Tag Archives: Nick Tosches

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)

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Commonplace Book

9 Jun
Youth International Party logo

Youth International Party logo

“The law in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread”- Anatole France

Live with intention, Walk to the edge, Listen hard, Practice wellness, Play with abandon, Laugh, Choose with no regret
Continue to learn, Appreciate your friends, Do what you love, Live as if this is all there is. Mary Anne Radmacher

I have one secret. You get up early in the morning and you work all day. That’s the only secret. Is there another one? 
- Philip Glass.

Our Man in Boston (photo: Ethan Rutherford)

Our Man in Boston (photo: Ethan Rutherford)


He runs the Cassidy crime family. Little people with enormous heads, every one if them. And they’ve all have been shot in the head, and they never die. They believe it’s the luck of the Irish—they walk around thinking they were all born lucky—and it never occurred to any them yet that if they were that fucking lucky, they wouldn’t keep getting shot—TRAIN by Pete Dexter

Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.” Ludwig Wittgenstein

Howard Zinn (Photograph: Robert Birnbaum

Howard Zinn (Photograph: Robert Birnbaum


I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problems of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions—poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed—which are at the root of most punished crimes. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished—Howard Zinn

I am forever astonished that when lecturing on the obedience experiments in colleges across the country, I faced young men who were aghast at the behaviour of experimental subjects and proclaimed they would never behave in such a way, but who, in a matter of months, were brought into the military and performed without compunction actions that made shocking the victim seem pallid. In this respect they are no better and no worse that human beings of any other era who lend themselves to the purposes of authority and become instruments in its destructive processes—Stanley Milgram

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 al l 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 id 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. Philip Roth
American Pastoral

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King

The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write. — Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”
― Charles Bukowski

The world’s “freest” country has the highest number in prison—Arundhati Roy

Frankly, I have no mind for rational solutions to these immense problems. Nothing I ever hear from Washington DC has any relationship with the reality I know down here. I’m seeing, delirium, hunger, acute suffering, which are not solved, assuaged or aired by the stentorian fart breath of the House and Senate….I’m also wondering if it behooves a writer to try to be right. Yeats warned about cutting off a horses legs to get it into a box. Simon Ortiz, the grand Acomo Pueblo poet, said that there are no truths, only stories….A historian might very well consider the validity of the Gadsen Purchase, wherein we bought my locale for fifty-two cents an acre from a group of Mexicans that had no right to sell it. The United Nations would question our right to take all of the Colorado River’s water, leaving the estuarine area in Mexico as dry as the bones their people leave up here in the desert. A true disciple of Jesus would say that we have to do something about these desperate people, though this is the smallest voice of all. Most politicians have the same moral imperative as a cancer cell: continue what you’ re up to at all costs. Mean while the xenophobes better known as the xenoids, merely jump up an down on the border screeching, surely a full testament to our primate roots. Everyone not already here must be kept out, and anyone here illegally, if not immediately expunged, should be made as uncomfortable as possible…So Ana Claudia crossed with her brother and child into Indian country, walking up a dry wash for forty miles, but when she reached the highway she simply dropped dead near the place where recently a nineteen year old girl also died from thirst with a baby at her breast. The baby was covered with sun blisters, but lived. So did Ana Claudia’s. The particular cruelty of a dry wash is that everywhere there is evidence of water that once passed this way, with the banks verdant with flora. We don’t know how long it took Ana Claudia to walk her only forty miles in America, but we know what her last hours were like. Her body progressed from losing one quart of water to seven quarts: lethargy, increasing pulse, nausea, dizziness ,blue shading of vision, delirium , swelling of the tongue, deafness ,dimness of vision shriveling of the skin, and then death, the fallen body wrenched into a question mark. How could we not wish that politicians on both sides of the border who let her die this way would die in the same manner? But then such people have never missed a single lunch. Ana Claudia Villa Herrera. What a lovely name. Jim Harrison

According to the makers of myth and those who trafficked in cheap lies about human wisdom, the elderly saw goodness in the world that they had not been allowed to see in their youth. But Hackelberry had found the world was the world and it did not change because one happened to age. The same players were always there, regardless of the historical era, he thought, and the ones that heeded most were those that despoiled the earth and led us into wars and provided justifications whenever we felt compelled to commit unconscionable acts against our fellow human beings…when you heard the clock ticking in your life , there was no greater disservice you could do to yourself than to entertain a lie. Death was bad only when you had to face it knowing that you had failed to live during the time allotted to you, or that you had lied to yourself about the realities of the world or willingly listened to the lies of others— James Lee Burke

There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and the benefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smallest reference to the furniture of their pockets. Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby

“Failure can also be a creative act, Quinn decided. One must look straight ahead as one makes the forced march backward into used history. The death of ambition, gentlemen, is a great impetus for grasping this, and soon you will thrill to how urgently you are moving, how truly exciting this quest for failure can be. What you do not know is that your quest for failure may also fail.”William Kennedy, Chango’s Beads and Two Toned Shoes

“You just take something, and then you do something to it, and then you do something else to it. Keep doing this and pretty soon you’ve got something.”— Jasper Johns

On the poop deck of slave galleys it is possible, at any time and place, as we know, to sing the constellations while the convicts bend over the oars and exhaust themselves in the hold; it is always possible to record the social conversation that takes place on the benches of the amphitheater while the lion is crunching the victim. And it is very hard to make any objections to the art that has known such success in the past. But things have changed somewhat, and the number of convicts and martyrs has increased amazingly over the surface of the globe. In the face of so much suffering, if art insists on being a luxury, it will also be a lie.” –  Albert Camus “Create Dangerously” in Resistance, Rebellian & Death

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid dens of crime that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.-C. S. Lewis

“Well, while I’m here, I’ll do the work – and what’s the work? To ease the pain of living. Everything else, drunken dumbshow.” – Allen Ginsberg

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize—Voltaire

101 Vagina by Phillip Werner

101 Vagina by Phillip Werner

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.”Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I woke up thinking a very pleasant thought. There is lots left in the world to read. Nicholson Baker,The Anthologist

Nick Tosches [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Nick Tosches [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Fuck this world, and fuck those who would impose their frail conceits of good and evil on it. Fuck the black man and the white, the junkie and the crusader, the philosopher and the fool. Fuck those who swagger and those who cower, those who pretend to truth and those who flee from it. Fuck the poet and the book burner, the leader and the led. Fuck God and justice and every other lie that ever held men back. Only when one set it all aflame and forsook it could one return, if only for a breath, to that time of purity when fire was the only philosophy… Nick Tosches

This is America<The Wire

Men were inherently more sentimental than women. Women had to keep moving. Time meant more to them. For girls maturing meant fertility and while boys could screw around to their hearts content, girls got pregnant. The years were demarcated by ovulation and menstruation, the months alive in their bodies, time living within them pushing them forward. Women were human calendars, while men could pretend they were still eighteen. Women were streams, men puddles. Nostalgia was as male as football- Robert Boswell

Journalism is printing what some else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations—George Orwell

Brown Wrapper Stories

6 Jul

Pulling A Train by Harlan Ellison


Kicks Books /Norton Records grabbed my attention publishing
the inimitable Nick Tosches‘s Save the Last Dance for Satan. In case you are wondering what Tosches is up to— expect a new novel Me and the Devil from Little Brown in December. And reportedly Julian Schnabel is set to film Tosches’s novel In the Hand of Dante with Johnny Depp. Which based on the fine films (Basquet, Before NighT Falls) Schnabel has made, is something to look forward to.

Anyway, Kicks has published Pulling a Train; Violent Stories of Naked Passions by the singular writer Harlan Ellison. A quick perusal of the cover ought to tell you what this tome is about — a republication of eleven stories originally credited to “Paul Merchant” under the title Sex Gang. Here’s what Ellison has to say:

No point in apologizing for these original 11 stories. I did ’em for the buck. I was married at the time and needed the money and did what everybody does. I pulled the plow.

The stories are simplistic not the greatest literature ever proffered but I got a thousand dollars for the tome. That was big money in the Fifties. It was my third book published, in a lifetime of more than a hundred such. But the only one not under my name

…I am past the point whereI need to hide my head for anything…I think the more you reveal, the less blackmail able you are. It ain’t never the crime, its always the coverup that brings you down.

…It is my hope that you won’t think too badly of me ,and might be entertained enough to try one of the other hundred or so books and movies with my name on them.

Miriam Linna ,publisher and everything else for Kicks Books waxes effusive:

For the uninitiated, we recommend consumption in very small doses. A damp towel and bed rest may be necessary.

For the lively set, prepare to blast into orbit with blade-wielding ferocity as Ellison takes you into a cobblestone wilderness fraught with hate and violence, a street level cosmos where shadowy creatures are hard, and blunt, and malicious, and where hope hangs a shingle that reads, “GET LOST”.

In the realm of 1950’s juvenile delinquent fiction, it was Ellison who dragged the unnamed genre from the gentle hands of the social workers into a filthy basement, where he worked it over, with great satisfaction, into an alternate universe of hate and pain. Ellison is the king of JD fiction. Of this, there can be no debate.

Currently reading The World Without You by Joshua Henkin (Pantheon)