Sunday, 31 July 2011

Vancouver Bus Terminal

A singing smell of tar, of the highway
Fills the grey Vancouver Bus Terminal

- Poem Turned Back at the Border

The above painting entitled Vancouver Bus Terminal 1939 is by Brian Croft. Here is what he had to say about the painting:

As with railroads and airlines, tracing transportation corporate history is always a jumble of buy-outs and mergers. I’ll pick up the story behind this painting in 1922 when Vancouver entrepreneur, Ivor Neil, decided to expand his small local bus company. He renamed it Pacific Stages Transportation Ltd, purchased a few more buses and commenced service between Vancouver and Port Moody and Coquitlam.

Expanding as he went, Neil bought up other companies and eventually served the Fraser Valley and south as far as Seattle. In 1924, The British Columbia Electric Railway Company (BCER) was watching Ivor Neil closely.

The BCER understood the emerging potential of bus travel, sensed competition with its electric streetcar and interurban system and responded decisively. By 1925 The BCER formed BC Motor Transportation Ltd. comprised of Pacific Stage Lines (PSL) still run by Ivor Neil, and a tour bus line called Grey Line.

In a parallel venture it also formed BC Rapid Transport to handle motor freighting in the Fraser Valley. BCER’s BC Motor Transportation Ltd. expanded quickly and in 1926, ground was broken for a stylish new depot and head office on the southeast corner of Dunsmuir and Seymour streets.

When the modestly sized depot opened that fall it was likely the most stylish and modern bus depot in North America. By 1930 PSL ran service to West Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay, south through Surrey to Halls Prairie, Coast Meridian and Johnston, past Haney to Mission and Harrison Hot Springs and out to Sumas Prairie. In 1932 BC Motor Transport merged its BC Rapid Transit freight operation into PSL.

New modern buses were acquired with streamlining and more passenger comforts. In 1936 a Vancouver manufacturer, Hayes, revolutionized the industry by creating a streamlined model based on the Chrysler Airflow. It was nicknamed the Teardrop, a bus so successful that Hayes became the main builder of PSL buses.

Although only five were ever built, Hayes went on to build the magnificent and innovative “Clipper” model. My painting Vancouver Bus Terminal – 1939 is based on an archived photograph by well known Vancouver photographer Leonard Frank.

Although I added hundreds of tiny additional researched details, I made two major alterations by expanding the viewpoint laterally and creating a night scene. The decision to create a night painting meant that the 1939 bus schedules needed to be found and researched.

This done, I am empowered to write that the Hayes Clipper in the foreground is the departing 7 p.m. bus bound for Seattle, Washington. The fare is $3 or $5.50 return. The teardrop in front of the terminal arrived earlier at 6:35 p.m. The teardrop emerging onto Seymour Street is the 7:15 departure to New Westminster via Kingsway.

The PSL emblem on each bus features the flying horse Pegasus signifying strength, speed and beauty. The depot was adorned with radiant neon destination signs and on the corner are pointers with more than 30 additional destinations.

By design, passersby would read these and begin to imagine themselves stepping on board a PSL coach, in every sense, a gateway express to the rest of the globe. The Hotel Dunsmuir anchors the left of my painting; the building survives to this day. The terminal housed several businesses located on the upper two floors. The sidewalk tenants included: Bridge River, a beauty salon, a barbershop, and a shoeshine stall.

The main attractions, however, are close to the corner; Ivor Neil could often be found in Pacific Tour and Travel Bureau under the Travel bureau sign, United Cigars, a well-known chain, occupies the double entry corner location and next door, Fountain Lunch, looks to be a most inviting eatery.

All of this I painted as accurately as possible. The colours are of my own imagination and I painted the entire scene, in my own style, romantically reflected in the glistening evidence of a recent fall shower.

All aboard!

Richmond News

Pare Lorentz's The River 1937

As for propaganda, good propaganda, I take it, is good art. (eg The River.) Letter to Gerald Noxon 21 September 1940

The River is a 1938 short documentary film which shows the importance of the Mississippi River to the United States, and how farming and timber practices had caused topsoil to be swept down the river and into the Gulf of Mexico.

It was written and directed by Pare Lorentz and, like Lorentz's earlier documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains, was also selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going into the registry in 1990. Both films have notable scores by Virgil Thomson that are still heard as concert suites. The film was narrated by the American baritone Thomas Hardie Chalmers.

The two films were sponsored by the U.S. government and specifically the Resettlement Administration (RA) to raise awareness about the New Deal. The RA was folded into the Farm Security Administration in 1937, so The River was officially an FSA production.
Read more on Wikipedia

You can watch documentary on Internet Archive:

New Bookshop in New Brighton

I dropped into the new bookshop which has opened in Atherton Street in New Brighton. This is the nearest bookshop ever to Malc's birthplace in New Brighton. Unfortunately, none of his books were on sale! However, a very pleasant place to drop into. I couldn't resist a copy of Conrad's Youth - always a sucker for these Penguin editions.

Lowry quotes from Conrad's Youth in his short story 'China':

I didn't fell like Conrad "that what expected had already gone, had passed unseen in a sigh, in a flash together with youth, with strength, with romance of illusions" There was no moment that crystallized the East for me.

This quote from Conrad’s ‘Youth’ is what Malc had read before he voyaged to the Far East and expected to have the same experiences as the hero in Conrad's Youth. However, Lowry's short story reflects the reality of his isolation aboard Pyrrhus on his Far East voyage. He doesn't get the chance to prove himself unlike the hero of Conrad's Youth. In fact, he is driven back to his schooldays in having to play in a cricket match with other sailors while war wages around him.

Lowry Book Covers 4

GALLIMARD .. 1978.. In-8 Carré. Broché. Bon état. Couv. convenable. Dos satisfaisant. Intérieur frais. 263 pages. Traduit de l'anglais par Clarisse Francillon et Jean-Roger Carroy. Postface de Jean-Roger Carroy.

DENOËL .. 1965.. In-8 Carré. Broché. Etat d'usage. Couv. légèrement passée. Dos satisfaisant. Intérieur acceptable. 265 pages. Couverture rempliée. Ecriture au stylo sur la page de titre. Traduit de l'anglais par Clarisse Francillon et Jean-Roger Carroy. Postface de Jean-Roger Carroy. Les lettres nouvelles dirigée par Maurice Nadeau.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

An Underground Piccadilly Circus of the Soul

in a kind of underground Piccadilly Circus of the soul Letter to Gerald Noxon

could not imagine that this beer parlour with its eternally recurrent ranged batteries of soapsuds-filled glasses on the bar was spinning on the same axis as he did, at the centre of the world, Piccadilly Circus and the Pantheon. October Ferry to Gabriola

See Piccadilly Circus on Postcards from Malc

The idea of an underground Piccadilly Circus of the soul appealed to me! Then I discovered the picture sleeve of Francis Bay's E.P. and loved the juxtaposition of a favourite Malc tipple Tequila and Piccadilly.

Here's the two tracks together:

Friday, 29 July 2011

Under the Volcano By Blackstone Audio

UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry (unabridged) is presented by Blackstone Audio.

More details on iTunes

Mexican Altar dedicated to Malcolm Lowry

It is funny that nearly 2 years after the Centenary Celebrations for Malc's birth that I keep finding things related to the event:

With the help of the people from Liverpool, we created an altar dedicated to the English writer Malcolm Lowry on the foyer of the Bluecoat Gallery in Liverpool.

The altar included all the traditional, decorations, food and objects used by mexican people to remember their deaths every year during the first and second of Novermber. Food, sugar skulls, special bred, marigold flowers and other crafts were all created in various workshops with different groups of people from Liverpool. We baked bread, made sugar skulls and cooked special food to eat during the first of November. A large picture of Lowry at the center of the altar and a other small pictures were displayed alone with of bottle of Mezcal and other objects associated to Lowry. The program on Sunday also included selected music by the Bluecoat's artistic director Brian Biggs, two requiems by members of the Lantern's choir and workshops and activities for children.
Read more

The Paris Review No. 29, Winter-Spring 1963

Among the contents:

Malcolm Lowry, Lunar Caustic
Conrad Knickerbocker, Malcolm Lowry and the Outer Circle of Hell

More details here

(Mis)adventure: Malcolm Lowry & Conrad Aiken 1928–1954

Just come across this book which was new to me:

Both sides of this vital dialogue between Malcolm Lowry – dissolute, destitute, and laboriously writing Under the Volcano (1947) – and Conrad Aiken: his literary mentor, financial resource, an emotional security blanket, and friend.

37pp., three illustrations. 6” x 8½” Wrappers, $25

More info here

Bunuel on Under The Volcano

Personally, I've always thought that either Luis Bunuel or Orson Welles would have been the best directors to have made a film version of Malc's great novel. I have already posted that Welles apparently didn't like the novel - see Chartres in Orson Welles's F for Fake

Below is what Bunuel's thoughts were on making a movie version of Under The Volcano from his book My Last Breath 1987

I was only reminded of Bunuel's thoughts of making the film when I read an interesting post on his film Death in the Garden on Bright Lights Film Journal:

Luis Buñuel at one time expressed an interest in adapting Malcolm Lowry's novel Under the Volcano but dropped the idea not believing he could do it justice –– to my mind, a lost opportunity of epic proportions. Instead, in the early eighties, an aging John Huston turned Lowry's feverish, interior narrative into a suffocatingly literal tale of the last day of a cuckolded alcoholic sweating out his marital problems under the hot sun of Mexico.4 Whereas Huston was generally more in tune with kind of material offered by an adventure tale like Death in the Garden, you can imagine Buñuel in sync with Lowry's overloaded prose, using the Mexican landscape in much the same way the author did, to mirror the Consul's drunken but weirdly mystical, personal hell. Read more

Read a review of Death in the Garden on Flickhead

Proof Copy of Under The Volcano

Abe Books are currently selling the above:

Uncorrected proof of the first edition, preceding the English edition. A short tear on the front wrap, title and author's name inked on the spine, else a near fine copy in wrappers as issued. More details Abe Books

Celebrating Malc's Birthday with Yorkshire Blonde

After my talk last night on Malc's Merseyside, we decamped to the nearest pub from Wallasey Central Library - The Telegraph in New Brighton which I now regard as my local mainly because the beer and atmosphere is the best around. I just wish Malc had written about it then it would have been perfect!

We had a few glasses of a good beer for a warm evening is Ossett's "Yorkshire Blonde" - "pale coloured ale is full bodied, well-rounded and slightly sweet on the palate. A generous late addition of Mount Hood hops result in a delicate fruity hop aroma."

The above description of the beer made me smile - a nice Lowryan coincidence - Mount Hood crops up in a few of Malc's works; "Ethan said, "there's old Mount Baker out this morning, or is it Mount Hood? Out very clear and beautiful.." October Ferry to Gabriola; And far away over in America the snowy volcanic peak of Mount Hood stood on high, disembodied, cut off from earth, yet much too close, which was an even surer presage of rain, as though the mountains had advanced, or were advancing. ... The Bravest Boat and "A hint of the summit of Mount Hood remained, or it might have been clouds." The Bravest Boat; "that ribbed the continent from Alaska to Cape Horn — and of which Mount Hood was no less a part than Popocatepetl...." The Forest Path to the Spring; "I see a great cold white and grey remote peak that vanishes behind rows of flats and stores so I can hardly believe I’ve really seen it. Presently Malc sees it also and there we are, out of the city, on a long straight highway running between neat farms and there it is: Mt. Hood." La Mordida

See Mount Hood, Portland, Oregon 1946 on Postcards from Malc

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Happy 102nd Birthday to Malc!

Later I will be raising a few glasses to Malc's memory after my talk Lowry on Merseyside at the Wallasey Central Library.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Lowry's Merseyside: An Illustrated Talk 28 July 2011

I have been invited to give a talk on Lowry's Merseyside on his 102nd birthday as part of Wallasey Library's Centenary celebrations.

Here are the details:

28th July 2011
Wallasey Library
Earlston Road
CH45 5DX

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

'The Kerry Dancers'

Engine that sings 'The Kerry Dancers'Through The Panama
Just had to remind myself what they may have sounded like to Malc!!

Leonard Pennario Variations on the Kerry Dancers (1942):


- A great black bird sitting crucified on the cross-trees, its wings so vast it obscures the foremast light; the Captain calls us to see it, says : I will not shoot the eagle , or anything, I never kill anything, but - "Shoot it ! I should damned well think not!" says Primrose. It is a condor ( Gymnogyps Californianus) with a 10 half foot wing-spread, and the sight one of the rarest in the world, for the bird, a sort of super-xopolite or vulture by Thomas Wolfe, is almost extinct, after a while it has vanished, as mysteriously as it arrived
Through The Panama

Malc and Margerie were keen birdwatchers. Many species of birds pervade Malc's writings. The condor in 'Through The Panama' appears to evoke the memory of the Mexican vultures (xopolite) who have a sinister presence in Under The Volcano.

The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a North American species of bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae and the largest North American land bird. Currently, this condor inhabits only the Grand Canyon area, Zion National Park, and western coastal mountains of California and northern Baja California. Although other fossil members are known, it is the only surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps.

It is a large, black vulture with patches of white on the underside of the wings and a largely bald head with skin color ranging from yellowish to a bright red, depending on the bird's mood. It has the largest wingspan of any bird found in North America and is one of the heaviest, weighing up to 29lbs. The condor is a scavenger and eats large amounts of carrion. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years.

Condor numbers dramatically declined in the 20th century due to poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. Eventually, a conservation plan was put in place by the United States government that led to the capture of all 22 remaining wild condors in 1987. These surviving birds were bred at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Numbers rose through captive breeding and, beginning in 1991, condors have been reintroduced into the wild. The project is the most expensive species conservation project ever undertaken in the United States. The California Condor is one of the world's rarest bird species. As of April 2011, there are 394 condors known to be living, including 181 in the wild.

The condor is a significant bird to many Californian Native American groups and plays an important role in several of their traditional myths.
Read more

Art Tatum

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques - Played by Louis Armstrong and his orchestra. Art Tatum on piano. Joe Venuti violin. Battement de Tambours Through The Panama

Malc's only mention of the maestro!

Arthur "Art" Tatum, Jr. (October 13, 1909 – November 5, 1956) was an American jazz pianist and virtuoso. Tatum is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. Critic Scott Yanow wrote, "Tatum's quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries ... Art Tatum's recordings still have the ability to scare modern pianists."
Read more

Here's Art from 1947 with Art's Blues from the movie Fabulous Dorseys - the year Malc sailed through the Panama Canal:

Henry B Tucker

Dawn behind the Henry B Tucker of the Luckenbach Line. Through The Panama

As far as my research shows there was no such ship of that line in 1947 at the time of Malc's voyage through the Panama Canal. This is not unusual for Malc as he either incorrectly spells names of ships, invents or slightly alters their identities.

In this case, I think he is referring to the Henry St.G.Tucker an ex- Liberty ship similar to the S.S. Brest on which Malc was sailing. Henry St.G.Tucker was originally owned by U.S.Department of Commerce and operated by American South African Line / Lykes Bros,Steamship Co.Inc.under WSA / USMC Service Agreement Form GAA / BB (General Agent Agreement / Bare Boat. Lykes Bros,Steamship Co Ltd sailed between New Orleans and other Gulf ports (Houston, Galveston etc), Yokohama and other Japanese ports, Korean ports, Taiwanese ports, Manila, Indonesian ports, Singapore, Penang, Port Swettenham, Singapore and return to US Gulf via the Philippines.

With regard to the Luckenbach Line, they didn't own a vessel corresponding to the name Henry B.Tucker. However, they did sail Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Panama Canal, Philadelphia, New York, Boston. Seattle and Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Panama Canal, New Orleans, Houston, Mobile routes. After World War II the company took over from the United States Maritime Commission several standard ships to make up for the wartime losses which means they would have used ex-Liberty ships as well.One such ship was the A C2-S-AJ3 Standard type steam turbine driven merchant built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina and launched for the WSA on 6 September 1944 as USS Waukesha (AKA-84). She was decommissioned on 10 July and struck from the Navy List on 31 July and therefore returned to the control of the WSA. She was purchased by the Luckenbach Steamship Co., New York in 1947 and renamed Mary Luckenbach. She continued to trade for the same firm until 1959 when she was sold to the States Marine Lines Inc., New York and was renamed Bayou State, as shown in photograph below.

In conclusion, I think Malc probably got the name slightly wrong as usual and perhaps liked the company name Luckenbach?

S.S. Parthenia

Going down, at 7 am, between buoys, passing at buoy 7, going the other way, S.S. Parthenia out of Glasgow... Through The Panama

There have been several ships with this name. The ship corresponding to the 1947 voyage made by Malc must be the former USS Mercer:

USS Mercer, a 13,130-ton cargo ship, was built to Emergency Fleet Corporation Design 1037 at Hackensack River, New Jersey, in 1918 as the civilian ship of the same name. The Navy acquired her upon completion in January 1919 and immediately placed her in commission. She made one voyage to Europe, with a cargo of food, beginning in mid-February. Upon arrival in England, she was given emergency repairs and then sent to Antwerp, Belgium. After staying at that port into early May, Mercer recrossed the Atlantic and steamed on to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she was decommissioned late in that month. She was returned to the United States Shipping Board in early June 1919.

Mercer remained in that agency's custody until 1941, when she was transferred to British registry and renamed Empire Kangaroo. She operated as Parthenia in 1946-1949, then went to Italian registry, initially as Erminia Mazzella and, from 1951, as Pina Onorato. The ship was scrapped at Spezia, Italy, in 1958.
History Navy MIL

Experiment Magazine Cambridge, England, 1928–31

Malc participated in 2 magazines whilst at Cambridge - Venture and Experiment. He had 2 short stories published by Experiment - 'Port Swettenham', story, pp. 22 - 26 No 5 and 'Punctum Indifferens Skibet Gaar Videre', story, pp. 62-75 No 7.

The magazine was edited by Editor: William Empson, Jacob Bronowski, Hugh Sykes, Humphrey Jennings, published in Cambridge, Publisher: Nos. 1-2: Cambridge University Press; Nos. 4-7: G. F. Noxon, Trinity College, Cambridge/G. F. Noxton, 68a St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge. Published from November 1928 - Spring 1931. There were only seven editions which came out on a Quarterly-Irregular basis priced one Shilling and sixpence. You can find full details of each edition on the Modernist Magazine Project.

I did come across a very good article on Jacket 20 by Kate Price on the magazine:

We are concerned with all the intellectual interests of undergraduates. We do not confine ourselves to the work of English students, nor are we at pains to be littered with the Illustrious Dead and Dying. Our claim has been one of uncompromising independence: therefore not a line in these pages has been written by any but degreeless students or young graduates. It has been our object to gather all and none but the not yet too ripe fruits of art, science and philosophy in the university. We did not wish so much that our articles should be sober and guarded as that they should be stimulating and lively and take a strong line. We were prepared in fact to give ourselves away. But we knew that Cambridge is painfully well-balanced just now (a sign, perhaps, of anxiety neurosis) and so we were prepared also to find, as the reader will find, rather too guarded and sensible a daring. Perhaps we will ripen into extravagance.

[Experiment Number 1, November 1928]

The concern of Experiment with ‘all the interests of undergraduates’ was not simply a matter of having literary-minded mathematicians on the editorial team, nor one of including poetry produced by students reading Natural Sciences or Economics. Even taking Experiment as a literary magazine with an inspired eye on contemporary science, the ‘scientific’ content appears somewhat thin on the ground. The occasional article on biochemistry or biology, some hopeful remarks about the development of aesthetic science and Empson’s relativity poems are about the size of it. A distinctly literary and cinematic avant-garde emerges, giving the impression of an exclusively aesthetic kind of experimentation.
Read full article here

Apologies for the poor image quality as I haven't been able to locate copies of the magazine to date.

Century 21 By Ewa Kuryluk

I was unaware of the book which has a fictional account of some of Malc's life.

Imagine Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party , but then make it literary, make it coed and make many of the guests fictional, and one begins to get an idea of this provocative and moving first novel by the Polish artist, art historian and poet. Kuryluk's "guests" include Propertius and his mistress/muse Hostia, the Ptolemaic queen Berenice, Anna Karenina, an HIV-positive Djuna Barnes, Moses Maimonides, Italo Svevo, Nadia and Osip Mandelstam, Malcolm Lowry and Goethe and Lotte--now married with a poodle named Faust. Then there are Ann and Carol Kar, the formerly probably and the latter definitely meant to represent Kuryluk the writer and painter. Finally, there is the futuristic "Moon Scholar," who in the throes of Terra-Retrovirus--Ter-ret (Tourette's?)--has imagined this world drawn from fragments of the earth's texts, pictures and even advertising slogans and then insinuated himself into it. Although there is a fair smattering of polyglot wordplay and literary allusion, this is not as obtuse and heavy a work as Julian Rios's Larva: A Midsummer Night's Babel . Behind Kuryluk's purposeful lyric prose lie poignant insights into love, death and exile. Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. Amazon

Kuryluk, a brilliant Polish-born artist and art historian ( Salome and Judas in the Cave of Sex , LJ 6/1/87; The Fabric of Memory , Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1991; Veronica and Her Cloth , LJ 9/15/91) debuts as a novelist in an ambitious, highly literary, but flawed work. Goethe, Propertius, Svevo, Conrad, Maimonides, Djuna Barnes, and other "immortals" have a problem: They are dying. The quasiautobiographical Carol Kar is a suicidal artist who has erotic fantasies about a scholar on the moon a thousand years from now. The book is meant to be a time machine transcending dualities of past-future, here-there, reality-fantasy, and physical-spiritual, but the resultant jumble seems pointless. "Like life itself, it doesn't get anybody anywhere, and tiptoes out, leaving us oblivious of God." One hopes that Kuryluk's next literary experiment will be less rambling. Although her other books are far stronger, this one will appeal to some avant-gardists and scholars and is recommended for academic and large public libraries. - Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. at Chico Amazon

Perim Island

Malc visited the island on his Far East voyage in 1927 aboard Pyrrhus where the ship stopped to refuel. The island features in several of his works including Ultramarine.

I recently came across a fascinating site about the island's colonial history:

Perim Island (also known as Barim, Mayyun, Meyun) is a volcanic island located 90 miles west of Aden in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, 1 ½ miles from the Arabian coast and 11 miles from the African coast. The island has a surface area of 13 square kilometers and rises to 65 meters. It was formerly part of the Aden Colony.

Albuquerque landed on Perim in 1513 and named it Vera Cruz. Later, for a short while, it became a base for pirates till they concluded there was no available fresh water, even after digging 15 fathoms, and moved elsewhere.

The East India Company took possession of Perim Island in 1799 and it was garrisoned by a force from Bombay led by Lieutenant-Colonel Murray. Their stay was short-lived as it was found unsuitable as a military position for preventing French troops from Egypt from proceeding to India.

The demands of increased shipping in the Red Sea prompted the Indian Government to build a lighthouse and Perim Island was re-occupied in 1857.

By 1861 a dark blue stone lighthouse had been built and lit on Perim Island. Located 0.95 km to the south west of Obstruction Point. It was 38 feet in height from base to vane. When the tower was rebuilt in 1912 it reached 81 feet. There was a one minute interval of revolution of the flash which could be seen from 22 miles in clear weather. Quarters were built for a detachment of 50 native infantry, under the command of a European officer, who were relieved every 2 months

Perim Island was used as a coaling station but the Perim Coal Company, which had been in fierce competition with rival, Luke Thomas of Aden, closed down in 1936, and Perim's small harbour was then closed to shipping.

Water was never found on Perim Island, which has always made its occupation difficult. After bringing water supplies from Aden and then considering a reservoir to collect rainwater it was decided, as in Aden, that a condenser to produce distilled water was more suitable.

By 1959 there were just 300 people living on Perim Island, mainly in the Arab fishing village of Meyun. The people took no practical part in the life of the Colony of Aden. In 1959 the Aden Colony Executive and Legislative Councils were relieved of responsibility for the administration of Perim Island but it remained part of Aden Colony with the executive and administrative power vested in the Governor.
Read more on Perim Island The Last Colonial Outpost.

See Perim Island 1927 on Postcards from Malc

Monday, 18 July 2011

S.S. Brest

'Through The Panama' is one of my favourite works by Malc. The story is based on the sea voyage made by the Lowrys from Vancouver to Rotterdam in November 1947 aboard the S.S. Brest en route to a short tour of Europe. Malc calls the S.S. Brest the S.S. Diderot in 'Through The Panama' after the French writer. Diderot was of interest to Malc and there are allusions to Diderot's work in Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place which contains the short story.

The S.S. Brest was formerly the Liberty ship S.S. John Mac Lean.

Liberty ships were cargo ships built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by German U-boats, they were purchased for the U.S. fleet and for lend-lease provision to Britain. Eighteen American shipyards built 2,751 Libertys between 1941 and 1945, easily the largest number of ships produced to a single design.

The production of these vessels mirrored, on a much larger scale, the manufacture of the Hog Islander ship and similar standardized types during World War I. The immense effort to build Liberty ships, the sheer number of ships built, and the fact that some of the ships survived far longer than the original design life of five years, make them the subject of much study. Read more on Wikipedia

Brest (liberty-ship) 1947 - 1949
hull material : ...................
previous name(s) of ship : ........John Mac Lean
detailed type : ...................liberty-ship
type of propulsion : ..............1 propeller
building year of ship : ...........1942
name of shipyard : ................Permanente Metals Corp.
place of construction : ...........Richmond
year of entering the fleet : ......1947
length (in meters) : ..............126,79
width (in meters) : ...............17,37
gross tonnage (in tons) : .........7176
deadweight (in tons) : ............10900
type of engine : ..................inverted, triple expansion 3 cylinders
engine power (in HP) : ............2500
nominal speed (in Knots) : ........11

11 cargo liners of the liberty-ship type were entrusted with management to « Compagnie Générale Transatlantique » before the conclusion of the Blum-Byrnes agreements of May 26, 1946. Following these agreements, the French government acquired 75 liberty-ships, of which 21 in their turn were entrusted to management with Transat, which amounts their total to 32. The deliveries spread out until 1947. These ships were used, according to the needs, on the lines of the North Atlantic, of the West Indies, of the North Pacific or the South Pacific. Between 1957 and 1960, thirteen of them were especially equipped for the transport of the Renault cars in the United States and were chartered by the « Compagnie d’Affrêtement et de Transport » (CAT), then subsidiary company of Régie Renault. The first liberty-ship to leave the fleet of « Compagnie Générale Transatlantique » after the accident of the GRANDCAMP in 1947 was SAINT VALERY in May 1948 and the last DOMFRONT and BAYEUX in 1965. The last of the liberty-ships "ex-Transat" to disappear was the ARGENTAN, demolished in 1973. Built in 1942 under the name of JOHN MAC LEAN on behalf of the U.S. Shipping War Administration. Delivered to the French government in 1947. Renamed BREST and entrusted with management to « Compagnie Générale Transatlantique ». In July 1949, is transferred to the Messageries Maritimes company. Retains her name. In 1956, takes share in expedition of Suez. From 1958, is used to transport Renault cars to the United States. In 1961, is sold to a Panamanian Shipping company and renamed GALAXY. Is resold in 1969 and is renamed ELIOS. Demolished in 1970 in Kaoshiung, Taiwan.
French Lines

Green River Whisky

I fear that was the consequence of a case of none too good American whisky bought in Los Angeles because I liked its name, Green River. Even so, there is not half enough for this voyage. Through The Panama

Green River was the most advertised whiskey in the United States before prohibition. There are Green river tokens and bar pieces to be found in flea markets on a regular basis today. That illustrates how much was made. A fire in 1918 pretty much put the distillery out of business because wartime prohibition made it unprofitable to rebuild. The last of the Green River whiskey was sold by AMS during prohibition. After prohibition, the distillery was sold to new owners and eventually became the Medley distillery that is being re-opened by Angastura today.

The brand was also sold to new owners and was made at several central Kentucky distilleries, including Chapeze Station, until it was sold to Schenley in the 1940's. Schenley kept the brand alive until the 1960's and it was passed on to United Distillers.
Straight Bourbon Forum

The above detailing the changes to the whisky explain Malc's comments in 'Through The Panama'.

Patricia A. Ybarra Performing conquest

I recently came across a book entitled: Performing conquest: five centuries of theater, history, and identity in Tlaxcala, Mexico By Patricia A. Ybarra. The book's introduction discusses Malc's Under The Volcano and the Mexican town.

You can read the introduction via Google Books below:

See Hotel Tlaxcala, Mexico 1937 on Postcards from Malc

Saturday, 16 July 2011

S. S. Pennsylvania

....a little conjuration of climate you might say, but that the SS Pennsylvania should have gone down with all hands but one Seattle Ishmael.....this and the absolutely unprecedented fury and disaster of this winter, in which more ships have gone down in five minutes than in all my seafaring knowledge.... Letter to Jay Leyda 27 February 1952

This is a bit of a confusing letter - well to me it is! - Malc mentions the sinking of the S.S.Pennsylvania to Leyda and later reminds Leyda that if he didn't know that the S.S.Pennsylvania was in Chapter 2 of Under The Volcano.

S. S. Pennsylvania that sank was a different vessel to the one that Malc and Jan Gabrial sailed on to Mexico in 1936 and which is referred to in Under The Volcano. It seems very surprising that Malc would have made a mistake about such a significant ship as the one he sailed to Mexico on.

The ship that sank in 1952 was an American ship Pennsylvania owned by States Steamship Co. (States Line).The ship was built in 1944 by Kaiser Shipbuilding Co. (Oregon Shipbuilding Corp. Kaiser Cargo Inc. Captain George P. Plover, left Seattle on January 5th, 1952, for Yokohama. On January 9th, the hull cracked in heavy seas 600 miles N.W. of Cape Flattery. The crew of 45 abandoned the ship when she began to leak, but no trace of them was found by ships and aircraft which searched the area.

Malc and Jan sailed to Acapulco on the Panama Pacific Line S.S. Pennsylvania later the Argentina (above). One of a trio of American-built passenger liners on the US-South America route, the Argentina was owned and operated by Moore-McCormack Steamship Lines and sailed this route until she was laid up in 1958. Originally built as the "Pennsylvania" for International Mercantile Marine at Newport News Shipyard, VA. She was Hull 329, with Official Number 229044. She was launched 10/10/29 for operation by the Panama Pacific Line, and was built for the New York-Panama-Los Angeles-San Francisco route with her sisters California and Virginia. The Pennsylvania was 613 feet long, 80 feet wide and measured 20,614 gross tons. She carried 750 passengers in first and tourist class; her crew numbered 350. Turbo-electric engines drove her at a service speed of 17 knots. The ships proved too large for this route and their government subsidies were halted in 1937, when they were sold to the U. S. Maritime Commission and laid up. Read more on Wikipedia

Malc's Readings in the Modern Library

It was super thoughtful of you to send the list of books: the Modern Library always afflicts me with nameless and wonderful senses of early draughts and distillings: McTeague I think was the first book I ever read, the the Seven That Were Hanged the second, both in Modern Library editions my brother, come back from Dallas, gave me. Letter to Albert Erskine 24 June 1947

Frank Norris McTeague 1899

McTeague is a novel by Frank Norris, first published in 1899. It tells the story of a couple's courtship and marriage, and their subsequent descent into poverty, violence and finally murder as the result of jealousy and avarice. The book was the basis for Erich von Stroheim's film, Greed. Read more on Wikipedia

Malc doesn't mention Von Stroheim's Greed in his work or letters which is surprising because he was an admirer of his work. Greed (1924) was starred Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller, Tempe Pigott, Sylvia Ashton, Chester Conklin, Joan Standing and Jack Curtis.

The plot follows a dentist whose wife wins a lottery ticket, only to become obsessed with money. When her former lover betrays the dentist as a fraud, all of their lives are destroyed. The movie was adapted by von Stroheim (shooting screenplay) and Joseph Farnham (titles) from the 1899 novel McTeague by Frank Norris. (The onscreen writing credit for June Mathis was strictly a contractual obligation to her on the part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the parent studio), as she was not actually involved in the production.) Originally over ten hours long, Greed was ultimately edited against von Stroheim's permission to about two and a half hours, and the full-length version is a lost film. Read more on Wikipedia

Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev The Seven That Were Hanged 1908

Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev 1871-1919 was a Russian playwright, novelist and short-story writer. He is one of the most talented and prolific representatives of the Silver Age period in Russian history. Andreyev's style combines elements of realist, naturalist and symbolist schools in literature. Read more on Wikipedia

The Seven That Were Hanged depicts the fates of five terrorists foiled in their attack and two common peasants who have received death sentences. These condemned men are awaiting their executions by hanging. In prison, each of the prisoners deals with his fate in his own way.

In a riverside tavern in Savannah

In a riverside tavern in Savannah. From the n.... section next door the juke box is playing Open the door Richard. We are in the 'Whites' drinking your health in claret (by the bottle & bought retail on the spot.) A note on the reverse of a photograph sent
Conrad Aiken 24 June 1947

The Lowrys visited Savannah in February 1947 while on a bus trip from Miami to New York.

"Open the Door, Richard" is a song first recorded on the Black & White Records label by saxophonistist Jack McVea at the suggestion of A&R man Ralph Bass. In 1947, it was the number-one song on Billboard's "Honor Roll of Hits" and became a runaway pop sensation.

"Open the Door, Richard" started out as a black vaudeville routine. Pigmeat Markham, one of several who performed the routine, attributed it to his mentor Bob Russell. The routine was made famous by Dusty Fletcher on stages like the Apollo Theater in New York and in a short film. Dressed in rags, drunk, and with a ladder as his only prop, Fletcher would repeatedly plunk the ladder down stage center, try to climb it to knock on an imaginary door, then crash sprawling on the floor after a few steps while shouting, half-singing "Open the Door, Richard". After this he would mutter a comic monologue, then try the ladder again and repeat the process, while the audience was imagining what Richard was so occupied doing.

Jack McVea was responsible for the musical riff which became associated with the words "Open the Door, Richard" that became familiar to radio listeners and as many as 14 different recordings were made. Read more on Wikipedia

The appeal of the song for Malc goes without saying! Though it is impossible to ascertain which version Malc heard. It could be anyone of these from 1946/47:

The recording by Count Basie was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-2127. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on February 7, 1947 and lasted four weeks on the chart, peaking at number one.

The recording by Dusty Fletcher was released by National Records as catalog number 4012. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on January 31, 1947, and lasted five weeks on the chart, peaking at number three.

The recording by The Three Flames was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 37268. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on February 14, 1947, and lasted three weeks on the chart, peaking at number four.

The recording by Louis Jordan was released by Decca Records as catalog number 23841. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on March 7, 1947, and lasted two weeks on the chart, peaking at number seven.

The recording by Jack McVea, recorded in October 1946, was released by Black & White Records as catalog number 792. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on February 14, 1947, and lasted two weeks on the chart, peaking at number seven.[6] As stated above, this was the original recording.

Here are the different versions:

Friday, 15 July 2011

Michael Mercer's Goodnight Disgrace

From his wheelchair in a nursing home, the aging Conrad Aiken recalls his long, stormy friendship with Malcolm Lowry. When Aiken is 40, Lowry's father pays him to tutor the young Malcolm. But the protegé becomes Aiken's friend, and, gradually, a real contender. Mercer's powerful play reveals the shifts in the two men's relationship as they struggle with alcoholism, women, creative energy, and each other; and as the student metamorphoses into a rival. "I will be the one they remember," Lowry declares in their final scene together.

Goodnight Disgrace, directed by Leon Pownall, was first performed by the Shakespeare Plus Theatre Company in Nanaimo, British Columbia, on July 5, 1984, with the following cast:

Conrad Aiken ... Matt Walker
Nurse ... Sheri-D Wilson
Malcolm Lowry ... Ron Halder
Clarissa Lorenz ... June Mayhew
Arthur O. Lowry ... Don Wallace
Ed Burra ... Sam Mancuso
Jan Gabrial ... Joelle Rabu

A text of the play has been published by Talon Books,

Seven Sisters Stanley Park Vancouver

In the park of the seaport the giant trees swayed, and taller than any were the tragic Seven Sisters, a constellation of seven red cedars that had grown there for hundreds of years, but were now dying, blasted, with bare peeled tops and stricken boughs (They were dying rather than live any longer near civilisation. Yet though everyone had forgotten they were called after the Pleiades and though named with civic pride after the seven daughters of a butcher, who seventy years before when the growing city was named Gaspool had all danced together in a shop window, nobody had the heart to cut them down.) The Bravest Boat

There is a well-known trail in Stanley Park that leads to what I always love to call the "Cathedral Trees"–that group of some half-dozen forest giants that arch overhead with such superb loftiness. But in all the world there is no cathedral whose marble or onyx columns can vie with those straight, clean, brown tree-boles that teem with the sap and blood of life. There is no fresco that can rival the delicacy of lace work they have festooned between you and the far skies. No tiles, no mosaic or inlaid marbles, are as fascinating as the bare, russet, fragrant floor outspreading about their feet. They are the acme of Nature's architecture, and in building them she has outrivalled all her erstwhile conceptions. She will never originate a more faultless design, never erect a more perfect edifice. But the divinely moulded trees and the man-made cathedral have one exquisite characteristic in common. It is the atmosphere of holiness. Most of us have better impulses after viewing a stately cathedral, and none of us can stand amid that majestic forest group without experiencing some elevating thoughts, some refinement of our coarser nature. Perhaps those who read this little legend will never again look at those cathedral trees without thinking of the glorious souls they contain, for according to the Coast Indians they do harbour human souls, and the world is better because they once had the speech and the hearts of mighty men. "The Lure in Stanley Park" in Legends of Vancouver. by E. Pauline Johnson.

The trees were six Douglas Firs and a red cedar. In 1951, the Vancouver Parks Board declared them a hazard after they begun to die in 1943 when their root systems had been damage by constant traffic. (Vancouver: A History of Photographs by Aynsley Vogel and Dana Wyse). The last tree was removed in the 1960s Sean Kheraj Restoring Nature: Ecology, Memory and the Storm History of Vancouver's Stanley Park in Canadian Historical Review 88, 4 December 2007)

The Vancouver Sun 3 April 1951 featured a story of the trees headed 'Famed Giants of Forset Doomed'which prompted Malc to draft a letter to the newspaper which is the basis of what appears in his short story 'The Bravest Boat'. The death of the trees symbolised for Lowry the encroaching urban sprawl and industrialisation of Vancouver which is an underlying theme of the short story.

Malc also took up with the paper how the trees got their name of "Seven Sisters". The paper stated that the name was linked to the Sutherland Sisters, who sold hair tonic, and performed in Vancouver shop windows back in the 19th Century. The paper also stated that they have been named after the daughters of one Gastown's prominent citizens, Angus C. Fraser. Sherrill Grace has noted that Fraser actually had eight daughters! (Collected Letters 369)

The Seven Sutherland Sisters, a group of singing women from Lockport/ Niagara, N.Y., were famous for their long hair, which they showed off in a sideshow of Barnum & Bailey’s from about 1882 to 1907. On such group photos the sisters were always placed in such a way that it seemed all of the sisters had hair reaching the floor.

Malc suggest in his letter to the Vancouver Sum and later in 'The Bravest Boat' that in actual fact that the trees were named after Pleiades - the constellation known as the Seven Sisters. The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology: Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Alcyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione. As daughters of Atlas, the Hyades were sisters of the Pleiades. The English name of the cluster itself is of Greek origin, though of uncertain etymology. Suggested derivations include: from πλεîν pleîn, to sail, making the Pleiades the "sailing ones"; from pleos, full or many; or from peleiades, flock of doves. Malc goes on his draft letter to detail the various myths concerning the Pleiades including that the the one cedar in the seven firs corresponds to the Lost Pleiad Hyades.

Malc goes onto say that the Pleiades are known in many cultures - the Egyptians, the Aztecs etc. But significantly he also mentions that the Mexican Day of the Dead, All Saints Day and the festival of the All Hallows are all associated with the culmination of the Pleiades.

On of the ironic things that Malc suggests in his letter is to preserve the stumps of the trees by encasing them in plastic and goes onto say:

..Even more touching might be to put a little tablet, likewise encased in the plastic of course, commemorating their high-minded murderer; Persecuted & killed by civilisation in the form of the Noble City of Vancouver. nee Gastown R.I.P. (Huggged to death out of love).

As the plaque above states, in 1986 they were replaced with a newly-planted batch of evergreens.

See Seven Sisters, Stanley Park, Vancouver April 1951 on Postcards from Malc

Finally, E. Pauline Johnson believed in the Chinook legend that the trees were planted by the Four Men sent by Sagalie Tyee to prevent the lure of a witch:

The Four Men, fearing that the evil heart imprisoned in the stone would still work destruction, said: "At the end of the trail we must place so good and great a thing that it will be mightier, stronger, more powerful than this evil." So they chose from the nations the kindliest, most benevolent men, men whose hearts were filled with the love of their fellow-beings, and transformed these merciful souls into the stately group of "Cathedral Trees." Legends of Vancouver.

See The Famous Old Oak Tree, Calderstones Park, Liverpool on Postcards from Malc