review of Eckhard Gerdes' The Unwelcome Guest plus Nin & Nan by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2012
"'Needless to say'", despite my havreview of Eckhard Gerdes' The Unwelcome Guest plus Nin & Nan by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 14, 2012
"'Needless to say'", despite my having heard about "bizarro" writing, if that's a potentially correct term, for quite some time now & despite its being a genre that I'd somewhat naturally find interesting, I've only recently started reading w/in it. Perhaps the 1st such thing I read was Bradley Sands' My Heart Said No, But the Camera Crew Said Yes! (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76... ). I certainly enjoyed Bradley's bk & I've certainly enjoyed Gerdes'.
"'In today's society'", I reckon that the obvious lineage of bizarro writing stems from absurdism: Alfred Jarry to Eugène Ionesco to Edward Albee to Monty Python's Flying Circus to "Blaster" Al Ackerman. This is a lineage I can whole-heartedly identify w/. Astute social observation coupled w/ subversive nonsense.
"'In conclusion'", Gerde's writing is full of literary references. I even suspect that details such as place names may be references. EG: "The first time I'd heard of him was in Dubuque." Any chance that Dubuque was chosen b/c of Albee's play "The Lady from Dubuque"?
The Unwelcome Guest plus Nin & Nan might be appropriately called novellas. Both are full of surprising changes but w/ different styles. I think The Unwelcome Guest is dream-like & Nin & Nan relies more on puns & plot. In The Unwelcome Guest the protagonist's profession changes in wildly diverse ways. Fairly early on he stops at a hardware store w/ his 2 youngest sons & then starts to walk home, having forgotten that he drove. Perhaps he's senile. Not too long after, we're informed that he was a trucker:
"I remember one time I was driving my rig - 1 full 18-wheeler. I had to tank up at this gas station I knew of at the intersection of two alleys in the warehouse district. I'd been drinking, so I wasn't at my best, and I pulled up short at the pump - the nozzle reached to a foot away from my gas cap. I had to get back in the cab and pull forward some more, which was a little embarrassing. I pushed past a couple of smoking busybodies by the pump. Right as I was about to reach for the cap to open it again, the rig started moving. Oh, shit, I thought. I'd forgotten to apply the brake. The rig rolled ahead and then made a sharp turn, barely missing the building across the alley. It swung around and then barreled into one of the warehouses. I heard an explosion and figured I was in serious trouble."
A comedy of errors.
Gerde references people that many of us might not've heard of - probably to both promote them & pay homage to them. EG:
"I see Jim Chapman coming back the other way.
"'How're the woods?' I ask.
"'Freaky. I just wrote about them.'
"'Oh.' Better find some new ground.
"This time make sure it hasn't already been taken.
"Gerdes and Chapman, in a land grab for material, race neck and neck."
Who's Jim Chapman? I'd never heard of him but the mention here made me deduce, obviously, that he's a writer so I looked him up online & found that he is AND that he's one of Gerdes' publishers. Worked for me - now I want to read something by him. Other slightly more well-known writers are mentioned such as Raymond Federman, William Gass, Kenneth Patchen, & William S. Burroughs. Arno Schmidt is mentioned at least twice. Now I'm extremely interested in reading something by him.
The writing flows in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness style but is liberally dosed w/ whatever possibilities seem to titillate the author. Despite this being true of both novellas, they're significantly different from each other. Here's a sample passage from The Unwelcome Guest:
"On board will be provisions for my feelings as well as my hunger and thirst. Stowaways might tell me I'm a good captain - my first mate apparently finds doing so demeaning. However, I still trust my first mate and will not find in the stowaways a replacement. As I said, I am loyal, even if no one else is. I'll stay here and work crosswords. I'm safe in my cabin.
"I ignore it.
"I ignore it, too. I have work to do. I'm not looking for love again. It becomes hate. I don't understand the rules of trinkets, phone calls, ex-husbands, or whatever is in that jewelry box. I can announce a tornado by accident - I savvy the weather. I know when to duck. It's duck season. I have my waders on. I crouch. Low-flying projectiles are heading at me. I'm being told again that I'm the sorriest human who has ever lived. It's okay - I've been hated before. I don't think it's permanent."
Some gender-critical language makes it in here such as the pronoun "hir".
I initially liked The Unwelcome Guest a bit more than Nin & Nan but that eventually evened out somewhat. The drawings, handwriting, & juvenile comics inserted in The Unwelcome Guest helped liven it up - shades of Patchen, perhaps.
Some of you may've noticed what might seemed to've been irrelevant beginning phrases to the 1st 3 paragraphs of this review. Allow me to explain by quoting:
"But instead of giving up, like a carpenter who only knows how to use a hammer, they give me their "in today's society" and their "needless to say" and their lame "in conclusion" and stupefy me - they bash in my brains with their misplaced modifiers, random punctuation, and ignorant disagreements."
Gerdes' "Or: reject the unwelcome guest who comes to occupy your head" reminds me of the Street Rat(bag) slogan: "Evict the ruling class from the real estate of yr mind."
Nin & Nan has a more straightforward plot than The Unwelcome Guest despite its extreme fluidity. Nin & Nan are 2 characters of uncertain human form who continuously resist the Empire in its many forms. References to modern-day problems, filled w/ word-play, abound:
"Unfortunately a refried-bean-colored Pinto was already in that stall and exploded when the Barracuda slammed into its infamous and exposed rear-mounted gas tank. refried-bean-colored crap blew all over the place."
The infamy of the Pinto's deliberate & fatal misdesign gives the author a chance to make a joke off of pinto beans. Another example of this: "The crap tables stank."
I cd particularly identify w/ the rebelliousness of Nan as expressed here: "Well, maybe not Nan, who instinctively suspected any synchronized activity."
Having the Emperor be named "Pinocchibush" was the touch that made this the most topically obvious as political satire. (Now, fortunately, ex-) President Bush's notoriously ill-formed speeches are parodied thusly:
"'And now! Live from the Empire City. His Highness!' Canned applause.
"'Good evening, My Subjects. I have been told by my advisors that some of you have tried and failed and have deconstrued incorrectly what my earlier states meant, er, statements, er, meant. If you have assumed I have leveled a permanent ban on resorts and terriers, you have misapprehended me incorrectly. Though we need to guard against terriers' activities in our resorts, I of course am not suggesting we close our hostilitality industries. But let me not allay your fears one more second - every dog has his day."
"Chapter Nine: The Makil Health Care Center" was esp endearing to me as a critique of modern medicine. "'It's designed as a huge cross, each wing dedicated to one specialty: hysterectomy, tonsillectomy, circumcision, and cosmetic surgery.'" &, yes, it 'may kill'.
I love puns - & Gerdes may even be a bigger homonymphonemiac than I am: "Nin was thinking they'd take a long walk down a short beer."
"'I had a wallet made of foreskins. Whenever I rubbed it, it turned into a briefcase,' said Sam.
"'That joke is as old as the heels,' said Nin.
"'So's that metaphor,' said Nin."
Was having Nin refute himself rather than having Sam do it a mistake or deliberate? "'In conclusion'", "'in today's society'" it's "'needless to say'" that:
"Will you all just shut up? My house has just been invaded by ladybugs and box elder bugs - there go those elders chasing the young ladies again - and I can barely walk without crunching something. Even the harmless can be annoying. Unless annoyance is their harm.
"They attack the paper I am writing on. They distract me from the table. Now I have nothing to Chase Manhattans down with the fascist regime! What am I hunting for, again? meaning? Or just the next word? Or do I want the last word? Omega. Which ends in an alpha, which begins the whole stinkin' process all over again." ...more
review of Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth's Gladiator-At-Law by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 13, 2012
This is the 3rd Pohl/Kornbluth collreview of Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth's Gladiator-At-Law by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 13, 2012
This is the 3rd Pohl/Kornbluth collaboration I've read so far. W/ each new one I'm more & more impressed by their skill at social analysis & at their ability to just tell an engrossing tale. Reading this one led me to compare them to Aldous Huxley & the comparison's in their favor. When I was a teenager & 1st hearing about what I'd now call dystopian novels or social critique or prophesy novels, I heard of George Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, & Ayn Rand's Anthem. I read all 3. That was something like 40 yrs ago.
Much more recently, I listened to an old radio program of Huxley reading Brave New World &/or talking about it & I was surprised to find the main thrust be a theme of state-enforced-sexual-promiscuity. Maybe that's only one aspect of Brave New World but it seemed a little odd as an emphasis - kindof like: look-what-these-godless-commies-are-going-to-make-you-do. Anyway, Huxley wrote 'serious literature' & Kornbluth & Pohl wrote 'pulp sci-fi' so they probably weren't taken as seriously. The thing is that Gladiator-At-Law, despite its seemingly trashy title, strikes me as a much less trite social critique than Brave New World may have been.
If this is a "What If?" type of novel, the fuller question might be: What if people were to invent a solution to one of mankind's problems, in this case housing, & that solution were to be commandeered in the interest of greed? The answer is: corporations will get very rich providing good housing but at a cost of only allowing people to live in it that go along w/ the company-store style program. Everyone else has to live in dangerous run-down areas.
& there're plenty of great details & characters to flesh out this premise. At the beginning, the reader witnesses a severe penalty given to someone who steals from a stadium. It's obvious that stadiums & 'sports' are 'sacred'. Why? B/c the oppressive corporate-run society uses bread & circuses / shock & awe to keep the masses 'in their place' in more ways than one. Is this really so different from now? Not from my POV.
One of the main sortof comic relief villains works for a company that was formerly I. G. Farben. I. G. Farben, of course, used concentration camp victims for slave labor amongst many other war crimes. This sets the mood - but not every reader will understand this.
The inventor of the housing solution 'hung himself in his cell' when he was falsely arrested after he was basically driven out of the company he created. I was once told by the police that I was "the kinda guy who hangs himself in his cell." I, too, was arrested on false charges. This story rang all too true for me.
Even Anaconda Copper, an old villain in the annals of labor & ecology activists, makes a cameo appearance. As the lawyer protagonist is being advised on how to proceed against the offending mega-corporation, this dialog occurs:
"'Just keep your head, and remember the essential nature of a great private utility corporation.'
"'A legal entity,' guessed Mundin, 'A fictive person.'
"'No, boy.' The old eyes were gleaming in the ruined face. 'Forget that. Think of an oriental court. A battlefield; a government; a poker game that never ends. The essence of a corporation is the subtle flux of power, now thrusting this man up, now smiting this group low.'"
Notice that in the latter example, it's a single person who rises up & multitudes who suffer. I'm giving this bk a 5 star rating not b/c I think it's the equivalent of Finnegans Wake as a work of great writing but b/c I think that the authors of SF shd get credit for doing what they often do astonishingly well: see the present w/ great clarity & warn us about its future. Unfortunately for the general populace, 57 yrs after this bk was written in 1955, corporations seem to have gotten closer to the dystopic possibilities explored in this bk - rather than further away.
Interestingly, Gladiator-At-Law was published by Bantam & so was Brave New World. But Huxley's bk is touted as a "modern classic" while this is just categorized as "science fiction". Given that Pohl was "science fiction editor of Bantam Books" as of the January, 1977 edition of this that the quoted biographical entry is in, maybe that's one of the main reasons why the bk cd even get published at all. ...more
I started mail networking in the fall of 1978 when I was 25. This was a very exciting time. The sheer quantity of outreach, the senses of purpose, the lifestyle experiments, these were phenomenal. I wasn't much interested in the "Mail Art", wch was often just a matter of sending out thoughtless objects for maximal presence in catalogs, as I was in finding other like-minded individuals - esp tricksters. Some of us used many different names & even different addresses & other strategies in order to keep our identities shape-shifting.
All this fervent networking was beginning to bubble out of the underground into larger circulation & higher visibility. The Book of the SubGenius (1983) was, perhaps, the 1st of these to be of personal importance to me b/c of my inclusion in it. Remarkably, Rev. Ivan Stang made sure that even the most minor contributors, such as myself, got a royalty check. Such was his astounding integrity & the feeling of community & collaboration. "Re/Search" magazine put out its 1st "special book issue" in 1982 focussed on William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, & Throbbing Gristle - followed in 1983 by their "Industrial Culture Handbook". Despite, or b/c of, the controversial content of such publications, they were widely distributed & eagerly sought after by many people of similar mindset &, as such, had some commercial success.
But, of course, not every underground publisher had the desire or the wherewithal to put out a bk & get it distributed. Many of us held onto the notion that interpersonal networking was the most important & continued to mainly put out small publications that were mostly intended to be traded w/ other such publishers. The PERSONAL vs the COMMERCIAL. To a few of us, w/ little or no commercial aspirations, what was most important was finding & communicating w/ the secluded obscure people who seemed to be trying to free themselves from an oppressive society thru following their imagination w/o becoming herders of (sub-)pop-culture sheep. People who took their egalitarianism seriously.
Now we have oVo 20 JUVEN(a/i)LIA: a bk that wd fit in nicely from an information standpoint w/ the bks from the 1980s w/ at least a few people that wdn't've previously made the earlier editorial cuts but who were, nonetheless, highly active.
One of Blake's strengths is his sincere & long-term communication w/ a variety of very vigorous people - many of whom were important to my own correspondence too. In general, this bk is a vital addition to further bringing to light underground culture - mostly in the us@.
Trevor's "Public Domain" & "Disclaimer" present an editorial anti-copyright position: "Dedicators recognize that, once placed in the public domain, the Work may be freely reproduced, distributed, used, modified, built upon, or otherwise exploited by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and in any way, including by methods that have not yet been invented or conceived." & such an approach is very much in keeping w/ the more radical proponents of freedom of information. The idea is pretty much that the creators of the works propose to pirate whatever's out there for their own purposes & feel like it's only fair to reciprocate in kind. Personally, I prefer non-commercial use w/ attribution. If someone's going to make money off me, I prefer that they share it w/ me. Respectful friendship rather than exploitation.
Take Hakim Bey's statement: "We might now contemplate aesthetic actions which possess some of the resonance of terrorism (or "cruelty," as Artaud put it) aimed at the destruction of abstractions rather than people, at liberation rather than power, pleasure rather than profit, joy rather than fear. "Poetic Terrorism." Our chosen images have the potency of darkness - but all images are masks, & behind these masks lie energies we can turn toward light & pleasure." Well put!
It was interesting for me to see things by Gerry Reith & Thom Metzger in here that I may not've been previously familiar w/. However, part of what Reith wrote & what Blake writes later is something that I very much don't identify w/. Reith 1st: "As anarchists: leafleting, speaking, proselytizing, agitating anarchists, we are continually trying to smooth over the inherent contradictions of trying to motivate people to act while disavowing any responsibility for their choice of action(s)." Blake quoting George Walford: "'The overwhelming majority of those who have encountered anarchism have shown very clearly that they do not want to do what anarchists want them to do. They prefer to do what they are doing now. We have no reason to expect the others, when they meet anarchism, to respond differently. Can your anarchism accept this? Or do you feel bound to impose (however gently and rationally) your ideas of what it is good for them to do?'"
Now, I'm an anarchist & the reason why I consider myself to be an anarchist is very simple: I don't accept rule from others & don't want to impose rule on others either. Etymologically, it seems simple: "an" = without, "archy" means rule by. This is generally taken to mean 'rule by someone other than yrself' since it's somewhat taken for granted that as an anarchist you think for yrself & take responsibility for yrself. Perhaps something like "esy-o-idios-archy" might be better or just plain "idioarchy" meaning "rule of yrself by yrself". It seems that potentially etymologically applicable words like autarchy & monarchy are already laden w/ more dictatorial meanings. Anyway, my point here is that one of the things that I like about anarchy is that anyone self-declaring as an anarchist is hypothetically not going to proselytize b/c that wd mean trying to lead someone else & wd, therefore, be antithetical to "w/o rule". Personally, I detest proselytizing & have no desire to "impose (however gently and rationally) [my] ideas". So, WHAT THE FUCK?! I don't even ask my friends whether they're anarchists much of the time. If they try to proselytize to me chances are they won't stay friends w/ me for long. I'd just find them too annoying. As such, I find this emphasis on proselytizing above to be very suspect.
Mike Gunderloy's "The Meta-Network, or, A Battle with Footnotes" was one of the highlights of this "OVO" for me. Gunderloy's Factsheet Five was the best meta-networking tool I've ever encountered & Gunderloy's ability to write capsule reviews of hundreds or thousands of publications every mnth always struck me as qualifying him to be called "a human encyclopedia" - a compliment I rarely give out. His humorous approach in making this text have the footnotes quickly overwhelm the main text makes it even more enjoyable to me & smacks of parody of academia.
Anonymous' "23 Sperm Stories 23" starts off like a dry scientific explanation of sperm & related reproductive elements. However, many people have emphasized the #23 as some sort of significantly recurring # - often w/ occult meaning. As such, the title's a bit of a giveaway that something other than the dry beginning, wch might just be cut'n'paste from undisclosed sources, might appear - as indeed it does:
"A majority of the world's economy, technological progress, art and culture are centered on extracting sperm from one or more human and putting it inside of or in proximity to one or more humans or images. The second most active engine of the world's economy, technological effort, art and culture is the prevention of these activities. The entire history of humanity can be explained as the dynamics of these two forces."
I found Feral Faun's "Thoughts on Experimentation" to be somewhat representative of a general thrust of OVO: "I consider the past ten years of my life to be a constant process of experimentation". This leads me to PM's "Liberating Wednesday": "So far people have tried to liberate countries, but the results aren't very convincing. So why not try to liberate a day of the week?" Great idea! This, in turn, reminds me of Ernest Mann's "I am wasting less of my time (LIFE) watching, listening to and reading THOUGHT LEADERS, ie, TV, movies, radio, music, newspapers, magazines, and novels." Wch takes me to Karen Eliot's (misspelled throughout OVO as "Elliot") "Operation Negation": "From 1990 until an undetermined point thereafter there will be an employment of the negation of all forms of work (and play)." In other words, all of these people are trying to look at their life & to experiment w/ it in a liberating way.
Ernest Mann, whose "Little Free Press" publications I once rc'vd frequently, was definitely dedicated to freeing himself: "I spent 22 years of my TIME (life) working as a Wage Slave. [..] I don't want to do that anymore."
Trevor's reviews are particularly useful for pointing people in the direction of obscure publications. The 1st of these here is about Mark Mothersbaugh's 1975 bk entitled My Struggle published in 1978 in an edition of 100. While Blake mentions that "These small thick books have red covers to make them look the same as Chairman Mao's Book of Quotations", he fails to mention that "My Struggle" is the English translation of Hitler's famous autobiography "Mein Kampf". Also reviewed is a documentary called The Skin Horse "by and about disabled people and their sex lives." Trevor notes that "Channel 4 (formerly Central Television) commissioned the 1982 film but does not sell it. No one sells it, not legally." &, again, we have a central concern here for probably many of the OVO contributors: seek out & study obscure & obscured info.
After Trevor's reviews come his interviews. I have a particular affection for interviews - esp w/ people that mainstream media might find unworthy. As I write in my essay entitled "On the Importance of Personal Archives" (not in OVO): "I'd rather live life fully with friends than vicariously thru the icons. Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous? How about Lifestyles of the Eccentric & Imaginative? Of the Intelligent & Visionary? Of the Friendly & Accessible? These may include the rich & famous but certainly aren't excluded to them."
Perhaps most germane to the theme of underground publishing is Trevor's interview w/ V. Vale, the co-editor of Re/Search. Vale's philosophizing provides another good summary of a thread running thru the intentions & experiences of many underground publishers: "A lot of people just become criminals or whatever, or drug addicts, or they just can't cope for a lot of good reasons. Society gives us plenty of reasons but it also provides the narcotics in the form of television and actual narcotics so that we can "adapt," shall we say. And so yes, it's definitely a struggle against mind control, against conditioning, against banal information. We were born with the birthright of curiosity and there's nothing more natural than to be curious, but of course this faculty is extinguished early in life. It seems like society does everything it can to either extinguish this faculty or to channel it along channels of consumption rather than something creative on your own, something creative and original and obsessive and unique on your own." BRAVO!!
Alas, at some point I have to critique the treatment that my own article, "Lidznap" rc'vd. Perhaps I shd preface this by explaining that from 1969 on I've used meticulously calculated d liberate d viations from conventional writing for encryption purposes, for abbreviation, for ambiguity, & for many other reasons. These d viations are always intended to expand the meaning of my text in a way that conventional writing wdn't - & are rarely mistakes. The mistakes come along when editors & their machines 'correct' my writing - esp my puns, wch are often numerous & highly charged. Hence if I call myself a "psychopathfinder", eg, some spell check program might 'correct' that as a 'nonexistent' word. Of course, neologisms have to begin somewhere & I'm an active force in birthing them. Explanations of my systems wd require too much space here. The reader is directed to the "Dos & Dont's of Dating" & "l;a;n;g;u;a;g;e" chapters of my bk entitled footnotes ( see reviews of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23... ).
The original article wd've been sent to Trevor around 1987. It's about an event & a project from 1979. The project involved a phone # that cd be called for somewhat unpredictable results. This phone # spelled TESTES-3. A reporter named Franz Lidz, whose early life has been represented in the Dianne Keaton movie Unstrung Heroes ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unstrung... ), expressed an interest in writing an article about TESTES-3, wch was operated anonymously. He wrote one article before he found out who we were & one after we led him on a wild ride. "Lidznap" is about that wild ride. My original begins w/ the title, followed by this subtitle: "Two Ironic Endings" followed by the section headed "Preface". That's followed by a photocopy of Lidz's 1st article entitled: "For a Good Time Call TESTES-3 - Underground Telephone Network". That's followed by page 1 of the 2nd part of my text entitled "Lidznap" wch is followed by 2 relevant photos & the end of my article. Finishing the whole thing is a copy of Lidz's 2nd article, entitled: "VD-RADIO Goes On The Air".
When this was 1st published in OVO #12, it was called "Lidznap: Two Ironic Endings" & Lidz's 2 articles were removed. Only a cropped version of one of the 2 original photos was left in. Trevor retyped my original, rather than photocopying it & cutting it into a form that wd fit his layout. In this original process, this sentence:
"Given that we considered anonymity to be essential to our functioning as mysterious catalysts & given that we wanted to put emphasis on TESTES-3 as a communally produced participatory phenomenon we reacted cautiously to his request in a way that we thought to be consistent with our principles."
"Given that we considered anonymity to be essential to our functioning communally produced participatory phenomenon we reacted cautiously to his request in a way that we thought to be consistent with our principles."
Over a quarter of the sentence is missing: "as mysterious catalysts & given that we wanted to put emphasis on TESTES-3 as a". Why? B/c in the original that's an entire line & when Trevor was transcribing his eyes jumped from the preceding line to the following one & missed it altogether! That one mistake alone is enuf to make me cringe but there are many, MANY more. I won't further analyze them in this abridged review. I suggest seeing the full review at the URL provided above.
Ah, much of what I feel I shd write next is even more difficult. I like Trevor & think that this issue, & others before it, have a significant enuf place in the history of the us@ underground to be worth reading. Still, there're parts I find myself substantially critical of that I'll address here. Trevor Blake's "Trajectory Through Anarchism", in particular. In this, Trevor traces his development as an anarchist & a post-anarchist starting w/ age 16 & ending w/: "Whatever I am, I an [sic] definitely not an anarchist."
As I mentioned earlier in this review, I find the idea of proselytizing for anarchy to be self-contradictory. Of course, people are self-contradictory all the time. But there's so much written here about anarchy that I find inaccurate that I want to counterbalance it. This, even tho I've often sd things to the effect of "Sometimes I'm an anarchist. If other people say I'm not an anarchist &/or if the common notion of anarchy were to become too oppressive, no biggie, then I'm not an anarchist. 1st & foremost, I'm me." In other words, let's not get too attached to labels or let them get too attached to us. To my mind, one of the worst things that can happen to anarchism is for it to become a popular movement that people 'join' - not b/c it's what they feel inside, but b/c they're conformists & being an anarchist is part & parcel of whatever subculture they're part of.
From pp98-100, there's Blake's article entitled "Multiple Name Identities". This is a subject dear to me & one that I have alotof direct experience w/. I've always found the term "Multiple Names" to be misleading. I prefer "Collective Identities". Both refer to the deliberate use of one name by multiple people, often for a common purpose. Blake's article tells of such names previously unknown to me & claims a few things that I think are inaccurate.
Blake mentions Nicholas Bourbaki, Kenneth Robeson, Stefan Brockhoff, David Agnew, & Van den Budenmayer - none of whom have I ever heard of. THANK YOU TREVOR! To these I might add Ern Malley, an Australian hoax poet identity created by 2 poets who hated modernist poetry in order to parody such poetry & prank a particular editor. Trevor also mentions the children's bk entitled The Little Engine Who Could & that: "The story is attributed to Watty Piper, which was the house name of publisher Platt & Munk. Many men and women wrote under the name Watty Piper." To wch I add that this is somewhat common in kid's bks insofar as publishers create series that they perpetuate far beyond the lifespans of individual authors. Hence we have Hardy Boys stories written by "Franklin W. Dixon" & Tom Swift stories written by "Victor Appleton", etc..
Blake: "Since 1968, films which the director wishes to distance themselves from are attributed to Alan Smithee." Many, if not all of these are porn & it's not just the directors who use the name. People largely use it so they don't ruin their otherwise more aboveboard professional careers. I made my own movie "Teenagers from Inner Space" under the name Alan Smithee in order to deliberately associate myself w/ the other Smithees.
The collective identities that Blake writes about that I know the most about are those of Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot, & Luther Blissett. I've been all 3 of them at some time or another. Blake spells "Monty" "Monte" at times & "Eliot" "Elliot" at all times so I call attn to those errors. He also presents David Zacks' version of the origin of Monty Cantsin wch is probably mostly accurate but one shd keep in mind that Zack was a diabetic who was often too much of a space cadet to be always keenly aware of what was going on around him. "Blaster" Al Ackerman's somewhat different history for such things is helpful for getting a more general feel.
All in all, typos or no, this is an excellent bk. Blake's strong point is his personality as a seeker & oVo is his Lost & Found....more
review of Surreal Friends by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 1, 2012
According to the inner jacket blurb: "Surreal Friends brings together for treview of Surreal Friends by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 1, 2012
According to the inner jacket blurb: "Surreal Friends brings together for the first time the work of three women Surrealist artists, friends in exile in Mexico in the 1940s: British painter Leonora Carrington, Spanish painter Remedios Varo and Hungarian photographer Kati Horna." This mutual presence in Mexico was largely brought about by the war-torn conditions in Europe at the time of their emigration coupled w/ Mexico's admirable immigration policy:
"The Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas opened the borders to all refugees who had been on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War and to anybody with a trace of Spanish ancestry who was hounded out of war-torn Europe. Socialists and Communists of different denominations, often refused entry into the USA, found a home in Mexico, most famously Leon Trotsky. This policy is the key to the story of the 'Surreal Friends' who, with many other Europeans, became part of Mexico's cultural history of the twentieth century."
Well, yes, this "policy is the key to the story of the 'Surreal Friends'" insofar as Varo was a Spaniard who was on the side of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War & Horna was a photographer who documented that side in the same war. Carrington, however, wasn't of Spanish ancestry & didn't move to Spain until 1940 when the Republic had lost & Franco was in power.
In fact, Carrington, as w/ the other women, was from an extremely wealthy family & had a type of mobility that wd've been denied to poorer people. On page 33, one of the estates that Carrington grew up in, Crookhey, is described as "not a particularly beautiful house". I found that somewhat astounding since this "house" was probably big enuf to fit 5 or 10 of the houses that I grew up in. In other words, who wd complain about growing up in a huge mansion w/ extensive grounds?! This type of politically uncritical thinking characterizes much of the writing in this bk - w/ one notable exception at the end.
I love Carrington's work, but I find the biography of her here to be a bit of a whitewash. On page 39 it's written that when she fled France, leaving her lover Max Ernst in an internment camp, "She hoped, she says, to use contacts outside France to get Ernst released. She sold the house, leaving her own and Ernst's work in a safe place, and left - travelling across the Pyrenees in a car that she says was 'not much bigger than a coffee table'." Contrast this to this description from Susan L. Aberth's bk Leonora Carrington - Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, page 45:
"When Ernst returned home he found that Carrington had left the premises and had inadvertently turned over their house to an unscrupulous farmer from the village. Yves Tanguy's wife, the American artist Kay Sage, asked Peggy Guggenheim to finance Ernst's passage to America. Guggenheim, who was in Grenoble shipping her newly acquired art collection back to the United States, had financed the passage to America of a number of other 'distinguished' Surrealists, including the entire Breton family. Ernst wrote to her, in a desperate attempt to recover the contents of his house, asking for 6000 francs and a letter for a lawyer testifying that she had seen the sculptures in his house and that they were worth at least 175,000 francs. Because Guggenheim had seen these sculptures reproduced in the periodical Cahiers d'Art, she complied with his request and recounts that he was able to get his paintings out of the farm at night."
In other words, while Surreal Friends' version of the story has Carrington selling the house & "leaving her own and Ernst's work in a safe place", Leonora Carrington - Surrealism, Alchemy and Art's version has Carrington essentially leaving Ernst in the lurch & making it so that he had to 'steal' his own work back. Wd I've done better than Carrington under such difficult circumstances? Perhaps not, but I'd like to think that I wd have. & it's this type of thing that causes me to question Carrington's qualifications for immigration in Mexico.
Remedios Varo, on the other hand, is a subject that I'm somewhat more sympathetic to. In a sense, tho, she had an early life more conducive to free-thinking than Carrington's upper class British one. Page 46: "Varo's father was an intellectual man, an Esperantist and anti-clergy. He became friends with the Fontbernat-Verdaguers and, in 1911, helped them to found the local cooperative Libera Popolo, in Esperanto 'free people'." But to add weight to my earlier claim that all 3 women were from wealthy families: "From Anglès, the Varos moved to Cadiz where her father was appointed the King of Spain's economic affairs representative in Morocco."
On pages 48-49, Varo is given credit for something that many people are now familiar w/: "The arrival of the French Surrealist Marcel Jean in Barcelona in the summer of 1935 was the catalyst for Varo's formal initiation into Surrealism. With Jean and his artist friends, particularly Dominguez and Francés, Varo created cadavres exquis, exquisite corpses - a Surrealist game that seeks to explore subconscious associations by juxtaposing different images at random".
Alas, even Varo's integrity becomes tarnished for me b/c of "the designs she did for the pharmaceutical company Bayer". I reckon she didn't know that Bayer had sold heroin for 25 yrs as 'non-addictive', had participated in the creation of & profited from gas warfare in WWI, & that they'd used concentration camp internees for torture & slave labor. See: http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-firms/11153...
&, yes, even Kati Horna was privileged. Page 57: "Kati Horna was born Katerine Deutsch on 19 May 1912, the daughter of a well-to-do Jewish banker, Alejandro Deutsch, and his wife, Margarita."
But, as we sadly know, such privilege was hardly something that anyone of Jewish origin was likely to enjoy for long: "By August 1919 Budapest was an occupied city, and the Romanians had embarked on a campaign of terror against the Communists and Jews - the latter also being seen as Leftists. There were stories of Jews being beaten in the streets and shot in the woods: for Horna and her family, these were dark and unsettling times and it is likely that the instability of her city nurtured what became a very deep-seated desire to get away from Budapest." [..] "And despite the difficulties, Alejandro Deutsch was wealthy enough to keep his family and daughters comfortably well off."
This double-edged sword of wealth & oppression continued: "Horna aligned herself with workers' rights and was eventually fired from her job for taking part in a May Day parade." [..] "Horna's mother gave her the money for her first Rolleiflex" (a type of expensive 35mm still camera). How often do people look at the history of art & wonder: did this person produce work under conditions of privilege or struggle? Not often enuf.
All in all, I liked this bk very much - not so much for the somewhat lifeless academic writing, as for the fantastic artwork made by these 3 women - whose work I'm not likely to get too much of anytime soon. As such, it wasn't until Joanna Moorhead's essay entitled "Surreal Friends in Mexico" that I really started to get annoyed. Moorhead's sexism comes to a head here: "Smart women make sure they are not outshined by even smarter men, because history is pretty consistent about who comes out on top in such partnerships; and as artists who hoped, somewhere inside themselves, to make a contribution to art and perhaps even to be remembered for their art, each of the Surreal Friends - consciously or subconsciously - eventually chose a man whose ambitions would not stifle her own." Never mind that "outshined" was probably meant to be "outshone". Moorhead's point here is that "smart women" shd marry men who stay out of their way - you know, men who act as maintenance men & fuck them when they want it - but otherwise 'know their place & stay there'. If it were written w/ the sexes reversed, it wd be rightly rife for feminist criticism. I find it hard to believe that even the 3 artists under discussion wdn't've found this extremely offensive.
But maybe Carrington & Varo really were art-world bloodsuckers. It seems that Horna was a little less so. "The relationship between the two women [Horna & Varo] was probably an easier one than the relationship between Carrington and Varo, which had at times been strained by how similar the women's work was". Or maybe that's just Moorhead's talking.
Politics does make its appearance & the Olympics mess up even a country willing to take refugees that most countries wdn't touch: "Alongside the student protests, the city was preparing to host the Olympic Games. On 2 October of that year, 10 days before the opening of the Games, troops turned on student protestors in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City. To this day, the death rate is disputed. Some say thousands died; even if that is high as an estimate, the true figure was certainly around 800." The nazis LOVED the Olympics - doesn't that tell the rest of the world anything?!
Carrington "lived with her maid Yolanda". Notice that Yolanda is "her", Carrington's, maid - as if Carrington owned the woman. This shd give you an idea of both the classism of the author here, still the abysmal Moorhead, & of the continuing privilege of Carrington's position. On page 122, there's a particularly revealing section about Edward James, one of Carrington's patrons: "James's lack of time for personal correspondence was, he said, exacerbated by the fact that he moved to Southern California where the situation was rather dire: 'I have been forced to live without servants ... In this respect I am only one of the many thousands in the position of finding that they have for the first time in their lives to do their own housework'." Poor baby, right?!
The author of this section, Sharon-Michi Kusunoki, can join Moorhead in my list of idiots as she goes on to write: "This first letter, which goes on for eight pages, epitomises James's life and sets the stage for his friendship with Carrington - a somewhat anarchic existence where the mundane problems of everyday living are escalated into catastrophic proportions". A "somewhat anarchic existence" here is presumed to mean the usual thing that people unfamiliar w/ the meaning of anarchy 'think' it means: chaotic. But from an anarchist's POV (mine), I find it a little hard to find the "somewhat anarchic existence where the mundane problems of everyday living are escalated into catastrophic proportions" in the life of an independently wealthy man whose vast inheritance insures that he'll never have to work & who finds himself lacking time b/c he has to do housework!! After all, I've worked 2 jobs & still had the time to correspond w/ 1,400 people. In other words, great artists or not, these people are pampered poodles of the 1st order.
When Carrington's rich father died, Carrington was well-off enuf so that she "decided not to accept any inheritance for myself and will put this aside for the Antichrists [her children] as I find money would only further complicate my existence ..." Let's not conflate Carrington & her friends w/ the unfortunates who went to the death camps in Europe - these were the rich people who got away b/c of their wealth & lived safe lives pursuing their pleasures & interests. Their being refugees in Mexico was hardly a hardship like those endured by the poor people who got left behind.
FINALLY, Antonio Rodriguez Rivera's essay, "Mexico: 1939-2010" puts things in a perspective that's sometimes sorely missing from much of the rest of this bk:
"The dictator Porfirio Diaz, who ruled Mexico from 1884 to the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, said on his way into exile in France: 'Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.' Teresa Margolles' installation for Mexico at the Venice Biennale in 2009, What else could we talk about?, was poignant proof of this statement. Her work continues to remind us of the thousands of victims of the narcotic wars in Mexico today, and highlights the ambivalent relationship the country has with its powerful northern neighbor the USA. The enormous demand for illegal drugs in the USA is clearly interlinked with the drugs trade and trafficking in Mexico, as is the hugely profitable arms import for the private armies of the drug cartels from north of the border."
When all's sd & done, Carrington & Varo are still 2 of my favorite painters, & I have a new interest in the work of Horna - wch I'd like to get to know better. If I'd rated this bk on the writing, I might've given it a 2 or 3 star rating - but I've rated it on the quality of the work reproduced instead: so it gets a 4 (out of 5 possible stars). Despite my discomfort w/ the 3 women's privilege, at least they had substantial talent & weren't nazis. I'm not so sure about some of this bk's authors. ...more
I've read a little from Russian political figures: Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, V. I. Lenin, L. I. Brezhnev & I've read a fair amt of more general Russian authors: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Voinovich, etc; Vadim Shefner, Kirill Bulychev, Dmitri Bilenkin, the Strugatsky brothers, Vladimir Savchenko, Mikhail Emtsev & Eremei Parnov. The ones listed after Voinovich are all published as part of the excellent Collier Books series called "Best of Soviet SF" that SF writer Theodore Sturgeon was a prime mover in - & reading that series left me wanting even more Russian/Soviet SF. But everything except for the Lenin & Brezhnev I'd read had been filtered thru 'Western' publishing houses. This was the 1st time I'd read fiction published in English from Russia.
B/c of this I was curious about what the work wd be like & what its political circumstances of publication wd be. I was born into the cold war era: raised on a sickening diet of "Russia only has propaganda, the United States has no propaganda; Communism is evil, the United States is free". &, of course, there're all sorts of 'thrillers', spy novels & the like, marketed to English readers in wch the Russians are diabolically plotting to overthrow the United States. It's always seemed logical to assume that Russia might have similar literature about the evil capitalists. Wd The Chariot of Time be something along these lines? Or was it published in English to try to more diplomatically reach a 'Western" readership? Wd this be underground literature? State approved? None of the above?
The Chariot of Time is a collection of 3 different works: the 1st a novel, the 2nd a novella, the 3rd a short story. This, for me, is a somewhat novel mode of presentation insofar as I usually find shorter works leading up to longer ones - as w/, say, a short being shown before a feature. The Foreword is written by V. Sevastyanov, a cosmonaut! I don't recall ever reading a work of 'Western' SF written by an astronaut before & I wdn't expect it b/c I'd expect 'Western' astronauts to keep a distance from the potentially tarnishing image of the Sf writer. Maybe I just read the 'wrong' kind of SF. In Sevastyanov's foreword he writes:
"'Beauty is the radiant bridge to the future which the science-fiction writer must cross on his journey into times to come," wrote Ivan Yefremov. [..]
"Fine words from a chronicler of the earth's beauty. But Ivan Yefremov was also deeply disturbed about the fate of this beauty. 'First and foremost, we must unite the peoples of our planet into a single fraternal family, destroy inequality, oppression and racial prejudice... [..]'
"Both these statements provide excellent epigraphs for this book, The Chariot of Time [..]"
The novel, "The Cup of Patience" was written in Sicily & Moscow from 1977-1982, was initially published in 1983 & was translated into English in 1988. To put its initial date of publication into historical perspective I find it interesting to quote from an article entitled "A Cold War Conundrum: The 1983 Soviet War Scare" by Benjamin B. Fischer on the C.I.A.'s website ( https://www.cia.gov/library/center-fo... ):
"Soviet intelligence services went on alert in 1981 to watch for US preparations for launching a surprise nuclear attack against the USSR and its allies. [..]
"Some observers dismissed the alert and the war scare as Soviet disinformation and scare tactics, while others viewed them as reflecting genuine fears. The latter view seems to have been closer to the truth. The KGB in the early 1980s saw the international situation--in Soviet terminology, the "correlation of world forces"--as turning against the USSR and increasing its vulnerability. These developments, along with the new US administration's tough stance toward the USSR, prompted Soviet officials and much of the populace to voice concern over the prospect of a US nuclear attack."
"US-Soviet relations had come full circle by 1983--from confrontation in the early postwar decades, to detente in the late 1960s and 1970s, and back to confrontation in the early 1980s. Europeans were declaring the outbreak of "Cold War II.""
"The post-detente "second Cold War" was essentially a war of words--strong and at times inflammatory words. In March 1983, President Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as the "focus of evil in the world" and as an "evil empire." Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov responded by calling the US President insane and a liar."
"Moscow repeatedly accused President Reagan of fanning the flames of war and compared him to Hitler"
Meanwhile, in 1983 when The Chariot of Time was published & when "Cold War II" was starting, people in the US such as myself were thinking that the election of a bad actor & obvious puppet to the presidency marked a new low in American politics that was a nasty harbinger of possibilities to come.
As such, it's no wonder that "The Cup of Patience" has the ultimate villain be an American missile base in Italy.
The main thread that seems to run thru all 3 works in this collection is a concern for the environment. Here's a paragraph from p17:
"The drake was hiding in the wet withered grass. I picked the quivering bird up. It twitched several times, then went quiet. I am not a fervent advocate of vegetarianism, nor do I live on nothing but potato cutlets, of course, but I don't like the idea of beautiful birds falling dead into the grass of my native Siberia just for the sake of nice invitations to sunny Sicily. Zealous layers of chemical fertilizers have decimated their numbers quite enough as it is..."
Much of the more fanciful side of "The Cup of Patience" centers around a legendary beautiful woman in a state of suspended animation. The main character, an archeologist, finds her tomb & hurriedly takes The Teacher to see Snow Face. This leads to The Teacher's saying:
"'Thanks, brother,' he whispered. 'If the world is to be saved by beauty, it will be by this sort, by pure beauty.'"
Now this being fairly early on in the novel, I was still a bit confused by what struck me as "Fantasy" (as the cover had 'warned' me) of the most silly sort: a frozen woman of great 'beauty' the 'purity' of wch might save the world. In other words, gimme a break. But, fortunately, the story twists & turns quite a bit more & becomes more interesting. The, at 1st, somewhat confusing (in terms of its relevance to the story) sensitivity to nature has its pleasing moments - such as when a character alerts people to evacuate from an impending earthquake as a result of this sign: "'[..] The marmots, shrews and mice left their holes at sunset and moved higher up. The snakes have gone too.'" If I'm ever somewhere where I see small animals heading en masse for a different location, may I be wise enuf to follow their lead!!
The pro-beauty environmentalist stance develops into anti-war: "war is filth, cruelty and madness!". Saving animals from cruelty & death is a running theme throughout The Chariot of Time. On p59, Murat, the same character who observes the animal behavior as an earthquake warning, throws himself over a dog that's being beaten to protect it. In the short story that ends the bk, "The Bride's Room", an old man gets another man to save a bird entangled in wire wch is about to be mangled by a dog out for a walk. Another example of an observation of animal behavior in the novel is this:
"At night he put out the mules to graze, but with autumn approaching one was caught by a wolf. The other ran back with a bloody crupper, covered in sweat, and rushed into the lake, where it stood for three days, until the lacerated wound - which gave one food for thought - was covered by a new pink skin."
Some other types of references seem key to the author, He refers to the 'Islamic Golden Age' Persian physician, philosopher, & polymath Avicenna in at least 2 places & to the Russian novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita in at least 2 others. This latter is an interesting choice of a bk to emphasize given that, according to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mast... ):
"Many critics consider the book to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and one of the foremost Soviet satires, directed against a suffocatingly bureaucratic social order."
"A censored version (12% of the text removed and still more changed) of the book was first published in Moscow magazine (no. 11, 1966 and no. 1, 1967). The text of all the omitted and changed parts, with indications of the places of modification, was published on a samizdat basis. In 1967 the publisher Posev (Frankfurt) printed a version produced with the aid of these inserts."
In the novella, entitled "Where Are You Hurrying, Ant?", a woman mountain climber finds herself stranded on a plateau cut off from descent & trying to communicate w/ apparent aliens who take no notice of her. In her frustration, she loses her temper & says:
"'My ancestors wrote The Lay of Igor's Host, Taras Bulba, Quiet Flows the Don and The Master and Margarita."
That's interesting enuf as a list of works meant to be Russian literary greats insofar as Tolstoy & Dostoyevsky are conspicuously absent & insofar as the inclusion of The Master and Margarita seems, to me at least, to be inconsistent w/ the more militaristic & nationalistic other texts. The mountain climber goes on to say:
"'[..] My ancestors did not destroy peoples on their way to the Great Water, as your Pisarro and Cortez did in South America. My ancestors knew the true price of friendly contacts, as we can judge from their old saying: 'Go through the world doing wrong and you will never return.''"
Alas, the type of conquering imperialism that she's claiming Russia's taken no part in is much more likely to leave the victims not returning than the perpetrators. As to whether the Russians have been so free of the viciousness that seems to characterize EVERY powerful nation, I won't comment for the moment. I will say, though, that the author, Yuri Medvedev, seems to spend alotof time in the bk building up the image of Russia by comparing it favorably to demonized other countries like the US. This, of course, is propaganda very similar to what the US had to say, w/ the roles reversed, about the US vs Russia during the cold war era I grew up in.
As the novel, "The Cup of Patience", progresses, the political subtext comes more to the surface. The main character's father had the left half of his face obliterated thru torture by nazis during his assistance of Italian partisans in WWII. Beauty, again, comes to forefront even in this part of the tale's telling when the son recalls: "Busyga called my father a monster, and my little hands grabbed him so hard by the throat that it took four teachers to pull me away. You said: 'Be a Spartan and don't cry, your father is the most beautiful of them all.'"
In "The Cup of Patience" atrocities start off mainly as the province of the nazis:
"'AEONA, WHAT ARE THOSE CLOTS OF SWIRLING DARKNESS IN BETWEEN THE LIGHTS OF THE TOWNS?'
"'THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS USED IN THE LAST WAR WHERE THEY USED TO FLAY PEOPLE ALIVE TO MAKE HANDBAGS AND LAMPSHADES FROM THEIR SKIN. [..]'"
but by 2 pages later the story starts to broaden away from the nazis: "But the funeral feast on our Mother Earth is dragging on too long. In the pursuit of gain profiteers cover the sea bed with atomic waste and throw toxic substances into the rivers, cynically posting up notices on the banks of the Rhein in letters three metres high: BADEN VERBOTEN! - NO SWIMMING! Our planet has enough arms, both chemical and bacteriological, to kill off the whole solar system if it were inhabited." This broadening of atrocity into the ecological turns, 7 pages later, into an indictment of the American military:
"'That's the Singing Mountain. It's a volcano. The last time it erupted was in the eighth century. There were some strange cliffs on top of the Singing Mountain. Made of tufa and sandstone. The mountain used to sing in a strong wind.'
"I began to survey the outlines of the mountain, blurred in the noon day haze, with interest.
"'What do you mean: 'the mountains used to sing', 'there were some strange cliffs'? Why use the past tense? I think I can see some buildings on it. Or is that a mirage?'
"'It's a rocket base. An American one. They levelled out the cliffs that used to sing. That was fifteen years ago,' Pluhar replied tersely."
By the next page, 122, in a discussion about defenses are defeated there's "At all times in all nations there have always been traitors, Judases, ready for the sake of some trinket for their mistress or an extra slice of lard to sell their compatriots." This leads into:
"'Others sell the seas for atomic Cerberuses. And others the mountains for rocket bases. Where do they get the energy from to go buying and selling on a scale like that?'
"'I'll tell you where,' I said. 'From lack of imagination. Spiritual blindness. And insatiable greed. They don't realize that for the sake of making a quick profit, they are destroying beauty. The beauty of people, of living things. And the non-living things don't fare much better either.'"
&, as illustrated by the above quotes, this is how the novel gradually develops its notions of what beauty is & what the threat to it is. &, finally, by page 134, the villain is revealed more fully:
"'Whether of the earth, the galaxy or the universe, beauty is one. It is dispersed and spread around the universe like light. Only its light-bearing power can restrain the elements of darkness from holding sway. The oneness of beauty, its eternal, harmonic flowering, harmonic flowering, is an unshakeable law. So any attempt at destroying beauty, to shake its foundations, must be punished.'
"'That's interesting. Then why haven't the maniacs in the Pentagon been punished who dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And on Bikini Atoll? Those who dropped thousands of bombs on long-suffering Vietnam? And exploded an atom bomb in the Nevada desert over three-and-a-half thousand of their own soldiers, knowingly condemning them to mental disease and death from cancer? Isn't that destroying beauty?'
"'Remember the ancient saying: the punishment for the crime is already contained in the crime itself.'
"'It's not the punishment that should be contained, it's the criminals themselves! Behind iron bars and seven locks. And everything should be made public, like it was at the Nuremberg trials. [..]'"
Far be it from me to disagree w/ the gist of the above. The bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki still seem like inexcusable war-crimes of a horrific nature. I was a Vietnam war resister. Unfortunately, what characterizes all of The Chariot of Time is a pointing the finger of guilt at the US for things that Russia is also guilty of. In "Where Are You Hurrying, Ant?" French nuclear tests in the Sahara are condemned. 'Oddly', no Russian nuclear tests are ever mentioned at all. According to a "Soviet Nuclear Test Summary" online ( http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russi... ):
"The Soviet Union became the second nation in the world to detonate a nuclear device on 29 August 1949 (the U.S. had previously exploded eight devices). Between that date, and 24 October 1990 (the date of the last Soviet, or Russian, test) the Soviet Union conducted 715 nuclear tests, by official count. As with the U.S., the term "test" may indicate the near simultaneous detonation of more than one nuclear exposive device, so the actual number of devices exploded is 969 (for comparison, the U.S. has conducted 1056 tests/explosions using at least 1151 devices)."
Now, if nuclear tests are going to be condemned, & I'm certainly in favor of such condemnation, why doesn't Yuri Medvedev condemn the Russian tests at the same time as the US ones? For that matter, I'm completely in favor of condemning the US for dropping atomic bombs & the nazis for just about everything they ever did - ESPECIALLY the death camps - but I'm also in favor of condemning the Japanese massacres in Nanking, the Khmer Rouge's massacres in Cambodia, & the Soviet massacres in Poland. Stalin, alas, was hardly a shining example of integrity. He signed a non-aggression pact w/ Hitler & sold out the Spanish Civil War - &, of course, that's only a small part of it. None of the Russian culpability is ever mentioned. Vietnam? A totally fucked-up situation - French & US aggression there was completely unjustifiable to my mind. But let's not forget Afghanistan or all the other countries that were unwillingly conscripted into the USSR. I don't recall Hungary being too happy about Soviet presence in the 1956 uprising.
I don't want to reveal too much about the plot b/c I don't want to have too many spoilers here. Suffice it to say that in an eventual trial, the investigator asks: "Where are the rockets aimed?" & that's a very valid question both in this bk & in the world outside it that it refers to. Even anthrax comes up & I don't find it the least bit paranoid to be concerned about US military research on biological & chemical weapons b/c it certainly exists & Maryland, where I'm from, was, &, presumably, still is, a hotbed for such research.
All in all, I quite liked this bk & am glad to've read it. What's of special interest to me is the "REQUEST TO READERS" at the end: "Raduga Publishers would be glad to have your opinion of this book" & they give an address. As far as I can tell, the address given is no longer correct but more updated info is online so I'll send this review to an email address I found. Their very openness to receiving any responses is a positive thing to me.
As for their environmentalism & anti-imperialism? I'm all for it - but, for better or for worse, we have to make changes internationally or it won't work, will it? - & denying Russia's culpability thru omission doesn't help, does it? ...more
review of Franz Kamin's VALANTALE by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 26, 2012
When I was in St Paul on Halloween, 2010, shooting footage for my dreview of Franz Kamin's VALANTALE by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 26, 2012
When I was in St Paul on Halloween, 2010, shooting footage for my documentary entitled DEPOT (wherein resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin), Nor Hall showed me a group of Norkinshot Press chapbks that Franz had put out that all had objects attached to their covers & that were printed on high quality paper. Nor sd something to the effect of "You must have all of these" to wch I replied that I didn't. I was disappointed! They were so special & Franz, despite my having know him for over 30 yrs, had never given me one!
Then, a few days ago, I was reorganizing my poetry bkshelves &, Lo & Behold!, I found this copy of "VALANTALE" pushed behind the other bks out of sight. B/c of the wreath on its cover, adjacent bks had caught against it &, when they were pushed in, it was pushed back. So Franz had sent me one after all! I'm reminded of the story of the score to Erik Satie's "Uspud". If I remember correctly, it was presumed lost until after Satie's death when his apartment was cleaned & it was found fallen behind his piano.
VALANTALE is a twisted tale, perhaps one of Franz's most twisted. & it's reappeared in the still unpublished ms Tales from the Theory of Angels & the Norkinshot Reader (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32... ) & in the, fortunately recently published OPEN SPACE (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12... ). Below's what I wrote re VALANTALE in the 1st of those reviews that I've provided a link to:
"Below's the 1st paragraph from "Valentale". It's eerie, mysterious, poignant, full of longing, full of pain:
""Now She has one. All the other girls in her school have had theirs for a long time. She had been the only one. The boys, of course, didn't need any; they had their Things - which would eventually do it for them. Dragging it along behind her, although this is not how most of the others carried theirs - kept them hidden. It was the longest one she'd ever seen. She'd found it in the gutter on the way back from lunch (knew it was hers right away: Black - most of them were mint or reddish) and not gone back to school at all, which is why she was down by the warehouses & loading docks ('Bad-Town' - daddy says don't go there) being alone, and carefully pulling (so it won't get dirty or stepped on by workers, cats, drunks & ho'es) her long black 'Death-Ribbon' proudly behind her."
"That paragraph is written in a fairly 'unexpanded' style, but as the story develops so does its way of being told:
""Silents piled on top of other Silents piled on top of other Silents piled on top until- "GOO'NIGH'SWEE" (Bumsay. Bumsback. Bumlie inches away. Up on the edge of the curb, peering down, huge sufflated face, eye bloodyly stares) "GOO'NIGH'SWEE'PRINTS - mayANGELSINGTHEEEE" (Angels fuckin) singTHEE!" (must be the writer) "to... ...th 'Res-sssSnNNOORRRe" (Bumfall aSleep: Actually Dead too, which is even better.)""
For those of you who read university journals featuring the work of 'creative writing' students, it may come as no surprise to you for me to claim that there's rarely any creative writing represented. What's there, instead, is formulaic drivel written by people who think they can buy imagination. Kamin's imagination isn't bought, it's from deep w/in him & he's strong enuf & creative enuf to let it come out in a form that isn't 'corrected'-to-death by people-who-'know'-far-less-than-he-does. ...more
review of the Larry Smith & Ingrid Swanberg edited d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 24, 2012
The 1review of the Larry Smith & Ingrid Swanberg edited d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 24, 2012
The 1st time I remember hearing about d.a.levy was when my girlfriend of the time, Rebecca Barten, & I assembled H.O.M.E. Encyclopedia - 1992 - Volume 1: A - N, a 2 hr VHS vaudeo compilation of movies made by Baltimore folks. Konstantin Petrochuk contributed a 2:00 piece called "About d.a. Levy's Death" (an excerpt from a film from 1982).
THEN, 19 yrs later, I was in the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore in Boulder & I was delighted to find this bk - partially b/c it comes w/ a DVD of Petrochuk's feature about levy - finally I'd get a chance to check out the whole thing! SO, my 1st priority upon getting this was to witness Kon's movie - wch I liked & found educational.. BUT, I found some of the formal framing devices to be a bit tediously overused. No matter.
I stretched out actually reading the bk over 8 mnths or so while I was otherwise distracted by other bks & activities but I'm glad I finally read the whole thing. THIS IS LOVINGLY PUT TOGETHER BY PEOPLE WHO OBVIOUSLY CARE DEEPLY ABOUT THE SUBJECT & I was almost completely convinced of levy's 'importance'.
In fact, even if the reader were to decide that they don't like levy's work at all (wch I think is unlikely) if they have any interest in Concrete Poetry at all, they'll most likely find the takes on it here to be fascinating.
Karl Young's essay says "The majority of the Americans who ran under the banner of "concrete" poetry, even before the Emmett Williams anthology had reduced the genre to the brittle minimalism that the overwhelming majority of readers would overwhelmingly reject as underwhelmingly trivial, were not looking toward Lettrism for inspiration." Them's fightin' words, right?! Who this "overwhelming majority of readers" is & how Young collected these dubious statistics about their "overwhelming[..] reject[ion of Williams' bk] as underwhelmingly trivial" seems likely to be restricted to a few people of Young's acquaintance who're in no way representative of those of us who love concrete poetry.
Essentially, Young & others present levy as possibly the primary representative of "dirty concrete" - as far as I can tell a term meaning concrete poetry (or whatever) in wch occlusion is used as a technique of, as levy purportedly called it, "destructive writing". In levy's case it seems that his persecution by the highly oppressive Cleveland police FORCE led somewhat to his creating work in wch what cd be taken for self-censorship (ie: the occlusion of semantic content) becomes an attack on censorship by being a formal heightening of the conflict (ie: occlusion used as a semantic content of its own). While I don't find the "dirty concrete" work of levy's that compelling as it's presented here, I do find the term valuable & I'm glad to add it to my critical vocabulary.
As for the Williams edited Anthology of Concrete Poetry insulted in Young's quote? It is, according to the text on its front cover, "the largest Anthology of Concrete Poetry to appear to date , and the first major one to be published in the United States." It was published by Dick Higgins' great Something Else Press & I feel compelled to defend it as a very important bk indeed. Maybe Young is angered by levy's non-presence in it. Dunno. I, too, have been left out of many a publication that I shd've been in - but that doesn't make them unworthwhile otherwise.
I wd even have to strongly disagree that Williams' anthology represents only "brittle minimalism". Certainly Carlfriedrich Claus' "Allegorical Essay: for Werner Schmidt" (1965), John Furnival's "The Fall of the Tower of Babel" (1964), Heinz Gappmayr's 1964 poem in wch the typing-over technique is used, & Bengt Emil Johnson's "Homage to John Cage" (1964) are all strong examples of non-minimalist & potentially occluding techniques!
Furthermore, Bob Cobbing & bp Nichol are both included & they were both associates of levy's - &, perhaps, this is part of the problem. levy is revealed as the 1st publisher of Nichol. I wd have to agree that that is important in itself. So why is levy not included? There're many possible explanations: Williams didn't know about him, Williams didn't like his work, Williams censored him out as too dirty-concrete, levy wasn't 'art-school' enuf, he was too 'working-class'. I certainly don't know the answer. I do 'know' that Cobbing was from London, & Nichol was from Toronto - both cities are 'respectable places' - ie: if you're living in either of these cities you might well be considered to be 'urbane' - but if you're living in Cleveland you might be considered a 'hick'.
Both Cobbing & Nichol might be considered "dirty concrete" at times but none of their work in the Williams anthology wd be. Nichols' "eyes" (1967), eg, strikes me as very 'safely' art school design-ish. Wch is not to say that I dislike Nichols' work. Far from it. I even had the good fortune of meeting him around 1979 or the early '80s & I found him extremely likable. He, too, like levy, died entirely too young (although not nearly as young as levy did - nor for the same reason).
Anyone familiar w/ Cobbing's bill jubobe (The Coach House Press, 1976) or his collaboration w/ P.Clive Fencott Cobbing & Fencott in Baltimore might associate some of his work w/ overtyping & smearing w/ levy's own use of overtyping & overinking, etc.. As such, yes, they're both "dirty concrete". But the work of Nichol that I have in my personal library (Journal & The Captain Poetry Poems Complete) I wd only associate w/ levy's b/c of such things as spelling "thought" as "thot" - a phonetic abbreviation not confined to the 2 of them. Nonetheless, I'm willing to accept that Nichol was "dirty concrete" at times too.
What seems even more apropos to me is that levy cd be sd to be an important precursor of DIY in punk. As is obviously typical of someone young & just beginning to work on their craft, there can often be an acceptance of mistakes & even a pushing of what might ordinarily be considered 'undesirable' aspects of production to highlight them for an alternative esthetic. I think of my own recordings of the Baltimore phone network's 1979 "TESTES-3" messages - they were deliberately over-recorded to create more noise. I'd say that levy embraced visual noise as a part of his production esthetic.
The color prints at the center of d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution are a particular treat. I didn't even immediately recognize some of them as having been made from condoms. The use of condoms as print-making materials is the kind of thing bound to offend 'polite society' (often very impolite indeed when it's dropping napalm) & such things as these prints & levy's use of collaged porn, curse words, & political protest was heavily suppressed by the police state he was so unfortunate to live in. As levy says in Andrew Curry's June 1967 interview w/ him: "I hallucinate a lot and I pretend a lot. That's the only way I can survive in an atmosphere similar to that of Nazi germany before World War II, which is what Cleveland is and what the United States is." Indeed. But I have to wonder: did the cops suppress the actual makers & distributors of the porn that levy collaged from? It seems unlikely, eh? After all, they were probably mafia - & the mafia knows how & when to pay the cops off.
As for the "mimeograph revolution"? Well, I'm all in agreement that the 'underground' took advantage of the mimeograph in the 1960s to produce revolutionary work that strongly challenged the propaganda of the mainstream media. But, as for when that began? The Futurians, a science fiction readers/writers group, are reputed to've used mimeo as early as 1939 - & they were mostly politically radical too - so the "mimeograph revolution" hardly started w/ levy & his friends. However, that doesn't in any way invalidate what they did. Even I, as a latecomer, was using the mimeo for similar purposes in 1985.
"Thomas Edison received US patent 180,857 for "Autographic Printing" on August 8, 1876. The patent covered the electric pen, used for making the stencil, and the flatbed duplicating press. In 1880 Edison obtained a further patent, US 224,665: "Method of Preparing Autographic Stencils for Printing", which covered the making of stencils using a file plate, a grooved metal plate on which the stencil was placed which perforated the stencil when written on with a blunt metal stylus.
"The word "mimeograph" was first used by Albert Blake Dick when he licensed Edison's patents in 1887."
It's quite possible that the mimeo revolution started as soon as the mimeo became available to revolutionaries - in the late 19th century!
One thing that I learned from reading d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution was that I had actually run across his work before Kon Petrochuk turned me on to him. His hackencross shaped poem entitled "VISUALIZED PRAYER FOR THE AMERICAN GOD # 6" adorns the back cover of Tuli Kupferberg's 1967 Grove Press bk entitled 1001 Ways to Live Without Working & I have that bk.
Wch brings me to: was levy a working-class poet? How does one define the working class? The most obvious definition might be: someone who works. A less obvious definition might be: someone who doesn't have the money to buy their way into a higher class. levy's family, I'd say definitely a working class one, didn't have the money to send him to college - hence by the latter definition he might've been working class.
As for the former definition: that can be tricky: WHAT CONSTITUTES WORK? Does a guy work who goes into the business that his dad owns & sits around all day browsing the internet while getting pd for fucking off? Did d.a.levy work by writing a prodigious amt of poetry, making a prodigious amt of artwork, & publishing a prodigious amt of bks & underground newspapers? Some wd say YES, some wd say he probably worked harder than the mass media moguls he was counterbalancing - & I'd have to agree. But I'd additionally have to say that as a person who's also produced a prodigious amt of work that's of so little interest to people that I can barely give it away that there's working for yrself & there's working for other people - like it or not, it's this latter work that's generally considered to be WORK & not the former.
In the interview w/ Curry, this exchange takes place:
levy: I think I am a poet without kissing ass, whatever a poet might be. dust: Well, for the benefit of people who might be partial to ass-kissers, to be an artist is... levy: To be an artist you don't have to suffer. dust: What do you have to do? levy: You've got to have money. Lots of money and lots of love. And a Siamese cat. dust: That makes sense. levy: And lots of books by Alan Watts.
Now I think that levy's humor comes thru here - but what also comes thru is the speech of a somewhat naive young person. After all, levy was 24 during this interview. levy had alot to offer the world but very few people w/ money wanted to support it. Why wd they? levy was writing from the perspective of the un-monied, he wasn't propagandizing for the rich. He wasn't "kissing ass" & ass-kissing is a very successful commodity. If levy's work wasn't a successful commodity then he probably shd've learned to support himself otherwise & still kept doing what was important to him at the same time. I'm a working class guy & I've done it. levy cd've done it too. If he thought it was miserable to be so poor, he shd've tried being a hard-wood floor finisher for 10 yrs, like I was - then he wd've really found out was misery was - but wd he have continued writing his poetry?!
levy was struggling to survive, levy & his colleagues were disgustingly persecuted by the cops & their sociopathic D.A.. levy committed suicide. & THAT is what I think was his biggest mistake! Tadeusz Borowski's This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen was written by a nazi death camp survivor who then committed suicide. How can I blame him for that?! But levy? He was a fool to've committed suicide. He was only 26. I agree that the work he produced during his brief life is remarkable - but it barely got past juvenilia. & it shd've gotten far past it. levy shd've persevered & produced even greater work. He's far from the only person to've ever suffered & I suspect his suffering was even minor in comparison to the lives of many I've known - including my own.
levy is not only NOT in Williams' anthology - he's also NOT in the Mary Ellen Solt edited Concrete Poetry: A World View & he's NOT in the 1973 Ronald Gross & George Quasha edited Open Poetry or in the Milton Klonsky edited 1975 Speaking Pictures or in the Richard Kostelanetz edited 1973 Breakthrough Fictioneers or in the Kostelanetz edited 1980 Text-Sound Texts or in the Alan Riddell edited 1975 Typewriter Art or in the mIEKAL aND edited 2009 Anthology Spidertangle (understandable given that this latter consists of all works from members of the SPIDERTANGLE email list). But levy is in the excellent Jean-Francois Bory 1968 Once Again & that's nothing to pooh-pooh! The point is that while levy might've survived longer if he'd gotten more support & less harassment, he was hardly completely neglected in his day!
THE MORAL OF THIS REVIEW?: If you're out there in some shit-hole city trying to improve the culture by making it more creative & honest & you feel like committing suicide: DON'T KILL YRSELF! If you persevere, you may very well 'win' to a more significant degree than may seem possible in yr depressed moments. THERE IS HOPE & YOU MAY VERY WELL BE THAT HOPE. ...more
review of Erich Kästner's Emil and the Detectives by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 10, 2012
I decided to read a representative sampling of Kästreview of Erich Kästner's Emil and the Detectives by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 10, 2012
I decided to read a representative sampling of Kästner's work once I learned that his bks had been burned by the nazis. I started w/ his novel entitled The Missing Miniature or The Adventures of A Sensitive Butcher [see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13... ] & then read his poetry collection entitled Let's Face It [see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13... ] & then watched the Disney movie, The Parent Trap, made from one of his kid's bks, & finished off w/ this kid's bk: Emil and the Detectives. I put this off 'til last b/c I wasn't really in any hurry to read a kid's bk.
AND, well, I enjoyed it but not like I wd've if I were 7. Give me another 30 yrs & maybe I'll be senile enuf to be in my '2nd childhood'. As it is, I've been meaning to revisit some of the works from my 1st one, like Hardy Boys bks, & this cd be the start of that.
Anyway, it was good, I liked it. Kästner managed to put some entertaining nonsense in there & a nice dream sequence & some good depictions of kids & even himself in a surprise cameo appearance & even threw in a bit of anti-commercialism at the end - wch was probably the best surprise for me. ...more
review of Heinrich Mann's Little Superman by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 9, 2012
I learned about this author in the course of research for myreview of Heinrich Mann's Little Superman by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 9, 2012
I learned about this author in the course of research for my movie Robopaths. I learned that his bks were burned by the nazis so I decided to read something by him & to check out any movies that might've been based on any bks by him. This lead me to taking Little Superman out from the library as well as the movie The Kaiser's Lackey as well as to my buying a used copy of the novel Man of Straw. &, Lo & Behold!, they're all the same thing!
As Andrew Donson, Assistant Professor of History and German & Scandinavian Studies @ the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains in the "Interpreting The Kaiser's Lackey" extra on the movie's DVD version:
"The English title of this film is not a literal translation of the German one, Der Untertan, which is a difficult word to translate. It literally means "The Subject", as in "The Subject of the King" - but in current & turn-of-the-century discourse, the "untertan" has also an authoritarian connotation. Various translators have rendered the title as: "The Patrioteer", "Little Superman", "Man of Straw", & "The Loyal Subject". An awkward, but perhaps more accurate translation of the title would be "The Servile Chauvinist Underling". The title of this film, the same title as Heinrich Mann's 1914 novel on which it's based, captures the main theme. Diederich [the story's central character] is on the one hand a tyrant who lords over other untertanen. On the other hand, he often finds himself in situations where he is the untertan, where others exercise their will over him. The essence and the humor of the film is that Diederich is happy in both situations. The narrative of the film shows how the institutions that shape Diederich's life, family, school, university, brotherhood, army, workplace, and government produce and regulate this authoritarian mentality."
[As a sidenote for bibliophiles, the Penguin edition (1984) that I have, Man of Straw gives no credit to a translator & yet it appears to be the exact same translation as the library edition that I read, Little Superman, published by Creative Age Press, Inc (1947). I suspect some shenanigans & intrigue in the omission of the translator's name in the Penguin edition, so I include it here: Ernest Boyd.]
As soon as I started reading this bk, I found the central character insufferable. He embodies everything that I detest: hypocrisy, social climbing, spinelessness, abusiveness, fraudulence, etc.. He is, indeed, a "Servile Chauvinist Underling", as Donson puts it. I was about 1/3rd of the way thru the bk when I watched the movie & learned that this was meant to be satire. I suppose it 'shd've' been obvious to me that it was intended to be satire all along but it seemed entirely too realistic to really be caricature. &, as the back-cover of Man of Straw states: "Heinrich Mann (brother of Thomas) was imprisoned for his radical and outspoken views, and spent a long exile from the country at which he aimed his bitter satire." - & that's no laughing matter.
Mann was condemned in Nazi Germany for writing Un-German works or some such but I don't think that the hypocrisy & opportunistic cowardice that he so thoroughly portrays is intrinsically German. It may've reached a particular nationalistic fervor in Germany but it was hardly confined to there. In fact, Mann's parody of upper middle class Germany isn't so far off from the lower middle class Baltimore that I grew up in. I'm reminded of a photographer that I once knew. He incessantly ridiculed me for valuing anything other than money. However, once he started realizing that my willful rejection of the 'values' that he represented was earning me some respect from others, he tried to sleaze up to me by asking me to pose for him as a photographer's model. I refused.
Mann's novel is such a thorough look at the completely unscrupulous machinations of his main character that I can only conclude that Mann, himself, must've been surrounded by such contemptible behavior. Diederich is constantly betraying & groveling, ass-kissing & terrorizing - wchever seems 'appropriate' to his 'social position' in relation to who he's dealing w/. & Mann depicts this utterly brilliantly. Diederich is constantly engaged in some sort of fraudulent dealings that he trembles at the thought of getting caught out at & blusteringly camouflages under cover of patriotic bullshit. The library copy that I read has one section underlined in ink that expresses Diederich's philosophy, in the mouth of one of his cronies, quite nicely:
""Democracy is the philosophy of the half-educated," said the apothecary. "It has been defeated by science." Some one shouted: "Hear! Hear!" It was the druggist who wished to associate with him. "There will always be masters and men," asserted Gottlieb Hornung, "for it is the same in nature. It is the one great truth, for each of us must have a superior to fear, and an inferior to frighten. What would become of us otherwise? If every nonentity believes that he is somebody, and that we are all equal! Unhappy the nation whose traditional and honorable social forms are broken up by the solvent of democracy, and which allows the disintegrating standpoint of personality to get the upper hand!"
Two pages later, the same underliner highlighted part of this passage:
"Diederich raised himself on his toes, "Gentlemen," he shouted, carried away on the tide of national emotion, "the Emperor William Monument shall be a mark of reverence for the noble grandfather whom we all, I think I may say, worship almost as a saint, and also a pledge to the noble nephew, our magnificent young Emperor, that we shall ever remain as we are, pure, liberty-loving, truthful, brave, and true!"
The underliner (not the untertan) emphasizes Diederich's claim of being "pure, liberty-loving, truthful, brave, and true!" w/ an exclamation mark next to it presumably b/c these are all qualities wch Diederich is completely lacking in. Earlier, I mention "Diederich's philosophy" - but that's misleading. In order to have a philosophy, one probably has to have a mind capable of formulating a justified position to adhere to. Diederich lacks even that - he simply takes the most cowardly & dishonest path of least resistance & changes his political allegiances to kowtow to whoever he's most afraid of at the time.
In the East German film version, a scene that exemplifies the preposterous bravuro posturing that Diederich & his kind rely on for image-building & bullying is the duel. The scene is also in the bk but I found it more compelling in the movie. It's common for men in Diederich's class to initiate duels w/ each other in order to simulate bravery. Under the most ridiculous pretexts ('Sir! You were looking at me!' - that sort of thing), men challenge each other as if their honor can bear no insult. But, as w/ cowards & bullies the world over, it's all just pretense. They know they're not taking any risks whatsoever. As w/ generals who send soldiers to the slaughter, it's the soldiers who get senselessly killed, while the generals, safe elsewhere, get the medals & other social rewards.
These duels consist of nothing more than 2 men heavily padded & w/ one arm behind their back fighting w/ swords until one of them scratches the other on the face. Even their eyes are heavily protected w/ goggles. As soon as Diederich is scratched on the cheek, he gets his scar that 'proves' his bravery - even though there's no risk of serious injury. Diederich then uses the scar as a badge of 'honor'. It's all completely ridiculous.
After Diederich unsuccessfully & humiliatingly attempts to get Lieutenant von Brietzen to not leave Diederich's 'dishonored' sister in the lurch, he's walking on the streets. "Suddenly he noticed that the gardens were still full of perfume and twittering beneath the spring skies, and it became clear to him that Nature itself, whether she smiled or snarled, was powerless before Authority, the authority above us, which is quite impregnable. It was easy to threaten revolution, but what about the Emperor William Monument? Wulckow and Gausenfeld? Whoever trampled others from under foot must be prepared to be walked on, that was the iron law of might. After his attack of resistance, Diederich again felt the secret thrill of the man who is trampled upon. . . . A cab came along from behind, Herr van Brietzen and his trunk. Before he knew what he was doing Diederich faced about, ready to salute."
In one of the very rare moments where Diederich somewhat introspectively criticizes the worldview that he otherwise takes for granted, Diederich sees his now 'dishonored' sister, Emma, in a new light: "The lieutenant, who had caused all this, lost notably in comparison - and so did the Power, in whose name he had triumphed. Diederich discovered that Power could sometimes present a common and vulgar appearance. Power and everything that went with it, success, honour, loyalty. he looked at Emma and was forced to question the value of what he had attained or was still striving for: Guste and her money, the monument, the favour of the authorities, Gausenfeld, distinctions and high office." Indeed. Alas, this critical introspection doesn't last long.
I noted earlier that these characteristics were hardly confined to Germans. As Diederich bullies 'his' employees he tells them: ""But I forbid socialistic agitation! In the future you can vote as I tell you, or leave!" Diederich also said that he was determined to curb irreligion. He would note every Sunday who went to church and who did not. "So long as the world is unredeemed from sin, there will be war and hatred, envy and discord. Therefore, there must be one master!" This reminds me of Henry Ford.
There's an excellent documentary about Ford called "Demon Rum" in wch some important points about the ironies of Ford's 'moralism' are highlighted - particularly the way in wch his 'moralism' helped create a subculture of thugs that he then used to suppress unions. In the Wikipedia bio of Ford ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford ) we find this:
"The profit-sharing was offered to employees who had worked at the company for six months or more, and, importantly, conducted their lives in a manner of which Ford's "Social Department" approved. They frowned on heavy drinking, gambling, and what might today be called "deadbeat dads". The Social Department used 50 investigators, plus support staff, to maintain employee standards; a large percentage of workers were able to qualify for this "profit-sharing.""
The Wikipedia entry qualifies this by saying that "Ford's incursion into his employees' private lives was highly controversial, and he soon backed off from the most intrusive aspects." Be that as it may, Ford's resemblance to Diederich is clear. Making it even clearer is that Ford was an anti-Semite who rc'vd the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi Germany.
& despite Der Untertan's having been written in 1914 about 19th century Germany, it's very prescient about Nazi Germany. In his speeches, Hitler emphasized the unity of classes - this despite his refinement of one of the most hierarchical structures the world has ever seen - w/ himself, of course, as the supreme world dictator, the LEADER (der Führer). ""Only His Majesty," Diederich answered. "He aroused the citizen from his slumbers, his lofty example has made us what we are." As he said this he struck himself on the chest. "His personality, his unique, incomparable personality, is so powerful that we can all creep up by it, like the clinging ivy!" he shouted, although this was not in the draft he had written. "In whatever His Majesty the Emperor decides for the good of the German people, we will joyfully cooperate without distinction of creed and class.[..]"" Diederich's oratorical shouting is highly reminiscent of Hitler's.
Diederich is also reminiscent of the nazi SS officer responsible for transporting Jews to the death camps. On the subject of Eichmann, Hannah Arendt writes in her bk Eichmann in Jersulalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13... ] that:
"What he fervently believed in up to the end was success, the chief standard of "good society" as he knew it. Typical was his last word on the subject of Hitler - whom he and his comrade Sassen had agreed to "shirr out" of their story; Hitler, he said, "may have been wrong all down the line, but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up from lance corporal in the German Army to Führer of a people of almost eighty million. . . . His success alone proved to me that I should subordinate myself to this man." His conscience was indeed set at rest when he saw the zeal and eagerness with which "good society" everywhere reacted as he did. He did not need to "close his ears to the voice of conscience," as the judgment had it, not because he had none, but because his conscience spoke with a "respectable voice," with the voice of respectable society around him."
& just as the nazis partially justified their genocide against the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, & Political Opponents as a cleansing of the "Volk" (the body of the Germany people) so, too, is Diederich's behavior summed up nicely in this domestic scene:
"As Diederich lived in fear of his master, so Guste had to live in the fear of hers. When they entered a room she knew that the right of precedence properly belonged to her husband. The children, in turn, had to treat her with respect, and Männe, the dachshund, had to obey every one. At meals, therefore, the children and the dog had to keep quiet. Guste's duty was to discern from the wrinkles upon her husband's brow whether it was advisable to leave him undisturbed, or to drive away his cares with chatter. Certain dishes were prepared only for the master of the house, and when he was in a good humour Diederich would throw a piece across the table and, laughing heartily, would watch to see who caught it, Gretchen, Guste or the dog. His siesta was often troubled by gastronomical disturbances and Guste's duty then commanded her to put warm poultices on his stomach. Groaning and terribly frightened he used to say that he would make his will and appoint a trustee. Guste would not be allowed to touch a penny. "I have worked for my sons, not in order that you may amuse yourself after I am gone!" Guste objected that her own fortune was the foundation of everything, but it availed her nothing. . . . Of course, when Guste had a cold, she did not expect that Diederich, in his turn, would nurse her. Then she had to keep as far away from him as possible, for Diederich was determined not to have any germs near him. He would not go into the factory unless he had antiseptic tablets in his mouth, and one night there was a great disturbance because the cook had come down with influenza, and had a fever temperature. "Out of the house with the beastly thing at once!" Diederich commanded, and when she had gone he wandered about the house for a long time spraying it with disinfecting fluids."
Yes, as many of us are taught, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" - but what about those of us who are atheists? ...more
review of Erich Kastner's Let's Face It by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 6, 2012
1st & foremost, I'm certainly going to like this poetry b/review of Erich Kastner's Let's Face It by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 6, 2012
1st & foremost, I'm certainly going to like this poetry b/c its author was a German pacifist living in Germany before, during, & after the nazi era. His books were burned in 1933 & he was actually there to see it happen. I don't envy him that. Reading his poetry, it's particularly easy to understand why the nazis hated him so much: he pays attn to & comments on aspects of German society that the nazis, in their insane promotion of nationalist megalomania, wdn't have wanted pointed out.
Kästner has been called a "Functional Poet". In a footnote to the author's "Instead of an Introduction", it's explained by the bk's editor that:
"The 'Functional Poets' were the German forerunners of our own [ie: Britain's] 'Pylon Poets'; they were popular, political poets - mostly left-wing satirists - and were opposed to modernist poetry for much the same reasons as the English poets of the 'thirties. Apart from Kästner himself, the main Functional Poets were Brecht (in his middle period), Ringelnatz, Walter Mehring, Klabund, Tucholsky, Mascha Kaléko, and Alfred Kerr."
If I had been a writer during that time, perhaps I wd've been a 'Functional Poet' too - but I'm a writer now (ie: 1966-2012, etc) & my formal philosophies are considerably more diverse & experimental. As such, much of this poetry is of little formal interest to me - wch is basically beside the point. I'm perhaps most reminded of the poetry of Kenneth Patchen (minus the visual imagination) & my friend The Dirty Poet (see my review of his poetry bk here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11... ). Both are droll, both discuss serious issues w/ some much needed humor.
What is to the point is that, in very clear language, Kästner is anti-war. In his "Preface to this selection" he explains why this is the 1st edition of his poetry in English: "I could not send them to England, for there was a war on. But in Germany too they were not allowed to go to school and take their examinations because I was an 'enemy of the state'. So the poems did not appear in any language, needed no language-teacher, and had twelve years off from school. (Now I've gone and got myself mixed up in a metaphor again!)" & in the preface to his 1st bk of poems (excerpted from here), Kästner explains: "Topical poetry versus contemporary history is an unequal contest. The outcome was never in doubt. When towards the end of 1932, a fourth volume, Gesang zwischen den Stühlen, appeared, it was just in time for the Nazis' Burning of Books."
I marked much of this bk for quotation, for possible use as text in my movie Robopaths, but I think that quoting in full a poem from his 3rd volume of poetry, Ein Mann Gibt Auskunft (1930) will give the reader a good idea of why the nazis hated him so much:
The Other Possibility
(Die andre Möglichkeit)
If we had chanced to win the war By dint of charging at the double, Then Germany would be no more, Would be a madhouse for its trouble.
They would attempt to make us tame Like any other savage nation. We'd jump aside if sergeants came Our way and we'd spring to attention.
If we had chanced to win the war, We'd be a proud and happy land. In bed we'd soldier as before While waiting for the next command.
Women would have to labour more. One child per year. Or face arrest. The state needs children for its store. And human blood's what it likes best.
If we had chanced to win the war, Then Heaven would be German national. The parsons would be officers And God would be a German general.
Then we'd have trenches for our borders. No moon, insignia instead. We'd have an Emperor issuing orders And a helmet for a head.
If we had won, then everyone Would be a soldier. An entire Land would be run by goon and gun. And round that lot would run barbed wire.
Then children would be born by number. For men are easy to procure. And cannon alone without fodder Are not enough to win a war.
Then reason would be kept in fetters. And facing trial each single minute. And wars would run like operettas. If we had chanced to win the war - But thank the Lord we did not win it!
[translated from German to English by Patrick Bridgwater]
& I might as well throw in another one from the same collection:
Jesus, the Revolutionary, on His Birthday
(Dem Revolutiionär Jesus zum Geburtstag)
I was almost two thousand years Ago you left this vale of tears, Your body racked with pain. You led the poor man to his God. You suffered from the rich man's prod. Your suffering was in vain!
You saw the power of tyranny. You wanted all men to be free, And longed for peace on earth. You knew the bitter taste of wormwood And wanted all men to perform good That they might know life's worth.
You were a revolutionary And made your life a purgatory With men of means and learning. Though love of freedom filled your mind, This brought no profit to mankind. None understood your yearning.
You fought against their bigotry, Against all forms of slavery, Those who led men astray. Then, after other means were tried, They had you framed and crucified. It happens to this day.
Mankind did not find sanity, Especially Christianity, Despite all lip-devotion. Your love's reward was unattained. You died in vain. And man remained Without a notion.
[translated from German to English by Patrick Bridgwater]
Erich Kästner is dead! Long live Erich Kästner! ...more
review of Erich Kästner's The Missing Miniature or The Adventures of A Sensitive Butcher by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 4, 2012
I came to thereview of Erich Kästner's The Missing Miniature or The Adventures of A Sensitive Butcher by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 4, 2012
I came to the writings of Kästner b/c I'm researching material to use for a sampling movie I'm working on called Robopaths about the relationship between conformity & scapegoating, megalomainiacs & genocide, etc.. It was probably while witnessing the excellent The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl" movie by Ray Müller (1993) that I saw footage of the notorious nazi bk burnings about wch Wikipedia has this to say:
""In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on 10 May 1933, the students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of "un-German" books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the night of 10 May, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades "against the un-German spirit." The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, "fire oaths," and incantations. In Berlin, some 40,000 people gathered in the Opernplatz to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: "No to decadence and moral corruption!" Goebbels enjoined the crowd. “Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner.”"
In the footage I saw there was something similar to the last Goebbels English-translated quote in the subtitles & I realized that I'd never read anything by the 3 authors so highlighted. I immediately set about to correcting that. I started reading Kästner's poetry 1st in search of something quotable for my movie. After reading a bit of that, I switched to this novel. As my friend Lizard says: "What can I say?".
This was one of the most entertaining easy reading things I've read for quite a long time. I assume it's targeted at young adults since the writing style is fairly easy & since Kastner's mainly known as a children's writer.
Whatever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was written in 1935 & published in German (in Switzerland) & in English in 1936 at a time when Kästner wd've been well aware of the rise of Nazism:
"The Gestapo interrogated Kästner several times, and the writers' guild excluded him. The Nazis burnt Kästner's books as "contrary to the German spirit" during the infamous book burnings of May 10th 1933, which was instigated by the then Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Kästner witnessed the event in person. Kästner was denied entry into the new Nazi-controlled national writers' guild, the Reichsschrifttumskammer, because of what officials called the "culturally Bolshevist attitude in his writings predating 1933." This amounted to a gag order for Kästner throughout the Third Reich."
The humor is gentle & neither the police nor the criminals (it's a mystery of sorts) are brutal. Wishful thinking & perhaps more than a little role-model setting on Kastner's part. In retrospect I'm most reminded of the novels of Raymond Queneau: the characters are well-described in a way that borders on caricature w/o being particularly demeaning to any of them. The title's character, the butcher Herr Külz, is presented as being somewhat hopelessly naive but endearingly well-intentioned.
I wonder: is Kästner a largely forgotten writer? 2 of his bks were made into Disney movies, a Bulgarian expatriate friend of mine wrote me that "I read all of his books which were voraciously published in Socialist Bulgaria (everything persecuted by the Nazis was given extra distribution/attention)", & Wikipedia's entry on him states that "Hebrew is among the many languages to which Kästner's works were translated, and they enjoyed enormous popularity in Israel during the 1950s and 1960s – a very exceptional phenomenon at the time, when there was among Israelis a very strong aversion to, and widespread boycotting of, all things German in the aftermath of the Holocaust." &, yet, I doubt that many people I know have ever heard of him. ...more
review of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jersulalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January , 2012
I haven't previouslreview of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jersulalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January , 2012
I haven't previously read anything by Arendt but I'm sure that I'm far from the 1st to remark that she's an astonishingly rigorous & painstaking scholar & critic who 'spares no-one' in her analysis. One of the ironies of her depth didn't, however, become apparent to me until I reached page 122 where she writes:
"Much of the horribly painstaking thoroughness in the execution of the Final Solution - a thoroughness that usually strikes the observer as typically German, or else as characteristic of the perfect bureaucrat - can be traced to the odd notion, indeed very common in Germany, that to be law-abiding means not merely to obey the laws but to act as though one were the legislator of the laws that one obeys. Hence the conviction that nothing less than going beyond the call of duty will do."
& this is, indeed, a great way to describe Arendt's thoroughness in her fairness & comprehensiveness in this bk. Arendt deliberately goes further than the court does in Eichmann's trial (at least according to her own report) - both in her analysis of Eichmann's apparently peculiar vulnerableness to expression thru cliché & 'euphemism' (a nazi specialty) & in the court's (alas, understandable) avoidance of elucidation of Jewish cooperation in the genocide of their own people.
I decided to read this b/c I'm currently making an ambitious sampling movie called Robopaths culling from an abundance of sources that basically reinforce my not-particularly original contention that robopaths [people who follow orders w/o any internal free-thinking resistance] enable the genocidal plans of megalomaniacs. & as one of the main texts that I'll be extensively quoting from in Robopaths, I cd've hardly picked a more relevant source.
Reading Eichmann in Jersulalem makes me re-realize why I've found the lifestyles of punk anarchists so strikingly 'valid'. It seems to me that many punks have learned a particular lesson of Nazi Germany & Imperialist America & Britain (etc) well - even if often mainly intuitively: viz: that ALL nations & other entities that oppressively shape a group identity have to be resisted from the inside w/o being so naive as to think that "it can't happen here" (as Sinclair Lewis &, later, Frank Zappa, satirized). In other words, if Nazi Germany had had a resistance culture like anarchistic punk built into it more than maybe there wdn't've been so many Good Germans who 'went w/ the p(r)ogram'.
Unfortunately, Nazi Germany probably did have "a resistance culture like anarchistic punk built into it": viz: cabaret culture & what the nazis called Entartete Kunst und Musik (degenerate art & music) &, alas, it wasn't strong enuf to withstand the shocking tide of Hitler's methamphetamine-fueled mania & the average German's lazy willingness to be lead into sado-masochistic obedience. An obedience that psychologist Stanley Milgram researched later w/ great clarity in the USA w/ more-or-less identical results that the nazis got: IT CAN (& does) HAPPEN HERE. Fortunately, Milgram's intentions were cautionary - but I'm sure that many führers in the USA (governmental, religious, military) have taken note of how this caution cd be thrown out w/ other 'undesirables'.
Nonetheless, let's keep in mind that it's mainly governments (& big businesses) that're capable of appropriating, accumulating, & coordinating resources on such a large scale that tanks & trains & fighter planes can be made - & that such a process is dependent on the enforced cooperation of large numbers of people. DIY culture, on the other hand, is much smaller scale & more dependent on individual initiative &, hence, on individuality. It's my hope that such DIY culture is much less likely to be prone to the robopathia that made Nazi Germany so rapidly effective in its genocide. Maybe that's just wishful thinking insofar as Fundamentalist Islam seems to be pretty handy w/ total conformity combined w/ the individual initiative of IEMs (Improvised Explosive Devices). Fundamentalist USA doesn't have to have much individualized initiative since it's already got a big connection to mainstream power's control of resources.
At the risk of providing a Reader's Digest Condensed Book version of Eichmann in Jersulalem, I provide the following quotes that I've chosen as possible text for my movie Robopaths. Please don't read these & feel like you don't 'need' to read the entire Arendt bk. READ IT FROM COVER-TO-COVER! It's too important to neglect.
"Sixteen years ago, while still under the direct impact of the events, David Rousset, a former inmate of Buchenwald, described what we know happened in all concentration camps: "The triumph of the S.S. demands that the tortured victim allow himself to be lead to the noose without protesting, that he renounce and abandon himself to the point of ceasing to affirm his identity. And it is not for nothing. It is not gratuitously, out of sheer sadism, that the S.S. men desire his defeat. They know that the system which succeeds in destroying its victim before he mounts the scaffold . . . is incomparably the best for keeping a whole people in slavery. In submission, Nothing is more terrible than these processions of human beings going like dummies to their deaths" (Les Jours de notre mort, 1947)." - page 9
"Would he have pleaded guilty if he had been indicted as an accessory to murder? Perhaps, but he would have made important qualifications. What he had done was a crime only in retrospect, and he had always been a law-abiding citizen, because Hitler's orders, which he had certainly executed to the best of his ability, had possessed "the force of law" in the Third Reich. (The defense could have quoted in support of Eichmann's thesis the testimony of one of the best-known experts on constitutional law in the Third Reich, Theodor Maunz, currently Minister of Education and Culture in Bavaria, who stated in 1943 [in Gestalt und Recht der Polizei]: "The command of the Führer . . . is the absolute center of the present legal order.") Those who today told Eichmann that he could have acted differently simply did not know, or had forgotten, how things had been. He did not want to be one of those who now pretended that "they had always been against it," whereas in fact they had been very eager to do what they were told to do. However, times change, and he, like Professor Maunz, had "arrived at different insights." What he had done he had done, he did not want to deny it; rather, he proposed "to hang myself in public as warning example for all anti-Semites on this earth." By this he did not mean to say that he regretted anything: "Repentance is for little children." (Sic!)" - page 21
"According to his religious beliefs, which had not changed since the Nazi period (in Jerusalem he declared himself to be a Gottgläubiger, the Nazi term for those who had broken with Christianity, and he refused to take his oath on the Bible), this event was to be ascribed to "a higher Bearer of Meaning," an entity somehow identical with the "movement of the universe," to which human life, in itself devoid of "higher meaning," is subject. (The terminology is quite suggestive. To call God a Höheren Sinnesträger meant linguistically to give him some place in the military hierarchy [..]" - pages 23-24
"Before Eichmann entered the Party and the S.S., he had proved that he was a joiner, and May 8, 1945, the official date of Germany's defeat, was significant for him mainly because it then dawned upon him that thenceforward he would have to live without being a member of something or other. "I sensed I would have to lead a leaderless and difficult individual life, I would receive no directives from anybody, no orders and commands would any longer be issued to me, no pertinent ordinances would be there to consult - in brief, a life never known before lay before me."" - page 28
"Dimly aware of a defect that must have plagued him even in school - it amounted to a mild case of aphasia - he apologized, saying, "Officialese [Amtssprache] is my only language." But the point here is that officialese became his language because he was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliché. (Was it these clichés that the psychiatrists thought so "normal" and "desirable"? Are these the "positive ideas" a clergyman hopes for in those to whose souls he ministers? [..] )" - pages 43-44
"It was not until the outbreak of the war, on September 1, 1939, that the Nazi regime became openly totalitarian and openly criminal. [..] All officials of the police, not only of the Gestapo but also of the Criminal Police and the Order Police, received S.S. titles corresponding to their previous ranks, regardless of whether or not they were Party members, and this meant that in the space of a day a most important part of the old civil services was incorporated into the most radical section of the Nazi hierarchy. No one, as far as I know, protested, or resigned his job." - page 63
"This "objective" attitude - talking about concentration camps in terms of "administration" and about extermination camps in terms of "economy" - was typical of the S.S. mentality, and something Eichmann, at the trial, was still very proud of." - pages 63-64
"Apart from the not very important industrial enterprises of the S.S., such famous German firms as I.G. Farben, the Krupp Werke, and Siemens-Schuckert Werke has established plants in Auschwitz as well as near the Lublin death camps. Cooperation between the S.S. and the businessmen was excellent; Höss of Auschwitz testified to very cordial social relations with the I.G. Farben representatives. As for working conditions, the idea was clearly to kill through labor; according to Hilberg, at least twenty-five thousand of the approximately thirty-five thousand Jews who worked for one of the I.G. Farben plants died." - pages 73-74
"Thus, for instance, a high official in the Foreign Office once proposed that in all correspondence with the Vatican the killing of Jews be called the "radical solution"; this was ingenious, because the Catholic puppet government of Slovakia, with which the Vatican had intervened, had not been, in the view of the Nazis, "radical enough" in its anti-Jewish legislation, having committed the "basic error" of excluding baptized Jews." - page 80
"The member of the Nazi hierarchy most gifted at solving problems of conscience was Himmler. He coined slogans, like the famous watchword of the S.S., taken froma Hitler speech before the S.S. in 1931, "My Honor is my Loyalty" - ctach phrases which Eichmann called "winged words" and the judges "empty talk" - and issued them, as Eichmann recalled, "around the turn of the year," presumably along with a Christmas bonus. Eichmann remembered only one of them and kept repeating it: "These are battles which future generations will not have to fight again," alluding to the "battles" against women, children, old people, and other "useless mouths." Other such phrases, taken from speeches Himmler made to the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen and the higher S.S. and Police Leaders, were: "To have stuck it out and, apart from exceptions caused by human weakness, to have remained decent, that is what has made us hard. [..]"" - page 92
"None of the various "language rules," carefully contrived to deceive and to camouflage, had a more decisive effect on the mentality of the killers than this first war decree of Hitler, in which the word for "murder" was replaced by the phrase "to grant a mercy death." Eichmann, asked by the police examiner if the directive to avoid "unnecessary hardships" was not a bit ironic, in view of the fact that the destination of these people was certain death anyhow, did not even understand the question, so firmly was it still anchored in his mind that the unforgivable sin was not to kill people but to cause unnecessary pain. During the trial, he showed unmistakable signs of sincere outrage when witnesses told of cruelties and atrocities committed by S.S. men [..] and it was not the accusation of having sent millions of people to their death that ever caused him real agitation but only the accusation (dismissed by the court) of one witness that he had once beaten a Jewish boy to death." - page 96
"The story is told by Count Hans von Lehnsdorff, in his Ostpressisches Tagebuch (1961). He had remained in the city [Königsberb, in East Prussia, Germany, in January, 1945] as a physician to take care of wounded soldiers who could not be evacuated [..] There he was accosted by a woman who showed him a varicose vein she had had for years but wanted to have treated now, because she had time. "I try to explain that it is more important for her to get away from Königsberg and to leave the treatment for some later time. Where do you want to go? I ask her. She does not know, but she knows that they will all be brought into the Reich. And then she adds, surprisingly: 'The Russians will never get us. The Führer will never admit it. Much sooner he will gas us.' I look around furtively, but no one seems to find this statement out of the ordinary." The story, one feels, like most true stories, is incomplete. There should have been one more voice, preferably a female one, which, sighing heavily, replied: And now all that good, expensive gas has been wasted on the Jews!" - page 98
"The legal experts drew up the necessary legislation for making the victims stateless, which was important on two counts: it made it impossible for any country to inquire into their fate, and it enabled the state in which they were resident to confiscate theit property. The Ministry of Finance and the Reichsbank prepared facilities to receive the huge loot from all over Europe, down to watches and gold teeth, all of which was sorted out in the Reichsbank and then sent on to the Prussian State Mint. The Ministry of Transport provided the necessary railroad cars, usually freight cars, even in times of great scarcity of rolling stock, and they saw to it that the schedule of the deportation trains did not conflict with other timetables. the Jewish Council of Elders were informed by Eichmann or his men of how many Jews were needed to fill each train, and they made out the list of deportees. The Jews registered, filled out innumerable forms, answered pages and pages of questionnaires regarding their property so that it could be seized the more easily; then they assembled at the collection points and boarded the trains. The few who tried to hide to hide to escape were rounded up by a special Jewish police force. As far as Eichmann could see, no one protested, no one refused to cooperate." - page 102
"What he fervently believed in up to the end was success, the chief standard of "good society" as he knew it. Typical was his last word on the subject of Hitler - whom he and his comrade Sassen had agreed to "shirr out" of their story; Hitler, he said, "may have been wrong all down the line, but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up from lance corporal in the German Army to Führer of a people of almost eighty million. . . . His success alone proved to me that I should subordinate myself to this man." His conscience was indeed set at rest when he saw the zeal and eagerness with which "good society" everywhere reacted as he did. He did not need to "close his ears to the voice of conscience," as the judgment had it, not because he had none, but because his conscience spoke with a "respectable voice," with the voice of respectable society around him." - pages 111-112...more
review of Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth's Search the Sky by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2011
Reading this is my idea of a good timreview of Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth's Search the Sky by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2011
Reading this is my idea of a good time. I was most reminded of Gulliver's Travels - a journey to various extraordinary societies, each an exaggeration for satire's sake. A businessman on "Halsey's Planet" notices that the society around him is decaying. He gets thrust into a faster-than-light travel adventure to other planets in other solar systems in search of symptoms of a similar decay elsewhere & in search of a solution.
W/o giving away too much of the plot, I will address the 2nd planet: a matriarchy. I suspect this has been taken as misogynistic by many people but I'd have to disagree. 1st, as an anarchist, I think matriarchy is just as reprehensible as patriarchy. Since most people I know seem to think that there're only patriarchies in the world, they also seem to think that matriarchies are a viable alternative. I disagree. Power corrupts. EVERYONE. Kornbluth & Pohl depict the matriarchy as being partially based on the belief that b/c most women are smaller than men, & therefore less capable of hard manual labor, that they are, therefore, natural supervisors. I've met entirely too many women like this who've treated me, personally, as some sort of servant w/o even having any idea of who I am - just b/c I'm a man who fits their stereotype of subhuman.
But keep in mind that this is parody. The protagonist is not particularly intelligent so when he 1st encounters a woman from this matriarchy & thinks: "Not a very attractive woman, for she wore no make-up" he's expressed the sexist bias of the culture he comes from & not necessarily those of the authors. 20pp later when he thinks: "How could any female - no single member of which class had ever painted a great picture, written a great book, composed a great sonata, or discovered a great scientific truth - appreciate the ultimate importance of the F[aster]-T[han]-L[ight] drive?" the joke is ultimately on him (& on the reader) as later events will attest. B/c 12pp later there's "In his snobbishness he never realized that he was guilty of the most frightful arrogance in assuming that what he could do, she could not."
Near the end of the bk, on a planet at 1st mistaken for the legendary "Earth", an ancient text called "Ultra-Jones-Ism, An Infantile Political Disorder" is mentioned in passing. This is, most likely, a parody of Lenin's "Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder: A Popular Essay in Marxian Strategy and Tactics" (see GoodReads reviews of this latter here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48... ). ...more
review of g. X. Jupitter-Larsen's Raw Zed & the Condor by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 26, 2011
I probably 1st encountered Jupitter-Larsereview of g. X. Jupitter-Larsen's Raw Zed & the Condor by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 26, 2011
I probably 1st encountered Jupitter-Larsen's work thru mail art & underground publications that we'd both have things in in the 1980s. We corresponded & traded briefly around that time. We both hated pop music & we traded recordings of our own material. He sent me some 45s, I sent him some tapes. He played some of my tapes on the radio in Vancouver - something few DJs wd've had the temerity to do.
Jupitter-Larsen was in The Haters, a group that seemed to specialize in delighting in the sounds & processes of destroying things. One colored vinyl 45 that I have has the sound of fire burning on both sides. He wrote poetry in wch the letter "x" often appeared in words disrupting its conventional readability - maybe as substitutes for the vxwxls. I don't remember exactly.
As w/ much of the industrial & noise music of the time, there was an interest in bondage & I'm told by a friend who saw them perform on the west coast of the US that they wore either bondage masks or ski masks.
In general, Jupitter-Larsen always impressed me as one of the people in the underground networks I frequented as one of the more original, humorous, & intelligent folks. I particularly liked his project of asking his correspondents to sign parking lots for him - as one of his nihilistic projects.
I probably lost touch w/ him in the late '80s. I heard or read that he'd moved from Canada to the US & that he was living in a cramped loft space in the warehouse where SRL (Survival Research Labs) was building & testing their fighting machines.
SO, it was a pleasant surprise to find this novel by him from 1992. I didn't know that he'd written a novel, or any bk, & I had hopes that it wd live up to his other works. It did. While it's certainly not the most original thing I've ever read or the most carefully done or the most complicated, it's definitely recognizable as Jupitter-Larsen all the way.
My impression is that the author must've had access to a computer at the time & that this must've been written w/ it. The paragraphs are separated by spaces rather than being differentiated by indents. These paragraphs are uniformly short. The use of repetition reminds me of Gertrude Stein but Jupitter-Larsen's repetition has its own unique characteristics.
The 1st 2/3rds of the bk center around the eponymous characters w/ Raw Zed riding his motorcycle & The Condor flying. Both have a relationship w/ wind. This provides the excuse for interpolations of scientific descriptions of hurricanes & tornadoes & their origins.
At one point it's Raw Zed who's rocked to sleep by an earthquake, at the 2/3rds point it's Eduardc. I mentally pronounce this latter name as "Eduard C" but I initially read it as "Eduardo" w/ the right curve of the "o" cut off. I reckon that this was d liberate on Jupitter-Larsen's part. & there are many oddities of spelling, etc, in this bk.
At the same time as their are typographical deviations, there're implications of a philosophical kind: p19:
"Probabilities are models of future-tense. Myths are models of past-tense. Models are excuses. An excuse is action in accordance with an agenda; accident predetermined.
"All world are everchanging. Raw Zed is sensitive to this. He saw that things would never really line up. His behavioural models needed to be probabilities to be efficient.
"Unless models are efficient, they can never be significant. In everchanging worlds, myths are useless. They're models that can only take into account what has already taken place."
& on p23:
"Like any bird, like any other being, his mind isn't located in his head, in his body. The mind is in between the body; in between the state of nothingness. His body, like any body of a bird, of any being, isn't a container. His body, is an excuse. An excuse to say what he was."
There are many places where what might be at 1st considered as typos appear. & the apparent cutting-&-pasting seems to perpetuate these. EG: on p 20 there's a paragraph that ends: "He had no concern in the myths of now birds behaved." Then this same paragraph is repeated on p22 w/ the same "now" instead of "how" in its last sentence. Is this or is this not d liberate? In most cases I'm willing to give Jupitter-Larsen the benefit of the doubt & deduce that such perversions are a part of his experimental writing strategy. This same paragraph is repeated on pp24&35, if not elsewhere too.
His repetition is not only in the cutting & pasting of paragraphs & sentences & in the restating of presumably key ideas, it's also in the repetition of words back-to-back: "in in", "Wings wings", "feels feels", "is is", etc etc..
In some cases, the word substitutions seem d liberately obvious - such as in his use of word "sole" instead of the more predictable "soul": p36: "how he sees himself reflected in the soles of different organisms, and in how he sees himself reflected in the lack of soles in objects." Other cases may be less obvious but still probably d liberate: p39: "how serous something is was directly proportionate to how funny it was. The more, serous, the funnier." "Serous" (Containing, secreting, or resembling serum.) instead of "serious". There's "very" instead of "vary", "haft" instead of "half", "next" instead of "nest", etc..
In other cases, it's a bit more likely that these are actually typos: "fro" instead of "for", eg, wd be a common typo that results from someone typing w/ their right hand faster than their left. Is Jupitter-Larsen right-handed?
The author returns often to references to the form of the poem: p56:
"Each point of view is just a different line of the same poem. There are many different poems that one could read. Combine, all the lines of all the poems form what would have been regardless, Random arrangements of accidents."
As stated earlier, the novel shifts around 2/3rds thru. On p102 it appears that Raw Zed is now Eduardc & that he has 3 friends (or "firends"): Thomas & Eduardc & Thomas - 4 people w/ 2 names between them. P114:
"Because Eduardc and his friends didn't agree on anything, they never argue. They have no reason to, as they see everything eye to eye."
Eventually, the 4 friends are listening to a shortwave radio & they hear a text being recited that has about every 5th word audible w/ noise in between these words. This is actually the novel starting over again from the beginning - now w/ the separating missing 4 words substituted by ellipses. These ellipses gradually fall away, as does the rewriting of the novel's beginning, & the original style brings the novel full circle.
If Jupitter-Larsen delights in the destruction of objects, this bk is perfectly bound. My copy is completely falling apart.
Wondering whether Jupitter-Larsen is even still alive I found that he has a continuing presence & seems to be as prolific as ever. In his Wikipedia entry I found that he even has 2 other novels. ...more
review of Fathy Ghanem's The Man Who Lost His Shadow by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 22, 2011
I got this novel w/o being familiar w/ the authreview of Fathy Ghanem's The Man Who Lost His Shadow by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 22, 2011
I got this novel w/o being familiar w/ the author but interested b/c I noted that he's Egyptian - I've never read an Egyptian novel before. I'm almost completely ignorant of Egyptian culture - esp recent Egyptian culture. I've vaguely followed the recent (2011) Egyptian political situation that's resulted in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak but that's about as far as it goes.
I didn't really have any expectations about the novel but I was a little surprised by how much I cd relate to it. The writing style (& maybe this has alot to do w/ the translator from Arabic into English: Desmond Stewart) was that of pretty much any other somewhat conventionally written novel I've ever read. It most reminded me of Albert Camus - wch, perhaps, isn't much of a surprise since Camus grew up in nearby Algeria (both countries being North African).
The well-crafted narrative is told in 4 parts - each part from the perspective of a different character, each character inter-related to the others. As such, The Man Who Lost His Shadow is almost 'Cubist' in the sense that we get 4 different perspectives on the same story - just not all at once as one might in a Cubist painting. The tale's structured so that the reader progresses thru 4 different levels of economic well-being (or lack thereof). Essentially, class struggle is analyzed in an unsentimental way. It wd seem that The Man Who Lost His Shadow was written by a man w/ few delusions of the motives & strengths of people who still manages to also not be completely cynical. &, perhaps, that's why this appears to be one of Fathy (also transliterated as "Fathi") Ghanem's most famous novels.
Looking up Ghanem here: http://www.arabworldbooks.com/authors... [by the by, I include full URLs instead of just providing a link b/c this might be easier to use for people w/ "unsupported" &/or 'obsolete' browsers like myself], I was very interested to read this statement attributed to him:
"Some critics have talked about the influence of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet on my novel The Man Who Lost His Shadow. The truth is that I had not read the Quartet when I wrote that novel, and a closer reading of the two works may reveal that there is no link whatsoever between them.
"For a long time after writing that novel, I was unable to see how I had gone about it. I had started writing it at the end of 1958. Then, I thought it was going to be called The Ladder, as its theme was those people who are driven by a constant desire to climb the social ladder. But five years ago, and as I was watching a video tape of Citizen Kane, a film that is said to have caused a cinematic revolution, I remembered watching that film in a small cinema theatre in New York in 1956. The story of Kane, who was an influential journalist and eventually newspaper proprietor, was dealt with from different angles: that of his guardian, that of his friend the journalist, and that of his second wife. Only while watching the video at home did I finally wonder whether that treatment, with its use of so many different angles, had sunk into my unconscious, affecting my perception of the world of journalism in Egypt. It seems highly possible that this was indeed the case; but I, for one, was completely unaware of that factor until recently."
Even though I know the film Citizen Kane well (& have referenced it & quoted it extensively in 2 movies of my own) & have just finished reading The Man Who Lost His Shadow it didn't even occur to me to compare the 2 - even though that now seems glaringly obvious.
Much of the action of The Man Who Lost His Shadow centers around a newspaper named Al-Ayyam. The 2 male narrators work for the paper, as does at least one other side character. The paper's role in manipulating public opinion in order to serve the political agenda of the rich is explicitly laid out as a main plot element. Given that Ghanem's novel at least appears to create transparency of "manufacturing consent" (& I'm somewhat convinced actually does do so), it's particularly interesting that Ghanem writes, in the same article quoted above:
"As for the character of the eponymous idiot in my novel, I find that of all the characters in my novels he is the closest to me. To write that, I stood on the edge of the impossible; its writing represented for me an attempt to penetrate that impossible domain, where entry is prohibited to all.
"Youssef, the protagonist of The Man Who Lost His Shadow, always represented for me a formula which combines both truth and falsity."
Presumably, Ghanem, in writing "the eponymous idiot", is referring to Al-Ghabi (The Idiot - Cairo: Rose Al-Youssef, 1966) & not to "Youssef" (transliterated in this translation as "Yusif"). But as I was reading The Man Who Lost His Shadow, it was hard for me not to wonder how much Yusif might be representing the author. On the same web page quoted from above, I found this biographical chronology regarding Ghanem:
"Born Cairo 24/3/1924 Graduated from the Faculty of Law, Cairo University, 1944 Inspector at the Investigations Department, Ministry of Education, 1944 Reporter at Akher Sa'a magazine, 1950 Deputy editor-in-chief of Akher Sa'a magazine, 1953 Deputy editor-in-chief of Rose Al-Youssef magazine, 1956 Editor-in-chief of Sabah Al-Kheir magazine, 1959 Deputy chairman of the board of the Middle East News Agency, 1965 Chairman of the board of the Middle East News Agency, Feb 1966 Chairman of the board of the Dar Al-Tahrir Organisation, Nov, 1966 Editor-in-chief of Al-Gomhouriya newspaper, 1968 Head of the Dar Al-Tahrir Organisation, 1970 Editor-in-chief of Rose Al-Youssef, 1973 Member of the board of Rose Al-Youssef, 1981 Recipient of the State Merit Award for literature, 1994 Died February 2nd, 1999"
Yusif attends law school & becomes a reporter for Al-Ayyam. From there he rises to Editor-in-chief. There's certainly a parallel between Ghanem's own life & Yusif's! It's my assumption, however, that the author's own life was probably a little less unscrupulous than his character's. There's at least integrity in the telling of the tale.
"On 22–26 July 1952, a group of disaffected army officers (the "free officers") led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk, whom the military blamed for Egypt's poor performance in the 1948 war with Israel. Popular expectations for immediate reforms led to the workers' riots in Kafr Dawar on 12 August 1952, which resulted in two death sentences. Following a brief experiment with civilian rule, the Free Officers abrogated the 1953 constitution and declared Egypt a republic on 18 June 1953.
"Nasser and Arab socialism
"Nasser evolved into a charismatic leader, not only of Egypt but of the Arab world, promoting and implementing "Arab socialism."
"When the United States held up military sales in reaction to Egyptian neutrality regarding the Soviet Union, Nasser concluded an arms deal with Czechoslovakia in September 1955.
"When the US and the World Bank withdrew their offer to help finance the Aswan High Dam in mid-1956, Nasser nationalized the privately owned Suez Canal Company. The crisis that followed, exacerbated by growing tensions with Israel over guerrilla attacks from Gaza and Israeli reprisals, support for the FLN's war of liberation against the French in Algeria and against Britain's presence in the Arab world, resulted in the invasion of Egypt in October by France, Britain, and Israel This was called the Suez War."
A tumultuous time - but told in Ghanem's novel more from the perspective of individuals trying to lead their lives rather than in a more sweeping epic way. In newspaper editor Muhammad Nagi's story he tells of millionaire Shohdi Pasha's advice to him about how to report on the political crises of the time:
"'Muhammad, now's not the time for friends, or enemies. We're all in danger. Give them a chance and these kids will ruin Egypt. Public opinion must be worked up against terrorists. Gaol for every troublemaker! Education's valueless; everyone who can write his name thinks he can be a political leader.'
"Excited, afraid, Shohdi Pasha for once has lost his self-control. This is fun.
"'Pasha, I want you calm opinion. After you've considered the matter from all angles.'
"'I know what I'm talking about,' he retorts. 'Now's no time for intrigues. This thing is bigger than all of us. Let anyone come to power - foe or friend - and I'll support him, provided he rids us of these criminals. The country's being ruined by trash . . . Communists . . . Muslim Brothers . . . Socialists . . . Nationalists. They're all paupers with nothing to lose. But we, we have everything to lose.'"
Note that the "Muslim Brothers" & "Nationalists" are lumped in w/ "Communists" & "Socialists". Jump-cut to the present: I quote from the Wikipedia article re the "History of modern Egypt" also quoted above:
"The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, remains an illegal organization and may not be recognized as a political party (current Egyptian law prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion). Members are known publicly and openly speak their views. Members of the Brotherhood have been elected to the People's Assembly and local councils as independents."
It's my understanding that the Muslim Brothers are still active in Egypt today in contemporary uprisings. I, for one, hope the Muslim Brothers lose at the same time that I hope that anti-police brutality & anti-torture forces will win. If Egypt were to become another fundamentalist state like Iran, the world will go one step further down into narrow-mindedness. If, as the article states, "current Egyptian law prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion" then I applaud that whole-heartedly.
The so-called United States of America is at its worst when fundamentalist Christians are lobbying their way toward the 'Rapture' (intent on killing or 'converting' everyone in the process) & Iran & Lebanon et al are just as oppressive (if not more so) albeit not quite as militarily successful). The separation of Church & State was one of the smartest things that the 'Founding Fathers' of the USA every conceived of. After all, the memory of Catholic vs Protestant slaughter & it's relationship to state politics was still pretty fresh in their day.
Given that the novel also takes place during 'WWII', it was interesting for me to get an admittedly somewhat oblique Egyptian take on that. On page 269, Yusif remembers that "The war had broken out and my father enthused about Hitler and the might of Germany. I listened credulously, but without enthusiasm."
"The whole world suddenly seemed at my feet. Why shouldn't I drive out the English and become Prime Minister?"
"I'd be corrupt - why not? All the students boasted of their exploits with girls and hashish. Even Prime Ministers debauched minors. The prosecutors of criminals were criminals themselves."
Saad Abdul Gawad, Yusif's impoverished intellectual Communist friend, helps educate the naive Yusif:
"From him I heard about Karl Marx, Lenin, Sorel, Engels and Owen. He explained the differences between Nazism, Socialism, Fascism and Communism, ideas which I had confused until then, thinking they were all words for one and the same thing."
As Yusif is being upbraided by his then superior on the newspaper, Nagi, about not having reported a story earlier, he's told:
"'What if some other paper beats us to it? We're not playing at journalism, you know. If you think along those lines you'd be better working at the Islamic University. [..]'"
"'I'm sorry if I sound ruthless. Perhaps I would have felt the same in your place. But if you don't look out you'll be putting on a turban, dressing like a holy man. That would never do.'"
Indeed. W/o really creating a spoiler here I think I can still quote a sortof 'summing-up' from page 345:
"Perhaps the words I was writing would one day be a noose round my neck. What a mad world - evil was turning into honour, cowardice into courage, while cheap actions were surrounded by noble dreams.
"A world run mad? Or simply life?
"How I wished I could understand."
This review barely touches on the story itself. & it doesn't touch at all on the 2 main women characters: Mabruka & Samia. It appears that there are plenty of other reviews of The Man Who Lost His Shadow online &, perhaps, the reader shd read those for a fuller picture of this novel. Better yet, read the novel itself. & there lies the problem: Is this the 1st Egyptian novel I've read b/c I have no interest in Egyptian culture? Hardly. It's, more importantly, the 1st Egyptian novel I've read b/c I've never run across any others in English! Translators take note: there are at least some of us out here who wd like to be better informed about Arabic culture in general. By wch I don't mean the Koran. I 'need' that like I 'need' the Bible. Not at all. ...more
review of C. M. Kornbluth & Judith Merril (writing as Cyril Judd) 's Gunner Cade by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 16, 2011
This was probabreview of C. M. Kornbluth & Judith Merril (writing as Cyril Judd) 's Gunner Cade by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 16, 2011
This was probably written in the same yr as Kornbluth & Pohl's The Space Merchants & published as a bk beforeThe Space Merchants was. & while the approach to the story-telling is substantially different, there're significant correlations between the 2.
In both bks, the main character is a dupe of the ruling elites - benefiting in some respects from their unquestioning servitude. In both cases, the main character somewhat haphazardly plunges into realities that they were previously unaware of & eventually have to come to terms w/ in order to recreate their relation to the world. In both cases, these characters resist facing reality as long as they can - only incrementally being disabused of their delusions. In both, they eventually become heros of forces that they previously didn't understand at all. AND, in both there's another planet that's ultimately the hope of resistance to tyranny. In the case of The Space Merchants that planet is Venus; in the case of Gunner Cade that planet is Mars.
As I've gradually become more aware of C. M. Kornbluth, I've been particularly interested to learn of his collaborations w/ Merril. It's somewhat to my discredit as a hypothetical scholar that I'm not more aware of the many pen names that authors that I'm interested in have written under. The name "Cyril Judd" has some transparency insofar as "Cyril" is Kornbluth's 1st name & "Judd" is an abbreviation of Merril's 1st name. But if I'd previously seen a "Cyril Judd" novel somewhere I might've passed it over as by someone I'm not familiar w/. & I have to wonder: How many good bks have I missed this way? I, of all people, shd be hyperaware of multiple name use given that I might have as many as 60 names myself - & how many people know them all? Noone that I know of.
I've been interested in Merril for a long time b/c when I 1st started reading SF in the early 1960s I knew of few or no women involved. Then I discovered & read Merril's 1961 editing of the 6th Annual Edition The Year's Best S-F & was happy to find something both edited by a woman & including women writers. This was certainly one of the earliest SF anthologies I ever read & I remember being very impressed by it. As such, Merril stuck in my mind as someone to watch for. Nonetheless, I've read very little by her since! Having just now read her Wikipedia bio, I'm once again astounded that I hadn't previously learned more about her. Her activities as a political activist alone are enuf to strongly endear her to me.
Again, as in The Space Merchants, Gunner Cade presents history & language distorted for propaganda control purposes. People are taught that the world(s) had been created 10,000 yrs before & that an Emperor & a particular political system had been served throughout. Creationism anyone? Page 10: a teacher 'explains' that: "'They must be always occupied with fiddling details' - I should perhaps explain that a fiddle was a musical instrument; fiddling hence means harmonious, or proper." The joke here being that at the time Gunner Cade was written "fiddling details" wd've meant 'trivial, little, petty, worthless, insignificant' details - in other words, something to keep the dupes busy to keep them from thinking about anything important.
Another instance of this is on page 18: "'Always assume mankind is essentially merciful; nothing else explains why crooks are regularly returned to office.' If you know as little of Philosophy as you do of decency, Brother, I should explain that a crook is an implement formerly used by good shepherds and in this case stands, by a figure of speech, for the good shepherd himself." Ha ha!!
Making this whole tale even more poignant for me is that much of it takes place in Baltimore (my home town), Aberdeen (the military weapons testing area north of Baltimore), & Washington DC (similarly nearby in the South). These are, indeed, highly significant locations for American militarism. The society of this story is a future one so these locations are described circuitously: eg: the Pentagon is a ruin called the Caves of Washington.
As Gunner Cade, the title's character, becomes less naive re what's actually going on around him, a respected military figure is found to be completely cynical. Cade learns that wars that he'd fought in were at heart divide-&-conquer strategies to keep the masses disunited. WWI anyone? As a "Gunner" Cade is to keep absolute distance from women. Look to the more militaristic culture of Papua, New Guinea (& most other places) for contemporary parallels. But it takes contact w/ one of these dreaded creatures for Cade to finally learn about history - a very dangerous subject indeed.
All in all, the bk's slant is pro-technology wch is to say pro-science wch is to say pro-progress - a slant that I suspect that Merril probably came to qualify as its more destructive ramifications became increasingly apparent after WWII. According to Wikipedia, "From the mid-1970s until her death, Merril spent much time in the Canadian peace movement, including traveling to Ottawa dressed as a witch in order to hex Parliament for allowing American cruise missile testing over Canada." Wch isn't to say that technology is only cruise missiles - wch is to say that an unquestioned support of technology will most certainly include such things as cruise missiles & even worse.
Both Gunner Cade & The Space Merchants end on an optimistic romantic note: the women are the ones who know what's going on from the get-go & the men are the ones who are gradually converted by love to apply their power to less slavish ends. If the implication is that this is generally the case between the 'sexes' then I probably disagree. Nonetheless, this was yet another good subversive novel written at a time when such things were very important - just as they are now. ...more
review of Frederik Pohl & C.M.Kornbluth's The Space Merchants by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 13, 2011
WOW. WOW. For those of us who lovereview of Frederik Pohl & C.M.Kornbluth's The Space Merchants by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 13, 2011
WOW. WOW. For those of us who love the writings of Philip K. Dick (just about everyone who reads SF, I reckon) this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It's the only bk that I've read that I'd say is PROTO-P.K.DICK. It's as good as Dick, PUBLISHED 3 YRS BEFORE DICK'S 1ST PUBLISHED NOVEL WAS: The Space Merchants was published in 1952? in Galaxy & in 1953 as a bk & Dick's Solar Lottery was published in 1955.
Looking up The Space Merchants online I find that I'm far from precocious in appreciating it. EG: I find this under "Critical Reception" on its Wikipedia entry :
"In his study of the pioneers of science fiction, New Maps of Hell (1960), the novelist Kingsley Amis states that The Space Merchants "has many claims to being the best science-fiction novel so far." It is also ahead of its time in stressing the importance of limiting population growth and conserving natural resources. On its initial publication, Groff Conklin called the novel "perhaps the best science fiction satire since Brave New World." Boucher and McComas praised it as "bitter, satiric, exciting [and] easily one of the major works of logical extrapolation in several years. . . . a sharp melodrama of power-conflict and revolt which manages . . . to explore all the implied developments of [its imagined] society." Imagination reviewer Mark Reinsberg described it as "a marvellously entertaining story" and "A brilliant future satire." P. Schuyler Miller compared the novel to Brave New World, finding it "not so brilliant, but more consistently worked out and suffering principally . . . from its concessions to melodrama."
"It was rated the twenty-fourth "all-time best novel" in a 1972 Locus poll, jointly with The Martian Chronicles and The War of the Worlds.
"As with many significant works of science fiction, it was lexically inventive. The novel is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary as the first recorded source for a number of new words, including "soyaburger", "moon suit", "tri-di" for "three-dimensional", "R and D" for "research and development", "sucker-trap" for a shop aimed at gullible tourists, and one of the first uses of "muzak" as a generic term. It is also cited as the first incidence of "survey" as a verb meaning to carry out a poll."
SO, I'm just adding my 2¢ worth to an already existing plethora of what I consider to be well-deserved praise. I've already called attn to Pohl & Kornbluth as members of the Futurians (an SF-fans-turning-into-pro-writers group founded in the 1930s) & noted that Wikipedia states that "many of its members were in some degree interested in the political applications of science fiction". & is a political novel par excellence. & unlike this review, the novel is astonishingly precocious in its societal critiques.
While many might consider its forefronting of advertising (& lobbying) as the dominant socio-political force to be more satire than accurate description, I find it to be far too uncomfortably close-to-the-truth. In The Space Merchants' conflict between ad firm Fowler Schocken Associates vs Taunton Associates, I'm reminded of the present-day competition for health care dominance between UPMC vs HighMark. Do I trust either of them? Probably not - certainly not UPMC!
In The Space Merchants advertising ruthlessly exploits the consumer to addict them as much as possible to the products they represent & their most fierce adversaries are the "Consies" (Conservationists) who're illegal & whose resistance to the total debasement of humanity is met w/ extreme propaganda & harsh punishment. Given that this novel was written at a time of particularly vicious suppression of political systems alternative to the mainstream (HUAC, McCarthy, et al), The Space Merchants cd be taken to be a parable of Capitalism vs Communism. However, I think it goes even deeper than that.
The Consies, rather than being just a straightforward symbol of Communists, strike me more as just a collection of people who're intelligent & competent enuf to recognize & resist their total exploitation by greed. As "Conservationists" they cd be both 'conservative', in the sense of trying to conserve what they think is being destroyed, & as what these days might usually be called consumer & Green activists. Like Communists, they're forced to organize in cells & to be highly clandestine to escape destruction.
From the get-go, a world of depleted resources is established:
"I rubbed depilatory soap over my face and rinsed it with the trickle from the fresh-water tap. Wasteful, of course, but I pay taxes and salt water always leaves my face itchy. Before the last of the greasy stubble was quite washed away the trickle stopped and didn't start again."
This, from the perspective of a wealthy capitalist. Showing, of course, that when resources are in the death-throes of final depletion even one's wealth won't bring them back.
On p 8, the existence of a prominent Fowler Schocken Associates product, "Coffiest", is elaborated: "each sample of Coffiest contains three-milligrams of a simple alkaloid. Nothing harmful. But definitely habit-forming. After ten weeks the customer is hooked for life." The "Nothing harmful" being from the ad company's 'perspective' & highly suspect as inaccurate. Remember when Bayer sold heroin as non-addictive? Satire? Sure. But listen to the recordings of Enron traders gloating over the artificially manufactured California power outages & it'll probably be obvious that people motivated by greed above all will stoop at nothing to make more money.
On p 16 Fowler Schocken himself warns the protagonist against the "lunatic fringe". I don't know when this term was 1st used but I do know that I've proudly been a part of the 'lunatic fringe' (what I prefer to call being CRIMINALLY SANE) for probably my whole life.
The Space Merchants' world is completely topsy-turvy in a way that the power-hungry the world over (be they capitalist or communist or fascist or whatever) wd envy. As Schocken talks w/ the main character Mitch explains: ""[..] you've got power. Five words from you, and in a matter of weeks or months half a million consumers will find their lives completely changed. That's power, Mitch, absolute power. And you know the old saying. Power ennobles. Absolute power ennobles absolutely." The actual saying being: 'Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.'
This type of inversion is a current running throughout the bk. On p 135, Mitch is interrogating a prisoner:
""You're suspected of being a Consie."
"There was a gasp from all the UMPA people in the room. I was violating the most elementary principle of jurisprudence by informing the accused of the nature of his crime."
On p 137 this develops into: "'Better that one thousand innocents suffer unjustly than one guilty person be permitted to escape.'"
Are arrests under 'Homeland Security' much different from this? As I like to say: "When Money's God, Poor People are the Human Sacrifices" & "We are all UNEQUAL under the LAW & THAT is its PURPOSE". Let's hope I'm exaggerating.
More than just sayings & the supposed basis of justice is forgotten. Take this, eg: "Farther out there were some people playing a game I didn't know. They had posts with bottomless baskets set up at either end of a marked-off rectangular field, and the object was to toss a large silicone ball through the baskets." Later, Mitch goes to the Metropolitan Museum of art, Classics Room, to be "in front of the Maidenform exhibit." - "Maidenform" being a type of bra or some such. Advertising as all-pervasive.
Even Albert Fish passes thru the pages of this bk in connection w/ particularly horrific possibilities of power abuse. We need look no further than the torturers of Abu Grieb to find a parallel. Alas, there are many more.
Humorously & ironically, the cover of the edition of this that I have has a picture of astronauts in a space ship - as a way of, presumably, attracting aficionados of 'Space Opera'. This is 'classic' false advertising by publishers. Even the name The Space Merchants is a bit misleading & I wonder whether the publishers or the authors chose it. In the story's original Galaxy appearance it was entitled "Gravy Planet" - a title I find rather mysterious but not necessarily any more 'accurate'. Even more ironically, to me, is that I might've missed this bk for so many yrs partially b/c the appearance of it seemed too generic. Little wd I've known what incisive commentary lay w/in its pages.
This bk easily belongs w/ the other classics of dystopian projections of '20th century' '1st world' society such as 1984 & Brave New World. I, for one, may even prefer it over those 2 more famous examples!...more
review of a Monty Cantsin's fuck the word and fuck you by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 9, 2011
The front cover of this explains: "CONTAINS EVreview of a Monty Cantsin's fuck the word and fuck you by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 9, 2011
The front cover of this explains: "CONTAINS EVERY ATTEMPT AT VERBAL POETRY BY [a Monty Cantsin] YEARS 2000 THRU 2010 THE FILES OF WHICH WERE PERMANENTLY ERASED FROM HIS HARDDRIVE 07-03-11". Underneath this text there's a primitive computer drawing of a sideways view of a trashcan w/ an "X" over it. Underneath that is written "IGNORE THIS". The back cover of my copy has a color foto of labia w/ the surrounding area shaved. There's a rubber stamping of the 6 O'Clock symbol - ie: a circle w/ a vertical double-headed arrow in it that signifies "It's Always 6 O'Clock" - meaning "Happy Hour" in bars. This latter is a slogan used by neoists - who took it from a NYC-based graffiti group.
The 1st p is perforated & is identified as a "NEOIST ARTISTAMP SHEET". At the top is written: "MAIL ART IS THE MASS MEDIA OF NEOISM". The perforations create 3 columns of "ARTISTAMP"s: the leftmost has the word "BULLSHIT" repeated, the middle has "FUCK OFF", & the rightmost has "NEOISM". The bottom credits this to "NEOIST COMPUTERGRAPHIC CONSPIRACY" & gives Monty's mailing address. This is derived from Boris Wanowitch's "Computer Graphics Conspiracy" project that originated in the 1980s.
The next p has what one might call Cantsin's introductory autobiography or CV. He identifies himself as an intermedia artist - a term, as I recall, coined by FLUXUS person Dick Higgins. Alas, this autobiography reads like any artist trying to sell his or her self to the world-at-large. There's a list of magazines he's been published in, etc..
Before the poetry begins, there's a p w/ this sentence:
"BECAUSE THE WORD HAS BEEN, IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE TOOL OF THOSE WHO EXPLOIT OTHER HUMAN BEINGS."
This, I deduce, is an explanation of the bk's title: fuck the word and fuck you.
Fair enuf. But do I agree? Not really. Just about everything has been used as a "TOOL OF THOSE WHO EXPLOIT OTHER HUMAN BEINGS" & I don't really find the word to be intrinsically such a tool. Furthermore, for me, 'fucking' is a positive thing so writing "fuck the word and fuck you" as an apparent political criticism seems like a thoughtless & kneejerk use of language. Why not 'DON'T fuck the word and DON'T fuck you' instead?
I wd describe most of Cantsin's poetry as strings of words apparently chosen for the words themselves, presumably based on Cantsin's liking their combination, rather than for any more complex structural or communicative (or anti-communicative, etc) motive. If this is justified as a resistance of the word as a tool for exploitation it certainly isn't even remotely enuf of one for me. At 'best', it's low-level 'Language Writing'.
Most of the texts seem to have little or no idea behind them & vary only in terms of ways of placing them on the page. Hence there're word clusters w/ large spaces between them & others that're arranged more-or-less as paragraphs. Here's a sample 1st line from one of the latter:
"tangy toothpicks in jumbo retrospection. shells of tongue-and-groove sandwich operation"
This from the 2000s. & here's a 1st line from something I wrote around 1976:
I rejected that latter piece of mine as unworthy on inclusion in my 1st bk (published in 1977).
There are, however, some slight exceptions to the sameness of the way Cantsin uses words - mostly, but not entirely, as a result of the visual form complicating matters. In "hump tricks lime floss" he has the words form the outline of a capital "E". Following the path complicates the process of reading enuf to make it more engaging for me than it wd've been if the words had been placed in paragraph form.
I put tick marks next to the poems that seemed to break at least a little from the generic Cantsin mold. I marked one that begins "depravity check" b/c it has implied narrative of sorts: "the stapler talks to me again saying "Felons are mining the landfill for syringes."". Then there's one dedicated to Captain Beefheart, someone whose music has significance to me. 4 more after that have tick marks.
Near the end there's an image of a hand giving the middle finger sign w/ "CULTURAL FUCK OFFS" written next to it & "NEOISM" written on the jacket end at the hand's bottom. This p also has rubber stamps that read: "anarchaos" & "AFTER NET ART COMES NEOISM".
I wanted to like this bk. Monty sent me this copy & I like corresponding w/ people. I also like staying in touch w/ people who consider themselves to be neoists. Alas, I didn't really like it b/c it seems so derivative. I like neoists most when they're creating neoism anew & least when they're just referencing neoist clichés as if they're fresh. While "mail art [is one of] the mass media[s] of neoism" it's certainly not the only one & mail art has long since been the refuge of people who want to spread their name around w/o bothering to think about whether what they're saying (if they're saying anything) is worth it.
Boris Wanowitch's Computer Graphics Conspiracy was fresh in the 1980s. Altemus' reuse of it in the 2000s isn't. Dick Higgins' coining of "intermedia" was a new idea way back when but it's easily co-optable now. Punk defiance in the form of the middle finger at society was fresh in the 1970s but got pretty conformist pretty fast. Of everything exploited by Cantsin in this bk, only pussy remains forever young for me - & that's my DNA talkin'. ...more
This is the 3rd bk by Kornbluth that I've read & the 1st that he wrote in conjunction w/ his main collaborator Frederik Pohl. The only thing I'd pThis is the 3rd bk by Kornbluth that I've read & the 1st that he wrote in conjunction w/ his main collaborator Frederik Pohl. The only thing I'd previously read by Pohl was Chernobyl wch I found educational. Pohl elucidates their collaborative method as being one in wch Pohl suggested the basic outline, Kornbluth fleshed it out, & Pohl put the finishing touches on. Since I find collaborative writing more difficult than other types of collaboration (collaborative music making, eg) the results here are interesting for me.
The latter half of the bk consists of 3 consecutive related stories - the 1st being the title one. These stories are entertainingly silly & I'm sure their authors had alotof fun w/ them. Coincidentally for me, I was at work as an A/V tech & squeezing in reading a few pages when I got to the part on pp162-164 where a main character insults & threatens an A/V technician for being neglectful &/or mischievous. 13pp later, the main female protagonist reminisces fondly about an anarchist she was lovers w/. Alas, he was shot. Of course, that tells you next to nothing. These tales are basically a good read w/o being a GREAT read. Still, I enjoyed them. AND I learned that as of 1980 Pohl had won 4 Hugos. Impressive.
Both Kornbluth & Pohl were in the SF-fans-turning-into-pro-writers group "The Futurian Society of New York". What I might've gotten more than anything else from this bk was just a feel for how exciting a group of thinkers these folks must've been in the late 1930s. According to the relevant Wikipedia entry:
"At the time the Futurians were formed, Donald Wollheim was strongly attracted by communism and believed that followers of science fiction "should actively work for the realization of the scientific world-state as the only genuine justification for their activities and existence". It was to this end that Wollheim formed the Futurians, and many of its members were in some degree interested in the political applications of science fiction.
"Hence the group included supporters of Trotskyism, like Judith Merril and others who would have been deemed far left for the era (Frederik Pohl became a member of the Communist Party in 1936, but later quit in 1939). On the other hand several members were political moderates or apolitical, and in the case of James Blish arguably right-wing. Damon Knight in The Futurians indicates that Blish at that time felt Fascism was interesting in theory, if repellent as it was then being practiced. More solid evidence is that Blish admired the work of Oswald Spengler."
**spoiler alert** review of C. M. Kornbluth's Not This August by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 28, 2011
The front cover review excerpt from th**spoiler alert** review of C. M. Kornbluth's Not This August by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 28, 2011
The front cover review excerpt from the Chicago Tribune reads: "The most shockingly realistic science fiction book since Orwell's '1984' - establishes Kornbluth as one of the best writers in the futuristic field." I find that review to be both flattering & a little odd. How many people at the time considered 1984 to be "realistic"? & is/was 1984 even a "science fiction book"? It seems that such a comparison was a potentially sly way of valuing Not This August& of sneaking 1984 in thru the back door of apparent Red Scare fiction.
At any rate, this IS a Red Scare novel.. at the same time that it's a pacifist one. It does seem like a realistic depiction of what a successful invasion of the US by the USSR & China might've been like at the time (set for approximately 10 yrs into the future from the 1955 publishing of the novel) that details all sorts of possible variations: some invaders who aren't harsh, some who are, American girls dating Russian soldiers, greed & treachery, underground resistance, starving overworked farmers, interrogation torture, etc..
But it's definitely NOT a Mickey Spillane / Mike Hammer take on the thing. The friendly neighbors of the protagonist turn out to be secret communist organizers who're immediately shot by the socialist invaders - to their surprise. The person who immediately gets into the best position w/ the invaders is the viciously capitalist storekeeper. The 'hero' is a guy who just sortof gets sucked into the whole mess against his somewhat weak-willed better judgment. The Americans are shown to make some horrific decisions. & the character who ultimately comes thru as the most sane is someone immediately established as a pain-in-the-ass.
All in all, the pacifism is precisely in the realism. People are shown reacting in believable ways, the resistance comes about as much as a result of an inability to cope any more w/ the harshness of the conditions - people become 'heros' out of desperation. Sympathy is, not surprisingly, w/ the invaded peoples - after all, who wdn't want to overthrow invaders? & it's possible that the invaded 'win' at the end. But the ultimate message of the novel seems to be that as long as human behavior continues as warlike as it has, humanity's stuck in a rut that merely 'winning' a battle will never solve. &, of course, some people have probably been concluding this for a very long time. So where are we? Still embroiled in as much war as ever. ...more
review of C. M. Kornbluth's The Explorers by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2011
I started reading Kornbluth by accident. I'd read some colreview of C. M. Kornbluth's The Explorers by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2011
I started reading Kornbluth by accident. I'd read some collaborations by G. C. Edmondson & C. M. Kotlan that I'd liked & some work by Edmondson alone that I'd liked less so I decided to look for work by Kotlan alone to see if I'd like that. I was in a bkstore & cdn't remember Kotlan's name so I got bks by Kornbluth instead. Similar names. & what a find Kornbluth seems to be turning out to be!
I'm reading the bks by him that I initially got in chronological order. That meant starting w/ The Explorers - 1st published in 1954. This collection of short stories includes his 1st published one, "The Rocket of 1955", presented in Escape magazine in 1939. Kornbluth was 15 or 16 when he wrote it. The 1st story in The Explorers is about a Puerto Rican immigrant working as a dishwasher who's discovered to be a physics genius & subsequently exploited by the U.S. military.
Thru this story Kornbluth immediately struck me as someone w/ a subversive bent who's far from naive about the actions & motives of governments. What particularly interests me is that this wd've been published during the McCarthy Red Scare. It wd appear that SF writers were under McCarthy's radar since McCarthy went after more high-profile people like Hollywood folks who were making big bucks. There's an advantage, sometimes, to barely scraping by financially.
Kornbluth, alas, only made it to age 34 when he died of a heart attack, so I consider the world to be fortunate that he wrote as much as he did starting as early as he did. I'll be reading everything by him that I can get my hands on. ...more
review of The Sky's the Limit: An Homage to Larry Walters by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 19, 2011
At one point I proposed the founding of areview of The Sky's the Limit: An Homage to Larry Walters by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 19, 2011
At one point I proposed the founding of a writer's association in my neighborhood called "P.H.E.W.": Polish Hill Elucubrating Writers. The idea was that we wd publish a compilation of our work. This idea never went anywhere & several of the people that I proposed it to moved away. THEN, my glorious neighbor Dr. Mark O'Connor proposed a similar project when he was sitting in our local coffee shop one day & he "realized there were enough writers and artists within earshot to create an interesting artist book." Voila! The Sky's the Limit: An Homage to Larry Walters was conceived.
I don't remember how the subject of Larry Walters' weather-balloon-&-lawnchair flight became the subject but it was no surprise that we all embraced it w/ enthusiasm! Unintentionally reckless (&, fortunately, wreckless) as Larry Walters' flight was, it's still a symbol of DIY flight that I've always had the greatest admiration for & I think all the contributors felt similarly.
There're 7 of these contributors: 5 writers & 2 artists. Isaac Bower provides a color collage as if from Walters' aloft perspective w/ components more symbolic & formal than realistic (despite the realism of the rendering) - done meticulously, as is Isaac's general way.
Karen Lillis provides "Guy Walks into a Bar circa April 1997, Hollywood" - something that reads like autobiography w/o necessarily being so. Whether it's based on actual experience of Karen or someone she knows isn't, however, probably as important as the way the background details become the foreground substance. (For a recent review of one of Karen's bks that I wrote see here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30...)
Amy Catanzano's poem "Inspiration I" (named after Walters' vessel) is hand-written at the tops of interleaved pages of glassine - a translucent paper. The title appears before O'Connor's piece & the 6 pages of 2-lines-per-page are interspersed between O'Connor's pages & my own. The placement of her text is such that it appears superimposed over the blank areas at the top of Mark's & my pages. The 1st of these:
"rose. flight is a shorthand portal: airship to airship, theory"
Mark O'Connor's "Everything is A-okay: the Morphology of an American Hero" is probably the most scholarly investigation into Walters - even though, as w/ the other writing, it's framed by personal recollection. O'Connor debunks, eg, the aesthetic, but misleading, choices of Walters' story as presented by the tv show Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed.
My own "Long Live Larry Lawnchair!" is written under the name of "Shayn Fargesn" - a Yiddish reference that will no doubt contribute even further to the substantial confusion & obscurity surrounding my vastly complicated output. The name is deliberately inappropriate given that my text is memorable. Such obscurantistic humor aside, I compare Walters' feat to various other roughly contemporaneous oddities - in particular the weather balloon assisted (successfully tethered) launching of Doug Retzler's 1st-born whilst he was, indeed, very freshly newborn.
Hyla Willis' collage conjoins the great Huey Newton seated, armed, in a wicker chair w/ athlete Tommie Smith's (&, by association, John Carlos's) gutsy 1968 Olympics Black Power salute as an evocation of Walters as an icon of the quest for freedom of humans in general - both politically & personally.
Finally, Tom[my Mac] (who definitely isn't a writer, by the by - but who can still write quite nicely) provides "that willing suspension" - another autobiographical story that the reader is likely to devour in titillated fervor waiting for the Walters tie-in that 'justifies' its inclusion here.. I leave you suspended..
O'Connor's particular joy in making this bk was in his using old weather balloons as the wrapper for the hard-cover. The feel is somewhat skin-like. The title's been neatly silkscreened on this. All in all, a lovingly done publication that's a fitting tribute to a symbol of the free spirit to everyone who's appreciative of such things. ...more
review of Karen Lillis' The Second Elizabeth by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 16, 2011
The author of this is a friend of mine. She lives in threview of Karen Lillis' The Second Elizabeth by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 16, 2011
The author of this is a friend of mine. She lives in the same neighborhood I do. I'm very glad she does. She's someone I like very much. I'd heard her read about working in a bkstore but was otherwise unfamiliar w/ her writing. I'd heard that The Second Elizabeth was "like Gertrude Stein" from a mutual friend. That cd mean: 'it experiments w/ repetition' &/or I might very well hate it as I did Stein's The Making of Americans. I waited a while to get a copy of this & to then read it partially b/c I was worried that I wdn't like a bk by a friend of mine. Actually, it's not 'not liking a bk by a friend of mine' that's so worrisome - it's how to review it (as I typically do) afterward that's the problem.
The Second Elizabeth is divided in 2 parts: "July" & "August" & these are the 2 mnths that she writes about living in Charlottesville, VA. This is part autobiography, part language play. It's a personal bk. If one wants a spectacular life as a basis for autobiography, this is not the place to go. Karen writes about working at a deli w/ a friend named Beth, living w/ her brother, being left by her fiancé, on trains & traintracks. Her life is fairly ordinary.
But what saves the ordinariness from being all that there is here is the way she writes about it. There's a refreshing openness. Karen lets us know that she cried alot, Karen lets us know that she was lonely. But she also has a way of telling this that strikes me as fairly unique to her. There's what one might call a poetry to her openness that's very likable, for me at least. On pp 52-53 she writes:
"My heart has a murmur, a doctor who is not my father told me. A murmur, she called it, but all I know is that my heart skips a beat every so often. My heart beats in time with my footsteps, and my feet are still young, and so sometimes, but just sometimes, my feet pause and wonder where to go, and my heart skips a beat, and the blood whispers something to my feet, and my feet mumble something back, and then they start walking again, and my heart starts beating again. And the doctor called it a murmur, but I might call it a pause and a whisper and a mumble instead.
"My heart beats in time with my feet, and my feet once danced on my father's toes, and now I wear the boots by father once wore to mend a war. I wear the boots every day, and my boots have changed the shape of my feet, and my footsteps have changed the shape of my boots."
I rather like the description of that passage & it was this type of thing that ultimately made The Second Elizabeth interesting for me. Another example from pp 60-61:
"The night in Charlottesville smack in the middle of July is much more than a string of moments. The night breathes deeply in Charlottesville July, the night takes breaths from a place deep inside its belly. In its vast belly, this night has room for all of time. In the night in Virginia in July, I can find 1978 and 1990 and 1989, and I can look very hard for 1972. In July, the night is not just the second half of a day, not merely its darker counterpart - the night is a PLACE in the summer in Virginia - the night is a world, a dream, a gift, a beautiful play with a new plot to surprise me every twenty-four hours. In the night the trees talk to each other - I listen to them whispering by moving their branches and shaking their leaves - and the daytime world has been hushed enough that the trees can hear each other again. The night in July in Virginia is a symphony - the night is the earth's secret symphony, where the crickets and the trees and the freight trains and the tomecats play, for anyone who is patient enough to listen for it; but if no one is, the symphony plays nonetheless."
The most tedious part of The Second Elizabeth for me is the part starting on p66 where she goes into a history of family names. I shd qualify that, tho, by saying that names are important in the overall fabric. Karen had named herself "Karen Elizabeth Elizabeth Lillis" & her best friend's name is "Beth" - wch isn't a diminutive of "Elizabeth" & such connections & disconnections are important to The Second Elizabeth's language.
This bk expresses alotof feeling & the feeling bleeds into other things. P89: "Beth doesn't know that I cry only to her, and Beth doesn't know that my tears are just new words with the letters in the wrong order." & on p90 the names & the feelings collide: "The crying rag that Beth gave me that is my favorite color blue holds my almost-words, my almost-language called Elizabeth, the second Elizabeth." This way of exploring & feeling language is the strongest quality of The Second Elizabeth for me. P93:
"And as I get closer to Leesburg, I see that the wooden signs have been replace by plastic ones that speak strange words. In this strange language, C's have become K's and K's have become C's. The K's that aren't C's became X's, and S's became Z's, and many E's and GH's have disappeared entirely. The signs along 29 North have turned into a language I don't understand, because I don't know whose language it is. I don't know who write this language, whose handwriting scratched it out, whose face these letters press behind; I don't know whose names this alphabet is contained in."
There's alotof crying here, the crying fertilizes the fluidity of the writing. PP 97-98: "I didn't know that my tears were mixed up letters, and I didn't have a crying rag, so when I was crying TO in the garden, I was crying INTO the garden, when mixed up letters were running down my face they were falling INTO the garden. I can't keep a garden in my pocket so I have to stay near the gardens; my story is written in my tears, and my tears are planted in the garden."
These tears are related to the lack of incoming love in her life. P115: "I am growing my hair as long as it will grow. I am growing hair that is the color of train tracks. I know that at the end of my train tracks, a great love waits for me, and I know that if I send my words on the train, the train and my words will bring him to me." P123: ""I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair," that was the song my mother sang to me, me in the bathtub with Johnson and Johnson No More Tears shampoo on my head" - I found that a very interesting way of tying together some loose ends of sorts that'd preceded.
Karen leaves herself somewhat open, somewhat vulnerable, to emotional scrutiny. I respect this. Formally, this is augmented by the double spacing of the bk. It feels spacious. & I'm glad to say that her emotional openness seems to help resolve her sadness w/ the help of her friend Beth. P179:
"When I am dancing I remember that the language of the second Elizabeth is already written, when I am dancing and singing and I let some of the secret noises out of hiding, and then I listen closely to the language inside my blood, and not the language that the daytime people wrote between my ears, and not the story that someone etched onto my body, and I hear the language of the second Elizabeth, deep inside my blood." ...more
review of Bombay Gin 37.1 by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 14, 2011
One of the things that I still respect about Naropa University, despite itreview of Bombay Gin 37.1 by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 14, 2011
One of the things that I still respect about Naropa University, despite its being, to a certain extent, a 'religious' institution, is the creative diversity potential that it nurtures - perhaps esp thru "Bombay Gin", its literary (etc..) journal. This issue, one of my favorites of the many that I've read so far, exemplifies what I'm referring to. Despite certain key absences in its scholarliness re the 'man-of-the-issue', Harry Smith, its overall quality is far from uneven - it's generally, IMO, excellent.
Aside from the obvious thing of my ongoing liking of the work of my girlfriend Amy Catanzano - as represented here by her poem "Sparticles . . ." - some highlights in this issue, for me, are the interview w/ Steven Taylor, Janna Plant's poetry, the interview w/ Julia Seko, & a transcription of a Naropa speech by Anne Tardos - but there's so much more.
Steven Taylor once again impresses me as someone w/ a sharp mind: well-informed & capable of presenting what he's well-informed about in an exceptionally clear-headed manner. He's also the one who discusses Harry Smith's films - a subject that's largely lacking from the rest of the issue. For me, it's an editorial shortcoming to so heavily structure this issue around the Anthology of American Folk Music that Smith edited for Folkways Records while largely ignoring his filmmaking. After all, his filmmaking was his original work, while the curating was something that he was very good at but not necessarily what he was most original at.
Taylor also adds some realism that I think is quite important for a well-rounded impression of Smith. EG: on p70, Taylor reminisces: "He had finished building his headdress, and I went in and his beard was covered with gold and silver spray paint. He had an inflated paper bag in his hand, and he said, "Don't let anyone tell you this shit rots your brains!" He was stoned out of his mind on solvents." Right. It's important for people to understand that Smith's substantial brilliance also might've come w/ substantial irresponsibility. As a person who grew up in an era where huffing "dope" (model airplane glue) was common, as a person who's seen the extremely damaging & permanent effects of huffing lighter fluid, & as a person who's seen the destructive effects of many ways of 'getting high' on many, many people, Smith's use of solvents to get high is a very, VERY bad example for the naive.
Smith brings us to a conundrum of the 'underground': In a society where dominant institutions often only support myopic & mind-contracting culture b/c it serves the economic interests of ruling elites an alternative economy is called for in order to support a reprioritizing of cultural purpose. The 'underground', wch I certainly consider myself to be a part of, has had the drug economy, the food economy, the publishing economy, the music economy, the alternative energy economy - all of them justifiable in relation to central philosophical concerns. Nonetheless, this society can only support people like Harry Smith in a haphazard way.
Smith was an important musicologist, an important filmmaker, perhaps an important occult scholar - but he was too 'lunatic fringe' to be protected from having his archive thrown out by an unsympathetic landlord. While, to me, the landlord is despicable, I have to assign some responsibility to Smith too. Smith, like Franz Kamin (who I just made a documentary about) doesn't seem to've ever come to terms w/ the need to be more practical more often. His reliance on the support of the people who understood the significance of his talents & interests seems to've been insufficiently counterbalanced by an ability to interface w/ the world that did not understand. As I was so fond of saying, back in the day when I was a renter: "I hate money but my landlady loves it." In other words, whether we like it or not, we don't only live in a world where expanding one's consciousness is the highest priority for everyone who's going to have an impact on our lives. I think an essay on this subject, perhaps bringing up Jack Smith too (no immediate relation to Harry Smith that I know of), might've been an important addition to this Bombay Gin.
But enuf of this criticality on my part. THIS ISSUE OF Bombay Gin IS NOT TO BE MISSED by any reader even remotely interested in what Naropa has to offer: a pluralistic & open-minded sampling of grassroots alternative culture, some experimental, some not. Whether Daniel Staniforth's "Wolf Song Transcriptions" are accurate or not I wdn't know - but I'm happy just to see them in print as a potential knowledge base that goes beyond human-centrism. The quantity of musical notation in the issue is marvelous. Just having the score to Ed Sanders' use of Charles Olson's poetry in the Fugs song "I Want to Know" is enuf to make me happy.
& then there's Anne Tardos. I was on friendly terms w/ Jackson Mac Low, her partner of many yrs, & had the opportunity to briefly meet Tardos thru Jackson at a huge John Cage event in 1989. I've been curious about her work ever since but haven't run across it very much. FINALLY, I get the chance to learn more about it. This was another treat. Her polylingual writing particularly intrigues me.
& Janna Plant? I don't recall being previously familiar w/ her but I'll definitely read a bk by her if I ever find one. Her "Language is a Living and Dying Organism", by virtue of having so many of the phrases in quotes, seems like a hypertext of links that're deliberately ambiguously implied rather than actually linked - an excellent evocativeness most often found in poetry.
& Julia Seko? Having had the pleasure of meeting her at Naropa last yr I can honestly say that she's an exemplar of positive enthusiasm. Julia's called a "Printer's Devil and Shop Rat" in the title to the interview w/ her & those words alone both reveal the lingo & the humor that metaphorically imbue her personality. As long as Naropa has people like Julia on the staff, Naropa will continue to be supportive of a variety of intelligences that other universities might feel discomfort w/. Seko is intimately tied in w/ mail art & small press - 2 things mostly overlooked by less sensitive academias - 2 things essential to experience w/ a repurposing of culture away from capitalism.
review of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 12, 2011
Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind foreview of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 12, 2011
Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind for what might be the 1st time in 41 yrs felt like going home again - by wch I mean that it feels like something that I'm very familiar w/ - even though I'm not. There's always the possibility that when one reads something in one's 'formative yrs' that it becomes deeply instantiated. Rereading this felt strangely comfortable - like being w/ an old friend that I can trust.
Ferlinghetti was probably the 1st 'rebel poet' I ever read. When I did so, in the early 1970s, his literateness & anti-war attitudes jived w/ my own. These days. I often feel like I live in an all-too-illiterate society (hence my enthusiasm for Goodreads' counterbalance) & reading a bk at all, esp 1 that references many other writers & artists, is ultimately what probably makes me feel like I'm in the company of friends - even though I only 'know' most or all of these people thru their works.
Goya (p9) & Morris Graves (25) & Dante (28) & Chagall (29) & Kafka (31) & Hemingway & Proust & T.S.Eliot (44) & Djuna Barnes (45), etc, etc, grace these pages as characters. What a cast! Ferlinghetti is, of course, the cofounder of City Lights bks & a publisher - as well as a writer in many forms. I can relate: I'm the cofounder of Normal's Books & a publisher & a writer in many forms. I reckon that if I ever have the opportunity to meet him (he's still alive at 92 as I write this) he wdn't have any problem recognizing many of the creative people that I frequently mention & wd probably stump me from time-to-time w/ his own extensive knowledge. If only this were the case more often!
A Coney Island of the Mind was originally published in 1958 & some of the poetry in it dates back to his 1st bk from 1955: Pictures of the Gone World. It astounds me somewhat how much I can relate to the attitude of this bk. He refers to "anarchy" in a completely friendly positive way w/o bothering to even acknowledge the substantial suppression of it in the USA of the time. Take this sentence from "Autobiography":
"I have seen Egyptian pilots in purple clouds shopkeepers rolling up their blinds at midday potato salad and dandelions at anarchist picnics."
It amused me, & seemed precocious, to read the phrase "drugged store cowboys" on p13 - knowing that a movie wd be similarly named decades later.
On p48 he mentions that the poems "Junkman's Obbligato" & "Autobiography" had been read by him w/ The Cellar Jazz Quintet & released on record. This recording is also on 2 different CDs - one w/ Kenneth Rexroth & one w/ Kenneth Patchen. There're probably people who wd find poetry read along w/ jazz to be a sad cliché of a bygone age - for me, these recordings are utterly wonderful. & reading these poems again I hear Ferlinghetti's readings in memory.
I rarely, or never, hear my poet friends mention Ferlinghetti. Is it b/c he's so much a part of the culture that there's no 'need'? After all, A Coney Island of the Mind is sd to've sold over a million copies - &, given that it's an easy read, most of those copies have probably been read. I wonder if it's more b/c he doesn't self-identify w/ the Beats - the literary superstars of the 20th century? According to his Wikipedia entry:
"Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s own writing is very unlike that of the original NY Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation."
I don't really find his writing to be "very unlike that of the original NY Beat circle" at all & find that to be a somewhat surprising statement. The poetry, at least, seems akin to Ginsberg's. Then again, it's often unclear to me who the Beats were - aside from the core circle of friends most often referenced: Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso, McClure, Kerouac.. Many people seem to be sometimes associated w/ the Beats & sometimes not.
If Ferlinghetti's not a Beat is he a progenitor (well, no, he's a few yrs too late for that)? His "I am Waiting" (from no later than 1958) is a list poem of sorts that predates Anne Waldman's more famous "Fast Talking Woman" by 16 yrs or so. City Lights published that too. Now Waldman's one of those folks ambiguously associated w/ the Beats (she's the coeditor of the Beats at Naropa bk) although I'm told she associates herself more w/ a New York school that's not Beat. Here's a small section from "I am Waiting" that seems like a good place to end this review:
"and I am waiting for the war to be fought which will make the world safe for anarchy" ...more
review of James Gunn's The Magicians by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 10, 2011
After spending something like 6 mnths reading Joseph McElroy'sreview of James Gunn's The Magicians by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 10, 2011
After spending something like 6 mnths reading Joseph McElroy's Women and Men I've decided to only read short bks for a looooonnnnnggggggg while - bks that I can read in a day or a few days. Every time I reach for something over 300pp long I shrink back. It's time for 'beach reading', 'vacation bks' - but when I was at the beach on 'vacation' I was reading McElroy. The Magicians fit the bill perfectly - even more perfectly than I'd hoped.
The Magicians entertained me in a way similar to a Ron Goulart novel but had a bit more substance. Gunn actually made a reasonable attempt to explain magik in scientific terms as the control of hidden forces w/o the 'necessity' of obfuscating religious/satanic anthropomorphisms. On p 56 he referenced the 'devils' of Loudon (a fascinating subject delved into brilliantly in Ken Russell's film The Devils & elsewhere by Aldous Huxley, Krzysztof Penderecki, etc..). On p 106 he references Senoi dream theory (another subject that fascinates me). & in chapters 8 & 9 he describes the main character's dreams. After I read those descriptions, I went to sleep & dreamt my own dreams wch I then awoke to write about - the 2 events seeming an obviously inter-related sequence (perhaps my dream description will appear here: http://annandaledreamgazetteonline.bl...). Gunn also references another subject of substantial interest to me, secret names, on p 139.
Gunn's fluid pulp style & humorous & fanciful telling of a story about a private detective being sucked into a world of witchcraft was just what the witch doctor ordered for me. All in all, the imagining of magik as something possible w/ sufficient scientific knowledge is a pleasant daydream that I'd explore further if I weren't already dedicatedly on a different path. It interested me to learn that Gunn lives in Lawrence, KS where William S. Burroughs also lived. I wonder if they knew each other? ...more
review of Alfred Brendl & George Nama's Von Teufeln Devil's Pageant by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 5, 2011
I 1st heard (of) Alfred Brendlreview of Alfred Brendl & George Nama's Von Teufeln Devil's Pageant by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 5, 2011
I 1st heard (of) Alfred Brendl when I got a record of him playing Arnold Schoenberg's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in 1975. I don't know how his performance of the piece compares to that of other pianists b/c it's the only performance of it that I've ever heard. W/ that disclaimer aside, it sounds GREAT to me & I still love it 36 yrs later. B/c of this, I looked for more Brendl recordings but didn't run across much. What I did find was of him playing Beethoven, rather than the 20th century material that I was the most interested in, so I didn't learn very much about him.
W/ this background, it was a delight to find this bk of his poems! It might've been in a free or dollar pile in Cape Cod. As is so often the case, things that interest me culturally are often borderline garbage to much of the rest of this society. This bk is a catalog of repros of work by artist George Nama from an exhibition that included Nama's etchings paired w/ Brendl's poetry.
There're 2 introductory essays: 1 by Charles Simic entitled Welcome Back Mr. Devil & 1 by Yves Bonnefoy called Georges Nama. The Simic essay is marred for me by 3 typos & by an approach to the concept of the devil that speaks of it in superficial fashion terms rather than, as I prefer, a pernicious religious superstition that, as w/ all things religious, makes people more stupid. The Bonnefoy, alas, isn't much better for me insofar as it makes what're to my mind unsupportable claims about Nama's work - wch I find to be visibly enjoyable enuf but not as profound as Nama's friend Bonnefoy claims. As w/ so much art, w/o the Emperor's New Clothes the nakedness shows more flab than rigor.
That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the work in this bk. What it does mean is that Bonnefoy's claim that Nama's work aspires "to liberate us from the web of signs, within which we are obliged to live" may be accurate insofar as he use the word "aspires" but 'aspiring' is quite different from accomplishing. Liberating "us from the web of signs" wd take alot more than just making some semi-abstract pictures & sculptures.
& that's basically all Nama's work is to me. All of the prints, sculptures, & drawings are variations on recurring jester's cap &/or horn shapes. Since I'm not generally interested in work that concentrates on visuals-for-visuals' sake, this doesn't do much for me. What interested me more was learning that Nama's from Pittsburgh & has had shows here, etc.. I reckon I'm sortof rooting for him as a hometown boy (even tho Pittsburgh is just my adopted hometown).
I do like the way that Brendl's poems & Nama's prints work together. Brendl's words are cleaqr in ways that Nama's art isn't & Nama's art heightens Brendl's imagery's ambiguity. I enjoyed Brendl's poems but what they're most reminiscent of for me are C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters in wch a senior demon writes letters to a nephew who's a tempter-in-training. However, Brendl's poems at least seem to be blessedly free of Christinanity & seem to just use devils as symbols of pains-in-the-ass - magnified w/ great humor by Brendl.
All in all, I like the way the poems & art work together but I doubt that I'd like either as much w/o each other. ...more
Any discussion of Witkin's work is bound to mention his uses of _______. Let's see whether I can write anything worthwhile about him w/o mention of thAny discussion of Witkin's work is bound to mention his uses of _______. Let's see whether I can write anything worthwhile about him w/o mention of that. When I 1st encountered Witkin's fotography I probably tended to associate it w/ the likes of Charles Gatewood & BalTimOre fotographer Stephen John Phillips. Davide Faccioli, the author of the essay that begins this bk, brings up Diane Arbus. Arbus & Gatewood both concentrate on people outside the norm, as does Witkin. That's enuf to make me like him right there - since I consider myself to be outside the norm too.
Aesthetically, though, I see the less well-known Phillips as being closer to Witkin. What makes Witkin by far one of my favorite fotographers is not just his attn to outsiderness, it's also his minute attn to details of texture, arrangement & color. He's a still-life fotographer par excellence. His "Harvest" revisits Arcimboldo's wonderful "Spring" & "Summer" paintings. Witkin's work is rife w/ awesome reworkings of historical artworks: Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus", eg, cd be renamed "The Birth of HermAphrodite". Instead, Witkin calls it "Gods of Earth and Heaven". His "The Raft of George W. Bush" references Théodore Géricault's painting "The Raft of Medusa". This latter cd be sd to be a critique of the abandonment of the proletariat to die during a shipwreck - a theme later developed in Hans Werner Henze's oratorio Das Floss der Medusa Für Che Guevara. Both Phillips & Witkin use sepia tinting & simulated aging (distressing) to evoke times past.
Despite any sensationalism that might be associated w/ Witkin's work, I find it 1st & foremost evocative of LIFE & NATURE. Instead of a Nazi sanitization of the gene pool intended to narrow down possibilities to homogenized culture, Witkin presents life (& death) in a full glory of variety & richness. There's no nastiness here, IMO, life is shown as something that grows & mutates - not as a jungle that 'needs' paving over as a parking-lot - rather as a jungle from wch the marvelous erupts & is then reabsorbed into.
review of Conrad Bakker's Objects & Economies (Untitled Projects 1997-2007) by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 4, 2011
Do you ever learn aboureview of Conrad Bakker's Objects & Economies (Untitled Projects 1997-2007) by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 4, 2011
Do you ever learn about something & think: 'I wish I'd done that!' That's the way I felt when I started reading about Conrad Bakker's Untitled Projects. They both reminded me of things that I HAD done & of things that I SHD HAVE DONE BUT DIDN'T.
I don't remember exactly where I got Bakker's bk. I think I picked it up in a dollar sale box in front of a used bkstore - maybe in Cape Cod. I remember quickly looking thru the bks, seeing this one, noticing that it appeared to be a Penguin bk, vaguely registering that something was slightly off about that appearance, skimming thru the inside, seeing that it was an art bk w/ color reproductions, thinking that it looked potentially interesting, getting it, adding it to my already huge pile of used bks, & then essentially not looking at it again until a mnth or so later.
I grabbed it from my to-read pile a coupla days ago & THAT was probably when I noticed that instead of a penguin image in Penguin Books' usual spot there's a pelican. Since I didn't know that there's a series of Pelican Books (there is) I thought that this was a deliberate deviance from the Penguin logo in order to avoid copyright violation since I then noticed that the cover was, indeed, a print of a painted copy of a pre-exisiting bk cover design. This amused me & interested me further.
Bakker carves out of wood & paints slightly crude copies of various objects & then places them in contexts appropriate to the object copied. Such a process then potentially stimulates attn pd to the object in relation to its environment - particularly its economic environment as a result of Bakker's careful choices of object & ground.
I think it was in the late 1970s or in 1980 that I got an issue of "Assembling" magazine & there were poems in it inside drawings of leaves. As I recall, it was suggested by the person who'd created these that the leaf shapes be cut out & that the leaf poems be placed amongst leaves. Now I just looked thru the issue of "Assembling" that I have so that I cd give the poet/artist proper credit & didn't find the page in question so perhaps it was just in an assembling rather than in the magazine called "Assembling". I cut out one or two of the poems, hand-colored them, & put them w/ other leaves.
To me, this was what I call a "Mystery Catalyst" - a process that I was already heavily immersed in. I'd roll a cylinder seal in found chewing gum to leave the imprint of a horse & chariot on it - in the somewhat unlikely circumstance that anyone wd notice, I hoped that the mystery of it wd catalyze wonder & inspiration, questioning. Around the same time, I'd take pictures of myself in a photobooth that had something off about them & then put those fotos on display on the booth's sample foto area.
Bakker concentrates on, as his title states, "Objects & Economies" to a high degree. He makes a painted sculpture of a Hefty bags box, places it in a store next to a box of the actual Hefty bags & prices it at the same price as the original. He then fotographs the placed object & prints of such fotographs are what're shown in this bk. Since this is not a collaboration w/ the store, the object is probably placed w/o store personnel knowledge & money made from the sale, if any, goes to the store rather than to the artist. This is what Bakker calls "shopdropping" (p26). Cf the B.L.O. (Barbie Liberation Organization) 's "shopgiving". Both terms are, obviously, reversal take-offs of "shoplifting". Imagine the surprise, delight?, confusion? of someone finding such an object while shopping. One wd hope that many or most people might ask: WHY? - if they're not completely braindead yet.
Such taking of the art object out of its usual commodity marketplace & into an environment where it'll be, hopefully, examined for its relationship to what its imitating is Bakker's strongest point, IMO, & his focus. Bakker has explored this w/ remarkable thoroughness. He's made objects for yard sales, flea markets, stores, online markets like eBay, etc.. Every object is carefully considered for its place.
In some instances he calls specific attn to the theories that've probably influenced his economy comments. There are many references to Karl Marx - such as "a carved and painted copy of Karl Marx's Capital, Volume I (1867)-priced at" the same price as the bk copied. There's "a carved and painted Blockbuster bag designed to appear as if it held a rental DVD of the documentary film The Corporation (1996). This combination of objects points to the immutable relationship between the critique of corporate culture and the commercial distribution of culture." (p66) There's the "carved and painted BORDERS bookstore bag painted to look like it contains Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's book Empire (2000), a theoretical text that critiques corporate globalization."
My personal favorites might be the paintings he did of ads on eBay - wch he then advertised for sale in the same eBay category as "painted reproductions and sold to the highest bidder." MARVELOUS! I particularly like the "EBAY/COMPUTER (FLASH)" one where he incorporated the flash brightness on the screen of a computer from the foto taken of it for eBay sale.
There's a perversity to all this that reminds me of a story that a friend of mine told me about a professor of hers in Chestertown defining perversity as 'eating a picture of food rather than food itself.' I'm further reminded of the delight I felt when I was in Bern, Switzerland at the Natural History Museum where there was an indoor display of a house or barn or some such w/ a simulated bird's nest under its eaves. The bird's nest being that of a barn swallow or some such bird that's adapted to human dominance of the environment by using human structures to place its own structures in. Bakker is like a self-conscious barn-swallow satirist & analyst.
Alas, Bakker is also a bit too much of the typical artist at times for my preferences insofar as he gets so involved w/ the cute referentiality of his objects than any likelihood of accomplishing anything much in the world gets lost. His "Untitled Project: PROTESTANT [GENEVA] is both a commentary on the specific history of the Swiss city of Geneva as a birthplace of institutional (church) reform and a rather futile effort to draw attention to the location of contemporary institutions that require "reform" by the artist's posing with a carved and painted bullhorn in front of the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva." Even here, though, Bakker is self-conscious & critical enuf to write "a rather futile effort". Indeed. I think there've been many other attempts "to draw attention to the location of contemporary institutions that require "reform"" that've been far more successful - esp large scale protests.
Perhaps Bakker's biggest flaw, for me, is that he is an artist &, as such, ultimately works w/in artist economies & framings regardless of how much he critiques them. As such, he may be co-opted from the get-go. This bk, eg, is published by the Des Moines Art Center. That both makes me interested in them & suspect of Bakker's ultimate effectualness. Even though I think the work is brilliant, there's still the danger & likelihood that it'll be absorbed into the Art World's 'aren't these objects nice & clever' glamor mentality as the critical aspect of it becomes window-dressing. Fortunately, I think Bakker's continuing use of guerrilla contexts will circumvent such an eventuality somewhat. Alas, his being an Associate Professor of Art & Design probably won't.
Bakker does, however, try to address this: "Untitled Project: ADVERTISEMENT [ARTFORUM] is made up of set of of carved and painted copies of recent full-page Artforum advertisements featuring minimal and conceptual artists. These painting replicas of advertised gallery exhibitions or art auctions were then priced at current Artforum advertising rates, pointing to the complicated relationship between art objects and their inevitable commodification." Bravo! But is it "inevitable" that art objects be commodified? Maybe in the case of Bakker's work but I think there're plenty of instances that go strongly counter to commodification. Bakker, as an artist & art teacher, is dependent on the art market for his economic survival. As such, despite his critiques, it's in his best interests for his work to accrue art market value.
I remember Marxist-Maoist composer Cornelius Cardew's reply to concept artist Henry Flynt's proposal "Down with Art":
""Dear Mr. Flynt...Since I may be depending on organized culture for my loot & livelihood I can only wish you a limited success in your movement....[..]"" [from Flynt's Blueprint for a Higher Civilization]
Bakker rc'vd a "Creative Capital Foundation project grant" - I call yr attn to "Creative Capital". Now I'm not knocking Bakker's work - I'm delighted w/ it & very happy to learn about it. Any creative person in a capitalist society who even attempts to face the conflicts between issues of fair value & market manipulations still has to survive & capitalist society is a Goliath not easily felled by one stone. So I admire Bakker's creativity.
& I really am reminded "of things that I SHD HAVE DONE BUT DIDN'T." An example of this is an idea that friends of mine & I had of hand-altering clothing, such as by painting slogans on them, & then donating the clothes to thrift stores. On the other hand, my rubber-stamping American money "COUNTERFEIT" & Spanish money
"No es valido a menos que se use para socavar el Capitlismo ************************* Un Mensaje de servicio público del Dinero Contra el Capitalismo"
are probably more likely to resist commodification longer than Bakker's art objects. Nonetheless, Bakker's eBay projects alone make me wish that there were a bk about unusual uses of eBay & makes me think I shd publish it, eh?! ...more
review of George Turner's Brain Child by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 2, 2011
I'm always looking for SF writers that I'm not familiar w/ whoreview of George Turner's Brain Child by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 2, 2011
I'm always looking for SF writers that I'm not familiar w/ who might be producing work outside of the series-w/-hero formula that many SF writers resort to, presumably for financial reasons. This one seemed promising - esp given that I'm also usually interested in titles that reference brains. &, indeed, I quite liked it - even though I only gave it a 3 star rating.
It took me awhile to realize that Turner's an Australian writer but his use of the words "gaol" & "ratbag" (a personal favorite) were dead giveaways - as was mention of previous parts of the bk having appeared in the Strange Attractors anthology edited by Australian Damien Broderick (you can see an interview w/ him conducted by myself & Ghanesh here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhiGt9...).
Brain Child's a coming-of-age story of sorts - one that's potentially lurid enuf to appeal to 'reality' tv talk show couch potatoes but rendered far, FAR more interesting by its basic premise:
The protagonist grows up in an orphanage & as he 'comes of age' is informed that he's the secret child of one of a group of genetically engineered people. Once this is revealed to him he becomes ensnared in a plethora of manipulative schemes all geared around uncovering a hidden history & potential fruits thereof.
Turner's telling of the story is fairly straightforward as far as writing goes. I've read that he was a "late-bloomer" as an SF writer - having not started writing SF until he was in his 60s. As such, Brain Child is the work of a 'mature' writer - he wd've been around 75 when it was published. In this case, I don't think the 'maturity' contributed any particular writing skill - instead there's a sortof 'world-weariness' that seems to be a main subtext here. The bk explores various types of corruption & naivité that I think are reasonably accurately presented here.
All in all, Brain Child is of the ilk of SF that I often seek out: critical observations of the present tense amplified thru an interesting possible future. ...more