Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cool Things That Caught My Eye

Like the title says; interesting articles/posts to read or things to spend money on that caught my eye this week.

First: The Viking Trilogy by Henry Treece - In the comments over at Jim Cornelius' Frontier Partisans in a discussion of the Dark Mountain Project (among other things), I mentioned author Henry Treece and his Celtic Quartet (I've reviewed The Dark Island, Red Queen,White Queen, and The Great Captains at Black Gate) and how I want to read his Viking Trilogy, but it's hard to come by.

Well, no longer. Tooling around Amazon to see how much it would cost to get paperbacks of some of Treece's books, I saw a pre-release notice for YA The Viking Trilogy on kindle coming in July. I will buy it the moment it's available and am hoping it's a portent of a widespread release of Treece's work in e-format.

Treece started as a poet and a founder of a short-lived school of writing called the New Apocalyptics. He and his fellow Apocalyptics believed that poetry had become stale and too focused on realism. Reading through a 43-year old Ph.D. theses, I learned Treece put together a manifesto with four points:

1) That Man was in need of greater freedom, economic no less than aesthetic, from machine and mechanistic thinking.
2) That no existent political system, Left or Right; no artistic ideology, Surrealism or the political school of Auden, was able to provide this freedom.
3) That the Machine Age had exerted too strong an influence on art, and had prevented the individual development of Man.
4) That Myth, as a personal means of reintegrating the personality, had been neglected and despised.

I've never read any of his poetry, but I can see elements of the manifesto in his historical novels. The three I've read are set all set in bloody hinge moments of British history. They are also set on the edge of realism and the supernatural. Some events are clearly supernatural while others All three depict points of rupture in the old order, when the world its characters have assumed would continue forever is destroyed. In each, the beauty of the land, its mystery, is the set against destruction and death. Order falls to chaos and the world moves in a new, unforeseen direction. 

I only have one more to read in the quartet, The Golden Strangers. It's set in Britain's distant past when tribes with bronze weapons arrive to the detriment of the island's less advanced natives.

Second: A History of Violence - Tom Breihan of the AV Club has started a series on the history of modern action movies. For each year he picks what he considers the best film. He also discusses briefly several other genre movies from the year in question. So far it's been a smart, insightful series that's already got me trying to track down two movies I haven't seen in a long time. I hope he manages to stick with this long enough to chronicle the evolution from the more tough-guy movies of the seventies thru the pumped up eighties of Schwarzenegger and Stallone to the hyperactive present. 

For reasons he explains and I'm willing to go along with, he starts with 1968's Bullitt. For those who haven't seen it, it stars Steve McQueen in one of his most iconic roles and features one of the first great modern car chases. 

For those raised on the hyper-kineticism of modern action scenes, it may be a little slow, but the chase is a model of automotive choreography and editing. Unlike most modern action films, it has a fairly complex and involved plot and some actual characterization. 

His 1969 choice is Sam Peckinpah's blood-drenched masterpiece, The Wild Bunch. It stars William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson.  If you haven't seen this and have any interest in Westerns, action movies, or just plain old great movie making, you should see this.

Finally, for 1970 Breihan chose The Chinese Boxer starring Jimmy Wang Yu. Before this he starred in classic, One-Armed Swordsman, its sequel, Golden Swallow, and several others. I'll have to see if I can get a copy. 

He says the movie is considered the first pure martial arts movie, focusing on hand-to-hand fighting and choreography.  I haven't seen this one in years and have almost no memory of it, but Wang is one of the martial arts movie greats. 

It should be fun to see what Breihan choose in the weeks to come. If you have an interest in action films, this should be a weekly stop for you.


  1. Sounds like I'm going to have to add Treece to my list of authors to eventually read.

  2. The three books I've read are uniformly great. Talking to Morgan Holmes on fb just spurred me to order the last two of Treece's adult novel I don't own, Jason and Oedipus.

  3. Great to see someone else reading Treece, he's one of my favourite novelists and much neglected these days. Fascinating individual too whose New Apocalypse ideas presaged some of those outlined by Kingsnorth et al. in their Dark Mountain manifesto.