Lost my mind soon after (Art Spiegelman)

From In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman, Pantheon, 2004.

Reading to Celeste — Chelsea Gibson

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Reading to Celeste, 2020 by Chelsea Gibson

“The one-man band doesn’t look too happy,” Mathilda observed | Donald Barthelme

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From Donald Barthelme’s children’s book The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine; or The Hithering Thithering Djinn.

“Classic Scene” — William Carlos Williams

“Classic Scene”

by

William Carlos Williams


A power-house
in the shape of
a red brick chair
90 feet high

on the seat of which
sit the figures
of two metal
stacks–aluminum–

commanding an area
of squalid shacks
side by side–
from one of which

buff smoke
streams while under
a grey sky
the other remains

passive today–

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Classic Landscape, 1931 by Charles Sheeler (1883–1965)

Shifting the Gaze — Titus Kaphar

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Shifting the Gaze, 2017 by Titus Kaphar (b. 1976)

51 still frames from Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky

Liquid-Sky-001Liquid-Sky-006Liquid-Sky-014Liquid-Sky-016Liquid-Sky-022Liquid-Sky-025Liquid-Sky-026Liquid-Sky-028Liquid-Sky-029Liquid-Sky-032Liquid-Sky-036Liquid-Sky-040 Continue reading “51 still frames from Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky”

“Books are made out of books” | Blood Meridian and Samuel Chamberlain

In his 1992 interview with The New York Times, Cormac McCarthy said, “The ugly fact is books are made out of books. The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written.” McCarthy’s masterpiece Blood Meridian, as many critics have noted, is made of some of the finest literature out there–the King James Bible, Moby-Dick, Dante’s Inferno, Paradise Lost, Faulkner, and Shakespeare. While Blood Meridian echoes and alludes to these authors and books thematically, structurally, and linguistically, it also owes much of its materiality to Samuel Chamberlain’s My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue.

Chamberlain, much like the Kid, Blood Meridian’s erstwhile protagonist, ran away from home as a teenager. He joined the Illinois Second Volunteer Regiment and later fought in the Mexican-American War. Confession details Chamberlain’s involvement with John Glanton’s gang of scalp-hunters. The following summary comes from the University of Virginia’s American Studies webpage

According to Chamberlain, John Glanton was born in South Carolina and migrated to Stephen Austin’s settlement in Texas. There he fell in love with an orphan girl and was prepared to marry her. One day while he was gone, Lipan warriors raided the area scalping the elderly and the children and kidnapping the women- including Glanton’s fiancee. Glanton and the other settlers pursued and slaughtered the natives, but during the battle the women were tomahawked and scalped. Legend has it, Glanton began a series of retaliatory raids which always yielded “fresh scalps.” When Texas fought for its independence from Mexico, Glanton fought with Col. Fannin, and was one of the few to escape the slaughter of that regiment at the hands of the Mexican Gen. Urrea- the man who would eventually employ Glanton as a scalp hunter. During the Range Wars, Glanton took no side but simply assassinated individuals who had crossed him. He was banished, to no avail, by Gen. Sam Houston and fought as a “free Ranger” in the war against Mexico. Following the war he took up the Urrea’s offer of $50 per Apache scalp (with a bonus of $1000 for the scalp of the Chief Santana). Local rumor had it that Glanton always “raised the hair” of the Indians he killed and that he had a “mule load of these barbarous trophies, smoke-dried” in his hut even before he turned professional.

 

Chamberlain’s Confession also describes a  figure named Judge Holden. Again, from U of V’s summary–

Glanton’s gang consisted of “Sonorans, Cherokee and Delaware Indians, French Canadians, Texans, Irishmen, a Negro and a full-blooded Comanche,” and when Chamberlain joined them they had gathered thirty-seven scalps and considerable losses from two recent raids (Chamberlain implies that they had just begun their careers as scalp hunters but other sources suggest that they had been engaged in the trade for sometime- regardless there is little specific documentation of their prior activities). Second in command to Glanton was a Texan- Judge Holden. In describing him, Chamberlain claimed, “a cooler blooded villain never went unhung;” Holden was well over six feet, “had a fleshy frame, [and] a dull tallow colored face destitute of hair and all expression” and was well educated in geology and mineralogy, fluent in native dialects, a good musician, and “plum centre” with a firearm. Chamberlain saw him also as a coward who would avoid equal combat if possible but would not hesitate to kill Indians or Mexicans if he had the advantage. Rumors also abounded about atrocities committed in Texas and the Cherokee nation by him under a different name. Before the gang left Frontreras, Chamberlain claims that a ten year old girl was found “foully violated and murdered” with “the mark of a large hand on her throat,” but no one ever directly accused Holden.

 

It’s fascinating to note how much of the Judge is already there–the pedophilia, the marksmanship, the scholarship, and, most interesting of all, the lack of hair. Confession goes on to detail the killing, scalping, raping, and raiding spree that comprises the center of Blood Meridian. Chamberlain even describes the final battle with the Yumas, an event that signals the dissolution of the Glanton gang in McCarthy’s novel.

Content aside, Chamberlain’s prose also seems to presage McCarthy’s prose. In his book Different Travelers, Different Eyes, James H. Maguire notes that, “Both venereal and martial, the gore of [Chamberlain’s] prose evokes Gothic revulsion, while his unschooled art, with its stark architectural angles and leaden, keen-edged shadows, can chill with the surreal horrors of the later Greco-Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico.” Yes, Chamberlain was an amateur painter (find his paintings throughout this post), and undoubtedly some of this imagery crept into Blood Meridian.

You can view many of Chamberlain’s paintings and read an edit of his Confession in three editions of Life magazine from 1956, digitally preserved thanks to Google Books–here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III. Many critics have pointed out that Chamberlain’s narrative, beyond its casual racism and sexism, is rife with factual and historical errors. He also apparently indulges in the habit of describing battles and other events in vivid detail, even when there was no way he could have been there. No matter. The ugly fact is that books are made out of books, after all, and if Chamberlain’s Confession traffics in re-appropriating the adventure stories of the day, at least we have Blood Meridian to show for his efforts.

[Ed. note–Biblioklept first ran this post in September of 2010.]

An Allegory — Domenico Guidobono

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An Allegory, c. 1720 by Domenico Guidobono (1668–1746)

Five bookmarks

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Business card for the NC-based artist Hannah Dansie, likely obtained at an arts fair in Asheville, NC, late 2018. Inside Charles Portis’s The Dog of the South, pages 106-07. Did I finish The Dog of the South? Yes I did.

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An actual bookmark from the indie publisher Two Dollar Radio, obtained in 2020 when I purchased their edition of Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Nog. Inside Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Nog, between the cover and the first page. Did I finish Nog? Yes I did.

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Entrance ticket for Wat Pho, obtained in Bangkok, Thailand, in the fall of 2002. Found inside Thomas Pynchon’s V., pages 228-29 (the beginning of “Mondaugen’s Story.” Did I finish V.? Yes I did.

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Postcard from the Greek indie publisher Pilotless Press celebrating Allen Kechagiar’s chapbook The Mundane History of Lockwood HeightsObtained via the publisher in 2012. Inside of Barry Hannah’s Long, Last, Happy, page 254-55. Did I finish The Mundane History of Lockwood Heights? Yes I did.

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Card #30 (from Airtight Garage) of a set of Moebius collector cards, circa 1993. Obtained in a pack of Moebius Collector Cards purchased from Floating World Comics in Portalnd, Oregon, in July of 2019. Inside Jim Dodge’s Fup, pages 24-25. Did I finish Fup? No I did not.

Illustration for Poe’s “The Masque of Red Death” — Ivor Abrahams

The Masque of the Red Death 1976 by Ivor Abrahams born 1935

Illustration for Poe’s “The Masque of Red Death,” 1976 by Ivor Abrahams (1935–2015)

“The Masque of Red Death”

by

Edgar Allan Poe


The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death”.

It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence. Continue reading “Illustration for Poe’s “The Masque of Red Death” — Ivor Abrahams”

Illustration for “The Hare and the Black-and-White Witch” — Barry Moser

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Barry Moser’s illustration for Lynne Reid Banks’s “The Hare and the Black-and-White Witch.” From The Magic Hare, Avon, 1994.

The Charge — André Devambez

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The Charge, 1902 by André Devambez (1867–1944)

“No interviews!” the pirate cried | Donald Barthelme

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From Donald Barthelme’s children’s book The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine; or The Hithering Thithering Djinn.

Top Down — Jerrell Gibbs

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Top Down, 2019 by Jerrell Gibbs (b. 1985)

My Father — George Adolphus Storey

My Father 1868 by George Adolphus Storey 1834-1919

My Father, 1868 by George Adolphus Storey (1834–1919)

Smartphones — Chen Danqing

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Smartphones, 2016 by Chen Danqing (b. 1953)

A Short History of Modern Painting –Mark Tansey

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A Short History of Modern Painting, 1982 by Mark Tansey (b. 1949)