Tag Archives: Glenn O’Brien

The CRACK in Everything

28 Aug

 

Reportage has always been always been the fundamental task of journalism (the rough firsts draft of history. And so it remains, notwithstanding the enormous acceleration of news and information dissemination. Winston Churchill, who famously opined that gossip travels around the world before the truth has time to put its boots on would not have envisioned a world of endless (24/7)delivery of news or the next level, social media platforms

 

As a consumer of the daily buzz and bloom o f life, I am inclined by wide-ranging interest and possibly the endemic and emblematic affliction of modern times, an ever shortening attention span (about which I would worry, if it were not my still being able to read 1000 page books. That it seems like more things are happening and that we are almost inescapably told of these events now requires additional to editing , a curatorial aggregate of various forms of news distribution. Anecdotal, video, broadcast, web-based, newspapers and magazine, social media platforms battle for our attention  (thus the chimerical ‘attention’ economy) measurable in new units of measurement. One of the first journalists I thought grasped this transformation of news media was  GlenM O Brien, editor in the 80’s of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine the paradigmic hip  downtown life style tab. O’Brien has a  column each issue which was amusingly and informatively digressive and mildl;y transgressive

O Brien, who passed on recently was a prototypical denizen of the Manhattan’s hipoisie and the headline that the  slick fashion magazine W ran  with  an homage “Glenn O Brien Could Do Everything Except Live Forever” is a clever way of pointing the man’s many talents and accomplishments. If you think that to be hyperbolic have a look at O Brien’s cleverly annotated  CV* Or the W article

 

Glenn’s facility as a writer and ability to meet multiple deadlines a week could be intimidating. I couldn’t keep up with all the magazines he was involved with: Artforum, Purple, the in-house Bergdorf Goodman magazine, and Bald Ego, his own journal with the poet Max Blagg. This was in addition to his work as creative director of Barney’s and other commercial jobs that employed him to name perfumes or write commercials (remember Brad Pitt for Chanel?). In 2000, he landed at the Cannes Film Festival, where he debuted Downtown 81, a movie he made in 1981 with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Glenn was one of the first to recognize Basquiat’s talent. He wrote, produced, and appeared in the movie, too, directed by photographer Edo Bertoglio. Somehow the soundtrack was lost, only to be miraculously rediscovered two decades later. It’s a genuine artifact, a document of a time and a place no longer visible.

 

 

Sometimes it’s the small things that grab us  David Shield’s who’s  body of work stretches over a wide swath of subjects (even an Ichiro Suzuki chapbook) has a new tome out entitled Other People. The epigram he chose  from Philip Roth’s American Pastoral has long been a  favorite of mine:

You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to came 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: you get them wrong while you’re with them and then you get 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? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we are alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.

 

Don Winslow’s new opus, The Force (referring to the NYPD) leads off with a citation from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely

“Cops are just people, ” she said irrelevantly.

They start out that way, I’ve heard.”

Brian  Doyle

 Brian Doyle self Portrait

 

Lake Oswego Oregon writer Brian Doyle, who among other things was was the editor of Portland magazine passed on to his greater glory recently. He was 60 years old. Author of 14 books and a contributor to The American Scholar and other smart journals, apparently Brian didn’t warrant an obit in the New York Times (which says more about that paper than about Doyle) I chanced to discover him through his wonderful novel Mink River. And the last story in his collection Bin Laden’s Bald Spot: & Other Stories  solidified my continued interest in him. especially the final story**

 

In “Pinching Bernie,” an account of the crimes of Bernard Francis Cardinal Law, the unnamed narrator describes the archbishop’s past achievements, including a deal “where Episcopal priests who were married with kids could work in Catholic dioceses, which was how something you hardly ever see happened here and there, a priest making out with his wife on the beach, and barking at his kids that he would stop this car and turn around if there was any more fighting in the back seat!” In sharp contrast to the more whimsical tone of other stories, “Pinching Bernie” is extraordinary for the seething rage expressed by the narrator at Cardinal Law’s criminal negligence in the many cases of child molestation by Boston parish priests. Cardinal Law is “the slime bag’s slime bag, an all-pro slime bag” who escapes prosecution by flying to Rome and getting named to the Basilica di santa Maria Maggiore, where he is beyond the reach of justice. Up to this point, the story adheres to actual events (the real-life Cardinal remains ensconced inside the Vatican). But in “Pinching Bernie,” the narrator’s friend Jimmy goes to “see a guy about a guy” and “basically from this point on Bernie’s goose is cooked.” As it turns out, “it’s easier to pinch an archbishop than you might think.” The archbishop’s fictional redemption (wherein he’s returned to a life of monastic servitude in Boston) is far more fitting than its true-life counterpart.

Bin Laden’s Bald Spot encompasses worlds of absurdity and quotidian reality in the voices of ordinary citizens. Underneath the surface is a tenderness and attachment to life that makes the best of these stories really and truly sing.

A small nugget from the Doyle archive:
 “So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end — not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words ‘I have something to tell you,’ a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.”

Rest in Peace Brian Doyle

 

 

I find the funniest comedies those that don’t have jokes. Which is why I am not drawn to stand up comedy (excepting Richard Prior, Barry Crimmins, David Chappelle) Sarah Silverman as many are the few originals we are blessed to have live among us, is her own category.Of the many mordant obsrevations found in her new ‘special’

 

Yeah, we’re Number one. We’re number one in juvenile diabetes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met  Thomas Beller when he was a youngish literary bon vivant***, editing a fine New York literary magazine Open City, gifting the internet his Mr Beller’s Neighborhood and publishing a book or two along the way.Beller is now ensconced in New Orleans teaching at Tulane University. among other things Beller writes on the National Basketball Association for the New Yorker. Now if you follow the once and future Great American Pastime( baseball) but do not necessarily find the New Yorker useful ,you ultimately get around to references  to the oracular Roger Angell, who has been contemplating and commenting hard ball since time immemorial. I’m thinking , admittedly based on a small sample, that Professor Beller may achieve the same beatified status. Here from his  report on  NBA All star guard  Cleveland Cavalier/Boston Celtic Kyrie Irving:

One of my favorite basketball anecdotes involves George (Iceman) Gervin sitting in the locker room, sometime in the late nineteen-seventies, after hitting a game-winning shot. Journalists crowd him asking locker-room questions: “How did you do it?” “How did it feel?” “What were you thinking?” After a brief pause, Gervin responds, “The world is round.”

I have always loved this line for its lordly belligerence (“You bore me,” it seems to imply) and because I feel it holds a profound truth about the game. There are lots of sports that involve a round ball, but basketball is the most cosmic and planetary. The ball itself, often seen spinning on the tip of a finger, is the size of a globe. The climax of every play involves a sphere, usually in rotation, entering a circle, its own brief eclipse. The most popular style of play in the N.B.A. these days is referred to as “pace and space.” A player with the ball in his hand is his own solar system of gravity and velocity.

One way to illustrate basketball’s cosmic, planetary nature would be to describe the game as played by the point guard Kyrie Irving. He has a center of gravity somewhere just above his knees and the coördination of a jazz drummer. He is an expert low dribbler, and in the middle of his moves, especially when he puts the ball behind his back, he sometimes seems to sit for an infinitesimal moment on an invisible chair. During the clannish, gossip-filled family reunion that is All-Star Weekend, I heard the theory that, among all N.B.A. players, Irving’s skills are the most envied. This is a category I had not previously considered—not M.V.P. but M.E.P. Irving’s moves with the ball are like physics problems that culminate with extremely high-profile clutch shots. He excels at humiliating the opponent. Maybe that’s what is envied…

 

Some of the very few bright moments (comparatively) in the this nightmare time  are the writings of a handful of journalists and dissident scholars. I am guessing Matt Taibbi is holding the Hunter Thompson/William Greider chair at Rolling Stone (the entertainment magazine). He manages to  add a measure of hilarity to what Charle Pierce has called Camp Runamuck or Taibbi’s own  coinage, Trumpsylvania. Here he points out *****the incongruity of the vulgarian POTUS’s scapegoating the commercial media

 

 

The craziest part of Donald Trump’s 77-minute loon-a-thon in Phoenix earlier this week came when he rehashed his shtick about the networks turning off live coverage of his speech. Trump seemed to really believe they were shutting the cameras off because “the very dishonest media” was so terrified of his powerful words.

“They’re turning those lights off so fast!” he said. “CNN doesn’t want its failing viewership to see this!”

No news director would turn off the feed in the middle of a Trump-meltdown. This presidency has become the ultimate ratings bonanza. Trump couldn’t do better numbers if he jumped off Mount Kilimanjaro carrying a Kardashian.

This was confirmed this week by yet another shruggingly honest TV executive – in this case Tony Maddox, head of CNN International. Maddox said CNN is doing business at “record levels.” He hinted also that the monster ratings they’re getting have taken the sting out of being accused of promoting fake news.

“[Trump] is good for business,” Maddox said. “It’s a glib thing to say. But our performance has been enhanced during this news period

By the way, Taibbi has a book forthcoming, I Can’t Breathe, lucidly unpacking the tragic Eric Garland killing.

 

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* http://glennobrien.com/site/#/bio

**https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/king-of-the-losers/

***http://www.identitytheory.com/thomas-beller/

****http://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/maybe-the-earth-is-flat-if-you-are-kyrie-irving

 

*****http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/taibbi-blame-media-for-creating-world-dumb-enough-for-trump-w499649

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Cool, Ya Dig.

16 Sep
The Cool School by Glenn O 'Brien

The Cool School by Glenn O’ Brien

As attribution is a fetish (or a strong habit)of mine I feel compelled to credit Martin Amis with the astute observation that one of the few bits of vernacular that resists obsolescence is the word/notion “cool” It was operative 50 or 60 years ago when the Prince of Coolness, Miles Davis, began making music and remains functional to this day. There are,I suppose, some deep philological explorations to be made to unpack this happenstance —the more riveting focus, though is on the nature of the things, people and concepts that fall under the rubric, cool.

Now comes a Library of America volume, edited by a man of many seasons, the inestimable Glenn O’Brien,The Cool School Writings from America’s Hip Underground(LOA) which anthologizes a wide array of texts from hipsters the likes of Miles Davis, Henry Miller, Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, Lester Young, Norman Mailer, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Lenny Bruce, Rudolph Wurlizter, Nick Tosches, George Carlin and,oh yeah, Glenn O’Brien.(see the complete list here).

Here’s O’Brien’s view:

In a away this volume is a compendium of orphans.

Its not really an anthology as a much as a sampler. A few tasty morsels from the bebop scene, some ancient history of the pre-wiggers, the Beats both beatific and and some downtrodden. some gonzo and gonzoesque journalism, even a bit of punk picaresque. Its really a louche amuse bouche and a possible textbook for Outlier Lit 101

My guiding principle in selecting was filtered randomness> My only agenda was to provide a primer and inspiration for future thought crime and written rebellion.This volume is by no means definitive in terms of the writers selected or example chosen.It could have been entirely composed of different authors except for a few prime mover usual suspects…What is collected here is just a little taste to whet cool appetites

This disclaimer aside, as cultural surveys go, Glenn O’Brien has assembled a vivid picture of what was happening in America on the fringes the main stream and beneath the surfaces of normalcy.Academics might quibble about various omissions or inclusions but O’Brien has that intangible grasp of the cool to have collected snapshots of roiling cultural climate of the 20th century.

Of course being cool , you will already sense that.


Currently reading The Tilted World by Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin (Wm Morrow)