Category Archives: Stranger than fiction

18 books for 2018

Three Marcels, two Nutters and a Sissi: imaginary lives and lives beyond imagining.

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18 books for 2018

Three Marcels, two Nutters and a Sissi: imaginary lives and lives beyond imagining.

13 books for 2013

Swordswomen, working boys, crypto-fascist poets, bohemians, Decadents, Surrealists, occultists…business as usual really.

13 books for 2013

Swordswomen, working boys, crypto-fascist poets, bohemians, Decadents, Surrealists, occultists…business as usual really.

A Lorrain special, part 2

It’s impossible to understand Jean Lorrain without acknowledging his self-loathing. A masochistic streak led him to provoke the ire of those he admired as much as the objects of his disdain.

A Lorrain special, part 2

It’s impossible to understand Jean Lorrain without acknowledging his self-loathing. A masochistic streak led him to provoke the ire of those he admired as much as the objects of his disdain.

Stranger than fiction

I’m going to look more closely at the phenomenon of real-life individuals appearing in fiction in a feature called ‘Doubles’, holding up the original and the model, looking at the process by which flesh-and-blood becomes embedded in fiction.

Stranger than fiction

I’m going to look more closely at the phenomenon of real-life individuals appearing in fiction in a feature called ‘Doubles’, holding up the original and the model, looking at the process by which flesh-and-blood becomes embedded in fiction.

Look back with Anger

We saw Kenneth Anger yesterday, kicking around the semi-ruin of Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema. He’s also been on my screen in Martina Kudláček’s brilliant 2006 documentary Notes on Marie Menken, which I’ve watched twice over the last few days.

Look back with Anger

We saw Kenneth Anger yesterday, kicking around the semi-ruin of Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema. He’s also been on my screen in Martina Kudláček’s brilliant 2006 documentary Notes on Marie Menken, which I’ve watched twice over the last few days.

Places: Phoenix Park

Antonin Artaud’s harrowing writing forms a dark, precarious monument teetering at, and sometimes over, the edge of sanity. Like Nietzsche, his conception of what art could and should do for society and the individual started where most artists’ ended.

Places: Phoenix Park

Antonin Artaud’s harrowing writing forms a dark, precarious monument teetering at, and sometimes over, the edge of sanity. Like Nietzsche, his conception of what art could and should do for society and the individual started where most artists’ ended.

(Barely) on the road

This documentary clip is a vivid depiction of the charged, hyperkinetic presence and appalling traffic skills which so inspired Kerouac. Actually it’s difficult to say what was more terrifying about Cassady — his driving or his dancing.

(Barely) on the road

This documentary clip is a vivid depiction of the charged, hyperkinetic presence and appalling traffic skills which so inspired Kerouac. Actually it’s difficult to say what was more terrifying about Cassady — his driving or his dancing.

Places: Under the Hill

More Adey had all the attributes essential for 1890s English A-gays. Friendship with Oscar Wilde: tick. Conversion to Catholicism: tick. Rarefied tastes in arts and letters: tick. But he was at once more scholarly and less flamboyant than most of the Wilde bunch he rolled with.

Places: Under the Hill

More Adey had all the attributes essential for 1890s English A-gays. Friendship with Oscar Wilde: tick. Conversion to Catholicism: tick. Rarefied tastes in arts and letters: tick. But he was at once more scholarly and less flamboyant than most of the Wilde bunch he rolled with.

To the very dregs

Peter Warlock’s enthusiasms were as tempestuous as his disdain, and the flip side of his antsy vitality was the crippling despair to which he would periodically succumb. He conducted vituperative public feuds, writing obscene limericks about his enemies which he at one stage anthologised on a toilet roll.

To the very dregs

Peter Warlock’s enthusiasms were as tempestuous as his disdain, and the flip side of his antsy vitality was the crippling despair to which he would periodically succumb. He conducted vituperative public feuds, writing obscene limericks about his enemies which he at one stage anthologised on a toilet roll.

Schwarzenbach in English

“What contemporary critics were forced to overlook, or didn’t want to see, that is, that it was a representation of a lesbian love affair, is clear to today’s readers. The mask of the sensitive, youthful protagonist is too thin to prevent Annemarie’s face from shining through.”

Schwarzenbach in English

“What contemporary critics were forced to overlook, or didn’t want to see, that is, that it was a representation of a lesbian love affair, is clear to today’s readers. The mask of the sensitive, youthful protagonist is too thin to prevent Annemarie’s face from shining through.”

L’exilé de Capri

Roger Peyrefitte became a professional irritant, outing numerous public figures and riling the most secretive institutions, those whose very existence depends on silence and complicity: the Catholic Church, Freemasons, the diplomatic corps.

L’exilé de Capri

Roger Peyrefitte became a professional irritant, outing numerous public figures and riling the most secretive institutions, those whose very existence depends on silence and complicity: the Catholic Church, Freemasons, the diplomatic corps.

Arthur Cravan est vivant!

Arthur Cravan is in the eternal present, a present which has assimilated his provocations but yearns for more. Whatever the outcome of his sea voyage, Cravan never really died, he simply passed into a realm from where we may periodically retrieve him.

Arthur Cravan est vivant!

Arthur Cravan is in the eternal present, a present which has assimilated his provocations but yearns for more. Whatever the outcome of his sea voyage, Cravan never really died, he simply passed into a realm from where we may periodically retrieve him.

D’Orsay the artist

Comte d’Orsay combined physical beauty, sparkling wit, the magnetic amour-propre of the dandy as well as a dangerous whiff of Napoleonic adventure and a pre-Revolutionary title, both bequeathed by his general father. It was a heady brew and society fell at his exquisitely-shod feet.

D’Orsay the artist

Comte d’Orsay combined physical beauty, sparkling wit, the magnetic amour-propre of the dandy as well as a dangerous whiff of Napoleonic adventure and a pre-Revolutionary title, both bequeathed by his general father. It was a heady brew and society fell at his exquisitely-shod feet.

The last Krupp

The Krupp family, rich and powerful as many a nation state, exemplified the poisoned chalice of vast inherited wealth more than any other: the Gettys go gothic.

The last Krupp

The Krupp family, rich and powerful as many a nation state, exemplified the poisoned chalice of vast inherited wealth more than any other: the Gettys go gothic.

The double life of Evan Morgan

He was an occultist, yet chamberlain to two popes; gay, yet husband to two women. He was a friend to Augustus John, john to Denham Fouts, bogey-man to the Establishment. He mixed with royalty and rabble, and there was a Jekyll-and-Hyde polarity within his own personality.

The double life of Evan Morgan

He was an occultist, yet chamberlain to two popes; gay, yet husband to two women. He was a friend to Augustus John, john to Denham Fouts, bogey-man to the Establishment. He mixed with royalty and rabble, and there was a Jekyll-and-Hyde polarity within his own personality.

Homme fatal

Denham Fouts arrives as a flat-pack of facts, fables, anecdotes, rumours and bald-faced lies to be assembled as desired. The finished product, though intriguing, won’t bear much weight nor close scrutiny.

Homme fatal

Denham Fouts arrives as a flat-pack of facts, fables, anecdotes, rumours and bald-faced lies to be assembled as desired. The finished product, though intriguing, won’t bear much weight nor close scrutiny.

Phantom of the empire

She haunted Europe’s pleasure spots in widow’s weeds, a gothic freak show of peek-a-boo solipsism, a fan shielding her from the gaze of the hated hoi polloi. If she was seen at all it was in silhouette, like Marlene Dietrich in Maximilian Schell’s documentary, and for the same reason – neither could bear to disturb the earlier image the public had of her.

Phantom of the empire

She haunted Europe’s pleasure spots in widow’s weeds, a gothic freak show of peek-a-boo solipsism, a fan shielding her from the gaze of the hated hoi polloi. If she was seen at all it was in silhouette, like Marlene Dietrich in Maximilian Schell’s documentary, and for the same reason – neither could bear to disturb the earlier image the public had of her.

Papal bull

You’ll search Vatican annals in vain for a reference to Pope Hadrian VII. There’s no marble effigy of him in the great, gaudy expanse of St Peter’s, no tomb thronged with credulous cripples; he’s not even enrolled among the bad-boy anti-popes. Hadrian, you see, was the fantasy projection of one Frederick Rolfe, otherwise known as Baron Corvo…

Papal bull

You’ll search Vatican annals in vain for a reference to Pope Hadrian VII. There’s no marble effigy of him in the great, gaudy expanse of St Peter’s, no tomb thronged with credulous cripples; he’s not even enrolled among the bad-boy anti-popes. Hadrian, you see, was the fantasy projection of one Frederick Rolfe, otherwise known as Baron Corvo…

La Marquise de Sade

Mathilde de Morny’s scandalous life and aristocratic background proved an irresistible combination for contemporary writers; she appears thinly disguised in numerous works of fiction, though often the portrayal owed more to the author’s projection than the marquise herself.

La Marquise de Sade

Mathilde de Morny’s scandalous life and aristocratic background proved an irresistible combination for contemporary writers; she appears thinly disguised in numerous works of fiction, though often the portrayal owed more to the author’s projection than the marquise herself.

Monsieur le Marquis

No-one I’ve written about thus far has so defied summary as Mathilde de Morny. It’s not just that her life was in and of itself a rare and wondrous thing, full of bravery and scandal, adventure and extravagance, but it also embodied so many currents and contradictions of her era as well as inspiring some of its greatest writers.

Monsieur le Marquis

No-one I’ve written about thus far has so defied summary as Mathilde de Morny. It’s not just that her life was in and of itself a rare and wondrous thing, full of bravery and scandal, adventure and extravagance, but it also embodied so many currents and contradictions of her era as well as inspiring some of its greatest writers.