Thursday, January 26, 2012

Elaine Dundy's "The Old Man and Me"

The late and great Elaine Dundy is a very interesting woman, who lived near Book Soup and was a customer as well.  Little did I know of her writing career till I read "The Dud Avocado" which is fantastic by the way.  So her history is fascinating in that she was married to British theater critic great Kenneth Tynan and also wrote the first serious in depth biography on Elvis.

So of course "The Old Man and Me' would be of interest, but beyond that, it is quite a remarkable novel on various levels.  The thing that really caught my attention is that she really got into the language of the British and its difference from American English.   Two, she has some knowledge (of course) on the British personality and how that works with the American personality.  And three, this is a really smart novel about how cultures merge - especially in early 1960's London.   The main character resembles a much sweeter Patricia Highsmith twisted character who is dealing with identity and revenge of sorts.  She knows what she wants, but does not know why she wants it.  And that is the main problem with "Honey Flood."   She goes out to seduce, but she gets seduced and its a weird journey from naive to knowing.  

The book captures the culture of London in the early 1960's -before the Beatles and in some ways London itself is one of the characters in this novel.   It's a great piece of London literature. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jean Boullet and Boris Vian

J'irai cracher sur vos Tombes (I Spit on Your Graves)
The above edition is very rare.  Maybe 1,000 copies were produced sometime around 1947 or 1948.  It's Boris Vian's "I Spit on Your Graves" with illustrations by Jean Boullet, a friend of Vian's, and whose work is a combination of Jean Cocteau meets Tom of Finland.  

 "Jean Marais" by Jean Boullet
Via TamTam Books I want to re-publish this edition with the illustrations as well as using a Boris Vian's introduction to his controversial novel.  I am asking out to anyone who either has a copy of this limited edition wonder of a book or have contact to the Jean Boullet estate.

"Barnum's Digest" art by Jean Boullet with comments by Boris Vian
Also I am looking for a copy of the above book as well.  Boullet did a book of drawings with commentary by Vian.   Also if anyone has any inside information about the relationship between Vian and Boullet.  Everyone knows that I am a mega-Vian fan, but I am also drawn towards Boullet's work.  I saw some of his illustrations/artwork at the Boris Vian exhibition that took place in Paris.

Jean Boullet

Jean Boullet

Jean Boullet

Early Edition of Boris Vian's L'automne a Pékin (Autumn in Peking)

An early edition of L'automne a Pekin (Autumn in Peking) by Boris Vian

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson" by Kevin Avery

Paul Nelson's life narrative  is too good and too tragic.  A man who didn't compromise, and paid the price for his stance in the world - nor could he really take care of himself as well. in other words the dark noirish side of being a professional rock n' roll critic.

Nelson was one of the first important figures in Bob Dylan's professional life and eventually signed the New York Dolls to Mercury Records, where he worked as an A&R man.  A job for sure that wouldn't last forever.  The great aspect of Nelson's work as a critic and even as a human being is his ability to see through the artist's work and really define it on a very personal level.  That I think is a critic's job, and Nelson nails it to the written page.

The painful thing about reading this book beautifully written and edited by Kevin Avery is a lot of people are going to identify with Nelson's love for culture and what it means to him/us/them.   Any person who loved Jackson Browne as well as the New York Dolls is able to see beyond the veil of pop machinery and just focus on the work on hand.  The fact that he went all out to get the Dolls signed is an amazing narrative.  No one in the music biz liked the Dolls except for a handful of critics - and Nelson was the one who really stopped at nothing to get them signed and that alone we can be really grateful for Paul Nelson.

But here is a man who didn't drink alcohol, but consistently had two cans or bottles of coke with his daily hamburger (he is sort of a Popeye Wimpy figure) and led a life devoted to his interests and nothing else.  Also the fact that he ended up working at a video store is both tragic and great at the same time.

The tunnel vision that made him unique is also what killed him in the end.  And again, that is the scary part of someone who is so devoted to comment on music, film (a huge film fanatic as well as music) and living on the side of noir despair.  A very sad book.  But the interviews with his fellow critics and friends (most love him to bits) is quite moving and a tribute to those who write to expose how 'their' feelings are attached to the shine or the mirror-like image of pop culture.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"L'Art et le Sang" by Benoit Preteseille

Based on the great Marcel Allain/Pierre Souvestre character Fantomas, the author/graphic comic artist Benoit Preteseille takes "Fantamas" into a more crazy and bloody world.  And the original Fantomas is pretty much out there, but this goes a littler further and is also quite sincerely creepy.  This version of Fantamas is disfigured and actually in one of the stories cuts off his lower half after chopping his lover's head off.  So yes a lot of identity role playing and sawing limbs are at work here.  The book is in French (and no I don't read French) but the graphic images do tell the tale - and maybe i am making this up with my horror imagination, but this is a work of a very talented artist.  One should know the tradition of Fantomas.  And yeah, this is one of the books I bought at the weird but fantastic (and best) bookstore ever.  Located in Paris of course.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Un Regard Moderne

images from

This is perhaps the greatest bookstore I have ever been to.  For one, it is really hard to walk in - you can't because there are nothing but piles and piles of books.  Piles is a weak world - it is more like mountain of books all around you.  To walk in you almost have to go on your side.   You can only go forward or backwards.

Images from
Un Regard Moderne specializes in pop culture - which means an excellent selection of graphic comics/novels - both in French and English and probably other languages as well.  Great film selection, art, photo, and mondo subject matter stuff. But beyond that, the space in here is incredible, because there is no space.  As you can see the books are stacked up to the ceiling.  Truly one of the most amazing stores I have ever been to.

The address & phone number:

Un Regard Moderne 
10 Rue Gît le Coeur, 75006 Paris
01 43 29 13 93 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Boris Vian's Review of Serge Gainsbourg's "Du Chant a la Une"

Down below is a review by Boris Vian on an upcoming singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.  This is from Gilles Verlant's biography "Gainsbourg."   Coming out on TamTam Books this Spring.  The translation down below is by Paul Knobloch, who also translated into English Vian's "To Hell With The Ugly," "Autumn in Peking," and "The Dead All Have The Same Skin."  All titles published by TamTam Books.

What we have here is one great artist appreciating another - and its really beautiful.

    Come along, all you readers or listeners, those of you ready to rail against all those phony songs and fake artists. Empty your pockets and run to the record shops, and demand that the owner give you a copy of the new Philips B 76447 B… This isn’t any payola: I don’t work for Philips any longer, and even if I did I’d be telling you the same thing.
    It’s the first 33 rpm from a witty individual named Gainsbourg, Serge, born in Paris on April 2, 1928. As for me, I’m hoping it won’t be his last. As for you, well, you’re the ones who can make sure it’s not his last. An album is costly to make, and it’s also costly to launch a new artist, especially when the owners of the record shops, drowning in a sea of mediocre product and paralyzed by rising sales tax, no longer have the time to listen to what the record companies send them.
    So what will you hear on this disc?
    First of all – honoring those who are often forgotten – you’ll hear Gainsbourg’s back-up players, thick as thieves and swinging together under the direction of Alain Goraguer, who provides the orchestration for the nine cuts on the album. Technically speaking, each one easily ranks a 17 to 19 on a scale of 20, in spite of a piano sometimes poorly tuned. But that’s not the fault of Goraguer: in a recording session, a piano should be tuned to a vibraphone.
    You’ll hear, tucked away in the middle of one side of the album, a song sure to disturb you: “Ce mortel ennui qui me vient… quand je suis près de toi…”15
    You’ll hear three absolute technical triumphs (phrasing, style, cadence, etc.): “Le poinçonneur des Lilas,” somber, feverish, and lovely, has also been done by Les Frères Jacques, who are quite admirable. But listen to the real author do it. It’s the prototype of powerful popular song that’s missing among artists like Yves Montand. “Douze belles dans la peau” is also of superb quality. Michèle Arnaud sings it rather well, I believe. Jean-Claude Pascal also gives it a go: an homage to his good taste. “La femme des uns sous le corps des autres,” with its South American rhythms, is also both a bitter and exuberant success.
    By the way, if some numbskull wants to accuse Gainsbourg of pessimism, I’ll permit myself to ask this same halfwit if he really loves pleonasm that much, and if, by chance, he really listened to the tune…
    You’ll hear “Ronasrd 58,” not as imaginative, but still a worthwhile jazz number that’s not some dated piece like the ones we currently hear in France that try to evoke the spirit of jazz from 1935 (which would be just fine if it were 1935).
    You’ll hear “La recette de l’amour fou” and you’ll remember, since I’m going to tell you, that Gainsbourg regrets but one thing, which is not having been able to know the director of the Ecole universelle of surrealism, André Breton.
    You’ll also find “L’alcool,” “Du jazz dans le ravin,” and “Le Charleston des déménageurs de piano.” This last tune is a great illustration of just what the piano can do, and it’s simply delicious for those who play or those who simply like to listen. Still, from time to time, we should consider those who actually do the work of moving…
    And after having heard all that, the phonies among you will tell me that Gainsbourg has a weak singing voice. And while it might be a bit muted or too nasal, remember that he’s not singing opera. You want opera? Go buy some Xavier Depraz. Gainsbourg might remind you, now and then, of Phillipe Clay. Yes, because their voices have a similar timbre. And so what? Gainsbourg also has that tense and biting quality you find with Clay.
    You’ll also probably tell me that this young lad is a bit skeptical, that it is wrong to see everything in such dark terms, that there’s nothing “constructive” in his work… (sure… fine… if that’s what you say).
    To which I would respond that a skeptic who writes words and music like this, well, you had better give him a second listen before just grouping him in with the other blasé artists of the nouvelle vague… It’s still much more interesting than some idiotic enthusiast eager to attack whatever displeases him…
    And after all, this is 1958. We’re capable of coming up with something better than images of baroque pavilions with bluish-green cats staring down at us from the rooftops.
    Still, there’s something missing on this album. One song, perhaps Gainsbourg’s best: a little love ditty about a cannonball and a wooden peg-leg searching for a home.
    It’s a piece called “Friedland.”
    Gainsbourg’s already recorded it.
    But alas, it’s not part of this album. You’ll have to go to Milord l’Arsouille to hear Gainsbourg sing it.
    They must have taken it off the disc in order not to displease the good king Charles XI.
    Nevertheless, if I am not mistaken, might not Freidland become the Usurper?
    Boris Vian
15 “This black apathy that grips me… whenever we’re together…” (T.N.)

Serge Gainsbourg and Philippe Clay

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Memoriance album based on "L'écme des jours" (Foam of the Daze) a

Wow.  As time allows I like to visit the world of Boris Vian and all its little side-affects on culture - and this prog rock album from 1979 is pretty much - wow?   When I heard it, I thought for sure 1971 -I mean the punk movement totally went under the bridge for this band.  I know very little of Memoriance, but listening to the album they sort of remind me of Roger Waters era Pink Floyd with lots of French overtures in sound and design.  Do I like this album?  Well, not really my cup of drink, but it is Boris Vian related, so its a must-have.  I bought an used vinyl copy at Amoeba. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Post Everything" by Luke Haines

The second and the best of the Luke Haines books.  And the first one is very enjoyable, but this one seems tighter, because I think the subject matter is much better.   The first one is about being in the music world during Brit-Pop, and this one is about....him in his own world.  

I highly recommend this book if you are a Black Box Recorder fan, because it pretty much covers those years and his commentary, like the first book, is also much more wittier.  Although his image is of a grouch, I think he is actually a very good critic.   Which means I don't agree with him all the time, but he knows how to say what's on his mind and he does it with great spirit.

Also the one problem I have with him, music wise, is his smarty pants teacher-like attitude towards culture.  But alas, in this book he gives credit to those who were there first.  And he has a really nice and interesting reading list at the back of the book, including one of my faves Stewart Home.  And I am hoping that Mr. Haines will return to empty page and fill it with some grief and good humor.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Diary of a Rock n' Roll Star" by Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter is a very much underrated songwriter and made some great records solo as well as with the fab Mott The Hoople.  And what we have here is his diary/journal in the very key year when they are breaking into a bigger audience via the help of David Bowie.  The book is very much of Hunter expressing his joys, anger, and frustration of touring America circ. 1972.  "All The Young Dudes" is in the air, and Mott is riding on the wave via that song.  I think any person who picks up a guitar or snare drum as a profession will enjoy this memoir.  Because Hunter is not offering something unique in that world, in fact its pretty much so-so hotel and its very so-so food, and the physical strain of keeping yourself in order to perform and deal with a lot of cancelled gigs.  So there is nothing romantic here or even sexy, its basically a job.  A nice job of sorts, but nevertheless a job.  Reading this I wanted something more funny or crazy, but the truth is ....nothing happens on a tour of this scale (struggling of course) and it is really waiting between flights, dealing with the lack of a sound check, and weird and very foreign urban situations, that is a first for a British citizen.  What's kind of cool is that the whole band checked out hock shops looking for music gear.  I find that endearing.  And yes, I think this book is a must for the man ( a very much a man's world then) and woman who picks up an instrument and play for whatever currency that's out there.

Mott the Hoople "All The Young Dudes"

Sawada (Julie) Kenji covers Boris Vian

A major pop music figure in the Showa Era (20th Century) in Japan, Kenji Sawada, whose nickname is 'Julie,' is one of the bright spots in Japanese pop culture.   He had a great role in Paul Schrader's "Mishima," and also acted in a lot of interesting Japanese films.  And he is also the king glam of Japan during the 70's.  Here we have him covering Boris Vian.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Map and the Territory" by Michel Houellebecq

His best novel.  The themes are basically the same, but Michel Houellebecq tells the tale again with great energy and in a large tongue in cheek manner.  On one level it is about the rise of an artist who doesn't really want to participate in the art market.  He has nothing against it, but his character is not one where he follows the market place.  Yet he's extremely successful in what he does.  The other textual parts are Houellebecq's fascination with what people do on their 'free' time - the need to be a tourist in 21st Century life as well as the issue of aging, fame, and the beauty of maps.  in many ways, of all his novels, this is the most Situationist like.  Houellebecq is for sure not Guy Debord, but he shares his sense of love (disgust?) at looking at culture and what that means to an artist/writer as well

There are major plot turns that makes this narrative into a policer.  The twists in the plot makes this a really fun read.  "The Map and the Territory" is the best novel of the year and its January 3, 2012.

Old BBC interview in English

Iggy Pop and Michel Houellebecq

"Paris" by Michel Houellebecq and Bertrand Burgalat

Houellebecq pop singer 4:33