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Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘punk’ album: ‘YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR MINDS!!’
12.11.2014
07:42 am

Topics:
Literature
Punk

Tags:
Robert Anton Wilson
Golden Horde


 
In many of Robert Anton Wilson’s books, the “about the author” page mentions that Wilson recorded a punk rock album called The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy. This is one of those records I would have given a tooth for in the pre-filesharing era. I’ve still never come across a physical copy of it, but a glance at the Discogs.com marketplace suggests it’s not as rare as it once seemed.

Recorded while Wilson was living in Ireland in the mid-‘80s—avoiding Reagan’s presidency, if memory serves—The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy is the first LP by Irish garage-psych rockers the Golden Horde. Wilson contributed vocals (spoken) to most of the songs, and he wrote the lyrics to “Black Flag” and “Lawrence Talbot Suite.” Unless you are a hardcore Nuggets person, it might take some imagination to hear this as “a punk rock record.” To me, the Golden Horde often sound like a less proficient Rezillos, which is a beautiful thing, but fans of the Queen Haters might be disappointed. These vinyl rips are not of the finest quality, though I doubt this LP was ever destined to deliver an audiophile experience.

As the sleeve notes say, “COSMIC BUBBLEGUM EXISTENTIALISTS OF THE WORLD, UNITE….....YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR MINDS!!”

“Black Flag” by the Golden Horde with Robert Anton Wilson:

 
And the rest of the LP:

The Chocolate Biscuit
Young and Happy
Communist for the FBI
Little U.F.O.
Lawrence Talbot Suite
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Picasso’s poetry: Painting with words
12.08.2014
06:53 am

Topics:
Art
Literature

Tags:
Surrealism
poetry
Picasso

picpoetswritpaint1.jpg
 
Pablo Picasso’s first attempt at poetry was a brief thank you note to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire written in French sometime around 1906. Picasso did not take the craft seriously until 1935 when at the age of fifty-three he began writing poems almost every day until the summer of 1959. Picasso started writing at a moment of crisis when he claimed he had given up painting after his wife Olga Khokhlova had left him and a messy divorce seemed imminent. He began by daubing colors for words in a notebook before moving on to using words to sketch images.

His writing owed much to the influence of Apollinaire and the Surrealists, and he received considerable support from writers such as the Surrealist poets André Breton and Michel Leiris, the latter describing Picasso as:

“[A]n insatiable player with words ... [who, like] James Joyce ... in his Finnegans Wake, ... displayed an equal capacity to promote language as a real thing (one might say) . . . and to use it with as much dazzling liberty.”

Artist and writer Roland Penrose said Picasso’s wrote word paintings where language was used as a painter used colors, can be seen in this poem:

...the blue memory borders white in her very blue eyes and piece of indigo of sky of silver the white white traverse cobalt the white paper that the blue ink tears out blueish its ultramarine descends that white enjoys blue repose agitated in the dark green wall green that writes its pleasure pale green rain that swims yellow green…

At first, Picasso kept his writing secret, but slowly began sending long letters and poems to his friends as his confidence grew and he developed his own distinct voice and style. His writing was mainly stream of consciousness, unpunctuated word association with startling juxtaposition of images and at times an obsession with sex, death and excrement. Picasso wrote hundreds of poems concluding with The Burial of the Count of Orgaz in 1959, and two plays Le Désir attrapé par la queue (1941), which was performed by Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, under the direction of Albert Camus, and Les Quatre Petites Filles (1949). This is just a small selection culled from The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and Other Poems.

15 august XXXV

i am now here in the nest where the lamb and the bear—the lion and the zebra—the
wolf and the panther—the fox, the winter and the summer weasel—the mole and the
chinchilla—the rabbit and the sable weave in silence above an abandoned staircase
after the party has washed the week and wrung out the handkerchief raining a
perfume that wanders in search of its shape in a sad afternoon that has so many
reasons to stretch into the oil blue of a silk duvet the corner of his eye rips drowning in
shreds the landscape he sighed in the place where the beehive yearns to form its ice


17 august XXXV

a cup of coffee courts the aroma everlasting
that corrupts the wing shaking a harmonium
caressing her timid white flesh as
kisses breeze through the window
fill the room with goldfinch words fluttering
in the ear soundless and singing
and laughing crazy trills through his veins


8-9 november XXXV

bullfighter’s
jacket of
electric light bulbs
sewn with finest
needle
mist
invented by the bull


10 november XXXV

on the dining room table above a colossal carpet color of dry blood the ashtray
packed with butt-ends looked just like a little death’s head that stuck out its tongue at
me today this very night november tenth a quarter after ten by now which with three
more should make eleven by the clock which then will strike the hour


12 november XXXV

Young girl correctly dressed in a beige coat with violet facings 150.000 – 300 – 22 – 95
centimes a madapolam combination checked and adjusted with an allusion to
hermine fur 143 – 60 – 32 a brassiere the open edges of the wound held separated by
hand pulleys making the sign of the cross perfumed with cheese (Reblochon) 1300 –
75 – 03 – 49 – 317.000 – 25 centimes openings up to date added on every second day
set into the skin by shivers kept awake by the mortal silence of the color lure genre
Lola of Valence 103 plus the languorous looks 310 – 313 plus 300.000 – 80 francs –
15 centimes for a forgotten glance on the dresser – penalties incurred during the game
– throw of the discus between the legs by a succession of facts which for no reason at
all succeeded in making themselves a nest and in some cases transforming themselves
into the reasoned image of the cup 380 – 11 plus expenses but the so academic draw-
ing model for all of history from his birth until this morning doesn’t cry even if one
steps on the finger that points to the exit but spits out his nosegay with the drinking
glass only the smell organized in regiments and parading by flag up front only if the
tickling of desire doesn’t discover the auspicious place to transform the sardine into a
shark the shopping list gets longer only from that moment on without the inevitable
stop at the table at lunch time to be able to write while sitting in the middle of so
many mixed hyperboles with the cheese and the tomato


14 november XXXV

Eugenia fragrant
little chapel of
guitar
strings
clothed in
poppy
black
carbuncles


15 november XXXV

when the bull — opens the gateway of the horse’s belly – with his horn — and sticks
his snout out to the edge — listen in the deepest of all deepest holds — and with saint
lucy’s eyes — to the sounds of moving vans —tight packed with picadors on ponies —
cast off by a black horse — and escaping now and rising like a butterfly — the
mangled belly of the mare — a little white horse — sees inside the conduit which sings
as the blood dances trickling from a faucet in her breast — a circus horse — stands upright
on his feet rear end decked out with blue and silver — white and blue feathers set on
top atop his head — between his two ears — and a pair of hands applauding —
plucks his eyes out from in front – the team of mules that block his sight — that
bounce and drag — his guts along the sand — and screws the eye of the photographer
— somewhere above the banquet table — and pulls the wire out — a little at a time —
into the out of doors — and winds it in a ball — then draws a likeness of his face so
beautiful — onto a silver plaque — that spatters — clenched fist — clean — the sun


24-28 november XXXV

tongue of fire fans the face inside the flute the cup
that singing nibbles the blue knife wound
lightly lightly
seated in the toro’s eye
inscribed inside its head adorned with jasmines
waiting for the veil to swell
the crystal fragment
wind wrapped in fold of cape two-handled sword
caresses gushing
handing bread out to the blind man and the lilac colored dove
its wickedness crammed tight against the burning lemon’s lips
with horn contorted
spooking the cathedral with its farewell gestures
swooning in his arms without an olé
a glance that blows apart the morning radio
that in its kisses photographs a bedbug sun
sucks out the fragrance from the dying hour
and moves across a page in flight
it tears the flowers into shreds and carries them away tucked in between a sighing
wing
and fear that still can smile
a knife that jumps for joy
right now this very day left floating in whatever way it wants to
this exact and necessary moment
at the summit of the well
a cry rose-colored
for the hand that casts it down
a little act of christian love


10 october XXXVI

(I)
flesh decomposing in its miserable shagreen accordion squeezing the love-torn
body rapidly spinning the wool bleeding so in the despairing place in
the crown of thorns nest of twigs at the sound of the tambourine awakened
by the miserable memory left by the vomit that smells of jasmine
glued to the back of the eye wearing cafe tables as sashes wrapped round her
neck sounding the alarm reproducing her image in all the mirrors
with all the blows struck on the cheeks of her bells the tralalala of the
tralalalettes biting the rainbow’s neck the bra of the tempest caught
in a snare now whistles between the comb’s teeth and twists in her hands
the mirror asleep on her breast abandoned to its fate

(II)
comical alphabet letter stitched on hot coal drunk from wineskin hand
distance color deleted from the list of mortals sinks claws in the
saving copper of forehead against stone if life cooks great banquet hall
feasts of cabbage smell on its knees in a corner his stew of hopes sing
Carmen sing and you Cleopatra and mice on the big fishermen’s bodies lined up
on the bank of the canal under the table open to the lie the chairs around
it rise and attach themselves to the walls of the director’s office of the
young villa Marie-Rose waiting for the frog to lick clean the hours that make
the fabric of her pretty umbrella sticky and if the weather is clear
listen to the crack when in my chest breaks the perfume of the
stick the arrow painted on the fan tossed on the bed the luminous alarmed panther
sheen of her regard with an electric aroma a most disagreeable noise
spreading a dreadful odor of stars crushed underfoot


2 july 38

drop by
drop
hardy
pale blue
dies
between
the claws of
green almond
on the rose
trellis

This selection of Picasso’s poetry, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and Other Poems, is available as a sampler from Ubu here. Below the complete three part documentary Picasso: Magic, Sex & Death presented by Picasso’s biographer John Richardson from 2001.
 

 
Via Ubu.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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James Baldwin asks ‘How are white Americans so sure they are white?’
12.04.2014
09:52 am

Topics:
Literature
Politics
Race

Tags:
James Baldwin
Dick Gregory


 
In 1963, James Baldwin wrote two essays that examined the role of race and racism in the history of America. Published in The New Yorker, Baldwin’s first essay, written in the form of a letter to his fourteen-year-old nephew on the 100th anniversary of Emancipation explained “the crux of [his] dispute with [his] country”:

You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity.

Baldwin developed his historical and political analysis in his second essay in which he described his own experience of religion, criticising both Christianity and Islam as being culpable in maintaining ethnic division and oppression—where the white oppressors had attempted to destroy black men and women:

...the truth about the black man, as a historical entity and as a human being, has been hidden from him, deliberately and cruelly; the power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions. So every attempt is made to cut the black man down—not only was made yesterday but is made today.

Baldwin’s essays proved so popular and influential they were collected and published book form as The Fire Next Time later the same year. This book placed Baldwin as one of the major figures in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, and as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the twentieth century.
 

 
In 1968, along with comedian and activist Dick Gregory, James Baldwin gave a talk at the West Indian Student Center in London, where he and Gregory discussed the American black experience in relation to the Afro-Caribbean experience in Britain. The seminar was documented by a young filmmaker Horace Ové, who filmed the proceedings and later edited the footage into a documentary called Baldwin’s Nigger (1969).  Though there is nothing special in the way in which Ové filmed the meeting (mainly in a flat, news-report style), it is the content of what each participant said, in particular Baldwin, that makes Ové‘s film so important, as he had fortunately captured an important debate and conversation between Baldwin, Gregory and the audience about ethnicity, identity, politics and racism at a crucial moment in world history.

Baldwin began by talking about a visit to the British Museum where he got in conversation with a West Indian man who asked the writer where he was from.

I told him I was from Harlem. That answer didn’t satisfy him…
“Yes,” he said “But man, but where were you born?”
And I began to get it.
“Well,” I said, “My mother was born in Maryland, my father was born in New Orleans, I was born in New York.”
He said, “But before that where were you born?”
And I had to say, “I don’t know.”

Baldwin went onto explain why he doesn’t know—for his ancestral entry into America was by a “bill of sale, which stops you from going any further.”

But Baldwin wasn’t interested in just offering personal historical context of the black American experience, he also asked provocative and difficult questions about white ethnicity and the complex relationship between all Americans:

White men lynched negroes knowing them to be their sons. White women watched men being lynched knowing them to be their lovers… How are white Americans so sure they are white?

The point is racism damages everyone.

In light of the institutionalised racism exposed by the Michael Brown fiasco in Ferguson, the killing of Eric Garner in New York and the rise of racist and xenophobic politics across Europe and the Middle East, Horace Ové‘s film of James Baldwin and Dick Gregory is necessary viewing.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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William S. Burroughs buys a parrot, 1963


 
Today’s adventure in obscure video centers around an innocuous 85-second film shot by Antony Balch called William Buys a Parrot. In the movie, the “William” is William S. Burroughs and the parrot is actually a cockatoo. It’s in color and has no audio track—it resembles a home movie to some extent but it’s just a shade more orchestrated than that, although it might just have been something shot to test a new camera. In William Buys a Parrot we see Burroughs, wearing a white suit and a dark brown fedora, approach a door in some exotic desert setting—either Gibraltar or Tangier, it seems. He raps on the door knocker, a man from inside comes out and they chat for a moment or two. Cut to a some kind of a coastal veranda, where Burroughs confronts the bird. Then the fellow comes out and the two men sit at the table and enjoy an adult beverage. The last third of the movie is the bird jumping around in his cage with Burroughs in the background. End of movie.
 

Burroughs and Balch in ‘Tony and Bill
 
In Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs, Timothy S. Murphy has this to say about the movie:
 

William Buys a Parrot demonstrates that even when silence eliminates the specific word—the external word of mundane narrative interaction that is susceptible to technical reproduction and animal mimicry—it leaves intact the general, generic, internal Word—the structural Word of addictive subjectivity that allows the viewer to provide her own narration for this film.

 
Well… sure... Why not? To me, though, it just looks like a famous writer buying a bird and enjoying some daytime spirits with a chum…

William Buys a Parrot was probably shot in 1963, but edited in 1982 by Genesis P-Orridge who is said to have rescued it and many other films from a trash dumpster after Antony Balch’s death (including Balch’s other collaborations with Burroughs and painter Brion Gysin and some prints of Kenneth Anger’s films).
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Awful things: Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli publishes his photographs in book of seedy haiku


 

She placed the barrel
under her chin and smiled big
quick, take a picture

Amid the flurry of renewed Afghan Whigs activity over the last couple of years (their new album, Do to the Beast is 100% worthy of the band’s legacy, in case you wondered), an altogether different project by that band’s singer Greg Dulli is attracting notice. Dulli’s contributed his photographic work to illustrate I Apologize in Advance for the Awful Things Im Gonna Do, a book of haiku (you read that right) written by former Cat Butt/Dwarves member (you read that right, too) Danny Bland. Bland and Dulli aren’t the only figures from independent music involved in I Apologize… Calligraphy was contributed by X vocalist Exene Cervenka, the book was designed by Camper van Beethoven/Monks of Doom’s Victor Krummenacher, and it’s been published by Sub Pop, the record label that introduced Cat Butt and Afghan Whigs to the world.

I hid the razors
you bought, you sucked the pills from
my throat, quid pro quo

Though they all strictly adhere to haiku’s typical 5-7-5 syllable count, Bland’s haiku are far from traditional—not only do they not take nature as their subject, these poems are just downright raw and seedy. His debut novel, last year’s In Case We Die, was a junkie fable of porn, bad relationships, and damaged humanity, and his haiku hit all the same notes, often with a brutal sense of humor.

I paged my sponsor,
I paged my dealer, then I
waited; heads or tails

While Dulli’s lyrics can often revolve around similar themes of wastedness, obsession, and human relationships gone horrifically wrong, his photographs don’t particularly strike those chords. The most engaging shots seem intended to evoke moods or represent emotional states, concealing as much about reality as they reveal. (The least interesting images just straight up look like they could have been culled from a random art student’s Instagram account, but thankfully there’s not a whole lot of that.) Dulli talked a bit about his photographic work in an interview with the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger:

I think a picture presents itself. For me, photography and songwriting both seem to start with a strange inspiration. I don’t necessarily go around looking for photographs, I wait to find them. [Pauses] It’s hard to quantify it exactly. Catching a picture is the same kind of spirit as catching a song. You hear a melody in your head, you start to interact with it—that’s what photography is to me.

 

Click to enlarge
 

Click to enlarge
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Bukowski’s last stand: Hank’s final poetry reading from 1980
10.20.2014
09:04 am

Topics:
Literature

Tags:
Charles Bukowski
poetry

bukcarsung11.jpg
 
Good and original poets spawn bad and imitative poetry.

Look at all the verbiage spewed out by those green and dappled flecked imitators after Dylan Thomas had one too many on a New York afternoon; or all the poems about PMT, swollen ankles and the indifference of men that came forth after Sylvia Plath’s sad demise; or the short men who swaggered after Charles Bukowski died, juggling six-pack and pen, writing long anaemic poetry about drinking, fighting and love. Yes, good poetry does often inspire bad poets.

It doesn’t always appear after death, sometimes it rubs shoulders with the living poet in hope of capturing some of their spark. I recall when the cool got hip to Bukowski and he appeared in Andy Warhol’s Interview talking with actor Sean Penn, that everyone including Penn was writing long three word a line poems about nothing much in particular, but this how it is if you’re a poet and you know sensitive and you gotta live that kinda life on the edge kinda thing blah-de-blah-de-blah. Suddenly it was hard to find a magazine that didn’t have some sub-Bukowskian ode in it, that looked like the stuff from high school poetry clubs and always made me think of G.K. Chesterton’s line that:

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.

Bukowski did not give many readings during his lifetime. Biographers have claimed he hated giving readings, but did it for the two hundred or three hundred dollars to keep him in booze, smokes and a wager on the horses. But this all changed in the 1980s, when money started coming in via checks and royalties for books and film options and Bukowski no longer needed that extra couple of hundred to tide him over. Bukowski gave his last poetry reading at the Sweetwater music club in Redondo Beach, California on March 31, 1980, almost a decade and a half before he died in 1994. The whole reading was (thankfully) filmed by Jon Monday, who left the performance unedited as he believed the sections between Bukowski reading his poems gave some insight into the man and his temperament. It certainly does, as Oliver Hardy would say, and shows why the original poet will always be better than the imitators.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Shel Silverstein: A compendium of smut and depravity from the creator of ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’
10.15.2014
07:23 am

Topics:
Drugs
Literature
Music
Sex

Tags:


 
Shel Silverstein was more than just a quirky, kid-friendly poet with whom we youthfully chuckled while leafing through Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic. Indeed, as your perfectly sensible dad choked back tears while reading to you about the relentlessly cruel passage of time lovingly explored in The Giving Tree, he might well have been unaware of the epically debauched lifestyle of the bittersweet story’s wild-man author.

No doubt about it, Silverstein was an amazing guy. Case in point: he won two Grammys and was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame on top of being a celebrated children’s author selling over 20 million book copies and counting.  But he also smoked a metric shit-ton of weed, sang obscenely, engaged in legendary partying (often on a houseboat), wrote a lot of fairly bent plays for grown-ups and obviously spent a lot of time thinking, writing and drawing about smut. In fact, some of our readers might remember that Shel Silverstein spent several years as a cartoonist for Playboy Magazine.  They might also recall that not only did Silverstein pen the lyrics to “A Boy Named Sue,” a tune made famous by Johnny Cash, and for which he won one of his Grammies, but that Uncle Shelby also wrote a sequel to “A Boy Named Sue” in which Sue’s dad turns him into kind of a live-in housekeeper/sex slave. The list goes on and on, really.
 
Shel Silverstein: Crouchin on the Outside
 
So allow me, as a primer for the uninitiated, or as a walk down a rather raunchy memory lane for those of you already in the know, to take you on a perhaps enlightening, but by no means comprehensive tour of some of the more explicit Shel Silverstein content available on the world wide web.  The stuff that follows is, of course, all pretty chuckle-worthy and, while fairly tame when judged by the standards of other smut, is in no way safe for work. 

Take for example this passage from Silverstein’s long-form poem “The Devil and Billy Markham,” a Faustian ode to the hustler that pits a down-on-his luck Nashville songwriter (Billy) against the Dark Lord himself. After the devil beats Billy in a dice match, he damns him to your standard eternity of painful hell roasting. After a while though, Lucifer realizes that unending damnation isn’t quite as shitty if people don’t get a reminder now and then about how awesome life used to be. So he sends Billy back to earth for 13 hours during which time he is allowed to lecherously fornicate with anything that walks, “man or woman or beast,” and no one will say no.  To sweeten the deal, if anyone does happen to put the kibosh on Billy’s inevitable sexcapade, Billy gets to return to earth.  Of course, all good things come to an end, and the Devil sends Billy a 30 second last call for banging as it were:

And Billy Markham, he stops. . .and he squints at the Devil. . .and says. . .“Sucker. . .I’ll take you.”

“Foul!” cries the Devil. “Foul, no fair! The rules don’t hold for me.”

“You said man or woman or beast,” says Bill, “and I guess you’re all of the three.”

And a roar goes up from the demons of Hell and it shakes the earth across,
 And the imps all squeal and the demons scream, “He’s gonna fuck the boss!”

“Why, you filthy scum,” the Devil snarls, blushing a fiery red,
“I give you a chance to live again and you bust me in front of my friends.”

“Hey, play or pay,” Billy Markham says. “So set me free at last,
Or raise your tail and hear all Hell wail when I bugger your devilish ass.”

The clippings below come from Playboy Magazine and were created as part of a series in which Silverstein traveled all over the place looking for scenes from the fringes of society. They’re hardly scandalous, but perhaps offer a slightly different take on Silverstein if you’re only familiar with “Falling Up”:
 
Silverstein Hooker
 
More Shel Silverstein after the jump…

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Henry Miller gives a tour of his bathroom in ‘Asleep and Awake’ 1975
10.09.2014
07:40 am

Topics:
Art
Literature

Tags:
Henry Miller
bathroom

poshmillbath33.jpg
 
This quirky and entertaining little film Henry Miller: Asleep and Awake has the legendary author of Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy giving a personal tour of the images festooned on the walls of his bathroom. Miller must have spent a lot of time in there to have pasted and pinned all the photographs, posters and mementoes that decorated the walls. He claims his bathroom became so talked about among friends that they would visit not to see him but to view his secret gallery. “People often come in here and get lost, as it were,” Miller explains.

They’re in here for how long? I don’t know, and I imagine something happened that they got constipated or something. But it isn’t that, of course, they get fascinated with these pictures.

I myself, to tell you the truth, spend long minutes in here viewing them all, wondering where did I get them? Why did I put them up there? They run quite a gamut from the Buddhists to the whores to the maniac who made that beautiful castle up there. In a way, again it’s very much like a… it’s a sort of a voyage, I look upon it, a voyage of ideas. We’re traveling not around the world, but around my bathroom which is a little microcosm like the world.

The pictures reflect Miller’s interest in art (Paul Gauguin, Hieronymus Bosch), his favorite writers (Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Blaise Cedrars, Hermann Hesse and a wide selection of beautiful women (including a brief appearance by fourth and final wife Hiroko Tokuda). There’s even a hidden corner for all the pornographic pictures. It’s a place for contemplation as Miller explains, “one of the beauties about it is it can take you anywhere, if you let your mind roam.”

Director Tom Schiller allows Miller to roam and connect the pictures bringing out the occasional nugget of personal information with the author finally relating a dream about escaping from an insane asylum before he returns to that “shithole New York” (or a studio backlot—the set for Hello Dolly) to bring the film to a poignant close.

My whole life seems like one long dream punctuated with nightmares.

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Thomas Pynchon wears a Roky Erickson shirt on ‘The John Larroquette Show’ (sort of)


 
An item that caught my eye in a Sunday issue of the Los Angeles Times 20 years ago remains the strangest story I’ve yet come across in the entertainment section of a newspaper. It said that the novelist Thomas Pynchon, who has never consented to be photographed or interviewed by a journalist in his adult life (unless this 2001 Japanese Playboy interview is authentic), had given script notes to John Larroquette of Night Court fame for an episode of the actor’s new TV series. Stranger still, one of these notes revealed Pynchon’s preference for the great rock’n'roll singer Roky Erickson over Willy DeVille. What a marvelous time to be alive, I thought, with what remained of my mind. Remember, this was ten years before Pynchon appeared in an episode of The Simpsons looking like the Unknown Comic, and in company so incongruous as to beggar belief.

Unlike some sitcom actors you could name, Larroquette likes to read books. (He has an impressive collection of first editions with a particular focus on the work of Samuel Beckett.) For one episode in the first season of The John Larroquette Show, in which Larroquette played John Hemingway, the alcoholic manager of a bus station in St. Louis, the actor had an idea for a story about Pynchon. He sent the script to Pynchon’s agent—who I believe must have been Melanie Jackson, to whom Pynchon has been married since 1990—and the author obligingly replied. I’ve never seen the episode, “Newcomer,” which had aired several months before the article appeared, but I hold out hope it will turn up on YouTube.

Here’s the meat of the story reported by the Times:

Pynchon has a special love for the losers lost on the wayside of the American dream. So co-executive producer Larroquette decided to feature Pynchon in a script and sent the work-in-progress to Pynchon’s agent for approval.

“We made up a novel that he hasn’t written—and he gave us permission to say that he had written ‘Pandemonium of the Sun,’ ” Larroquette says.

The mysterious, never-photographed Pynchon refused, however, to let a “Larroquette” extra, in a plaid shirt, be videotaped from the rear and represented as Pynchon.

One scene called for Hemingway’s antagonist, the lunch counter operator, Dexter (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), to reveal, quite casually, that he’s a longtime pal of the much-traveled writer.

“You must have seen him, he was sitting here last night!” Dexter insists. The script says Pynchon was wearing a T-shirt with the picture of a certain, obscure musician.*

“Pynchon, through his agent, wrote back and says, ‘Would you please make it a picture of Rocky [sic] Erickson on the T-shirt?’ ” Larroquette says.

“I looked up Rocky Erickson. He was a psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll musician in the ‘60s who was institutionalized shortly thereafter and spent most of the rest of his life in an insane asylum. Somebody that Pynchon liked, I guess.”

*Willy DeVille of Mink Deville
 

Dr. Timothy Leary talks about his wish to meet Thomas Pynchon

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The beautiful mind of Iris Murdoch
10.07.2014
04:06 am

Topics:
Literature

Tags:
dementia
Iris Murdoch
Alzheimer's disease

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It’s the biting and the kicking and the hitting that comes as a surprise, especially in one so old. The shouting and swearing were always present, but the biting, that’s probably the most unexpected. My father has Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s not quite the happy sing-a-long of “getting by with a little help with your friends” as the current ad on British TV suggests. It’s is well-intentioned of course, but the reality for most carers, most families when dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s is nothing like a rousing chorus of a Lennon and McCartney number. It is stressful, constant, endless, unrelenting, with little to no respite. Indeed, my father seems no longer capable of sleep. It’s called “sundowning,” when twilight begins and night closes in, the sufferer becomes anxious, fretful, often aggressive. My father knows he has something to do, but he does not know what.

Last year, when I had four rounds of surgery for cancer and post-operative infection, there was the inevitable thoughts of mortality before the anaesthetic sent me off to temporary oblivion. In the same way, I think nightfall (darkness) brings some subconscious response to the end of life, the rush of panic, the rage against the dying of the light—so much still to do, but what, but what? There’s not much else one can do but try and soothe, listen and help.

All this has made me a cheery little fellow, and of late I have reading Iris Murdoch and sadly thinking how Alzheimer’s eroded her once great mind. Here was an author who was described by her husband John Bayley as “the most intelligent woman in England,” who was said to have composed the novels in her head first before putting first mark on paper—which is some remarkable feat. Together Murdoch and Bayley lived an intensely cerebral and sheltered life at their home, Cedar Lodge, in Steeple Aston, Oxford. They had their own language, held tight in their own world—once removed from the fickle fashions of modern culture. It was a hothouse where Murdoch returned again and again to her favored classics, rarely reading any modern literature, drawing much of her inspiration from the works of William Shakespeare.

Everything comes out of Shakespeare: pure romance, melodrama, marvellous characters, poetry, and wisdom about life. I read the plays again and again hoping something will rub off.

Things did indeed rub off—most obviously in her novels A Fairly Honorable Defeat (based on Much Ado About Nothing), The Black Prince (a reworking of Hamlet), The Sea, The Sea (elements of The Tempest) and The Good Apprentice. Writing fiction allowed Murdoch to revel in the complex ambiguities, the magic and mystery of life. She created self-contained worlds, like perfect snow globes that may to some now seem dated now but are ultimately still immediate and relevant because of Murdoch’s ability to tell a story. Spinning a yarn, as she once pointed out, is “a fundamental human form of thought.” Which made her loss to Alzheimer’s all the more tragic.

Murdoch did not give many television interviews, those that are available on YouTube are of a rather dry discussion on philosophy and literature, which is all fine and dandy but don’t reveal much of her giggly enthusiastic personality as this interview between Murdoch and James Atlas for the 92Y and The Paris Review does, capturing the author at her brightest and best as she discusses her life and career.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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