Philip K. Dick’s third wife Anne R. Dick has written “a biography dressed as a memoir” called The Search for Philip K. Dick which has just been published by San Francisco press Tachyon. Anne and Philip were married for only five years but it was a very vital period in Dick’s evolution as a writer. As poet Jack Spicer said in regards to his own Muse (and this could certainly apply to Dick) “the Martian kept rearranging the furniture in his head.” In Dick’s case, the Martian was moving at the speed of sound.
Any new book on Dick is an event as far as I’m concerned and this one looks to be a significant contribution to the understanding of one of America’s most underrated and least understood writers of major distinction.
The book, while refraining from literary analysis, is invaluable for Dick fans and scholars because it’s told by the one person he was close to at an important turning point in his career. He wrote or developed roughly a dozen novels during his time in west Marin, including “The Man in the High Castle” (1962), his only novel to win the Hugo Award, science fiction’s biggest prize.
The writer Jonathan Lethem, who included five novels from this period in the Library of America anthologies he edited of Dick’s essential works, calls it Dick’s most fruitful time.
“The river of his literary ambitions — his interest in ‘respectable’ literature — joins the river of his guilty, disreputable, explosively imaginative pulp writing,” Mr. Lethem said in a phone interview. “It’s the most important passage of his career — more masterpieces in a shorter period of time.”
Read the NY Times piece on The Search For Philip K. Dickhere. And to purchase it click here.
This, apparently, is the actual cover of the upcoming book by Glenn Beck and Dr, Keith Ablow. The message is confusing at best, don’t you think? What might these seven wonders be? I’ll admit that my morbid curiosity has been piqued, gentlemen! Who signed off on this turkey?
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? Is Keith Ablow about to murder Glenn Beck and that small child? Do Keith Ablow and Glenn Beck share custody of the boy, and Keith Ablow just handed him over for a weekend visit with Daddy #2? Did Keith Ablow share seven secrets with Glenn Beck a few seconds ago that enabled him to get over his fear of frolicking with children? And why can’t Keith Ablow have his own small boy to play with?
Shawn Carter a.k.a. hip-hop mogul Jay-Z sat down yesterday with top African-American public intellectual Cornel West at the New York Public Library for a talk—moderated by Library director Paul Holdengräber—that was to be centered ostensibly around his memoir Decoded, but ranged through a wide variety of topics and modes.
It bears notice that despite Jay-Z’s superstar pop status and the hype surrounding the book, the appearance didn’t bear an airing on, say, MTV. I truly wonder why.
Love him or hate him, Carter’s journey from Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Houses projects to mega-millionaire mogul maps almost directly to the 30+-year story of hip-hop from marginalized urban phenomenon to global cultural movement. And West’s contextualization of the rhymer’s work and writings within the urban African-American artistic experience is pretty striking.
The status commonly accorded to Jay-Z as the greatest rapper of all time amounts to truly tedious hype. But there’s no denying that the man’s got power, perspective and a dangerous mind.
This is a fine interview with Allen Ginsberg taken from the BBC series Face to Face, in which Ginsberg opens up about his family, loves, identity, drugs and even sings.
The series, Face to Face originally started in 1959, and was hosted by John Freeman, whose skill and forthright questioning cut through the usual mindless chatter of such interview shows. Freeman, a former editor of the New Statesman was often considered brusque and rude, but his style of questioning fitted the form of the program, which was more akin to an interview between psychiatrist and patient. The original series included, now legendary, interviews with Martin Luther King, Tony Hancock, Professor Carl Jung, Evelyn Waugh and Gilbert Harding.
In 1989, the BBC revived the series, this time with the excellent Jeremy Isaacs as questioner, who interviewed Allen Ginsberg for this program, first broadcast on 9th January 1995.
Watching this now, makes me wonder what has happened to poetry? Where are our revolutionary poets? Where are our poets who speak out, demonstrate, make the front page, and tell it like it is? And why are our bookstores cluttered with the greeting card verse of 100 Great Love Poems, 101 Even Greater Love Poems, and Honest to God, These Are the Greatest Fucking Love Poems, You’ll Ever Fucking Read. O, for a Ginsebrg now.
I originally wrote this elsewhere, but want to share it, in remembrance of a great writer, Derek Marlowe, who died today in 1996.
Marlowe was the author of nine novels, ranging form the Cold War spy thriller A Dandy in Aspic, the historical A Single Summer With L.B., about Byron, Shelley and the creation of monsters and the partially autobiographical The Rich Boy from Chicago. Marlowe started as a playwright, before moving to prose.
When I interviewed him in 1984, Marlowe told me the story of how his career really started with a bet. A bet between three young writers, who lived together in a flat in London. Nothing unusual there, except these young writers were Tom Stoppard, Piers Paul Read and Derek Marlowe. One day, as they watched Mick Jagger on Top of the Pops, the three wagered a bet on who would make a million first. It was decided Stoppard would, but Marlowe pipped him to it, with his first novel, A Dandy in Aspic.
I started reading Marlowe in my early teens and he focussed my thoughts about writing. This then is the story of a fan letter I wrote Marlowe and his reply.
Someone, somewhere, has probably written a thesis on fan letters, showing how the turn of phrase, spelling, sentence structure and language, reveal the psychology of the writer. I can guess the flaws my three or four fan letters reveal about me, both good and bad. That said, the replies always pleased - a signed photograph, a message from a secretary, a written response. The reply that meant so much to me came from the brilliant author, Derek Marlowe.
Marlowe inspired me to see the beauty of writing and the power a novelist has in telling their tale. His books took me away from the comfort of Sherlock Holmes, Alistair MacLean, and the dog-eared ghost stories, into a world of shifting ambiguity, complex relationships, through his dark, witty stories told in his remarkable style.
Marlowe’s response to my Biro scribbled missive was a typed, two page letter, in lower case and capitals. It is a letter I cherish, for it gave me a sense of what can be made of a life. Derek Marlowe was more than just a novelist, he was a successful playwright, a screenwriter, and an award-winning writer for television. In the letter he explained how he had started his career after being sent down from University:
“I was thrown out of Queen Mary College, London, for editing and writing an article in the college magazine. The article was a parody of The Catcher in the Rye reflecting the boredom of college seminars. Not very funny or special but times were odd then. Besides, I hated University and I think I’d made that rather too clear.
“I began writing plays since I had started a play for the College which took a surprising course. Continued with plays for about four years, went to Berlin, came back and then I realised, after writing A Dandy in Aspic (I was then a clerk) that I preferred prose to theatre. Besides, the person I was sharing the flat with and had done for six years, seemed better at theatre than me. He was and is Tom Stoppard.”
Marlowe’s first novel A Dandy in Aspic, published in 1966, was the story of a double-agent, Eberlin, sent on a mission to assassinate his alter ego. Dandy, as the jacket blurb said:
After a beautifully arresting plunge-in, a spy is assigned - savage irony! - to hunt himself down. And now, hot on his own trail…
Dandy fitted into the sixties’ pre-occupation with suave secret agents and was made into a so-so film starring Laurence Harvey, Mia Farrow, Tom Courtney and Peter Cook, of which Marlowe wrote:
“Regarding the film Dandy.. The director, Anthony Mann died during the filming (a superb man and great director) and it was taken over by Laurence Harvey, the badly cast Eberlin. He directed his own mis-talent, changed it and the script - which is rather like Mona Lisa touching up he portrait while Leonardo is out of the room.”
More on Derek Marlowe, plus bonus clip after the jump…
It is surprising to think that fifty years ago today, D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published and sold legally in British bookshops for the very first time.
The initial print run of 200,000 sold out, and within a year a total of 2m copies were sold, outselling the Bible. As was reported by the BBC at the time:
London’s largest bookstore, W&G Foyle Ltd, said its 300 copies had gone in just 15 minutes and it had taken orders for 3,000 more copies. When the shop opened this morning there were 400 people - mostly men - waiting to buy the unexpurgated version of the book.
Hatchards in Piccadilly sold out in 40 minutes and also had hundreds of orders pending.
Selfridges sold 250 copies in minutes. A spokesman told the Times newspaper, “It’s bedlam here. We could have sold 10,000 copies if we had had them.”
Lady C, as it has become known, has also become a bestseller in the Midlands and the North where demand has been described as “terrific”.
Originally published in Italy in 1928, Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been banned in the UK on grounds of obscenity, though a limited, expurgated and heavily censored imported version had been available, where words, such as ‘penis’ were replaced by ‘liver’, and sections of sexually explicit “purple prose” removed.
All this was to change, when in 1959, the Obscene Publications Act stated that any book considered obscene by some but could be shown to have “redeeming social merit” might still published. This encouraged Penguin Books to prepare 200,000 unexpurgated copies of Lady C for release in 1960 (to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of Lawrence’s death), in a bid to test the novel’s merit against the Act. This led to a now infamous trial in October 1960, where a host of established authors lined-up to give evidence in defense of the Lawrence’s novel, including T. S. Eliot, Doris Lessing, Aldous Huxley, Dame Rebecca West. Defense lawyer, Michael Rubinstein had cleverly contacted over 300 potential witnesses, ranging from writers, journalists, teachers, politicians, academics, TV celebrities and theologians. Many writers wrote letters in support to Rubinstein including:
E. M. Forster wrote:
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a literary work of importance, written by a leading 20th-century novelist. It is surprising that such a work should be prosecuted here, and if it is condemned, our country will certainly make itself look ridiculous in America and elsewhere.
I do not think that it could be held obscene, but am in a difficulty here, for the reason that I have never been able to follow the legal definition of obscenity. The law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know, it offers no definition of depravity or corruption.
I am certain that it is neither erotic nor pornographic, nor, from what I knew of the author, would there have been any erotic or pornographic intention in his mind.’
Graham Greene, August 22 1960:
‘It seems to me to be absurd that this book should ever have been classed as obscene and I should say that its tendency as Lawrence intended is to treat the sexual side of a love affair in an adult fashion. I can’t Imagine that even a minor could draw any other conclusion from the book than that sexual activity was at least enjoyable.
I am myself dubious how far Lawrence was successful in his intention. I find some parts of the book rather absurd and for that reason I would prefer not to be called as a witness in case I was forced into any admission harmful to the Penguin case.
Aldous Huxley, October 9 1960:
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an essentially wholesome book. Its treatment of sex is at once matter-of-fact and lyrical. There is no prurience in it and no trace of that sadistic perversion which is such an odious feature of many popular novels and short stories that, because their authors prudently avoid the use of certain four-letter words, are permitted to circulate freely.
That a beautiful and serious work of art should run the risk of being banned because its creator (for aesthetic and psychological reasons into which I need not enter) chose to make use of certain words that it is conventional to regard as shocking – this surely is the height of absurdity.
Evelyn Waugh, August 21 1960:
‘Your MBR/VS of 18th. I have not read Lady Chatterley’s Lover since it first came out. My memory of it is that it was dull, absurd in places and pretentious. I am sure that most of its readers would be attracted by its eroticism. Whether it can “corrupt” them, I can’t tell, but I am quite certain that no public or private “good” would be served by its publication. Lawrence had very meagre literary gifts.
Not everyone was happy about supporting the book, Doris Lessing wrote: “I don’t think this novel is one of Lawrence’s best, or a great work of art, I’m sorry, if there is to be a test case, that it will be fought over this particular book.” Likewise, Iris Murdoch tempered her support with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover certainly may strike one as an eminently silly book by a great man.”
Surprisingly, support came from unlikely sources, the Bishop of Woolwich supplied a written deposition, which stated:
‘Archbishop William Temple once said that Christians do not make jokes about sex for the same reason that they do not make jokes about Holy Communion – not because it is dirty, but because it is sacred.
‘Lawrence did not share the Christian valuation of sex, but he was always straining to portray it as something sacred, in a real sense as an act of Holy Communion. I believe that Christians in particular should read this book, if only because Lawrence believed passionately, and with much justification, that they have killed and denied the natural goodness of creation at this point.’
The trial lasted 6 days and marked the demise of one generation, and the arrival of another. This was most notable when the Prosecuting Counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones asked:
“Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”
If there was a line that negatively affected the Prosecution’s case then this was it. For it revealed Griffith-Jones lived in an archaic and class-divided world where everyone apparently had servants; a world separate from that of wives and servants, and this the majority of Britons. It was the clearest picture of the two worlds that existed back then - the world of “class, rank and privilege, ranged against ordinary people.”
Griffith-Jones’ comment highlighted this divide, and re-enforced the notion Penguin was on the side of “the common man.” In his closing speech, defense lawyer, Gerald Gardiner said:
“I do not want to upset the prosecution by suggesting that there are a certain number of people nowadays who as a matter of fact don’t have servants. But of course that whole attitude is one which Penguin Books was formed to fight against, which they have always fought against…
“Isn’t everybody, whether earning £10 a week or £20 a week, equally interested in the society in which we live, in the problems of human relationships including sexual relationships? In view of the reference made to wives, aren’t women equally interested in human relations, including sexual relations?”
Penguin’s success was a victory for all publishers, and the release of the Lady Chatterley’s Lover, on November 10 1960, marked the start of the cultural and political change that defined the decade.
‘Tales Of Times Square’ author Josh Alan Friedman has written a delightfully bent memoir of what it was like being a white kid attending an all-Black elementary school in Long Island during the early 1960’s. In ‘Black Cracker’, Friedman combines his usual sardonic humor with a surprisingly sweet tone and the result is both very funny and touching. It also deals with race in America by hewing to real life details, avoiding broad sentiment and proselytizing. The truth is really in the telling. This is a very funny book and an immensely satisfying one. Who knew that Josh could be such a warmhearted ol’ fuck.
South School, 1962: The last segregated school in New York. Their teacher moonlights on ‘Lawrence Welk’, the lady principal wears boxing gloves, and the student body is all-Negro . . . except for first grader Josh Friedman. He’s white, but he’s working on it. Center stage in the unflinching and frequently hilarious funhouse tour of Friedman’s Long Island boyhood is a rogues’ gallery that includes Bobo, precocious third-grade dropout and boy prince of the ghetto; his bumbling (and alarmingly potent) ne’er-do-well Uncle Limpy; Mumsy, the smelliest shoeshine boy in Penn Station; Mrs. O’Leary, the menacing Irish nanny; her son, Drake, an etiquette-obsessed, switchblade-totin’ clammer overwhelmed by the tides of racial progress; and the impoverished Wilshires, the bone-white, nigger-hatin’-est crackers in town. At once heartbreaking and hysterically funny, ‘Black Cracker’ delivers a fearless account of adventures in the now-forgotten poor Black shantytowns of Long Island, exploring the singular ugliness of racism, the intrigue of janitorial whodunits, the tragic limits of friendship, and the inexplicable seductive powers of croco-print footwear.
‘Black Cracker’ is published by Wyatt Doyle/New Texture. Wyatt has also unleashed Chris D.‘s (The Flesheaters) ‘A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die’ and his own collection of short stories called ’ Stop Requested’. Chris D.‘s anthology is comprised of his song lyrics, poetry, short stories, dream journal entries and excerpts from as-yet-unpublished novels. Chris was in the heat of the action during L.A.‘s 1970’s punk explosion and his book is street smart and unruly, filled with noirish surrealism and rock hard beatitudes that ache with yearning, anger and red hot eroticism. Shelve next to Patti Smith and Nick Cave.
Doyle’s ‘Stop Requested’ is a series of rueful, witty and occasionally heartwrenching stories about the fellow passengers that Doyle observes while riding the bus in L.A.. These are folks living on the margin between nothing and everything, stuck between Rodeo Drive and The Highway To Nowhere. Doyle’s gift is in capturing those tiny dramatic moments that linger for a brief moment on the periphery of vision. He has a Zen-like ability to cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of the matter (and everything matters), he finds consequence in the inconsequential. He’s Bukowski without the nasty streak. And he’s real good. Profusely illustrated with drawings by Stanley J. Zappa . Highly recommended.
Support indie publishers. Buy these suckers.
Completely unrelated to his book ‘Black Cracker’ (but so much fun I had to include it here), Josh has written a musical based on the life of Ed Wood Jr. Here’s an excerpt for your amusement.
Since guitarist/vocalist Nick Zammuto and cellist Paul de Jong came together to make music in New York City as The Books in 1999, they’ve put together four albums worth of some of the most unique and emotive music you’ll ever hear.
These two work in the poetic collage/sample music realm inhabited by artists like People Like Us and Negativland. But they distinguish themselves via their live instrumentation and Zammuto’s vocals, which often follow and repeat the various voices sampled from advertising, self-help media and other sources, transforming them into modern-day chants.
Zammuto’s also a pro at accompanying The Books’ music with amazing video collage, like this one that he put together for “I Didn’t Know That” from their latest album, The Way Out.