1. This image of P. G. Wodehouse's bookshelf is just one of the incidental delights to be found in the BBC's literary video archive, In Their Own Words. Other authors showing their remarkable presence in these historical broadcasts include Virginia Woolf, Kingsley Amis, Muriel Spark, William Golding, Robert Graves and E. M. Forster and J. R. R. Tolkien (via drmabuse).
(Just one minor note about the text accompanying the P. G. Wodehouse interview, in which the shy humorist plays incessantly with his pipe and tries to give honest answers to tough questions: Wodehouse did live in Eastport, on Long Island's East End, but Eastport ain't the Hamptons, not really even close. But what would the BBC know about Long Island?)
2. Jonathan Franzen's upcoming novel Freedom is getting major, major news coverage, including the cover of Time magazine (he's the first novelist on the cover of Time since Stephen King ten years ago). I haven't read the novel yet, but I liked his previous family saga The Corrections and am looking forward to reviewing Freedom for another web publication as soon as my review copy shows up. In the meantime, here's a piece from The Millions about all the other writers who have been on the cover of Time since the magazine was founded in 1923.
1. I love it that the "Penguin paperback look" has become a design meme. BoingBoing points out that a set of album covers by Ty Lettau of Sound Of Design resembles the retro Penguin look. This calls to mind a more explicit recent implementation of the same idea by LittlePixel (great work, but there are way too many Simple Minds albums here).
2. Some of my friends in the book business think literary publishing is about to crash like a lead zeppelin. There was a tremendous uproar in the book world today: influential literary agent Andrew Wylie (Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, the estates of William S. Burroughs, John Cheever, John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov) has made a bold, unprecedented e-books deal with Amazon that will give Amazon and its Kindle format exclusive access to many important e-book titles. Exclusive access has (thankfully) never not part of the literary publishing industry tradition, and the major publishers don't like being cut out of the profit equation, which is why CEO John Sargent of Macmillan (who is emerging as an unofficial spokesman for the publishing industry when it battles with Amazon) and spokesperson Stuart Applebaum of Random House are planning to put up a fight. Many of my twitter friends seem to be lining up on the Macmillan/Random House side, objecting to Wylie and Amazon's audacious move. Me? I'll walk the line a little longer. I like audacity, and God knows the e-book marketplace can use a kick in the ass.
1. After interviewing Philip Roth, James Marcus turned a culturally significant Roth utterance into an audio dance track (via Moby Lives).
2. Sarah Weinman unearths another writer in the Singer family, Hinde Esther Singer.
3. Kenyon Review: "What happens when a poet’s own name is invoked in a poem of her own making?"
4. Adira Amram of the wonderful musical Amram family has released her first record. Looking forward to hearing this!
5. McNally Jackson bookstore in Manhattan now has an Espresso Book Machine. As we pointed out before, Espressos are cool.
6. One interesting thing about this Persepolis fan-fic about the Iran elections, originating in Shanghai, is how well it captures Marjane Satrapi's style.
7. It's an old formula, this "post some ridiculous emails you've received about your blog" blog post. And yet, it's still fun.
8. Michael Jackson read books. Good for him.
9. I'm glad that Bill Ayers has the courage to publish a book, a graphic memoir. Maybe it'll come out on the same day as Dick Cheney's.
10. Once upon a time, Literary Kicks was a website devoted to the Beat Generation. I know some of my early readers wish I had stuck with and perfected that formula, and if I had, maybe Peter Hale's The Allen Ginsberg Project is what this site would have been like. Hale, who works closely with the Allen Ginsberg estate, has been putting high quality stuff up -- rare Kerouac videos, beautiful images, surprising texts, with a wide range of coverage and a friendly touch -- week after week. If you're into modern-era experimental/alternative literature, you might want to follow this site.
-- I have to admit: at first I wasn't sure what to make of Beat Reality, a new CD by poet Les Merton and the Moontones. I wondered if we'd pushed the idea of "Beat Reality" just about as far as it could go. In this new release, it's apparent that the beat influence has only just begun to be explored. Les Merton's Cornish accent alone would be enough to prompt you to let this CD play on, however it's the combination of his voice stretched over the jazzy, freewheeling style of his poetry that draws you in deeper, begging further inspection of the stories inside. Backed by the sounds of the somewhat quirky Moontones, Merton's poetry is Beat to the core, though it has moments where it comes dangerously close to clich
Ask a group of poets for their advice on how to read or write poetry and you'll likely get as many answers as there are poets. When these differences are distilled into poems, we end up with a rich array of work. Here are two poets on poetry just in time for the weekend.
In a recent online discussion of how to teach students haiku, someone pointed out this gem of a recording: Ginsberg on "writing slogans", haiku and more...
For another poet's take on poetry, try Kenneth Koch's insightful essay "On Reading Poetry". Yesterday's Poem-a-Day podcast also featured Mark Strand (who is one of my favorite poets to listen to) reading Kenneth Koch's Permanently. Strand's voice has a rich steady quality that lends itself gracefully for reading poetry and this blends well with Koch's subtly intense verse.
Gregory Corso listening to 'BOMB'
1970, San Juan, PR
Litkicks is proud to present, for the first time ever, an original 1970 recording of Gregory Corso performing his classic poem 'BOMB', courtesy of Graham Seidman.
Graham Seidman is an artist who presents culture and history as beauty through his photography and mosaic presentations. As a Beat Hotel "alum", he has generously shared his memories and stories of Corso, Allen Ginsberg and others with the LitKicks community. Here Graham tells the story of how Gregory Corso visited Puerto Rico and recorded the reading of BOMB available on this page.
"One day I asked if he would record a tape for me of the BOMB. He had given me the original manuscript in Paris in exchange for a painting I made.
"Ok" he said. He first made a fake phone call to a friend in order to set the time and place, then he disappeared into the guest room alone, there was a piano in that room and he employed it into the taping. Unfortunately, the cassette tape ran out just at the end, otherwise it's perfect.
I'm happy to share this tape with the world." --Graham Seidman
I was curious to see, thirty years after the Los Angeles police attempted in vain to shut the play down, just what the fuss had been about. I was expecting something wildly offensive, and was surprised to find a quiet, subtly shaded and intelligent dialogue play about the different ways men and women approach sex. There were only two characters: an archetypal male played by an actor who looked slighly like Kid Rock wearing a cowboy outfit, and an archetypal woman who resembled Courtney Love in platinum-blonde mode. This man and woman spend the entire play -- literally, the entire play -- philosophically debating whether or not they should have sex. This might sound somewhat tedious (actually, it sounds like a lot of my dates when I was in college), but the concept is relevant enough to make it add up to a memorable statement, and an enlightening evening.
In fact the primal battle between men and women is a familiar theme -- the play reminded me especially of the cartoons of male and female armies engaged in civil war that James Thurber used to draw, and also of similar "symbolic" treatments of the sexual dialectic like "No Exit" by Jean-Paul Sartre (in which a triangle of three characters illustrate the theme) or "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" by Edward Albee (which gives us two matched pairs, a total of four). McClure keeps the concentration on the primal two. His approach to drama is cool and diagrammatic, with none of the emotional build-up and release of a Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller play -- just the endless Escher-like curving-back-upon-itself of the "big question", as the man and woman discuss it over and over and over (yeah, the more I think about it, this was a lot like one of my college dates).
I'm happy to report that the iconic characters do have sex in the end, symbolically at least. In the final moment before the curtain drops (actually there is no curtain, but whatever) the blonde woman acheives a blissful sonic orgasm. I admit to being slightly disappointed that she never took any of her clothes off (what's up with that?) and maybe some women in the audience were disappointed that Kid-Rock-Boy didn't either. Pretty incredible to think that, back in the sixties, they shut down a theatre for presenting ideas about sex. I think (I hope) we've come a long way since then.
If you can't come to New York City to see this play in person, check out the fragment of the script on McClure's own excellent web page, which also presents some of his interesting poetry.
2. Holy Shit! There's an amazing site of free literary MP3's at MP3Lit.com. Everybody from Sylvia Plath to Nicole Blackman, Henry Rollins to Noam Chomsky to Mumia Abu-Jamal to Tom Wolfe. A great selection, and a great public service. The site is fairly new and should grow quickly, but I hope the interface remains as simple as it is now. I'm looking forward to the upcoming "Loudmouth" section where unknowns can present their own fiction and poetry -- should be some interesting results there. Do not miss checking this place out.
3. The New York Mets are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1988 -- a very good sign for the coming millennium. Literary Kicks says "Let's go Mets!"
Also, Bob Holman was nice enough to remember the event by putting up the words spoken by Charles Plymell here.
2. Speaking of the Bitter End event (no, I can't seem to stop speaking of it), one of the reasons I'd thought to invite Lee Ranaldo to participate in it was that he's been working with Jim Sampas and Rykodisc to collect some of Jack Kerouac's best unreleased recordings onto a CD. The CD is a revelatory collection that anybody who is interested in understanding Kerouac will want to hear. While Kerouac's existing poetry albums are sometimes hard to listen to (I always found them somewhat stiff and difficult to enjoy compared to his written work), these newfound recordings of Jack's are charming, musically adventurous and surprisingly satisfying. Highlights include a plaintive version of the pop standard 'Rain or Shine', some complex verbal blues choruses set to music by David Amram, a 28-minute prose reading from 'On The Road' and, to top it all off, a rocker by Tom Waits with Primus (yeah!). This CD will be released in early September.
3. 'The Source', a well-researched and intelligent new documentary full-length film about the origins of the Beat Generation and its main players, is coming out in a couple of weeks. Directed by Chuck Workman (who also directed a movie about the Andy Warhol scene, 'Superstar'), the film focuses heavily on Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso, and tries hard to fairly represent many other writers. It adds up to an informative and breezily entertaining introduction to this literary movement. Among the good points: the facts are accurate (though the chronology gets confused), and there are no boring talking-head shots of men in sweaters sitting in front of bookcases (thank God). At the same time I didn't find the film completely different enough -- much of the footage was familiar, and the summary style was pretty much the same as that of all those $35 coffeetable books about the Beat Generation that keep popping up in bookstores, whereas I wished to be taken somewhere new, to see some challenging connections made, either politically, spiritually, aesthetically or in any other way. A captivating filmed scene of actor John Turturro screaming the hell out of the great poem 'Howl' in an urban schoolyard is probably as "out there" as the movie ever gets, and this was for me the most memorable moment in the film. But even if 'The Source' sticks basically to the middle of the road, the movie is well worth watching, and nobody will regret the time spent soaking in the familiar footage of our lovable literary stooges, one more time.
4. And one lovable literary stooge who never played it safe was underground poet d. a. levy. I was happy to walk into Barnes and Noble recently and see, next to all those coffeetable books, the first trade edition collection of his works: ' The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail: The Art and Poetry of d. a. levy,' edited by Mike Golden. This guy was weird and a true original -- check this shit out.
Morphine - Kerouac (original piece)
Lydia Lunch - Bowery Blues
Michael Stipe - My Gang
Steven Tyler - Unpublished dream: "Us kids swim off a gray pier..."
Hunter S. Thompson- Ode To Jack (original piece)
Maggie Estep & the Spitters - Skid Row Wine
Richard Lewis - Unpublished essay: America's New Trinity of Love: Dean, Brando, Presley
Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Helium - Unpublished dream: "On a sunny afternoon..."
Jack Kerouac & Joe Strummer - MacDougal Street Blues, Cantos Dos
Allen Ginsberg - Unpublished: Brooklyn Bridge Blues (Choruses 1-9)
Eddie Vedder & Hovercraft - Hymn
William Burroughs & Tomandandy - Old Western Movies
Juliana Hatfield - Silly Goofball Pomes
John Cale - The Moon
Johnny Depp & Come - Visions Of Cody (excerpt): "Madroad driving..."
Robert Hunter - Visions Of Cody (excerpt): "Around the poolhalls of Denver"
Lee Ranaldo & Dana Colley - Letter to John Clellon Holmes
Anna Domino - Pome On Doctor Sax
Hitchhiker - Mexico Rooftop (excerpt)
Patti Smith with Thurston Moore & Lenny Kaye - The Last Hotel
Warren Zevon & Michael Wolff - Running Through - Chinese Poem Song
Jim Carroll with Lee Ranaldo, Lenny Kaye & Anton Sanco - Woman
Matt Dillon - Mexican Loneliness
Inger Lorre & Jeff Buckley - Angel Mine
Eric Andersen - Brooklyn Bridge Blues (Chorus 10)
2. I really feel like a part of Beat history now. Steve Silberman, an editor at HotWired, interviewed Allen Ginsberg online a couple of weeks ago, and after the interview made Allen sit through his first-ever tour of the World Wide Web. Now, I've known for a while that in Allen's personal pantheon computers stand somewhere between Central American CIA operatives and stale bagels with week-old lox ... but I've always wondered how he would react to my site if he saw it. Well, Literary Kicks was the first site Steve took him to, and you can read about the experience in Steve's intro to the transcript of the HotWired chat session.
3. "A Coney Island of the Mind," Lawrence Ferlinghetti's collection of poems, has long been one of the most popular books of Beat writing. Soon, I hear, there will be a follow-up volume, beguilingly titled "A Far Rockaway of the Heart". Since Far Rockaway is in my hometown of Queens, I'm particularly pleased by this ...
4. There are several new Beat Generation sites on the web, and while I'm still struggling with time limitations in terms of checking out and linking to all the worthy sites out there, I've tried to keep a fairly up-to-date list on my Beat Generation page. Some notable links I've added or updated lately: David Eads' How To Speak Hip, Robert Cecil's Beat site, and Christopher Ritter's impressive Bohemian Ink. There's also a new 1997 Dharma Beats roster -- this is part of the Cosmic Baseball Association, one of the more charming and unusual sites on the web. Enjoy ... and happy new year, everybody.
2. Several new Kerouac books are out. "Angelheaded Hipster" by Steve Turner includes many never-before-seen photos. Ken McGoogan's "Kerouac's Ghost" is a fictional treatment of Jack's life, literally narrated by Jack's ghost. I haven't seen this one yet, but I've heard about it and it sounds interestingly odd. There's a fairly scholarly treatment of Jack's fiction by Tim Hunt called "Kerouac's Crooked Road." Finally, Mind In Motion, which made the Kerouac ROMnibus CD-Rom that came out about a year ago, is now selling the CD-Rom directly via the web, and has created a good new website featuring extensive samples from it. Could be a cool Christmas present for someone.
How long will the Beat-book glut continue? I don't know, but I hope we'll continue to see original and ground-breaking treatments, like the "Women of the Beat Generation" book I mentioned several weeks ago (see below), and fewer rehashes of the basic facts. I'm quite certain the "commercialization of Beatness" is now at an all-time high. Oh well ... when the fad passes, I'll still be here.
3. Life's been crazy this month. Which is nothing new. I'm working on a couple of web-fiction-related projects that will hopefully be coming out in the first half of '97 -- one of them a book, and one a CD-Rom. To the many people who've sent me email that I've taken a ridiculously long time to write back to -- sorry I'm so slow, but please don't stop writing. I love getting interesting mails ... I just have trouble sometimes clearing my brain of other stuff enough to compose intelligent replies. And I don't want to just write back with "Thanks for your kind words" like I hear other webmasters sometimes do. So bear with me please ... and if I seem to have lost your mail entirely (this *almost* never happens) please do give me another chance.