Tuesday, April 28, 2009


fourth instalment in an irregular series occasioned by the large number of friends who've got books out this year

No, I've not got a ouija board and I'm not claiming to be pally with the author of Against Nature. The mate here is Paul Oldfield, although "mate" doesn't seem quite the right word for someone whose byline in Margin was once prefaced with "the apocalyptic sobriety of...". Also the state of "mate" is somewhat lapsed; I wouldn't even have known about this book at all if another Margin/Monitor veteran, Hilary Little, hadn't kindly given me her
own personal copy of this when I saw her in Manchester on the Totally Wired micro-tour. "Make" also needs to be qualified: Paul didn't write this book, obviously, but he did the translation, wrote the foreword and annotations, and in every other respect almost literally made the book--designed it, chose the font and paper stock, selected the illustrations, self-published it on his own Caryatid Classics imprint. This is the first English translation of a J.K. Huysmans miscellany originally published in 1874 as Le Drageoir a Epices. In Paul's foreword (as far as I know, the first piece of publicly available criticism he's penned since dropping out of the music press game circa 1990) he itemises the contents of A Dish of Spices -- "splenetic prose-poems", "sketches of street-life in suburban Paris", "comic-grotesque fantasy in the manner of Poe or Gautier", "tableaus suggested by Flemish painting", "faux-antique ballades," "parodies and caprices" and "illuminated Symbolist opiates." Huysmans's own dedication goes: "TO OLD FRIENDS, I dedicate this whimsical spread, these odds and ends and bagatelles". To old friends....