Category Archives: Review

“Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination, by GLB Pym” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

The Miracle of Light While Flying – Gerardo Dottori, 1931

Esteemed art historian & cultural critic GLB Pym returns to FLAPPERHOUSE to praise an underappreciated genius in “Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination,” Amanda Sarasien‘s high-flying fiction from our Spring 2017 issue.

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THE BLOTTING OUT OF THE NAME ENNIO ALATA from the avant-garde is a glaring stain upon art itself. While my left hand, armed with its pen, charges in frenzied formation across the page, my right hand holds aloft its battle standard, a three-hundred-meter strip of film, Alata’s masterpiece. I march against immobile sentries, lay siege to concrete parapets that mire this ivory tower in the swamp of centuries. My just war has three simple aims:

  1. To emancipate the name Alata from the trenches of narrow minds who dismiss him as a minor Futurist; who, guided by their arbitrary geography of genre, confuse map lines with walls; who shed ink like blood dizzy with defeat weak with worry wondering where is his art? Where are the relics of his creative rituals? Sighs dissolving on passéist lips extol the mummified manuscript the cadaverous canvas, while I revere animate art, the silver-screen breath the radio hiss the zoetic flash across the stage.
  2. To lay at Immortality’s feet this celluloid garland spirited from the underworld of oblivion. Let breasts projecting the white light of curiosity, undimmed by petty doubt, convene. Together we will revive argentine idols frozen in webs of x-ray shadow, return them to the empyreal screen where they will take up once again the silent dance of deities.
  3. To sing the ballad of Alata’s electric exploits, lightning bolts rending complacent clouds. This high-voltage life is an aura hovering over Time and Space supercharging the twentieth century. Heretofore, critics averted their eyes from its ultraviolet brilliance, banished it to the upper reaches of the ionosphere to avoid the constant shock of its vibrations. With just a few anecdotes, I will harness this violent current, feed it to the ravenous power station to pulse through a radial network of static chatter, conducting new energy heart oxygen spirit into the bloodstream of art. My oratorio will bring the man—airplane down to earth for a momentary landing before launching him refueled into the firmament.

 

Although enfant terrible Ennio Alata never signed his name to a single Futurist manifesto, Marinetti’s founding credo must for him have represented a creative call to arms. Why else would he have kept his clipping from the February 20, 1909, edition of Le Figaro taped to the wall above his writing desk until the day of his death? To what extent Alata hitched his artistic ambitions to the racecar that was Futurism, as it hurtled down its collision course with history, remains a subject of disinterested debate. But no matter how the arguments vie, lapping round and round one another, the outcome is always the same: Absent material artifacts to attest to the value of his artistic production, Alata is discounted as a fickle dilettante, his early death a loss modernism suffers unmourned.

My appeals to the critical elites to reevaluate Alata’s legacy in light of the film fragment whose contents I will, in due course, unveil, have all gone unheeded. Dr. Bertram Beake of Wexford, Chair of the International Society for Modernism, defiled my panel proposal with a curt rejection which may as well have been a slap in the face, as that would have stung less. I cannot help but find such a rejection ironic, given the Futurists’ own abhorrence of academia, of so-called cognoscenti heaping -isms on top of one another like gravediggers filling a crowded cemetery. That a stodgy conference on Futurism would constitute a farce of colossal proportions clearly scurried right under Beake’s turned-up beak. With this manifesto, I mobilize the vanguard of avant-gardists, those wishing to revolt against institutes and societies who stick the corpses of Modernist movements under glass with pins. Together, we will declaim the genius of this brief film, in a forum not unlike those Futurist Evenings which, in their day, so upended correctness. Alata, of course, would have approved.

Continue reading “Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination, by GLB Pym” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

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“When the Seals Would Clap No More” – Fiction by Tim Conley

circuscoloringbookStep right up and marvel at the preface to the world’s most profound coloring book in “When the Seals Would Clap No More,” Tim Conley‘s contribution to our Fall 2015 issue

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IF IT SEEMS UNUSUAL TO DISCOVER A PREFACE appended to an object that is all too often called a “colouring book,” perhaps prejudices have become unguardedly confused with expectations. There is sometimes urgency in the unexpected. Therefore be warned: despite its innocuous-seeming charms (that it only seems innocuous is one of its charms), Join the Circus! is no ordinary bound stack of paper to be idly defaced, and this preface is likely to disturb and distress those who underestimate what they have opened.

Join the Circus! is certainly a joy to behold – to behold, it must be stressed and not to lay wax upon willy-nilly. The narrative that the keen-eyed reader can puzzle together from the sequence of tableaux is simple, concise, sometimes slyly allusive, and genuinely moving. It needs no improvement. The intersecting circles of clowns and poodles on page 11 are utterly dynamic precisely because they are in black and white, because the artist who gave them exuberant life disdained the superfluous and focussed on the power of the line. Reddening these clowns’ noses will not make them more antic: such an assault would irretrievably lose all the picture’s mirth. The facial expression of the poodle in the right corner is nothing less than haunting, but the smallest smear of pink, say, would demolish that nuance. The whole essence of the clown’s nose, the poodle’s ineffable expression would be violated.

Exaggeration? No. No and again no. We must understand Join the Circus! rather than disfigure it. No one would countenance a gluing together of various pages of the Gnostic gospels or the Analects of Confucius, or fecklessly stand by as some cheerful maniac made paper dolls out of The Origin of Species or The Last Bandstand: An Unbiassed Argument Against the Use of the Conductor’s Baton. These claims need not even be made – the renown of such wonders defends them; and yet one must even today defend Join the Circus!

Why? Regard, for example, the illustration on page 7: the juggling bear on the unicycle. The temptation here might be to juxtapose merry brown for the animal’s fur with jaunty red for the fez, but to do so would be a mistake. Why? For one thing, there is the temerity of asserting the familiar: bears may frequently have brown coats, but there is no reason to suppose that this particular, splendid specimen (capable of juggling four balls while riding a unicycle, a feat which the reader is politely invited to match – without opposable thumbs) does not have a magenta coat. This is only one kind of error, however. The zany who, for the sake of unconventionality or as a wearisome “avant-garde” gesture, scoops up the forest green crayon to colour only the bear’s left side and polka-dots the right in orange, presumes both that the colour does not matter and that his or her “artistic licence” trumps all other possible contingencies and concerns. Imagine a surgeon who announced, hands still within the patient’s open cavity, “this organ would look much better over here.” Imagine the firefighter who aims the arcs of hosed water right over the blazing homestead, with the justification that to his eye it looks more pleasing than merely dousing the flames directly. Just imagine!

Continue reading “When the Seals Would Clap No More” – Fiction by Tim Conley

“Summer Love” – Fiction by J. Wendell Miller

Drinking Bacchus - Guido Reni, circa 1623
Drinking Bacchus – Guido Reni, circa 1623

There’s still a few weekends left this summer, so if you plan on doing any binge-drinking you may want to consult the alcohol reviews in J. Wendell Miller‘s “Summer Love,” one of many educational pieces you can read in our Summer 2015 issue (available here, here, here, or here).

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MILLER GENUINE DRAFT

Brewery: MillerCoors
Type of Beer: American Pale Lager
ABV: 4.7%
Sociability: High
Adrenaline Factor: Extreme

Review: Maybe the first beer you ever stole, this bitter American Pale Lager likely got your eleven year-old heart racing. You probably tried your best to keep your friends from seeing what you really thought about this effervescent pisswater, though you suspect they all hated the taste, too, hated the bitterness, the smell, the lingering sense of dread and the ultimate betrayal of not getting any of you even the slightest bit wasted. This is really good, your friend probably said after a long pull, but you’re a bad fucking liar, you would have silently countered. When you finished the last few drops, you might have stood in a line and chucked the empty cans over the fence in your friend’s backyard, only to be caught the next day, lectured on how disappointing your actions were.

Grade: B-

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Five Star Brandy

Distillery: Petri
ABV: 80 proof (40%)
Sociability: Medium
Family Hatred Factor: Very High
Ability to Water Down to Avoid Punishment: Very Low

Tasting Notes: This brandy features full-bodied notes of vanilla, raisin, and blackberry, though they are lost in the burn when taking pulls from the bottle. Be advised, this smooth brandy will often cause quarrels with family, in which the sounds of shouting will disappear beneath layers of sobs and fists slamming into cheek skin. Pairs well with water, but there’s a good chance fifteen year-old you will be grounded at length because of your poor judgment and brazen disrespect for authority. Years later, you will attempt to recreate the magic of your first taste of this low-quality brandy and the love of your life will kiss the stale vanilla notes, the flat cola chasers, and the crusted vomit on your lips before ultimately leaving you.

Grade: C+ Continue reading “Summer Love” – Fiction by J. Wendell Miller

“Introduction: A Moor in the Onyx Ash Grove” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

Night - Alexandre-Auguste Hirsch, 1875
Night – Alexandre-Auguste Hirsch, 1875

“Introduction: A Moor in the Onyx Ash Grove, Amanda Sarasien‘s Borgesian contribution to our Winter 2015 issue, introduces us to a fascinating “novel in miniature” called Un Maure en frênaie d’onyx, written by Sylvain Dubois and reviewed by the highly intelligent yet somewhat cranky G.L.B. Pym. (Don’t forget to read the footnotes!)

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YOU MIGHT SAY THE DRIVING RAIN DROVE ME TO SYLVAIN DUBOIS. That afternoon, in Geneva, I had failed to locate the restaurant recommended to me by a discerning friend. I had wandered all morning under a leaden sky, as if tempting my luck, and so was not surprised when the heavens suddenly let loose, soaking my brand-new, bespoke wingtip brogues. I ducked into the closest storefront, only to find myself standing amid row upon row of sagging bookshelves. In some sort of numinous equation solved by the hand of fate, I had, by chance, stepped into the only space more comforting to me than a cordwainer’s shop. Fine Italian leather for full-leather binding, it seemed a worthy, albeit unnecessary, sacrifice.

And how, among the hundreds of thousands of titles all stuffed into that dim cavern, I ever alighted upon Un Maure en frênaie d’onyx, could also be described as kismet. While the owner pottered around behind teetering stacks of unshelved volumes, mumbling in German to a mangy, calico cat, I distractedly pried the book from its place, at first mistaking the rubbed gilt lettering on its spine for the name Dumas. When confronted with my error, I was tempted to return it to its place, but one glance out the window told me I’d have plenty of time to examine the contents of this little shop. I turned to the first pages. “Monsieur?” I called into the gloom, before remembering he had been speaking German. But, too late, the shopkeeper had already answered me in French, so I continued by asking if he knew anything about this Sylvain Dubois. The man furrowed his brow, squinted at me from beneath bushy, unkempt gray eyebrows and shook his head. Then, wordlessly, he turned and shuffled off.

Despite the series of serendipitous circumstances which led to my purchase of that first battered volume, I maintain that only my singular bibliophilic tenacity could have transformed happenstance into a true connoisseurship. I, alone and without the benefit of literary orientation, read the book, cover to cover, judged it entirely on its own merits, and proceeded to immerse myself in Dubois research, piecing together the fantastic fragments of a life we now know all too well. Thus, I do not hesitate in laying claim to the distinction of Sylvain Dubois’ first English-language reader, and it is under this authority that I introduce him to you now.

Sylvain Dubois was born Auguste Hauchecorne on May 22, 1893, in Bernay, France, the only child of Severin and Arianne (née Lacaille) Hauchecorne. At an early age, he eschewed the family profession of glassblowing and declared his intention to become an arborist. But, only seven months into his apprenticeship, his precocity got the better of him, when, behind his mentor’s back, he created a crossbreed he believed would protect surrounding trees from infestation by any number of insect species plaguing France’s orchards at that time. To test his hypothesis, he planted this new hybrid among a grove of the region’s oldest trees, and within one month, every single trunk was mottled with the scars of a previously unknown disease, contracted from the seemingly innocent little sapling. When it was learned the role Hauchecorne had played in this calamity, the youth was disgraced, his budding career in arboriculture uprooted.

Hauchecorne did not have time to contemplate his failure, however, for three weeks later, World War I broke out. Auguste, a vehement pacifist, fled to Brittany to avoid the draft, and adopted an ascetic’s life in the mythic forest of Brocéliande. Here he took the name Sylvain Dubois, moved into an old, hollow oak tree and subsisted on acorns. Unfortunately, it was precisely his pseudonym which gave him away. When residents of the local village reported the presence of a strange man who called himself Sylvain Dubois, it was only a matter of time before the French military connected the doubly arboreal name[1] to that failed arborist gone missing from the Eure district. He was summarily removed from his mystical home and shipped off to the front.

Once in the trenches, Dubois was assigned mess hall duty, eventually working his way up to head cook. It was during this time that he discovered writing when, attempting to develop an haute cuisine centered upon the acorn (a cuisine which, incidentally, did not prove popular with the soldiers), he found himself more and more absorbed in embellishing the written descriptions of his dishes. He then announced to his comrades in arms that upon conclusion of the war, he would go abroad, with the goal of penning a travelogue to the world’s great trees. While we can surmise that such a guide would have generated little interest from publishers, let alone readers, we will, in fact, never know, because not long after the armistice, Dubois checked himself into an institution and was diagnosed with shellshock, a condition he had heretofore been treating with cocaine. He spent the next four years in Fond-du-Lac Sanatorium in Bellevue, Switzerland, just outside Geneva.

Continue reading “Introduction: A Moor in the Onyx Ash Grove” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

“Stanley Kubrick’s Shit Happens” – Review by Joseph P. O’Brien

Kubrick

Only in FLAPPERHOUSE could you read a review of Stanley Kubrick’s least-famous Lost Film, “Stanley Kubrick’s Shit Happens.” Hey look up there: Stanley Kubrick took selfies.

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IT’S EASY TO FORGET THAT STANLEY KUBRICK, the pensive, punctilious director of 2001 and The Shining, was also the cheeky, impish ringmaster behind wickedly funny films like Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket.  Read any critique of Kubrick’s work– even a favorable one– and chances are you’ll find words like “clinical” and “icy-balls.”

Perhaps that’s because so few have ever seen (or even heard of) this esteemed filmmaker’s least-famous Lost Film.

SHITHAPPENSLegend has it that after wrapping up The Shining in 1980, Kubrick was, as you might expect, hungry for a more jocular project.  One night he rents a stack of videotapes, comedy movies he’s been meaning to watch for a personal film festival. About 20 minutes into the first film there’s a loud, plasticky smash. Kubrick’s daughter hears it from all the way up in her bedroom, and she runs to her father’s screening room to see what’s the matter. “I’m fine,” he tells her, standing over shards of shattered videocassette. “Just  disposing of some dreadfully boring cinema. Don’t be alarmed if you hear it again later.”

Sure enough, Kubrick’s daughter hears the smash of VHS-versus-wall roughly every 20 minutes for the next couple hours. Until she hears laughter. Ecstatic, soul-saving laughter, like she’s never heard her father laugh before.

He’s watching  Airplane!

Continue reading “Stanley Kubrick’s Shit Happens” – Review by Joseph P. O’Brien