Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

....but coming up smelling of roses......

Way back when, I posted this about Austin Osman Spare and promised to return to the wonderful story by Francis King. Well now I can do so, in essentials at least, without having to key the whole thing in myself, as an article in Fortean Times gives a pretty good precis. Here is the relevant part:

Let's fast forward a few years to look at some of Spare's magic in practice, and to consider the beginnings of the Spare legend in his own lifetime: some of the tales that circulate about Spare make the London Borough of Lambeth seem like HP.Lovecraft's Arkham County. Three examples will be enough. The first takes place around the end of the Second World War, and is told by the late Francis X. King. A friend of King's - "then an art student, now a Chartered Accountant" - had met Spare, and the two of them had got on well. They both hated the fashions of modern art, which had become something of an obsessive topic with Spare. On the other hand, they disagreed strongly over magic, which King's friend scoffed at. When Spare mentioned that he was sometimes possessed by the spirit of William Blake, the friend countered with a stream of sympathetic psycho-babble about schizoid personalities, dissociated complexes, and the rest. This narked Spare into showing his hand: he completely believed in magic, he said, and he had actually been doing it all his life. More than that, he would give the friend a real demonstration of it next time they met.

Spare was living in a dank and mouldering basement in Brixton, and it was here the art student had his appointment with magic. It was grim in Spare's basement. It didn't smell too good, and it could be noisy, with waste pipes gurgling in the ceiling and buses driving past at street level. The friend wasn't feeling quite as phlegmatic as he had the week before. He had done a little reading in the meantime and it had made him nervous, as reading will. Nevertheless, King says, he felt his "firm adherence to the linguistic philosophy of A.J.Ayer would save him from being gobbled up by the demon Asmodeus or, indeed, any other unpleasantness".

On entering the dread basement, the first thing the friend noticed was a marked absence of cloaks, incense, magic pentagrams, and general Dennis Wheatley paraphernalia. Spare was eating a piece of pie, and when he had finished it, the demonstration could begin. In place of the usual mystic bric-a-brac were some drawings and papers covered with letters and graphic symbols. Spare announced that he was going to attempt an "apportation", i.e. the production of a material object from thin air. Somewhat dated now, apports were very much part of the lore of spiritualism, and were quite widely performed in the nineteenth century. Spare was going to produce living, freshly cut roses out of the atmosphere. Working in silence, he waved a drawing in the air for a minute or two before putting it back on the table. Spare was clearly concentrating very hard, and the strain was visibly showing in his face as he finally pronounced the word "Roses". There was a moment of tense, pregnant silence before the pipe in the ceiling burst, bringing down a deluge of sewage and old bathwater on their heads.


At 22 August, 2007 16:45, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Everything was coming up roses?


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