Saturday, April 29, 2006

M.F.K. Fisher: Serve It Forth. This little book was M(ary)F(rances) K(ennedy) Fisher's first. She would publish four more before her reputation caught up with her talent. Her precise, delicious prose takes the reader all over the palate. With just the right words, she touches upon the art of eating, the art of food, the art of the cookbook, the history of food writing, all things food. She knows and delights in everything there is to know about the subject. We learn how to starve a snail. We learn French-cooking was invented by the Italians. We learn that Romans used sugar only in medicine, never in food. We learn so much more necessary knowledge. Read this book (or any of her books) at the airport or waiting to have a tooth pulled, and Mary Frances' words take you someplace comfortable where the smells of baked bread and cinnamon waft through the air before a warm fireplace. Not that Fisher is limited to "comfort foods," whatever the heck that might be. She goes on at length about the beauty of the snail (though she will not abide by slugs!) She touches upon the consumption of locusts. She is never squeamish, but she remains, as W.H. Auden famously remarked, one of our best writers.
Celine: Death on the Installment Plan "Mort a Credit," the book known in English as "Death on the Installment Plan" is Celine's "Remembrance of Things Past," a fictionalized autobiography, an invocation of memories set
off, not by the pleasant aroma of a cookie dipped in tea, but by a violent,
nauseous, hallucinatory, malarial fever. This often hilarious, by turns
disturbing, novel seems almost literally vomitted upon the page. The
difference between Proust and Louis-Ferdinand Celine (born Destouches) is
indicative of this not so pleasant French literary master. His famous
nihilism and misanthropy is blurred by his theme of compassion for the
impoverished, desperate individual. "Mort," his only novel where war is not a
major theme, ends with the protagonist's decision to join the army, to
escape the simple everyday horror of childhood. "Infinity opens just for
you, a laughable little infinity and you fall into it," but that comes later…

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Brooke Shields: "The Brooke Book" Long before JonBenet and the panic-driven backlash against child exploitation and pedophilia, long before our era of media as the first wall of defense for the sake of our children and "family values, " "moral values" and values for the sake of values, there was
Brooke. And Brooke was a mainstream kitsch pop phenomenon. Controversial as she was, she was, nonetheless, a covergirl of the month superstar of a sort
that simply could not exist in the America of today. Do not confuse Brooke
Shields with contemporary young adult celebrities like Britney Spears. As
this celebrity photo-biography clearly shows, Brooke was pretty much
sexualized moments after birth. "The Brooke Book" is a disturbing,
one-of-a-kind period piece we will not see again any time soon.
1. James Joyce: Ulysses
2. Samuel Beckett: Murphy
3. Vladimer Nabokov: Pale Fire
4. Henry James: The Golden Bowl
5. Flann O’Brien: At Swim Two Birds
6. William Gaddis: The Recognition
7. Henry Green: Concluding
8. Ivy Compton Burnett: Bullivant and the Lambs
9. Ronald Firbank: Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Perelli
10. Evelyn Waugh: A Handful of Dust
11. Thomas Pynchon: Crying of Lot 49
12. Anthony Burgess: Inside Mr Enderby
13. Rex Warner: Aerodrome
14. Muriel Sparks: Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
15. Alexander Theroux: Darconville’s Cat
16. Alasdair Gray: Lanark
17. Martin Amis: Time’s Arrow
18. William Sansom: The Body
19. Virginia Woolf: The Waves
20. Graham Greene: Brighton Rock
21. William Golding: The Inheritors
22. L.P. Hartley: Facial Justice
23. Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye
24. William Gass: The Tunnel
25. Joyce Cary: The Horse’s Mouth
26. Joseph Conrad: Nostromo
27. Barbara Pym: Quartet in Autumn
28. Carl Van Vechten: Tatooed Countess
29. John Barth: Letters
30. Saul Bellow: The Victim
31. Jean Rhys: Quartet
32. Bernard Malamud: The Fixer
33. Ford Maddox Ford: The Good Soldier
34. P.G. Wodehouse: Summer Moonshine
35. Patricia Highsmith: Found in the Street
36. Hortense Calisher: The New Yorkers
37. J.G. Ballard: High Rise
38. Elizabeth Taylor: Mrs. Palfry at the Claremont
39. John Updike: The Coup
40. C.H.B. Kitchin: Streamers Waving
41. Brigid Brophy: In Transit
42. David Lodge: Nice Work
43. Iris Murdoch: Bells
44. Carson McCullers: Heart is a Lonely Hunter
45. Penelope Lively: Road to Lichfield
46. Don Dillello: White Noise
47. Elizabeth Bowen: Death of the Heart
48. Percival Everett: Erasure
49. John Collier: His Monkey Wife
50. George Orwell: 1984
51. Budd Schulberg: Disenchanted
52. Herbert Selby: The Room
53. Edward Upward: Journey to the Border
54. Cynthia Ozick: Messiah of Stockholm
55. Angela Thirkell: Brandons
56. Paul Bailey: At the Jerusalem
57. Aldous Huxley: Time Must Have a Stop
58. Angus Wilson: The Old Man at the Zoo
59. Kingsley Amis: One Fat Englishman
60. Raymond Federman: Take it or Leave it
61. Conrad Aiken: Blue Voyage
62. Malcolm Bradbury: Doctor Criminale
63. Penelope Fitzgerald: Blue Flower
64. Dashiel Hammett: The Glass Key
65. Flannery O’Conner: Wise Blood
66. Robert Graves: I Claudius
67. Rayner Heppenstall: Blaze of Noon
68. Christine Brooke-Rose: Xorandor
69. Lauren Van Der Post: Lost World of Kalahari
70. Dorothy Richardson: Pointed Roofs
71. Nancy Mitford: The Pursuit of Love
72. Philip Larkin: A Girl In Winter
73. Robert Nye: Falstaff
74. Lewis Grassic Gibbon: A Scots Quair
75. Rosamond Lehmann: The Weather in the Streets
76. William Faulkner: Soldier’s Pay
77. Kay Boyle: Plagued by the Nightingale
78. E.F. Benson: Mapp and Lucia
79. Djuna Barnes: Nightwood
80. Brian Aldiss: Barefoot in the Head
81. Paul Auster: City of Glass
82. Nicholson Baker: A Box of Matches
83. John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men
84. Molly Keane: Taking Chances
85. Elizabeth Hardwick: The Ghostly Lover
86. Dorothy Hughes: In a Lonely Place
87. Robert Liddell: The Last Enchantment
88. Giles Gordon: Pictures from an Exhibition
89. Ernest Gaines: A Lesson Before Dying
90. Olivia Manning: The Great Fortune
91. Salmon Rushdie: Midnight’s Children
92. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan
93. Doris Lessing: The Good Notebook
94. T.F. Powys: Mr. Weston’s Good Wine
95. Richard Hughes: High Wind in Jamica
96. Ian McEwan: The Cement Garden
97. John Lehmann: Evil Was Abroad
98. James Kelman: How Late It Was, How Late
99. B.S. Johnson: Travelling People
100. Max Beerbolm: Zuleika Dobson

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easturn Stars was a transgender-queer-lesbian-feminist-afro-american-revolutionary-anarchist-avant-pop-art & music micro-collective. Easturn Stars was a tiny crack in the armor of empire. Easturn Stars was a swelling, bleeding sore on the fat white ass of boring whitebread middle -American bad taste, packaged as good taste. Easturn Stars was so far ahead of its time, beyond its time and out of all time, that it will be decades before the rest of the world even starts to catch up. Easturn Stars was a beautiful thing. Crazed and crazy, totally, brilliantly and drunkenly, psychotically out of control, Easturn Stars could turn small, forgettable failures, tiny moments in the secret history of the counter-counter culture into enormous anti-artistic masterworks. One such moment, perhaps the greatest such moment ever was the moment (the second time in as many weeks to be historically correct) that they were unplugged after just a few songs during their “set” at the new wave club called 688 at 688 Spring Street in 1984. A pivotal year that was! 1984 was a year that still sounds like the dangerous dystopian future to my ears, yet it was a time of new things for the small movement Easturn Stars helped to create. Can we call it a movement without choking on the word? We cannot but what the heck! I know that somewhere in the heaven that he knew did not exist Benjamin is laughing his skinny white ass off and stumbling around among the clouds, a needle happily dangling from his vein saying "Glen you fucking loser, I can't believe you are still at it!" Cabbage and Roz and Lori and Kathleen and Benji warned us with their sweet & nasty songs about what was going down. They laid the foundation for dozens of small important things to follow. And they also told us what to do about it “We are fucking the land lord.” It was as simple and profound as that: fucking as an artistic, rebellious act. It still works today, a revolution of everyday life indeed. If those kids (forever kids they are) were with us in these believe it or not even worse times, they would be fucking the hell out of president Cheney. Don’t doubt it. And he would fucking love it. As Benjamin said with typical delightfully indecent, prescient brevity, clarity and charm “Don’t stop us now, my pussy is just beginning to itch.” Please don't stop them now or ever.