Out There
The Transcendent Life and Art
of Burt Shonberg
Spencer Kansa

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Format: Softcover / 256 pp / illustrated in colour
ISBN: 978-1-906958-79-4
£30/US$45
Subjects: Art/American Underground/Biography/Film Studies.

From the late-1950s until his premature death in 1977, Burt Shonberg was one of the most highly admired artists in Los Angeles. During this period, his eye-popping murals graced the facades and interiors of popular coffeehouses and hip clubs on the Sunset Strip; his paintings adorned several notable rock album covers, and his haunting portraits featured prominently in Roger Corman’s film adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and The Premature Burial.

Born in 1933, Shonberg grew up in the all-American beach town of Revere, Massachusetts, where, according to his friends, he spent most of his time drawing and indulging in his love of monster movies. After graduating high school, he studied for two years at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, and then, after a brief spell in the army, he ventured to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a commercial artist.

Soon after he settled in L.A., Shonberg became the lover of the legendary occult artist Marjorie Cameron who turned him on to the teachings of the Edwardian magus Aleister Crowley and introduced him to the mind-warping properties of peyote. Shonberg also embraced the Fourth Way system of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, and his canvases began to reflect the mystical illumination inspired by his higher states of consciousness.

In 1960, the artist was chosen by Dr. Oscar Janiger to participate in his groundbreaking study into the effects of LSD-25 on the creative process. Although Shonberg regarded himself as a magical realist, his remarkable renderings of his hallucinogenic visions led many of his acolytes to regard him as the preeminent psychedelic artist of the era, and in the words of his friend and fellow painter Walter Teller, “Burt was the artist of Laurel Canyon.”

Yet despite his popularity and status, Shonberg’s artistry has been criminally overlooked in all historical accounts of the Southern Californian art scene, until now. Out There redresses this injustice and brings some long overdue recognition to L.A.’s greatest lost artist, in a book illustrated with rare examples of his incandescent artwork.

Author’s bio:
Spencer Kansa is the author of Wormwood Star, a biography of the American artist and occult icon Marjorie Cameron (Mandrake of Oxford). His debut novella Zoning is published by Beatdom Books. His interviews with literary legends William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles and Herbert Huncke feature in Joe Ambrose’s book Chelsea Hotel Manhattan (Headpress).

P is For Prostitution
An A – Z of a harsh life survived
Charlotte Rodgers
Illustrated by Ruth Ramsden

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9781906958268


Format: Softcover/158pp (12 picaresque illustrations).
ISBN: 978-1-906958-26-8
£9.99/$18 (includes postage unless otherwise stated)
Subjects: Counter-Culture, Memoirs.

‘The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience…’
– Flannery O’Connor

P is for Prostitution is a primer unlike any you will have read before, the ABC approach far from simplistic. Through various episodes the author charts her own insights into addiction and the kind of existence that inevitably goes with this. Each letter marks a step on a journey into the lowest circles of hell in which the “author’s creativity and intellect is misdirected towards a chaotic, nihilistic and devastating existence” (reader’s foreword). There are moments of black comedy, sexual horror, and final, uneasy redemption in which the author reclaims the trajectory of her life.

“. . . the life you lived . . . represents the era you grew up in and the position of women in society and the rules they were expected to live by and the consequences of breaking these rules. Women are often regarded as objects, possessions and are expected to be submissive.” (Jane Hunt)

P is for Prostitution grew out of the author’s exploration of death and ancestral cults. It led her to acknowledge her own past, re-connecting and rescuing a catalogue of youthful dead or missing loved ones. “This was no surprise given the way we lived our lives at that time, but was no less saddening. Whilst the people concerned were not blood relatives, they were part of who I was and very much my family of choice in our shared inability or refusal to accept the terms of mainstream existence.”

“Daddy was an exclamation mark /
exploding on blank walls /
I was a biblioteque hero /
supporting Atlas’ balls /
Roller skating on Freudian slips /
Pussy footing through the fly leafings/
Of fellow social misfits.”

———————-
“Charlotte Rodgers was born in New Zealand.

Her mother was a war baby, abandoned at the Home of Compassion in Wellington and later adopted by a middle class couple with strong Catholic sensibilities and a desire to do good and moral things; a desire that didn’t encompass compassionate and kind child rearing.

Charlotte’s father was Scottish and from a coal mining family, he escaped this background through self education and by joining the merchant navy, and whilst on leave in New Zealand he met and married Charlotte’s mother.

Charlotte was brought up by two creative, intelligent and unstable individuals whose backgrounds created unhappiness and various manifestations of addictive and compulsive behaviours.

The family constantly moved house, the mother was addicted to a huge amount of pills, the father would regularly ‘run away from home’ and there were many times the only stability in Charlotte’s life was when she was sent to live with her grandmother who was rigidly and violently Catholic.

Charlotte was a shy frightened and introverted child and puberty hit her like the proverbial ton of bricks. At age 15 she made several suicide attempts and was put into psychiatric care to be treated for bulimia, a condition that would stay with her for many years.

She also developed addictions to alcohol and drugs, including heroin, and necessarily worked as a prostitute to fund the habit whilst living a peripheral existence travelling through Australia, Asia and Europe, before settling in England.

After 19 years as an active addict (15 of them as an IV user) she cleaned up with the help of various institutions and agencies, and eventually was able to take the risk to go back to what she always wanted to do; creating art and writing.”

Charlotte is author and editor of The Bloody Sacrifice and
co-editor of The Contemporary Western Book of The Dead, both published by Mandrake.

——————-

Illustrated by Ruth Ramsden

——————–

Daddy was an exclamation mark, exploding on blank walls,
I was a biblioteque hero, supporting Atlas’ balls,
Rolling skating on Freudian slips,
Pussy footing through the fly leafings
Of fellow social misfits.

Well read, intellectually fed neurosis,
Genetically perfected psychosis
Penis Envy
Poison Ivy
Piss and Raving.
Something in the woodshed gave you a fright,
Rumplestiltskin will tell you anytime
Its prick is worse than its bite.

Go-go virgins in discotheque cages
Venus in politically unsound furs
Lectures on the latest psychoanalytical magus
Romulus Remus Oedipus
Sucking dugs like common curs.

Psychoanalyse, disembowel and theorise,
Penis Envy Poison Ivy
Something in the woodshed gave you a fright,
Rumplestiltskin will tell you anytime,
Its prick is worse than its bite.

C.Rodgers 1985

Vowels, Consonants and Other Building Blocks: An Introduction
Several years of exploring and writing about death and cults of the ancestors have led to my putting this, more personal book together. As I looked at how necessary acknowledgement of the past can be to solidify the sense of self, both as an individual and a member of a community; flashes of my own, personal history came back to me. I started to re connect with this and found a catalogue of youthful dead and missing loved ones. This was no surprise to me given the way that we lived our lives at that time, but was no less saddening. Whilst the people concerned were not blood relatives, they were part of who I was at that time. They were very much my family of choice in our shared inability or refusal to accept the terms that mainstream existence at that time offered. I decided to reclaim this time and a lost part of myself, by going back and recording some of my rather erratic recollections.

Initially I was worried that writing this could be self-indulgence or an exercise in personal exploration and poor man’s psychoanalysis that shouldn’t be put out to a wider audience.

However the times and places I lived in, and the way I experienced them, hold things which I believe are core to many who struggle to find their place in this strange world.

Putting such a chaotic mass of events into order could have proved an impossibility until it became apparent to me that my early years were very much about finding a set of rules to live by, thus the subtitle, ‘A Modern Primer’.

Using the alphabet to give order to these memories was a continuation of the primer concept and works well for me. My life was not lived in a straight line and my rather scrappy memory would have rebelled against too linear a form of organisation.

The time span this book encompasses is the 1970s to the 1990s and the backdrop moves between Hong Kong, Australia, London and New Zealand.

This was a time when digital watches were rare and expensive things; China was hard line communist and undeveloped; the Internet was unheard of and there was still a wall dividing Berlin. Graphic novels were on the ascent; only the super-rich had credit cards, and AIDS was just a whisper that could kill in its utterance.

When I was diagnosed with bulimia it was a relatively unknown condition that the medical establishment were unsure how to approach.

I cleaned up as crack was just starting to make its presence known and I was already seeing changes it had made in the junkie community.

Drug using rapidly became even more associated with violence, users burned out much more quickly, if they survived.

When I stopped using drugs I was 30 and considered relatively young in the ‘recovery’ community, but 18 years later I see women burned out by the time they are 15 or 16.

I was one of the first waves of people to go into drug and alcohol rehab, and sad to say the women’s only treatment centre I was in, due to lack of funding, no longer exists.

However the core of the experiences in this book isn’t era specific but is more about one individual’s rather rocky road through her early years.

One thing that I feel I should add.

Readers may find my tone to be detached and even perceive a certain lack of emotion. I was and still am an internalised person, something that may have led to some of my problems over the years.

I look at old photographs of myself and I see a lovely looking girl who seemed locked in her own world. Eventually I couldn’t stay in that private place anymore, despite ever increasing amounts of emotion suppressing drugs. When I left rehab I had a graduation of sorts, a ceremony where I was presented with a butterfly brooch. As I was given my pin, Sister Rosemary who ran the home said that when I arrived at the facility I was like the survivor of a serious car crash; locked in trauma.

Walking away from my car crash life, with its explorations, adventures, and ever increasing horror was when I really started to live.

It was a very different world then, but in many respects, the way we all live and develop has not changed at all.

crogers2

Reader’s Comment
‘P is for Prostitution’ is a personal memoir, which explores episodes and experiences from Charlotte Rodgers’ difficult chaotic life, through her childhood and into early adulthood. At times this book made me feel incredibly sad and much of it was alien to my own comfortable, relatively trouble-free youth. However, her story captivated me and I found myself wanting to find out more about the girl being described. Also, as a woman who grew up during the same decades, I recognized the underlying misogyny of the era and the rules that women were expected to observe. Both Charlotte and her mother suffered in different ways because they were unable to live within narrow definitions of womanhood.

The Primer structure works particularly well and gives the impression of bringing order to a fragmented and chaotic existence. It comments on the nature of individual memory that is not linear and makes connections between disparate incidents and episodes. This form enables the reader to think for herself and reflect on how Charlotte’s childhood and formative experiences affect her situation as she grows up.

Throughout P is for Prostitution, despite the chaos of a life dominated by addictions and illnesses, Charlotte remains a creative and intellectually curious person. Her attraction to similar damaged anarchic souls both as friends and lovers can be seen at various points in her book. Near the end she refers to ‘the person from Porlock’, a debt collector who interrupted Coleridge whilst he was writing Kubla Khan. Charlotte writes, “I feel as if I too had a debt collector knocking on the door of my life, and breaking and permanently redirecting my concentration.” The book conveys a real sense that Charlotte’s creativity and intellect was somehow misdirected at a young age towards a nihilistic and savage existence. It also traces the constant, durable thread of spirituality in her life. This is fascinating given her early encounters with Catholicism.

The book powerfully communicates the devastating effect of physical and mental abuse on Charlotte’s whole family. The suffering her parents endured as children impacts on Charlotte’s life and leads to a lack of stability and security when she is growing up. Charlotte too is terrorized as a child whilst under the ‘care’ of her Grandmother. The sexual repression, religious fanaticism and cruelty that lie behind this abuse are horrifying. Children’s lack of power and the lasting consequences of adult neglect and brutality are recurrent themes.

The reader is able to observe how Charlotte’s eating disorders are caused by a desire to gain some control and how the perception that thinness equals happiness and acceptance actually appears to have almost the opposite effect. This is something that all women can relate to at some level. The book also gave me an insight into addiction and the kind of existence that inevitably goes with it. Her experiences are distinctive but they do reflect the times she lived in and the alternative lifestyle that seemed to be offered by the world of drugs and music. The attraction of losing control and finding a different reality is explored. However, the destructive power of addiction ultimately makes life unbearable.

Charlotte’s discussion of sex in P is for Prostitution is thought-provoking and brave. Her unconventional attitudes and approach made me think hard about the way women are condemned and vilified for sexual transgressions. Moreover, it made me consider how women and children are so often the victims of abuse and the hypocrisy that existed about this when we were growing up and still does to a large extent. Women who transgressed the sexual norms or accepted codes of behaviour were seen as to blame for the abuse they suffered, rather than as victims.

Fundamentally, this is a fascinating articulate and engrossing book. It describes experiences and feelings with which many people, especially women, will identify. I think people will enjoy Charlotte’s honesty and will want to read on and find out how she manages to get through and eventually change her life permanently. Charlotte takes you into divergent worlds, often frighteningly disordered; but the creative, compassionate and intelligent woman that she is today, is always there despite the destructive forces in her early life.

Jane Hunt
Librarian
Somerset
*************************************************************************
GOD2987-1-2-540x360

CASTING BONES
An Exhibition of the Animist Art of Charlotte Rodgers.

WEDNESDAY, 3rd – FRIDAY, 12th, JUNE, 2015.

Apiary Studios,
458 Hackney Road, London, E2 9EG.

‘Casting Bones’ is an exhibition of the totemic, atavistic art of Charlotte Rodgers.

http://www.apiarystudios.org/2015/04/casting-bones/
APIARY STUDIOS WEBSITE

The Magical Universe
of William S. Burroughs
Matthew Levi Stevens

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7981906958640_cov


Format: Softcover
ISBN: 978-1-906958-64-0
£11.99/US$23
Subjects: Counter-Culture, Magic.

——
“In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen. The dogma of science is that the will cannot possibly affect external forces, and I think that’s just ridiculous. It’s as bad as the church. My viewpoint is the exact contrary of the scientific viewpoint. I believe that if you run into somebody in the street it’s for a reason. Among primitive people they say that if someone was bitten by a snake he was murdered. I believe that.”
– William S. Burroughs

Fully revised and expanded from the limited edition chapbook that first appeared in 2012, The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs is the first ever in-depth consideration of the significance of Magic and the Occult in the Life & Work of the writer and counter-cultural icon.

In Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs, his biographer Ted Morgan wrote:

‘As the single most important thing about Graham Greene was his viewpoint as a lapsed Catholic, the single most important thing about Burroughs was his belief in the magical universe. The same impulse that lead him to put out curses was, as he saw it, the source of his writing…’

‘To Burroughs behind everyday reality there was the reality of the spirit world, of psychic visitations, of curses, of possession and phantom beings…’

From the Introduction to The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs:

In talking about The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs I am really thinking of two things:

Firstly, and probably most obvious, is the material that appears in the output of Burroughs the Writer that can be seen as describing or referring to some magical, mystical or occult idea – Invocations of Elder Gods of Abominations, descriptions of Sex-Magick rituals, references to amulets, charms, ghosts, omens and spells – all the thematic set-dressing that we all know and love, from Hammer Horror Movies to Weird Tales, from H. P. Lovecraft to Dennis Wheatley and The X-Files…

Secondly, there is the personal interest and involvement of Burroughs the Man with belief systems and practices that come from those strange ‘Other’ territories that lay outside the bounds of either conventional mainstream religion or scientific materialism – explorations of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology, Konstanin Raudive’s Electronic Voice Phenomena, Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Accumulator; also partaking of the Vine-of-the-Soul with Amazonian shamans, attending the Rites of Pan in the Rif Mountains outside Morocco, participating in a Sweat-Lodge with Native American Indian medicine men – and, latterly, an engagement with that most Post-Modern of Occultisms, Chaos Magic.

The material considered has been distilled from archival sources, correspondence, interviews, and of course, published works. As well as his own personal contact with Burroughs and his lifelong study of the Man and his Work, the author also draws from a wide range of former associates – collaborators, friends, lovers, and students – including C. J. Bradbury Robinson, Michael Butterworth, David Conway, Phil Hine, Graham Masterton, Malcolm Mc Neill, and others.

As well as his own contact with the likes of Genesis P-Orridge, John Balance & Peter Christopherson of Coil, and writer Terry Wilson, back in 1980s London, he has also had unprecedented access to the papers of Cabell McLean, a young writer who was William’s companion, lover & student, c.1976-1983.

Sometime in the nineteen-seventies, following a reprint of my book, Magic: An Occult Primer, a letter was forwarded to me by my then publisher. Poorly typed and in an envelope which, unless my memory deceives me, bore no postage stamp, it came from William S. Burroughs. I still have it somewhere. In it the writer made plain his interest in magic. In real magic that is, not the smoke and mirrors kind.

Given that Burroughs’ tireless ambition was to encounter a reality beyond that accessible to our five senses, with magic perceived as an effective means to that end, it is remarkable that the subject has hitherto received but scant attention.

This work, by Matthew Levi Stevens, who must have encountered Burroughs at around the time he wrote to me, sets out to make up for that deficit. In it he chronicles the man’s interest and examines the part magic and occultism generally played both in his life and in his work.

Stevens sets about the task with gusto, indicative of his respect and, indeed, affection for “Uncle Bill”, as well as his familiarity with the topic itself. He draws on Burroughs’ own writings, and on those of the growing number of people, supporters and critics alike, who have commented on him and his literary output.

It is a job well done. And one that is all the more welcome because long overdue . . .

– David Conway, 2014.

Wormwood Star
The Magickal Life
of Marjorie Cameron
(revised & enlarged)
Spencer Kansa

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9781906958602

This New Edition features fascinating new insights and info,
as well as over 20 new images.

Seal2


Format: Softcover/302 pp/illustrated.
ISBN: ISBN 978-1-906958-60-2 (was 978-1-906958-08-4)
£12.99/US$24
Subjects: Biography/Magick/Art/American Underground/Film Studies

In the first ever biography written about her, Wormwood Star traces the extraordinary life of the enigmatic artist Marjorie Cameron, one of the most fascinating figures to emerge from the American Underground art world and film scene.

Born in Belle Plaine, Iowa, in 1922, Cameron’s uniqueness and talent as a natural born artist was evident to those around her early on in life. During World War 2 she served in the Women’s Navy, and worked in Washington as an aide to the Joint Chiefs Of Staff. But it was after the War that her life really took off, when she met her husband Jack Parsons. By day Parsons was a brilliant rocket scientist, but by night he was Master of the Agape Lodge, a fraternal magickal order, whose head was the most famous magus of the 20th century… Aleister Crowley.

Gradually, over the course of their marriage, Parsons initiated Cameron into the occult sciences, and the biography offers a fresh perspective on her role in the infamous Babalon Working magick rituals Parsons conducted with the future founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard. Following Parsons death in 1952 from a chemical explosion, Cameron inherited her husband’s magickal mantle and embarked on a lifelong spiritual quest, a journey reflected in the otherworldly images she depicted, many of them drawn from the Elemental Kingdom and astral plane.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Cameron became a celebrated personality in California’s underground art world and film scene. In 1954 she starred in Kenneth Anger’s visual masterwork, ‘Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome’, stealing the show from her co-star Anais Nin. The budding filmmaker Curtis Harrington was so taken with Cameron, he made a film study dedicated to her artwork entitled, ‘The Wormwood Star’. He then brought Cameron’s powerful and mysterious presence to bear on his evocative noir thriller, ‘Night Tide’, casting her alongside a young Dennis Hopper.

Cameron was an inspirational figure to the many artists and poets that congregated around Wallace Berman’s Semina scene, and in 1957 Berman’s show at the Ferus Gallery was shut down by LA’s vice squad, due to the sexually charged nature of one of her drawings. Undaunted, she continued to carve a unique and brilliant path as an artist. A retrospective of Cameron’s work, entitled ‘The Pearl Of Reprisal’, was held at LA’s Barnsdall Art Park in 1989, and after her death some of her most admired pieces were included in the ‘Reflections Of A New Aeon Exhibition’ at the Eleven Seven Gallery in Long Beach, California. Cameron’s famous Peyote Vision drawing made its way into the Beat Culture And The New America retrospective held at the Whitney Museum in 1995. And in 2006, a profile of her work was featured in the critically lauded Semina Culture Exhibition. The following year an exhibition of her sketches and drawings was held at the Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in New York.

With so much of her life and work shrouded in mystery, Wormwood Star sheds new light on this most remarkable artist and elusive occult icon.

All Material on this page copyright © Spencer Kansa

Cover of First Edition