The King and I

Roy Bayfield – Desire Paths – Real Walks to Nonreal Places (Triarchy) 

Around Christmas 2016, after a few days offline, Roy Bayfield discovered that he was existing inside a review.

The Reviewer had realised what the game was. He was not unwilling to play along, but knowing too much, he was also unable to completely immerse.

The witness protection program was full. After 2008, the funds had dried up. Opting for an exemplifying tone and strategy was now the only way out.

Like sneaking into the office and posting the story without a byline, hoping the news desk would publish the devious, lying thing anyway.

The Reviewer had no idea if it had been noticed or written elsewhere, but it seemed blindingly obvious to him that Roy is really ‘Roi’, as in King – with a nod to Ubu – and the Field of Bay means an abundance of laurels to be gathered ‘out there’.

Roy Bayfield. It is a banal but ingenious name, as it reaches right back through and to the Grail Quest. Without mentioning a single Templar, it manages to gather them all into a swollen lineage of questing. The Bay is also the place where all the ships arrive.

All those naughty Crusaders, re-appearing in legions on the Daily Express masthead. Sleeper Cells from the twelfth century staring at the same headlines about migrants and Strictly and Clarkson day after day after day.

‘Bayfield’ tries to make them recede in the text, in order, oddly, to try to desperately raise them with impunity.

But the Grail Quest was always the search for meaning, and this book is definitely about that, under the franchising term of ‘Mythogeography’.

There are many contiguous lines and corresponding points in this book for The Reviewer. André Stitt, who he hung out with, Long Mynd, where caught short, he once had to strain at his stool plein air. Caerleon, where Arthur Machen lived.

Machen’s Great God Pan is based in part on a Roman prayer statue in the museum at Caerleon. It was probably dedicated to Nemesis or one of the other gods called on for good fortune when backing a winner, or rather damning an opponent to hell.

You see, what was thought to be Arthur’s Round Table, at Caerleon, when excavated, turned out to be a Roman amphitheatre. It is likely that the statue Machen saw stood in an alcove in the amphitheatre to allow gambling sports fans to make an offering.

H.P. Lovecraft partly based the Cthulhu myth on Machen’s Pan. This means – if we follow the curve of influence on its oxbow mythological course – that Cthulhu is a kind of good luck keyring for blokes out for a flutter.

Not so scared now, are you?

However, if one takes ‘Arthur’s Round Table’ as the myth of chivalry, as a text of benevolent, patriarchal fairness, which actually concealed a site for sick, bloody, amoral entertainments, the real significatory lode can be accessed again.

Can you see how by slicing right through the surface with a sterile scalpel one really gets to the assembling organs? How merely remaining on the surface doesn’t quite ‘cut it’.

This is not why The Reviewer warns against the occult. Nor does The Reviewer warn against it because it is supposedly dangerous, frightening or dark.

Black Sabbath, Hammer Horror, The Omen films and inverted crucifixes. One should worry about the lightweight comedy and melodrama all of that might bring, emerging, as all those cultures do, across their longer historical curves, from Music Hall, Vaudeville and back into the bardic traditions.

This isn’t to deny light entertainment its place in our scrying practices. This book, in opening, cites Heraclitus next to a song called I Am The Walker by the 1960s mod pop band The Creation. ‘I am the walker’, they sing, but Bayfield omits the following half of the rhyming couplet, which is a declaration that he – the singer, presumably – is also ‘the telephone talker’.

Surely then, after affirming a kind of peripatetic mythologising, the text folds immediately back into what Raymond Williams called ‘mobile privatisation’.

Now, the two have folded into each other, as people walk in public with their earpieces, seemingly schizophrenic, talking to a distant body, attached, one hopes, to a brain.

The kind of schizoid norm R.D. Laing diagnosed is here. As he diagnosed it, The Creation described their music as ‘red with purple flashes’. But this book is grey-green with claret text.

No, the reason The Reviewer warns so strongly against the occult is because via it, as The Metaphysician – as he has demonstrated here – he has you all by The Laurels.

Signing off. Votre Roi, et Ami.

– Roy Bayfield 

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Some Dirty Secrets

John Barker – Dirty Secret No.8 (Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart)

This strange publication, Dirty Secret, by John Barker, seems to have no website. It arrived in the post yesterday unbidden, eight editions of it, from No.1 to the very latest.

It is a collage of quotations which build into something far larger, even stranger and more sinister. This comes out of a larger project on fabric and colonialism. Dirty Secret appears to be a container for the excess emissions, a political patchwork of overdrive. The latest issue, No.8, apparently exists in the very specific time corridor of October 15, 2016 to Jan 15, 2017.

This one is titled ‘Bitter Abstraction’, which is taken from a quote by Henri Lefebvre. It tells us that Malevich’s tomb has been erased to build luxury apartments. That sort of thing.

Monkeys, arseholes. Training dolphins to swim with machine guns. All of these things leer out of Barker’s explorations of the twentieth century mushroom cloud, which is currently morphing into the twenty-first.

The format is ingenious. Although after all, what are published papers but collages of quotes? This publication simply lays out the citations and images to create something real, but open.

I always forget that this sort of thing can get money in Europe. There it is, at the back. A full roll call of sponsorship logos, from Baden-Baden and Kunst everywhere else.

The dirty secret for us in the UK is that we don’t and now won’t.