Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Link Lunacy

Happy Halloween! I love this holiday, despite my horror of horror films (and tendency to get freaked out when staying in the tower rooms of Victorian bed-and-breakfasts). It's an excuse to dress up and become someone imaginary (a thrill for a lover of the magical in literature), and a time to turn everything upside down: our version of the Carnival that provides a safe space for our strangest and silliest impulses. Whether or not you're planning on doing anything scary, eerie or carnivalesque today, it's a good time to get into the spirit of the macabre, if only as a break from your utterly reasonable interests the rest of the year. Here are a couple of suggestions.

Chas Addams, the New Yorker cartoonist and creator of the Addams Family, is the subject of a new bio by Linda Davis that looks pretty great. Check out this excerpt and some cartoons on the NPR website.

It's a great day to check out And Now The Screaming Starts, a blog dedicated to all things strange and scary (though it's more delightfully odd than actually frightening). Book reviews of WORLD WAR Z and Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins are just the beginning. Check out the links at right for more goofy horror blogs.

And if you're on your way to the Manhattan Halloween Parade, stop by McNally Robinson Booksellers after 5 for our own bit of spooky weirdness: the funerary violin stylings of Rohan Kriwaczek, author of AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF THE ART OF FUNERARY VIOLIN. Check out the NPR piece for the backstory on this enigmatic work, and Rohan's website for his own presentation of the matter. I'm looking forward to some dressing up, eating candy, and listening to some appropriately eerie music for the dead on this day of appreciation for the literary weird.

Happy Halloween!


Anonymous said...

Also the new Susanna Clarke book is out, that's kinda Halloweeny.

Sophie Vogt said...

Jim Harris at Prairie Lights Books recently sent me an advance copy of AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF THE ART OF FUNERARY VIOLIN and I must take issue with his colleague Paul Ingram’s assessment that the book is a hoax. My belief is that the Rohan Kriwaczek hoax is itself a hoax.

Let me explain. I am the director of MuseumZeitraim Leipzig and a former curator at The Wassmann Foundation, Washington, D.C. Research and scholarship at both institutions confirms that the Leipzig composer Hugo Wassmann, brother of the renowned artist Johann Dieter Wassmann, was an active member of the Lutheran wing of Leipzig’s Guild of Funerary Violinists in the 1890s. Hugo’s ultimate falling out with the Guild came in 1901 over his efforts to introduce the saxophone to funerary rights, a practice that would eventually take hold in the city of New Orleans with great success, although not among Lutherans. Hugo was a former captain in the Prussian army and regularly composed military marches inclusive of the saxophone.

Here in Leipzig, the funerary violin has a long and crucial history, most often associated with Heironymous Gratchenfleiss. Gratchenfleiss’s extensive archives were in the care of Musikinstrumenten-Museum der Universität Leipzig, part of the Grassi Museum, but lost forever when the complex was gutted by fire in an Allied bombing raid on 3 December 1943.

The un-sourced (and poorly translated) letter Kriwaczek quotes referencing Gratchenfleiss, dated 14 September 1787 (pp 62-63), which he simply describes as “by an unknown man named Fredrik,” is in fact by the pen of Fredrik Wassmann, grandfather of Johann and Hugo, describing the funeral of their great-grandfather, a funeral Gratchenfleiss performed. An original copy of the letter is in the archives of The Wassmann Foundation. The liberties Kriwaczek takes with his facts would appear to be part of a larger narrative strategy to make it appear he has created a hoax, when he hasn’t. What a dull book it would have been otherwise.



Sophie Vogt
MuseumZeitraum Leipzig

Book Nerd said...

Hi Sophie,

Thanks for weighing in. I have to agree with GalleyCat (link here: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/lecture_circuit/finally_a_fake_writer_we_can_admire_46499.asp) in admiring both your efforts and Rohan's. Keep on doing what you're doing -- we're all enjoying it!

(And he was a very charming and entertaining speaker on Halloween night, with earnest devotion to the music he loves. Our bookstore now has among the only signed copies of FUNERARY VIOLIN in the country -- I'll save one for you if you like.)