Review

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

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
14.00

Trade paperback, 128 pages, translated from French with an afterword by Eva Richter. Free domestic shipping.

Quantity:
Add To Cart

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.

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!