Journey into the heart of darkness

#23: Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey Into the Heart of Darkness by Jeffrey Tayler (2000)

I’ve written before about my fascination with the Congo and Africa’s mythical “dark heart.” Conrad. Tarzan. Mkele-Mbembe. Stanley and Livingston and Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner. “Mistah Kurtz. He dead.” Oh, the horror, the horror.

Beyond all the myth is a country torn by war, wracked by poverty and tainted by the overexploitation of colonialism. It might hold allure as an exotic place to go for adventure, but really, it’s a place to die—or nearly so, as Jeffrey Tayler chronicled in his book Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey in the Heart of Darkness.

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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters offers a glimpse into Africa's horrific dark heart

My fascination with the Congo began, I think, with Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.” Through sixty-six and seven, Roland fought the Congo wars with his finger on the trigger, knee deep in gore.

Or perhaps it was a Time-Life book I read at about that time, part of a series about unexplained phenomena like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, that featured tales of the mokele-mbembe, the dinosaur that lurked in the Congo’s dark swamps and jungles. The idea of such a thing captivated me; any landscape where such a beast could live had to be equally fantastic.

There’s been Conrad’s Heart of Darkness…Vachel Lindsay’s “Congo”…Henry Morton Stanley and “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” In 2000, there was Jeffrey Tayler’s beautifully descriptive Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness.

Little surprise, then, when I saw Dancing in the Glory of Monsters and jumped on it. Continue reading

Nota Bene #101: Your Pal, Mike S.

“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #98: A More Glorious Dawn Awaits

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” Who said it? Continue reading