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‘Why I’m Voting to Re-Elect President Obama’
11.05.2012
03:58 pm

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Class War
Heroes
Literature
Politics

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There is no doubt in my mind that the single best writer covering the 2012 election, numero uno, is Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce. I admire Pierce’s insight, his craft and the fact that he actually has a deep knowledge of 20th century history and politics.

He’s also hilarious. Real bust-a-gut, laugh out loud funny with tears running down your face stuff. There was really no competition this year, I don’t think, for the best writing on politics, although I rate The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and Salon’s Alex Pareene very highly, also. But when it comes to the writing, Charles P. Pierce is, I think by far, the finest political prose stylist in American life, in a rarefied class with Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Ambrose Bierce, Gore Vidal before he became a crank and Hunter S. Thompson before his brain got soft.

I don’t hesitate to make that claim for Charles Pierce’s writing, read him for just a week and I’m sure you’ll agree. I find myself in awe of his talents on pretty much a daily basis. No one has him beat for creative ways of calling idiots idiots and I love him for it. I only wish I could write as well as he can. For his coverage of the 2012 election, the guy deserves not only a Pulitzer prize and a lucrative new book contract, but his own TV show. He’s my dream guest to see on Moyers & Company.

Reading Charles P. Pierce is a privilege. Pierce wrote the best piece, bar none, on the reason to vote for Barack Obama tomorrow. Reposting it here in its entirety, since it doesn’t lend itself to an easy exceprt. I hope he won’t mind.

To sum it up, the most compelling reason to vote for Obama has got less to do with Obama himself or his record and everything to do with making sure Mitt Romney and his fellow passengers in the Republican clown car don’t get the keys to the White House

Because I am going to be in Florida on Election Day, I am voting this morning here in the Commonwealth (God save it!). There is only one vote that I am casting with any measurable amount of enthusiasm. That is the vote I am casting for Elizabeth Warren to be my next United States senator. This enthusiasm is based not solely in my personal affection for her, nor solely in my admiration for the things she’s already accomplished, nor solely as a reaction against the unnecessarily crude and boorish campaign waged against her by incumbent Senator Scott Brown, nor solely even in the fact that I think this race is still agonizingly close and that I think Warren has it in her to be a great United States senator on behalf of many of the issues that I think are important to the country. The enthusiasm derives from the fact that, when she was asked in a debate what her policy would be toward our groaning (and increasingly futile) military adventure in Afghanistan, she answered quickly and simply. Out. Now.

I am also going to vote for Barack Obama. Without enthusiasm. And without a sliver of a doubt in my mind.

To be fair, this won’t be the most unenthusiastic presidential vote I ever have cast. The prize for that one remains Jimmy Carter in 1976. I spent a year chasing that grinning peanut-farmer around the country on behalf of Mo Udall’s campaign, organizing in the field in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, until the money ran out. All we did was finish second, over and over again. Hell, we finished second to him by an eyelash in Michigan after Mo had dropped out. Voting for Carter that fall was like draining my own blood with a turkey baster. I wasn’t particularly ginned-up over Mondale in 1984, either. Neither did Bill Clinton make my lights shine either time he ran. And, to be perfectly honest, the only real enthusiasm I felt for this year’s incumbent in 2008 came largely from being around people who were so transported by the idea of him. That and the fact that George W. Bush no longer would have anything to screw up.

However, I am casting my vote for him (again) because of something that Dr. Jill Stein said the other night on TV, when she was being interviewed in the wake of that third-party candidates debate that Larry King hosted. I’ve known Jill socially for some time, and I admire her, and I agree with her on a marginally greater percentage of the issues than I do with the president. I think a lot of the snark aimed her way is unjustified. She’s not responsible for the wankerific fantasies of renegade “progressives.” I do not, however, think she is any more likely to become president — or any more qualified to be president — than I am. For example, I take a back seat to nobody in my scorn for the president’s apparent naïvete concerning the virulent nature of his political opposition. But, listening to Stein talk about the glories of the “Green New Deal” she’s going to pass through a Congress that is unlikely to differ much one way or the other from the one we have now, well, that makes Barack Obama sound like Huey Long. Still, I thought long and hard about tossing her my vote, because I live in the bluest of blue states, and I felt that, in casting my vote that way, I would absolve myself of complicity in the drone strikes, and in the inexcusable pass given to the Wall Street pirates, and in what I am sure is going to be an altogether dreadful Grand Bargain while not materially damaging the most important cause of all: making sure that Willard Romney is not president. And I might have done it, had Jill not gone on TV and talked about how those people who are voting for the incumbent president simply to make sure that Willard Romney is not president are doing so out of “fear.”

Horse hockey.

It is not fear. It is simple, compelling logic. We have two major political parties. Until that great gettin’-up morning, when purists on both sides of the ideological ditch manage to create workable third parties that look like something more substantial than organized unicorn hunts — which won’t happen until we have proportional voting, and I wish you as much luck with that as Lani Guinier had — we always will have two major political parties. One of them is inexcusably timid and tied in inexcusably tight with the big corporate money. The other one is demented.

This is not “fear” talking. I watched the Republican primaries. I went to the debates. I saw long-settled assumptions about the nature of representative democracy thrown down and danced upon. I heard long-established axioms of the nature of a political commonwealth torn to shreds and thrown into the perfumed air. I saw people seriously arguing for an end to the social safety net, to any and all federal environmental regulations, to the concept of the progressive income tax, and to American participation in the United Nations, the latter on the grounds that a one-world government threatens our “liberty” with its insurance-friendly national health-care reform bill. I saw Rick Santorum base his entire foreign policy on the legend of the 12th Imam, and I saw Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann actually be front-runners for a while. I saw all of this and I knew that each one of them had a substantial constituency behind them within the party for everything they said, no matter how loopy. When you see a lunatic wandering down the sidewalk, howling at the moon and waving a machete, it is not fear that makes you step inside your house and lock the door. It is the simple logic of survival. Fear is what keeps you from trying to tackle the guy and wrestle the machete away from him. And, as much as it may pain some people to admit it, the president is the only one stepping up to do that at the moment.

It is vitally important that the Republican party be kept away from as much power as possible until the party regains its senses again. It is not just important to the advance of progressive goals, thought it is. It is not just important to maintain the modicum of social justice that it has taken eighty years to build into the institutions of our government, though it is. It is important, too, that that you vote for one of these men based on whom else, exactly, he owes. Who is it that’s going to come with the fiddler to collect when you get what you’ve bargained for?

Barack Obama owes more than I’d like him to owe to the Wall Street crowd. He probably at this point owes a little more than I’d like him to owe to the military. The rest he owes to the millions of people who elected him in 2008 — especially to those people whose enthusiasm I neither shared nor really understood — and he will owe them even more if they come out and pull his chestnuts out of the fire for him this time around. He may sell them out — and, yes, I understand if you wanted to add “again” to that statement — but they are not likely to revenge themselves against the country if he does and, even if they decided to, they don’t have the power to do much but yell at the right buildings.

On the other hand, Willard Romney owes even more to the Wall Street crowd, and he owes even more to the military, but he also owes everything he is politically to the snake-handlers and the Bible-bangers, to the Creationist morons and to the people who stalk doctors and glue their heads to the clinic doors, to the reckless plutocrats and to the vote-suppressors, to the Randian fantasts and libertarian fakers, to the closeted and not-so-closeted racists who have been so empowered by the party that has given them a home, to the enemies of science and to the enemies of reason, to the devil’s bargain of obvious tactical deceit and to the devil’s honoraria of dark, anonymous money, and, ultimately, to those shadowy places in himself wherein Romney sold out who he might actually be to his overweening ambition. It is a fearsome bill to come due for any man, let alone one as mendaciously malleable as the Republican nominee. Obama owes the disgruntled. Romney owes the crazy. And that makes all the difference.

In his time in office, Barack Obama has done some undeniable good for people. There are auto workers in Ohio with jobs, and women making equal pay, and young people freed from the burdens of health care because of some of the president’s policies. And he is running on that record, making the case for his second term based on the good he has done for people in his first. In his only time in elective office, Romney also did some good for people. He reformed the health-care system in Massachusetts in a way that made him far more popular up here than he ever will be again. And he has spent seven years now running against the good he did for people. What kind of a politician does that? What kind of a man does that? A politician who has counted the debts he owes to the people to whom he owes them, and a man who is willing to hock everything about himself just to get even.

This is not “fear” talking. This is simply the way things are. It is important to stand against the people and the forces to which Willard Romney owes his political career. It is more important to do that than it is to do anything else. It is more important to do that than to salve my conscience, or make a statement, or dream my wistful dreams of a better and more noble politics. And that is why, today, I will vote for Barack Obama, not because of the man he is not, but because of the man his opponent clearly has become. I will do so without enthusiasm, and without a sliver of doubt in my mind.

Plus one, brother!

Read Charles P. Pierce daily at the Esquire Politics blog. Bookmark it!

You can follow Charles P. Pierce on Twitter. He is the author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Thom Gunn: Reads Two Poems ‘Jamesian’ and ‘Home’
10.21.2012
08:48 am

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Art
Literature

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thom_gunn_collected_poems
 
The poet Thom Gunn reads 2 of his poems, “Jamesian” about “the connection or lack of connection between people,” and “Home”, which was inspired by the chilling response to a question Gunn once asked.

As an admirer of Gunn’s poetry, it is wonderful to hear his voice and the audience’s response to his reading.

More audio of Thom Gunn (1929-2004) reading his poetry can be found here.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Thom Gunn: On the Move


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
James Ellroy: An early interview with the Demon Dog of American Literature
10.15.2012
10:07 am

Topics:
Books
Crime
Literature

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james_ellroy_demon_dog
 
James Ellroy lies in a darkened room brooding about the past. He thinks about his mother, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy, who was murdered in 1958, when Ellroy was 10-years-old. The killer has never been found.

Ellroy was born and raised in Los Angeles. When his parents divorced, Ellroy lived with his mother in El Monte during the week, and spent weekends with his Father.

His father, Armand Lee Ellroy, was an accountant and one-time business manager for Rita Hayworth. Ellroy usually adds his father had a massive schlong, and schtooped anything that moved. His father gave Ellroy a copy of Jack Webb’s book The Badge. Ellroy read the book obsessively.  He read the story of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, whose severed, mutilated body was discovered on a vacant lot, on the west side of South Norton Avenue, between Coliseum and West 39th, in 1947.

Ellroy merged his mother’s murder with the Black Dahlia’s. He fantasized how he’d save the Dahlia and marry her. He fantasized how he’d save his mother. The fantasies were inspired by guilt and depression.

Before Geneva’s murder, his parents had been going through a rough time. His father was poisoning Ellroy’s mind about his mother. His father let Ellroy do what he wanted. His mother had rules. When she died James had wanted to be free of her. Now he was, he felt guilty.

He grew up lanky, and geeky. He was awkward around girls. He was a WASP at a Jewish school. He hated to be ignored. Ellroy played at being the weirdo. In the schoolyard he riffed on the Black Dahlia, serial killers, and Nazis. He made it look like he didn’t care what others thought. It worked. It made him untouchable.

He flunked school and prowled the neighborhood. He peeped on girls he could only dream about. He broke into their houses, sniffed their panties, drank their parents’ booze, looked in medicine cabinets and popped pills, stole what he wanted. They never knew.

Ellroy lived off T-bird, and the wading from Benzedrex inhalers. It made him grind down his teeth. He tripped. He became homeless. He stole. He did gaol time. His life was in freefall - the parachute was an abscess on his lung, the size of a man’s fist.

Ellroy prayed for a second chance. He got it. He turned his life round and started writing crime novels. Influenced by Hamnett rather than Chandler. At first hooked around his own experience as caddy on a golf course, then the large multi-narrative, police procedurals, re-telling the history of modern America. Ellroy was riffing on the things he obsessed about, the Black Dahlia, sex, violence, bad, bad, bad men coming to grips with their humanity.

He wrote the L.A. Quartet, which included The Black Dahlia, and L.A. Confidential. Then a book about his search for his mother’s murder, My Dark Places. He never found him. Closure is bullshit, he says. Then the trilogy Underworld U.S.A., which includes American Tabloid, and the brilliant Blood’s A Rover.

Now, Ellroy is one of America’s greatest living novelists, and very few come close. He still lives in L.A. and writes everyday, long hand, ink pen, legal pad, and lies in darkened rooms brooding about the past.

This is a rare clip of James Ellroy, in his trademark Hawaiian shirt (worn in pouring rain), interviewed for the French program Cinéma Cinémas in 1989.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Samuel Beckett: Reads from his novel ‘Watt’
10.12.2012
04:25 pm

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Books
Literature

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I have never heard Samuel Beckett’s voice, so I do hope that this is genuine. If it is, then it is a very rare recording indeed, as Beckett was averse to having himself filmed or recorded.

In this short clip (uploaded by Oranj Telor Theatre) Beckett reads an extract from his difficult and complex second novel, Watt, which was written “just an exercise”, while on the run from the Gestapo during the Second World War. “No symbols where none intended.”
 

 
An even shorter Q & A with Beckett, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘A Baboon of Genius’: Nabokov talks ‘Lolita’ on Fifties TV
10.09.2012
03:55 pm

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Books
Literature

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Among other things, in recent weeks we have learned that, had Humbert Humbert – the narrator of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita moved to England, bagged a job with the BBC, and feigned (very much feigned) an interest in pop music… well, what a happy existence he could have led. I can almost picture the old dog presenting Top of the Pops (perhaps even wearing a track-suit and smoking an oversized cigar) surrounded by teenyboppers and smiling ear to ear.

As it was, Nabokov had in mind a more furtive and frustrating existence for his protagonist, who he describes here, in splendid 1950s CBS footage with Lionel Trilling, as a “baboon of genius.” Nabokov himself, shuffling his famous index cards (he insisted upon preparing his answers in advance, and reading them aloud), was in the midst of a very rich vein of form indeed, one that resulted not only in Lolita but also Pnin and Pale Fire. He is bright-eyed, ironical, eccentric, amusing and wholly indifferent to the kind of impression his controversial masterpiece (which has since sold more than fifty million copies) was making to 1950s America.
 

 
Part 2, after the jump…

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
The Cook’s Story: An extract from the Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 1919
10.07.2012
07:29 pm

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Books
History
Literature

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katherine_mansfield
 
Virginia Woolf was never sure of Katherine Mansfield. She thought she was a literary rival, someone to be wary of, not quite trusted, and never to be fooled by her appearance, especially those big brown eyes, the severe bangs in a line across her forehead, her school marmish uniform, or the way she sat crossed-legged and drank tea out of bowls. Mansfield frightened Virginia, and it was only after Katherine’s early death in 1923 (a hemorrhage caused by running up a flight of stairs), and the subsequent publication of her journal, did Woolf see that Katherine Mansfield wasn’t a rival but her own distinct and brilliant talent.

Mansfield’s journal contained a heartbreaking tales of hardship, poverty, and debilitating illness. Woolf was shocked that Katherine had achieved so much against such very terrible odds. Virginia noted in her own journal how she would think about Katherine for the rest of her days. She did more than that, Woolf was directly influenced by Mansfield’s Modernist short stories and tried her own hand at Modernism with Mrs Dalloway, To the LIghthouse, The Waves and Between the Acts.

Mansfield’s Journal contained many short notes, ideas, descriptions and oblique details of her life - situations were often ill-defined, people disguised by initials, and important events missing - she destroyed much. Originally, the Journal had been edited for publication by John Middleton Murry, her indifferent husband and part-time lover, who literally abandoned Mansfield at the time of her greatest need. It was for him that she ran up those fatal stairs. Murry was a selfish, ineffectual and weak man, who exploited others to maintain a fantasy of his own genius - his books are lifeless, poorly written and dull. Woolf saw through him, and this may have clouded her judgment on Mansfield.

That’s the unfortunate thing about relationships, too often individuals can be limned by their other half. Mansfield was fiesty, brilliantly intelligent, and a very real talent, compared to Murry’s straw man.

There is a story in the Journal which is heartbreaking, and sad. And though not really about Mansfield, it in part mirrors something about the worst parts of relationships. Where Katherine suffered Murry’s damning indifference and torturous infidelities, the Cook of this tale suffered in a more brutal way.

I want to share it, because I think we can often judge too quickly, and too harshly, without ever knowing how another lives.

The Cook.

The cook is evil. After lunch I trembled so that I had to lie down on the sommier - thinking about her. I meant - when she came up to see me - to say so much that she’d have to go. I waited, playing with the wild kitten. When she came, I said it all, and she said how sorry she was and agreed and apologised and quite understood. She stayed at the door, plucking at a d’oyley. “Well, I’ll see it doesn’t happen in future. I quite see what you mean.”

So the serpent slept between us. Oh! why won’t she turn and speak her mind. This pretence of being fond of me! I believe she thinks she is. There is something in what L.M. says: she is not consciously evil. She is a FOOL, of course. I have to do all the managing and all the explaining. I have to cook everything before she cooks it. I believe she thinks she is a treasure…no, wants to think it. At bottom she knows her corruptness. There are moments when it comes to the surface, comes out, like a stain, in her face. Then her eyes are like the eyes of a woman-prisoner - a creature looking up as you enter her cell and saying: ‘If you’d known what a hard life I’ve had you wouldn’t be surprised to see me here.’

[This appears again in the following form.]

Cook to See Me.

As I opened the door, I saw her sitting in the middle of the room, hunched, still…She got up, obedient, like a prisoner when you enter a cell. And her eyes said, as a prisoner’s eyes say, “Knowing the life I’ve had, I’m the last to be surprised at finding myself here.”

The Cook’s Story.

Her first husband was a pawnbroker. He learned his trade from her uncle, with whom she lived, and was more like her big brother than anything else from the age of thirteen. After he had married her they prospered. He made a perfect pet of her - they used to say. His sisters put it that he made a perfect fool of himself over her. When their children were fifteen and nine he urged his employers to take a man into their firm - a great friend of his - and persuaded them; really went security for this man. When she saw the man she went all over cold. She said, Mark me, you’ve not done right: no good will come of this. But he laughed it off. Time passed: the man proved a villain. When they came to take stock, they found all the stock was false: he’d sold everything. This preyed on her husband’s mind, went on preying, kept him up at night, made a changed man of him, he went mad as you might say over figures, worrying. One evening, sitting in the chair, very late, he died of a blood clot on the brain.

She was left. Her big boy was old enough to go out, but the little one was still not more than a baby: he was so nervous and delicate. The doctors had never let him go to school.

One day her brother-in-law came to see her and advised her to sell up her home and get some work. All that keeps you back, he said, is little Bert. Now, I’d advise you to place a certain sum with your solicitor for him and put him out - in the country. He said he’d take him. I did as he advised. But, funny! I never heard a word from the child after he’d gone. I used to ask why he didn’t write, and they said, when he can write a decent letter you shall have it - not before. That went on for twelvemonth, and I found afterwards he’d been writing all the time, grieving to be taken away. He’d done the most awful things - things I couldn’t find you a name for - he’d turned vicious - he was a little criminal! What his uncle said was I’d spoiled him, and he’d beaten him and half starved him and when he was frightened at night and screamed, he turned him out into the New Forest and made him sleep under the branches. My big boy went down to see him. Mother, he says, you wouldn’t know little Bert. He can’t speak. He won’t come near anybody. He starts off if you touch him; he’s like a wild beast. And, oh dear, the things he’d done! Well, you hear of people doing those things before they’re put in orphanages. But when I heard that and thought it was the same little baby his father used to carry into Regent’s Park bathed and dressed of a Sunday morning - well, I felt my religion was going from me.

I had a terrible time trying to get him into an orphanage. I begged for three months before they would take him. Then he was sent to Bisley. But after I’d been to see him there, in his funny clothes and all - I could see ‘is misery. I was in a nice place at the time, cook to a butcher in a large way in Kensington, but that poor child’s eyes - they used to follow me - and a sort of shivering that came over him when people went near.

Well, I had a friend that kept a boarding house in Kensington. I used to visit her, and a friend of hers, a big well-set-up fellow, quite the gentleman, an engineer who worked in a garage, came there very often. She used to joke and say he wanted to walk me out. I laughed it off till one day she was very serious. She said, You’re a very silly woman. He earns good money; he’d give you a home and you could have your little boy. Well, he was to speak to me next day and I made up my mind to listen. Well, he did, and he couldn’t have put it nicer. I can’t give you a house to start with, he said, but you shall have three good rooms and teh kid, and I’m earning good money and shall have more.

A week after, he come to me. I can’t give you any money this week, he says, there’s things to pay for from when I was single. But I daresay you’ve got a bit put by. And I was a fool, you know, I didn’t think it funny. Oh yes, I said, I’ll manage. Well, so it went on for three weeks. We’d arranged not to have little Bert for a month because , he said, he wanted me to himself, and he was so fond of him. A big fellow, he used to cling to me like a child and call me mother.

After three weeks was up I hadn’t a penny. I’d been taking my jewels and best clothes to put away to pay for him until he was straight. But one night I said, Where’s my money? He just up and gave me such a smack in the face I thought my head would burst. And that began it. Every time I asked for money he beat me. As I said, I was very religious at the time, used to wear a crucifix under my clothes and couldn’t go to bed without kneeling by the side and saying my prayers - no, not even the first week of my marriage. Well, I went to a clergyman and told him everything and he said, My child, he said, i am very sorry for you, but with God’s help, he said, it’s your duty to make him a better man. You say your first husband was so good. Well, perhaps God has kept this trial for you until now. I went home - and that very night he tore my crucifix off and hit me on the head when I knelt down. He said he wouldn’t have me say my prayers; it made him wild. I had a little dog at the time I was very fond of, and he used to pick it up and shout, I’ll teech it to say its prayers, and beat it before my eyes - until - well, such was the man he was.

Then one night he came in the worse for drink and fouled the bed. I couldn’t stand it. I began to cry. he gave me a hit on the ear and I feel down, striking my head on the fender. When I came to, he was gone. I ran out into the street just as I was - I ran as fast as I could, not knowing where I was going—just dazed—my nerves were gone. And a lady found me and took me to her home and I was there three weeks. And after that I never went back. I never even told my people. I found work, and not till months after I went to see my sister. Good gracious! she says, we all thought you were murdered! And I never see him since…

Those were dreadful times. I was so ill, I could scarcely hardly work and of course I couldn’t get my little boy out. He had grown up in it. And so I hard to start all over again. I had nothing of his, nothing of mine. I lost it all except my marriage lines. Somehow I remembered them just as I was running out that night and put them in my boddy - sort of an instinct as you might say.

An edited version of Journal of Katherine Mansfield is available here, and her brilliant Collected Short Stories are available here and here. A documentary on Katherine Mansfield’s life can be viewed here.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Cub Coda
10.01.2012
02:15 pm

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Literature
Music

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Cub Coda, Radio deejay Pat Appleson and George Carlin
 
Ann Arbor’s Brownsville Station formed in 1969. Their style of rootsy, blues-based rock and pile-driving rockabilly along with their theatrical glammy threads and punky attitude put them in the same school as The NY Dolls, The Stooges, Alice Cooper and the MC5. Their 1973 hit, “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room,” is an anthemic punk stomper later covered by Motley Crue and Alice Cooper. Brownsville Station was the definition of a one hit wonder but among hardcore rock fans they were always respected for their no bullshit approach to rock and roll. They kept it fun and real. And part of that was due to their lead singer and guitarist Cub Coda’s undying allegiance to keeping the music pure and unadulterated in the tradition of the legendary rockers who came before him: Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley and Link Wray.

The break-up of Brownsville Station in 1979 didn’t slow the beat of Coda’s rock ‘n’ roll heart. Coda was a smart cat with a huge record collection and a real passion for popular music’s history - a boogie woogie evangelist and rock ‘n’ renaissance man. He wrote dozens of liner notes (mostly for blues and roots albums) and was a regular contributor to several music magazines, including The Vinyl Junkie. He formed several bands over the years and played solo, mostly in small clubs and bars and continued to record right up to his death of kidney disease in 2000. He was all about the music.

I’ve been reading some of Coda’s liner notes and excerpts from a book he contributed to, “Blues For Dummies.” I think my favorite piece he wrote was this short review of the re-issue of The Shagg’s “Philosophy Of World.” He gets at the very essence of The Shagg’s goofy magic.

The guilelessness that permeates these performances is simply amazing, making a virtue out of artlessness. There’s an innocence to these songs and their performances that’s both charming and unsettling. Hacked-at drumbeats, whacked-around chords, songs that seem to have little or no meter to them (“My Pal Foot Foot,” “Who Are Parents,” “That Little Sports Car,” “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” are must-hears) being played on out-of-tune, pawn-shop-quality guitars all converge, creating dissonance and beauty, chaos and tranquility, causing any listener coming to this music to rearrange any pre-existing notions about the relationships between talent, originality, and ability. There is no album you might own that sounds remotely like this one.

Brownsville Station on The Midnight Special. Too cool for school.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Blacker than ever: Ted Hughes reads from ‘Crow’
09.28.2012
11:02 am

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Literature

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Black is the earth-globe, one inch under,
An egg of blackness
Where sun and moon alternate their weathers

To hatch a crow, a black rainbow
Bent in emptiness
over emptiness

By the time Ted Hughes published his great and terrible Crow, he was trailing more ghouls than Paulie Walnuts. Assia Wevill had very recently killed herself and their child, and in the same manner (gas) that Sylvia Plath had killed herself six years previously. The figure of Crow is cut from just such black cloth. Hughes described the poems in the following way for the limited edition Crow LP released in 1973:

Finding the right speech for Crow involved me in inventing a longish series of episodes, beginning, in traditional fashion, in heaven, where Crow is created, as part of a wager, by the mysterious, powerful, invisible prisoner of the being men call God. This particular God, of course, is the man-created, broken-down, corrupt despot of a ramshackle religion, who bears about the same relationship to the Creator as, say, ordinary English does to reality.

Surely one of the greatest volumes of English poetry of the last century or so, Crow is terrible and compelling and brilliant, and Hughes makes a fine selection for the following 1996 recording, right through to the relatively gentle coda of “How Water Began to Play” and “Littleblood.”
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
‘On the Road’: Jack Kerouac’s letter to his editor Malcolm Cowley goes on display
09.18.2012
12:43 pm

Topics:
Books
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Jack Kerouac wrote to his editor Malcolm Cowley, prior to the publication of On the Road.

Dear Mr Cowley

Only today April 19th got your month-old letter about why you couldn’t wait. Had just sent you a postcard saying BOO! - Please send the list of recommendations and I will start on it (the Denver section etc.) This address is a shack - I wanta bring my mother to California, I hope we can publish On the Road at last. - I’ve got all this time at last. - I’ve got all this time now to do the work, in this shack, till June when I’ll be completely out of touch 2 months in wilderness lookout job…so would appreciate speed.

As ever

Jack

p.s How’d you like GERARD?

BOO!

Jack

After years of struggling to find a publisher, Kerouac was keen to have On the Road published as quickly as possible. But he was also concerned over Cowley’s revisions and corrections to his long type-written manuscript, as he later explained in an interview for the Paris Review:

...All my editors since Malcolm Cowley have had instructions to leave my prose exactly as I wrote it. In the days of Malcolm Cowley, with On the Road and The Dharma Bums, I had no power to stand by my style for better or for worse. When Malcolm Cowley made endless revisions and inserted thousands of needless commas like, say, “Cheyenne, Wyoming” (why not just say “Cheyenne Wyoming” and let it go at that, for instance), why, I spent five hundred dollars making the complete restitution of the Bums manuscript and got a bill from Viking Press called “Revisions.”...

Kerouac’s letter is on display at The Newberry, in Chicago, until December 31st, which is celebrating 125 years as a “Research institution and center for the humanities”. Other items on show include the original printed (and never-bound) instantiation of Voltaire’s Candide; correspondence from a slave husband to his free wife; Joseph Whitehouse’s journal from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. More details here.
 
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Via The Newberry
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sylvia Plath: A page from her annotated copy of ‘The Great Gatsby’
09.17.2012
03:24 pm

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Feminism
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Some people like to write notes in the pages of their favorite books. Graham Greene liked to annotate the columns of the novels he was reading with notes, criticisms, and small, personal observations. They formed part of a resource for his future work.

Sylvia Plath also liked to annotate the pages of her favorite books. Here is a page from her copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:

She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool - that’s the best thing a girl can be in the world, a beautiful little fool.’

“You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so -nthe most advanced people. And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated - God, I’m sophisticated!”

Plath underlined the first paragraph, and marked the second with a line, and the word L’Ennui.
 
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Previously on Dangerous Minds

Sylvia Plath’s pen and ink drawings exhibited for the first time


 
Via Julia Fierro
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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