Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Slow Writing : Thom Andersen on Cinema" by Thom Andersen (The Visible Press)

ISBN: 9780992837723 The Visible Press

In the 1960s there were a lot of great 'film' related books that speak to the fan of the medium, but also express a viewpoint of the world as well.  Thom Andersen's "Slow Writing" reflects that series of perfect moments when I used to haunt the bookshelves at Samuel French and Larry Edmunds bookstore in Hollywood. 

Cinema was not separated from 'real' life - even Hollywood had to reflect on the outside world once in awhile.   For me, and this is entirely a subjective view there is two type of fans of cinema.  The one that gets into the merchandising and the inner world of that medium - mostly the comic.com generation, that offers a peculiar view of the world that is half-made up and almost have a will of steel in bringing that world up in their everyday lives.  And then there is the cinema that reflects on the politics, the concerns, and the nature of being human in a world that's often unsettling.  These two sometimes go hand-in-hand, or more likely take two separate highways to get to their destination.    "Slow Writing" is a book that reflects on the 'outside' world but through the medium of the cinema.  It's a fantastic series of essays focusing on Ozu to Christian Marclay, Warhol, and for me an obscure filmmaker Pedro Costa.  

Thom Andersen writes clearly and doesn't have the slightest whiff of academia confusion or stance.  He's a guy who goes to the movies and thinks about them afterward.   His interest in politics, film noir, and the Hollywood Red scare era is a toxic seduction to get the reader involved with 20th-century pop cultural history.   It is also a world that bites very hard and doesn't let go of its fans or those who dwell in the history of the urban landscape - especially Los Angeles in this case.  "Slow Writing" is a perfectly paced book.  The essays blend into the others as if one is bathing in its water.  Over the years I have read great books on film, and "Slow Writing" is without a doubt a classic volume on the subject matter, as well as commentary on Los Angeles seen through the medium of film, and how that reflects on the actual world, that most of us dwell in. 

Also, praise to The Visible Press for making a beautiful book to behold and treasure.  It's elegant, which is also very much like Thom Andersen and his writing. 

(I will be having a discussion with Thom Andersen on his book "Slow Writing" at Skylight Books on October 12, 2017, at 7:30 PM. )

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"X-Rated: Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s" by Tony Gourmand and Graham Marsh, Introduction by Peter Doggett (Reel Art Press)


"X-Rated: Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s" by Tony Mourmand and Graham Marsh (Reel Art Press)

You can't overestimate the sexual urge even in the era of Trump. Still, a look back into the era when there were actual dirty movie theaters that showed dirty movies in one's neighborhood or more likely in the borderline between your 'safe' area and the 'bad' neighborhood. Usually, it's the folks from the 'good' area that frequents these type of theaters. For my generation, and I was a child/teenager in the 60/70s, the attraction of an X-rated movie theater was hard to avoid. Not only for the pleasures of seeing the flesh, but also the beautifully designed film posters that advertise these films. Reel Art Press publisher and editor Tony Nourmand has the largest collection of these posters from that era. With the great assistance of Graham Marsh, they have made a book that is essential to not only dirty movie lovers but also anyone who even has the flicker of interest in cinema practices as well as pop cultural history.

Russ Meyer is clearly the genius of the X-Rated film, that is more exploitative than sexual. Still, when one watches a Meyer film, you're clearly exposed to another version of a demented world away from your own surroundings. His film posters are pretty much an excellent representation of what you are going to see in his cinematic work. Beyond that, not that many other geniuses in this field of work, still, the graphic art aspect is brilliant and often witty. For me, I prefer the posters of the 60s because, for one, it was truly an underground landscape. There was something forbidden in that world, and these posters express the iconic naughtiness of those times. The 70s were a time of more openness and more self-aware of the issues of that era. Still, as the budget got bigger, the posters became more sophisticated in the sense of movies made for the mainstream. It's interesting to compare the two eras of dirty movie posters.

And sadly the book also exposes that the time of the dirty movie poster is now dead. There is no need, especially when the VHS and DVD world came into prominence. And even worse, streaming! Also a terrific introduction by Peter Doggett.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Dear Mr. Beckett: The Samuel Beckett File: Letters from the Publisher" Edited by Lois Oppenheim/Curated by Astrid Myers Rosset (Opus)


As a publisher (TamTam Books) I'm fascinated with books about publishing or about the publisher themselves. I'm especially interested in the great American publisher Barney Rosset.   His Grove Press is/was very much a presence in my library for nearly my entire teenage and adult life.   If it wasn't for example and inspiration I got from Mr. Rosset (from a great distance, never met him) I doubt I would have started TamTam Books.  Reading "Mr. Beckett" brought up my anxieties about my press, and I can totally 'feel' for whatever situations that Rosset took on or got himself involved in.

For one, anyone who has even the slightest interest in the world of publishing should read this book.  By no means is it a perfect book. In fact, it's kind of messy, but at the end of the read, a delightful mess of a book.  Some of the interviews repeat themselves and could have been edited down, but I think the purpose of the publication brings the reader to that era of Samuel Beckett and his relationship with his American publisher, Barney Rosset.

As the full title states, it is a file of Rosset's letters to Beckett, as well as some correspondence from Beckett to Rosset, but also interviews with Rosset, and Eugene Ionesco and Alain Robbe-Grillet, regarding their relationship with the publisher, but on Beckett as well.  There is an insight into various theatrical productions of "Waiting for Godot," as well as his other plays.   Also interesting interview regarding the making of Beckett's "Film,"  with Rosset (he produced the movie) and working with Buster Keaton.  The letters from Rosset to Beckett are fascinating, concerning the relationship between author and publisher.  Nothing dramatic or bad happens between the two guys, but the daily struggle of getting things done, and dealing with financial issues is at times painful (for me) and awesome at the same moment.   A magnificent monument to the publisher and the writer.  May it last forever.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Letters To His Neighbors" by Marcel Proust (Translated by Lydia Davis) New Directions Books

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2411-6 New Directions Books

I'm fascinated with a writer's residence.  Especially a writer like Marcel Proust, who lived in Paris, yet, couldn't stand outside noise.  He had lined up cork in his room to keep sounds out, but alas, where does one stop, when it becomes an obsession.  Ironically enough, or perhaps cruelty playing at fate, his upstairs neighbor was a dentist with his office right over his bedroom. Proust deal with this problem by addressing various correspondence to the upstairs neighbor's wife, Mme Williams.  Often sent with flowers, compliments, or books.  Proust, even at his wit's end, was a charmer.  Any other temperament, it could have been war.  Alas, it was more of a problem for the whole building to solve. The upside of this situation is that Proust and Mme Williams became close friends.  She made music in her and husband's apartment, and often Proust complimented the sounds above.  

"Letters to His Neighbor" is a very brief small book.  All the correspondence is from Proust, so you don't get Mme Williams commentary in the above narrative.  Still, and not surprisingly, the letters by Proust are written so beautifully.  One wonders if the world would be a better place on Social platforms like Facebook if writers of Proust's talents were on it?  The book is beautifully translated from the French to English by the great Lydia Davis.  Her afterword puts a focus on the relationship between the two neighbors but also comments on the Proust apartment which I found fascinating.  There is even a floor plan of Proust's apartment.  Also, we get what living inside Proust's headquarters was like.  According to Davis, the apartment was stuffed with his family's furniture, and it must have been like the world within a world. 

"Letters to His Neighbors" is slight, but its the devil in the details, and gives some light to "Swann's Way" as well to his other volumes of the same series.  Proust fanatics will want this, but again, it's the writer's lifestyle that I find of great interest.  As a guy who sits behind his computer, I can imagine what Proust had to go through for his work.  After all noise or quiet is a subjective view of the world. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Roland Barthes


“We know that the war against intelligence is always waged in the name of common sense.” 
― Roland Barthes, Mythologies

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Evening Series: Sunday, September 3, 2917


The Evening Series: Sunday, September 3, 2017

The night is so hot and still that when I farted, I can taste it from the air.   The temperature in the house is around 90 something degrees, and I swear if I die, the ants looking for water in the kitchen will cover my body.  Even now, I’m not sure if it’s sweat from my head, or an actual insect is running freely in my inner ear.  I can feel a tickle, and it’s not the ha-ha kind. 



There’s  fire in the hills.  One of the reasons why I don’t live in a canyon area is due to nature being challenged by weather conditions and man(person)-made conditions where death and destruction are part of the package.  I prefer the world of the concrete or cement buildings.  Made by civilization and proud of it.  Built to last, if not forever, then a few decades.  



The stench of an airless evening.  One gets the impression that you can throw a heavy object up in the air, and it will just stay in place.  I wonder if I fall, will I hit the ground.  What do I know?  I can’t even get myself up from the floor. 


- Tosh Berman

Emil Cioran 1


"Except for music, everything is a lie, even solitude, even ecstasy. Music, in fact, is the one and the other, only better." - Emil Cioran