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DOWN Under

20 Apr

Its easy to ignore Australia, that Commonwealth Nation being so far away and barely thought of as more than an outpost of the (sort of)English speaking world. My recent video viewing experience (thanks to Netflix) has caused me to take note of the skein of masterfully produced “films”— The Slap, Secrets and Lies and The Code from those parts. Interestingly, US networks have seen fit to rejigger the first two series for prime time American consumption and present the third as is to little or no reception (see if you can find a review).

Now I possess a fair amount of certainty that if you managed to find this small Internet way station, you can search-engine the details of the above mentioned series but suffice it for me to remark that I find the Australian productions preferable (though the US iterations are competent)

There are a couple of things that I thought were worth noting. Pointing to Cate Blanchett as an example, the women actresses who are cast in important roles in these dramatic series are very attractive but not by Hollywood standards (name some Australian women besides Blanchett and Kidman appearing in US produced films) except for Melissa George who appears in both versions of the The Slap(and seems lacking in any dramatic prowess). Nor are the ladies made up to look glamorous or alluring.

Australian diction is also remarkable for its variation from American English.For instance instead of saying “We’ll fix it ” or “We’ll work it out “, Aussies say “We’ll sort it out” or “We’ll get that sorted out”. “Foreign students” are referred to as “overseas students”. And their exclamations,”Oi” seem derived from Yiddish.

The pictures we see are not much different than the settings in the US except you rarely see any shade , overwhelmingly presenting the impression that Australia is a land of eternal sunshine.

Peter Carey [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Peter Carey [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

By the way, there is no shortage of great Aussie writers starting with Nobel laureate Patrick White and in recent years Peter Carey who I have spoken with twice; Here Carey and I chat about a passage from Philip Roth’s American Pastorale:

PC: That’s terrific! Who wrote that?

RB: Philip Roth. [American Pastoral]*

PC: That’s very, very, very good.

RB: Yes. I read that and thought, that’s what writers do, don’t they? You try to get people right?

PC: I wasn’t thinking about writing. I was listening to that thinking about life. It’s the business of life and how right and wise that is. The moments for writers when we experience it is when you go into an interview and writers come away, they say, ‘I didn’t say that! They totally misunderstood me!’ What it always makes me think of is the nature of existence. Most people don’t write things down but we are forever misunderstanding each other and what we think is happening is not what’s happening and so on.

RB: There’s more to my question. Yes, it is about life, but then we didn’t come here to shoot the shit about generalities about life.

PC: That’s true.

RB: So I thought, what’s the application of Roth’s remarks to someone who spends their time trying to create the ‘word people’ that Roth refers to here and the aspiration for them to be right, occasionally, within some framework?

PC: Right, yes, but there is some sort of bullshit inherent in the whole thing—

RB: [laughs]

PC:—of being the writer, because in the situation of being the writer you are not in the situation, you are in the situation presumably, occasionally of being all-knowing and so you can have that.

RB: Think about that.

PC: Well, you can. You can construct a world in which people do understand each other. My characters tend not to understand each other, as a matter of fact.

RB: Why is that? Who gets it right? That [Roth’s passage] reproduces, reflects the way people view each other. If your characters aren’t understanding each other, that seems the truer—

PC: I guess so. And they don’t even get themselves right, which is also true. We tend not to know each other. The difficulty with My Life as a Fake is that having this title which I really love—I loved it as a title—I never really thought of what powerful shit I am playing with when you have a title like that. What a vector of force it is and how it creates all sorts of understanding about the book that I didn’t intend. And coming back to this question of knowledge and self-knowledge. People will frequently say all of the characters are fakes and it’s hard to know who is the most fake. I don’t think any of them are really fake at all, least of all McCorkle, the poet who comes to life. And then they cite Sarah as someone who is fake. Well, I don’t think she is fake in the tiniest bit. She is somebody who certainly doesn’t understand her life. She doesn’t know who she is. She misunderstands people around her. None of these things suggest a lack of authenticity. She is intensely private about her sexual life. And you could say then that she has a fake persona. I wouldn’t say she was fake at all. I would say she was guarded, an armored vehicle in the world.

* You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day?

Fire in the Belly

25 Mar
Buffalo photograph by David Wojnarowicz

Buffalo photograph by David Wojnarowicz

Manhattan artist David Wojnarowicz, an inhabitant of that city’s late 20th century demimonde died of AIDS in 1992, at the age of 38. He had been terribly abused as a child, and was a runaway who ended up working as a teenage prostitute in New York’s Times Square. Among his creations was the photograph above which he made as statement of political protest. As a painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and activist his talents and modes of expression ranged farand deep

Offbeat, a Red Hot CD compilation

Offbeat, a Red Hot CD compilation

I first discovered Wojnarowicz on one of those wonderful Red Hot & CD compilations, Offbeat a Red Hot Soundtrip. The Meat Beat Manifesto ( there is also an eery rendition of Black Dada Nihilismus by its author Amir Baraka with DJ Spooky) was declaimed with a rage and fury that instantly grabbed my ears and attention and seared its way into my visual field.

Last summer Cynthia Carr published Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (Bloomsbury USA)which admirably spotlighted David Wojnarowicz’s life, his work and the roiling lower Eastside art scene of the 80’s.

Fire in the Belly by Cynthia Carr

Fire in the Belly by Cynthia Carr

Jennifer Doyle sums up:

Carr has written an intimate portrait of Wojnarowicz’s struggle, even as the walls were closing in on him, to establish an understanding of his way of being in the world. Fire in the Belly honors Wojnarowicz’s vitality and passion, and that of his friends and all his lovers, too. It’s in the details. Like how when he met someone he liked, he would note in his diary, simply, “met a fella.” Written by someone who was there, and isn’t afraid to show us what that meant, this story is framed by disaster, but with a fierce tenderness in the writing — an attention to little things that would fall apart under less expert hands.

7 Miles a Second by  Marguerite Van Cook and  James Romberger]

7 Miles a Second by Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger]

Now comes what Fantagraphics, the (re) publisher of 7 Miles a Second, calls a “primal scream of a graphic novel”. Artists James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook vividly depict David Wojnarowicz’s life and struggles in a much improved edition (it was first published by Vertigo as a comic book in 1996)

You can access some of Wojnarowicz’s <a href="“>art here

Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: St. Sebastian 1982, spray paint on masonite, 48 x 48 inches

Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: St. Sebastian 1982, spray paint on masonite, 48 x 48 inches

Currently reading Gulp by Mary Roach (WW Norton)

Baby, Its A Wild World

10 Mar

A life spent for the most part in a terrain of concrete, steel and asphalt may immure one to one’s once obvious connection to the natural world. Thus, encounters with that world are usually mediated through imagery and prose that can, hopefully,reawaken our sense of the wonders of that actual world by which we are surrounded. Thankfully, there are still scientists and artists willing to do that work and who, at times, endure extreme conditions to show and tell us about those wonders.

WILDLIFE:  Photographer of the Year (2012) published by the Natural History Museum

WILDLIFE: Photographer of the Year (2012) published by the Natural History Museum

Britain’s Natural History Museum oversees a contest to select the (so called ) photographer of the year and publishes a yearly volume, Wildlife Photographer of The Year _Portfolio 22 (Natural History Museum to showcase the “best” of the nearly 50,000 submissions offered for consideration.

This 2012’s “photographer of the year” is Canadian Paul Nicklen

 Bubble-jetting Emperors photograph by Paul Nicklen

Bubble-jetting Emperors photograph by Paul Nicklen

New York’s Steven Kasher Gallery hosts the first American exhibition of Japanese photographer Maekawa’s large scale wildlife photographs from June 13 to June 29. Maekawa is the grand prize winner of the first Nikkei National Geographic Photo Prize(whatever that is). There is an app available of 70 of Takayuki Maekawa’s animal images :

The WORLD OF ANIMALS by Takayuki Maekawa

The WORLD OF ANIMALS by Takayuki Maekawa

Some of the images to be viewed at the Kasher Gallery:

Bear Eating Fish by Maekawa

Bear Eating Fish by Maekawa


Giraffe at Sunset by Maekawa

Giraffe at Sunset by Maekawa


Red Faced Baboons by Maekawa

Red Faced Baboons by Maekawa


Swinging Orangutan by Maekawa

Swinging Orangutan by Maekawa

Currently reading We Went back Photographs from Europe (19933-1956) by Chim (Delmonico-Prestel)

Who Was Yukio Mishima Really?

16 Jan
Persona by  Naoki Inose (translated by Hiroaki Sato )

Persona by Naoki Inose (translated by Hiroaki Sato )

Okay, what I know about Japanese writer and intellectual Yukio Mishima I gleaned from Paul Schrader’s 1985 film, Mishima.

Which makes the appearance of this prodigious biography Persona by (the first in English in 40 years) quite inviting.Mishma, Nobel nominated and prolific—Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion are two of his more well known novels.He is most well known for his public self-disembowelment and decapitation in downtown Tokyo in 1970. Born Kimitake Hiraoka he became a martial arts devotee who was a flamboyant traditionalist and an obsessed patriot

Publisher Stone Bridge Press reports Naoki Inose and English translator Hiroaki Sato working from primary sources and material unavailable to other biographers and through interviews, social and psychological analysis, “and close reading of novels and essays…removed the mask that Mishima so artfully created to disguise his true self.”

The ever reliable Michael Ortofor opines

Mishima’s life, and his many interests (he also traveled extensively, acted in film, and was active in the production of his many plays) make for fascinating reading, and Persona is a riveting account. Yet it’s still hard not to feel that only the surface has been scratched here. Most of the work remains undiscussed and while one gets a good sense of hyperactive Mishima’s many accomplishments there’s much more one would want to know in greater detail. Nevertheless, this is a very fine and readable biography.

And oddly, in the this pay as you go world, Schrader’s homage is available on YouTube, here:

Currently reading The Paris Review

Little Red Book, Little Black Book

5 Dec
The Little red Book

The Little red Book

Being of sufficient vintage to recall one little book, entitled variously “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tze Tung”, “The Little Red Book”, “Mao’s Little Red Book” and so on, I also recall wondering how many copies had been printed or more specifically, had it surpassed the Bible in extant copies?

It was a passing thought which I immediately in true grasshopper-mind style voided by attending to Chinese dissident/artist or dissident artist, if you will, Weiwei’s new opus, Weiweisms (Princeton University Press), The publisher elaborates:

WeiWei-isms by Ai Weiwei

WeiWei-isms by Ai Weiwei

This collection of quotes demonstrates the elegant simplicity of Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on key aspects of his art, politics, and life. A master at communicating powerful ideas in astonishingly few words, Ai Weiwei is known for his innovative use of social media to disseminate his views. The short quotations presented here have been carefully selected from articles, tweets, and interviews given by this acclaimed Chinese artist and activist. The book is organized into six categories: freedom of expression; art and activism; government, power, and moral choices; the digital world; history, the historical moment, and the future; and personal reflections.

Weiwei-isms is physically attractive book not the least because of its appealing size.

Time Magazine, cover and article on Mao zedong

Time Magazine, cover and article on Mao zedong

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Currently reading Brain on Fire by Susan Callahan (Free Press)

Faux Sure

19 Nov

David Shields photo: Robert Birnbaum

Since I first met him in the mid 90’s I have been paying attention to David Shields. I had found his fiction compelling and more recently the issues he worried, like hungry hound gnawing on a soup bone, were equally riveting. Among other of his accomplishments are three sports books— Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine, Black Planet : Facing Race During an NBA Season and “Baseball Is Just Baseball”: The Understated Ichiro, a treatise on the singular Ichiro Suzuki, now a New York Yankee but for many seasons a Seattle Mariner.

Fakes by Matthew Volmer and David Shileds

Lately, Shields has taken to editing offbeat anthologies, such as The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death. The latest is a brilliant collection, entitled Fakes an Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts edited with Matthew Volmer) (Norton) Here’s the publisher’s synopsis

In our bureaucratized culture, we’re inundated by documents: itineraries, instruction manuals, permit forms, primers, letters of complaint, end-of-year reports, accidentally forwarded email, traffic updates, ad infinitum….[here are] forty short fictions that they’ve found to be seriously hilarious and irresistibly teachable (in both writing and literature courses): counterfeit texts that capture the barely suppressed frustration and yearning that percolate just below the surface of most official documents. The innovative stories collected in Fakes—including ones by Ron Carlson (a personal ad), Amy Hempel (a complaint to the parking department), Rick Moody (Works Cited), and Lydia Davis (a letter to a funeral parlor)—trace the increasingly blurry line between fact and fiction and exemplify a crucial form for the twenty-first century.

Here’s my most recent conversation with David Shields, mostly about his manifesto, Reality Hunger which as it should have raise some literary hackles.It also features his absolutely, dead-wrong appraisal of Adrian Beltre who has just been traded to the Red Sox from Shields’s hometown Mariners)and is now an AllStar with the Texas Rangers). Oh well, in the immortal words of Billy Wilder, “Nobody’s Perfect.”

Currently reading Elsewhere by Richard Russo (Knopf)

(I’m)Sitting on the Top of The World

6 Nov

Is the allure of fiction, its infinite horizon of narrative possibility? When I had even less time on my hands—those moments between books that called for immersion into the quotidian —I found time to peruse two so called reference works as if they were portals to an imagination in disarray—Atlas of the World (Oxford University Press) and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (Little Brown). Maps and words. yes indeed.

Atlas of the World 19th Edition (Oxford University Press

Atlas of the World 19 th edition by Oxford University Press

The Atlas of the World is updated every year—such are the changes and permutations that take place on our home planet. Well over 400 pages and weight in at eight pounds this tome is chock a block full of vital and
intriguing information—color maps of all the world’s regions, Gazetteer which includes more than 80,000 place names, a fold-out world reference map, pages of beautiful satellite images of specific places on the planet including Antarctica, London, and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, maps of 69 individual cities, 45 pages of thematic information and maps about such varying topics as the Solar System, landforms, water, population, energy, agriculture, and air travel and “Regions in the News,”a featuring a collection of maps including such places as Darfur, Kashmir, and Iraq.

The Solar System

New Orleans


Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (18th Edition) Geoffrey O’Brien, General Editor (Little Brown)

Published intermittently since mid 19th century Bartlett’s 18th iteration has been revised and updated with 2500 new quotes including bon mots from a widely diverse gaggle— Warren Buffett, the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, David Foster Wallace, Emily Post, Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Krugman, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Stewart, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Barack Obama, Che Guevara, Randy Pausch, Desmond Tutu, Julia Child, Fran Leibowitz, Harper Lee, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Patti Smith, William F. Buckley, and Robert F. Kennedy to name a few. Under the able guiding hand of Geoffrey O’Brien who among other of his auspicious credentials is the editor-in-chief of The Library of America, the newest Barlett’s offers a singular collection (only the Yale Book of Quotations. a one-off comes close) of the wisdom of the ages.

And in a bow to modernity Little Brown has created a Bartlett’s Application retailed at remarkably low price. Cheap at thrice the price.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (18th Edition) Geoffrey O’Brien, General Editor

Ah yes, in the words of John Kenneth Gailbraith, “It is far better and much safer to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out in the troubled seas of thought.”

True dat!

Currently reading Overture by David Slavitt (OP19)

Mas Libros

3 Jul

Readers of this, uh, journal will be familiar with my occasional updates recounting the riches (by that I mean books) bestowed upon me by the book publishers of the world. These annotated lists of published books are neither comprehensive nor ordered by any criteria other than my own idiosyncratic tastes and interests.As the summer creeps along, who couldn’t use a list of books? Especially one that doesn’t depend on best seller lists or award long-lists.

Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams (W. W. Norton & Company)

My Extraordinary Ordinary Life by Sissy Spacek & Maryanne Vollers (Hyperion)

The Long Road To Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution by Richard Slotkin (Liveright)

When the Night by Cristina Comencini (Other Press)

Expelled: A Journalist’s Descent into the Russian Mafia State by Luke Harding (Palgrave Macmillan)

Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1950-1962:

Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1950-1962: Player Piano / The Sirens of Titan / Mother Night / Stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Sidney Offit (Editor) (Library of America)

When in doubt about what to read, Vonnegut’s works are a sure thing. The Library of America editions are usefully packaged.

Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol (W. W. Norton & Company)

The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame by Peter Dreier (Nation Books)

Silly idea, useful information

Prehistoric Times by Eric Chevillard (Archipelago Books)

New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry(Counterpoint)

The Demands by Mark Billingham(Mulholland Books)

New TV series features Billingham’s homicide detective Tom Thorne.

Skios: A Novel by Michael Frayn (Metropolitan Books)

How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection by David F. Dufty (Henry Holt and Co)

Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Knopf)

The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House)

Lots of book biz buzz. Feels like ALice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson (Simon & Schuster)

Paperback reissue of Thompson’s classic— a bastard child of Theodore White’s Making of the President series.

Search Sweet Country by Kojo Laing, Binyavanga Wainaina (Introduction) (McSweeney’s)

Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays by Siri Hustvedt (Picador)
Smart lady and a fine writer. Read her riveting novel What I Loved .And have a look at my chat with her

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (City Lights Publishers)

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline (Portfolio)

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter (Harper)

Rick Russo says this novel is a masterpiece. I agree. My chat with Jess will show up sooner or later. Stay tuned

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (Riverhead)

Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them by Frank Langella (Harper)

My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman (William Morrow)

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s)

An American Son: A Memoir by Senator Marco Rubio (Sentinel)

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation by James Howard Kunstler

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation by James Howard Kunstler (Atlantic Monthly Press)

James’s The Long Emergency focused on the peak oil problem and this new opus draws out all the scary consequences of American denial of oil depletion. James’s website ClusterFuck Nation is worth looking at

The Absolutist by John Boyne (Other Press)

A People’s Guide to Los Angeles by Laura Pulido , Laura Barraclough, Wendy Cheng (University of California Press)

What a great idea. More people should do this kind of guide

This Bright River: A Novel by Patrick Somerville (Reagan Arthur Book)

Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man by Mark Kurlansky (Doubleday)

Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel by William Boyd (Harper)

2312by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin Books)

Capital: A Novel by John Lanchester (W. W. Norton & Company)

Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese case by A M Rosenthal

Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case (Melville House)

The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game (P.S.) by John Fox (Harper Perennial)

As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda by Gail Collins

As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda by Gail Collins (Liveright)

Gail Collins is the one good reason to read the New York Times op ed pages (unless you need an emetic in which case The Tom or Dave Brooks will do the trick). Any way the silly state of Texas deserves her Swiftian once over

Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny by Garrison Keillor (Penguin Books)

The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II by Lawrence Verria, George Galdorisi, Foreword by David Hartman (Naval Institute Press)

Canada by Richard Ford (Ecco)

Richard Ford’s writing is still unerringly on target. This story is Ford at his best.

America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom by Meghan McCain, Michael Ian Black (Da Capo)

Is this for real?

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes (Crown)

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (Random House)

Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Marc Dolan (W. W. Norton & Company)

The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It by Timothy Noah (Bloomsbury Press)

Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate by Ginger Strand

Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate by Ginger Strand (University of Texas Press)

A modern day In Cold Blood?

What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha (Tin House Books)

Mr Beha is a smart guy and literary polymath (is there such a thing?) Billy Giraldi chats with Beha at the new LA Review of Books
And Billy chats with me here

City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry by Ryan G. Van Cleave (Editor)( University Of Iowa Press)

Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher by Thomas Bethell (Hoover Institution Press)

Who Is That Man?: In Search of the Real Bob Dylan by David Dalton (Hyperion)

Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner by Lily Raff McCaulou (Grand Central Publishing)

Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries by David Ake (Editor), Charles Hiroshi Garrett (Editor), Daniel Goldmark (Editor) (University of California Press)

Existence by David Brin (Tor Books)

The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins (Putnam)

Busy guy, Ace is. He also wrote the new Robert Parker/Spencer novel— which is a truly bad idea.

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled Books)

I’vE read 2 of Ms St John Mandel’s novels and I would say she is a writer to watch (meaning to read)

Western Avenue and Other Fictionsby Fred Arroyo (University of Arizona Press)

At Home on the Rangeby Margaret Yardley Potter (Author), Elizabeth Gilbert (Introduction)

This Bright Riverby Patrick Somerville (Reagan Arthur Books)

Hollywood Movie Stills by Howard Finler

Hollywood Movie Stills by Joel W. Finler (Titan Books)

The Historic Unfulfilled Promise by Howard Zinn, Mathew Rothschild (Foreword) (City Lights Publishers)

Lot’s of Howard’s work is being published and republished which is great.But make sure you read his magnum opus, The People’s History. For sure

A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age bySteven Nadler (Princeton University Press)

Crushed Mexican Spiders: And Possibly Forty Ships by Tibor Fischer (Unbound)

Tibor has an interesting publishing history which you can learn about here

Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces by Cory MacLauchlin (Da Capo Press)

Interventions by Richard and Kate Russo

Interventions by Richard Russo, Kate Russo (Illustrator) (Down East Books)

In a gesture aimed at the the electronic book juggernaut Rick Russo gives us a handsome slip cased set of stories with art provide by his daughter and published by small Maine publisher Down East Books.

Time Between Trains: Stories by Anthony Bukoski (Holy Cow! Press)

America the Philosophical by Carlin Romano (Knopf)

This is a silly book by a smart guy.Go figure. William Giraldi slogs through it so we don’t have to. Its (the critique) worth reading on its own.

When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Manby Nick Dybek (Riverhead)

Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part One: 1783-1953by
Jean-Pierre Filiu & David B. (SelfMadeHero)

Presidential Campaign Posters: Two Hundred Years of Election Art by The Library Of Congress (Quirk Books)

At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944 by David Koker, Robert Jan van Pelt (Editor), Michiel Horn (Translator), John Irons (Translator) (Northwestern University Press)

False Negative by Joseph Koenig

False Negative byJoseph Koenig (Hard Case Crime)

Currently reading The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy (Free Press)

And It Stoned Me

18 Jun

Power of the Dog by Don WInslow

After I read Don Winslow’s novel The Power of the Dog a few summers ago I believed that I would never read as plausible an account of the War on Drugs and it complicit malefactors (the CIA, Drug Cartels, The Catholic Church, various agencies of the Mexican government, FARC et al). Since that book Winslow has published a number of novels and even been assigned to fabricate a Trevanian novel (Satori), which made no sense to me. But then Robert Parker was once asked to complete a Raymond Chandler novel and now Ace Atkins has written a Robert Parker/Spenser novel. I mention this because Winslow’s name will be bantered about in the coming entertainment news cycle (as well as on book pages)as Oliver Stone’s adaption of Winslow’s novel Savages makes its way to the once and future silver screen.

And, of course, as info-entertainment conglomerates become increasingly adept at synergizing/monetizing, it makes sense that Don Winslow has concurrently (with Stone’s flick) published a new opus, a prequel to Savages, entitled, Kings of Cool. The prequel is necessary for obvious reasons and may in fact touch off a new narrative trend in the genre world —especially for writers who never intended to create sequels/series—the allure of monetization possibilities weighing in heavily against other, uh, considerations.

The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

Janet Maslin raises an interesting point about Stone’s film adaptation — can a movie sustain “Mr. Winslow’s heavenly understatement” without drowning in the violence of drug warfare? Whatever she means by “heavenly understatement’ it would be a shame if the film Savages was just another excuse for sanguinary mayhem

Winslow’s Savages and Kings of Cool are both written in a briskly paced, elliptical style that is particularly adaptable to cinema— lots of quick cuts and bloody mayhem (by now we all know that Mexican drug cartels (which are a necessary component of any LA crime story)means prodigious body counts as well as a Red Sea of gore. Which is not to say that Winslow’s recent fiction is not gripping—just that I found his magnum opus,The Power of The Dog, singularly entertaining. And given that it seemed to have escaped major review attention you may want to pick up a copy and read it for yourself.

Currently reading Land of the Blind by Jess Walter (Harper Perennial)

Me And Marty

3 May

That Mick Jagger was once considered the “Martin Amis of Rock n Roll” should give you an inkling about Amis’s celebrity quotient in his native England. At one point his dental maladies were tabloid news.Although, that bit of bottom feeding journalism was attached to his dismissal of his long time agent (the wife of long time pal Julian Barnes).

I am aware of Amis’s unfortunate publicity magnetism because I have “interviewed”/chatted with him a half dozen times since he published Time’s Arrow or The Nature of the Offence (1991)(some of which are accessible somewhere in the great digital ether. Though I am (still) fascinated by Martin Amis it has recently occurred I really don’t enjoy reading his fiction (The Information excepted).Why then you might (should)ask, do I make a point of reaching out to his publishing publicity aparachiks to arrange some Amis face time? Easy answer, my inquisitive friend,Amis is a supremely engaging conversationalist and a very nimble and original mind. And, incidentally, Amis’s memoir Experience and his various essay anthologies,especially War against the Cliche are well worth reading.

Amis, by the way, has moved to Manhattan,which some snarky commentators might aver was because he had worn out his welcome in London’s civil society. In any case Martin has a news novel coming to the cultural news cycle in September. Not so distant an event that the shiny new Los Angeles Review of Books has found it propitious to publish a 2500 word literary exegesis covering his oeuvre, the recent ill regarded biography of Amis and, naturally, Amis’s new opus Lionel Asbo (Knopf). As averse I am to reading “reviews, Morten Hoi Jensen’s take in his “Mr Amis Planet” is fair-minded and thoughtful:

If Martin Amis hasn’t exactly mellowed with age a certain degree of tenderness has nevertheless entered his more recent work. For all the horrors it chronicled, The House of Meetings was a work of daring human compassion, while The Pregnant Widow took a broad view not just of the sexual revolution and the English novel, but also of ageing (“it’s the death of others that kill you in the end”: hard not to think of Christopher Hitchens, Amis’s dearest friend, when you read that now).

Not to be crass, but that’s the money graf for me.

Stay tuned for my Nth chat with Martin Amis.

Currently reading Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk by Ben Fountain (Ecco)