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James Ellroy’s obsessive and murderous world

aaellpicroy.jpg
 
James Ellroy. Often writes. In. One. Word. Sentences. Sometimes two. It’s a style he developed when editing his novel White Jazz—the final volume of his famous (first) L.A. Quartet. He thought the manuscript too long—the action held back by unnecessary descriptive passages—so he slashed whole paragraphs and sentences to one-word blasts. The result was powerful, explosive, relentless—like being punched by a champion heavyweight, or poked in the chest by a speed freak keeping your attention focussed on his latest conspiracy theory.

Ellroy is the greatest living historical novelist/crime writer—historical novelist is how he describes himself—writing rich, complex novels—filled with multiple plot lines and characters—all held together, with Tolstoyan skill, in a single narrative.
 
aahilellro.jpg
Ellroy as a child pictured next to his mother in news report of her slaying.
 
If the past is a foreign country then Ellroy is a pioneer of that territory. He maps out America’s hidden criminal history—a dark foreboding underworld—which he situates between the twin poles of his personal obsession: the unsolved murder of his mother in 1958 and the slaying of Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia,” whose tortured, brutalized and severed body was discovered in January 1947.
 
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LA Times report on the ‘Black Dahlia’ murder, 1947.
 
These two murders underscore much of Ellroy’s life and fiction. He was just a ten-year-old kid when his mother was murdered by person or persons unknown. The trauma of this act led Ellroy into a world of petty crime, drug addiction and prison. He daydreamed and plotted and ran movies in his head where he saved a fantasy amalgam of his mother and Elizabeth Short from torturous demise. He knew his life was in free-fall—he was on a one-way ticket to the morgue. After a near fatal incident—a lung infection caused by his drug and alcohol addiction—Ellroy saved himself by writing crime fiction.

Last year, Ellroy published Perfidia—the first volume of his second L.A. Quartet—which follows (in real time) factual public and fictional private deeds across Los Angeles in the days around Pearl Harbor. Perfidia documents the racism and brutality of the cops and everyday Angelenos as Japanese-Americans are rounded-up and dumped in internment camps. It is a remarkable book, an adrenaline charged assault on America’s secret history and is arguably the best book he has written.

In 1994, Nicola Black made an astounding documentary on Ellroy called White Jazz that followed his quest to find his mother’s killer. If that had been available I’d have posted it here. Instead here is James Ellroy’s Feast of Death a BBC documentary form 2001 that covers similar ground but with the added bonus of a round table discussion on the Black Dahlia killing held in the Pacific Dining Car restaurant between Ellroy and a bunch of ex-cops and interested parties—including a briefly glimpsed Nick Nolte.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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X-libris: Awesome vintage erotic bookplates
01.23.2015
09:21 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Sex

Tags:
ex libris


By Jozsef Farkas for Alfred Fährmann
 
I’m a bookish sort, to be sure, but the whole concept of the “ex libris” bookplate seems from a wildly different time. I never related to them, but that’s probably a generational thing—I stopped writing my name in my paperbacks when I was a teenager, so the concept of glueing in a large sticker with your name on it ... seems like a very outsize, unnecessary gesture. They make me think of my maternal grandfather, who grew up in Vienna in the early 1900s—he had a huge library of leather-bound books and I wouldn’t be surprised if he used bookplates, although I couldn’t say I ever saw one.

Ex Libris is a Latin phrase that means “from the books.” So to say “Ex Libris Carrot Top” is to say “From the library of Carrot Top.” I didn’t realize how popular these bookplates must have been, but I stumbled on a massive gallery of adult-oriented bookplates and that’s just a tiny percentage of the whole, you’d have to think. It apparently was a thing, you’d open to the inside front cover and there would be a charming image of an amorous couple in the throes of passion or a little doodle of a male appendage—or a whole field full of male appendages!

Martin Hopkinson is the chief chronicler of the development of the bookplate, as is evident from his book Ex-Libris: The Art of Bookplates. We’ve selected some of the more fun images, but there are lots more where these came from, as you can see for yourself if you click over to this fantastic page at ex-libris.net.

Needless to say, it probably isn’t appropriate to look at these images in many workplace settings. Or a library.
 

By Miro Parizek
 

By Christian Blæsbjerg
 

By Franco Brunello
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Gay Semiotics’: Hilariously deadpan taxonomy of San Francisco life in the 1970s
01.16.2015
08:53 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Queer
Sex

Tags:
Hal Fischer


 
Post-Stonewall. Pre-AIDS. Thus is defined a period, which we can for convenience also term “the 1970s,” that has special significance for homosexuals in the United States. The genie of liberation, especially sexual liberation, had been loosed from its magic lamp, but the devastating toll of plague had not yet made its mark. Under those circumstances, while still enjoying or enduring marginalization in society, homosexual males could engage in behavior that was at once highly promiscuous and yet highly coded. The task of melding one’s own interest in, say, cowboys or sports and more generic signifiers of homosexuality created the possibility of a developed taxonomy of gay life. That is, you could be “gay” but of the butch/leather/jock/urbane type, and so on. During this time, it’s safe to say that many homosexuals became highly attuned to such signifiers.

Into this situation wandered a photographer named Hal Fischer, who published a monograph in 1977 with the provocative title Gay Semiotics based on pictures taken in San Francisco, especially Castro Street and Haight Ashbury. In it Fischer presented straightforward photographs of aspects of homosexual garb, etc., complete with explanatory labels, quite like a museum exhibit.

I can’t remember ever seeing this exact tone before, so deadpan and dry that the material is effectively turned inside out. Taxonomizing people isn’t necessarily the nicest impulse in the world—think of racist representations of African-Americans in the 19th century or Nazi depictions of Jews in the 20th…. Less harmfully, think of countless spreads in MAD Magazine that are funny and harmless but still not necessarily so nice. Nobody likes to be defined to that extent, one can almost hear the pushback…. “Hey, I’m gay and I don’t care about red handkerchiefs!” or whatnot. However, at this point in the development of gay culture, it seems that the trinkets had taken on iconic value within the culture and this winking look at it was most likely seen as funny and not malign.

We’ve supplied some of the more amusing pictures and captions here, but you can see the entire (I believe) book at the Queer Cultural Center. The book is hard to find and currently sells for $500.
 

BLUE HANDKERCHIEF
Handkerchiefs signify behavioral tendencies through both color and placement. A blue handkerchief placed in the right hip pocket serves notice that the wearer desires to play the passive role during sexual intercourse. Conversely, a blue handkerchief placed in the left hip pocket indicates that the wearer will assume the active or traditional male role during sexual contact. The blue handkerchief is commonly used in the treatment of nasal congestion and in some cases holds no meaning in regard to sexual preferences.

RED HANDKERCHIEF
Red handkerchiefs are used as signifiers for behavior that is often regarded as deviant or abnormal. A red handkerchief located in the right hip pocket implies that the wearer takes the passive role in anal/hand insertion. A red handkerchief placed in the left hip pocket suggests that the wearer plays the active role in anal/hand insertion. Red handkerchiefs are also employed in the treatment of nasal discharge and in some cases may have no significance in regard to sexual contact.
 

EARRING
An earring in the right lobe may suggest that the wearer prefers to play the passive role during sexual activity. Conversely, an earring in the left lobe may signify active behavior on the part of the wearer. Unlike the other signifiers, however, Right/Left placement of the earring is not always indicative of Passive/Active tendencies on the part of the wearer. Furthermore, the earring or stud is often adopted by non-homosexual men, thus making the earring the most subtle of homosexual signifiers.
 

KEYS
Keys are an understood signifier for homosexual activity. A key chain worn on the right side of the body indicates that the wearer desires to play a passive role during a sexual encounter. Conversely, keys placed on the left side of the body signify that the wearer expects to assume a dominant position. Keys are also worn by janitors, laborers and other workers with no sexual significance intended.
 

AMYL NITRITE
Amyl nitrite is a prescription capsule drug used in the treatment of angina pectoris (heart disease). Amyl nitrite, or “poppers” as it is known in slang terminology, is inhaled through either the nose or the mouth. After inhalation the user experiences a quickened heartbeat and the sensation of blood rushing to his head. Amyl nitrite is especially popular on dance floors and immediately prior to sexual climax. Since Amyl Nitrite is available only by prescription, manufacturers have created a number of commercial substitutes as well as a variety of inhalers. Although Amyl is used by heterosexuals, its immense popularity among gays has earned it the title “The Gay Drug.”
 

STREET FASHION
BASIC GAY
 

STREET FASHION
JOCK
 

ARCHETYPAL MEDIA IMAGE
WESTERN
The western or cowboy prototype is identified by articles of clothing: cowboy or western boots, jeans, flannel or western style shirts and in some instances hats. When the image appears in gay magazines the settings are usually barns, corrals or fence posts. The cowboy represents the frontier and a male-only society. The machismo qualities of the western archetype are vigorously exploited by advertising. Modern cowboys are used by the media to play up masculinity and sexuality in ways that are subconsciously understood by the gay populace.
 

ARCHETYPAL MEDIA IMAGE
LEATHER
The leather prototype is the most easily recognized look. Black leather items include everything from hoods to jackets, pants, caps and underwear. Accoutrements include motorcycles, chains and various sexual items. In the gay media black leather becomes a symbol for the unknown or untried. It is entirely, vehemently, macho in appearance. While the other archetypes have their roots in myths accepted and celebrated by the culture-at-large, the leather cult, like its straight counterpart is rooted in non-acceptance and non-conformity.
 

BONDAGE DEVICE
MEAT HOIST
 

Cover

via Tombolare

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Psychoactive sci-fi surrealism: The book covers that inspired XTC’s Andy Partridge

STURGEON CAVIAR
 
I’d love to live in a world where the great commercial artists of the past—the visionary men and women who could easily have been heralded “fine” artists if they weren’t jobbers—were household names, while blandly inoffensive pop singers had to hold yard sales to make rent. But it ain’t so and surely never will be. Today’s case in point is that great painter of otherworldly pulp sci-fi covers, Richard M. Powers.

Trained in Chicago, Powers became a force in the publishing industry in the ‘50s and ‘60s, working for houses like Ballantine and Doubleday, and bringing an incredible stylistic versatility to his work—his work in the horror genre could be a whole separate post, and you’d not likely know just by looking that they were by the same artist who executed the works you see here. His early covers were of a type with much mid-century pulp fiction art, but as the ‘50s progressed, he began a move towards a signature style derived from surrealism. Less the sort of an-ordinary-object-is-doing-something-weird surrealism associated with Magritte or Dalí, more the timeless, placeless, deathless dreamscapes of Gorky, Matta or Tanguy, set as much in outer space as inner. By the mid to late 1960s, that style harmonized rather nicely with the psychedelic art that was spreading from music culture to, well, everything.

The best bio I’ve found for Powers is by film writer C. Jerry Kutner, on an Earthlink site that looks like it could almost date back to Powers’ 1996 death:

Powers became the virtual art director of Ballantine’s science fiction line, creating not only the cover illustrations (front, back, and occasionally wraparound), but the entire design of the books including positioning of the title and other text, selecting and coloring the typefaces, and sometimes even handpainting the lettering. Ballantine gave Powers the freedom to experiment endlessly. The more he got away with, the further he went. Reach For Tomorrow is a striking early experiment. The subject matter is a city on an alien planet. Or is it? The shapes of the city, alternately rounded and spiky, resemble blobs of clay or melted wax more than they do any realistic architectural construction. The city rests in the middle of a silent desert, closer in look and feel to the paintings of Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy than the other SF artwork of its era. Furthermore, the format of this painting is horizontal. To view it correctly, one has to hold the book sideways!

By the late ‘50s, the world of the SF paperback had been conquered by “the Powers style.” In addition to painting more than a hundred covers for Ballantine, Powers was the artist of choice for Berkley, Dell, and numerous other SF publishers. Powers’ success encouraged other SF artists like Ed Emshwiller, Jack Gaughan, and Paul Lehr to experiment with surrealism and abstraction. Powers’ art, in turn, assimilated the styles of most of the major surrealists of this century, not only Dali and Tanguy, but Calder and De Chirico, Miro and Kandinsky, Klee and Ernst. Sometimes the homage is obvious, as on the cover of Star Wormwood, a non-fiction work in which a watercolor of a man sitting in an electric chair resembles Francis Bacon’s “Screaming Pope.”

 
REACH FOR TOMORROW CLARKE
Arthur C. Clarke, Reach for Tomorrow
 
VOICES OF TIME BALLARD 1
J.G. Ballard, The Voices of Time
 
VOICES OF TIME BALLARD 2
And another one, because why not.
 
ROBOTS AND CHANGELINGS DEL REY
Lester Del Rey, Robots and Changelings
 
SPACEJACKS WELLS
Robert Wells, The Spacejacks
 
OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS TENN
William Tenn (pseudonym for Philip Klass), Of All Possible Worlds
 
More brilliant covers, plus music after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘American Psycho’ babble: E-mails from Patrick Bateman


 
In 2000, online marketing of Hollywood movie releases was in its infancy. Does anyone remember the Beast, the online alternate-reality puzzle that was created to promote the Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubirck movie A.I.? That was in 2001. A year earlier, Lions Gate Films, tasked with distributing the Mary Harron’s movie American Psycho, created an online advertising campaign in which you could sign up to receive emails from the movie’s psychotic protagonist, Patrick Bateman. The emails were helpfully collected by and have been posted online by a man named Brian Kotek.

The book American Psycho has had a remarkable journey since its incredibly controversial release in 1991. I can’t think of another case in which a book was so shunned by the publishing community—Ellis had always been considered somewhat suspect, a flash in the pan, by New York publishing types, and when his third novel turned out to be a deadpan account of a psycopathic day trader, the New York publishing community, as one, decided they weren’t interested in plumbing the work for irony. The novel was acquired by Simon & Schuster, but the company dropped the project because of “aesthetic differences.” Vintage Books then purchased the rights to the novel and published the book. Essentially, the novel was unjustly treated as …, shall we say, a piece of disgusting pornography when in fact sensitive adults should have been perfectly able to differentiate between that kind of titillation and a more nuanced critique of American capitalism or of the violence of life in America. However IMO the negative perception of Ellis by people in the publishing world, overly eager to serve him his comeuppance, blocked that option.

When the movie was later adapted by Harron, the feminist-identifying (and British) director of I Shot Andy Warhol, that considerably helped resuscitate the book’s image and make it easier to see it as a deliciously nasty jape rather than a soulless exercise in sadism, which it never was in the first place. The movie has become something of a cult item, and Patrick Bateman (particularly for a passage in the book, repeated in the movie, relating his adoring attitude towards Huey Lewis) has become a favorite in memes, to the point that Weird Al Yankovic and Huey Lewis filmed a parody of the American Psycho scene for Funny or Die! in 2013.
 

This image comes from one of the Patrick Bateman emails.
 
The emails were not written by Ellis, but Ellis did approve them, so it’s not a stretch to consider the content of the emails as canon—at the time, they were touted as an “e-quel” to the novel (gag). In the emails we are transported from the heady world of the late 1980s to the year 2000, the present tense for the email recipients, and it turns out that Bateman did indeed marry Jean, his secretary. They have a son (Patrick Jr.) and he would like to get a divorce. Bateman’s attitude in the emails is more or less that of a truth-telling asshole, pretty much what you’d expect of a shallow, aggressive day trader who has literally gotten away with a handful of brutal murders. The emails are quite well written. We’re excerpted two of them here, but you can read ‘em all at this website.
 

Sun 3/26/00 4:45 PM
Subject: 10 Things I Hate

I Hate False Hope.

Don’t tell me everything will be fine when you know in advance that it won’t.

I Hate Bad Service.

You’re an Actor, fine. Go sleep with a Producer, and allow a trained professional to filet my Salmon.

I Hate people who refer to themselves in the third person.

It’s only acceptable if you’re already dead, as in the opening scene of “Sunset Boulevard.”

I Hate Davis Ferguson.

I believe I’ve already touched on that.

I Hate Bad Albee.

Don’t bring up your inner demons to share with the others at the table. We really don’t care to know if you’re afraid of Virginia Woolf. Stay home and freak out. Buy a Chainsaw.

I Hate The Work of Jean Michel Basquiat.

Let’s see what he could do sober.

I Hate Politicians Who Comb Over Their Bald Spots.

If you are going to lie about the state of your own head, how can anybody trust anything you have to say about anything important?

I Hate False Modesty.

Why bother?

I Hate Beggars.

They CAN be choosers, like in choose to get a job.

I Hate Not Being Understood.

Do I make myself clear?

I Hate Davis Ferguson.

All right, that’s 11.

Virtually yours,
Patrick Bateman
bateman@AmPsycho2000.com

 
This next one is a personal favorite of mine because Bateman shows off his music criticism skills, which won him so much favor when he applied them to Huey Lewis’ “Hip to Be Square.”
 

Tue 4/4/00 1:21 PM
Subject: The Hills Are Alive

In spite of Rap Artists’ protests to the contrary, music today, for the most part, has lost it’s soul. Actually, “Killed” is a better word, for the call to violence that is such an integral part of today’s music betrays what music was meant to be. From the first caveman who noticed the haunting chant of the wind over an entrance to his cave, all the way to the most contemporary interpretations of techno-pop by artists such as Tangerine Dream, music is meant to glorify life—to be a treat for the soul, an exclamation point, an expression of hope, a celebration. Not an outlet for hate.

The mood and needs of a Society are best expressed by the work of the Artists of the day, who speak for a people better than any politician or pundit.

Bob Dylan expressed the need for self-evaluation during Vietnam. Cole Porter spun fantasies as the world faced depression. Elvis liberated the youth of America born during a time of War. The Beatles were perhaps the world’s first cultural happening, bringing together the children of the world across the boundaries of geography and culture.

Madonna doesn’t just sing about freedom for women. She IS freedom for women. It is fascinating that after the turn of the Millennium, the world has found a renewed appreciation for artists such as Burt Bacharach and Santana, comfort food for the ears.

Meatloaf, if you will, both literally and figuratively.

Virtually yours,
Patrick Bateman

 

Another image from the Patrick Bateman emails.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Dr. Seuss and the 50 word ‘dare’ that inspired ‘Green Eggs and Ham’
01.08.2015
08:04 am

Topics:
Art
Books

Tags:
Dr. Seuss


 
In terms of sales, Green Eggs and Ham, published in 1960, was the most successful book that Dr. Seuss ever published—it checks as the #4 best-selling children’s book of all time. Famously, the book was limited to a set of fifty words, Dr. Theodore Geisel (Seuss’ real name) having taken up a challenge thrown down by Random House publisher Bennett Cerf after The Cat in the Hat had used 225 words. The fifty words are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, and you.
 

 
Recently the University of California has started a series of videos called “Fig. 1” intended to present the new research coming out of the University of California system. So far the videos have covered climate change, mountain biking, gold, and cancer.

One of the videos offers a fascinating look at the Dr. Seuss Collection, including drafts of the book Green Eggs and Ham. My favorite bit is the instruction to later colorists “White inside the hambone, always.” The video’s only shortcoming is that, at 84 seconds, it’s far too short! Can we have a version that lasts maybe 15 minutes? 
 

 
via BOOOOOOOM
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Paul Thomas Anderson: David Foster Wallace was ‘the first teacher I fell in love with’


 
Two days ago Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Paul Thomas Anderson, who is promoting his new Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice was posted, and buried in that interview is an intriguing tale about Anderson’s days as a student in a class taught by revered author David Foster Wallace. It turns out that Wallace spent a year as an adjunct professor at Emerson College, and that happened to be the same year that Anderson was there as a student, and Anderson happened to take one of Wallace’s classes, in which they apparently read Don Delillo’s classic postmodernist novel White Noise.

Here’s the relevant portion of the interview, which takes place around the 38th minute, lightly edited for readability:

Anderson: [Being at Emerson College] just felt like a drag. It didn’t really. … And I would have to say, that probably was just because I didn’t find a teacher that kind of spoke to me. The funny thing was, is when I was at Emerson for that year, David Foster Wallace, a great writer who was not known then, was my teacher. He was an English teacher.  And, it was the first teacher I fell in love with. And I never found anyone else like that at any other schools that I’ve been to, which makes me really reticent to talk shit about schools or anything else, because it’s just like anyplace, like if you could find a good teacher, man, I’m sure school would be great.

Maron: So why didn’t you stay?

Anderson: He left.

Maron: So you were there with him for a year?

Anderson: Yeah.

Maron: And you spent a lot of time with him?

Anderson: You know why I didn’t stay? And in that classic move, I thought, “Oh, I want to get to New York. That’s where I’m supposed to go. I’m supposed to go to NYU,” ‘cause it had this good rep and all that. … And, dummy that I am, I did it, and I got there and I thought, “Well, I don’t want to be here. I wish I was back in Boston, you know, taking English classes.”

Maron: Did you spend a lot of time with David Foster Wallace?

Anderson: No. Just in class.

Maron: Oh really? You weren’t one of those guys that after class was like, “Hey, can I talk to you?”

Anderson: No. Uh, I called him once. He was very generous with his phone number, he said “Call me if you got any questions.” I called him a couple times.

Maron: Yeah? What did you say?

Anderson: I ran a few ideas by him about a paper I was writing. I was writing a paper on Don Delillo’s White Noise.

Maron: “Hail of bullets!”

Anderson: And I came up with a couple of crazy ideas, I don’t remember how the conversation went but I just remember him being real generous at like, you know,  midnight the night before it was due.

Maron: Really? You were freaking out, all jacked up?

Anderson: [Laughing] Yeah, basically!

Maron: “I’m almost done, man!”

Anderson: It was like, I think I’d written a pretty good paper. It was like, cooking a pretty good dish and at the last minute just panicking—“I got to add some more shit on, on top of it.”

Maron: Or you missed the point, like “Aww, that’s what it’s about!”

Anderson: Right. Yeah. There was no cut-and-paste back then, if you typed it out, you were….

Maron: That book was a life-changer for me, man.

Anderson: Was it really?

Maron: Little bit.

Anderson: I’d love to go back and read it again.

Maron: I would too, actually.

As it happens, Wallace paid close attention to at least two of Anderson’s movies, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, without ever betraying any inkling that he had ever had contact with the director, which frankly seems a little odd. Wallace had a prodigious intellect, and even if Anderson were the most anonymous shnook Wallace had ever had as a student—which seems unlikely—if you’re on the phone multiple times with him discussing White Noise, when a movie as big as Boogie Nights comes out just six years later (Anderson’s debut film, Hard Eight, came out just five years later), you’d think it might make a more lasting impression in a mind as capacious as Wallace’s. Be that as it may, Wallace had strong opinions about Boogie Nights and Magnolia, opinions that track my own precisely: he was tremendously impressed by Boogie Nights and didn’t much care for Magnolia.

In Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, the biography of Wallace that came out after Wallace’s 2008 suicide, author D.T. Max reports the following: “When Boogie Nights came out in 1997, Wallace called Costello and told him the movie was exactly the story that he had been trying to write when they lived together in Somerville.” “Costello” here is Mark Costello, a close friend of Wallace’s with whom he co-wrote the bizarre 1990 book Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present. About Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights Wallace was a good deal grumpier; according to Max’s account, Wallace “hated the acclaimed Magnolia, which he found pretentious and hollow, ‘100% gradschoolish in a bad way.’”
 

 
It’s tempting to say that Anderson (whatever Wallace thought of Magnolia) is the only director who could ever successfully direct one of Wallace’s works, and so on. Anderson is such a gifted director that he would be the first choice for almost any writer’s works, whether it be Delillo, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, J.D. Salinger. He has just completed the first Pynchon adaptation with a fair degree of success. Of course, there already exists a Wallace adaptation, John Krasinski’s 2009 movie Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. It happens that Jason Segel is attempting to portray Wallace himself in The End of the Tour, an adaptation of David Lipsky’s memoir about Wallace titled Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. Segel has come under fire for daring to attempt to play Wallace, which makes sense primarily insofar as it’s exceedingly difficult to capture an intelligence like Wallace’s onscreen, and Segel has mostly played dumb guys in his career.

What’s been overlooked in the apparent linkup between Anderson and Wallace is a key shared point of interest, that being the adult entertainment industry. Anderson’s breakthrough success, Boogie Nights, is an affectionate look at the porn industry of the 1970s, which in the movie is eventually usurped by the more cutthroat and impersonal video-based porn industry of the 1980s, mirroring a progression that happened in real life. Anderson grew up in the San Fernando Valley and has often told of his youthful adventures figuring out that certain houses in the neighborhood were being used for porno shoots. (The subject comes up in the WTF interview too.) Wallace also had a keen interest in the porn industry, writing a piece of reportage for Premiere magazine on the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in 1998. The article was hilariously written under the pseudonymous byline “Willem R. deGroot and Matt Rundlet”; the title of the piece was “Neither Adult Nor Entertainment.” It’s the first essay in Consider the Lobster, Wallace’s second collection of non-fiction works, although the title’s been changed to “Big Red Son.”

But the AVN story is just a small part of it. At one point, around the time he and Costello were working on the hip-hop book, Wallace, according to Max, spent a considerable amount of time trying to write a novel set in the pornography industry, one that never got finished:

Another nonconformist industry now caught his eye: the pornography business. Pornography fit well into Wallace’s ongoing areas of inquiry: it linked to advertising—the thing really being sold was the idea that we are all entitled to sexual pleasure, which in turn feeds the secondhand desire that Wallace saw at the root of the American malaise.

You can see this idea playing out in Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest, in the “samizdat” that is so entertaining that its viewers lose interest in everything else and eventually die. In The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Costello (pretty hilariously) reported on Wallace’s research methods for the book as follows:

Wallace set timetables for his work, intricate as the Croton-on-Hudson local. Get up. Talk on phone with porn actress famous for giving screen blow jobs. Hang up. Ask: is the porn queen an actress? Look up actress in the OED. Actress: a female actor. Look up actor: one who acts in a drama. Surely a blow job is an act. OK then: is a blow job drama?

Not surprisingly, per Max, Wallace soon came to think that some “actual on-set knowledge might help.” It’s in this context that Wallace’s interest in Boogie Nights becomes more evident. According to Max, Wallace “came to think that what was needed was a reported piece on how the industry had changed as the so-called golden age of porn gave way to the era of inexpensive and inartistic video,” which is precisely the perspective that Anderson offered in his highly confident and knowing movie about porn.

Here’s The Dirk Diggler Story in full, the half-hour movie Anderson made in 1988 that many years later would become the core of Boogie Nights.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Black Flag producer SPOT’s photos of L.A.
01.06.2015
06:43 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Music
Punk

Tags:
photography
SST
SPOT


 
To the extent that he’s known at all, SPOT is known for his time as the in-house producer for SST records in the 1980’s. His were the hands on the board for unimpeachable classics like Meat Puppets II, What Makes a Man Start Fires?, Zen Arcade, Milo Goes to College, and the first four Black Flag albums. He eventually retired from producing (and really, not even he could have saved What The…) to focus on performing music.

But all that time, he had another, lesser-known talent as well—as a photographer. The new book Sounds of Two Eyes Opening collects SPOT’s photos of L.A., spanning from the surf/beach scene of the ‘60s to the punk/skate scene of the ‘80s, and he is (was?) a very fine shooter, with a solid eye for composition. From the publisher’s hype-sheet:

Spanning the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening offers an amazing portrait of Southern California coastal life: surfing, bikinis, roller skating and skate boarding’s fledgling days are set in contrast to iconic shots of all the key denizens of hardcore punk rock as it is being invented; candid shots of Black Flag, The Germs, Minutemen abut those of everyday punks, fans, cops, clubs and now-shuttered rehearsal spaces.

 

 

 
Some editions of the book come with an Ed Templeton-designed picture 7” featuring SPOT’s song “Too Wise to Crack.” I scoured the web in vain for a streamable version to play for you, but I turned up squat. I quite like it though, it’s a loose, free, and economical piece of music with spoken vocals that recalls moments from Funambulist, Worldbroken-era Saccharine Trust, or Keith Morris’ Midget Handjob project—and what an idiot I was to search for videos of that band.

Sinecure Books were kind enough to share these images from Sounds of Two Eyes Opening. Enjoy.
 

 

 

 

 
Fun on wheels after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘The Henry Miller Odyssey’: Miller’s life and work in his own words
01.05.2015
11:30 am

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Books

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Henry Miller


 
The Henry Miller Odyssey, a fantastic biographical film directed in 1969 by documentarian Robert Snyder is told in Henry Miller’s own words as the embattled, passionate, often censored and eventually celebrated author discusses formative moments in his life. He includes encounters with his unhappy, overbearing mother, the influence of the streets of his Brooklyn upbringing and the liberating feeling of walking out of his job at Western Union to once and for all make his living as an author in 1924. As Miller recounts his own biographical narrative with the still strong New York accent of a serious scrapper, the septuagenarian author adds frequent words of wisdom about finding strength through humiliation and transcending the world’s absurdities through struggle, intimate encounters with creative minds and sheer determination.

Highpoints of the film include Miller’s reading of a long passage from his 1936 novel, Black Spring and then visiting a variety of locations around Paris that were important to him during his early, often grueling but productive years as an indomitable writer living by his wits and his bootstraps and sometimes literally starving in pursuit of his art. Miller later discusses his room in the Villa Seurat where he wrote many of his major works including the third and fourth drafts of Tropic of Cancer, along with Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. During the course of the film Miller meets with several Parisian compatriots including Alfred Perlès (on whom the character named Carl in Quiet Days in Clichy was based) and engages in lively and philosophical discussions with his former lover and muse, Anaïs Nin. Contemporary footage of Parisian street life is interspersed with Miller’s musings providing a genuine feel for how the city itself became such a large part of his writing and belief system.
 
Miller Tropic
 
Miller seems genuine and candid. He’s animated and full of life and ideas. He comes across as a man who’s overcome years of hardship and is enjoying the life of the mind that he’s (to hear him tell it) earned for himself. 

The Henry Miller Odyssey is one of four films that director Robert Snyder made about Henry Miller. Snyder (who incidentally was married to Buckminster Fuller’s daughter, Allegra) also made Henry Miller: Reflections On Writing, Henry Miller Reads and Muses and a film called Henry Miller: To Paint Is To Love Again that was completed in 2004 after Snyder’s death. 
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Stephen King: ‘I sleep with the lights on’
12.31.2014
11:35 am

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Books
Television

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horror
Stephen King

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I find it reassuring to know that Stephen King has sold over 350 million books—not because it’s a sales target young hopeful writers might choose to aspire to or because the earnings probably keep Mr. King in a lifestyle the vast majority of us can only ever dream of, but because this incredible number means that most of us have probably read at least one Stephen King novel or story—or at worst have seen one of the numerous films based on his work.

350 million in book sales make Stephen King an ice-breaker, a conversation starter, a shared interest that connects people with whom we may have thought there was no common bond. Unlike the pitfalls of talking about politics or religion or whether your team is going to win the league (of course they will!), talking about Stephen King, or rather talking about books, brings us together through a shared pleasure of reading.

I was late to Stephen King but quickly made up for the lost time and have now read everything he has ever published. And like the other 350 million I have remained one of his “Constant Readers” through all his seasons whether good or fair or poor.

I’ve often posited the suggestion that Stephen King should win the Nobel Prize for Literature, which may cause some to be aghast, but why not? He has created a gallery of memorable characters; has written some of the more imaginative stories of the past five decades; and perhaps most radically King’s tales of terror have encouraged people to read, which in turn has nudged his readers towards other authors, other books, other ideas. Who knows—maybe one day it will happen—and wouldn’t that be a positive endorsement of those 350 million + readers?

For a man who has terrorized many an imagination it may be comforting to hear that Mr. King himself sleeps with the lights on to keep monsters away, as he explains in this his first “up close and personal” TV interview with Henry Nevison for UMO (University of Maine Orono) in 1982.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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