Without a doubt one of the all time great travel diaries ever. Even though he made up some of the narratives here, it doesn't take away his genius at...moreWithout a doubt one of the all time great travel diaries ever. Even though he made up some of the narratives here, it doesn't take away his genius at looking at his life and somehow improve on it via writing. He's the writer for me that made me what I am now, as a writer.(less)
Superb literary memoir from a man who has a fascinating taste in company and stature. For me, the key chapter is when he talks about his relationship...moreSuperb literary memoir from a man who has a fascinating taste in company and stature. For me, the key chapter is when he talks about his relationship with French authors Pierre Guyotat (the strangest writer he knows) and Gabriel Matzneff, who as far as I know has not previously been translated into English. I am going to have to presume due to his pro-pedophile stance. But that is just two or three pages here. The rest of the book is a combination of being haunted, due to the AIDS crisis that took place in the 1980s (the era he was in Paris the most) and the chi-chi set he met through his work writing articles for French Vogue.
White is one of my favorite literary essayists. Whenever he writes about an author, I immediately always want to check that writer out. So "Inside a Pearl" is a combination of life during AIDS, the good life in Paris, and commentary on London social and literary life as well. There is really nothing new here, except the reader is sharing space with White, and that is perfect company. It's best to read his memoir "City Boy" which is his sex-obsessed life in New York City first, and then go into this Paris book. Both books are front-to-back memoirs that standalone, but I think it's a much richer experience to read both titles. With respect to this one, it is also interesting that he was mostly in Paris to write his great biography of Jean Genet. As I said, lovely company.(less)
I've been coming back and forth to and from Tokyo for the past 25 years, and it is without a doubt an amazing city on so many levels. It has been said...moreI've been coming back and forth to and from Tokyo for the past 25 years, and it is without a doubt an amazing city on so many levels. It has been said before, but Tokyo is sort of like numerous layers of an onion. Each layer is a unique taste, and I often feel Tokyo is sort of a city with many dimensions - in sort of a Philip K. Dick way of looking at a landscape or even JG Ballard. Also for the past 25 years I have been trying to write a long prose piece about the city, but it never came out good in my opinion. I think my problem is that I am trying to locate a position to write from - and Tokyo is very much like a devilishly tasty ice cream cone. There are so many ways to eat that cone, all of it pleasant, but never the essential all-over experience. After so many years, I am still acquiring new things about the city.
Florent Chavouet, is a French artist/illustrator who stayed in Tokyo for a bit, and this is his visual journal of sorts. He wisely divides the book into different sections of the city, and gives a very subjective, yet I think the popular view of each area of the city. Which means the iconic as well as something personal. There have been a few books I have read by foreigners (either British or American) that strikes me as either just plain wrong or naive at its worst, but here Chavouet goes into each area and just draws various people and buildings, but he adds details either through his illustration or minimal text. It's not a right or wrong approach to the city, but it is own approach and it is highly personal and quirky in a very good way. Also his map drawings are very good. You can use it if you wish to take this book with you. On the other hand it is a large book, so it is not made for a tourist, but perhaps for someone who either lives in Tokyo, and is either a foreigner or a Tokyo-citizen who is curious how a Frenchman looks at his or her's culture.
My favorite little part is when he gets arrested for a stolen bike (he's innocent) and was taken to the local police station. His observations are never mean - spirited, but also quite informative. A wonderful book. (less)
First I have to make clear that this is not the ReSearch annotated edition, but a mass market book from a British publisher Thiad Panther, and issued...moreFirst I have to make clear that this is not the ReSearch annotated edition, but a mass market book from a British publisher Thiad Panther, and issued in 1970. Nevertheless this is a very stimulating book. J.G. Ballard is probably one of the great visionary writers regarding culture as it is now. I want to say he predict what will happen, but I think it was happening when he wrote his series of classic novels, but most of us were not aware of that 'Ballard' world that was and is clearly out there and here and everywhere.
"The Atrocity Exhibition" is a series of very brief narratives that deal with the John F. Kennedy assassination as the ground zero of anxiety, dread and fear. For Americans at the moment, it's 9/11, but for my generation, the Kennedy assassination opened up an inner world of demons, secrets, and disappearing identities on a landscape one couldn't trust being there or being altered in some fashion. I think Ballard is commenting on the role we all play, but especially the powers-to-be, whoever they may be, in planting a world that is not of our choosing, but one that we just have to deal with. Which includes sexual desire when confronting death, shock, and machinery. Ido not know if his novel "Crash" came before or after "The Atrocity Exhibition, but the book does deal with the same issues of the erotic pull of car accidents and iconic personalities. Ballard gets extra points for including Ralph Nader among the celebrities that get maimed or killed by the automobile. Now mostly remembered for his political viewpoints as well as running for President, he at the time of this novel was famous for going after the automobile industry for not making cars more safer with respect to seat belts, etc. What we get here is a college effect of names, who at the time were still alive, being sacrificed to the automobile death culture as well as interesting commentary on the readers obsession with famous people and how they are placed in our world as entertainment, but also masking secret desires that are not fully exposed to the public.
Ballard mixes the agony of death, of losing someone, and how culture eats up the anxiety of the 20th century (and now the 21st...) and spits out in a diseased form, which can be this piece of literature. A great book, whose sister is Burroughs' "Naked Lunch" and a cousin to classic Surrealist painters. (less)
incredible book, full of images of Detroit, which is both a city that is exotic to me as well as being so American like. But keep in mind that I find...moreincredible book, full of images of Detroit, which is both a city that is exotic to me as well as being so American like. But keep in mind that I find almost every aspect of human life as being exotic, nevertheless it is a fascinating time capsule of a city that was humming to the great noise of factories making cars - which in theory is the great american product. But here we see life as it is lived by the many citizens of Motor Town. Incredible documentation. (less)
"The Kept Girl" is a great Los Angeles Noir read, at a time when I was desiring a need to get into my city's murky history. A work of fiction but base...more"The Kept Girl" is a great Los Angeles Noir read, at a time when I was desiring a need to get into my city's murky history. A work of fiction but based on a real series of incidents, and of course, involves a cult of sorts. Author Kim Cooper is a Los Angeles pop history fanatic, and has a real feel for the location and its characters. One of her 'real' characters is Raymond Chandler when he was in the oil business. Actually one of the heroes, which includes Chandler's secretary/mistress and a good cop Tom. The (Un) holy three hit upon a weird group of people and bingo one is transported into another time, yet essentially the Los Angeles of today. The book is a good cousin to Ry Cooder's great "Los Angeles Stories." A must for anyone who desires a narrative that is carried out in 1929 Los Angeles, as well as noir writing. (less)
I found a copy of this book at the always amazing Printed Matter in Chelsea New York City. "Malicious Damage is a collection of defaced library books...moreI found a copy of this book at the always amazing Printed Matter in Chelsea New York City. "Malicious Damage is a collection of defaced library books belonging to the Islington London Library, but re-imagined by Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton. What they would do is either steal or 'borrow' library books, take them home and alter them in some fashion. Then return them to the library. Sort of a Brirish version of situationist activity but through a very 'queer' aesthetic from these two giants of post-war London culture.
We don't only get an amazing reproduction of all the books, but also a detailed image of Orton and Halliwell's flat in Islington. A famous location due that Orton was killed by Halliwell here, but more positive reason is that Halliwell and Orton made colleges on their walls, from floor to ceiling. The photograph of the interior is pretty fantastic, and was taken by the police at the time they got arrested for defacing library books.
Included are super essays by Ilsa Colsell and the always excellent Philip Hoare. The foreword is by Joe's sister Leonie Orton Barnett. Short, sweet, and fascinating that Orton's habit of taking things that not belong to him, actually runs through his family. Orton and Halliwell were right between 1950's post-war GB culture and the gates of swinging 60's London culture. But their lives were lived in the grays, when homosexuality was literally against the law. A shadowy world that their neighbor Joe Meek shared as well. This is a superb book, and may be difficult to find. The only two places where I found copies of this book are Printed Matter and the Strand. Both in New York. I strongly recommend anyone who is either an Orton fan (and you should be) or have an interest in 'Queer' London cultural history. Pretty much an essential book to own and enjoy.(less)
The stories are OK, but what really is something is these little narratives are told first person, due to the fact that they are correspondence to a f...moreThe stories are OK, but what really is something is these little narratives are told first person, due to the fact that they are correspondence to a friend Ted. John O'Hara captures the musician on the make during the 30's and the slang words are really terrific. The one that stays with me is "mice" meaning chicks. So one clearly gets the flavor of an era, and the showbiz world of nightclubs and struggling musicians. Joey is a singer, sort of a Bing Crosby on the low side or maybe a slide downwards. Here, he conveys his various frustrations on the shady world of being a nightclub performer and dealing with managers and gangsters. (less)
The book as literature is not that hot, but the subject matter is interesting as well as the world around Mrs. Shufflewick. This is a biography of Rex...moreThe book as literature is not that hot, but the subject matter is interesting as well as the world around Mrs. Shufflewick. This is a biography of Rex Jameson, a British comedian whose only major role is a drunken old cockney women by the name of Mrs. Shufflewick. The author Patrick Newley was Jameson's manager in his late life. What I like about the book is that you get information regarding London music hall life. More likely if it wasn't for "The Amazing Mrs. Shufflewick" we would probably not know a thing about this fascinating artist.
Jameson wrote his own material, and actually not that different from his character. Consistently drunk, a show with him was either a great hit or a terrible miss. Nevertheless he kept a very private life, that is a combination of a kitchen sink drama with music hall overtures. On the fringes of culture, Mrs. Shufflewick comments on the sexual mores of a cockney drunk. Reading his work on paper, it comes off beautifully, and even though with the power of the Internet we have very little information on Jameson and his character Mrs. Shufflewick.
The bad thing about the book is that it is very much like a long magazine article. Which is not bad, but this is a subject matter that needs a more detailed history of the drag artist as well as life working in various pubs and theaters of London circa. 50's and 60's. (less)
A nice little snapshot of what was happening in the world of the visual arts as well as in music from Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. A very fast read of a...moreA nice little snapshot of what was happening in the world of the visual arts as well as in music from Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. A very fast read of a book that focuses a bit on Mike Kelley, but mostly with gender issues in the world of 'rock.' Also goes into the No Wave music/art movement of NYC in the 1980's. Surely a must for the Sonic Youth/Kim fan, but maybe for those people also a good map to a territory that they never visited before. (less)
A very literate choice of painters, scientists, and (mostly) writers on their daily work habits. I think this appeals to people who are either struggl...moreA very literate choice of painters, scientists, and (mostly) writers on their daily work habits. I think this appeals to people who are either struggling with their creative work, or plain curious how the legends start their day with respect to their work. The perfect book to glance at, but alas, you can lose sleep in thinking what's the best process for oneself. (less)
At this time and point in my life I really don't have an ear for traditional folk music, but nevertheless, and even more important to me, is the cast...moreAt this time and point in my life I really don't have an ear for traditional folk music, but nevertheless, and even more important to me, is the cast of characters that were part of the Greenwich Village scene in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Oddly enough I wanted to read this book because last December I was walking around the village and thinking there must be a good memoir or book on this area. I found it and its "The Mayor Of MacDougal Street," a memoir by Dave Van Ronk, with some help from Elijah Wald.
The beauty of this book is Van Ronk's attitude and stance regarding the era and the place. He seemed to be a man of great taste and pleasure, and I would for one would have loved to have either seen him in concert, or be one of those people who were invited to his pad to hear music and talk literature. Well, I wasn't, so this book comes in handy with respect to this guy as an observer at a time that was very interesting. Van Ronk is very fair-minded, and he does not appear to have any regrets or jealousies regarding his career or someone say like Bob Dylan. In fact, his writing on Dylan is superb. He has that clear-eye subjective view point in regards to people like Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. He knows their music, and his critical commentary on their careers and art is really fascinating. Also Van Ronk captures the flavor of Lower Manhattan, which was the real reason why I picked up on this book.
Also "The Mayor of MacDougal Street " is very focused on a specific time and place. Van Ronk had a full life, but here he's just focusing on a time that a lot of us heard about, but now reading this book, we can know everything about it as well. (less)