Tag Archives: GLB Pym

“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

“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