The last thing I expected to find in a Tenby charity shop was a copy of David Pinner’s Ritual. Not the original hardback, I hasten to add – this is the recent paperback reprint by Finders Keepers, but it was still too strange a find to ignore.It’s a genuine ‘cult classic’, long understood by cinephiles of a particular kind of British cinema as the inspiration behind The Wicker Man. How appropriate that I should find it while wandering the wild lanes of Pembrokeshire, as windswept and haunted a landscape as Summerisle, or the rural Cornwall in Pinner’s original vision. The striking cover design recalls Graham Sutherland’s paintings, themselves inspired by his many years spent lurking in Pembrokeshire, and looks like an artefact from the late 60’s when it was originally published. Pinner was a RADA-trainer playwright whose prose style reminds me of Joe Orton’s diaries – referring to the village church as ‘God’s tomb’, regarding all of his characters with a sardonic and unsympathetic eye, finding flaw with everyone and using the backdrop of the Cornish countryside as little more than a stage set. The madness begins with a dead girl under a tree (‘Dian Spark was eight years old and very dead’), and it gets crazier from then on, the village teeming with bizarre characters – mad vicars, sinister shopkeepers, feral gypsies – all teetering on the brink of pagan mayhem that recalls nothing less than The League Of Gentlemen at its most demented. Unfilmable, it’s no surprise that basic conceit of the novel had to be drastically reimagined for The Wicker Man, as a straight cinematic interpretation of Ritual would have been too strange, too unsettling. Resurrecting this novel now, just as the cultural detritus of the late 60’s/early 70’s has been pored over for any last traces of hauntological fibre, is an appropriate reminder of just how strange those times were, or at least how strange I’d like to think they were. Recommended for all those who pass through these sleepy little country villages and can’t help but imagine they’ve got a wicker man behind the pub, and are just waiting for someone to stop there.
We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, sixty.
Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle 1: A Death In The Family
Further to my previous post, here’s the latest on how I’m getting on with a painting that I’ve started to refer to as ‘California Dreaming’. Inspired by some of my recent reading, it seems to be saying something (to me, at least) about the fading light of hope at the end of the 1960’s. For a time, people had genuinely believed a change was possible and that we could collectively pull ourselves back from the brink of the abyss that is the Military/Industrial/Korporate/Konsumerist Complex. That dream died, strangled in its infancy, and forty years later just look at the state we’re in.
Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest – the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways – and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world’s longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in – to learn from it what it is. As its sounds come into his hearing, and its lights and colors come into his vision, and its odors come into his nostrils, then he may come into its presence as he never has before, and he will arrive in his place and will want to remain. His life will grow out of the ground like the other lives of the place, and take its place among them. He will be with them – neither ignorant of them, nor indifferent to them, nor against them – and so at last he will grow to be native-born. That is, he must reenter the silence and the darkness, and be born again.