RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 4: EVOLA IN FAT CITY

It all finally caught up with Julius Evola in the early sixties. His discretion slipped up and he had to either rat on some of his neofascist coup-plotting buddies in open court or wind up in the slammer himself. After that, Italy held little appeal, so he upped sticks for pastures new. He had plenty of money and wanted to be somewhere where he could look at mountainous. Switzerland? Nah, boring. Tibet? Full of Red Chinamen. Colorado? Problematic, sure, but American right-wingers, as he knew from GLADIO, are rich and gullible. Soon enough he’s ensconced in Aspen and reasonably happy. He writes, makes connections with other right-wingers (including the Coors family), and indulges in a new pastime: watching football. He had long held that sports was the one way in which the common people reached something like transcendence through noble action, and the way Americans teach their boys the way of the gridiron from youth strikes him as a promising sign in this otherwise culturally dead land. He became an open-handed patron to the local high school football team; they still call their set of blocking sleds “Mr. Julius” after the man who bought it for them. The camaraderie he witnesses among the boys on the team and the requests of his friends in the rising New Right lead him into a new form of literary genre: the novel-cum-film-treatment. He writes a tale of communist subversion and invasion, and the high school football team that rises above their low stations to fight them. His new friends at the National Review take the manuscript off his hands, edit out some of the weirder bits, and translate the title from “Alba Rossa” to “Red Dawn.”

In “Freak Power in the Rockies,” Hunter S. Thompson briefly describes an encounter with Evola as HST was making the rounds on behalf of the Freak Party’s epic run at civic power in Aspen (or Fat City, as they planned on renaming it). Some of the naiver hippies in the movement thought (like the New Agers that came after them) that Evola might be a kindred spirit. HST was skeptical but went along with some of them to Evola’s cabin, where Evola treated them all to a Radical Traditionalist harangue that Thompson didn’t deign to quote in his report, opting to quote Dashiell Hammett instead: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 4: EVOLA IN FAT CITY

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 3: JUNGER ON THE BEACH

Having narrowly dodged the too-closely-associated-with-Nazis bullet with his reputation intact (perhaps enhanced), Ernst Junger spent the postwar years traveling the world, writing, and trying various drugs. He moves to Southern California for a while in the early 1960s and enjoys the warm weather and sea air. He becomes enamored of a subculture he observes on the beaches, daredevil young men with their own code of ethics and an impulse to seek the infinite through danger: surfers. Conversing with these children of a null culture proves a challenge for our kulturmensch, but he finds common ground with some; adventure, psychedelics, Buddhism, a certain disregard for conventional morality. His new friends inspire a novel he feels is among his best work, about an unusually Nietzschean band of surfers who take up bank robbing to fund their adventures, and a G-man assigned to bring them in who finds himself drawn in to their way of living. Junger names the novel after a surfing term his friends taught him: Point Break.

Several decades later, film director Kathryn Bigelow attempts to stir up interest in an adaptation, but opinion around the studios is that a movie based on “some book no one’s read by a weird gay old Nazi” is a non-starter.

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 3: JUNGER ON THE BEACH

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 2: WAUGH ON THE BOARDWALK

Evelyn Waugh doesn’t quite “fall in love” with Hollywood while he’s there in 1947 for an abortive attempt to make a Brideshead Revisited movie, but he did like it better than austerity Britain, and sets up residence south of the city. Witnessing the shenanigans of what passes for high society there — largely made up of treat-mongers and real estate sharpies — he begins penning a series of biting satires of his adopted home. They were centered on the misadventures of what constitutes “old money” in Orange County, the oxymoron of which Waugh found more amusing than many of his critics. Critics stand divided: some feel the series was spiteful, juvenile, and confusing, others delight in Waugh’s labyrinthine plotting, declaring him the rightful heir of the great Restoration comedians. The American public, for their part, is alternately baffled and offended by the serial version published in the middlebrow literary journals, and the editors pull the plug on the series early. A few years later, the stories acquire a cult following when they are released as a series of cheap paperbacks under the name of a psychological concept Waugh used purely out of amused contempt: Arrested Development.

The cult includes Ken Kesey, who made a deeply awkward trip to Waugh’s bungalow where Waugh pretended not to speak English and Kesey attempted to engage him with gestures and his extremely limited French.

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 2: WAUGH ON THE BOARDWALK

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 1: CELINE IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

In the late 1920s, driven by poverty and cussedness, Louis-Ferdinand Celine returns to the United States, this time to this California he’s heard so much about. After assorted misadventures, he’s hired on as a serial writer by the owner of an ambitious young animation studio. The boss is a real bastard but at least they agree on a few matters, mostly about how they don’t like the Jews. Walt likes family stories, which aren’t Celine‘s normal metier, but he can draw from his experience as a child in a lumpen-bourgeois shopkeeper family in Paris- he sees plenty of businesses of the sort in America. The types on display in these establishments are all the same as they are back home: the deluded paterfamilias, the dirty, shouting children, the pathetic patrons and hangers-on… all ripe for humor! Celine quickly sketches them out, and with a little smoothing of the edges, they meet the boss’s approval as the basis of a series of animated shorts. As for what business in particular to depict, Celine goes with the most American kind of enterprise, and with the most American name, he can think of: Bob’s Burgers.

RIGHT WING TALENT GOES WEST 1: CELINE IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 3: GEOFFREY-JACQUES’ MATIERES QUESTIONABLE

The censors of mid-eighteenth century France simply did not know what to do with the works of one Geoffrey-Jacques. This prolific pseudonymous writer cranked out novels and stories that juuuuust skirted the edge of the pornographic, but veered away in an almost compulsively skittish manner, back towards character-schtick, will-they-or-won’t-they plotting, and the occasional brush with the fantastic, often involving the main character’s automaton valet. It must have been quite frustrating for men who were used to reading the raunchiest material Enlightenment France had to offer — which could be very raunchy indeed — to be inundated with volumes of material swimming with such innuendo and sexual allusiveness, only to have the characters not engage but rather discuss popular plays and ballads of the day. “Sacre bleu!” we can imagine the censors exclaiming, “get on with it already!” But Geoffrey-Jacques, whoever he was, never obliged them.

Perhaps out of frustration, the main body of his work was allowed to be published, but were stamped with the unique label “Matieres Questionable,” a warning both to the pious and the prurient that the material within would satisfy neither. This is how the English translations, compilations of which are sold almost solely to students of early modern literature and the public sphere, or to the sort of people who randomly buy odd titles at academic used book stores, came to be known as “Questionable Content.”

(Note: I realize I broke format here. I’m not sorry!)

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 3: GEOFFREY-JACQUES’ MATIERES QUESTIONABLE

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 2: DURER’S SPRECHEN DONNERESCHEN

Among the early innovations in print culture were the “Sprechen Donnereschen” templates. First carved by famed printmaker Albrecht Durer, the template depicted three “thunder lizards” in disputation. Reproductions of the template spread through Germany during the sixteenth century, and printers for the different side in the era’s political and religious conflicts would put different ideas in the mouths of the thunder lizards. Though the opinions the lizards mouthed varied, their role of each was generally the same: the large “Tyranneidechse” would make a statement, the smaller “Schnelleidechse” would refute it, and commentary — often of a humorous or sentimental nature — would be provided by the humble “Vogeleidesche.” Occasionally, printers would add characters to the original Durer woodcut — a small insect perched on Tyranneidechse’s nose, for example — but most of the polemicists stuck to the plain three-lizard format. Rumor has it a group of Konigsberg printers approached Immanuel Kant to produce a Sprechen Donnereschen print of some of his ideas, but Kant, a known stick-in-the-mud, refused, and the format became a historical curiosity of the Reformation era.

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 2: DURER’S SPRECHEN DONNERESCHEN

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 1: BOCACCIO’S MAL DI LEGNO

In 2001, Italian archivists were tickled to discovered a previously unknown group of stories by Renaissance humanist Giovanni Bocaccio. Referred to as the “Mal di Legno” stories after the fictional estate in which they take place, these tales do not attain the popularity of the Decameron upon publication, but do attract a cult following. Readers praise Mal di Legno for its strong characterization as well as its absurd and often bawdy humor. Favorite tales include (the normally lacksaidaiscal) Count Raimondo’s triumph at a tournament with the help of his stalwart, low-born counselor Arrosto Manzo; young Filippo’s wandering off to find Prester John and the efforts of Raimondo and his retainers to recover the boy; and morose troubadour Teodoro’s coming into possession of a mandolin that, when played, turns Raimondo into a beast. Many of the stories are accounts of the characters good-naturedly jesting with each other at feasts, with little “action,” per se. Some scholars claim that the characters “Mendacino” and “Suffacatino,” wooden men whose purposes are to spread lies and laughter (respectively) might be the first depiction of secular sentient automata in Western literature.

EARLY MODERN WEBCOMICS 1: BOCACCIO’S MAL DI LEGNO