The 1960s were a perfect landscape for photographers. Not saying that the era itself was perfect - far from that, but on the other hand the world felt The 1960s were a perfect landscape for photographers. Not saying that the era itself was perfect - far from that, but on the other hand the world felt new. It is interestingly noted in Peter Doggett's opening introduction that the photographer David Hurn wanted to be an anthropologist, but couldn't be due to poor school grades. On the other hand, I feel his interest in anthropology is very much the focus of his work in this book, "The 1960s." Whatever he's photographing Sean Connery or people doing their everyday life thing on the streets of Manhattan to a dance that took place at the Hammersmith Palais, he is photographing the everyday of people of various classes and nationalities.
There's the image of the 1960s, that we pretty much have grown into, due to photographic images of that era, as well as its literature, music and films. Hurn captures another level of that era through his commercial photo work for various magazines. One gets the feeling that he's not only documenting a place, a moment, an individual, but also how that person, place or moment is placed in the big picture of that entire era.
When a photographer is working, he is just capturing in what is in front of him. Unless it's a job in a studio where you have complete control of the situation, it is mostly chance of finding something interesting that took place on the street, or a passing incident (he captures a robbery taking place in London) by accident. This book is put together fifty years later, looking at the past circa the images by Hurn. The anthropology kicks in, because we are not only seeing The Beatles as themselves, but how they are placed in a world that is perhaps not of their making. So the subject matter is not really the Fab Four, but the people surrounding the mop-tops. The same goes for the images of people vacationing on an island off London, Herne Bay, which was the spot for the citizens of London's East End. Or, the young debutantes about to be presented at the Queen Charlotte's Ball.
in the controlled environment of a photo-studio, we see Jane Fonda (Barbarella) at work, and Hurn comments on her that she was kind to the people who work on the set, as well as Sean Connery's dis-interest in publicity shooting for the early James Bond films. These are people who are interacting with fellow professionals and I think the inter-subject matter of these images is people working and living within a world of some sort.
This handsome book conveys the 1960s not as an objective view, but clearly through the point-of-view from its photographer. Each section of the book has commentary by Hurn, that is short and quite profound. A superb photographer, but also this is a beautifully edited book by Tony Nourmand, who is also the publisher of Reel Art Press. ...more
Brigid Berlin, sometimes known as Brigid Polk, is famous for being associated with Andy Warhol and his Factory world. The great thing about the WarholBrigid Berlin, sometimes known as Brigid Polk, is famous for being associated with Andy Warhol and his Factory world. The great thing about the Warhol world, generally speaking, is how talented the people that he connected himself with - If not all, most are border-line genius types. Berlin I think is a member of that club, due to her talents with a Polaroid, but also the ability to live in the right place and time.
As Bob Colacello pointed out in his introduction to this book, Warhol is very much a blue collar type of character who liked to run with the wealthy. On the other hand, Berlin is part of an upper-class Republican life, with her parents being associated with Richard Nixon and others of that world. This, of course, made her into a rebel. Drug Addict (speed), and a woman who had no trouble eliminating her clothing when a camera came by, is something of a great wit. The beauty of someone like Berlin is that she's a total open book, and allowing herself to absorb the world around her, without much filter, shame or fear. Warhol surrounded himself with either very brave people or total psychotics - or perhaps both. In a sense, Berlin and others would dip their toes into the fire, and then report back to Warhol.
"Brigid Berlin Polaroids" is a beautiful time-capsule from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The height of the third act in Warhol's life and career. The first being his career as a graphic artist in New York City, second is the early years of the Campbell Soup & Elvis paintings, as well as his avant-approach to film making, with an insane cast of characters. The third segment is what Brigid captured in these photographs. "Post-Warhol-getting-shot" life as he shifts direction from crazy dangerous landscape to a somewhat much more organized world. Berlin was part of both worlds, and I think clearly was made to assist Warhol in the Third Act of his life.
Although one has to presume that Berlin had to take these images quickly, and without much thinking, proves to be a fantastic and skilled photographer or again, has the genius ability to be the right person doing the right thing at that moment. Her portraits of individuals in the art world as well as people around the Factory environment is superbly framed and are exquisite portraits of these people. She didn't ask permission to shoot, and it seems no one said anything about either being the subject matter of the shoot, or what will be done with the image afterwards. Brigid was capturing the moment as it happened, and only thinking of the present at the time. The beauty of the polaroid is that it was something of that instant, and not meant to be fussed over or over-thinking on the photographer's part. Almost like an artist's notebook of ideas, but the truth is, Berlin knew how to take a great picture of someone. Although I think these photographs were done in relaxed moments, they are still classic portraits of the subject matter. There is not one bad portrait of anyone looking bad. Including her self-portraits in the nude (at times) and the revealing images of Andy Warhol.
The Alice Neel / Warhol polaroid photo session was taken while Warhol agreed to pose without his shirt on, exposing his horrible scars from the shooting. Neel painted his portrait, and Berlin captured both the model and the painter at work. It's a revealing series of photos, due to Warhol's obsessively sense of uniform, meaning his wig, and the sensibility of his body's limitations. I don't think Warhol is the type of guy who is comfortable being in the nude or in front of a camera. He accepts it for what it is, but I feel he's more comfortable behind a camera than in front of the lens. Even in specific photo shoots, such as him in drag (by Chrisatopher Makos) or doing TV commercials - he never looks at ease being the subject matter of someone else's observations or the placement of him in front of attention. He is truly a living tape and camera recorder, and so is Brigid Berlin in this book.
"Polaroids" is a beautiful production job of a book. The editing is superb, and Berlin's polaroids are totally suitable for an exhibition as well as for this book. Not only documenting an important time in the arts, but also herself being an artist and photographer. She's really good.
For me, poetry is the end result of when thought meets language. A poem can express many things, but for my taste, I have always attached to poems thaFor me, poetry is the end result of when thought meets language. A poem can express many things, but for my taste, I have always attached to poems that express something that is not here, or there, but somewhere in-between. Avant-garde poetry to me is the ultimate adventure, or a journey without a map. Like rock n' roll produced in Sun Studios in Memphis in the mid-1950s, I feel like I'm getting the real thing, when I read poetry that was produced in the early part of the 20th century. The "new" was not only modern, but "now" as well. It is like the full first kiss or tasting the avocado for the first time. It can never be better that the initial approach. This is how I feel when I read Alexander Vvedensky's (Алекса́ндр Ива́нович Введе́нский; 1904–1941) poetry for the first time.
It's fascinating how poetry can be so dangerous in a society such as Russia for instance. I can understand if Stalin felt threatened by someone saying "Down with Stalin," but when a poet like Vvedensky writes "snow lies/earth flies/lights flip/to pigments night has come/on a rug of stars it lies/is it night or a demon?" Well, it doesn't sound right! So we might as well as arrest this poet.
Alexander Vvedensky was a member of OBERIU, an early Russian avant-garde group that was similar to DADA and the Futurists. The Stalin world craved an art that is easily understood and therefore much more controllable. Alas, the avant-garde played with literature and the visual art as a motor of sorts, to spurn out desire, humor, and a sense of playfulness that went against the Soviet sense of the aesthetic. Vvedensky basically died due that he was a poet of great imagination and wit. As of now, we know he was shipped to Kazan and died of pleuritic on that train trip. Where he is buried is unknown. Along with his fellow playmate and poet/writer Daniil Kharms, his work was saved by Yakov Druskin, and though many years later, we now have at least a good example of his writing. "An Invitation for Me to Think" is a sample of this wonderful poet's work.
When one reads the poetry, the reader doesn't think of it as a work of political thinking, yet, sometimes the landscape surrounding the poet makes their lives very difficult. It is interesting that both Kharms and Vvedensky wrote numerous works for children. While reading this book, I often thought of its rhymes and the way the words are expressed seemed to be in a sing-song style of poetry written for children. Perhaps the sophistication of the words, and how it is told, is what's dangerous in that world at the time. It is also interesting that Pussy Riot has commented on the works of OBERIU as an example of freedom of doing one's art. They quote Vvedensky as saying "It happens that two rhythms will come into your head, a good one and a bad one and I choose the bad one. It will be the right one." Which to me is art in a nutshell. Stalin didn't get it, but then again, he doesn't seem to be a man of great humor and appreciation of the enlightened poet. ...more
A poet's journal is always interesting, because it's looking into the mind of the poet, and one can trace the thinking pattern in what makes their wor A poet's journal is always interesting, because it's looking into the mind of the poet, and one can trace the thinking pattern in what makes their work or writing happen. Or in some cases, not happen. It's very strange to come upon this book, because my dad, Wallace Berman, is mentioned in its pages - both in the introduction as well as in John Wieners' journal. At the time of writing "Blauuwildebeestefontein" journal, he was staying with us in Beverly Glen. So like a phantom, my dad does make an appearance, but alas, in the mind of Wieners it becomes a figure of importance, but alas, a faint mist.
The poetry / writing of John Wieners is very romantic. When he writes about his surroundings, or instance either Boston or Manhattan, it reads extremely glamourous. The city I often felt, were not made for citizens to live in, but for poets to comment on. The urban landscape becomes something else in the hands of a poet. John was (or is) a fantastic poet. He had an incredible eye for detail - in the sense that he was a great sketch artist capturing an image, but he would do it with words. The journals in this book (four of them) are sometimes a diary, in a very loose narrative, or straight ahead poetry. Sometimes a combination of the two - a narration as poetry. Nevertheless he captures angst in his words, and some of it is painful read, specifically about his one female lover (John was gay) and the child that didn't happen. Reading the unhappiness, I almost wanted to skip this part of the journal, but alas, it is either the pain or just his enormous presence on the page keeps the reader going.
In its simplicity, I love the last part of the journal where he just mentions a celebrity and where he saw that person. For instance:
"George Sanders passing in Cadillac"
"Peter Lorre outside upper Times Square Theatre"
The name that captured my attention is this section is Dean Stockwell and Bobby Driscoll, whom were not only actors, but very close friends to my dad and I have to imagine John knew them as well. It's interesting that he put them in the "Stars Seen in Person" category.
A beautiful book, with nice editing from Michael Seth Stewart, and a personal preface by Ammiel Allcalay, who met Wieners as a teenager. On a personal note, John Wieners was also my babysitter. A poet/babysitter is a very seductive quality for a future writer/publisher. ...more
Reading Nell Dunn's collection of short stories "Up The Junction" is like being buried in a coffin full of 12''' Smiths record covers. One can taste tReading Nell Dunn's collection of short stories "Up The Junction" is like being buried in a coffin full of 12''' Smiths record covers. One can taste the lukewarm cream tea or a dark bitter right off the page. For me, what these stories, published in 1963, do is tell the tale, because of the rich London language and accents. I know nothing of Dunn's life or where she came from, but I read that she came from a higher class, and chose to live in Battersea and Clapham Junction, which at the time of these stories was a total working class area of London. "Up The Junction" is very location orientated, and through Dunn's eyes and writing, one gets the harsh life of its citizens who live in those two areas of London.
Sex runs through these narrations of women and guys on the make, but it is not exactly 'happy' sex or even 'sexy' sex, but more of a way of passing time between working, and doing a touch of crime. Without a doubt, a great London book, that is far away from the world of PG Wodehouse as possible. Some of the images are shocking, for instance an aborted baby flushed down the toilet, but I don't feel it was done for shock purposes, but almost a journalistic touch.
There is a lot of music in the background as well. Before the Fab Four made their appearance, here you get snippets of pre-beatle pop lyrics with a mixture of American soul. There's work, but then there is dancing, which becomes a mating call of sorts. Without a doubt, "Up The Junction" is the largest and most intense "kitchen sink realism" set of stories ever. ...more
Michael Peppiatt's memoir of life with the great painter Francis Bacon is rich in alcohol and every expensive meal they ate. If Peppiatt added recipesMichael Peppiatt's memoir of life with the great painter Francis Bacon is rich in alcohol and every expensive meal they ate. If Peppiatt added recipes to this book, it would have been one of the great cookbooks of all time. On the other hand, we have lives here that spent the greatest of all possible times. Depression is around the corner, but when you're drinking the finest alcoholic drinks and eating food like today will be your last, it is hard to feel sorry for the participants in Bacon's life. The one thing I love about Francis Bacon is his mystique. On one level, he's very obvious and seems to be easy to read, but the truth is that he's' quite a complex character.
Peppiatt's memoir or narrative mainly takes place in Soho London and Paris. One can't imagine Bacon existing in another city than those two. Bacon, is without a doubt, one of the great citizens of London. Who wouldn't want to spend time under his identity as a guide to the underworld of various expensive restaurants, nightclubs and numerous (often seedy) bars. In his world, painters as well as East-End gangsters show up, and is a heady mix of a sense of danger and having a great meal at the same time.
"Francis Bacon In Your Blood" is just as complex as its subject matter. Peppiatt is known for his excellent Bacon biography "Anatomy Of An Enigma." Of the two, the biography is the better book. The memoir here is almost like a sketch book of notes regarding the author's time with Bacon, which overall, was pretty intense. Bacon, I suspected, that once he liked you, one is forever in his circle till he either destroys you or fatten you up - and in no way or fashion could I have existed in his world - just on the drinking and eating of extremely rich foods. The fact that he lived to the of 80-something is remarkable, considering his drinking and eating habits. The excess of his life is fully exposed in Peppiatt's memoir, and what is interesting is how one can survive such a pleasurable nightmare.
Peppiatt does all the right things in his book, but I feel it needs a stronger editorial help. A lot of the stories are repeated by Bacon (as they were in real life), but not necessary in a book form. This is a huge book, and I think it would have been a better read if it was half its size. The only thing that I found interesting in Peppiatt, besides his closeness to his subject matter, is when he became an editor of "Art International." Mostly due to my interest in publishing. If he was going to write on anything else besides Bacon, I would have liked to read actually more about his publishing a magazine. The fact that Peppiatt is straight and compared to Bacon's other colorful friends, he doesn't come off that interesting. I'm not clear why Bacon found him so interesting enough to put him squarely in his world. Perhaps he needed someone that was sort of neutral in his life, so he can talk. Perhaps like one who confesses to a priest, he needed a listener who wouldn't have an attitude towards him. And in most cases, Peppiatt was a very good friend and listener to Bacon's rants, complaints, and his love for the 'dirty' life of Soho London and elsewhere. ...more
The only reason I would be reading a book about a French fashion magazine that existed in 1874, is if there is something odd about the magazine and itThe only reason I would be reading a book about a French fashion magazine that existed in 1874, is if there is something odd about the magazine and its editor. In two words: Stéphane Mallarmé. Whatever mysterious reason, Mallarmé, who is without a doubt one of the great poets that came from France, had a job where he not only edited, but also wrote the entire magazine, using various alias. He managed to produce eight copies of "La Dernière Mode." "Mallarmé on Fashion" is a pretty interesting book on multi-levels. One, is the thought of such an avant-garde poet of his time and place, working on a fashion magazine in such complete control, as well as a bit of fashion history, but also the importance of fashion in French culture. Especially in the 19th century.
Mallarmé writes as a woman as well as a man in this magazine. The magazine is very formalized in its format. As "Madame de Ponty" she writes about contemporary fashion trends in Paris, and elsewhere. As "Ix" (now that is a mysterious name) he's a stuffy theater and book critic, and mostly has a certain amount of anger about music taking over text on the Parisian stage, and then there a food section, where they have elaborated menus and recipes. There is also a correspondence section, whereas the editor, he gives fashion advice, and also a travel section as well, recommending travel points and where to stay on vacation. At the end of the issue, Mallarmé offerer what is best in Parisian entertainment for that month or season. He covers everything from music hall entertainment, opera to city parks. It is very much like Time Out or Los Angeles Weekly directory.
Mallarmé was known to be interested in the decorative arts, so it's not a huge surprise that he would write about interior design of rooms, but his intense knowledge of fashion is totally new to me. In an odd way, Mallarmé is actually critiquing the fashion world, but even more so, the fashion magazine. I think he sees it as a window to what is happening culture wise - so readers now, get a unique portrait of Paris 1874, through the eyes of Mallarmé, but him using various identities to convey that world. Again, it is clearly not known why he did this. It could have been for a paycheck, but it is interesting that he did so, by not just writing one column, or as editor - but doing it all! In many ways, it was an upscale zine of its time. He wanted to do more than eight issues, but the publisher (not him) pulled the plug on the project.
"Mallarmé on Fashion" is very much a scholarly text book, and is geared for the lit-crit lunatic, but it is also an essential book on anyone studying Parisian culture of the 19th century as well as what 'pop culture' was like in those days. Editors and translators P.N. Burbank and A.M. Cain do a great job in presenting Mallarmé in the hard (not delicate) world of high and low fashion. Fascinating book. ...more
Throughout my childhood, I was dedicated to one cartoon strip in the newspaper. Mandrake the Magician had a natural pull for me, because I think I alw Throughout my childhood, I was dedicated to one cartoon strip in the newspaper. Mandrake the Magician had a natural pull for me, because I think I always was attracted to men who wore tuxedos and a top hat. The fact that he was a master of illusional tricks as well as having a servant from Africa, appealed to my sense of exotica. It seems like Fellini was a fan as well. Nevertheless, I found "Mandrake in Hollywood" at my local library, and one sitting read the book. It is composed of three separate stories that deals with Madrake's time in Hollywood as a struggling actor of sorts. Even in 1938, the widespread media at the time looked at Hollywood as a cynical landscape. The narratives are silly and actually not that important. What gets my attention, besides re-visiting my childhood, is the character of Mandrake and his man-servant, and a good friend, Lothar. Day in-and-out, he consistently wears his suit and top hat as he would wear on stage. The sense of the stage and 'real life' is totally erased - and since it's a comic strip, we are allowed to accept that the wall between reality and fantasy doesn't exist. To me, there is something beautiful about a personality like Mandrake, who commits illusions, not only for the purpose of entertaining, but also to fight criminal activity. Mixture of showbiz with crime-fighting. What more can one want?...more
This totally obscure "Futurist Novel" by Bruno Corra, himself a very obscure Italian author, is a beautiful entrance from the 19th century sensibilitiThis totally obscure "Futurist Novel" by Bruno Corra, himself a very obscure Italian author, is a beautiful entrance from the 19th century sensibilities and into the 20th century wonder. Written in 1914, and published by the Italian Futurist Filippo Marinetti, in 1915. This brief 'novel' captures the moment where everything is possible, and the imagination is limitless. There is a magnificent chapter "Paris Driven Crazy" where the beloved capital of taste, becomes a loony toon cartoon. Objects rise up and march off in the streets, and things re-form into other forms. Pre DADA, pre-Surrealist, and even more out there than Futurist text, Corra captures the essence of creation in a world that he knows. Essential avant-garde literature of the 20th century. A must for dandies and those who taste the fruits of nihilism.
I also want to add that this book, published by the excellent Atlas Press, is beautifully designed with original illustrations by Rosa Rosà, an artist who illustrated a lot of Futurist text in her time and age. John Walker's (also the translator) introduction is informative, interesting, and well-documented. Praise to those like Atlas, who continues to bring out European avant-greatness....more
Without a doubt, Boyd McDonald was the best film reviewer ever. The thing is he wrote for a gay mag, and mostly on films he watched on TV late at nighWithout a doubt, Boyd McDonald was the best film reviewer ever. The thing is he wrote for a gay mag, and mostly on films he watched on TV late at night. He also had a zine in the 1980s that focused on homosexual sex "Straight to Hell." The brilliance of McDonald is that on a physical level he's very much part of an underground "gay" world, when there used to be one. Now, everyone is getting married and becoming taxpayers - but alas, there was a life that was lived in the shadows, and McDonald, a superb writer, captures that series of shadows that were shown on TV - mostly films from the 1930s to the 50s. The beauty of his work is that he mostly focuses on the actor's cock size or butt. But that is just the platform or foundation of his serious observations - here he marks the queer world where females act out certain passions, while men react to them. Or is it the other way around? "Cruising the Movies" touches on a lot of fascinating subjects - the nature of old films being shown on TV, before the world of VHS recording - in a way it is almost a coded, often secret, transmission from Hollywood to a gay man's sensibility. William E. Jones wrote a beautiful and insightful introduction. ...more
It seems like throughout my life I have been reading Roland Barthes. As a writer and a reader, I think of him often. Mostly due to his thoughts on theIt seems like throughout my life I have been reading Roland Barthes. As a writer and a reader, I think of him often. Mostly due to his thoughts on the nature of one's writing and how it "reads" out to a reader, but also his intensity in writing about things that he is clearly not an expert on - but what you get is Barthes point-of-view, and how he reads a certain object or place. For instance, besides the various books by Donald Richie on Japan, which was essential readings for me, because one, I'm something of a Japan-olic and I have been going back and forth to that country for the last 25 years. The one book that prepared me for Japan, before I touched the concrete of Tokyo was Barthes book on Japan: "Empire of Signs." Along with Richie, probably the most essential book on Japan by a white European.
"Simply a Particular Contemporary" is a collection of interviews with Barthes, from 1970 to 1979, focusing on his writing, books and his interest in writers such as Bertolt Brecht and Marcel Proust. With respect to writing, the one thing that impressed me, is his acknowledgment of the pleasure of writing. This is a man who likes to put pen onto the paper and see what happens. His brilliance is that he doesn't look at things in a factual manner, but more always as an open question. What I get out of him is the adventure of knowing or writing, but not the conclusion of such a journey. For instance, when I write, it is all for the glory of the moment, as I look back on something. I think I got that from Barthes. The four interviews within this volume are enjoyable, and it doesn't tell all (which I think is impossible with someone like Barthes), but for sure, a good time is spent with this man - and this book nicely reflects of a time well -spent. ...more
I look at the work of Roland Barthes as if he was a driver, and I'm sitting in the back seat. I tell him "take me somewhere interesting." That is what I look at the work of Roland Barthes as if he was a driver, and I'm sitting in the back seat. I tell him "take me somewhere interesting." That is what it is like reading Barthes essays. On one level I guess he's a philosopher, but I think he's more of a social critic commenting on History and the world around him. 'The "Scandal" of Marxism' is a collection of articles, interviews and essays regarding the role of politics in contemporary life, as it was written from the 1950s to the 1970s. Here you get his reflections on Marxism, The Algerian War, and the issues of the left and its role in literature as well as in politics. There is even a brief description of a trip to China he did with other intellectuals in 1975. China, a huge subject of course, but it seems he was a tad indifferent to it as a visitor or tourist.
The one thing that stands out for me as an American reader of this collection, is how the French divide and monopolize political movements and its publications. In America, we have liberal and conservative press, but it seems France has always had a right-wing press as well as a left-wing press, including publications from the Communists, the socialists, and so forth. So one can get a publication that for instance has a "Marxist" angle to the arts and culture. There is really no such publication produced for the masses here in the United States that conveys that aura of democracy and free thought. Barthes and others were public intellectuals (The U.S. don't even have intellectuals anymore) who express their experiences and well-thought out (not saying they were right or wrong) views on what is happening in their world.
Throughout this slim (and very beautiful) volume, Barthes attempts to define the role of Marxists as well as being part of the Left-wing. Not an easy thing to do, when the world was rapidly changing. Also there are so many issues that were taking place in the Left. Not all had the same opinion or thought! Nevertheless the translator and editor Chris Turner did a remarkable job in writing brief introductions to each essay/piece. He places the works in its timely culture, and what the issues were at the time.
Roland Barthes was one-of-a-kind thinker, who was more of a verb than a noun. Reading him is like watching a man or woman think. That I know sounds like watching wet paint drying on a wall, but in reality it's more interesting. The best thing in the world had to be in Barthes' company, and just chatting with him - reading his works is that private conversation between reader and Roland Barthes. ...more