Monday, May 30, 2011

Bill Morgan's "The Beat Generation in New York"

Well, i am in New York City at the moment(s), and its too hot outside to actually do a walking tour- but i think this is the book to bring with you when you are in NYC. Bill Morgan is the official historian of everything that's BEAT. And here he takes you to neighborhood-to-neighborhood to all the Beat haunts and lofts/apartments. As well as the bars, the jazz nightclubs, and various parks where one score Heroin or grass. In other words this is pretty essential travel guide to one of the great cities on this planet. 
The shocking thing is also how much has changed since this book was written (in the 1990's). Buildings don't exist, so what you get is sort of a ghost tour - and Manhattan in many ways is a ghost - but with only respect to memory and history. Its a beautiful form of memory - not my own, but from history. And the Beats, without a doubt, made NYC a strong presence. Even if you don't plan to go to New York City, this book is pretty much an essential document of Beat life. In other words, I love it!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Impressions of Africa" by Raymond Roussel

Very, very excited to see a new translation of Raymond Roussel's masterpiece "Impressions of Africa."  Mark Polizzotti is doing the translating and the great press Dalkey Archive is publishing it.  Coming out June 24th, 2011

And this is the translation that is out now, and I believe it was done in 1966. Oneworld Classics just re-release this great book and you should get it too.  I am firm believer that you can't get enough translations of a great classic  - and "Impressions of Africa" is a classic in that 'classic' sense.

Raymond Roussel's "Locus Solus"

I read this book some years ago, and to this day I felt I dreamt it. Not meaning it's a Surrealist work - and some argue it is - at least by its nature. But re-reading "Locus Solus" reminds me of the Museum of Jurrastic Technology here in Los Angeles. One goes into the museum not sure how it will turn out in the end, but for sure you are going for a wild intellectual and sensual journey. 

There is no real plot for say, but more of a group of settings where things happen Some are narratives and some are almost visual set pieces. Which explains why Roussel was a major influence on the visual arts of the early 20th Century as well as to poets. His mixture of images within bizarre settings never gets stale. The wealthy scientist Cantarel takes a group on a tour of his estate, and what he has in his collection.... Oh my! 
In many ways the book is about obsessions. About capturing a moment and keeping it is some form or another. And that the author is Raymond Roussel, perhaps one of the great obsessive writers ever. A wealthy man who paid for the publication for this book (as well as his other titles). An author who eventually put together a huge stage show in Paris - and a man who traveled around the world and never left the ocean liner. So the world of his choice are all in his head. And this is what makes his work so great. 
There is logic, but its in a science fiction turn of the century way of looking at the world. And that is another odd aspect to his work is that he is clearly a man from the 19th Century dealing with the 20th Century world. Without a doubt a work of genius, and a book I will re-read again and again.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy

Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy.  At the height of their creative powers.  Both beautifully dressed as well.

François de Roubaix's "L'Homme Orchestre"

Truly one of the great French film composers (and there are quite a few) François de Roubaix's "L'Homme Orchestre" is ....insane.   The orchestra is all in the kitchen and it is like that room has spinned around not once, but twice, and presto you get this soundtrack album.  And I gather the film is a musical, because there is a lot of music on this album.  French pop meets jazz meets experimental tape techniques, meets visions in one's head.  I am almost afraid to see the film, because I think what I see in my head maybe even better than the actual film.  But who knows.....   Great record.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vince Taylor - Mack the Knife.AVI

Vince Taylor is a fascinating figure in Post-Beatles pop culture. Great vocalist? That's for the public to decide. But his aura sings out brightly. Totally amazing.

Michel Legrand's "Michel Legrand chante"

For the past two years I have been searching out music by Michel Legrand.  His mixture of pop and jazz is a win-win combination.  And his soundtrack work with Jacques Demy is...well its damn incredible.  But via the world of the Internet I have been finding some interesting music by this man.  For instance this album.  I don't know when it was recorded, my guess sometime in the early 60's.  What I have is a vinyl download, so the clicks and cracks adds to the magic of the music.  Legrand has a great jazzy voice and it is very effective when he's singing something very pop orientated.  Also his skill as an arranger is something else.   And his sensitivity with the voice with the instruments I think is quite unique.  A beautiful album.

"The Lost Album: A Visual History of 1950's Britain" by Basil Hyman

The coffee book design is made for books like "The Lost Album." Photographer Basil Hyman's beautiful reproduction of the black and white years of Post-War England. Half of it is his photographs of sites, people (no one famous) burned out music halls, pubs, and etc. But within these pages you get actual ration cards for food and gas, a program for a dance hall performance, ticket stubs from the tube, as well as from various shows, newspaper clippings - its all incredible. 
The book is beautifully designed and the paper has a textural touch that brings back memories - but the thing is this is not my memory, but Hyman's thoughts and visuals of an era that is extremely importrant. The 50's U.K. built the pop stars that will soon change pop culture in the 60's - and seeing the rationing cards, the harsh black and white imagery, which was really the world at the time - is both extremely moving and beautiful. Essential book to the ultimate max.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paul Scheerbart's "The Perpetual Motion Machine"

Paul Scheerbart is a total mystery to me, but yes, what a wonderful mystery. German writer of the early 20th Century who focused on poetry and plays as well as being a fan of glass architecture. This small and quite eccentric book is Scheerbart's focus on his scientific invention "The Perpetual Motion Machine." 

After reading this book I haven't the foggiest idea what the Perpetual Motion Machine does or what it's supposed to do - but nevertheless I am sure it is a remarkable invention. For the sole reason that this book is a remarkable invention. With his diagrams in trying to locate the right wheel in the right direction, this is something Scheerbart thought long and hard on. And the beauty is not the result, but the process in getting there - if he even he got there. 

Wakefield Press is surely one of my favorite presses. Besides this jewell of a book they also published the mind-liked "An Attempt at Exhausting aPlace in Paris" by Georges Perec. All part of the Imaging Science series

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tosh Talks MUJI May.06.2011

I do have obsessions about retail stores, and one of my favorites is MUJI. A Japanese no-brand store of sorts but with high design quality - and all the goods are excellently made. I have used their notebooks and pens for over 20 years. Remarkable stationary, but they make everything from shoes to pre-fab homes.