the m john harrison blog

Month: April, 2009

modern horror

When you look in the dead artist’s garden pond now, all you see is some kind of slimy, feathery-looking weed moving to and fro in the cloudy water. It might be growing on something, some shape you can’t quite bring to mind. Overseeing it from a short plinth of home-made concrete is a ten-inch figure without head or legs but with distinct male genitals. This seems to sum things up. The tiles at the rim of the pool have been fitted by amateurs–the effect is of a mouldy bathroom in a Spanish holiday villa. All over the walled garden broken or partial bodies abound. Women are reduced to loins and buttocks. Heads of both sexes rest on the tops of walls. An aesthetic of careful disarrangement–of pretended disarrangement–dissimulates this site of suppressed rage and murder, limbs ripped off as a result of acts with no aesthetic at all.


literary scandals

To pass the time–time I don’t have–I played the game “Strange Bedfellows” with my newly pruned bookcase. Here are the As & the Bs, as they cuddle up to one another on the shelves–

Carolyn Abraham
Kathy Acker
Martin Amis
Kent Anderson
Guillermo Arriaga
HE Bates
Nigel Balchin
T Behrens
John Bliebtrau
Harold Bloom
Marc Bojanowski
Roberto Bolano
Elizabeth Bowen
Charles Bukowski
Michel Butor
Dino Buzzati

There are two games to be played here. One is to guess which books I own of which author. The other is to imagine what these scandalous couples & triples might be saying to one another as they switch off the light (or in Bukowski’s case, accidentally set fire to their own vomit). Obviously, you can only do the adjacent ones, ie Acker/Amis (fun, given what he said about her) but not Acker/Butor, which anyway would be just perverted. Since the Bowen Bukowski coupling is the most unnatural & interesting, you get fewer points for doing that one. If anyone’s interested, I’ll put up the Cs & Ds next. If not, not to worry.


Great tribute by Mike Moorcock over at Ballardian. Mike supported Ballard (& Ballard supported him) when that was a harder & lonelier task. I didn’t know Ballard well, & I turned up at New Worlds a bit late for the main event. But what I remember about those times was being stunned–given pause–by his first collection of stories; & how ludicrously hard you had to work to persuade anyone to read one of the strongest writers of the second half of the 20th Century. It’s a disgrace that it took so long. But the great disgrace is that it’s still happening. I don’t doubt there are manuscripts lying around trade publishers’ offices which have been scoffed at in exactly the terms which greeted, say, The Drought or Crash. There isn’t any room for complacency over this. There never will be.

i always knew this

The brand of rum is a safe bet, of course. As for the raspberries: Irene the Mona must have had her hair done. Am I going to apologise for the shallowness of this post ? I’m not, actually. It’s April.

some good fantasy

The House on the Borderland, 1908, William Hope Hodgson
The Wind in the Willows, 1908, Kenneth Grahame
The Great Return, 1915, Arthur Machen
From Ritual to Romance, 1920, Jessie L Weston
Nosferatu, 1922, dir FW Murnau
Mr Weston’s Good Wine, 1927, TF Powys
War in Heaven, 1930, Charles Williams
The Green Child, 1935, Herbert Read
At the Mountains of Madness, 1936, HP Lovecraft
At Swim-Two-Birds, 1939, Flann O’Brien
Fantasia, 1940, dir Walt Disney
The Journal of Albion Moonlight, 1941, Kenneth Patchen
That Hideous Strength, 1945, CS Lewis
The Martian Chronicles, 1950, Ray Bradbury
Mazirian the Magician, 1950, Jack Vance
E Pluribus Unicorn, 1953, Theodore Sturgeon
The Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957, dir Jack Arnold
The Vodi, 1959, John Braine
The Alexandria Quartet, 1957-1960, Lawrence Durrell
A Fine & Private Place, 1960, Peter Beagle
The Stealer of Souls, 1963, Michael Moorcock
V, 1963, Thomas Pynchon
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, 1963, Joan Aiken
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, 1964, Joanne Greenberg
The Magus, 1966, John Fowles
All Along the Watchtower, 1967, Bob Dylan
Mooncranker’s Gift, 1973, Barry Unsworth
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, 1974, dir Werner Herzog
Diamond Dogs, 1974, David Bowie
Ritual Animal Disguise, 1977, EC Cawte
Stalker, 1979, dir Andrei Tarkovsky
The Bloody Chamber, 1979, Angela Carter
The Fall of the House of Usher, 1981, dir Jan Svankmajer
Mythago Wood, 1984, Robert Holdstock
Halo Jones, 1984, Alan Moore & Ian Gibson
Rain Dogs, 1985, Tom Waits
Blue Velvet, 1986, dir David Lynch
The Mortmere Stories, 1994, Edward Upward & Christopher Isherwood
Jumping Joan, 1994, dir Petra Freeman
Institute Benjamenta, 1995, dir The Brothers Quay
The Voice of the Fire, 1996, Alan Moore
Lost Highway, 1997, dir David Lynch
Simon Magus, 1999, dir Ben Hopkins
The Dream Archipelago, 1999, Christopher Priest
Under the Skin, 2000, Michel Faber
Ratchet & Clank, 2002, Insomniac Games
The Carpet Makers, 2006, Andreas Eschbach
Peter & the Wolf, 2006, dir Suzie Templeton
The Night Buffalo, 2007, Guillermo Arriaga
Night Work, 2008, Thomas Glavinic


“Stones and grass have many virtues,” Roberto Bolano has a character say, “but words have more.” I’d reverse that.

In unconnected news: the first two sentences of my review of Marcel Theroux’s Far North originally read, “Far North is a cowboy labour-camp eco-disaster movie, in which a woman passes herself off as a man. Every base is touched.” They luxuriated in a paragraph of their own.

spot the old hippie

Festival del Centro Historico, DF. Bruce Sterling, Chris Priest & MJH at the Templo Mayor.


Photo: Chris Nakashima-Brown.

performance related

7 & 8 April: Tim Etchells’ performance That Night Follows Day, with its cast of 16 children & young people, produced by the Flemish theatre company Victoria, will be at Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank in London as part of the SPILL festival. I’ll be there on the 8th.

Then, at the Soho Theatre, 21-25 April, Forced Entertainment do their new show Void Story.


When they talk about a cold day in hell they must mean April 3 2009, Barnes Common. Three cheery policepersons in stab vests watch everyone over the Beverley Brook bridge, just to make sure they’re all perfectly safe. Have a nice day, Barnes wives & spaniels, & mind how you go.


Someone send me back to Mexico. Willys jeep & wall, Oaxaca.

DF: the dog’s bollocks