Friday, September 27, 2013

Tosh Berman's essay on Lun*na Menoh's MAKE MOVIE NOT WAR Clothing

My little essay on Lun*na Menoh's MAKE MOVIE NOT WEAR clothing.  At:

Tosh Berman of Sparks-Tastic will talk and sign books at the West Hollywood Book Festival

Ladies and gentlemen:
Yours truly - Tosh Berman will take part of the West Hollywood Book Festival this Sunday September 29th at 12:15 PM. On a panel with Scot Sothern and Jane Vandenburgh. The moderator will be the fantastic Carolyn Kellogg. The name of the program is "Memoir: My Obsession." The location is at 'Behind the Screens' at the West Hollywood Library's Community Room. For more info check out

"Mira Corpora" by Jeff Jackson

Two Dollar Radio, ISBN 978-1937512132

It's a rare day when I read a contemporary novel, and when I do, its fantastic when I read a great one.  Jeff Jackson's "Mira Corpora" is an amazing series of short narratives about a youth growing up in a world of pain and misery.  The lead character's name is "Jeff Jackson" but I am not sure if its true or not - and to me that's not important.  What is important is the visual images I get from his writing - slightly surreal, with a mixture of horror and beauty.   

The image that stays with me the most after reading this book is Jackson being tied to a tree in a dark (as it should be) forest with honey gook over his body, just waiting for the wild dogs to come by.   But saying that the narrative in this book is a real page-turner.  The pace moves in a nice pattern and the beauty of the writing is crystal clear.  I find a lot of heart in "Mira Corpora" but its never sweetness, but more of a bitter-sweet trip to the youth's underworld.   I love how the book goes from forest to urban city.  The location, although never stated, is important to the book.  It can be just a figment of the author's imagination, but it becomes real, in a dreamy way, through out the novel. 

I picked this book up at Skylight Books, because I needed to read something while waiting for someone - and at the time I was reading the new Pynchon novel.  "Mira Corpora" became a more important book for me to read and finish than Pynchon.  Which says a lot to the talent and vision of Jackson.  Also want to note that the book is beautifully designed.  A classic act!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gilles Verlant (June 11, 1957 - September 20, 2013)

Gilles Verlant and his subject matter Serge Gainsbourg

I would like to think that Gilles Verlant was my best friend, but the fact is I only met him face-to-face maybe half-a-dozen times in a short period of time.  The first time I met him was in Paris January 2012.  I and Paul Knobloch, the translator of Gilles’ magnificent biography on Serge Gainsbourg, was putting the final touches of this project which took us a long time to complete.  There were health issues involved on the American side, and just basic life stuff that delayed this book for a year or so. Also it was a major undertaking for the press due to the size of the book moreover being so detailed in information regarding the French pop music and its culture.  I needed to finish everything in 2012 due to production and distribution deadlines.   I was nervous at the thought of meeting the author of “Gainsbourg” because I felt so close to the book, that I almost forgot that there was a living author behind it.  I was so used to working with Paul mostly on the Boris Vian titles I publish, that I was totally not aware of working with a living author - until he wrote to me.  A very wonderful charming e-mail letting us know that’s he’s around to help, and that was a great help to our production of this book.   Over various e-mails to Paul, Gilles was very helpful and a great supporter of getting this “Gainsbourg” published in English.

So when I finally met him at a Paris restaurant, I was anxious.  On top of that he was late and i didn’t have a cell phone on me for this trip.  But I waited, and I dared not to move from our agreed spot to meet.  From a distance I saw a gentleman walking towards me and just by his walk there was a certain amount of character - I thought to myself “that has to be Gilles!”  It was and he was perfectly charming about being late and then for the next three hours over a meal we talked about Gainsbourg and his life.  I remember that I had so many endless questions to ask him about Serge, but not only that I was deeply curious about Gilles life as well. 

 From the very beginning he brought up the fact that he has two sons, and this I gather right away was a very important fact to him.  I know nothing about his parents but to him family meant his two sons.  Gilles appeared to be young, so I was kind of surprised to learn his two sons were around 19 to 21 years old because Gilles seemed ageless to me.  I think people who love rock n’ roll are ageless in a sense.  They are dealing with a passion that they picked up when they were young, and if it stays with you, it becomes an appearance of youth.  Gilles and I were from the same generation, so we shared that, but also a love of the pop music world and all the off-shoots of it.

Reading the “Gainsbourg” biography I was so impressed that Gilles met every leading figure in the French entertainment world.  Serge Gainsbourg is not only a pop artist, but also an entrance to the complex and wonderful world of the French pop world.  On one level, Gilles served as a tour guide to that world, where non-speaking French language people have an inside view of that fascinating planet known as the French entertainment world.  Gilles really conveys the importance of Gainsbourg, but also gives the bigger picture of what is French pop music as well as its cinema world.  So I was impressed that this man across the table from me interviewed almost every major iconic French star for his book.  As an American I couldn’t imagine being in the same room with these people, yet Gilles managed to talk to them and I just wanted to know what Juliette Gréco was like in person - but I was too shy to ask such a fan-type question. 

That summer he came to Los Angeles to promote the newly published edition of “Gainsbourg” as well as taking an old-fashioned tourist trip with his two sons.  It appeared to me that this journey was very important to Gilles.  One, because his book is being published in the States, but two, and even more important to him, he was with his sons.  Gilles strikes me as someone who likes U.S. culture a lot.  In that sense he reminds me of Jean-Pierre Melville, the great French filmmaker, who had an obsession with U.S. pop culture.   The fact he even took the name “Melville” as a nod to the great American author, that somewhat represented America to the iconic film artist.   With a short time it seemed Gilles and his sons went to every major tourist spot in Los Angeles as well as San Francisco.  The last time I saw him he was a shade of red, due to the sun from the desert. 

I think what really impressed him was doing an event for the book at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.  Gilles couldn’t get over the fact that he was part of the City Lights world due to it being the most iconic American bookstore in the country.  It was like the filmmaker Melville actually met the writer Melville!  For both events, one at the D.A.P. space in Los Angeles and the other at City Lights was a total success.  The memory of it now makes me happy, because god anything can go wrong in the book world.  But alas, it was a series of perfect moments with the perfect guy. 

A couple of days ago I heard about Gilles’ death,either from a heart attack or falling down a staircase, which at  this moment, seems unbelievable.  For one, he was such a happy figure in my mind.  He really enjoyed life as it was happening.  Serge Gainsbourg had the perfect biographer, and Oscar and Victor, his two sons, I think had a great Dad.

Paul Knobloch, Tosh Berman & Gilles Verlant

The Inspiration Behind Lun*na Menoh's "Shirt Mask"

To read my little essay on Lun*na's inspiration go here:

Monday, September 23, 2013

les noces de colin et chloee

Film en papier decoupé,cene du mariage de colin et chloée, tirée de l'Ecume des jours de boris vian, réalisé par Louise Mendoche, Bruno Chaix et Cielle Graham. Pour la piece de theatre l'ecume des jours

Annimated take on Boris Vian's L'´ecume des jours

L'écume des jours de Boris Vian

A documentary or reading of Boris Vian's "L'écume des jours (Foam of the Daze)

The Japanese Trailer for "Mood Indigo"

Slowly but surely it is being released around the world, but no word yet about an U.S. release.  I haven't seen the film, but what I have heard is not that hot.  Also the music used in this trailer really sucks.  But nevertheless the novel by Boris Vian is magnificent and I published it through TamTam Books.  My edition is called "Foam of the Daze" and it is translated from the French into English by Brian Harper.  The book includes detailed end-notes that one can read after the book.  Think of it as the bonus documentary on a DVD.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Sun Of A Beach" Group Show featuring Lun*na Menoh

Visit Lun*na Menoh's "Shirt Mask" at this exhibition Sun Of A Beach  curated by Denis Brun.  Who knows, they may allow you to wear Lun*na's shirt mask.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Locus Solus. Impressions of Raymond Roussel"

ISBN 9788475069821

My ideal perfect book on a without doubt a perfect writer, that being Raymond Roussel.  "Locus Solus:. Impressions of Raymond Roussel" is a catalog of an exhibition that took place in Madrid, and for some reason the literature here is translated into English.  Oh joy!  Not only do we get samples of Roussel's writings, but also commentary by Dali, Breton, Soupault, and a fascinating interview with the great American poet John Ashbery.   He is probably the only American in the 50's who had an interest in Roussel's work.  While he lived in France he contacted people who either knew Roussel or had a deep interest in his work.

Roussel was a man who had a small audience for his work, but like the Velvet Underground, each member started their own important band.  Roussel's followers were the DADA, the Surrealists, The New York School of Poetry, Georges Perec & his group, and basically anything that even stinks of the avant-garde that has a limb attached to the works of Roussel.   Probably the biggest influence on an artist is Marcel Duchamp.  The French, but New Yorker, genius based a lot of his ideas on Roussel's visual sense as well as his thoughts about the presentation of things that happen.   In his mind, Roussel thought himself as an equal to Verne and Hugo, but the truth is his work was not noticed at all in the bestselling group of writers.  He belong to the gutter of the avant-garde, but alas, the gifts he brings is endless and quite complex.  The greatest joy in reading Roussel is similiar to someone taking you for a ride in a very interesting neighborhood, a place you don't understand, but equally remarkable for its daring and perverse beauty.  

This book is a great introduction to the world of Roussel, and everyone from Dali to Mike Kelley allowed themselves to be touched by his genius.  And without a doubt Roussel was a genius.  To see the world with his eyes is a combination of a horror and carnival show mixed with a certain amount of beauty.  And it these images that he produces through his writing that had such a major affect on the contemporary art world - even to this day.  Buy and own this book before it totally disappears into the world of high-priced used books. 

Lun*na Menoh's "Shirt Mask"

I wrote a blog or small essay on Lun*na Menoh's new artwork "The Shirt Mask."  It will be exhibited in Marseille, France and curated by the artist Denis Brun.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tosh Talks: Interview with Kiichiro Yanashita

Tosh Talks.  Tosh interviews Kiichiro Yanashita, a translator, film critic, and a man of great taste. Kiichiro translated William S. Burrough's "Soft Machine," John Water's "Shock Value," JG Ballard's "Crash" as well as countless other great titles into Japanese.  To go to Tokyo and not to meet Mr. Yanashita, is for sure a sign of failure.  Nevertheless I have spent countless hours with Kiichiro to various bars, shops, and god knows what else in Tokyo.  Here we talk books, culture, the issue of translation, cinema, true crime and other fun stuff.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lun*na Menoh's New Work

I'm the model for Lun*na's Lunna Menoh new art project - a shirt mask or a mask shirt. Handmade by her, it's a mask that is a small white shirt with collar, sleeves, and buttons. There is no reason why a shirt should 'only' be made for the chest area. Why not for the head!?!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"In The Words Of Sparks... Selected Lyrics" out in the week of October 31, 2013

"In The Words Of Sparks... Selected Lyrics" edited by Ron Mael and Russell Mael (Sparks) with introduction by Morrissey will be available for readers in the week of October 31, 2013.  That includes all indie-bookstores as well as online shops.   More info will follow!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Update on Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo" and the 3 translated versions of L'écume des jours

I don't have that much information about Michel Gondry's  film version of Boris Vian's "L'écume des jours except that they're cutting over 30 minutes out of the film for the international market.   And at this moment there's no release date for the U.S. 

The English language title of the film is "Mood Indigo," which was the original translated title by John Sturrock for Grove Press in the U.S.  There was another translation around the same time in the U.K. by Stanley Chapman called "Froth On The Daydream."   Both are out of print, but the Chapman translation will be published in the U.S. by FSG in 2014.  There might be some confusion because that edition will be titled like the film "Mood Indigo."  But do keep in mind Chapman's original title for his translation.

Meanwhile my press, TamTam Books, published Brian Harper's translation of L'écume des jours titled "Foam Of The Daze."   The book comes with detailed endnotes regarding the issues of translation as well as facts about Vian regarding his life during the writing of this book, as well as on the people he knew that shows up in the fictional novel.   "Foam Of The Daze"  is in print and you can get it at your favorite bookstore as well as online shops.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"The Collected Writings Of Joe Brainard" by Joe Brainard

Joe Brainard may be my favorite writer.  As I was reading "The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard" I didn't want the book to end, and its over 500 pages.  What strikes me the most brilliant aspect of Brainard is that he's not overly writer-like, but just naturally breathes as a writer.  He is mostly famous for his "I Remember" which is an unique form of memoir writing, that to this day is taught by writing teachers.  It is an effective way to open up the writing process, but in the hands (and mind) of Brainard, it's a work of genius.

The beauty of his work, including his artwork, which he's equally known for as well, is how simple he describes a piece of literature, art, or just commenting on day-to-day journals.  But that 'simple' is quite complex and there is something very organic in the way he processes his subject matters to the readers or viewers.   He is sometimes beyond zen, for instance "Short Story"

"Ten years ago I left home to go to the city and strike it big.  But the only thing that was striking was the clock as it quickly ticked away my life."

Or his little prose piece "Ron Padgett"

"Ron Padgett is a poet.  He always has been a poet and he always will be a poet.  I don't know how a poet becomes a poet.  And I don't think anyone else does either. It is something deep and mysterious inside of a person that cannot be explained.  It is something that no one understands.  it is something that no one will ever understand.  I asked Ron Padgett once how it came about that he was a poet, and he said, "I don't know.  It is something deep and mysterious inside of me that cannot be explained.""

Brainard is one of the great critics as well as a prose stylist.  He writes like a visual artist who is extremely talented in giving the reader a picture.  It's interesting that he never wrote a novel, because it seems that was one of his favorite literary formats.  But again, the narration is not the key, but the way he observes his world, and it is a fascinating world.  He was close the New York School Poets and the painters around that scene.  His observations are fresh and non-cliché, it is almost like looking at the world for the first time.  But looking at it with intelligence, great wit, and telling the tale in a very uncomplicated manner.

The Library of America should get a nice pat on the back for publishing this book, and also extra stars to Paul Auster for writing an interesting introduction, and most of all to the skills of fellow poet Ron Padgett for editing Joe's writings.  This book is a must for those who write, and for those interested in 1960's/1970's Manhattan art culture.  In other words, the book is a keeper, and I'll never loan it out.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Two Sparks' Titles That I'm Involved With

One book, "Sparks-Tastic" I wrote and the other I published.  And right now and strange enough, these are the only copies i have at the moment.   More of "In The Words Of Sparks" will come either tomorrow or the next day (as David Bowie would say).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Detailed Images of "In The Words Of Sparks... Selected Lyrics" F

Left is hand written lyrics by Russell and right is hand written lyrics by Ron

"Whippings and Apologies" and its handwritten lyrics by Ron Mael

"In The Words Of Sparks... Selected Lyrics" is designed by Mark Holley.   Also the photographs above of the book are by Mark as well.   As a long-term Sparks' fan this is probably one of the most proud moments for me as a publisher.  From Boris Vian to Serge Gainsbourg to Guy Debord to Gilles Verlant's great biography on Gainsbourg and later Jacques Mesrine's prison memoir.  And now an original work  from Sparks, and to add, an introduction by Morrissey.  TamTam Books is a dream that came true.  Thank you readers!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jacques Mesrine's "Death Instinct"

Right now reading the manuscript of Jacques Mesrine's "Death Instinct" translated by Catherine Texier and edited by Robert Greene, who wrote "48 Laws Of Power" among other bestsellers.  Robert also will be writing an introduction to this book as well. Hopefully "Death Instinct"will come out the fall of 2014 through my press TamTam Books.

In many ways it is coming to a full circle, due that Robert translated Guy Debord's "Considerations on the Assassination of Gérard Lebovici" and this book in a sense came out of that book.  Which I will explain later.

"The Conductor and Other Tales" by Jean Ferry (Translated by Edward Gauvin)

Wakefield Press Distributed by D.A.P. ISBN: 978-1-939663-01-6

The most obscure of the obscure, and will probably stay obscure, but not to the fault of the great pubishing house Wakefield Press.  Hardcore Surrealist narratives by Jean Ferry, a name that maybe familiar if one follows the world of the Collége de Pataphysique and Surrealist texts.  This collection of short stories was admired by Andre Breton and was originally a limited edition of 100 copies.  And now we can read this rarity and marvel to Ferry's mix of humor and dread.  

Not hard to believe that Ferry wrote numerous books on Raymond Roussel in French, because one can see the influence in his own fictional writings.  These stories are very slight, but also very important with respect to the culture that it came from.  Which is the avant-garde French literary world, that also leaks into French cinema as well.  Ferry wrote scripts for both Luis Bunuel and Henri-Georges Clouzot, so I think he was a man at the right place, with the right people and at the right time.    The stories themselves are not essential, but having and reading this is actually a very important part of the puzzle.   20th Century French literature is a large spider with its webs going towards different directions and areas.  Here is one map one should own and read.