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Writers are curious people: A rare interview with author Robertson Davies
08.12.2012
08:08 pm

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Books
Literature
Television
Thinkers

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robertson_davies_1984
 
Robertson Davies’ itinerant childhood in Canada meant he never felt he belonged.  It gave him a certain ruthlessness and a watchful quality, which made him more agreeable towards the solitary toil of writing.

His father was a newspaperman, a publisher and editor, who became a politician. To escape from under his father’s strong and domineering personality, Roberston decided to focus on his own strengths and ambitions. At first he decided to be an actor, and then moved to England to study at Oxford University. He returned to Canada and worked for twenty years as a newspaperman. At nights he started writing the plays and books that made him one of the twentieth century’s most respected writers.

At the time of this interview in 1973, Davies had completed Fifth Business and The Manticore, the first 2 volumes of his brilliant Deptford Trilogy, and was working on the third World of Wonders. The trilogy hangs on one incident that has dramatic and far-reaching consequences on a group of townspeople at the turn of the 20th century.

Davies was a genuinely learned man and his novels are filled with jokes, allusions, references and themes, that give bountiful pleasure to reading his books.

In this interview, you will find him gently poking fun at himself and other scribes with this description of his trade: 

‘Writers are curious people, in that they tend to be withdrawn, they tend to be rather grumpy and unhappy, they tend to take offense very readily, and they tend to harbor grievances more than a great many people do, and they tend to be hypochondriacs.’

Davies had a great interest in psychology. He was influenced by Jung, but thought Freud had a dreadful reductive quality. Still he felt neither gave a full or satisfactory answer to what is experienced in life.

This interview wanders around its subject, encompassing his acting, his father, his childhood, his writing, his journalism, and his academic life. It is a rare look at one of fiction’s most intelligent writers.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
David Pelham’s iconic cover designs for J G Ballard’s books
08.11.2012
07:30 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
Design
Heroes
Literature

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jg_ballard_david_pelham_drought
 
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. My introduction to J G Ballard’s fiction that came through these eye-catching designs by artist David Pelham.

Pelham was best known for his iconic covers for the Penguin paperback editions of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In 1974, he produced these equally potent and memorable images for a Penguin box set of 4 J. G. Ballard books (3 novels, 1 collection of short stories) - The Wind from Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Drought and The Terminal Beach. Pelham’s designs perfectly captured the essence of Ballard’s fiction.
 
jg_ballard_david_pelham_drowned_world
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Books by Their Covers: Oliver Bevan’s Fabulous Op-Art Designs for Fontana Modern Masters


 
More of Pelham’s artwork for Ballard’s books, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
How to save the Republican party from itself


 
A terrific older essay by Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce on how fucking insane Republican Party has become (it appeared in the magazine’s May 2012 issue) has been resurrected on reddit/r/politics. I must have missed this one when it went around the first time, but it has not dated in the least since then (if anything it’s more true with each passing day). A gem, courtesy of one of the very best political writers in America today:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Republican party, root and branch, from its deepest grass roots to its highest levels, has become completely demented. This does not mean that it is incapable of winning elections; on the contrary, the 2010 midterms, as well as the statewide elections around the country, ushered in a class of politicians so thoroughly dedicated to turning nonsense into public policy that future historians are going to marvel at our ability to survive what we wrought upon ourselves. It is now impossible to become an elected Republican politician in this country if, for example, you believe in the overwhelming scientific consensus that exists behind the concept of anthropogenic global warming. Just recently, birth control, an issue most people thought pretty well had been settled in the 1960s, became yet another litmus test for Republican candidates, as did the Keystone XL pipeline, to which every Republican presidential candidate pledged unyielding fealty despite the fact that several prairie Republicans and an army of conservative farmers and ranchers are scared to death of the thing.

In Washington, there is no leadership anymore, no “Republican establishment” to which anyone can appeal. The ferocious strength of faith-based know-nothingism in the party’s base has resulted in a stubborn refusal to adopt even those ideas — like an individual mandate for health care, or cap-and-trade as an energy policy — that began as Republican ideas.

In the states, we have seen a staggering overreach on the part of Republican governors in the Midwest regarding labor rights, wildly restrictive voter-ID laws aimed at solving a problem that doesn’t exist, immigration statutes that are leaving lettuce to rot in the fields because nobody’s left to pick it, and a welter of preposterous antiabortion statutes. And behind all of that, a party base that has constructed its own private history, its own private language, its own private logic, and its own wholly rounded private universe.

That’s how Sarah Palin can tell people that Barack Obama wants to bring us “back to days before the Civil War” because Obama once hugged Derrick Bell, a law professor at Harvard. That’s how an insurance-friendly health-care bill can be declared to be socialism when it’s not being called the first step toward fascism. That’s how Mitt Romney came to tie himself in a bowline trying to run for president, even though he was the only real candidate in a field of crackpot poseurs, and even though he was running the only real campaign as opposed to tent revivals, exercises in brand maintenance, and extended book tours. Too late did Romney realize that the path to the nomination led through an alternate reality.

This was a development long in the making, and one of which we may well never see the end. It began with the vicious, truthless campaigns run by the National Conservative Political Action Committee in the late 1970s. This initiated the creation of a conservative network that was outside the formal party structure. To this was added independently financed think tanks, Christian colleges and (later) Christian academies and organized home schooling, and conservative boot camps that produced young people, and young candidates, whose primary allegiance was to conservative ideology and not to the Republican party. Eventually, as was proven by the failed candidacies of Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, which helped lose the Republicans a golden chance at controlling the Senate as well in 2010, these people cared less about whether the party succeeded than they did that their ideology was kept pure and their private universe invulnerable. In trying to control the uncontrollable and to appease the insatiable, forcibly locked in with itself, like the Beales in Grey Gardens, the party gradually lost its mind.

That last sentence is quite simply… prose perfection. Pierce deserves a Pulitzer prize based on that line alone*.

He concludes:

The Democratic party has an obligation to beat the Republican party so badly, over and over again, that rationality once again becomes a quality to be desired. It must be done by persuading the country of this simple fact. It cannot be done by reasoning with the Republicans, because the next two generations of them are too far gone.

The whole thing is most definitely worth your time. While you are there, you should bookmark the Esquire Politics blog, it’s an essential daily read for political junkies.

His post this morning about Harry Reid and why he’s letting it rip so hard on Mitt Romney is also a must read.

Let’s Stop Being Upset with Harry Reid Already (Esquire Politics)

(*If it were up to me, I’d award a Pulitzer to Charles P. Pierce, if for no other reason, his snarling use of an all-purpose, southern-fried epithet my grandmother used to employ with great disdain: “dipshit doodlebug.”)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
William Burroughs’ cold-blooded letter to Truman Capote
08.02.2012
05:44 pm

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Books
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Ouch!
 
William Burroughs was no fan of Truman Capote as is made clear in this verbal beat down in the form of a letter written by Burroughs upon the publication of Capote’s In Cold Blood.

July 23, 1970

My Dear Mr. Truman Capote

This is not a fan letter in the usual sense — unless you refer to ceiling fans in Panama. Rather call this a letter from “the reader” — vital statistics are not in capital letters — a selection from marginal notes on material submitted as all “writing” is submitted to this department. I have followed your literary development from its inception, conducting on behalf of the department I represent a series of inquiries as exhaustive as your own recent investigations in the sun flower state. I have interviewed all your characters beginning with Miriam — in her case withholding sugar over a period of several days proved sufficient inducement to render her quite communicative — I prefer to have all the facts at my disposal before taking action. Needless to say, I have read the recent exchange of genialities between Mr Kenneth Tynan and yourself. I feel that he was much too lenient. Your recent appearance before a senatorial committee on which occasion you spoke in favor of continuing the present police practice of extracting confessions by denying the accused the right of consulting consul prior to making a statement also came to my attention. In effect you were speaking in approval of standard police procedure: obtaining statements through brutality and duress, whereas an intelligent police force would rely on evidence rather than enforced confessions. You further cheapened yourself by reiterating the banal argument that echoes through letters to the editor whenever the issue of capital punishment is raised: “Why all this sympathy for the murderer and none for his innocent victims?” I have in line of duty read all your published work. The early work was in some respects promising — I refer particularly to the short stories. You were granted an area for psychic development. It seemed for a while as if you would make good use of this grant. You choose instead to sell out a talent that is not yours to sell. You have written a dull unreadable book which could have been written by any staff writer on the New Yorker — (an undercover reactionary periodical dedicated to the interests of vested American wealth). You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers and the retention of capital punishment to deal with the situation they have created. You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn. Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.

 
Via Letters Of Note

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Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision, 1978
08.01.2012
02:00 pm

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Drugs
Heroes
History
Literature

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Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision AKA Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood, is a 1978 film produced by BBC Omnibus and directed by Nigel Finch.

Here’s how Documentary Heaven described the film:

A fascinating, 30 year old BBC documentary on the Good Doctor and Ralph Steadman, five years after Nixon’s resignation, and on a road trip to Hollywood (to work on what would become Where the Buffalo Roam).

Includes an interesting scene of John Dean chatting with Hunter about his Watergate testimony (at about 32 minutes), the birth of the “Re-Elect Nixon Campaign” (with a Bill Murray cameo), and a remarkably eerie scene with Hunter and Ralph planning Hunter’s final monument and his ashes being shot into the air, long before the actual fact.

 

 
Via Exile on Mona Street

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Gore Vidal: Rest In Peace
08.01.2012
02:22 am

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History
Literature
Thinkers

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Gore Vidal has died. He was 86 years-old and the cause of death was pneumonia.

In the next few days many words will be written about Vidal. He was the kind of bigger-than-life figure that polarized, provoked, angered and inspired his friends and foes alike.

Long before it became obvious to many of us that the USA was entering a kind of collective dark night of the soul, Vidal was vocal in his condemnation of the erosion of freedom in America, denouncing the imperialism that thrived under the political leadership of puppets controlled by the military industrial complex and giant corporations. But his cynicism regarding America’s future was balanced by a deep love for the revolutionary values this country was built on. He feared that we were losing our identity and freedom to the machinations of authoritarianism and greed.

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.

In this historic television debate with William F. Buckley during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Vidal is absolutely right on in his criticism of the Chicago Police Department’s violent response to the the anti-war demonstrations taking place outside the International Amphitheatre where the convention was taking place. Described accurately as a “police riot,” the victims of the gestapo-like tactics of the cops included innocent bystanders, journalists (including Dan Rather) and even the Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey who was overcome by tear gas in his hotel room.

Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responds by calling Mr. Vidal a “queer.” For a moment, the battle between the two men is a perfect distillation of what is occurring outside on the streets of Chicago.
 

 

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El Hombre Invisible: A William S. Burroughs musical mix
07.11.2012
08:09 pm

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Heroes
Literature
Music

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Check out Timewriter’s great new William S. Burroughs audio mix:

A tribute to ‘El Hombre Invisible’. It features some of my favourite readings, to which I’ve added music by John Zorn (from his Burroughs-inspired work), Tod Dockstader, Arne Nordheim and others. Also in the mix are radio recordings and vocal cut-ups by the man himself.


 

Interzone - A William Burroughs Mix by Timewriter on Mixcloud

 
Via Exile on Moan Street

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kathy Acker interviews William Burroughs
07.08.2012
04:33 pm

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Art
Literature
Media
Politics
Pop Culture

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Literary outlaw, word virologist and post-modernist punk rock scum Kathy Acker and her mentor William Burroughs, the hombre invisible, smartly crack linguistic whips in this insightful conversation from 1988, which took place at the October Gallery during Burrough’s first British art exhibition.

What a pleasure this is - two artists clearly enamored of each other and pleased to be in each other’s presence. Burroughs is particularly open and fluid in this chat which includes some fascinating, but all too brief, stuff on Scientology, EST and Buddhism, and space travel. Burroughs goes on at the greatest length when dealing with the subject of Jesus and the Christ virus.
 

 
Parts two and three after the jump…

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France’s space oddity: BB Boris
07.04.2012
04:32 pm

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Literature
Music

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From a galaxy far, far away (France) BB Boris (Boris Bouquerel) is a man on a mission:

I became a songwriter and created a one-man cabaret show where I portrayed a “Man From The Future”.
This came about as a result of my observation that most of Humankind, faced with the overwhelming litany of terrible social and environmental challenges, was becoming increasingly cynical and desperate. I felt that a strong message of hope in the future couldn’t hurt. Eventually this show became a novel that has been published recently, which I hope will further develop and propagate the message.

You can download an album’s worth of Bouquerel’s songs recorded in the late 80s/early 90s for free at his website. Much to my surprise, I liked their synth-pop weirdness. Some of the tunes sound like Marc Bolan produced by Conny Plank.

Bouquerel is mostly the sole songwriter, producer and musician on songs with titles like “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Spaceman” and “No Flock Of Saucers.”

His memoir, Say Hello To Jupiter, which weighs-in at an epic 446 pages, is also available on his site. I may actually order it. I want to know more about this Gallic spaceman.
 
“Cold Day On Mars” was released in 1990 on EP cassette and it’s pretty cool.
 

 
More BB Boris after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Cool Charles Bukowski graffiti
07.03.2012
07:13 pm

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Art
Literature

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Photo: Mirgun Akyavas
 
Austin, Texas has some of the finest examples of street art of any city on the planet. Here’s something that recently went up in the downtown area. I don’t know who did it and they may want to stay anonymous. If not, and you see this, let us know who you are so we can give you credit for this splendid piece of art.

To the right of the portrait is the famous Bukowski quote: “Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must live.”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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