Readers wanted to know all about their celebrities, or at least about my encounters with them. From A-listers and B-listers right down to Z-listers. The whole stupid alphabet top to bottom. Names to be forgotten one day. They needed the publicity and I needed the job. I wasn’t a star fucker—I’ll say that, having come from the newsroom with no more interest in celebrities than any routine reporter. I was a stand-in for star fuckers.
This is what the people did back then: Infamous William M. Tweed, the corrupt 19th-century NYC power broker whose ring of cronies controlled the government purse, manipulated the legislature, and embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars, was booted from office in the election of Nov. 7, 1871. Thomas Nast depicted him in defeat as a bloated, gouty Roman consul clutching a broken sword, wearing a royal headband of threadbare dollar signs and a sovereign medallion off his miserable likeness on his fat belly. Fast forward to Nov. 7, 2020.
For more than 50 years Ben Vautier has worked “outside the walls,” embracing daily life in its multitude of contradictions. Now, in “Being Free,” an exhibition opening July 11 and running through October 11 in Chamarande, France (about 50 minutes south of Paris), he brings together more than 400 works which document his prodigious output.
Follow the countdown—the days, hours, minutes, and yes, even the seconds—to Blake Gopnik’s chat with Annalyn Swan about his biography of Andy Warhol. Well, it IS a big book. Big in page count (976). Big in subject (Warhol’s influence rivals Picasso’s.) Stellar in praise. (I’ve read only one review that dumps on it, persuasively.) So okay, a countdown.
Jeff Ball, collector extraordinaire of rare Burroughsiana, tells me he recently picked up a handful of relevant little magazines at auction in his seemingly endless quest to capture an intriguing slice of literary history. His collection also includes scattered ephemera which illuminate peculiar nooks and crannies of that literary history sometimes to telling effect. Have a look at a postcard to Herbert Huncke—signed by Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso—that he also recently acquired. The ironies abound.
Register for this Zoom event (Thursday, June 18, 7:30 p.m. ET). As the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in the social safety net, protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder have mobilized a powerful new movement for racial justice. Leading economic experts discuss the gaping disparities by race and class that have driven so many Americans into the streets, and examine the prospects for policy and institutional changes that could create a more equal society, starting today.
Jeff Ball’s latest acquisition—a first-edition copy of “The Exterminator”— is not only signed by both William Burroughs and Brion Gysin but has original artwork that Gysin drew and signed on an inside page. “I’m giddy!” says Ball, whose collection of rare first editions by Burroughs and associated writers, includes some of the most hard-to-find materials anywhere.
This week, for a historical perspective on protest movements, The Graduate Center, CUNY, highlights a discussion with civil rights leaders of the ’60s from its video archive. The discussion is moderated by Carol Jenkins, host of Black America on CUNY-TV. Guests include Ruby Sales, a key figure in the Alabama “Freedom Summer” voter registration drive, and Reverend Herbert Daughtry, who played an instrumental role in the struggle for school desegregation. Clarence Taylor, professor of history at The Graduate Center and Baruch College, provides commentary.
“My texts belong to the world / Even when they are forged copies / My translators complain of climbing steps to attics / They complain of sifting through the debris in basements / They complain over the endless boxes stored / In countries that don’t even allow them entry / A watchdog guards a box somewhere in Moscow / An irate lover protects another box / My translators complain of bad backs and dust / One translator complained because of the food …” —William ‘Cody’ Maher
A friend writes: A little re-Joyceing in this wee lonesome blooming Molly Malone. You can hear the genes of Irish genius in the DNABC of this little clamourer. You feel she’s on the verge of channelling Beckett, Behan, O’Casey, O’Brien, Yeats et al, at any moment. A true antidote to popery and nunnery, and the cold, cold kiss of Covid. A little four-leaf clover complaining from beneath the cloven hoof of parental devilry. She must have been fed Guinness in the womb, there’s so much blarney in her tongue. Man, you feel she possesses such alchemical witchery, she could eat Covid, and shit it out the other end as an emerald. A rare little island of hope.