Category Archives: Books

The Black Dahlia Murder: A Night at Barts Pathology Museum, London.

 I’m a bit of a geek for the Black Dahlia Case, and can’t wait to go to this next Tuesday: The Venetian Vase, a night of talks on dismemberment and the unfading interest in the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (1924-1947). The shocking photographs of the crime scene and the failure of the LAPD to ever catch the murderer have become part of Hollywood myth and folklore.

In case you haven’t read up on this gruesome, unsolved murder in ’40s California, you can find a perfunctory account in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywod Babylon IIor read James Ellroy’s novel based on the case –  The Black Dahlia, a book doubly chilling due to the similarity between Short’s murder and that of Ellroy’s own mother (recorded rather brilliantly in his memoir My Dark Places ). There is absolutely no need to watch the dreadful translation of Ellroy’s novel to screen in Brian de Palma’s film of the same name, starring Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett, it is truly terrible. 

My ultimate favourite, however, has to be the Surrealist take on the murder case argued in Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss’s Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder in which the authors draw links between certain Surrealist paintings and the arrangement of the victim’s body:

Foremost, our book asserts that this gruesome but precisely executed murder may have been a deranged attempt to imitate motifs in surrealist art. That said, we do not believe that Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, or any other surrealist artist was directly responsible for the murder, or that the killer himself was an artist.

Thrilling! And yet no more bonkers than any JFK conspiracy. I have a copy of the book should you feel compelled to read it.

Max Ernst, ‘Anatomie als Braut’ [Anatomy of a Bride], 1921, Photographic enlargement of collage on paperboard, Private Collection.

Marcel Duchamp, Given: 1) The Waterfall, 2) The Illuminating Gas (Etant Donnés: 
1) La Chute D’eau, 2) Le Gaz d’Éclairage), 1946–66. Interior view. 
Courtesy of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of the Cassandra Foundation.

And for the squeamish look away, a photo from the original crime scene.

Tuesday’s event organised by Queen Mary’s and the Pathology Musuem looks set to be a night to haunt.


New Publication Klaxon

Need to get hold of this: Changing Lives: The ‘Postwar’ in Japanese Women’s Autobiographies and Memoirs by Ronald P. Loftus. I have not yet read a review; however, this book is a much needed addition to a still under-represented English-language resource. I’m particularly excited to read more on female counter movements and opposition in modern Japanese history.

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AAS Publications Shopping Cart.

Bohemian exoticism and the Ballets Russes – Ezra Pound’s satirical ‘Les Millwin’

Sonia Delaunay, Costume for ’Cléopâtre’ , Ballets Russes,  c. 1918

In the early twentieth century British modernists such as Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis scorned and satirised the oriental exoticism prevalent in the Ballets Russes productions that were becoming increasingly popular among the upper classes. These productions became associated with a ‘High Bohemia’ and decadence, and were deemed ‘regressive’ by the avant-garde, owing more to Victorian aestheticism than modern aesthetics. Pound’s poem ‘Les Millwin’ refers to Michel Fokine’s ballet Cléopâtre, which was first brought to life in London in 1911 by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes,  with elaborate stage sets and costuming that delighted audiences. The Millwins immortalised in Pound’s poem were , for the poet, typical of the wealthy aristocrats who attended these spectacles.


The little Millwins attend the Russian Ballet.

The mauve and greeenish souls of the little Millwins

Were seen lying along the upper seats

Like so many unused boas.


The turbulent and undisciplined host of art students –

Was before them.


With arms exalted, with fore-arms

Crossed in great futuristic X’s, the art students

Exulted, they beheld the splendours of Cleopatra.


And the little Millwins beheld these things;

With their large and anaemic eyes they looked out upon this configuration.


Let us therefore mention the fact,

For it seems to us worthy of record.