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Excerpt from The Big Love

FROM THE BIG LOVE

BY MRS. FLORENCE AADLAND

flynn_bev_03.jpg

I know the world will always be full of chattering busybodies. I suppose I should be used to them by now, but I know I never will. 

Ever since Beverly was catapulted into world publicity, she and I have been besieged by busybodies. After all the trouble and tragedy occurred, after Errol died and, later, that lovesick boy shot himself, Beverly and I were deluged by do-gooders and Bible-pounders. “Let’s have this girl baptized!” they cried. “Let’s bring this lost lamb into the church!”

As far as I’m concerned, those do-gooder busybodies can drop dead. And that’s what I told them when they came crying around at us.

The trouble with busybodies is that they never bother to examine the facts. If they had ever bothered to look into Beverly’s background, they would have discovered that she went to Sunday School and church for years, that she learned about God like all good little children do, and that she could recite her favorite Bible stories backward and frontward. 

Even while I was studying with the Rosicrucians, I kept up with the Episcopal Church. I saw to it that Beverly was christened and later, when she was three, she won her first beauty contest at Sunday School. Beverly went as Bette Davis and, believe me, even though she was just a toddler she was Bette Davis. She wore one of my long skirts, a big brimmed hat, and trailed a hanky from her bent wrist. She flashed her big eyes all over the place and won in a breeze. 

When Beverly was still quite small she was noticed one day by Jean Self at a Hermosa Beach cleaning shop. Jean, who lived in nearby Redondo Beach, had guided the careers of many famous children and she was so taken by Beverly that she encouraged me to enroll her in the Screen Children’s Guild. 

From that time on Beverly had many, many opportunities. She posed for magazine pictures. She modeled children’s clothes. She sang and danced at club entertainments and at soldiers’ and veterans’ camps and posts. She was chosen mascot for the Hermosa Beach Aquaplane Race Association. She cut the ceremonial tape when ground was broken for a $200,000 beach aquarium. Her photograph appeared on the cover of Collier’s magazine.

By the time she was five, her hair was a golden blonde, very long and naturally curly. One day when we were returning home on a bus from Los Angeles she got into a winking contest with a bunch of sailors who were sitting ahead of us. They kept turning around, laughing loudly at the cute way she winked back.

I gave her a warning that day in no uncertain terms. “That’s all right now, dear,” I told her, “but in about ten years you better be careful because that’s when they’ll take you up on it!”

When she was five and a half she made her first movie, a commercial film in Technicolor called The Story of Nylon. She wore a special nylon dress and had a featured role in a colorful Easter egg hunt. She was paid six hundred dollars for four days’ work.

Not long after that she fell accidentally in the bathroom and struck the back of her head extremely hard. I became very worried and took her to a specialist for X-rays. I was relieved and happy when the films showed that she had not injured herself seriously.

The doctor was a very learned man, an authority on eastern religions who had lectured all over the world and written many books. He was absolutely fascinated by Beverly. He held her hands the way that Rosicrucian lady had done several years before and then he glanced at me.

“Mrs. Aadland,” he said very seriously, “wherever did you get this little girl? She is something very special. I can tell without ever having met her before that she has a great deal of talent.”

“Yes,” I said, “she has been singing and dancing since before she was a year-and-a-half old.”

Then the doctor sat down in his chair and did a very strange thing. He closed his eyes and passed his hand back and forth just above Beverly’s bright blonde curls.

“I think I see sort of a halo on this child,” he said.

His words absolutely astounded me – because one night a few years before, I’d thought I’d seen the same thing. I had come into her room where she was sleeping and there was a wonderful play of light upon her face and head. I suppose it was really just the light from the living room streaming in through the partly-closed door behind me, but it affected me very much.

“Be very careful of this child,” the doctor warned me, half seriously. “She is more precious than even you realize. Protect her and guard her.”

I was given a similar warning about a year later by the head of one of the advertising agencies Beverly modeled for. He was very fussy about his large modern office and never let any of the young children who modeled for him touch any of the objects on his desk. 

He noticed Beverly playing with a letter-holder made in the shape of a dog and he shook his head and sighed.

“Florence,” he said, “I never allow any of the kids to play around my desk, but your child is so different I just haven’t the heart to tell her to stop.”

He shook his head again very slowly and solemnly.

“I’ve seen hundreds of little girls,” he said. “Perhaps thousands, but I’ve seen very few like your child. And I hate to tell you this, Florence, but I think this girl is going to cause you an awful lot of heartbreak.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I think men will be terribly affected by this girl,” he said. “I think men are going to kill over this girl. I have the feeling in my heart that she has the scent of the musk on her.”

I knew what he meant. It wasn’t the first time I had run into that phrase. I had read it in the Bible. I knew that women who had the scent of the musk were so desirable to men that in ancient times they had been kept hidden away in secret rooms. When it was necessary for them to be outdoors, they were concealed by veils and bulky clothing.

“Be very careful with your daughter,” he went on to warn me, echoing the doctor’s exact words. “You must be very careful to protect her from herself.”

Both men proved more terribly right than I ever could guess.


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Literature, Publishing

THE STRANGE WORLD OF WILLIE SEABROOK

COMING IN FALL 2017:
MARJORIE WORTHINGTON’s Memoir

This is the somber, quietly stunning account of American author Marjorie Worthington’s life and relationship with William Seabrook. 

A bestselling writer on the exotic and the occult, Seabrook was an extraordinary figure from the 1920s to the 1940s who traveled widely and introduced voodoo and the concept of the “zombie” to Americans in his book The Magic Island

In 1966, years after his death from suicide, Worthington, a novelist and Seabrook’s second wife, cast her eye on their years living in France as lost-generation expatriates; their time traveling in the Sahara desert (where Seabrook researched his book The White Monk of Timbuctoo); their friendships with Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, and Michel Leiris; and the gradual erosion of their relationship. 

Worthington was with Seabrook in France and later New York when his life became consumed by alcohol, and he took the drastic step of committing himself to a mental institution for a cure; though he wrote about the institution in his book Asylum, he remained an alcoholic. He was also fixated by sadistic games he played with women, which he and the surrealist Man Ray photographed, and which he later viewed as a way to initiate altered psychological states through pain.

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook is an intimate look at the complicated, torturous relationship of two writers. Seabrook was a sadist, yet to Worthington he was also enthralling; he was an alcoholic, but she believed she could protect him. Even after he had hurt her emotionally, she stayed near him. In brilliantly depicted moments of folie à deux, we watch Worthington join Seabrook in his decline, and witness the shared claustrophobic, psychological breakdown that ensues.

Publishing, Photography, Literature

Portraits of Spurl

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Thank you to all of the wonderful, sensational artists who have taken part in PORTRAITS OF SPURL, and who are are not ashamed to read and sell our misfit books!

Literature, Publishing

Two Reviews of Michel Leiris

Two Reviews of Nights as Day, Days as Night
By Michel Leiris

In her article titledNocturnal Disturbances in Diabolique Magazine, Samm Deighan gave Nights as Day, Days as Night a fascinating (rave!) review. 

A book that largely resists classification, this is a combination of surrealist autobiography (literally, in the sense that is was written by a leading Surrealist and figuratively in the sense that it is predictably and wonderful surreal), prose poem (which is how translator Richard Sieburth refers to it), and dream journal. Anyone who has a fascination with the Surrealists or 20th century Paris will find much to love and the work’s appealing strangeness certainly lingers in the memory — I can’t stop thinking about it.
Spurl’s new volume captures the poetry, absurdity, and beauty of Leiris’s book thanks to a translation from Richard Sieburth. A comparative literature professor at New York University, Sieburth specializes in writing about and translating German and French literature; perhaps I’m biased, because he has translated a number of some of my favorite authors, from Walter Benjamin and Georg Büchner to Henri Michaux, as well as Nerval, and I suspect his knowledge of the latter assisted him here. Regardless, he does Leiris proud.

And in The Pepys of Sleep (in Strange Flowers), Berlin-based writer/translator James Conway talks about dreams and literature; Michel Leiris, Raymond Roussel, and André Breton; and the real-life dream of an Italian game show. A highly recommended read.

As language rests from its customary labours, Leiris takes words apart, comparing them, rearranging them, rousing the associative logic slumbering in their syllables.

You can also read an excerpt from Nights as Day, Days as Night online at The Brooklyn Rail. 

Literature, Publishing

Amsterdam, 1900 (Essay)

Amsterdam, 1900: Guided by Monsieur de Bougrelon

By Sander Bink

This essay first appeared in Dutch at rond1900.nl.

In a decadent villa in Amsterdam North, on our crowded desk at the rond1900 offices, for a while a nice little book was waiting for us to review: Monsieur de Bougrelon by Jean Lorrain, for the first time in English translation. You, the well-read Decadent, of course already know of this gem of a novella, which was first published in 1897 and is set in fin-de-siècle Amsterdam. If you are a good Decadent you have read it in the original French in a first or early edition, or otherwise you might have read it in the 1978 Dutch translation Denkbeeldige genietingen (Imaginary Pleasures). Although this translation by Jeanne Holierhoek is, as far as we can judge, quite good, it was still made some forty years ago and a new translator might do it just a little differently today, thus keeping the text alive for a new generation of readers. Unfortunately in our small country it seems to be quite uncommon to translate classic French Decadent writers, let alone translate one of their texts anew. Dutch literary publishers seem to have very little interest in the French Decadents in general, despite their lasting modernity and literary value.

So we recommend that you buy this recent edition by the delightful new independent publisher Spurl, to keep your Lorrain collection up to date but also because it is a good-looking book and the modern translation keeps the text fresh and sparkling. Their site also links to the justly unanimous rave reviews of Bougrelon, which contains a detailed afterword by the translator Eva Richter.

And since quite useless details are our specialty here at rond1900, we wish to add something to that already-quite-interesting afterword. As you might know, Lorrain is one of our favorite writers, whom we wrote about earlier. But the reason for this review’s delay is that we wanted to tell you all about Lorrain’s stay in Amsterdam and to what extent he fictionalized this experience in his novella. That Lorrain visited Amsterdam in 1896, together with Octave Uzanne, is a fact, but we would like to know in which hotel he stayed, with whom he had contact, which places he visited exactly. Did he, for example, visit our decadent Amsterdam North? In Bougrelon the North Holland Canal is mentioned, as well as Monnikendam, and did Lorrain himself visit the nowadays-very-hip Tolhuistuin, which is mentioned in Chapter Six? That would be a nice literary coincidence, as about the same time Gerard van Hulzen immortalized this location.

That Lorrain must have at least had some Dutch connections we hope to have shown in a previous article about Wilde’s favorite painter Leonard Sarluis for The Oscholars (no direct link available). Lorrain was part of a Dutch-French social circle that must have included Alfred Jarry, Carel de Nerée, Antoon van Welie, Louis Couperus, and Sarluis. Unfortunately we have not found any documents or letters that could have shed more light on Lorrain’s stay in Amsterdam and his possible (literary) connections there. Some of his stories were translated for the avant-garde periodical De Kroniek, so he was possibly in touch with main editor P. L. Tak.

But we did find, thanks to the digitized historical newspapers, a very curious case of the reception of Jean Lorrain in the Netherlands. In or around 1900, Van Holkema and Warendorf published an Illustrated Guide to Amsterdam and Environs. Its anonymous author appears to have been a great fan of Monsieur de Bougrelon but deems it necessary to introduce the work to his readers, as apparently it was not that well-known.

This guidebook, nowadays a rare book itself, is one of the earliest Dutch mentions of Lorrain’s masterpiece. Maybe even the very first, but regardless it is the most extensive mention.

In Chapter Nine the author takes the liberty of borrowing Lorrain’s character to guide the reader to some of Amsterdam’s hot spots, like Kalverstraat and Buffa the art dealer’s gallery. It makes for some interesting and amusing reading. For your reading pleasure, we here translate and quote the first part of that chapter. The entire book can be read (in Dutch) here.


Illustrated Guide to Amsterdam and Environs

Chapter Nine

Walks through Amsterdam
Guided by Monsieur de Bougrelon.

Do you happen to know the hero of the amusing little book that Jean Lorrain wrote about Amsterdam and which bears its hero’s name as the title, Monsieur de Bougrelon?

As I look at you, rows of national tourists seeking joy as well as comfort, who each year set out to see the world’s eighth wonder, which is to be found in the world’s ninth – our great capital, right? – and if I would browse through your city bags, purses, suitcases, florid valises, travel baskets, German baskets, coffrets, sacks, pompadours, satchels, and bahuts with the curiosity of a landlady looking through the belongings of a new tenant who is already a month behind on the rent, then I would probably find a copy of Warendorf’s Travel Library, which you have been reading as compensation for the monotony of the journey, or an illustrated magazine like Die Woche, but I won’t even find mention of Monsieur de Bougrelon’s name in the newspaper that is wrapped around your “sandwich for the road,” a sandwich that is a symbol of the tenderness of a mother, sister, wife or girl, but which is nevertheless doomed to never reach its destination.

The “sandwich for the road” has become like the Chinese man’s prayer, which keeps existing but has no more meaning. Like the tragic remains of ancient times, of carriages and track boats, it has survived, a gray old man with a wrinkled face, a stranger amid modern comfort and modern luxury. The “E pluribus unum” of each station has become an epitaph for that “sandwich for the road,” as Amsterdam offers so many opportunities for one to refresh oneself well and at little expense that you are right to offer it to the boy who sells you The Nieuwe Rotterdamsche, Weekblad, Telegraaf, and Handelsblad, thus stopping his vocal trumpet. You are right to rush to a restaurant as soon as you arrive. Well, no, you are not right: why would you want to do that without our great friend, Monsieur de Bougrelon?

Look at him standing there in his long fitted frock coat, a large top hat bought at Meeuwsen’s Hat Shop rather crooked on his head, a truncheon-like walking stick in his hand, a pretty scarf tied around the most gracious of collars, a pair of Dent’s gloves from Mr. Sinemus’s store on Leidsestraat, and with a face you swear you have seen someplace before.

He already took hold of us, already joined us, already introduced himself, already pointed out the way around the tunnels of the Central Station to us, which is built too high, as compared to the museum, which is built too low.

Monsieur de Bougrelon, placing his walking stick with force into the ground that comes from the seas, leads the way to the Hotel Van Gelder on Damrak. This is quite a suitable place for you to stay, as your fellow Dutchmen possess three characteristics that make them excellent for hotels: they are solid, simple, and tidy. Look here, does not everything shine brightly? Look at this glassware, washed the way it should be, with a cold bath afterward, to get the pure lucidity that reminds one of jewelry. Ah, decency is the sister of tidiness! Really, you could swipe a finger underneath the cabinet and the bed and then swipe it on the white sheets without sullying them.

Rising already, Bougrelon glances at a large collection of bottles of “Kaiserbrunnen,” the most excellent of mineral waters, which had just arrived at the hotel again, and then you are obliged to follow him down Damrak, across Dam Square to Kalverstraat while he unfortunately only verbally burns down the new Stock Exchange and lavishes praise on the Royal Palace, whose silvery chimes ring out above the head of the lonely virgin who, he thinks, has done wisely by turning her back to all the ugliness that is behind her.

“The aorta of the city,” he says, “this Kalverstraat, which is only narrow so that no modern electrical tram shall disfigure it with its rows of gallows, whereupon beauty has been hung by executioners. We do not need a tram in this street. One walks through it like one walks through a beautiful and interesting book, and it is over before you realize it.”

Monsieur de Bougrelon suddenly stops in front of one of the big plate-glass windows of a stately house with a high façade.

“Beauty originates in the south. Here you are standing in front of the art trader Buffa’s gallery, one of the great attractions of your capital. The De Medicis brought the fine arts from Italy into my beloved France. But the Italians traveled farther north and it is the Lurascos, the Cossas, the Grisantis, the Boggias, the Valciollas, and the Buffas who brought art to your ancestors at the beginning of the nineteenth century, which was badly deteriorated by then. The Buffa brothers originally traveled to fun fairs with their etchings. The Venice of the North appealed to them and they settled here, on the Weesper Square, right near the Amstel. The sons expanded their father’s business and soon Buffa and Sons was of eminent importance in Amsterdam.

In 1836 the firm came into the hands of another son of the land of Dante and Petrarch, Mr. Caramelli, and today Mr. J. Slagmulder and Mr. P. J. Zúrcher are the owners of this booming art gallery, built across three houses on Kalverstraat.

“But you need not stand outside merely looking at the windows displays, although there is plenty of beauty to find there already. The rooms inside are free for anyone to enter and give an overview of the most beautiful and best Dutch painters, old and young, and more; beside the Israelsen, Marissen, Mesdags, Voermans, Witsens, and Mauves, you will see Daubignys, Montecellis, Daumiers, Henners, Ziems, Decamps, Millets.

“Quite often, when my old heart longs for the art-loving shores of the Seine, in whose wide stream the Louvre is reflected, I wander in front of this sanctuary of the arts and never do I leave unconsoled.”

(pp. 143-146)


Sander Bink is a Dutch scholar on fin-de-siècle art and literature, specializing in Decadence and Symbolism. He is the main contributor to rond1900.nl. He is currently working on a full biography of the Dutch Symbolist/Decadent artist Carel de Nerée (1880-1909).

To read more by Sander Bink, check out his articles on Jean Lorrain, Gerard Van Hulzen, and Jean Lorrain in the Netherlands in Dutch, as well as his piece on Carel de Nerée and Oscar Wilde in English.

Literature, Publishing

French Writers We Love (Art by Félix Vallotton)

Thank you for making 2016 a very decadent year for us!

We released Jean Lorrain’s fever dream of a novella, Monsieur de Bougrelon
“A singular and intoxicating experience” – James Conway
Barbara Payton’s absurdist, seedy memoir I Am Not Ashamed
“A dime store (in the best sense of the term) Notes from Underground – the bellowing of the underground woman” – Kim Morgan
And John Brian King’s arresting second photography collection Nude Reagan
“Both a grotesque imposition and an ugly seduction” – Moze Halperin

And in March 2017, we will publish a brilliant work by French God-of-letters Michel Leiris:
Nights as Day, Days as Night
Translated by Richard Sieburth, with a foreword by Maurice Blanchot

See you in 2017!


Authors pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Comte de Lautréamont, Alfred Jarry, Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Félix Féneon; Jean Lorrain (the man himself), Joris-Karl Huysmans, Rachilde, Jules and Edmond de Goncourt; Pierre Louÿs, Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, artist Félix Vallotton. – Illustrations by Félix Vallotton (1865–1925). 

Literature, Publishing

A Dandy in Aspic: Review of “Monsieur de Bougrelon”

 Contemporary caricature of Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly by “L’Héritier” (Romain Thomas)

Contemporary caricature of Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly by “L’Héritier” (Romain Thomas)

Head on over to STRANGE FLOWERS for James J. Conway’s remarkable writing on the most “eccentric, extravagant and extraordinary” personalities of the last 200 years. One of these extravagant dandies is Jean Lorrain, author of Monsieur de Bougrelon. Conway has written about Lorrain before, and his review of Spurl’s forthcoming translation is both insightful and entertaining:

But as his siècle hastened to its fin, Lorrain wasn’t going to cede the floor before offering a minor (and perhaps not even that minor) masterpiece: Monsieur de Bougrelon.
Monsieur de Bougrelon is the original dandy in aspic. Lorrain’s book is an archive that arrests life at its moment of greatest beauty, preserved in vitrines, suspended in solutions, arrayed in filigree caskets like saintly femurs and the many foreskins of Christ.
It is a reliquary, in other words, and this is precisely the term that the astute Rachilde, loyal companion to Lorrain and fellow adherent of Barbey d’Aurevilly, applied to Monsieur de Bougrelon. The Decadent’s very vocabulary is a collection of lexical curios, recherché jewels here lovingly transferred to an English setting.
It’s a singular and intoxicating experience that ends all too soon. When the ‘old puppet’ departs the stage, you may well elect, as I did, to leaf straight back to the Café Manchester and wait for his silhouette to fill the doorway once more.

And of course we love this sentiment about our books: “These prose works come with the thick black frame of a cigarette health warning or Sicilian funeral notice.

“Caveat lector.”

Monsieur de Bougrelon by Jean Lorrain
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Trade paperback, 128 pages, translated from French with an afterword by Eva Richter. Free domestic shipping.

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Gifts from Spurl Editions

Get excited, because now you can show the world how refined your taste is in literature while looking stunning at the same time! Our store features a screen-printed tote bag so that you can carry your books to the French château you live in with panache, and an I AM NOT ASHAMED t-shirt that will quickly take over as your one true vestiary love.

I Am Not Ashamed T-shirt
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This glamorous unisex t-shirt from Spurl Editions features the cover of Barbara Payton’s I Am Not Ashamed on the front, and the Spurl logo on the back. It was screen-printed locally by Windmill City Screen Printing on Next Level-brand shirts. Wear this shirt, and announce to the world: YOU ARE NOT ASHAMED.

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Spurl Tote Bag
10.00

This tote bag from Spurl Editions features a quote from Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Bougrelon on one side, and the Spurl logo on the other side. It was screen-printed locally by Windmill City Screen Printing. Wear this shirt, and announce to the world that you are a DECADENT MARVEL.

I am an idea in an era that has no more of them.

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Literature, Publishing

A Vertiginous Decline: Minor Literature[s] Reviews “I Am Not Ashamed”

Thom Cuell wrote a phenomenal review of Barbara Payton’s I Am Not Ashamed in Minor Literature[s] that is sure to get you excited about this unique autobiography. He emphasizes the way that Payton talks about sexuality and subversiveness in Hollywood:

The idea that female sexuality is transgressive and deserving of punishment is a long established trope of Hollywood film-making, satirised by Wes Craven in Scream (1996) which codified the unwritten law, ‘you may not survive the movie if you have sex’. For Payton, this fictional conceit became a reality: ‘I had a body when I was a young kid that raised temperatures wherever I went. Today I have three long knife wounds on my solid frame’. No stunt doubles or prosthetics here, the wounds are written on her body.

She learned early that her body was a saleable asset, and this coloured her view of relationships. It is no surprise that she uses the language of economics to describe her love life: ‘I sold, they bought, and for years the demand was way out ahead of the supply’. At first, this exchange was transacted on an unofficial basis, with her affections bought by extravagant gifts or favours. Later, as her erotic capital began to decline, the arrangement became more formalised: ‘It’s funny how supply and demand, sex appeal and talent regulate a girl’s price. I found out soon enough that my price was a hundred dollars and not a cent more’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, her most treasured relationship did not involve sex: ‘I once loved a man who was impotent and I was faithful to him. He left me after a while saying it was unfair to me. But it wasn’t and I would have loved him for the rest of my life’.

Cuell also remarks upon Barbara Payton’s wretched end, and her take on her own decline:

Payton quotes ‘a kind of saying among the hip set in Hollywood that if the pressures don’t get you the habits will’. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the pressures and the habits haven’t changed too much in the fifty-odd years since she wrote I Am Not Ashamed. She wasn’t the first starlet to come to a disreputable end, and there have been more since (although few suffered quite such a vertiginous decline in fortunes). Ultimately, there’s a lot to be said for the lack of regret or hypocritical self-flagellation which normally characterises the Hollywood exile’s memoir. And at least she doesn’t try vaginal steaming.

Publishing

Spurl Editions now distributed by SPD!

We are thrilled to announce that we are now distributed by Small Press Distribution! So, dear booksellers and bookstores, we would love for you to order our books here.

And, dear readers, nothing has changed for you: you can order our books on our website (use the promo code SPURL for 10% off your order and free shipping) and on Amazon. . . but you might see our titles at a bookstore in the future, and if you do, take a pic! We will positively swoon!

Photography, Publishing

Podcast: John Brian King in New Books Network

The photographer Lorena Turner spoke with John Brian King about his recent and not-so-recent artistic work in a podcast for New Books Network. They discuss everything from Nude Reagan and LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 to King’s cryptically titled series “Hospital.” Seriously, King’s scathing description of Ronald Reagan is not to be missed, plus King brings up one of his sources of inspiration for Nude Reagan that anyone who is reading this page is sure to love: J. G. Ballard’s short story “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan.”

INCIDENCE OF ORGASMS IN FANTASIES OF SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH RONALD REAGAN. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was super imposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse with “Reagan” proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2% of subjects.

Photography, Publishing

An Ugly Seduction: “Nude Reagan” Reviewed in Flavorwire

The day has finally arrived: John Brian King’s Nude Reagan is available! Or, to christen this monumental new public holiday properly: Nude Reagan Day is here! You can find John Brian King’s deviant oddity on our website and on Amazon (not in bookstores).

Flavorwire’s Moze Halperin got a sneak peek at the book, and he had some lovely things to say:

Reagan as a symbol whose repercussions still feel forced upon American citizens makes for rather disquieting photography, particularly when they seek to highlight, as the press release describes, Reagan’s “own frozen, Brylcreem-lathered satanic countenance” against “mold green…muddy gray… brilliant white…[and] dense, all-encompassing black” and resting imposingly atop displays of bare female triumph, self-presentation, and sexuality, complicating the country’s fervent obsession with and the Right’s frequent rapturous praise of the former President. Here, he’s both a grotesque imposition and an ugly seduction.

So enjoy June 1 – Nude Reagan Day! And don’t forget to take 10% off orders over $50 and over with the promo code: spurl.

Publishing, Literature

A Minor Masterpiece: Kim Morgan Reviews “I Am Not Ashamed”

Film writer Kim Morgan reviewed Spurl’s edition of I Am Not Ashamed, by Barbara Payton. In her aptly titled essay “Notes from the Unashamed,” Morgan delves deep into Payton’s life and the book’s utterly unique writing style, comparing it to Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground:

Payton’s drunken ramblings and recollections (who knows how much are true or truer than you could ever imagine?) melding with Guild’s jazzed-up pulp speak becomes something of a minor masterpiece. A dime store (in the best sense of the term) Notes From Underground — the bellowing of the underground woman, telling us there is something wrong with her looks (and most certainly her liver), filled with regret, self doubt, black humor, pride and touching reassurance that it might work out one day knowing damn well it won’t. As she, via Guild, wrote with all the flavor of Horace McCoy: “Forever is just a weekend, more or less.”

Morgan later analyzes the role of Hollywood sexism in Payton’s demise:

But there’s a raw power to I Am Not Ashamed, that, even with and because of its questionable veracity, stuns with a harrowing account of that timeless struggle so many face in Hollywood — keeping a firm grip. And adding to the struggle — keeping a firm grip as a woman in Hollywood. The book works as real documentation of a downfall but also allegorical — mythic in its observations of just how hard some women can fall. And how much men can want women to fall. And how women can even embrace that fall. The shelf life of an actress was terrifying then, and terrifying now. Barbara’s demise reads like a horror movie for any actress losing one too many parts as time marches on. The roles are drying up. What to do? The world twists to make them seem a grotesque — Barbara actually became it.

It’s a compelling, tremendous review – enjoy!

Literature, Publishing

Excerpt from “I Am Not Ashamed”

From I AM NOT ASHAMED

by BARBARA PAYTON

My rent was overdue a week and I only had one dollar in my pocket. I had had two warnings from my landlady. In my refrigerator there was some American cheese and soda water. Also a can of peaches someone had given me as a joke, I forgot what the joke was. But that would see me through a day or two.

I took the dollar, my last, and went to the movies to see one of my old pictures, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye with James Cagney. I enjoyed it very much but it was ironic that I had been paid so many thousands of dollars to do it and I only had a dollar left to see it.

All during the picture I kept my mind off my troubles – I couldn’t solve them anyway. Then I walked home just thinking about how I loved to act and make movies.

I hadn’t eaten all day so I opened the can of peaches. They were delicious and the whole can filled me up. Then I looked around through all my things to see what I could pawn. There wasn’t anything. I was down to bedrock.

But I still had a telephone. I went through my address book. I had borrowed from everybody. Some, more than once. There were still men who would take me out to dinner. But how do you live on no money at all?

I didn’t answer the knock on my door because I knew it was the landlady and I wasn’t ready to talk to her yet.

I looked in the mirror. To me I looked the same as ever – just as I had in the movie. What had happened? I undressed and looked at myself in the nude – not much change. I could lose five pounds but not more. I put on a dressing gown and washed the peaches dish and spoon.

There was a knock on the door. I opened it this time. It was the landlord, a tall, kindly man browbeaten by his wife. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but my wife says your rent is overdue.” He said it as if his wife had made some mistake.

“Come in,” I said, with what little charm I could muster for the situation.

He came in and stood, looking uncomfortable. “Wasn’t it a lovely day?” he said finally.

I nodded. I knew landlords such as these had heard every excuse in the book but I decided to try one anyway.

“Mr. Gordon,” I explained. “My husband’s alimony check, which is usually here long before this, should definitely be here tomorrow. I can almost guarantee it. I will slip the hundred-dollar check under your door before noon.”

He looked miserable. “My wife said – I have nothing to do with it – that I should either get the rent money or ask you to move out . . . tonight.”

“Don’t look so sad,” I said. “If that’s what she wants, that’s what it will have to be. I really don’t have any money.”

We both just stood there. “Could I . . . lend you five dollars for food?” he said.

I just shook my head “no.” Then, though I had been feeling great and had been smiling just a few minutes before, I suddenly burst into tears, great gulping sobs accompanying them. It seemed as if the whole world was collapsing on me.

Mr. Gordon patted me on the shoulder at arm’s length and tried to give me a handful of crumpled bills. I wouldn’t take them but I put my head on his chest and continued to sob.

“Please,” he said, “don’t cry. I’ve collected other rents and I have some money. My wife won’t know – if you can pay in a week it will be alright.”

A week. It sounded glorious, but what then? It was no silver lining to my black clouds.

I tried to stop crying. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright – honest I will.”

He patted my head. Then he kissed my forehead gently. “I’d help you if I could. My wife . . . ”

I nodded understandingly and went to brush my hair back with my hand. It hit his hand by accident and some of the money fell to the floor. I bent to pick it up for him and when I handed it to him I noticed he was staring. I looked down and my dressing gown was open, showing almost everything I had.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He swallowed hard. “You . . . ” I don’t know what he wanted to say, but he moved to me as if in a trance and moved his hand from my neck down past my breasts. I didn’t try to stop him.

He kissed me gently again, this time on the lips. “The hundred dollars,” he said, “is in my wall safe. I’ll pay your rent. It’s my fishing vacation money. I need you – to prove I’m a man. To prove to me . . . I mean.”

I would have gone to bed with him for nothing. I had a great compassion for him. I locked the door and dropped my dressing gown.

My rent was paid for one more month.

Photography, Publishing

“LAX” makes the Sunday paper edition of the LA Times

LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84 made the Sunday paper edition of the LA Times’ Arts & Books! Pick up a copy or read it online for a fascinating article by Carolina A. Miranda, featuring an interview with photographer John Brian King.

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

An Interview with John Brian King, a Playlist, and More

The photographer chatted with Impose Magazine writer Matt Draper about his book LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84The article features other photographs taken by John Brian King in the 1980s (including photographs of Disneyland and the band Public Image Ltd/PiL), as well as a playlist of what the photographer was listening to at that time.

That, and a few choice quotes, like…

“Los Angeles in 1980 was the year Dorothy Stratten was murdered and Kim Kardashian was born – and I know which celebrity I prefer.”

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Publishing, Photography

“LAX” Featured in Slate (with an interview!)

Slate writer Jordan G. Teicher interviewed John Brian King via e-mail about his photography book LAX. The resultant article, which appeared in Behold: Photo Blog on Slate on November 30, is a fascinating look into King's aesthetic and photographic process.

John Brian King was 18 when he first started making photos at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It was 1980, and only a year earlier he’d purchased his first photography book by Weegee, who is famous for his flash-heavy, black-and-white photos of urban life. The influence is clear in King’s series, “LAX,” which appears, along with another series, “LA,” in LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980–84, published by Spurl this month.  
“I think the photographs in my book stand out as documents of a disappeared time—for me and my subjects—and a visual commentary of how I perceived humanity in my youth,” King said via email.
“I loved photographing these travelers arriving at the airport, brutally assaulted by this sea of ugliness, attempting to cope. I wanted to show, through the stark art of black-and-white photography, the dry vulnerability and humor of these people.”

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Literature, Publishing

Spurl Editions profiled in MobyLives

Chad Felix, of Melville House, wrote a wonderful piece about Spurl Editions and Henri Roorda’s My Suicide on November 13, 2015. It was published in MobyLives, and includes a sneak peak into our anticipated spring translation release.    

An excerpt of the work published in Asymptote reveals [My Suicide] to be a wry, self-aware affair.
[…] Suffice it to say, this is an exciting start for Spurl Editions, and good news for the world of literary translation.


Photography, Publishing

The Weary And Harried Travelers Of LAX In The Early 1980s

Photographer John Brian King spoke to Danny Jensen of LAist about what drew him to LAX and what has changed since he took these photos. The interview is accompanied by a slideshow of images from the book. Plus, in even more awesome news, LAX is now available at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.

Looking back on the photos, what has changed about LAX and Los Angeles in general over the years in your opinion?

LAX back then was always in a constant state of controlled anarchy; now it is just controlled, fixed and rigid. Having been to many other airports since I photographed “LAX,” I now try to avoid flying through LAX at all costs; I currently live in Palm Springs, which has a genius open-air airport designed by the noted mid-century modern architect Donald Wexler (who also is the architect of my house).

To me, Los Angeles has become banal, corporate, dysfunctional, and aesthetically inert. When I took the photographs, it was the era of punk rock shows at the Whiskey, “Repo Man” being filmed in my neighborhood, and performance art by Mike Kelley at LACE—an atmosphere that I thrived in.

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Photography, Publishing

L.A. By Night – Interview with John Brian King

LAX was featured in Amadeus, an arts and culture magazine based in LA, with text by Taylor Wojick. The article includes an interview with photographer John Brian King. Here's a little excerpt.

Observational documentation and archival footage is what allows my generation to gain a better understanding of the past, through an unbiased visual narrative. What sort of impact do you think these photographs will have in 60 or even 100 years?
John Brian King: To my mind, there is no such thing as an “unbiased visual narrative.” Even cameras that are technically “unmanned” – bank surveillance cameras, police dash cams, Google Maps cameras – create their own biased narratives by the very nature of the people who control them.
A hundred years from now, I hope my photographs will be viewed as another tiny blip of aesthetic evidence of humanity’s absurdity and possible decline. I would be haunting someone from my grave if my photographs were curated by a nostalgic academic who was only interested in recontextualizing them into a horrible miasma akin to “Humans of New York” or “The Family of Man.”

Available now. 24 cm x 22 cm softcover, shrink-wrapped, 132 pages (117 black & white photos), limited edition of 750 copies, afterword by the photographer in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.