Old Spitalfields Market is a brilliant place to be every day of the week. We were back there specifically to buy a piece of jewellery from Lelong Designs, who create pieces inspired by the 20s and 30s, Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles - my favourites!
I am not usually big on jewellery, but their stall is simply wonderful and I had to try and concentrate on the task at hand: purchase something to add to the back cover of The Book of Thoth - the cover itself is very minimalist, and we thought adding something completely different at the back would work well.
Matt ArtPix, the Arcane Publishing designer, helped me choose between some Egyptian-inspired pieces or some insect jewellery.
In the book, one item in particular plays an important role in the story: a dragonfly pendant. As Egyptian imagery is already well represented throughout the book - on the cover and inside - we decided to go for the wonderful dragonfly brooch above, which looks very, very close to the jewel I had in mind. And it is very, very wearable, isn't it? I had a little chat with the stallholder and was thrilled he agreed to have his work on the back cover of my book... Of course, credit will be given where it's due!
I also HAD to make a detour and buy some tea on the Yumchaa Tea stall. Honestly, they are the best teas around. I knew I was going to a gig in the evening, and yet, I still bought three bags of tea and carried them around the whole day and night. How Rock'n'Roll is that?
OK, I admit it: I can be a terrible snob from time to time, and I refuse to set foot in your average cinema like the Odeon, for example, ever again. People eat, talk, check their phones, fidget; their attention span doesn't exceed two minutes... It just spoils it for me. So we've decided to only go and see films in "civilised" surroundings, like the Curzon cinemas and the Barbican Centre. Below is a picture of Cromwell Tower opposite the cinema at the Barbican, pure Brutalist style!
Talking about Brutalism... There's a great programme on at the moment about Brutalist architecture: Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness, presented by the impossibly cool Jonathan Meades. It is absolutely bonkers, with Mr Meades's very, er, original presentation style. I'd love to get the script; it's wonderfully written in a rich, kaleidoscopic vocabulary... And it's very inspiring for me, with visuals close to what I'd like to achieve with my fourth book.
We went to see the not-very-critically-acclaimed The Monuments Men. I've never seen any movie with George Clooney or Matt Damon, so I have now. Clooney has some kind of Cary Grant, twinkle-in-the-eye thing going on, and Matt Damon is... err... a bit bland, perhaps?
I liked the movie because it had a sort of old-fashioned charm you don't really find in modern movies - I have always been a lover of classic cinema me, from the 20s to the late 50s. Also, it is rare in a mainstream movie to have references to art and its importance in our society. True, the movie doesn't go very deep into any of its topics, but I never go to the cinema to see movies making deep and serious social/political points - I leave that to pseudo-intellectuals.
I haven't been to the cinema for ages, and then bang, several films turn up all at the same time! I also want to see Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Under The Skin, and they are all out in the forthcoming weeks!
When we stepped into the Lexington on Sunday, we entered a parallel, beautiful, lyrical world.
I have already written a little bit about cellist and "looper" Jo Quail - when she supported Rasputina in November. It was a pleasure to see her play again - and it was even better the second time! Not only is her music truly mesmerising, but watching her play is fascinating. Music inspires me and has always played an important role in my life, but the process of creating music and playing it is a complete mystery to me. To witness the alchemy practised on stage by Jo was simply awesome. And her music is definitely otherworldly.
On Sunday night, we were treated to a brand new, not quite finished piece - temporarily called "DD" - the music note I hasten to add - a "baby" track that still has quite a lot of growing up to do according to its creator, although it sounded pretty grown up to me already!
We continued our journey into a realm of magic and shadowy beings with the excellent Seventh Harmonic (for some reason, my computer refuses to open the website on either Chrome or Explorer, which is a real shame!). Sunday was their new singer Liza Graham's first gig with the band, and if she looked slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, this changed pretty quickly as she literally beamed as the set went on... Jo Quail joined the band for their track "Winter" and added a layer of cords to the already rich ensemble.
Experimental, dark and seductive stuff indeed...
Daemonia Nymphe do know how to put on a show. Costumes, masks, ancient Greek instruments - made especially for them by craftsman Nikolaos Brass, and a dancer. On Sunday, they were presenting their new album, "Psychostasia".
Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou, the core members of Daemonia Nymphe, have worked for film and theatre (in particular The Theatre Lab Company), and it shows in their taste for the subtly dramatic; they also know how to surround themselves with talented musicians, and joining them on Sunday were among others Tanya Jackson (whom I had seen perform before with the Mediaeval Baebes) and ex-Dead Can Dance member Peter Ulrich - I still remember reviewing his fabulous album "Enter The Mysterium" years ago, so was particularly chuffed to see him there!
Also present was dancer/model/actress Denise Moreno.
Hypnotic, evocative and full of Ancient Greece's rhythms and flavours, Daemonia Nymphe's world is infused with myths and legends and carries the words and stories of Hellenic literature.
This is dark, ritualistic, spellbinding music, plucked from ancient times to speak to the soul of modern audiences.
To conclude, I would just add a word or two about the audience. Everyone should be proud of themselves: attentive and respectful of the silent/quiet bits in the sets, holding their breath at the end of each song before applauding enthusiastically. It was just a pleasure to be there.
I have heard so many negative things recently about acoustic/quiet sets being completely spoilt by drunken idiots, blasé crowds speaking over artists and heckling...
Well done, everyone.
The editing of The Book of Thoth is well under way... Today, my work is fuelled by music - I am listening to the fabulous The Eden House ahead of their London gig tomorrow - I absolutely cannot wait! I am also looking forward to seeing And Also The Trees, whom I have never seen live.
I have reviewed The Eden House's concert at The Lexington last year HERE and therefore will not do a full review of the gig this time around, but I will most certainly try and take pictures...
I have also written a review of their new album Half-Life HERE.
Here is some footage from the Lexington gig:
I have been thinking about it for a while... Now, I have decided to actually act upon it!
I would like to start posting on this very website interviews with authors and publishers: about their inspiration, their writing processes, how they self-published (for self-published writers) or their journey towards traditional publication for those lucky enough - or not! - to have been snapped up by an agent/traditional publisher, how they set up their publishing company (for indie publishers), etc. It will be very much focused on their current and future work.
I will try and keep the articles short enough to be read online - I personally cannot read long texts on a screen and need them to be printed!
What I have in mind is to do email interviews with people who are not your "traditional" writers/publishers, but people whose road to publication has been a little bit different.
I am also interested in people I consider more interesting than your average writer; most certainly not the "Oxbridge/MA in creative writing/bestselling writer" journey to being published.
I will be honest, it will be based on my personal taste, as I want to interview people whose books I have actually read - and I do not read books I don't want to read.
There won't be any literary stars here - only potential future ones -although if I could get Michel Faber to answer a few questions, I would be over the moon!
I was going to post them as blogs, but I think those will require their own section on the website, so I might fiddle a bit with the structure of missgish.com when I am ready to post the first interview.
I am happy to say that so far, the three people I have contacted have expressed an interest, so thank you to them.
I hope to start the series in the spring, hopefully the first interview will be available by the end of March. I might post one every month or two months, depending on people's (and my own) availability.
I already have a few more people to contact and add to my list!
Last week, I watched the most astonishing documentary about Paris in the 1920s: "Paris, années folles".
Les années folles" (The crazy years) is a French expression used to describe the 1920-1929 era in Paris.
Anyone interested in the 1920s should see it; the footage is literally jaw-dropping. This documentary is about history, culture, art, literature and social changes.
Paris was once the exciting place to be - mostly thanks to rich and not so rich foreign artists, intellectuals and entertainers who flocked to the French capital in the 20s in order to live their wildest dreams.
Ignited by a desire to put the unimaginable horrors of WWI behind, this incredible explosion of creativity, glamour and social change reached an intensity never equalled.
It didn't last long and never returned to the banks of the Seine.
This two-hour long documentary is a unique glimpse at life in Paris at the time (only for certain groups, though; as shown at some point in the documentary, the reality of French life on the outskirts of Paris and beyond was still steeped in peasant misery, in a world which struggled to evolve socially and economically and launch itself into the 20th century.
The film's director, Fabien Bezat, has taken the decision to show the film in colour to appeal to today's audiences who can barely cope with black and white - the documentary was shown at prime-time in France. He and his team have been through a gigantic amount of archive from the time and then worked on colourisation (done in India and in the US), then added the soundtrack and the score.
So what will you see in this film?
The bar terraces in Montparnasse which acted as HQ to the artists and their muses; the jazz clubs in Montmartre; Coco Chanel, Art Deco, the bob, Gertrude Stein and the «Lost Generation», the famous clubs «la Rotonde» and «la Coupole», Man Ray and his muse and lover Kiki de Montparnasse, «dirty french novels» and the beginning of porn, the Surrealists an Dadas… Josephine Baker, Scott Fitzgerald, Miller, Hemingway, Dali and more...
The Avant-Garde, women's emancipation, sexual freedom, but also the way a very conservative France tried to resist change - this led to the birth of fast-rising far-right and Fascist movements, The Olympics of 1924, poignant footage of disfigured ex-soldiers, the sumptuous orgies and finally, the boats who took the rich Americans back to the US after the 1929 crash.
There is no DVD of this film and it is a shame. The French commentary is succinct and would be easy to translate and add subtitles to - I can predict it would sell very well indeed.
Nevertheless, you can still enjoy it without being able to understand French; it is well organised in clearly separated sections, is fast -paced and crammed with rare footage.
Personally, I have always been much more fascinated by London - my spiritual home - and have never been much interested in Paris, a city I have come to know and dislike very much.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, Paris has never been a romantic city or an exciting metropolis. It feels like a big French provincial town at the best of times; it is grey and tired, people are grey and tired; it hasn't got any edge, is incredibly dirty, choked by an erratic traffic and a constant stream of demonstrations - I was there briefly yesterday and it has gone worse!
And at times, it feels like a third world city.
Paris is now nothing more than a former courtisan, old, diseased and tired, who cannot even bother to put her make-up or her showy gowns on anymore. When you glimpse at what it has been and what it could have been, as in this documentary, you wonder what on earth has gone wrong.
Then you shrug, French-like, and go to enjoy London, a city with many foibles but which feels like the capital of the world for all the right reasons...
I have actually found the documentary online, I think it's the whole thing ... Enjoy!
Watch "Paris, années folles" HERE!
And some more books we've just acquired!
Following up on the topic of theatre actresses, here's Ellen Terry, probably the most famous of them all!
The next one is something quite special.
Letters from Cythera is written by Jaz Coleman, the frontman of cult post-punk band Killing Joke, but also a well-respected classical composer, and thinker. The hefty volume, which delves into the ideas, belief systems and inspiration behind all of Coleman's music, is accompanied by The Island, a CD of music Coleman himself describes as "romantic minimalism" and composed by him. It was recorded in 1996 in New Zealand with the Auckland Philarmonic Orchestra but was lost for over a decade.
Both the book and the music were inspired by and created in the remote South Pacific island Coleman owns - which is rather apt as I am still reading Jordan Reyne's Remembering the Dead, set mostly in a New Zealand forest.
Learn more about the project HERE.
The design on the project was done by Mike Coles, the design genius behind Killing Joke's most iconic visuals.
Well done to my sister and her partner who found a lost injured baby seal in Staffin Bay on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, this weekend. They called the seal rescue centre and they came to pick him up... What a cute little chap! We wish him a swift recovery!
A quick one today, after the long blog I wrote yesterday.
I am looking forward to the holiday so I can go out and walk in the countryside - I do hope the weather will be clement enough for it!
But I know there will be some days when I will just spend many hours on the sofa with my books...
I am absolutely thrilled to have at last acquired Louise Brooks' Lulu In Hollywood, a collection of essays the fascinating 20s actress and icon has written for various film publications over the years - including Sight and Sound and Film Culture. I have already started on the first chapter, a previously unpublished account of her childhood and her move from Kansas to New York to start her entertainment career. And what an absolutely fabulous read this is! Louise Brooks is an accomplished writer: witty, clever, funny, wildly honest and unsentimental, she writes a riveting, often hilarious account of her younger years. I cannot wait to pick it up again.
This edition is the Arena Edition, 1987.
The BFI have had a Gothic film season and I haven't been able to attend any of the events... So I will console myself with the superb Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film, a great book exploring all the aspects of the Gothic genre in films and its inspirations. There are fab pictures and essays written by, among others, (usual suspects) Matthew Sweet, Kim Newman, Mark Kermode, Roger Luckhurst, Mark Gatiss and Guillermo del Toro- apologies to the other ones, these are the names I know!
And whilst flicking through the book, I realised that I've seen quite a lot of them, but I still have a very long list of movies to watch...
Finally today, and still cinema related, a wonderful stash of 1920s actresses. I collect cards with pictures of actresses, but you are only able to find mainly Edwardian ones. I hadn't found any 1920s ones until the Alexandra Palace Antiques fair last September, where I managed to get my hands on a few.
My fabulous partner got his hands on over 100 of them at a market in London!
Now that's what I call glamour...
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a first draft to finish off before the end of the year...
During yet another fabulous outing in London last weekend, we were able to see some astonishing art on display and listen to some terrific tunes...
First to the imposing Somerset House, where Stanley Spencer's Heaven in a Hell of War is exhibited (free entrance!) as part of The First World War Centenary. All the paintings have made the journey from their permanent home of the Sandham Memorial Chapel - bar the gigantic The Resurrection of The Soldiers, which was displayed as a projection on the wall, as the original was painted on a canvas adhered to the wall of the high altar of the chapel.
Most of the scenes show everyday life during the war at the Beaufort Military Hospital in Bristol - where the injured soldiers shared the building with mental asylum patients - and are fascinating and often humorous vignettes; some others depict scenes from the Macedonian front. There is a lot to see here, loads of little details. I was also very taken with the richness of the colours in some of the scenes and by the lovely, quintessentially English Tea in the Hospital Ward and Bedmaking. The exhibition is on until 26th January 2014.
It was only a short walk to Trafalgar Square - for a little look at the Big Blue Cock there - no, I am not being rude - and I can tell you something: the two manky pigeons perched on the plinth were not impressed - nor was I, to be perfectly honest.
I went to Vienna when I was very, very young, and remember not liking its monumental architecture at all... I do not know a lot about Austrian history and culture, but I am a massive Klimt fan, and therefore was not going to miss this.
The exhibition is rather fascinating and is showing works from the Secession movement - concentrating on their portraits of members of the affluent, international and liberal middle-classes, who were often also their patrons.
The styles vary enormously, with some works genuinely surprising in their boldness and originality - some of them unsettling, even.
And I was so thrilled to see a few original Klimts at last!
I really liked Oskar Kokoschka's work and his unique use of colours, especially in Portrait of Hans and Erica Tietze-Conrat below - the online images and even the prints do not do justice to the original, I'm afraid.
Another favourite of mine: Erich Lederer by Egon Schiele. The young man looks like he is straight out of a silent movie.
Facing the Modern at the National Gallery continues until 12th January 2014.
A quick stop for refreshments in the fast-disappearing Soho, and we were on our way to the Islington O2 Academy to listen to some music!
Industrial band Ventenner were excellent, taking their influences from different genres and injecting a welcome uncompromising, misanthropic energy - think Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, Atari Teenage Riot among others... I will definitively keep an eye on them!
Die Kur's singer Ays Kura looked thrilled to be playing in front of a sold out Islington Academy and his enthusiasm was infectious, even though their music was slightly too metal for me.
It was good to see Inertia's Reza Udhin wear his Sophie Lancaster Foundation t-shirt and wrist band to play another energetic set from this hard-working electronic band - who were celebrating their 20th anniversary last year!
Time for yet another celebration: The Young Gods' 25th anniversary!
The pioneering post-industrial Swiss band played a fabulous set, with samplers as sharp and biting as ever - original member Cesare Pizzi is back and taking charge of them for this tour. I don't really know what kind of stuff singer Franz Treichler is taking to keep his youthful, dancer-like physique, but I'll have some of it, please. He just doesn't change, and still makes an engaging, charismatic frontman.
As for drummer Bernard Trontin, he was on impressive form...
I don't go to parties. I've never liked them.
During my first years in London, I had a short spell of going to clubs and parties and ALWAYS got bored senseless after about 15mn and spent the rest of the night wanting to go home. Sometimes I did.
I love going to gigs and exhibitions, but there, you don't have to try and talk to people at all, so it's fine!
THIS LOVELY LITTLE COMIC captures the simple pleasures of an introvert perfectly. It's SPOT ON!
I think therefore I write.
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