Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gil J Wolman's "Art"

Gil J Wolman's "I Am Immortal and Alive" by Frederic Acquaviva

Remarkable find in my very own bookstore! Gil J. Wolman was a member of the Letterist International and an associate of the Situationist International -till Guy Debord decided to eliminate him from the group. According to this catalog no one is really sure why that happened. It seems like Wolman was liked by everyone - and that alone may have pissed Debord off!

Nevertheless, and beyond his social activities with various European 20th Century art movements, Wolman made some remarkable art. Mostly collages that he termed "Scotch (after the tape) Art and works with various forms of text. "I am Immortal and Alive" is a catalog to a show that is now taking place in Barcelona. If it is like this catalog, then the show has to be a real beauty as well as a document on a fascinating artist and his time and placement in contemporary art.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Simon Reynolds' "Totally Wired"

Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and OverviewsTotally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews by Simon Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not only did Simon Reynolds wrote the ultimate history of Post-Punk, but maybe the only one? Nevertheless "Totally Wired" is a perfect brother or sister to his "Rip It Up." Basically a collection of interviews with the key players of Post-Punk - all British except for David Thomas, Lydia Lunch, and the great James Chance/White.

The subject matter of both books are interesting, but what makes it really shine is Reynolds intelligence and asking the right question to the right person. All interviewees are superb, intelligent, the cloudy area of early 80's music is given much deserved focus. Meaning groups like Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd, Slits, etc. It was an exciting time for music because Punk opened up the door, but who did what and how once that door was opened is an interesting subject matter. For me as a listener it was a paradise of sorts with beautiful graphics and wonderful fashion.

But beyond that was heavy thinking, heavy fun, and weird beautiful recordings. Post-Punk is a huge canvas and Reynolds does a good job in covering the major thinkers and stars and almost stars. I wished there was something on my favorite, Cowboys International, but alas, another book perhaps.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Robert Westerby's "Wide Boys Never Work"

Wide Boys Never WorkWide Boys Never Work by Robert Westerby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Right now, London Books Classic is putting out important books. And of course for those who know me, the work they are putting out is from the past. Which sounds like i have no interest in the present, basically true - but on the other hand...

"Wide Boys Never Work" was written in the late 1930's and it is about a troubled youth who runs off to London to become something, that he can't be in his home town. What he finds there is sort of a paradise where you can make a new identity among the thugs of Soho, London. And saying that there are numerous colorful characters in this novel, but for sure the main character is London itself.

A Wide Boy is a term meaning gang kid or criminal. And it is in this world where the main character finds himself in a pleasurable light - although that world has a lot of danger, it still appeals to his sense of identity. also of interest is the Homosexual element in the gang world which is expressed quite well in this novel. Jimmy, the main character, is not gay, but through his boss witnesses another world that he wasn't aware of.

Iain Sinclair for this book wrote a magnificent introduction as well as a strange afterword, yet it fits in the package quite well. London Books Classic is a press that focuses on London as a magnet to wonderful mysteries and situations. "Wide Boys Never Work" is a classic London Noir book and I strongly recommend those who are interested in London the city as well as its dark culture.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gerald Kersh's "Night and the City"

Night and the CityNight and the City by Gerald Kersh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Night and the City" is pretty amazing on different levels. On one end I don't think its a great novel, but as a portrait of a time, place, and a certain type of character its totally ace. Written in 1938 and mostly taking place in Soho London it is a snapshot of a group of hustlers trying to stay above the water-line of sorts.

The main character is Harry Fabian, who for god knows, should be a major iconic fiction figure. But alas, what we have here is a pimp who lives his life in a certain amount of fantasy. No self-control, not that bright, but at least he has the talent of a hustler, but hustles in small steps instead of a larger plan. And yes, he does have a large plan of opening up a wrestling ring/club, but he also a man of very little talent.

The fun of the book is knowing that he will hit downward, but how? The big character in the book is West London and its citizens. Along with Fabian we get Helen's road to ruin as well Phil Nosseross, the British Pound counting nightclub boss. Remarkable book and a remarkable new press : London Books Classic.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

The King of Carnaby Street

The King of Carnaby Street: A Life of John StephenThe King of Carnaby Street: A Life of John Stephen by Jeremy Reed

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well first, the poet Jeremy Reed has excellent taste, but second, he's not one of the greatest biography prose writers that's out there. This book is more of a 'think' piece then a straight ahead biography. But besides that point, John Stephen is a fascinating man in an equal fascinating world of street fashion at the right time and place.

"The King of Carnaby Street" is a portrait of John Stephen who pretty much started the whole groovy Mod Carnaby Street scene. The first one to open a series of shops, he was also a taste-maker and obsessive worker. His private life was hellish like any other gay man who lived in the outlaw U.K., where at the time it was illegal to have homosexual sex. This book is a must for those who collect Mod-era subject matters. And I do, but I just wished the book was a bit more bio like and less.....well, Jeremy Reed.

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