18 May 2011

The Haunting of Hill House by Jackson, 1959

Filed under: Fiction, First Lines — ktismatics @ 8:29 am

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

[. . .]

It was the custom, rigidly adhered to,” Luke said, turning the brandy in his glass, “for the public executioner, before a quartering, to outline his knife strokes in chalk upon the belly of his victim — for fear of a slip, you understand.”

I would like to hit her with a stick, Eleanor thought, looking down on Theodora’s head beside her chair; I would like to batter her with rocks.

“An exquisite refinement, exquisite. Because of course the chalk strokes would have been almost unbearable, excruciating, if the victim were ticklish.”

I hate her, Eleanor thought, she sickens me; she is all washed and clean and wearing my red sweater.

“When the death was by hanging in chains, however, the executioner…”

“Nell?” Theodora looked up at her and smiled. “I really am sorry, you know,” she said.

I would like to watch her dying, Eleanor thought, and smiled back and said, “Don’t be silly.”



  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haunting_%281963_film%29

    This is very good, but it was maybe 30 years ago I saw it. I didn’t know it was the same till I looked up the wiki of Haunting of Hill House. There was also in the late 50s something called ‘House on Haunted Hill’, I thought that might be it, but it turns out to be Vincent Price. I saw Claire Bloom is in ‘The Haunting’ as well as Julie Harris, both very good stage actresses. I saw Bloom do ‘A Doll’s House’ around 1972, it was impressive enough, but the production wasn’t as sensational as a ‘Hedda Gabler’ with Maggie Smith I’d seen in London the previous year. Harris and Bloom are still around, which is nice. Harris is extraordinary as the young girl in ‘Member of the Wedding’, which has Ethel Waters. Have you seen any of these? Somebody said, when Liz Taylor died, that she brought out the ‘campiness in Carson McCullers’. That’s bullshit, it’s just that Liz was naturally campy–and sometimes it worked as the real thing, as in ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’, which the person would have been referring to. I’ve always thought that was Liz’s greatest performance, and she had a real way with the ‘Southern gal’. I may try to see ‘The Haunting’ again, and the synopsis of the book let you know how subtle Jackson is, but I don’t tend to be easily able to get into this sort of thing, no matter how good.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 19 May 2011 @ 9:09 pm

  2. I’ve not seen any of these films. The Haunting was remade in 1999 with Lili Taylor reprising Julie Harris’ lead role as Eleanor. Lili Taylor played the lead in Abel Ferrara’s odd philosophical vampire movie The Addiction on which I posted previously, featuring a short but memorable appearance by Christopher Walken.

    All the characters in Jackson’s book spoke as though they belonged in a Victorian British piece rather than 1950s America. She didn’t write dialogue this way in The Lottery a decade earlier: maybe in Jackson’s view Victorian types are specifically drawn to hauntings. What I found most remarkable was how the characters in the house, who generally seemed cordial and even fond of one another, would suddenly speak with outright cruelty to Eleanor. Neither the narrator nor Eleanor commented on this abrupt interpersonal hostility, which oscillated with the more usual amiability even in the same brief conversations. Were they really speaking this way to the obviously troubled Eleanor, unwittingly influenced by the ghosts in the house? Or was the narrator telling the reader what Eleanor heard them saying — Eleanor, who proved to be the most open channel to the resident spirits and who seemed to be reliving an earlier occupant’s troubled relationships in that house? A film could conceivably capture this strange interpersonal dynamic even without access to Eleanor’s inner world, which is odd too but which is always lost or externalized in film adaptations. The physical manifestations of haunting and the architectural curiosities of the house didn’t move me much, though they’re more obviously cinematic.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2011 @ 4:20 am

    • “spoke as though they belonged in a Victorian British piece rather than 1950s America. She didn’t write dialogue this way in The Lottery a decade earlier: maybe in Jackson’s view Victorian types are specifically drawn to hauntings.”

      That’s getting close to my own problem with this genre, which I alluded to a while back as ‘one of the most difficult things to get right’ in writing. And the movie of ‘The Haunting’ is like that too. This atmosphere seems to be found in Hawthorne to a degree too, I’m musing, as in ‘House of the 7 Gables’, which I read in high school and found boring then–but probably wouldn’t now, since I’ve realized what an incredible writer Hawthorne was. In Faulkner, you get a Southern Gothic sometimes, and that at least doesn’t seem like another British Victorian haunted-movie house. So I confess to realizing that ‘the Haunting’ was very good, more than I actually liked it. There are also two versions, around the same time, of ‘The Turn of the Screw’, the first which was, I think, a Hallmark Hall of Fame with Ingrid Bergman, which I saw as a child, and always remembered the last words ‘his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped’; and only a couple of years later there was film version with Deborah Kerr. Who knows why that was necessary, but I’m glad they did it, and I saw it only about 5 years ago. Her acting chops are, as usual, well beyond Bergman’s–and at the end, she conveys this weird perversion which does leave one with the most mysterious sensation. I swear I can’t think of a film actress with greater range (in ‘The Chalk Garden’ she’s not the least bit intimidated by Dame Edith Evans, and almost anybody else would be). After she did that wonderful turn in ‘From Here to Eternity’, with lewd facial expressions and the rest, a few years later she was playing Gladys Cooper’s socially-retarded daughter in ‘Separate Tables’.

      But I’ve gone far afield, as usual. The ghost hallucinations in the Deborah Kerr ‘Turn of the Screw’ and that house are less oppressive and cliched, I think that’s what it is about this genre, these houses so often induce boredom in and of themselves, as they are totally removed from all the rest of society and usually have aristocrats or scientists of some sort being overly gentlemanly (I seem to keep seeing an image of David Niven), and in this, they are like TV soap operas (which are gradually all getting cancelled), which don’t make the merest nod to the existence of world events; the series/serials like ‘The Sopranos’ did occasionally, and there were entities like ‘the Feds’, of course. Who needs ‘The days of our Lives’?

      There were some similarities from the wiki synopsis to what was discussed in ‘The Shining’, and I saw that Stephen King had been very influenced by Jackson.

      Just took a look at the Yvette Vickers listing again, that’s ‘off market’, more informal and all the rest; I just found out what that meant. This idea of ‘real life haunted houses’ is of some interest as well. I believe the O.J. house was razed, even though the murders didn’t take place there. The Bedford Avenue house in Beverly Hills where the Stompanato murder took place is still there, though. I’ve stared at it, fascinated, because I imagine fans bought it and just made minor repairs and renovations as necessary, but the layout is as it was. No way anyone at all interested in Yvette Vickers’s place, which will now be very expensive anyway, will not know that she was dead inside it for almost a year. This is pretty creepy, and most wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it, but there are certain types who wouldn’t give it a second thought. otoh, I don’t think it was supposed to be in the worst shape of all properties in that neighborhood. It would be interesting only if somebody did want it for the purpose of being in a ‘haunted house’, but I have a hard time imagining that these days, don’t you?


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 20 May 2011 @ 11:00 am

      • I meant that I think the Vickers house was clearly ‘in the worst shape’ of all houses in the area, I looked at the listings and the Google Earth. It’s as if the little place had ingrown, as it were. Just occurs to me they’ll probably tear it down and rebuild. It’s the property that would be valuable in the 90210 zip code, the little house itself having been built in 1948, and in major disrepair. I haven’t read up on the O.J. Rockingham house demolition, but whether that one was razed because of the murders I don’t know. I’m sure that, compared to Ms. Vickers’s place, it was actually a very sturdy house. I just saw some bank had taken the place over, but read it hastily, and now have to rush out.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 20 May 2011 @ 11:13 am

  3. The obsolescence of the genre makes Kubrick’s haunted hotel even more remarkable. I suppose King deserves at least some of the credit, though I’ve not read the novel and don’t intend to. For some reason I once read Christine, his book about the haunted car, and found it stupid. Pet Sematary was effective, and I do find reanimated corpses far more disturbing than creepy architecture. King built his Shining hotel atop an Indian graveyard, but that feature added nothing to the movie version of the story. We stayed in a hotel in France once that could easily have been haunted, with its garishly hideous wallpaper, the organic reek permeating the room, the labyrinthine hallways, the consumptive in the room next door, the cold wet outdoors, and the two Occitan-speaking hags who ran the place. Anne actually got physically sick there; I just found it curious. There is something disturbing about the IMF head perpetrating his sex crime at a downtown NY hotel. Maybe it’s the violation of anonymity that makes hotels more potentially disturbing; houses are already haunted enough by their creepy living denizens.

    A few years back we spent two weeks house- and dog-sitting a place in our former neighborhood whose prior owner had killed himself in the upstairs bathroom. We knew this guy and were living two doors down when he suicided. There was something decidedly creepy at first about staying there, but since the place was fully opened, fully lived in, there were no secret places for the morbid imagination to latch onto. Faulkner’s story A Rose for Emily reads almost as a prologue or back story for a haunted house tale, which was a clever way to go. As a kid I came to realize that our own bathroom and my bedroom closet were both haunted, but many kids cultivate this sort of macabre obsession about their own houses in the nighttime.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2011 @ 11:41 am

    • “I suppose King deserves at least some of the credit, though I’ve not read the novel and don’t intend to. ”

      I was just thinking of this about half an hour ago after leaving Jack, and for the first time: I was thinking few things could hurt someone more as a creative entity than to come up with a fantastic idea, a second party to recognize the sense of true haunting the Overlook really has (even in the book that comes across), and then to have the nerve to vastly improve upon it without leaving out the essential vision.

      All these notes fabulously interesting, and I’ll say more in a couple of hours. We’re in some kind of rainy season, 10 days straight already, and I want to take a nap for 10 minutes.

      I, too, never thought about the Indian graveyard and had even forgotten about it.

      “I do find reanimated corpses far more disturbing than creepy architecture.”

      That’s very interesting, because I find just the opposite, because I can sense something in the creepy architecture (or imagine I do, and start having panic symptoms, as also once in an old cemetery in Alabama as well), but don’t know how to think of corpses as reanimated, so that they always seem just artificial (in the bad sense.)


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 20 May 2011 @ 2:55 pm

      • “The obsolescence of the genre makes Kubrick’s haunted hotel even more remarkable.”

        Yes, indeed–was thinking that too. It’s like he threw off all the old trappings as if they were mere filth and revolutionized it.

        “I suppose King deserves at least some of the credit, though I’ve not read the novel and don’t intend to”

        Yes, as I already noted, but also not worth reading. The tragedy, and here Kubrick’s meanness has turned into an artistic asset, is that the book really IS good until the idiotic, shameful ending. It’s not ever as sinister as the film, but that’s 1) something cinema does well 2) King doesn’t have that kind of talent, but wants to write long novels, and churn them out on the computer just like Joyce Carol Oates.

        “We stayed in a hotel in France once that could easily have been haunted, with its garishly hideous wallpaper, the organic reek permeating the room, the labyrinthine hallways, the consumptive in the room next door, the cold wet outdoors, and the two Occitan-speaking hags who ran the place.”

        The cliches about French hotels are true. Gawd. In 1996, in Paris on the rue St. Denis, there was the requisite consumptive–only this minute do I realize I thought, while hearing him, of Daniel Auteuil in ‘Les Voleurs’ w/deNeuve, although I don’t think Auteuil’s character was consumptive, but was in some dump like that.

        As an aside, I really DID just allow this to come to full consciousness this minute. Are you familiar with that? Because the image of Auteuil from hearing that consumptive was always there, every time I thought of the place, but it was just one of those things I carried around, as if one of your sub-language forms; it was like it was only the image. I don’t know if I also thought of Deneuve’s character jumping out the window though.

        “Anne actually got physically sick there; I just found it curious”.

        Well, you’re pretty non-squeamish about this sort of thing, I gather. I got sick in the Paris hotel too.

        “Maybe it’s the violation of anonymity that makes hotels more potentially disturbing”

        That is what I found most interesting and worthy of endless consideration. I seem to have picked up on this, although subconsciously, and worked several times to cut through the anonymity: 1) I insisted upon the same room in Papeete both times (they thought that strange), I wasn’t sure why it was so important. I didn’t really care that much for this room itself, except for the view of the harbour and Moorea, esp. in the 2nd trip with the sunsets. 2) at ‘secret motel’, I always stayed in either Room 216 or Room 215 ten out of 12 times I stayed there. I would usually do something to personalize it with temporary decoration with cut flowers, etc., and even took a vase out once for that. I always felt totally at home in 215, and stayed there some 8 times, but it began to be in demand by Germans staying several months.

        “There is something disturbing about the IMF head perpetrating his sex crime at a downtown NY hotel.”

        The Sofitel is a real business hotel, like the Novotel, I believe both were built in the 80s. It could be as you say, although I even have a story about the Sofitel, although I’ve never been in it. I believe I named it in IDNYC, which you’ll see soon. It had to be with a suicidal friend of mine, who had spent most of the 17 or so years I knew him desiring large amounts of glamorous money. And then he inherited a really large amount, only to refuse to leave the apartment, and even get a drug dealer (of pot, she is the ‘W.’ in ‘Day of Cine-Musique’, and she reappears too) to pay for his $200 rent-controlled little pad. She was arrested once or twice, and lived with me for about 4 months, until I realized she was too ill to stay here, and also would not keep the business out of the building as agreed (most of it she did, but this was too dangerous.) He claimed to have heart disease, and that the open heart surgery would not work. So he planned to commit suicide, and did so through the Hemlock Society, with ‘W.’ being the only person he confided in, EXCEPT for a secretary he hired to work out all his ‘precious legacy’ in great detail. This was the last thing he cared to do.

        He rented a room in the Sofitel for two weeks, and they worked very studiously on what he was going to do with each of his objects, and his money. He had kept journals for years, and ‘W.’ had these after he went to British Columbia, breathed in some gas, and was then cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific.

        All this was before his family (only a brother remained, and he may have not gotten over his parents’ fairly recent deaths, as he really never grew up at all, had been a B’way chorus boy and had a few major roles, including as Zack in ‘Chorus Line’, but it was downhill after that.) I saw ‘W.’ in 2003 on the street for the first time in years, who told me that Noel had ‘passed away’ in 2002. I hadn’t been in contact with him since 1999, when we had a frightful confrontation at his apartment, although I saw him on the street a couple of times just before his death, but wouldn’t speak to him.

        When she lived with me, she gave me a lot of his things, some of which were the nicer variety of ‘fairy bauble’, some decorative crystals which I use. There was a lamp I still use which was characterful, but that’s beside the point. The main thing she gave me were all the journals, including documentation of his drawing up of the will and the explicit persons who would receive his fur coat, some sculptures he’d had made by a dead friend.

        There were some 6 boxes in odd miniature briefcases full of diaries going from about 1991 through the period at the Sofitel. I went through all of these. ‘W.’ never had, or she would have seen that the ‘big money’ he inherited while making her pay the $200 monthly (that was unbelievably low rent for a W. 10th St. apt., even though it was very small) was to the tune of $250,000. She got none of this, but tried to sue for the apartment itself and put a squatter in there. She actually went to court and claimed that she and Noel, never married nor even sexually involved, were an ’emotional couple’, and that she had rights over the apartment.

        Mainly, she hadn’t read the diaries to know about the money, and there was some funny business there, because he even specifies that she was to get some, most or all of it. She would not have even let me see these financial statements, which were accounts with Salomon Brothers dating from about 1996 or 1997 had she ever seen them and gone carefully over them herself. I don’t know where the money went. I saw her again once or twice on the street after I evicted her, and she was too dangerous to talk to more than a few minutes: An example is that, when she lived here in 2003, she suggested to me that we figure out a way to sue her millionaire parents, and said ‘Well, it’s a PROJECT!’ And that seems to be the way Noel saw his death. I have always been nearly sure he thought he would ‘live’ to observe this project.

        But one of the times I saw her she said she had not gotten the apt., because ‘I had no rights’. I went by the place maybe 3 years ago and saw that Noel’s name was still on the buzzer, having thought I’d seen that it had been removed before that. I couldn’t believe it, and have no idea what it means. Even by then, about 2008, he’d been dead 6 years. Very recently, Jack and I were near there, and I decided to look again, that’s probably late 2010, and the name ‘C. Noel’ was still there. His name was Noel Craig, but somehow the name tag had come out backward.

        I’ve always kept the journals, even though I haven’t looked at them for years. While at the Sofitel with the ‘neutral secretary’ (whose name isn’t given), he refers to ‘our beautiful work together’. I was frequently in touch with him between 1985 and 1999, but I appeared in the diaries only once that I remember, he says something about how I brought over some beef stew.

        So I guess the Sofitel is haunted, and it doesn’t take an old place to do it. The IMF guy is mystifying, and I would imagine had done this very thing before, with the victim not complaining. But I don’t know, in this case. She said she didn’t know who he WAS. Maybe that hadn’t always been the case, or even this maid might have said nothing, out of fear of someone so powerful. It’s really quite fantastic, and I had this weird sensation last Sunday, because it had happened just the day before. Not that this means anything, and is not even very important to me, but for a few days it kept seeming so much more ‘recent’ than could be possible. It was like a huge earth-moving thing had happened in compressed time, but that could just be bullshit on my part.

        Somebody put up BHL’s silly ‘defense’ of DSK, which is interesting, because this kind of ‘French intellectual pose’ is outdated and pure self-parody by now. It’s strange they still think it will work at all, but there was a good bit of this sort of French world-weariness blase-chic right after 9/11 as well, and that was when I first realized that it had lost its footing.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 20 May 2011 @ 5:58 pm

      • I’ve not seen Les Voleurs. Chronic coughing from an adjoining room is so abject. I’ve noticed in two movie scenes recently where a moment of tension verging on anger is accompanied by a dog barking outside the window.

        This story of W, your suicidal friend, and his diaries is rich and strange, and with a Sofitel connection. “I have always been nearly sure he thought he would ‘live’ to observe this project.” Yes, I can see how the elaborate staging would constitute a performance for his own delectation. I don’t believe I’ve ever known anyone who was about to die who wasn’t terrified, but I’m sure there must be some who manage a graceful exit.


        Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2011 @ 11:10 pm

      • You’ve mentioned your attachment to place, which seems to go “all the way down”: not just vacation locations but specific rooms in specific hotels. At the same time I don’t see you having “your” restaurant or coffee shop, but I may be wrong. Most French people were very wary of new restaurants and would wait until someone they knew had eaten there and recommended it. We used to go to the movies regularly with some people there and we always ate at the same restaurant. The Michelin Guide, having been around so long, carries this sense of personal recommendation for out-of-town places: it’s as if Michelin were a mutual friend whose tastes could then be discussed in his absence. I’ve always wanted to visit new places, stay at different hotel each time, move to new towns/countries and so on — what I came to see as an almost stereotypical Americanism on my part: the consumerist adventurer seeing Europe in a week. But I’d rather keep moving than return home and tell everybody about my fabulous trip. I prefer being an expatriate; I prefer talking to strangers. It’s as though places I’ve been before are haunted by familiarity. Yours may be a more continental style of engagement, although New York is almost like a foreign country with respect to the rest of America.


        Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2011 @ 6:41 am

      • (never quite sure how ‘Reply’ will end me up.)

        And Noel also talks about how ‘expensive’ the Sofitel is. probably looking down on his secretary. Not that it’s cheap at all, and probably is pricey, but it was typical he’d choose a business hotel rather than a grand one, and would go with the suicide intentions: the Plaza or Pierre or Carlyle he could easily have done without even a dent in his money, but those might have cheered him up and made him remember, and I know he loved those places. After he got the money, he spent it only on clothes–some 50 suits in Las Vegas (where he did one more performance) and I guess here as well. He transformed his small living room into a space purely for the clothes, with professional store racks some 12 feet long, there were 3 or 4 of them. It seems that, since he was so parsimonious about most things before he got all that money, that once he did, he hadn’t the slightest idea how to spend it. He always talked about ‘going to LA’ to ‘becoma film star’, but he was more concerned with a sort of diagram of it and endless forcing people to listen to it than he was in going there. I went on two of those reported trips before he died, but he required that every movement be pre-arranged. This made him odious and disgusting and hateful in many ways, and it was only my weakness for wit that would make me forgive him, and I’m somewhat grateful not to have to be tempted to that again. So the Sofitel is a pure blank slate you can write on. Always equipped with the latest technologies, and of no interest in itself whatsoever. The Swede I told you about, the one Edmund White and I found out about 7 years after he died, had known Noel since 1959 or so, they had met at Julius’, where Jack and I often go. What’s interesting about Julius’ is that it has somehow survived while everything else has closed, but without turning into a museum version of itself. That’s pretty rare. So yes, a favourite bar.

        There was also a favourite restaurant, which I’ve moaned and groaned about (this is also in IDNYC), this was a Mexican place on 1st Avenue in the 60s, inexpensive and utterly romantic and charming. I took my ex-gf. there, and I took Christian there, and I went there by myself fairly often, beginning about 1999. I was finally taking Jack there in 2007, and we got there and it had disappeared–but the layout was exactly the same, with a new restaurant with new and hideous decor in it. The clerks had to be forced to say that it was the same place, and finally they did. So that had been ‘my restaurant’, but I don’t replace things, it seems. I had a cat for 18 years, after she died, I just went through the weirdness, and didn’t get another one. Most do.

        Another New York strangeness has to do with the murders of Prince and Princess Khedker, of whom I’d heard only a year before they were killed. I’ll put the three links here in case it interests you, but the New York Magazine article is long. Nevertheless, fascinating, and I found it only last night. In 1992, my brother was in town, and we went to my other favourite restaurant, a Chinese one just up a block from the Mexican one; this has also since closed (I’m not even sure how I discovered these, wandering around I guess, because that’s way the hell out of my neighborhood.) After lunch, I decided we’d walk down Park and Fifth and look at some of the rich buildings, because I had this surprising article from Town & Country which listed some 30 or 40 well-known and sometimes very famous people’s buildings. My brother thought Prince and Princess Khedker were probably ‘bought titles’, but they were the only ones using this. The New York article explains all this. The Indian ‘prince’ was not quite fraudulent, but ‘prince’ doesn’t mean the same in India as it does in UK or anywhere else there’s royalty in Europe; still, not the total fraudulence of Zsa Zsa’s fake prince Anhalt, who has made millions in the last decade, as he and Zsa Zsa ‘adopted’ Mafia and brothel owners in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, all of whom were in their 40s and 50s, but they’re pretty ‘new school’ out west, I guess, don’t give a shit what Europeans think. But I remember the building, it was a beautiful Italianate beige, about 24 storeys, but I had no idea till last night that there was a such thing as a rent-controlled apt. on Park Avenue. Jesus. The story is incredible, though. I remember reading about the murders about a year after our walk, and they had that weird, sterilized quality of the Ramsey case, which was itself like all those murders in that godawful ‘Murder She Wrote’, in which you see little more than a scratch–the murder never seemed to be what it was about. But once having read the New York article, I did find that it was much more gruesome than I thought, but that was in a zone which has had years without a single homicide in it. She was much older and wanted the title, he wanted the money and to fuck a lot of other rich broads, and did. Crazy business ventures all over the place, finally he started getting too shady, selling some of her things. What was most interesting was his affair with Ruth Warrick, who would have been about the same age as his wife, about 15 years older; she was famous in ‘All My Children’ soap opera as ‘Phoebe’, which even I saw once at my sister’s one summer. I put the link to her bio, knew Orson Welles, was married much and had children, and would have surely just paid ‘Teddy’ Khedker. It would have made sense to her, and the bio is much about this kind of East Side lady who is very involved with charities, has tons of energy and drive, and loves to get fucked. The whole bio rather amusing.




        The murderers seem a particular brand of inept, if they went to rob two apts., and couldn’t even pull it off without condemning themselves as murderers; I haven’t followed up on what happened to them.


        I never had thought of my way of travelling to be particularly ‘continental’, although it could be. I usually think it’s a continuation of Alabama-provincial, which I have to some degree even in NYC. I do know my neighbors, and am part of the fabric of life here in an old-fashioned sense (a friend who lives 3 blocks over knows none of hers, but she grew up in B’klyn, that’s the more normal way). But your way probably is an American style, one of them: I had a friend, who with his parents and siblings, made huge travels every summer while the kids were at home, and they wanted to cover every new place. After the kids were gone, the parents went all over every single part of mainland China they could manage to. That’s more the real traveller than I am, I’d say. The only tours I ever took were the jeep ones in Tahiti and Bora Bora, this was because there was no other access to the valley in the former and up the mountains in the latter (which was far less satisfying, however, what with Israeli honeymooners and Long Beach, CA loud children). I took photos on 2 LA trips, then the camera was ruined and I never replaced it.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 21 May 2011 @ 12:37 pm

      • I was wrong about Sofitel, which is illuminating about Noel’s ‘adventure’, his ‘project’. I knew it didn’t sound quite right that Sofitel would be like Novotel, which is ‘upscale’, but I always knew that one was used by European businesspeople a lot. They’re both run by the Accor Corporation, which also has economy brands like Motel 6, and is a French corporation. It didn’t seem to fit that DSK would have stayed at a Novotel-type place. So that was it, then. Noel had been becoming more and more insane, although drugs for years and tarot cards and New Age bullshit just aided and abetted. He would have probably consulted the Tarot Cards before choosing it, and did this to make decisions on all sorts of activities. I think I want to throw out the old diaries now, and I understand why Christian refused to see him in 1999. Staying at the Sofitel, which looks pretty gross in photos I just looked at, just gloss and glitz as usual if the money’s there, would go along with something he did a few years earlier, which was to go to some big gala and see Ivana Trump ‘all in white’ and say to her ‘YOU LOOK GREAT!’ and to call that ‘my last New York project’. But somehow his druggy life and young street hustlers around the house doesn’t, in the end, merit more than I wrote in IDNYC. When he told these stories, like about Trump, they were long-drawn-out and very boring, and you were supposed to think they had amounted to something. Chandler knew the type, and would have just dismissed him, as others, with the phrase ‘pansey decorator’. Even ‘W.’ admitted to having been glad she let him kill himself without telling anybody about it.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 21 May 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  4. The Christmas eve murder of Jon Benet Ramsey and its lurid coverage in the press continues to haunt Boulder, though after 15 years its presence has faded. That house was first bought by friends of the Ramseys and rented out; since then I believe it’s been sold twice, and I see it’s currently on the market. I’ve not paid close enough attention to know how much remodeling has been done, but at the time the layout of the rooms and the position of the outdoor windows were the object of great fascination. I remember that they changed the street address, in part to confuse drive-by gawkers but I suspect also to take a little of the haunted edge off the property. Apparently the police have decided that it really was an outside job, based on new technologies for evaluating forensic evidence. More than once I wondered whether our neighbor who killed himself (see prior comment) might have done it. He was a weird guy, and maybe a bit too attracted to little girls. I remember him telling me about going to an entrepreneurial seminar taught by John Ramsey, who coincidentally graduated from the same university as I. It was maybe two years after the murder that he killed himself. When staying in this guy’s former house I wondered whether he might have hidden a confession letter somewhere, but I didn’t search for it.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2011 @ 11:57 am

    • “Apparently the police have decided that it really was an outside job, based on new technologies for evaluating forensic evidence.”

      Very interesting. I hadn’t thought to look at the case any further. If it was, perhaps all the more tragic, because of the life the parents had after that, with everyone thinking they did it.

      You mentioned thinking there were haunted places in your house as a child. I never did, I don’t think, but once when we were at my sister’s first house after she married, I thought my brother-in-law was standing in the room in the same position for the longest time. It didn’t bother me, and I don’t think I said anything to my ‘hallucination’, but I asked about it the next day, and was told no one was there. I guess I’d chalk this up to some half-asleep state, if it didn’t bother me and I didn’t call to the ‘figure’. As an adult in my early 20s, I played concerts in Mexico City, and thought that the bed I slept in had some ghost-type thing sounding under it, and it never seemed at all abnormal, even though it didn’t make sense. I never imagined it was an animal, but I must have known it had something to do with the springs, or I’d have said something–as I tend to be very paranoid about unlocked doors, although not as bad as I used to be, when I’d go back and check to see if I’d locked for the night 4 or 5 times; I couldn’t seem to remember somehow, no matter how many times I looked, and this was a weird neurosis that has disappeared; or rather, I just check once and then do remember.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 20 May 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  5. I guess we didn’t make the cut for the Rapture, ID of NYC. Beginning at 6pm the online radio station has playing end of the world songs for those of us left behind: Elvis Costello, REM, New Pornographers, Tom McRae.

    “Chandler knew the type, and would have just dismissed him, as others, with the phrase ‘pansey decorator’. Even ‘W.’ admitted to having been glad she let him kill himself without telling anybody about it.”

    Nice literary smack to that summation.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2011 @ 6:19 pm

    • This talk of the mystery of hotels and hotel rooms really does have myriad possibilities, even in the unaesthetic ones. I may not care for the sleek impersonalness of many of the new ones, but that’s mainly because they’re so homogeneous, and there’s been a strange heaviness in new urban architecture since the 1980’s. But hotels like the Sofitel, while not interesting at all to me personally to spend any time there (as in one of its croissant sillinesses–this reminds me of the 1983 film ‘The Ploughman’s Lunch’, where folksy English things were marketed as authentic, and why I’m astonished that Julius’ somehow isn’t a marketed, modernized version of itself. Neither is ‘secret motel’, although it’s gone family-friendly, which probably in this case just means it’s going out of business), do seem perfectly natural for something like DSK’s crime to take place. It’s like something out of Michael Crichton and other slick novelists (Grisham, too, I guess, but I never read one). This Sofitel was built in 2000, which was about a year earlier than Le Meridien at Columbus Circle, which is another new hotel for the new super-rich types who really don’t care for the classic grand hotel styles. The fact that there’s a heavy emphasis on its Frenchness makes it all the more silly, as if a kind of theme park hotel. This probably would appeal to Noel, though, and it may have been as crude as ‘going out in style’. But that was wishful on his part, because to ‘do that expressionistic suicide-performance’, you really do have to go through with it, or look even more ridiculous. The DSK is really just like a fictional scene that really would occur. I think Crichton is actually pretty good at some of this sort of thing, as in ‘Rising Sun’ (I just looked him up, didn’t even know he was dead.) I was more aware of the Meridien, which has exorbitant prices, and 10 years ago had a hamburger that cost $600; I suppose to please this kind of clientele they’ve had to double the price, and it would be interesting to find out which magnates complain about it. Probably ground Kobe, but silly, and there have even longer been drinks that sell for $1000.

      Just remembered that the exact phrase was, regarding Ivana Trump (a celeb of no interest, as far as I can see), “that was my last New York assignment, which makes it all the more pretentious and maybe sad. The parents were about 12 years difference, but although the older father survived his wife by a couple of years, it was the only case of husband-beating I know of. I was told by one of the communist bleugers that 'that's immaterial', because of the percentages, but then 'I thought she was better than that…'

      I think there has been a reaction to the 'sucking sounds' of the internet, and that people have integrated it by now. In 2006, it was far worse for me, and I was always fighting it, part of what the book is about. In fact, that Mexican restaurant Manana, now closed, I think I last visited in 2006, and it had neighborhood drinkers at the bar, although I knew none of them. I thought how strange they seemed, how pale and ghostly, it was as if I was seeing them through Zizek's lens of 'dominant-virtual', which was one of his most revolting propaganda numbers (it hadn't happened to that degree, he was stealing from Baudrillard, and he did cause it to seem as if it it had by insisting upon it, and then dropping it as became fashionable, which is what he always does). By now, it's probably still happening, but less on the personal level, as more people find less satisfaction in 'machinic desire' and Deleuze can even be critiqued as 'not sexy enough'. After all, a 'body without organs' is something of a contradiction in terms: You either get an amoeba or a nerd, so if one likes that, than I can only say there's really no accounting for tastes. So that at Julius', the regulars at the bar don't seem pale and ghostly any more, even though we always sit at the back and order their divine pub food.

      I had forgotten about yesterday's 'rapture', until a very stylish woman at the supermarket was humming this tune which had a phrase identical to the one that had just been playing on the Muzak there, but turned out to be a 'Jesus song'. She assured me that 'it wouldn't happen' in a few hours, although our tabloidy New York Post was very amusing 'BUY THIS PAPER! IT MAY BE THE LAST ONE YOU EVER BUY!' She then sang the whole song for me, which wasn't bad since she had a low, husky voice and was very sexy; I've met super-libidinal Jesus freaks (prayers and sermons on car CDs), but never one who really seemed to be implying that she might really listen to the devil if I was up to a little fast-talking. It was too humid for that, so I just told her she was a 'lovely lady' and she said 'you take care, brother'.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 22 May 2011 @ 10:59 am

  6. Somebody mentioned Skeeter Davis’ End of the World, which I love. I’ve not read the theories about how DSK might have been set up, but I can picture that being worked in as well. His enemies would know his weaknesses, would in prior stays at the Sofitel have staged porn chambermaid scenarios for le monsieur’s last night in town, then on the fateful night would have paid this third-world innocent a hundred bucks to make up the room toute suite and voila, he’s caught in the mousetrap. I wondered how a socialist would have been running the IMF, but I understand that it’s shifted from the Milton Friedman shock-doctrine style of lending to a more Keynesian approach, largely in response to a significant change in politico-economic climate among the IMF’s South American clients. The austerity program continues to dominate the EU, but if this guy had gotten to be president of France he might have pushed back toward the social-democratic policies by which most of the Western European countries have traditionally operated.

    Off to high school graduation soon — I may file a report later.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2011 @ 11:28 am

  7. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/nyregion/huguette-clark-recluse-heiress-dies-at-104.html

    This is another New York Haunting, really HauntingS, and is of the like that even I’ve never heard of in all the years of living here. There is always some version of the Khedkers, and even so, their story is more interesting than this rather horrid creature, who is NOT exemplary of the Charity Ball Circuit Park Avenue X-Ray out of Tom Wolfe.

    The reports disclosed that although her three palatial homes — a 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue; an oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, Calif.; and a country manor in New Canaan, Conn. — are fastidiously maintained, she had not been seen in any of them for decades.

    and then this bitch decides to live at fucking Beth Israel with her dolls and watch ‘The Flintstones’. Now the 42-room apt. on 5th Avenue is enough to make anybody furious–and apparently kept dusted as well. Maybe she ‘thought of her homes occasionally’.

    It’s a rarer story than the Khedkers (the East Side has always had tons of gigolos), but I think Ms. Jackson would be the one to have the patience to write a fiction on this frightful creature, who even married once for 9 months, and wouldn’t put out…


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 26 May 2011 @ 6:50 pm

  8. “Antisocial socialite” for seventy years — pretty great. I recently saw a documentary about an aunt and a cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier who lived in a garbage house in the Hamptons for decades. They were colorful at least and enjoyed the limelight, even if it shone on the catshit gracing their beds.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 May 2011 @ 8:42 pm

    • That would have been ‘Grey Gardens’. I just saw that there was an HBO 2009 version; the old famous one goes back to 1975, but I never saw it. There was a musical made of it w/Christine Ebersole in it that ran off-Broadway for a short while, and on for almost a year, winning many Tony Awards. I’m going to try to get hold of the CD of the score, which was nominated for a Grammy, not because I think it will be good, but because I can’t imagine turning this story of this kind of ‘cat women’ into a musical (but they’ll try to turn anything into one, clearly.) Jackie and Lee were quite the gals here in the 70s, and Lee is still with us. Lee was incredibly pretty still in 1992, and I’ve seen her at a few events since then. This is much more my type of socialite, not this crackers vegetable that lived in the hospital for 22 years. Jackie was even at the center of the crusade that saved Grand Central, which would have been a terrible loss. There were numerous super-famous types living in the tops of hotels, I think Douglas MacArthur lived in either the Waldorf or the Plaza, and there was one other big military guy, but that was a long time ago, but I NEVER knew you could rent out wings of a fucking hospital and make that your permanent residence. I wish they hadn’t razed the 125-room mansion of this dame’s father, it would have been a great remnant of the Gilded Age, and could have been used for a fine museum much as J.P. Morgan’s has been.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 27 May 2011 @ 10:51 am

  9. I saw the new version of Grey Gardens first, which prompted me to track down the original. The aunt could sing, and in the new version we’re treated to a flashback of her performing a number with her pianist/arranger/paramour. Drew Barrymore captures the niece’s accent perfectly; Jessica Lange doesn’t even try, but her acting is fine. Jackie helped them preserve and restore their house out of fondness for the aunt, but they seemed intent on letting it run down again. I guess after they had to let the servants go they just couldn’t find a way to keep the place up.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 May 2011 @ 10:32 pm

  10. Stephen King prefaces Salem’s Lot with an epigraph: it’s the first paragraph of Hill House, which is also the first paragraph of this post.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 June 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  11. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/nyregion/strauss-kahn-case-seen-as-in-jeopardy.html?pagewanted=1&hp#

    Starlling turn on this one. Who knows? If the prosecution really did find these things out about the deposits and meeting with the incarcerated person, it looks like he’ll get off, even with the ‘forensic evidence’. Definitely a he said/she said one, this. And you’d already thought through these possibilities at the time. since DSK’s aggressiveness was so well-known, it’s definitely credible. There was definitely a ‘rush to judgment’ on most of our parts on this one, whether or not that judgment ends up being the correct one. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be seen as such, though, and we’ll know something tomorrow and then again July 18, I believe it says.


    Comment by Illegal dances of New York City — 30 June 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  12. Fascinating. If DSK’s enemies were trying to nail him you’d think they would have chosen a more innocent-seeming accomplice, but we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. I see that a hard-ass austerityiste took his place as IMF head.


    Comment by ktismatic — 30 June 2011 @ 10:57 pm

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