Parting Shot

Umberto Eco died today. Over the years he’d entertained and bemused me in unequal measures. It always felt as though he was on a perpetual search in his works of fictions for the appropriate follow up to Name of the Rose. A case of ‘peaking too early’ perhaps?

His more scholarly, but entertaining nonetheless, writings existed in a tradition of european intellectualism that was not always accessible to me – the layers of meaning, playful exploration of ideas across languages, epochs, civilisations… i’ll miss the erudition he so obviously enjoyed displaying.

Today is a good day to remind small-minded england of the great european tradition of intellectualism, of thinking, and of the “european experiment” which has sought to bring peace to so many people. Here is an extract from Eco’s essay on Ur, or eternal, Fascism:

7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the U.S., a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

Fuck your special pleading. Fuck your culture of entitlement and greed. Fuck your appeals to xenophobic instincts. Fuck your attempts to enshrine diminished empathy in law. And most obviously: fuck you dishface.

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Book Covers

Tangentially related to the previous post…

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That’s Iain’s latest book (or maybe it isn’t – a few months have passed…) The cover is a crop of the following photograph of mine, taken with the previously maligned Natura Black 1.9:

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Not sure it’s the crop that i’d have made, but i’m notoriously bad at cropping my shots.

It strikes me as somewhat unusual to have covers that are “full bleed” photographs at the moment. Maybe it was never a thing… but certainly the current trend is to more designed and graphical covers. The IWTFY books have eschewed that direction and, to my eye, look all the more distinctive for it.

Both IWTFY covers have also been fairly abstract portraits of M., taken in the bath with a digital P&S… that is a trend which seems difficult to continue.

Maugham – Collected Short Stories Volume I

51edWkqid+LThe story ‘Rain‘ seems to be well known / famous… but it had never crossed my horizons until now. What a way to start a collection of short stories!

Simply saying that these pieces are “good” doesn’t begin to cover the range of styles, emotions and weights that they touch. And while the overall sense of ‘white man’s burden’ is obviously pervasive, it’s explored from such varied angles that it doesn’t really get repetitive.

It’ll be interesting to see if i feel the same about them at the end of the next volume.

親愛的,這是寫給你的

This will be one of the odder posts.

The I Wrote This For You book has been translated to complex chinese and published in Taiwan (and some other places… Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, maybe Malaysia… but i’m not sure).

The publisher is doing delightful things like publicity. And, in that spirit, i present you the IWTFY promotion video!

Now i’m waiting for the Japanese publishers to get in touch… not that they haven’t already turned us down en masse!

 

Trautmann’s Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend

51W4BK7hBlLAn odd book.

Ostensively about a footballer, but actually a triumphant depiction of the victory of democracy over the evils of national socialism. Trautmann is the “everyman” showing how Hitler corrupted a country, turning good germans into brainwashed Nazi’s, who can only be saved by the shining purity and downright “goodness” of the English people.

Which isn’t, of course, to say that there was a good side to the national socialism, just that any nuance is lost beneath the whitewash of jolly old england riding to save the day.

And the odd part? Well, it’s an enjoyable read. Trautmann comes across as sincere and humble. As is the reaction to him by the working class people he meets as a POW in the north of england. The author makes an effort to provide balance – highlighting the incompetence / complicity of Baldwin, Chamberlian, etc. but it was beyond me to separate an individual’s story from the greater arc of english history…

Facing the Other Way: The 4AD Story

51UQXhZvu8LIt seems odd that a book should be published about a record label, and not the music that it released. However, in the case of 4AD it makes perfect sense (to me).

4AD became more than a label, a means to get music released, it became an aesthetic. A carefully curated group of bands, where by just having a catalog number was enough to tell you that it was something that you should hear. Released on 4AD? It’s probably good. If it’s not great when you first hear it, it’ll probably grow on you if you stick with it. That was my mantra as a teenager. From Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, Wolfgang Press, to Dif Juz, The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, and Clan of Xymox, it was all good. And it was all on 4AD. Yes, it was ruined for me with the Pixies, but in my musically formative years it was everything i needed. As they moved forward, i hung on becoming increasingly obsessive about uncovering the secrets of the back catalog.

What i hadn’t known was that the progression in the releases, was a roller coaster ride through one man’s fight with depression. If the Pixies and Throwing Muses were the attempts to hang on and run a label, giving bands indie success, releases like Hope Blister, The Red House Painters, Ultra Vivid Scene, were charting the depths of the label’s guiding light, Ivo Watts-Russell’s despair. It’s odd to think that he kept this mostly to himself, all the while broadcasting it, as a plea for help, unheard for years.

A Beautiful book. But, maybe only for those touched by the magic of probably the greatest label to chart the death of the music business.