I am fond of red wine, although these days I’ll only drink a bottle of it, on average, every four or five days. Living in Sweden, I have just the one option as to where I can purchase my poison, but, when I lived in England, where the choice was plentiform and multiplicitous, or real words to that effect, I customarily preferred to buy my wine at Oddbins. One of the things I liked about Oddbins were their cool catalogues, which in those days were adorned with illustrations by Ralph Steadman, best-known, of course, as an occasional accomplice to the late Hunter S. Thompson. Each new catalogue would feature some pictures and some travelogue from one or another of the world’s wine-growing regions. I kept a few of these, from the Summer 1995 issue, which contained an account of a visit of Mr Steadman’s to Alsace, to that for Summer 1998, which was concerned with Sicily, and Puglia, the ‘heel’ of Italy. The following are details of scans from the latter catalogue…
The pair of images above are taken from a series of three illustrations of the piazza in the town of Avetrana, Puglia. The details below are from a tabular depiction of Sicilian gesticulations, each one accompanied ‘with explanations which may help the descriptive powers of a taster, preferring as they do, to keep his or her opinions to themselves, particularly when the wine commands an embarrassed silence—or a stifled gasp of breathless grief!’
Below is a detail from an incomplete scan of a landscape vista of the Trapani salt pans, with, in the foreground, an (evidently British) interloper ‘with a barrowload of chips and a wine-vinegar backpack.’ The last pair of details are both from another landscape, this time of the Tempio di Segesta in Sicily. Note that the image behind these last two details comprises a pair of inexpertly-conjoined scans, and is marred by an unconcealed page-fold. Even so, I think it’s still rather splendid. Two book-length compilations of Mr Steadman’s wine-related artwork have been published, as The Grapes of Ralph, and Untrodden Grapes—the latter volume only having been issued last year. I think I’ll buy a copy to supplement the yellowed & dogeared catalogues I’ve kept all this time, as a small measure of my esteem for this ‘lifetime supporter of the maverick tradition in all fields of human activity.’
I find a lot to enjoy in Steadman’s writing, too, even though he often seems too ready to resort to hyperbole. If you can forgive a sudden change of subject, I found the following paragraph on his website perfectly accords with my feelings on a subject of much current debate, only expressing them better & more directly than I could hope to do:
Last night I listened to the po-faced BBC programme Moral Maze. This one was about TORTURE, as though it was something to question and discuss. Torture, in whatsoever form it is manipulated is an abomination, a crude and savage leftover from the darkest of ages. Unless you are going to kill and eat the poor fucker, what in God’s perverse and beautiful Kingdom do you think you are doing. TORTURE is out of bounds and as a practice in any form, for any reason—even as a hypothesis to maybe prevent a suspected holocaust, it is the one definitive unforgiveable sin—an abhorrent practice banished from all human activity. If I was being tortured, I would sure as hell tell my tormentors any damn thing they may want to know if it stopped them screwing my fingers off or shoving a red hot poker up my backside.
These images are Copyright © 1997, Ralph Steadman, & are reproduced here without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence on these pages.Posted by misteraitch at February 12, 2006 12:07 PM