The Mysteries Of The Court Of London
George W. M. Reynolds
Review by R.E. Prindle: Originally published on ERBzine
Now that I’ve completed reading all five thousand pages of the Mysteries Of The Court Of London let me say: What a mind blower! What an incredible work of art! What a masterful tour de force! What a powerful and amazing mind George Reynolds had to be able to develop, control and manage his major and minor themes, his hundreds of characters and myriad incidents from beginning to end. The opening and closing incidents united to form a circle like an Ouroboros biting its tail
This was a wonderful novel of Regency England, a period of which I’m fond anyway. Who could read the sporting novels of R.S. Surtees and not love the place? Thomas Love Peacock? How wonderful, not to mention Byron and Shelley, including Mary Shelley and her groundbreaking Frankenstein. Not overly concerned with being realistic Reynolds concerns himself with the two social classes of the aristocracy and the criminal element which he portrays as virtually interlinked. One of the more horrifying sequences was the manner in which the hangman, Daniel Coffin, insinuates himself into the bedroom of the aristocratic but dissolute Lady Ernestina Desalt, nee Cavendish, taking advantage of her when she passes out from fright.
Given five thousand pages and an equally large amount of talent and skill Reynolds is able to develop his characters to an astonishing degree so that they become virtual living entities. Thus while I cannot delineate the moral and physical degeneration of Coffin to the marvelous portrait that Reynolds develops nor the character of the reckless Ernestina Dysart, suffice it to say I was almost revolted at her rape by Coffin as she was when she awoke to be smirkingly so informed by Coffin.
Indeed, this is not a work for prudes. This is one long tale of one seduction, rape or forcible entry after another. Sex permeates the novel from beginning to end. While the story was written in the 1840s psychology appears to have been a topic of much interest to Reynolds and his contemporaries as they sought the wellsprings of human behavior. Perhaps this interest rubbed off on Burroughs.
Reynolds is as interested in sexual pathology as was Freud if not moreso.
Unlike France where the Libertine period I described in Part I of Someting Of Value ( http://www.somethingofvaluepti.wordpress.com ) was interrupted by the Revolution, in England with an unbroken royal tradition from Charles Charles II on Libertinism as an aristocratic prerogative evidently tailed off into the Victorian period as the attitude toward the ‘enjoyment’ of women as depicted by Reynolds was governed by Regency Libertine bucks.
In one memorable scene an obsessed aristocrat, the Marquis Of Leveson, perhaps patterned after the Marquis de Sade, literally attacks an entrapped ‘maiden’ sold to him by a procuress. Leveson had a concealed suite of rooms for just such purposes. One room was a gallery of pornographic images designed to inflame the passions of women. In the adjoining chamber Leveson had mechanical chairs which when sat on had clasps that secured one’s arms and pincers that secured the shoulders.
In this scene that was interupted by his ‘prudish’ nephew Leveson is seen tearing the clothes off a ‘maiden’ he had trapped in a mechanical chair. Her ‘glowing orbs’ were exposed. That was a scene very reminiscent of the Marqis de Sade who it is possible if not probable Reynolds read during his years in Paris, as he ran in some racy circles. Thus these two series are mildly pornographic.
The entire second series is named after its heroine Venetia Trelawney. Hers is an interesting story of the sexual proclivities of women. Reynolds is quite balanced in his notions of sex. Venetia was born and raised as Clara Stanley having lived her life cloistered in Canterbury, the cathedral city. For a reason not necessary to give here she finds it necessary to go to the metropolis. An innocent on the streets of London her funds are picked from her pocket. A kindly looking woman who, naturally, is a procuress offers her assistance taking Clara to her house of assignation with the intent to sell her to the Marquis of Leveson. Fortunately for Clara he isn’t at home so Mrs. Gale, the procuress, takes a different tack. Now, all this information is withheld from the reader until later so there are actually mysteries within mysteries. In the First Series the royal consort, Mrs. Fitzherbert, is displaced when Caroline of Brunswick arrives from Germany to be married to Prince George. Mrs Fitzherbert and another discarded favorite, Miss Bathhurst, regret their loss of influence at court developing a scheme to recover it ten years later.
This scheme is to prostitute a young woman as bait for the Regent, Prince George. It is their plan that George will fall for the woman, take her into Carlton House, his residence, where she will then through her sexual influence be able to award various favors to the relatives of Miss Bathhurst and Mrs. Fitzherbert restoring them to influence as it were. Got some realpolitik going here.
Clara, soon to be Venetia Trelawney, is a virgin who doesn’t want to appear a wanton so that in order in introduce her into Carlton House she needs a compliant husband who will not object to her being the mistress of the Regent. Not to worry. Miss Bathhurst’s nephew, Horace Sackville already insinuated as a favorite of the Prince is willing to fill the role.
Reynolds is actually probing fairly deeply into the varieties of sexual experience in a manner that should be familiar to Freudian notions of sex and the conscious and unconscious. In many ways Reynolds is more realistic, sophisticated and penetrating into the mysteries of sex than Freud.
To me the notions of such psychoanalysts as Freud and his epigone Wilhelm Reich are…well…simple minded and superficial, mere projections of their own desires not overly based in fact. Their opinion reflects the completely ingorant view of human nature held by the Liberal. Reich in his Sexual Revolution, the Liberal bible on the subject, says: ‘If one is not starving one has no impulse to steal and consequently does not need a morality which keeps him from stealing. The same basic law applies to sexuality: If one is sexually satisfied one has no impulse to rape and needs no morality against such an impulse.’
The same applies to prostitution, if a woman is well fed she has no need to sell her charms. All very plausible sounding in theory but running contrary to the facts.
Perhaps the key is the meaning of ’if one is sexually satisfied.’ We don’t know what is meant by sexual satisfaction. That’s a wide open term. Is sexually sated the same as sexual satisfaction? Reich doesn’t feel the need to consider that aspect. Indeed, he is probably incapable of doing so. He just makes the blanket assumption, that once one is ‘sexually satisfied’ rape and prostitution will disappear from the face of the earth. Today we know for a fact this isn’t true. Millionaires who are overfed steal and plunder for more millions, or even, billions. I don’t have to mention the plundering of the savings and loan industry which was certainly not done by the starving proletariat. The well fed proletariat of the United States also steals. Crime has increased rather than decreased as people are fed better. Nearly everyone steals, fed or not. Prostitutes continue to ply their trade for fabulous sums. Poverty has nothing to do with it.
Even with the primitive psychology of the 1840s Reynolds gives the proverbial two fingers to Freud and Reich.
Reynolds understands that rape and prostitution are means to gratify sexual needs and obtain satisfaction whether mere intercourse or not. Men of wealth and position like Prince George and the Marquis of Leveson had no reason to fear the law that they were above which Reynolds makes quite clear. Depending on what sexual satisfaction means, they were not only sexually satisfied but one would think so sated they would look elsewhere for amusement. According to Reynolds Libertines of this order lived their lives seeking female sexual experience at any cost.
As already described Leveson considered rape as a tool of the trade. This may seem rather fantastic but when he is unable to gain access to Venetia Trelawney any other way he tricks her by giving her a necklace with a hundred pearls on it that he will redeem at a thousand pounds a pearl. When the last is spent Venetia will have to surrender her charms to him. He then has a criminal associate induce her husband to follow a life of dissipation and gambling. Venetia redeems most of the pearls to pay the gambling debts he incurs. thus in the end Venetia is reduced to prostitute herself to Leveson for 100,000 pounds.
As a prostitute then Venetia is paid on a colossal scale. Not only have she and her husband been made a peer and a peeress with State pensions of thousands of pounds a year also living in splendor and comfort at Prince George’s Carlton House, but she is paid millions of dollars at today’s exchange rate for a couple hours of the use of her body by a man who is above the law.
Further as Reynolds makes clear the desires of the male are visited on the female, thus the Prince and his fellows employ pimps and procuresses to deliver women to them for their use. It will be remembered that Mrs. Gale’s first intent was to sell Venetia to Leveson.
So with the human traffic of today, which is to say, women. The women are not volunteering or trying to escape poverty but are seduced into prostitution where then they are kept by force strictly for the use of men who can and will pay. Like Leveson and the Prince of Reynolds’ story it is the men who provide the demand and the women who provide the supply whether willing or not. These are conscious business decisions on the part of the pimps that have little to do with the unconscious. Money is money. Upon close examination Freud’s theories begin to break down. A buffoon like Reich is too contemptible to even consider. I pity the Liberals who dig that ass.
As I read Reynolds then I was impressed by his examination of sexual psychology. At only 32 to 34 years of age he seems to have had an especially mature understanding of male and female sexuality.
Burroughs very likely read this novel between his years of 22 to 25, a guess on my part, when the book would have had a formative effect on him. Having read the story the content would have disappeared into his subconscious where the material would have been worked and reworked to form his ideas of sexuality as conditioned by his own morality which is to say his understanding of human relations. The novel may even have had a part in the formation of his dreams. We don’t know how sexually satisfied ERB was but we do know he wasn’t a rapist.
If one analyzes ERB’s female figures from the point of view of Reynolds and the Mysteries it is quite possible to see the influence of Venetia Trelawney, as a desirable woman, of the second series in such figures as Dejah Thoris and La of Opar. Even Thuvia may be based on other female characters of Reynolds.
The examination of sexual matters runs all through the Mysteries from beginning to end. Reynolds keeps up shenanigans like those I’ve described over five thousand pages. It is impossible in a review such as this to give more than a superficial account. There are so many good stories along these sexual lines woven, many times, through hundreds of page, novels in themselves, that it is quite wonderful. Each is of a different type involving fully delineated distinct characters. The story of the Duchess of Desborough and her husband of the first series is truly amazing stuff. If you’ve got the time for a five thousand page novel, then, boy, is this it.
As a historical novel the first series is about the profligacies of Prince George and the royal family of George III and that of the Regent George and Princess Caroline in the second series. Both contain elements of the relationship of George to Caroline of Brunswick. One of Reynolds’ conclusions seems to be that unbridled sexual lust is closely related to crime which is something Freud ignores. Possessed by his sexual desires George had secretly married Mrs. Fitzherbert some few years before the arrival of Caroline in 1795. Mrs. Fitzherbert is put out of the way in favor of Caroline in a psychologically brutal way. Ten years later then in 1814 when the second series begins this leads her to the prostitution of Venetia Trelawney in the attempt to regain her ability to take care of friends and relations by putting them on the State dole.
Thus Miss Bathhurst and Mrs. Fitzherbert, two of George’s former mistresses, one an actual wife still married to her, become procuresses for his pleasures while Miss Batthurst makes a pander of her nephew. Reynolds takes real pleasure in retailing these details that smear the members of high life.
In the second series the major concern is George’s attempt to sexually discredit Caroline as a libertine. He had her put away from him. In the novel she is living a chaste life in Geneva. Thus plans are put into execution to make it appear that she is living a sexually abandoned life.
In a real life amusing reply to queries as to her sexual activities she replied that she had only had bigamous relations with one man and that man was her husband. A pointed reference to Mrs. Fitzherbert who had never been divorced from George. As you can see this is good stuff.
One could go on but let me provide only one more example of Reynolds’ genius. Among the many mysteries are the two central ones introduced in the first few pages and concluded in the last few. God, what skill.
Even here it is impossible to give enough details to give any of the real flavor of the novel. Suffice it to say that George in his pursuit of the Real Thing is discovered by a too curious onlooker when George has set up a rendezvous in a remote country inn. In attempting to escape discovery he seeks refuge in a house. The father is away but the two beauteous daughters are at home. Under the guise of Mr. Harley George seduces the elder daughter Octavia who he impregnates. As this occurs about the time of the arrival of Caroline he is forced to brutally abandon Octavia which in turn drives her insane.
In the course of things her sister Pauline nurses her back to health. Pauline marries a Lord Florimel and an Arthur Eaton takes Octavia and her daughter by George. Eaton and Octavia die so the Florimels rear the daughter named Florence who is unaware that the Regent is her father.
On this same night that George meets Octavia the Princess Sophia, George’s sister, who has become impregnated out of wedlock is on her way to deliver her baby when her carriage crashes in front of Pauline and Octavia’s house. George rushes to help but on opening the carriage door discovering his sister he flees the scene rather than be recognized by her.
The young girls fetch a doctor who delivers the baby. Unwilling to keep the baby herself Sophia implores the doctor who agrees to take the baby and bring it up. Of course we don’t learn this is the Princess Sophia until very late in the work. All of this becomes part of the mysteries of the court hence the title.
Now, a month or so later the doctor antagonizes the Monster Man mentioned in the first series by refusing to minister to his wife who dies on the doctor’s doorstep. Thinking that Sophia’s child is the doctor’s son the Monster Man steals the baby in revenge to be raised as a depraved criminal.
Two-thirds of the way through the second series, subtitled Venetia Trelawney, Sophia has a longing to see her son. She appeals to George to put the Bow Street officer, Larry Sampson, on the job of locating him. George agrees but as he conceives a desire to see his daughter by Octavia he makes it a condition that Sophia is to bring Florence to the palace so he can see her. At this time of his life he realizes what a treasure he had foregone in Octavia.
Once again these sexual misdemeanors result in horrendous crimes as indeed, given the passions of men and women, they must.
Over the course of the story George’s activities have brought him into contact with the repulsive Moriarty of his time, the executioner, Daniel Coffin. The contest between Larry Sampson and Daniel Coffin is quite reminiscent of that between Holmes and Moriarty. As it would happen Larry Sampson traces Doctor Thornton’s lost charge to the barbershop front of Coffin, his occupation when he isn’t hanging, where he has been raised along with the two children of the Monster Man. The hangman who is tormenting Lady Ernestina Dysart to destruction has an appointment ot meet her in an alcove on London Bridge. George works it out so that Coffin has the take take her child’s place so Sophia can walk by him in disguise to view him. However Ernestina has decided she has had enough. She plans to murder Coffin on this occasion. Mistaking the boy for Coffin she plunges her dagger into the boy’s breast. He recovers but an illicit sexual liaison some eleven years before results in a horrendous series of crimes resulting in the deaths of Ernestina and the Marquis of Leveson when Coffin seeking revenge for Ernestina’s attempt on his life burns Leveson’s mansion to the ground.
The boy, who recovers, is sent to Jamaica with good employment but soon resumes a criminal career returning to London where at story’s end he still is boasting of the Princess Sophia as his mother.
George’s daughter Florence in the meantime has met Valentine Malvern whose father…but we don’t want to get into that…Ernestina again…and they are engaged to be married. As a condition she sets Valentine to discover who her father is as she suspects George. Her encounter with George at the palace had unsettled her mind. Valentine dutifully discovers that George is her father which he tells her.
Reynolds wants to end his story with a truly dastardly act of George. Venetia and her husband have a change of heart retiring from the high life of the court. Venetia was the liveliest and most entertaining of women so George misses her sorely. She must have been a more slender version of Mae West. With Venetia’s leaving George’s salt has lost its savor.
He accordingly calls the procuress Mrs. Gale to find him another woman like Venetia. He wants a sweet innocent who will not give in easily. Mrs. Gale recruits a Lady Lechmere to assist her. They settle on a young lady to kidnap who is, you guessed it, George’s daughter Florence.
Once kidnapped Florence is in a quandary as to the purpose. Her fist thought is that she has been committed to an insane asylum because she had been acting moody. From a few words let drop by her abductresses she figures out that George is involved. Not guessing the actual purpose for which she has been abducted she thinks that George wishes to introduce her to court life. She prefers the retired life.
Entering the library and discovering George as she feared she screams out No, No and begins to run. George had had no premonition that the girl chosen was his daughter Florence. He misunderstands her reason for running chasing after her to explain.
The building was an old farmhouse. After the style of the old days the year’s produce had been hoisted into an attic through a door. Long in disuse the loft door had not been opened for years and years. George chases Florence through the house into the attic. Florence opens the loft door precipitating herself into the nothingness. Dancing madly backward on a sea of air she plummets to the ground killing herself. In a picturesque touch Reynolds has her fall into a bed of flowers so this flower of a girl dies amidst the blooms.
Thus as a result of his illicit sexual escapades George is the cause of his beloved daughter’s death. Sex and crime go together or so seems to be the moral of George William MacArthur Reynolds and he takes five thousand pages to tell it.
Let me mention another interesting detail. All the body snatching in the story may have had an ifluence on the character of God in Lion Man but that isn’t the detail I was going to mention. The detail I wanted to include was that when Reynolds is telling his story of Caroline in Geneva a scene takes place at a Doctor Marivelli’s who amongst a number of shady pastimes such as providing a residence for unwed mothers during their pregnancies and buying cadavers for medical research also sells body parts to research centers.
One of Marivelli’s sidelines was providing heads for study by phrenologists. Thus he has a room lined with pickled shaved heads with the areas of mental activities drawn on the shaved skulls. That got a little laugh from me. Franz Gall rides again. The detail does demonstrate Reynolds’ interest in psychology.
Thus Reynolds concludes his enormous novel with one last sexual crime of Prince George soon to be George IV. As we know the Revolution of ’48 failed in England.
One knows that Burroughs was profoundly affected by the story as what reader wouldn’t be? It will take some detailed examination to discover how the impressions expressed themselves. I have already mentioned some of the more obvious examples but as ERB consciously mused over the story while other impressions roiled away in his subconscious perhaps having a moiety in shaping his dreams as he constellated other fixations around the details of Reynold’s story the amazing tale did shape the manner in which ERB told his stories.
The Mysteries Of The Court Of London
George W.M. Reynolds
Review by R.E. Prindle: First published in ERBzine
Collecting is a peculiar form of insanity.
I had it in boyhood,
Stamps, coins and postmarks.
E.R. Burroughs- Creator Of Tarzan Speaks
LA Times, Jan. 7, 1923
Stamps, coins and postmarks. Looks like the bug had a pretty firm grip on Our Man In Tarzana. As one of the afflicted I have to agree with ERB. Collecting is a form of insanity. I think it even possible to depict collecting as a disease on the same order as alcoholism, kleptomania or obesity. Definitely a personality disorder. It’s about time we had medical recognition and federal finanicial assistance. Our problem wouldn’t get any better but we’d have more money to indulge it. Why send all that money overseas when it could be better spent at home?
I don’t know if I have ever been ashamed of the affliction but I have certainly been embarrassed by it. ERB is being slightly disingenuous when he modestly says he had it in boyhood. How did he cure himself? Endless hours of analysis or did he take the twelve point program of Collector’s Anonymous. Perhaps there’s a pill of which I’m unaware. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? I know how he felt. I conquered my mania too. There are all kinds of things I no longer collect. But…my library does keep growing. I might as well confess it all; I’ve got that under control too. I no longer just buy books to be buying books; I only buy books for functional purposes now. Of course my mind has a very broad definition of functional. My most recent purchase was George W.M. Reynolds’ Mysteries Of The Court Of London. What a buy! One title but it comes in ten volumes. Another two feet of nonexistent shelf space eaten up. Did I like the book? Oh yeah! What an unexpected bonus.
The title was found in Burroughs’ library so I wasn’t too surprised that I like it. I’ve found that Burroughs has impeccable literary taste. I’m pretty broad on literary too. Of course that it is in the library is why I obtained the set myself. I really like the picture of Burroughs- the man who conquered the collecting mania- sitting at his desk in front of a massive array of compeletely filled bookshelves. One more won’t hurt as the alcoholic said. Yeah, sure, ERB used to suffer from that peculiar form of insanity. He tries to dignify his book collecting by saying he no longer reads fiction. He only read fiction as a kid. Cured himself of fiction at the same time as collecting, I suppose. Ah, the ‘sins’ of our youth.
Does he really think buying non-fiction rather than fiction means he’s not collecting? Listen to ERB in his own words trying to justify and dignify his book collecting. LA Times 1/7/23:
And then there are magazines such as the Geographic, Asia and Popular Mechanics. These three constitute an encyclopedia of liberal education for adult or child that arouses a desire for more knowledge and fosters the habit of reading.
‘Arouses a desire for more…’ I get it. Yes, ERB does collect but there’s a good reason for it as well as the real reason. He’s improving his mind. I know where that excuse is at and it beats drinking. You can bet the old boy was lugging several hundreds of pounds of magazines as he moved fifty times in fifty years or thereabouts. Geographics are heavy in more ways than one.
You see he was getting a liberal education. He was reading high tone stuff (haut ton in French) like the National Geographic (spoken of familiarly as the Geographic), Asia, (nice touch, shows breadth of interest), and Popular Mechanics (proletarian touch). The trio of magazines pretty well reflects the contents of his own novels. Well, what about fiction?
I am fond of fiction, too, although I don’t read a great deal of it.
And I have my favorites. Mary Roberts Rhinehart and Booth Tarkington are two of them. When I read one of Mrs. Rhinehart’s stories I always wish I had been sufficiently gifted to have written it, and then when I read somethingof Tarkington’s I feel the same way about that. I have read “The Virginian” five or six times [this is within twenty years] and “The Prince And The Pauper” (N.B.) and “Little Lord Fauntleroy” as many.
Gee. That’s all literary fiction; how about the guys he really liked: Baum, London, Haggard, Doyle, Sue and Reynolds for instance. Too close to pulp, not enough dignity to mention in a Times article. The amount of fiction he read from 1920 to 1924 was fairly impressive.
My studies have compelled me to read a lot of fiction in the attempt to understand ERB and let me say this, the man had unerring taste in exciting fiction. The Mysteries Of The Court Of London is one heart pounding book. No one would ever confuse it with the National Geographic, Asia or Popular Mechanics though.
Reynolds could ramble on too. The work is composed of two series of five volumes, each series twenty-five hundred pages long. the internal evidence in Burroughs’ work is that he read it before 1910. There are at least three clear references to the First Series: the house on the Thames that Norman and De Vac lived in was based on the mid-wife’s house in Reynolds. The segment of the Mysteries concerning the Monster Man contributed a great deal to ERB’s Monster Men, while the abduction of the baby by the Monster Man lent itself to Baby Jack’s abduction in The Beasts Of Tarzan. Burroughs’ vision of London, which he never saw, is probably drawn from Reynolds although various other British authurs such as Doyle would also have been influences.
The series of novels would have been only fifty years old when Buroughs read it, so he was fairly close to the times if seven thousand miles or so from location.
I couldn’t find a Reynolds Society on the internet although the books are not that easy to find nor all that cheap. I bought the only complete set offered, otherwise it would have been impossible to assemble a complete set from the partial list offered. Reynolds must therefore be in demand by the cognoscenti.
George Reynolds was born in 1914, two years after Dickens, being 32-35 years old when he wrote this huge wook. To write such an extended novel requires a capacious and inventive mind. The novel comprises hundreds of characters and thousands of incidents each individual in its depiction. That Reynolds should have had the experience and the ability to organize it as the novel indicates at such a young age is nothing short of amazing.
Politically Reynolds was a Red. He was affiliated with a political organization known as Chartism. As the novel was written in magazine installments to coincide with the Revolution of 1848 the appearance is that Reynolds’ intent was to irritate the people into open rebellion. If so, he failed. He was opposed to the monarchy and called for its abolition. The work is a diatribe against George III and George IV. Reynolds’ hatred of the pair actually disfigures the novel. He compares George III to Caligula and Nero but fails to show in what way the monarch resembled either Roman. As Reynolds was born in 1814 while George IV died in 1830 and the events covered are in 1798 and 1814 he couldn’t have been a witness of the times.
In his lifetime Reynolds was more popular than Dickens. Perhaps the topicality of this novel precluded the success Dicken has subsequently enjoyed. The comparison would be that between Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. While the novel was reprinted in limited editions to at least 1912 there is currently no full reprint available.
I find the novel compelling; to use the old cliche, the novel is a page turner volume after volume, thousand pages after thousand pages. The work is masterfully planned, events in the first dozen pages are worked out fifteen hundred pages or more later. Indeed the central mystery is concluded at the end of the work five thousand pages on. The detail and variety never tire. the mystery and detective elements preshadow Doyle and the entire twentieth century. Police personnel turn over on a regular basis, everything is always fresh and sparkling. Scenes and characters are vividly drawn.
Altough Burroughs drew the line at modern sex novels, Mysteries is a sex novel par excellence. The entire novel is drawn against the sexual escapades of the characters. If you like mildly smutty novels this one is for you. The influence of the novel on Burroughs may be most pronounced in this respect. Reynolds goes into detailed studie of male-female relations. Each volume of the first series is subtitled after a heroine. Thus the action depends on the harassment of worthy females by, well, lecherous unprinicpled men. The worst of the lot and the character who holds the novel together is Prince George the future Regent and King.
Reynolds’ men stop at nothing when they come across a desirable female; abduction, threats, force, in a word, rape is their stock in trade. They are aided by procuresses who run establishments, in the most respectable shipping districts that double as brothels.
While Reynolds is not as graphic in his sex scenes as writers are today his descriptions of capacious bosoms is tantalizing enough. His ladies must have had strange diets because he speaks of ‘glowing orbs.’ Quite tactile in his way. Frazetta would have had a field day illustrating Mysteries. Reynolds’ descriptions reminded me of nothing so much as Frazetta’s women. Frazetta’s own voluptuous but virtuous portrayals were based on Burroughs descriptions so I would have to think Burroughs’ imagination was fired by this endless procession of stunningly voluptuous beauties.
Then too, the frequent abductions and threatsof ‘fates worse than death’ by the villains in Burroughs’ work exhale the aroma of Mysteries.
Reyonld’s use of darkness and labyrinthine passages, locked doors and whatnot seem to be reflected in Burroughs’ work. One most appealing trait of Reynolds that ERB must have enjoyed was the former’s use of slang and thieves cant. Burroughs also delights in underwold slang and various dialects.
This immense work can be considered a very early roman a fleuve not unlike some of Dumas’ work, that Burroughs also read, or even as a prototype of Marcel Proust’s. I believe Burroughs saw it that way. Seen that way Burroughs created four roman a fleuves influenced by Reynolds’ Mysteries. Tarzan, the Mars series, Pellucidar and the Venus series.
The Russian Quartet of Tarzan may be based directly on Mysteries from the nautical scenes to London and Paris. Indeed, the Quartet may be considered a separate roman a fleuve within the Tarzan oeuvre. His portrayals of London and Paris show Reynolds’ influence.
Just as Reynolds’ volumes in this novel portray a series of adventures cut off after about five hindred pages then resumed in the next volume, Tarzan’s adventures beginning with the Jewels Of Opar display the same characteristic. After the Russian Quartet Tarzan is just one long novel or roman a fleuve.
The Venus series is just a long story broken up into five volumes. It could just as easily be bound in one volume with consecutive pagination and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
The John Carter on Mars series exhibits the same traits although less clearly. Pellucidar in nearer in concept to the Venus series. So all the series show an endless series of barely connected adventures held together by a common cast of characters with the stories going nowhere. They just end. Princess of Mars is the most obvious case. Mars just runs out of air like a flat tire which might mean that Burroughs just didn’t have an ending or that he had temporarily run out of ideas and had to recharge.
While Burroughs is charged with using coincidence to excess, once again he may have just been emulating Reynolds. The latter is shameless in his use of coincidence. At one point while visiting a dangerous villain in a lawless area Reynolds’ detective, Larry Sampson, needs a disguise. A disguise store is very conveniently located just across the street. The owner is in cahoots with Sampson even though doubling as a criminal. He provides Sampson with a disguise and the story continues. Is it any wonder that two or three shipwrecks occur on the same stretch of coast on which Tarzan’s parents landed? Burroughs learned the use of improbable coincidence from a master.
So in addition to borrowing specific incidents from Reynolds Burroughs also borrowed the basic plan. Combining Mysteries Of The Court Of London and Eugene Sue’s Mysteries Of Paris one gets down to the bedrock of Burroughs’ influences. but the man’s ability to absorb influences and incorporate them into his work from the beginning indicates that the man was a real book worm reading a lot of fiction. As we know he was also an athlete the man must never have had an idle moment.
Part II follows.
March 13, 2010
Mourning Becomes Yoko
The Passing Of John Lennon
This magic moment
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until there was you.
To understand the sixties one has to go back in time to the foundation of Astrology. In Time beyond Ancient, Astrology and Astronomy were one. The very old gods and the sky were one. It was only when science, a more clear understanding of ‘creation’, if you will, removed the sky from the gods’ purview that Astronomy and Astrology separated. Astrology in those days had meaning that is not apparent today when the sky is just part of our natural surroundings.
The Zodiac was divided into twelve periods of roughly 2000 years each which formed the Great Year. The periods were called Ages with each Age having its own avatars. The avatars of the current Piscean Age have been Jesus the Christ for the first thousand years, and for the succeeding thousand years Artemis or Diana in northern Europe and Mother Mary to the south. Sometime within a few hundred years near the end of an Age a new avatar begins to form.
The first intimation of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius that I am aware of occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century. While not the first, the chief proponent seems to have been Edgar Rice Burroughs and his creation, Tarzan The Ape Man. Not one to
be dogmatic Burroughs left his intent open only to, dare I use the word again, the initiated.
Tarzan is timeless, he represents the past, being associated with the Atlanteans and the range of evolution, the present and, as the exemplar of the perfect man, the future. While rejecting organized religion Burroughs also rejected the Piscean avatar, Jesus The Christ in favor of the coming man-god. Thus the coming man-god must be a projection of the Aquarian avatar. Tarzan, a magnificent specimen is both physically and mentally the perfect man and hence representative of the future Aquarian man-god. Do not confuse the movie Tarzan with the literary creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The longing then for a new messiah had been developing for half a century, at least, when circumstances came together for the appearance of a new avatar pointing toward the Age of Aquarius. This manifestation appeared on the stage of Ed Sullivan, in of all places, New York City. It was the Tupelo Mississippi Flash himself, Elvis Presley. In that brief magic moment on Sullivan’s stage he revealed himself and was recognized by his people.
Interestingly the appearance on 10/9 coincided with the birthday of John Lennon.
In that moment Presley’s future was cast. Whether the old order recognized who he was they knew how he was perceived and made every effort to slander, denigrate and destroy him short of actual murder. All to no avail. They might have been able to kill him, murder him, but he was inviolable to any defamation. It made no difference that they ridiculed him in a couple dozen fatuous films, he was the man-god. People endured his humiliations with bowed heads and resentful miens.
From him succeeding generations have taken their guidance. The first awe struck generation took the stage in direct emulation of him. While many had better songs (Gene Vincen’ts Be-Bop-A-Lula) none of the generation were anointed thereby developing a devoted following in the magnitude of Presley.
Elvis was not the last word but the first in what will be a procession. While the American Pharisees persecuted and scattered the faithful a new, younger generation was growing up in Elvis’ shadow. Their epiphany, that Magic Moment, would take place on the same Ed Sullivan stage in that same strange city of destiny, NYC, nine years later.
The gestation of this second manifestation of the godhead would take place in Liverpool, England. Inspired by Elvis Presley four young men of the second manifestation would be filtered through the persona of a young Scottish musician named Lonnie Donegan
When the settlers from the British Isles settled America they brought their musical traditions with them, most prominently to the Southern tier of States. Thus both the White and Black musical traditions of America stem from essentially the Celtic peoples. In the mid-fifties Donegan brought this music in the form of American Folk back to England in a form he named Skiffle Music. It swept England and its youth up being combined with Presley. Donegan added a ferocious beat to the music that evolved into the form termed the Big Beat. Thus the British musicians were schooled in American music as it had evolved from their own.
Now, the Magic Moment requires the man who has been prepared for the moment. If all goes right he is equal to his destiny, if not the moment fails.
While Presley was the man, the second avatar would be four men seemingly acting as one. The four men seemed to represent four archetypal personalities as in the four faces of the godhead. Those of us who didn’t ‘get’ them, of which I was one, were mystified by their apotheosis.
Just as Elvis had his unique preparation so did this fabulous foursome. Raised as four ordinary kids from varying levels of poverty and varying psychological backgrounds they were united by the music of Presley and Donegan.
They began a grueling and astonishing apprenticeship in the red light district of Hamburg, Germany. Unable to speak German they were thus compelled to rely on each other for companionship which created a unique bond. They were required to be on stage for up to twelve hours at a stretch for weeks at a time thus honing their musical skills apparently to perfection.
Thus the four aspects of humanity, one might say, were placed in a unique situation creating a unique combination of personalities seemingly as one. In those circumstances they were forced to be able to communicate instantly with their audience night after night. Valuable training.
Returning to Liverpool with their abilities seemingly uniquely developed they were adrift with no direction home and no other future than earning their livelihoods as best they might. But then, as by a miracle, a man appeared with no managerial experience who said he could take them to the top. Amazingly he got them launched. Even more astonishing they were assigned to perhaps the only record producer in the world who could bring out their unique talents. Thus this Fab Foursome took their home British Isles by storm succeeding as no other had succeeded before them but their Magic Moment, that lunge for the Golden Ring had not yet arrived.
The Magic Moment was awaiting them in NYC. A big jetliner brought the foursome to America’s shores in January of 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan show where they were to stand in Elvis’ footsteps so to speak. The difference in presentation between the two is interesting. With Elvis, he and his backing duo were standing in front of the drawn curtains on the edge of the stage, no set, his two band members were huddled behind him while the guitar player is turned sideways not even facing the audience. Presley is directly in front of them cavorting on a minuscule part of the stage. Mort Sahl would do his standup routine a few years later in the same manner with a newspaper as a prop.
In contrast the Beatles were given an open stage with decor behind them while the group was spaced dramatically and attractively. A very positive image which from long experience they knew how to take advantage of . But the appearance on the Sullivan stage merely confirmed their Magic Moment placing it indelibly in the American psyche.
The actual Magic Moment occurred when the Beatles announced themselves on the tarmac. Gods descending from the skies. For
whatever reason there were thousands of screaming girls awaiting them and a battery of newsmen and photographers. Some say the girls were bussed in, it isn’t unlikely that the astute promotion men of Capitol had a hand in the arrangements, but on the receiving end of the tube it looked genuine. Mystifying but genuine.
Posed a bunch of questions by the news cameras all four Beatles fielded them with aplomb, the cheekiest and most confident acting was John Lennon himself. All four personalities established themselves at that time as one- the Beatles. In that little flash of time the role of the Beatles was established for all time.
While each individual Beatle was adored for the face of mankind he presented each had only an identity as an aspect of the Beatles. When they split they became merely humans rising or falling based solely on the musical merits. Of the four, Lennon adopted the messianic mantle, was accorded it, and took it when he left. In one sense the Magic Moment had been his.
There would be argument about when the Beatles began to break up over the years but the when was coincidental with their annunciation. John Lennon was the weak link in the chain. Having now won what he had been struggling for for so long John Lennon discovered he wasn’t worthy. Incredibly he wrote, and the Beatles recorded his song, ‘I’m A Loser.’ He was a loser, not the winner he appeared. Now conflicted he tried to both accept and reject the role of ‘messiah.’ He was well on his way to losing the role two short years later in 1966.
The course of his career was affected by two people, Bob Dylan in 1964 and Yoko Ono in 1966. Historical ifs are difficult. It seems impossible that Bob Dylan’s career would have been possible without the overwhelming success of the Beatles. Dylan lacked commercial appeal then as he does now. He appealed to a minority audience- as opposed to the majority audience of the Beatles. Dylan lacked universal appeal then as he does now.
While the Beatles were one as a group they were two as the songwriting team of Lennon-McCartney. Since 1962 they had been turning out a steady stream of million sellers both for their own use and that of others. They were catchy tunes in the Tin Pan Alley manner that could be sung and whistled but very introspective at the same time. Dylan on the other hand wrote tortured introspective lyrics that resisted anything close to whistling or a Mitch Miller singalong.
Dylan considered his stuff amazingly thoughtful and profound. He apparently put himself in the same class as Elliot and Pound. He fooled most of his audience for a long time too. The Beatles for whatever reason became the top news story of the day; for months they either were, or seemed to be, on the news every night. Seriously, one had to ask: What’s Going On?
Just as mysteriously Dylan began getting the same treatment. Now, the Beatles were selling unprecedented millions of records on both sides of the Atlantic, at one time occupying the top five spots of the Top 10. Dylan was doing diddly squat with his tortured lyrics. He wasn’t selling records in any quantities while having essentially a cult following. Now, mysteriously he began to be given the same treatment as the Beatles. Time Magazine sent a reporter to interview him on camera. Dylan imitated the Beatles by giving smart ass answers. The Time reporter took his jibes seriously. Sitting out in front of the tube my eyebrows shot up. What is this? The rest of the world went wild in their applause of the Beatle’s and Dylan’s cheekiness. God, they were giving the finger to the Greatest Generation. The latter may have crushed Elvis but these boys were getting their own back.
Maybe Dylan got the attention because he was the only American act available, to balance the relative status of Britain and the US. Perhaps in the emerging racial politics of the time he was offered as Jewish competition to the great goy champions of Elvis and the Beatles. He entered the Beatles’ life in August of ’64 when the Jewish journalist Al Aronowitz took it upon himself to introduce him to the four-in-one. The meeting was more momentous for the Beatles than Dylan.
The story goes that Dylan introduced the boys to marijuana at that meeting. More importantly he lectured Lennon-McCartney on songwriting. Dylan told them in effect that they should stop writing hit songs and write the pretentious crap he did. Now, consider, the Beatles were incredibly successful at what they wrote, Dylan couldn’t do what they did and what he did do couldn’t compete in the marketplace with the Beatles. I mean, they should have been lecturing him, but they didn’t while accepting his viewpoint at the same time. They listened to the little twerp and fell under his infuence to begin trying to imitate him.
The imitation was not very good but as the current avatar of the messiah the Beatles were industructible, as the leader, for whatever reason, John Lennon was accorded the role of messianic leader, a role that he took quite seriously.
While the Beatles had always used various pill forms of speed or amphetamines after Dylan’s introduction to pot they quickly expanded their repertoire to include Acid or LSD. The other three seem not to have been so conflicted in their personalities not becoming as drug dependent as Lennon. He claims perhaps with exaggeration, perhaps not, to have taken LSD thousands of times in the next few years. Under the influence of LSD his personality already distressed by the transition from failure to success disintegrated completely. As he says, he lost his ego totally.
If so, adrift, he was open to a strongly directed personality to manage his. This personality appeared in 1966 in the person of Yoko Ono. She quickly commandeered his personality displacing his British wife, Cynthia. It would be two years before Lennon divorced Cynthia but he left her a year earlier.
Since signing with Brian Epstein as their manager the Beatles had had an ideal artists arrangement. Trusting him they left the business details to him which allowed them full time to devote to their creative efforts. If they needed money they asked for it while all business details such as negotiations, titles and even check writing were handled by Epstein so that the Beatles had no worldly business experience. In 1967 Epstein died.
With Brian gone the Beatles were left rudderless with no one they could trust to manage their corporate and personal finances. Forming Apple as their business alter ego they attempted to manage their affairs themselves resulting in a business regime of such dissolute ineptitude that it has been referred to as The Longest Weekend.
Having attached herself to Lennon, Yoko Ono now tried to insinuate herself into the group as the ego of John Lennon. Thus the group would have been comprised of McCartney, Harrison, Starr and Lennon-Ono. A clear impossibility, the Beatles would be dissolved. As the avatar of the sixties the era had no choice but to disappear along with them.
This was now the late sixties. The world as it had been , the world that gave birth to the Beatles c. 1960 had all but disappeared. Blown away in the wind, so to speak. Just as the sixties called for the Beatles as the messiah of the period so it called forth its anti-messiah of satanism. In 1966 Time Magazine’s cover story was Is God Dead? A title that offended Bob Dylan who petulantly asked: How would you like to be talked about like that? Right.
In 1966 Roman Polansky began filming a movie titled Rosemary’s Baby that actually portrayed the birth of Satan’s child. The story took place in the future home of the Onos- The Dakota Apartments. And then the Rolling Stones released their rather bizarre record, Their Satanic Majesty’s Request with its famous song Sympathy For The Devil. Right about then the Broadway musical Hair was staged that celebrated the Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius. Synchronicity? Not a bit.
As the messiahs had abdicated it remained for the anti-messiahs the Rolling Stones to place the epitaph on the period which they did in 1969 at Altamont.
However John Lennon as the messianic figurehead was rescued by Yoko Ono. As an unsuccessful performance artist now with Lennon’s audience and financial clout to realize her wildest fantasies she, using Lennon, organized some of the most outrageous extravaganzas that catapulted she and Lennon onto the world stage playing messianic figures. The Bed-In was the most jaw dropping stunt since flag p0le sitting.
Part III will consist of the career of the Ono-Lennon’s to John Lennon’s death in 1980 and perhaps a little beyond. There’s some really interesting stuff involving John Green and a possible associate, Sam Green. The latter is an interesting story.
March 1, 2010
Mourning Becomes Yoko: Part I
The Passing Of John Lennon:
Goldman, Albert: The Lives Of John Lennon, Chicago Review Press, 1988
Green, John: Dakota Days, St. Martin’s, 1983
Norman, Philip: John Lennon, Ecco, 2008
Pang, May: Loving John
Seaman, Frederic: The Last Days Of John Lennon, 1991
Warhol, Andy: POPism: Harcourt, Brace, 1980
Numerous internet sites of the many thousands, most of which I haven’t investigated, concerning principal and minor characters of which Warholstars is most prominent.
There were many changes that ushered in the sixties, changes that made the sixties possible. Not least of these was the introduction of the commercial jet fleet. Gone were the much smaller, less comfortable propeller planes, slow and relatively uncomfortable with limited range. The Boeing 707s, DC 8s, mammoth in their time quickly evolved into the flying cities of the 747s and DC10s. With the big jets came the envy of the sixties, The Jet Set. Golden people off to the capitols of Europe so stunningly portrayed in Hollywood movies and travel posters. One can’t imagine the effect of travel posters today but then they created unfulfillable desires.
With ease not only were the capitols of Europe within spitting distance but also the exotic cities of the East- Tokyo.
The entertainment industry was about to spike as technology revolutionized the recording studio as well as the stage. Guitar amps as the sixties began were small, portable units. Amplifiers rapidly grew in size. Massive arrays of Marshalls rose behind the first of the heavy metal bands, Blue Cheer, like a low mountain towering above the group. Greatful Dead took the stage in front of tens of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment. Four guys could sound like Krakatoa on that fateful day.
In those far off sunny days when our world began the old world crumbled before the onsllught of bold intrepid pioneers, and behind them came the leeches and parasites.
The sixties started slowly almost imperceptibly changing until the Beatles stepped off one of those big jetliners in 1964. Seemingly innocuous, their arrival was to change the whole paradigm. Through the fifties and early sixties, before the Jet Set, was the Avant Garde, those bold experimenters moving in advance, well to the fore, of the dull plodding Middletown Babbitry and those mental habits the hip, the aware, the Avant Garde despised. There were still such things as modern art, experimental novels, cutting edge jazz. They were all swept away in ’64 when the Beatles led the British Invasion. All of a sudden the Avant Garde was turned inside out as Pop took possession of the field.
The first intimations of change took place in Art. As the 50s ended the dominant art form was Abstract Expressionism. From those ranks rose what would be known as POPart. Roy Lichtenstein with his comic book panels, Jasper Johns with his flags, Robert Rauschenberg with his messy effort and, of course, Andy Warhol and his soup cans. Interestingly they were all homosexuals. With the exception of Warhol they were all discreet, in the closet, Warhol was a man with an agenda, he wanted to legitimize himself and
whatever he liked or did. He was an advocate.
One of the big changes of the sixties was the rise of the cult of the homosexual. Let Leroi Jones as a Negro spokesman rail against the cult as he might he was powerless to resist its course. Homosexuality was then illegal all over America until the great homosexual revolt at Manhattan’s Stonewall Bar in 1969 as the decade drew to a close. Homosexuals were aggressively out of the closet roaring for revenge. One item on Warhol’s agenda in fact.
Warhol began his fine art career about 1960. By 1964 when the Beatles deplaned he had completed another item on his agenda, the destruction of fine art. Thus, although few of us realized it at that time POPism was overtaking Euroamerica like a tidal wave lifting the level of the sea.
The Beatles would of course be the core, the heart of the sixties. They defined the sixties and gave the decade its form. While they were busy conquering the world a little Japanese woman who desperately wished to incarnate and represent the Avant Garde was beginning her career on the Lower East Side as a ‘performance’ artist. Zany beyond description was Yoko Ono. By 1967 she will have entrapped the leader of the free musical world and the Beatles, John Lennon. Together they will dominate what became of the Avant Garde until Lennon’s passing in 1980.
A description of Yoko to begin. A Spider Woman, a self professed witch, a psychotic obsessive-compulsive who was driven and completely organized to realize her goals. She however lacked the talent to realize those goals. As she searched for a way the seemingly unrelated success of the Beatles fortuitously occurred.
The success of the Beatles was uprecedented. Once their success had been achieved then the parasites and exploiters moved in to get whatever they could steal. While the Beatles were revered for their success one member, John Lennon, was selected to fill the almost messianic needs of the sixties.
Needless to say succes on the order of the Beatles who were after all of lower middle class origins with no preparation for dealing with success of the magnitude they achieved were completely overwhelmed while nevertheless comporting themselves creditably. Still, as Paul McCartney’s song Fool On The Hill demonstrates their heads were swimming. John Lennon even issued a musical plea in his song Help! which was a forthright request for guidance for whoever might recognize it while being able to fill his need.
As it was, this young Japanese avant garde artist, Yoko Ono, understood the plea and acted on it. John Lennon was tailor made to fulfill her own needs and ambitions.
Yoko Ono was born in Japan in 1933 as the Japanese were initiating their plan to impose the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere on the whole of the East from India through China to Japan. In 1942 when she was ten the Japanese made their move to annex the oil reserves of Indonesia, bombing Pearl Harbor at the same time in the attempt to secure their ocean perimeter. The invasion did not come off as planned so a short three years later in 1945 the B-29s unloaded their incendiary devices over the capitol city of Tokyo where Yoko Ono’s family lived.
Now thirteen she was aware of what was happening. Moved to the country outside Tokyo Yoko Ono witnessed the massive clouds of smoke obscurring the blue sky, one presumes, for hundreds of square miles. Within a few days Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been wholly obliterated by atomic bombs. Yoko imagined the blue sky over those two cities obscured as was the sky of Tokyo. This made an indelible impression on her mind causing a psychological disturbance. She would be haunted by the memory. Thus having appropriated John Lennon in the late sixties she and he created the Plastic Ono Band whose LP was a picture of a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. After 1973 she had her office in the Dakota painted in replica of the cover. Thus she would always have a blue sky above her.
Even though the Japanese had attacked the United States first in this instance, not without provocation to my mind, thereby acquiring guilt for beginning the war there can be little doubt that Yoko blamed the West for Japan’s shame.
While Yoko experienced some discomfort after the bombing of Tokyo, as her father was a banking executive with experience in dealing with Westerners, she shortly after the war moved to the US where she lived in luxurious circumstances eventually attending Sarah Lawrence College from 1957 to 1960 but leaving without a degree.
As of 1960 Yoko Ono had experienced little of the hardships caused by the Wars in Europe and Asia. Indeed, as Philip Norman points out John Lennon’s England suffered greater hardship from 1945 to the sixties. Japan, once defeated, was given extremely benevolent treatment by the US. The paternalistic approach of the US can be seen in the picture of the tiny five foot Emperor, Hirohito, beside the relatively giant protective figure of Douglas MacArthur. Efforts began immediatly to rebuild the Japanese economy. The millions of Japanese soldiers throughout the Pacific and China were repatriated to Japan without consequences, forgiven as it were. In contrast to Europe where the carnage had been enormous there was relatively little damge to the Japanese homeland. If you watch Japanese movies of the late forties and early fifties there is only a slight indication that there has been a war. A few references are made to soldiers who never returned but the landscape is intact and undisturbed.
In Europe Germany had been flattened, German civilians slaughtered in the millions. Armies of German soldiers disappeared into the Gulag never to be seen live again. The allies exposed millions of Germans in the depth of winter while depriving them of food. The entire continent was desolated, England itself had suffered terrific bombing damage that was still being repaired into the sixties. POP star Marianne Faithfull in her biography tells of sitting aove a bomb crater in the mid-sixties. Thus any complaits of racism against the Japanese are ridiculous.
In 1957 when Yoko Ono was beginning her cushy life at Sarah Lawrence I was sailing into Tokyo Bay aboard a US Navy Destroyer Escort. We docked in Yokosuka across the strait from Yokohama. There was absolutely no evidence of there ever having been war damage to Yokosuka. Looking across the strait to the shipyards of Yokohama one was astonished at the glittering brand new derricks of the most modern design. The stuff made ours look positively medieval. Twelve years after the war Japanese shipbuilders were becoming the dominant force in that industry displacing the West under the guidance of the US which complacently ceded the industry to them.
In 1960 as Yoko Ono was beginning her career as an avant garde artist in NYC the first Japanese autos were being landed on the West Coast.
Now, Philip Norman tut tuts the English for supposedly outrageous racist comments against Yoko Ono in the late sixties as though the English had no grievances against their own racial treatment by the Japanese in WWII. In point of fact the Japanese Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere was a racist organization directed at the West. The Pacific war was a racist war if you wish to put things in those terms. There are other definitions. This isn’t the place to discuss the racial antecedents to the Co-Prosperity Sphere so I won’t but one should look into the historical background which is very complex.
The question is, did Japanese racism end with their defeat and if it didn’t how was the war carried on by other means? In 1964 Yoko Ono published a small book of haiku style statements called Grapefruit ‘which aimed to make words like the commands of musical notation’: “Steal a moon on the water with a bucket. Keep stealing until no moon is seen on the water.” Norman, John Lennon p. 475.
I have a feeling the image is not original to Yoko but is part of Japanese culture much as Bob Dylan used commonplace mid-western phrases like It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue appropriating them to himself. Of interest here is that Yoko used the verb ‘to steal.’ Her mental state then was one of taking what doesn’t belong to oneself much as in the Jewish prophecy that they will live in houses they didn’t build. While the command seems nonsensical the results will not be. The reflection of the moon on the water is beautiful but is only the image of the moon. Removing buckets of water will not destroy the reflection unless and until all the water or substance on which the image is reflected is removed. Thus the substance has been stolen while the image is disappears. At the same time, one imagines, the moon is flattered by the attempt not realizing what is being done.
Yoko Ono will apply the method to John Lennon while the Japanese applied the method to the US and the West. All those unpunished repatriated Japanese warriors lost none of the hatred of the West now reinforced by the ignominy of defeat. They could even believe that they were better warriors than the Americans being defeated by greater American resources for which there was some justification. So, in 1957 under American tutelage the Japanese had lost noe of their aggressive hatred when I and my shipmates came ashore.
Now, as Americans we were never allowed to celebrate our victory thus relieving the hardships we endured. After three years of being taught ourtrageous racial caricatures of demonic enemies we were now the day after victory forbidden to call them Japs, for instance, upon pain of disciplining. We were commanded to believe that our victury had been evil and unjustified. Shortly after the war the Hiroshima ‘maidens’ were brought over to receive free medical treatment. You won’t find anything in history books but there was a strong murmur of protest. Less than a decade after ‘The Day Of Infamy’ we were commanded to shut up or we would be shut up and we wouldn’t like it. I don’t know what the exact effect of what this was on the American psyche but their was a serious reaction.
Now going into Japan in 1957, ostensibly as conquerors, remember the Korean War had only ended in 1954, we were told that if we had any confrontations with the Japanese we would automatically be considered the aggressors, judged guilty and punished regardless of the facts. This was Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation speaking to its sons. So, our fathers castrated their sons for whatever idiotic reason they had. Is it any wonder we revolted against the bastards in the sixties?
The Japanese knew of the conditions imposed on us and used them to aggrandize themselves at our expense. Of course, as epigoni we were callow teenage boys rather than the fierce warriors who had driven them through the islands. As an example of what we were compelled to endure being unable to resist on pain of punishment was something like this. As might be expected the souvenir joints exploiting us were set up next to the docks. I entered a booth where I was treated insultingly by the middle aged female clerk. As I turned to leave the booth she slugged me with a shore patrol baton, which they sold, between the shoulders on the upper vertebrae. the sound was terrific but I was unhurt. Expecting me to retaliate a couple of repatriated soldiers of the Bataan Death March started moving toward me to pound me to dust while mah fellow Americans moved away from me as though poison. Heeding the advice of my Captain I walked unconcernedly away to the jeers of the former Death Marchers trying to further provoke me. This is what the Greatest Generation did to their sons. I would imagine that the lesson to the Japanese was that they had nothing to fear from Americans, young or old, while my own feeling of betrayal left me with an abiding distaste even hatred for the fathers that would turn me, a victor, over to the mercies of the defeated.
So, by flattering the Americans (the reflection of the moon on the unresisting water) the Japanese began to ladle out the American substance itself. With the simple minded Americans there to instruct them the Japanese studied American technological achievements and began to reproduce them much more cheaply because of their lower wage differential. At first the reproductions were clumsy, the first cars were laughable but they quickly honed their skills even, eventually, making improvements.
Because of their relatively quick and easy victory over Japan the American veterans in Detroit refused to take the Japanese seriously even though they were warned by quicker witted countrymen. The Japanese kept ladling the image out until today the
American auto industry is all but defunct today while Toyota has replaced GM as the dominant auto maker worldwide. I won’t say the bastards of the ‘Greatest Generation’ didn’t have it coming but I still regret it for my country’s sake.
In 1960 then Yoko Ono left Sarah Lawrence as I left the Navy to attempt a career as an artist in NYC. In 1960 John Lennon was at the very beginning of his career as, actually, an avant garde musician although he may not have realized it. It would be six years before their paths crossed in London.
In the meantime Yoko attempted to storm avant garde New York demanding instant success and considering herself so talented that she couldn’t contemplate failure. She took up with the unlistenable avant garde composers, John Cage, the premier electronic composer Robert Maxwell and people of that ilk. At one time I wanted to be avant garde so I actually listened to people like Cage, Maxwell, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich and people like that. If you want to you can make yourself listen to anything but I don’t want to make myself do it again. Once was more education than I needed.
So, Yoko was breaking into a very minority taste, even at the height of my enthusiasm I couldn’t make anyone sit through the stuff. At the same time Yoko was trying to appeal to the uptown crowd who cut her cold creating deep resentment in her.
Having stormed the gates and failed Yoko fled back to Japan awhere she had a psychotic reaction, nervous breakdown or depression. At any rate she was committed to a mental hospital where she was heavily sedated, massive drugging. Interestingly Norman say that before she went to London she had never used drugs. I don’t know what you would call the stuff given to her at the hospital but I’d call them drugs. Just because a dentist gave me Nembutal doesn’t mean I never had drugs although I never used them otherwise. As incredible as it may seem a fellow named Tony Cox heard stories about Yoko in New York that he found so intriguing he hopped a big jetliner and flew to Tokyo to find her. Real fairy tale stuff. Maybe he heard she came from a fabulously wealthy family.
And Tony did find Yoko stumbling through the halls of the asylum under the influence. He discovered a means to get her released then only had to deal with her Japanese husband Yoko had picked up along the way. Apparently a smooth talker Tony convinced hubby to form a menage a trois. This, of course, disintegrated the marriage 1964 finding Yoko and Tony back in New York.
Now, back in 1960-61 Yoko had been sleeping around, she had a menage a trois in Japan while subsequently not taking the marriage vows to Tony overly seriously. Yet in Norman’s biography she repeatedly tries to pass herself off as some virginal girl unable to deal with the rabid sexuality of her third husband. Clearly Yoko suffers from cognitive dissonance, meaning her version of things is always questionable if not immediately dismissable.
Yoko as a feminist wrote the song Woman Is The Nigger Of The World. In rebellion of what she saw as the status of women she became what we boys call a man eater. She emasculated the men of her life assigning them traditional female roles while she assumed the male role. Thus all three of her husbands assumed the role of house husbands, housewife being a demeaning term in her lexicon while she tried to play the role of provider through her art although unsuccessfully. Needless to say that she was a failure as a provider in all three marriages although in her last she proved an efficient money manager of the millions provided by her last house husband, John Lennon.
Cox and Yoko left NYC for London in 1966. By 1966 the decade was well along in its formation actually tipping into its demise. By 1966 the British invasion of musical groups was entering its second phase. A dozen or so groups had succeeded very well chief among them the Beatles and Rolling Stones. They had pre-empted the avant garde becoming themselves an avant garde. The chief American representative who had survived the British onslaught was Bob Dylan.
The art scene Yoko was trying to influence had been taken over lock, stock and barrelo by POPart whose leading representative was
Andy Warhol who had a zoo of addicts and perverts known as the Factory. Warhol, himself a homosexual, had always been a connoisseur of pop music playing 45s constantly. He would have been aware, perhaps uniquely, of the significance of the British Invasion for POPart and the old Abstract Expressionist avant garde. By 1965 he had aligned himself with the musical scene by adopting the Velvet Underground as the Factory house band. He attempted to form connections with all the top musicians from Lennon, Mick Jagger, Dylan and on to Jim Morrison of the Doors not always successfully. Most of the musicians waere as psychotic as he was, recotgnized him for what he was and were too canny to become involved with him.
Yoko on her return from Japan, then, was dealing with a very different art scene than in her first foray. She had to at some time between ’64-’66 make contact with Warhol. As she left NYC in ’66 for London Dylan’s evaluation of her relayed through George Harrison as quoted in Norman p. 671 must refer to this period:
George by contrast, despite long marinading in soft-tongued Buddha-speak, was his most bluntly charmless. “[He] insulted [Yoko] right to her face in the Apple office,” John would remember. “Just being straightforward, that game of ‘Well, I’m going to be upfront because this is what I’ve heard, and Dylan and a few people said you’ve got a lousy name in New York and you give off bad vibes.’ That’s what George said to her and we both sat through it.”
Dylan would have been speaking of Yoko in NYC from ’64 to ’66. During the latter part of that period Dylan was in conrflict with Warhol and his Factory crowd because of Edie Sedgwick. That Yoko Ono could have come within his ken is interesting. Yoko wouldn’t have know of Warhol during her first assault on NYC but as she kowtowed to Warhol on her return after 1968 that might indicate that she might have visited the Factory, which was open to all, met and conversed with Warhol. I haven’t found a mention of her on the main Warhol site, Warholstars, as yet but there must be a connection no matter how slight. It is impossible to know what was said between them but as Yoko got into making Warhol style avant garde movies she must have at least made some notes.
Whether music in relation to the avant garde came up with Warhol’s preference for Rock n’ Roll and possibly he Beatles isn’t known although she did drag Lennon down to do obeisance to Warhol when they eturned. Then, too, she used Sam Green, Samuel Adams Green had presented the Warhol exhibition at UPennsylvania a couple years previously, as her agent for acquistion of art.
In 1980 she was thick with Sam Green leading Lennon to express discomfort because of Green’s association with the Warhol crowd. There seems to have been a rather strong conection of Yoko to Warhol. Certainly her husband of the time, Tony Cox, was well known around the Factory having stolen one of their cars and taken it to California. Cox, who had criminal tendencies, is worth a little study too. It would seem impossible that he knew nothing of the Beatles- I think Yoko Ono’s claim to have never heard of them can be dismissed too- as Cox seemed to have been always scheming he may have heard Lennon songs like Help and I’m A Loser and drawn the obvious conclusions. Lennon in the right hands could be used.
In 1966 then, Cox and Ono left for London presumably to take that art world by storm. I think it quite probable that Yoko believed she could get inside Lennon’s head to use his wealth to further her art career. Her bagism notion was well conceived by 1965 in NYC. Her displays at London’s Indica gallery seem designed to get Lennon’s attention. An apple on a stand priced at 200 pounds…how obvious can you get? The tinyYES on the ceiling. Yoko was very good at hypnotic suggestion.
How did she find her way to the Indica anyway? The gallery had just opened in 1965 and would only survive for two years, which isn’t to say Yoko’s exhibit killed it.
Her claim that she had never heard of Lennon before the show is contradicted by both John Dunbar, the owner, and Barry Miles, who wrote under the name of Miles. He says that instead of coolly walking away not overly impressed with Lennon she actually tried to force her way into his car. Certainly flooding his mailbox with cards and letters doesn’t indicate indifference. No. Yoko wanted access to Lennon’s money and she got it.
There’s no need here to recount how she forced Cynthia Lennon out. Suffice it to say that she quickly captured Lennon; by 1968 they were back in ‘her town’, NYC. For a person who was there for maybe two years in 1960-61 and two more years in ’64-’66 I think it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to call New York ‘your town.’
Once in New York she had Lennon dependent on her while with the acquisition of the Dakota Apartment in 1973 the real action began. First let us do a character review of Lennon before beginning the denouement.
I am assuming that any readers will be familiar with the main lines of Ono’s and Lennon’s biographies. If I’ve glided too quickly over certain points don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to all principals and minor characters, some of them very extensive so my exploration of all these sites is ongoing.