Brideshead Revisited

Not rated yet!
Director
Julian Jarrold
Runtime
2 h 13 min
Release Date
25 July 2008
Genres
Drama, Romance
Overview
Based on Evelyn Waugh's 1945 classic British novel, Brideshead Revisited is a poignant story of forbidden love and the loss of innocence set in England prior to the Second World War.
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  • A Waste of Space: Some Thoughts on the Fabulous Career of Philip Johnson, Architect
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]5,595 words

    “Architecture is the art of how to waste space.” — Philip Johnson[1]

    “You know I’ve always wanted to pretend to be an architect.” — George Costanza [2]

    “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty / Come and join the Nazi Party” — Mel Brooks, The Producers

    Damn you, Philip Johnson! Damn you and your brilliant and (but?) “mercurial” intellect; damn you and your father-gifted portfolio of Alcoa stock, worth millions before you entered Harvard; damn your Packard convertible for touring conveniently the sites of modern architecture on your yearly European jaunts during what some experienced as The Great Depression, and above all, damn your little portable typewriter!

    Some saints may have been Wild Boys, but at least one chap I’ve designated as a Wild boy is a saint, or at least, has a feast day — December 16th — in the Episcopal calendar: Ralph Adams Cram.

    I’ve written about Cram before[3] but don’t really have anything new to say about him. Rather, I’d like to use this occasion to take a look at a modern pretender to the title of America’s greatest Right-wing, ambisexual architect: Philip Johnson.

    There are two things every good NPR-listening, New York Times-reading, PBS on in the living room sophisticate knows about Philip Johnson: he designed — and lived in — a glass house, and he was a Nazi, though, unlike other targets of today’s SJW’s, no one ever wanted to talk about it.

    Deciding to finally get to the bottom of this, I obtained a used copy of Franz Schulze’s big, apparently definitive 1994 biography Philip Johnson: Life and Work.[4]

    So, what’s up with Philip Johnson? How does it stand with (as the Heideggerians would say) Philip Johnson? Is he, bluntly, one of Us? Is he another one of the great intellects of the XXth century that were on Our Side? And is he another architect, to stand beside, or follow on, from Ralph Adams Cram?

    Sadly, no.

    There’s a reason most people only know of the Glass House: there’s nothing else as interesting, at least to the layman.

    From the start, with a rather over-long Part One, Schulze labor mightily, like the usual biographers these days, to find some aspect of heredity or the home environment to account for Phillip’ rather . . . striking . . . personality. Not his homosexuality, which, again after the fashion of biographers today, is a simple fact of nature, to be questioned only by the bigoted.[5] Rather, a personality described here variously as “mercurial,” subject to “mood swings,” or outright “manic-depressive.”[6] This, like his good-looks and high intelligence, seems pretty solidly genetic.

    So Schulze spends a lot of time trying to get us to feel sorry for the poor little rich boy. Oh, the trauma of moving from one exclusive school to another as the family moved from one mansion to another, perhaps seeking better golf opportunities.[7] How sinister, the concern for fresh air and healthy food![8] I’m reminded of young lady of my acquaintance who complains to this day about the traumas of her life with her adopted parents . . . in the Hamptons.[9]

    In fact, if one were looking for parental malfeasance, I would locate it in what seems a rather generous and well-thought out gesture. Philip’s father believed in giving his children money while they were still young enough to make use of it; so, before going off to Harvard, after giving his sisters some “solid” real estate holdings,[10] he handed Philip some speculative stock in a new, fly-by-night company that would soon become Alcoa, making Philip richer than his father, a millionaire when, as Schulze rather oddly points out, “it really meant something: rich, rather than comfortable.”[11]

    This, I think, is the key development, although Schulze doesn’t make much fuss about it. Philip, already a rather . . . unique individual, now has all he needs to indulge every whim of a very whimsical personality.[12] He can live wherever he wants at Harvard (no dorms for Philip!), travel wherever he wants (buying luxury sedans if needed; they’re called “touring cars” for a reason, you know), major in any damn thing he pleases — classics, then some philosophy, how about a little art history?

    In short, Philip becomes that guy I — you too? — just love to hate. The guy you just want to punch in the face, hard. He’s the Ultimate White Guy, living the life all us White guys are now being punished for supposedly sharing as well; born on third base and thinking we hit a triple. Think George W. Bush, with brains, and no post-Jesus moral rehab.[13]

    But I’m clearly a minority, as it were, compared to the people in this book, where it counts. For, most people, the right people, the useful people, seem to find Philip so damned charming; another win in the genetic lottery.

    He remembered being at his best with [Alfred] Barr, which meant behaving towards him with his mother’s intellectual concentration, his father’s sociability and extroversion, and the nervous vitality that was his own. [47]

    It’s clear that Johnson in persona possessed the power to ingratiate, to amuse, to please; he “had a way with him” one might say;[14] he had charm, like Sebastian Flyte; creamy English charm. As Anthony Blanche knew,[15] even the English could fall for it:

    Neither the aging teacher [Whitehead, the star of Harvard’s department] . . . nor his wife could help liking his student’s rapid wit, elegance, and cultivated good manners . . .

    Yes, Alfred North Whitehead himself! I confess a considerable about of personal/professional pique at reading about Philip waltzing around Harvard,[16] getting his “gentleman’s C’s” and charming everyone, from Raphael Demos in Classics to the aforementioned Whitehead. It makes one think there’s something to that affirmative action business after all; surely there must have been one member of the Talented Tenth in Harlem who would have benefited more from a Harvard “education”?[17]

    But the buck stops with Whitehead; the passage just now continues: “but these assets by themselves were inadequate to a life in philosophy.”

    Philip, like many a bright undergraduate, fell in love with Plato, and dreamt of becoming a metaphysician.[18] But Whitehead’s ‘B’ was not a “gentleman’s” B but a signal of failure; “I was hopeless in metaphysics and he knew it.”

    What to do? For surely Philip must have some arena to shine in. Quite coincidentally (at least, that’s how Schulze’s nonchalant transition makes it seem) Philip, like many other bright undergraduates, discovers Nietzsche, and Nietzsche, conveniently enough, teaches us that guys like Whitehead are just a bunch of old meanies! As Schulze quotes Zarathustra:

    Evil I call it, and misanthropic — all this teaching of the One and the Plenum and the Unmoved and the Sated and the Permanent.

    In Nietzsche Philip now has the justification, he thinks, for exactly the life he wants — needs? — to live: devoted to Beauty, not Truth, Art, not Philosophy, and above all, the imposing of his whims through clever talk and charm, rather than tedious hard thinking.

    Now, whether this is a correct, or even possible, interpretation of Nietzsche I leave to others — although for my part, it would seem that Nietzsche’s actual life of penniless wandering is about as opposed to Phillips as one could be.[19] As for Whitehead, I know even less, but even I would think that the whole point of Whitehead’s “process” metaphysics was to create a version of Plato that would meet Nietzsche’s objections,[20] so maybe Philip deserved that failing ‘B’.[21]

    The important point here, though, and the most amazing thing I got out of reading this book, is that Philip is still talking about Art, not Architecture, which he hasn’t quite discovered yet. And this is the thing: all that “modern architecture” you hate, especially that “postmodern” stuff, is the way it is because Philip Johnson thought it was beautiful.

    And that is the big, the shocking revelation of this book: all that awful Modern architecture looks that way because Philip actually, bless his soul, thought it was “art”; he thought it was “beautiful.”[22]

    Before any “architectural” concerns — which, as we’ll see, Philip mostly dismissed, seeing architecture as essentially part of the history of art — the poor sick bastard thought it was beautiful, and that he was doing us a favor — noblesse oblige! — to give it to us . . . good and hard.

    Anyway, after no more than a few bumps (including a couple of nervous breakdowns), Philip finally graduates — summa cum laude! — after no less than seven years,[23] and moves into his new job at MOMA.

    Wait, how’d that happen? The same way everything happens in Philip’s World: privilege and charm. He reads an article on modern architecture by an older Harvard contemporary, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Jr.[24] Then, he meets — at his sister’s commencement at Wellesley — one Alfred Barr, of the new Museum of Modern Art. Despite one course in art history — dropped — and having read one article on architecture, Phillip, of course, turns on the charm (the encounter as quoted above) and hey presto, he’s agrees to become the (unpaid) head of the architecture department at MOMA.

    And that’s it, really. As the book goes on, it’s hard to care about anything, since it’s simply a chronicle of how baby Philip got his way and imposed his random tastes and ideas on colleagues and the world. To paraphrase the Stoics, if not the necessarily the Sophists, nothing is good or bad, but Phillip thinks it so.

    Within a matter of weeks, Barr, Hitchcock, and Johnson formed a bond of companionship based on a concordance of taste[25] that eventually exerted a profound effect on the course of American art and architecture. (p. 60)

    At MOMA, Philip essentially creates “modern” architecture by mounting a show of his favorite architects from around the world, with an accompanying book that canonizes it by announcing four “principles” of what he calls “The International Style.”[26] Schulze gives us a clear exposition of these “principles,” which attempt to shoehorn architecture into the supposed mainstream of art history, but he gingerly notes that they aren’t even close to being an accurate description of the works included in the show.[27] Nevertheless,

    From about 1945 to 1960, the architectural world was dominated by values and ideas that [were] traceable most directly to the book and exposition that appeared in New York in 1932. (p. 85)

    It’s interesting to note, then, that at the time “the reaction to both was unexceptional.” Even Wright, shoehorned into the exhibit to prevent the public from feeling — correctly — that a gaggle of Europeans was being shoved down the public’s throat, eventually exploded with this Roarkian/Randian rant: the Internationalists were, in Schulze’s paraphrase,

    Apostles of architectural sterility marching in lockstep, latter-day eclectics poorly disguised as revolutionary saviors of the art, enemies of freedom and democracy who were now being sold to America by “a self-advertising amateur [Johnson] and a high-powered salesman” {Hitchcock] (p. 83)

    Then, at the peak of his youthful career, having achieved mastery of architecture (without, remember, even a B. Arch.) he decided to become a Nazi.

    How did this happen? That’s what I really wanted to know, and although Schulze devotes Part Two, nearly a quarter of the book to what he calls Johnson’s “Inglorious Detour,”[28] you can tell by the title itself that Schulze isn’t the man for the job.

    Schulze, for all his research and skill is of course a Goodthinker; for example the sort of person who still thinks that “the Soviet Union [was a place] where Constructivism was still more a dream than a reality, but nevertheless driven by a will to redesign the future” (p. 48).

    Ah yes, the will to redesign the future. We know how that worked out. But it would be impossible for Goodthinker Schulze to use, or even tolerate hearing, similar language used about NS Germany. There, the will to redesign the future is Bad; in fact, it’s not even a will at all, just a kind of infantile temper tantrum (like the ones toddler Philip was famous for?) or cynical political con game:

    The Nazis had made capital of Germany’s resentment over the Versailles Treaty by heaping the blame for the nation’s current grief on its mistreatment by its old enemies France and England and no less on the Jews. Hitler’s message of sustained execration was effectively linked with a call for national resurgence, which he promised through a radical, if simplistically expressed program of economic reform.

    Yes, no real problems, only grudges; nor real enemies, only old stereotypes. No program of reform, only execration, simplistically expressed. Whether it succeeded in pulling Germany out of the Depression and transforming it into an envied economic powerhouse, while America languished in the no doubt very sophisticated prognoses of “Dr. New Deal,” is neither asked nor answered.

    Worst of all, the nasty Nazis are the enemies of all that wonderful Weimar culture:

    The cultural momentum of Berlin had not yet slowed as much as it would several years later with the Nazi accession. . . . (p. 65)

    It was the best of times. The German capital was at the peak of a cultural fever that had made it the most galvanic metropolis in Europe during the late 1920s. The great traditional German performance arts of music and drama were in full flower, sharing the Beliner Luft with an irreverent avant-garde that was active in all the creative fields, most aggressively in a wide-open cabaret scene where the collapse of middle-class morality was celebrated nightly. (p. 54)

    As an example of that “cultural momentum,” Philip writes to his mother:

    Recently, in Berlin, it seems, the law against homosexual relations has been repealed, apropos of which the conferencier[29] said that at Easter the law against relations with animals will also be repealed and that the normal only will be prohibited. The audience thought it very funny, as I did myself, bur then of course, I would not admit it. (pp. 53-54)

    As a further “taste” of that cultural momentum, one might consider this vignette of Philip in Berlin, 1931:

    “He showed me,” the art dealer Julien Levy later wrote, “a Berlin night life such as few could have imagined. The grotesque decadence I was to discover over and over again in Berlin those few sow weeks could only be compared, on might suppose, to Paris during the last days of Louis XVI.”

    As a side note, it’s often interesting — when its not infuriating or boringly predictable — that the Left, or even plodding academic Goodthinkers like Schulze, never see any contradiction between their idealizing both Stalinist tyranny and Cabaret-style “divine decadence.” Yet Schulze and others feel the need “explain” how a proponent of Modernism, and a practicing homosexual, could find anything to praise in National Socialism.[30]

    For Goodthinkers like Schulze, there’s only room in the Modernist pantheon for one group imposing itself on the future, so no matter how many millions are killed it’s just a few tragic “mistakes” or the actions of some “bad apples,” while any opposition, to say nothing of alternative projects, is Totally Evil.

    Although Schulze sees, correctly, that “the Neue Bauen or ‘New Architecture,’ that emerged in Germany during the second half of the 1920s was a legitimate outgrowth of [two] interlocking developments” — new technologies able to solve problems arising from social upheavals — he is the sort of thoroughly culturally-distorted thinker who cannot imagine such developments continuing, or even accelerating, under National Socialism, which simply represents a sudden, inexplicable halt and an interregnum of Dark Age primitivism or even a descent into Chaos.

    By contrast, Roger Griffin, in Modernism and Fascism, understands

    [T]he ease with which an elective affinity could grow up between the “latest’’ economic or demographic theories and the New Italy in the mind of those bent on transforming Italy into a modern nation, [resulting] in an overtly modernist synthesis between fascism and technocracy . . . far from . . . the popular “image” of Fascism as a primitive phenomenon of mass hysteria and mass hypnosis. [31]

    In every case [such as a “cult-like obsession” with rayon, which was called “a crystalline modernity that had emerged out of the dark shadows of decadence”] was that Fascism was not just modernizing, but pioneering a healthy, rooted modernity . . . [Fascists] saw themselves not pitted against modernity, but only against the decadent aspects of modernity allegedly manifested most clearly in the moral degeneracy of the US, which it otherwise longed to emulate.[32]

    Neither Griffin in his book nor Clarke in his review would find Philip’s move at all puzzling. As Clarke explicates Griffin:

    [Modernism] is further divided by Griffin into what might be called introvert and extrovert reactions: the introvert reaction is generally individualistic and in Griffin’s expression an “epiphanic modernism” — the path of the artist — while the extrovert, collective reaction is defined as “programmatic modernism.” The latter seeks to change the world and resolve the permanent crisis of modernity (“all that is solid melts into air” — Marx) by a collective act of “reconnection forwards” (Moeller van den Bruck). It is not difficult to make the short step from “programmatic modernism” to fascism; the transcendent politics proposed by van den Bruck at the beginning of the Twentieth Century are not so different from Guillaume Faye’s “Archaic Futurism” at its end. Both are, in the phrase of Guy Debord, “technically equipped archaism.”[33]

    “Not difficult” to move from modernist art to fascist politics, indeed; especially for someone whose lifelong characteristic was rapid cycling from one extreme to the other. Indeed, arguably, if Schulze could just clear his mind sufficiently, Philip had already been imposing his aesthetic views on the supine masses of the good old US of A:

    Some of the most perceptive sensibilities of the day consorted regularly with Philip and he with them, and their mutual gravitation was both cause and effect of a historic reordering of the priorities of the national cultural scene. They were the people who had been schooled early in their lives in the nineteenth-century Ruskinian world-view that identified culture with gentility and ennobling good taste — thus with values presumed to be lacking in the United States — but who grew impatient with that decorous tradition when they discovered the rambunctious modern European arts. They did more than give it up. They came to look upon their own native America not as a wasteland to escape but as a fertile field awaiting the nourishment they could provide. . . . In any case, they remained elitist in their objectives. They meant to document and institutionalize culture, not to advance democracy. (p. 93)

    But if it’s on the Left, and they succeed, so none dare call it Fascism.[34]

    Unable to deal with the issue at this level of sophistication, Schulze falls back on psychobabble: a “recurrence of some form of manic-depressive crisis.” Perhaps his wealth allowed him “the luxury of an interpretation” (p. 90). And most pseudo-profoundly,

    Whatever the irreducible core of Philip’s personality, it lay beneath multiple layers of motivations manifest in an almost unnatural facility at the intermingling of activities and interests, not all of them discernably consonant with one another.

    Even Roger Kimball, no apologist for Fascism, asks whether the last two reasons mean anything “in English.”[35]

    But perhaps it’s a mistake to look for a profound explanation for anything Philip Johnson did. Perhaps Schulze is onto something here; Johnson became a Nazi out of personal pique.

    Swanning around Germany in his big, expensive car and with his big, custom-made camera (not expensive since it was build onsite for him by impoverished German craftsmen), Johnson meets, for the first time since Whitehead at Harvard, someone who stands up to him. Deciding to write about the architecture of Luwig Persius, he meets with the leading Persius scholar who tells him, “You need a doctorate for such a study, not a fancy camera.”

    “Fatefully,” Schulze goes on, Philip then meets an American art critic (just as he chanced to meet Alfred Barr when casting around for something to do post-graduation) who talks up this Hitler chap. Just as Philip aestheticized architecture, so he immediately aestheticizes Hitler’s struggle to “lift a demoralized nation from the depths to the heights” with “his own personal experience with modern architecture”:

    That too, was a mission, no mere task. Power and art were somehow inextricably linked. [H]e could attribute [the success of the 1932 show] to the efforts of himself, Barr, and Hitchcock, singular fellows, above the herd.[36] [On the other hand,] critical reaction to it he could identify with the institutionalized grievances [of Germany]. (p. 90)

    Johnson, in short, reacted to his first professional set-back (another one of those damned scholars demanding qualifications rather than charm) in typically infantile fashion, taking his ball and going home to play a new game; as the New York papers announced: “Two [Johnson and pal Alan Blackburn] Quit Modern Art Museum for Sur-Realist Political Adventure.”

    There’s more:

    TWO FORSAKE ART TO FOUND A PARTY; Museum Modernists Prepare to Go to Louisiana at Once to Study Huey Long’s Ways. GRAY SHIRT THEIR SYMBOL Young Harvard Graduates Think Politics Needs More ‘Emotion’ and Less ‘Intellectualism.’[37]

    The results were as you might expect; no, actually, funnier, from briefly meeting with a pajama-clad Huey Long,[38] to running (unsuccessfully) for local office back home in Ohio as the tribune of the dairy famers, to war correspondent in Europe for Fr. Coughlin’s Social Justice. Again, Schulze is not really the man for the job, treating the American Right, populism, Catholic social democracy and the largest American peace movement in history (the so-called “Isolationists”) like stinking fish he has to clear out.[39] Nevertheless, Counter-Currents readers will find much information and amusement here, especially those interested in the very contemporary question of how to organize a Rightist opposition in America.[40]

    Because although the swing from art to fascism might make psychological sense, it does not follow that talent in one area would imply talent in the other. Hitler, for example, if we accept the legendary picture of him as a “failed artist,” might be said to have make the discovery that his talent lay in the extroverted realm; Johnson, then, presents the opposite case; even if we were to grant him artistic talent (questionable) his political adventures were a disaster for all concerned.

    Nothing about his letters is more striking that the contrast between his knowledge and the sophistication of his mental processes on the one hand and on the other, an infantile self-indulgence aired almost proudly. (p. 50)

    For Schulze the “infantile self-indulgence” is an explanation for his “Nazi” politics. For us, it explains why he was incapable of truly serious commitment to, role in or even understanding of politics.

    As Whitall Perry said about Alan Watts, in a rather different context, “A speculative intelligence drew him hither [Traditionalism/Fascism] and a speculative unintelligence drew him thither [Krishnamurti/Modern architecture].”

    In the end, everyone agrees to say no more about the lad’s embarrassing misadventures[41] and Philip returns to his natural habitat. Still stung, perhaps, by Wright’s “self-advertising amateur,” he decides to become a professional architect, and, despite having taken seven years to get a degree in Classics, he’s accepted into the Harvard School of Design.[42] After graduating, he begins his career as an architect, although, in typical fashion, he can’t be bothered to actually take the licensing exams, so he has licensed architects sign the work. Ah, charm.

    His subsequent career does not show growth and development so much as it does the usual mood-swings and frivolity, moving from the initial Philip-defined “modernism” to, in the last years, an enthusiastic abandonment to the frivolous camp of “postmodernism” which may well be his “legacy.”

    Johnson’s one real achievement in architecture was to get Mies the commission for the Seagram Building (Philip only worked on the restaurant, The Four Seasons, which has recently closed). Again, it’s morbidly interesting that neither had a license to practice at the time, although Mies did undergo the indignity of providing proof of graduation from a German technische Hochschule, which New York State licensing board ruled more than sufficient for practice in the Empire State.

    To the non-architect public, the one building of Johnson’s that continues to interest (in the “watching on PBS or reading in the Times means I’m smart” way) is the postwar (1949) “Glass House,” a 1,800-square-­foot transparent rectangle. Inevitably, he “borrowed” the idea from Mies,[43] who was already working on his own version, although admittedly Philip did actually build it first. And also inevitably, even this minimalist object is constructed mostly of charming PR. Not only was the idea from Mies, neither did Philip (entirely) live within the confines of “his house” tout court; as we recently read in the Times:

    WHEN PHILIP JOHNSON’S Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., was featured in Life magazine soon after its completion in 1949, architects and designers downed martinis at the Oyster Bar, pondering the future of the International Style. But that probably wasn’t what most people were thinking about as they looked at the pictures. They likely leaned back in their Barcaloungers and wondered: How could he actually live in a clear box, without walls, without privacy, without any stuff?

    The answer was that despite our indelible impression of Johnson . . . he never really did live in the Glass House. At least not in the self-contained sense in which the rest of us occupy our homes.

    Instead, the Glass House was merely the focal point of what eventually grew to be a veritable architectural theme park on 49 meticulously tended acres, comprising 14 structures, in which Johnson and David Whitney, the collector and curator who met him in 1960 and became his life partner, and who died just months after Johnson, enjoyed their impossibly glamorous weekend existence.[44]

    See what I mean about the NPR style? It’s just like Mad Men — martinis at the Oyster Bar! — but intellectual! As the Times develops its heady cocktail of retro thrills (martinis and Barcaloungers) and progressive politics (life partners), we find that, inter alia, Philip actually slept in “the bunker­like Brick House.”

    Now, all this talk about compounds and bunkers is interesting, because Schulze reveals another interesting fact, that the inspiration for one of the key features of the Glass House itself, the turret, (“a brick cylinder holding the chimney and bathroom,”) did not come from Mies (who would have dismissed it as a “painterly touch” whatever that is) but was inspired by Philip’s inglorious account, for Social Justice, of visiting — as a guest of the Wehrwacht — a burned-out Polish village:

    It reminded him, remarkably, of “a burnt wooden village I saw once where nothing was left but foundations and chimneys of brick.” [197]

    Or, as he put it in a 1939 letter that made its way to his eventual FBI file:

    The German green uniforms made the place look gay and happy. There were not many Jews to be seen. We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being bombed. It was a stirring spectacle. (p. 139)

    With that in mind, the second building added, the aforementioned “bunker,” does indeed resemble nothing so much as one of the out-buildings of a concentration camp, perhaps, even, one of those “gas chambers” that must have been very much in the news during the years of conceiving and constructing. And, as the Times reveals, all of it eventually comprising a “theme park” or, later and perhaps more obviously, a “Glass House compound”?[45]

    The Times says that “the collection of buildings formed Johnson’s idea of the perfect deconstructed home.” I suggest it’s more like a reconstructed prison camp. Was sleeping in a brick bunker some kind of penance for his NS-dabbling? Or was it, more likely, his supreme joke, the unrepentant “ex-Nazi” aesthete hiding in plain sight, “enjoy[ing his] impossibly glamorous weekend existence” in an Auschwitz theme park?

    Did Philip Johnson, while not exactly bravely sticking to his political guns, at least tacitly have the last laugh on the PC art mavens? Does the joke involve living in glass houses? Or, less dramatically, did Philip “step over” the past?[46]

    Perhaps, but I think it’s more likely Philip (if he even was thinking along these lines) was just indulging in another one of his infantile, sub-Nietzschean whims.

    Speaking of “hiding in plain sight,” once again the Nietzsche-inspired homicidal homos of Rope[47]  come to mind, who kill an old school friend (the dead past?), hide his body in an old Italian trunk, and then hold a cocktail party around it. As their old teacher Mr. Cadel upbraids them, demanding a Platonic ethical accounting:

    By what right do you dare say that there’s a superior few to which you belong? By what right did you dare decide that that boy in there was inferior and therefore could be killed? Did you think you were God, Brandon? Is that what you thought when you choked the life out of him? Is that what you thought when you served food from his grave?[48]

    Which brings us back to our beginning again, Philip the Nietzschean Clown, and what a real Nietzschean like Cadel would say about it:

    [Y]ou’ve given my words a meaning that I never dreamed of! And you’ve tried to twist them into a cold, logical excuse for your ugly [architecture]! Well, they never were that, Brandon, and you can’t make them that. There must have been something deep inside you from the very start that let you do this thing, but there’s always been something deep inside me that would never let me do it, — and would never let me be a party to it.

    What would Johnson say in response? Talking in London in the late ’60s:

    “I studied philosophy as an undergraduate, instead of architecture. Perhaps that why I have none now. [I suppose he means philosophy, not architecture]. I do not believe there is a consistent rationale or reason why one does things.”

    Commenting on this, Kimball says

    Anyone who has looked into Johnson’s career cannot help being struck by the uncanny fusion of wit and cynicism that he exhibits. He exudes charm, but it is a charm that conceals, barely, a deep-seated brutality.[49]

    Johnson’s post-war fate — fame without responsibility for his past — as well as his jejune philosophizing, make for a striking, and informative, contrast with Francis Parker Yockey, another scion of the Midwest haute bourgeoisie, who actually got the law degree Philip only flirted with, and who also worked on Fr. Coughlin’s magazine, Social Justice.

    One wishes Schulze had made the connection, but Yockey was too obscure a figure for him to bother with; at least, he doesn’t appear in the index. Yockey’s biographer Keven Coogan doesn’t return the snub, spending a couple pages on Philip, based on Schulze’s book.[50]

    But Coogan is also able to spot the difference between them: “Unlike Johnson, Yockey couldn’t afford to walk away from [step over? Walk between the raindrops?] the game.”[51] As Schulze told us, the millionaire Johnson could afford the luxury of an “interpretation” of Fascism. Coogan then adds this from Yockey:

    What would be a world without politics? Nowhere would there be protection or obedience, there would be no aristocracy, no democracy, no empire, no fatherland, no patriotism, no frontiers, no customs, no rulers, no political assemblies, no superiors, no subordinates. For this world to come about or to continue to exist, there would have to be a total absence of men with lust for adventure and domination. No will-to-power, no barbarian instincts, no criminals, no superiority feelings, no Messianic ideas, no unpeaceable men, no programs of action, no proselyting, no ambition, no economics above the personal level, no foreigners, no race, no ideas.[52]

    Yockey could not rest with a merely aestheticized existence. He was one of the postwar men that Ernst Jünger called a Vabanquespieler, which Coogan glosses[53] as “an adventurer willing to stake it all on a roll of the dice.” The postwar fate of this Coughlinite in the Kali Yuga could only be the jail cell and the cyanide pill (suicide or not); the Big House and the Big Sleep, not the Glass House.[54]

    Well, then, what have we learned?

    1. Phillip Johnson was a rich, clever, charming, asshat.
    2. Modern architecture is all bosh.[55]
    3. They deserve each other.

    I won’t list “A little Nietzsche is dangerous” since we already knew that. The man who called himself “dynamite” is valuable as a means of demolishing Christian and bourgeois complacency but dangerous for those too weak to transcend the resulting nihilism, as Baron Evola emphasizes in his Ride the Tiger.[56]

    Philip’s “abandonment of the classics and philosophy for art and architecture” [57] makes an interesting contrast with, say, Baron Evola’s career trajectory. One might think this was Philip moving from the “abstract” to the “concrete,”[58] from airy-fairy theory to “engaging with the real world” but Evola took the opposite path, moving from Dada poetry and Futurist painting to an intensive study of German Idealist philosophy, developing his own theory of the Absolute Individual which he then sought to locate in political history on the analogy of the primordial Lawmakers at the root of the various world Traditions, as found in the works of René Guénon. On this basis he tried to “rectify” the mass movements that were attempting to preserve the European traditions in the first half of the twentieth century, exerting far more influence that Johnson or even Yockey, though small enough and ultimately just as futile.[59]

    So, why then does no one harp on the “Nazi past” of Philip Johnson, as they do with, say, Heidegger or Philip’s fellow post-modernist, Paul de Man? Well, precisely because he is Philip Johnson, not Heidegger. The Right doesn’t want him, or, as I’ve suggested, need him, and the cultural Left knows that, precisely because he’s what he is, he may be more or less useful as a culture-distorter but there’s no reason to take anything he ever said or did seriously.

    Thus, any resemblance between Philip and the sainted — or at least feted — Ralph Adams Cram is only superficial. Both architects, both famous in their lifetimes (possible the only architects to appear on the cover of Time magazine), both ambisexual (though Philip, as befits the times, more openly and exclusively homosexual), both, even, designers of massive cathedrals (Cram of New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic structure on Earth and still unfinished; Philip the Crystal Cathedral of Christian New Thought televangelist Robert Schuler), there the comparison ends. Cram was a man of principles, no matter how unfashionably pre-New Deal they may have been,[60] while Philip, as we’ve seen, disdained anything so vulgar as following out a thought to its conclusion,[61] to say nothing of abiding by that conclusion when something more attractive came into view.

    Notes

    [1] New York Times, Dec. 27, 1964.

    [2] Seinfeld, “The Marine Biologist” (1994). For a compendium of George’s architect fantasies, see here.

    [3] See “Ralph Adams Cram: Wild Boy of American Architecture,” here [2] and reprinted in my collection The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

    [4] Franz Schulze, Philip Johnson: Life and Work (New York: Knopf, 1994).

    [5] I tend to agree, actually, but it’s the inconsistency that irks me, like the political Liberal’s refusal to consider anything else as genetic.

    [6] Diagnosed by a therapist of the ’20s as “cyclothymic disorder.”

    [7] Yes, his father buys a house in South Carolina specifically because he liked the links there.

    [8] In Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder, dining with Sebastian’s sister for the first time, tries to make conversational fodder out of his widowed father’s eccentricities, but Julia Flyte will have none of it: “He seems a perfect poppet” she interrupts, and leaves them at the table.

    [9] Another genetic contribution, perhaps, was longevity; Philip’s parents were in their ’90s when they died, like him; his epitaph for them was “I didn’t give a damn what my father wanted. They were expendable. He wasn’t any use in the world.”

    [10] “You see that building? I bought that building ten years ago. My first real estate deal. Sold it two years later, made an $800,000 profit. It was better than sex. At the time I thought that was all the money in the world. Now it’s a day’s pay.” — Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (1987).

    [11] I’m reminded of when Steve Forbes, running for President, released his financial statements and it was sneered that he really wasn’t rich at all; he was living on interest, not the interest on interest. “The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. . . . I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.” — Gordon Gekko, Wall Street.

    [12] Schulze refers to a combination of “intellectual sophistication and “infantile self-indulgence” (p. 50).

    [13] Philip was godless but willing to pretend if the price was right. At the dedication of the Crystal Cathedral he designed for televangelist Robert Schuller, Philip got up and essentially thanked Jesus. Later, “Philip briefly buried his head in his hand in mock shame, then grinned and replied. ‘Wasn’t that awful?’” (pp. 341-42).

    [14] “Dixon had often wondered how Welch had contrived to marry money; it could hardly have been due to any personal merit, real or supposed. . . . Perhaps the old fellow had had when younger what he now so demonstrably lacked: a way with him.” Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (1953; New York: NYRB Press, 2012), p. 65.

    [15] Over and over again the word is used to describe Sebastian and his . . . manner of speaking. In just his first conversation with Charles, Anthony says that “Sebastian has charm […], such charm,” suggests that in a church confessional he was “just being charming through the grille,” reiterates that “he has such charm” and that “[he’s] so charming, so amusing,” claims that “those who are charming [like Sebastian] don’t need brains,” calls him “a little bundle of charm,” concludes that in fact all the Flytes are “charming, of course,” and finishes by saying “there was really very little left for poor Sebastian to do except be sweet and charming.” He says the only reason Sebastian still visits is father is “because he’s so charming,” and advises that Charles not blame Sebastian for being “insipid,” “simple,” and… “charming.” OK. We think we’ve made our point. — Schmoop Notes on Brideshead Revisited, here [3]; video clip  here [4].

    [16] For a look at the Harvard philosophical milieu at an earlier date, see my review of Owen Wister’s Philosophy 4: A Story of Harvard, here and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014). As I discussed [5] in “Dachau Blues: Applying History to Science & Science to History,” my goal in life has been to attend the London School of Economics, like Pierre Trudeau or Mick Jagger.

    [17] After all, it’s not as if Philip needed a job; he briefly flirts with teaching Classics at Oberlin and law school, but clearly as amusements; eventually, he’ll work for the Museum of Modern Art for free, even paying for his own secretary.

    [18] “My hobby? Metaphysics. What is metaphysics? Well, there’s a long, complicated answer to that. . . .” [Crow T. Robot interrupts:] “Which he’ll be happy to give us.” MST3k, Episode 612, The Dead Talk Back.

    [19] “Even if we ignore his works . . . we absolutely cannot deny the greatness of his private practice.” Anthony Ludovici’s “Preface to the Third Edition” of his collection Friedrich Nietzsche on Wagner – The Case Of Wagner, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Selected Aphorisms (Spastic Cat Press, 2012). I may note that that while my dissent on Wagner (reprinted in The Eldritch Evola, op. cit.) was based on Coomaraswamy’s Platonic — i.e.., Traditional — view of art as communicating a message, and thus subject to the virile verdict of Truth or Falsehood, the vituperative reactions of “But just listen, it’s beautiful” instance the feminine idea of art as mere passive “feeling” (hence, aesthetics), thus, in terms of the Nietzsche/Wagner conflict, placing Nietzsche on the side of Plato and Wagnerites on the side of Philip. See, anachronistically, Ludovici’s “Preface (to the First Edition),” loc. cit.

    [20] See David Ray Griffin, Whitehead’s Radically Different Postmodern Philosophy: An Argument for Its Contemporary Relevance (SUNY Series in Philosophy), 2012). Griffin is also, perhaps best, known for his philosophically sophisticated discussion of the 9/11 event, suggesting that concern for the One need not obviate concern for the Many.

    [21] Schulze thinks Whitehead “understood him no better than his father” (pp.39-40) .

    [22] Some may dare to disagree with Philip: “Ah, modern architecture. Efficient and beauty-free.” Tom Servo, MST3k Episode 918, Devil Doll.

    [23] “Seven years of college down the drain” — Bluto, Animal House.

    [24] A hyphenated first name and a Jr.; just the sort of bloke to appeal to Philip.

    [25] What I’ve called a “bad Männerbund,” superficially approximating the Aryan warrior band but actually run for selfish aggrandizement, like Capt. Ahab’s ship or Al Capone’s gang. I like to think of them as the smug, elitist killers Philip (yes!) and Brandon, with their Nietzschean prep school teacher Rupert, in Hitchcock’s Rope; for more on Rope and the “good and bad Männerbunde” in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables see my “Essential Films … and Others,” here.

    [26] Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus supplied (unknowingly) the name, Hitchcock the ideas, Barr the museum, and I suppose Philip supplied the charm.

    [27] Most egregiously, as Schulze observes, Mies’ masterpiece, the Barcelona Pavilion, was a free-standing space, diametrically opposed to the supposed principle of thinking of building as enclosed volumes.

    [28] Making Johnson an Inglorius Bas-tour-d, I guess.

    [29] Willkomen, bienvenue, welcome!

    [30] Since both ends of the paradox suit the needs of Judaic subversion, it’s “good taste” not to note the doublethink. In the same way, one could have just guessed that the Village Synagogue (another oddity, but this is Greenwich Village; itself a redundancy [Green Village Village] and note to Lovecraftians: on the same principle, it’s Dunnich not Dun-which]) would have not just a homosexual rabbi, not just female rabbi, but an all-out lesbian rabbi. And yet how many pages have been devoted to “explaining” such phenomena as “gay Nazis” or “gay Skinheads”?

    [31] Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler [6];
    (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p243; see Alisdair Clarke’s review, “Fascism and the Meaning of Life,” here [7].

    [32] Ibid, p. 244. Here and before, all italics are Griffin’s.

    [33] Clarke, op. cit., emphasis mine. Interestingly, neither mentions Philip Johnson.

    [34] “‘Treason doth never prosper.’ Why? Because if it prospers, none dare call it treason.” Jim Garrison, JFK (Oliver Stone).

    [35] “Philip Johnson: the architect as aesthete,” The New Criterion, November 1994.

    [36] I imagine the discussions back home were rather like those in Rope: Brandon: “The few are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they’re above the traditional moral concepts. Good and evil, right and wrong were invented for the ordinary average man, the inferior man, because he needs them.”

    Kently: “So you agree with Nietzsche and his theory of the superman.”

    Brandon: “Yes, I do.”

    Kently: “So [does] Hitler.”

    Brandon: “Hitler [is] a paranoid savage. His supermen, all fascist supermen, [are] brainless murderers. I’d hang any [of them]. But then, you see, I’d hang them first for being stupid. I’d hang all incompetents and fools.”

    [37] Joseph Alsop (no less!), New York Herald-Tribune, December 18, 1934; see excerpt with a very Leopold & Loeb photo of Johnson & Blackburn here [8].

    [38] See Schulze’s amusing chapter “Zarathustra and the Kingfish” on PJ’s quixotic journey to Baton Rouge, a sort of Ignatius Reilly in reverse, driving a Packard rather than riding a Greyhound Scenicrusier.

    [39] “The grubbier American right-wing flotsam of the 1930s” as he says on p. 189.

    [40] See Greg Johnson’s forthcoming collection, Truth, Justice and a Nice White Country (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015), especially the last section, “Vanguard Strategies;” and especially relevant to Johnson is the essay “The Smartest Guy in the Room.”

    [41] Abby Rockefeller dismissed questions about Philip’s past with an airy “Every young man should be allowed one big mistake” (p. 143). Honi soi qui mal y pense, you peasants. As Jim Garrison says to Clay Shaw — wealthy elitist and secret homo-fascist — “People like you just walk between the raindrops.” (JFK). Charles Ryder’s avuncular cousin Jasper admits to having gotten involved with an objectionable group of Christians who “ran a mission to hop pickers in the long vac.,” while Charles himself insists to the reader that “though its toys were cigars and silk shirts, and its naughtiness high in the catalog of grave sins,” his fumbling adventures (as Dr. Lecter recalls to Clarice Starling) with Sebastian “preserved a nursey sweetness.”

    [42] Most intriguingly, despite constantly promoting Mies van der Rohe as the greatest living architect, Philip shuns studying with him at IIT (just as, earlier, he had lauded Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion but somehow avoided actually seeing it in his European travels). Is Chicago too declassee? Or, as Schulze suggests, is he shying away from Mies’ rigorous, Old School training methods, including — horrors! — actual drawing, which Philip is hopeless at. Indeed, reading Schulze’s Johnson book not only lowers one’s opinion of Johnson and his work, but raises ones opinion of Mies, about whom Schulze has written another big book earlier, now available in a second edition (Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography, New and Revised Edition; University of Chicago Press, 2012). Mies, for all his “Modernism,” saw himself as emerging from the craft system — his family historically stonemasons, emphasized technical skill, not flashy “artistic” effects — and even had attempted to work with the National Socialists, designing — like the early Howard Roark — some service stations for the Autobahn. See Frederic Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics (2002; Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2004), pp. 340-41 and 392 on Mies, adding that “doctrinal disputes among architects did not interest Hitler” and that “When it came to his autobahns, Hitler was a Modernist.”

    [43] Schulze says it “harks back almost to the point of plagiarism” to a 1934 unbuilt project, but insists that “Derivative it may have been, and one more sign of a constitutionally eclective temperament, but the Glass House in final form is … a good deal more than … the Son of [Mies’[ Farnsworth [House]” [p.193]. How much more we will see. Wright, again, has the most devastating comment: “Is it Philip? And is it architecture?” (p. 224).

    [44] “Philip Johnson’s Not Glass Houses” by Alexandra Lange; February 13, 2015, here [9].

    [45] The only Americans who live in “compounds” are gangsters, Kennedys, and now Philip Johnson.

    [46] A key expression of Jonathan Bowden’s. As Greg Johnson explicates it: When an exponent of white revival is asked, “Well what’s your view of the Shoah then?” Bowden recommends simply saying: “We’ve stepped over that [10].” Meaning that we have overcome it, that we are moving forward, that the future calls, and we are a people who wish to have a future again, and we recognize that the holocaust is being used to abort that future. To the retort, “What do you mean you’ve ‘stepped over’ that? Are you minimizing its importance to humanity?” Bowden counsels the reply, “We are minimizing its importance to our form of humanity!” See “Dealing with the Holocaust,” here. [11]

    [47] According to the Times, “the cozy 18th­-century timber-frame house the couple used as a TV room” was called Grainger; Farley Grainger plays “Philip” in Rope. While “Philip” plays piano, our boy is clearly Brandon, who shares PJ’s stutter and house in Connecticut (though not a glass one).

    [48] View it here [12]; or download waveform: Did-you-think-you-were-God-Brandon.mp3 [13]

    [49] Kimball, op. cit.

    [50] Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1999), pp. 148-49.

    [51] When Jerry and George hijack an airport limo and George winds up impersonating “the leader of the Aryan resistance,” he is called upon to comment on “his” book, The Great Game. Seinfeld, Season 3, Episode 18: “The Limo [14].”

    [52] Chapter 27, “Internationale;” See Francis Parker Yockey, Imperium : The Philosophy of History and Politics. (Edited by Alex Kurtagić; Foreword by Kerry Bolton; Afterword by Julius Evola); Abergele, England: The Palingenesis Project, 2013; p. 263.

    [53] Although he misspells the word; see Michael O’Meara, “The Jitterbugs & the Vabanquespieler: On Yockey’s America,” here [15].

    [54] In fiction, there can be at least justice. In Rope, Cadell eulogizes their victim — imprisoned and dead, like Yockey — as actually superior to Philip and Brandon: he “could live — and love — as you two never could;” just as the politically active life of Yockey is superior to the sophistical aestheticism of Johnson. Then he summons the police, so that “they never will” live or love again, as the state will ensure that “you’re going to die, both of you.” I suspect that audiences today will condemn Cadell as an evil, heteronormative enthusiast for capital punishment, and will regard Philip and Brandon as innocent gay victims of social oppression (in their million dollar Upper East Side penthouse).

    [55] Again, as with “charm,” Brideshead Revisited tells us all we need to know: “‘Charles,’ said Cordelia, ‘Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?’ “‘Great bosh.’ “‘Oh, I’m so glad. I had an argument with one of our nuns and she said we shouldn’t try and criticize what we didn’t understand. Now I shall tell her I have had it straight from a real artist, and snubs to her.’” Video here [16].

    [56] See Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for Aristocrats of the Soul (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2003), especially Part One: “In the World Where God is Dead.”

    [57] Schulze follows that phrase with this offhand remark: “There is little doubt that the plurality of homosexuals among [the MOMA crowd] not only encouraged but reinforced the expression of their uncommon gravitation and receptivity to the sensuous arts.” (93) I’m not sure I understand this enough to even doubt it. Is architecture a “sensuous” art, as opposed to say, music? If anything, I should think the opposite. If the contrast is with poetry or classics, is there any reason to find these more hetero, in today’s terms, than say painting? While there is a cultural stereotype of the arts as being “queer” (for reasons I explore in the title essay of my collection The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012), actual sexological research shows the issue to be more fine-grained: within music, for example, violinists are more likely to be homosexual than pianists, which makes it PJ’s keyboard talent a problem for Schulze’s “no doubt” standards. See C. A. Tripp, The Homosexual Matrix (New York: McGraw Hill, 1975), p. 260.

    [58] Though Hegel would beg to differ; see his 1808 essay “Wer Denkt Abstract?” (Who Thinks Abstractly?” in W. Kaufmann, ed. Hegel: Texts and Commentary; Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1966, pp. 113-18.). Long before, Plotinus had tried to communicate to his listeners that contemplation was not just real but “more real” than mere “making” or “doing,” but there is no evidence that PJ ever got past Plato to Plotinus, and even so, it is unlikely he would have “grasped” the idea without the guidance of my own mentor, Dr. John N. Deck; see his Nature, Contemplation, and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus (Toronto: 1967); reprinted 1991 (Burkett, NY: Larson Publications), especially the chapters “Is Nature Real for Plotinus” and “Making and Efficient Causality.” When we read there that “Nous and nature, as contemplators, produce the sensible world without learning, without seeking, without resolve, without hands, tools or instruments” (p. 94) we may be reminded of various supposedly “Eastern” notions such as wei wu wei and other ways of “acting without acting” which are characteristic ways of being, or trying to become, the Universal Man at the center of the manifest world; see Evola, East and West (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

    [59] See the various publications of Evola from this period, now conveniently collected by Arktos — with informative introductions by E. Christian Kopf and helpful notes by John Morgan — as Fascism Viewed from the Right (2013, reviewed by F. Roger Devlin here [17]), Notes on the Third Reich (2013, reviewed by Devlin here [18]), and, most recently, A Traditionalist Looks at Fascism (London: Arktos, 2015).

    [60] See his eugenic/elitist manifesto, “Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings [19],” (hint: because most of us aren’t), reprinted in Robert M. Crumden, ed., The Superfluous Men: Conservative Critics of American Culture, 1900-1945 (Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 1999).

    [61] “I was stinging under [Harvard classics star Raphael Demo’s] reproach that I was a lazy thinker and never criticize my thoughts, so I got busy and thought for five minutes. As a consequence, I have a thorough knowledge of the psychological foundations of the state and got an A in the quiz this morning” (p. 38). Admittedly, a letter to his mother, but one still can’t help but think again of the impudent triviality of Sebastian Flyte: told by Anthony Blanche that Charles has the makings of a great artist, he replies (according to Blanche) “Yes, Aloysius [his teddy bear] paints too, but he’s rather more modern.”

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Angry Young Woman:Isabel Colegate’s The Blackmailer
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    4,572 words

    [1]Isabel Colegate
    The Blackmailer [2]
    Richmond, Va.: Valancourt, 2014

    “If you want to call it God, the divine, the energy in all things, the force that created the universe, nature, whatever you call it, I believe it’s fury not love.” — Jonathan Bowden

    “What we feel for each other is really a passion for power,” said Judith. “We want to destroy each other by making the other fall in love with us.” — Isabel Colegate, The Blackmailer 

    Downton Abbey is one of the latest viewing fads among SWPLs.[1] There’s even a demographic calling itself — or dubbed by others — “Downton Abbey Democrats.”[2] Creator Julian Fellowes (a rather Downton Abbey-sounding name, what?) also wrote 2001’s Gosford Park, which, although directed by Robert Altman, is one of those “starring everyone” British productions:

    The story follows a party of wealthy Britons and an American and their servants, who gather for a shooting weekend at Gosford Park, an English country house. A murder occurs after a dinner party, and the film goes on to present the subsequent investigation into it from the servants’ and guests’ perspectives.[3]

    Now, at this point I must confess that I haven’t seen either the movie or the series, so, like Sir Francis Urquhart, I couldn’t possibly comment.[4] The interest here is that this Fellowes chap has admitted that Gosford Park was, ah, “inspired” by The Shooting Party (note “a shooting weekend at Gosford Park” above), a novel by one Patricia Colegate (note the title above).

    Fellowes does admit The Shooting Party was inspiration for another of his works, the Oscar-winning Gosford Park, writing that, ‘without [The Shooting Party], the seed of the idea behind my script would never have been allowed to germinate’.

    Now, if Downton Abbey is a spinoff of Gosford Park, and the latter is based on The Shooting Party, then a simple application of the white man’s logic would lead you to think Downton has at least some filiation to Colegate’s book. However, for some reason, Fellowes hasn’t been keen to point this out:

    ITV’s favourite export Downton Abbey is set at the same point in history, and addresses many of the same themes. The similarity cannot be lost on the show’s creator Julian Fellowes; in 2007 he wrote an introduction to a new edition of Colegate’s work.[5]

    As the same blogger notes,

    It’s interesting, however, that both Colegate and her work seem to have largely been forgotten, despite the fact that The Shooting Party was adapted for the screen in 1985 and starred many of the era’s most popular actors (James Mason, Edward Fox, John Gielgud . . .). [In fact, even I vaguely remember seeing it on the TV] Why is it, then, that so many are unaware of the extent to which Colegate influenced the creation, and continuation, of Downton Abbey?

    It’s a shame that a writer of fourteen works, who wrote for almost half a century, should so easily disappear from public consciousness. It’s particularly regrettable that a new generation of Colegate fans haven’t crawled out of the woodwork due to the world’s Downton fascination.

    Shameful, regrettable, and indeed puzzling. However, perhaps we should start looking for an answer here: thanks to Valancourt’s wholly admirable project of resurrecting forgotten mid-century British fiction, behold Isabel Colegate’s first book, The Blackmailer.

    There’s a Preface, but unlike most of Valancourt’s books, it’s not by a scholar or enthusiastic fan, but by the now apparently somewhat elderly authoress, who seems a bit diffident about the work; about all the enthusiasm she can muster is this:

    [Inspiration] bubbles less easily now that I am old, which is why I look back on The Blackmailer with a certain affection.

    Valancourt gives us the raw data:

    Colegate’s first novel, The Blackmailer, was published by Blond in 1958 and was followed by two more novels focusing on English life in the years after the Second World War: A Man of Power (1960) and The Great Occasion (1962). These were later republished by Penguin in an omnibus volume, Three Novels, in 1983.

    Reviewing that Penguin omnibus, Kirkus Reviews provides us with a neat plot summary [3]:

    [The novels are] largely preoccupied with British class-conflict on the tonier levels. The Blackmailer is the least well-executed but the most intriguingly conceived of the three–exploring the odd love/hate relationship between an ill-born, envious blackmailer and his semi-posh victim. The villain: bitter young solicitor (and would-be M.P.) Baldwin Reeves, who knows that blueblooded Korean War hero Anthony Lane was really a coward and traitor. His victim: Lane’s young widow Judith, editor in a small publishing office–who pays Reeves off in order to protect her aristocratic in-laws from scandal. But Reeves soon wants more than money, indulging in cruel power-plays; Judith feels strangely bound to her torturer–whose vulnerability is soon exposed; and eventually Reeves almost succeeds in parlaying their folie à deux into a social leap upward.

    From its title, and first chapter, which takes place in some low pub frequented by journos, we might expect this to be some kind of noir, or police procedural. When the eponymous blackmailer make his move, though, we find Reeves taking rather a fancy to his victim, while she, for her part, does not seem entirely immune to his charms, such as they are.

    [S]he had thought he would kiss her, and had wished that he would . . . that her desires should now apparently have been aroused by a man she had thought she regarded with loathing seemed to her wicked.

    Indeed, Reeves is very wicked indeed; after expressing her previous opinion of his “wickedness,” Reeves responds with a quick, Byronic character sketch:

    “All right, you say it’s a filthy thing to do. It’s blackmail. It’s wicked. I shall go to Hell. But I don’t believe in Hell. Or Heaven. I’m not a Christian at all. I don’t believe in immortality. I don’t believe in anything. Except myself. So why should I conform to the Christian ethic?”

    The aforementioned Kirkus reviewer was nonplused:

    Unfortunately, however, despite the seductive premise and charmingly offbeat touches, Colegate never finds the right tone for this ironic anecdote–wavering between Jamesian moodiness and black-comedy, with a clumsy statement of theme at the close. (“What we feel for each other is really a passion for power,” said Judith. “We want to destroy each other by making the other fall in love with us . . .”)

    [4]But this is no Harlequin romance or Lifetime movie, with a heroine who responds to blackmail with bodice-ripping lust.[7] I think, perhaps, we can see Colegate attempting more than just some offbeat black comedy with her disagreeable protagonist. As I read further into the book, I began to sense a certain similarity to another British first novel published the year before: Bill Hopkins’ The Divine and the Decay (aka The Leap!).[8] A lucky blogger who scored an autographed copy of the exceedingly rare book[9] on Amazon says [5] of the book:

    The book is a political thriller whose anti-Hero is Peter Plowart, a ruthless and power-hungry statesman who seeks refuge on Vachau, an imaginary isle in the Channel Islands to provide an alibi for his assassination of a political rival. The work is said to be Nietzschean, inspired by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.[10]

    Though sounding very different, I think we can better appreciate Colgate’s book by assuming, provisionally at least, that she’s addressing the same Nietzschean themes, albeit perhaps unconsciously — often, as we’ve seen, the best way to do so.[11]

    In both novels, a crime (blackmail/murder) leads to a contest of wills between a man and a local noblewoman (Reeves/Judith, Plowart/Claremont). The woman serves as a teacher to the upstart, lower class male (the perennial theme of the Angry Young Men, such as Hopkins, Wilson, Braine, etc.)[12]

    “It all sounds very dangerous to me” said Judith. “And the result, I should have said, of rather indiscriminate reading.”

    “I have no humility and no patience,” said Baldwin. “Perhaps you would care to teach them to me.” “I don’t think I can teach you anything,” said Judith.

    “Aren’t I horribly clear to you?”

    Once you get on the scent, the Nietzschean themes start to appear everywhere. Judith’s self-imposed task is less feminine weakness than amor fati, an

    altogether feminine desire for self-immolation, which made her need to devote herself to a duty, for duty breathed life into the inevitability of events, gave them, if not a meaning , at least something to be suffered for.

    She views Reeves as a worthy opponent/lover/pupil, one of Nietzsche’s unscrupulous Borgia-like schemers:

    She thought it a discreditable game, but that did not seem to alter the fact that she preferred to see him succeed at it.

    Success in fact had come to be what he stood for in her mind, a man whose unscrupulous charm no one could resist.

    Charm, indeed, is the lesson.[13] Or rather, the root of charm, and success in life: simple optimism:

    Any doubts he may have felt about Judith . . . were here dissolved in this mood of optimism. Of course, she was in love with him, of course she would be useful to him, of course he was going to be a tremendous success. [6]A simple, perhaps too simple lesson, one might think. Yet it is the key to what I’ve called our native-grown Neoplatonism, our two-fisted Traditionalism, the “New Thought” movement of the turn of the last century (whilst Europe wallowed in it fin de siecle decadence). And it’s the lesson, as we’ll see, that some AYM, like Colin Wilson, painfully drew out of their experience of postwar despair: life indeed doesn’t have a meaning — unless you give it one.

    One important, though perhaps unsuspected, corollary, however, is a very un-American value: solitude. If meaning depends on what I can give it myself, and doesn’t depend on anything or anybody outside myself, then in a sense the Existentialists, though too weak to will their way out, were right: we are each alone.

    This is the lesson Reeves learns; he does not lose, he does not go to jail for his crime,[14] but he does fail to marry Judith, which would have given him a safe country seat in Parliament. Despite this, he’s really better off, and his political career is on track; in fact, an inevitability:

    Already he was in the process of arranging to appear regularly in a discussion programme, with the aim of furthering what he regarded as his serious career, the political one.

    But one must live in the future, not the past, don’t you agree? And I don’t feel that I am destined to mark my mark in films.” [I.e., no interest in royalties or publicity from the blackmail story, from the past, which is being given the patriotic movie treatment].

    “How simple life is,” said Baldwin, “when one has faced the fact of one’s solitude. For the true solitary ambition has no limits.”

    Reeves thinks he needs a wife for political purposes; all he really needs is faith in himself. All these themes — Nietzsche, optimism, solitude — come together on the last pages:

    For a moment Baldwin paused, suddenly gazing through the midst of his intoxication into a not unfamiliar abyss where loneliness and failure monstrously loomed, then looking solemnly at Harman he said with resolution, “Yes, leave it to me. I’ll think of something.”

    Loneliness is the bad solitude associated with failure; resolute solitude defeats the monster gazing back from the abyss. This is the lesson learned:

    “What we feel for each other is really a passion for power,” said Judith. “We want to destroy each other by making the other fall in love with us — we challenge each other; that’s all.”

    And what does not destroy us makes us stronger.

    All this is reminiscent of themes from Hopkins’ novel. Like Reeves, Plowart is an aspiring politician (although his sites are higher than a mere country seat) who acts from a post- or anti-Christian moral posture. As Jonathan Bowen sketches him:

    The work in question deals with the psychological origins of a dynamic leader (a veteran “Outsider”). It depicts the spiritual trajectory of a “British Caesar” on his way to complete power—or what is conceived as such. If you like, it is a version of Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game played with human eyeballs!

    It denotes the “amoral” power-curve of Peter Plowart—at least after he has succeeded in “murdering” the chairman of the New Britain League (the latter his vehicle to obtain supreme power. . . .

    For he is a man who believes—in a purely Nietzschean sense—that the “Will to Power” is the basis of all existence (whether civil or otherwise) and that human beings only learn anything through their ability to transgress thresholds of pain.

    For Plowart is—in a purely normative manner—a “left-hand occultist” or social magician: an “amoralist” and an anti-Christian; a new Assyrian; a man who believes in a religion older than Christianity, when the latter is controversially dismissed as a humanist creed, the weak-kneed religion of those unfit for life. . . .

    For Plowart preaches a “pessimistic” ideology of force and challenge. He believes in the manipulation of mass emotion (i.e., the use of contemporary fear and sentiment) primarily through the persuasive utilization of superior cultural energy. Basically, then, he stands for the values that animated European revolutionary regimes from the 1920s to the 1940s—i.e., the “dictatorships” that were defeated by Britain and her Allies in the last war.

    Hence the fact that there was such a furious reaction to this novel—i.e., to a metapolitical inquiry; a philosophical speculation—undertaken in 1957, which was after all only a few years after the war itself had ended. But these events have now passed into history.[15]

    Although Bowden calls it “pessimistic” I think he means, “quote pessimistic unquote”; what may seem to the herd or sheep to be a pessimistic philosophy — force is all that matters — is, to the Outsider who has learned to overcome his lowly status, actually the key to his greatest happiness: he already has all he needs for success; he needs nothing and no one else. To him, this is what Colin Wilson liked to call, quoting Chesterton, “the great good news.”[16]

    Like Reeves, Plowart also earns solitude; Claremont both betrays him and teaches him that success lies in accessing his willpower; as Colin Wilson describes the novel’s climax:

    At the end of the book, he has to learn the hardest of all lessons, that he will never solve his problem while he looks to someone else to provide with the answer. Claremont is lying when she tells him that the rocks will move if he has enough faith; yet the rocks do move, and he is saved.[17]

    From the purely aesthetic angle, Colegate does very well with this first novel. The writing is plain, unadorned, with only occasional fancy touches that may even be accidental:

    The wind from the north swept through Wenseleyday and Wharfedale, whisking away . . .

    She wisely limits her cast of characters — no country house full of upstairs and downstairs intrigue here. Other than the main two characters, the cast is small, suitable for a stage play or episode of a sit-com. The in-laws, the late Lane’s old grandfather and widowed mother, are familiar types but well-drawn. We know these people, or think we do: the old snobs that Basil invites to the first Gourmet Night at Fawlty Towers, or indeed the batty old resident Major himself. The class details are accurate:

    [Reeves] was eulogistic at meals, thereby immediately forfeiting the regard of Mrs. Lane, Sir Ralph, and Nanny, none of whom could believe him to be sincere.

    As Paul Fussell has alerted us, among the true Upper Classes, one never praises the food or drink provided by one’s host, as its excellence is taken for granted.[18] Just the sort of mistake a Joe Lampton or Jim Dixon would make.

    The mother, however, is also allowed one late, pivotal moment to deliver a remarkable outburst of existential dread, a period touch but revealing unsuspected depths of feeling in what might otherwise been thought a boring suburban matron.

    Another well drawn character, rather more idiosyncratic, is Judith’s business partner, where we learn an interesting detail that today would never be allowed in print: a hooked nose, which

    [W]as useful to him for it enabled him when he wished to pass himself off as a Jew, which he sometimes found advantageous from the business point of view.

    A final member of the cast, Thomas, exists to show Judith’s own ruthlessness — he’s take up only to provide her with excuses for not seeing Reeves — and provides us with a glimpse of a rather more interesting character off stage:

    Thomas Hood’s aunt was anti-Semitic. She was also opposed to vivisection, and a believer in herb cures. . . . Miss Hood was kind and jolly, and Judith would have liked her.

    Young Thomas’s anxiety about keeping his aunt away from Judith shows a grasp of the coming PC mentality. Today, of course, the anti-Semite would still be some old fool, but the rest of her eccentricities would only characterize good-thinkers and heroic types, who, in turn, could never “like” the old fools for any reason. And as a bonus, Counter-Currents readers can imagine Savitri Devi in the part!

    There’s also a hint of a homoerotic subtext; Judith looks like Lane.[19] Reeves explains his motives as including:

    And you looked a bit like him, in a way, as if your might be equally unassailable.”

    While for Judith, it seems as if

    “You want to revenge on me the fact that you loved Anthony, I on you the fact that I sometimes hated him. But reason, as you say, has destroyed it all.”

    So why didn’t Colegate continue as a kind of female Colin Wilson? One might suggest that Colegate simply mistook her true métier; rather than becoming a novelist of ideas, centered on how one can achieve self-overcoming and social dominance, à la Hopkins or Colin Wilson, she thought her task was to chronicle in a somewhat romantic fashion the lives of the already settled and indeed already decaying Western elite. This confusion may account for the flaws in her first book, as well as a subsequent oeuvre devoted, it would seem, to a somewhat higher-brow kind of romantic, if not romance, fiction:

    Fellowes’ upper-class is equally romanticised, fighting doggedly for survival where similar families disintegrate and disappear. As he himself puts it: “[Colegate] neither hates nor worships [the highly privileged] but is simply striving to understand how they could have ruled since the dawn of recorded time and then, in the space of less than half a century, have entirely lost their grip on the political and public life of the Nation.”[20]

    Hopkins himself had a clearer idea of his purpose, and set his sights higher; not mere reportage on the decline of a soi-disant elite, but doing something about creating a new one:

    The central problem that concerned me was the dearth of prototypes in the way of new heroes and heroines capable of generating fresh values and visions to a spiritually directionless and dying society such as our own. To my mind, spawning such possibilities is the paramount purpose of literature, with entertaining of titillating empty-headed readers only a secondary consideration. Although that is always a craft in itself, of course.[21]

    If she had dared to actually take their side (that is, take our own side[22]), she might have turned out something like Hopkins’ book:

    In this sense Bill Hopkins’s The Divine and the Decay—his greatest literary achievement—stands revealed as a Bildungsroman of the anti-Left; a premonitory explosion; a lightening-flash which reveals a terra incognita; an intrusion into the Zeitgeist; a “storm of steel” against liberal evasion.

    The world of Isabel Colegate, like much of the postwar, gothic, and even “gay interest” literature Valancourt is bringing back to light, is such an “intrusion into the Zeitgeist; a “storm of steel” against liberal evasion.”

    It’s like coming across a dinosaur or strange fossil or something that’s a spiritual relic from another era because his is the psychology of another era where the West never apologized, was totally proud of what it was, regarded itself as a preeminent civilization, whatever discourse it felt about itself, without any apology whatsoever. At all. All moments of the day. Without the odd bit of liberal hand-wringing and funk and self-denial.[23]

    Of course, Hopkins paid the price, with his short-circuited career; no long series of novels, award-winning film adaptations and SWPL-beloved TV series for him!

    But, to be optimistic myself, perhaps Colegate’s is the way to get the Nietzschean message across: not with chest thumping agitprop, but between the lines, almost unconsciously written and read, in popular fiction.

    After all, there’s plenty of Downton Abbey Democrats and Hunger Gamers eager for the Next Big Thing. As Mencken might say, they deserve to get it — good and hard.

    Notes

    1. “zgalehouse [7]” provides an illustrated list of SWPL features of Downton Abbey here [8].

    2. “Downton Abbey Democrats May Cost their Party the Senate” by Lloyd Green, The Daily Beast, 03.24.14, here [9]. “It’s not that the Democrats don’t know that they have a problem with the non-government employee middle class, but it’s just that they really are not bothered by it. . . . This hardly looks or sounds like the lunch-bucket liberalism of FDR and Harry Truman, or the JFK’s robust New Frontier, which sought to ameliorate poverty while embracing technology and space shots. No, the current iteration of liberalism sounds more like reactionary 19th century Toryism, which, in the words of Siegel, attacked further industrial and commercial expansion as “impossibly vulgar.” . . . Think aesthetics as politics, and academic credentials as peerage. Think of a latter-day Americanized version of Downton Abbey—where everyone knows his or her place, and our betters look best.”

    3. Wikipedia [10], which adds the delightful detail that “development on Gosford Park began in 1999, when Bob Balaban came to Altman and asked if they could develop a film together. Bob Balaban suggested to Altman an Agatha Christie-style whodunit and introduced Altman to Julian Fellowes, with whom Balaban had been working on a different project.” Apparently, this is what he got up to after Elaine broke his heart and he left NBC without optioning Jerry’s pilot; see Seinfeld, Season 4, Episode 23/24, “The Pilot [11].”

    4. “Francis Ewan Urquhart is a fictional character created by Michael Dobbs. Known by his initials FU, Urquhart appeared in a trilogy of novels: House of Cards (1989), To Play the King (1992), and The Final Cut (1995). He was portrayed in the BBC TV adaptations by Ian Richardson, who won a BAFTA award for his performance. Thought to be based on Richard III and Macbeth, and described as the “epitome of elegant evil,” Urquhart is characterised by his habitual breaking of the fourth wall, his quoting of Shakespeare, and his usage of the catchphrase, “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment,” or a variation thereon, as a deniable way of agreeing with people and/or leaking information.” — Wikipedia [12].

    5. “The Forgotten Inspiration Behind Downton Abbey,” Aimee Oliver, For Books’s Sake, Nov. 29, 2013, here [13].

    6. Kirkus Reviews, loc. Cit.

    7. “First, I think of a man. Then, I subtract reason and accountability.” — Jack Nicholson as Mr. Udall in As Good as it Gets.

    8. “The Divine and the Decay (1957), reissued as The Leap! (1984), was the first and only published novel by Bill Hopkins (1928-2011). It occupies a curious place in British literary and cultural history because its reception was embroiled in the brouhaha (partly fomented by Hopkins) around Colin Wilson (b. 1931), whose reputation was rapidly disintegrating after the initial success of The Outsider (1956).”– “Bill Hopkins: The Divine and the Decay,Nicolas Tredell (Independent Scholar), [14] The Literary Encyclopedia, here [15].

    9. “The book was an immediate rarity upon publication because the publisher decided not to promote it, and in fact pulped most of the edition. The reasons for this have to do with journalistic fads of the 1950s, and are best explained by Hopkins’s friend Colin Wilson in his book The Angry Years. Essentially some of the Angry Young Men who were ‘in’ in 1956, were declared to be ‘out’ in 1957, when this novel was published. Hopkins was therefore derided as ‘a new espresso evangelist, another seer of the Soup Kitchens, a fresh messiah of the milk bars . . . !’ even before this book was published.” — Amazon reviewer.

    10. You can find a rather more/too detailed synopsis here [16].

    11. On the unconscious recapitulation of occult themes in genre works, see my review of Robert Aldrich’s film Kiss Me, Deadly: “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick: Kiss Me, Deadly as a Lovecraftian Tale,” here [17] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

    12. On the Angry Young Men, see Colin Wilson’s The Angry Years and Jonathan Bowden, “Bill Hopkins and the Angry Young Men” here [18].

    13. “It was charm again, my dear, simple, creamy English charm, playing tigers.” — Anthony Blanche diagnosing the Marchmain family’s poison in Brideshead Revisited, a book that memorializes everything the AYM hated.

    14. The whole blackmail angle is completely dropped. Reeves is totally unmoved even by news that a film is to be made, glorifying the coward Lane. It’s kind of like Frank Sinatra’s character in The Manchurian Candidate just said, “Oh, what the hell” and let Laurence Harvey assassinate Sen. Iselin while keeping the “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life” cover story going. Raymond Shaw, of course, is played by Laurence Harvey, who played Joe Lampton in Room at the Top, based on John Braine’s Angry Young Man novel, also of 1957; it was republished with a new introduction by Janine Utell last year by Valancourt; see my review of Braine’s second novel, the weird fiction The Vodi, also republished by Valancourt, “Lovecraft in a Northern Town,” here [19].

    15. See Jonathan Bowden’s “Bill Hopkins’ The Divine and the Decayhere [20].

    16. A somewhat more jaundiced view from Revilo Oliver:

    [Plowart] . . . certainly is no Übermensch, and his confidence in his own strength is something of which he has convinced himself by assertion even while his subconscious mind is aware that it is pretense. As a potential Führer, he is so flawed by several weaknesses that the reader takes it for granted that the New Britain League will never become politically formidable, even if Plowart survives and becomes its dictatorial master. . . .

    See “Beyond Good and Evil: Bill Hopkins’ The Divine & the Decay” by Revilo Oliver, Liberty Bell, vol. 13, no. 4, December 1985, pp. 17–19, here [21].

    17. Colin Wilson, “Foreword” to The Leap! [aka The Divine and the Decay] (London: Deverell & Birdsey, 1984), p.xii.

    18. Class: A Guide through the American Class System (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), p. 184. Basil Fawlty: “Tat? Of course, only the true upper class would have such tat!”

    19. Displacing apparent homoeroticism by means of shifting interest to a female character who looks like the man or boy she replaces is an old trope, of course. The most immediate influences here would be the Charles/Sebastian/Julia trio in Brideshead Revisited (“He [Sebastian] was the forerunner”) and perhaps Fr. Rolfe’s “Zilda disguised as Zildo as a plot contrivance who is really Zildo all the time in Rolfe’s imagination anyway” in The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole; more recently, George’s “man-love for a she-Jerry [22]” in the Seinfeld episode “The Cartoon.”

    20. For Books’s Sake, loc. Cit.

    21. Bill Hopkins, “Author’s Preface to the New Edition” of The Leap! [aka The Divine and the Decay] (London: Deverell & Birdsey, 1984), p. 3.

    22. See Michael Polignano, Taking Our Own Side, ed. Greg Johnson; foreword by Kevin MacDonald (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2010).

    23. Jonathan Bowden, “Bill Hopkins and the Angry Young Men,” here [18].

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Sword of Dishonor: The Reasons for the Decline of America’s Military
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    7,671 words
    [1]

    For decades, the opening lines of a poem by Sam Walter Foss entitled “The Coming American” hung in big steel letters at the Air Force Academy. Year after year, incoming classes of cadets would finish their six weeks of basic training by marching under the words BRING ME MEN. Up the ramp, they went onto the Academy’s impressive terrazzo flanked by modernist architecture, scene of the next four arduous years. Each cadet memorized the lines that came next:

    Bring me men to match my mountains,
    Bring me men to match my plains,
    Men with empires in their purpose,
    And new eras in their brains.[1] [2]

    In 2003, the Academy officialdom deemed those words to be offensively gender-specific and ordered them removed. As it happened, nearly half a century of sunlight had etched the shadow of the letters onto the granite underneath, making the words as legible as before. Workmen with power sanders were dispatched to finish the damnatio memoriae [3]. Then, after an entire year of brainstorming for a suitably inspiring quote to replace the old one, the Air Force displayed its complete poverty of thought by erecting its bland “core values”: “Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do.”[2] [4]

    This month I retire from the military after twenty years. That service includes two wars and service in multiple branches of the military across a wide range of specialties. A few dozen enemies no longer walk this Earth because of orders I have given. On my mantel rests an Academy saber; above it is the Bronze Star I received in Iraq. And yet I find myself wondering what it was all for.

    One might be tempted to write this off as the existential crisis of middle age, but it is a sentiment shared by those who have witnessed first-hand the dramatic transformation of the military over the past two decades. Members of a dying breed, we sense that once we are gone, the profession of arms will hardly be recognizable. That profession, like civilization itself, is a precarious thing: it only takes a couple of generations for the continuity to break down. Bringing it back is no easy matter.

    This sea-change has a particularly bitter taste to those who are being either forced into retirement, not promoted, or downsized (dubbed “force shaping”) because they are the wrong race and the wrong gender, at a time when the military makes no secret of its enthusiasm for affirmative action in recruitment and promotion.[3] [5] In the past decade, it has added sweeping changes: the green light for open homosexuality in 2011, the opening of all combat positions to women in 2015, the allowance of transgender individuals in 2016.[4] [6] Attempts to place all the blame with the Obama administration ignore more permissive attitudes in society at large. More importantly, the military’s seemingly precipitous decline is the outcome of two tendencies that have been eating away at its aristocratic spirit for over a century: egalitarianism and managerialism.

    The “Embarrassment of Choosing”

    Alexis de Tocqueville, that sharp-eyed observer of nineteenth-century America, was particularly interested in what impact egalitarianism would have on the hierarchies that no society can do without. In such institutions, promotion becomes a problem because of the egalitarian conceit that one man is just as good as another:

    . . . As the paths which lead to them are indiscriminately open to all, the progress of all must necessarily be slackened. As the candidates appear to be nearly alike, and as it is difficult to make a selection without infringing the principle of equality, which is the supreme law of democratic societies, the first idea which suggests itself is to make them all advance at the same rate and submit to the same probation. Thus in proportion as men become more alike, and the principle of equality is more peaceably and deeply infused into the institutions and manners of the country, the rules of advancement become more inflexible, advancement itself slower, the difficulty of arriving quickly at a certain height far greater. From hatred of privilege and from the embarrassment of choosing, all men are at last constrained, whatever may be their standard, to pass the same ordeal; all are indiscriminately subjected to a multitude of petty preliminary exercises, in which their youth is wasted and their imagination quenched, so that they despair of ever fully attaining what is held out to them, and when at length they are in a condition to perform any extraordinary acts, the taste for such thing has forsaken them.[5] [7]

    As society becomes more imbued by the egalitarian spirit, this mindset seeps into the military, and the superior officer grows more uncomfortable with the idea of making personal, unequivocal statements about the merits of his subordinates. He is freed from “the embarrassment of choosing” by the emergence of anonymous promotion boards and check-the-box requirements that he can easily hide behind: “Well, I couldn’t rate you higher, you see, because you haven’t done a staff tour yet . . .” Thus, egalitarianism leads inevitably to managerialism, a sort of corporate cursus honorum [8] that steeps future leaders in the bureaucratic mindset. In the military, the check-the-box promotion system creates countless roadblocks to the quick rise of geniuses but ensures a mediocre competence at each level, and predictability is in greater demand than brilliance. Such a system tends to produce managers, not leaders, men with eyes focused on the next rung:

    . . . In democratic armies, in time of peace, promotion is extremely slow. The officers at first support this state of things with impatience, they grow excited, restless, exasperated, but in the end most of them make up their minds to it. Those who have the largest share of ambition and of resources quit the army; others, adapting their tastes and their desires to their scanty fortunes, ultimately look upon the military profession in a civil point of view. The quality they value most in it is the competency and security which attend it: their whole notion of the future rests upon the certainty of this little provision, and all they require is peaceably to enjoy it.[6] [9]

    Men treated like cogs begin to act like cogs. They may be irked now and then by the system but also recognize that being a part of it guarantees their piece of the pie, the “certainty of this little provision.” De Tocqueville’s caveat about all this changing during wartime does not apply to the post-1945 military. There can be no more “boy colonels,” twentysomething prodigies, in a military where minimum time in each rank is required by law.[7] [10] As de Tocqueville remarked, “Thus not only does a long peace fill an army with old men, but it frequently imparts the views of old men to those who are still in the prime of life.”[8] [11]

    “So what?” one might ask. Doesn’t the guaranteed competence of a hundred staff officers compensate for an overlooked genius? Although that is debatable, the objection overlooks the fact that the profession of arms is unique. The soldier is not like a plumber or an accountant hired to perform a task. To treat him as such, when there is no “bottom line” to be served in dying for his country, is to conflate the citizen-soldier with the mercenary. Such a thing is dangerous in the long run, for since ancient times, Indo-European societies have recognized that the warrior class has the power to utterly subdue society. The unique capabilities of the warrior class make it imperative that its ethos center around self-sacrifice for the good of the people. Hence the social significance behind the Germanic warrior-god Tyr and the legendary Roman hero Mucius Scaevola, who willingly gave up their sword-hands to save their people.[9] [12] This ethos must also include a chivalric spirit, otherwise soldiers risk becoming sociopaths, and killing becomes like cleaning a clogged drain. Yet managerialism, by depriving its servants of historical continuity, giving them supervisors instead of leaders, and replacing the warrior’s ethos with verbiage from the corporate world, sooner or later delivers them over to just such a fate. Men cannot attain glory if they cannot conceive of it.

    An Army of Hoopers

    De Tocqueville warned that in an egalitarian society, it becomes all the more important to immerse the intellect in the great works of aristocratic ages.[10] [13] Yet already, he noticed, there was a tendency to abandon the ancient works in favor of books that treated the individual as the victim of anonymous social forces that he was powerless to counteract:

    In reading the historians of aristocratic ages, and especially those of antiquity, it would seem that, to be master of his lot, and to govern his fellow creatures, man requires only to be master of himself. In perusing the historical volumes which our age has produced, it would seem that man is utterly powerless over himself and over all around him. The historians of antiquity taught how to command: those of our time teach only how to obey . . . If this doctrine of necessity . . . passes from authors to their readers, till it infects the whole mass of the community and gets possession of the public mind, it will soon paralyse the activity of modern society, and reduce Christians to the level of Turks.[11] [14]

    As early as the 1870s, a growing trend in the officer corps was to take one’s cues from industry, which seemed so efficient and provided the fighting man with such wonderful technology. Alfred Thayer Mahan, naval officer and future author of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, observed that in an officer’s education, the humanities were being gradually replaced by study of the “physical and mechanical sciences, and an intimate acquaintance with the arts of the manufacturer.” Proponents of the managerialist approach argued that the officer’s academic grounding should be principally in these cutting-edge fields, else he “must descend from the high position occupied by him and his predecessors for these centuries past and become the simple drudge of others whose minds have received a more vigorous and deeper, though often narrower, culture.” Mahan retorted that the attempt to join officership with technical expertise “has upon the whole been a failure, except where it has succeeded in reducing both to mediocrity in the individual.”[12] [15] The technocratic approach tended to create managers, not leaders, to “impede the growth of the class of moral powers needed at sea; to promote caution unduly; to substitute calculation for judgment; to create trust in formulas rather than in one’s self.”[13] [16] So much for men with empires in their purpose and new eras in their brains.

    Countering the push for technocratic specialization, Mahan argued for an education grounded in English literature, foreign languages (to a fluency allowing the acquisition of their literature), and naval tactics:

    If I be asked . . . how the English studies or the acquirements of Foreign Languages help a man to handle and fight his ship, I will reply that a taste for these two pursuits tends to give breadth of thought and loftiness of spirit; the English directly, the Foreign Languages by opening their literature. The ennobling effect of such pursuits upon the sentiment and intellect of the seaman helps, I think, to develop a generous pride, a devotion to lofty ideals, which cannot fail to have a beneficial effect upon a profession which possesses, and in its past history has illustrated in a high degree, many of the elements of heroism and grandeur. The necessarily materialistic character of mechanical science tends rather to narrowness and low ideals.[14] [17]

    Needless to say, Mahan’s recommendations did not win out, and in the decades that followed, the managerialist faction grew in strength. From industry and engineering the new officer-technocrats imported a reliance on procedures, grafted it onto remnants of classic military leadership, and comforted themselves with the maxim, “We lead people, but manage things.” Lacking the independent spirit Mahan extolled, the new breed of officers was risk-averse, preferring to shelve decisions whenever possible until committees could be formed. If this was not possible, they could at least hope to hide behind procedures, and this created an incentive to make everything more systematic and routine, even the higher aspects of leading men. Since there was less need for the individual judgment of the officer, it became easier to simply plug in mediocre men – and mediocrity is exactly what all this produces. Brilliance and dashing spirit became increasingly hard to find, but at least the ship wouldn’t sink. Junior officers, who once occupied Olympian heights, came to resemble highly-paid enlisted members, and today even senior officers are as subject to rote procedures and possess as little scope for lofty ambition as the most junior technician repairing a generator.

    By the Second World War, officers like Hooper in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited were as common as hobbits in the shire:

    Hooper had no illusions about the Army – or rather no special illusions distinguishable from the general, enveloping fog from which he observed the universe. . . . Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry . . . Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales and Marathon – these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper.

    . . . He had an overmastering regard for efficiency and, drawing on his modest commercial experience, he would sometimes say of the ways of the Army . . .  “They couldn’t get away with that in business.”[15] [18]

    As indeed they could not, a fact which the post-1945 military was eager to solve. President Eisenhower warned in vain against the military-industrial complex, for the senior levels of the officer corps blended seamlessly with the corporate world and appropriated its outlook, methods, and language.[16] [19] One day, Robert McNamara was president of Ford Motor Co.; the next, he was Secretary of Defense, and this “IBM machine with legs” brought in teams of management specialists to accelerate the corporatization of the military.[17] [20] A statistician by training, McNamara had an enduring effect on the military that went far beyond the debacle in Vietnam. Bombing targets for the sake of improving the numbers, fudging statistics by re-defining the parameters, and grossly overestimating enemy casualties (while minimizing or ignoring civilian ones) are all familiar to those who have participated in the recent crop of Middle Eastern wars.

    The managerial obsession with statistical models and measures of effectiveness has taken over the officer corps like a parasite its host. As de Tocqueville observed, the egalitarian impulse gives rise to a structuring of promotion in which box-checking has more weight than merit – especially if that merit can’t be quantified, in which case it is useless. Officer and enlisted alike must essentially write their own annual performance reports for their superiors to review, edit, and sign, supplying grandiose bullet-statements that they hope will curry favor with promotion boards. Each service has Websites where one can shop around for winning bullets, and it is all too common to find someone painstakingly crafting a bullet while they do the task the bullet is for.[18] [21] The dollar value alone of all the exaggerated financial impacts in these bullet statements would probably exceed the world’s entire GDP. Thirty billion dollars appears on one of my more successful performance reports.

    By the 1990s, with variations among the services, there was little to distinguish the ranks of officers and senior NCOs from the corporate world. The Air Force issued a “Little Blue Book” of its core values, with these inspiring words: “We must focus on providing services and generating products that fully respond to customer wants and anticipate customer needs . . .” It explained one of its core values thusly: “Excellence in all we do demands that we aggressively implement policies to ensure the best possible cradle-to-grave management of resources.”[19] [22] As if sensing that they went too far, since 9/11 the managerialists have added more rhetoric about the “warfighter” and stock phrases such as “we [insert any career field here] are the tip of the spear.” Yet underneath it all is the same corporate babble from the cramped imaginations and mediocre minds that Mahan warned against.

    For all the vaunted talk of asymmetric warfare, paradigm shifts, and thinking outside the box, our military remains one of the most symmetrical, predictable forces in the world. This has nothing to with the soldier on the ground or the sailor pounding the deckplates, but with the functionaries who pose as their leaders. And yet this is not the worst of it.

     “A military that looks like the nation it serves”

    The military managerialists, firmly ensconced by the end of the Second World War, set about transforming this ancient hierarchy into something worthier of a triumphant democracy. The wartime indoctrination in democratic values continued, as the military’s mission was recast from defending America’s borders to defending “freedom and democracy around the world,” as the Sailor’s Creed puts it.[20] [23] The military became a kind of social laboratory for egalitarianism, and it is by means of this that the elite convinces itself that it truly deserves its place at the top.

    Long before the struggle over desegregating schools and the bussing fight, President Truman (himself once an Army officer) ended centuries of racial segregation in the military with an executive order. He thereby demonstrated how easy it is to effect socially controversial changes in the military, since government can silence any opposition through threats of courts-martial and dishonorable discharges. The ostensibly successful integration of groups X and Y in the military can then be used as another argument to overcome recalcitrant sectors of broader society. Another advantage of social engineering via the military is that its members, after being indoctrinated in the new order of things, re-enter the civilian world, thus increasing the number of citizens for whom such issues don’t really matter. Since the draft ended in 1973, nearly half of recruits (now serving for longer terms) have come from rural areas, which are overwhelmingly conservative on social issues, making this indoctrinate-and-return method even more effective.[21] [24]

    In the decades since, enacting controversial change through decree has become something of an art form in the modern military. In 2011, I attended a briefing where my unit was informed that for the first time in its history, the US military would allow individuals to openly serve as homosexuals, ending the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” similarly decreed from on high back in 1994. On these occasions, each service tries to have the new policy announced by someone of sufficient rank to overawe those present – preferably a General or Admiral, but in a pinch a full-bird Colonel or Naval Captain will suffice. Next, the senior officer will make sure that everyone present understands that the change is a fait accompli, that to oppose it would be at best pointless and at worst punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All that remains, then, is to work out the details, which in fact are anything but. Nothing demonstrates the irresponsibility of the managerialists more than the way they shrug off the complex problems that arise from radically changing the relationships of those who must live, work, and fight together.

    Finally, the briefing officer will announce that while he or she will field questions, no discussion involving morality will be allowed. Those in attendance comply without a murmur. After all, what would be the point of debating the morality of an inevitable change? To bemoan growing old is common enough; to debate whether it is ethical is a waste of time. Hence the non-stop effort by our elites to convince us that the transformation of our society through mass immigration is inevitable: once that point is conceded, there is little point in arguing that it is undesirable.

    The same technique was used for the opening of all combat positions to women, then the order allowing transgendered individuals.[22] [25] (The Trump administration has not completely undone the transgender policy, since the new wording allows the Pentagon to make exceptions where it sees fit, and the repercussions will be felt for years.[23] [26]) It is not difficult to see why many social conservatives simply get out after one enlistment or never join in the first place. Some of the manliest men don’t find themselves drawn to such a military, where men without chests (as well as women without them) abound.

    The move to an all-volunteer force has made it easier, not harder, to tinker with social attitudes in the ranks. For instance, more servicemen see White Nationalism as a greater threat to national security than conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq. More than sixty percent support activating the National Guard or Reserves to handle any future Charlottesville. Of those polled, seventy-six percent were white.[24] [27]

    Despite the cuckoldry implied by that last statistic, a military that is eighty-five percent male and sixty percent white – even after great efforts to recruit women and minorities – is a problem in need of solving, according to military leaders.[25] [28] Even though the military already practices affirmative action in recruitment and promotion, it is not enough for some, who advocate doubling down on racial and gender preferences. As one senior female officer puts it, the military will thereby “gain legitimacy from having a military that looks like the nation it serves.”[26] [29] To anyone who has walked around in public recently, having a military that looks like the nation it serves is a horrifying prospect, especially since a large majority of young people are not even qualified for military service.[27] [30] Undaunted, recruiters have reached out directly to “gay community centers,” and there seems to have been a tidal wave of lesbians in the ranks of late. Courtesy of an executive order from President Bush in 2002, the military offers immigrants an expedited route to citizenship if they don a uniform, and over one hundred thousand have joined up.[28] [31] It is shocking how often one encounters servicemen, typically Hispanic but also African, whose English-language skills are so poor that they can barely make themselves understood.

    “I will not look at a person and see any race”

    A few years ago, the bean-counters at the Pentagon (which now has a high-ranking “diversity chief”) found that the number of blacks in the military had slipped slightly since the 1990s.[29] [32] The generals called for increasing the budget for minority recruitment, even though the percentage of blacks in the military was still greater than their proportion of the civilian population as a whole. The fact that over the past twenty-five years, fewer black youth were interested in military service struck these social engineers as yet another problem to solve. Clearly, what was needed was more diversity and more affirmative action. Marine General James Amos, who created no less than four “diversity task forces” in response, said it was now time to “remove potential barriers for Marines to compete on merit for leadership positions.”[30] [33] There is in fact little pretense that military promotion is based on merit anymore. A white colleague of mine recently managed to make rank in a career field with low promotion rates. His advice? “Don’t check the box marked ‘white’ on your service record. Check ‘other’ and keep them guessing.” For many, however, that is not an option, as most promotion boards review service photos of the candidates.

    Another colleague described his experience observing a board that was promoting soldiers to Master Sergeant, the second-highest pay grade in the enlisted ranks. There were about three hundred candidates, but only around fifty would be promoted. First, the board “racked and stacked” all soldiers on merit alone. Then it separated the candidates by race and gender. At a bare minimum, the number of Group X who were to be promoted had to match their percentage in the Army as a whole. Thus, if the Army were twenty percent black, one-fifth of the available slots would go to black candidates, regardless of where they ended up in the general rack-and-stack. If only one soldier happened to be Native American and female, she was guaranteed promotion, even if she came in at last place out of three hundred in the general rating. The idea that soldiers are entitled to have the most qualified people leading them into battle, regardless of race – something that the mid-twentieth century integrators argued – has long since disappeared under affirmative action.

    [34]

    World War II-era recruitment poster

    In addition to affirmative action, the military employs subtler tools to suggest a narrowing public space for white males. Bases host cultural events for minority groups, which unit leaders are sure to attend and get photo-ops. Unit walls are festooned with posters for “Hispanic Heritage Month,” “Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” and so forth. There are “Profiles in Minority Courage” for every ethnic group except European-Americans, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who have served since 1776 come from precisely this group. The typical posters from the Second World War show white men heading into combat, urging the recruit to join and thereby become a man. Their angular faces and determined expressions are well-suited to the descendants of the Viking raiders, Germanic war-bands, and Celtic tribes that carved a path through Europe’s history. Today, not only are the faces hard to find, but equally rare are the exhortations to martial greatness. Themes of racial diversity and delicate gender relations dominate.

    [35]
     

    Consider a typical modern poster, this one from the Navy. Three sailors stare accusingly at the viewer: one is a black male, another a white female, the third an Asian male. There is no white male to be found, but his existence is suggested by the words below: “No sailor stands watch alone – so we reported that guy who wouldn’t leave our shipmate alone.” Another poster proclaims the “Army Values,” with six soldiers arrayed in a kind of wedge formation that has the front soldier – a black male, staring at the viewer with an accusing eye – taking up nearly half of the poster space. Second in position and size is a white female, then a Hispanic male, and so forth. Only one of the six soldiers, toward the back, is recognizably an Anglo male. So it is with the lion’s share of these corporate warrior posters: They emphasize diversity so much that one could be forgiven for thinking white males were statistically insignificant in the ranks, not the largest group. And there is always this accusing stare from the minority serviceman or woman, shaming the viewer, demanding that he adjust to this new reality. To get a feel for this in-your-face diversity, watch this unwittingly humorous video [36], part of mandatory training.

    Air Force NCOs have a creed with this curious promise: “I will not look at a person and see any race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin, for I will only see the person; nor will I ever show prejudice or bias.”[31] [37] Curious, because the Air Force, like all branches, engages in a kind of doublethink about these things: no conscious recognition of race or sex, alongside a fierce determination to get more women and minorities into positions of authority. It should come as no surprise to learn that all this focus on minority recruitment and promotion has increased racial tensions in the military (in the above-mentioned poll about national security threats, five percent left comments complaining that Black Lives Matter wasn’t an option).[32] [38] But of course, that is just further proof to the progressive managerialists that they are on the right track, that it is just a matter of removing the remaining undesirables who question the new order.

    “Weak men and disorderly women”

    De Tocqueville writes:

    There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make of man and woman beings not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things – their occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may readily be conceived, that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded; and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and disorderly women.[33] [39]

    The Frenchman went on to praise the state of affairs in early nineteenth-century America, in which men and women had completely different spheres but were each held in high regard:

    In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes . . . but in two pathways which are always different. American women never manage the outward concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or take a part in political life; nor are they, on the other hand, ever compelled to perform the rough labour of the fields, or to make any of those laborious exertions which demand the exercise of physical strength.[34] [40]

    The nation that de Tocqueville describes, in which “it is not the practice for a guilty wife to clamour for the rights of women, whilst she is trampling on her holiest duties,” has vanished without a trace.[35] [41] Since time immemorial, one of the most basic truths of human existence is that no tribe can survive if it fails to perform two functions: defending itself from enemies and bearing children who can continue the line. If the community should neglect either of these tasks, it can be destroyed in a single generation. Men and women are each designed by nature to perform one of these two essential tasks. In Sparta, the only marked graves were reserved for men who had died in combat and women who had died in childbirth, since both had died in service to the community.[36] [42]

    It should come as no surprise, then, to find that the iron resolve to get more women in the military should be accompanied by a shameful weakening of masculinity, for such a disordered society must expect that it will have more “weak men and disorderly women.” Case in point: Two years ago, two US Navy boats were captured by the Iranian Navy. During their comfortable fifteen-hour captivity, the ranking American officer on scene took it upon himself to publicly apologize to the Iranians, while some of his men broke down crying, which the Iranians – not raised on a diet of sensitivity briefs – were only too happy to film.[37] [43] We shouldn’t judge them too harshly. After all, their service’s professional creed ends with these rousing words of military glory, “I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”[38] [44]

    Racial diversity does not pose such a direct threat to the prime function of men in the tribe. One could argue that it does so indirectly, since white males are being slowly decoupled from their original corporate responsibility for America’s defense, attended by a vanishing of any notion of tribe, or nation. But the pursuit of gender diversity corrodes the military’s fighting spirit far more than the effort to get more Samoans in uniform. The opening of all combat positions to women in 2015 was not the mere presidential whim of Barack Obama; it was the outcome of decades of feminist propaganda movies [45] and progressive messaging in the media. For years, we’ve been listening to stories of the most patriotic, competent females contrasted with bumbling, hidebound males who can’t handle a successful woman in leadership.

    The reality is that the effort to get females in key positions both in combat and leadership has resulted in a downgrading of objective standards across the board. For example, male soldiers aged 17-21 must perform a minimum of 42 pushups in two minutes; female soldiers need only perform 19. Male soldiers must run two miles in at least 15:54; female soldiers can skate by with 18:54.[39] [46] It would be absurd, then, to claim that male and female soldiers are equally capable of carrying each other out of harm’s way, or indeed performing any of the myriad tasks that require strength and endurance from the soldier. Realizing this hypocrisy, the Marine Corps experimented with a “gender-neutral” fitness test in 2016. In the event, eighty-six percent of female recruits failed it; less than three percent of males did.[40] [47] Some female servicemembers will even acknowledge the absurdity of two different sets of minimum physical standards.[41] [48] Yet here is a clear-cut conflict between equality and diversity.

    When the Secretary of the Navy announced to the graduating class at Annapolis that the Navy and the Marine Corps needed to increase the number of female recruits from seven percent to at least twenty-five percent of the total, he was making it all but impossible to enforce the same standards on women as on men. Humorously enough, his justification was that “a more diverse force is a stronger force.”[42] [49] We have finally concocted “so preposterous a medley of the works of nature” that diversity has become a greater metric of strength than actual physical strength. How exactly a military is stronger by being physically weaker, racially and religiously divided, and devoid of a coherent identity is something he never answered. Presumably the victims of Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan might be more critical of such a hell-bent effort to produce diversity in the ranks.[43] [50]

    Then there is the mountain of problems created by having men and women serving in the closest possible quarters. During a combat deployment to the Middle East, my unit had three females. One accused a soldier of raping her; another, a married woman with children, was having an affair with a married serviceman; and a third, single, was sleeping with a married soldier whose wife back home found out during the deployment. All this drama was going on while we were supposed to be focused on the mission. In fact, it seems that the more stressful the situation, the closer to combat, the more inhibitions melt away and the soap opera begins. Such situations help explain why military wives have the most reservations about their husbands serving with women.

    But as in broader society, the problems created by diversity in the military also cement the need for a managerial elite to preside over these conflicts, studiously review the data, and apply the appropriate remedies. In 2017, the “Marines United” scandal erupted, in which Marines were caught sharing sexually explicit pictures of female servicemembers in an online group that had thirty thousand members. After convening a slew of disciplinary boards, the Marine Corps is now using the incident to dramatically expand its monitoring of social media.[44] [51] Faced with such situations, the managerialists argue that every scandal is further proof of the need for more women in the military:

    The dearth of women in leadership roles is not just an optics problem. It undermines effectiveness, inhibiting the recruitment and retention of talented women who are repulsed by a male-dominated culture. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has himself identified the vast gender disparity in command positions as a key cause of the sexual-assault crisis: “I believe it’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel, at some level.”[45] [52]

    Unit notice boards are buried under various “zero tolerance” warnings pertaining to inappropriate male-female interactions. Each unit is saddled with having an NCO appointed as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, who then must administer a vigorous program of mandatory training for the unit as a whole. Much of this training consists of ridiculous vignettes that hammer home the “perception is reality” mantra that governs accusations of sexual harassment. In recent years, the training program has entailed breaking up the unit into smaller groups of ten or twelve, in which servicemen must act out the scenarios, successfully parrot the party line, and even share examples of which they know before they can be let go. To be present at one of these Cultural Revolution-type “struggle sessions” is to witness the emasculation of our military before your eyes.

    The military is also subjected to periodic surveys with questionable methodologies as to the “command climate” in the unit. If the number of reported sexual assaults goes up, then clearly we need more HR training, even though a rapist is not going to be deterred by a training video any more than a psychopath would by a gun law. If the number of reported sexual assaults goes down, it obviously means that victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward, so clearly we need more HR training. Those who are dumbfounded at why increasing the number of women in the military increases the number of sexual problems it must face are fools, pure and simple. Those who respond to such problems by increasing the number of women, expanding affirmative action, and multiplying sensitivity workshops without end are deliberately weakening what remains of this country’s fighting abilities. When a Navy pilot had the audacity to draw a phallus with his aircraft’s contrails in the sky, the joke sent the HR goons into Def Con 1, and the Navy had a “stand-down” day for more training and penitent beating of chests.[46] [53]

    The focus on indoctrination reduces the time for training on professional skills, a problem that can have fatal consequences even in peacetime. In 2017, a spate of entirely avoidable accidents by the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet resulted in the deaths of more servicemen than died in Afghanistan that same year.[47] [54] The official explanation was an exhausting deployment tempo and high demands on crews, with no explanation of how previous generations of sailors, slogging through the Second World War and the Cold War, were able to avoid such frequent crashing into friendly vessels.[48] [55] Many experts point to the declining amount of training time devoted to basic seamanship skills, but few have the courage to admit what has crowded out those classes: relentless training on tolerance, sensitivity, and “awareness” of an increasing array of protected groups. Unit commands put the highest priority on these classes and demand one hundred percent attendance, for fear of getting the blame should any HR incidents happen under their watch. True, there are some hopeful signs, such as the Army’s recent ending of transgender training in favor of training that actually builds combat effectiveness.[49] [56] Time will tell, but one thing is certain: The inevitable friction that diversity brings will invite more task forces, more training, and more boxes to check.

    The Coming American

    Alexis de Tocqueville worried that the love of equality would lead Americans to a soft tyranny, one that

    covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.[50] [57]

    A nation can survive fairly long with citizens such as these, provided that an altogether different spirit animates its armies. But it does not bode well if its warriors also begin to resemble “a flock of timid and industrious animals,” gelded by the shepherd government in order to make them more docile and accepting of this grand social experiment.

    To succeed, the advocates for egalitarianism must ultimately overturn biology in at least two ways. First, they need to achieve the kind of blunt, matter-of-fact relationship between the sexes portrayed in so many action movies, in which men are just soldiers who have one extra piece of equipment to carry. Those charged with conducting “resistance” training, in which future pilots, special forces, and other personnel are treated as POWs and subjected to minor torture, know that nothing is more effective than making a male soldier listen to a woman in distress. Yet as more women move closer to the front lines, more of them are in danger of falling into enemy hands. So if the male protective instinct becomes a liability, far better to get rid of it, or at least train men that their instincts are wrong.

    Secondly, they need the white male to fully accept that while the achievements of others will bring public credit to their sex, race, and ethnic group, his achievements will only bring credit to an idea so nebulous that any newly-arrived immigrant may claim it as his own. The same pride in tribe and ethnos that is allowed and even encouraged for every minority group will be immediately condemned in him.

    The managerialists are confident they can achieve these goals, but even their wildest hopes are tinged by resignation, for most of them are, after all, white males. Perhaps they console themselves with the thought that their own retirement is assured: après moi, le deluge [58]. Their task will be complete only when the last white male among them displays a Powerpoint slideshow on why his presence is undesirable. Even if this social experiment results in the collapse of America’s fighting forces before a determined enemy, far better to go out with their egalitarian conscience intact. So what if a sailor bawls at the first sign of hostility, or a soldier lacks the tenacity to crush the enemy? At least they will be fully versed on the relative benefits of restricted versus unrestricted reporting for sexual assault allegations.

    What will this coming American look like? Nothing like what the poet hoped for, of that I am sure:

    Bring me men to match my mountains,
    Bring me men to match my plains,
    Men with empires in their purpose,
    And new eras in their brains.

    We who once thrilled to those words will soon be gone, like the words themselves, sandblasted off the stone. Forced into retirement, I had not the heart for a ceremony, to participate in such a charade. What would I say?

    I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.[51] [59]

     

    Notes

    [1] [60] Sam Walter Foss, “The Coming American [61].”

    [2] [62]James A. Shaw, “AF Academy renames ‘Bring Me Men’ ramp [63].”

    [3] [64] Robert Knowles & Rachel E. Vandlandingham, “Affirmative, Sir! (And Ma’am!) [65],” The New Republic, June 24, 2013.

    [4] [66] Eric Bradner, “U.S. military opens combat positions to women [67],” CNN, December 3, 2015; Jonah Engel Bromwich, “How U.S. Military Policy on Transgender Personnel Changed under Obama [68],” New York Times online, July 26, 2017.

    [5] [69] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002), p. 574.

    [6] [70] De Tocqueville, pp. 597-598.

    [7] [71] Stew Smith, “Military Commissioned Officer Promotions [72],” The Balance Careers, March 5, 2018.

    [8] [73] De Tocqueville, p. 598.

    [9] [74] For an excellent discussion of this in conjunction with the mythology of the Germanic warrior god Tyr, see Woden’s Folk Kindred, Heathen Handbook (2012), pp. 104-107.

    [10] [75] De Tocqueville, p. 438.

    [11] [76] De Tocqueville, pp. 457-458.

    [12] [77] Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan, “Naval Education,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 5, 1879, pp. 347, 353.

    [13] [78] Mahan, p. 347.

    [14] [79] Mahan, p. 352.

    [15] [80] Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (New York: Back Bay Books, 2012), pp. 9-10.

    [16] [81]“Eisenhower’s [82] Farewell Address to the Nation.”

    [17] [83] Stephen Braun, “Robert S. McNamara dies at 93; architect of the Vietnam War [84],” LA Times online, July 7, 2009.

    [18] [85] For example: Air Force (http://www.eprbullets.com/ [86], http://www.afeprbullets.com/ [87] ), Army (http://www.armywriter.com/ncoer_bullets.htm [88]), Navy (http://www.navyfitrep.com/officer.html [89]).

    [19] [90]United States Air Force Core Values [91], January 1, 1997.

    [20] [92] US Navy, “The Sailor’s Creed [93].”

    [21] [94] Bernard Rostker, “The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force [95],” Rand Corporation research brief, 2006; Ann Scott Tyson, “Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn to Military [96],” Washington Post online, November 4, 2005.

    [22] [97] Bradner, ibid.; Bromwich, ibid.

    [23] [98] Helene Cooper & Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Trump Approves New Limits on Transgender Troops in the Military [99],” New York Times online, March 24, 2018.

    [24] [100] Leo Shane III, “One in four troops sees white nationalism in the ranks [101],” Military Times online, October 23, 2017.

    [25] [102] Kim Parker, Anthony Cilluffo, & Renee Stepler, “6 facts about the U.S. military and its changing demographics [103],” Fact Tank: News in the Numbers, April 13, 2017.

    [26] [104] Knowles & Vandlandingham, ibid.

    [27] [105] Thomas Spoehr & Bridget Handy, “The Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Serve in the Military [106],” Heritage Foundation report, February 13, 2018.

    [28] [107] Elisabeth Bumiller, “Marines Hit the Ground Running in Seeking Recruits at Gay Center [108],” New York Times online, September 20, 2011.

    [29] [109] Gregg Zoroya, “Military backslides on ethnic diversity [110],” USA Today online, February 17, 2014.

    [30] [111] Zoroya, ibid.

    [31] [112]Air Force NCO Creed [113].”

    [32] [114] Shane, ibid.

    [33] [115] De Tocqueville, pp. 547-548.

    [34] [116] De Tocqueville, p. 548.

    [35] [117] De Tocqueville, p. 549.

    [36] [118] Plutarch, “Life of Lycurgus,” in Plutarch on Sparta (London: Penguin Books, 1988), p. 39.

    [37] [119] Kellan Howell, “Lt. David Nartker, 27, identified as Navy sailor who apologized in Iran video [120],” The Washington Times online, January 15, 2016; Adam Taylor, “New video from Iranian state television shows captured U.S. sailor crying [121],” The Washington Post online, February 10, 2016.

    [38] [122]The Sailor’s Creed [123].”

    [39] [124] US Army Basic, “APFT Standards [125].”

    [40] [126] Lolita C. Baldor, “New Standards Weeding Out Both Male and Female Marine Combat Hopefuls [127],” Military.com, 2018.

    [41] [128] Kate Germano, “Make the Standards for Male and Female Marines Equal [129],” The New York Times online, August 20, 2015.

    [42] [130] Derrick Perkins, “Mabus: 1 in 4 Marine recruits should be women [131],” Marine Corps Times online, May 26, 2015.

    [43] [132] Associated Press, “Fort Hood shooting rampage suspect: U.S. at war with Islam [133],” CBS News, July 27, 2013.

    [44] [134] Shawn Snow, “Seven Marines court-martialed in wake of Marines United scandal [135],” Marine Corps Times online, March 1, 2018.

    [45] [136] Knowles & Vandlandingham, ibid.

    [46] [137] Dave Brooks, “Navy apologizes after pilot uses plane to draw sky penis [138],” The Daily Caller, November 17, 2017.

    [47] [139] Statista, “Number of fatalities among Western coalition soldiers involved in the execution of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2001 to 2018 [140]“; Alex Horton & Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Deadly Navy accidents in the Pacific raise questions over a force stretched too thin [141],” The Washington Post online, August 26, 2017.

    [48] [142] Horton & Gibbons-Neff, ibid.

    [49] [143] Even so, the training is being ended not because it is worthless but because “[t]ransgender training is complete across the Total Army.” Carlo Muñoz, “Army training will now focus on actual battlefield skills, not social issues [144],” The Washington Times online, June 25, 2018.

    [50] [145] De Tocqueville, pp. 627-628.

    [51] [146] Wikipedia, “Tears in rain monologue [147].”

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Manos Redivivus: “The Master is Gone, But He is With Us Always”
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]6,627 words

    Manos: The Hands of Fate – Restored Edition [2]
    Written and Directed by Harold P. Warren
    Restoration Producer: Ben Solovey
    Synapse Studios, 2015

    “Why is he sleeping on a pile of dirt?”
    “This movie has deep philosophical significance.”
    “What about the beer bottles?”
    “Oh . . .”[1] 

    Well, here it is: the bottom of the bottomless barrel,[2] the worst of the worst — the loathed[3] and legendary Worst Movie of All Time: Manos, the Hands of Fate.[4] Comes now this two-disc version, on DVD and Blu-Ray, that surely must be considered definitive.[5] And there’s nothing in all this restoration and commentary that comes close to in any way challenging the film’s reputation.[6]

    But why? Why this film of all films?[7] Other films certainly have their own urgent, unique claims.

    It’s not like there are no other candidates, even within the somewhat arbitrary universe of “movies I saw on Mystery Science Theater 3000.” For example,[8] The Crawling Terror shares Manos’ origins in a bet (that the director could make a scary movie just like those guys in Hollywood), casting of the director in a starring role (though under the pseudonym, “Vic Savage,”), entirely overdubbed soundtrack (the original having been lost, supposedly, in Lake Mead), and above all, arguably the worst cinematography in history — some shots are so over-exposed that the screen is almost entirely white, making Manos, even in its unrestored state, seem like a Technicolor blockbuster.

    Other films share the incompetent filmmaking but go one better in post-production. Monster A Go-Go and The Dead Talk Back also dispense, for whatever reason, with sound sync, in favor of narrators; but the first was never even finished (Bill Rebane sold the remains to schlockmeister Herschel Gordon Lewis, who patched in new scenes, using some but not all of the original actors[9]), while Dead, finished, sat on a film lab shelve from 1957 to 1997 when it was discovered and shipped directly to Mystery Science Theater. Both movies also share the supremely irritating trait of cheating the ending: “There was no monster,” the narrator sternly informs us, and, as Tom Servo exclaims, “Hey, the dead never talked back!”

    The attentive reader will have noted that so far all these movies (one hesitates to call them “films”) are of the sci-fi/horror genres. It’s true that these genres, much to the chagrin of their fans, do tend to produce a lot of junk.[10] Or it may be, that their fans are seriously devoted enough[11] to demand a high level of performance to match the seriousness of the theme, making the gap between aim and achievement more visible, and risible, than in, say, a failed Hollywood rom-com like Gigli.[12]

    But it can happen elsewhere: take The Wild World of Batwoman, where the sci-fi elements (a superheroine with no particular abilities or fashion sense, a mad scientist whose role is realized mainly through splicing in scenes form The Mole People and a Mexican wrestling movie) are combined with an apparently[13] deliberate attempt at “comedy” or satire of some kind; the gap here produces 80 minutes of continuous douche chills.[14]

    Douche chills, however, will keep you awake. Just as its craggy non-actors have “broken the face barrier,” The Starfighters is easily the most boring, sleep-inducing movie ever made.[15] Designed, apparently (more research is needed on this), to convince NATO that the F-104 Starfighter was worthy of purchase, despite a comically deadly accident record,[16] its combination of stock footage and non-actors [17] creates a cinematic black hole.

    “It’s like they forgot to have things happen.”

    “I really think there’s more nothing in this movie than any we’ve ever seen.”[18]

    “Nothing,” however, can only remind us of the final challenger to Manos, the first entry in the Coleman Francis Trilogy (the Godfather Saga of bad films), The Beast of Yucca Flats.

    “About the most nothing film I’ve seen . . . little more than a home movie someone might make.” (Bob Burns, “film historian and erstwhile movie gorilla”).

    “An incredibly deadening experience” (Larry Blamire, B-movie director)

    “Before this movie, there was no such thing as clinical depression.” (Tom Servo, robot)[19]

    And yet . . .

    Bad as it is, Beast does edge out Manos, if only on points.

    Beast’s narration has its own Dadaist charms.[20] The cinematography is really rather good; although this was cameraman Lee Strosnider’s first chance to film 16mm, he had just come form several years making industrial films, while Hal Warren came straight from industry — fertilizer, in fact — and was actually using little more than a home movie camera.[21] Larry Blamire comments on the “heartbreaking” quality of the shots of the Flannery O’Connor-esque mother wandering around looking for her lost boys, and Frank Conniff (“TV’s Frank”) refers to the “dark kind of lyricism” seen in the next film, The Skydivers (although, as he admits, no one else agrees).

    And that’s the main reason: Beast is part of a trilogy, and needs to be judged as such.[22] Above all, it’s only in the context of the three films together that the elements of repetition and futility emerge which make Francis’s work the mythological masterpiece that it is.[23]

    Repetition and masterpiece: that brings us to Manos. If you’ve read this far, you likely know the “plot,” which has been summarized as [3]:

    The peculiarly-paced story of a deeply uncharismatic man (director Warren) taking his wife Margaret (Diane Mahree) and daughter Debbie (Jackey Neyman) on a vacation that runs afoul of a cult led by the plurally-married Master (Tom Neyman) and his jittery, big-kneed manservant Torgo (John Reynolds).[24]

    So why does anyone care about this cinematic turd, and why care about polishing it? Why any “bad” movie? Consider this:

    In attempting to explain the film’s appeal, the Los Angeles Times hypothesized, “After screening Manos for probably the 10th time, I’ve concluded it has to do with intimacy. Because it is such a pure slice of Warren’s brain — he wrote, directed, produced and starred, and brooked no collaboration — Manos amounts to the man’s cinematically transfigured subconscious.”[25]

    But I, at least, am not interested in some Judaic pseudo-science like “psychoanalysis,” but rather in the super-science of Traditional metaphysics.[26] As Luis Varady has recently pointed out, the ancient wise men may have lack our physics and astronomy, but since they had the ancient teaching that “As above, so below,” the Microcosm is the Macrocosm . . .

    All things mirror all things and to fully understand even a small fragment of reality gives an insight into reality as a whole — this is a common teaching in the mystical traditions of the world.[27

    . . . they could learn the deeper truths about reality by studying their own consciousness, the results of which study they encoded in stories we call “myths.”

    Cosmological myths were used as a means to convey spiritual truths, and these spiritual truths pointed directly at the true nature of our psychology.

    And so:

    It is not the reasonableness or likelihood of a myth that attracts human beings to it. Rather, a myth’s attraction is its potential ability to convey spiritual or moral truths to every member of society, from the most intellectual to the illiterate.[28]

    In the same way, it is not the “reasonableness or likelihood” of a movie — the myths of the 20th century — that explains their appeal, but their “potential ability to convey spiritual or moral truths to every member of society.” Antd this potential is stronger in bad movies, which lack the pseudo-intellectual “sophistication” of the “quality production,” which is usually just a big budget rehash of Judaic PC-ideology, instead, most often accidentally, flying under the radar of both the director’s consciousness and industry censorship.[29]

    Furthermore, that “bad” movies should be the focus of attention makes sense, since humans have an odd relationship with truth, especially metaphysical truths about themselves and their situation: they crave it, yet fear and loathe it at the same time.

    And this, I think, is the key to the “bad film”: it sounds themes we suspect are true and important, but which we don’t want to admit; hence, we mock it, as the Roman soldiers and crucified thief mocked Christ. “It’s only a movie, and a bad one at that.”

    Writing about the Gnostics, and why they lost out to the “orthodox” Christians, Michael Hoffman writes:

    Why did people embrace childish lower-level Christianity (i.e., literal interpretation of the myths)?

    People were starting to shy away from some of the painful truths revealed in the mysteries. They had mixed feelings about being mere puppets of gods/fates.[30]

    The scriptures offered a choice between supernaturalist Literalism that takes pseudo-history as reality, and allegorical myth that reveals determinism — most people chose to stay in the supernaturalist reading.

    If some Michael,[31] Captain of the Deterministic Angels were to actually do as the New Testament prophecies and reveal the Christian mystery of God’s kingdom, and this kingdom turns out to be entheogenic Christ-myth determinism, and “eternal” life is experienced only during this life, most people would plug their ears.

    What use is a mere revelation of the metaphysical truth about moral agency, especially when such a revelation robs us of infinitely open possibilities and puts strict limitations on the types of freedom we can have? This is the already famous red pill versus blue pill choice from the movie The Matrix: would you rather slumber in often-comfortable fantasy or awaken to often-uncomfortable truth? Do you want the bliss of fantastic, uncritical, wishful thinking, or the sober intellectual satisfaction of high rational integrity?

    If you could resolve your metaphysical intellectual discomfort by waking up to deterministic consistency, would you want to?

    If God’s kingdom is deterministic, we don’t want it. It is no wonder the quantum physicists rejected (by fiat) finite, hidden-variables determinism and insisted on the endless magic of Copenhagenism instead. It is no wonder people chose the psychologically open-ended Literalist reading of Christianity rather than moving on to let the mystery of the deterministic kingdom of God be revealed.

    And, on a not-unimportant related point, boredom induction conduces to transmission of spiritual truth and ultimately to enlightenment, or at least, cultic membership.

    What is this mythological or metaphysical element that is feared by the masses? As already hinted, and as you might suspect from what you’ve heard about the movie, or seen yourself, it’s repetition. Obviously, the movie is about Fate, but specifically, in the words of the title of one of the soundtrack cues, “The Futility of Fate.”[32] Life here in the material world, on the samsaric plane, is an endless, horizontal round, a Circle, of the same, karma-induced events over and over; liberation/salvation/enlightenment is a matter of tossing aside karma (what I’ve called “passing the buck” and ascending vertically, via a Spiral (a Turn of the Screw), to a new level.[33]

    The cyclical nature of Manos’s plot is actually fairly common, even as a screenwriting technique. What raises Manos to its unique status are the ways in which Manos, deliberately or not, takes it up to eleven [4].

    The most notable, and perhaps the one “feature” that most everyone focuses on to explain the Manos Experience, is the extreme level of repetition in the dialogue, thus making it of a piece with the cyclical nature of the plot.

    Torgo: There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here.

    Torgo: He has left this world. But he is with us always. No matter where he goes, he is with us.

    Torgo: There is nothing to fear, Madam. The Master likes you. Nothing will happen to you. He likes you.

    Maggie: Likes me? I thought you said he was dead!

    Torgo: Dead? No, Madam, not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always.

    And my personal favorite, Michael and Maggie’s rather philosophical — or fatalistic — duet in response to his daughter’s dog’s disappearance:

    Maggie: Pepe’s gone. I just hope Debbie will understand.

    Mike: She’ll understand. She’s my baby, she’ll understand.

    Maggie: I hope so, darling. I sure hope so.

    Mike: She’s my baby, she’ll understand.

    It’s like listening to Charlie Parker jam with Lester Young!

    Further increasing the echo-effect is the soundtrack, which, as mentioned before, is entirely post-production. For various reasons, only two men and one woman were available, so the characters’ voices quickly become indistinguishable,[34] and the child’s voice, clearly a woman’s falsetto, achieves a Brechtian level of alienation.[35] This kind of “dubbing” leads to the “doubling” I’ve frequently pointed out in films with mythological subtexts.[36]

    Most of the repetitive dialogue belongs to audience favorite Torgo, who also acquires the equally beloved and repetitive Torgo’s theme [5], which sums up the movie rather like some big Hollywood themes like those of Gone with the Wind or A Summer Place.

    And mentioning Torgo leads us to the second theme: who passes the buck? Certainly not Michael, who we see at the very end, has replaced Torgo, even (of course) repeating his lines:

    Michael: “I am Michael. I take care[37] of the place[38] while the Master is away.”

    No, surprisingly enough, it is Torgo who passes the buck to Michael. Yet, how can this be?[39] Torgo, when last seen, was running away, his coat sleeve aflame, while The Master held his burning, amputated hand aloft, laughing like a Bond villain.

    But that’s just the point: Torgo gets away. The obvious fakery of the burning hand suggests that there has been some kind of magic trick, on one or both their parts.

    First Wife: You are losing your control. Even Torgo defies you.

    This also makes sense of the odd moment right before, where the Master commands his wives to kill Torgo (or rather, in the Manos idiom, “Kill! . . . Kill!) and they proceed to enact a kind of “liturgical dance” (MST3k) that culminates in what looks like an attempt to kill through . . . massage. It’s all fake, a set-up.

    And finally, one can see, as Torgo is rolfed to death, that his hat has a large hole in the crown, alluding to the Traditional symbol of the vertical path of escape, like smoke through a the top of a teepee.[40]

    Or perhaps the hand, the symbolism of which is surely a displacement for the phallus, is sacrificed to the god Manos? Or is it the equivalent of the eye, which Wotan sacrifices for wisdom?[41]

    No one knows, or more significantly, no one seems to be curious about, what seems to me to be the most curious aspect of the whole production, the bizarre and unique hand symbolism[42] that permeates the film, from the title onward.[43]

    Presumably, our Freudian friends will suggest this is a phallic symbol. Actually, the “hands” in question, starting with Torgo’s staff, are usually upright, at the ends of arm-like structures, suggesting not so much hands as fists.[44] In any event, the symbolism seems muddled here; the vertical staff should symbolize escape or “upright” in the sense of virile and “upstanding,” as Evola says in The Hermetic Tradition;[45] yet both Michael and the First Wife are tied to upright poles or trees, and subsequently are vanquished, while Torgo is forced to lie on a horizontal slab during his tickle-torture, and triumphs.

    The symbolism is much clearer with a related theme: As Jackey Neyman (“Debbie”) points out with remarkable insight, her character is always falling asleep on the couch, and the family members are always falling down — i.e., falling horizontally into samsara. But, she adds, Torgo never falls down, despite his unforgettable stumbling walk.[46]

    Even the MST3k crew intuits this, observing that “Torgo wobbles but he won’t fall down.” The wobble/hand symbolisms come together when the Master once more spreads his arms to disclose the giant hands embroidered on the inside of his robe,[47] and the crew suggests “Push him over!” Ultimately, this is what happens; the “Master” returns to his suspended, samsaric state, while Torgo makes a break for it. Michael and his family, attempting to escape, ultimately decide to return to the house (I guess on the principle of “they’d never think to look for us there!”), a horizontal trek that leads us back to the beginning, again.[48]

    The idea that Torgo is the hero, or at least the protagonist, is not that forced. The featurette notes that the original (and only) review of the film, in the El Paso Daily Post, already referred to Torgo as “the hero.” The character of Torgo, along with his “haunting theme music” immediately piqued the imagination of the MST3k crew, who incorporated Torgo into their cast of recurring characters (played by head writer Mike Nelson, who would eventually replace Joel Hodgson as the human host). The 2008 making-of documentary is entitled Hotel Torgo. And as recently as March of this year,

    The murderers on the Elementary [6] episode “T-Bone And The Iceman [7]” used the physical features of Torgo (portrayed by John Reynolds) to compose a fake facial composite to get the NYPD off their trail. It worked for a while before they were caught, due to the character of Dr. Joan Watson having recognized Torgo’s features from the film.[49]

    What, then, of this restored edition? What was the condition of the earliest cut of the film, the so-called “workprint”; was the film always this hard to watch? Apparently not.

    The trick about the cost-efficient on 16mm Ektachrome reversal film on which Manos was shot is that there was never a negative: when the film from the camera was developed, what resulted was the actual picture, not a negative thereof. That developed film was then duplicated for editing, eventually being assembled into the workprint that Solovey now possessed. It’s a minor miracle that the workprint survived not only standard disposal, but also the 1994 Northridge Earthquake which (according to Emersons) destroyed all the other extant Manos materials. And it’s pretty, too, thanks to the inherent hardiness of Ektachrome material.

    The few audiences that saw Manos at the time certainly didn’t get to see anything as spiffy as the workprint. Once editing was complete, a 35mm blowup was made — making the picture twice as grainy — and prints for theaters were copied from that blowup. Not a single fuck was given about framing or color by the people who made those prints, resulting in a badly cropped picture with much of the color drained out. When the film hit VHS decades later, it was based on the horrible theatrical prints, and of course VHS is not exactly an archival format, so it made the picture look that much worse.

    Although the result is better than anything seen by audiences in 1966, Solovey, in the restoration featurette, is adamant that the idea was not to “upgrade” the film into contemporary quality, in sound or vision, but to strip away accumulated dust, fingerprints, splices, etc., and return it to what was originally on the editing bench.

    What we have here, then, is rather like the “historically informed performance practice” movement (misleadingly mislabeled “authentic practice”) that aims not at a metaphysically impossible and aesthetically irrelevant attempt to “hear what the music sounded like back then” but rather to strip away centuries of acquired interpretations so that we can form our own interpretation of the work itself.[50]

    So, how does the “restored” version differ from the theatrical version (included, dubbed the “Grindhouse” cut, on the Blu-ray two-disc set only) which was used on MST3k, and is available on numerous cheap DVDs (it’s in the public domain[51]) other than in presentation?

    Most notably, the infamous opening, a long, infinitely boring sequence of the family just driving along the highway (“The slowest car chase ever”—MST3k). The story is that this was supposed to have the opening credits superimposed, but for whatever reason — money, competence, or patience — it was never done. The non-MST DVD’s I’ve seen just lop it off, and start with a simple title shot.[52] The restoration keeps all this footage, but starts with some establishing shots (including an appropriate “Waste” container) of the Mordor-like surroundings of the director’s native El Paso (“Welcome to lovely Ground Zero” Joel says of a later “scenic” background, eerily foreshadowing 9/11).[53]

    There’s also the aforementioned sequence in which the Master taunts, slaps, and smears blood on his tied-up first wife. Otherwise, individual shots seem to sometime be slightly longer. Some sequences, like the family’s escape attempt, have more shots included, the voices better synced; I suppose over time the theatrical release was subject innumerable cuts and splices, either to speed it up [!] for TV viewing or due to accidental damage.

    There’s nothing in all this that comes close to in any way challenging the film’s reputation, for good or bad.[54]

    In the featurette “Restoring the Hands of Fate,” although he likes to use the word “schmutz” a lot, restorationist Solovey presents as an almost aggressively Aryan type in appearance, modest and plain spoken. He is a very trustworthy and pleasant person to listen to, considering the types one runs across in the film world.[55] He takes obvious pride in in speaking of the fine German scanner he managed to obtain for the task, and the amateur viewer tends to believe what he says about the difficulties and decisions involved in the restoration process.

    Solovey ultimately makes a very important point: movies, a 20th-century invention, must be preserved, since so much of our history is now in them.[56]

    Speaking of history: one tends to think of productions like Manos as being in some sense auteur productions, for better or worse,[57] and so most attention has been focused on writer/producer/director/star Hal Warren. One thing that emerges from the “Hands: The Fate of Manos” featurette is that Tom Nyman, who played The Master, may have had far more influence on the film, providing, as he says with ironic modesty, “everything”: he contributed his own daughter as the daughter, his dog is the dog, his car as one of the two cars (he’s not sure which at this point), and as “production designer” he designed all the costumes (which were sewn by his wife, except for Torgo’s overalls, coat, and hat, which were Tom’s own) and above all, the set decorations: all those hands. Turns out, he had already sculpted dozens of such things (“His art was going through a period of fascination with hands” says Solovey, deadpan). Indeed, “One day I suggested we just call it Manos: The Hands of Fate.”

    Graciously, Tom adds that Warren “was involved in everything on the film,” And on that note, the featurette ends with Neyman, still photographer Anslem Spring (a German soldier who was hiding out — I mean, living in — El Paso), and Solovey paying homage to Warren as the kind of DIY culture-creator I’ve lauded before; Neyman emphasizes that Warren knew he was making a B-picture (if only!) with local community theater talent, but thought it would serve as “the start of something big.” Solovey even attributes to Warren the start of “the kind of independent, self-financed” filmmaking we’ve become familiar with since, say, Easy Rider (made around the time and place of Manos).

    Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the restoration process itself is an instance of the same kind of “hey, let’s make a movie” American can-do-ism as the movie itself — although, one must add immediately, on a far more successful level.

    Finally, the audio commentary track brings us the Neymans reminiscing about the production; rather than a couple of film nerds one-upping each other with trivia, it’s more like eavesdropping on a father and daughter still closely knit after all these years. Who knew Manos could be heartwarming?[58] [8]

    So, buy or not buy? Neophytes[59] should start with the MST3k’d version; it was available as a single disc from Rhino back in the day, now out of print, and currently Shout! Factory has a two-disc release, with the theatrical release and MST3k-centric special features.

    Once — if — you decide to experience it firsthand, this set is the way to go. It makes for a far more “pleasant” viewing experience, if that word can ever be used in the context of Manos, and, to paraphrase Tolkien, those who approve of courtesy (at least) to long dead Texas fertilizer salesman will purchase it, and no other.

    Notes

    [1] Jackey and Tom Neyman, commentary track.

    [2] “Coleman Francis is at the bottom of the barrel that’s beneath the one Ed Wood is in.” — Larry Blamire, interviewed in “No Dialogue Necessary: The Making of an Off-Camera Masterpiece,” a featurette on the DVD version of the MST3k episode Beast of Yucca Flats.

    [3] “Oh Joel, there’s a plethora of loathsomeness,” says Crow T. Robot as the end credits begin to roll.

    [4] According to Wikipedia: “Manos holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews. The book Hollywood’s Most Wanted lists Manos as the #2 in the list of “The Worst Movies Ever Made,” following Plan 9 from Outer Space [9]. Entertainment Weekly proclaimed Manos “The Worst Movie Ever Made.” The scene in which the seven-year-old Debbie is dressed as one of the Master’s wives was included in a list of “The Most Disgusting Things We’ve Ever Seen” by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew.”

    [5] New 2K restoration; audio commentary; Hands: The Fate of MANOS Featurette; Restoring the Hands of Fate Featurette; FELT: The Puppet Hands of Fate Featurette; Manos: The Hands of Fate: Grindhouse Edition (Blu-ray only).

    [6] “Will I have a bad rep?” is a line suggested by Tom Servo as the teenage girl in Manos confronts the highway cops.

    [7] “But why? What’s the difference between 17 and 20?” demands the teenage boy in the educational short “Are You Ready for Marriage?”

    [8] I discuss these films, briefly, at the end of my “Essential Films . . . & Others,” here [10].

    [9] “This is like an entirely different movie” Joel says in stunned amazement during Episode 421; unfortunately, the new movie is just as bad.

    [10] Lovecraft, of course, was a frequent and rigorous critic of this fellow “authors,” while for sci-fi, the legendary Theodore Sturgeon defensively formulated his well-known Law, or Revelation [11], “90% of everything is crap.”

    [11] The stereotypical “nerd,” demanding to know why dome detail was changed, and proclaiming, like the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, “worst [blank] ever.”

    [12] Patton Oswald, apparently an MST3k fan (he moderates a couple of Comic Con MST3k panels that appear on the DVDs) has a bit where he fills in the blanks on the typical movie preview “From the director of BLANK and the star of BLANK, comes BLANK” with various flatulent noises. See Gregory Hood’s Counter-Currents review of Oswald’s implicitly White “black comedy” Big Fan here [12].

    [13] Directors frequently insist, like Martin Short’s Nathan Thurm [13] character, that of course, they were actually trying to be funny, why would you think otherwise? For example, Lewis insisted that whatever Rebane thought he was doing, he, Lewis, at least knew it was crap and tried to turn it into a Twilight Zone parody. As Mad magazine told us long ago (to the tune of “The Rain in Spain”), “An ad that’s bad will wind up spoofed in Mad.” As a further turn of the screw, directors began sending their own recent but unknown films to MST3k in hopes of generating enough “so bad it’s good” buzz to pump up home video sales or even, as with Hobgoblins, finance a sequel.

    [14] Angels’ Revenge, a Charlie’s Angels rip-off, has the same effect, not only humiliating TV sitcom legends like Alan Hale, Jr,. Jim Backus and Pat Buttram, but also dragging in the declining Peter Lawford and even Jack Palance, pre-Batman and pre-Oscar™ .

    [15] In color, at least. Radar Secret Service (1950), with its washed out, grey print, grey men and grey clothing and vehicles, takes the black and white title, employing what MST3k calls “sleep-induction through hypno-helio-static-stasis” (Episode 620).

    [16] The movie’s base commander proudly says “it’s even been called a rocket with a man in it,” but in the real world it was known as “The Brick with Wings” and “The Widowmaker.” Ten years later, Robert Calvert of Hawkwind would record a “satirical concept album” based on the Luftwaffe’s experience with the plane: Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters (UA, 1974) Musicians who appeared on the album include members of Hawkwind [14], The Pink Fairies [15], Brian Eno [16], Arthur Brown [17], Jim Capaldi [18], and Adrian Wagner. See the Wikipedia entry here. [19]

    [17] As the gang says about The Skydivers, Episode 609, rather than have the actors do their own flying, they had the flyers do their own acting.

    [18] MST3k, Episode 620.

    [19] All from the DVD extra “No Dialogue Necessary: The Making of an Off-Camera Masterpiece.”

    [20] “I thought I was listening to Spoon River Anthology performed by atomic mutants.” — Larry Blamire.

    [21] The MST DVD includes not only extensive contributions from Strosnider in the “making of” featurette — “No Dialogue Necessary: The Making of an Off-Camera Masterpiece” — he also gets his own interview segment, “Coleman Francis: The Cinematic Poet of Parking.”

    [ [20]22] Of a gunfight from ten feet away, after a careful, lovingly drawn out parking sequence, Crow remarks that “He’s trying things here he’ll perfect in Red Zone Cuba.”

    [23] As will be shown in my forthcoming essay, “Footprints on the Wasteland: The White Apocalypse of Coleman Francis.” Starfighters goes perhaps too far in the direction of entropy; the absence of “things happening” entails, of course, an inability to suggest the endless repetition of things. There is, however, the endless, repeated “refueling” stock footage, a lame practical joke that occurs twice (and actors so generic as to prompt the comment “Is that that one guy?”) as well stock footage of take-offs/landings; the latter perhaps suggest the puppet theme as well, although, since the emphasis is on how gosh darn safe the F-104 is, there’s only one bailout, and it’s off camera. Francis’s Skydivers (note the linguistic similarity) will by contrast be entire constructed of planes taking off and landing, and the eponymous skydivers diving, with the later a combination of stock footage and close-up shots of the actors hanging from harnesses in a warehouse.

    [24] “Manos: The Hands of Fate Restored — The So-Called “Worst Movie” Has Never Looked Better,” by Sherilyn Connelly on The Robot’s Voice, March 14, 2014, here [3].

    [25] Wikipedia, quoting Dan Neil, “Why We Love Bad Movies,” Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2005.

    [26] Let’s get the “psychology” out of the way. Judging from the recollections of the actresses in the “making of” featurette, Hal Warren seems to have been the usual horndog/control freak typical of the males of the Mad Man era: suggesting an actress take off her blouse, then quickly retreating to “just joking” when she refuses; entering the same actress in the Miss Texas contest without her knowledge, a publicity stunt that backfires when tells the judges that she’s an atheist, etc. This is clearly manifested in the film in three sequences: the infamous nightgown wrestling of the Master’s wives (the MST crew suggest “this is why the film was made”); the scene where one of the wives sees the husband/director unconscious and tied to a tree, whereupon she begins to kiss him, lick his face, and then slap him (as Tom Neyman says on the commentary track, “Sure, it’s what every woman wants); and a scene cut from the MST version, in which the Master slaps his own tied up wife. Misogynistic, yes, but too amateurishly made to be either erotic or disturbing. Hal Warren though had nothing on the director of the above-mentioned The Creeping Terror, the Bob Crane-like Vic Savage, who “makes Ed Wood look like Ward Cleaver” according to the recent bioflick, The Creep Behind the Camera [21] (Peter Scheurman, 2014).

    [27] “To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.” — Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited.

    [28] Luis Varady: The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Gnostic Trinity of the Peratae (Amazon Kindle, 2015). For more on Varady, see “Lords of the Visible World: A Modern Reconstruction of an Ancient Heresy,” my review of his earlier essay A Life Beyond Change: The Gnostic System of Carpocrates (Amazon Kindle, 2015).

    [29] See my discussion of Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, whose PC-anti-anti-communism intentions were subverted precisely because the screenwriter “had contempt for the material” and “wrote it fast, on autopilot,” thus allowing Traditional themes to emerge. “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick: Kiss Me Deadly as a Lovecraftian Tale,” reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

    [30] How appropriate, then, that included with the Restored Edition as a special feature is FELT: The Puppet Hands of Fate, a retelling of the Manos story — one is tempted to say, the Manos myth — with puppets.

    [31] Michael, of course, is our “protagonist,” but apart from the aforementioned lack of charisma, I will soon suggest our “hero” is someone else.

    [32] Oh, and the soundtrack, the kind of laid-back jazz noodling that older guys like Warren still thought was “cool” back in the early sixties, and which I, growing increasingly fogey-ish, have lately grown fond of, calling to mind as it does long summer afternoons, light rain, and the soothing tones of Jessica Walter asking Clint Eastwood to play “Misty” for her. Although Coleman Francis mainly used free “library” music, The Skydivers has two interesting exceptions: a brief excerpt from Lionel Hampton’s “Going Home” (prompting Tom Servo to whine “Dad, change the station!”) and, by contrast, an appearance by then-famous surf guitarist Jimmy Bryant playing his then-hit, “Stratosphere Boogie.” “The jazz-centric score for Hal Warren’s horror “Master”-piece is forthcoming from Brooklyn’s own Ship to Shore Phono Co. The company sourced its audio from the 35mm soundtrack negative that was created for making theatrical release prints. The master tapes have never surfaced, thus leaving this 35mm neg as the closest one can get to the original recorded material. The company is offering three vinyl variants that will total a press run of 2000 LPs. Expected release date is the end of this month. More info about MANOS and how to buy the different vinyl color editions is here [22].” — Manos: The Hands of Fate screening & soundtrack premiere in Brooklyn on Oct. 7th!” here [23]. Check out the soundtrack LP here [24]: “Utilizing sparse, jazzy arrangements, Robert Smith, Jr. [25] and Russ Huddleston [26]’s score evokes the same bizarre, yet oddly compelling, feelings that fans of the film know and love.”

    [33] See the essays reprinted in The Eldritch Evola, as well as my forthcoming collection, Passing the Buck: a Traditionalist Goes to the Movies, which will include “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1 [27]“ and “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2 [28].”

    [34] “Hey, that’s just one guy!” mutters Joel in muted wonder.

    [35] The poor child burst out in tears on hearing her “voice” during the premiere showing.

    [36] For example, in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables; see my review reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    [37] In the first act, Michael, typically, shouted “Where the hell is that caretaker?” This is the only time Torgo is referenced as “The Caretaker.” Michael’s transformation at the end recalls — or rather, predates — Jack Torrance’s in The Shining. “You have always been the caretaker.”

    [38] “In dwelling upon the nature of God and the universe, the mystics of the Talmudic period asserted, in contrast to the transcendentalism evident in some parts of the Bible, that “God is the dwelling-place of the universe; but the universe is not the dwelling-place of God”. Possibly the designation (“place”) for God, so frequently found in Talmudic-Midrashic literature, is due to this conception, just as Philo, in commenting on Genesis 28:11 says, “God is called ha makom (המקום “the place”) because God encloses the universe, but is Himself not enclosed by anything” (De Somniis, i. 11).” — Wikipedia, here [29].

    [39] “How can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!” — Dune. If this were MST3k, I’d shout out here “Give a dog a bone!”

    [40] See the essays collected in The Door in the Sky: Coomaraswamy on Myth and Meaning by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, ed. by Rama P Coomaraswamy (Princeton, 1999).

    [41] See my comments on the Wotan theme embodied in the suicide of Lane Pryce in my latest collection, End of An Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents,2015).

    [42] “Manos” as the vibrant and diversity conscious modern viewer must know, is simply the Spanish word meaning “hands,” so the title is essentially Hands: The Hands of Fate, which already begins to enunciate the repetition theme we will begin exploring.

    [43] Apparently, quite arbitrarily. The “making of” featurette reveals that Tom Neyman (The Master) was also the production designer; he just happened to have a whole load of hand sculptures, since, as restorer Solovey says, dead pan, he had entered an artistic phase in which he was exploring the essence of hands. It was he (Neyman says) who suggested one day “Why don’t we just call this “Manos: The Hands of Fate.” But is not the theme of Manos that there are no “accidents”?

    [44] Did Warren anticipate the practice of “fisting,” which Edmund White called “the only new sexual act invented in recorded history”?

    [45] At least one hand is imbedded in a block of stone, thus literally “ithyphallic.”

    [46] “It’s like having Joe Cocker as your bellhop” (MST3k). Apart from being constantly high, John Reynolds was literally saddled with some kind of wire contraptions on his lower legs; people have speculated that he’s a satyr, or goat-man, but Tom Neyman, the production designer, again reveals that they, like the hands, were just some stuff he had lying around.

    [47] Neyman designed this himself, and his (real) wife sewed it, but he say that it was director Warren who insisted on his doing this over and over.

    [48] Torgo presumably heads for “the crossroads” where it was previously said the nearest phone is; this explains Michael’s curious initial idea of “hid[ing] out in the desert until someone comes to help.” The crossroad symbolism is obvious (the warp and woof of material elements) and it is from here that Torgo, like the initiate who has become the Realized Man, will ascend. See “The Corner at the Center of the World” in The Eldritch Evola, op. cit.

    [49] Wikipedia, here [30].

    [50] See Nicholas Harnoncourt’s remarks quoted in the liner notes to Telefunken’s Bach 2000 anniversary sampler disc (Teldec, 1999).

    [51] Or not: “Manos: The Hands of Fate is generally believed to be in the public domain because director Hal Warren failed to include a copyright symbol in the film (in the US in the 1960s this was enough to disqualify a film for copyright). When news broke of Solovey’s restoration, the son of Hal Warren, Joe Warren, started exploring the possibility that the film was in fact not in the public domain. Joe Warren discovered in 2013 that the script had been copyrighted, and he believes this means that the film is also copyrighted. However, no precedent exists for this case so the legal status of the film is uncertain. The release of the restored film is going ahead in spite of this.” — Wikipedia, here [31].

    [52] What with “manos” = hands, the title sequence subtly recalls the equally accidental doubling of the Larry Buchanan opus Attack of the Eye Creatures; as the MST crew says, “They just . . . didn’t . . . care.”

    [53] According to the commentary track, the road is, in fact, called Scenic Drive.

    [54] “Will I have a bad rep?” is a line suggested by Tom Servo as the teenage girl confronts the highway cops.

    [55] “Investigator Graham interests me. Very purposeful looking.” — Manhunter. “I like you, Tony, there is no lying in you.” — Scarface.

    [56] A sentiment echoed by Bob Burns in his Beast interview: “All films are interesting . . . It was a film, it did get made. . . . I think there’s a place for every movie that’s been made . . . It has a place. I’m not sure what that place is, but it has a place. I don’t think it should be forgotten.” And Larry Blamire concurs “Every movie is important to see, even the miserably bad ones.”

    [57] “Our auteur, ladies and gentlemen!” exclaims Crow as Coleman Francis sits down on the floor of a “Cuban”jail and spreads his legs wide in Red Zone Cuba (Episode 621).

    [58] “Say, I knew sex was corny, but who knew corn could be so sexy?” Another painful bit of “humor” from The Starfighters, delivered by the future Congressman Bob “B-1”Dornan.

    [59] “What’s a neophyte?” (MST3k, The Starfighters).

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • The Eternal Outsider:Veblen on the Gentleman & the Jew
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    [1]

    Thorstein Veblen

    5,010 words

    Jack Donovan has done us a great service – or at least, done one for me – in his recent Counter-Currents essay “The Manly Barbarian: Masculinity and Exploit in Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class [2].” Veblen being one of those “names” one always hears and sees referred to, I have several time tried to read him, to no avail. As Jack says, it all seems “a lot of rambling, convoluted writing and thinking,” typical of a kind of dated, Edwardian “fine writing” in the social sciences that predates the current mathematical obsession, which replaced purple prose and “elegant variation” with supposedly more scientific “hard” numbers and graphs. As readers of this site know, I’m not afraid of the dense and repetitive writing of James, Lovecraft, or indeed Evola – I even have a theory about it [1] — but Veblen just seems like a bore in a seersucker suit and straw boater.

    However, Jack’s suggestion that all the good stuff is in the first chapter of Theory appeals to my delight in finding distilled essences in lieu of wading through tedious volumes of old forgotten lore – part lazybones, part decadent aesthete [2] – and even better, the free sample chapter of one of the Kindle editions at Amazon contains the whole first chapter, as well as some swell pictures of horsies and such like illustrations of “conspicuous consumption.”[3]

    I was particularly struck by his observation that the rest of the book also

    suffers from a middle class bookworm’s ressentiment toward both “delinquent” bullies and predatory elitists (who he thinks have a lot in common)

    Academics like Martha Banta, in her recent Oxford World Classics edition, think otherwise, on both style and value: “Twelve more tightly packed chapters lay ahead, each with insights . . . into . . . our times.” Such insights, according to Banta, include:

    Veblen only overtly reveals his distaste when describing the dogs and horses put on display by members of the leisure class.

    Display of good manners and good forms is a waste of time.

    Modern day gentlemen are merely most discreet than feudal lords who gnawed on beef-bones.

    The craving for gold and diamonds is lacking all social use.[4]

    Church worship is another form of “honorific waste.”

    Team sports and gambling follow the same impulse that leads to belief in God, since all are based on “animistic beliefs and anthropomorphic creeds.”

    Philanthropy is further proof of social inadequacy.

    Academic honors have little use in the modern world.[5]

    Reading this, and Jack’s account of Veblen’s sneering views of such “barbaric” pursuits as hunting, etc., made me smell something more specific than a “middle class bookworm’s ressentiment” towards jocks. It occurred to me that I had read something like this before, from a similar period, but in much more vigorous prose (I mean Veblen’s, not Jack’s).

    Then it hit me: Maurice Samuel, author of You Gentiles and The Gentleman and the Jew! Two works that would be classics in the literature of anti-Semitism, but for the fact that Samuel was a Jew, and thought he was defending, nay, writing an encomium to, the bitter, timeless hatred of the Judaic for the goyim.[6]

    As a reviewer at Amazon says, to Samuel

    Gentiles are not even remotely close to being God-people, but are more like children; they are not as serious and their worldview is shaped by sport. This sporting mentality manifests itself in war, competition, business, religion, scholarship and a host of other worldly activities. Samuel believes that Jews can partake in these affairs as well, but they aren’t as good at it as the Gentiles. This is because Jews see these sporting activities as ridiculous. All activity for a Jew should be directed to religious study and reflection on God. Jews will fight in a war, but only if they have to, and then they want to finish the business as quickly as possible. A Jew, according to Samuel, will never revel in the sporting “rush” from an event as much as a Gentile will. Samuel does make an interesting observation when he examines Plato’s idea of utopia that is found in The Republic. Samuel is amazed that in this ideal society, war still exists. This is because of the sporting mentality. Even in our ideals, we have to have competition through sport.

    Well, there you have it: Western Civilization, from Homer to Hemingway, from Alcibiades to Lee to Patton, just a bunch of dumb as rocks jocks. Think Winkelvoss twins, rowing away like it was Brideshead Revisited, thinking Larry Summers will make Zuckerberg “play fair.”

    It’s not surprising that Veblen and Samuel, each undoubtedly unaware of the other, started to sound the same as they gazed at and puzzled over the Establishment that had rejected them both. They’ve both unconsciously stumbled on the same truth, which we’ve been trying to hammer into the hard heads of the Hard Right for years: Western or Aryan Civilization has its origins not in hard work, strict morality, and family values, but in the primitive Männerbund; art, religion, the military, all arise out of the barbaric play of the Wild Boys. If the Right wants to “conserve” the institutions of the Gentleman, he needs to cultivate Jack’s Barbarian, not, as the neo-cons would advise them, the Mormon Family Man. And of course, if you wanted to destroy our culture, you couldn’t do better than to take Veblen or Samuel to heart and subject it to a “scientific” or “rational” or “moral” regime — and who could object to that? — reducing culture to “sensible” things like reproducing or money-making.

    Although after the upheavals of the ’60s we’ve come to think of the Protestant Establishment as, well, The Establishment (The Man, if you will), it must be remembered that they are, after all, Protest-ants. From Luther himself through the Puritans to the New England busy-bodies to the Progressives, there has been a outsider strain in Nordic Protestants, derived from the Judaic elements in Christianity, representing what MacDonald has called an ethical in-group mentality. This is the “I’m an outsider because I’m morally superior” attitude taken up by Veblen which takes him almost entirely onto the side of the Judaic. The Northern WASPs only became “the” Establishment after righteously exterminating the Southern Cavalier class.

    Thus Banta is correct in distinguishing Veblen’s Nordicism from that of the National Socialists, who themselves comprised a fairly broad spectrum from almost New Age pagans like Hess, through Aryan mystics like Himmler, to accomodationists like Hitler. Rosenberg most closely resembles Veblen; one of the most prominent exponents of the so-called German Church (i.e., Christianity without Judaism), he none the less was sufficiently Lutheran to indulge in what Evola found to be the most primitive kind of anti-Catholic, Germans versus Romans rhetoric. As Evola insisted, and we agree, the German nation, like all nations, was a mixture of various racial strains; the task of the racial hygienist is to select the one that is to become dominant; ideally, the least Judaic.

    The Veblen Question

    If Veblen’s complaints about “barbarians” sound like Samuel’s jaundiced Judaic eye on Gentiles, the question arises, was Veblen a Jew?

    Although easily proven not to be, he is, as one of Hermann Hesse’s characters calls Harry “The Steppenwolf” Haller, a “rotten patriot” for a supposed Aryan. Even Banta notices something a little off:

    But although Veblen’s family was of Nordic descent, the emphasis he places upon the ruthless nature of the “dolicho-blond” shares none of the pride later expressed by members of the Nazi Party. Instead, Veblen’s negative remarks anticipate the attacks launched in 1918 by Cyril Briggs, editor of the radical black journal The Crusades, against “the blond beast” — the bloodthirsty, ape-like predator of the “mongrel” European race. (Kindle Loc 222)

    Yes, these ape-like mongrels are truly not “God-people.”

    Even the Jews have asked the question, and quite recently. According to no less a source than “Tzvee’s Talmudic Blog” (aka הבלוג התלמודי של צבי) the question remains:

    Was Thorstein Veblen Jewish [3]?

    No the famous social critic and economist, Thorstein Veblen was not a Jew. He was a Lutheran from Minnesota.

    Why even raise the issue?

    The reason that we ask is that Wired magazine in an article this month “Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up,” by Jonah Lehrer, [4] discusses Veblen’s analysis of Zionism and Jewish intellectualism.

    The results of his thinking 92 years ago, summarized by the magazine, are provocative.

    Indeed. As Wired tells the tale:

    In 1918, sociologist Thorstein Veblen was commissioned by a popular magazine devoted to American Jewry to write an essay on how Jewish “intellectual productivity” would be changed if Jews were given a homeland. At the time, Zionism was becoming a potent political movement, and the magazine editor assumed that Veblen would make the obvious argument: A Jewish state would lead to an intellectual boom, as Jews would no longer be held back by institutional anti-Semitism. But Veblen, always the provocateur, turned the premise on its head. He argued instead that the scientific achievements of Jews — at the time, Albert Einstein was about to win the Nobel Prize and Sigmund Freud was a best-selling author — were due largely to their marginal status. In other words, persecution wasn’t holding the Jewish community back — it was pushing it forward.

    The reason, according to Veblen, was that Jews were perpetual outsiders, which filled them with a “skeptical animus.” Because they had no vested interest in “the alien lines of gentile inquiry,” they were able to question everything, even the most cherished of assumptions. Just look at Einstein, who did much of his most radical work as a lowly patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland. According to Veblen’s logic, if Einstein had gotten tenure at an elite German university, he would have become just another physics professor with a vested interest in the space-time status quo. He would never have noticed the anomalies that led him to develop the theory of relativity.

    Indeed, a provocative thesis.[7] It explains why Veblen is suspected of being a Jew: Veblen too was an alienated outsider cynically critiquing White civilization. Furthermore, although Veblen’s thesis is enough to earn the “suspicion” of anti-Semitism through its anti-Zionism, it’s really just another version of the same old vaudeville routine: “without us Jews you goyim are nothing!”

    One wonders how Babylon, Athens, Rome, the Christian Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire, the Elizabethans, managed to do anything at all. Not a good deli in sight. You might as well kill yourself!

    Moreover, a glance at the great cultural centers of today’s Jewry, New York and Tel Aviv, would easily belie any such notion. Tel Aviv, well, meh. As for New York, its reputation as a world capital of culture and everything else is a function of well-known Jewish logrolling or ethnic networking: J-artists “discovered” by J-gallery owners, pumped by J-critics in J-periodicals, sold for big bucks to J-“patrons” (the ones still whining, after nearly a century, for the “return” of “their” artworks that were liberated by the forces of the European Revolution) and ultimately for bigger bucks to bemused goyishe patrons (blue bloods or Junkers as the case may be); substitute any other area of society ad lib.

    The truth, as always, is exactly the opposite: rather than bringing the light to the benighted Aryan, it is the Aryan who has, always and everywhere, created culture, and the Judaic who, unable to do so, exists only as a parasitical hanger-on, at best; a destroyer, at worst. Any “contributions” have indeed been just that, something added onto a pre-existing Aryan structure, which had been totally absent from native Hebrew society from Genesis to the granting of civil liberties by Napoleon.

    The Judaic is not an “outsider” just coming in to lend a hand or a new pair of eyes; he is an underminer, and so is Veblen, for that matter.[8]

    Of course at this point someone will bring up “the Moslem contribution to Western Civilization,” which is fine with me, since Moslems are effectively a Semitic people who, like the Romans and Germans, recognized the value of what Athens had created and chose to emulate it, thus earning the eternal enmity of their “brothers” the Judeans. But then, the Judeans hate everybody, always and everywhere; the Romans coined the word “misanthrope” to describe this turbulent race; and the Judean, as always, projects this onto US, making him the innocent victim of an unmotivated, irrational hatred – what Kevin MacDonald has called the “lachrymose” version of Judaic history.[9]

    At this point someone will also mention Israel. Always the go-to counter-example for stereotypes of Jewish helplessness or ineffectuality – first, after the 1948 land grab (the very first episode of Mad Men shows the Men, all WASPS –“Have we ever hired a Jew? Not on my watch” – shouting and jumping around like school kids over the battle scenes in the movie Exodus – “First they’re in camps, then they’re on the beach with machine guns!”); then, after the “six day war” becoming incongruous models of dark, hairy manhood – Woody Allen on the Times Op-Ed page no less, exclaimed, “Jews with machine guns? Come on!”[10]

    Anyway, the much vaunted, much promoted — by the Judaic-minded media, of course — “Jewish State” is largely a vanity project (more Judaic preening), a paper tiger or Potemkin village:

    No matter what the “Clean Break [5]” document aspires to, Israel’s whole survival strategy has always been to rely on aid from the outside: without the billions that flow from the US Treasury into Israeli coffers, the entire Zionist project would have failed long ago. It has been kept on life support all these years by money from abroad, and by the hopes of the Israeli leadership that more Jews will emigrate to the Promised Land. The main problem, however, is that American Jews are so thoroughly assimilated that the idea of taking up residence in Israel never occurs to them: for American Jews, America [6] is the Promised Land. Aside from that, the appeal of moving to a country that sees itself as besieged – and whose leaders every day assert that they are sitting on the edge of a second Holocaust [7] – is necessarily quite limited.[11]

    Alas for the Zionists, things have turned out pretty much as Veblen suggested they would.

    The Outsider as Insider

    But the important work MacDonald and others have done to document the extent of ethnic networking leads to another problem with the Outside Contributor thesis. Even if we granted Veblen the “contributions” of the Jews, due to their outsider status, that would hardly be relevant today, when Judaics dominate all the relevant fields (especially if we consider, and I do, those goyim in name only that Evola would say had a “Jewish soul”).

    How much “outsider” perspective can the Judaic provide, once they dominate a given field?

    Thus we see the “outsider” meme as an excuse, a ruse, in fact, to provide cover for the reality of domination through ethnic networking.

    Anyway, anyone who’s had to work around God’s Chosen knows this much vaunted “objective” or “critical” perspective is really just a matter of taking a snide and supercilious attitude of sneers and jeers to everything anyone else believes, and the holier the better.

    M: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

    A: No it isn’t.

    M: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.

    A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

    M: Yes, but that’s not just saying “No it isn’t.”

    A: Yes it is!

    M: No it isn’t! [12]

    To see the sneering smugness that constitutes the “outsider perspective” in reality, consider the case of Paul Krugman, Princeton professor (hired by Ben Bernanke), New York Times columnist, and, oh yes, “Nobel” Laureate. [13] How’s that for being connected? But look what happens when someone dares to question this inside-outsider:

    But if you just can’t get enough of the pugilistic Krugman fighting, you may want to check out the video of him at an economic debate in Spain over the weekend [8], at which he accused Pedro Schwartz [9], a Spanish [sic] economics professor, of “pulling credentials” in their debate about Keynesian economics, then fully gave him the “talk to the hand” gesture when Schwartz denied it. That happens around 49 minutes into the video [10].[14]

    So much for “openness to dissent” etc. As always, it’s free trade (the libertarian-capitalist) and free speech (the ACLU Liberal) for us, until we take over, then not so much (bank bailouts and speech codes). As we would expect, the demands for “free speech” last only long enough to oust the WASPs and establish a Jewish elite, then a Talmudic orthodoxy reigns.

    The aforementioned Huysmans, though, or because, of his “decadent” mindset, had their number already in the 1880s:

    At the same time, he noticed that the free thinkers, the doctrinaires of the bourgeoisie, people who claimed every liberty that they might stifle the opinions of others, were greedy and shameless puritans whom, in education, he esteemed inferior to the corner shoemaker.[15]

    The Ferment of Nuclear Fission

    Since Wired thinks that Jewish “outsiders” are so valuable to scientific progress, let’s take a look at a well-known case with important, nay tragic, consequences: the Bomb.

    There’s a persistent myth among “educated” Westerners, like the notion of human-skin lampshades, that German science suffered from a lack of Judaics, which supposed lack then supposedly led to their defeat. Oh, the irony! Or as Bela Lugosi would say, “How iron-ick!”

    As Savitri Devi pointed out, this idea completely misunderstands how science works. It matters not whether Einstein publishes in Berlin, New York, or Buenos Aires; published work is, well, public, and available to all.[16]

    And since, as Eliot observed, “reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable,”[17] why should a society not remove the plague from its bosom, while still reaping the rewards, if any, of their tiny little researches? A point to which we shall return at the end.

    But in any event, the real story is that German scientists actually foot-dragged on the project, to prevent the development of such a terrible weapon. Aryan scientists, left to their own devices, reached an ethical conclusion: Aryan morality would not allow the use of such a weapon.

    Heisenberg himself . . . had realized by now, just like a handful of scientists the world over, how unbelievably hideous and horrible the new invention might turn out on the practical level. . . .

    When Professor Hahn, who looked and behaved like a quintessential patrician out of a Thomas Mann novel, met Heisenberg shortly after the latter’s installment, he declared unequivocally: “I’d rather die than build the bomb!

    And that was that.

    And would have been, if not for those much-lauded “outsiders” and “victims”

    . . . Heisenberg and the small inner circle of his staff, all men with a strong Christian foundation, knew what would happen eventually. Namely that other countries might feel less encumbered by moral restraints and indeed build the terrible weapon. Particularly the USA, where so many Jewish scientists had found refuge after their enforced German exodus. And who all nourished a massive grudge against their former country of birth.[18]

    Yes indeed, the so-called “eternal victims of history” once more prove to be its consummate predators. Judaic scientists in the US, led of course by the little prince, Albert, were nagging and cajoling Roosevelt to “hurry up” and develop a bomb for America to use in exterminating the Nordic Amalekites. Well, they didn’t quite get their wish, but needless to say, they couldn’t wait to steal the atomic secrets and hand them over to Stalin.

    The next step was to hand it all over to their proposed new Golem, the UN, but there Stalin threw in a monkey wrench, refusing to surrender Russian sovereignty. The resulting shift of alliances resulted in the US retaining its role as Golem, protector of Israel, while the Soviets took up the White Man’s Burden (hence the Israeli and neo-con obsession with “freeing” Judaics from Russia and overthrowing the Soviets), a change that seems to have escaped the occluded minds of the American Right, other than, of course, Francis Parker Yockey.[19] And we know what happened to him . . .

    Eventually, of course, the Israelis, who never signed onto the Non-Proliferation Treaty (unlike Iran), developed their own nukes (again, unlike Iran) which everyone knows but no one mentions, even to rib Bibi a bit about the hypocrisy of waving around cartoon bombs at the UN (whose job, of course, as just pointed out above, is to ensure that other nations don’t get The Bomb, but not Israel).

    Once again and as always: the news of the day is the opposite of what you‘ve been told — oh, what to do about the Iranian threat to poor Israel; and our “principles” apply only to thee, never to me.

    The Judaic obsession with nukes, then and now, is really quite striking and creepy, and suggests a close, perhaps essential connection of the two, in line with Guénon’s comments about the “sinister” nature of so-called “sub-atomic” physics, the ultimate expression of the Reign of Quantity, and thus the prelude to the true and final dissolution: “Solvet sæclum in favilla.”

    Indeed, one has to wonder, how much of Israel’s public nagging about Iran and nukes is something of a double fake-out, designed to push and prod until Iran (which as an Aryan nation would naturally eschew, as did the National Socialist, the barbarity of nukes — the Chief Ayatollah has, in fact, already ruled out developing or using such weapons as explicitly “un-Islamic” — one can only imagine the Chief Rabbi — who has declared that providing medical assistance to victims of the IDF is an abomination — issuing a similar pronouncement only if adding the proviso “unless used to defend the Jews”) — is forced into getting some, if only to “grab these insolent Jews by their throats and shut their lying mouths!” as an exasperated Dr. Goebbels said of the Weimar media.

    Paradigm Enforcers vs. Free Inquirers

    Finally, and once again taking the big picture view, Wired’s invoking Thomas Kuhn to laud Judaics as “paradigm breakers” is ludicrous. As Paul Feyerabend has lamented, the lessons drawn from Kuhn have been the exact opposite: that the way to transform a chaotic pseudo-science like sociology or economics into a “real” science is to just decide on a “paradigm,” condemn everything else as “junk science,” and go on your merry tenured, grant-grubbing way. Ever and always, free speech until our ethnic networking is complete, then just shut up.

    This applies a fortiori to “scientific” issues that also have political or religious penumbrae. There’s no judicially enforced “law” of gravity, and flat-earthers are harmless eccentrics, but just try questioning “The Six Million” (unless, of course, you’re a Landsman, like Raul Hilberg, and perhaps not even then — ask Norman Finkelstein) or the teaching of “natural selection” in your children’s school.

    In fact, one might think that there is a direct, inverse relation here: the more actual evidence you have, the less you need to shame, fire, or imprison the doubters. And one can’t help but notice again, which ethnic group receives the benefit.[20]

    Feyerabend, a true Aryan philosopher — and an ex-Luftwaffe pilot! — called for a separation of Science and State for these very reasons, and noted that his anti-method of “Anything Goes” would hardly spell the end of science.[21] While Greece rose to greatness on the backs of unwilling slaves, we can rise to greater heights on the back of willing slaves, foolish blinkered nerds and geeks who, like Huxley’s gammas, or the denizens of TV’s The Big Bang Theory (produced by Charlie Sheen’s Judaic nemesis, Chuck Lorre) delight in having a chance to wear mental chains while we, mentally free, are also free to make use of the mechanical toys they produce.[22]

    Instead our world is increasingly under the control of these very Judaics and Judaic-souled ones, who have moved far beyond — if ever they were at all — the role of “critical outsiders” and now constitute instead the New Inquisition of Zionce.

    I wonder what Veben would say today? Feyerabend, it seems, would side with Jack Donovan against Veblen’s Judaic smarties:

    . . . when sophistication loses content then the only way of keeping in touch with reality is to be crude and superficial. This is what I intend to be.[23]

    A barbarian, if you will.

    Notes

    [1] See “The Eldritch Evola” here [11] as well as in my next book, The Eldritch Evola . . . and Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2013).

    [2] Joris-Karl Huysmans’ À Rebours is in some ways an account of dozens of ways of attempting to trap the “essence” of one experience, sensual delight or art after another; at least that is how Wilde’s Dorian Gray read it, while “Lord Henry’s corrupting ‘influence’ is described as a series of distilled ‘poisons’, ‘poisons’ that a receptive Dorian imbibes until he begins to receive their ‘great reward’.” See M. M. Kaylor’s Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde at p. 317; first published in 2006 by Masaryk University and now available free online at http://mmkaylor.com/ [12].

    [3] The edition here [13].

    [4] A meme recently re-activated by no less than Warren Buffett’s buddy Charles Munger; see “Charlie Munger: Gold Is For Holocaust-Era Jewish Families To Sew Into Their Garments; Civilized People Don’t Buy Gold” here [14].

    [5] The Theory of the Leisure Class / Thorstein Veblen; edited with an introduction and notes by Martha Banta (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

    [6] The Gentleman and the Jew: Twenty-Five Centuries of Conflict in Manners and Morals (New York: Knopf, 1950); republished by Behrman House as “A Jewish Legacy” book in 1978; You Gentiles, from 1924, is available free at archive.org; or you can get his Selected Writings for $0.01 at Amazon.

    [7] And bearing as well some resemblance to Daniel Harris’ The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture (New York: Hyperion, 1997), which provoked many reviewers, such as Alisa Solomon in the Village Voice, to tantrums of outrage over its apparent thesis that gays were much more high-brow and, well, interesting, before they were co-opted by the mainstream, and, well, should just get back in the closet and write more wonderful musicals! Or in this case, back to the Patent Office, or the unheated tenement, or even the shtetl, and scribble some more! There’s more to Harris’ thesis than Thorstein’s, as I shall argue, and it also is kind of a twisted version of my own thesis, derived from Alisdair Clarke and spelled out most clearly in the first chapter of my new book, The Homo and the Negro: Masculinist Meditations on Politics and Popular Culture (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012), that pre-Stonewall gays were hardly cowering in closets (as illustrated by my essays here at Counter-Currents on Noël Coward [15] and most recently Ralph Adams Cram [16]) and that when given the opportunity to leave the supposed closet should have re-assumed their role as creators of Western Culture rather than joining the Left’s “rainbow coalition” of culture-destroyers.

    [8] “The rats are underneath the piles. The jew is underneath the lot.” — “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar,” T. S. Eliot, 1920.

    [9] For example, here [17].

    [10] I’ll soon have a piece on another Preminger film, Advise and Consent, and its influence or not on Mad Men.

    [11] “The Israel Lobby and the Road to War; Part III of ‘Roots of the Iranian ‘Crisis’,” by Justin Raimondo, October 12, 2012 here [18].

    [12] Monty Python, “The Argument Skit,” The Money Programme (episode 29; aired 2 November 1972; recorded 4 December 1971).

    [13] The fake “Nobel” Prize in Economics is itself a wonderful example of their impudent fakery, solemnly announced every year and never exposed by the compliant media.

    [14] À Rebours, translated by John Howard as Against the Grain, chapter 1.

    [15] Adam Martin, here [19].

    [16] Unless the Judaic lawyers start whining about licenses and trademarks; oh, the irony. Again, the “free speech” that America uses to climb to the top becomes “intellectual property” and “trade secrets” when the Chinese want to avail themselves of it.

    [17] The Page-Barbour Lectures delivered at the University of Virginia in April-May 1933 and published in 1934 under the title After Strange Gods; too dangerous to be allowed in print today, of course — free speech, indeed!but available online at archive.org. Also see Kerry Bolton, “T. S. Eliot,” Part One, here [20].

    [18] See “Werner Karl Heisenberg: Absolution vs. Damnation, Part 2” by Michael Colhaze [21], here [22].

    [19] See his “What is Behind the Hanging of the Eleven Jews in Prague? [23]” from December 1952.

    [20] Ordinarily I’d chalk up the Creationists to the Judaic side, if it were a war between knowledge and faith, but in this context the evolvers are the equally Judaic atheists; remember, the Judaic controls both sides, and can take whatever position needed. As Evola noted, the same principle applied in different contexts may produce quite different effects, and so each case must be judged on its own merits; very similar and valuable advice advise was given by A. E. Housman to aspiring textual critics; see for example “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism” in Proceedings of the Classical Association, August 1921.

    [21] See his Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge (London: Verso, 1975; 4th ed., 2010) and Science in a Free Society (London: Verso, 1978).

    [22] Or not, if we choose. Ultimately, the whole science and tech thing may need some re-thinking. As Guénon observed, traditional societies “failed” to develop science and technology in our sense, due to their having little or no interest in studying the ever-fading away material universe, or improving their creature comforts, preferring to focus their attention, and their society, on “the one thing needful.” There is indeed something Judaic about science itself, deriving perhaps from the arrogant notion the world as an artifact, and a faulty one at that, needing tikkun olam. This is perhaps the point at which White culture reveals its fatal susceptibility to the Judaic infection, its Death Star thermal exhaust portal: our Faustian need to “control and manipulate [the] environment” (See Collin Cleary, “Asatru and the Political,” here [24]).

    [23] Paul Feyerabend, “How to defend society against science” (1975). Available from: http://www.galilean-library.org/manuscript.php?postid=43842 [25] [Accessed 5th January 2012].

     

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  • Kenya Obama & the Temple of Dumb:Election Day Reflections on Ignatius Reilly, Heinrich Himmler, & the Need for Roots
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]2,549 words

    “So check it out, and next time you go cruising down the street, take a look around. We are Franklin Franklin.” — Jeff Frankas

    After reading Jeff Frankas’ excellent review of Small Apartments[1] [2] I did what I usually do in such circumstances–head over to Amazon to see if there are any used copies in the $0.25 range (my current book budget). Once there, I discovered that it has already been made into a movie, a veritable “underground hit” with big stars like . . . Billy Crystal. 

    I can’t say as I ever heard of the movie, either, but one thing caught my eye among the reviews and PR material on Amazon: several comparisons to the Ignatius Reilly of John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. Although superficially plausible, and you can’t blame the publishers for trying to hitch a ride on an established hit novel, on reflection it seems to ring false, and for reasons I think will interest Counter-Currents readers. Says Frankas about Franklin:

    Part of Franklin’s problem is his image and lack of, well, common knowledge of how anything works. He’s out of shape. He’s socially inept. He can’t fix anything. He can’t drive a manual five-speed. He doesn’t stick up for himself. He is easily pushed around. He cringes when spoken to. He daydreams. He has no real skills for a real job. He screeches like a small girl when something frightens him. He’s basically useless, taking up space and consuming junk food.

    Yes, that seems something like our boy Ignatius. And yet, I think not. Partly, Ignatius does indeed stick up for himself, when challenged, and even sticks up for others, as in his Crusade for Moorish Dignity. Nor does he cringe when spoken to; he responds with vociferous verbal rodomontade, and seems not to really hear anyone anyway.

    “Is my paranoia getting completely out of hand, or are you mongoloids really talking about me?”

    But Ignatius problem is not his lack of knowledge about how anything works; it’s his refusal to acquire that knowledge, to sully his being by contact with the modern world. He’s full of knowledge of theology and geometry, but as he points out incessantly, the modern world is not.

    “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

    “. . . I doubt very seriously whether anyone will hire me.”
    “What do you mean, babe? You a fine boy with a good education.”
    “Employers sense in me a denial of their values.” He rolled over onto his back. “They fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century I loathe. This was true even when I worked for the New Orleans Public Library.”

    Franklin, on the other hand, has no knowledge, no greater background; he takes on faith what the world tells him is important, and simply fails to succeed in acquiring it. Franklin (his name, ironically, means “free man”) wants to fit in;[2] Ignatius does not.

    Ignatius, instead, battles against the modern world (like a certain Sicilian baron), which gives him the tragic dignity of a Don Quixote, and makes him suitable for a (hopefully somewhat ironic) hero on the Right.

    Take, for example, their attitude toward bowling. For Franklin, it might seem, at least initially, as a way out of his dilemma of solitude, at least according to his brother, and other theorists of “game”:

    Bernard brought home a parade of girlfriends. He would usually take them bowling on a first date. Bernard carried a 160 average, but he would sandbag for the girls. Bernard did not put on airs. He did not care what impressed a woman. “Take them bowling,” Bernard would say. “That’s how you flush out the tight-asses. Uptight chicks refuse to bowl. And if they won’t bowl, they won’t roll. If you know what I mean.”

    Ignatius, for his part, actually seems to be commenting on this future event, sort of giving his side of it:

    “My mother is currently associating with some undesirables who are attempting to transform her into an athlete of sorts, depraved specimens of mankind who regularly bowl their way to oblivion.”

    Ah yes, depraved specimens of mankind. In this respect, he does indeed, as Frankas says, “represent the devolution of today’s white male.” But it goes beyond needing to get out more and exercise. Lacking knowledge, culture, in a word, Tradition, modern folks lack roots in the past; they lack, as Tom Moore would say, soul.[3]

    This is related, in some way I hope to make clear, to a cable doco I accidentally ran across last night: the Smithsonian Channel’s The Nazi Temple of Doom. Here’s their description, and a video here [3]:

    A 23-pound, solid-gold cauldron was found at the bottom of a Bavarian lake in 2001. Thought to be a 2,000-year-old Celtic treasure, one expert valued it at 1.4 billion dollars . . . until it was proven to be a fake. Yet the origins of this forgery prove to be just as historically significant. Discover the astonishing secrets behind this recently found artifact. Our investigation uncovers a story of intrigue, shady deals, and a plot by Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler to create a sinister Camelot inside The Nazi Temple of Doom, Germany’s Wewelsburg Castle.

    [4]

    I missed the first third or so, the whole Celtic cauldron rigmarole, but the Himmler stuff was of interest. Of course, it was the usual cable agitprop:[4] grainy films, dramatic “reconstructions,” which is the audience draw, while occasional academics pop up to sneer (as one did, approximately like this): “Yes, these mystical ideas sound childish and absurd, but we must remember that they served to justify Hitler’s death machine.”

    [5]

    Marble Hall of Wewelsburg Castle, furnished in Federal Republic style

    Well, not quite. My understanding is that Hitler, ever the modernist and even pragmatist,[5] had little patience with Himmler’s constant attempts to dig up the German past — “The Greeks were building temples when our people lived in caves, and now he wants to dig the whole thing up again to embarrass us!”[6]

    The whole cable Nazi thing, especially the “occult” variations, is sort of a cultural vaccination,[7] giving people a little of the dangerous Nazi intoxication they crave, but not enough to let them get out of hand, and with plenty of Afterschool Special warnings along the way.

    In the same way, every day or so someone on the Left or Right (funny, that unity) will work themselves up into a pitch of fury at the Obama administration, or the Big Banks, and hurl the “Nazi” or “fascist” epithet. In a way, it’s meaningless and childish, simply using “the worst word” you can, but it still rankles those of us (on this site, for example) who know that the real National Socialists were fighting against Big Banks and what’s come to be called the NWO (to the extent that it exists at all, that was the target in the ’30s).

    Be that as it may, the cable Nazi fetish and the “Nazi” Obama administration share the same roots: the need for us to believe that the boot that stamps on our face, forever, at least belongs to someone with class.

    I recall that the Romanians were horrified when, after the revolution, TV broadcasts showed that Ceausescu’s supposedly luxurious mansion was decorated in the worst taste and with the cheapest materials. “For this we were enslaved?” Better the Pyramids, or Versailles!

    We may have destroyed “Himmler’s Camelot” but we had our own under Kennedy.[8] Now, instead of Versailles we have Versace, or even Versayce [6]. And can you imagine the banality, the dopeyess, of the Obamas at home, or the Bidens? And God only knows what a Mitch McConnell or Mitt Romney would be like behind the scenes. Give us Skull and Bones! Give us the Illuminati!

    Hence, the appeal of national or global conspiracies, preferably of the most occult or Satanic nature. Surely, behind the banal faces of our own Springfield’s local types, there must be . . . the Stonecutters [7]!

    Who holds back the electric car?
    Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?
    We do, we do!

    Alas, as Paul Fussell points out in his invaluable survey Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, life among what he calls the “Top Out of Sight” class (the old, truly wealthy, not striving show-off and busybodies like Gates or Branson; the WASP Establishment, if you will) might seem ideal — never a worry about money or status! — but you must resign yourself to “never hearing anyone saying anything intelligent or original.”[9]

    But it’s not simply a matter of high class tastes in wine or decorating. It always seems to eventually work its way back to a yearning for a higher dimension of existence. If it’s the Jews behind it, they’re not just an ethnic group but “the synagogue of Satan.” If it’s the Nazis, it’s not just geopolitics but “the occult.” Only in this way will our world be re-enchanted, and the elite we are forced to endure be somehow justified by its role in a spiritually rooted social hierarchy.

    So-called “conservatives” are mistakenly portrayed as wanting to “turn back the clock,” which, if possible, no one actually wants to do–Alan Watts alluded to a chap who wanted to live in the 18th century of Mozart and Molière, but with modern dentistry and electric lights.

    What they want is to return to the roots, and those are always already accessible today–archeofuturism, in short. That was the motive force of the movements of the European Revolution of the interwar period; maybe we should let “conservative” apply to the real old fogies at that, and call ourselves what we are: fascists.[10]

    But there are no “movements” today, certainly none aiming at that kind of palingeneis [8]. The roots are there,[11] but no one seems to want to grab hold, as Odin did.

    The same night, I heard O’Reilly (not at all like Reilly) grousing in his usual sour way, this time about the prognosticated lack of turnout on Election Day. How could over 60% of the electorate not care enough to vote, while the whole country says things are going to Hell in a hand basket?

    Well, there are a number of answers to that (starting with: neither party will change the status quo, since they are the status quo), but I’ve frequently felt rather nostalgic, and resentful, really, about the lack of any serious Movement for we who are being crushed between the forces of Cultural Revolution and Economic Immiseration.[12] (Notice how nominally they are Left and Right, respectively, yet work hand in hand against the vast majority?).

    Now, in the Old Days, there was a Party for use lumpen malcontents to join![13] Postwar, Ignatius has no such option (although he does try to organize the exploited darkies with his Crusade for Moorish Dignity), making his a lonely, misunderstood, futile crusade. By Franklin’s time, our time, the Powers That Be just want you to consume. Stay on the horizontal, don’t think of any “silly” metaphysical ideas. Besides, that way leads to Auschwitz! Instead devote your time and energy to work and play. As I said at the beginning, Franklin is a failure at work and play, not a metaphysical warrior like Ignatius, and not a Man against Time, like the Hero of the XXth Century.[14]

    And so we reach the Age of Franklin:[15] rootless consumers who can’t even successfully consume, and a rootless elite that bores even itself and increasingly can’t provide the goods. Lacking Tradition, the one can’t even conceive of anything to organize themselves to fight for, and the other is a loose coalition of capitalist freebooters that wouldn’t know what to say at a midnight cabal.

    So, don’t forget to vote!

    Notes

    1. “Laughing at Our Own Reflection,” here [9].

    2. Evelyn Williams: “You hate that job anyway. I don’t see why you just don’t quit.”

    Patrick Bateman: “Because I want to fit in [10].” — American Psycho

    3. Read, if you don’t think it too middle-brow, his The Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life (HarperCollins, 1992).

    4. “It’s Always Nazi Week” on cable (Two and a Half Men, Season 6, Episode 6).

    5. See my review of Look Who’s Back here [11].

    6. Unconsciously echoing Disraeli: “When [the Anglo-Saxons] combed their hair with bear grease, my people were priests of Yahweh.”

    7. Oh, they love vaccinations, now don’t they?

    8. Clay Shaw: “Such a pity, that assassination. In fact, I admired President Kennedy. A man with true panache, and a wife with impeccable taste.”–Oliver Stone, JFK.

    9. Simon and Schuster, 1983, p. 33. This lack of ideas is corroborated in Fritz Zorn’s autobiography of life among the Gold Coast of Zürich in Mars (translated from the German by Robert and Rita Kimber; Knopf, 1982) where all discussion is forbidden, since disagreement would be, well, disagreeable. Taking ideas seriously is for Russian films, which his parents find amusing.

    10. “The words of Charles Foster Kane are a menace to every working man in this land. He is today what he has always been–and always will be–a Fascist!” Kane: “I’m an American. Always been an American.”

    11. One thinks of Judaic academic George Steiner’s series of little anthologies, Roots of the Right: Readings in Racist, Fascist and Elitist Ideology, (Stirner, Gobineau, Alfred Rosenberg, de Maistre, Maurras), well worth looking for on the used market. From the series title to their literal black book jackets, was there ever a more seductive series of books?

    12. Not that there’s anything wrong with our own metapolitical project here at Counter-Currents, but I’m talking about an all-purpose, top to bottom, soup to nutzi outfit that can run whole cities. If not fascism, how about good old fashion Tammany Hall graft? Jobs for the boys, indeed!

    13. “Don’t be stupid, be a smartie/Come and join the Nazi party!”–Mel Brooks, Springtime for Hitler. Or as Frank Costello says, “Years ago we had the church. That was only a way of saying–we had each other. The Knights of Columbus were real head-breakers, true guineas. They took over their piece of the city. Twenty years after an Irishman couldn’t get a fucking job, we had the presidency. [Camelot!] May he rest in peace. That’s what the niggers don’t realize. If I got one thing against the black chappies, it’s this–no one gives it to you. You have to take it.”–Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

    14. Although when he returns to post-reunification Germany in Look Who’s Back, his metaphysical intensity is mistaken for a comic routine and therefore thought of as a harmless eccentric like Ignatius; see my review, cited in note 5 above.

    15. “Year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended [Brideshead], year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedt sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Brideshead Revisited). “All is ratio and ceaseless activity, calculating and doing; there is no contemplation, no intellect. The [Franklins] of this world are not evil or malicious, then. They, like Hooper, simply lack ‘intellectual curiosity, or natural piety.’ Without at least the longing for faith, the world of Hooper is incapable of grasping just how forsaken it is.” — Tim Black “Demeaning Waugh’s Hateful, Beautiful Novel,” here [12].

     

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  • On The Blunt Edge of Weird Fiction: Two Short Novels by William Sloane
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,945 words

    William Sloane
    The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror [2]
    New York: NYRB Classics, 2015

    “Have you been hearing some weird stories recently? About telepathy, the fourth dimension, or GHOSTS?”[1]

    NYRB Classics started off seeming like a nice little boutique imprint that would “rescue” lost classics that proudly never stood a chance at best-seller status, like the works of Frederick Rolfe[2] (Hadrian the Seventh), J. R. Ackerley (My Dog Tulip), or Raymond Roussell, as selected by individual die-hard fans of taste and equal eccentricity.[3]

    As the backlist has grown, it seems like it’s become just another publisher of paperback reprints.[4] Among the New York-promoted PC-slush and unreadably massive Cold War-era novels by no doubt worthy East Europeans with unknown and unpronounceable names, there’s still much to thank them for preserving in print, such as the novels of Kingsley Amis, Ernst Jünger’s The Glass Bees, or 1950s PC-confounding Catholic curmudgeon J. F. Powers.[5]

    Along the way, they’ve produced at least one somewhat half-hearted anthology of “weird fiction,” The Color out of Space: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Blackwood, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird (2002, with cover by Charles Burns) — to their credit, long before the “King in Yellow” fad[6] — and now comes this collection of two novellas (as readers know, my favorite format) of “cosmic horror” by William Sloane.

    Sloane’s name seemed hard to place but somewhat familiar, but on prompting I did recall him as an editor and indeed a publisher himself. Along the way, early in his career, he published these short novels, To Walk the Night (1937) and The Edge of Running Water (1939). In addition to Stephen King, who provides the Introduction here, fans have included Robert Bloch, who put To Walk the Night among his top ten favorite horror novels, and Michael Moorcock, who put the same title in his Fantasy: The Best 100 Books.




    Here’s NYRB’s own rather lame synopsis:

    In the 1930s, William Sloane wrote two brilliant novels that gave a whole new meaning to cosmic horror. In To Walk the Night, Bark Jones and his college buddy Jerry Lister, a science whiz, head back to their alma mater to visit a cherished professor of astronomy. They discover his body, consumed by fire, in his laboratory, and an uncannily beautiful young widow in his house — but nothing compares to the revelation that Jerry and Bark encounter in the deserts of Arizona at the end of the book. In The Edge of Running Water, Julian Blair, a brilliant electrophysicist, has retired to a small town in remotest Maine after the death of his wife. His latest experiments threaten to shake up the town, not to mention the universe itself.

    The first seems to promise some kind of Tom Swift adventure, while the second suggests a Universal horror film — and indeed, Edge was made into a Boris Karloff vehicle, The Devil Commands (1941), complete with deformed servant.

    Walk certainly starts off very Tom Swifty, with two old college pals driving to the homecoming game and stopping off for a pre-PC picnic that involves Mad Man era amounts of alcohol before setting off on the road again. I couldn’t help but think of a rather similar scene early in Brideshead Revisited, and the same note of old time, “two swell chaps” kind of homoeroticism continues in the next chapter, when we find our boys have set up housekeeping in Greenwich Village.

    After the Big Game, they decide to look in on their old Professor Lenormand, whose natural proclivities are relentlessly described:

    He wasn’t the sort of man who gets married ordinarily.

    Many a time Jerry had commented on the fact that LeNormand had utterly no use for women.

    I can’t think of a thing that would make him want to surrender his . . . his freedom.

    He had no more use for women than the Sultan’s right-hand man.

    Alas, the Professor is not only now married, but has been reduced to a hideously and inexplicably charred corpse.[7] These very un-Bridesheadian turn of events only leads me to associate the boys, who of course are initially suspects, with the jaunty, murderous college pals of Rope,[8] who provide a better fit with the Long Island estate setting of the narrative.[9]




    For we learn that one of the pals, “Bark,”[10] has been semi-adopted by the rich father of the other, Jerry, thus providing the wealthy backdrop authors find so convenient. Not that Bark is an orphan, really, just that is mother is the sort of Auntie Mame character[11] that has no time for children, being, well, so “gay.”

    Grace is a wonderful woman who was simply not designed by God to be a mother. She is gay and charming, still looks only about thirty, dances superbly, dresses in the most flawless taste, has a notable flair for interior decoration, reads a lot more books than you’d suspect, and lives the ideal life for her with [second husband, Fred, who never appears in the narrative].

    Grace’s lightly gay efforts (most of her efforts were lightly gay, but generally they were effective) . . .

    Grace’s light, gay voice . . .

    One really thinks this is a perhaps unconscious attempt to divert attention from the ambiguously gay protagonists.

    But it was all very gay — gayer than any time I spent with Selena either before or afterward.

    Of course, I know it “didn’t mean that back then” but it is interesting to see how naturally the author falls into the word; and a rebuke those curmudgeons who insist “They ruined a perfectly good word” — well, why was the word “gay” rather than, say, “jolly” or “neat-o”?

    Another such word is “alien,” which gets us to another slight problem here. Between the “alien visitors” meme,[12] and the SJW’s relegation of “alien” to the PC scrapheap, the modern reader won’t really find Sloane’s occasional use of the word to be “clue” so much as confirmation of what he already suspects. There’s no real point in talking about “spoilers” here because the modern reader is apt to figure things out right quick.

    Moreover, Constant Readers of our own work will pick up a number of additional clues that derive from an archetypal or at least genre-dependent tradition. Most emphatically, there is the constant reference to Selena’s beauty, which is, however, of such perfection as to be, well, alien, and even downright frightening, and not just to the ambiguously gay.

    I am afraid of beautiful women.

    “If it were perfect,” I said to her quickly, “it would not be beautiful.”

    A small imperfection of tone or accent that would have made it the voice of a person.

    She was standing at the curb in the electric twilight of a New York street at night, straight, tall, and beautiful, so that it made my throat ache to look at her, and I hated her and was afraid of her.

    An even more telling clue is her smile: [13]

    She seldom laughed, but she did have a silent sense of humor of some sort. At intervals she would give a silent, almost secret smile that told me she was relishing something to herself.

    . . . smiled that odd smile of hers.

    . . . smiled that odd smile of hers [again].

    And finally, and most remarkably, for someone whose walk “seemed to me heavy and slipshod, as though she did not care how clumsily she placed her feet, she, like gay old Grace, “dances superbly.”

    I had not danced with Selena before, and the moment I began I knew it was going to be an experience. My expectation had been that we’d have a difficult time together on a dance floor. There was too much constraint between us and an antagonism of character we both recognized. In addition, she was very tall, and yet, she danced as no woman I have ever met. . . . I could not think of her any longer as a woman. Instead, it seemed to me that my arm was around the moving shape of the music itself. . . . I remember thinking that this was the first time dancing had ever seemed to me an art. . . . When the music stopped there were scattered hand claps from the spectators and I discovered that we had been left almost alone on the floor. . . . “Fella,” I told [Jerry], “this girl of yours can dance.

    Wherever she came from, she had been educated in an atmosphere of objective intellectuality, and her interests molded in ways unlike those of most other women. Then I would remember the way she danced, and not be so sure.

    Why dancing should be such an identifying feature will be clear to Constant Readers who recall our discussion of Clifton Webb’s character Mr. Belvedere as an avatar of Krishna:

    “Mr. Belvedere, you dance divinely!”

    “Yes, yes I do.”[14]

    Making your female protagonist an autistic/alien/time-traveler/freak of nature is certainly one way to overcome one of the main strikes against the genre, or boys’ story, writer: how to portrait a female character. Lovecraft, whose ideas of romance make Sheldon Cooper seem like Casanova, simply avoided the issue altogether.

    “This is what my people lack.”[15]

    Her mind was learning from her body. It takes mind and body both to make a soul. Living with Jerry taught her something of what it means to be a human being.

    Although this kind of thing would become a staple of Star Trek [3] and sub-Star Trek sci-fi,[16] but it hints at an important point about the necessarily embodied nature of intelligence that Heidegger and phenomenologists in general would make, with only a little success, against the Sheldon Coopers of “hard AI” research.[17]

    Speaking of “my people,” this is the closest we get to a clue about where Selena comes from. We never do learn the exact nature of Selena — alien visitor, human time-traveler, freak of nature?[18] — or her mission, if any, despite a last minute appearance to confront and confirm the narrator’s suspicions; she just walks away, and we later learn that her idiot Doppelgänger has simply taken up where she left off.[19] I suppose this is in the service of the inexplicability that evokes “cosmic horror” but the reader feels a bit gypped.[20] Lovecraft, who was second to none in denouncing “all too human” attempts to portray alien civilizations and cosmic forces, was no slouch in providing fascinating faux-histories and lineages for his “inconceivably other” races; perhaps that’s why his work stayed in print.

    Perhaps this is the point to address a typically dopey remark by King in his Introduction: what Joshi calls “the long-held belief that Lovecraft was wholly lacking in humour.” Joshi long ago refuted this idea, pointing out that while Lovecraft did say “I don’t care for humour as an ingredient of the weird tale—in fact, I think it is a definitely diluting element.”

    It is clear that the type of humour to which Lovecraft refers is certainly not the “sardonic comedy and graveyard humour” (“Supernatural Horror in Literature”) that he obviously enjoyed in Ambrose Bierce, but the humour where the author is merely laughing genially at his horrors rather than taking them seriously—the type of humour encountered in Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” One gets the impression that Lovecraft regarded such humour as disrespectful of the dignity of the weird tale—an unseemly kind of mockery. He himself certainly used humour; but his humour is neither genial nor that of the grave—it is that of the abyss.[21]

    Having reached the abyss, let’s turn back to Sloane and the second novella, Edge of Running Water. It’s more of the same, so if you liked the first novella, you’ll feel you’re getting your money’s worth; if not, then ennui may set in.[22] Having, perhaps, taken Grantland Rice as his model,[23] Sloane uses his thesaurus to vary the “gay” language with “queer” this time:

    “The inside of your mind must be a queer place.”

    “No wonder,” she said slowly, “that he’s so queer now.”

    One word struck me sharply. “Queer?” I said. “What do you mean by queer?”

    “That there’s something queer about Elora, too?

    “It seems kinda queer to me . . .”

    “They seem like kinda queer people to us here in Barsham.”

    “They bein’ queer, let’s say, and it bein’ queer that Elora Marcy would walk into the river off her own field, there’s some will make a connection.”

    Sure and be nothing as queer as folks, now is there? Just as in the first novella our narrator feels the need to distance he and his buddy from Leopold and Loeb, here the narrator avers “Not that I have the tender sensibilities of an interior decorator.”[24]

    We get all kinds here: queer brainy types, like our smarty pants protagonists, queer inbred types like the hostile townsfolk, and queer-looking ladies as well.

    Like last time, there’s the disturbing looking woman, this time with the emphasis on repulsion rather than beauty, and definitely the villain.

    I told myself that all she amounted to was a fat hulk of a woman, no longer young, in a shapeless sack of a dress and with a ruin of a face.

    And yet, the trouble was that here was something not quite normal—a woman with an old, sagging, lined face who deliberately let the hard harshness of morning daylight play on her face.

    The nub of the matter was that she ought to have been ridiculous and she wasn’t.

    And yet, there was something about her that was close to magnificence.

    But we also get an unpleasant note of what I’ve called liberal psychogeography; a very early example of the switch from the urban/evil and rural/pure polarity to urban/smart and rural/crude.[25] Sloane extends the Lovecraftian meme of a pocket of degeneracy hidden way from sturdy Nordic normality to the entirety of the Maine countryside, implicitly inverting the Lovecratian/Jeffersonian sturdy yeoman to inbred hick:

    This was not the city, I reminded myself.

    Those eyes were not logical or reasonable. There was intelligence behind them—plenty of it, perhaps—but not the kind of intelligence to which I was accustomed.

    “We ain’t so int’rested as all that in city people,” he observed. “I wouldn’t mind a particle if I never seen another.”[26]

    “That’s the way they are around here,” she observed. “They don’t like strangers. At least, they don’t like us.” “It’s just the old New England reticence.” She looked doubtful. “Probably. Only . . . well, let’s not talk about that now.”

    “I loathe the people in the town, and the way they look at us. You’d think we were gangsters in a hide-out.”

    “I can see you’re not from this part of the world,” she said and then added, “either of you.”

    “But I should be careful if I were you, all of you. The people here are different from the ones you’re probably accustomed to. They’ll blame you for what’s happened.”

    They wouldn’t be easy to reason with.

    In thinking it would simplify things at all I was reasoning from an abysmal ignorance of Barsham Harbor and the way its people thought and felt.

    A local cab driver, like the station agent in The Shadow over Innsmouth, serves to introduce the simmering evil of The Locals:

    The scorn and contempt he managed to make vocal in that short noise drove me to Julian’s defense.

    “And the others might not take kindly to the idea of havin’ one of those things in these parts, anyhow.”

    I called this an early example, because the shift, of course, is part of the increasing urbanization of postwar America, as well as the entirely coincidental rise to dominance of a Certain Tribe, which has striven mightily to remake Nordic Yeoman America into something more heimlich:

    Never, in the most unfamiliar parts of Europe, had I felt so alien as I did there in that Maine courtroom.[27]

    Here even the sheriff, unlike the noir-ish detective of Walks, is more of a dangerous rural buffoon as found in all those post-Texas Chainsaw rural danger films, epitomized by Capt. Spaulding in House of a 1000 Corpses.[28]

    But the real problem here is that Sloane’s object of horror is the now rather dated idea of a radio to talk with the dead. Worse, no sooner had the idea started to be hinted at than I cold not help but recall the dreadful Z-movie The Dead Talk Back,[29] especially as it opens with the unforgettably awful monologue of Dr. Henry Krasker:

    The . . . real showcase in The Dead Talk Back, however, is Aldo Farnese’s turn as the showy paranormal criminologist. . . . Instead of The Amazing Criswell’s zealous vigilance [4] over a UFO cover up, Farnese delivers a full retread of Victorian era spiritualism, complete with a demonstration of a modern take on the 19th Century safety coffin and a “scientific” radio that can tune into the voices of spirits!

    Krasker’s radio to the dead, however, looks like a crumpled ball of tinfoil glued onto a skillet. This is connected to an electric stove top mounted on a wall. Impressive technology, but I wouldn’t advise the otherworldly equivalent of holding one’s breath waiting for this thing to work.[30]

    To be fair, the device here is much more interesting; though it’s still a kind of electronic version of a séance table, it does have the creepy feature of copper wire twisted into human shapes and sitting along the table.[31]

    “Good God, Julian,” I said, “When you duplicate a séance, you duplicate it. This looks like a Black Mass in a futurist play.”

    Nevertheless, just as with Edge of Running Water,

    [Though f]ilmed just two years before both Plan 9’s release and The Twilight Zone hitting the air, it’s hard to tell if Krasker’s smug talk is due to an outdated script, too late for its 1930s spiritualist audience, or if it’s brilliantly prescient of the “scientific” paranormal film trend that would begin exactly two decades later with Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and end with Prince of Darkness (1987).[32]

    And therein lies the problem. “Spoilers” aside, once the reader cons to the to-be-revealed “horror” and shrugs his shoulders, all the piling up of detail, especially sans the unique Lovecraft vocabulary (also mocked in King’s Introduction) and backstory, fails to increase the sense of dread and only becomes, well, piling up of detail. Both novellas seem over-written for the meagre punch they deliver.[33]

    King correctly notes that Sloane is attempting to combine — or transcend — several genres, one of which is the detractive story. Both stories, in fact, provide us with unusual defective characters — one a hard boiled investigator worthy of Raymond Chandler, the other a Miss Marple-ish spinster-sister of the town sheriff who “just” helps out with the notes but otherwise works as a secretary in the Psychology department “at Cambridge” (not sure if that’s the British university or the way a downeasterner would refer to Harvard); both are by far the most interesting things on offer, and one wonders if Sloane would have been better off writing just the stories as detective yarns.[34] [5]

    Sloane’s ambition though was larger, as Burke notes:

    [T]hese are works of cosmic horror, but they’re certainly more than that. They’re mysteries wrapped in the garments of science fiction with well-placed dashes of the fantastical that challenge the kind of positivism that would generally confine a science fiction piece. Sloane is concerned largely with exploring the nature of our limits of knowledge and mining terror from the edges at which the weird threatens to intrude.

    Using the Weird to challenge the positivist limits imposed on us by the elites, scientific and otherwise, is certainly right up my alley.[35] Indeed, there are hints of some of my favorite Traditionalist themes, such as the puppet:

    I thought how puppetlike we had all been, moving around at the ends of our strings while Mrs. Walters pulled them.

    And the Guénonian fabric of the universe:[36]

    A mechanical, arbitrary rent in the warp and woof of the fabric of the physical universe.

    Alas, Time itself, like gin, rum and destiny, has played its own funny trick, [37] and Sloane’s work — at least, these two examples — seems less terrifying now than cozily nostalgic.

    [T]hey’re also wonderful period pieces, written for an age when local sheriffs could employ their spinster sister to take notes longhand while they interrogated suspects, and well-to-do families had the means to employ manservants to help them dress for dinner.[38]

    It would be wrong to leave the impression that Sloane isn’t capable of some great local prose effects: here we find a couple hints of a kind of hauntology:[39]

    By a sort of casual introspection I tried to find out what, specifically, it was that bothered me. The house, for one thing, I decided— if you are not used to dark, cold rooms with a single candle for light the experience is a strange one, belonging to our ancestors’ ordinary routine of life, perhaps, but not to that of a modern city dweller. And Mrs. Walters. I did not like her, or the dark that had settled over the house—Julian ought not to have such a woman around and why hadn’t he put electric lights into the rooms since he had wired in the power? The lamp in the kitchen and the candle in this room were separate islands of light and there were too many shadows between them. I thought of the hall outside my door and it seemed to me that there might be someone in it, but when I looked out it was empty and silent. I thought of the shadowy living room, of the river water noiselessly running and running, almost under the sills of its windows. A hundred years and more this house had stood here, alone on the Point. A hundred years of sun and storm, of winters and summers, of dark and light. It was old, but it was not its age that gave me the tight feeling I had in the pit of my stomach.

    Perhaps, if I had been superstitious, I would have been inclined to give more weight to that project of his. The house would have been “haunted” by its presence and the potential presence of the myriads of voices that were supposed to speak through it. But they weren’t there. Of that I felt sure. Just as it was self-evident that a physical machine could not be expected to produce a nonphysical result.

    Or this, a meditation on the personal psychology of fear that Raymond Chandler might have put into the mind of Philip Marlowe (without that “substratum” bit):

    [L]ike a man walking down an unfamiliar street in a strange city, late at night, with a vague substratum of uneasiness in his mind. He does not say to himself, “Maybe I am going to get held up and beaten in this place.” He simply feels uneasy. But if he sees the shadow of a man shouldered back in a doorway his fear rushes together like wind to the heart of a cyclone. It fastens itself on that figure and embodies itself with its image. My fear seemed to have no such focal point; it colored the rest of my thoughts but it had no shape of its own.[40]

    Nevertheless, the overall effect is that of a period piece; and while that was hardly Sloane’s intention, these two novellas are still worthy of the attention of those, like many readers of Counter-Currents, who feel more at home in the past;[41] even, perhaps especially, what we might call the Weird Past.[42]

    Notes

    1. Dr. Henry Krasker, The Dead Talk Back (Merle Gould, 1957; released 1996), the relevance of which shall soon be revealed.

    2. For more on Rolfe, see my “E-Caviar for the Masses!” here [6].

    3. “The NYRB Classics series is dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.” Publisher’s website, here [7].

    4. In fairness, another county heard from: ““Overall the collection is faultless. Once you have discovered the series it’s as if you’ve just gained an incredibly well-read friend who consistently lends you obscure yet highly enjoyable books…. Collecting them can become compulsive.” —Vogue, although I’m not sure when; this and more good press here. [7]

    5. Morte D’Urban is a delightful dip back into the lost world of pre-Vatican II American Catholicism, when Chicago was the center or the universe, and celebrity priests rode luxury trains throughout the Midwest, stayed in luxury hotels, and wined and dined – and were wined and dined by – high rolling potential donors and converts, while treating the indigenous Protestant masses with aristocratic contempt. In Powers’ final irony, when God humbles high-rolling Fr. Urban – with an arrant golf ball, he acquires spiritual wisdom but become useless to the Church.

    6. Which did not stop them from printing a new version with the Biercean title Shadows of Carcosa: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Chambers, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird (2015). For more on the Carcosa Cult, see Christopher Pankhurst’s “True Detective & The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,” here. [8]

    7. The way the scene is depicted on the cover of a not too vintage paperback, here, [9] reminds me of the way Freddy Lounds is delivered by the Tooth Fairy in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, here [10].

    8. As the murder investigation starts, Bark needs to point out that “neither of us has any Leopold and Loeb tendencies,” which of course only prompts the reader to ask: Any?

    9. James Woods delivers a narrative about a charred corpse from his Long Island estate in Segrio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here [11].

    10. From Berkeley, which the butler (of course there’s a butler) “pronounces in the English manner.” The author of Rope, Patrick Hamilton, also wrote Berkeley Square. “Bark” suggests “Fido,” the nickname given to the similar human narrator of Odd John, whose titular character resembles, as we’ll see, Selena ; see “The Wild Boys Smile: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” and “From Odd John to Strangelove” reprinted in my Green Nazis In Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

    11. See my “Anti-Mame: Communist Camp Classic Unmasked,” here [12].

    12. Superman, the “strange visitor from another world,” would make his debut in 1938, right between the two novellas.

    13. For some meditations on beauty so unearthly as to be ugly, and vice versa, as well as the uncanny smile, see “The Wild Boys Smile: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” and “From Odd John to Strangelove,” op. cit.

    14. Appropriately, Webb himself starred as a dancer on Broadway before coming to Hollywood to portray the ambiguously gay Waldo in Laura; on the dance as the symbol of the avatar, see “The Babysitiing Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty,” here [13]. In Rope, Mrs. Kently, an amateur astrologer (unlike the incinerated astronomer of our tale), debates the merits of some of Hitchcock’s actors: “I didn’t like the new girl much. Definitely Scorpio.” “No, I didn’t like her either, but her clothes were fabulous.” “Simply divine!” “Absolute heaven!” “But I have a confession to make. Do you know, I think I like Mason as much as Errol Flynn?” “I’ll take Cary Grant, myself.” “Oh, so will I. Capricorn, the goat. He leaps, divine!”

    15. Arthur Case: You’re so profoundly sad. Betty Draper: No. It’s just my people are Nordic.” (Mad Men: “The Benefactor”(#2.3; 2008). Cf. my recent collection End of An Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015), where this occurs as a epigraph to the collection.

    16. “He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature… and because of it, the greatest in the universe.” – Dr. Paul Nelson, It Conquered the World (Roger Croman, 1956; TVTropes suggests [14] a better title would have been “It Duped A Bitter Idiot, Conquered Something Like Five People, And Knocked Out The Power For A While.”) This is known as a Patrick Stewart Speech [15], also known as a Kirk Summation [16], “World of Cardboard” Speech [17], and Intrigued by Humanity [18]. Contrast Shut Up, Kirk! [19] and Shaming the Mob [20]. Compare So Bad, It’s Good [21]. Astro-Zombies may top them all; as Jabootu remarks [22]: “And really, that about says it. Oh, except for the Hero’s Obligatory Final Philosophical Declaration on the Meaning of It All. And thus the film ends with Porter musing, ‘There’s one basic element of human life that can never be removed: emotions.’ Dude, you have just officially blown my mind.”

    17. See Hubert Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do. John A. Schumacher (D. Phil, Oxon), one of my teachers at Rensselaer Polytechnic, once observed that “I don’t care if computers can think, I want to know if they can fuck.”

    18. In addition to Odd John, she also recalls, of course, the female idiot/savant in Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human.

    19. The notion of a blow to the head causing an “idiot” to regain not just normal but supernormal cognitive functions recalls Wild World of Batwoman, where in the climactic explosion the idiot lab assistant Healthcliff recovers his faculties, revealing that he was the original scientific genius, who became an idiot only when his assistant knocked him on the head; in line with the “humor” of the film, at the very end, said assistant swats a fly on his head, and Heathcliff immediately reverts to idiocy. For more on this atrocious film, see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here [11].

    20. The ending, right down to the apparent “return to [sub]normal” of the “monster,” resembles the Gainax Ending [23] of Monster a Go Go: “at the end, the monster suddenly never existed, and the astronaut who everyone thought had turned into said monster turns up alive in the North Atlantic. It leaves a number of questions unanswered, starting with ‘then why did you have footage of the monster wandering around killing people?’, moving through ‘why did we get to see, in graphic detail, every preparation the military made to hunt this monster that doesn’t exist?’, and finish up somewhere around ‘what the flying rat heck?!?’” For more on the curious genesis of what the MST3k gang voted “the worst movie we’ve ever seen,” see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here [11]. Sometimes, in the right hands, the Gainax Ending can work, sort of: “I wanted controversy, arguments, fights, discussions, people in anger waving fists in my face saying, ‘how dare you?’“ — Patrick McGoohan on the intentionally confusing ending he created for The Prisoner [24]. See Collin Cleary’s classic essay on Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner in his Summoning the Gods: Essays on Paganism in a God-Forsaken World [25], ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2011).

    21. “Humour and Satire in Lovecraft,” reprinted in Lovecraft and a World in Transition (New York: Hippocampus, 2014).

    22. Christopher Burke notes that “It is perhaps a minor detail but noteworthy nonetheless that the two individual titles are both suggestive of constant movement forward, and the title chosen for the containing volume (originally used in a 1964 edition) perfectly sums up the sensations created at the disquieting borderland between the known and unknown.” Here [26].

    23. “Even a sports editor, for instance, might notice something wrong with a lead that said: “The precision-jack-hammer attack of the Miami Dolphins stomped the balls off the Washington Redskins today by stomping and hammering with one precise jack-thrust after another up the middle, mixed with pinpoint-precision passes into the flat and numerous hammer-jack stomps around both ends . . .” Right. And there was the genius of Grantland Rice. He carried a pocket thesaurus, so that “The thundering hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen” never echoed more than once in the same paragraph, and the “Granite-grey sky” in his lead was a “cold dark dusk” in the last lonely line of his heart-rending, nerve-ripping stories. . . . “Fear And Loathing At The Superbowl: No Rest for the Wretched,” by Hunter S. Thompson; Rolling Stone, February 15, 1973; online here [27].

    24. And not that there’s anything wrong with that, either.

    25. See “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall St.” in my collection The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Coutner-Currents, 2014).

    26. Sloane may not use the purple prose that “modern” critics mock, but he does continue the tradition of laboriously transcribing supposed “hick” speech.

    27. By contrast, as Greg Johnson has documented, the inbred/crossbred monsters of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth are pretty clearly Semites, or based thereon; see his analysis here [28]. Along the same lines, you’ll note how the official narrative of WWII has changed from “heroic democracies crush fascism” to “White nations have genocide in their DNA and must be kept on a tight lease.” In Walks, a key plot point is conveyed by a crowd that sounds “like a lynch mob” as if he’d ever heard one.

    28. Captain Spaulding: “Ya’ll think us folk from the country’s real funny-like, dontcha? Yeah, well saddle up the mule, ma. Slide me some grits, I’s got to get me some edu-cation, uh hu hu hu. You asshole!” See my essay “More Aryan than Human: The Return of Repressed White Wisdom in Rob Zombie’s Firefly Family Films” here [29].

    29. Constant Readers will recall my reflections on this and other “Essential Films … & Others” here [11].

    30. Cinedome, Jan. 24, 2015, here [30]. In a final irony, Gould out-Woods Ed Wood by having his film sit unclaimed at a film laboratory until found in 1993 and immediately sent to be publicly mocked by MST3k; thus, the film itself missed the paranormal fad of the 70s-80s.

    31. Although here, I am reminded of a remarkable surrealistic touch in Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls (another late 50s film that sat in a film lab for 20 or so years), where an actual séance table has three skeletons sitting facing the three guests, and no one notices.

    32. Cinedome, op. cit. Edge also shares, with both The Dead Talk Back and Walk, the non-ending ending; despite the cover blurb of the Bantam Edge paperback [31], “the dead come to call on the living,” the reader will be as disappointed as Tom Servo: “Hey, the dead never talked back!”

    33. “It may seem that I am including a great deal in this narrative which has no real bearing on the story of Julian Blair and the thing that happened in the house on Setauket Point.” “My evidence will be more valuable for being presented in its setting, and every detail seems to me important.”

    34. Someone at Penguin had the bright idea in 1944 of marketing To Walk with a cover where the dead astronomer’s body is flanked by a telescope which, by trick of perspective, seems rather like a gun; see the cover here [32].

    35. See, for example, the essays on Lovecraft and Stapledon collected as The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Coutner-Currents, 2014) and Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Coutner0Currents, 2016).

    36. See “The Corner at the Center of the Universe” in The Eldritch Evola … and Others.

    37. “The Saga of Jenny,” Kurt Weil, Ira Gershwin.

    38. Review by Cath Murphy, online here [33].

    39. See “The Presence of the Past: From Ancestor Worship to Hauntology” by Christopher Pankhurst, here [34].

    40. As is the previously quoted bit from the first novella, “She was standing at the curb in the electric twilight of a New York street at night, straight, tall, and beautiful, so that it made my throat ache to look at her, and I hated her and was afraid of her.”

    41. See Jef Costello, “Why I Live in the Past,” here [35], and reprinted in The Importance of James Bond (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

    42. Cf. the “Old Weird America,” “a term coined by Marcus to describe the often eerie country, blues, and folk music featured on the Anthology of American Folk Music (1927-1932; released 1952). In his opinion, the sensibility of Anthology is reflected by the Basement Tapes recordings [of Bob Dylan]. The term has been revived via the musical genre called New Weird America.” – Wikipedia, here [36].

     

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Passing the Buck: Spy, Dandy, Übermensch
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]7,098 words

    Derek Marlowe
    A Dandy in Aspic [2]
    London: Victor Gollancz, 1966; New York: G. P. Putnam, 1966;
    New edition, with Foreword by Tom Stoppard; Silvertail Books, 2015

    “In the Land of The Blind, the one eyed-man is in a circus[1]“ — Alexander Eberlin

    “You’ve got no past and he’s got no future” — Emmanuel Gatiss 

    The Amazon page for the Kindle version actually lists this book as “A Dandy in Aspic: The greatest of all the Cold War spy thrillers.” I don’t really know enough about the genre to argue the point,[2] but it certainly is my favorite, endlessly re-readable in a way that the Fleming and Le Carré books certainly aren’t; in fact, it’s one of my favorite books, period — or full stop, as the Brits would say.[3]

    While this 50th anniversary reprinting is indeed welcome,[4] the publisher’s publicity is a bit . . . off. Here’s their blurb, with a bit of plot to start you off:

    Alexander Eberlin is a small, faceless civil servant working for the Government at the height of the Cold War. As he nears middle age, he allows himself one luxury — to dress like a Dandy. His superiors send him on a mission to hunt down and destroy a cold-blooded and vicious Russian assassin named Krasnevin, who is responsible for a number of British agents’ deaths. But Eberlin has a secret — he is Krasnevin. This is the story of what happens when Eberlin is sent to destroy himself. Now back in print fifty years after it was written, The Times says A Dandy in Aspic is ‘A well groomed anecdote to today’s fast-paced thrillers with gym-buffed heroes. Eberlin is the real deal.’

    Where to begin? Perhaps with that quote from The Times; did they really say ‘‘anecdote” for “antidote”? They won’t let me know unless I pay them twelve pounds, so let it stand, the bastards.[5] Why on Earth is “Dandy” capitalized?

    More problematic is that “small, faceless civil servant” bit. It makes it sound as if Eberlin is one of those grey, mousey little spy-bureaucrats that Le Carré and Deighton began to produce as if to offer a more “realistic” alternative to the Bond fantasy,[6] and that he takes up his one indulgence — fancy duds — as part of some mid-life crisis.[7]

    In fact, Eberlin does not “dress like a Dandy,” he is one. It permeates all aspects of his life, such as it is, and, as we’ll see, his existential problem is far more serious, and interesting, than any midlife crisis.

    The publisher’s blurb is presumably a botched version of this key passage:

    Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad. (Italics mine).

    A hermetic dandy, then, not a metrosexual clotheshorse. And what is a hermetic dandy? Marlowe tells us elsewhere, in an essay published around the time of his first — only — taste of best-sellerdom:

    Dandyism . . . is a state of mind as well as a state of dress. . . . The dandy strives, above all, for self-discipline, and a discipline that denies friends, sex and ostentation; his goal is to achieve the super-ego via a rigid set of rules based on utmost restraint, naturalness, and simplicity.[8]

    This, I think, is the reason behind the almost over-the-top praise for the novel and author —

    “Graceful and brilliant” — Sir Tom Stoppard

    “Derek Marlowe writes like John Le Carré at the top of his form” — Yorkshire Post

    As well as accounting for both being almost entirely forgotten today.[9] At least one of the publisher’s blurbs gets it:

    “A classic of the cold war spy stories — one of the earliest and one of the best. Marlowe’s Eberlin/Krasnevin is on the run from himself on different levels and in different places: the evocations of London and Berlin in the 1960s are superb.” — Piers Paul Read

    In this essay, I intend to explore those different levels and different places. But to do so presents some perhaps unique challenges — and opportunities for paranoiac-critical fun.[10]

    Apart from the usual postmodern folderol about fragmenting master narratives and the capitalistic ego, etc., it’s often a situation calling for what Kaspar Gutman would call “the most delicate judgment”[11] to keep distinct such topoi as the novel versus the film, and the actor versus the role.

    Take Touch of Evil: Is that Orson Welles we remember onscreen or Welles’ brilliant portrayal of the character Hank Quinlan? How relevant is anything we know (if we do know) from the forgotten book it’s based on?[12] I myself have been known to blithely amalgamate (not confuse!) actors and roles, books and films.

    But there’s nothing like A Dandy in Aspic. We are more than familiar with the re-writing of Ian Fleming’s Bond books, including films that use only the title (A View to a Kill, The Spy Who Loved Me). What is unique is that not only does the film[13] differ from the book, it appears that Marlowe not only wrote the original screenplay (which in turn was drastically modified by events, as we’ll see) but re-wrote the book itself for American publication.

    It exists in two print versions by Marlowe, one the UK original and the other, US version, apparently reflecting changes Marlowe made while writing the screenplay for the film. The film, of course, is itself a new version, and to make matters worse — or, for our purposes, more interesting — as IMDB says [3], it’s

    More accurate than usual to discuss this film as by Laurence Harvey/Derek Marlowe since this was Anthony Mann’s final film; he died before it was finished and actor Laurence Harvey completed the film including the ending. Despite the credits, the film was not directed by Anthony Mann[14] but by . . . Laurence Harvey . . . Mann died of heart attack in Berlin on 29 April 1967 after directing only a few location shots. Harvey gallantly picked up the reins, finished the German scenes and then did all the British location and studio shots, accounting for at least 99% of the film, which premiered in April, 1968, almost a year after Mann’s death.

    Though others reverse the proportions:

    The film’s ending was directed by the Laurence Harvey[15] who also directed some scenes shot in Berlin. Anthony Mann directed all of the scenes in Surrey and London as well as some of the Berlin scenes.

    In any event, Marlowe was not happy:

    “The director, Anthony Mann died during the filming (a superb man and great director[16]) and it was taken over by Laurence Harvey, the badly cast Eberlin. He directed his own mis-talent, changed it and the script — which is rather like Mona Lisa touching up the portrait while Leonardo is out of the room.”[17]

    So here we are with an unprecedented number of versions, media and authors (auteurs would seem to be singularly inapplicable here). And so, again, where to begin?

    Perhaps it’s best to begin at the beginning — or rather, how the book begins in 2015! — with Sir Tom’s Foreword, which begins with Tom, his future wife, Piers Paul Read and Marlowe all sharing a flat in London, 1965. As we read elsewhere,

    One day, as they watched Mick Jagger on Top of the Pops, the three wagered a bet on who would make a million first. It was decided Stoppard would, but Marlowe pipped him to it, with his first novel, A Dandy in Aspic.

    In light of their subsequent careers, be careful what you wish for! Any, back to Tom:

    We were skeptical. Surely that bandwagon had passed by? The Spy Who Came in from the Cold had been published years ago.[18] What I do remember is that when Derek told me the basic premise for his novel (a spy with two identities who is ordered to kill his other self) I thought: now, that is an absolutely brilliant idea.

    Indeed. Those are what Read in his blurb above spells out as “different levels and places.” Though simple to state, it certainly raises the level of the novel above the usual pulp fare. Legendary sci/fi, Perhaps?

    Harvey, as bitter and hostile to our sympathies as he was in The Manchurian Candidate, plays Eberlin, a British agent entrusted with the job of killing Krasnevin, a Russian spy planted somewhere inside the British secret service who’s been killing off high-ranking state employees. The trouble is, Eberlin is Krasnevin.

    The plot hook smacks of Philip K. Dick and A Scanner Darkly, and indeed the film has a paranoid twitch balanced on the knife-edge of a bad trip. It’s commendable that overt psychedelia is avoided, considering when the film was made.[19]

    Well, there are a lot of drugs in Dick’s work, true, and both are products of the Cold War, but I think the wider significance would be better expressed as: hermetic. Eberlin is on a hermetic quest.[20]

    So, back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. I suggest that the key to understanding this work (to use a blanket term for all the versions, and of course suggesting the “hermetic work”) is that Eberlin does not just sally forth to meet his death — he is already dead before the book/film starts.[21]

    It’s not such a crazy idea. After all, [SPOILER ALERT!] the climax of the narrative, the revelation to Eberlin/Krasnevin, the Russians, and the reader/viewer, that the British had already known his identity from the start, means he’s already dead anyway; it’s announced in with a triad of deaths:

    His countryman answered, his voice cold and final:

    “You’re dead, Krasnevin. You’re dead.” The phone went dead.

    This theme, however, can be found from the beginning.

    I think the best way of handling the three versions, and keeping both the reader and myself sane, is to start with the original UK text — the Ur-Dandy, as it were — a go through it, noting along the way differences of content or context as they crop up.

    Talk about the author as hermetic dandy — Dandy UK opens with a rather long Prologue (10 pages out of about 150) which moves in a slow and stately manner, as befits its subject: a funeral. It’s a bit of a slog for the reader, who knows nothing of these people, including the dead man.[22] Here we perhaps see further damage done by Walter Pater’s dictum that “all art aspires to the condition of music,” in which the modernist or post-modernist author tries to “compose” a sort of “overture” rather than just write the beginning of a tale.

    It does have some points, though. It is the only time we get to spend time — stuck in a luxury motor car — with Brogue, Eberlin’s superior, and get a backstory for him.[23] Brogue — named Lucius-Pericles Brogue by his mother after a fortune-teller predicts he will be “a man of distinction”[24] — is quite interesting. He is, above all else, a Negro, as the pre-PC book tells us quite bluntly and frequently.[25]

    Brogue was the head of some East African security service “until Kenyatta fired him for being for being pro-British.” That the British would want his services is understandable, but “the toleration of the Negro by the top ranks constantly surprised him[26] . . . He had reached his present status mostly through his own efforts, finding that as he progressed higher in the scale that his colour was more of a help than a hindrance,” although he does receive “daily letters from anonymous fellow-Negroes who addressed him as ‘Uncle Tom.’”

    Coming right at the start of the “civil rights movement” this raises, surprisingly, many more recent issues, but nothing is made of it beyond that paragraph.

    We also learn Brogue is a man of “strict, regular habits” and “shuns all social involvements, both public and private” for 46 weeks of the year; for the rest, he vacations in East Africa — back to the Motherland! — under an assumed name, where he drinks Bondian quantities of alcohol and has “three secret affairs with three carefully chosen Ethiopian boys who were preferably above the age of puberty and below the age of consent.”

    Again, rather close to today’s issues.[27]

    I think this is the key to Brogue’s role as a kind of anti-Eberlin. He is not merely Eberlin’s boss — and hence the man who will order his death if Eberlin’s secret is revealed — but a competitor in the Dandy sweepstakes. Eberlin is a “hermetic dandy” who eschews all social involvements, public and private,” full stop; a kind of “purity” of purpose Brogue falls short of with his secret life of occasional indulgence.[28]

    Eberlin’s sexlessness is essential to his dandified self-control as well as an asset to his undercover (as it were) role.[29] I’m suggesting as well that he functions as literally an ascetic, an anchorite, if you will. Of course, Eberlin’s real secret life will soon be revealed, and the first step is his decision to actually attend a direly “swinging” drinks party in Bloomsbury.

    All this, as I say, is dropped from Dandy US and the movie;[30] what remains is a later scene where Brogue attempts to one-up Eberlin with the purchase of a snuff box supposedly given to Beau Brummel by Prince George, which claim Eberlin smoothly and arrogantly eviscerates.[31]

    In the movie, as a reviewer notes,

    Many things remain unspoken, and yet come through in the pauses, in tone of voice, in body language (such as the apparent racism of Eberlin towards a black colleague).

    But it’s not really “racism” but Brogue and Eberlin seeing each other as opposites; hence, Brogues unusual blackness.[32]

    The Prologue UK ends with a quick flash forward to the installation of the “plain, unfancy, rectangular headstone,” inscribed with the name of the deceased and “nothing else but the two words carved underneath: CIVIL SERVANT.”

    Apart from giving a thunderously morbid END to the prologue, and reminding us of the funereal theme, I can’t help but be reminded of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s summation of the Path of Enlightenment:

    Blessed is the man on whose tomb can be written Hic jacet nemo.[33]

    This “avowed intention to be nothing,” this very “self-willed effacement,”[34] is the key to Eberlin’s transcendental identity. The clue that the UK Prologue is giving us is, Eberlin is already dead, though he has yet to effect his final exit from the material world.[35]

    Perhaps it would be good to sketch out the difference in the arrangement of the texts of UK and US Dandy. UK Dandy, after the Prologue (aka “Nightingale”) gives us 7 chapters, thus:

    1. Copperfield (UK colleague who may or may not be a double agent)
    2. Gatiss (UK assassin, sent along with Eberlin to kill “Krasnevin”)
    3. Pavel (Krasnevin’s Russian control in London)
    4. Dancer (Eberlin’s alias on his mission to kill “Krasnevin”)
    5. Krasnevin (aka Eberlin)
    6. Mistrale (Eberlin’s car, the significance of which will be dealt with)
    7. Endgame

    US Dandy abandons this structure entirely. It starts with a long quote from Alice in Wonderland[36] rather than the Prologue, and has two sections, APOGEE and PERIGEE,[37] with 16 chapters, some sharing names with UK (“Pavel,” “Gatiss”) the rest rather pretentiously opaque (“Friedrichstrasse Nein,” “Amontillado Caroline,” etc.) although the latter pretension is somewhat redeemed by the last, “The Passing of the Buck,” which will attract our attention soon. Each chapter is now headed by one or more epigraphs, either supposedly from Eberlin, illustrating some kind of Wildean wit, I suppose, or from Nietzsche, Voltaire and the like, no doubt drawn from his dandified reading.

    As I said, I’m going through the UK novel, noting interesting variants that provide us with clues. So, Chapter One, “Copperfield,” give us Eberlin at last; indeed, a veritable day in the life of Eberlin; although the phrase is not used, it seems we are to take this as a specimen day.[38]

    The most likely literary connection here is Huysmans’ Against Nature, whose Prologue and first chapter also give us an account of the origins and daily life of the self-sufficient dandy at home in his “snug little ark, his refined Thebaid.”[39]

    It’s all summed up in that passage quoted above, which deserves a second look:

    Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad.[40]

    I’m suggesting that Eberlin doesn’t go mad, like Brummell, but achieves that rather similar state, enlightenment, which in the context of a spy novel is death.

    Hermetic refers in the first instance to his isolation, partly due to his mission, but mostly due to himself (how many spies live like this?). This pedestrian sense of hermetic arises from the original and more profound sense of being on the path of the Hermetic tradition.[41]

    Eberlin is a realized man, but still held back in this phenomenal world, presumably due to his karma. His mission is to kill Krasnevin — i.e., himself; to finally kill off the last of his earthly ties: here lies nobody.[42]

    In “Copperfield” Eberlin is forced out of his hermitic retreat by a coded summons to a boring drinks party where he is surprised to meet fellow agent Copperfield, who either is on to him or, being a double agent, is the reason for the invitation. During their cat and mouse encounters around the party they have this key exchange.

    “But you — always surprised me . . . you sticking it there. No ties or anything . . . have you?

    “No.”

    “No. I thought that. No ties.”

    Eberlin is already bored — to death? — with his solitary life and the “infantile absurdity” of spycraft; the ambiguous meeting with Copperfield leads him to seek out contact with his Russian control, Pavel, to demand he be returned to the Soviet Union.[43]

    Here we get another clue; Eberlin is insulted by the crude goons sent to escort him:

    “I at least should be worth something more than a couple of zombies like you.”

    They, and the author, make quite a thing of this remark:

    The men laughed. Eberlin had said the world ‘zombies’ in English, which amused the men, they laughed again and repeated the word.

    Get it? Zombies and repetition, repeated. “Zombie” of course strikes the contemporary note, today, but was much less common back then. If the word was even less common in Russian, I like to imagine a similar scene in Hollywood as Ayn Rand first hears the word, which will later turn up in John Galt’s speech.[44] Anyway, I suggest the laughter arises from Eberlin’s failure to realize that it is he who is the real zombie.

    After taxi-ing around to evade any tails, we get another reminder: “God how he missed having a car.”

    The next morning, having decided on a plan “of utter selfishness and therefore of the utmost integrity,” Eberlin is phoned by Copperfield, who relays a message from Brogue, to meet with him at 10. Still waiting for Pavel to relay his own message from Moscow, Eberlin stalls him till 11, and as he prepares for the day we meet with a truly remarkable image.

    [Eberlin] showered in ice cold water, in a shower built to a design he had seen in Berlin. The bather sealed himself into a glass coffin and was impaled by bolts of water thrust at him, at infinite velocity, from every angle. After three minutes, one felt fit for anything.

    Well, the coffin is pretty obvious, but the bolts of water from every angle, of infinite velocity, suggests not only the “caught” metaphor, but also, at a deeper level, the very opposite: Eberlin is the Realized Man, the Chakravartin, who has reached the Center, from which he stands upright at the meeting point of all the warp and woof of the strands of existence.[45]

    The image is reinforced when we proceed to Eberlin’s meeting with Brogue, in whose office, painted green,

    Eberlin could see the small square outside filled with trees and no people . . . He stood in the center of the room looking down at Brogue who was sitting, swiveling gently from side to side, in the mahogany chair and toying with a bone cigar-holder.

    I’d rather stand,” replied Eberlin, “it would help you come to the point.”

    Eberlin remained standing, like a fulcrum, in the centre of the room.

    Brogue smiled and puffed a column of smoke on to Eberlin’s shoulder, so that it hung on the weave of the jacket then circled, dispersed and floated to the ceiling.[46]

    Trees (including a mahogany chair) and green walls suggest the Garden, whose central tree is the Axis Mundi. Eberlin, like the world tree, stands upright, while his opposite, Brogue, the Negro (like Satan, the ape of God/Eberlin), sits below, swiveling around the Axis in the material world, toying, like an ape in 2001, with a bone.[47]

    The whole symbolism, Eberlin’s life in the phenomenal world, his enlightened indifference and immobility, the center vs. the circling weave, is condensed in one movement:

    [Brogue] picked up a red file from the desk, marked CONFIDENTIAL. EX. F3, and held it over his head like a banner.

    “This is you in my hand, Eberlin. Ninety-six pages all dedicated to you. Catch!”

    He suddenly pretended to throw the file across the room, but held his hand. Eberlin made no attempt whatsoever to receive it, but kept his arms to his side, and then turned to [his secretary] and said in a bored voice: “Let’s go back.”

    Let’s go back will indeed be the ultimate theme. Eberlin is dead, dead to the world, but keeps coming back, and will continue to do so, until he finally can kill himself.

    And so Eberlin is given a mission: to kill Krasnevin, who is himself.[48] But first, before he even knows that’s on the agenda, he is to attend a briefing on the following Monday.[49]

    At this point, Chapter Two, we meet Emmanuel Gatiss, but not before the Center symbolism is driven home. Eberlin spends “the following two days of the weekend in planned despair” over the Russian refusal to repatriate him and what appears to be the British plan to, unknowingly, “promote” him to the active branch; from Q to 00, as it were.[50]

    He goes to the V and A to sit alone in a vault with his Sèvres, “surrounded by the sample of his extroversion and his taste, piled high around him,” and then bolts out, telling them to sell it all.

    Once he spent one hour trying on every shirt he had, until he tired and stood with the discarded shirts lying round his feet. “My failures,” he said, echoing Brummell, and left the room.[51]

    So then, Selvers, some kind of country house where the spooks and secret government officials (the “Deep State,” if you will) like to hang out in these kinds of books. Here, it looks like “a small exclusive school for the rich,” which highlights the point brought out by Amis,[52] that the trope of Bond’s uncomfortable meetings with ‘M’ (at least once, at his country house, Quarterdeck) as well as his more torturous meetings with various super-villains in their lairs, all recall — to a certain sort of reader — shamefaced meetings with parents or headmasters, in well-padded but stern rooms filled with adult indulgences, such as sherry and old leather books, which you can’t really understand. The first Bond book, Casino Royale, established the trope:

    “My dear boy,” Le Chiffre spoke like a father, “the game of Red Indians is over, quite over. You have stumbled by mischance into a game for grown-ups and you have already found it a painful experience. You are not equipped, my dear boy, to play games with adults and it was very foolish of your nanny in London to have sent you out here with your spade and bucket.”

    The “kitchen sink” or “Angry Young Man” movement (of which Amis was a peripheral member[53]), which rose up in the midst of the early Bond phenomenon, really picked up on that element, since the public school and the country house epitomized the stuffy, stratified, dead and deadening British Establishment they loathed.[54]

    Both angles suggest that there’s more than a little resemblance between the British Establishment and, say, SPECTRE than you might think, which thus plays into the next big British fad, the “all cats are grey” world of le Carré; both are typified by their shadowy meetings, here what Eberlin sneers at as a “barely visible cabal.”

    Armed with Amis insight, we might then suspect that things are not as they may appear, and the real twist in the story is hiding in plain sight.

    Here, the Mean Girls and public school angle appears in various childish tricks, such as apologizing for “forgetting” to offer the lunch that everyone has already eaten, or pretending not to notice that Eberlin, unlike them, hasn’t got a brandy or a cigar.[55] Like SPECTRE, they enjoy playing with their victims, although not with electrified chairs. An attendee of the lower ranks advises Eberlin:

    “They always make their victims walk around for half an hour to decide. It’s part of their routine.”

    There’s a Uriah Heepish character named Quince who offers obsequious advice, all “may I suggest” and “If I may, sir” as he attempts to ingratiate himself with the big boys.[56] Here, even Brogue the Negro is subdued: “He had learned how to act among his superiors.”

    Speaking of cabals, and Brogue, who I suggested was Eberlin’s dandy double, we meet another double, Emmanuel Gatiss. While Brogue is a double for the desk-bound Eberlin, Gatiss is Krasnevin’s double in the field, an assassin. So, obviously, he must be sent out to accompany Eberlin on his mission to kill himself.

    Like Brogue, Gatiss is an unusual character; in this case, a Jew. I really have no idea how common that would have been, in the British Secret Service (it is, after, somewhat secret) but it seems unlikely that many would be there. However, it surely would have been more common in the grotty little areas like sitting around decoding stuff, or, as here, doing the dirty field work of an assassin.[57]

    Anyway, Gatiss is unusual because he’s not just a Jewish assassin but a rather crude, vulgar, in-your-face what’yer gonna do about it mate? kind of agent; he has a chip on his shoulder about being a Jew in the post-WWII world, and he doesn’t care who knows it; no worries about letters calling him an Uncle Tom for him. He’s “self-coded EPSILON/32/Y” (I’m sure we’re told at some point ‘Y’ is for Yid, although I admit I can’t find that in either UK or US Dandy at this point, so maybe I was hallucinating).

    Putting his job and his attitude together, what’s remarkable is that he foreshadows both the social rise of the uncouth and proud of it Jew,[58] as well as the Jewish revenge porn of such films as Inglourious Basterds, sort of combining Brad Pitt and Eli Roth. He particularly loathes Germany, of course, despite (or because) he operates out of Munich, and at the conclusion says “Well, I hope I never have to come back to this damn country again.”

    As Eberlin’s counterpart — at the briefing Gatiss sits but “straight-backed” and unmoving, like Eberlin, and the two are frequently positioned next to each other, or across a lawn — he’s a bit of a dandy himself; he disdains tie clips and cufflinks and such like,[59] but does have a gold Star of David[60] on a chain around his neck. “Strongly built,” with his “blond hair cut stylistically short,” I can’t help but imagine Daniel Craig in the role.[61] Unlike both Craig’s Bond and Eberlin, he is neither chivalrous nor ascetic, merely unbelievably crude.

    “People say I only sleep with whores. That’s not true. All women are whores.”[62]

    And, being a Jew, he just doesn’t “get” how “the game” is played, either socially or metaphysically:

    “I think even if he had known he was only a bai and that we’d been aware of his identity for months, he’d have done just the same, don’t you?”

    Gatiss laughed loudly and replied:

    “You’re just as big a fool as he was.”[63]

    Although he does, in his blunt way, have a sense of what’s going on:

    “You’ve got no past and he’s got no future”

    So Eberlin and Gatiss are not just opponents but counterparts; Eberlin embodies the true Aryan response to the material world, a haughty indifference or hauteur; Gatiss, as befits a man of his race, has a “telluric” identification with these forces, which he hopes to control or at least get some benefit from.[64]

    Anyway, the Brits for some reason have decided to promote Eberlin to the field, to locate Krasnevin (who, we know, at least, is Eberlin). “So damned ironic and in such bad taste” thinks Everlin, yet a kind of reprieve.

    Then they reveal who they think Krasnevin is: Pavel, Eberlin’s control and the closest thing to a friend, such as he is, that he has. Some reprieve.

    We get one last clue: he’s given the perk of a chauffeur for the trip back to London, in starting which “the chauffeur turned the car smartly into the centre of the gravel square.”

    Whoa Nellie, we’re only halfway through! No matter. The whole point of what follows in Berlin is sheer futility and repetition. As tulip says [4]:

    In an interesting subversion of audience expectations, the British spies who go to Eberlin for the job as mole-hunter receive numerous clues that something is fishy about him, and yet they do nothing. This is frustrating, because as it turns out, Eberlin really isn’t all that good of a spy, or at least a good field agent. Like [Gatiss] says in the film, he manages to get precisely nothing done. Without wanting to spoil the ending outright: this conundrum does get addressed. It’s just a bit questionable how well.

    Boredom, repetition, and futility . . . Well, Constant Readers know I just love that kinda thing!

    But it’s not quite true. The Brits are doing something: they’ve figured out Eberlin is Krasnevin (although it’s never clear exactly when — presumably after he’s killed Nightingale and before the briefing; this may be what Brogue is talking about, obliquely, at the funeral) and by sending him to Berlin I suppose they assume he’ll try to escape to the East and thus lead them to various Russian agents in the West.

    Even so, it’s a pretty lazy plot, especially since they presumably don’t know that Eberlin is already desperate to be repatriated. It also leads to either a brilliant plot twist or an unfair trick by the author. Before he even leaves London Eberlin skedaddles right over to Pavel’s place to again demand repatriation; as he leaves, he sees Pavel being shoved into a big black Buick and spirited away as fast as Hillary at the 9/11 Memorial. He thinks it’s the Russians, cutting off his line of escape, but in the end realizes that it was the Brits, who therefore must have known about him all along; that triggers the “Dead . . . dead . . . dead” conversation we started with.[65]

    Anyway, from the point of view of Eberlin’s official mission, he does indeed accomplish nothing; and there’s a peculiar kind of nothing or futility in the way what he actually does is hidden from him and thus largely accidental: as a “secret agent” his real secret is that he has no more agency than a puppet. And there’s the way he goes back and forth across the border, always being sent back, always trying to find some way to cross over again.

    What’s really going on here, at the symbolic level, is the Eberlin is cutting his “ties,” burning his bridges in and to the phenomenal world, reaching the limit of frustration and disgust, so as to be free enough to ascend to the (or at least a) higher realm. As Neville put it:

    I remember when I had so much wealth. I did not have one home, but many, each fully staffed from secretaries to gardeners. That was a life of sheer decadence. I recall walking out of it and not returning. Whether they ever found the body I do not know, but I do know I deliberately walked away. . . . So I do believe that one must completely saturate himself with the things of Caesar before he is hungry for the Word of God.[66]

    Eberlin is dead, already, but until all this karma has been exhausted, he is stuck here, in endless repetitions.[67]

    He could turn neither to the East nor the west now, both rejected him, and even if they didn’t, Eberlin didn’t much care.[68] Politics were over, ideologies were of no further consequence. He didn’t belong any more on any front, and in the final analysis, he was glad. It had come to this. The Eberlin Trinity [Eberlin/Krasnevin/Dancer] was on its own.[69]

    So, let’s get to the end, shall we? Again, we have a few variants to choose from, like a Gospel manuscript or a video game set up.

    In both versions, someone has been set-up to take the fall for Krasnevin: in UK, the Brits (they tell Eberlin) decide it’s the dead Pavel, in US, the Russians plan to offer the hapless Copperfield to get Krasnevin off the hook. The switch to Copperfield is needed because, as we’ve seen, in the US version the Brits have already got Pavel; Eberlin receives his “dead” verdict from Rotopkin, and the book just sort of peters out, in true grey, le Carré fashion.

    The UK version is more interesting. As you’ll recall, the penultimate chapter is “Mistrale” and indeed the car finally makes its (re)appearance.

    The Mistrale seemed just like new. Eberlin walked around it five times, prodded it, stroked it, then actually sat inside and held the wheel without starting the engine. It felt wrong but it was definitely the same car.

    Indeed, the Chakravartin “holds the wheel[70] without staring the engine.”

    Then, after Eberlin (thinks) he’s blown his cover by trying to save Rotopkin from Gatiss (in this version, Gatiss kills Rotopkin), he attempts to escape to “Spain or Africa” and instead drives into a wall at 80 miles an hour.

    And then there’s Caroline. Now, Caroline was the hostess of the drinks party at the beginning. She doesn’t get a chapter title in UK, but remember, US has “Amontillado Caroline,” which is the code Eberlin receives to instruct him to attend the party. She claims to have met Eberlin in Tripoli (where he was to kill Nightingale, and where he cracked up the Mistrale). Later, she turns up in Berlin. Now, she’s driving the car that Eberlin hits on the way to the wall. Later still, she’ll buy Eberlin’s house and its dandified contents at the post mortem auction.[71]

    Is Caroline then a spy? An assassin? If either, for whom? It seems unlikely, since she’s a kind of Twiggy/Marianne Faithfull sort of bird, an element of the contemporary “Swinging London” Marlowe was writing in. Her hysterical crying at the scene of the accident could be fake, of course.

    I think she’s not a spy at all — her connection to the cocktail party is likely through her parents, undoubtedly parlour pinks of the old Bloomsbury sort.[72] She’s a perfectly ordinary person who for some reason — karma? — is constantly running into Eberlin at crisis moments. She is purely a symbol of repetition.

    Only this time, the circle becomes a spiral; things are a little off. In Tripoli, Eberlin swerves to avoid a car and drove into a tree. The Ministry chaps at Selvers seem a bit obsessed with it, and interrogate him further.

    “It was a question of expediency.”

    “Expediency? You deny it was your own fault?”

    “Not exactly, but I could not have avoided the situation. I felt at the time that I did the correct thing.”

    “And now?”

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Do you think you did the right thing now?”

    “Yes.”

    And with that deterministic note, he’s sent off on his Judas Mission, in the course of which I’ve suggested that he learns finally to cut his ties with the phenomenal world. This time — I wonder, was it Caroline driving what is only described as “a car” he swerves to avoid in Tripoli? — it is her Mini that is now “decapitated” but in the process Eberlin and the Mistrale are totaled.[73]

    Gatiss arrives and telegrams a cryptic message to London:

    “HAVE JUST WITNESSED THE PASSING OF THE BUCK”

    Though never decoded for us, it’s important enough for US Dandy, which loses all of this action, to preserve the phrase as the title of the last chapter. If Caroline was not an assassin before, she is now; Krasnevin has made her responsible for his death, and passed his karma to her, freeing himself. It’s not “fair” or “rational,” of course, but who ever said the cosmos was fair or rational?[74]

    What about Movie Dandy? As already noted, the film, perhaps necessarily, drops many of the dandy elements, making the title all the more obscure; it also drops the opening funeral, mostly. What it does that’s interesting lies in the beginning and end.

    The opening credits play over a dancing puppet. Now, the very mobile puppet is at first glance the very opposite of the stuck in aspic metaphor,[75] but then you realize that being controlled by various strings in essentially the same. And then you remember that Eberlin’s new alias is Dancer, and it all fits beautifully; dandy becomes dancer, stuckness becomes illusory self-control.[76] It’s a nice way to make a literary image “cinematic.”[77] But ironically — or not, as all Traditional symbols resonate with what appears to be their opposites on the phenomenal plane — the dancing puppet is also the Dancer, Krishna.[78]

    There follows an abbreviated version of the funeral, this time with Eberlin in attendance, for no particular reason. Eberlin’s metaphorical duel with Brogue is set in a basement firing range at London HQ, which again is a nice transposition from page to screen.

    The only reference to Eberlin as a dandy occurs when Pavel admires his suit, which is odd since it’s mostly hidden under his overcoat at that point; moreover, we’ve just come from the briefing scene, where Eberlin wears a ghastly light brown suit, presumably to highlight his “not being one of” his well-dressed superiors. He also gets a chance to use some of those “witty” epigrams that decorate the chapter titles in US Dandy (“What do I do? I collect noses off statues”). Otherwise, bit players are assigned to tell us “he’s a snob” and “he’s completely sexless” (the latter seems account for Caroline following him around as some kind of challenge).

    We’re left with Eberlin’s stated motivation as “I’d give it all up for an identity, just to belong somewhere,” which sounds a little too much like a bow to ’60s clichés about alienation etc. But basically, as noted, Lawrence Harvey just plays his usual bored prick.

    Other changes are not so welcome: Gatiss loses all trace of Jewishness, aside perhaps from Tom Courtney’s dark hair, which misses the point — he isn’t dark-haired Eberlin’s double, he’s his counterpart;[79] Eberlin’s Moneypenny, Miss Vogler, is now Eberlin’s casual bedmate, not one of Gatiss’ castoffs; Caroline’s role is expanded, as played by Mia Farrow, but not further explained.[80]

    Worst of all is Lionel Stander as Sobakevitch. While it’s always fun to have Stander’s side of brisket face and Merchant Marine growl, he plays the Russian operative like a “comical” taxi driver from his hometown, the Bronx.[81]

    Now, finally, about that ending. As noted, US Dandy, the basis of the screenplay, just gives us the downbeat ending of Eberlin being hustled onto the plane to London, having just learned that the Brits have known the truth all along. But again, this is a motion picture, and even something as dreary as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold ends with a big shoot ‘em up.

    As also noted, Lawrence Harvey himself seems to have been responsible for not just directing but writing, or at least dreaming up, the final sequence. Now, at the end of his Berlin stay Eberlin does get his car back, but since nothing has been made of it until now, it seems rather pointless. Nor is it a racing car, just some kind of American muscle car with a garish Chinese red paintjob. He drives it around frantically for a while and I think we’re supposed to think he’s going to race through a checkpoint but nothing doing; this seems to be all that remains of the death/crash motif.

    Instead, on the tarmac, Eberlin notices Gatiss in a car at some distance. Is Gatiss (who, we are casually told just now, was the only Brit who didn’t know Eberlin was Krasnevin until the end) supposed to sneak up at 60 miles an hour and run him over?[82]

    In any event, Eberlin/Krasnevin breaks away and runs toward the car, while Gatiss starts up (was he waiting for Eberlin to make the first move, so as to make running him down “self-defense”?) and bears down on him. Eberlin fires his pistol (which for some reason the Brits still let him carry) point-blank[83] at the windshield . . . and freeze-frame on Eberlin’s face as he turns away, or perhaps is hit aside by the car; who knows? Cut to puppet tangled up in strings and lifted up out of sight.

    Marlowe may have hated the ending, but at least someone sensed there needed to finally be some kind of climactic action (which the UK novel, ironically, does have), and remembered that Eberlin and Gatiss were supposed to be opposing forces of some kind. But since all that has been dropped, and we are simply told that Eberlin is “such a snob” and that Gatiss “Hates you, hates me, hates everybody,” one has no sense of a metaphysical resolution, one only wishes to see the last of these two jerkasses.

    In any event, we have reached the end of our epic traversal of three versions of the passing of the buck, which I have suggested many a time is one of, if not the most basic, metaphysical theme of film and fiction.

    It’s good to have at least the US version of the novel back in print, and the movie is a nice way to spend a couple hours of time (there’s a DVD which is so bare-bones it not only has no “special features” it doesn’t even have chapter stops!), but you really should get on the intertubes and find a second-hand copy of the UK original.[84]

    As for myself, time for a break from all this reading and view. That coffin-shower thing sounds like just the ticket . . .

    Notes

    [1] The Circus, of course, is British Intelligence (MI6) in John le Carré’s George Smiley novels. This, by the way, is one of the “dandyish” epigrams that decorate the chapter titles in the US version of the novel, as we shall see.

    [2] The Guardian called it one of the ten best first novels of all time and add that “It’s baffling that a writer of Marlowe’s quality, his style and sensibility setting him apart from all competition, has been out of print for so long.” “Nicholas Royle’s top 10 first novels,” 27 February 2013, here [5]. FWIW, I’ve never heard of any of the other nine authors or books.

    [3] We’ll soon see that the experience of the book will differ from one side of the pond to the other.

    [4] Long out of print, it’s been reasonably available on the second-hand market; I’ve acquired, in my obsessive fashion, the original US and UK hardcovers for about a dollar each, and a British move tie-in paperback. The film is available on DVD.

    [5] “Classic read: A Dandy in Aspic by Derek Marlowe” by Fiona Wilson; April 25, 2015, here [6].

    [6] Thus missing the whole point of the Bond appeal. It’s the kind of “grey is real” miserablism that the Left usually traffics in, preferring “folk” ditty about mining disasters to pop hits, or, in the UK context, creating the dismal East Enders series to counter the popular Coronation Street (guess which one is on PBS in the States). The Right, in its Beautiful Losers mode, indulges in it too; see my “Hard Men vs. Wild Boys,” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). Kingsley Amis has a better understanding of Bond in his invaluable The James Bond Dossier (London: Cape, 1965), finding the appeal of Bond to be precisely his ordinariness; one feels one could do the same, if only one had the time and money. (In American terms, Batman rather than Superman). Amis points out that Bond, though a “secret agent,” is in fact no grander than any of le Carré’s grey men; he’s not a spy, but though more accurate, a title like The Middle-level Civil Servant Who Loved Me lacks the right amount of pizazz. In typically Judaic fashion, Bond co-producer Harry [Herschel] Salzman optioned Len Deighton’s Ipcress File for film to create an anti-Bond franchise, covering the markets for both snobs and slobs.

    [7] As for “gym-buffed heroes,” again, Bond, in his book and classic film mode, is fit but hardly Superman-like. Amis, in his typical fashion, simply details all the injuries and weaknesses that Fleming assigns him — even, in Thunderball, consigning him to a health sanitarium! I explore the obsession with suuper-heroic musculature in “The Ponderous Weight of the Dark Knight,” Counter-Currents, July 28, 2012, here [7].

    [8] Derek Marlowe, in The London Observer. I have long ago lost my blurry Photostat of this fine essay on The Dandy; this is taken from “Wit and Wisdom” on Dandyism.net.

    [9] “If it wasn’t for the internet, Marlowe’s genius as a writer may have been lost, as none of his novels are currently in print.” — Dangerous Minds, “A Dandy in Aspic: A Letter from Derek Marlowe,” here [8].

    [10] I’ve discussed Dali’s invaluable paranoiac-critical method several times on Counter-Currents: here [9]. For a more sedate precedent, consider . . .  Walter Pater. “Pater was not entirely without gumption; only he tended to hoard it for his imagination. . . . ‘Facts’ and historical accuracy are not the coin in which Pater traded. For him, history was a mine to be worked for the frisson of insight; a certain amount of poetic license only aided the process.” See the review of Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls, by Denis Donoghue (New York: Knopf, 1994), “Art vs. Aestheticism: the case of Walter Pater,” by Roger Kimball; The New Criterion, May 1995, online here [10].

    [11] Kasper Gutman: “That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. ‘Cause as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.” The Maltese Falcon. Marlowe, as you might imagine, had Raymond Chandler as a favorite writer (“A Letter,” loc. cit.)

    [12] See my “Breaking Badge: Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad,” here [11], for the use of multiple media and a consideration of, for example, how audiences respond sympathetically to what Welles intended as a portrayal of fascist evil. Speaking of which: “Scanner Darkly and Laurence Harvey in the same story makes me have to point out that there exists an ORSON WELLES version of DEAD CALM all but completed but abandoned when Laurence Harvey died of a heart attack before the final scenes were shot. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see this with animated scenes where filmed ones do not exist à la SCANNER DARKLY?” The significance of P. K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly will soon become clear.

    [13] A Dandy in Aspic (1968); directed by Anthony Mann (and, uncredited, Laurence Harvey); screenplay by Derek Marlowe; starring Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtney, Mia Farrow, Peter Cook, Harry Andrews, Calvin Lockheart.

    [14] Not be confused with Michael Mann, director of our favorite and much referenced Manhunter (1986), although the latter, under that title or the novel — Red Dragon (again, ambiguity!) — has obvious parallels to Eberlin’s mission. “You want the scent? Smell yourself.”

    [15] An important point, as we shall see; there are in total three distinct “endings.”

    [16] Counter-Currents readers might like, if they haven’t seen it already, his 1961 El Cid, with Charlton Heston.

    [17] “A Letter from Derek Marlowe,” loc. cit.

    [18] Not really.

    [19] “The Forgotten: Cold Warrior” by David Cairns; Notebook, 12 August 2010, here [12]. As our protagonist is variously known as Eberlin, Krasnavin, and even George Dancer, I began to refer to him as EKD which, it occurs to me, does suggest PKD, does it not?

    [20] “About the novels. All characters are close or have been observed in some element of truth. One book went too far and I was sued for libel — but I shan’t reveal which one it was. Loner and anti-hero? Loner, certainly — even though I am married with four stepchildren and one son of my own — but not anti-hero. I’m for heroes, though if not Lancelot or Tristan, heroes appear out of the mould of the time.” — Marlowe, “Letter,” loc. cit.

    [21] Pater, reviewing Wilde’s Dorian Gray, refers to “the, from the first, suicidal hero.” See “A Novel by Mr. Oscar Wilde,” published in The Bookman, November 1891; quoted in Kimball, loc. cit.

    [22] Further hermetic obscurity: the Table of Contents tells us this section is titled “Prologue” but the actual first page is headed “Prologue” and then “Nightingale,” giving it a title like all the other chapters, and one derived from a character’s name, in this case the dead man, as most of them are.

    [23] “And I can’t help but think that the book the movie is adapted from must do a better job of explaining the twists and turns of the plot so they appear well thought out. It also likely gives the many characters who are but briefly introduced and then forgotten something worthwhile to do, like the black spy (surely an unusual sight at that time) and Eberlin’s Moneypenny stand-in.” Soliloquies under the influence of tulips, August 5, 2011, here [4]. Cairns (op.cit.) calls him “a surprising black British spymaster.”

    [24] “Gypsy woman told my momma, before I was born/You got a boy-child comin’, gonna be a son-of-a-gun.” Willie Dixon, “Hootchie Cootchie Man.”

    [25] In the first chapter, Eberlin’s Russian contacts seek clarification when Eberlin mentions Brogue: “‘The Negro?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Important?’ ‘To a degree.’”

    [26] It’s not clear if it’s Brogue himself who thinks of himself as “the Negro” or thinks about the problem of “the Negro” in general, or the omniscient narrator.

    [27] See Aedon Cassiel, “Pizzagate,” here [13].

    [28] We learn Eberlin has had one affair, producing both a son and a respect for the dangers of women; neither are ever seen by him again.

    [29] “You let the wrong word slip/While kissing persuasive lips” from the contemporary “Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers).

    [30] What remains of Brogues aberrant sexuality seems to be dog-whistled by casting Calvin Lockheart in the role. There’s no evidence of homosexuality in his biography [14], but this early role in England would lead him to star in Joanna by Michael Sarne, who would eventually put him as the effete Irving Amadeus in Myra Breckenridge, which can’t help but color, as it were, one’s perception of his performance; starring on Dynasty doesn’t help either. Cairns, however, thinks it bleeds over into the whole film: “Maybe it’s Mann’s response to the perceived effete decadence of British culture, but in this movie it seems a long time before we meet any straight men at all. (Harry Andrews, with his weathered granite face, seems like the first hetero presence, though his auto-erotic asphyxiation death scene, while wearing a tutu, in 1972’s The Ruling Class might cast even this certainty into question.) The bizarrely variegated cast appear to have been instructed to camp it up for all they’re worth, with the ever-ambiguous Harvey a relatively mild offender. Peter Cook, a surprising presence in the first place, whose entire characterisation is based around rampant womanizing (“She’s eine klein raver!”) nevertheless flicks his hair and ponces about with the best of them. Tom Courtenay and Calvin Lockhart (a surprising black British spymaster) play their confrontations with Harvey in the hissiest way imaginable (in a shooting gallery scene, they fire at images of naked men), and there’s a strong implication that Per Oscarsson’s Swedish-accented Russian operative is or has been Harvey’s lover.” I’ll comment on some of this later, but the last point is definitely all in Cairns’ head.

    [31] In the UK Prologue, Brogue dictates a letter to Sotheby’s inquiring about the provenance of the box.

    [32] “Tired with LALAland, Marlowe planned to return to England to finish his tenth novel, Black and White, but he contracted leukemia and tragically died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of fifty-eight, in 1996”; here [8].

    [33] [Here lies no one]. A. K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, p.30.

    [34] “WHO was—or what was—Ananda Coomaraswamy? The man is of no help here, as he discouraged biographical ‘curiosity’ in his avowed intention to be ‘nothing.’ And yet this very self-willed effacement affords a key to the answer. Hic Jacet Nemo was the epitaph he most desired, and ‘Here lies no one’ is already a clue to the response we are seeking.” — Whitall N. Perry, “Coomaraswamy — The Man, Myth and History,” Studies in Comparative Religion, vol. 11, no. 3 (Summer 1977), online here [15].

    [35] Presumably, when his car cracks up in Tripoli, an event in the recent past of which people keep reminding him and us.

    [36] John le Carré published The Looking Glass War the previous year, 1965. Was the quote the idea of the author or the publisher?

    [37] “1. Astronomy. the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon, or of a man-made satellite at which it is farthest from the earth. Compare perigee [16]. 2. the highest or most distant point; climax.” Dictionary.com, here [17]. Note the apparent inversion of the climax.

    [38] One might think, perhaps, of the Lennon/McCartney “A Day in the Life” (1967), but that was in the future. More likely in the author’s mind would be One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World) and translated into English almost immediately and several times over: Ralph Parker’s translation (New York: Dutton, 1963) was the first to be published, followed by Ronald Hingley and Max Hayward’s (New York: Praeger, 1963) and Bela Von Block’s (New York: Lancer, 1963); see here [18].

    [39] Eberlin, however, lacks Huysmans’ dandy’s palate; he is “apathetic about the acquired bigotry of wines and bouquets,” preferring wine “bought . . . cheap from the supermarket” which “came out of the decanter like sludge.” As for food, “he never pruned his taste buds, considering food nothing more than a basic necessity to be completed as painlessly and quickly as possible.” There’s also his self-admonishment in “Copperfield,” “Smoking too much, Eberlin,” a very un-Bondian note. US Dandy gives us a wonderful passage about Eberlin’s endurance of the “ceremony” of coffee preparation by some bore. Film Dandy drops all of this, leaving everything up to Lawrence Harvey’s unmatched ability to portrait a bored, supercilious prick; “as bitter and hostile to our sympathies as he was in The Manchurian Candidate” (Cairns).

    [40] The next paragraph also introduces us to the Maserati Mistrale 3700, “at present disemboweled and eight fee tin the air at Cutcher’s Garage, twenty kilometres from Lyons.” I will suggest that Eberlin is already in a similar post mortem state.

    [41] Dandy US describes him in the corresponding chapter as “a frivolous monk.”

    [42] “One year ago he had written ‘Ex Libris’ on the flyleaf of his passport and burned his suitcase.” The former makes more sense if one recalls that British passports of the time looked more like little books than, say, US passports did.

    [43] Eberlin, real name Krasnevin, was born in Russia and raised to pass for an English schoolboy, part of a program supposedly created by Stalin to implant sleeper agents with impeccable backgrounds. “On paper it looked fallible. In practice, it was without error. Eberlin himself knew of a Troy M.P. of a Northern Constituency, whose loyalties ranged much further that the Houses of Parliament [and a schoolmate] whom he knew now to be a Democrat general in the U.S. Army.” He met the latter at a White House cocktail party, which leads one to think there may be something to this Birther business after all, especially when Brogue the Negro says to Eberlin “I must admit your references are excellent.”

    [44] “The purpose of man’s life, say both [the mystics of muscle and mystics of spirit], is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.” As reprinted in For the New Intellectual, p. 171. British Film Character Actors: Great Names and Memorable Moments by Terence Pettigrew (Rowman & Littlefield, 1982) describes Laurence Harvey’s performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) as “zombie-like” but “excusable for once” given his role.

    [45] For more on this Traditional image, see my essays “The Corner at the Center of the World: Traditional Metaphysics in a Late Tale of Henry James,” here [19] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others: Traditionalist Meditations on Literature, Art, & Culture; ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014), “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, Part 2,” here [20], and with particular reference to the secret agent motif, “The Baker Street Männerbund: Some Thoughts on Holmes, Watson, Bond, & Bonding, here [21].

    [46] The center pole of the teepee, for example, and other traditional designs where a hole is left at the top, to let smoke, and so the sprits, escape. See, for example, Ananda Coomaraswamy, The Door in the Sky (Princeton, 1997).

    [47] See Julius Evola, The Hermetic Tradition, Chapter 1, “The Tree, The Serpent and the Titans.”

    [48] Willard: “Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.” Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979; script by John Milius).

    [49] We also get another hint: Nightingale had been killed “with a minimum of difficulty, apart from decapitating the Mistrale on the Route Nationale.” And a reminder as he takes the train to the meeting: “Trees really are greener in England.”

    [50] Though “trained to kill the secret enemies of the Soviet Union,” “Eberlin” is a committed desk jockey, unlike Bond or, in le Carré’s Spy who comes in from the cold, both of whom are driven nearly mad by paperwork and bureaucracy. In fact, since it’s “frightfully probably that he would be asked to continue Nightingale’s operation” despite having, as Krasnevin, assassinated him, it’s rather as if one could obtain a 00 license by killing one’s predecessor. “Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you/The odds will betray you/And I will replace you.” Chris Cornell, Casino Royale main title theme.

    [51] An American might recall the scene in The Great Gatsby where Daisy is overwhelmed by Gatsby’s shirt collection: “They’re such beautiful shirts, she sobbed, her face muffled in the folds. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.” Gatsby is another fake person, but Eberlin would no doubt consider him as another crude arriviste, like Brogue. Or, in the terms we’re discussing here, Gatsby is destroyed because he actually believes in materialism, in wealth and women as the goal of life, and hence his avarice has no end, being a futile attempt to capture the infinite in finite goods — the green light will always recede.

    [52] The James Bond Dossier, op. cit.

    [53] See Colin Wilson, The Angry Years: A Literary Chronicle (Avova Books, 2007), and Jonathan Bowden’s lecture “Bill Hopkins & the Angry Young Men,” online here [22].

    [54] Lawrence Harvey’s breakout role, of course, was as Joe Lampton in the iconic AYM film, Room at the Top (1959) from John Braine’s 1957 novel. For more on Braine, see “Lovecraft in a Northern Town: John Braine’s The Vodi,” here [23]. The ultimate expression of the “dead” theme is the ending of The Ruling Class, where the Establishment is depicted as a roomful of rotting corpses; Harry Andrews, as noted above, starts off the film with a bang, and he’s here in Movie Dandy as well.

    [55] It’s a demonic version of the dandified Oxford youth of Brideshead Revisited: “… it seemed as though I was being given a brief spell of what I had never known, a happy childhood, and though its toys were silk shirts and liqueurs and cigars and its naughtiness high in the catalogue of grave sins, there was something of nursery freshness about us that fell little short of the joy of innocence.”

    [56] Typically, the movie adds a line crudely informing him, and us, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your promotion.”

    [57] Goldfinger: Q: “It has not been perfected, out of years of patient research, ENTIRELY for that purpose, 007. And incidentally, we’d appreciate its return, along with all your other equipment, INTACT for once, when you return from the field.” James Bond: “Well, you’d be surprised the amount of wear and tear that goes on out there in the field.” Here Bond is channeling his inner Upper Class Twit; I suspect real Qs and Bonds would be more Jewy than otherwise; the brainy Jew and the grubby little operative. As commentators from Amis on have noted, Bond sits uneasily between the upper and working classes; his devotion to Queen and Country in the novels is part of a forelock-pulling obsequiousness that makes him a sucker for powerful men like Goldfinger (in the novel he becomes his secretary, along with Tillie Masterson!) and above all, Sir Hugo Drax, much to ‘M’s disgust — or jealousy.

    [58] See, for instance, my collection End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

    [59] “Edina: “Darling, even Amanda de Cadenet would remember the word “accessories.” Absolutely Fabulous: “Magazine” (#1.6)” (1992). The Germans have a handy word for such male accessories: Schmuck. Hence, the Yiddish . . .

    [60] Jew gold!

    [61] Tom Courtney in the Movie, not so much, though he does establish another AYM connection through Billy Liar (1963) and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962).

    [62] Well, all shiksas, at least. Not for the first time we see that contemporary Pick Up Artist culture has only a dubious connection to Aryan culture.

    [63] The Gospel is foolishness in the eyes of the world. The Jew Gatiss needs to learn the lesson of Mark 8:34ff. “The only way to attain ‘life’ — true life, the life of the age to come — . . . is by behaving in a way which seems to unredeemed man unintelligent and self-defeating: willingly accepting loss and injury in the cause of Christ and his gospel, and refusing to bend all one’s energies, as other men do, to preserving, securing, and enriching one’s life in this world.” D. E. Nineham, The Gospel of St. Mark, The Pelican New Testament Commentaries (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 226.

    [64] See Julius Evola, The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts (Rochester, Vt: Inner Traditions, 1997), pp. 76-77.

    [65] This is actually the US version, which adds this layer of complexity to the plot. In the UK novel, it’s clearly the Russians: Eberlin sees and is even spoken to by the agent Rotopkin; Rotopkin is killed by a racecar at the Gran Prix as he is running from Gatiss at the end. In the US version, it’s Eberlin who thinks the Buick is “no doubt” driven by the Russians. A different Russian, Sobaevick, is killed at the Gran Prix by Gatiss (and a policeman is killed on the track, since Marlowe apparently liked the scene), and when Eberlin later calls Rotopkin, he learns the truth. The movie keeps this version, but with additional changes.

    [66] A frequent story in his last lectures, here for instance: “A Lesson in Scripture,” 10/23/67, online here [24].

    [67] The idea of needing to perform every possible action, good or bad, so as to exhaust all experience, was promoted by the Gnostic sect of Carpocrates; see my review of the work of Luis Varady, “Lords of the Visible World: A Modern Reconstruction of an Ancient Heresy, here [25].

    [68] In Coleman Francis’ The Beast of Yucca Flats (1962), the narrator informs us that “Vacation time. People travel East. West. North. Or South,” to which MST3k’s Mike Nelson responds “Some people just burrow straight down.” (Episode 621). “Dancer” is officially on vacation, and in this case his choice is straight up the World Tree.

    [69] This literal apotheosis takes place at a German Gran Prix track, a reminder of the time when Gran Prix racing was the sport of kings. Gran Prix tracks, no less than NASCAR or ancient chariot races, epitomize the motif of man vs. circular futility. See my review of a similar man and a similar movie of futility, Steve McQueen’s Le Mans (1971), “St. Steven of Le Mans: The Man Who Just Didn’t Care,” here [26].

    [70] It’s no accident that this all takes place in Berlin, home of the Sun Wheel emblem, whose National Socialist past makes Gatiss despise it.

    [71] The reappearance of Eberlin’s house and racing car surely recalls the ending of The Prisoner (1967); was there any influence here? The eponymous Prisoner is definitely an ascetic dandy in his lifestyle, especially if he is indeed the John Drake of Secret Agent/Danger Man. He’s given a new name, or at least number, and set on various tasks and mission while in the Village, all ending with his defeat or return, only to start up again next week. In the end, it is revealed (perhaps) that No. 6 and No. 1 are the same, with John Drake making an Eberlin Trilogy. And of course, the last scene has him drive up in his old racing car (a Lotus) to his old London house.

    [72] I imagine her in the big house with her mother, rather like Ab/Fab’s Patsy growing up with her Isadore Duncanish mother.

    [73] “A short paragraph details the anonymous ends of both, one to ‘a large burial plot north of Spandau,’ the other fetching 109 marks on the scrap market.”

    [74] “The only real reason something should come into being in the course of human events is that ‘someone wishes it to be here.’ To expect that the universe should somehow ‘make sense’ in itself, as if isolation from human actions that shape our world of meaning is a false expectation — and so horror in the face of an illogical or insane universe is misplaced. The abyssal lack of an inherent and immutable order can be seen as the free space for us to make the world meaningful in one way or another.” Jason Reza Jorjani, Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016), “Being Bound for Freedom”; quoting and explicating William James. The idea is not unknown to those with considerable experience with the mysterious East: commenting on the final settlement of the Apple/Capitol/EMI litigation in 1989, George Harrison commented: “the funny thing is most of the people who were involved with the reason that lawsuit came about aren’t even in the companies nay more. So the people at Capitol and EMI had to take on the karma of their predecessors, and I’m sure that they’re relieved too.” Peter Doggett, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup (HarperStudio, 2009; UK subtitle: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles), p. 297.

    [75] “I feel caged in” is the only way Eberlin can express his reasons for wanting out to Pavel, which really combines the stuck in a viscous solid and string/wire metaphors. During the Selvers briefing, an apology is offered for having “to have kept you hanging about for so long in the dark.”

    [76] While in Berlin, “Dancer” stays at the Kleist Hotel, which surely must connect him to Heinrich von Kleist and his “Essay on the Marionette Theater,” which discusses, pessimistically, the consequences of our encounter with the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

    [77] “Remember, this is a motion picture!” MST3k, Episode 603, The Dead Talk Back.

    [78] As Eberlin calls himself, the Eberlin Trinity (Eberlin, Krasnevin, Dancer).

    [79] He also now carries around, from his first scene on, a “sitting stick,” as an MST3k robot calls the similar Schmuck carried around by Ed Platt — later Get Smart’s “Chief” — in the late ’50s caper The Rebel Set (episode 419). In both cases, it’s a Chekov’s Gun [27], in Gatiss’ case literally so.

    [80] She’s a swinging London photographer, here, with an actor partner named Neville, which I appreciated for obvious reasons [28].

    [81] One has to wonder if his attempt to portray a Russian Communist spymaster as a crusty but benign father figure is a function of this being one of the films he made during a longtime exile from the USA, as a result of being one of the most obvious and obstreperous members of the Hollywood communist rat pack [29]. Wikipedia adds that “After 15 years abroad, Stander moved back to the U.S. for the role he is now most famous for: Max, the loyal butler, cook, and chauffeur to the wealthy, amateur detectives played by Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on the 1979–1984 television series Hart to Hart.” Indeed, his Sobakevitch definitely recalls his “Max,” whose “My boss” line and gravelly voice often crops up on MST3k [30], including the same Episode 419 [31] that gave us the “sitting stick.”

    [82] The same year, 1968, brought us Ted Mikels’ The Astro-Zombies, where that very scenario is played out, with equal unlikeliness. Jabootu comments [32]: “This isn’t as exaggerated as tying Batman up in a giant popsicle-making machine, but it still seems a pointlessly exaggerated way to kack the guy. And that’s even assuming you could build up a fatal amount of speed in the at best twenty-foot distance between Sergio and where the car was parked. Perhaps Sergio actually died choking on the ketchup packet that he was apparently carrying in his mouth for some reason.” After all, Gatiss still has his sitting/shooting stick.

    [83] Earlier, when Eberlin resolves to kill Pavel and returns to his apartment — Pavel having already been spirited away — “Harvey pumps his bed full of bullets, just like Lee Marvin in Point Blank the same year.” (Cairns, op. cit.).

    [84] Now I admit I have been known to harbor perhaps idiosyncratic preferences for UK versions of LPs (although I have recently come to admit the US Beatles LPs are better sequenced, despite their atrocious covers), but comparing the UK and US versions of Dandy is not so much like comparing the UK and US versions of, say, Aftermath but comparing Aftermath to, say, a Bill Wyman solo album.

     

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Looking for Pop
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    3,353 words [1]

    Jef Costello
    The Importance of James Bond & Other Essays [2]
    San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017

    “Where was that stooped and mealy-colored old man I used to call Poppa when the merry-go-round broke down?”[1]

    “This guy can’t possibly live up to the song they wrote about him… probably just an accountant named Wallace.”[2]

    Hearing that Counter-Currents was publishing a collection of Jef Costello’s essays for the Website, one’s reaction is rather like James Bond’s when he wakes up on Goldfinger’s plane bound for Kentucky:

    James Bond: Who are you?

    Pussy Galore: My name is Pussy Galore.

    James Bond: I must be dreaming.

    Costello is one of Counter-Currents’ most popular writers, and indeed one suspects he has a small, deeply disturbed following[3] that only shows up when he’s on tap. For many, this book will simply be an automatic, must-have purchase.

    Costello articulates the profound dis-ease that most of us live with in modern society, in the much-vaunted modernity; and displays a ruthless honesty in uncovering and rooting out the ways all of us, including himself, try to evade or ignore our dis-ease in the pursuit of just getting through the day.

    “Take it easy, Mr. Bond.”

    First up in this collection, appropriately, is Cmr James Bond himself, in a trio of essays that take up the first quarter of the book.  Costello has the long-time fan’s mastery of the arcana of the Bond Universe, but also the rarer skill to convey the excitement of fandom (from Latin fanaticus, “mad, enthusiastic, inspired by a god”; deeply disturbed, indeed).

    This is simply the best study of Bond since Kingsley Amis’ trailblazing James Bond Dossier [3].[4] Like Amis, Costello effectively counters the accusations of “sex, sadism and snobbery” (in the words of Paul Johnson’s infamous review); and while Amis necessarily dealt with the books and the first two films, Costello takes us all the way up to SPECTRE [4] (2015).

    But what is all this intense scrutiny in service of? What, then, is the importance of James Bond? I think Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame actually put it best:

    Bond movies really represented the adult world, you know; drinking cocktails and being a secret agent and having your skills highly valued and having beautiful women being interested in you, were all things you felt were something I have to look forward to, this is what’s waiting for me at the end of my childhood.[5]

    Joel may not come to your mind – nor, I suspect, Costello’s either – as a child of Bond,[6] but surely almost everyone of a certain age has come under the influence of 007, particularly on the subject that “interests” – more like torments – Costello: how to be a real grown up; specifically, a real man in the modern age.

    James Bond is a modern hero, a hero for the modern age. [But] in a special sense: Bond is a hero in spite of modernity; an anti-modern hero who manages to triumph over—and, indeed, harness—the very forces that turn most modern men into soulless, gelded appendages to their desktop PCs. This is why Bond is important, and this is why we’ve worshipped at the cinematic altar of Bond for half a century. We long to be as free as he is.

    Thus the Bond movies are an index of how the idea of being a man has changed, or how being a man has become more difficult, or problematic.

    Costello utilizes several memes from the Traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola to unpack the significance of Bond. Bond exemplifies spiritual virility:

    Bond’s pleasure is greater than that of other men—but paradoxically he is free of desire in a way most men are not. His constant brushes with death have given him a unique perspective: he is keenly aware of the impermanence of things, and of what matters and what does not. Bond enjoys food, drink, and sex so much precisely because of their unimportance. Other men, who have never faced death, place too much importance on these things and—again, paradoxically—are less able to enjoy them.[7]

    Bond also demonstrates how to ride the tiger of modern society:

    Bond has managed to be an employee, a part of a vast organization, without being spiritually reduced by it.[8] Bond does not lie awake at night worrying about office politics. Bond does not suck up to the boss. Bond does not get ulcers. It’s been made very clear to Bond that he is quite expendable—as it’s made very clear to all the ordinary folks working corporate jobs! —but somehow he’s found a way to ride this tiger.

    An important aspect of this is Bond’s ambiguous and distrustful relationship with the technology that modernity forces upon us.

    Bond regards the real business of spying as a matter of physical stamina and mental agility. He is contemptuous of the idea that what he does could be done better by—or even with—machines. However, time and again Bond gets himself out of tight spots with one of Q’s gadgets. And so he does make a kind of uneasy peace with technology. But again and again when the time comes for Bond to really save the day, he does so with his own wits and guts. In other words, the films wind up siding with Bond and declaring that technology—and technē—is not the answer.

    All of which makes Bond suitable as a form of modern mythology: “All the traditional mythic elements are present in Bond, only they have been rather straightforwardly modernized.”[9] And this is the key to the significance of Bond: like the young Costello, we long to see “the present mythologized.”[10] Bond’s adventures are neither “long long ago” nor “in a galaxy far far away.”  These “grand conflicts between good and evil, with extraordinary heroes doing extraordinary things, [are] set in the here-and-now.”[11]

    And that mythology is pagan: Bond never asks what Jesus would do, nor is he afflicted with postmodern doubt; “Bond is beyond good and evil—but only in the sense that he’s beyond Christian (or liberal) moralizing.” He exacts personal vengeance, is a racialist, and a nationalist. In short, everything we moderns have been taught to hate and fear.

    Costello details the ways the Bond franchise has fought, and sometimes surrendered, to modernity, and finds much to appreciate in the latest Craig incarnation, where Bond seems closer to our own existential perplexity.

    Nor does Costello ignore the purely mythological, or symbolic, content of the films, giving us a bravura analysis of Skyfall [5], demonstrating how it “contains philosophical and psychological depth of a kind I never expected to find in this series.”

    “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.”

    Like a true fan, Costello also delves into the shadowy world of the Bond spoof and the Bond wannabes, bringing out the contrasting messages of the Matt Helm and Derek Flint series, which fail to live up to the Bond model, but don’t – and ultimately can’t even – care;

    It’s discipline, order, duty, and iron will (the villains) . . . against hedonism, debauchery, and selfish abandon (the hero).

    The freedom of Matt Helm is mere license. He’s out to make the world safe not for democracy and individual rights, but for boozing and boinking and sleeping till noon. That’s the American Dream, and he is living it.[12]

    The American versions of Bond jettison all that is noble about the character and turn him into a grinning lothario, a self-involved hedonist, a perpetual adolescent, a vulgar operator always on the make. And please keep squarely in mind that this was done so that American audiences would have a character they could more easily identify with and root for. The American soul is rotten to the core.[13]

    Television fitfully attempted to cash in as well with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [6], a ‘60s TV series now largely forgotten – even by the makers of the 2015 movie – that was, as Costello points out, a serious rival to the Bond movies.[14]  Here again Costello excels in not only conveying huge chunks of information with ease and clarity, but also kindling some of his own enthusiasm in the reader.

    Costello locates the specific difference between Helm and Flint in their respective levels of sophistication, while each shares a very American disdain for “fascist” organization and a preference for individualism. With U.N.C.L.E., we see the flip side: North Americans (Costello reveals that Solo was, as one says today, “secretly Canadian,” which was news to me) and Russians (sidekick Illya) are the narrow-lapelled Organizational Men who serve as executives of UN-style “international order.”[15]

    Frontloading the collection with all this Bondiana could be dangerous; one might think that Costello has already taken his best shot. Still, the quality of these is such that the reader is eager to hear Costello on any number of related items of popular culture.

    “On examination, there appears to be little definite sign of deterioration.”

    The Bond films are a kind of Golden Age (da da da daaaa!) of Manhood, and, as someone observed, since America went directly from barbarism to decadence, the world seems to have gone directly to the Kali Yuga.  The sophistication of the Bond films was no longer enough, and darker, more ambivalent “heroes” were needed.[16] The landmarks in this new era are the film Fight Club [7], and the epic TV series Breaking Bad [8].

    Costello gives a literally enlightening account of the enduring popularity and importance  of both by viewing them through the lens of Jack Donovan’s distinction between being a “good” man and being good at being a man.  Along the way he usefully disposes of the “homoerotic” disparagement of Fight Club by its liberal critics; author Palahniuk may be a homosexual himself but his work hardly promotes – indeed, directly attacks – the modern consumerist “gay” identity.

    Costello is less successful with Breaking Bad than with Fight Club in arguing that its apparent nihilism is covertly a kind of spiritual or hermetic path. It is here, however, that one wonders whether Costello has lost the plot. Figures like Walt or Jack (in Fight Club) may be products of our cultural decline, but are they answers or more like symptoms?

    Isn’t Walt, the bald drug lord alias “Heisenberg,” really more Blofeld than Bond?[17] More Marcellus Wallace than Jules?[18]

    It seems the world is divided into those who find wisdom in Breaking Bad, and those who find it in its AMC stablemate, Mad Men [9]. Set in the classic Bond time period, filled with iconic clothes, cars, and other examples of the “Fleming effect,” even ending a season with Nancy Sinatra’s so appropriate “You Only Live Twice,” I would argue that Don Draper – the secret identity of Dick Whitman – vs. Madison Avenue bureaucracy is more relevant to the theme of “riding the tiger” than cooking meth, and suggest there are more valuable suggestions about how boys become men in the Männerbund-building episode “Shut the Door, Have a Seat [10]”[19] than in the whole run of Breaking Bad[20] or Fight Club.[21]

    “It seemed to Bond that there was an extra small cleft of worry between the frosty, damnably clear, grey eyes.”

    As the Dark Age continues, filmmakers can no longer even recreate beloved classics, capable of only such “campy” homages like the film versions of Dark Shadows and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that Costello gleefully eviscerates here. Even worse are the “original” productions: egalitarian, scatological dreck like The King’s Speech; don’t worry about life, just relax and loosen up, baby!

    Finally, Costello’s visit to an “art” gallery reveals the truth of Spengler’s assertion that the West could no longer create great Art; and as he encounters the Met’s infamous new version of The Ring [11], featuring “The Machine,” we reach the end Spengler had warned of: “Technics has taken over.”

    In this period of what the alchemist would call “the silence after the clamor,”[22] Costello is – like us, his readers and fans – left alone in “Dystopia Now!”, forced to “Live in the Past,” and haunted by the giant phallus of the Vermont Teddy Bear. Here Costello achieves a certain kind of bitterly won, postmodern heroism, the persona that has earned him that following.

    One criticism might be that this remains very much a book of essays rather than a unified work. Although they are grouped in a general sort of way by subject – Bond movies, Bond ripoffs, TV shows, etc. – which I’ve tried to spell out a bit more here into a kind of thematic arc, the essays themselves are presented as originally published. This does preserve the colloquial voice that is very much a part of Costello’s style – he’ll wonder how he’ll feel about a movie that hasn’t appeared yet, or the next season of a TV series, and the next essay reveals the answer, as he reviews the movie or series a couple years later; but one still wishes, for example, that instead of preserving his hesitation about analyzing a series that hadn’t ended yet and promising to write again at a later date, with the new essay following, he had simply revised and expanded the original essay itself. There’s also a certain amount of repetition, originally needed when material about the origins of Blofeld, for example, had to be recounted in a later discussion of fascist fashion, that could have been consolidated as well.

    Next time, however, Costello might set himself an even more challenging task: writing a dull essay. Everything here just gleams with wit, intelligence, and above all the unmistakable signs of being a part of a struggle to discover and achieve what it is to be a man.

     

    Notes

    1. A sarcastic question tossed up when Major Danby makes the mistake of asking for questions at a briefing in Catch-22 [12].

    2. Crow T. Robot comments on the over-the-top title theme to the Bond ripoff, Operation Kid Brother [13], MST3k, Episode 508. I take “Wallace” to be a reference to the heroic runt character in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables [14]; for more on Wallace and De Palma’s version of the ancient Männerbund, see this review [15].

    3. Nick’s (William Hurt) description of his radio talk show career in The Big Chill [16] (Lawrence Kasdan, 1983). See also “I have a small, deeply disturbed following” by Daniel W. Drener, Foreign Policy, January 3, 2005: “Occasionally I think, ‘Exactly what did I post that made some reader decide to purchase these  [17]items [18] via my website?’ Unfortunately, most of the time I fret about what I posted to trigger this purchase [19]. The horror, the horror.”

    4. London: Cape, 1965; out of print, and not directly related to the James Bond Dossier Website (but see here [20]).

    5. Introduction to Operation Kid Brother on the MST3k, Vol. XXV [21] DVD release.

    6. Arguably, Deep 13 [22], although technically a sub-basement of Gizmonic Institute, was a kind of “steel-framed rocket base concealed inside an inactive volcano” so loved by Bond villains, among whom TV’s Frank, with his platinum hair and spit curl, might be numbered.

    7. “He never quite got around to the traditional facial antic of curling his lip at all the works of man but he wouldn’t surprise us if he did.” Amis, op. cit., p. 36.

    8. “Bond is hardly the wandering outlaw of this own dark mind, as Byron and his [Byronic hero] were able to afford to be. M’s dark mind is the one that counts and members of the 00 section go where it decides they shall go.” Amis, loc. cit.

    9. Ironically, Costello fails to connect this with Fleming’s much-parodied habit of minutely branding all of Bond’s accoutrements, from socks to marmalade. While correct that there are elements of snobbery, consumerism, and post-war ration fatigue, Costello ignores their contribution to what Amis called “the Fleming effect,” the unique verisimilitude that makes Bond an identifiable fantasy figure rather than just another genre protagonist.

    10. “Mr. Fleming has brought off the unlikely feat of enclosing this wildly romantic, almost narcissistic and (one would have thought) hopelessly out of date persona inside the shellac of a secret agent, and so making it plausible, mentally actable and, to all appearance, contemporary.” Amis, loc. cit.

    11. Costello points out that when the “old” myths were created, they didn’t seem old, but of the present day. The mistake of Tolkien and others, of crafting self-consciously old tales, reminds me of a critic of the Brideshead Revisited [23] TV serial, who pointed out how all the books shown were noticeably old – because after all, it takes place long ago – even though back then the books would have been quite new. I constantly notice this now, in movies and TV shows, how eighteenth-century aristos apparently went out of their way to fill their libraries with old, moldering volumes. It might be useful to compare Costello’s point to Lovecraft’s contempt for twentieth-century authors still trying to give us chills with tired, old props like werewolves and vampires that we now know aren’t real. Lovecraft eventually pioneered a new form of weird tale, more like science fiction, and Costello notes that modern myths “substitute science fiction for the supernatural. (There seems to be some kind of cultural or literary necessity to this.)”

    12. As Watchmen [24]’s Comedian says, “What happened to the American dream? It came true! You’re looking at it!” See Trevor Lynch [25] on the Watchmen book and movie.

    13. In this, the Helm/Flint series prefigures the more recent “slobs vs. snobs” genre. Interestingly, the first in this genre, Animal House [26] (John Landis, 1978), is nostalgically set in prime Bond times, and features a  “hero,” animalistically named Otter, who apes the Bond/Helm lifestyle, complete with a frat house room outfitted like a Helm/Flynt bachelor pad.

    14. In the style of the day, various two-part TV episodes were released theatrically in Europe and rivaled the Bond box office.

    15. Here one must question Costello’s dismissal of Robert Vaughn as “hardly physically imposing” . . . Felton wanted to present what he called “a new kind of hero,” and essentially this amounted to short and scrawny. Vaughn was about 5’9”. In fact, Vaughn was a force to be reckoned with. His debut was in the role of  military school bully Jocko de Paris in Calder Willingham’s End as a Man [27], a role created on stage by Ben Gazarra, and later in the film, The Strange One [28] (Jack Garfein, 1957; see the review here [29]); the Los Angeles Times described his performance as “glittering evil.” In Bullitt [30](Peter Yates, 1968) he also made a believable antagonist for Steve McQueen, a man so macho he could look cool in a turtleneck. And in real life, Vaughn and Ben Gazarra (again!) escaped from behind the Iron Curtain when a film production was overtaken by the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. Compared to Sean Connery, Connery is, well, Neil Connery. See Robert Vaughn, A Fortunate Life [31] (New York: Dunne, 2008).

    16.  As Judi Dench (“M” herself!) observes in The Chronicles of Riddick [32], “In normal times, evil would be fought by good.  But in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil.”

    17. “You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 6. To which it’s Jesse who gives the traditional Bond answer: “Is a meth empire really something to be proud of?”

    18. See Trevor Lynch’s review [33] of Pulp Fiction.

    19. How many times has M said, “Sit down, 007”? Matthew Zoller Seitz says the episode “has the feel of a heist flick” and dubs it Draper’s 11, which connects it to Costello’s world of ‘60s male bonding films; see the recap reprinted in Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion [34] (New York: Abrams, 2015).

    20. There’s even some crime: the partners raid the Sterling Cooper offices (which evoke the same mid-century, stainless steel motif as Blofeld’s lairs) late at night over the weekend, taking everything pertaining to the accounts they need for their new firm, as well as their office furniture and personal belongings. Of course, blowing up bank buildings and building a meth empire are more exciting . . . to some. But Seitz and other reviewers have compared the episode to such manly classics as Ocean’s Eleven [35] and The Seven Samurai [36].

    21. Although Lane Pryce and Pete Campbell do get in an epic fistfight.

    22. See Michael A. Hoffman II’s Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare [37], whose analysis of the occult cryptocracy likely has more than a few connections to Fleming and the “intelligence community.”

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Murder Must Satirize:Ann Sterzinger’s Girl Detectives
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    girldetectives

    [1]2,653 words

    Ann Sterzinger
    Girl Detectives: Amateurs In Hate [2]
    Illustrated by Frankie O’Malley
    Chicago: Hopeless Books, 2013

    “[S]ince you’re both trying to frame each other, she really IS a better writer than you. I think she has a great future in detective fiction. OUCH!”

    I’ve recently been exploring the world of pre-War boys’ books[1] so you can imagine excited I was to find a new book, a first novel, by someone vaguely on Our Side (friendly with Andy Nowicki at least) called Girl Detectives.

    It’s funny, sometimes hysterically so (more on that soon) and sharply observant, in a refreshingly un-PC way (more on that too). But I can’t help selfishly feeling a little let down on the girl detective front.

    Here‘s what we have instead of a hipster girls’ adventure tale:

    Girl Detectives centers around the copy monkeys — proofreaders — who inhabit the bottom rung of the officially “Leftist Lite” but rigidly hierarchical and anti-meritocratic journal Chiculture, one of those hipster arts magazines that have come to infest our metropolises, like (the late) NY Press or Creative Loafing; in particular one Pill Dombroski, a petite bundle of career resentment from Milwaukee, topped off by a purple fauxhawk and sending out waves of Jim Beam and unwashed band T-shirt; and her cubicle mate, the vaguely BBC-African Helen.

    Lording over them are the “real” writers, such talentless but inexplicably pampered phonies as Maurinette Meede, the Patsy Stoneish restaurant “critic,” and Humph Moray, the faux-Brit book “critic.”[2] And finally, and literally above all, is Kimmie Wrigley, scion — scioness? — of Chicago royalty, who no sooner arrives than she is given a plum position and takes up with Humph, who just happens to be Meede’s latest boy toy.

    Then, she disappears.

    The Wrigleys being above using the plebian police engage the services of a Tribune crime story re-write guy who wants to become a detective. (Really?) Apparently lacking confidence on his first job, he deputizes his two main suspects, Pill and Meede, to investigate each other. And thus, after about 200 pages, we meet the Girl Detectives; which I think is entirely too long to wait.

    Just before then, however, is my favorite part of the book. About 40% in, according to my Kindle, a section occurs out of nowhere — the author deals with this by giving it the lugubrious title “Entr’acte”– in which we enter the stream of consciousness of a character we’ve met but otherwise ignored, Arts Editor Sybyl Sarta, as she winds her way home, obsessively commenting on the morons around her – the word is her version of Big Daddy’s “mendacity”:

    When she left the office – that den of morons – and headed for her SUV, she’d been dizzy with rage . . . [S]he’d been faced with edit-ees from both of what she called the Two Classes of Jerk-ass Morons . . . the Not-so-Bad Guys . . . [and] the Bookish Fucks . . . The sound of the powerful engine starting up soothed her, but then she pulled to the mouth of the garage and saw the moron-heavy cataract of traffic she would face on her way home.

    Winding up in her bath with a bottle of Chianti, wishing she could personally thank the inventors of baths and wine, she stages a preposterous, Homeric mock-epic sea battle among the office morons, summarizing the plot so far with toy boats:

    “Yes, avast! – here’s the SS Pill Dombrowski. This boat should never have been allowed upon the Chiculture waters. If you can even call it a boat – it looks like a boat, but this boat lies so constantly that perhaps it is really some kind of hippopotamus in a thin coat of boat skin. What noise does a hippopotamus make? Uh, hm, maybe it’s actually a disguised sea lion,” said Sybil. “ARRRR! ARRRRR! ARRRRRR! I’m a boat! I’m a boat! Sybil, you’re so stupid I know you’ll believe me! I am really so totally not a sea lion!” The S. S. Pill slopped about, splashing Sybil’s thighs as it attacked the other, superior, yet helpless vessels. . . . It looks dark! The hippo-lion shitboat has them all surrounded!

    She reached out of the tub and grabbed her favorite ship, an enormous, elaborately carved piece of wood, the Star Destroyer of nautical toys. “It is! Thank god! It’s the U.S.S. Sybil Sarta! Everybody cheers! Bam! Pow! Launching missiles filled with logic and sense, the Sarta DESTROYS the ugly hull of the Dombrowski! Its stupid crew despairs! They’ve been hit! Over and over!”

    It’s unmotivated, as I say, and nothing comes of it, and frankly a bit moronic itself, but it had me coughing and snorting and generally making a complete fool out of me on the subway train. All these characters operate on the same level of childish hate, but at least La Sarta has found a way to have fun at it.

    Clearly, if the whole book were like this I would recommend it unreservedly. As a whole, however, the book just fails to integrate what we might call the girl part and the detective part.

    They don’t even become girl detectives until it’s half over! No real girl would sit still for a book that fails to deliver up the girl detectives tout suite, nor would the cigar-chomping, derby-sporting publisher of such pulp.

    Did I bring unfair expectations to the table? No more than the publishers, who tell us to expect a heady mix of Wodehouse and Chandler, two of my favorite, though very different, authors.

    Both authors are so noted for their immaculate prose that Wodehouse collections regularly contain a selection of his most memorable passages, or “Plums,” and Knopf recently published a whole book of Philip Marlowe one-liners.[3]

    I imagine that passages like Sarta’s Sea Battle are what they have in mind, but as funny as it is it’s not at all Wodehousian; while the general level of frustration and careerism makes for an atmosphere – or atmos’ as Bertie might say – a world away from, say, the bank office shenanigans of Psmith in the City (also based, like this book, on the author’s own experience).

    In fact, the only Woosterism I could locate was the narrator’s “The glittery false lashed flashed as the eyes fluttered up” (Bertie being fond of using adjectives for nouns – a forkful of the old scrambled, perhaps). But then, basically, there’s no one like Wodehouse.[4]

    As for Chandler, there’s nothing remotely Chandleresque about the writing here, except for this passage, that suggests what Chandler might have done with Chicago:

    The skyline — the only real skyline in the flyover states — rose and fell in graceful, cold imitation of natural hills, a silly, lonesome clump of fingers poking over the barren lake toward the flat heavens. There were bodies buried in the foundation of every tower and people looked up at their lines with dumb wonder, as though aliens had put them there.

    Otherwise, passages like this

    “What remains an object to my confusion is the origin of your quote-unquote detective’s title, Mr. Roger — or is it Mr. Edgar? What I don’t understand is how you slunk from a low-level editorial post straight to a position in which you assume the authority to slither about interrogating innocent citizens.”

    are just no match for Chandler; here’s how Marlowe handles upper-class abuse:

    “I think you’re a very stupid person. You look stupid. You’re in a stupid business. And you came here on a stupid mission.”
    “I get it,” I said. “I’m stupid. It sank in after a while.” (Farewell My Lovely)

    Nor is there anything especially Chandleresque about the plot or the mystery. Not even a character murdered for no apparent, or explicable, reason![5] The murder itself takes place offstage — “murder by implication” as MST3k would say — show, Ms. Sterzinger, don’t tell! — and the “mystery” amounts to no more than waiting around for the real detective to put the pieces together, since it’s his first case, and the dumbass, as he later admits, neglected to search the suspects’ offices at once, he fails to find the planted clue immediately.[6]

    Chandler’s characters tend to be eccentrics but also scumbags, and other than a few minor characters, like Elisha Cook’s “little man” in The Big Sleep, the detective is the only moral force, Here the detective and everyone else is just another loser.

    “Er, . . . team? More like a sick fucking family, if you want a metaphor.”

    There’s no particular moral compass:

    Was it awful to frame an innocent woman, even if she was a successful moron? It was relatively easy to tame [the surge of guilt] just by asking herself a question: why is it so much worse to take a knife to somebody than it is to have more luck than you deserved? Answer: maybe it isn’t.

    Of course there’s no moral compass in Wodehouse either, but there “Charm is the only prerequisite in the Wodehouse ideal . . . with it, you can do very little wrong.”[7] Trouble is, no one here is charming, except bathtub Sybil.

    And the detective’s idea of setting the employees to gather evidence against each other is not only implausible but the sort of thing Marlowe would have just shaken his head sadly at.[8] His “criminological theory” (Marlowe’s already reaching for the door knob) amounts to

    “The extraction of sensitive information via apparently accidental psychological torture. In layman terms, the crazier an investigator can drive a person who’s hiding ‘info’ . . . about a murder the more likely she is to blurt that shit out.”

    In short, this is Colombo TV land, not Chandler’s mean streets.[9]

    I think what the publishers are meaning to suggest with their chimerical Chandler/Wodehouse is someone else entirely: Dorothy L. Sayers and her gentleman amateur detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. Sayers herself once described Lord Peter as “a cross between Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster.” Moreover, like Sterzinger, she was a copy-writer when she began writing her mysteries in 1922, although it was not until 1933’s Murder Must Advertise that she made use of the setting.[10]

    Far from being an invidious comparison, Sterzinger does win hands down on the stylistic front. Compared to her, Sayers seems stodgy and old hat.[11]

    On the other hand, the comparison does highlight my major complaint here. Sayers was wise enough to kill off the victim beforehand, and start right off with Wimsey on the scene. (The staff doesn’t know it’s him, but we do: “She says [the new copy-writer is] like Bertie Wooster in horn-rims”). The fey Wimsey, playing at detective and posing as a copy-writer, is something of a girl detective himself, an upper-class Pill, as it were.

    But with Girl Detectives, it’s as if Sayers had gone on for 200 pages on the antics of an ad agency, then killed off a particularly hated character, introduced Wimsey, had him irritate everyone with his patented Woosterism, and just had him wrap things up in the last chapter. Her detective fans would have asked, why did I just read 200 pages about an ad agency, and perhaps a few ad agency fans would feel that things were fine until that chap got hit on the old bean and that damned nuisance Wimsey turned up to ruin everything with his silly damned snooping, what what?

    Another advantage of Sayers method is that rather than front loading the book with the procedures of the magazine’s editorial staff, Sterzinger could have, like Sayers, introduced us to them as the story progresses. If Pill, like Wimsey, had been a girl detective pretending to be a copy-writer from the start, the reader would learn the business along with her, including the details that evolve organically into the solution of the mystery. Here, the murder is just a drunken incident that could happen in a bakery or the White House, and hipster magazine production plays no role in the crime or the solution.

    Now, you’ll recall that I mentioned at the top the author being “one of us,” and here the novel truly invokes the atmosphere of Wodehouse and Chandler, to the extent of reflecting a White, non-Communist worldview; in short, non-PC. The magazine (wonderfully christened Chiculture, with all the hints of ‘chic’ and ‘chick’ you’d expect it to have) is analyzed in all its trustafarian “Leftist lite“ glory and handled with the contempt it deserves. A visit by our two girl detectives/mutual suspects to a sushi joint allows the author to unashamedly revel in a whole palette of Orientalisms — perhaps having it both ways by letting the author’s surrogate cringe and hide under the table as things degenerate; while an obviously Affirmative Action hire is introduced early to be roundly mocked and dismissed, with characters later wondering whatever happened to that guy?

    The sort of Amazon reviewers who take a star off Chandler for his disdainful “dames” or “male cuties,” or Wodehouse for Bertie’s blackface antics, or other “shameful attitudes of their time” will not be amused; and we say good!

    This is a “first novel,” as they say, and I understand that there are several later ones, which I look forward to reading, and I hope there’s plenty more to come. The odd thing about fiction among the alt-Right is that it sometimes seems so terribly . . . black. We need to break out of the bitter young fogey mode that society expects from us and have some fun. And look! Sailing to the rescue – the Good Ship Sterzinger! Hooray!

    Notes

    1. See my review of We Boys Together: Teenagers in Love Before Girl-Craziness here [3].

    2. The author has unwisely chosen to render his speech phonetically, a staple of American “humor” from Twain to Lovecraft that died out for reasons that are all to evident here: the reader’s struggle to sound out whole passages of Hmmph’s and Kwthfth’s. I wonder if that was Lovecraft’s inspiration for Cthulhu and other deliberately unpronounceable cult names? Instead, I turned them out and dubbed in Mr Ingleby from the Granada TV production of Sayers Murder Must Advertise, of which more anon, or else Ade Edmundson’s Hamish the Food Critic from Patsy’s magazine on Ab/Fab, nicely bringing him together with his paramour, Maurinette the food critic.

    3. The ‘Plums’ of P. G. Wodehouse (Folio Society, 1997) and Philip Marlowe’s Guide to Life, ed. Martin Asher (New York: Knopf, 2005).

    4. See, for example, “Jeeves and Wooster: The Evolution of Genius” by Thomas Aston, MA (Cambridge), in Jeeves and Wooster: The Evolution of Genius: ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’ and ‘My Man Jeeves’ annotated with Essays on History, Biography, Development and Writing Technique; Kindle, 2014.

    5. Confusing the victim with one of the detectives, as starts happening on page 280, does not count.

    Always search the office! Sheesh, Joel Cairo would eat his lunch. See my “Humphrey Bogart, Man among the Cockroaches” in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    7. Aston, op. cit., xii. Of course, charm has its own dangers: “Simple, creamy English charm . . .  Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art.” — Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.

    8. “I told you, I’m a detective. I work at it.” –- The Big Sleep.

    9. Already by 1972 Robert Aldrich had decided that Marloweland could no longer be believably filmed, and resorted to casting Judaic Eliot Gould as a nebbishy gumshoe who shrugs and soft-shoes away at the end, to howls from the fans. Compare his previous attempted demolition of Mike Hammer, discussed in my “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick” here [4].

    10. See “A Biography of Dorothy L. Sayers” attached to the Open Road Media kindle editions of Sayers’ Lord Peter books.

    11. My original acquaintance with Sayers was through Granada TV’s 1972 dramatization of Murder Must Advertise, starring Ian Carmichael, which necessarily cut down on the verbiage, leaving an impression more like a series of Sterzinger’s bitter bon mots. Chandler, by the way, was a bit equivocal about Sayers, calling Gaudy Night “God, what sycophantic drivel . . . How silly can you get?” but adding, “Yet this is far from being a silly woman.” Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), p. 291.

     

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  • Lars Holger Holm on Modern Art
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]2,690 words

    Lars Holger Holm
    Hiding in Broad Daylight: An Analysis of the Political Radicalisation and Commercialisation of Artistic Modernism [2]
    London: Arktos, 2015

    “Charles,” said Cordelia, “Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?”

    “Great bosh.”

    Brideshead Revisited (1945) 

    The artist, like everyone else in society, has always had a somewhat equivocal relationship to the past: necessarily drawing upon it, while also seeking to reshape it for contemporary needs – to “make it new,” as Pound demanded.

    How then did so-called “Modernist” art come to see itself as utterly and implacably hostile to the past?

    The problem was not that they wanted a fresh means of expression – every young ambitious artist wants that – but that this claim was maintained in downright hostile opposition to the past; as thought the past, even the most recent, really had nothing to teach them whatsoever.

    Lars Holger Holm suggests that the key to understanding this is that “‘modern’ is an attribute of Parisian life after l’ancien régime and the revolution.” More generally, we

    Need to understand the modernist breakthrough as a political upheaval, not only against bourgeois society in general, but, insofar as that same society was influenced by a cultural hierarchy descending from the European aristocracy, against any idealist notion propagating the ideas of intrinsic beauty or artistic quality.

    But, there’s another turn of the screw: the modern mentality having birthed two revolutionary movements – Communism, and, rising in opposition, Fascism – which fought across Europe like “two tyrannosaurs,”

    Art, hitherto blowing petrol on every existing revolutionary fire in Europe and elsewhere, ecstatically watching every vestige of old Europe going up in flames, suddenly declares itself innocent. And as though that weren’t enough, it is now, The Victim!

    By emptying itself of all content – by spitting on it, in fact – modern art has largely succeeded in both eluding any association with the now-discredited dinosaurs (obsessed, as they were, with their disparate notions of The Beautiful), and at the same time guaranteeing it will be left alone, asking only to be allowed its much-vaunted “freedom of the artist.” Nothing to see here!

    It’s an interesting and certainly arguable thesis regarding an important subject. All too frequently, however, one wonders if Mr. Holm is the one to argue it.

    Such a brief text is necessarily densely compact, and at times one wonders if Mr. Holm would be fairer to the artists discussed if he had more space, or is, perhaps, forcing his artistic judgments into his interpretive framework.

    For example, Mr. Holm notes that original and talented artists were attracted to Modernism in its earlier stages; he does not lump everyone in with Duchamp’s urinal and Chris Burden’s self-inflicted gunshots. However, while making that point he lauds the early Stravinsky while assigning such later works as the Symphony of Psalms to the Modernist trash heap.[1]

    For John Tavener, who knows a thing or two about music, Modernism, and Tradition, Stravinsky’s body of work is all of a piece and profoundly spiritual:

    It was as if Le Sacre du Printemps was a kind of explosion from deep inside his subconscious spirit. One could also say that Le Sacre was a form of primordial knowledge revealed to Stravinsky almost instantaneously at the beginning of his composing life, for it was an explosion that was to continue to vibrate inside him in differing degrees of transcendence throughout his journey in this world. It was this vision of the primordial that enabled him to compose Les Noces, the Symphonies of Wind Instruments, the Symphony of Psalms, and the Canticum Sacrum, works in which Stravinsky again senses the strong vibrations of the primordiality of Le Sacre du Printemps, thus introducing once more a quality of the absolute into the relative, bringing about a true objectivity and a true sacredness.

    This places Stravinsky in a unique position in the modernist desert and hell in which he lived and worked. It also enabled him to reinstate the sacred dimension of music in a way that no other composer had done for hundreds of years. So, it is not a question of whether one likes or dislikes this or that work of Stravinsky, but rather to what degree the music is able to dissolve our frozen state and, at the same time, belong to the universal and timeless nature of things. . . . To apply all these metaphysical criteria to any other 20th-century composer seems almost unthinkable because most of them were entirely consumed by modernism.[2]

    Myself, I think that rather than “modernist exhaustion” Colin Wilson’s verdict is more apt: the early Modernist musicians, such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg (and the other twelve-toners) simply had nothing more to say, but kept devising ever more elaborate ways to say it, in order to maintain their reputations.[3]

    Similarly, when Mr. Holm cites a trio of miscreants as the ne plus ultra of the Modernist debacle, he includes John Cage and his 4’ 33.” While admittedly a somewhat inane idea, and ultimately self-defeating as far as his reputation goes, summing up John Cage as “four minutes of silence” ignores a plethora of interesting work, musical, textual, and even most notable for posterity, mycology.[4]

    More importantly, Cage was hardly an enemy of Tradition, artistic and otherwise.[5]

    In fact, readers from the alt-Right perspective might think of John Cage less as precursor of Warholian buffoonery than as an Industrial music pioneer; no Cage, no Throbbing Gristle.[6]

    At these moments, Mr. Holm seems less like a music or cultural critic, or spokesman for Tradition, than like some “conservative” radio host, throwing out raw meat to rile up his audience.

    For example, Mr. Holm thinks the “general public” would be surprised to learn that

    Jackson Pollock . . . was selected to represent unique American modernism from a pool of hysterics, drug addicts and homosexuals hanging out in various infamous bars on lower Manhattan.

    It’s a fair point, that “if you were not part of the clique hanging out there” you would never be brought to the public’s attention, but it’s hardly a secret, what with Ed Harris’s Hollywood film Pollock. And what period didn’t draw its artists from some clique?

    The Clique was a group of English artists formed by Richard Dadd in the late 1830s. Other members were Augustus Egg, Alfred Elmore, William Powell Frith, Henry Nelson O’Neil, John Phillip and Edward Matthew Ward. They have been described as “the first group of British artists to combine for greater strength and to announce that the great backward-looking tradition of the Academy was not relevant to the requirements of contemporary art.”[7]

    As for the rather louche nature of this particular cliché, it would be interesting to learn what period of art has not its share of such types.[8]

    [The Clique] broke up in 1843 when Dadd became insane and was incarcerated after murdering his father.

    In the case of Abstract Expressionism in particular, it’s simply inaccurate. Abstract Expressionism, also known as Action Painting,[9] was, in fact, promoted (by the CIA among others[10]) as a hard-drinking, two-fisted, All-American art movement, precisely in contrast to those effeminate Europeans. Its iconic figure, after all, is Jackson Pollock, taciturn dullard from Wyoming, drunk-driving to death with two teenage girls alongside.

    Indeed, Pollock gets kudos from the “manosphere” for his supposed manly manliness:

    Being among the abstract expressionists group, Jackson and many other artists lived somewhat of a Hemingway existence where they hung out together and drank heavily, and had no “wifey” chaperones in attendance. . . . The abstract expressionists were described as being “. . . strong, ugly men. . . . they weren’t cutie pies at all.” In other words, they were real men, hetero and alpha. This was also during a time just post WWII where men were expected to saddle up and start having families, because unlike today, back then having families was a good thing. Most certainly during this era artists were considered outsiders, perhaps one might argue they were among the very first MGTOWers [“men going their own way”] of their day.[11]

    A clue as to what’s wrong here is perhaps suggested when Mr. Holm states that Breton and Marinetti have become

    Symbols of an art that could only thrive in a greenhouse atmosphere saturated with disdain for anything of the past (unless it was really old and pre-bourgeois) coupled with the nihilist concept par excellence.

    Mr. Holm glosses “nihilist concept” immediately as “the permanent revolution” and later observes that modern art, like the revolution, “eats its own children.” However, in the light of my recent review of Emericus Durden[12] — where I contrasted his brand of anti-social-dogma nihilism, which co-exists with a transcendental vector, to the empty nihilism of modern relativism or even “camp,” and compared favorably with the anti-bourgeois transcendentalism of Baron Evola – I would suggest that Mr. Holm fails to distinguish where modernist art is indeed a manifestation of an empty, though revolutionary, nihilism, on the one hand,

    One could say that the temporal side of art . . . has taken over completely at the expense of any sort of transcendence or teleology. . . .[13]

    and on the other, where it is anti-bourgeois along with, and precisely because of, its transcendental vector. I would also suggest that this is the Traditionalism of Evola, Coomaraswamy, and Sir John Tavener; a Traditionalism which seeks to dig society out from under the ruins of the bourgeois world and takes as its guide the principles found in pre-modern art, and is able to appreciate and even collaborate with such “modernists” as Tristan Tzara, John Cage, and Igor Stravinsky (respectively).[14]

    The fourth and last chapter focuses on architecture, and once again one has the feeling that Mr. Holm is relying on some hastily assembled facts.[15] In fact, his analysis seems to largely restate the thesis of Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981), that modern architecture is less about Beauty, or even Functionality, than about embodying interesting theories.

    Where he augments Wolfe, however, is in his awareness of, or at least willingness to state the profoundly Jewish nature of Modernism. It’s a thesis that, as Mr. Holm acknowledges, has been explored both with reference to group evolutionary theory in general, as well as specific contexts such as painting and literature, by Dr. Kevin MacDonald and a few others.[16] But it’s still good to see it given yet more exposure to the reading public.

    Mr. Holm is correct to emphasize that the issue here is not abstraction as such, which can be found in both pre-modern and modern works of Traditional intent,[17] but rather the obsession with, indeed the delight in, breaking up, destroying, even befouling the pictorial image, which he references to the mediaeval iconoclasts as well as modern day jihadi.

    When all is said and one, there is precious little written about art, and especially architecture, on the alt-Right, so Mr. Holm’s essay, slender and easy to read over a couple afternoons, is most welcome.

    Arktos has given this its usual high standard of production, especially appropriate here in a work dealing with beauty and the arts. The layout is friendly to the eye, elegant without being fussy, and the graced by a colorful and slyly Modernist cover.

    In both form and content, this would make an attractive addition to anyone’s alt-right bookshelf.

    Notes

    1. As Glenn Gould said of Mozart, he died “too late rather than too early.” “Of Mozart and related matters: Glenn Gould in conversation with Bruno Monsaingeon” in the Glenn Gould Reader, pp. 32-43; originally in Piano Quarterly, Fall, 1976.

    2. “The Holy Fool of Music,” The Guardian, 18 November 2007, here [3].

    3. See “Modern Music — The Problem (Part One),” online here [4]. One implication, which Wilson draws, is that rather than calcifying, Schoenberg actually never changed at all, a flaw he finds common to the 19th-century Romantic tradition; by contrast, in “Part Two” [here [5]], he agrees that Stravinksy “ceased to exist as a serious composer about 1930, and has since [1964] shown only spasmodic signs of life.”

    4. Which of course is not to say that Cage is beyond reproach. Harry Patch, for example, despised “Cagean gimmickry” that he saw as at best a surrender of the responsibility of the composer, as worse, mere showmanship. “Drinking orange juice down an amplified gullet” he snorted, apparently describing an actual performance; perhaps Cage was, in that well-used phrase, beyond parody. See “Our Wagner, Only Better: Harry Partch, Wild Boy of American Music, Part 3,” here [6] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

    5. For an exhaustive look at what Cage took from Coomaraswamy, whether or not he changed or even understood what he took, see John Cage’s Entanglement with the Ideas of Coomaraswamy by Edward Crooks; Ph.D. dissertation, University of York, 2011; online here [7].

    6. See “From John Cage to Liars via Nurse with Wound – A Brief History of Post-Industrial” by Mark Harwood, here [8].

    7. Wikipedia, here [9]. Lest that last part make them sound like the hated Modernists, Wikipedia goes on to note that they would “ask non-artists . . . to judge the merits of the works. . . . This was in line with their view that art should be judged by the public, not by its conformity to academic ideals.

    8. “Drug addict” — a term belonging to the post 1920s madness of drug prohibition, is another example of Mr. Holm’s blowing the dog whistle; for a sober look at the overwhelming influence of so-called “drugs” on Western culture, see The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization by D. C. A. Hillman, Ph.D. (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008). Speaking of “drug fiends,” Mr. Holm seems to think that Naked Lunch asks us to find it “interesting to be a part of child murder” which is news to me.

    [9] [10] See Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters” from Tradition of the New (New York: Da Capo Press, 1994), originally in Art News 51/8, Dec. 1952, p. 22; online here [11].

    10. See “Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’” by Frances Stonor Saunders; The Independent, 22 October 1995, online here [12]. One commenter notes “I don’t agree that Abstract Expressionism would have developed organically and become a dominant art form under its own steam. It was a completely manufactured movement to counteract the Realist art of the East, and Pollock, getting nowhere painting men in subway stations holding chickens under their arms, was the ideal patsy to popularize the anti-message art the CIA wanted its assets to produce. It’s interesting that the same sort of vacuous art is practised today by the likes of Damien Hirst.” Another adds that “Maybe Dave McGowan is on to something when he writes about how the CIA set up the Hippy counter-culture movement to discredit the respectable anti-war movement by association.” See my review of McGowan, “Allen Dulles’ Lonely Hearts Club Band,” here [13].

    11. “The Masculinity and Art of Jackson Pollock” by “Return of Kings,” at Roosh V Forum, here [14].

    12. See my review of his Aiming Higher Than Mere Civilization, here [15].

    13. Mr. Holm cites Baudelaire, but in Traditionalist terms this is the opposition between vertical transcendence toward the Timeless and horizontal dissipation among the temporal world.

    14. I would offer, in this light, my previously cited essays on the necessity of overcoming the Wagnerian legacy.

    15. He cites Mies van der Rohe as part of the “inner ideological core of the Harvard architecture department.” Presumably he means the Graduate School of Design, and in any case Mies was at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago since 1938; perhaps he’s thinking of Philip Johnson? If so it would please the latter, who went to Harvard to dazzle everyone with Mies’ ideas, rather than study under Mies himself. See Franz Schulze’s Philip Johnson: Life and Work (New York: Knopf, 1994), pp. 146-48.

    16. See his monograph The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (“originally published by Praeger in 1998, and reissued in paperback with an extended preface in 2002. The Kindle edition is an expanded version of the 2002 paperback edition, including significant expansions of the material on Jews and the Left, the New York Intellectuals, and Neoconservatism” – Amazon.com) as well as the essays by MacDonald and others at theoccidentalobserver.net.

    17. As he writes, “In truth, any motif, no matter how pictorial, becomes an abstract pattern, devoid of traditional [sic] perspective, if you focus in on it very closely.”

     

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  • To Cut Up a Mockingbird: Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]6,095 words

    Harper Lee
    Go Set a Watchman: A Novel [2]
    Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015

    “I almost don’t care what the critics say as long as I can write another one.”[1]

    Mockingbird is a classic, but you’ve probably read it before, and it’s no more relevant to your future legal career than 12 Angry Men is to picking a jury. They’re both realist presentations written through idealist, dramatic glasses.”[2]

    On Friday night, a comedian died in New York. Somebody knows why. Down there, somebody knows . . .

    No, wait, sorry — wrong Watchman, wrong pop culture meme.[3]

    Constant Readers who recall my inability to join the teenage cult of Tolkien will not be surprised to hear that I have never read (Nelle) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, nor seen the film. It seems to be the sort of pious claptrap that “everyone” reads, and I just can’t stomach.[4]

    In any event, I never read “the original.” For all I know, it may have been “assigned,” but in that case I didn’t read it either — a not infrequent occurrence in my slapdash schooldays.[5]

    Nor can I be bothered to figure out the conflicting, Rashomon-like accounts of just what relation this book bears to the sainted classic.[6]

    Relying on the redoubtable Margot Metroland’s account here of the hidden genesis of Mockingbird,[7] I think we can say that what we have here is close to the original MS Lee submitted, before the editors told her to junk the narrative of present-day, 26-year old Jean Louise, write more about the recollections of 6-year-old Jean (“Scout”) into the main narrative,[8] expand the rape trial into the moral and narrative centerpiece, and for God’s sake cut all the talk about racism, pro and con.

    And I don’t propose to read it now, so here’s your special treat: a review by someone with no preconceived ideas about the story, or vested interest in preserving blessed childhood illusions. And the death of childhood illusions is what the book is about.

    Well, it’s an enjoyable if forgettable read, written with an intelligent though not flashy style. The editors who read this and ordered a complete re-write were, I think, wrong, although with two years on the best seller list, a Pulitzer Prize, and a hit movie, it’s hard to argue with them; perhaps they “sensed” they could make something more out of it. The experience, however, did seem to sour Ms. Lee on the whole writing thing.

    Oh, but then there’s also the horrible “racism” of the first draft. That issue is perhaps best handled while looking at the style itself, the unity of style and message being itself a sign of the talent behind the writing.

    On her first Sunday back in her childhood home, Jean Louise of course attends church with her family. The church organist essays the doxology at a faster, High Church tempo, and the congregation sticks to their lugubrious Southern Baptist rendition. This leads to a stern rebuke from Uncle Jack after services, where we learn that the music director has just got back from choir camp, where the leader — from New Jersey, no less — has given him a whole list of supposed “improvements” for the church’s music.[9] He’s dubious, and the stubborn resistance of even worldly, bachelor aesthete Jack — who drops the Catholic phrase “D. V.” which he glosses for Jean as “God willin’” and seems tailor-made for this kind of “smells and bells” — convinces him he’s right to drop the whole matter.

    It may seem like a delaying tactic — come on, make with the inbred racism already! — but it neatly encapsulates the whole position the South finds itself in — stubbornly resisting “improvement” suggested — or demanded — by the North, in the name of preserving local traditions.[10]

    As we move on, apart from a few flashback sequences that are apparently the origin of the more assertively 1930s content of Mockingbird, we meet various characters in what is to today’s readers now their twenty years later form,[11] and Jean Louise, fresh from another year’s stay in New York,[12] is horrified each time by some new — to her, at least — manifestation of “racism.”

    Aunt Alexandra is a splendid creation, all corsets and scented face powder, the very embodiment of the Southern Way of Life (“They endured” as Faulkner would say).[13] Appropriately, then, she gets to delivery some of Lee’s toughest “racist” lines, as do Scout’s former gal pals.

    “Keeping a nigger happy these days is like catering to a king . . .”

    The men are a different story, weak and temporizing. Uncle Dr. Jack is a bachelor eccentric, living in a literary 19th century of the mind, and delivers a rambling, evasive, analogy-ridden defense that Steve Sailer could put in one sentence: a race is a large extended family that occasionally practices incest. He evidences the “we acknowledge some problems but we’re still proud of our land and its traditions” attitude currently under attack by those banning the Confederate battle flag and digging up the bones of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    Hank, Jean Louis’ intended, is revealed a monster of social conformity that compares well with Lane, Franny’s obtuse boyfriend in Franny and Zooey. He sullies Jack’s views by adding a strong dollop of Babbitty “get along to go along” but then, like Clarice Starling, he’s only a generation away from trash.[14]

    Finally, she confronts the Big Guy himself, Atticus, her father and, as a result of the subsequent book and film, apparently most of (White) America’s father. And now the book’s big shock: Atticus is a racist!

    At first they reach common ground on rejecting the Court’s judicial overreaching, effectively repealing the 10th Amendment. This, of course, is already enough to sicken today’s Liberal. But what follows will scare the pants off them.

    “Jean Louise,” he said. “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?”

    “Let’s look at it this way . . . You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward,’ don’t you? . . . You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”

    “Now think about this. What would happen if all the Negroes in the South were suddenly given full civil rights? I’ll tell you. There’d be another Reconstruction. Would you want your state governments run by people who won’t know how to run ‘em? Do you want this town run by — now wait a minute — Willoughby’s a crook, we know that, but do you know of any Negro who knows as much as Willoughby? Zeebo’d probably be Mayor of Maycomb. Would you want someone of Zeebo’s capability to handle the town’s money? We’re outnumbered, you know . . . They vote in blocs.

    “[T]he Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people . . . The NAACP doesn’t care whether a Negro . . . tries to learn a trade and stand on his own two feet — oh no, all the NAACP cares about is that man’s vote.”

    And so on. The Guardian, bringing the frisson of distaste one might bring to, say, scraping a squashed raccoon off the driveway, finds the offense of Lee in her recourse to “biological determinism,” not just to account for racism but even for her own superiority, explaining that she was just “born color blind.”[15]

    Readers of Counter-Currents, however, may find all this rather tepid. Atticus is simply what we would today call a “race realist,”[16] with a dash of paternalism thrown in. But as The Guardian sternly advises us, both paternalism and “color-blindness” are badthinking today. To the modern Liberal, the more or less fierce confrontations between the Northernized Scout and her Southern role models are like arguments between the inmates of some racial insane asylum — a rather Southern Gothic notion at that.

    Neither Atticus nor Scout convinces the other, of course, and Uncle Jack is brought back to cobble together a kind of “higher” moral position: take no man as your infallible moral guide, and recognize and honor the human fallibility in all of us.

    The moral, if you will, is not one that will sit well with the Liberal either. Smash your idols? Kill the Buddha on the road? Sounds good, since the Liberal, like the proverbial college sophomore, only imagines smashing his own parents at the Thanksgiving table, not himself; that is, smashing idols by attacking and silencing them, not questioning his own views.

    What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn’t give. He stays rigid. Doesn’t even try to listen, just lashes out.

    In short, the Liberal is as bigoted as any Klansman. What Uncle Jack means by tolerance is something rather different:

    “Good grief, baby, people don’t agree with the Klan, but they certainly don’t try to prevent them from puttin’ on sheets and making fools of themselves in public.”

    Well, these days “they” certainly do, most certainly, and that applies to a lot of things Uncle Jack couldn’t imagine anyone being crazy enough to believe could happen, such as flying the state flag, too. After all, some things are Just Wrong and someone — preferably the Government — should Do Something About It; otherwise, you’re As Bad as They Are.

    You could call what Jack and Atticus espouse, and bring Scout back to a grudging acceptance of, Olde Tyme Liberalism, I suppose, just as Atticus calls himself a “Jeffersonian Democrat” although, as Jean Louise points out, he voted for Eisenhower.[17]

    You could also call his views on race “olde tyme Liberalism,” too. Atticus believes that the negro is a childlike race, but he also believes in Progress: the negro can grow into his role in a modern society; the NAACP and the other Liberal busybodies are trying to force not only Southern society but the negro himself into too fast a rate of change. The stir-up negroes are more dissatisfied with their lot than ever, sullen and by turns demanding and ungrateful; a condition easily observed today. The ancient family retainer, Calpurnia, Scout’s surrogate mother, now barely recognizes her, seeing only just another White oppressor.

    If this is indeed what Lee wrote some 50 or 60 years ago, or close to it, and looking at today’s Birmingham, a disaster,[18] or Selma, where a movie celebrating the “victory” of MLK there fifty years ago can’t be shown, since all the movie theaters, along with most every other business, are closed, one can only applaud her prescience.[19]

    But let’s stick with this theme, as the intertwining of theme and style illustrates the perhaps unconsciously subtle style that Lee brings to the novel.

    Those who have made the transition away from the modern dogmas of Liberal goodthinking often use the metaphor, derived from They Live!, of being able to see.[20] And so during their final confrontation, Atticus frequently asks Scout to see, to look around, and to open her eyes. “Let’s look at it this way . . .”

    Scout, as we’ve seen, diagnoses herself as “born color-blind,” which she of course thinks is a good thing, while Atticus tries to convince her that it its, in fact, a handicap.[21]

    “You must see things as they are, as well as they should be.”[22]

    “See” occurs, with varying tenses, dozens of times in the course of the novel,[23] along with synonyms like “look” or “watch.”[24] Indeed, the latter is the chief symbol of the book, occurring in the title and inserted way back at that early chapter at church, where in the sermon text JHVH “sets a watchman” and Scout later muses

    Mr. Stone set a watchman in church yesterday. He should have provided me with one. I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour.[25]

    As Uncle Jack says, in his convoluted “literary” way, and in what would appear to be the book’s moral:

    “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”[26]

    This, of course, is why the modern Liberal has abandoned the “Watchman” metaphor, with its “biological determinism,” for one which emphasizes the passive, docile role of the masses: The Guardian. You must not see, you must be taught.[27]

    Speaking of conscience, that reminiscence about Scout’s falsies flap that Ms. Metroland singled out for enjoyment also contains an interesting lead related to sight: the insight that Atticus “wouldn’t be above throwing a little dust in a juryman’s eyes.” As she noted in her discussion of Mockingbird, in the famous rape trial

    [W]ise paterfamilias Atticus Finch emerges as one very sleazy lawyer. He does not merely provide competent defense for Tom Robinson, he gratuitously defames the poor girl Mayella Ewell. With no real evidence at hand, he weaves a tale in which she lusted after a crippled black man, and seduced him into fornication. It’s a hair-raising, lurid tale, but it is completely unnecessary.  . . . Atticus knows they’re not going to acquit his client, so he makes up an unpleasant tale about Mayella, all the while feigning pity for the pathetic lass. But it’s all invention and false sentiment, just like the fantasies that the Daily Worker conjured up about Willette Hawkins and Willie McGee.

    Of course, sacrificing the White trash so that one can preen over one’s moral righteousness is a trait Scout has, unknowingly, inherited from her father — childhood pal and sometime suitor Hank can be dismissed as White trash as soon as he starts with the racism, even though he’s working alongside her father.[28] But then that’s White privilege for ya.

    This is the kind of moralistic shystering that modern lawyering has become: drunk on Mockingbird and other pop legal memes, today’s law schools are full of so-called “idealists” who don’t intend to practice law so much as “overturn the system, man,” using any kind of legal trickery — theories far more sophisticated that Atticus’ courtroom shenanigans — to establish Liberal dogma as the law of the land, whatever the masses may think about it.[29]

    It amuses me that two generations of lawyers apparently claim to have been “inspired” by Atticus Finch. Two generations of sanctimonious scumbags, who, from “freedom rides” to “marriage equality” to “sanctuary cities” have, as Jack and Atticus would predict, ripped the legal system, and the country, apart, all in the name of some unseeable — because always receeding into the perfect, abstract future — notion of “fairness.” And now they, along with their hero, stand revealed as the shysters they are; at least, the handful who get jobs “a-tall.”[30]

    It’s hard to tell what upsets the Lib-elite more: having the truth about race exposed, or having Atticus Finch show up with his pants down.

    I suspect they fall back on the Mark Twain strategy and ban it from the schools for use of the N word.

    Let’s return now to the issue of style, and look at some touches that seem purely aesthetic, rather than carrying any message.

    In a nod to Modernism, or the avant-garde, Lee renders several passages which Scout can’t bear to listen to — a “racist” rant, the inane chatter of grown and married childhood friends — as a sequence of broken sentence fragments. It’s an interesting effect, which, if it represented the narrator’s own exasperated consciousness, would suggest Céline. It also suggests William Burroughs at his most refractory, the period of the so-called “cut-ups.”[31]

    Moreover, at least one passage of ordinary prose suggests a parallel to no less than Naked Lunch itself:

    At the end of the table, sitting like a great dropsical gray slug, was William Willougby. . . . William Willoughby was indeed the last of his kind. . . . There were mutations, like Willoughby [who] chose to run the county not in its most comfortable office, but in what was best described as a hutch—a small, dark, evil-smelling room with his name on the door, containing nothing more than a telephone, a kitchen table, and unpainted captain’s chairs of rich patina.

    It seems, to me at least, very reminiscent of the “County Clerk” section, although I can’t really find any verbal parallels, just a kind of tone:

    Lee listened in horror. The county clerk often spent weeks in the privy living on scorpions and Montgomery Ward catalogues. On several occasions his assistants had forced the door and carried him out in a state of advanced malnutrition.

    Could Burroughs have had an influence on this beloved middle-school classic? I’m sure it would delight him.[32] Alas, further research shows that Mockingbird was in the stores before the County Clerk sections were generally available.[33]

    Ironically, some have speculated that Capote wrote some part of Mockingbird.[34] If Lee — which was also Burroughs pen name, e.g., for the pseudonymous Junky, as well as the characters “Lee” in Naked Lunch and “Inspector Lee” of the Nova Trilogy — was influenced, at least unconsciously, by Burroughs,[35] it’s clear not only why her publishers would have deleted such “far-out” writing, but also why Lee never mentioned it: Burroughs and Capote hated each other. Burroughs, in fact, put a curse on Capote — in a letter of 1970, after the success of In Cold Blood — which reads like it could just as well suit Harper Lee:

    The early work was in some respects promising — I refer particularly to the short stories. You were granted an area for psychic development. It seemed for a while as if you would make good use of this grant. You choose instead to sell out a talent that is not yours to sell. You have written a dull unreadable book which could have been written by any staff writer on the New Yorker — (an undercover reactionary periodical dedicated to the interests of vested American wealth).

    You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers and the retention of capital punishment to deal with the situation they have created. You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn.

    Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.[36]

    Indeed, Capote never regained the level of talent or success shown by In Cold Blood, and Lee never wrote another book at all.[37] And the line about

    You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers . . . to deal with the situation they have created.

    Sound today like exactly the strategy one might attribute to the Civil Righters and disciples of Saul Alinsky — force desegregation and then expand the Police State to deal with the inevitable chaos resultant — although that would have been not at all Burroughs’ meaning. But then, that’s the thing about curses and magick: it works, but often not the way you intended.[38]

    Is this a “rejected first draft”? Whatever the answer, Go Set a Watchman is an interestingly written first novel that addresses race in a realistic manner. The “classic” Mockingbird is New York’s response: dumbed down for kids and retconned into a “saintly blacks” narrative as part of Operation Destroy the South.

    Forget about setting a watchman. Atticus Finch was a freakin’ prophet.

    Notes

    1. Nelle Harper Lee (Sandra Bulloch) interviewed in Infamous (2006),

    2. Outside the Law School Scam, “Alternative Summer Reading for Pre-Law Students,” here [3].

    3. “Which century?” replies John Caradine’s engineer to a reporter’s question about “the desperadoes who came through here back in ’62,” the year of the Mockingbird film, in the MST3k version of Night Train to Mundo Fine (Coleman Francis, 1965). The film was originally titled Night Train to Mundo Fine, and the novel opens with Jean Louise taking the night train to the end of the world, rural Alabama.

    4. Gregory Peck is not enough. It took the prospect of seeing an unbeatable array of now-classic character actors in their youth (Jack Klugman as an angry ex-juvie!) to get me to watch Twelve Angry Men. Speaking of “young adult books,” I did read Catcher on my own, and came away with a loathing not for the hapless residents of Pency Prep but for the real “phonies,” Upper West Side Jews like the pretentious author and his protagonist.

    5. I’m pretty sure I was assigned Lord of the Flies, and I know I didn’t read that, as the cover of the Capricorn paperback I found repulsive. Mockingbird has a nice cover, at least in hardcover, and the new book shares the same look; is the illustrator still alive, toiling away for Harpers?

    6. “Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ May Have Been Found Earlier Than Thought [4]
    By Serge F. Kovalesti and Alexandra Alter, New York Times, July 2, 2015.

    7. Margot Metroland, “Y’all Can Kill That Mockingbird Now,” here [5]. See also “Atticus in Bizarro World: Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman,” here [6].

    8. Perhaps this increase in the role of her playmate Dill, based on Truman Capote, is the origin, and perhaps the truth, behind the rumors of Capote getting involved in the writing or at least the recollections.

    9. Bad people, like this New Jersey mook, or later the school principal from up in the Hill Country of Alabama, always like things written down: the latter “doesn’t believe anything unless it’s written down” and then “when it’s written down he believes every word of it.” Tradition, by contrast, is non-literate. This goes back to the curious Genesis 9:22, where Ham (father of the negro race) is cursed for “seeing the nakedness” of his drunken father, Noah. Alexander Jacob suggests may refer to “the public dissemination of the ancestral wisdom among the highly literate Hamitic civilizations of Sumer and Egypt, whereas the other Indo-Europeans preserved it in purely oral form.” “The Indo-European Origins of the Grail” in Leopold von Schrodeder and Alexander Jacob, The Grail: Two Studies (Numen Books, 2015), p. 169, n402.

    10. The New Jersey snob, we hear, is not a family man. Catholicism, or High Church tendencies within Anglicanism, has long been a comfy place for curmudgeons, bachelors, homosexuals and other oddballs to hide in plain sight. In Brideshead Revisited, Charles’ cousin sternly remonstrates him when going up to Oxford to “Avoid Anglo Catholics; they are all sodomites with atrocious accents.” On the fin de siècle in general, see Ellis Hanson, Decadence and Catholicism (Harvard, 1997), which discusses Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, J.-K. Huysmans, Walter Pater, Paul Verlaine, and even Frederick Rolfe (who went so far as to style himself “Fr. Rolfe” when he wasn’t playing as the Sicilian Baron Corvo). For the American, or at least Northern, angle, see Douglass Shand-Tucci’s Ralph Adams Cram: Boston Bohemia, 1881–1900 (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995). On the Catholic side, there’s always one in every parish that want more incense, High Masses and sermons on Meister Eckhart; see J. F. Powers’ Morte d’Urban (itself winner of the 1963 National Book Award for Fiction). To understand Powers, you must understand that he was that rare bird, a sort of proto-Leftist, pre-Vatican II Irish Catholic who thought America was a nation of knuckle-dragging, war-mongering, racist Protestants, to whom his kind were superior in politics and culture, as well as ethics and religion. He fights both incense and homos, which he associates with the Right: McCarthy and Cohen, Whittaker Chambers, Cardinal Spellman. Also in the early ’60s, even J. D. Salinger gets in the act; his narrator in the New Yorker story Zooey disparaging a boy his mother, Irish Catholic Bessie, recommends to sister Franny as being a weepy mother’s boy “who probably sleeps with a rosary under his pillow.”

    Alan Watts describes his own struggle as a “spike” during his brief Episcopal priesthood in his autobiography, In My Own Way; later, in Beyond Theology, he will try to appreciate the other side: “The insides of most Protestant churches resemble courthouses or town halls, and the focal point of their services is a serious exhortation from a man in a black gown. No golden light, no bells, incense, and candles. No mystery upon an altar or behind an iconostasis. But people brought up in this atmosphere seem to love it. It feels warm and folksy, and leads, on the one hand, to hospitals, prison reform, and votes for all, and, on the other, to sheer genius for drabness, plain cooking ungraced with wine, and constipation of the bright emotions—all of which are considered virtues.

    “If I try to set aside the innate prejudices which I feel against this religion, I begin to marvel at the depth of its commitment to earnestness and ugliness. For there is a point at which certain types of ugliness become fascinating, where one feels drawn to going over them again and again, much as the tongue keeps fondling a hole in a tooth. I begin to realize that those incredibly plain people, with their almost unique lack of color, may after all be one of the most astonishing reaches of the divine Maya-the-Dancer of the world as far out from himself as he can get, dancing not-dancing.” Beyond Theology, Chapter Two.

    11. I thank Ms. Metroland, op. cit., for identifying the speaker from the North as perhaps Robert Welch of the John Birch Society himself. When we first meet Atticus, he’s reading with disapproval a book titled The Strange Case of Alger Hiss. Thanks to Google, we can instantly date this to 1953, when this book (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1953. $3.95.), by one Earl Jowitt, that is, “The” Earl Jowitt, a parlor pinko no doubt, appeared. This “Earl” business explains why Atticus thinks he “shows a childlike faith in the integrity of civil servants,” imagines the Congress to “correspond to their aristocracy,” and in general has “no understanding of American politics a-tall.” The Earl’s book is anti-Chambers and apparently one of the first exercises in what the Clintons have dubbed “the politics of personal destruction.” It has always puzzled me as to why the Hissites claim that Chambers was in love with Hiss, since it is clearly they themselves who have a big ol’ crush on dashing young diplomats improving the world from their positions in the One World Government.

    Later, Louise will find a pamphlet back at the house entitled “The Black Plague,” essaying forth a eugenic perspective about “brain pans, whatever they are.” It’s an obvious enough title to be her own creation, but I do find there is a pamphlet by that title by that old conspiracy-monger, Eustace Mullins. The version I can find online is obviously from the late ’60s (there’s a Black Panther on the cover and Malcolm X is referenced on the first page; there’s even talk of the Zebra killer) and the emphasis is culture, not physiology.

    12. New York newspapers are a note that ties the book together. “You’ve been reading those New York papers,” Atticus points out during their final confrontation. When she first arrives, he asks her “how much of what’s going on down here gets into the newspapers” and she responds “Well, to hear the Post tell it, we lynch ’em for breakfast down here.” Later, when she bristles as a former schoolmate makes a crude negro joke, she says “I’m getting like the New York Post.” Younger readers need to know that at the time, the New York Post was a Liberal newspaper.

    13. Like most such, it “escaped her notice” that “he son had developed all the latent characteristics of a three-dollar bill.”

    14. “You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling?” Dr. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991). Jean Louise may not know what a brain pan is, and be horrified by those who do, but she’s eager to join with the rest of the town to denigrate the poorer members of her own race.

    15. Reviewing the book, here [7]. As always, it’s impossible to fathom the Liberal mind, or to follow its never-ending, shall we say, revolutions. Wasn’t it just last year that Liberals were pumping their fists — or other body parts — to Lady Gaga’s insistence that she and her Little Monsters were “born this way”? (Vigilant Citizen)

    16. “Race realism is one of the intellectual foundations of White Nationalism. Race realism is the thesis that racial differences are objective facts of nature, which pre-exist human consciousness, human society, and even the human race itself.” Greg Johnson: “Why Race is Not a ‘Social Construct,’” here [8].

    17. The foolishness of electoral politics: Eisenhower was the one sending troops in to enforce desegregation, out of Cold War necessity. And right on time for the book’s appearance, calls to remove Jefferson and Jackson from the Democrat pantheon (and the currency); racists, don’t you know?

    18. As chronicled by Paul Kersey on his invaluable blog, Stuff Black People Don’t Like, and compiled in his collection The Tragic City: Birmingham 1963–2013.

    19. All this has been chronicles, not, of course, in those “New York newspapers,” but on Paul Kersey’s invaluable blog, Stuff Black People Don’t Like.

    20. Such as, obviously, the blog Those Who Can See. For my own discuss of Carpenter’s film — a prior, and implicitly White, version of The Matrix, see my “He Writes! You Read! They Live!” here [9] and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    21. It would appear that in the occluded world of They Live!, the color-blind would indeed be immune to the alien’s brainwashing.

    22. Is that English? He means “as well as what they should be” I guess. From a man arguing the inferiority of the negro? This is the only place where the book feels like a first draft.

    23. Graham: “Because everything with you is seeing, isn’t it? Your primary sensory intake that makes your dream live is seeing. Reflections. Mirrors. Images. . . .” See my “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2,” here [10]. “I asked my mother what I had seen, and she told me that he was not just a white man turned brown, but a different kind of man called a ‘Negro.’ But I already saw the differences before I was told the name and explanation. Indeed, I asked for an explanation because I saw the differences. My mother and I certainly did not construct the differences that were apparent to all.” Greg Johnson, op. cit., emphases his.

    24. Scout sneaks into the courthouse and sees Atticus and Hank at the Citizens’ Council meeting, and wonders if anyone sees her there (they do). Calpurnia, the old family retainer who’s been radicalized by the civil rights interlopers, can no longer see Scout. Even the long reminiscence about Scout and Dill — the character based on Truman Capote and a favorite of readers, involved Dill and a supposed machine to see through walls.

    25. Scout goes on to she needs the watchman to “proclaim to them all that twenty-six years is too long to play a joke on anybody,” which could indeed be said of those Whites who have bought into the whole “color-blind” idea. Negroes, as Atticus points out, “vote in blocs.”

    26. Again, the text seems wrong here; surely this should be “conscience,” or is Jack meant to be confused, misled by Jung’s “collective consciousness,” or is there some other symbolism here I’m missing?

    27. “The foundation of race realism is sense experience, not scientific theorizing.” — Greg Johnson, op. cit.

    28. And speaking of the Finch family, we also wonder about how Uncle Jack made so much money off his poor Alabama patients during the Depression so as to retire wealthy in his forties.

    29. Ironically, the uber-shysters running the “schools” are fleecing the little lambs blind, pocketing their federally guaranteed loans and sending them out as debt slaves, most of whom will either have no jobs, or find themselves forced into lucrative corporate slavery rather than indulging in “pro bono defense.” In a further irony, only the rich can afford such society-wrecking concern for “the poor,” while the poor themselves are sucker into . . . law school (“diversity”) and debt slavery.

    30. Similarly, TKAM has bred two generations of lambs that, faced with the overwhelming fact that law school is a disastrously bad bet (unless your parents foot the bill, or it’s a “tier 1” school) respond as Special Snowflakes: “When I got into law school a few months ago a law school professor (who is also a family friend) sent me a glut of articles like this [11] and said to read them, then read To Kill a Mockingbird again. Realize that you are not part of that statistic if you remember why you really want to practice law. So, dear Gawker, I am going to just say that I am rubber and you are glue and all the law school bashing rolls of me and sticks to you.” Really, if I were a liberal constituency, I’d be very afraid of being represented by delusional idiots like this. Generally, see “Do Not Go to a Second-Tier Law School Under Any Circumstances” by Hamilton Nolan, Gawker, 3/05/12, here [12]: “In case you’ve forgotten, let us take this opportunity to remind you: do not go to law school. [11] Law school is worthless. [13] Even more worthless than you think [14]. Law school will not make you happy [15]. The smart kids are not going to law school. [16] You should not go to law school.” Although himself a law professor, Paul Campos has been at the forefront of exposing the “law school scam”: “The odds of a graduate getting a job that justifies incurring the schools’ typical debt are essentially 100 to 1. . . . The result is a system that has produced an entire generation of over-credentialed, underemployed, and deeply indebted young people.” (The Atlantic, September, 2014, here [17]). Ironically, or appropriately, the worst hit have been the “solo practitioners” who wanted to be just like Atticus: “Solo practitioners, the largest single group of American lawyers and the heart and soul of the profession, have struggled for a quarter of a century. . . . In 1988, solo practitioners earned an inflation-adjusted $70,747. By 2012, earnings had fallen to $49,130, a 30% decrease in real income. And note, $49,130 is not the starting salary for these lawyers. It is the average earnings of all 354,000 lawyers who filed as solo practitioners that year.” Benjamin Barton, “The fall and rise of lawyers,” CNN, May 22, 2015.

    31. See my review of The Magical Universe of William Burroughs, “Curses, Cut-Ups, & Contraptions: The ‘Disastrous Success’ of William Burroughs’ Magick,” here [18].

    32. Burroughs, perhaps hopefully, described Nova Express as “an action novel that can be read by any twelve year old.” See Oliver Harris’ “Introduction” to Nova Express: The Restored Text (New York: Penguin, 2013), p. xliv.

    33. “In 1962, Grove Press issued a promotional booklet to accompany the November 20, 1962 American publication of Naked Lunch. . . . The promotional pamphlet includes an eight page selection of Naked Lunch. Not surprisingly, Rosset chose sections that support the critical readings of the novel. The “Meeting of International Conference of Technological Society” and “The County Clerk” section highlight the satirical nature of Naked Lunch to the fullest. Rosset also featured these pieces (along with a section entitled “Interzone”) in Evergreen Review No. 16 of January / February 1961. They present Burroughs’ humor, language and voice at their most obvious.” “Burroughs Ephemera 2: Naked Lunch Prospectus,” here [19]. Note that “The County Clerk” is preceded by “Meeting of International Conference of Technological Society” which involves horrifying insect/human mutations, like the slug-like Willoughby and “his kind.”

    34. “Harper Lee: the ‘great lie’ she didn’t write Mockingbird rears its head again,” Glynnis MacCool, The Guardian, July 15, 2015, here [20].

    35. And perhaps we should note the similarity of William Willoughby to William Burroughs?

    36. “William S. Burroughs Trashes Truman Capote In Open Letter” by Jen Carlson, Gothamist, Aug 2, 2012, here [21]. The “stunning opening” to Nova Express was originally titled “Open Letter” and is signed by “J. Lee”; see Harris, op. cit., pp. 193, 199.

    37. “Of course, much like Lee was never able to publish anything after To Kill a Mockingbird, Capote’s writing fizzled after In Cold Blood, so perhaps their literary relationship was more symbiotic than one-sided.” Steve Sailer, “Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Pre-sequel,” Unz Review, July 2, 2015, here [22].

    38. See my review of The Magical World of William Burroughs, op. cit.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)

VJ Morton3
Right Wing Film Geek



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • Brideshead Revisited Revisited

    Brideshead Revisited Revisited

    BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (Julian Jarrold, Britain, 2008) — 6

    After fearlessly predicting, I now must sheepishly retract: The new BRIDESHEAD REVISITED doesn’t suck pretty hard (thanks, Peter and Jeffrey both, for quoting that precise line). In fact, it doesn’t suck it all, though you do have to go in with low expectations and/or some boundaries set very firmly in your mind.

    I went to see it Friday night with a couple of friends from Church. All three of us had low expectations (I would probably not have seen the film if I hadn’t been asked); and all three of us had more or less the same reaction — good or very good until it cops out in the coda; profiting from those low expectations; and not a complete travesty of the novel’s themes and Catholicism.

    I wish I could have seen this movie innocent of the trailer and of the statements by the filmmakers, as noted in my previous post, of which I actually don’t take anything back. My expectations, though not borne out, WERE reasonable. The stridency of the score on the trailer, the emphasis given Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain (both the weight within the trailer, and the choice of what she says and does), and the plain words of the film-makers are what they were.

    It’s as if the trailer-maker was given the specific task of finding everything a Catholic fan of the novel might object to, and putting that in, to tart up the film to look like an Edwardian version of THE DA VINCI CODE

    Necessarily, a novel’s details and threads and subplots and minor characterizations — to which one can do justice in a not-so-hypothetical 13-part, 11-hour miniseries — have to be condensed or cut out entirely in a 135-minute movie (though I must admit this one does speeds by). The Oxford friend Anthony Blanche; the other two Flyte children; Rex Mottram and his dinner with Charles; Nanny Hawkins — all this is given the lick-and-a-promise treatment or passed over entirely. That much and the accompanying loss of richness, fabric and detail simply has to be accepted, or you have no business in the theater. And the recrafting and anti-religionizing of Hooper at the end (anti-Catholicism can simply be assumed of many Britons) is as awful as promised.

    But within those limitations, the new BRIDESHEAD REVISITED isn’t bad at all — preserving Waugh’s basic plot architecture and structure. It doesn’t cop out with the death of Lord Marchmain, and though its effects on Charles are cut out, Julia’s face shows real relief. Lady Marchmain, thanks be to The Great Emma Thompson, is never caricatured and is portrayed more as overprotective than the evil tyrant of the trail and is frankly often right (Sebastian “gets drunk to escape his conscience” and she disowns Charles, not as arbitrarily as the trailer leads you to believe, but for sound reason — enabling an alcoholic). She is often spoken badly of, but that’s in the book too. And Aloysius the Teddy Bear makes several appearances.

    Regardless of how Whishaw played Sebastian, there is very little gay passion in the film (I’d say none). The notorious “kiss on the mouth” is low-key friendly and half-drunk impulsive rather than passionate or sexual; and nothing comes of it, in either direction (sex or “panic”). And surely, if we’re gonna say Sebastian is “gay” in our sense, what does it mean that Sebastian is an effeminate, arrested-development, mother-dominated alcoholic who dies of a wasting disease and says the word “Mother” like Norman Bates in PSYCHO? This conception of Sebastian is rather limited — the novel’s Sebastian is charismatic and well-loved; this film turns him into a Wildean/Des Esseintes outsider (we even get a taunt about “sodomites” in the film’s first minutes). But it isn’t pushed too hard or into obviously anachronistic territories of gay consciousness.

    Several things are given light, halfway, or a treatment I am wont to call “kinda take with one hand only to kinda give back with the other.”

    • We see Sebastian at the monks’ sanitorium, apparently getting serious care, but little is made of this in terms of a (broadly-construed) vocation.
    • The ending … well, it neither gives you Waugh’s ending nor completely undercuts it. Instead of Charles praying at the chapel, with ancient words newly learned, we see him enter the chapel, dip his fingers in holy water, walk up to a candle and contemplate crushing out the wick with his fingers, before walking away and leaving the candle lit. So Charles’s trajectory is from atheist (“strictly, C of E” got a big laugh from the three of us) to a kind of non-PZ-Myers tolerance, rather than Waugh’s trajectory — agnostic to Catholic.
    • Two characters do say words to the effect of “the good thing about Catholicism is that you can do what you want, go to Confession, no problem.” This is obviously … not good … but what Catholic is not familiar with that attitude or hasn’t acted that way himself? And neither of the characters who say this is especially admirable and one is downright crass.

    So if you walk in to the movie thinking the Church is an evil, phobic, patriarchal oppressor, this BRIDESHEAD REVISITED doesn’t disabuse you. But if you come in not thinking that, it doesn’t push that on you. And so, given how good it looks (the Venice scenes particularly), how well-played much of it is, and how so much of Waugh’s story does remain … I’d guardedly recommend it.

    In short, this BRIDESHEAD is basically a Catholic movie made by post-Christians trying their durndest not to be post-Christians.

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    I fearlessly predict ...In "Homosexuality"

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    July 28, 2008 - Posted by | Homosexuality, Julian Jarrold, Presentism, Religion in movies

    5 Comments »

    1. First Deal Hudson, and now you. I see that I may have been hasty in my original opinion. With tempered expectations, it appears that this might be worth watching. How would you say it compares to the mini-series, other than the obvious “length” issue?

      And I love your last line. I shall keep it in mind once Netflix brings the film my way…

      Comment by Joseph Susanka | July 29, 2008 | Reply

    2. Interesting. Very interesting.

      As it so happens, the original BBC miniseries is next in line on my Netflix. Perhaps I will now have to see the cinema version and compare.

      Comment by crankycon | July 30, 2008 | Reply

    3. […] Victor Morton says the new cinematic release of Brideshead Revisted is not nearly as mind-numbingly awful as the trailers suggested it would. But within those limitations, the new BRIDESHEAD REVISITED isn’t bad at all — preserving Waugh’s basic plot architecture and structure. It doesn’t cop out with the death of Lord Marchmain, and though its effects on Charles are cut out, Julia’s face shows real relief. Lady Marchmain, thanks be to The Great Emma Thompson, is never caricatured and is portrayed more as overprotective than the evil tyrant of the trail and is frankly often right (Sebastian “gets drunk to escape his conscience” and she disowns Charles, not as arbitrarily as the trailer leads you to believe, but for sound reason — enabling an alcoholic). She is often spoken badly of, but that’s in the book too. And Aloysius the Teddy Bear makes several appearances. […]

      Pingback by Bideshead Revisted Reconsidered | The Cranky Conservative | August 1, 2008 | Reply

    4. Wow.

      Because a movie has pretty pictures and isn’t as anti-Catholic as you thought it would be it makes it good? What about the lack of an intelligible arc for the main character? What about any kind of suspense or goal for the characters? What about good dialogue and scenes that have a beginning, middle and end?

      As a screenwriter, of course, I have to disagree that the film is not full of anti-Christian jibes. It is. In every moment in which the notion of organized religion is tackled, it is played as a negative. The sense of vague connection with God is played as fine — but that is the same old, same old way of attacking the Church that we have seen countless times in the last forty years. The movie is “spiritual” but definitely “anti-Churchy” in Hollywood parlance.

      But the biggest issue is that the movie is NOT about what the basic theme of the book is about. The movie ultimately is about how religious faith destroys a family. And the screenwriter has said that in a few places.

      You’ve really lost me on this one.

      Comment by Barb N | August 6, 2008 | Reply

    5. […] Victor Morton, Barbara Nicolosi despised the latest version of Brideshead Revisited.  Read her review, compare […]

      Pingback by On the other hand . . . | The Cranky Conservative | August 8, 2008 | Reply


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  • Skandies season
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    skrunnerscarell

    Skandies season

    We’re now in film-geek awards season. Paul has started going through the awards categories in the Muriels (next year, I fearlessly predict a knockdown drag-out in the 50th anniversary category — NORTH BY NORTHWEST vs. SOME LIKE IT HOT). And in the Skandies poll in which I vote, and which I went to considerable time and expense to see a single eligible film right at deadline, Mike already has reached #12 in the daily countdown.

    In deference to Mike’s oft-expressed wishes, I will not reveal my ballot until after the end of the countdown, when it becomes public anyway.

    But this is what got left on the cutting-room floor — i.e., the performances, scenes, etc. that I short-listed as I put the ballot together and went over my “film seen” list, but got shucked away as I whittled the list in each category down to 10. So these are all thing I *did not* vote for, but was of a mind to at one point. The asterisks indicate the entry was the last one to get eliminated — the #11, as it were.

    LEAD MALE
    Jeff Goldblum, ADAM RESURRECTED — Can’t quite overcome the basic wtf quality of the movie, but does a damn good job trying.
    Jason Statham, THE BANK JOB — Has the charisma and physical presence needed to be a major action star that you can bear to see act (cf, the Rock).
    ** Steve Carell, GET SMART — Actually gave us a Maxwell Smart who was both funny and not a Don Adams clone.
    Jean-Claude Van Damme, JCVD — Nobody else could play this role half as well, and not simply “by definition.”
    Muthana Mohmed, OPERATION FILMMAKER — Forget that this is a documentary; he is playing a role, a self-conscious “selling of himself (or a narrative of his travails)” at every moment.
    Sam Rockwell, SNOW ANGELS — James Reston in F/N was a strident one-note rant compared to this … ahem … strugglingly-religious struggling-drunk.
    Will Poulter, SON OF RAMBOW — The Bad Boy has all the fun in goody-good-good movies, and gives it all back to us.
    Francois Cluzet, TELL NO ONE — Cluzet would have been an ideal Hitchcock leading man — closest to Jon Fitch in FRENZY.
    Mark Ruffalo, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU — Why did the studio dump this perfectly accessible crime movie, which Ruffalo makes deeper and more-original than it looks (which admittedly isn’t per-se saying much)?

    LEAD FEMALE (weakest category)
    Katherine Heigl, 27 DRESSES — I don’t think I’m thinking with the wrong organ when I say that I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
    Meryl Streep, DOUBT — If you’d toned it down a bit, Meryl, I’d have joined everybody else’s hosannahs.
    ** Kierston Wareing, IT’S A FREE WORLD — Where does Loach find all these terrifically natural actors, and why does he surround them with Laverty’s horrifically contrived scripts?
    Kate Beckinsale, SNOW ANGELS — Stuck in my memory, though I honestly can’t remember why beyond being surprised she could pull off middle-aged unhappiness at all.

    SUPPORTING MALE
    Daniel Mays, THE BANK JOB — Scene-stealing character actors like Mays are what pushes the competent heist-action movie into at least “pretty good.”
    Peter Mullan, BOY A — Not an inauthentic cell in his body, though somewhat limited by the schematic role the script gave him.
    Aaron Eckhart, THE DARK KNIGHT — Ho hum … Eckhart awesome again. Though I thought he was better (careful wording) early on, where he could use his endless supply of oleaginous charm.
    ** Brendan Gleeson, IN BRUGES — The very opposite of Eckhart in every way, but also provided exactly what *his* movie needed — gravitas.
    Raymond Mearns, IT’S A FREE WORLD — Just a couple of scenes, but an unforgettable Glaswegian “character.”
    David Straithairn, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS — The most “tang” in any character in Wong’s overripe hymn to fruity melon-collie (sorry …)
    James Franco, (speaking of which) PINEAPPLE EXPRESS — I really believe that this dealer would be a man’s best friend.
    Quentin Tarantino, SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO — A horrifically bad actor, but Miike knows how to harness a bad-actor — use him as a kind of self-parodying presence for comedy.
    Tom Cruise, TROPIC THUNDER — A horrifically bad actor, but Stiller knows how to harness a bad-actor — use him as a kind of self-parodying presence for comedy.
    Tom Wilkinson, VALKYRIE — More Wilkinson’s persona and presence than the role, really, but this movie needed some of both.
    Richard Dreyfuss, W. — Easily the “best” performance in the film, but Stone is so all-over-the-map with his actors that I decided that I can’t even really be sure that this is a “good” performance in the film’s context.

    SUPPORTING FEMALE
    Emma Thompson, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED — Liked this performance less after seeing Claire Bloom in the 11-hour TV series, but Emma simply doesn’t know how to not make you watch her.
    Frances McDormand, BURN AFTER READING — Of course she’s overacting, Mike. In this movie, that’s a problem?
    Tilda Swinton, BURN AFTER READING — But *here* was someone I was astonished to see could comically overact as effectively as McDormand.
    Catinca Untaru, THE FALL — Movie’s very hazy in the memory (I saw it when the GOP controlled Congress), but her naivete and willfulness have stuck with me.
    Anne Hathaway, GET SMART — I don’t suppose it’ll count as giving away my ballot if I say that the “I’ve got her taken care of elsewhere”-factor hurt Hathaway’s chances here.
    ** Karina Fernandez, HAPPY GO-LUCKY — I don’t suppose it’ll count as giving away my ballot if I say that the “I’ve got that movie taken care of elsewhere”-factor hurt Fernandez’s chances.
    Joan Cusack, KIT KITTREDGE — I don’t know if there’s right now an actress who’s better at playing “dotty.”
    Debra Winger, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED — Wished she had more scenes, though I understand why dramatically-speaking, her character couldn’t be around too much.
    Samantha Morton, SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK — The only thing I can really say is that I remembered her at all in this meta-mess that pretty much ends my interest in Kaufman.
    Marie-Josee Croze, TELL NO ONE — Can’t say why I liked her without giving away too much, so I’ll just say that she has one of the best acting-faces this side of Liv Ullman (I’ve never seen her and not at least short-listed her).
    Penelope Cruz, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA — Never quite shook the notion that she’s overdoing the “Latin firecracker” bit, but she was such an entertaining firecracker that it hardly matters.
    Rebecca Miller, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA — Never quite shook the notion that she’s overdoing the “repressed stick-in-the-mud” bit, but she was such an effective stick that it hardly matters.
    Ko Hyeon-geong, WOMAN ON THE BEACH — Hard to believe that “the Jennifer Aniston of South Korea” (Theo’s phrase) could be the subtlest actor in the film.

    In case it isn't obvious, this is Canet directing (fellow runnerup) Marie-Josee Croze on the set ... I couldn't find a pic of him writing with partner Philippe Lefebvre.

    SCRIPT
    J. Michael Straczynski, CHANGELING — Actually made a wtf real-life story halfway, not exactly credible, but entertainingly in-credible. Pity about the direction though.
    Emmanuel Bourdieu and Arnaud Desplechin, A CHRISTMAS TALE — Has that let’s-take-everything-in ambition, but the resultant meandering quality somehow avoids coming across as wheel-spinning.
    Mike Leigh, HAPPY GO-LUCKY — Ho hum … loaves, fishes … you know the drill from the world’s greatest writer-who-didn’t-make-a-film-called-MEMENTO. But mikebud … kill the insane dude … seriously.
    Peter Morgan, THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL — Actually made a wtf real-life story halfway, not exactly credible, but entertainingly in-credible. Pity about the direction though. And your damn F/N script from later in the year.
    Eric Rohmer, ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON — Has an innocence and purity that subsequent reviews made me see, but I still don’t fundamentally get why the film was made at all.
    ** Philippe Lefebvre and Guillaume Canet, TELL NO ONE — Such a strong story that I really regretted shucking away every short-listing I gave the film and wound up giving it no points at all.
    Hong Sang-soo, WOMAN ON THE BEACH — So wildly ambitious in its antecedents (8 1/2 and VERTIGO — a director trying to mould a woman into the perfect leading lady for life) yet still fits within the same Hong patterns

    DIRECTOR (strongest category, I think)
    Christopher Nolan, THE DARK KNIGHT — I’ve a feeling I’ll regret this omission more than any other, perhaps not seeing Nolan’s direction because blinded by his being simply the best scriptwriter in the world (um … spoiler I guess).
    Jacques Rivette, THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS — Except maybe for this one, only the second Rivette to really send me. He should make more movies about nuns in my opinion.
    ** Fatih Akin, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN — The script so completely falls apart in Act 3 that it’s a tribute to Akin’s direction that the film still sometimes works (and the memory of the first two acts isn’t tainted too much).
    Tarsem, THE FALL — Yeah, yeah, make fun of me all you want, you hipsterdudes cracking about “perfume commercials.” Giganticism never gets held against Fritz Lang.
    Michael Haneke, FUNNY GAMES — Yep. Haneke doing what he does best in a language he doesn’t speak well, and it’s still not enough for the Top 10. The film’s repetitiveness, in the context of the guy’s career, also hurt its chances.
    Patricia Rozema, KIT KITTREDGE — The biggest surprise of the year for me and the credit goes to Rozema’s restraint and her control of the tricky and unfashionable tone this story needed. Wished I could have found a slot for her.
    Wong Kar-wai, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS — Yep. Wong doing what he does best in a language he doesn’t speak well, and it’s still not enough for the Top 10. The film’s repetitiveness, in the context of the guy’s career, also hurt its chances.
    Gus Van Sant, PARANOID PARK — Why did I think I would give points to a film I so morally detested? Maybe that question is its own answer.
    Stuart Gordon, STUCK — OK … maybe THIS was the year’s biggest surprise (though word of mouth at TIFF 07 was strong), and like Rozema’s film also a great job of maintaining a tricky tone — here between semi-gore and semi-comedy.

    SCENE
    Interview with Henry Waxman, BIGGER STRONGER FASTER — The guy is such a self-righteous smarm that I was cheering when Bell made him look a fool.
    ** Inside the car, BURN AFTER READING — (vjm goes off to cry somewhere at cutting this howlingly-funny scene that sold me on this film fergood)
    Che at the UN, CHE — Just about the only spark in the film, and also the only moments that aren’t back-of-the-throat treatment, by secular-liberal lights.
    Family history, A CHRISTMAS TALE — As someone who wasn’t a great fan of Desplechin, this early scene’s mixture of whimsy and economical exposition won me over right away.
    The roach game, CJ7 — Wished the film hadn’t gotten all serious, as this scene rivaks LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL in the terms of a “make lemonade” game being used as a comic denial-of-misery.
    First office confrontation, DOUBT — If Steve McQueen had staged this conversation, in a single static take — or maybe two or three, this could have been the scene of the year, in a walk.
    At the convent, THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS — The sudden cutting at the end is as shocking and violent as any onscreen-stabbing.
    The Pakistani couple, FROZEN RIVER — Another scene I really regretted having to lose, it’s really the movie’s moral trajectory in miniaturem suspenseful as all hell, and on two different grounds. But Melissa Leo allowed me to make it up.
    Hancock vs. France, HANCOCK — C’mon … you know why I love this scene.
    Flamenco!, HAPPY GO-LUCKY — Whenever I think Leigh should can his actorly one-scene bits like the homeless guy, along comes a masterful scene like this one to remind me how handsomely his gambles often pay off.
    “Bapu Can’t Dance,” JAANE TU YA JAANE NA — Yo, Academy … *here* is AR Rahman at his best (OK … maybe not *very* best, but *way* better).
    Opening scene, JCVD — I agree with Mike … wtf were y’all thinking (see the scene there). Even if JCVD’s 4th-wall scene isn’t cringeworthy, this one is WAY more fun.
    Stuck in windshield, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS — This was a good year for people getting stuck in windshields in my opinion.
    Encounter group, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED — (vjm just goes off to cry again … I so hate the confessional mode that being emotionally involved with a group like this blew me away … maybe my self-conscious aversion to bloc voting hurt it)
    The Stepford breakfast, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD — I don’t care what y’all say … Kate’s mannered Sirkian recitation and gestures *made* this scene.
    Reaching for the cell phone, STUCK — So much drama and suspense turns on (quite literally) the most minute of gestures and the smallest of spaces.
    QT and cooking, SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO — If you’re unsympatico with the film’s whole concept — deliberately mangled recapitulation of Western tropes as pomo-gesture humor … I couldn’t even begin to make the case for this scene.
    Retardation explained, TROPIC THUNDER — (repeat vjm crying drill from above … probably the year’s most memorably quotable scene. And it’s film criticism!! And spot on, too!!!)
    Restaurant confrontation, WOMAN ON THE BEACH — In some ways an even more uncomfortable scene than the confrontation in DOUBT above, because the characters are so self-consciously (making a show of being) “explosive.”

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    February 10, 2009 - Posted by | Skandies

    1 Comment »

    1. I wouldn’t be so sure it’s only a two-horse race for next year’s 50th Anniversary Muriel- I’m guessing we’ve got a good Nouvelle Vague contingent among our ranks, which would make THE 400 BLOWS and BREATHLESS major players in the game. Plus there’s also PICKPOCKET, RIO BRAVO, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR… you get the idea. Way more going on than in ’58. And the other Anniversary awards- ’84 and ’99- should be interesting too.

      Comment by Paul C. | February 23, 2009 | Reply


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Kyle Smith1
National Review



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  • Review: "Brideshead Revisited"
    I found the young cast of the big-screen version of “Brideshead Revisited” didn’t bring across the idea of “passion” so much as “blocking the scenery.” It’s an honorable film, but it’s a bit disappointing. My review is here. ]]>
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Kelly Jane Torrance2
The Weekly Standard



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  • MOVIES: 'Brideshead' revisited again

    When producers announced a new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's lush 1945 novel "Brideshead Revisited," the question on many lips was: "Why?" Published July 25, 2008

    ...
    (Review Source)

The American Conservative Staff1
The American Conservative



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • A Literature of Angels and Demons
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it –Jeremiah 17:9, KJV Tucked away as a footnote in Philip Eade’s recent biography of Evelyn Waugh lies an interesting observation comparing Waugh to another contemporary novelist, Graham Greene: Lady Diana Cooper, a friend of both the British authors, commented in a letter to her son that Greene was “a good man possessed of a devil,” and Waugh “a bad man for whom an angel is struggling.” The truth of this anecdote insofar as it pertains to Waugh is unfortunately fleshed out in the course of Eade’s biography, a book that tells us everything we may have never wanted to know about the vices of one of the 20th century’s greatest writers—except for the fact that understanding these failings help us grasp his writing better. As for Greene, this 1951 letter was written after a visit the novelist and his mistress made to the Coopers, at their home outside Paris. Lady Diana comments on his drinking, and describes him as appearing to be “seared,” with the italicizing her own emphasis. She continues: “I can’t make out about his faith. I think it’s guilty love has put him all out.” Apparently, Greene had recently been to Italy, where he attended one of Padre Pio’s Masses but did not stay to speak with the saintly stigmatic priest. Lady Diana’s perspective: “He was frightened to talk to him as he feared he might alter his life.” Lady Diana’s comparison of Waugh and Greene strikes at the heart of good literature, and what makes all good literature fundamentally Christian, especially when one considers that these two observations are more closely aligned to each other than the polar opposites they may appear to be. One can easily analyze the major serious works of these two novelists to find countless examples of people struggling between their personal angels and demons. Take, for example, Greene’s masterpiece, The Power and the Glory. The unnamed priest had a life riddled with vice, specifically drink and cowardice, for which an angel struggled, and won. Or was he a fundamentally good man who struggled with demons? Waugh’s fictional worlds likewise abounded in sinners. Brideshead Revisited offers several, both good people possessed and bad people whose guardian angels no doubt put in a lot of overtime. But is it clear who is which? G.K. Chesterton’s analogy about conversion, that it is God giving a “twitch of the thread,” comes up often in Brideshead, calling sinners back home. As one character, Julia Flyte, puts it: “I’ve always been bad. Probably I shall be bad again, punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can’t shut myself out from His mercy. … Or it may be a private bargain between me and God, that if I give up this one thing I want so much, however bad I am, He won’t quite despair of me in the end.” Two current artistic efforts, one a television series and the other a movie, appear to walk the tightrope of the thread that needs twitching. I find myself fascinated by the debate surrounding the new Martin Scorsese film Silence, based on the 1966 Shusaku Endo novel, and the HBO series The Young Pope, because both works offer so much more than meets the eye. Each of these projects has provided a forum for deep debate about some very serious religious questions in a culture that finds religious inquiry uncomfortable, and tries to edge around the eternal questions as if they are the boor at the cocktail party. As easy as it can be to simply attack one (based on a dislike of Scorsese) or the other (out of disdain for much of the tripe on HBO), we cannot disregard their impact on culture at large. In the case of Silence, where a Jesuit missionary tramples on an image of Christ, it’s a debate over the nature of perceived apostasy, even to save others from suffering martyrdom. It’s actually an interesting counterpoint to Greene’s The Power and the Glory, because in Greene’s book there is a weak priest who wants to escape martyrdom, then embraces it; in Endo’s work, the priest is strong but gives in to the temptation to compromise. The Young Pope fascinates because, while youth is supposed to be the time of liberal progressivism, this idiosyncratic young pope embraces tradition. The beauties of the Vatican are on full display, and many of the characters are not as stereotypically evil or fallen, as one would expect in the usual Hollywood attack on the Catholic Church. Many Christians appreciate literature where the good always wins and evil is vanquished, something Greene pokes a little fun at in The Power and the Glory with the side-story of a Mexican mother who reads an overly devotional martyr’s story to her children. While Christians believe good will win in the end, our earthly life is not so simple. It’s when we probe the recesses of our own complicated lives, with the light of what we’ve read, that we understand the cathartic nature of good storytelling. Are most people good enough, struggling with a devil, or are they just bad enough that they need an angel to fight for them? Surely, most of us have our good days and our bad days. On Tuesday, we may be Greene; on Thursdays, we may be more like Waugh. The Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn sums this idea up in The Gulag Archipelago: “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes … right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.” Good literature, whether it’s in a book or on a screen, will explore these dark corners and capture this shifting line. In Murder in the Cathedral, his own poem-play telling the story of martyrdom, T.S. Eliot does not shy away from reporting Becket’s questions and temptations as he ponders the coming denouement, and is visited by four tempters—the last one, tempting him to the glories of martyrdom, for his own personal glory. The bishop wonders: “Can sinful pride be driven out / Only by more sinful? Can I neither act nor suffer / Without perdition?” In his foreword to Thomas Howard’s Dove Descending, described as a “journey” into T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Fr. George W. Rutler talks about what Eliot and others (in this case, Chesterton and Frost) were trying to accomplish in their poetry. “We are dealing with good hearts trying to make sense of the existence of the human heart in a disheartened world.” Good literature shows the depth and the vigor of this struggle between good and evil. It recognizes that we always have devils and angels on our shoulders whispering into our consciences. And in the case of Waugh, Greene, Eliot, and the others, whose best writing reflected their own personal battles, good may not always win. The tension, however—the Chestertonian twitch of the thread—must always be shown compellingly, and honestly, as a promise of the final victory of Good itself. K.E. Colombini writes from St. Louis, Mo. He has been published in First Things, Crisis Magazine, and other publications. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

Soiled Sinema1
Soiled Reviews



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

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  • Evil
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    It has been some time since I saw a movie that was able to provoke such an adrenaline rush in my body that I felt the need to engage in a b...
    ...
    (Review Source)

Steve Sailer1
Taki Mag



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • J. K. Rowling: Britain's Most Important Cultural Conservative
    (”Brideshead Revisited” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Harry Potter Kids these days have short attention spans. Or so I’ve often been informed. For example, Baroness Greenfield, an Oxford professor of “synaptic pharmacology,” recently warned the House of Lords that social-networking websites “are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize, and a shaky sense of identity.” Yet having recently plunked my 20th-century mind down amid an otherwise superbly attentive young audience cheering on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the seventh and penultimate film in the witches and warlocks series, I suspect the opposite is truer. When sufficiently interested, the new generation can display an attention span that boggles the old. (Personally, I could have used a little more sensationalism to keep me focused.) The Harry Potter phenomenon is immense. The first novel by J. K. Rowling, now a billionairess, barely broke 300 pages. The last four of the seven, however, averaged 772 pages each, making the total series 4,195 pages. The eight movies made from the seven books (Deathly Hallows was split into two pictures) will extend across twenty hours.“Harry Potter aficionados will be enthralled with the movie, while casual admirers of the series like me are likely to be bewildered.” When I was at UCLA in the early 1980s, Westwood’s big movie theaters had an easy-to-remember standard evening schedule: 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m., and midnight. Sometimes they ran late, but the typical movie then was under two hours. In contrast, Deathly Hallows, which is slightly shorter than average for a Harry Potter film at 146 minutes, generally shows at, say, 7:00 p.m. and 10:20 p.m. In theory, this isn’t as profitable for the theaters as the old schedule, but Harry Potters make more than enough money for all concerned: In aggregate, the eight movies will pull in well over $7 billion at the global box office. Next Page ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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