A New Literary Memoir Recalls Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas, circa 1938
 Photo © Nora Summers / Jeff Town / Dylans Bookstore
Taken at the home of Caitlin Thomas's mother, Yvonne Macnamara, in Ringwood, Hampshire.

See update. A few weeks ago I remarked that Of Dylan and his Deaths, by Heathcote Williams, was so rich in the author's personal history and "so evocative of his first inspiration, Dylan Thomas," that it merited attention as a masterpiece of literary investigation. (The investigative aspect of the essay involves Williams's indignation over "the cultural theft of Thomas's identity by a famous imposter" -- namely Bob Dylan -- which is hinted at in the subtitle: "An Essay on Poetry and Fakery.") I also claimed that the memoir was infused … [Read more...]

‘War Makes People Crazy, Religion Makes It Worse’

Poking around the web, a friend came across "the strangest article." It had been posted in the Israel Times in August, 2014, and was later taken down with an apology by the author. It asked, among other things: “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide, is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?” The headline had given the answer: "When Genocide Is Permissible." I replied that the guy who wrote the commentary was "a local yokel -- you … [Read more...]

Recapped: R. Crumb Epic Home Video (Un, Deux, Trois)

From 'CRUMB LINES ON PAPER' [2011]

This video was recorded on April 29, 2011 at the Society of Illustrators in New York City, where the exhibition ran from March 23 to April 30. Curated by Monte Beauchamp, editor of The Life and Times of R. Crumb, the show was a retrospective that presented key pieces culled from the underground art collection of Eric Sack, with contributions from Paul Morris and John Lautemann. The laid-on soundtrack is "Pennies From Heaven," from "Ben Webster: King of the Tenors" (part one); a selection from Satie's "Nocturnes," played by Aldo Ciccolini (part … [Read more...]

New from Cold Turkey Press: ‘Of Dylan and his Deaths’

Cover 'Of Dylan and his Deaths' [Cold Turkey Press, 2015]

A writer as prolific as Heathcote Williams runs the risk of having his poems and prose taken for granted. But this essay — a memoir so rich in personal history, so evocative of his first inspiration, Dylan Thomas, and so indignant about the cultural theft of Thomas's identity by a famous imposter — merits attention as a masterpiece of literary investigation. It stands out for high purpose even among his most provocative and polemical works. Yet it is infused with a private tenderness that defies and surpasses moral abstraction. It has a … [Read more...]

Burroughs Makes Inroads, But What About Algren?

Burroughs wearing his fedora. [Photo: Harriet Crowder]

The British have always shown a serious interest in William Burroughs, evidenced by the fact that the most authoritative Burroughs scholars are or have been Brits such as Eric Mottram, Oliver Harris, and Ian MacFayden, for three examples, and that the most authoritative Burroughs biography, Call Me Burroughs, was written by another Brit, Barry Miles. But when John Banville makes a "soft machine" reference to Burroughs in the conclusion of his excellent review of John Gray's "bleak yet bracing new book," The Soul of the Marionette, you know … [Read more...]

Poem for the Cleaning Women: ‘We Are All Holy’

Judith Malina 'We Are All Holy' [Sloow Tapes, 2015]

https://soundcloud.com/sloowtapes/judith-malina Courtesy of Bart de Paepe's Sloow Tapes This is a historical recording by Judith Malina, who died two weeks ago. I've transcribed the text the way it struck my ear, but its true power can't be fully appreciated until you've heard her read the poem for yourself. -- JH every one of the cleaning women / dreamt of something else / when she was seventeen. / they smile. / they joke. / they sigh / in their smocks and their comfy shoes. / they try not to recall the plans / for a miracle or a … [Read more...]

The Extinction Lesson of a Comical, Salutary Creature

Illustration © by Elena Caldera

But the bird was fearless and easily lured aboard By an offer of unlimited ship’s biscuits. By a miracle the bird survived the crew’s curiosity And their wondering if it tasted delicious. After it had lived out its life in England A taxidermist was called when it died. He stuffed it and, to retain its luxuriant plumage, Cunning preservatives were applied. Its first owner in its afterlife was John Tradescant, Who passed it onto Elias Ashmole, Since when this comical but salutary creature Has become a curator of the earth’s … [Read more...]

Algren to Get the Literary Biography He Deserves

Colin Asher [Photo: Andrew A. Nelles]

The Leon Levy Center for Biography has awarded fellowships worth $60,000 each to four writers who are currently working on new biographies. One of them is Colin Asher, whose tentatively titled biography of Nelson Algren, But Never a Lovely So Real, is under contract to W. W. Norton & Company. The other recipients are Blake Gopnik for a biography of Andy Warhol, Gordana-Dana Grozdanić for a biography of the Bosnian writer Zija Dizdarević, and Eric K. Washington for a biography of James H. Williams, the former chief porter of Grand Central … [Read more...]

Algren for Real: ‘The End Is Nothing. The Road Is All’

NELSON ALGREN [foto: Steve Deutch]

Here he is on the big screen at last, an hour and a half of who Nelson Algren was and what he meant. It's a documentary with the sources -- authoritative sources (Kurt Vonnegut and Studs Terkel, for example, who give their personal impressions of the man). Radical sources, too (Paul Buhle for one, who lays out an essential historical perspective). This documentary doesn't just have the sources, it uses them the way they should be used. Vonnegut, Terkel, Buhle, and the others are allowed to get their say in whole because the filmmakers chose not … [Read more...]

Easter Poetry + Hadron Collider = ‘Son of God Particle’

Poem by Heathcote Williams. Narration and montage by Alan Cox. Art by Elena Caldera and other artists. Some words from the poem: Imagine Christ particles let loose on the one percent, Erasing their fortunes at a key stroke. Imagine airborne Christ particles attacking Wall Street, Penetrating algorhythms in its mainframe computers, Moving columns of figures from the rich to the poor, And bankrupting its hedgefund looters. … [Read more...]

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...]