliloquy! It makes me to wonder what other Baroque gems might appeal to the modern-day purveyor of 'urban' music, looking to relieve his or her ennui with something fresh (or indeed, a retread of something so antique as to be freshly novel). Therefore, I propose a new musical genre: HIP-FOP. You know what I'm saying: let's have that unutterable nightingale Iestyn Davies guesting as relief-vocalist on some edgy joint. (Maybe he can soothe the supplanted Beyoncé's jealousy afterwards by teaching her a spot of Handel.) And oh yes, let's rope in Andre 3000 (a dapper dan indeed) - he'd enjoy some eighteenth century costumes, I'm sure…

…No? You don't think this is a good idea? Oh. …I rather fear contemporary culture is not young Cosmé's strong point. Never mind - I'll drag my anachronautick corpse out of the spotlight, I think, and get on with a bit more scribbling. Now, where did I put that thesaurus…?

The Pleasures of the Flesh-Eater

So, I finished reading David Madsen's 'Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf'. Very entertaining, a good read, especially if you like rattlingly-bizarre historical fiction. I sort of feel it was a little disjointed, in a way - you would get a bit of grotesque sexually-explicit stuff, then a slab of history, then a gulping draught of Gnostic philosophy, then a bit more sex, and so on and so forth. Sometimes, the sex and the history were combined - or the sex and the Gnosticism. Not sure it worked as a whole entity, though the parts (and weren't there a lot of parts - my word!) were very good indeed. I like this man's writing style, and he is able to make you care for his characters - even the really disgusting ones. I must admit, though, that I am hard to please when it comes to historical fiction. Remember when I was super-disappointed by 'Richard Blake' and his oh-so-very-almost Aelric, the character who couldn't quite? (I still think fondly on Aelric, you know. Ah, what might have been!!) Well, this book does what those books didn't dare to, which is quite a relief all round! ;-)

Anyway, I liked it enough to immediately grab a copy of Mr Madsen's second novel - 'Confessions of a Flesh-Eater'. Having read (well, devoured, appropriately enough) the entire thing in record time, I am moved to say that this is the best book I've read in a while - or at least, the one I have most enjoyed, which is the only thing that really counts. Here we have a tale that is gorgeously, unctuously, exorbitantly horrid - deliciously so. A midnight feast composed of secrets and secretions! Our protagonist and narrator is the chef, the soi-disant genius, the amoral murderer, the gilded narcissist, the one, the only, Orlando Crispe. We follow his career, from the earliest stirrings of his longing for flesh - to consume it, to be one with it, to absorb it, as he puts it - via his culinary training (conventional and extra-curricular), his murders, his cannibalism, all the way to his prison cell. Along the way he shares his favourite recipes, some of which will make you reappraise Heston Blumenthal's most involute offerings as veritably vanilla. He also lays out his philosophy - 'Absorptionism' - which is, I suppose, the x-rated, anthropophagic version of the Circle of Life.

It's a funny book, too, which doesn't always go well with sensuality on this scale, but here it works magnificently. I particularly like the way Mr Madsen uses cliché - for example, he can introduce a character who is a Neo-Nazi sado-masochist, the very idea of which is quite groan-inducing, and have you not only laughing at the poor fellow but sympathising with him as well (him and his favourite stitched leather strap - because your straight-backed Aryan seeker after chastisement must have one of these!). There are no straightforwardly admirable or likeable characters in the entire thing; all of them are delightfully dreadful. And yet you can't really hate any of them - not even Orlando. He's so… he's so… earnest, I think is the word. And handsome: a trait he uses to his advantage at every opportunity. At last, the blond amoral anti-hero who could!

In some ways I am forced to compare this book with 'The Debt to Pleasure' by John Lanchester, another book I loved (and reviewed here), featuring another narcissistic, amoral gourmet as narrator. I think I like 'Confessions' more, however. There's something about this book that I'm having trouble pinning down here - it's certainly a wonderfully entertaining, elegantly gross affair, but there's more to it than that. Perhaps it's only that it has reminded me, yet again, of the sheer power of language. The sheer sensual potency of words. I want there to be more books like this - books that have savour, that are like food, that are intense and addictive, nourishing and fattening and mouthwatering. There must be more of them out there. Where do they lurk?! Tell me!! (I'm thinking some of 'em may well be hanging out at Dedalus Books, Mr Madsen's estimable publishers. Incidentally, I note whilst browsing their website that somebody has bought the film rights to 'Confessions of a Flesh-Eater'. I'm… flabbergasted. This is one of those books where, as you read, you are thinking, "They could never make a film of this!" I slightly hope they never try, because it could only ever be a bowdlerised disappointment or an icky-sticky spurt of not-quite-pornography.)

Yes, I have to say I am not fond of dry prose. (You could probably tell that from my own mode of expression!!) On the other hand, I don't like it to be slack and sloppy either. Well-marshalled, disciplined, but beaucoup de jus is how I want it, thank you. In an ideal world that goes for my dinner, too, though I'd rather not eat people unless I absolutely have to. Dang - there I go again, bein' all parochial 'n' petit-bourgeois 'n' moral… sorry, dear Maestro Orlando…!

…On which note, it's well past the time for a palate-cleansing cup of tea. I think you should have one, too. (Being Didactic Again!)

Does Vile + Venal = Vinyl?

…I think only in certain cases. Might the mythick off-duty habits of members of Led Zeppelin comply with the spirit of the equation? You Tell Me… :-)

Anyway, I only ask because I've been out buying lps again. Yesterday saw the return of the regular Second-Hand Music Fair to Exeter, and the David and I spent an interesting few hours turning over the stock.

Serviceable CivilitiesCollapse )

Cosmic Sparks & Pastel PaintworkCollapse )

Planetary Reflections in Moodily Depicted ChaosCollapse )

One Closing GrotesquerieCollapse )

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning...

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

NB: If you add me in an unsolicited fashion, please introduce yourself. Otherwise I will probably ignore you.

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