If you are interested in the history of Pink Floyd, you might read this, although other biographies such as Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyss...moreIf you are interested in the history of Pink Floyd, you might read this, although other biographies such as Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey or Comfortably Numb have many more details about the group and their music. If you are interested in the graphic artwork on the album covers of releases like Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here, you might try Walk Away Rene by Storm Thorgerson, head of Hipgnosis, the company that designed those covers. The Pink Floyd Experience does not really work as a biography or as a graphic novel. For example, there is little attempt to deploy in the narrative the visual imagery associated with the band—no teacher resembling the one in The Wall, no pigs flying in the margin, no pastiches of the album covers--; rather, the book follows the members of the band in their interactions with one another, their managers, and (particularly in the latter part of the book), their lawyers. Nor, except for those parts early in the book that depict Syd Barrett’s drug use and his eventual breakdown, is there much about rock and roll excess (which I did not expect to find—Pink Floyd is not generally associated with the more wild behaviour of rock stars, such as smashing instruments onstage or trashing hotel rooms; this being the case, though, why did someone think this group would be an interesting subject for a graphic novel?) For me, the artwork was problematic. I find that the realist style of drawing makes it difficult to distinguish among different characters and to determine who is represented in one panel or another unless he or she is referred to by name. Adding to this difficulty are those instances in which a character’s hairstyle or facial structure seems to change dramatically from panel to panel, with the result that initially I am not sure whether I’m looking at the same character or a different one. For me, the book is more an exploitation of Pink Floyd’s fame than an aesthetic consideration of their work.(less)
The main limitation of this critical study of filmmaker Luis Bunuel is that it came out in 1963 while the director was still in mid-career, and yet to...moreThe main limitation of this critical study of filmmaker Luis Bunuel is that it came out in 1963 while the director was still in mid-career, and yet to make such films as Belle du Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire. Nevertheless, this is a useful source of commentary on Bunuel’s earlier films such as L’Age D’Or, Nazarin, Viridiana, and Un Chien Andalou, which latter Bunuel co-wrote and directed with painter Salvador Dalí, and for which he is perhaps best known.
For me, another limitation of the book is the rhapsodic tone of some of Kyrou’s commentary. That the book is the work of a fan seems obvious from passages like the following:
“As indifferent to threats as to ill-intentioned praise, Luis alone continues to offer us a defense against commercialism, stupidity, falsehood, traditional logic, resignation. If today he holds a place that he has won with great difficulty, if he has an audience, it is because he alone gives expression to our desire—a desire that is becoming daily more universal—for a radical change in our way of thinking and in our way of living; because he is a magnificently untamed creature who dares dynamite the bars of our age-old prisons and teach us to look without being blinded upon the black sun.”
(The claim Kyrou is making here is rather bold; nonetheless, I cannot help but be impressed by the fact that he made it when some of Bunuel’s greatest works were still yet to come).
The book also reprints some of Bunuel’s writings, including a few of his film reviews, his surrealist text “The Giraffe” and the scenario for Un Chien Andalou (however, readers interested in Bunuel’s writing should take a look at Bunuel’s An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings, which collects most of the texts Kyrou includes here, and many more; check out, too, Bunuel’s funny and entertaining autobiography, My Last Breath).
In addition to Kyrou’s commentary and the selection of Bunuel’s writings, the book includes several interviews with Bunuel (one of which is with François Truffaut) and some critical reviews by writers like André Breton, André Bazin, Henry Miller and Octavio Paz; it is because of these interviews and reviews, which I do not have in any of my other books on Bunuel, that I decided to get a copy of this book.(less)
The story of an American in Paris. More specifically, the story of an American woman who relocated to Paris and started a bookstore and lending librar...moreThe story of an American in Paris. More specifically, the story of an American woman who relocated to Paris and started a bookstore and lending library there. Sylvia Beach is perhaps best known as the woman who published James Joyce’s novel Ulysses when no other publisher would come near it. However, Beach’s work on behalf of Joyce was not the only significant contact she had with the expatriate American and English writers who were living in Paris in the twenties and thirties and who have since come to be known as “the lost generation.” Indeed, many of the great modernist authors—Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Poundand F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few—dropped into Shakespeare and Company to borrow or buy books, or to see how their own books were selling. In a way, then, Sylvia Beach’s bookstore was not only a significant part of the publishing history of Ulysses; it was also a hub for much of the literary and artistic activity in Paris at the time. More than literary gossip and cultural history, though, this is a book about friendship: among the most repeated terms in the book are the words “friend” and “friendship,” and indeed, the picture of Sylvia Beach that emerges is one of a great friend to artists and to the arts. Her capacity for friendship, moreover, takes on greater resonance as you read the book and get a sense of the egos (not naming any names here) of some of the artists with whom she came into contact, and with whom she sometimes clashed.(less)
In a comment on the respective authors of biographies of the poet Arthur Rimbaud, Harper’s book reviewer Wyatt Mason writes, “Whereas Robb reads plau...moreIn a comment on the respective authors of biographies of the poet Arthur Rimbaud, Harper’s book reviewer Wyatt Mason writes, “Whereas Robb reads plausible facts and quietly fills them out with fiction, Steinmetz reads fiction as a loud disclosure of fact.” In I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, Emmanuel Carrere employs both of the biographical techniques Mason describes, using Dick’s biography to interpret his fiction and his fiction to fill in the gaps in his biography. The result is entertaining reading. Perhaps this is why The Los Angeles Times Book Review characterizes Carrere’s approach as a strength, rather than a weakness: “Carrere combines fact and fiction to form a new sort of genre, blending literary criticism and cultural history with a novelist’s earnest speculation” (incidentally, the Harper’s review of Carrere’s book commented “Remarkable—a depth charge, a CAT scan, and an exorcism”).
Carrere employs phildickian techniques and devices—paranoid games and theories (e.g., plots and psychological experiments of the KBG or FBI); philosophical paradoxes and speculations (e.g., Zen puzzles like the notion of artificial or false memories, or the concept of alternate realities, in reference to which this reality is a fiction); and esoterica, heresies and absurdities (e.g., the notion that there might be validity in schizophrenic thought)—to reconstruct the subjective experience of the author.
Carrere includes some stories not found in Lawrence Sutin’s biography (which focuses much more on Dick’s relations with publishers). It also contains some plot summaries of Dick’s better novels. One might go in a number of different directions with regard to this latter. For instance, that the plot summaries should not have been included, as they are so detailed that after one has read them, one might feel one does not need to read the actual novel. On the other hand, Dick’s plots are complex, and the plot summaries are useful in tracing the main lines of the action in his narratives. Having already read the novels Carrere discusses in detail, I found the summaries useful—I did not feel as if I had to re-read the books to get all the implications of what Carrere was writing. (less)