Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Paris Scratch" by bart plantenga (Sensitive Skin)

ISBN: 9780996157049 Sensitive Skin
I have a deep interest in Paris. Not only what I imagine is Paris, but other people's Paris as well. It's a city that demands one's attention, especially in the field of the arts. It has a lot to do with its citizens, but it is also a city that is reflected quite often by various foreigners. For me, it is something in the way the city is laid out. I think architecturally first, then how that space is filled by what I think are interesting people. Charles Baudelaire, Boris Vian, the songs of Juliette Greco, the imagery of Serge Gainsbourg - all of this makes intriguing pictures and sounds in one's head. I would also like to add bart plantenga's "Paris Scratch" to that cultural pile as well.

First of all, I don't know if one can look at this book as fiction, non-fiction, a journal - it can be a combination of all three. The way I read it, "Paris Scratch is between a memoir and a travel journal. It is similar to taking a photo by or sketching on paper a scene in front of the author. The book consists of 365 chapters/sections, which in theory can be an actual year. "Paris Scratch" is not a book of lists, but deeply investigations of feelings, places, and people, as conveyed by the author. Various French artists and authors, as well as pop singers, run through the pages, but also foreign writers such as Henry Miller commenting on Paris. It's a city that has a lot of cultural baggage, and there is no way getting around the awesomeness of the place - and plantenga clearly conveys the magic that is or was Paris.

Entirely personal, and one-of-a-kind approach to Paris, plantenga successfully writes about a place that most readers of this book will be familiar with - yet, will discover new sensibilities and sensual aspects of a city well-lived, and reported by exquisite writers, for instance, bart plantenga.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews" by Geoff Dyer

ISBN: 978-1-55597-579-1 Graywolf Press

I'm a fan of a book of essays by particular writers. Not for the purpose of learning something new, but to be able to spend time with an author and his thoughts. If I don't like the author, I tend not to like the essays. I like Geoff Dyer. Therefore I like his book of essays "Otherwise Known as the Human Condition." What I like about him and his writings is that he has a great deal of interest in the world around him.

Besides being a literary critic, he also writes about photography, travel, and jazz. He's a writer who loves jazz. Boris Vian was a musician who wrote about jazz and was passionate about the subject, but far as I know, Dyer is not a musician. He has incredible insight into the music and is an excellent observer in what makes a jazz recording works or not work. The other great thing about his work is his brief memoirs that are towards the end of this volume. Personal, and very enticing invitation to his social world, and how he places himself in that landscape. There are also signs of his sexuality, not only to his attraction to women but apparently his attention to porn. He wrote a brief essay in this book regarding the hotel room, and how sexy such a room is to a gentleman. He also wrote about porn viewing in the hotel chambers. The fact that a hotel room is so clean (hopefully) makes it even more erotic. Nice observation on the nature of hotels.  

The book is large, and usually, I read a book of essays off and on. I tend to read three essays in a row, and put it down, and pick it up a month later. This book, I read from the first to the last page. As I mention, one of his great interests is in photography. And like his love for jazz, he is a viewer of photographs, without being a photographer. He has no interest in taking photos but enjoys writing on the subject. The distance between him and a passionate object is a right approach. At least for him. Nevertheless, Dyer is a fantastic writer. I enjoy dipping into his cosmos.  

- Tosh Berman

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 12, 2017 (Tosh's Diary)




April 12, 2017 (Tosh's Diary)


It's Wednesday, and I'm waiting for the mail.  My day is, waiting.  I wake up due to the sun coming up, and I move around the house to avoid the intense and direct sunlight.  It is not until around 7 PM where I feel I can stay still and place my body on the seat facing Waverly Drive.

Once the sun goes down, I feel more alive. Perhaps due to its cocktail hour at that time.   The first sip of white wine drains all my anxiety away.   I feel guilty about spending money on vinyl records, but it's one of the great pleasures in my life where I can sit in front of the turntable, with headphones on, and play an old record, that clearly has a lot of history on it.  The album may have been at the very least in one household, but perhaps two.

 I remember in the 80s I sold my records to get credit to buy new albums.  It was the only way for me to afford in getting a new record.  At that time, it was Aron's Records on Melrose, but I often regret in letting go records that mean a lot to me.  It's mostly an impulse on my part that when I want something new, I just trade in what I feel I can trade in at that moment.  I'm happy to get the new record, but it always comes with a profound sense of regret.



The wine drinking now is very much like the sun moving in a 12-hour day, it's just a reminder that time is moving on.   I sense a significant loss of wasted time, but that comes down to the nature of doing work, and on a schedule.  As I wander around the house to avoid the sunlight, I plan to sit myself down to write.  Within 12 hours I very much want to write something special or original. Or if anything else, something that will bring importance to whoever reads the text.   On the other hand, the truth is, I just want to make a presence within those hours to prove that I can be productive.   Alas, I often fail.



As mentioned, I feel close to Stephen Bannon.  We did arrange a meeting early this year, but we never met up.  Although I don't have proof, I suspect he deliberately ignored me.   I can feel his presence hooking me, and pulling towards his direction.  But then he rejected me, not by words, but by expressing no communication or clearly expressing the fact that I have no meaning in his life.  It's ironic that he's getting the same treatment from President Trump and his family.   They use you for your ideas, and once finished, they throw you back into the ocean.   He and I are like bloated whales, that are stranded on a beach.   I was thinking of approaching him again, now that he has been rejected, but decided that would be cruel on my part.   I sit here and get angry, but what good is it to add misery to his already miserable existence?  This is what I think about, when drinking a glass of Charles Shaw white, and listening to an old Move album on my hi-fi.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Books I Read in 2014 Part 2

"A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton" by Holly George-Warren

"Don't Tell Sybil" by George Melly

"3 New York Dadas and the Blind Man" by Marcel Duchamp

"Phantoms on the Bookshelves" by Jacques Bonnet

"Answered Prayers" by Truman Capote

"The Basketball Diaries" by Jim Carroll

"No Poems or Around the World Backwards and Sideways" by Robert Benchley

"Low Down: Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales from Childhood" by A.J. Albany

In The Dark Room: A Journey in Memory" by Brian Dillon

"Art as Art: The Selected Writings by Ad Reinhardt" edited by Barbara Rose

"Laziness in the Fertile Valley" by Albert Cossery

"Captain Cap: His Adventures, His Ideas, His Drinks" by Alphonse Allais

"The Mayor of MacDougal Street" by Dave Van Ronk

"Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" by Mason Currey

"The World is Ever Changing" by Nicolas Roeg

"Is It My Body? by Kim Gordon

"Pal Joey" by John O'Hara

"The Kept Girl" by Kim Cooper

"The Atrocity Exhibition" by J.G. Ballard

"Tokyo On Foot" Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods" by Florent Chavouet

"Inside a Pearl" My Years in Paris" by Edmund White 

"Blue Bamboo" by Osamu Dazai



"Goodis - A Life in Black and White" by Philippe Garnier

"Culture and Value" by Ludwig Wittgenstein




























Books I Read in 2014 Part 1

"Fanfarlo" by Charles Baudelaire
"The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" by Lydia Davis
"Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman" Edited by B.H. Friedman
"Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theater of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan" by Carol Fisher


"My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer"  Edited by Peter Gizzi & Kevin Killian
Straight From The Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang" by Max Décharné
"The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa" by Yasunari Kawabata
"David Bowie Is" by Jon Savage, Camille Paglia, & Howard Goodall
"Detroit 1968" Photographs by Enrico Natali

"Dump This Book: While You Still Can!" by Marcel Bénabou



"Notes From A Revolution: COM/CO, The Diggers & The Haight" by Kristine McKenna & David Hollander



"The Stray Bullet: William Burroughs in Mexico" by Jorge Garcìa-Robles

"Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern" by Nile Southern










Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lee Lozano: "Private Book 1" (Karma)


Lee Lozano Private Book 1  (Karma)

I never heard of Lee Lozano till I picked up this little replica of one of the artist's notebooks.  I'm always intrigued by artist's notebooks - even more so by writers.  The sole reason is that an artist deal with the visual medium, and although time-to-time they can also write, it's the ones that need to express themselves in such a manner where the notes are unorganized and very much thought-in-progress.  After reading Lozano's notebook, I went to our bookstore (ARTBOOK) as well as another (Alias Books East) to look at her artwork.  As a friend mentioned lots of dicks, cunts, balls, and some abstract expression like drawings.  By the end of that day, I feel in love with Lee Lozano's art and scribblings (writings).

What becomes clear through her writing is that Lozano thinks conceptually.   Her conceptual pieces are straight to the point, and it has touches of a Fluxus flavor as well.  For instance:  "Win a grant.  Invest half of it on the stock market for six months.  Pat the rent and piss away the rest."  Or here is something called "Withdrawal Piece":  "Pull out of a show at Dick's.  "Hang" with work that brings me down (David Budd & Kuyama)."   Or observations such as "Every day thousands of pounds of paint are applied to buildings in NYC, signs, benches etc., which can only mean that the city is getting heavier and heavier."   There is also poetic observations such as "Smoking remains attractive because it is an excuse to make a little fire."



"Book 1" is a small memo lined notebook, and due to size it's very intimate, but also the writing/notes with her handwriting, is witty - and very personal.  "Abortionist John Adams" and then his phone number and a note that "Dr. Spencer's recommendation."  From one page to the next, it seems Lozano's brain didn't stop.  Her appreciation or acknowledging the drugs of that time and period (1968-1969) as well as her listening habits (Pink Floyd) and views on fellow artist friends such as Dan Graham, is a combination of horrific, charming, and such a great document of New York City art Soho life.  

This notebook is an art object, but a total readable experience due that Lozano has perfect handwriting (block letters) and enough pop culture references that run through the whole journal.  It's interesting to know that soon afterward she eventually stopped communicating with women.   At first, it was a "piece" but it became a lifetime activity on her part to separate the female from the male in her world.   Women she didn't associate with at all - and she only did business with men.   A very eccentric and of course, an incredible artist.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Sophie Calle, Paul Auster, & Enrique Vila-Matas (for ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles)



Sophie Calle, Paul Auster, Enrique Vila-Matas 

In such a fashion, voyeurism is very much part of the arts.  That includes both the visual and literary arts.   Eros is likewise an excellent companion to the arts.   The French artist, Sophie Calle, I feel is an entranceway to the world that is forbidden, and therefore we allow her as a guide to the underworld.   She is renowned for her performance/book artwork such as obtaining a job in a Venice hotel to observe the anonymous occupants and making a record of the experience.  As well as locating an address book on the street, and looking up every person in the book to learn more about the owner of the notebook.    Even enticingly, Calle through her mother, hired a private detective to monitor herself, not knowing the identity of the detective.   There is something that is wonderfully off-putting of such an art - especially when the artist commits herself to these series of performances and observations.  What’s equally sexy/disturbing is when other artists contribute to her work or comment on Calle through their art. In this case, the novel “Leviathan” by Paul Auster and “Because She Never Asked ” by Enrique Vila-Matas.  I feel both authors are sucked into this world that’s foundation is shaky at its best.  Which in turn, makes their “novels” so superb.



Calle’s art book, “Double Game, ” is more than a reflection on Paul Auster’s 1992 novel. It’s the springboard for Calle to explore the nature of what is real, not real, fiction and non-fiction, and how characters out of a novel can jump out of its pages.  There is the forbidden aspect of breaking that wall between reader/character and real life.  The thing about voyeurism is that it’s not really about the ‘real’ but how we perceive the ‘real. ' Calle and Auster play with the medium of fiction and conceptual art, that takes one on a very slippery path to the difference of one’s privacy, and another’s exploitation.  



The character, Maria Turner, in “Leviathan” is based on Sophie Calle, in that she’s a photographer who follows strangers for the purpose of photographing them for her art. In 2007, Calle came out with “Double Game. ” Her art/narrative book that focuses on the Auster character “Maria.” Calle plays up to the Maria character, even though it is inspired by her, into the world where the artist base her work on the fictional character that is based on….   “Double Game” is similar to going into a room full of mirrors, and consistently see endless images of oneself.   This is what all three artists/writers have in common.  The ability to be in their story, and then, in essence, floats over the narration and looks at themselves.  That, to me is the art of these two.  To take history, storytelling, and the ability to step into the typhoon that is art and mixing it up, and being able to express that experience with the skills of their artistry.  



The one flaw in the Auster/Calle world is the nature of coincidence.   It happens in life, but when you see it written down on paper, it becomes contrived.  It’s like having a puzzle, and you're missing key parts, so to make up for it, you force the ill-fitting part against another.   It can work, but it’s often too jarring, and brings attention to the weakness of the narration from point A to B.   Auster used Calle as a style of fiction, and Calle used Auster as a form of fiction - and then there’s Enrique Vila-Matas.



Of the three, I find Vila-Matas the most interesting.  His works are truly a combination of narrative fiction, literary theory, and art history rolled into one package.  Auster had approached this within his fiction, and Calle expressed this in her conceptual artwork, but Vila-Matas makes it seem effortless.   The one book of Vila-Matas that ties into the Sophie Calle presence is “Because She Never Asked. ”



The novella starts off about a fan of Calle who becomes a detective in the same light as her hero.  Which in turn, by the second chapter, is a story requested by Calle to Vila-Matas.   She wants Vila-Matas to write a story, and Calle will do anything in that story, except murder.  Now, the interesting thing, like with Auster, is having someone put one into a narrative of some sort.  The whole passive act is to follow along, and see what will happen. In a sense, it isn't precisely a work of fate, but the actual work of two authors.  There’s a sexual tinge in that one plays specific roles in the narrative.  As a writer, I like to base my little stories on real incidents and people as well.  What I do, is basically, take a real life, and altering that individual into my fashion.   In that sense, it’s a sex game where one plays roles to turn each other on.   Here, Vila-Matas is an inconsistent anticipation of hearing a response from Calle, through the medium of e-mail.   At this point, Vila-Matas, in the narrative, is not sure if the emails being sent back and forth will be part of an art exhibition (which is possible in the world of Calle) or an actual story being played out.   And at this point, the author is wondering if he’s being played “on.”   



The role of an artist/writer is interesting in itself in this presentation of them being a character in their story.  Therefore they can change their narrative to suit their art.   The thing is, they play with the reader’s imagination to a great extent, with the possibility that what they are writing is either 100% true, partially true, or entirely made-up.    Calle’s work is more fact-based in that she has information on-hand, and acts on it, with respect to her documentation.  Still, there is always a doubt in one’s mind if everything that is being presented to them is the actual truth of the situation.  Vila-Matas notices that he wants to live a written life, instead of being a writer.  That’s the conflict between being an artist who observes and one who lives out their life.  To participate in an action is very much part of being an author/artist - but to embrace the life as one’s lives, is an adventure that is not necessary literary or artistic.  In the hands (and minds) of these three, we are experiencing the duality of such a life. 




Paul Auster’s “Leviathan, ” Enrique Vila-Mata’s “Because She Never Asked, ” and Sophie Calle’s “Double Game” is an exploration of friendship, a touch of eros, collaboration, the fragile quality and quantity of truth.  Literary/art games have never been so much fun.