This teaser appeared today at Arts & Letters Daily in its “New Books” column: “‘I greet you at the beginning of a great career,’ Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote Allen Ginsberg. … Thus began the effort to publish Howl, a landmark case of attempted censorship…” The teaser linked to an article that appeared recently in Spiked apropos the publication in the U.K. of The People v. Ferlinghetti: The Fight to Publish Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which, it so happens, is closely related to I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955-1997, published four years ago here in the U.S. Why do I mention all of this?
Robert Crumb has come in for severe disapproval. In which case, the censors will hate this old video. It was recorded on April 29, 2011 at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. The laid-on soundtrack is “Pennies From Heaven,” from “Ben Webster: King of the Tenors”; a selection from Satie’s “Nocturnes,” played by Aldo Ciccolini; and “Honeysuckle Rose,” played by Count Basie & His Orchestra.
A friend sent this photo of Marcus Bowcott’s “Trans Am Totem,” which stands amid the traffic in Vancouver. As you see, five cars are stacked (four of them crushed) on top of a base made from a single tree trunk. What you cannot see is that the Cedar trunk is signed by a Native First Nations Carver who carved a Bear Paw & Claws symbol into the foot of the trunk.
Artists and retail stores have a history. Bonwit Teller on 5th Avenue featured avant-garde art from 1929 to 1980, starting with Salvador Dali in ’29 and including Jasper Johns in 1957. Warhol in the 1950s did windows for Tiffany’s. In that tradition Cody Simon has curated a show at Sneakersnstuff-NYC featuring Clayton Patterson’s Front Door photo series. The photos, taken at his Lower East Side storefront gallery and living quarters on Essex Street, go back to the mid-1980s up through 2019. They include a large Hispanic collection and are also multigenerational. Some of Patterson’s subjects now have children older than he was when he first photographed them.
On Holloway Road in north London there’s a black door leading into Ram Books, “a smut emporium with more than 100,000 vintage titles.” So said the email, which went on to say: “This astonishing place became A Void magazine’s power centre when we upscaled our priorities to cater for obscene tastes.” This led me to poking around the magazine’s website, where I found “The Sick and the Damned: A Manifesto” by The Patients’ Collective. It talks about capitalism, the “memes and myths of Social Darwinism,” and “the normalization of overwork.” Though I dislike the manifesto’s takedown of liberalism, I can’t help being impressed by its seductive intelligence.
Nelson Algren is always associated with Chicago, where he grew up and where many of his books are set, including Never Come Morning and The Man With the Golden Arm, as well as The Neon Wilderness and Chicago: City On the Make. But the official launch of Colin Asher’s Never A Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren will take place in Brooklyn at the Community Bookstore, not far from where Asher lives. Does everything happen these days in Brooklyn? Next week he will discuss the biography at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, where everything used to happen.
William Levy, sometimes called “the Talmudic Wizard of Amsterdam,” has died at the age of 80. A prolific expatriate American writer and editor, he left the United States in 1966 and earned a reputation as one of the leading intellectual and sexual subversives in Europe. Levy was a master of literary outrageousness, an editor of The Insect Trust Gazette, International Times, publisher and editor of Suck magazine, and producer of the Wet Dreams Film Festival, as well as a poet and radio broadcaster.
In straightforward yet graceful prose and with deep insight—let alone an immense amount of meticulous research—Colin Asher has produced a major literary biography. “Never A Lovely So Real’ testifies to the richness of Algren’s genius as a writer and explains the misunderstood nature of the man. It reveals what made him tick, exposes the legends, and brings him to life in a way no previous biography has. It certainly changed my perception of him. And if there’s any justice, it will put Algren’s books back into the heart of the 20th-century American canon.
When a book reads like an hallucination and looks as magnificent as Flesh Film, it’s an artist’s book as much as a writer’s. The designer Robert Schalinski has given the author’s text the appearance of a manuscript duplicated on an old copying machine and punctuated it with the author’s visual collages. It’s gorgeous stuff, published in English by the German publisher Moloko Print, and it’s available for the first time in the U.S. from printedmatter.org.
Michael Butterworth started writing short fiction in 1966 for the British science-fiction magazine New Worlds when its editor was Michael Moorcock. He was one of the younger exponents of that New Wave of science fiction, as the movement became known, and he continued contributing to New Worlds until the editions most closely associated with Moorcock came to an end in 1979. Now he has two new books out that collect the fiction of those early years which he had thought “lost for good.”
The honorees at the 2019 NY Acker Awards made some terrific statements about the history of the Lower East Side and their commitment both to the community and to the arts, but a rap performance by Power Malu about the devastation in Puerto Rico, where people are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and from the Trumpistan government’s failure to provide proper help, was the most notable of the evening.
“In the beginning was the Word—been in You for a toolong time.I rub out the word. You in the Word and the Word in You is a word-lock like the combination of a vault or a valise. If you love your vaults, listen no further. I spin the lock on your Interior Space Kit. Prisoner: Come Out!” — Brion Gysin