Thursday, July 29, 2010

500 Essential Cult Books: The Ultimate Guide"

500 Essential Cult Books: The Ultimate Guide500 Essential Cult Books: The Ultimate Guide by Gina McKinnon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ultimate bathroom/bathtub/on your working desk type of book. There are many essential guides on literature, but this one is put together quite well. Also a lot of book cover graphics and most important it lists my edition of "Foam of the Daze" in their classic section of cult novels. Page 50 to remind you.

But also of course there are essential "cult" books left out as well. Dennis Copper comes to mind right away and that is an essential read in that field, and there are others. But again, that is part of the fun in these type of collections. What should be in and what shouldn't be in the collection. Nicely edited for those who need a quick reference, and also a great guide to bring with you when you come to Book Soup (my occupation).

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in ParisAn Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Georges Perec

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Georges Perec wrote this fascinating little (very little but beautifully designed) book regarding one location in Paris, and documenting what was happening around that section. And that is basically it! Buses come and go, taxi stand, children walk by as others. Totally uninteresting and that is what's interesting about it.

Perec only records what's not interesting and by doing that he is capturing a series of moments that one never pays attention to. And there is a beauty to that. Also Perec is hysterical. His little side-comments are priceless and very dry. It is almost like reading notes from a detective at a stake-out (is that the term), but there is nothing to report! I love that.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tony O'Neill's "Sick City"

Page-turner galore! There is nothing better then to sit down in the backyard and read about people who are worst off then the reader. Tony O'Neill has a great understanding of the narcotic world, and he uses that knowledge to write a thriller of sorts - or a plot driven by characters we care about. It's classic noir country and he uses Los Angeles as a character in the narrative.

As the novel goes on things get worse, strange connections between individuals are made and lost, and one gets a nice snapshot on the drug-induced citizens of Hollywood. A beautiful friendship/relationship from the main two characters starts up and gets better. It is a love story of sorts but without the erotic urges. Also throw in old Hollywood lore, and it is a great cocktail of a book.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Follow The Music" by Jac Holzman

Follow the Music: The Life and High Times of Elektra Records in the Great Years of American Pop CultureFollow the Music: The Life and High Times of Elektra Records in the Great Years of American Pop Culture by Jac Holzman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jac Holzman, the founder and guiding light of Elektra Records started a good thing. It's a fascinating book on many levels. I m a huge fan of record labels that have a strong identity - and Elektra was such a company. Right now I am not even sure if there is an Elektra any more. Nevertheless its a fascinating history that started in the Village NYC to LaCienga Blvd in Los Angeles.

Holzman had taste and a good nose for business. There wasn't anything eccentric about him (therefore not on the Joe Meek genius level for instance) but he was a product and personality of the times. In the 50's he was a border-line beatnik folk lovin' capitalist. In the 60's he believed in the artist (that's consistent with him) but also into alternative life style things, like communes, etc. But he never lost the eye to have something unique on his label.

He big time with the Doors and for sure took part in Punk Rock before that even really started with The Stooges and the Nuggets series. He listened to good people and he was always looking forward and not backwards. And at least in this book, most say good things about him. And I have to point out that this book is put together by Holzman, but is basically an oral history of the label. The only one who comes off as an asshole is David Geffen towards the end of the book.

One of the good things about reading this book is that it made me curious to hear some of the folk recordings he put out in the late 50's and early 60's. For a record label heard he put out really weird music of his time. Incredible String Band, David Peel, Stooges (at the time), and various odd and strange folk/rock songwriters as well as Bread! It's a classic music business book and a rock n' roll book as well. Highly recommended.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

What I have Been Listening To...

André Hodeir, Patrice Caratini, Valérie Philippin & Elisabeth Lagneau

Using text from James Joyce, André Hodeir and friends goes on a wild ride that is a hybrid of big band jazz. Kind of Beat era like but with a twist of something that's current or maybe the future. Hodeir is someone who is very difficult to find information on. A friend of Boris Vian he made some brilliant music, including the soundtrack to L'ecume des jours.

Bobby Toup!

The man who wrote "Route 66" and was the husband of Julie London. But beyond that he's is also a great singer. Well, not a great voice in the trained sense, but the way he twist his lyrics into the melody - and a remarkable lyrcist. Not hip but totally Hep!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Suede - Shipbuilding

Suede performing Robert Wyatt's "Shipbuilding." And yes Elvis Costello wrote it, but Wyatt made that song. Suede version is good.

robert wyatt shipbuilding

Some live Robert Wyatt. Simply great.

robert wyatt - left on man


Dennis Hopper Double Standard

Dennis Hopper Double StandardDennis Hopper Double Standard by Julian Schnabel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rush-released catalog to go with the speedy put-together Dennis Hopper exhibition at Los Angeles' MOCA. Timing due to Hopper's illness. Sadly his cancer overtook him before the opening. Nevertheless it is an interesting show and small catalog. With respect to credits, and who's who in the photographs, there are some mistakes, but again, it is understandable due to the speed production with respect in putting this small, but must-have book out, especially if you go see the show.

Dennis was one of those great personalities that were in the right place and the right time. He was a fantastic portrait photographer, but I think a so-so visual artist. I think the problem (if it is even a problem) is that he was such a major fan of the artists of his lifetime. Of course he was a great friend (my father for instance) of many of the artists that he collected - and god, he had a great eye for the art. His instinct was right-on the pulse of what was happening around his world. Also he had great glamour. And that sounds kind of light, but it shouldn't be meant that way. He had a presence when he walked into a room. Dennis carried not only himself, but also a whole tradition of Hollywood turning into a different type of engine, as well as the visual arts that was exploding in the late 50's and 1960's.

So a lot of the artwork he made seems like homage to another artist. He had style (lots of it) but it doesn't convey in the paintings/collages. But his photos are something else. I sense Hopper had a great style in that medium. The photos in the exhibition are hung salon style. Meaning they are all over the walls - and it is fun to focus on them from the center of the room.

So the book itself is a reminder of a show - and there are for sure better books out on his artwork and photography. Nevertheless Dennis Hopper is going to be missed on this planet. And it’s nice to go into a room of his artwork/photos because they remind you of the exciting visual world of the 60's and beyond. So yeah the work itself is ok, but what they represent to Dennis was an exciting new world at the time.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Charles Saatchi's "?"

Charles Saatchi: QuestionCharles Saatchi: Question by Charles Saatchi

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One of those non-books about an non-subject matter. One star usually means i hated it, and two stars mean I hate it but it got me thinking about stuff.

"?" by Charles Saatchi is book length (but could be read in one sitting) Q&A on various subject matters - but mostly there is an overall contempt for Rich Artists, and basically advertising wizz Saatchi can make or break an artist's career. Which I think is an overstatement. Or at the very least that's the drift from the questions. Saatchi seems to be pretty much a straight forward type of guy, although I don't see why "green" (he doesn't like this movement that much) issues upset him so much. And there is no sense of passion in why he collects and likes art. My gut feeling is that he loves art. It rocks his world. But reading this book all I get is surface stuff.

So I imagine people who buy this book (good impulse buy design) they want to know about the "art world." And the "art world" is not that interesting compared to the aesthetics of the artist or what the work is or how it communicates to the viewer. That's interesting. But how rich an artist is or does he deserve the attention - all of that is really a matter of taste, which comes and goes.

So in the nutshell, like "the film business" with regards how much money the work made - is a false issus in my world. A book about Saatchi talking about individual artists and what it means to him would be way more interesting. And maybe he discussed that in his first book. Nevertheless "?" is pointless, but interesting in what it doesn't talk about.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Michael Arlen's "These Charming People"

These Charming People (Capuchin Classics) These Charming People by Michael Arlen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are certain books that I get off because of the sentence structure or the pacing of the words on the page, and Michael Arlen is a writer I think i may have a huge admiration for in the coming years. Surely more of his stories and novels will come back in print. A writer of the 1920's, who was focused on the Mayfair Set in London. A collection of short stories that can be read as a novel, because the characters come back in later narratives.

The closest writer I can think of is PG Wodehouse, in that both writers share a fascination with the dynamics of the upper crest with the low. Also he is sort of a hybrid of Gertrude Stein and Wodehouse. Arlen was born in Armenia, so its interesting how he uses the "British English" to such a great affect. Mannered to almost a surreal level, but pure music to my ears.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

The Real Buddy Holly Story 1 of 10

The Buddy Holly documentary that seems to be backed by Paul McCartney (who owns the songs) and the Holly family. I am a huge Buddy fan. i am missing one episode (chapter 9?) due to some copyright issue.

The Real Buddy Holly Story 2 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 3 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 4 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 5 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 6 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 7 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 8 of 10

The Real Buddy Holly Story 10 of 10

Saturday, July 3, 2010


the cut ups william burroughs antony balch 1966

Towers Open Fire

"William S. Burroughs (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives)" by Phil Baker

William S. Burroughs (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives) William S. Burroughs by Phil Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Well, first of all, you can't go wrong with the Reaktion Books' "Critical Lives" series. They are biographies on 'difficult 19th and 20th century thinkers/artists/writers, but told lightly in the manner of not going over someone's head with too much critical theory speak. And they don't preach, and for sure doesn't talk down the subject matter. In other words they're great. I actually like these small biographies then the big one's that are out there on the same subject.

So what we have here that is new is the William S. Burroughs biography. One who follows the old titan of paranoia won't get anything new, but what Phil Baker does is put the whole picture in a frame that is pretty much essential to anyone who wants to dip his or her toes into the world of Burroughs.

In my youth Burroughs was a favorite of mine. I liked the pictures of him (always cool lookin'), and the deadpan delivery of his words and voice. Also the fact that he took the high in art/history with the lowest of the low (heroin culture, his love of trash Sci-fi novels, scandal sheets, and the stuff that American culture threw away in the trash).

But also a lot of the stuff that he threw out there had some great truth as well as pure crap. I also love the fact that he was pretty much of a failure till his late 40's. I admire that in a man! What troubles me about him is the shooting of his wife, the way he treated his son, and his love of guns. However you look at it, its pretty idiotic to play William Tell with a living person. An ugly incident, which through his guilt made him the writer that he became - or is that true?

In the end he became an icon for an era that no longer existed, which is understandable - but sad as well. So like everything else in the 20th Century you have to take the sugar as well as the bitters, and Burroughs was a major player as a writer. Good bio!

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