Saturday, September 20, 2014

Carrots by Jules Renard

In May this year I blogged about the story of Robert Lynen, an exceptionally brave young man who fought in the French Resistance during World War II. I came across his story because of a postcard of him in his pre-war role as a film actor in a film with the Dutch title of Peenhaar, or Red Head. I was delighted then to come across this book in a shop this morning, Carrots by Jules Renard, the first and only English translation of the original novel on which Lynen's film was based.

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe: 1901 Rowing Crew

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe is a turn of the last century photographer best known for his study of a group of naked boys in the harbour at Whitby called "Water Rats" and two or three other similar photographs. Flicking through a book of his photos today I came across this handsome bunch: a Whitby Friendship Rowing Club crew in 1901. And for completeness I shall tell you that they are, from left to right: J, Pearson, T. Henderson, A. Thompson, J. Howard and seated is their cox R. Coulson.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Denton Welch in Digital Format

Denton Welch is one of those novelists whose work you read, sink into, marvel at and just live through and then, if you are like me, put them away for a while and every few years go back to them and have the same wonderful feeling of discovery and renewed appreciation. For me, Forrest Reid is another novelist in this category. The rather fun Galley Beggar Press is producing what look to be decent editions of Welch's three novels as a start in their Digital Classics series. Their blurbs are also very good. If you are happy reading digital books and you haven't read him then there's no recommending Welch highly enough and, if you have read him before... is it time that you, like me, slipped back into his world again?

Galley Press blurbs below their covers

First published in 1945, In Youth Is Pleasure recounts a summer in the life of 15-year-old Orvil Pym, who is holidaying with his father and brothers in a Kentish hotel, with little to do but explore the countryside and surrounding area.

‘I don’t understand what to do, how to live’: so says the 15-year-old Orvil – who, as a boy who glories and suffers in the agonies of adolescence, dissecting the teenage years with an acuity, stands as a clear (marvelously British) ancestor of The Catcher In The Rye’s Holden Caulfield.

A delicate coming-of-age novel, shot through with humour, In Youth Is Pleasure, has long achieved cult status, and earned admirers ranging from Alan Bennett to William Burroughs, Edith Sitwell to John Waters. ‘Maybe there is no better novel in the world that is Denton Welch’s In Youth Is Pleasure,’ wrote Waters. ‘Just holding it my hands… is enough to make illiteracy a worse crime than hunger.’

Maiden Voyage is Denton Welch’s debut novel, a frankly autobiographical account of a short period in his life when – at the age of 16 – he ran away from his English boarding school, before being sent back to Shanghai to live with his businessman father. “Trembling with sex”, is how Alan Bennett wonderfully describes Maiden Voyage; and as well as portraying so acutely the passions and nameless longings of a teenage boy, and the strange quirks and brutalities of public school life, it is also a novel that deals with the agony of childhood bereavement – the suffering of a boy who has only recently lost his mother.
When Maiden Voyage was first published in 1943 it was an overnight sensation, and so graphic in its depiction of adolescence and the schooling system that Welch’s publisher – Herbert Read – was forced to seek legal advice. Seventy years on, there is little to shock the modern reader – but more than enough to earn a new generation of fans and admirers. William Burroughs said, “If ever there was a writer who was neglected, it was Denton. He makes you aware of the magic that is right beneath your eyes.”

At the age of twenty, the novelist Denton Welch suffered a cycling accident that left him partially paralyzed; the injuries that he sustained were to leave him in almost constant pain for the rest of his life, as well as bestowing upon him the spinal tuberculosis that would kill him at the age of 33. A Voice Trough a Cloud – increasingly regarded as Welch’s masterpiece – is his account of this accident and the period of convalescence soon after. The unsparing chronicle of the world of a hospital patient – riddled with anger, boredom, almost unbearable stabs of pain and sharp flashes of humour – A Voice Trough a Cloud is, as John Updike wrote in The New Yorker, “An incomparable account of shattered flash and refracted spirit.” His third and final novel, and written at a point when Welch could write for no more than a few minutes a day, A Voice Trough A Cloud is nonetheless possibly one of the most complete accounts of health and mortality; as Edmund White says, it is a book of “long slow dying”, “through which all the world’s strangeness can be perceived.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

John Piper illustrates Benjamin Britten

I have never met a piece of work by the 20th century British artist John Piper that I haven't really liked, and I am currently reacquainting myself with the work of Benjamin Britten. How serendipitous then when I discovered these two music scores for two of Britten's Canticles. There are others, all with covers by Piper but I don't have these. In clearing a house today these just leapt off the shelves at me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Catalogue from Callum James Books: The Old Stile Press

Callum James Books and the Old Stile Press have been friends for years and so it is an absolute delight to be able to present a catalogue which contains not only a selection of their 'in-print' books direct from the Press, but alongside that a collection of material now out of print and a large collection of artists' prints created by the press over the years.

Since the beginning of the Press in the 1980s they have issued a strong selection of homoerotic material and it is vein of their work which is represented in this catalogue.

The catalogue is only available in digital form and can be viewed here:

I really hope that you will discover something new and exciting here even if you already know the Old Stile Press. Details of how to order can be found on the first page of the catalogue.

A 1930s New York Guide II

The 1939 New York City Guide that I mentioned in yesterday's post is not just illustrated by photographs. Far better, in my view, is the illustration work. All of the illustrations I've scanned here are by the same artist (there is more than one artist at work in the book) but I don't know who they are. There is a monogram which looks like a capital L and then another inverted L next to it so I assume they are by someone with the initials LL but if anyone out there in the wonderland that is the Internet can shed any light on them that would be appreciated. I've really enjoyed these for their dark and brooding quality and the slightly macabre sense of proportion in the design.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A 1930s New York Guide

As you might imagine, being in Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town, for my birthday recently resulted in quite the pile of books in the back of the car and one of them was the New York City Guide from 1939. A really interesting book that doesn't shy away from the seamier side of life in the metropolis. It is illustrated not just with b/w photos but with some brilliant b/w artwork too which will be featuring here in the near future. For the time being though, what's not to like about a book that shows us both 1930s Art Deco skyscrapers but also young men in vintage swimwear about to throw themselves into a river!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mr Manhood and the art of Double Entendre

It may be that being named Mr Manhood is something that predisposes you to a life of double entendre and innuendo... which may explain why he called his only novel Gay Agony, which is a novel about none of the things you might imagine from the title, despite the fact that the action takes place in a small village called Thrust-on-the-Moor; I kid you not!. I've not read it but reviews online seem to suggest that you will either love it or dislike it, mainly on stylistic grounds. All agree that Mr Manhood is actually something of an overlooked talent in the world of the weird, supernatural story, his first collection of which he called... Nightseed!

And why am I telling you this? Because when away in Scotland recently I paid a visit to Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town and whilst there had occasion to see this fetching mug which, of course, I just had to have.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Letterpress postcards by Clare Melinsky

R and I have just returned from holiday. We have been staying in a gloriously isolated cottage in the Glenkens area of Galloway in South Western Scotland. It was a magical and beautiful holiday and you will all be subjected to much more about it here in the next few days I'm sure but for the time being I wanted to share these great letterpress printed postcards I found. I found them in the The Working Print Studio in Kirkcudbright (pron: Ker-Koo-Bree) but they were actually printed at Robert Smail's Printing Works in the Scottish Borders. They are brilliant linocut designs by the illustrator Clare Melinsky who first came to my attention in 2010 when she designed a series of covers for a new issue of the Harry Potter novels in paperback. These designs though were specifically for postcards and were commissioned for the Pollock's Toy Museum in London.

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