Dec 11, 2012
it was amazing
Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 16-17, 2018
I've already written a review of Waugh's Decline and Fall ( h review of
Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 16-17, 2018
I've already written a review of Waugh's Decline and Fall ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ), which I enjoyed. I'll probably read 9 bks by Waugh, since that's how many I've got here, Vile Bodies being the 2nd. Apparently this was the 'hit' that 'launched' his career. I'm 'enthusiastic' about it too, it's far from the most esoteric thing I've ever read but, WTF?, that's ok, it was still good.
In Waugh's 1964 Preface he started off w/:
"This was a totally unplanned novel. I had the facility at the age of twnety-five to sit down at my table, set a few characters on the move, write 3,000 words a day, and note with surprise what happened. The composition of Vile Bodies was interrupted by a sharp disturbance in my private life and was finished in a very different mood from that in which it was begun. The reader may, perhaps, notice the transition from gaiety to bitterness." - p VII
After reading that, I forgot about it & I didn't really "notice the transition from gaiety to bitterness" but there was some sadness that seemed 'real' w/o being welcome. "There were not many comic writers at that time and I filled a gap. I began under the brief influence of Ronald Firbank but struck out for myself." (p VIII) Doncha just love it when people acknowledge their lucky breaks? Imagine this: 'My family was wealthy & had major connections in the publishing world so my 1st bks were bound to be published & promoted so I just took off from there' - I haven't read that one yet but maybe someday.
Ronald Firbank? Never heard of 'im: "Arthur Annesley Ronald Firbank (17 January 1886 – 21 May 1926) was an innovative English novelist. His eight short novels, partly inspired by the London aesthetes of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde, consist largely of dialogue, with references to religion, social-climbing, and sexuality." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_... ) I'l be looking for his work at my local subterranean paperbook room. He only made it to 40. Let's hope he had a good time.
But let's start off w/ a joke, shall we? Have you heard the one about the Yuppie, the Lawyer's child, the Leper, & the Noise Musician who had to share a bathroom at the Aberdeen Proving Ground? Neither have I. They all had Anthrax but it didn't prove anything. How about ""There was a man lived at Aberdeen, and he was terribly keen on fishing, so when he married, he married a woman with worms. That's rich, eh? You see he was keen on fishing, see, and she had worms, see, he lived in Aberdeen. That's a good one that is."" (p 15)
The main male character, easily enuf perceived as a surrogate for the author, is coming back from Paris to England after having written a bk there & gets stopped by Customs:
"One by one he took the books out and piled them on the counter. A copy of Dante excited his especial disgust.
""French, eh?" he said. "I guessed as much, and pretty dirty, too, I shouldn't wonder. Now just you wait while I look up there here books"—"in my list. Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can't stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stops its being brought in from outside.["]" - p 24
Have you ever been harrassed at Customs by someone seemingly completely ignorant? By someone who's managed to get into a position of power that they then proceed to abuse in accordance w/ their ignorance? I have. I imagine any creative person has. A part of the humor of the above is that the Customs official calls Dante "French" instead of Italian. Given that Dante is arguably the most famous Italian poet the official's non-recognition of his name shows his level of illiteracy. I was entering England from France once & carrying films of mine. The Customs official leeringly asked if they were "Art Films", a term he appeared to be using in an insulting way. In this novel, the writer character's financial troubles begin here. A part of this is that he has to renogociate his publisher's contract.
""May I just see the terms?"
""Of course, my dear fellow. They look a bit hard at first, I know, but it's our usual form. We made a very special case for you, you know. It's very simple. No royalty on the first two thousand, then a royalty of two and a half percent, rising to five percent on the tenth thousand. We retain serial, cinema, dramatic, American, Colonial and translation rights, of course. And, of course, an option on your next twelve books on the same terms.["]" - p 36
In other words, instead of royalties he gets a royal screw job. While Waugh is probably exaggerating any bad experiences he may've had, he might be exaggerating less than one might think. I had a contract w/ a publisher once. I signed it. I pointed out to the publisher that they hadn't met a single one of their terms. One of the publishers replied that that was because they hadn't signed the contract! Neat, eh?! They give ME a contract to sign that protects them but then they don't sign it so that they're not culpable.
According to Waugh's 1964 Preface, "There was also a pretty accurate description of Mrs. Rosa Lewis" [ "Lottie" apparently] "and her Cavendish Hotel" (p VIII):
"She led Adam into the parlor, where they found several men, none of whom Adam had ever seen before.
""You all know Lord Thingummy, don't you?" said Lottie.
""Mr. Symes," said Adam.
""Yes, dear, that's what I said. Bless you, I knew you before you were born. How's your father? Not dead, is he?"
""Yes, I'm afraid he is."
""Well, I never, I could tell you some things about him. Now let me introduce you—that's Mr. What's-his-name, you remember him, don't you? And over there in the corner, that's the Major, and there's Mr. What-d'you-call-him, and that's an American, and there's the King of Ruritania."" - p 44
The "Bright Young People" who're the main focus of the bk are followed around by gossip columnists who aren't particularly beholden to any accuracy of reporting as long as they can get away w/ it otherwise.
"At Archie Schwert's party, the fifteenth Marquess of Vanburgh, Earl Vanburgh de Brendon, Baron Brendon, Lord of the Five Isles and Hereditary Grand Falconer to the Kingdom of Connaught, said to the eighth Earl of Balcairn, Viscount Erdinge, Baron Cairn of Balcairn, Red Knight of Lancaster, Count of the Holy Roman Empire and Chenonceaux Herald to the Duchy of Aquitaine, "Hullo," he said. "Isn't this a repulsive party? What are you going to say about it?" for they were both of them, as it happened, gossip writers for the daily papers." - p 59
Are there any gossip columnists that aren't assholes? I doubt it. My father was one & he was an asshole. Consider this: "The first gossip columnist, dominating the 1930s and 40s, was Walter Winchell, who used political, entertainment, and social connections to mine information and rumors, which he then either published in his column On Broadway, or used for trade or blackmail, to accumulate more power. He became "the most feared journalist" of his era." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gossip_... ) I was written about in a German magazine once by someone who didn't see fit to actually quote me more than once or twice in his whole article even though he'd 'interviewed' me. Why? B/c he kept trying to get me to talk about subjects that I wasn't interested in & I refused to do so. He was furious at his inability to manipulate me into saying what he wanted to 'quote'. He then used a full-page image of Freddy Kruger as 'my' picture. It was one of the only times of my life when I felt like I was a Hollywood movie star being stalked by a gossip & then being abused in print for my 'celebrity' sales potential.
Parties are central here & they're of the ilk that involve invitations - of wch "there was the sort that Johnnie Hoop used to adapt from Blast and Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto. These had two columns of close print; in one was a list of all the things Johnnie hated, and in the other all the things he thought he liked." (footnote, p 62) Those wd be collector's items for me. " Blast was the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain. Two editions were published: the first on 2 July 1914 (dated 20 June 1914, but publication was delayed) and published with a bright pink cover, referred to by Ezra Pound as the "great MAGENTA cover'd opusculus"; and the second a year later on 15 July 1915. Both editions were written primarily by Wyndham Lewis. The magazine is emblematic of the modern art movement in England, and recognised as a seminal text of pre-war 20th-century modernism." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blast_(... ) For those of you not familiar w/ Lewis, I've written a review of his novel The Childermass here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... .
One of my favorite scenes in the novel is one in wch The Bright Young Partiers spontaneously go to the home of one of their lesser-noticed members for a late-nite continuation. The next morning, one of those remaining reads about it in a gossip column w/o initially realizing where she'd ended up:
"" 'Midnight Orgies at No. 10.' My dear, isn't that divine? Listen, 'What must be the most extraordinary party of the little season took place in the small hours of this morning at No. 10 Downing Street. At about 4 a.m. the policemen who're always posted outside the Prime Minister's residence were surprised to witness'—Isn't this too amusing—'the arrival of a fleet of taxis, from which emerged a gay throng in exotic evening dress'—How I should have loved to have seen it. Can't you imagine what they were like?["]" - p 71
OOPSIE! Imagine partying in Washington DC & going to somebody's house & passing out & waking up the next morning to a White House Tour in progress. That hasn't happened to me.. & I don't think I'd want it to. Even worse might be to have sex w/ someone that you're engaged to for the 1st time only to have yr partner say: ""All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I'd sooner go to my dentist any day."" (p 111) OUCH!
"(...Masked parties. Savage parties. Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St. John's Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths" - p 135
Now we're talking. What about a "One Word per Person Party"?: https://youtu.be/cvgoTPwwCog As long as they're not parties w/ dress codes.
"Adam and Miss Runcible and Miles and Archie Schwert went up to the races in Archie Schwert's car. It was a long and cold drive. Miss Runcible wore trousers and Miles touched up his eyelashes in the dining room of the hotel where they stopped for luncheon. So they were asked to leave. At the next hotel they made Miss Runcible stay outside, and brought her cold lamb and pickles to the car." - p 193
Remember those days? I'm sure they still exist in many places but all the people who have tattoos & piercings now would've been turned away from most places 30 yrs ago. It happened to me many times. I personally claim responsibility for being a sort of human ice-breaker, breaking thru the matephorical frost in the chilly social climate. Waugh is what ya might call a 'keen social observer' if you don't mind using a well-worn phrase now & then. OR, one cd call him a 'Kleenex Slop Remover', like I might, & confuse just about everyone w/ the obliqueness of the joke.
"The effects of their drinks had now entered on that secondary stage, vividly described in temperance handbooks, when the momentary illusion of well-being and exhilaration gives place to melancholy, indeigestion and moral decay." - p 224
That almost sums up the whole bk. Who'd-uh thunk that Waugh got his ideas from a temperance handbook? Yes, Waugh's mood does change:
"Presently he became aware of a figure approaching, painfully picking his way among the strands of barbed wire which staryed across the ground like drfiting cobweb; a soldier clearly. As he came nearer Adam saw that he was leveling towards him s liquid-fire projector. Adam tightened his fingers about his Huxdane-Halley bomb (for the dissemination of leprosy germs), and in this posture of mutual suspicion they met. Through the dusk Adam recognized the uniform of an English staff officer. He put the bomb back in his pocket and saluted." - p 285
I'm going to join the crowd w/ this one & say it's great. It even foreshadows Flann O'Brien to a certain extent. I hope no-one decides to assassinate me for that one. I still like O'Brien better but I have 7 more Waugh bks I plan to read. Who knows what might happen?! ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 13, 2018
Jan 17, 2018
Dec 11, 2012
really liked it
Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 7, 2018
Evelyn Waugh has probably been floating around on the fringe review of
Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 7, 2018
Evelyn Waugh has probably been floating around on the fringes of my consciousness as someone witty to read for many a decade (sorry to leave you hanging Evelyn) but it took my buying 9 hardbacks of his work (from Copacetic, plug, plug) w/ the intent of having a Waugh spree to finally get me started. Even then, it's taken me 2 yrs.
Decline and Fall is his 2nd bk, a biography of Dante Gabriel Rossetti preceded it in 1928. It seems that he's most well-known for his satires & that the biographies & travel bks are a bit brushed under the toupée. Having now read a satire & been impressed by its style I'm curious to read a bio to learn how different or not it is stylistically.
As Waugh explains in a 1961 Preface: "This story was written thirty-three years ago. I offered it to the publishers who had commisioned my first book, but they rejected it on what seemed, and still seems to me, the odd grounds of its indelicacy." (p IX) Not surprisingly, IMO, this "indelicacy" is largely what makes this a significant novel.
When I 1st started reading it I wondered something along the lines of 'Oh, shit. Is this going to be another tale of depravity in a British school system I still don't completely understand?!' But, no, it didn't really turn out that way, it wasn't necessary for me to know whether public schools are private schools or not & the 'depravity' is probably part of the "indelicacy" & parodies something common to the rich everywhere: the rich commit the crimes - but somebody else gets punished for them.
"There is a tradition behind the Bollinger; it numbers reigning kings among its past member. At the last dinner, three years ago, a fox had been brought in a cage and stoned to death with champagne bottles." - pp 3-4
Ok, I was just beginning the novel, it started on p 3, & this detail was more than a bit disturbing since I find fox hunts inexcusably cruel - so I wasn't sure whether this was intended as satire or not. It was. When I think of "Bollinger", I have a vague memory of hardback bks I used to see when I was in the bookstore business. They all had powder-blue covers & were reputed to be scholarly. I thought they were part of an acadmic series called "Bollinger Books". I found nothing about them online. Can anyo of you readers confirm that for me? If they exist, do they have anything to do with the "Bollinger Club" parodied above? Ok, never mind, a little more research fevealed the below:
"The Bullingdon Club is an exclusive all-male dining club for Oxford University undergraduates, though it is not officially recognised by that institution. It is noted for its wealthy members, grand banquets, boisterous rituals and destructive behaviour, such as the vandalising ("trashing") of restaurants and students' rooms. Many local outlets refuse to host these events."
"The Bullingdon is satirised as the Bollinger Club (Bollinger being a notable brand of champagne) in Evelyn Waugh's novel Decline and Fall (1928), where it has a pivotal role in the plot: the mild-mannered hero is blamed for the Bollinger Club's destructive rampage through his college and is sent down." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulling...
"At the gates Paul tipped the porter.
""Well, goodbye, Blackall," he said. I don't suppose I shall see you for some time."
""No, sir, and very sorry I am to hear about it. I expect you'll be becoming a scoolmaster, sir. That's what most of the gentelmen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behavior." - pp 10-11
I reckon Paul is a character in the lineage of Voltaire's "Candide" (1759), the Marquis de Sade's "Justine" (1791), Nathanael West's "A Cool Million - The Dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin", & Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg's "Candy" insofar as the protagonist gets used by people considerably less ethical than himself. Interestingly, Paul doesn't really complain, he takes it as it comes & things more or less turn out fine for him. His misfortunes don't constitute the entirety of his life & Waugh isn't really pummeling the reader with a philosophy-of-cruelty like de Sade or a philosophy of pessimism like the other 3. This is 'victimization-lite' & I'm thankful for that. He gets kicked-out of school for something he wasn't responsible for, he doesn't even bother to defend himself, & then his guardian keeps Paul's inheritance using the ejection from school as an excuse:
"["]In the event of your education being finished before that time, he left me with complete discretion to withhold this allowance should I not consider your course of life satisfactory. I do not think that I should be fulfilling the trust which your poor father placed in me if, in the present circumstances, I continued any allowance.["]" - pp 15-16
I'm also reminded of Edward Gorey's morbid humor. Most of my artist friends in the 1970s & 1980s, esp women, loved his work. I always found it a bit annoying. Like, apparently, many other people, I also assumed he was British because his bks are in Victorian & Edwardian settings - but he was actually American. I wonder if Gorey, (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000), was at all influenced by Waugh.
Paul does get a job as a schoolmaster & does find himself amongst a motley crew of dubious characters. Upon arrival, he's told about one of the students: "["]Little Lord Tangent has come to us this term, the Earl of Circumference's son, you know. Such a nice little chap, erratic, of course, like all his family, but he has tone."" (p 20) A little geometrical humour, anyone?
""I suppose the first thing I should do is to get your names clear. What is your name?" he asked, turning to the first boy.
""Tangent, sir," said the next boy. Paul's heart sank." - p 49
I had a friend named Nathan Long who who, during the late 1980s or early 1990s when the collective identity "Monty Cantsin" was widely in use, started teaching at a university in Pittsburgh by having someone other than him come in to the classroom & identify himself as "Nathan Long". 2nd class, a different person, also "Nathan Long". 3rd class, he was there as "Nathan Long", by then the students no longer believed. What if Paul went w/ the flow & called himself "Tangent" & proceeded w/ the class?
When I was in Australia in 2000, I discovered a beer called "Invalid Stout". It was cheap, it was delicious, it was local. It was sd to be good for invalids. I loved it at the same time I thought that the idea of any alcohol being good for invalids was a bit preposterous. I'd never heard of such a thing. &, now, in Decline and Fall, I find: "half a bottle of invalid port" (p 25) & I realize that there's a whole world of alcohol out there that claims to be good for invalids. There's even a discussion abotu this on Lonely Planet ( https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre... ) in wch some doubt is expressed. A poster named "889" quotes Eliot on the subject:
"T.S. Eliot: "And political religion is like invalid port: you calls it a medicine but it's soon just a 'abit."
"That is, it's for invalids."
"The London wine merchant Gilbey’s had developed a brand known as Gilbey’s Invalid Port, for which it claimed invigorating and tonic properties." - http://www.croftport.com/en/about-cro...
But what about the Invalid Stout I enjoyed so much? "Abbotsford Invalid Stout is a beer produced in Australia by Carlton & United Breweries. An 'invalid stout' is a high-sugar, low-alcohol stout, originally marketed as an especially nutritious variant." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbotsf... )
One of Paul's fellow teachers is a bounder whose lows aren't specified but they seem to involve probable sexual activity of an illegal kind. Like the 'anti-heros' of "Justine" & "Candy" he seems to always bound back:
"Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly that time. Happened over in France. They said, 'Now, Grimes, you've got to behave like a gentleman. We don't want a court-martial in this regiment. We're going to leave you alone for a half an hour. There's your revolver. You know what to do. Goodbye, old man,' they said quite affectionately.
""Well, I sat there for some time looking at that revolver. I put it up to my head twice, but each time I borught it down again. 'Public school men don't end like this,' I said to myself. It was a long half-hour, but luckily they had lefgt a decanter of whiskey in there with me.["]" - p 36
Well, yeah, Grimes doesn't kill himself & he gets out of the bind & goes on to do more of the unspecified same.
""You can't keep me in," said Clutterbuck; "I'm going for a walk with Captain Grimes."
""Then I shall very nearly kill you with this stick. Meanwhile you will all write an essay on 'Self-indulgence.' There will be a prize of half a crown for the longest essay, irrespective of any possible merit."" - p 50
"["]Your colleague, Captain Grimes, has been convicted before me, on evidence that leaves no possibility of his innocence, of a crime—I might almost call it a course of action—which I can neither understand nor excuse. I dare say I need not particularize.["]" - pp 129-130
In general, there's a great deal of horribleness of characters - although this is fiction so the 'horribleness' is tempered by how over the top everyone is. The most beautiful woman is also the most accustomed to getting what she wants.. no matter what. Can't say that Paul wasn't warned.
"["]She is the Honorable Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde, you know—sister-in-law of Lord Pastmaster—a very wealthy woman, South American. They always say that she poisoned her husband, but of course little Beste-Chetwynde doesn't know that. It never came into court, but there was a great deal of talk about it at the time. Perhaps you remember the case?"
""No," said Paul.
""Powdered glass," said Flossie shrilly, "in his coffee."
""Turkish coffee," said Dingy." - p 67
"The Hotel Metropole, Cwmpryddyg, is by far the grandest hotel in the north of Wales." - p 132
"Here Cwmpryddyg is an invented Welsh town, an allusion to the difficult Welsh language." - "Stylistics of the English Language" - https://revolution.allbest.ru/languag...
According to the Google Welsh-to-English translator that I used online, "Cwmpryddyg" actually means "comprehensive". So there.
Given that the Welsh have been heavily suppressed by the English, I have to wonder whether a Welsh reader wd find Waugh's depiction of the Welsh people funny:
"["]The ignorant speak of them as Celts, which is of course wholly erroneous. They are of pure Iberian stock—the aboriginal inhabitants of Europe who survive only in Portugal and the Basque district. Cekts readily intermarry with their neighbors and absorb them. From the earliest times the Welsh have been looked upon as an unclean people. It is thus that they have preserved their racial integrity. Their sons and daughters mate freely with the sheep but not with human kind except their onw blood relations.["]" - p 87
Is this the kind of thing English imperialists actually say to justify the oppression?
""I had such a curious conversation just now," Lord Circumference was saying to Paul, "with your" [Welsh] "bandmaster over there. He asked me whether I should like to meet his sister; and when I said, 'Yes, I should be delighted to,' he said that it would cost a pound normally, but that he'd let me have special terms. What can he have meant, Mr. Pennyfoot?"" - p 104
More "indelicacy". Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde has a black lover who she brings to a school event, wch scnadalizes the other attendees but she's so beautiful & rich she's untouchable. This was published in 1928. I wonder how Waugh wd approach a scene of bigotry in 2018, 90 yrs later?
"Eminently aloof from all these stood Chokey and Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde. Clearly the social balance was delicately poised, and the issue depended on them. With or without her nigger, Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde was a woman of vital importance." - p 102
""I think it's an insult bringing a nigger here," said Mrs. Clutterbuck. "It's an insult to our own women."
""Niggers are all right," said Philbrick. "Where I draw a line is a Chink, nasty inhuman things. I had a pal bumped off by a Chink once. Throat cut horrible, it was, from ear to ear."" - p 103
""You folks all think the colored man hasn't got a soul. Anything's good enough for the poor colored man. Beat him; put him in chains; load him with burden . . ." Here Paul observed a responsive glitter in Lady Circumference's eye." - p 107
""The mistake was ever giving them their freedom," said the Vicar. "They were all happier and better looked after before."" - p 108
Yes, Waugh delights in poking fun at ignorance.
"Mr. Prendergast ate a grapefruit with some difficulty. "What a big orange!" he said when he'd finished it. "They do things on a large scale here."" - p 134
One of the things I like the most about the humor in this bk is the showing of how lying is used to get around difficulties: "Six days later the school was given a half-holiday, and soon after luncheon the bigamous union of Captain Edgar Grimes and Miss Florence Selina Fagan was celebrated at the Llanabba Parish Church. A slight injury to his hand prevented Paul from playing the organ." (p 141) In other words, Paul doesn't play the organ - even tho he's been hired to teach it.
""The problem of architecture as I see it," he told a journalist who had come to report on the progress of his surprising creation of ferro-concrete & aluminum, "is the problem of all art—the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that is built to house machines, not men."" - p 163
My solution is to build all buildings w/o means of ingress or egress: ie: no doors or windows, etc. It's a disappointment that the above-quoted architect character was too short-sighted to see the obviousness of this solution. AReinforced concrete was fairly fresh in 1884, aluminum was fairly fresh as of 1889. It's obvious that this architect was a fuddy-duddy. Making buildings out of elephant sperm seeking eggs at the highest point of the building was all the rage in 1928. That didn't last long. I took this bit of Waugh's to be a parody of Bauhouse. Apparently, I was at least partially right:
""I saw some of Otto Silenus's work at Munich," said Potts. "I think that he's a man worth watching. He was in Moscow at one time and in the Bauhaus at Dessau.["]" - p 168
If he'd been a woman architect wd that've made him a "Bauhausfrau"? The young Peter Beste-Chetwynde "mixed himself another brandy and soda and turned a page in Havelock Ellis, which, next to The Wind in the Willows, was his favorite book." (p 196) W/ a Hohausfrau like his mom, is it any wonder? Little Peter was a fortunate young man to spend part of his childhood in a house designed by the great Silenus:
"He admired the luminous ceiling in Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde's study and the indiarubber fungi in the recessed conservatory and the little drawing-room, of which the floor was a large kaleidoscope, set in motion by an electric button." - p 196
Is that where they play Pin the crime on the donkey? Waugh has a wonderful way of making scenes that cd be truly tragic into something that's just a spot of bother:
""There's a young man just like your friend Potts on the other side of the street," said Margot at the window. "And, my dear, he's picked up the last of those poor girls, the one who wanted to take her children and her brother with her."
""Then it can't be Potts," said Paul lazily: "I say, Margot, there was one thing I couldn't understand. Why was it that the less experience those chorus-girls had, the more you seemed to want them? You offered much higher wages to the ones who said they'd never had a job before."
""Did I, darling? I expect it was because I feel so absurdly happy."
"At the time this seemed quite a reasonable explanation, but, thinking the matter over, Paul had to admit to himself that there had been nothing noticeably light-hearted in Margot's conduct of her business." - p 203
&, alas, Paul suffers the consequences of the sins of the motherfucker & goes to jail.. but he handles it w/ aplomb "for anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison. It is the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums, Paul learned, who find prison so soul-destroying." (pp 261-262) But, ok, so Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde killed her husband.. that doesn't stop her from making Paul's conditions in prison cushy: "He showed him rather coyly the pile of gaily-bound volumes he carried under his arm. "I thought you'd like the new Virginia Woolf. It's only been out two days."
""Thank you, sir," said Paul politely. Clearly the library of his new prison was run on a much more enterprising and extravagant plan than at Blackstone." - p 264
& don't forget to support your local anarchist run bks-to-prisoners program.
& that's all I'm going to tell you about this one.
Notes are private!
Jan 05, 2018
Jan 09, 2018
Jul 19, 2011
really liked it
John Shirley's Bioshock Rapture
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 5, 2018
Go straight to the full review (please): https://www.goodrea review of
John Shirley's Bioshock Rapture
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 5, 2018
Go straight to the full review (please): https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've previously written about & quoted John Shirley in my review of Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous:
""John Shirley is an unexpectedly repeated figure that I'm now more interested in than ever. In the Monty Cantsin chapter it's stated that he was a part of the vibrant scene of Portland in the late 1970s that included "Blaster" Al, "David "Oz" Zack, Maris Kundzins, Tom Cassidy (aka Musicmaster), Kay Hocket (aka Rhoda Mappo)" (you can see her signing a John M. Bennett poem here: http://youtu.be/l7H8DJ0CYJE ) "Steve Minor, John Shirley, Billy Haddock" etc.. & in the Luther Blissett chapter thusly:
""Named after John Shirley's cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the Transmaniacs explored a theory and practice of subversion for a generation that had grown up with a saturated media environment and in times of accelerated capitalist recuperation." - p 136
""In John Shirley's proto-cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the hero Ben Rackey surfs a telematic network of sorts, taking on different names and identities with the goal of inciting revolt and destroying the invisible ionic barrier that separates the United States from the rest of the world." - endnote 21, p 249
""the Transmaniacs seek to "liberate the language, use it to produce events, and use the events to create a new language" by quickly moving between liberated "interzones" before capital can recuperate them or shut them down." - pp 136-137
"I'm reminded of Ed Sanders's novel Shards of God (1970):
""Hi! Protestors. I am the
Freedomright Vale of Detention.
We hope that your stay with us
will be temporary. Be nice and
we promise not to chop up your
""Beneath the sign sat the camp bard, a blind poet from the Hudson Institute, who, fed intravenous food and kept awake by cocaine, perforce san twenty-four hours a day a continuous epic tale of the life and manners of the concentration camp. Standing in back of him were his musicians and in back of them were the six tiers of Fender amplifiers that sped the singing to the ears of everyone. The poet's epic was tapes and analyzed for slang and double- and triple-meaning language patterns, which were so complex that several computers were needed to keep track of the constantly changing language of the inmates." - pp 84-85
"I've only read 2 of Shirley's bks but adding to the proofs of his connectedness I quote from his 1988 SF novel Kamus of Kadizhar - The Black Hole of Carcosa:
"""How come the Darklord picked a couple of Earthmen for this?" But then, remembering "Bob"'s lighting-charged pipe, I realized my mistake. "You guys are wizards?"
"""Is the pope Catholic?" "Bob" said, cheerfully.
"""We're Earthmen," Stang said, "but not all Earthmen are really Earthmen." He spoke with a faint Texas accent. The cigarette clamped in his lips waggled with each word, spilling ashes into his lap. "Your Darklord, now, he picked us because we understand the nature of this particular kind of metaphysical infection. What you call the Outfit. We call it the Conspiracy." The car bounced as it went over a hump that marked the edge of an asphalt road. There were no asphalt roads on Ja-Lur. But we'd driven onto one, somehow, anyway. Up ahead was a cluster of harsh white lights. Stang went on, "The Conspiracy's mindset is perverting your planet. We've been chippin' away at the Con on Earth, in our own time." He glanced over his shoulder at me and added casually, "Besides being space travelers, we're time travelers, too. I forgot to tell you that."" - p 134
"It's worth noting that Stang, aside from being the Sacred Scribe of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius, was also present at the Party for People from the Future on March 9, 1982EV in BalTimOre at the Empire Salon."
- that review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... but is in 4 chapters so if you search for the above you'll have to advance thru them
It's b/c of the above that I have an ongoing interest in reading Shirley's work but I almost never see copies of it used so it wasn't until Bioshock Rapture that I found anything other than the 2 I've already read. Alas, this didn't seem very promising to me b/c the front cover pronounces it: "The Prequel to the Award-Winning and Bestselling Video Game Franchise" wch, to me, translates into: 'Shirley wrote this bk for the money.' The bk is copyrighted by "Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc." (p 4) If I'd grown up w/ stuff like this, I'd probably be a hacker - wch wdn't be a bad idea - but I didn't & I'm not.
I've only previously read & reviewed one other video game bk: Barrington J. Bayley's Eye of Terror - wch is a "Warhammer 40,000" novel. Warhammer 40,000 is a game that's announced thusly: "Welcome to Warhammer 40,000, the thrilling hobby of tabletop wargaming! This is your gateway into the grim darkness of the far future, where mighty armies clash across war-torn worlds, and the bloodthirsty forces of Chaos strive to overthrow the Imperium of Mankind." ( https://warhammer40000.com ) I was a child in the 1950s & 1960s so I grew up before such games existed. As such, I've never really 'gotten into them'. My review of Bayley's bk is one of the only hostile ones I've ever written. Here's an excerpt:
"I'm sick, so I wanted a break from intellect, so I started reading this piece of trash. I can only figure Bayley was desperate for money. This bk is "A Black Library Publication - Games Workshop", a "Warhammer 40,000 Novel". Apparently, these novels share things in common - Space Marines, etc - & authors are requested to write in a certain style. So there must be multiple Space Marine bks by multiple authors. Who is this stuff aimed at? Masturbating adolescent boys w/ fantasies of travelling the galaxies & hacking people up w/ laser-axes?! Beats me (pun intended). That there's actually money for publishing this garbage boggles my mind." - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Basically, I tend to lump video game bks together w/ tv-movie novelisations as things-I-shd'nt-really-waste-my-time-on. &, usually, I don't, but I did read & review Keith Laumer's The Invaders so there's another exception. Here's an excerpt from my review of that:
"As a part of my project of reading a slew of Laumer bks & exploring them, I've actually stooped so low as to read a bk "First in a thrilling new series based on the smash ABC-TV hit" as the front cover proclaims: viz: The Invaders. When I bought it, it was cheap, I was still hesitant: did I really want to be so thorough in my exploration of Laumer that I'd read this drek?!
"This bk was published in 1967. I stopped watching TV sometime around 1969 or 1970. SO, this wd've still been when i was watching it. Stopping watching TV was one of the best things I ever did. When I was in my early teens, when this bk was published, I'd spend Friday nites watching things like "Get Smart" & snacking. Now that I have almost no friends & very little social life what do i do almost EVERY nite? Watch movies & drink alcohol. It's not what I do all day, it's my R&R - usually after a long time of working on projects & going out & about in the world. Still, it's a little too much like what i was doing when I was 13. & reading The Invaders makes me feel like I've come full-circle to nowhere." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62...
The point is, I didn't exactly start reading this w/ total enthusiasm, I wasn't expecting it to be a novel worthy of Thomas Pynchon or William Gaddis & it wasn't. In fact, almost immediately I was so repulsed by it that I almost stopped myself from reading it. This was basically b/c it seemed like some sort of written-as-a-hack-job SF version of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I shd've given Shirley more credit. It does start off that way but if ever there's been a critique of Rand's philosophy this bk wd be it!
"I am Andrew Ryan and I'm here to ask you a question: Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor. No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God. No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose soemthign different. I chose the impossible. I chose . . . Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by Petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well. Andrew Ryan in BioShock" - p 9
"The parasite hates three things: free markets, free will, and free men. —Andrew Ryan " - p 23
The character of Andrew Ryan strikes me as a deliberately Ayn Randian one - w/ the very name "Andrew Ryan" seeming vaguely reminiscent of "Ayn Rand". I read Rand's Anthem when I was a teenager after having read Huxley's Brave New World & Orwell's 1984 b/c I'd heard that it was in a similar vein of soci-political-philosophical criticism of the present in a near-future setting that wasn't SF. Around the same time, I read her The Fountainhead. I've seen the movie of that too. I only have Anthem left in my personal library these 47 or so yrs later so I'm consulting it now. According to the back cover, "ANTHEM is an unforgettable story of courage and rebellion against totalitarian collectivism" & "He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: He had stood forth from the mindless human herd. He was a man alone."
I can relate. Where Rand & I seem to part ways is in believing in particular ideologies as conducive to free thinking. I'm not so convinced that any ideology is conducive to free thinking, Rand, as I understand it, believed that Capitalism was. For me, Capitalism is 'great' for those who benefit from it - deluding themselves that the reason why they're the top dog on a radioactive pile of shit is b/c they somehow 'earned it' when, in reality, they're more likely to be beneficiaries of parental crimes — like Rump & the Koch Bros — &/or more likely to be blissfully self-justifying in their massive victimizations of others. No doubt a slumlord, e.g., is full of justifications for charging too much for too little.
In Anthem, I don't find anything I want to use in this review except for a blurb for Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism at the end of the bk: "She advocates a new morality, an ethics of rational self-interest, that stands in complete opposition to the political, social, and religious attitudes of our day." Now that doesn't necessarily seem like such a bad idea on the surface to me but Bioshock Rapture does an excellent job of showing where that's likely to go wrong. Shirley has Ryan say:
"["]But self-interest is at the root of cooperation, Bill. I intend to prove that self-interest oils the wheels of business—and that freedom from the . . . the tentacles of government, from the usual social shackles on science and technology and growth, will produce unstinting prosperity. I have envirioned a great social experiment. But Bill, ask yourself, where can a social experiment on a large scale take place? Where in this world is there a place for men like us? My father and I fled the Bolsheviks—and where did we end up? This isn't the 'land of the free' it pretends to be. It's the land of the taxed. And it was his reluctance to pay taxes that put my father in jail.["]" - p 59
On the back of Anthem we're told about Ayn Rand that "Russian born, she came to this country at the age of 21".
In Trevor Blake's bk Confessions of a Failed Egoist he points out that: "Egoism not only has the problem of being unable to define when any particular Individual appears, but also when any Individual at all first appeared. Egoism cannot say whether there were egoist Neanderthals, or before them egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs, or perhaps egoist dinosaurs, or egoist fish, egoist algae... don't stop at selfish genes when you can imagine selfish molecules. There is likely a line of before and after egoism emerged in evolution. Egoism cannot say when that line is drawn." (p 8)
Imagine the "egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs", who stole them until there were no new dinosaurs to lay dinosaur eggs. Is that "self-interest"? Not if there's no more food for the "possum-critter". "Self-interest" needs to be able to recognize its self as part of a greater whole, needs to recognize when mutual aid is more beneficial than mutual exploitation. Ryan's statements implies that he recognizes this but, as w/ the World Bank or the IMF or Ryan's actual (fictional) practices turn out.. nah, he doesn't really get it: Ryan steals the eggs & eats them until a bigger dinosaur comes along w/ even fewer scruples & starts to eat him. That's the real world of so-called 'Free Trade': steal from the poor until someone who wants to be even richer than you are comes along & crushes you. & I'd hardly call that enlightened self-interest. To put Blake's observations & my take on them more into context by quoting more at length from my review of Confessions:
"Most, or all, the work I like has a sense of play, a sense of fair-play, a cents of fare-pay, a sense of humor - Trevor's exceptional.. but not an exception to what I like. Consider the opening 2 paragraphs:
""I am an egoist, a circular thinker of the most self-contained philosophy. Keep reading, though, and you'll see I'm not a very good Unique One. I see rusty rivets and loose lashings in the HMS Egoism. Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it.
""Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or to wage war." - p 5
"An egoist is a person who thinks of themself 1st & foremost - most people do this but in a way that's severely moderated by fear of negative consequences from the larger social whole. Only the brave (or devious) dare to challenge external society's 'right' to try to reel in the Individual's pursuit of their desires & self-definition. Self-definition is crucial to me & to most people I can relate to. The beauty here, for me, in Trevor's beginning is: "Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it" - no cow (or water buffalo) is sacred - not even the one you ride in on, cowboy.
"Then again, while egoism might claim that "social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual" consider this excerpt from a May Day speech I gave in 2014:
""Now, I'm an exemplary lone wolf lunatic fringe individualist. But I still believe in Mutual Aid! In this spirit, I've joined Fight Back Pittsburgh, a chapter of the United Steelworkers Associate Member Program. And I have to say: Fight Back is INSPIRING! Through them, I've gotten to hear from many great people struggling for better conditions for workers - a tradition that Pittsburgh can be very, VERY proud of! Through them, I've learned about the Fight for Fifteen movement, a movement for $15 an hour to be the minimum wage for fast food workers & others. AND I SUPPORT IT! I've worked for less than minimum wage - & I don't recommend it!"
"[The full speech can be witnessed here: http://youtu.be/FUY9DwiE1Dk ]
"In the long run, I really am a "lone wolf lunatic fringe individualist" & don't fit in very well w/ such groups as Fight Back. Nonetheless, I don't see working w/ other people as necessarily being "an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual" in all cases - even if it is so in most.
""Egoism not only has the problem of being unable to define when any particular Individual appears, but also when any Individual at all first appeared. Egoism cannot say whether there were egoist Neanderthals, or before them egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs, or perhaps egoist dinosaurs, or egoist fish, egoist algae... don't stop at selfish genes when you can imagine selfish molecules. There is likely a line of before and after egoism emerged in evolution. Egoism cannot say when that line is drawn." - p 8
"I'm reminded of a friend's dad, someone I like very much. We were sitting around talking when the dad sd something about his being the type of person who "lives in the moment". Being the pain-in-the-ass stickler that I am I replied w/ something to the effect of: "Do you know who I am?" to wch he replied: "Yes" - "Then you don't live in the present moment b/c you learned who I was in the past & have to be living partially in that past to remember me - Do you understand these words?" "Yes" - "Then you don't live in the moment b/c the language we're using is something from way before that wdn't exist as it does for you if you were only in the moment, its use relies on its vast history." You get the idea. Trevor hunts down the usually unexamined broader implications of egoism where few egoists have even had the imagination to consider going before.
""Solipsism slips in the egoist envelope. Solipsism is on board with the Unique One, going further to say that all else is a projection of that one. Egoism is okay with others existing, just not in elevating them above the Self. But who that Self is, and how there can be more than one One, and why it might be that others aren't just imagined, for these egoism is left shrugging." - p 14
"I'm fascinated by solipsism in a similar way to how I'm fascinated by Zeno's Paradox. If one accepts that one's perceptual apparatus is the way thru wch one is able to perceive & if one accepts the notion that that perceptual apparatus is subjective by definition then one is confronted w/ the notion of one's subjectivity being the center of one's universe - in order to reach 'objectivity' one has to get halfway there 1st & then halfway there again.. ad infinitum. In the mid-1970s I coined the word OGJECTIVE to signify a state of perception that defies subjectivity and objectivity to prove themselves to be true. 'Reality' is a Möbius Strip of self-inclusive sets - but that doesn't make it any less painful.
""Politics, philosophy, ethics, all those thinky things, can be corralled into two camps. One is the prescriptive, which can tell you what to do. One is the descriptive, which tell you what happened. Egoism is an exceptionally isolated lone little doggie in the descriptive camp." - p 17 ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 02, 2018
Jan 06, 2018
really liked it
Charles Williams's All Hallow's Eve
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 29-30, 2017
This isn't the same cover as my edition but the det review of
Charles Williams's All Hallow's Eve
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 29-30, 2017
This isn't the same cover as my edition but the details match otherwise. It's too much to be bothered w/ to change the cover image right now.
I've never heard of Charles Williams. I got this bk b/c it's published by Avon Bard, who I associate exclusively w/ great Latin American fiction so I was surprised to see this English horror story. Of course, it was also used & cheap.
"CHARLES WILLIAMS was born in 1886 of Welsh parentage. Though largely self-educated and the holder of no formal degrees, he was a lecturer at Oxford and was awarded an honorary M.A. He spent most of his adult life working as an editor of the Oxford University Press." - p i
Go team go! Of course, if he had been taught by other people, if he had learned to imitate them, & wasn't, therefore, an original & free thinker, then he'd really be someone to respect (what?!). T. S. Eliot wrote the intro, that intrigued me too. "I learned that Charles Williams had died in hospital in Oxford the day before, after an operation which had not been expected to be critical." (p viii) You mean like Andy Warhol & bpNichol? & how many others? I even have a 1,154pp bk entitled Deaths From Surgical Complications: Rudolph Valentino, Stonewall Jackson, Douglas Macarthur, Andy Warhol, Eddie Bracken, Ingrid Bergman. I prefer to not be charged for being killed so I think I'll avoid the hospital as much as I can.
"much of his work, especially for the theatre, was done without expectation of adequate renumeration and often without expectation of payment at all." - p x
""I played a concert for 16,000 people at Hollywood last night—unfortunately, they don't pay!" Surely he meant 1,600, unless the concert was out of doors,but in any event, according to one newspaper, it was the largest concert of the season." - p 102, Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music
Ah, yes, the high-rolling life of the creative person! Just give 'em a few drinks & tell 'em how brilliant they are & then send 'em packing while you count the loot.
Eliot is very convinced of Williams's authenticity & originality:
"The stories of Charles Williams, then, are not like those of Edgar Allan Poe, woven out of morbid psychology—I have never known a healthier-minded man than Williams. They are not like those of Chesterton, intended to teach the reader. And they are certainly not an exploitation of the supernatural for the sake of the immediate shudder. Williams is telling us about a world of experience known to him: he does not merely persuade us to believe in something, he communicates this experience that he has had." pp xii-xiii
If Williams has had experiences such as what're recounted in this bk he was a very unusual man indeed. "And if "mysticism" means a belief in the supernatural, and in its operation in the natural world, then Williams was a mystic; but that is only belief in what adherents of every religion in the world profess to believe. His is a mysticism, not of curiosity, or of the lust for power, but of Love" (p xiv)
I have to give Eliot credit for setting the stage nicely in his intro. I don't read much horror or ghost stories or whatevs & I'm hardly a connoisseur but Williams impressed me as somewhat unique mainly b/c the writing seems much less rote than 'usual'. We're not immediately told that some of the characters are dead. Instead we experience their confusion:
"She took her hand off the wall and turned. The bridge was as empty as the river; no vehicles or pedestrians here, no craft there. In all that City she might have been the only living thing. She had been impressed by the sense of security and peace while she had been looking down at the river that only now did she begin to try and remember why she was there on the bridge." - p 20
"She went after him; he should not evade her. She was almost up to him and she saw him throw out his hands towards her. She caught them; she knew she caught them, for she could see them in her own, but she could not feel them. They were terrifying and he was terrifying. She brought her hands against her breast and they grew fixed there, as, wide-eyed with anger and fear, she watched him disappearing before her. As if he were a ghost he faded" - p 22
The jingle faded a bit here & the ad for an ethnic cleansing product flashed on the screen.
What?! I didn't write that! I swear! It was as if a malevolent spirit took possession of my hands & I was powerless to prevent the macabre humor from taking over!
"And then the sudden loud noise, the shrieks, the violent pain. The plane had crashed on them. She had then, or very soon after, become what she now was." - p 24
There's nothing worse than an astral plane crashing into you while you're minding your own business. Next thing you know, even in death you're unsympathetic to your fellow sufferers.
"Lester looked at her. Once she would have been impatient or sympathetic. She felt that, even now, she might be either, but in fact she was neither. There was Evelyn, crying and chattering; well, there was Evelyn crying and chattering. It was not a matter that seemed revelant. She looked away again. They went on sitting." - p 30
Same old, same old. That's about as tral as it gets. Good thing the clergy's a round.
""We know," said Richard, "that his name is Simon Leclerc—sometimes called Father Simon and sometimes Simon the Clerk. We gather he's a Jew by descent, though born in France, and brought up in America. We know that he has a great power of oratory—at least, over there; he hasn't tried it much here so far—and that it's said he's performed a number of very remarkable cures, which I don't suppose we've checked." - p 46
I saw him perform one of those Curés, I think he just put his jacket on backwards, round people tend to do that, absent-minded n'at y'know.
Williams's descriptions of Jonathan's paintings were part of what sucked me into this bk (messy) b/c the author really seems to have a painterly eye (messy).
""They look exactly like beetles," Lady Wallingford said. "They are not human beings at all. And Father Simon's face is exactly the same shape."" - p 48
I was reminded of paintings by James Ensor, maybe his "Ensor aux masques" (1899) ( https://www.wikiart.org/en/james-enso... ) - but that's not quite right. Or, perhaps, I'm reminded of Rene Magritte, maybe his "La reproduction interdite" (1937) ( https://www.renemagritte.org/not-to-b... ). But, most of all, I'm reminded of the movie version of Eugène Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" (play, 1959; movie, 1974) where the character that Gene Wilder's portraying steps off a trolley or a bus or some such & everyone he sees has their faces blocked by turned-down hats or umbrellas. Whatever. Father Simon likes the painting that makes him look like an insect preaching to the insects.
"in low triumph: "That is I."
"Jonathan turned. He said, "You like it?"
"The other answered, "no one has painted me so well for a hundred years. Everything's there.""
""She was rather annoyed with it," said Jonathan. "In fact, she talked, as no doubt she told you, about insects and imbeciles."
"The Clerk, still looking at him, said, "They aren't insects; they are something less.["]" - p 63
That's right, they're robopaths.. & the Clerk is a megalomaniac.. & I, dear reader, am yr humble observer.
"["]You shall have the girl if you want her. Show me something else."" - p 65
Yep, just like that. The Clerk will give the Painter the Girl. SO, remember that, readers, the next time you want to mate w/ someone, paint a picture of an authority figure looking like an insect leading insects & they'll give you whatever you want. Try it on the lust-object's father. Works every time.
""I haven't much here," Jonathan said. "The war paintings—"
""Oh the war!" the Clerk said. "The war, like Hitler, was a foolery. I am the one who is to come, not Hitler! Not the war; something else."" - p 65
Hitler is so passé. Too bad this day & age's neo-nazis haven't figured that out yet.
"Jew and Christian alike had waited for the man who now walked through the empty London streets. He had been born in Paris, in one of these hiding-places of necromancy which all the energy of the Fourteenth Louis had not quite stamped out." - p 68
I think he's talking about phone booths here. I saw a guy changing into some weird onesie in one w/ an "S" on it. I think it stood for "Sorcerer". Now that phone booths are gone what do those sorcerer's use to metamorphose in? There must be a cell-phone app. It probably takes the form of a 'Reality' TV Show where people reveal skeletons in their family closets:
"If she had been Lady Wallingford's real daughter, she might have had a better chance, or so sometimes she thought. But since, years ago, Lady Wallingford had spoken of her adoption, she had always felt at a disadvantage. No allusion was ever made to it now."
"There was in the north, in Yorkshire, a small house where she and Lady Wallingford sometimes went. They always went by themselves, and when they got there she was not even treated as a daughter. She was, purely and simply, the servant." - p 71
& you thought yr parents were bad. At least the house was small, less cleaning to do. Cdn't she've eaten her way out? Aren't those Yorkshire houses made of pudding? I think I read that somewhere.
"That other who stood over the girl who was his daughter also, did not wish her to be herself, or even that only for a purpose." - p 77
I foreshadowed that earlier. Eventually, we come to a discussion of Boot Camps.
"It lay there,as it always does—itself offering no barriers, open to be trodden, ghostly to this world and to heaven, and in its upper reaches ghostly also to those in its lower reaches where (if at all) hell lies. It is ours and not ours, for men and women were never meant to dwell there long; though it is held by some that certain unaccountable disappearances have been into that world, and that a few (even living) may linger there awhile. But mostly those streets are only for the passing through of the newly dead." - p 80
"She said nothing. She went forward and up the steps. She went on into Lady Wallingford's house." - p 94
Richard, you know, Lester's husband (or ex-husband?), "felt with a shock that Simon was between him and the door. He knew the door was there, but he could not focus it properly. The door was not behind Simon; it was Simon: all the ways from this room and in this wood went through Simon. Lady Wallingford was only a stupid old witch in a wood, but this was the god in the wood." (pp 101-102) I didn't tell you so. Don't say I never told you anything. You didn't hear it from me.
"They were going down the hall and turning into a narrow corridor, as if into a crack in the wall, insects passing into a crack; they were all passing through." - p 103
Don't panic in the event of a gas attack. Try our weight-loss plan & turn into a narrow corridor!
"All the poems and paintings may, like faith and hope—and desperation—live, they live; while human communication remains, they remain. It was this that the clerk was removing; he turned, or sought to turn, words into mere vibrations. The secret school in which he had grown up had studied to extend their power over vocal sounds beyond the normal capacities of man. Generations had put themselves to the work. The healing arts done in that house had depended on this power; the healer had by sympathy of sound breathed restoring relationship into the subrational components of flesh." - p 105
That's why I'm not an organ donor.
"It had been, earthly, about five that morning when Lester entered the house at Highgate. It had seemed only evening in the City she had left, for that other City was not bound either to correspondence or to sequence. Its inhabitants were where it chose they should be, as it engaged in its work of accommodating them to itself. They could not yet, or only occasionally, know contemporaneously. Lester still, in general, knew only one thing at a time, and knew them in a temporal order." - p 113
That's similar to knowing them in a 'biblical sense'.
"What had looked at Lester from Evelyn's eyes, what now showed in her own, was pure immortality. That was the seal of the City, its first gift to the dead who entered it." - p 130
I had a pet seal. She died. Its immortality must've been impure.
"It was not for her yet to know the greater mystery. That waited her growth in grace, and the enlragement of her proper faculties in due time. Yet all she saw, and did not quite wonder at seeing, was but a small part of the whole. There around her lay not only London, but all cities—coincident yet each distinct; or else, in another mode, lying by each other as the districts of one city lie. She could, had the time and her occasions permitted, have gone to any she chose—any time and place that men had occupied or would occupy. There was no huge metropolis in which she would hae been lost, and no single village which would itself have been lost in all that contemporaneous mass. In this City lay all—London and New York, Athens and Chicago, Paris and Rome and Jerusalem" - p 170
Hhmm.. I reckon that's a Metalopolis rather than a Megalopolis.
"With his hands thus encased, he took up the manikin between them and handled and dandled and warmed and seemed to encourage it, whispering to it, and once or twice holding it above his head, as a father might his child, and as it turned its head, now grown, and looked over its shoulder, the girls saw that its eyes were open and bright, though meaningless. They saw also that it was longer and now nearly three feet in height" - p 176
Some people just don't know when to leave well enuf alone.
Well, there it is, the story in a nut-shell. No need to read it, go outside & play now.
I was reminded a little of Maurice Blanchot & Wyndham Lewis. ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 27, 2017
Dec 30, 2017
Jan 03, 2018
it was amazing
Stefan Szczelkun's Improvisation Rites: from John Cage's 'Song Books' to the Scratch Orchestra's 'Nature Study Notes'. Collective practices review of
Stefan Szczelkun's Improvisation Rites: from John Cage's 'Song Books' to the Scratch Orchestra's 'Nature Study Notes'. Collective practices 2011—2017
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 22, 2017
The full review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Reading this bk, it seemed so specific to my somewhat rarified interests that it seemed almost written for me only even tho, of course, it's not — & I can imagine other people that it wd also be important to who weren't direct participants in the actions described. Alas, this subject is so important to me that I might have to write something considerably longer than this bk just to satisfy my desire for detail. But I'm not going to do that (or am I?).
Stefan, the author, is an original member of the Scratch Orchestra. I probably 1st read about the Scratch in Michael Nyman's excellent bk Experimental Music - Cage and Beyond from 1974. I read that sometime between 1975 & 1977. The frequent mentions of the Scratch in there wd've stimulated me to somehow find a copy of the also excellent Cornelius Cardew edited Scratch Music (1972) wch I must've read almost immediately after the Nyman bk.
Cardew was the founder of the Scratch. In Scratch Music, his "A Scratch Orchestra: draft constitution" he begins by defining it:
"Definition: A Scratch Orchestra is a large number of enthusiasts pooling their resources (not necessarily material resources) and assembling for action (music-making, performance, edification).
"Note: The word music and its derivatives are here not understood to refer exclusively to sound and related phenomena (hearing, etc). What they do refer to is flexible and depends entirely on the members of the Scratch Orchestra.
The Scratch Orchestra intends to function in the public sphere, and this function will be expressed in the form of—for lack of a better word—concerts. In rotation (starting with the youngest) each member will have the option of designing a concert. If the option is taken up, all details of that concert are in the hands of that person or his delegates; if the option is waived the details of the concert will be determined by random methods, or by voting (a vote determines which of these two). The material of these concerts may be drawn, in part or wholly, from the basic repertory categories outlined below." - p 10, Cornelius Cardew edited Scratch Music, The MIT Press, 1974
This "draft constitution" was reprinted from a June, 1969, edition of The Musical Times. Cardew goes on to list & describe 5 "basic repertory categories": "Scratch music", "Popular Classics", "Improvisation Rites", "Compositions", & "Research Project". It's the "Improvisation Rites" that we're concerned w/ here so I'll give his complete "draft constitution" elucidation:
"A selection of the rites in Nature Study Notes will be available in Appendix 2. Members should constantly bear in mind the possibility of contributing new rites. An improvisation rite is not a musical composition; it does not attempt to influence the music that will be played; at most it may establish a community of feeling, or a communal starting point, through ritual. Any suggested rite will be given a trial run and thereafter left to look after itself. Successful rites may well take on aspects of folklore, acquire nicknames, etc.
"Free improvisation may also be indulged in from time to time." - p 10, Cornelius Cardew edited Scratch Music, The MIT Press, 1974
Starting in 1965, Cardew had been in the London-based pioneering free improvisation group "AMM". In the liner notes to the Live Electronic Music Improvised record (Mainstream MS/5002) wch features AMM as including Cardew, Lou Gare, Christopher Hobbs, Eddie Prévost, & Keith Rowe, it's written:
"For this occasion AMM Music was recorded at a concert given at the Crypt Programme in Notting Hill Gate, London, June 12th, 1968. The tape has been edited and interspersed with silence in accordance with a random number programme to give a representative cross-section of a concert lasting two hours. The text which follows is extracted from a lecture by Cardew on the ethics of improvisation:—
""Written compositions are fired off into the future; even if never performed, the writing remains as a point of reference. Improvisation is in the present, its effect may live on in the souls of the participants, both active and passive (ie: audience), but in its concrete form it is gone forever from the moment that it occurs, nor did it have any previous existence before the moment that it occurred, so neither is there any historical reference available."
[Reviewer's interpolation: Basically, I disagree w/ this. Participants have their own history that contributes to whatever present they create. A musician has every rehearsal & gig they've ever played behind them. This creates both the muscle memory & the skill that enables them to do whatever they're doing. A pianist sitting down at the piano for the 1st time isn't going to play the same thing as one who's played thousands of times. The "historical reference" that Cardew claims doesn't exist in improvisation is the history of whatever the player has done before.]
"Documents such as tape recordings of improvisation are essentially empty, as they preserve chiefly the form that something took and give at best an indistinct hint as to the feeling and cannot convey any sense of time and place." - Mainstream MS-5002
Be that as it may, it strikes me as probable that most people aware of AMM are interested in what they do/did for musical reasons & will listen to the recordings in lieu of opportunities to witness AMM play live. As such, the recordings become the primary source available & how they play becomes important for the listener.
I got this record at the end of 1977, again, around the same time as my reading of Experimental Music & Scratch Music. I wd've been eager for listening to such things. While this record only contains excerpts from that Crypt concert, there's since been released the recording of the entire session on Matchless Recordings MRCD05. I'm listening to it from beginning to end as I type this. It's very noisy, w/ feedback, amplified sounds of unknown origin, & tapped metal. I think it's an extremely remarkable & historical performance. If I were to attend one like it now I wdn't necessarily find it very interesting. The world of "Noise Music" has blossomed since then & performances such as this are more common.
I probably started improvising when I was around 13 to 16 & I recorded myself playing piano on an old Grundig 3" reel-to-reel. I then accidentally listened to the recording backwards, an easy thing to do by misthreading the tape. In a sense, this wd've marked the time of my personal discovery of what I later learned was called "Musique Concrete" or "Electroacoustic Music". That wd've been around 1967 to 1970. It wasn't until the fall of 1972, tho, that I really started trying to improvise seriously.
I'd learned to play Frank Zappa's "King Kong" on my electric guitar, a challenge, as I recall, b/c it was in Db Major &, therefore, had no open strings in conventional E-A-D-G-B-E tuning. I realized that I had no idea how to play an improvised solo as part of my playing of it. The type of improvisation I was groping for wd've hypothetically been based on scales & meter. I doubt to this day that I'd be able to play a "King Kong" break to my satisfaction.
It wasn't long, tho, I think I was probably 20, when I was playing what I'd now call free improvisation - mainly in conjunction w/ my friend "Herr Brain", Brian Wolle. I remember playing a session on piano, guitar, & trombone w/ Brian on drums, piano, & cornet? in the 1st floor of the house where we both might've lived at the time - much to the annoyance of the tenant living above. That might've been 1973 or 1974. I remember being already bored by 'free improvisation' by the winter of 1981. For me it was 'been there, done that, not interesting anymore'.
Nonetheless, I'd played many a free improv session before that date & I've played even more since then. E.G.: I was in a group called "B.O.M.B." (Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band) during its brief existence in 1979. Our 1st action was:
"015. B.O.M.B. crashing of improvisation class
- Corner Theater, Baltimore, us@
- March, 1979
- The Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band (B.O.M.B.) - variously called a roving band of defiant youths (in "newspaperese") by myself & No Name Interaction/Reaction Group by Sumu Pretzler (a.k.a. Doug Retzler) & co-founded by us with Richard Ellsberry & others - was a loosely knit group with variable membership that got together, mainly on weekends, to crash various events - usually with the intention of stirring up some action & catalyzing greater interaction between all those involved. This usually involved eccentric dress, toy instruments, & aggressive "socializing" (or "anti-socializing") with strangers.
- B.O.M.B.'s premier crashing was at an improvisation class where our crashing was meant to be a critique of how silly we thought the class was. We snaked thru the students & teacher(s) alike trying to get them to spontaneously react to our unexpected presence & then left before they had too much of a chance to integrate us into their perception of the class.
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Simultaneous w/ B.O.M.B. & extending for yrs beyond it to Xmas, 1983, was "Lacquerland":
"020. Visit to Lacquerland
- a construction site in Maryland, us@
- late March, 1979
- In fall of 1978, I started working as a hard-wood floor finisher. This job involved stooping over a bucket of lacquer & brushing the lacquer on the floors as a part of the finishing process. Inhalation of the fumes caused intoxication. Co-workers Brian Wolle (a.k.a. "Brain" &/or "Herr Brain Storm Drain") & Doug Retzler (a.k.a. "Sumu Pretzler") & I exploited this high & tried to have fun at work by improvising vocally while lacquering. These improvs centered around creating a mythology about the living conditions in "Lacquerland" - our name for the state of mind & body gotten into from the fumes. Our audience, when there was one, were our fellow construction workers - who were apparently entertained but who made jokes about our being "crazy". There were a fair amount of these sessions but, for the purposes of this history, I've restricted myself to only listing the 3 that we audio recorded." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Unlike AMM, we didn't perform in music venues, our intentions weren't really musical. After B.O.M.B. ceased to exist, I founded or cofounded what I called the "nameless wandering wind ensemble". I didn't want it to have a name:
"030. nameless wandering wind ensemble
- Baltimore, us@
- winter, 1979/1980
- cris cheek (clarinet), Chris Mason (bass clarinet), Gayle Hanson (clarinet?), Patty Karl? (clarinet?), & I (alto sax) improvised while wandering the streets & alleys. We were joined by a guy named John(?) playing recorder who heard us passing by." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Again, the emphasis was on the guerrilla nature of our performances but the music was central rather than just any type of action. After 1981, the quantity of free improvising that I engaged in, despite my being jaded, was enormous. In 1984, I started my "booed usic" project wch involved free improvising using some pre-recorded materials wch I mixed live in a process I called "Concrete Mixing". That cd be sd to've lasted from roughly 1984 to 1989:
"066.> booed usic
- t he telectropheremoanin'quinquennial, Galaxy Ballroom, Baltimore, us@ - Tuesday, January 24, 1984
- This was the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Baltimore Underground Telephone Network. The word "telectropheremoanin'" being a pun that combined "telectro" (as in having to do with telephone communications) with "pheremones" (lust inducing biological signals) with "moanin'" (as in moaning with pleasure). This pun was the theme of the night. I had paid a phone sex prostitute by mail to be called by me that night. In case there was any problem with that I'd asked my friend Lisa "Wet-Legs" (as she became known after this night) to act as a back-up. The basic idea was that I'd call the prostitute & broadcast our conversation to the bar's audience - gradually making it more & more perverse. As my conversation was to get stranger, the booed usicians were to gradually start playing until their sounds would drown out the conversation. The booed usicians were: Mark Harp (tapes & radio), Craig Considine (trombone), Ron Cummings (tapes, records, & mixing board), Leroy Keltner (trombone), & myself (tapes). There was "trouble on the line" at the phone sex prostitute's so Lisa substituted. Lisa had gotten mysteriously sick earlier, had vomited & passed out - my call awoke her. This added to the general feeling of it all. Suggestions from the audience were taken & someone's friend was called too. I was too drunk &/or inhibited to carry on a very good conversation so the extremely able Buddy Johnson was called in to relieve me. The highlight of his conversation with Lisa for me was their reminiscing about school-days they never had together when he pulled out his "short fat pancake" & she "covered it with Mrs. Butterworth's". Throughout the "phone sex" & the booed usic that encroached on it, an hour long analysis projector transfer to video of the 16mm version of my film "Subtitles" was shown on a large video projection screen.
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
The pre-recorded materials were what I called "Usical Materials" & consisted largely of recordings I made especially for this purpose such as a tape w/ all cymbal playing on one side & all drum playing on the other side. I cd use auto-reverse to access either. This was one of my 1st free improv shows to take place in a music venue but later booed usics were, once again, guerrilla:
"110. street action with the booed usic busking unit
- Covent Gardens & Leicester Square, London, UK
- Saturday, May 28, 1988
- The "Portable booed usic Busking Unit / Nuclear Brain Physics Surgery School Lab / Philosopher's Union Member's Mouthpiece / Blatnerphone Hallucinomat", usually just called the busking unit, was a suitcase full of battery powered tape-player/radios, mixers, a tv, an amplifier, a PXL camcorder, & mouths that moved depending upon the volume output from the amplifier (etc, etc..). It was designed to enable me to present street actions with complex "concrete mixing". The tv-PXL connection enabled me to present the Philosopher's Mouthpieces (see the previous entry) - henceforth abbreviated P.U.M.M.s. The tape-player/radios & mixers enabled me to both mix prepared recordings & other "live" inputs. When set up, people could watch the tv (just barely - it was pretty small) & hear the sound coming from 4 speakers which could pan from left to right & from back to front &, of course, vice versa. This was the 1st street action "performed" with it. I was almost immediately moved along by the bobbies at Covent Gardens so I moved to Leicester Square where I was unmolested. Assistance in this was from Laura Trussell, who shot some footage with the PXL, & from Scott Larson - who threw money onto our collection cloth to try to catalyze the onlookers to do the same (to no avail). At least 1 tourist with an expensive video camcorder shot footage of us - I'd love to see it." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Overlapping booed usic there was the free improvising instrument-based group named "Something that Dissolved the Shadow of Something that Was Next to Something that Burned Twice" wch lasted from 1987 to 1989. An aspect of the humor of the group was our disagreeing about what our name was. Our last gig:
"133. Something That Dissolves the Shadow of Something Which Was Once Close to Something That Once Burned Twice
- Displace, Baltimore, us@
- November 4, 1989, 9PM - 1AM
- The 2nd & final public presentation by this group. Neil Feather & I spent 20 hours installing our equipment in this room. John Berndt put in alotof time too. John Sheehan pulled his usual "difficult" routine by refusing to say whether he'd participate or not & then showing up at the "last" minute after Neil & I had set up his equipment for him. Neil's set-up was the most extreme: he had bowling balls hanging from a metal frame from piano wire which swung as pendulums against moveable bridges on necks - the resultant sound of the strings hitting the bridges was processed thru a 16 second digital delay. His other instruments included: Bendy Guitar, Nondo, & Contraption. I surrounded myself by 15 drums & cymbals & other metal things, a guitar, & a VCR & monitor playing a fairly complex feedback vaudeo I'd made. John Berndt was using some sort of home-made oscillator & Oddly-Strung Guitar - amongst other things. John Sheehan played a bass that he'd made from a kit. The agreement that we'd had before-hand was that we'd play for about 5 hours - with any of us taking breaks whenever we felt like it - but with at least 1 of us playing at all times. There were a few other agreed-upon things (few, if any of which, would John Sheehan commit to cooperating with) such as playing for an hour straight without any of us dropping out & with all of us playing as intensely as we could stand. When the time came for this latter, I had been drinking alcohol & taking oral morphine & was a bit worried that I might have overdone it so I played frenetically to try to work it out of my system. After John Sheehan dropped out, the rest us entered a nudist phase. The way the equipment was set up was basically so that it filled the large room we were in but so that people could walk anywhere around us. In the meantime, Brad Hwang & his room-mate Matt were having large mobile machine battles in an adjacent room. In 1 highlight & neoist reference, John Sheehan donned a sortof hockey face mask, lit a steam iron on fire that had a pick-up attached to its bottom, & played the pick-up by banging a piano wire against it that was mounted between 2 boards that he held between 1 foot & 1 very begloved hand.
"A movie from this is on YouTube broken into 2 parts:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCQHJk..." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut... ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 18, 2017
Dec 25, 2017
Jun 20, 2013
Apr 28, 2015
really liked it
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017
I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire review of
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017
I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire (1970), The Inverted World (1974), The Extremes (1998), & The Adjacent (2013). Alas, I only remember The Inverted World, wch I liked very much, & The Adjacent, wch I liked almost as much. As such, I don't feel prepared to generalize about his writing. One of the 1st things that caught my attn in this one was:
"They walked as far as what Gordon described as the decoy site, one of dozens that had been built around London as a fire lure during the Second World War, to try to keep the Luftwaffe bombers away from the city. Bracknell then had been a village three miles away, and the decoy was out in the wild. There was not much to see; the remains of a dugout shelter, bricked up and overgrown with weeds, and some half-visible piping firmly buried in the soil. Gordon said he took an amateur interest in those old decoy sites, and described how they had been used." - p 14
These sites were known as "Starfish" b/c the "S" & the "F" stood for "Special Fires". Simulations of buildings set ablaze by bombings were created to make the bombers think they'd hit their targets. There were 237 of these sites wch are reputed to've diverted 730 bombing raids.
The story begins in the 21st century, focusing on a photographer whose wife has recently been apparently annihilated by a mysterious weapon. The world is even more war-torn than it was in the 20th century.
"Tarent spent the rest of the morning in the guest room, making a start on the immense task of sorting through the thousands of photographs he had taken during the trip. At this stage he restricted himself to looking for the dud or unfocused shots and erasing them. Fortunately, the signal was strong in the Roscoes' house, so he could access the online library without any problems. He kept all three cameras on recharge, because online editing quickly depleted the batteries." - p 16
Tibor Tarent, the photographer, has just returned to Great Britain & is confused about what his official status is as he travels under the auspices of a government agency:
"They passed through increasingly built-up areas, approaching the capital. The younger official leaned forward to the driving compartment, said something quietly to the driver, and almost at once the smoked-glass effect deepened on all the windows as well as the dividing glass, making it impossible to see outside. Two dome lights in the car's roof came on, completing the sense of isolation.
"'Why have you done that?' Tarent said.
"'It's beyond your security clearance level, sir.'
"'Security? Is there something secret out there?'
"'We have no secrets. Your status enables you to travel freely on diplomatic business, but national security issues are a matter of internal policy.'" - p 21
He switches to traveling an armored personnel vehicle:
"The Mebsher was originally designed for military use: a means of transporting troops and matériel through hostile territory in a vehicle that could withstand most forms of violent attack, including RPGs and IEDs." - p 25
I wonder: Is it common to most readers's vocabularies that RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade & IED = Improvised Explosive Device? Do we really live in a world that violent? Alternatively, how many readers know that EG = For Example (translated from Latin to English)?
The reader gradually learns that Britain is apparently under Moslem control:
"They were soon under way again. As the Mebsher moved slowly out of the town centre one of the crewmen came on the intercom. It was a formula greeting: peace be unto you, Allah is almighty, welcome back aboard, keep your seat-belts fastened, food is available in the galley but remember that no alcohol is allowed aboard, please follow all instructions from the crew in the event of emergencies, Inshallah." - p 34
"After a year's visit to the USA he returned to Britain while the political and social upheaval that accompanied the foundation of the IRGB was still in progress." - p 39
The reader deduces that IRGB = Islamic Republic of Great Britain.
As Tarent travels, he tries to make sense of what's happening:
"Yet he was also convinced that none of the people he had encountered in the last few days had any conception at all of what he had been doing abroad, what the chaos of events there was like, the morbid sights he had witnessed and the terrifying events he had experienced, the parlous state into which so many parts of the world had fallen. Half of Europe was now virtually uninhabitable." - p 43
The reader is moved on to an earlier time period, WWI, where a stage magician & a famous SF writer are en route to France to add their expertise to the British cause:
"While the ship was immobile I could never quite throw off the fear that a pack of German U-boats must be speeding towards us, lining up their torpedo tunes. Our ship was so small, over-loaded, thin-hulled, seeming to me vulnerable to almost anything while it floated on this troubled sea." - p 74
"['] They are ruled by Prussian imperialism, and their economy is dominated by Krupp, the maker of armaments. Krupp and the Kaiser stand side by side. It has become an inhuman system. [']" - p 86
"I remembered what Simeon Bartlett had said about the giant Krupp cannon. Was it real? Would they really target bases like this one before turning it on Paris? I also remembered that H.G. Wells had prophetically written about the power and influence of the Krupp company." - p 102
I wonder: How much of the USA's economy is dominated by arms dealers? & how hidden is this dominance? According to an Amnesty International website, the USA is the largest exporter of major arms tallying 31% of the global shares ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/new... ). The same website claims: "A definitive figure for the value of international conventional arms transfers is difficult to calculate with precision. In 2010, the total value, as recorded in national statistics, was approximately US$72 billion. Since then, it is estimated that" [..] "the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually."
I've sd it before & I'll say it again: if arms dealers were held accountable for what their weapons were used for, the international murder rate wd go way down. I think executing an arms dealer for every death caused by their weapons is an excellent idea - starting w/ the CEOs. The arms dealer's entire assets wd then go to improving the lives of those close to the original victim. It seems only fit that the arms dealer's spoiled families shd become homeless.
"'But you couldn't have written that book. It was by H.G. Wells!'
"Captain Wells nodded again. I stood up in astonishment, then sat down again suddenly, because the carriage was rocking. I gripped the edge of my seat.
"'Then you are...' I said." - p 87
Yes, he's Nicolas-Edme Rétif de la Bretonne! & this bk is about a secret weapon disguised as a shoehorn! Nah, I'm jest joshin'.
"British merchantmen had been attacked by German submarines from almost the first days of the war. The U-boats scanned their targets and took aim from beneath the surface, using the periscope." - p 107
Since the periscopes looked like fancy women's shoes from the late 18th century, the only defense against the diabolical German U-boats was to train shoe fetishists to look for the periscopes. Sighting them caused immediate ejaculation & the genetically-modified sperm swam quickly to the submarine 'egg' & penetrated its hull causing it to sink.
The magician muses on misdirection as camouflage, the reviewer muses on misdirection as spoiler-spoiling:
"There is one more method magicians use to make something seem to disappear. It is in fact one of the main techniques of stage magic and is employed in almost every trick you ever see performed." It is the art of misdirecting the reader. (p 108)
Finally we get to a shoe that's right next to the title:
"Another kind of misdirection is in the use of adjacency. The magician places two objects close together, or connects them in some way, but one is made to be more interesting (or intriguing or amusing) to the audience." - p 110
The time shifts to an earlier part of the 21st century:
"I had interviewed a Nobel laureate before — the writer, philosopher and pacifist Bai Kuang Han, who was awarded the Peace Price" [sic] "in 2023 — but Thijs Rietveld was a much more formidable challenge as a non-specialist journalist." - p 168
"Using what quantum physicists sometimes call annihilation operators, an adjacency field could be created to divert physical matter into a different, or adjacent, realm. An incoming missile, to use the famous example described by Professor Rietveld, need not be intercepted or diverted or destroyed — it could be moved to an adjacent quantum dimension, so that to all intents and purposes it would cease to exist." - p 169
It's kindof like diverting bombs to someplace where some nice peaceful birds & squirrels are living in the woods. What if that missile goes to an alternate dimension where there aren't any arms dealers?! There goes the neighborhood, right? Out of sight, out of mind. But what if that missile turned out to be like the 1987 "Gar-barge", a barge filled w/ NYC garbage that 6 states & 2 countries wdn't allow to be dumped in their turf. What if that alternate dimension sends that damned missile right back. It'd be like a toxic badminton match.
That sd, I've always wanted to be able do something like that. Imagine how much I cd've improved life in Baltimore if everytime some group of idiots in a passing car shouted out "Faggot!" I just made them go away. I promise to be selective about where they go. The sun might be nice. Then I can charge them tanning fees (in advance, of course).
"But then Tibor Tarent said, 'Would you help me get my stuff back in the car?' He led me outside—his car was parked opposite the house. As soon as we were away from the house he said, 'That is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. I'll never forget what happened. Did you see what he was doing while I was taking pictures of him?
"'I was in the kitchen — I couldn't see too well.'
"'It's impossible to describe. I'll show you the photos tomorrow. He was like a magician — he could make that big sh"oe "appear and disappear. I couldn't see how he was doing it.'" - p 174
Shoe fetishism was developed by Rétif de la Bretonne as a form of birth control by misdirecting jism from its human target. That's what the neolojism "fetishjism" refers to. Alas, what started out as a civic-minded way of keeping the population down w/o harming anyone during the French Revolution was immediately turned to harmful profit by the arms dealers:
"'You obviously now realize what happened to me a few years ago when I was in Strasbourg. We were naïve, all of us but especially me — we thought we were making a breakthrough into something that would neutralize" unwanted pregnancies from much-needed hedonism. "It would always be safe to use, non-aggressive in nature, harmless because it would remove harm. But what we all feared soon came to pass: minds other than ours worked out how to make quantum adjacency into a weapon of war." The shoe was on the other 3rd leg. (p 175)
Don't even mention WWII!:
"In charge of the Instrument Section of the squadron was Flight-Sergeant Jack Winslow, and RAF regular who had joined up in 1935, and who seemed to the new recruits almost omniscient about they aircraft they serviced." - p 183
"Zaremski finally realized I was there.
"We were to evacuate again, he announced, this time towards Bucharest. No civilians would be transported — priority would be given to air force personnel. The intention was to regroup and form an independent detachment of the Polish Air Force . We would then launch guerrilla air raids on the occupying armies of the homeland. Zaremski named an air base in the north of Romania where we had permission to land and where there would be all the facilities we needed." - p 226
"Staring down at the large field below the end of the main runway, Torrance looked for and found the still-visible trace of where H Henry had crashed after being shot down: the large black triangle burnt into the crops by the wreckage was starting to be grown through, and would soon disappear." - p 236
Not if I have anything to do w/ it. While we're not mentioning WWII:
"The reality was that in April and May 1940, which was around the time Krystyna had travelled from France to England, the Soviet authorities in Occupied Poland rounded up the entirety of the officer corps of the Polish army and air force, some twenty-two thousand men in all, transported them to the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in Russia, and massacred them." - pp 248-249
Was that really necessary?! No doubt that was some megalomaniac's wet dream, presumably Stalin's, but it's not mine. I have a bk entitled Katyn - Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of Truth by Allen Paul wch I haven't read yet & may never read. According to the back cover blurb of this bk, the "U.S. government cover-up of the crime continued long after the war ended." Naturally, that makes me curious: Why wd the US do this?
When Tarent is 1st traveling in the Mebsher & he's been taken to the destination chosen for him the driver doesn't take him to the gate. It was unclear to this reader whether that was b/c there was no road to the gate or b/c the driver of the Mebsher had too busy of a schedule for such precision:
"'But which direction is it from here?'
"'Along this ridge,' the driver said, gesturing with his hand. There was a trace of an old footpath leading away. 'Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle. You'll have to walk the rest of the way. Sorry about that but it's not far. This is as close to the place as we could take you, and this diversion means we are now running late.'" - p 136
The "Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle" seems to indicate that the road leading to the gate was inadequate for the vehicle. However, 146pp later:
"He look across to the south, through the few trees that still stood there, past the first of the Warne buildings, and was rewarded with a glimpse of the huge dark shape of the Mebsher, heading slowly towards the main gate." - p 282
Did you find yrself doing the math to check whether I was correct about the 146pp difference? This apparent discrepancy between descriptions isn't a continuity error on the part of the author, it's an indication of the constantly shifting realities. Even tho he's seen his corpse in a metaphorical shoebox:
"The soldier straightened, glanced around, and for the first time looked directly at Tarent. The two men stared at each other.
"It was Hamid, the young Scot who had been one of the drivers of the Mebsher that brought him here." - p 285
Is my "Even tho" sentence misdirection or a clue?
"'Flo?' Tarent said, his heart racing.
"She looked at him more intently. 'Why do you call me that? Who are you?'" - p 287
This is a shoe-in for one of the most spoiler-spoiling reviews possible. I want to give you the story, b/c I'm writing about it & find it interesting, but I don't want the story to be spoiled for you. As such, I give you significant moments taken so far out of context that they become insignificant for you in terms of The Adjacent & only dubiously significant for you in terms of this review. It's my hope that you'll read this bk & have an AHA! moment in relation to this review. The narrative keeps refreshing itself (p 295), the narrative is a gradual reveal:
"These covered most of their faces, so Tomak Tallant did not even glimpse the woman's face until the second day." - p 297
"Tomak Tallant"? That's awfully similar to "Tibor Tarent", eh?! Priest does what I think most good writers do, he puts it there in front of the reader but doesn't hammer it into the reader's brain, the reader puts whatever number together w/ whatever number to reach whatever number. The characters don't understand what's happening but try to & the reader's put in the same situation. It's not really that hard but the clues take their good ole time to appear:
"'I thought Prachous City was the largest on the island.'
"'It's the capital, but Adjacent is more populous.'
"'What is that name you are using?' Tallant said.
"'The shanty town is know as Adjacent.'
"'Adjacent to what?'
"'I have no idea.'" - p 310
Most wars create refugees but the war or wars in The Adjacent put a new spin on that. Is the 21st century going to be worse than the 20th?!
"'Who are they?' Tallant said. 'Where have they come from? It's supposed to be impossible to get past the border controls.'
"'The people in Adjacent have found a way. In theory they are all at risk of deportation.'
"'So how do they do it?'
"'I've no idea.'
"'You said you were there. Didn't you ask them?'
"'I heard many answers, none of which I understood, and anyway I think none of the stories are true. Ask yourself, Tomak: how did you get to Prachous? Where were you before we met?'
"Tallant felt a cold, familiar inner fear, something he habitually shied away from." - p 311
"Using the ambient light in the hangar, Tarent took a series of rapid shots of the two Lancasters, expecting at any moment that he would be shouted at, or manhandled, or threatened with some breach of the regulations covering this place. But is was as if he was not there. Everyone ignored him. He moved towards some of the men as they worked, took close shots of what they were doing. They continued to ignore him." - p 409
Strange. People are ignoring you? You must be getting older. Maybe they want you to go away & stop being such an embarrassment.
"It was a long room, packed with airmen, the air thick with cigarette smoke. Tarent's first breath made him reel back, gasping. He turned away and re-opened the door, seized by a bout of helpless coughing. Never before in his life had he been in a place so full of smokers." - p 411
He hasn't been to a party in the 1970s yet.
The last page gives mod-a-go-go info-a-go-go:
"For more fantastic fiction, author events, exclusive excerpts, competitions, limited editions and more:
VISIT OUR WEBSITE
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER
I like it, there're some communication possibilities. I read an enormous amt of SF & it was nice to read something by someone who's, presumably, still alive. Now the reviewer is gone. ...more
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Dec 08, 2017
Dec 21, 2017
Jul 11, 2012
it was amazing
Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 7-19, 2017
The full review starts here: https://www review of
Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 7-19, 2017
The full review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've retired from working for other people for money so my life more than ever revolves around reading, book reviewing, listening to music, playing piano, witnessing movies, making movies, making websites, etc.. One of the websites I'm making is titled "Top 100 Composers" which means that it's a list of the 100 composers whose work I've found most interesting & enjoyable ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Top100C... ). Considering how much music I listen to & how obsessed with music I am, I thought it would be easy to pick my favorite 100 composers. Nope, I've been struggling with the choices since October & I'm still finding it very difficult. A few were obvious, most are ones whose work I like but who don't quite awe me with their brilliance.
Henry Cowell, at 1st, was in an ambiguous zone: I like his music, I've been listening to it for 40+ years, I'll pick up any recording of his I find, but most of it's a little too conventional for me. Sortof. Its the "sortof" that complicates things. When I listen to the later works they seem laden with history, they're stately old growths, not wildly budding saplings - but there's always something about them that makes them significantly different from other somewhat 'simple' contemporaneous works. In the long run, how could I not have Cowell on the list? ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Top100C... ) I include very few who didn't use electronics, Cowell's one of them. Reading Sachs's bk certainly helped fuel my enthusiasm for Cowell immensely.
The bk is dedicated "To my beloved family, and in memory of Sidney Cowell, who did not live to read it." (p v) Do you ever think about that sort of thing? Sidney Cowell was married to Henry. Maybe she wd've liked reading this bio, maybe she wdn't've - Sachs seems to try to be fair so he's not always kissing his subjects's asses. To us, the readers of this bk, Henry Cowell is in some sense alive: the bk keeps him alive, the recordings keep him alive. Of course, that's not much use to the actual Henry Cowell, who's been dead for 52 yrs. Cowell's life had its ups & downs, to put it mildly, & he got plenty of respect & love even at the worst of times so maybe he wouldn't've 'needed' a bk like this in his lifetime to help keep him emotionally afloat - but what about the rest of us? The ones who get little or no love, little or no respect? Is it enough to suspect that one's contribution to culture will be appreciated post-mortem? Not really.
"Sidney Cowell made the project possible by providing me with complete access to the Cowell papers, annotated copies of her personal correspondence, information about some little-known actors in this drama, and fresh insights (plus occasional confusion) in letters to and conversations with me." - p xi
"Now, at the end of the eternity that this book has taken, an apology is overdue to those who waited for it. I deeply regret that his widow Sidney Cowell—whom I liked tremendously—my colleague H. Wiley Hitchcock, and most of the people who kindly allowed me to interview them did not live to read this book. I confess, however, that a knowledgeable person, who shall remain anonymous, suggested only half-facetiously that I write slowly, lest I complete it during Sidney Cowell's lifetime. Otherwise I would be bombarded with corrections, largely of imagined errors. As I got deeper into the materials and saw Sidney's hair-trigger response mechanism in action with other authors, and became aware of the errors, confusion, and contradictions that infected her later writings and some of our conversations, I realized the seriousness of that warning. As it happened, however, deliberate delay was unnecessary. Sidney passed away in 1995, after a long and distinguished life. I still had years of work ahead and missed her greatly.
"The longevity of my labors had two principle causes. One is the richness of my life and activities over these twenty-three years" - p xvi
23 yrs, he spent 23 yrs writing this. Even so, Sidney Cowell had more of her life invested in Henry Cowell than Sachs did so I can relate to her possible fanaticism in relation to the telling of his story. I'm sure that many people dread or dislike my opinion on matters that I've been heavily involved w/, such as Neoism, but tough shit!, it's been my life, not yours. Ahem.
"The complexity of Henry's life in particular requires a preliminary visit with the three women who, believing that a biography would have to be written, created the archive of his papers.
"The first of them, Henry's mother Clara (or Clarissa) Dixon Cowell, a professional writer, saved her own papers and the scraps of his early life, and wrote an extensive memoir of his first eighteen years. The second collector, Olive Thompson Cowell, was Henry's second stepmother, that is, his father Henry's third wife. Accordingly, once she began to appreciate his talents, she amassed everything she could and wrote copious notes about their conversations, his lectures, his professional activities, his musings, and her own assessments of him. Although some of her literary legacy seems colored by the expectation that she would live on through her services to Henry, and much of her writing tends toward hagiography of Henry and his father, Olive's papers are indispensable.
"The third hoarder was Henry's wife, Sidney Robertson Cowell. A brilliant, determined, reserved yet fiery woman with extraordinary talents as a writer, photographer, folklorist, and musician, Sidney far surpassed Olive as a preserver of paper. The most objective of the three women, she loved Henry yet could be very critical of him. That duality gives special weight to her writing, which steers clear of hagiography, even at its most positive." - p 3
"Olive, convinced that his life would demand good documentation, now set up an archive into which went everything from scraps of paper to important documents and countless letters including many from friends in Menlo Park who were not professionally "useful"—even the first letters from Elsa Schmolke, his Berlin landlady". - p 128
Fancy that! Are your relatives respectful & supportive of your activities? I have some friends whose parents are, it's somewhat amazing to witness. My father told me once that he found some 8mm films of my childhood but that he didn't know what to do w/ them. I explained that they could be transferred to VHS, the most common medium for movies viewable at home at the time, & that I cd do the transfer. I asked him for the films but I never got them. History, even if it is only personal history, lost. When my mom was moving out of the house that I spent most of my childhood in she told me that she found a drawing I'd given her. I remembered it, it was a colored pencil drawing of a vacuum cleaner in nature. Now, yes, it was a parody of my mom's OCD mania for sterilizing everything that moved & that's why I gave it to her. It was 1 of the only surviving drawings from the days when I made such things, I might've been 16 when I drew it. I wanted to see it again after 35+ yrs! She asked me if I wanted it, after all, why wd she want it? I told her yes. When I asked her about it she sd "I don't know what happened to it." Translation: 'I threw it away.'
The point is here: some people really get the 'luck of the draw' & Henry Cowell was one of them. Reading his biography is reading about a person who was loved & supported to a fantastic extent. I've often joked that if my family were to get their religious hands on my estate post-mortem they'd erase all traces of my existence ASAP except, maybe, for some pictures of me in suits as a child. Then, if they were to talk about me at all, it wd be to either make up something that has nothing to do w/ me or say that the 'devil got me' & to then begin to pray. I didn't get the 'luck of the draw' & some friends of mine are even worse off than I am. Nonetheless, Cowell STILL didn't have an easy life. Don't that just beat all?!
Probably like most people who've pd some attn to Cowell's music & life I've read about his time spent in prison. I'd read 2 different stories: 1 that made him seem like a victim & 1 that made him seem somewhat ethically senseless. Sachs's 1st mention of this is still in his Prologue:
"At some stage, possibly as early as their marriage in 1941, she" [Sidney] "decided that the story of his imprisonment on a morals charge should not be told for the first time outside the context of a full biography." - p 4
Righto. As my friend etta cetera, a prison activist, says, people aren't the worst thing they do - & I think that's very succinct. Alas, once convicted, or even tarred w/ the brush, of certain crimes the perpetrator becomes very little else to most people. As such, a person cd be incredibly nice & generous & then snap & kill someone & from then on in they're a murderer & very little else - unless they're in the military, of course: in wch case: KILL AWAY HERO! It's all so tragic. Fortunately Cowell didn't kill anyone so he suffered a less-tarnished fate.
Sidney's next mentioned b/c "she had spent some seven years working on the biographical section of the Cowells' book about Ives, whose life was far less eventful than Henry's." (p 4) Maybe so, but, still 23 yrs on this bio?! Ahem. At least you got it done.
As for Henry's mom Clarissa?! Now there was an interesting woman - although her alleged anti-sex position rubs me the wrong way (pun intended):
"One editor also sought a romantic relationship with her. From 1889 to 1891 she was assistant editor of an anarchist weekly, The Beacon. In San Francisco, she teamed up with a young Irish immigrant to publish a fortnightly anarchist paper, Enfant Terrible (1891-1892), with which she built a following. One sample of her contributions unmasks the underlying temperament of this ex-housewife who was anything but placid.
" ['] The clergyman has no more right than the clown to marry people. The judge has no more right than the jail-bird to sentence people. The policeman has no more right than the pauper to arrest people. The tax-collector has no more right than any other thief to filch people's property. The legislator has no more right than the lackey to make laws. I have no reverence for God, nor parents, nor sovereigns, nor presidents, nor popes, nor bishops, nor dead bodies, nor ancient institutions; in short, I have no reverence for any person or thing. ['] " - p 14
Yes! I cdn't've sd it better meself.. Although.. I probably do have some reverence for life & I'm not sure how that wd've fit into Clarissa's philosophy but I imagine she & I wd've been close to being on the same page.
"The Clarissa Dixon of the early 1890s that was perfectly suited to the individualistic world of San Francisco, as was her co-publisher of Enfant Terrible, an Irish immigrant named Henry Cowell, known as Harry." - p 15
You can see where this is going.
"Unlike some famous childhoods, Henry's is not shrouded in mystery. In 1914, Clarissa felt so driven by fate to document his development that although mortally ill, she began drafting a biographical sketch, amplifying it until her strength gave out." - p 18
His parents edited an anarchist fortnightly called Enfant Terrible. His mother drafted a biographical sketch about him. "The Scotch Club of San Francisco later pronounced him the most beautiful child in the city. "Crowds used to gather around him ["]" (p 18) If crowds were to gather around me in BalTimOre it wd've been reasonable to expect them to begin stoning me to death. I might've met a guy w/ a tattoo of a knife on his lower leg but wd I've met the equivalent of Jack London? I think not. People wd've met me.
"A ditch-digger who happened to hear Henry and Clarissa discussing writing proved to be self-educated but with "astounding ideas and great clarity of speech." The laborer, Jack London, accepted Harry's invitation to see them for the first of many visits when Henry was about seven." - p 20
"self-educated but with "astounding ideas and great clarity of speech.": as if that's some sort of unusual combination. Maybe it is, but doesn't 'university educated' mean semi-illiterate?
"Henry enjoyed referring to his third grade certificate of promotion as his highest academic degree until he received an honorary doctorate in 1953." - p 29
That's more like it. Clarissa was remarkable. She was connected to early anarchist publications so what's not to like? She also published a novel:
"Janet and Her Dear Phebe, which appeared in February, 1909, was warmly received by the press, but only 310 copies were sold in four months. In fact, it is a fine book, but truly straddled the borderline between teenage and adult. Politely but decisively, Stokes dropped further options." - p 31
"only 310 copies were sold in four months"? That strikes me as a stunning success. My latest bk, "Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory)" has sold, maybe, 70 copies in the last 9 mnths & 60 of those were to friends (or reasonable facsimiles thereof). If I'd sold 310 copies in 4 mnths I'd be expecting the key to the city & a queue of bride-wannabes. Damn, I'd figure that I cd walk naked down the streets & the police wd tip their hats to me & call me SIR. I'd expect bankers to give me the combinations to their vaults & the alarm system codes.
"With sales peaking at 400, neither royalties nor contracts were on the horizon. She never received a penny for Janet." - p 34
Well that much hasn't changed. Maybe the publisher shd've promoted it more.
"A tone cluster is a chord in which all intervals are seconds. (Henry eventually called it "secundal harmony.") These chords, which can be found as early as the eighteenth century, were part of the arsenal of the piano virtuoso Leo Ornstein (1893-2002). Henry later found that Vladimir Rebikov (1866-1920) used them in Russia. Henry, however, wished to use them with more than a handful of pitches. Lacking enough fingers, he expanded the resources of pianism by using the flat of his hand, the side of the fist, or the entire arm. This too was not entirely unprecedented. Daniel Steibelt's late eighteenth century "battle pieces" included passages played with the flat of the hand, and Ives had used a board to produce oversized clusters in the "Concord" Sonata, but Henry would not have known either of them. He might, however, have heard of the ex-slave Blind Tom, a virtuoso pianist in his own Civil War battle pieces." - p 36
& here we get to what torched off Cowell's fame, his use of tone clusters & his playing of the inside of the piano are what 1st caught my interest 60 yrs or so later even tho such techniques wd've been somewhat common by then. Sachs's scholarliness comes thru here, I don't recall knowing about Rebikov or Blind Tom before. Steibelt I'm not sure about.
1898: "a new Theosophical sect, the Brotherhood of Man" - p 49
When I was 19 & hitch-hiking back from the West Coast of the USA to BalTimOre I was picked up in a station wagon driven by a youngish man accompanied by a woman of roughly the same age, a little girl, & 5 dogs. All 5 dogs had scars from ear-to-ear. The driver explained that he'd found them w/ their throats slit in a river where they'd apparently been thrown to die. He saved them. The 2 adults looked very fried - as if they'd been awake entirely too long, possibly w/ the aid of LSD. I've written about this in greater detail elsewhere so I'm just giving a synopsis here. He said he was in a group called The Brotherhood of Man. I'd never heard of them before but this was 1972 & it sounded like a hippie cultish sort of thing. I had very long hair at the time so most people wd've thought of me as a hippie.
He picked up 2 more hitch-hikers. He told us that he'd been spreading the word on the radio that there was a Satanic group who'd put a hit out on him. He sd that the group found where he was hiding & was going to kill him. He hadn't had a car but as he was walking down the street he saw this stn wagon w/ the keys in it & knew it was a sign from the Brotherhood (or some such) that the car was his for his get-away from the death cult. He took the car & his family & the dogs & here he was & here we were - in a stolen car. We all got arrested. I've only run across one other mention of the Brotherhood of Man since that experience 45 yrs ago until I read this Cowell bio. I hope that man & his family are ok. I liked him. His story might've been true.
"He planted rows of daffodils in his garden along with rows of garlic, and "the bulbous plants crossed and there were horrible little green budlike daffies that smelled like garlic. This could only have happened to Henry, we said."" - p 53
That's funny, when I lived in South BalTimOre & my neighbor threw all his garbage in my backyard, a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 crossed with a tree & some sort of carnivorous plant grew up & ate the neighbor. It didn't smell weird but the screams of the neighbor were really loud & went on for wks. I didn't mind, tho, I found it rather pleasant.
Henry Cowell, being, as the title of this bk says, "a man made of music", he began performing early, wowing & shocking people w/ his extended piano techniques. Not everyone was enthusiastic:
"Mason had more mixed reactions. The music was "lawless, without a trace of counterpoint"; on the other hand, Henry knew how to get his ideas "across the footlights." Convinced that Henry had not the faintest notion of "what is meant by development," he advised packing him off to Germany, "where he would be out of the reach of idolizing women folk who mistake anarchistic rhapsodizing for inspiration."" - p 58
So what, eh?! Who needs counterpoint?! Cowell may not've understood counterpoint or development but he was blazing a newer path & that path has grown up very nicely, no thanks to that reviewer very much. A new path is welcome, the old sights & sounds get boring after awhile. But Cowell was adulated:
"According to a reviewer, the Musical Association performance also led a San Franciscan to contribute enough money to justify planning six months of lessons with a fine teacher. (Henry identified the sponsor as a German baron who wanted to send him for lessons with Richard Strauss.)" - p 18
"As of October Seward had raised nearly $335 [2010: $7,540] from donors in Palo Alto and San Francisco of which little more than half remained." - p 18
Now Henry & his mom hadn't had it easy. They'd survived poverty & the San Francisco earthquake by this point. His mom was having trouble succeeding as a professional writer, difficult at any time if you have anything intelligent to say but insufficient publishing world connections, esp difficult for a woman in the early 20th century. But $7,540 raised from donors for his musical education?! That's mind-boggling. I had someone offer to pay me to leave BalTimOre once but I don't think she had more than enough for a one-way bus ticket in mind. ...more
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Nov 30, 2017
Dec 20, 2017
Jun 28, 2005
Greg Bear's Dead Lines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 4, 2017
Greg Bear's Quantico followed this one. In my review of that I wrote review of
Greg Bear's Dead Lines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 4, 2017
Greg Bear's Quantico followed this one. In my review of that I wrote:
"Ok, I've previously drawn parallels between Greg Bear's "Blood Music" & Michael Crichton's "Prey" that were unflattering to Crichton (see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34...) & then I HATED Crichton's "State of Fear" (see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15...). SO, I credited Bear w/ being original & discredited Crichton w/ being a paltry 2nd (or 3rd or whatever). THEN Bear writes this - a novel not that dissimilar from Crichton's "State of Fear" but coming out a yr or 2 later." - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
The reason why I start this review off this way is because Dead Lines, as the predecessor of Quantico, puts Quantico somewhat in perspective. I speculate (does that makes this SR instead of SF? Speculative Reviewing?) that Bear was trying to make more money by writing in established popular genres. Who knows? Maybe everyone in his family had flesh-eating disease & the bubonic plague, I mean he might've been desperate for money.
Dead Lines has a list of writers that it's "FOR":
"J. Sheridan Fanu.
M. R. James.
H. P. Lovecraft.
Bruce Joel Rubin.
Scary people, all." - p vii
I've heard of most of those authors, some of them are popular horror writers, others a bit more ambiguous. I read an entire Dean Koontz novel & found it to be a bit predictable in its chain-pulling, I read one Stephen King short story & have never had the desire to read anything else by him since - although I've seen more movies based on his bks than even a hypnotist cd ferret out. I don't think of either authors as being worth emulating but, having worked in the bkstore biz for 8 yrs, I can say that King was the most popular writer I've ever known of so if you want to make money that's apparently the way to go, or the road to hoe, or the road to ho.
&, heck'a'goshen!, King even endorses Dead Lines on the back cover: "A REALLY EXCELLENT NOVEL". I hope he didn't think too hard about that.
Bear, even at his worst, wch is what I'd say Dead Lines is, still has interesting ideas that put his stories a notch above the furthest my belt can stretch. In this case, a new post-cell-phone technology taps into some unexpected places. The pre-story flash-forward (of sorts) hints at the ambitious plot:
"We were all there in that city that draws its paycheck from the manufacture of ghosts. We were there when one man started handing out free talk. And we are there now, sad little dolls made of dust." - p 1
Ain't it the truth. But what is all this 'free talk' stuff I've been hearing about? Is it like 'Freedom Fries'?
""If you take the damned thing, turn it off while you're here/"
""They don't turn off," the young man explained to Peter, drawing closer. His wide blue eyes assessed Peter's character and the size of his wallet. "You can turn the ringer down, however."
"Peter smiled as if at a half-heard joke. "What is it?" he asked.
""Free talk," Joseph said. "But it doesn't work.["]" - p 12
That's b/c freedom isn't free. It is on sale this wk only tho. Buy 2 get 1 free. Unfortunately, all 3 of them are ghosts:
"With Baslan out of the doorway, Peter had a clear view through an arch to the dining room, about thirty feet from the porch. A little boy in a frilled shirt and knee stockings stood there. He looked sick; not sick, dead; worse than dead, unraveling. His face turned in Peter's direction, skin as pale and cold as skim milk. The head seemed jointed like a doll's. The grayish eyes saw right through him, and suddenly the outline blurred, precisely as if the boy had fallen out of focus in a camera viewfinder." - pp 35-36
Oh, he probably just came back from the dr's. You know what I say: A highwayman said: "Your money or your life!", a dr just thinks: "Your money & then you life." Business is business. Maybe the dr just gave him a steroid shot in the hip. The next thing you know, a mere 23 pp later, you're seeing another ghost:
"Through his tears, he saw that the woman's face was like a flat sheet of mother-of-pearl. Her eyes opened to quizzical hollows. Less than solid, she resembled a paper doll frayed by careless snipping. Peter could actually see her edges ripple." - pp 59-60
If I don't write something here before I move on to the next quote it'll seem that the ghost above is the "she". The wd be funny but I've decided against misleading YOU, dear reader, in that way.
"She introduced the guests to Peter. Two he had met long ago, writers from a group Phil had belonged to for almost thirty years, the Mysterians." - p 69
Now, maybe that's a take-off of "The Futurians", an early-to-mid 20th century SF group. Or maybe Peter's the question-mark. Get it? Question Mark & the Mysterians? HahahAHAhahA.. Another good touch is to have Peter be a former sexploitation Psychotronic moviemaker a little down on his luck:
"["]Out of the onetime slammer comes a promo campaign headed by Peter Russell, the edgiest sexploitation director ever." Weinstein's face grew serious. "And to be honest, Russ Meyer turned us down. But then he suggested you, one Russell to another."" - p 101
The clues fall into place like glue traps raining from heck:
"["]In less than twenty years, world will run out of bandwidth. Radio, TV, cell phones, wireless, all will halt screeching growth." He smiled. "But world's problem is solvable, I have solved it."
"Kreisler rose and started to move his arms, slowly at first, then describing large arcs. No need for waves, for radiation. I discover new source of bandwidth, forbidden information channels, not truly radiation at all, unknown until now. Channels in what I call Bell continuum" - p 105
I call it the "Taco Bell Continuum" but it's basically the same thing.
""Like cell phones, Trans units always tie into network. They are always on. What is more remarkable, as they work, they actually change surrounding space, perhaps permanently. They alter information permittivity." - p 107
Hence, Free Love.
""Yes, but we use term as a metaphor," Kreisler said. "A capacitor stores up charge. Space stores up information, but over time, it fades, dissipates. When Trans accesses the forbidden channels, she increases space's permittivity. Information does not fade, but builds up until it jumps like a spark.["]" - p107
It's like when you go to hug someone & you get shocked by static electricity & the next thing you know their whole life story flashes in front of you & you realize they're a serial killer & they know that you know & they stab you to death. Happens all the time.
As a (non-Psychotronic) moviemaker myself I appreciated this next bit:
""I presume I'm going to shoot HD video," he continued, his tongue gluey. "I've never used a Betacam, or whatever it is now. I'd like to see some of the equipment, just to know what to rent."
Karl shrugged. "Hell, with what's in Circuit City right now, you might as well buy. Only cost you a couple of grand for something pretty terrific."
"Peter shook his head. "This is professional, Karl."
""That's what I'm saying, Peter. Something the size of your hand, locked onto a hundred-dollar tripod, will give you great results. What kind of budget?"" - p 142
A "couple of grand"?! Pshaw! I use a $35 'sports' camera bought at another famous chain store & I'm the best moviemaker in the world!
"Peter stopped at an old pay phone near an Asian grocery, one of the last pay phones in Los Angeles—they were being dismantled everywhere. Everyone was going wireless." - p 231
True dat. The reader reading this might not even remember pay phones. They were the things that rival drug dealers pissed on the mouthpieces of.
& that, gentle wo(men), concludes today's PowerPoint on sails. ...more
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Nov 30, 2017
Dec 04, 2017
Jun 12, 1984
really liked it
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017
I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other review of
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017
I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other reviews but I had the vague feeling that I might've exhausted my praise for him insofar as I thought that anything I might read new by him wdn't surprise me. I was wrong. The Crucible of Time surprised me, it was significantly different from anything I'd already read by him & satisfyingly epic.
The Foreword establishes what I assume to've been the basis for the bk:
"It is becoming more and more widely accepted that Ice Ages coincide with the passage of the Solar System through the spiral arms of our galaxy. It therefore occurred to me to wonder what would become of a species that evolved intelligence just before their planet's transit of a gas-cloud far denser than the one in Orion which the Earth has recently—in cosmic terms—traversed.
"In my attempt to invent history I have frequently relied on the advice of Mr. Ian Ridpath, whose prompt and generous aid I gratefully acknowledge." - p ix
Brunner wasn't satisfied to just take the reader thru such an imagined major shift in a planet's ecological condition. He invented a species, a protagonist being, & its culture & provides an epic in 7 parts + an epilogue to show this species faces near extinction over & over again but still manages to have enuf survivors to enable evolving to the degree of being able to attempt to cope w/ these cosmic catastrophes. Each section evolves into the legend of the next section. Each legend feeds the evolution. The initial protagonist is Jing, whose heritage forms an important lineage throughout the bk. One aspect of the epic thread is religion vs science:
"Shuddering, yet determined to pursue his quest, Jing eventually discovered the secret of their dominance. It lay not in their armies, nor their treasures. It consisted in the deliberate and systematic exploitation of the dreams of those less well-to-do than themselves, a possibility which had never occurred to him, and which the language barrier prevented him from comprehending until a lordling he had disappointed in his hope of brand-new armaments set sacerdotes upon him at his lodgings." - p 6
It's never completely obvious what sort of creatures these main characters are:
"children as yet unable to raise themselves upright were playing with a litter of baby canifangs, whose claws were already sharp. Now and then that led to squalling, whereupon a nursh would run to the defense of its charge, mutely seeking a grin of approval from the fathers who sat from left to right. Each had a female companion, and if the latter were in bud made great show of providing for her, but otherwise merely allowed her to bite off a few scraps." - p 12
The language is just close enuf to using (English) human terms to anthropomorphize the situation - but these aren't humans. "canifangs" could be 'canines with fangs', puppies in this instance playing w/ babies; "nursh" obviously is close to 'nurse'; "in bud" = pregnant.
"And strode forward fully upright, not letting the least hint of pressure leak from his tubules. Arriving in front of the Count, he paid him the Ntahish compliment of overtopping him yet shielding his mandibles." - p 14
We read physical descriptions of the characters involving tubules, mantles, & mandibles. I think of insects but I also think of Kafka's purported avoidance of having an illustration of what Gregor Samsa turned into in "The Metamorphosis". In other words, I'm not so sure that Brunner wants the reader to think of these creatures in an absolutely defined physical way, it occurs to me that he might want their alienness to be sufficient & for the reader's attn to be directed to more philosophical aspects of the story.
Jing is traveling to investigate rumors about a fantastic observatory in the far north:
"However, he was finding it a disappointment. It was a mere depression in the rock. Walbushes had been trained to make a circular windbreak, and their rhizomes formed crude steps enabling one to look over the top for near-horizon observations. A pumptree whose taproot reached down to a stream of hot water grew in the center where on bitter nights one might lean against it for warmth. A few lashed-together poles indicated important lines-of-sight. Apart from that—nothing." - pp 15-16
These beings specialize in some sort of bioengineering, as alluded to above. Almost everything they have is made of plants controlled to their purposes & other beings that they'd domesticated:
"Next day distraught parents came crying that a snowbelong had killed a child from the furthest-outlying village, and the Count hauled himself out of his sitting-pit and set out to hunt it down with hoverers and canifangs." - p 23
Given that this is an epic, it takes the reader thru the looooonnnnngggg term development of the technology needed for, eventually, leaving the planet:
""Ah! You found another magnifying drop. It's especially clear and fine, I must say."
""Not found," Twig announced solemnly. "Made."
""How? Out of what?"
""Sand, would you believe? Yes, the same sand you find beside the hot marsh! Keepfire's flames are getting better and hotter—oh, I know people are complaining about the smell, but that's a small price to pay!—and this time he's excelled himself! And there's more. Look at this!"
"He produced what he had in his other claw. It was of similar material, equally clear, but twice the size.
""Hold them up together—no, I don't mean together, I mean—Oh, like this!" Twig laid claws on Jing in a way the latter would never normally have tolerated, but it was certainly quicker than explaining. "Now look at something through both of them, and move them apart or together until you see it clearly. Got it?"
"Jing grew instantly calm. There presented to his eye was an image of Twig, albeit upside-down . . . but larger, and amazingly sharp except around the edges." - p 33
Yes! The people with claws have discovered the can-opener! After Jing is the 1st person to cut his claw on the can-opener he gets poisoning, his mantle turns paisley, & he has a vision:
""If stars are fire, then new stars happen when fresh fuel is fed to them. What fuel is there, barring worlds like ours? If we would rather not be fuel for a star, there's no one who can save us but ourselves . . . I've dreamed. It's made me weary. I must rest."" - p 44
So, the people tie a can-opener to a string & launch it with a kite & the sky cracks open! The story jumps forward in time. Out of the vagina in the sky, well, really, out of the hairs surrounding it, come giant crab-like creatures that the people tame as boats. Due to a cloacal misunderstanding, they name them "briqs" after "briq-shithouse".
"The sound he had recognized was the unmistakable munch-and-slurp of Tempestamer feeding.
"Week exhultation filled him. Surely she was the finest briq ever to set forth from Ushere! He had pithed her personally with all the expertise at his command, leaving untouched by his prong nerves which other Wego captains customarily severed. At first his rivals had derided him; then, however, they saw how docile she was, and how fast she grew, and in the end came begging a share of his knowledge, whereupon it was his turn to scoff. Now she had proved herself beyond doubt, for she had defied the worst weather in living memory and—he looked about him—brought her crew to a safe haven" - p 63
It was at this point that yr astute reporter, ME, realized that, YES, this IS an epic:
". . . In a giant tree at the heart of the city, hollowed out deliberately and ornamented with the finest and handsomest secondary plants, a glass container sealed with wax, through which could be glimpsed the original of Jing's scripture." - p 80
B/c, you see, Jing is long since dead, defunct, deteriorated, dried-up, all washed-up, you name it, but his WORD lives on! Hal 'til you're BLUE ya! I still don't get what any of this has to do w/ that Duchamp installation a the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It took me entirely too long to note the way the middle letters of words acted as hinges between 2 words happily conjoined in budding marriage these words into one. I must be becoming unhinged:
"Braverrant had not returned albeit her master was Boldare, wily in weatherways. No more had Governature with Gallantrue and Drymantle, not—next most envied after Tempestamer—Stormock, whose commander had been Cleverule, sole among them to make two-score voyages.
"Nor Wavictor, nor Knowater, nor Billowise . . . and even Tempestamer had not reported back." - p 87
Now, I don't mean to rub your face in this but I'm going to unspell it out for ya: "Braverrant" = "Brave" + "Errant" (like brave knights errant of old n'at), "Boldare" = "Bold" + "Dare" (the bold one is likely to marry Dr. Kildare), "Governature" = "Govern" + "Nature" (as in 'I'm going to govern nature if I have to bulldoze every damn tree in this fucking Amazon forest!'), "Gallantrue" = "Gallant" + "True" (Elvis offered his groupie a beer can tab for a ring before getting down to business to show how gallant & true he was), "Drymantle" = "Drym" + "Mantle" (Drym used his mantle as a surfboard in order to keep dry). Well, you get the idea.
On p 123 the epic jumps vastly ahead in time again & we're going to join in that process by jumping even further ahead to p 157 so that I can quote a section that refers back to a part that I didn't quote so that you wdn't understand what's going on if I hadn't just told you:
"["] At Ripar, do they know the legend of Skilluck?"
"Yockerbow looked blank, but to his surprise Arranth, standing by as usual but less bashful than before, said, "If the name is Skilq, we have the same tale, probably."" - p 4,000,968,157
I prefer to pronounce it "Scalduck" but maybe that's too much of a corruption. Just say "Balduck" & click yr heels together & you'll be at p 183 but while you're being silly I'll already be at p 188:
"A cable like a single immensely long nerve-strand had been laid along the sea-bed between the two places, and covered over with piles of rock carefully set in place by divers wearing things called air-feeders: ugly bulging, parasitical organisms bred from a southern species unknown, and unhappy, in these cool northern seas, which somehow kept a person alive underwater. Also they had means to lift even extremely heavy objects, using such substance or creature that contracted with vast force." - p 4,000,968,188
They have some nerve! In our world these "ugly bulging, parasitical organisms" are called millionaires but we misbred them so they're without hearts. They can only survive by sucking the blood out of non-millionaires. Gotta do something about that. Thanks to that not-really-a-joke, time is just flying by here as I make the greatest leap yet to the next era starting on p 241. True to the nature of bankers, a potentially sympathetic figure becomes a figurine of a jerk:
"But if he expected to impress her by boasting, he was wrong. Nothing could have more firmed her determination than this display of the luxury Awb had attained through corrupting the minds of the younger generation. Had she not needed food to power the argument she foresaw as inescapable, she would have voiced her contempt of his tactics; as it was, she resignedly filled her maw and, confident that even yet he would never have been trained in the Jingfired's techniques of dark-use, waited until he chose to speak again." - p 290
Turning on my darklite so I can blind better (or is it blend butter?) I scry that "Awb" is short for "Awful Banker" although these days "Awful Health Care Provider" or "Awful TV Newscaster" might be a more heinous insult. Now that we've mastered darkwordplay there's no reason to jump to the next era, we can just calmly walk there w/o necessarily even looking where we're going:
"At first Chybee was too startled to respond. This magnificent home had overwhelmed her even as she approached: its towering crest, its ramifying branches garlanded with countless luminants, its far-spread webs designed to protect the occupants against wingets and add their miniscule contribution to the pool of organic matter at its roots, cleverly programmed to withdraw before a visitor so that they would not be torn—all, all reflected such luxury as far surpassed her youthful experience." - p 299
& I thought that teaching my dog to fetch was something. So what if he's fetching a new girlfriend for me? "Out of the mantles of young'uns" (p 309) as we say.
Remember "Voosla"? One of those post-briqs that became a giant floating city but then got forced way inland b/c of a tidal wave generated by a meteorite crash? NO, of course, you don't remember it! This is the 1st you've heard of it! &, even then, only if you pronounced the word out loud:
""As nearly as we can establish, Slah was once a city of the People of the Sea," Ugant expounded in a perfectly relaxed tone. That may sound ridiculous, given how far it now lies above seas-level, but our researches have confirmed what for countless generations was only a folktale. When the Greatest Meteorite hit, the city Voosla was borne many padlonglaqs from the nearest ocean. Naturally the over-pressure killed its inhabitants." - p 316
Naturally. Our dear friend Chybee gets inveigled (don't you just love that word?) into infiltrating a CULT that may've been a descendent of the Awful Banker. J u s t a s y o u a r e b e i n g i n v e i g l e d i n t o a c u l t r i g h t n o w b y e v e n r e a d i n g t h i s w e i r d r e v i e w.. Boy will she be sorry.
"Impressed, Cometaster said, "And your means . . . ?"
"With stiff dignity, Chybee answered, "Those who attain enlightenment will recognize its import in due time."
"The other three exchanged glances.
""Aglabec is going to be very interested in you," said Witnessunbride. "He's the only other person I ever heard say anything like that. And the only other person so advanced he can contact other planets without needing to fast. That is, assuming you got your knowledge about Sluggard direct. Did you? Ot were you just told it by your budder or someone?"" - p 332
Yes, join my cult (a s i f y o u h a d a n y c h o i c e), & you will never have to eat again! I will take on that Earthly responsibility for you. SO, you joined the CULT OF THE BOOK REVIEWER & the next thing you know you've jumped up to another section beginning on p 357 & tripped over to p 359 where the pre-launch routine is in-progress:
""Propulsion mass and musculator pumps?"
"There were no complaints from the docile creatures responsible for his maneuvers in orbit. He said so.
""Sourgas level normal."
""Pheremone absorption?"" - p 359
These claw & mantle folks do things a little differently. For one thing, they know how to put farts to work, bless 'em. Anyway, I, as your book reviewer cult guru, am now ending this review as if I didn't have a care in the world. Good night, Tiny Tim, wherever you are. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 22, 2017
Nov 27, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Mar 21, 1991
Mar 21, 1991
it was amazing
the Richard Kostelanetz edited John Cage, An Anthology
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 15-20, 2017
full version: "There's no pun on review of
the Richard Kostelanetz edited John Cage, An Anthology
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 15-20, 2017
full version: "There's no pun on the last name "Cage" in this title.": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is the 2nd edition of this bk. It was published in 1991. The 1st edition was published in 1970. I read the 1st edition sometime in the early to mid '70s. Now, over 40 yrs later, I've read the 2nd edition. The 1st John Cage record I got was "Variation IV - Volume II" in mid 1973. I would've been 19 at the time. I only bought 27 records that year & Cage's work was only on that one. It was an impressive beginning for me. The next Cage record I got was "Music for Keyboard 1935-1948" performed by Jeanne Kirstein. That was in the beginning of 1974, a year in which I purchased 64 records, 6 of which had Cage work on them:
Music for Keyboard 1935-1948:
"Two Pieces 1935" - 3:28
"Metamorphosis" (1938) - 16:10
"Bacchanale" (1938) - 9:10
"The Perilous Night (Winter 1943-44)" - 13:11
"Tossed as It Is Untroubled" (1943) - 2:28
"A Valentine Out of Season" (1944) - 4:12
"Root of an Unfocus" (1944) - 4:12
"Two Pieces 1946" - 12:18
"Prelude for Meditation" (1944) - 2:18
"Music for Marcel Duchamp" (1947) - 5:52
"Suite for Toy Piano" (1948) - 7:38
"Dream" (1948) 9:12
John Cage with David Tudor Presents Variations IV [Volume I] (1963)
Concerto for Prepared Piano & Orchestra (1951) - Yuji Takahashi: piano
Music Before Revolution:
"Credo in Us" (1942)
"Imaginary Landscape No. 1" (1939)
"Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" (1957/1958)
"Solo for Voice I" (1958)
"Solo for Voice II" (1960)
"Rozart Mix" (1965)
HPSCHD (1967-1969) - in collaboration w/ Lejaren Hiller
Three Dances (1944-1945) - performed by Michael Tilson Thomas & Ralph Grierson: prepared pianos
I don't recall whether I read this Cage Anthology before I got these records or after. After seems more likely but it's not listed in my list of books I read from September 1975 to August 1976 so it wdn't've been then & was probably earlier. Such details may be of little importance to most people but in the avant-garde where credit for innovation is determined by 'who-did-it-1st' such details can be very important.
For me, these were very heady times. I'd 1st learned of Cage when the teacher of my 9th grade music class told us about Cage's "4'33"", the so-called 'Silent Sonata'. I thought that was interesting. I was 20 at the beginning of 1974, 21 on September 4th of that yr, & probably lived at my mom's house most of the time with a few months spent in the basement of a friend's house.
I'd already discovered plenty of music that was important to by such folks as: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Soft Machine, The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ravi Shankar, Bonzo Dog Band, The Incredible String Band, Miles Davis, Dr. John, Van Dyke Parks, Berlioz, Eric Dolphy, Tim Buckley, The Fugs, Erik Satie, George Russell, &, soon thereafter, Harry Partch but it was Cage & Tudor's "Variations IV" that was probably the freshest for me.
Even though I had played (what I take for granted were mediocre) piano recitals as a child & had played folk & simple boogie-woogie & rock on 12-string acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica, & voice when I was 17 I wasn't really inclined to play steadily metered music. I listened to mostly rock'n'roll but I never felt like the type of personality to play that particular genre of forceful music.
But when I 1st heard "Variations IV" I realized that this was much more for me - or, at least, that's how I think of it from this time distance of 44.5 yrs. There was no steady beat, it was a pool of data to be sifted thru using one's own original methods & I found the results rewarding. I liked the density, I liked that it was generally w/o everything that was generally considered 'musical' in my previous experience. It was NEW, newer than rock'n'roll, it was uncompromising, it was definitely not mediocre.
In retrospect, what was then a long time, a mere 10.5 yrs later, I was performing my own "booed usic @ t he Telectropheremoanin'quinquennial" on & off stage at the Galaxy Ballroom in the Congress Hotel on January 24, 1984. (2 movies from this are online: "Telectropheremoanin'quinquennial" (a quasi-document of the full event: https://youtu.be/SSP1tJK3pjs ), & "booed usic @ t he Telectropheremoanin'quinquennial": https://archive.org/details/BooedUsic (just the booed usic portion of the evening)). Cage & Tudor's suit & tie performance in wch some talk of sex was incidental had morphed into my zipper pants event in wch sex was forefronted. The philosophy had changed dramatically but the (m)usic had similar modes of production. & it was slightly less than 10 yrs later that Cage was dead & I was participating in a tribute concert to him on October 10, 1993 (a very primitive movie from that called "Sound Cage" is here: https://youtu.be/MamQegRTPGQ ). Given that it's now 24 yrs later than that, that all seems so close together & now seems so far away.
ANYWAY, sometime around this time of hearing those recordings was when I 1st read John Cage, An Anthology. I think I must've read a public library copy b/c this was during a time when I was trying to keep my belongings sparse. Those were the days. They're also long gone. I don't really remember my reading this as having a profound affect on me but it seems like it must have. Rereading it (in this revised edition) I find much of what's described & addressed to still be the work of Cage's that I like the most. Still, I was reading & listening 'voraciously', as the cliché has it, at the time (& still am) so there was plenty other than Cage to take in.
Kostelanetz's "Addendum to [the] Preface" he wrote for the 1st edition on May 14, 1970, says this:
"Twenty Years later, it feels good to see this book back, in somewhat expanded and updated form. Though Cage has changed, my sense of him remains the same, which is to say that he is not just a composer but a master of other arts as well, beginning with poetry. What is missing from this book is a word I coined just after preparing the first edition — polyartist."
"This new edition now concludes with a greatly expanded catalogue of Cage's compositions, a bibliography of his books, a record of his major visual art projects and a fresh, longer list of recordings." - p xvi
Kostelanetz goes on to quote Duchamp in his addendum: "Everybody is making, not only artists, and maybe in coming centuries there will be the making without the noticing." (p xvii) Duchamp was rejecting "the idea of the artist as a superman" (quote from the same quote) & that's all well & good but I, personally, think that the notion of everyone's an artist leads to an uncritical mindlessness (as opposed to a mindfulness) in wch the ego still dominates but there aren't even any critical standards anymore w/ wch to substantiate anything. Cage's take is on p 12:
"Does this bother you—the assumption that anyone can be an artist, regardless of his skill?
"No. No, not at all. Not at all, That's a European question, you know, not an American question, this whole thing of hierarchy—of wanting to make the most the best. And it took us ages, relatively speaking, to get out of that European things. Many people are now out of it."
This whole business of distinguishing European thought from American thought doesn't interest me much now but I can see how it was important then. However, to me, it's not "this whole thing of hierarchy—of wanting to make the most the best". I'll give an example: if that's the way Cage felt, wd he rather have lived in East Berlin at the time where if he wanted a car for his (fictional) child he might have to apply for it when the baby was born & maybe the 20 yr old grown-up wd get some shit car after a 20 yr wait? B/c that's an instance where the society wdn't be making "the most the best". I don't think it's necessarily 'hierarchical' to prefer that the car runs reliably, that it gets good gas mileage, that it survives well in a crash, & that it can be gotten w/o waiting 20 yrs.
In other words, sure, everybody can make art, everybody can do brain surgery, everybody can choose mushrooms to eat - but Cage wd intervene, as one of his stories tells, if he thought the mushrooms picked might kill the person about to eat them. As such, in Cage's ill-thought-thru argument, Cage becomes part of a 'hierarchy', he becomes a skilled mycologist whose skill has value. People might counter-argue that art is not a life-or-death matter but that making cars & performing brain surgery or picking mushrooms are. I'm simply trying to make the point that any activity worth pursuing is worth pursuing mindfully if one is to take responsibility for the results & that embracing unskilled & skilled approaches as somehow 'equal' is an act in favor of mindlessness.
Kostelanetz, in the addendum, then quotes Stravinsky:
"Is it only that Mr. Cage does things that Europeans do not dare do and that he does them naturally and innocently, not as self-conscious stunts? Whatever the answers, no sleight of hand, no trap-doors, are ever discovered in his performances: in other words, no "tradition" at all, and not only no Bach and no Beethoven, but also no Schoenberg and no Webern either. This is impressive, and no wonder the man on your left keeps saying sehr interessant.—Igor Stranvinsky, in conversation with Robert Craft" - p xvii
Amazing. I don't see a yr attribution for that one but I'd love to know when that was sd. Craft was the conductor who brought us most of Schoenberg on record, all of Webern, & what was at the time all the available Varèse.
Kostelanetz knows his shit, as I've often sd, & he pulls material out of a hat that most people don't know exists. At the beginning of Chapter 1 he quotes something by a man named Edwin Morgan who I've never heard of. The quote begins:
"I have to say poetry and is that nothing and am I saying it I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it" [..] "(1965) From The Second Life (Edinburgh University Press), copyright © 1968"
Because Kostelanetz is such a prolific & prominent writer he probably gets books like The Second Life sent to him for review or he's probably forever searching bookstores, as I am, for obscure things that fit his interests. The Second Life might not be that obscure since it was published by a university press but, still, I've never heard of it before so, thank you, Kostelanetz for exposing me to it.
SO, since we're talking innovations in writing here & since people who're mindful of such things are mindful of the dates when they're done (as noted above once already) I go into my personal library & get my copy of Brion Gysin's Brion Gysin Let The Mice In wch has similar permutational txts to see what the dates on those are. The bk itself was published in 1973 by the wonderful Something Else Press. "The Permutated Poems of Brion Gysin" were copyrighted 1960, 1963, & 1973. Given that the latter copyright date was presumably for Brion Gysin Let The Mice In, such poems as the one partially quoted below presumably preceded Morgan's:
I AM THAT I AM
AM I THAT I AM
I THAT AM I AM
THAT I AM I AM
AM THAT I I AM
&, then I might as well throw in some Gertrude Stein:
It is very likely."
- from "Study Nature" (1915), p 197, The Yale Gertrude Stein, edited by Richard Kostelanetz
That Stein is pretty damned precocious & there was a time when I wd've been very impressed by it but I'm currently in post-having-read-Stein's-The Making of Americans (see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/4... ) -mode so I'm not so impressed anymore. For that matter, I never liked Gysin's permutation poems either. I even had a record by him on the important Hat Hut label called "Orgy Boys" that I found so boring that I got rid of it (unusual for me).
Kostelanetz had a conversation with Cage in 1966. There's probably plenty of things of interest for me in it, all of it probably, but I picked the following as the 1st thing to quote from:
"Do you watch that television often?
"Not right now, it's not working very well. But I generally go to sleep with it on, because it has a timing device so that the thing turns itself off. I use it as a lullaby.
"What do you watch?
"The old movies.
"Did you get a television early?
"I announced my desire to have a television set in my article on Rauschenberg  where I say that we are not so interested in poetry as we are in getting a TV set. I didn't have one at that time; but, having written that, shortly I found myself in a discount house buying one." - p 7
I stopped watching TV when I was 16. That was 1969 or 1970. I've never thought that was a bad decision. I'm sure that if I'd continued to watch TV I wd've got less accomplished. It wasn't until the 1950s that TV started to become common in homes in the US. I grew up in a house that had a black & white TV. I don't remember our ever having a color one before I stopped watching. Since TV was the primary propaganda medium in the US it was what people like my parents consulted if they wanted to know 'what to think' about something. That, of course, & the 'news'papers.
I'm sure that to Cage TV represented the avant-garde of the life-changing technology of the future. It is pretty amazing that he did things like perform his "Water Walk" on TV on the popular TV show "I've got a Secret" in January, 1960 ( https://youtu.be/SSulycqZH-U ). As such, it's no wonder he wanted one. What I do wonder is how long it took him to realize that such a powerful tool wd inevitably be used primarily for brainwashing?
Cage was a pioneer of taking mediums sold as passive consumer items & turning them into tools for active play. I love his work where he has radios & turntables be instruments, works like "Imaginary Landscape No. 1" (1939), "Credo in Us" (1942), "Imaginary Landscape No. 4" (1951), "Radio Music" (1956), etc..
On the other hand, I'm currently reading Joel Sachs's biography of Henry Cowell & I found this passage to contribute to a more well-rounded perception of radio's cultural function:
"Henry's developing perception of radio's potential can be traced through his articles on music for the Encyclopedia Americana's annual supplements. In his review of the year 1927, he mentioned radio only briefly, merely observing that better musicians were being used. Only two years later, radio seemed to him one of the most important forces in the musical world, since its music programming had greatly improved. He blamed radio, however, for a chain of side-effects that made it more threatening than recording. His "informal" survey revealed that up to 80 percent of concerts had been eliminated due to competition from broadcasting. Fewer children studied music as parents decided that radios rendered playing an instrument unnecessary. Consumers bought radios rather than pianos, pushing three leading piano manufacturers—Chickering, Knabe, and Mason and Hamlin—into receivership. Publishers failed as sheet music sales plummeted. Phonographs without built-in radios languished on store shelves. Composers' incomes dropped as performance opportunities shrank. Henry lamented that listeners would forget (or never learn) the acoustical superiority of live performances. Furthermore, radio companies were uninterested in new music. In his survey of 1930, radio looked even more pernicious." - p 218
I've encountered similar complaints that DJs & Karaoke have dramatically cut into the use of musicians at weddings & made it very hard for musicians who'd previously depended on those for a living to survive. Of course, new music is still not very often played on the radio. There are all sorts of explanations for that, the most obvious of wch is that most people don't like new music - or so it appears. But just as consent is manufactured (in the Chomsky critique) so can taste be. It's my opinion that simple-minded culture is deliberately propagated to keep people uncritical of propaganda. But that's an oversimplistic statement.
It's fascinating to be able to read this with the hindsight of a person 47 yrs after the original publishing date of the 1st edition. Cage says this:
"I say, in the "Diary" I mentioned, that we have to see chaos and order as not opposed." - p 9
Now, the 1st 3 of these Diaries were printed in Cage's 1967 bk A Year from Monday & Part Three was printed in a Great Bear Pamphlet in the same yr. Since then, there's also been a multiple-CD release. At the time that John Cage, An Anthology was released how many people wd've been familiar w/ this work? I have both A Year from Monday & the Great Bear Pamphlet.
"True discipline is not learned in order to give it up, but rather in order to give oneself up. Now, most people never even learn what discipline is. It is precisely what the Lord meant when he said, give up your father and mother and follow me. It means give up the things closest to you. It means give yourself up, everything, and do what it is you are going to do. At that point, what have you given up? Your likes, your dislikes, etc." - p 13
I appear to have noted the above b/c it's about discipline - self-discipline being something I respect & often find lacking in most people. However, reading that bit now I just feel like taking some pot-shots at it: "It is precisely what the Lord meant when he said, give up your father and mother and follow me.": How cd Cage say something like that?! I mean the man was 53 or 54 at the time, he wasn't a teenager, hypothetically he wasn't braindead - but such an approach to discipline reeks of cult-like imposition of discipline to turn people into slavish zombies. If you "give yourself up" what's left? Why not just kill yourself entirely?! B/c until you do that you're not likely to give up your "likes, your dislikes, etc." I was probably annoyed by that statement when I 1st read the bk 42 yrs or so ago but now it just strikes me as point-blank stupid.
Cage does get into class somewhat, w/o explicitly addressing it:
"Look at the difference between my life as a composer and La Monte Young's life. He never lived without some kind of support. Look what I had—nothing but opposition until 1949 and 1950.
"What did you do before then?
"Oh, I did everything. I had jobs as an art director for a textile company, also washing dishes, washing walls, doing library research, accompanying dancers. Not until 1960 was I able to live as a musician, so to speak—lecturing and concerts and so on." - p 15 ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 12, 2017
Nov 20, 2017