Wednesday, April 28, 2010

George Orwell's "Decline of the English Murder"

Decline of the English Murder (Penguin Great Ideas) Decline of the English Murder by George Orwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mostly early essays or articles by the icon of all journalists who likes to drink and feel...important. But alas don't let that stop you for enjoying one of the British prose writers of all time. George Orwell in this small edition comments on the joy of being arrested for public drunkness in East London, the joys of dirty (not really) postcards of Donald McGill, the nature of junk stores, and true-crime reading.

In other words a collection of essays that comment on the taste and passions of the typical (if one exists) British citizen during and before the war years. A big plus is the design work of Penguin's "Great Ideas" series. A well-edited series of books by classic writers on particular subjects. Mostly from bigger editions of such a writer, but here you get the feeling that these books are made for a 1 hour long train trip, and they work beautifully in the bathtub.

And yeah Orwell works great in the bathtub.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"The Spiv and the Architect"

The Spiv and the Architect: Unruly Life in Postwar London The Spiv and the Architect: Unruly Life in Postwar London by Richard Hornsey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Academic yes, but still full of life in its history. London can never be a dull subject, and when you add the post-war world of Gay Men in a new world - that was London, it is fascinating.

The "Architect" in the title is those who plan out the vision of London after the war. The Spiv is the outsider (Gay, criminal, boho, etc) who lives in that new world - or make it their own world somewhat or somehow.
Using ubran architecture, 1950's British films, Cheap paperback books and its industry, and the nature of the "bed-set room" is all told in a PHD manner, yet the subject is one of total interest.

How 'sub-culture' life exists in a world that is totally indifferent or in fear of them is an interesting tale. Richard Hornsey's thesis and paper is a must for those who are interested in British gay culture, but even more important how cities/architecture/books comment on a world that they can't control or contain.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Beautiful World of Oniroku Dan

Oniroku Dan's "Season of Infidelity"

Season of Infidelity: BDSM Tales from the Classic Master Season of Infidelity: BDSM Tales from the Classic Master by Oniroku Dan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Typical of me. I thought I was picking up a 'dirty book' and what I got was spiritual bliss of sorts. The writer Oniroku Dan, is a well-known soft (hard?) core porn filmmaker, screenwriter, and novelist. He's an expert on BDSM. As far as I know this is his first book in English, which consists of four short stories - but I suspect that they are more like memoirs than fiction.

The first three I was totally turned on, but the fourth one is the magic one - a really great view point of the porn or more like it the essence of pleasure in a Japanese context. The main figure in the last story is Naomi Tani, queen of the bondage film. And in what is almost a documentary on the nature of these films and its world. Here Dan really captures the essence of porn that is both funny, charming, and a tad erotic.

Also you get a good sense of the bars, the film world, and the nature of Japanese blue flicks or better known as "Roman Porno films.' Which was a cult-like passion for film goers in the 1970's. For instance my wife is into those type of films - but that's another story.

It says in the back cover that Dan wrote over 120 books. One hopes that these books will get translated and published. Excellent erotica, but also a great doorway to the undercurrents of contemporary Japan.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto

The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard DeVoto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reading this book you can actually smell Manhattan circ. 1953. Bernard DeVoto was a Historian, who wrote the ultimate love object (the book of course) to the serious art of drinking, and drinking well. The man has a strong hatred for the drink "Manhattan" as well as Rum. In fact he hates all sweet cocktails with a passion. And if you think you should add that olive to the martini, forget it. Cocktail is not a food, its a drink.

The great thing about the book is the packaging - all the original illustrations are here, and it makes you think that there was a better time once, a time where you can control your world. "The Hour" is such a time when you have the perfect (unsweet) cocktail in a location that serves your aesthetic and well-being.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Edgard Varese

Right now listening to Edgard Varese's "Complete Works Volume 1" and it strikes me as music that has no time or place. It's a beauty. Also this was one of my Dad's favorite records as well. I remember this album cover in my childhood years. At the time he would play this album loud, and it was disturbing to me - maybe due to my youth, but it seemed like music from a dark corner of a haunted house. But alas, listening to the album now, with full volume, it's a private world exposed as a piece of music. For those who love industrial (think of David Lynch's music) and early electronics - this is an essential masterpiece.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Barry Miles' "London Calling"

London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 by Barry Miles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm a long term Barry Miles fan. I guess one can consider him as a cultural historian, but he also witnessed many aspects of his own field of interest. Which is American Beat/British Hippie/pop music cultural life. He was also a close associate of Paul McCartney in the mid to late 1960's, as well as a co-writer on McCartney's interesting memoir.

Miles has written biographies on American Beat Greats, as well as his own memoir of London life during the Sixties. But"London Calling" is sort of his masterpiece, and although not historically perfect (some names are wrong, or the wrong artist with the wrong piece), he captures something more important, and that is the life blood of various countercultural youth movements from post-war London to now.

It may be age or perhaps the current social life of London is not that interesting to Miles, but for sure the past is full of colorful characters and various causes in the U.K. capital. From Teddy Boys to British Beats (and how they mixed in with Burroughs/Ginsberg) to the Mods, to the Hippies, and then to the punks is really five or six books in this one volume.

But each section is really alive with details about life then, and I would think a young reader would want to check out the literature/visuals of the various underground movements that took place in the mid to late 20th Century. Also in detail it explains the importance of London as a location as well as an iconic fantasy land of sorts.

This book is by no means the ultimate history, for that you need to read at least fifty other books on the subject of London's subculture. But this is an excellent introduction to a world with great possibility and sometimes disappointment. But the adventure to go from zero to 10 is a magnificent ride.

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