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Bud Plant on Mahlon Blaine’s Blooming Bally Bloody Book

News and Notes

Mahlon’s Blaine’s Blooming Bally Bloody Book The Outlandish Art of Mahlon Blaine One-Eyed Visionary
The Outlandish Art of Mahlon Blaine One-Eyed Visionary
Mahlon’s Blaine’s Blooming Bally Bloody Book by Roland Trenary

I asked the publisher about the overlap or lack of overlap in the 100+ pictures by Blaine which appear in this latest book about the artist, whose career actually peaked around 1925-30, but who went on to do countless highly erotic pieces as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs novels right into the 1960s! Like Rockwell Kent and similar outspoken and eccentric artists, he went his own way and never looked back…

“There are 656 images in Brian’s book [The Outlandish Art of Mahlon Blaine, OUMB, $39.95]. Of those, 60 are duplicated and about 400 additional unique images are in my One-Eyed Visionary[MAHB. $25] (460 total), and about 50 of the 120 images in Blooming Bloody can also be found in Brian’s and my earlier books (meaning about 70 are unique to Blooming).” –Roland Trenary

All this said, the real meat here is the novel itself, a part-fact, part-imagined look at the career of this amazing illustrator. I finished reading this just recently. It was fun and I enjoyed it (things can sit around my place waiting for me to finish reading them for years, so this is a good reflection on the contents).

This “unauthorized autobiography” based on Blaine’s notes, was written by Trenary, who owns the finest collection of Blaine original art and published work in private hands. This new book includes over 100 Blaine illustrations, over half of which were previously unpublished.

But…how much is fabrication, how much fact? I’m not sure quite how to describe this…was there any manuscript or autobiographical notes at all, or is this all based on facts that Trenary has made into stories, as Mahlon himself might have done? For instance, did Blaine really introduce Steinbeck to Woody Guthrie, and Woody to Dylan? Here is Trenary’s answer to my question:

“These events might well have occurred, much as they are described. Certainly Blaine knew, indeed called friends, John Steinbeck, John Carradine, Dunninger (the mentalist), Tina Modotti, etc. But it’s also documented that Blaine was known to “stretch the truth” shall we say, for publicity, and admitted to it. One never knows the proportion of reality when confronted with his words (whether I wrote them or he did). His images were always meant to amuse, entertain and intrigue. So too his own story, I hope.” -Roland

~Bud

Here is the original post from April 3, 2015.

Bloomsday and the Blooming Bally Bloody Book illustrator

sm MB Ketch behind obscenes001_300dpibw

 

Celebrating the works of James Joyce and Mahlon Blaine on the same day? It makes a whole lot of sense.

I’m no Joyce scholar. I’ve barely looked at Ulysses, and only read Dubliners in college. But no one can escape the impact and import of his literary creations, it seems. Where would 20th Century literature be without Leopold Bloom?

Mahlon Blaine, on the other hand… I know a thing or two about him.

For instance, he celebrated his 10th birthday on June 16, 1904.

That’s the same day James Joyce and his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, had their first outing (whereupon they reportedly walked to the Dublin suburb of Ringsend).

Joyce set the events of his novel Ulysses on that very day, June 16, 1904.

Coincidence? I think not.

The troubles that Joyce’s literary works encountered at the hands of censors? They were arguably of a larger nature than Blaine’s suppression troubles. Yet John Sumner, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, prosecuted the Little Review for its publication of a portion of Joyce’s novel, and a few years later also seized and burned most of the copies of Jack Ketch the Hangman, a little satirical newspaper full of Blaine pen-and-ink illustrations.

A publisher or two of Blaine’s works was known to have spent time in the penitentiary for legal transgressions. Blaine himself apparently never spent time in the slammer for impropriety – arguing that his “Victoria’s Cross medal” could never be defiled by being placed behind bars. The dubious declaration may have worked its magic on more than one occasion.

For instance, it would have been a shame had his masterpiece portfolio, Venus Sardonica, met its fate in the furnaces under Police headquarters. Even Gershon Legman declared its publication the high point of 20th Century eroticism. That’s if you appreciate exquisite drawing and sly humor.

Always with the humor.

So, Happy Birthday Mr. Blaine, and Happy Bloomsday Mr. Joyce. What a two-fer!

sm MB Ketch behind obscenes001_300dpibw