film literature

mann book films

Another book I read recently is Donald Prater’s biography of Thomas Mann. It’s a good way of finding out about the man, but I would not rate it very highly in terms of classic biographies. On consideration I’m not sure what you would class as classic biographies. Vasari’s Lives of the Artists? Well I’ve never read it so couldn’t possibly say, but maybe George D Painter’s masterly Marcel Proust life or even Ross Russell’s Bird Lives in many ways flawed but still marvellously conjuring up the feel of what it was to be alive in those days.

It amused me slightly to produce this list of some of Mann’s novels that were turned into films.


There are at least 3 film versions of this novel.

Tonio Kroger

Royal Highness

The Confessions of Felix Krull

Mario The Magician

The Magic Mountain

  • The 1982 version
  • Alexander Korda’s brother, Zoltan was supposed to make a version sometime I think in the 50s or 60s, but it never happened

Lotte In Weimar

  • The 1974 film by Egon Günther

Finally I suspect that you don’t have time to watch a whole film right now, but if you do here is Death In Venice Luchino Visconti‘s masterpiece from 1971. To tell you the truth I haven’t seen any of the other films mentioned above, but even so I’m confident that none of them come anywhere near this one. If you don’t have time to watch the whole film then at least I would humbly submit that it is worth watching the beautiful opening sequence after the credits from 2:30 to 6:00 approximately.

angels film literature quotations


I recently finished reading Memoirs of a Revolutionist by Peter Kropotkin – a superb book (especially first two thirds) which I heartily recommend. Kropotkin himself comes over as a man of genius but there are many other characters that appear in the narrative who were obviously extraordinary people and deserve to be more than historical footnotes.

One of the most striking is Sofiya Peróvskaya, who was hanged in 1881 for her part in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. In Kropotkin’s words

The letter she wrote to her mother a few hours before she went to the scaffold is one of the best expressions of a loving soul that a woman’s heart ever dictated.

Here is a translation of the letter that I managed to find on the internet.

Mother, mother! Beloved, beloved one! If you only knew how cruelly I suffer at the thought of the sorrow and torture I have caused you, dearest! I beg and beseech you not to rack your tender heart for my sake. Spare yourself and think of all those who are round you at home, and who love you no less than I do, and need you constantly; and who, more than I, are entitled to your love and affection. Spare yourself too, for the sake of me, who would be so happy if only the agonising thought of the sorrow I have caused you did not torture me so unspeakably. Sorrow not over my fate which I created for myself, as you know, at the strict behest of my conscience. You know that I could not have acted differently, that I was obliged to do what my heart ordered, that I had to go and leave you, beloved mother, when my country called me. Do not think that the death that inevitably awaits me has any terror for my soul. That which has happened is only, you know, what I have been expecting every day, every hour, during all those years, and what sooner or later, must overtake me and my friends. Soon in the course of a few days I must die for the cause, for the idea, for which I devoted my life and all the powers of my soul and body. How happy I should be then, dearest, beloved! Once more I beseech you not to mourn for me. You are well aware how ineffably I love you. I have always, always loved you. By this love I conjure you to forgive your Sonya! Again and again I kiss your beloved hands, and on my knees, thank you for all you have given me during every moment of my life. On my knees I beseech you to bear to all the dear ones at home my last loving greetings! Tomorrow I shall stand once more in the presence of my judges; probably for the last time. But my clothes are so shabby and I wanted to tidy myself up a bit. Buy and send me, dearest mama, a little white collar and a pair of simple loose sleeves with links. Perhaps it will be vouchsafed us once again to meet. Until then, farewell! Do not forget my last fervent prayer, my last thought: forgive me and do not bewail me.

A 1967 Russian film directed by Lev Arnshtam dramatised her life. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the score. If you’d like to watch it, here it is. No subtitles though.

literature micromuseum sea

micromuseum 7

The story of John Lane and his starting of a publishing dynasty, which is in my opinion one of the great monuments of the last 100 years in the history of the country which has the difficulty of being prone to doubt about what it should be called by natives such as I and is the one I pertain to, is an interesting one. The creation of Bodley Head publishing company by someone who came from a Devon farming family and had been a low-paid railway clerk before he penetrated the world of books is enough in itself but the fact that his sister’s son, Allen, took over from his uncle and then went on to found Penguin deepens the significance.

I look forward to a future history which will discern that rulers and governments hardly matter at all. They try to take control of a system which is like a racing steed, bucking furiously in a constant attempt to throw them out of the saddle. Instead it is men like John and Allen Lane whose lives and cultural achievements are far more important in the development of human life/society.

The images from this book, Stars and Primroses constitute this micromuseum instance. Published by Bodley Head in 1945, my edition is from the 1947 reprint. The first reprint and possibly the only one. It was made and printed in Holland by L Van Leer & Co. By this time John Lane was long dead and Allen had left to start Penguin in 1935. But this is still a classic of children’s poetry anthology compilations.

It’s by M C Green who chose the poems (presumably) and certainly lettered and illuminated them. My parents’ first child, my brother, was born in 1948 so they probably didn’t buy this book until at least that year, quite possibly later. The book today would be classified in an over 8 age group category at least, but back then there weren’t the equivalent of baby books we have today, which are designed to handle violent laying of hands on and to provide simple concepts. These were books designed for the tastes of the parent rather than the child. For the child sometimes the tacky is as formative as the sublime.

This book is a little battered and the covers have been attached by sellotape which has now stiffened and dried out, in fact I’ve removed it and have a front cover, a rear one, and the stitched together 62-odd pages as 3 separate items. I am reluctant to apply new sellotape. Maybe a solution will arise some day. Luckily the other M C Green volume I have which is called Magic Lanterns is in better nick. It is dated 1949. I make no assumptions based on these facts. I am one of those people who have never mistreated books, though in my late teens I went through a period of writing things in the margin of books, usually ones that I was studying at school and had to write essays on. But always in pencil, thankfully. Generally I think that people who underline passages in library books are 1 step away from doing away with small animals for kicks and then the next thing you know they’re serial killers.

gigs literature micromuseum music nonsense

What will be and what’s gone past

This is just an interim post to jot down a few things that may be coming and a few that may not. A few follow-ups and advertisements where the 3rd syllable sounds like eyes and is stressed accordingly.

There will be a Neureille gig at the Kingsdown Vaults in Bristol on Saturday 3rd December. Proposed line-up will be Paul Wigens on drums & percussion (small kit), Everton Hartley on bass guitar & guitar as well sometimes probably, Tom Ranby on whichever saxophone he fancies that night. I will be playing my Spanish guitar rather than my Strat. Laura Lambell might make it too to do some vocals. We will be playing songs from the 2 albums, disparue & amanogawa plus possibly doing some other things. And I hope to have a few guests to do some cameo appearances plus some sets. I will provide more details when I’ve worked that out. Unfortunately Ant Noel won’t be able to make it as he’s playing a solo gig that night.

But I will be doing a couple of things with Ant over the next couple of weeks – Sunday 13th November at the Somerset House in Clifton Village and Tuesday 22nd November at the Merchant’s Arms in Hotwells. I’m not sure exactly what sort of thing the session on the 13th will be, but I’ve done a couple of the Tuesday night sessions already with Ant and my contribution has been as a quartet with Everton and myself on guitar, Ant on mandoline and James Stallwood on clarinet as we did at the event I described in an earlier post. It’s a great line-up. We’ve only played 4 songs so far but we could easily do a 45 minute set at the drop of a hat because there’s a lot of freedom and improvisational possiblities there.

I’m a bit behind at posting things here, but I’m working on a demo of a new song which will make a nice post with some more artwork from The Adventures of Tintin. Too much day-work right now is slowing me down, but that is due to finish at the beginning of December. Other posts I have promised are

  • Wintersol – sequel to Musrum (another one for the Nonsense category)
  • Edward Gorey Part II (again Nonsense)

One that I promised which I decided not to do was on the wreck of the Medusa. I found that this had been covered pretty extensively in a work by Julian Barnes. There’s something a bit plagiaristic I find about that sort of thing. Borges was able to do it ok and Umberto Eco also does it in a way I find acceptable, though I must admit I can’t call myself a huge fan of either of those writers. In other words, I think covering the Medusa raft story is ok for a blog post but to me it shows a lack of inventiveness to rewrite the narrative in a novel, however nice a style you have. So sorry about that.

To conclude the Fool’s Gold saga I will be putting up the track that I recorded back in 1983 or so which uses random snippets from the text. This easily ties in again with Nonsense as does another post which I’ve been meaning to write based on the work of NF Simpson who died earlier this year.

I’ve mentioned Kafka in the last two posts and so I’ve just made that a run of 3, but at the moment I’m simultaneously re-reading The Complete Short Stories and also The Diaries. After that I’ll re-read the Walter Benjamin essays and then maybe write further on the writer who I feel in many ways made me write the way I do. All this takes time and creative energy so may not happen until next year.

On the micromuseum front I should like to do another postage stamp set + I took some photos of some strange Chilean artefacts which need to be manipulated and I also need to think what possibly I can write about them, for they are mysterious and very difficult to research. Other micromuseum things I planned were a post on Alfred Wainwright’s book, Fellwanderer, some of John S Goodall’s illustrated small books and probably some other things, but now it is late – gone 3am and I must be up soon after 7.

I couldn’t be bothered to put the usual links I put in, in this post. Occasional sloppiness can only lead to perpetual sloppiness, but the excuses are there.

film fire literature trees

Archive Footage

Over the last little while or thereabouts I have been posting archive bbc footage on my youtube channel. This all comes from a programme I recorded on vhs back probably in the late eighties. I think I first bought a vhs recorder sometime after 1985 and most likely early on after that I recorded a compendium of bbc recordings which were generally from the late 60s. It was introduced by George Melly and for the first time in the most recent clip (Pasolini & Callas – see below) there is a fragment of his commentary added to the original fragment. In the past I have always managed to decently edit out any of his contributions (apart from the Heinz Edelmann clip where he is central, as a younger self). Not that I’ve got anything against the guy, but because I wanted to be true as possible to the original recordings. But this comment is right in the middle of the clip and trying to edit it out would be a real pain. I think he must have felt that as a singer he was allowed to comment about Callas but sadly I must regret that he felt it was necessary to add anything as Maria is so beautiful and so poignant in her words that there scarcely is need of aught else. Ah well, such is life, you can always edit the film yourself. Download it from youtube, it’s not that difficult, and edit it. But sadly you can’t bring her back to life. Anyway as I usually say, here’s the youtube clip

And just to show what I was talking about earlier on here are the other youtube clips from the programme that I have already posted. Sometimes I wonder if the bbc has lost the original footage that these clips were taken from. I would be happy to take this stuff down if I felt that it was available somehow commercially, but until that happens I will carry on posting it for the world to see. And if sometimes I feel like Kafka‘s Warden of the Tomb maybe that’s my destiny. There are some gems still to be unearthed. In the mean time here are the other segments…

literature music

Epistle from Patera

Once upon a time if I wrote a new song I would fairly quickly record a demo of it, but for the last year or so I haven’t been bothered. I’m not sure why that is, probably to a certain degree some sort of boredom with the recording process. I think the only new song I’ve recorded is one I recorded live (vocals overdubbed), little crusader

What spurred me to actually record one of them was the idea of giving Tom (Ranby) some mp3s of new songs because when we played together I wanted to add some of the new songs to the repertoire rather than just play the stuff we already know. Well the first recording’s done now and it wasn’t that bad. It was mostly done a couple of weeks ago but I finished it off yesterday by recording the cameo flute part. I didn’t practise playing flute much over the 2 weeks, there was probably 10 minutes of playing in total, in short 30-60 second bursts – in fact I could have worked at it a bit harder and done it all on the same day. Thanks to my sister, Helen, for giving me the flute some many years ago.

The song I chose to record was written about a year ago and it’s called die andere seite. I think that’s the 2nd song I’ve got with a German title. The 1st one was called sonntag but all I have for that is the words, maybe the slight remnant of a tune in my head. Die Andere Seite is the title of a book by the man better known as an artist than writer, Alfred Kubin. Obviously I’ve provided a link but to put it simply for those of you who can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes perusing the biography works influence bibliography external links of an interesting 20th century character, he was an artist, a member of the Blaue Reiter group who became principally known for his work as an illustrator. Apparently at some point he found it impossible to do any drawing and so, over a 12 week period, he wrote his novel. It sorted of demanded to be written in effect. It was published in 1905.

It could be said to predate Kafka, but pretty much they were both writing at the same time, it’s just that a lot of Kafka’s stuff wasn’t published until after his death. Kafka and Kubin knew each other and in a diary entry of 1911 Kafka describes him

Kubin himself: very strong, but somewhat monotonous facial expression, he describes the most varied things with the same movement of muscles. Looks different in age, size, and strength according to whether he is sitting, standing,wearing just a suit, or an overcoat.

and in the same entry for September 26th Kafka relates

He met Hamsun at Langen. He (Hamsun) grins mockingly for no reason. During the conversation, without interrupting it, he put one foot on his neck, took a large pair of paper-shears from the table, and trimmed the frayed edges of his trousers. Shabbily dressed, with one, or so rather expensive details, his tie, for example.

I was unaware of this until I started researching to write this, but funnily enough Knut Hamsun is also referenced in this song. Do I want to throw any more revolutionary (I don’t mean in a political way) writers of the late 19th early 20th century into the mix? Actually yes, though this is one that I didn’t realise as I wrote the song. Can that be possible? Well I must think so or I wouldn’t be writing about it. In an earlier post I touched on the significance of the French writer, Alfred Jarry and the research I did towards writing that persuaded me to buy a copy of Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, which I had never read.
It is in this work that the concept of ‘Pataphysics is introduced. In Roger Shattuck‘s excellent introduction to the Exact Change edition of the work he tries to encapsulate the concept thus

Beneath the double talk and ellipsis, its formal definition seems to mean that the virtual or imaginary nature of things as glimpsed by the heightened vision of poetry or science or love can be seized and lived as real. This is the ultimate form of “authentic enactment”.

I will try to write further on this later. It needs more distillation right now.

Well that’s the words sorted out, as for the music, it’s got a bit of bluesy, swampy feel but as usual I’ve used (or possibly misused) reggae drum loops which disguise that to a certain extent. It’s a very simple ABABABABAB format where the 4th AB is instrumental and the 5th is a repeat of the 1st (lyrically that is). I could have stuck a C on the end for the coda but that is too short to warrant it. The Bs are in effect choruses but they have no vocals. They’re just trademark flattened interval chords thrown in to show who I am.

And finally…

the other side

angels literature quotations

Gutenberg 2

The first thing I ever downloaded from Gutenberg (see first paragraph of this earlier post for brief introduction) was, I believe, Letters of George Borrow to the British & Foreign Bible Society. Probably because I was reading a bit of Borrow at the time. I have read all of his books (not his translations) several times and they hold a certain fascination for me. Links to all of them on Gutenberg are at the end of this post. Personally I think Lavengro and Romany Rye should always be published together as they are basically one story. Wild Wales is a wonderful evocation of many of the outstanding bards of that land. My personal favourite is Dafyyd ap Gwilym, but then I hardly know any of the rest so what do I etc… The Bible in Spain though probably tells the tale of the most outlandish adventures where ever a guardian angel guarded a soldier of the cross. Some additions to this work can be found in The Zincali.

Anyway getting back to the letters – I still haven’t read them through in their entirety but this selection from an early letter relates to an incident that happened during a voyage at sea between England (presumably) and Portugal in the autumn of 1835. Here I quote,

On the morning of the tenth we found
ourselves about two leagues from the coast of Galicia, whose lofty
mountains gilded by the rising sun presented a magnificent appearance.
We soon passed Cape Finisterre, and standing farther out to sea speedily
lost sight of land. On the morning of the eleventh the sea was very
rough, and a most remarkable circumstance occurred. I was on the
forecastle, discoursing with two of the sailors, [and] one of them who
had just left his hammock told me that he had had a most disagreeable
dream, for, said he, pointing up to the mast, ‘I dreamt that I fell into
the sea from off the cross-trees.’ He was heard to say this by several
of the crew besides myself. A moment after, the captain of the vessel,
perceiving that the squall was increasing, ordered the topsails to be
taken in, whereupon this man with several others instantly ran up aloft.
The yard was presently loosened, and in the act of being hauled down,
when a violent gust of wind whirled it round with violence, and a man was
struck down from the cross-trees into the sea, which was raging and
tumbling below. In a few moments he emerged, and I saw his head
distinctly on the crest of a wave, and I recognised in the unfortunate
man the sailor who shortly before had been relating his dream. I shall
never forget the look of agony he cast us whilst the ship hurried past
him. The alarm was given, and in a moment everything was in confusion.
It was at least two minutes before the vessel was stopped, and the man
was left a considerable way behind, but I still kept my eye upon him, and
could perceive that he was struggling gallantly with the waves. A boat
was at length lowered, but the rudder unfortunately was not at hand, and
only two oars could be procured, with which the men who manned her could
make but little progress in the tremendous sea; however, they did their
best, and had arrived within ten yards of the man who had continued
struggling for his life, when I lost sight of him, and the men on their
return said that they saw him below the waters at glimpses, sinking
deeper and deeper, his arms stretched out and his body to all appearance
stiff, but they found it impossible to save him. Presently afterwards
the sea, as if satisfied with the prey it had received, became
comparatively calm, and the squall subsided. The poor fellow who was
drowned in this singular manner was a fine young man, twenty-seven years
of age, the only son of a widowed mother. He was the best sailor on
board, and beloved by every one who was acquainted with him. The event
occurred on the 11th of November 1835, the vessel was the ‘London
Merchant’ Steamship, commanded by Captain Whittingham. Wonderful indeed
are the ways of Providence.

If this story has anything to teach us surely it is that if you have a similar dream do not believe it is cowardice to refuse to go aloft when duty has called. It is a curious account and one that could prove to be a puzzle for a little while longer.

Maybe death is some sort of freedom, or an escaping from, an enlarged cavity…

The last book on the list is called Isopel Berners. I think though I have not delved exhaustingly that this is a selection from Lavengro and possibly from Romany Rye also. Whatever Isopel Berners is in my opinion the greatest female character of British Literature. Better than anything by Wells or Shaw. Ok the greatest female character of British Literature since some of Shakespeare’s heroines.

Incidentally I have given no link to any Borrow websites, not even Wikipedia, because I feel none are worthy to be linked to. Poor show.

FInally, for no particular reason, here is a song of mine which is called Wound. This is the as,hem,syrup version of the song.


Works by Borrow.

Wild Wales
Romany Rye
The Bible In Spain
The Zincali
Isopel Berners

literature music

Men Of War

This is the 2nd in the series of repeated songs. The 1st entry on this subject is here. This song is called Men of War. The 1st version which is on Whose Last Trickle was recorded close to the writing of the song in about 1980. I don’t remember where, why and how I wrote it. I embraced surrealism from an early age. The subversion of reality and breaking through into the world of dream seemed more exciting than anything else in the world of art, film and literature back in the 60s when I was a teenager. I wrote surrealist poems at first then maybe some songs but not all the songs. It was something I could do, but I wanted to try other things as well. Often those other songs might have an element of surrealism lurking there all the same. But it was in 1979 that I deliberately decided to write a song that was purely surrealistic and it was called Squeaky Macaws. I’ve got a couple of demo recordings of this track that didn’t make it on to Whose Last Trickle. I’ll load them up sometime. Men of War moved onto another level. For a start it was half in French, which is probably the most of I’ve ever made of the degree I have in the language. But also there’s a nautical theme.

Here’s the first version. It was recorded in Endell Street, Covent Garden, London. It features me on guitar and vocals, Lindsay Lancaster on bass guitar, Ray Kent on drums. It’s the recording of a live performance and consequently is a bit rough. It wasn’t meant to be for general consumption but that’s what’s happened.

1980 men of war

I wanted to re-record this song, because I like it and although the earlier recording has a certain naive charm (if you like that sort of thing) and the right spirit, it wasn’t a brilliant recording of the song technically. This 2nd version was recorded at J&J Studio , Easton, Bristol in late 2007. I play guitar and sing, Paul Wigens on drums, Jeff Spencer on bass. I overdubbed a lead guitar part and also doubled up on the vocals, but apart from that, the guitar, drums and bass are all played live, though Jeff probably touched up his bass part as he’d never played any of the tracks before.

2007 men of war

A little bit more about surrealism. Firstly a quotation from Walter Benjamin,

…it is as magical experiments with words, not as artistic dabbling, that we must understand the passionate phonetic and graphical transformational games that have run through the whole literature of the avant-garde for the past fifteen years, whether it is called Futurism, Dadaism, or Surrealism.

Actually that’s probably it for now. Except here’s 2 youtube links for anyone interested. Firstly one of the seminal works of the movement, produced in 1929, 10 years after the setting up of the surrealist group and apparently as a means to join the group on the behalf of its creators, Buñuel and Dali. Funnily enough that’s the same year Benjamin’s essay on Surrealism from which the quotation above comes was first published.

and finally an episode of an old children’s tv show called Buccaneers from the 60s starring Robert Shaw which gave me some early sailing craft images back in the day

literature music

Lupus Rufus

I believe that in the future, streaming live music is going to be something that grows exponentially (up to a certain point). I’m not in a situation where I could plan to do it now, but I have it in mind and as a first tentative step I thought I would record some live songs. It’s easy enough to pick up a guitar and a microphone and record that and that’s a song, but using the loop pedal allows me to put a bit more music in than the bare bones. In the end I chickened out and dubbed the vocals over the top. Not very well either. Still it’s just a demo, that’s all.

The song is one I recorded as a demo before sometime. I haven’t listened back to it yet to see which one I prefer. It’s called lupus rufus and is dedicated to the poetry of DH Lawrence, in fact it largely consists of images and inferences from the poems. The first verse is set in Nottinghamshire, the second in West Penwith, the third in New Mexico and the last one in the Land of the Dead, or maybe that should be the River of the Dead. Ask Girflet.

By the way the track is 7 and a half minutes long.

Lupus Rufus

birds literature music

Dunwich Songbook

A couple of years ago I wrote a song which I called hermetic. It’s a horror song, it’s a death song and it’s also a bird song, the bird being the whip-poor-will. And as well it’s a literature song because it derives some vocabulary, atmosphere and imagery from the work of HP Lovecraft. Not that I’m a huge fan of this writer, but I did read most of his stuff when I was in my early teens.

Here is a picture of a whip-poor-will

Caprimulgus vociferusAAP065B

And here is a picture of HP Lovecraft

Here’s the track


The sound effects I picked up here and there. I have got a small archive of sound effects but I think most of the ones I used I downloaded from the web. Eventually I would like to record it properly and it cries out for a grainy black and white video in the style of Epstein‘s The Fall of the House of Usher. See below.