I Remember Oriana Fallaci . . .

Oriana Fallaci

You hear a lot about Michel Houellebecq these days. You don't hear much about Oriana Fallaci. She was once more controversial than Houellebecq for her blistering scorn of Islam and Muslims. Mark Lilla has a big piece, Slouching Toward Mecca, in the current New York Review of Books about Houellebecq's latest novel, Soumission, which as usual is a controversial best seller in Europe. It's about "an Islamic party coming peacefully to power in France," Lilla writes. Peacefully is the word to note. What is especially surprising, he adds, given … [Read more...]

From the East Village, ‘Ten Talk New York’

Kim Harris in 'Ten Talk New York,' a film directed by Simon J. Heath

Thanks to Clayton Patterson, "the great connector," I met his friend Simon J. Heath the other day. Simon is an Australian-born filmmaker who's in love with New York City. The latest evidence is "Ten Talk New York," a fast-moving flick that features interviews with New Yorkers thinking out loud about sex, love, race, and death. They all tell stories, great stories. But for sheer entertainment ... ... if I had to pick a favorite in the truth-telling department, I'd go with Kim Harris who identifies herself as "a black Jew from the Upper West … [Read more...]

A Savoyard’s First Brush With Censorship

A feature-length experimental documentary, exploring the history of alternative publishing in Manchester, UK.

Have a look at this Kickstarter campaign: Savoy Books is an independent publishing house based above a locksmith shop in the South Manchester district of Didsbury, founded and run by Michael Butterworth and David Britton. In 1989 they published Lord Horror, the last book to be banned in the UK under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act. It was in part a response to Britton's time spent in Strangeways prison, and Savoy's constant persecution by the corrupt police force at the time. Now have a look at Keith Seward's penetrating book-length … [Read more...]

David Carr Wanted to Get Stuff Right, Large or Small

David Carr [Photo: Earl Wilson NYT]

Like many NYT readers, I admired David Carr's media column. It always made the paper worth reading on Monday mornings. Today his final column ran posthumously under the headline "David Carr’s Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students." Cobbled together by his editors from his course curriculum at Boston University, where he'd recently begun teaching, and from remarks he made to his students, the column reflected Carr's belief in the future of journalism as a big enterprise for important stories. But I always got the sense from his column that … [Read more...]

A Poet With a Dark Vision and a Tuned-Up Voice

Philip Levine [from WGBH series Poetry Breaks, created by Leita Luchetti]. Click for video.

The poet Philip Levine has died. Here's an appreciation, written years ago at the Los Angeles Times, which began like this: Philip Levine, no prodigy, wrote poetry for seven years before his first poem was published in his mid-20s. It took another nine before his first slim volume, On the Edge, appeared in 1963. But by then, at age 35, he’d emerged from his native Detroit with a dark vision unmistakably his own and a tuned-up voice as angry as it was tender. I posted it in full here, in 2011, as Levine’s Factory Stiffs, Society’s … [Read more...]

Three Expats and One Reporter Explain It All For Us

In about five minutes, starting roughly 45 minutes into a conversation with NYT reporter David Carr, Edward Snowden explains why President Obama -- or for that matter any American president -- is captive to the intelligence community and what it means for democratic values. Carr leads him into the explanation by remarking that the Obama administration is "the worst administration in terms of transparency that I've ever covered. What I wonder about is -- you're kind of a spook -- did the spooks get to him? What happened?" David Carr … [Read more...]

Some Got Plenty and Some Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’

Illustration: Elena Caldera

Five years after the Wall Street crash of 1929, George Gershwin wrote what he called a “banjo song” for "Porgy and Bess." It turned into "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" with lyrics by Edwin DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. The second verse goes like this: De folks wid plenty o' plenty Got a lock on de door 'Fraid somebody's a-goin' to rob 'em While dey’s out a-makin' more What for? Heathcote Williams reminded me of the song when his poem Rich People was posted the other day by the International Times in London. His second verse goes like … [Read more...]

Burroughs Central This Is Not

My Adventures in Fugitive Literature [Granary Book, 2015] front cover

Anyone who thinks this blog is Burroughs Central has no idea. The fact is, I'm just skimming. The real Burroughs Central is RealityStudio, where the true aficionados congregate for deep postings by Jed Birmingham's Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker. For example, he recently made the case that le maître's cut-ups in the mimeo mags of the '60s are far more satisfying than the novels of his so-called cut-up trilogy (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express). Jed goes into great detail, brilliantly as usual, but his basic … [Read more...]

By Burroughs Possessed >>>>>> Burroughs 101

Burroughs-Possessed [Gerard Bellaart, 2015]

Being a serious writer hardly means leading the life of a saint. In 1951, in Mexico City, long before the publication of Naked Lunch, which made him famous, William S. Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his common-law wife Joan Vollmer in a drunken stunt. He was trying to prove his marksmanship William Tell-style. Instead of hitting the glass placed on her head, he shot her square between the eyes. Gerard Bellaart's charcoal sketch captures Burroughs possessed by what he called "the Ugly Spirit."* * * * * “I am forced to the appalling … [Read more...]

In Memory: Carl Weissner, So Rudely Interrupted

Carl Weissner [Photo by Michael Montfort, 19XX, from 'Nachtmaschine']

Carl died unexpectedly three years ago today. On the first anniversary of his death, I posted a tribute from friends and others. Here's a photo from a trip he took to Marseille, where he was gathering impressions for a novel he wanted to write, which wasn't all that long before he died. His absence among us since then has not diminished, although the date of his departure has grown more distant. (Update below.) WEDNESDAY May 5 torrential rains, high seas, snow on the highway in the Massif Central! wind tearing at the awnings and you. … [Read more...]

Kick That Habit? Bellaart Does Burroughs

Drawing of William Burroughs [Gerard Bellaart, 2014]

This pencil drawing of William S. Burroughs by Gerard Bellaart is one of two portraits. It's the introspective Burroughs. The other drawing, a charcoal sketch to be posted soon, catches Burroughs in a wholly different state of mind, as if possessed by the Ugly Spirit that Burroughs believed had dogged him throughout his life. The text on the card is an excerpt from "Incidental Intelligence" to be published in full in The Z Collection, a tryptich of portraits to include Godfrey Reggio and Norman Mailer. … [Read more...]

Beckett But Not Beckett: ‘Being Human’

BEING HUMAN (credit-1)

It begins in blackness with whispers. Jumps to a face with eyes closed. The eyes open. Words form: "I was almost human. But then something went wrong. I was a human being. But then I became a victim. I was almost a human being but then I ran out of time." I wish I could embed the YouTube video here, but the embed function has been disabled. To see the video click the image. If "Being Human" brings to mind Billie Whitelaw doing Samuel Beckett’s “Not I,” there's nothing wrong with that. … [Read more...]

About That Remarkable Surge for Charlie

Image by Elena Caldera

I've noticed that the "Je suis Charlie" phenomenon has come in for rightwing contempt. The argument goes that it's self-righteous to claim you stand with the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo when all you do is gather in the street and carry signs. There's some truth to that, especially when it comes to politicians. But I've ignored the argument precisely because of where it's coming from, yet wondered how to accomodate the jeers. Well, here's how. See this for a very useful point about the "mawkishness" of so many Charlies from an unimpeachable … [Read more...]

Posting a Cold Turkey Card While Paris Burns

JE M'AMUSE [Cold Turkey Press, 2015]

By way of explanation, I was occupied searching for word pattern. Found a rangy young man whose authority was roughly 50 words retyped in columns from the beginning more habit-forming than his life. He hunkered across the columns and typed them again. Undsoweiter ... And now for R. Crumb's pièce de résistance: … [Read more...]

‘Death in Paris’ Struck Prescient Note

'Death in Paris' by Carl Weissner

Apropos today's headline about the hacked U.S. CENTCOM Twitter Account . . . a friend was looking over our late amigo Carl Weissner's "Doomsday Lit" novel Death in Paris. Boy, is that title apt. Not to mention the chapter headings. How about this one? >im in ur base killin ur d00dz … [Read more...]