realitystudio.org Launches Jed Birmingham’s Podcast

Jed Birmingham's Podcast from RealityStudio

I am STAGGERED! Of course I would be, for obvious reasons. Did I say I want this embedded in my headstone? Click to listen. It is utterly, inescapably humbling. The really wonderful thing about JB's devotion to books as artifacts is the way he appreciates them as mysteries and teases out their hidden meanings. This is the first in a possible series about William Burroughs, book collecting, the mimeo revolution, and whatever else strikes JB as relevant to his bibliographic interests. … [Read more...]

Sinclair Beiles: Poet of Many Parts and Places

Sinclair Beiles in 1969 [from 'Bone Hebrew,' Cold Turkey Press]

Dyehard Press has re-issued Who Was Sinclair Beiles? in a revised and expanded edition. I posted an item about the first edition when it was published five years ago. It's hard to believe so much time has passed. As I wrote then, Beiles was best known for his association with the Beats. He collaborated on Minutes to Go with William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Gregory Corso, and helped to shepherd Burroughs’ manuscript of Naked Lunch into print at the Paris-based Olympia Press, where he worked as an editor. "Best known" is a questionable term, … [Read more...]

Row, Row, Row Your Boat … Across the Ocean Blue

Coxless Crew's Planned Route

They call themselves the "Coxless Crew," and they're planning to row across the Pacific from San Francisco to Cairns, Australia. Their goal, besides surviving the voyage, is to raise £250,000 for two favorite charities "Walking With the Wounded" and "Breast Cancer Care," and to show women across the globe that they can do anything they dream of if they set their minds and bodies to it. Good luck to you, cockless sailors! Click to buy a mile for charity.Their departure from San Francisco is set for April 14 or thereabout. The boat is set up … [Read more...]

‘Fugitive Literature': Granary Books Has Done the Deed

'My Adventures in Fugitive Literature' by Jan Herman [Granary Books, 2015]

Here's what happened: I was invited to speak about "little magazines and William S. Burroughs" on a panel with Jed Birmingham and Charles Plymell at the 2014 Burroughs Centennial Conference hosted in New York City by the Center for the Humanities. After my talk, Steve Clay came up to me and asked to publish what I'd said. I didn't know Steve, though I'd met him once years earlier, but I knew of his Granary Books. Among Granary's many titles was At a Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing: 1960-1980. Based on a 1998 … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

We Are All Charlie Now

je-suis-charlie

As many as 100,000 people gathered across France, according to Agence France-Presse. The crowds expressed their solidarity against the Charlie Hebdo attack. At least 35,000 Parisians, by one estimate, gathered at La Place de la République. They were silent at first, then began to sing: "Charlie! Charlie!" "We are Charlie!" "Free expression!" Cartoonists are having their say. Postscript: Jan. 12 -- Just to follow up ... yesterday more than a million people marched in Paris to show their support for freedom of expression. … [Read more...]

Incidental Intelligence: A Portrait of William Burroughs

Incidental-Intelligence

I once asked Nelson Algren what he thought of Naked Lunch. He grinned at me, as though he were being entertained by a wiseguy. I knew he had no love for the Beats. He had derided Jack Kerouac as a momma’s boy and dismissed Allen Ginsberg as a publicist. So his answer surprised me: “Burroughs wrote half of a good book.” He meant that as praise. What Algren liked were the horrific “routines” and their cosmic lineup of hilariously appalling characters. (Read more at IT: International Times) … [Read more...]