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Charles Simic on Elizabeth Bishop's Uncollected Poems

Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as the kisses are changing without our thinking.
Charles Simic on Elizabeth Bishop's uncollected poems
posted by matteo on Apr 14, 2006 - 17 comments

Through All the Lousy Luck

I first read "Ask the Dust" in 1971 when I was doing research for "Chinatown". I was concerned about the way people really sounded when they talked, and I was dissatisfied with everything else I had read that was written during the '30s. I wanted the real thing, as Henry James would say. When I picked up Fante's "Ask the Dust," I just knew that was the way those kids talked to each other—the rhythms, cadences, racism.
Robert Towne on adapting John Fante's novel for the big screen. More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 4, 2006 - 17 comments

"And therefore I forbid my tears"

Hamlet on the Ramparts is a public website designed and maintained by the MIT Shakespeare Project in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and other institutions. It aims to provide free access to an evolving collection of texts, images, and film relevant to Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 28, 2006 - 11 comments

John Banville's homage to Philip Larkin

He complained to [Kingsley] Amis in 1943...that "all women are stupid beings" and remarked in 1983 that he'd recently accompanied Monica [Jones] to a hospital "staffed ENTIRELY by wogs, cheerful and incompetent." ...His views on politics and class seemed to be pithily captured in a ditty he shared again with Amis. "I want to see them starving,/The so-called working class,/Their wages yearly halving,/Their women stewing grass..." For recreation he apparently found time for pornography, preferably with a hint of sado-masochism".
John Banville on Philip Larkin.
posted by matteo on Feb 6, 2006 - 30 comments

IN FROM THE COLD: The Return of Knut Hamsun

A young man comes to the city. He has no name, no home, no work: he has come to the city to write. He writes. Or, more exactly, he does not write. He starves to the point of death.
The city is Christiania (Oslo); the year is 1890. The young man wanders through the streets: the city is a labyrinth of hunger, and all his days are the same. He writes unsolicited articles for a local paper. He worries about his rent, his disintegrating clothes, the difficulty of finding his next meal. He suffers. He nearly goes mad. He is never more than one step from collapse.
Still, he writes.
In From the Cold: The Return of Knut Hamsun.
posted by matteo on Dec 19, 2005 - 17 comments

Harold Bloom, Jesus and Tanakh

"It is absurd to talk about a Judeo-Christian tradition".
I had been born in the United States but didn't know any English because none was spoken at home or in the streets. We were a solid enclave of some 600,000 Eastern European, Yiddish-speaking Jews. But I still remember one day that a missionary came to the door with what I still have my copy of: a Yiddish translation of the New Testament. There's a kind of grim joke in that, isn't there? In the mere existence of it.
Harold Bloom on religion in America, God smoking a cigar, and who really is the King of the Jews.
posted by matteo on Dec 4, 2005 - 72 comments

The MacDowell Colony

"The spiritual, physical, intellectual, social or economic well-being of the general public".
Within the MacDowell Colony's rustic stone and clapboard cottages, Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town, Aaron Copland composed Appalachian Spring and Dubose and Dorothy Heyward wrote Porgy and Bess. Jonathan Franzen finished writing The Corrections and Alice Sebold worked on The Lovely Bones. For decades, the town considered the colony a tax-exempt charitable organization. Not anymore.
posted by matteo on Nov 14, 2005 - 9 comments

Caravaggio's lost painting

The Caravaggio Trail: "The Lost Painting". (BugMeNot for the New York Times). more inside
posted by matteo on Nov 13, 2005 - 9 comments

Italo Calvino, 1923-1985

"If time has to end, it can be described, instant by instant," Mr. Palomar thinks, "and each instant, when described, expands so that its end can no longer be seen." He decides that he will set himself to describing every instant of his life, and until he has described them all he will no longer think of being dead. At that moment he dies.
In memoriam of Italo Calvino, who died exactly 20 years ago.
"Calvino's novels" by his friend Gore Vidal. Calvino's obituary by Vidal, il maestro William Weaver's essay on Calvino's cities, Jeanette Winterson on Calvino's dream of being invisible, and Stefano Franchi's philosophical study on Palomar's doctrine of the void. More inside.
posted by matteo on Sep 18, 2005 - 18 comments

Amelie Nothomb's "Sulphuric Acid"

Novelist posits Shoah as reality TV show. In her new book titled ’Sulphuric Acid’ published in France, the successful Belgian author Amelie Nothomb describes a “concentration camp reality show”. It's the story of a reality show called “Concentration”. There are ’candidates’ which are arrested in roundups, tattooed and guarded before they are executed one by one following a vote by the spectators.
posted by matteo on Sep 14, 2005 - 19 comments

Wagner, the repulsive giant

Wagner, the repulsive giant If, on one hand, you ever wanted to know what a swine Richard Wagner was, this is the book to tell you. It does so at length, in reliable detail, calmly, without prurience, perfectly backed with documentation, and in a translation whose only fault is in giving no Translator’s Notes for in-house German references. Joachim Köhler sustains his story with new ideas, revises other interpretations and modestly deconstructs Cosima née Liszt’s creation of “Richard Wagner Enterprises Inc”. (This she developed so far as to keep Parsifal exclusive to Bayreuth, prompting George Bernard Shaw to remark in 1889 that it “would almost reconcile me to the custom of suttee”!).
posted by matteo on Sep 3, 2005 - 11 comments

Singing, Painting and the Holocaust: Interview with Leon Greenman

you'll then have a grave in the clouds where you won't lie too cramped
"No, no, I never met Paul Celan. This poem is too CLASSIC, too cold, and too difficult to follow. It does nothing to me".
Singing, Painting and the Holocaust: Interview with Leon Greenman, Auschwitz Survivor 98288
posted by matteo on Aug 29, 2005 - 9 comments

Edmund Wilson and American culture

"When I read his work, I forgive him all his sins". Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian.
Edmund Wilson and American culture. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Aug 25, 2005 - 12 comments

James Fee's Peleliu Project

The Peleliu Project. The tiny Micronesian island of Peleliu was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The U.S. invasion of the Japanese occupied island began in September of 1944, and was expected to last only a matter of days. Casualties on this 5 square mile island reached 20,000 by the end of the two-month struggle. U.S. soldiers were forced to pour aviation fuel into caves and ignite them in order to end the standoff of those who refused to surrender. One determined group of 34 Japanese soldiers remained in hiding until they were discovered in April of 1947.
Pharmacist Mate 3rd Class Russell Fee returned from Peleliu with a fierce, uncompromising vision of America which would have a profound impact on the life and work of his son. Fifty-three years later, armed with his father's snapshots and diary which he had just uncovered, James Fee went to Peleliu to see with his own eyes the place where his father's vision had taken shape. The result of his five year quest is The Peleliu Project. more inside
posted by matteo on Aug 21, 2005 - 13 comments

"There was no one ever in American life who was remotely like Truman Capote", says Norman Mailer

Truman Capote's Blood Work Two soon-to-be released films on Truman Capote's life, Capote and Have You Heard? begin as the novelist drops into rural Kansas to begin work on what became "In Cold Blood". More inside.
posted by matteo on Aug 18, 2005 - 11 comments

A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright

“To speak in a flat voice / Is all that I can do. / . . . I speak of flat defeat / In a flat voice.”
James Wright's letters chronicle many of the major innovations in American poetry in the middle of the twentieth century. They also provide a compelling personal narrative of his life. Here, the American Poetry Review publishes a selection taken from the new volume "A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright". More inside.
posted by matteo on Aug 16, 2005 - 8 comments

Flaubert on Structural Unity

Flaubert on Structural Unity. "I’ve just read 'Pickwick' by Dickens. Do you know it? Some bits are magnificent; but what a defective structure! All English writers are like that. Walter Scott apart, they lack composition. This is intolerable for us Latins". Extracts from the letters of Flaubert (via the very awesome book coolie)
posted by matteo on Jul 29, 2005 - 12 comments

Edward Bunker, 1933-2005

"It has always been as if I carry chaos with me the way others carry typhoid. My purpose in writing is to transcend my existence by illuminating it."
Crime novelist Edward Bunker, who died last Tuesday at age 71 (LATimes obit), became at 17 the youngest inmate at San Quentin after he stabbed a prison guard at a youth detention facility. It was during his 18 years of incarceration for robbery, check forgery and other crimes that Bunker learned to write. In 1973, while still in prison, he made his literary debut with "No Beast So Fierce", a novel about a paroled thief James Ellroy called "quite simply one of the great crime novels of the past 30 years" and that was made into the movie "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman. Also a screenwriter ("Runaway Train"), Bunker appeared as an actor in nearly two dozen roles, most notably as Mr. Blue in "Reservoir Dogs." (more inside)
posted by matteo on Jul 25, 2005 - 9 comments

"All I wanted to do was record how all those poor people adapted to lies and suffering"

"Maybe this world is another planet's hell". Photographer Antonin Kratochvil's new book, "Vanishing" is a collection of 16 photo essays taken over 16 years by one of the world's most acclaimed photojournalists. It is a tour through endangered life forms and ruined environments, human catastrophes and destruction -- resulting in vanishing cultures. "Vanishing speaks on behalf of life, despite man's ever-threatening presence. This body of work offers nothing in the way of answers, neither is it a sermon in hopes of brighter days
posted by matteo on May 18, 2005 - 13 comments

Rebecca Protten and the origins of African American Christianity.

Rebecca's Revival. Rebecca Protten, born a slave in 1718, gained her freedom and joined a group of proselytizers from the Moravian Church. She embarked on an itinerant mission, preaching to hundreds of the enslaved Africans of St. Thomas, West Indies. Weathering persecution from hostile planters, Protten and other black preachers created the earliest African Protestant congregation in the Americas. University of Florida historian Jon Sensbach has written a book about Protten's life -- the interracial marriage, the trial on charges of blasphemy and inciting of slaves, the travels to Germany and West Africa. Later in her life, after she moved to Germany, Rebecca was ordained as a deaconess: "a former slave now administered Communion and practiced other claims to spiritual authority over white women, including European aristocrats." More inside.
posted by matteo on May 15, 2005 - 4 comments

William Gedney, photographer

What Was True. From the mid 1950s through the early 1980s, William Gedney (1932-1989) photographed throughout the United States, in India, and in Europe, and filling notebook after notebook with his observations. From the commerce of the street outside his Brooklyn apartment to the daily chores of unemployed coal miners, from the lifestyle of hippies in Haight-Ashbury to the sacred rituals of Hindu worshippers, Gedney was able to record the lives of others with clarity and poignancy. Gedney's America is a nation of averted eyes, and broken automobiles, and restlessness, a place Edward Hopper would recognize, but so, also, Walt Whitman.
posted by matteo on Apr 27, 2005 - 11 comments

Herbert O. Yardley and the Birth of American Codebreaking

The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail In the spring of 1919, when the father of American cryptography, Herbert O. Yardley, drew up a plan for a permanent State Department codebreaking organization — a "black chamber — he estimated that a modest $100,000 a year would buy a chief (Yardley) and fifty clerks and cryptanalysts. Yardley rented a three-story building in New York City: on East 38th Street just off Fifth Avenue, he put two dozen people to work under civilian cover—as the Code Compiling Company. His summary dismissal happened in 1929 at the hand of incoming Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who closed down the Cipher Bureau with the casual observation that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail". The son of a railroad telegrapher, a man with a lively Jazz Age interest in money, good-looking women, and drinks at five, Yardley not only taught his country how to read other people's mail but wrote two of the enduring American books—the memoir The American Black Chamber (1931), and The Education of a Poker Player (1957).
posted by matteo on Apr 22, 2005 - 6 comments

"He suggests living is language".

The Language of Saxophones At 55, L.A. musician and poet Kamau Daáood is finally beginning to acknowledge the possibility of his own place in local letters with his debut book of poetry, The Language of Saxophones, a 30-plus-year retrospective published by City Lights. Though he’s recorded a solo CD and read nationally and internationally, Daáood had never seen fit to collect his material in a book. Until now. “I never liked the idea of poetry sitting on a shelf somewhere, lost in all those book spines”.
posted by matteo on Apr 17, 2005 - 2 comments

The Shahs of Old

The Epic of Kings. Dr Charles Melville, a lecturer of the University of Cambridge is compiling a list of all the world’s handwritten and illustrated versions of the Shahnameh, the masterpiece of Iranian poet Ferdowsi. “In the first step, I began to search libraries and museums in Iran, Turkey, the United States, India, and a number of European countries. After finding the sources, I traveled to the countries to study the versions that I had found in my search”. Ferdowsi's epic poem (English translation here) has 62 Stories, 990 Chapters, and contains 60,000 rhyming couplets -- making it more than seven times the length of Homer's Iliad.
posted by matteo on Apr 11, 2005 - 6 comments

"I am the only woman in the room with shirt on at the VIP Strip Club"

Showing Off a Little (Inner) Cleavage. Author Geralyn Lucas wore bright, red lipstick to her mastectomy. "It was my way of saying I knew I would still be a woman when I woke up with a blood-soaked bandage where my breast used to be... women have sacrificed breasts and hair to try to save their lives. We have traded in our beauty for some kind of cure. But something strange often happens when we lose the bling — the big boobs and big hair — of womanhood. We're left with what I call 'inner cleavage,' and no plastic surgeon can sculpt it. It is the beauty that exists when everything else has been stripped away".
Lauren Greenfield photographs here. More inside.
posted by matteo on Apr 4, 2005 - 19 comments

Alexander the Corrector

The Man Who Unwrote the Bible. In the mid-1720s, Alexander Cruden took on a self-imposed task of Herculean proportions: he decided to compile the most thorough concordance of the King James Version of the Bible (777,746 words). The first edition of Cruden's Concordance was published in 1737. Every similar undertaking before or since has been the work of a vast team of people. Cruden worked alone in his lodgings, writing the whole thing out by hand. Cruden's day job was as a "Corrector of the Press" (proofreader). He would give hawk-eyed attention to prose all day long. Then he would come home at night to read the Bible—stopping at every single word to secure the right sheet from the tens of thousands of pieces of paper all around him and to record accurately the reference in its appropriate place. He had no patron, no publisher, no financial backers: his only commission was a divine one.
Cruden's Concordance has never been out of print. A new book tells the tale of Alexander the Corrector's bizarre, sad life (scroll down to about half page).
posted by matteo on Apr 3, 2005 - 10 comments

Larry Clark: Punk Picasso

The Cheerful Transgressive Ever since 1971, when Larry Clark published Tulsa, an austere series chronicling his meth-shooting pals in sixties Oklahoma, Clark has made it his mission to document teenagers at their most deviant, their most vulnerable, their most sexually unhinged (possibly NSFW). And now “Larry Clark” the first American retrospective of Clark’s work, currently on display at the International Center of Photography, demonstrates the richness with which he’s mined this single subject (NSFW). More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 31, 2005 - 48 comments

"My instincts in publishing are very much a gut reaction"

In those days, he could do no wrong. In the Sixties, he was the man who published Catch-22, Portnoy's Complaint and Hemingway's A Moveable Feast; he put John Lennon's doodles into cold print, launched the careers of John Fowles and Gabriel García Márquez, looked after Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut and later, in the early 1980s, was the godfatherly mentor of Amis fils, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie. He was equally adept at commissioning inspired non-fictions such as The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris's zoological inspection of human behaviour.
The Independent profiles Tom Maschler, publisher, founder of the Booker Prize. (via Bookslut)
posted by matteo on Mar 17, 2005 - 7 comments

The Gorge

"... Giordano Bruno might have been a pantheist. A pantheist believes that God is everywhere, even in that speck of a fly you see there. You can imagine how satisfying that is—being everywhere is like being nowhere. Well, for Hegel it wasn’t God but the State that had to be everywhere; therefore, he was a Fascist.”
“But didn’t he live more than a hundred years ago?”
“So? Joan of Arc, also a Fascist of the highest order. Fascists have always existed. Since the age of . . . since the age of God. Take God—a Fascist.”
Umberto Eco in the New Yorker
posted by matteo on Feb 28, 2005 - 36 comments

"What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?"

For lovers of the hard-boiled crime story, life began with the black bird. It's a tale of greed and a wisecracking gumshoe. The femme fatale is a liar. The object of the hero's search is a statuette of a falcon. Published exactly 75 years ago on Valentine's Day, Dashiell Hammett's private-eye novel "The Maltese Falcon"' immediately won critical acclaim. And when it was made into a 1941 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (and directed by a rookie), Hammett's story found a worldwide audience and his hero, Sam Spade, became a household name. Now, three-quarters of a century later, that's still the case. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 14, 2005 - 33 comments

"There are no answers in my world, but there is kindness".

"Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing direction. You change direction, but the sandstorm chases you". Murakami Haruki writes about love, earthquakes and -- in his new novel "Kafka on the Shore" -- mackerel raining from the sky. He is so famous in Japan that he was forced to flee the country, and now the rest of the globe (.pdf file) is fast catching on to his singular vision. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 9, 2005 - 18 comments

A Tale of Two Christianities

Born-again liberal Christians. Do you think that mainline denominations are hemorraging members? Wrong. Fundamentalist Christianity is the way of the future and all US Evangelicals worship the same political party? Not so fast, buddy. Many scholars and theologians think that it's time for liberals to take Christianity back. Oregon State's Marcus J Borg, for example, argues that Christianity "still makes sense and is the most viable religious option for millions". He contends the earlier paradigm, based upon a punitive God, simply doesn't work anymore for too many people. It is an argument for an alternative to the literalist and exclusivist tradition that has dominated Western Christianity in the modern era. According to Borg, "So different are these two views of Christianity that they almost produce two different religions, both using the same Bible and language. A time of two paradigms is virtually a tale of two Christianities." There is, for example, an alternative view to the Resurrection Narrative not as report of an actual, physical event but as means for Jesus' early followers to express the miracle of his continuing spiritual presence among them, after his execution. It is in short an 'emerging paradigm which has been developing for over a hundred years and has recently become a major grass-roots movement within mainline denominations'. Just don't be afraid to ask questions. Not even about the dogs beneath the Cross. More inside.
posted by matteo on Nov 19, 2004 - 100 comments

"Mother Medea in a green smock"

Poems from the precipice. Sylvia Plath's late poems were published posthumously in a collection edited by her husband, Ted Hughes. As a new facsimile edition of the original manuscript is published, their daughter Frieda defends Hughes against criticism that he interfered with Plath's legacy. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Nov 16, 2004 - 25 comments

"The swamping of the white world by Yellow hordes may be the price of our failure."

YELLOW PERIL
"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."
Sax Rohmer's tales of the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu and his arch enemy Sir Denis Nayland Smith of the British Secret Service (the nephew of Sherlock Holmes whose name is also invoked in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow), have fascinated readers and cinemagoers alike for the best part of the twentieth century. Two things make Fu Manchu all the more monstrous a villain: his proximity to the West, and his intellect. His base is in Limehouse, the Chinese area of London. So by allowing him to live in the country, England is vulnerable to his insidious plans (and so becomes a validation of strict immigration policy). His intellect comes from Western learning, and it is often emphasized that he has been educated in a University. So we see the evil Asian as using the West's own knowledge against it.
It is up to Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie to stop Fu Manchu's plans in each story. As Smith remarks in The Hand of Fu Manchu, "the swamping of the white world by Yellow hordes may be the price of our failure." (more inside)
posted by matteo on Nov 10, 2004 - 16 comments

"In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people".

Discovering Japan. As a perennial outsider at loose in Japan, writer Donald Richie captures the joyous freedom of being foreign. The foreign observer is likely to be happy only if he sees his foreignness as an adventure, and recognizes that he has given up a sense of belonging for a sense of freedom, traded the luxury of being understood for that of being permanently interested. Richie, the philosopher-king of expats in Asia for the past half-century, arrived in Tokyo in 1947 as a typist with the U.S. government and never really left, writing dozens of books , on Japanese movies, temples, history and fashion, while enjoying himself as an actor, musician, filmmaker and painter. The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 is a monument to the pleasures of displacement. Richie watchers can observe, more intimately than ever, a man who is generally happiest observing. More inside.
posted by matteo on Nov 9, 2004 - 12 comments

Christian Cravo's Backlands

Irredentos. The sun beats down insufferably on the rust coloured landscape, stretching for mile after mile under a cobalt blue sky. In the distance, a convoy of rented farm trucks packed with thousands of penitents kicks up a serpentine cloud of dust that rises and then dissipates over the land. Through the dry air comes a jingling of chimes and a clicking of rosaries, a shuffling of processions, and with eyes heavenward, a ceaseless chanting of invocations. This is a holy and sun-scorched land, the Backlands of Brazil's northeast - the Sertão. Some believe Jesus is buried here.
Christian Cravo, the photographer, is Mario Cravo Neto's son.
posted by matteo on Nov 7, 2004 - 7 comments

"Nazis looking for the Abominable Snowman".

Himmler's Crusade: The True Story of the 1938 Nazi Expedition to Tibet.
In 1935, the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler founded an organisation called Ancestral Heritage , to uncover the hidden past of the Aryan race he and his Führer regarded as the noblest and most vital force in human history. One of the scientific missions Himmler sponsored was a multitasked expedition to Tibet under the leadership of ornithologist Ernst Schäfer, an expert on rare Tibetan birds who liked to smear the blood of exotic kills on his face. Schäfer recruited an anthropologist to measure noses and skulls and to make face-masks; a geographer who specialised in the earth's geomagnetism; and a botanist who was also handy with a film camera. They managed to con their way into Tibet, past the British. The expedition is at the basis of a masterful story by Jim Shepard, the author of Love and Hydrogen (full text). More inside.
posted by matteo on Oct 25, 2004 - 12 comments

"Vote for Lindbergh or Vote for War"

"Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear." He is one of America's great novelists, but you don't expect Philip Roth to be barreling up the best-seller list with a book that hasn't even been published yet. And yet "The Plot Against America" is in the top 3 at amazon.com. It spins a what-if scenario in which the isolationist and anti-Semitic hero Charles Lindbergh runs for president as a Republican in 1940 and defeats F.D.R. "Keep America Out of the Jewish War", reads a button worn by Lindbergh supporters rallying at Madison Square Garden. And so he does: he signs nonaggression pacts with Germany and Japan that will keep America at peace while the rest of the world burns. The Lindbergh administration hatches a nice plan to prod assimilation of the Jews. Innocuously called Just Folks, it's a relocation program for urban Jews, administered by an Office of American Absorption fronted by an obliging and pompous rabbi of radio celebrity. The teenage Roth character is shipped off to a Kentucky tobacco farm, to finally live among Christians. The book is about American Fascism, but while Roth is no fan of President Bush ("a man unfit to run a hardware store let alone a nation like this one"), he points out that he conceived this book (LATimes registration: sparklebottom/sparklebottom) in December 2000, and that it would be "a mistake" to read it "as a roman à clef to the present moment in America." (more inside)
posted by matteo on Sep 28, 2004 - 10 comments

We Forget Most Every Little Thing

Memories of a Dog. Moriyama Daido's pictures are taken in the streets of Japan's major cities. Made with a small, hand-held camera, they reveal the speed with which they were snapped. Often the frame is tilted vertiginously, the grain pronounced, and the contrast emphasized. Among his city images are those shot in underlit bars, strip clubs, on the streets or in alleyways, with the movement of the subject creating a blurred suggestion of a form (warning: NSFW images if you scroll down the page) rather than a distinct figure. His best known picture, Stray Dog, (1971) is taken on the run, in the midst of bustling street activity. It is an essential reflection of Moriyama's presence as an alert outsider in his own culture. Moriyama is also a toy-camera enthusiast (his favorite is the Polga) . He has worked in the US, too: "N.Y. 71". (more inside)
posted by matteo on Sep 27, 2004 - 6 comments

Artsy Photographer Takes Portraits of P6rn Stars, Savage Wappa Ensues

XXX: 30 P9RN STAR PORTRAITS (a bit NSFW, obviously) by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, is a book that features paired portraits (one clothed and one nude) of the top stars in p6rn, straight and gay, from legends like (best-selling memoirist) Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy and Nina Hartley to (ahem) rising stars like Sunrise Adams, Belladonna, Chad Hunt. The book includes short essays on the intersection of p6rnography and culture by a wide range of writers, from Salman Rushdie to AM Homes. XXX is, essentially, about the much-dreaded "p6rnification" of the culture at large, recently featured in the New York Times. As Gore Vidal writes in the book's introduction, “Doubtless, sex tales were told about the Neanderthal campfire and perhaps instructive positions drawn on cave walls. Meanwhile, the human race was busy establishing such exciting institutions as slavery and its first cousin, marriage.” (more inside, with totally NSFW Terry Richardson)
posted by matteo on Sep 18, 2004 - 12 comments

Dino & Sibilla

With our shipwrecked hearts. Ninety years ago Dino Campana, impoverished and outcast poet self-published his book Canti Orfici (.pdf file) ("Orphic Songs", mastefully translated into English by poet Charles Wright). The birth of the book wasn't marred only by Campana's mental illness (soon afterwards, he was committed to a mental institution). Initially, the "Orphic Songs" were submitted for possible publication to the poet/painter Ardengo Soffici, who promptly lost the manuscript. Campana spent the next six months reconstructing the book from memory. Finally in 1914, with the help of a local printer of religious tracts, he self-published a first edition of around 500, selling only 44. Campana attempted, with marginal success, to sell the remainder of his portion of the run (the printer had taken half the books as partial printing payment) himself at cafes in Florence. He is now remembered as one of Italy's greatest, most imaginative poets (with biographies ,award-winning movies about his troubled life and his dangerous, scandalous love affair with fellow writer Sibilla Aleramo. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Sep 14, 2004 - 11 comments

First Lady Fights Back!

"Hi. My name is Tony Kushner, I'm a playwright...Ladies and Gentlemen and Supporters of MoveOn: the first lady of the United States, Laura Welch Bush". About a year and a half ago Kushner, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Angels in America, published the first act of a new play, Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy (full text). In it, Laura Bush reads Dostoyevsky to a classroom full of ghosts of dead Iraqi children. Now, (in Salon, I know, I know) the first lady metacriticizes Kushner's play. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Aug 4, 2004 - 11 comments

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The Sound and the Fury. 75 years ago, William Faulkner finished his fourth novel. It was published later in the fall (October 7, 1929), and for the first fifteen years sales totaled just over 3,300 copies (an appendix was added in 1946, when most of Faulkner's books were out of print. Of course, a few years after that he was awarded the Nobel Prize). It was Faulkner's own favorite novel, primarily, he said, because he considered it his "most splendid failure". Many critics think it's the finest work of an American Master: the key to Faulkner, wrote Alfred Kazin (.pdf file), lies not only in the unflinching extremity of his God-blasted characters, but in the odd and unaccountable moments of redemptive human tenderness. The Internet is very kind to Faulkner's fans: we can check out the Faulkner home, his manuscripts and even his pipe, trivia from his Postmaster's days, we can read examples of his snarkiness (hurled against Hemingway and Clark Gable), we can admire the pages of screenplays from his Hollywood days. We can go to Faulkner academic conferences, too: in the USA and Japan. Want to know what Bunny Wilson and Ralph Ellison had to say about Faulkner? Here. (more inside, with Conan O'Brien)
posted by matteo on Jun 11, 2004 - 30 comments

Bukowski: Born Into This

"Whadyawant, motherf*ck?" These are the first words Charles Bukowski speaks in John Dullaghan's documentary about the poet and novelist, famous for his writing and infamous for his drinking and brawling and screwing. The audience member might respond, "To hear your story, Hank, that's what I want." The movie opens with friends (Sean Penn, Harry Dean Stanton, Bono) and colleagues and lovers and fans recounting the myth; theirs are stories of blades pulled on the maitre d' of the swanky Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, of dangling dicks revealed in public, of a drunk who'd just as soon crack his bottle over your head than share its contents. (more inside)
posted by matteo on May 28, 2004 - 26 comments

The Adventure of the Wooden Spoon

"If this was Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, there would be a national outcry". Thousands of personal papers belonging to Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, fetched $1.7 million at an auction Wednesday, with many items sold to private U.S. collectors. The auction was a great disappointment to scholars who had hoped the papers would be donated to a public institution. The archive also became entwined in a mystery worthy of Conan Doyle's fictional detective: the bizarre death of a leading Holmes scholar. Lancelyn Green, 50, was found dead in his bed on March 27, garroted with a shoelace tightened by a wooden spoon, and surrounded by stuffed toys. (more inside)
posted by matteo on May 19, 2004 - 11 comments

Hubert Selby, Jr (1928-2004)

"Hubert Selby died often. But he always came back, smiling that beautiful smile of his, and those blue eyes of his... This time he will not be back. My saints have always come from hell, and now, with his passing, there are no more saints". Selby is the author of Last Exit to Brooklyn, (tried for obscenity in England and supported by, among many others, Samuel Beckett and Anthony Burgess), Requiem For a Dream, Song of the Silent Snow. He is being eulogized in the USA and UK, but also, massively (I've just watched a fantastic TV special) in France, where he is much more popular than in his native land (Selby's death was the cover story -- plus pages 2, 3 and 4 -- in the daily Libération today -- .pdf file): Dernière sortie vers la rédemption, L'extase de la dévastation. What makes all this kind of ironic -- in a very Selbyesque way -- is that Selby himself used to say, "I started to die 36 hours before I was born..." (more inside)
posted by matteo on Apr 28, 2004 - 16 comments

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