Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Odd Jobs" by Tony Duvert (Wakefield Press)

ISBN: 978-1-939663-29-0 Wakefield Press
Jonathan Swift comes to mind while reading Tony Deuvert's "Odd Jobs."  The set of stories takes place in a village, and all focus on particular occupations that are held in this village.  Or is it even the same village?  Nevertheless, there are occupations such as 'the snot-remover,' 'the wiper' (he cleans your ass and collects your poop) and 'the fondler' who skillfully jerks off boys, and so forth.  I imagine if you try to locate this specific village it may be difficult.  Therefore we're lucky that we have Tony Duvert to lead us to a world, of his own making, and beyond that, a savage satire on family culture and practices. Duvert is a writer who is very sensitive to the concept of family, and how cruel that system can be on individuals and more likely children.  A controversial writer in France, the late Duvert reminds me of Fassbinder the filmmaker, in that he too attacked systems that eventually oppressed a class or the public.  A social commentator, as well as a very dark humorist, "Odd Jobs" is a remarkable piece of work. Like his "District" (also published by Wakefield Press)  this book is a fantastic (although not necessarily) companion to "Odd Jobs."

"District" by Tony Duvert (Wakefield Press)

ISBN: 978-1-939663-30-6 Wakefield Press
Like the iconic and cliche saying about peeling an onion and each layer has a separate meaning or taste, so does the work of Tony Duvert.  "District" is a 40-page book, with ten sections/chapters and an introduction by the translators S. C. Delaney and Agnès Potier.   While reading the book this early afternoon, I immediately thought of the text that went along with the photos of 
Eugène Atget, who took early images of Paris and its life before Paris become modernized in the late 19th century.  Duvert covers an unnamed city (one can presume it's Paris, but who knows?) and in detail writes about that area in a poetic view or prose.  One gets the impression that he's a loner observing life as it happens, but not participating in what goes on in front of him.   It's a gem of a small book that leaves a large impression on me.  I have always been fascinated with writing that deals with a specific space, such as in various writers who were part of, or influenced by Situationists.  Duvert's "District" can follow that direction of such groupings, but also a touch of the "nouveau roman."

"Misia: The Life of Misia Sert" by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale (Alfred A. Knopf)

Superb biography on Misia Sert, who was a wealthy iconic model as well as a supporter of artists Renoir, Vuillard, Bonnard, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Wherever she sat, it seems that she was the magnet or in the presence of greatness in the art world. From writers to artists to composers to close designers, she knew everyone, and everyone seemed to want her support and friendship. At the moment I can't think of a better book on European art from the 19th-century to the World War II era, where things fell apart in the world of the arts.

"Misia" is written by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, which is the sole reason why I picked this book up. In my vinyl hunting, I have come upon two great albums by Gold and Fizdale, who play duo pianos, and focused on early 20th-century music, specifically the excellent Paul Bowles. Gold/Fizdale, a gay couple, seem to be at the very heart of the boho music world of the 1940s and 1950s Manhattan world. Besides writing this remarkable biography (1980), they also had a local New York City cooking show as well.

"Misia" is brilliantly told through various letters and journals by those who are in Ms. Sert's social world, as well as her letters to such cultural icons like Jean Cocteau and her best friend Serge Diaghilev, whose personality comes out gloriously in these pages. Cocteau was a hustler for his work, and Diaghilev was a hardcore hustler for his vision of the ballet and combining the most exceptional talents in art, music, and dance in one space, and on one stage. Misia also helped a young Coco Chanel start her world as fashion goddess, and may and may not have been lovers. The book is a gossip's dream of classic scandal on everyone from Marcel Proust to Erik Satie. It's fascinating to me that I know all the participants in this world, except for Misia Sert! There are people like her who were extremely important for any scene to get started, and she was the finance/friend that kept the ball rolling - especially to someone who was a combination of financial ruin and mess, Diaghilev.

The book is full of bitchy witticisms and an essential title for anyone who even has the 'slightest' interest in art culture from those times.

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Left" by Tosh Berman

My politics is hard Left. Mostly due that I’m left-handed and feel more comfortable with anything that deals with the left, either in politics or positioning things around me that is suitable for my left-handedness.   Even when I go out for walks, I only turn left.  I never turn right.  For instance, this morning I went out for a walk where I left the entrance to the house, reached the street, turned left.  When I approached Glendale Blvd, I made another left when I arrived on Fletcher.  I walked straight on Fletcher till I reached Larga Avenue, and went straight down to Glendale Blvd where I made a left.  I stayed on Glendale Blvd till I reached Waverly Drive, made a left and walked straight to my home and up the stairs to the entrance.  Approaching my door means I have to turn right, so I didn’t go up the stairs but went to the back way which is straight, a left, and then another left which leads to the back door.  

I tend to be messy due that I’m left-handed.  For instance, it’s challenging for me to write with a dip pen.  For a right-handed person, it’s easy for them to dip the pen into a bottle of ink, and the ability to drag the pen onto paper.  For a left-handed person they need to lower the pen into the ink, and once they reached the page, they either have ink blots on it or other stains.  Ever since the Industrial Age, where machines were made for the right-handed worker, the Lefties had a raging war to compete or do the same job.  In the appearance of their work, the left-handed person is messy, clumsy, or looks stupid.  God knows how many times people have noticed this trait with me. 

Also, there is lots of mistrust with individuals who are left-handed.  That hatred for lefties is even stamped in the language.  For instance, the Latin addictive ‘sinister’ means ‘left,’ as well as ‘unlucky.’   The term “left-handed compliment” means something that’s unflattering or not worthy of any seriousness.   Even magic is thrown in as something against the Leftie.  It is often known as ‘left-hand path, which duh, is inclined to the black magic.’  White magic is the right-hand path. When you get down to it, the world hates the left-handed person.  What’s maddening is that none of us decided to be left-handed, but because we are born to be left-handed, we are forced to suffer from the Right-handed world.  The right comes from the organized part of the world due that they made the machines and tools that can be only used by the Right handers with a significant amount of comfort.  On the other hand, the Lefties have to use the same machinery, and what they get for it, is humiliation and hatred.  

The other thing I have noticed is when you go out eating; it’s wise for the left-handed person to be sitting by the end of the counter because otherwise, your arm will be jabbing the person on your left.  There is only one spot for the left-handed person in a restaurant, and that is on the end table.  Rarely, like hardly, can a left-handed person be in the center of the table.  They’re forced to be outside - and that means also being forced out of the table conversation.  Or if you’re placed at the dining counter, by the wall, your left hand is constrained due to the wall being there.  

If that is not bad enough, Yale had a study where Left-handed people were more likely suffer from psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.  It’s no wonder I’m not allowed to run machinery including driving a car. I remember once I was pulled over due to a lighting problem in my taillights, and the cop noticed that I was left-handed and tried to give me a ticket for being so.   I had to argue with him that there is no such law, but he thought that was insane.  He actually contacted a fellow police officer, and that cop told him “no, it’s not against the law, but of course, it should be a law against left-handed drivers.”  So, I just got a ticket for a bad headlight, but still, the paranoia out there is real. 

My first introduction to being the dreg of the world due to my leftie character was in elementary school.  The teacher would call me up to the chalkboard to write some sort of answer.  The class would complain because it was strange for seeing someone using that side of the body, that hand and write something on the chalkboard. I remember almost crying in front of the class, but I bit my lip so I wouldn’t do so.  Even the school classroom chairs were a problem for me.  They had seats with a desk attached for writing.  And of course, they were made for the right-handed person.  If you were that persuasion, you can sit up in your chair and have no trouble writing.  Me, on the other hand, with my left-hand had to reach out to the table, and therefore twist my back to do so.   I must have resembled a hunchback fellow!

As a teenager, I had to share the front seat with my mom on the right, because she prefers the window/door seat, and my father who drove the truck.  My left hand and arm consistently smacked against the gear shift of the truck.  So, I had to force my arm to my torso as much as possible to not to hit my father while he was driving the vehicle.   It seems that for my whole life, I had to control my left upper limbs from other people, due to the industrial or interior design of furniture and machines.   The constant annoyance of being aware, when others are apparently not aware nor do they have to be, because they’re fucking right-handed.  

It’s getting to the point that it’s hard for me to sleep on the right side of the bed.  Then again, what is the left or the right side of the bed?  It really depends on where one is standing and one’s direction.  If I’m facing the front of the bed, I can point to the left side, but if my back is against the direction of the bed, then the left side changes.  So in theory, is there such a thing as a ‘left’ or ‘right?’   Doesn’t it depend on where one is standing?  I have often heard people commenting “on ‘your’ left,” which is utterly confusing to me.  Being left-brain minded, I get bewildered with directions and what’s North, South and so forth.  

On top of all of this, I don’t want people to know that I find all of this confusing because it makes me sound dumb.  In fact, I feel stupid.  Not when I’m by myself in a private world of my own making, but when I go out socially, and I have to function in a manner that’s proper and entirely agreeable with the rest of the world.  It’s very tiresome you know.  

With things being sided with the right-hand world there can be no peace or justice till the Left regains what is indeed ours, which is part of our world.   

- Tosh Berman, Los Angeles, 2017