Imagine a secret history of the decades from 1940 to 1980, a web of hidden connections just waiting to be uncovered. Jake Arnott’s latest book by turns reveals and hides just such a web.
Up until now, Arnott’s books have mostly been damned good crime novels, usually set in London’s tumultuous Sixties and Seventies. But The House of Rumour is another animal entirely. It’s still recognizably Arnott writing it, but if all you had was the blurb to go by, you might well think it was a Tim Powers book.
Even if you were familiar with Arnott’s earlier works, this one might throw you. There’s no central narrative – just 22 chapters (one for each of the Tarot’s Major Arcana), each of them more or less a short story, but each of them clearly a part of the larger story that Arnott is half telling, half alluding to.
It’s a fascinating story, and an equally fascinating way to tell a story, with the full impact of the story only emerging as later details are revealed and connections between these superficially disparate events become apparent.
It is the best thing Jake Arnott has ever written – even considering the high standard of his prior works.
Zzonga is a drug made from the Zzonga fruit of the Zzonga bush. It is a highly addictive intoxicant that causes a level of fascination with whatever is in front of the user that borders on OCD.
The plant it grows on is a small shrub, growing no more than four foot high, with a multitude of spiky, short leaves. The fruit itself resembles a strawberry in size and colour (although tending more to pink than to red), and has a very distinctive smell (which it retains when juiced or cooked).
Effects of the drug last for up to four days for a single dose, and the fascination effect makes it almost impossible to concentrate while under the influence. For this reason, the Thyatian empire made a point of encouraging addiction to Zzonga in their enemy, the Alphatian empire – reckoning that the Alphatian’s magical superiority, caused by their great numbers of wizards, would be nullified if none of the wizards were able to focus enough to cast even the simplest of spells.
Although the painters of the Heidelberg School had based themselves at Montsalvat in Eltham, they ranged back and forth all over the middle reaches of the Yarra valley, from Warrandyte upstream to Alphington downstream. Montsalvat, set well back from the river itself, was not ideally located for painting in the lower reaches of the river.
Thus it was that a second, smaller establishment was to be built. Sited on high ground among the Banyule Flats wetlands, the building – little more than a large shed – was a place to store materials, unfinished works and reference daguerreotypes and photographs. In the event of inclement weather, it also served as erstwhile shelter.
It was the storage of references that came to give the building – and later the area – its name. As painters and their works came and went, the collection of images steadily grew in size and range, a veritable bank of views that made it increasingly unnecessary for painters to actually go out into the surrounding area in search of pleasant vistas.
The Heidelberg School is long since dissolved, but the mighty hill of Martin Lane and the swamps to its south are still called Viewbank.
The earliest known bipedal vertebrate, eudibamus cursoris was a small parareptile. The sole specimen that has been found (in Thuringia, Germany) measured about 25 cm long – about the size of a house cat. Reconstructions of it give it an appearance resembling a cross between a tiny velociraptor and a modern iguana.
The sole specimen of it known to science was discovered in 2000 by a paleontological team including David S. Berman, Robert R. Reisz, Diane Scott, Amy C. Henrici, Stuart S. Sumida and Thomas Martens. The species is believed to have existed for a span of about five million years or so.
I’ve been hard at work this last week or so, getting all the t’s dotted and i’s crossed on this site, and you’ve no idea how much fun it is to get back to the (comparatively) simple part of just writing some blog posts.
I’ve recently rearranged the navigation of the site to a way that, I hope, will make it easier to find things (although I’m sure there will be a learning curve, it shouldn’t be too hard a one). As of today, I’m also doing a minimum of four posts each day. There will be one each in the Rock’n'Roll History of the World and The Truth About Melbourne, something else (usually from the Media or Wunderkammer sections), and finally, one post from the Blogging section each day.
I used to have a LiveJournal which I posted to more or less daily, and I find that I miss having a place to do nothing more than collect my thoughts, or randomly ask questions of people. So I expect that the majority of stuff in the blogging section will fall into that category. Just as idiosyncratic as the rest of the site, but a little more personal. I can’t promise it will be every day, but it will be most days.
There will, as always, be more, as I work my way to it. For now, I’m pretty happy with how things stand here.
Okay, so I missed several weeks that time. Part of that was because I’ve been redesigning the navigation and categorisation of elements on this site. You’ll be able to see that even below – each new post is now listed in these updates under its appropriate category.
Hopefully, this will make things a little easier to find around here
Named for Saint Cliftas, an Albigensian friar famed far and wide for both his pacifism and the dreadful (and the usually terminal) fates that God visited upon his persecutors, Clifton Hill is perhaps best known today as the junction between the South Morang and Hurstbridge railway lines, which serve the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
Ironically, many of the stations further out on those lines were actually built prior to the construction of Clifton Hill station, which reflects its comparative lack of settlement in that era. In fact, aside from the monastery of St Cliftas – which was specifically built there due to the comparative isolation of the site – there was very little settlement there until the 1890′s.
The reasons for this go back to the truth behind the stories of St Clifta. Clifta was no fool. He believed in God, and the manifestation of God’s will in this world, but he also believed that men were the tools of God’s will. And since it was obviously God’s will that he, Clifta, have as few enemies as possible, he was not above taking matters into his own hands to ensure that this happened. St Clifta remains one of the very small number of serial killers ever canonized by the Catholic Church (although he was stripped of this honour at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960′s).
Although Clifton Hill today is one of the most densely occupied sections of Melbourne, the tensions between pacifism and murder addiction remain an intrinsic part of its nature – and a contributing factor, no doubt, to the failure of the Ritual of the Seven Hills in Melbourne.
Rightly or wrongly, this is the song – and Bill Haley and his Comets are the band – that is remembered as the first rock and roll song. It’s simple, fun and catchy, and if you can listen to it without tapping your foot along in time, you most likely don’t have feet.
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel
Do You Remember These — Statler Brothers
Whether the name of Brunswick derives from Braunschweig or Broonsveke will no doubt remain a matter of debate between partisans of Saxony and Roskilde for a foreseeable future. Both sides have an equally good case, with both Germans and Danes settling in the area as a result of the upheavals of German unification in the second half of the Nineteenth Century.
Those who were opposed to the newly unified greater German state, who sought to retain their independence, fled to the antipodes – where, ironically, they found themselves making common cause with those who also sought to avoid making a common cause under the Iron Chancellor. (No doubt rumours about the vast quantities of gold to be had in Victoria had some influence over just where in Australia they chose to settle.)
The Germans remained clustered in the east, between Lygon St and Merri Creek, while the Danes settled on the far side of the railway line, nigh to the banks of Moonee Ponds Creek. The wide plain between them was soon cut open with clay being dug from the newly created vast pits being fired into bricks in the many kilns of the area. But neither group sought to work in the brickworks – both being more interested in pastoral pursuits. The workers of this area were mostly Irish settlers, not a few of them descended from convicts.
Not that the hard-working and hard-drinking Irish got along well with their neighbours, at least, not at first. What actually ended up unifying the area over the generations was a shared detestation of the nearby Carlton Football Club, who had begun their climb to fame and success in the VFL – the goodfolk of Brunswick tended to barrack for Essendon or Fitzroy instead.
Still, few things bring any community together like a shared enemy.
The second of Henry VIII of England’s six wives, Anne Boleyn is known as ‘Anne of a Thousand Days’ because that’s roughly how long she lasted as Henry’s queen. Henry was desperate for a son and heir, and married Anne hoping she would deliver them. But Anne’s first child was a daughter (future queen Elizabeth I of England), and her three successive pregnancies, although sons, resulted in one miscarriage, one stillbirth and one boy who died within minutes of his birth.
Never a patient man, Henry decided to rid himself of another wife (he had already gotten his first marriage annulled). Anne was not so lucky – her marriage too was annulled, but not before she was tried and convicted of adultery, incest and treason (adultery on the part of a queen was considered treason under law). She was sentenced to death, and beheaded in London. Upon her accession to the throne, Elizabeth took steps to restore her mother’s reputation.
Talula — Tori Amos
With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm — Stanley Holloway