Monday, August 31, 2009

Would Arsole Fantüme Have Eaten in a Toilet-Themed Restaurant?

No, he would not. He eschews the toilet, as readers of his novel are aware. But in Taiwan, there is a toilet-themed restaurant called The Merton Restaurant, where diners can enjoy food from miniature toilets.

Yawn. Wake me for the enema-themed restaurant.



UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Look at Constipation and Stomach Ailments in Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"

In my ongoing research on obscure fantastic French literature, I often spend time reading long-forgotten books and journals. Recently, I was reading an issue of something called "The Journal of French Literature," from 1984. The article was on Jules Verne's classic novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Seas," and entitled "The Nautilus as Body." The author, Dr. Alexandre Figuier, shows how Nemo's famous underwater vessel is a stand-in for the human body, and the descriptions of its actions are descriptions of the "physical functions" of those on board.

While reading the article, I found a passage that would be of particular interest to fans of Arsole Fantüme. The author discusses the bowel movements, constipation, and stomach upset that would be experienced by those forced by Captain Nemo to live upon the Nautilus, and eat only seafood.

I've scanned the two pages, but because the journal was so cheaply produced, the pages are a bit blurry, so I've gone ahead and typed the relevant paragraphs into this blog post. This purely for historical/research purposes. There was no copyright notice in the journal itself, so if Dr. Figuier is out there and comes upon this, I hope he will take this in the spirit in which it's intended:


FROM "THE NAUTILUS AS BODY," A LOOK AT CONSTIPATION AND STOMACH AILMENTS IN JULES VERNE'S "20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA"

It seems difficult to believe that Verne, who spends so much time and effort explaining the fantastic mechanisms of the amazing Nautilus, and moreover spends as many pages detailing the all seafood diet that Dr. Arronax et. al. are forced to ingest, would not spend at least as much time detailing the physical effects of the change of diet and surroundings upon the conscripted men.

In fact, Verne does this very thing, in the 20th chapter of part one, “Torres Strait.” However, he does this with typical Victorian discretion. Verne sets it up by having Conseil discuss Ned Land:

“He is a positive spirit with an imperious stomach. Looking at fish and constantly eating them is not enough for him. The lack of wine, bread, and meat does not suit a pure Anglo-Saxon accustomed to steaks, and who appreciates his glass of brandy or gin!”
As we have already seen, the glass of brandy or gin is a reference to digestion. The “imperious stomach” of a one accustomed to eating steak and drinking gin might be expected to behave in a wholly different manner after months of nothing but fish and seaweed.

THE BOWELS AFFECTED

When the Nautilus comes upon the coral reef where Captain Cook’s ship was nearly sunk, Dr. Arronax confides “I very much wanted to visit this 360-league long reef, against which a permanently squally sea breaks with terrible intensity like rolls of thunder.”

The language with which Dr. Arronax expresses this sentiment is out of place with his other descriptions of the undersea world-- the prose has an almost poetic intensity in its description of discomfort. Why, for instance, would Dr. Arronax be so interested in visiting a “permanently squally sea,” after so many descriptions of the languid sea that came before? The answer is that, in this passage, Dr. Arronax is describing the sensations of his own bowels, after a diet of sea-food. With the very next sentence, the Nautilus leaves the coral reef, and plunges further into the depths of the sea, and Dr. Arronax “had to be content with the various specimens of fish brought up by our nets.”

The “squally” stomach breaking with terrible intensity will find no respite. There is plenty of food-- all of it of the stomach--churning variety.

It gets worse for the new residents of the Nautilus, as it ventures further into the Strait:

Around the Nautilus the sea was boiling furiously. The current... was breaking over the coral tips emerging here and there.

“A bad sea!” said Ned.

“Very bad,” I answered, “and not at all suited to a vessel like the Nautilus.”

We have already seen how the Nautilus represents the human body. Here, it is Dr. Arronax admitting that his bowel movements have been unsatisfactory. When the Nautilus runs aground, Dr. Arronax is describing constipation.

We had gone aground at high tide in a sea where the tides are not large, and unfortunate circumstance for the chances of refloating the Nautilus. So solidly constructed was the ship, however, that its hull was not damaged in any way. But if it could neither sink or be holed, it ran a high risk of remaining stuck on the reefs forever, in which case Captain Nemo’s submarine vessel was done for.

The submarine vessel remains aground, of course, until Dr. Arronax, Conseil, and Ned Land take a dinghy to dry land, where, according to Ned Land,

“We’re going to eat meat, and what meat: real game! Not bread I tell you! I don’t say that fish is a bad thing, but you can have too much of it, and a piece of fresh venison grilled on glowing coals will make a nice change from our usual fare.”

After the men have spent “a few days on land,” the tide again rises, and the Nautilus is finally able to “refloat.” Their constipation is over, bowels having returned to a form of normalcy, and their journey upon the Nautilus continues apace.

SEXUALITY ON THE NAUTILUS

A submarine full of only men, and the leader of them a solitary and quite mad man indeed, is a submarine of lonely nights of desperate companionship. Again, Verne was bound by the strictures of Victorian mores, and was able to explore the themes implied in only the vaguest of

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Death Gush: EneMetal Music Inspired by Arsole Fantüme

Recently I came into contact with another FOA ("Fan of Arsole") named Gareth Lower, who once had a band that performed songs inspired by the classic novel "Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist." He sent some lyrics for a song he wrote called "Feculent Harvest," which was attached to the following email he graciously agreed to allow me to post here:

Dear Mr. Sprague,

I have recently discoveredf that you've translated Arsole Fantume into english, I wanted to reach out and introduce myself since I had heard of this book long ago and based a heavy metal band off of it's contents, for years my brother and I went through many trial and tribluations (and some bar fights) while trying to keep this band Death Gush alive, I hope that translating and publishing your book about Arsole was easier than trying to sing songs about him and his message, let me tell you, no one wanted to hear it back then. I am hoping that since your book is out now that there will be a new interest in Marcel Maurice and the other guy's work and possibly of Death Gush too.

I've got this old lyric sheet from maybe 1998 and thought I'd send it to you so that you can see that we're on the same page, if you will. This is the unfinished version but the only one I could find, it's a long story.

Let me know what you think.

EneMetal Rawk!

Best, Gareth Lower
I have never heard the term "EneMetal Rawk" before, but I am extremely excited to hear what it's all about! Gareth has promised to send along any audio he finds, and any songs he creates in the future. If these notes "from maybe 1998" are any indication, we're in for some really compelling music.

"I reap the feculent harvest
Tilling the dark night soil..."


I have a feeling Arsole would approve.

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Edward Gorey Drawing of Dr. Termite and Perdita


I found this great picture of what appears to be Dr. Termite and Perdita from the novel "Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist" as drawn by the late, great Edward Gorey. It apparently appeared in a copy of "Look" magazine in the late 1960s.

From the original source posting:

All the Gorey drawings intrigued me, but this one probably most of all. I was haunted by the mysterious "Dr. T." What was he a doctor of? What did the "T" stand for? Why did he always carry a poodle with him? And, why was he wearing what appeared to be a mask?


I've gotten a lot of emails from people saying I've unfairly neglected discussing the psychiatrist who wears a veil because, as he claims, his features are so disturbing they might frighten his patients. It's true that Dr. Termite is one of the more intriguing characters in the book, with his eccentricities, his inscrutable hypnotic skills with "therapeutic speech," and his devotion to his "faithful companion," the poodle bitch called Perdita. I suppose at some point I should go through and more thoroughly introduce all the characters, but anyone who's read the novel knows that it's full to bursting with odd personalities, and it's difficult to do justice to all of them.

Of course, Dr. Termite might actually be Arsole Fantüme, in disguise. The book is full of characters who are clearly not who they appear, and are clearly hiding behind masks. Or veils. As Inspector Lefévre says, "His ability to change his appearance and elude capture means that he could be anyone, at any time!"

Regarding the Gorey drawing: I have never seen this image before, but looking at it now, it's clear to see that it was inspired by the character Dr. Termite. It shouldn't be a surprise that Gorey would have been aware of the macabre and unusual "Arsole Fantüme," considering he wrote the introduction to Ballantine's 1987 reissue of the second "Fantomas" novel, under the title "The Silent Executioner."

Anyway, this is a great find, and I appreciate being able to post it here.

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Edward Gorey Dr. Termite and Perdita pic source.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Killed Mozart?

Reuters reports on another ridiculous theory as to what killed the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:

The death of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of 35 may have been caused by complications stemming from strep throat, according to a Dutch study published on Monday. Since the composer's death in 1791, there have been various theories about the cause of his untimely end, from intentional poisoning, to rheumatic fever, to trichinosis, a parasitic disease caused by eating raw or undercooked pork.


Clearly, the author of the story is conflating one of the famous composer's works, the opera la morte da streptococcal, with an actual cause of death. This is especially ludicrous given the fact that, per my own research, the author of the canon Leck mich im Arsch was probably killed by enema.


Mozart is the most famous person ever to die by enema.

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Mozart pic source.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Tobacco Smoke Enema



It's almost as if the stars are in alignment for the reappearance of the Arsole Fantüme ("He Murders By Enema!") novel. The above email has been making the rounds recently (and forwarded to me a couple of times now) showing a tobacco enema kit.

Of course, Arsole Fantüme doesn't use a tobacco enema in the novel- his ingredients are much, much worse!

Wikipedia has more about the tobacco enema, as you might expect:

To physicians of the time, the appropriate treatment for "apparent death" was warmth and stimulation. For this purpose, artificial respiration and the blowing of smoke into the lungs or the rectum were thought to be interchangeably useful. The smoke enema was considered the most potent method, however, due to the warming and stimulating properties associated with tobacco in the pharmacopoeia of the period. At the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in Western medicine, considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration.


That is pretty amazing. But that might be why Arsole Fantüme doesn't use the tobacco smoke enema- it's too well-established in the medical community.

Wikipedia's also got some great pictures:



Of course you're encouraged to check out the novel for sale here. And also why not check out the rest of this blog for more Arsole information?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Devil in the Ass- A Story By Arsole Fantüme Authors Marcel Maurice and Pierre

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, Arsole Fantüme Gentleman Immoralist authors Marcel Maurice and Pierre wrote more than one story about enemas. One such story, published in 1900, was called “The Devil in the Ass,” and it featured a character called “Deacon Struckshonne,” who also used an enemata. As a recent email correspondent wrote to me (see the link above):

It was published in a collection called “The Misery of Religion,” which was limited to a mere 500 copies, very few of which still exist (the scans are from my own personal copy). In it, you will find some similarities with “Arsole Fantüme.”


He sent me scans of the story, and I’ve recently completed the translation from the French. It does indeed bear some similarities with the Arsole Fantüme book, and not merely because it features an enema. Fans of the book will doubtless be delighted by the opportunity to read the story here:

THE DEVIL IN THE ASS
By Marcel Maurice and Pierre
Translation by and © 2009 Ricky Sprague

The nunnery at Sang de Madre was ensconced within the verdant green of the outer Flaneur countryside. Within the vaulted walls did the occupants diligently carry out the services of the Most Holy Church of the Most Holy of Holies, displaying while so doing an agreeableness of spirit that was inspirational to those townspeople who did not spit upon the nuns, or laugh at them, when they made their twice-monthly journeys into town for supplies, and to sell crucifxes they made from the fingers of lepers.

It was not long after returning from one such pilgrimage that the Lady Abbess and one of the Sisters, Emma, encountered a man standing outside the nunnery. He carried with him a large, patched bag, and wore upon his person the clothing of a man of the church, a bishop or a deacon, and his countenance was one of quiet and deep contemplation such as one would expect from a man contemplating the holiest of holies. Upon hearing the footsteps of the two women, he turned, and smiled at them. He had nearly all his teeth, and his skin was covered in only a few sores. He smelled of lilac oil and milk left in the refreshing sun.

“You are clearly not a beggar,” the Lady Abbess said, taking in his appearance.

“I thank you for the compliment,” the man replied. “I am a man of the church. A holy man. I am called Deacon Struckshonne.” He extended his hand, the skin of which was rough and calloused.

The Lady Abbess introduced herself, then said, “And this is Sister Emma, the youngest of my charges.”

Sister Emma, whose youthful rose was still very much in bloom, indeed almost painfully overripe, felt the soft, pure alabaster white of her skin turn blood crimson when she took the Deacon’s hand. A most adorable creature. He told her how delighted he was to meet two such lovely and holy women. Sister Emma laughed.

“I am here on a long journey across France,” the Deacon said. “I had hoped that I might take a few days respite here, before continuing on to Saint Pierre.”

“We have ample room for you, Deacon,” the Lady Abbess replied. “Of course I need not remind such a man as you that your quarters shall be away from the Sisters’.”

“Of course,” the Deacon said, smiling and bowing.

Sister Emma could not contain her giddiness, and a few explosive chuckles escaped her mouth before the Lady Abbess slapped her across the cheek. The resultant surprise caused her body to convulse slightly, and she gently touched the red imprint that the Lady Abbess’ fingers had left upon her cheek.

Sister Emma had not spent a night within the same structure as a man since she was a child. She had lived with her father and step-mother until the time when her father passed away, and her step-mother had given her the option of becoming either a prostitute, or a nun. Having failed the prostitution exam, she went to the nunnery. That had been fourteen years before, and now she was seventeen.

Lying there in the mild and humble comfort of her own straw cot, she could not help but to think of the Deacon’s rough-hewn body. Of the creases that lined his face like a map of a city; of the harsh whiskers that lightly decorated his chin; of the leathery skin burnished by years of exposure to the sun.

She could not help herself- she thought of what it would feel like to have his whiskers raking against her own supple flesh. She wondered what that skin would feel like, as she stroked it gently with her own small, delicate hands. She wondered what the creases of his face would taste like, as she licked him.

Soon, the desire she felt was so strong that she could see before her face the clear image of her own alabaster-skinned body beneath his tawny, muscled body, engaged in acts that she had only heard about in scandalous whispers. The bodies rocked back and forth like two boats riding different currents, for Sister Emma, in her charming näivete, did not know what members of the opposite sex did to one another when they succumbed to temptation. She knew that she had a slit between her legs, but for her it was for nothing more than urination and the monthly gift.

This was partly why she’d failed her prostitution exam.

As Deacon Struckshonne happened to be walking by her room at that moment- having gotten lost in an attempt to find a proper room in which to pray- he gently pressed open the door of Sister Emma’s room. So transfixed was she by the image she saw floating above her head that she did not hear the creaking of the door, as it creaked open.

Nor did she hear the gasp Deacon Struckshonne let out, as he bore witness to the very image that had so transfixed her. They both watched those bodies rock back and forth, in the manner of a child’s seesaw or rocking horse.

“Sure that is not what you believe goes on between men and women!” Deacon Struckshonne gasped, as he fully entered the room and closed the door behind him.

“The Lady Abbess will hear us!” Sister Emma declared, her body tingling with excitement as she saw the body of the man in her room. He was dressed in a long tatty silk shirt that exposed the dangling head of his Deacon wand.

He shook his head. “She’ll not hear,” he declared, inching closer to her, “if you’ll allow me to instruct you quietly.” And as he moved closer, Sister Emma observed that the head of his wand disappeared under his shirt, and as it did so, the bottom of his shirt pointed at her, briefly, then fell back down against his skin.

“As you are a Deacon, I’ll not refuse the offer of instruction,” Sister Emma declared, as the Deacon removed from her bed the burlap bag she used as a blanket.

He climbed on top of her and immediately showed her the other use to which the slit between her legs could be put. She began to enjoy it so much that she let out whooping squeals of delight that roused the entire nunnery. All its residents crowded around her door- those nearest watched, mouths agape.

Finally, the Lady Abbess pushed her way to the front of the crowd and into Sister Emma’s room. “What is the meaning of this?” she cried out, scandal in her voice.

“Give me a moment, and I shall explain,” the Deacon declared. After a few more seconds his body shuddered, and he rolled off of Sister Emma’s body. Yawning, he told the Lady Abbess, “This is worse than I thought.”

“What mean you?” asked the Lady Abbess.

“She is full of the devil,” the Deacon said. “You see, when I passed by her door on my way to offer prayers, I saw her in here, an image of lust projected above her head. I knew right away that it was the devil seeking to tempt me. So, I allowed him to think that I was being tempted, and I engaged in the act of copulation with her-”

At this, the nuns gasped collectively.

The Deacon raised his hand. “I assure you, I engaged in this act merely in an attempt to trick the devil.”

The nuns made sounds of relief.

“However, I fear that I was unable to pump the devil from Sister Emma’s sweet, innocent, taut body. For that reason, more drastic measures must be taken.”

“May I say something?” Sister Emma asked, having finally caught her breath.

“No!” the Lady Abbess scowled. Her gaze returned to Deacon Struckshonne. “Continue.”

“I have a kit that I always carry with me, in my bag. I will most assuredly drive out the devil.” In preparation, he gave the Lady Abbess inStruckshonne, and told her to bring Sister Emma, along with three other of the most trusted nuns, and meet him in the room in which the sisters did the most reflection in the Most Holy Church of the Most Holy of Holies.

Having misunderstood the Deacon’s instructions, the sisters brought Sister Emma to the Refectory. This was of no consequence, as the Deacon finally found them. He instructed the four sisters to each take hold of one of Sister Emma’s limbs, with one at each of Sister Emma’s wrists and ankles, and hold her face down on the refection slab.

From his bag, Deacon Struckshonne removed a metal cylinder with a long rubberized tube on one end, and a plunger on the other. “She will put up some resistance,” the Deacon said. And indeed, as if to illustrate his point, Sister Emma gave a sharp cry of pain and her body attempted to shift to the side as he placed his finger between the two cheeks of her buttocks and applied to the spot a lubricant of roughly the same consistency as saliva. “The devil will fight us,” the Deacon continued. “Be ready.”

“Always are we ready to fight the devil,” replied the Lady Abbess, holding on to Sister Emma’s right ankle, and watching attentively.

Finally, Deacon Struckshonne placed the end of the rubber tubing into the spot he’d lubricated, and there escaped from Sister Emma’s lips a sigh of pain. Then, as he depressed the plunger of the device- slowly, so as not to rupture any of the Sister’s delicate internal mechanisms- the sigh became louder, growing in intensity like the caterwauling of the emotionally insane.

“No!” Sister Emma cried out.

“This is for your own good!” Deacon Struckshonne declared. So devoted to his work was he that he had not taken the time to change his clothes- he still wore nothing more than the long tatty silk shirt. So intent was he upon rescuing the poor girl that the Lady Abbess saw that this tatty silk shirt was pointing in her direction.

What was first expressed from the spot between Sister Emma’s cheeks was nothing more than the common scatological items one might expect to see from such a process. The Lady Abbess noted in particular that Sister Emma seemed to have difficulty completely digesting corn. Then, suddenly and startlingly, the entire structure seemed to shake, and a voice loud and booming cried out.

It came from Sister Emma’s body- but not from her mouth! Rather, the sound was expelled from her buttocks! And then, astonishment filled the spectators as a creature with the thighs and feet of a goat, and the upper torso and head of a scandalous man, emerged from the very spot from which the sound had emanated!

“Get thee gone, devil!” Deacon Struckshonne shouted at the foul creature. A strong wind howled all around them, and the sisters struggled to remain standing, even as they continued to hold fast to Sister Emma’s wrists and ankles.

“Ha, ha!” the devil of Sister Emma’s buttocks laughed. “It seems no matter where I go, Deacon Struckshonne gets me in the end!” He again laughed, a cold, mirthless laugh that chilled them all to the bone, and in a whiff of brimstone, he was gone.

The Deacon nodded to the sisters, and they released Sister Emma. He approached her, rolling her over onto her back, and gently wiping the hair away from her sweat-soaked forehead. “You are safe now, my child,” he said.

“What happened to me?” she asked, shakily.

“You had the devil in you. But he’s gone, now.”

“Thank you,” she said, gratefully.

“You tested me,” he said- not to her, but to the devil. “She was a tempting subject. But I will not rest until you’re caught.”

The Lady Abbess took Sister Emma in her arms and held her tight. “My child,” she said, “I am so sorry that you’ve suffered like this.” She applied tender kisses to her face and lips. “No longer shall you be forced to eat corn.”

The next day, the truly holy Deacon Struckshonne was back on the road. The devil was again on the loose, and he was the only one with the proper tools to fight him.

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Yes, Thomas Pynchon Has a New Novel Out Today- No, it Does Not Feature an Enema Murderer



Thomas Pynchon is a famous American author responsible for many famous and great novels, such as The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow. His latest novel, Inherent Vice, was published today. It's a sort of crime novel set in Los Angeles in the 1960s.

However- it does not have a character who murders people by enema. It does not feature reanimated corpses. There are no occultists. There are no psychiatrists who hypnotize people with therapeutic speech. It does not take place in France in 1901. It does not weave all these elements together into an explosive story that leaves the reader gasping for mercy.


Thomas Pynchon has not allowed anyone to take his photo in years. Could it be that he's too embarrassed that he never wrote a novel about an enema murderer?

No, if you're looking for a novel that combines all those elements, you will have to look to Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist. Read it, and shudder! And laugh!


UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

Inherent Vice pic source.
Thomas Pynchon pic source.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist Now Available from amazon.com!


You can find the novel by clicking here. Or you can click the button I've helpfully placed on the right side of the screen.

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.