"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fumihiko Maki

From Phaidon, Fumihiko Maki. Deceptively appearing simple in whole form, Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki creates sophisticated structures mixing collaged design elements with functionality, progressive technology, and a constant strive for modernity while thoughtfully relating the project to its physical surroundings and more recently, its global impact. Compared to his numerous works throughout Japan, Maki has designed a limited number of structures within the United States (Kemper Art Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts), but will soon invade New York City with a 13 story mixed-use tower in Cooper Square, a prominent seat on New York City’s skyline with the planned World Trade Center Tower 4, and a recently completed expansion project for the United Nations.

Fumihiko Maki travels through three phases of Maki’s 50-year career: The first period labeled his “formative years” including his training at university, the birth of his practice Maki & Associates, and his time as faculty member at the School of the Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Next, the two decades (1970-1990) in which Maki grew into his signature modernist form of expression, and lastly, Maki today - in the dawn of the 21st century and in the face of global warming and globalization. What’s wonderful about this book is that it’s authored by the architect… and as a current professor of architectural studies at Keio University in Japan, the reader is no less his student. In his own succinct words, Maki thoughtfully reflects on a select forty-four projects alongside stunning photographs, models, drawings, and supplemental essays from architecture historians Kenneth Frampton, David Stewart, and Mark Mulligan. (320 pages, hardcover).

Highlights: Fujisawa Minicipal Gymnasium (Fujisawa, Japan), Mihara Performing Arts Centre (Hiroshima, Japan), Republic Polytechnic Campus (Woodlands, Singapore), and the in-progress Aga Khan Museum (Ontario, Canada) and World Trade Center Tower 4 (New York City, United States).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gil J Wolman's "I Am Immortal and Alive"

Remarkable find in my very own bookstore! Gil J. Wolman was a member of the Letterist International and an associate of the Situationist International -till Guy Debord decided to eliminate him from the group. According to this catalog no one is really sure why that happened. It seems like Wolman was liked by everyone - and that alone may have pissed Debord off!

Nevertheless, and beyond his social activities with various European 20th Century art movements, Wolman made some remarkable art. Mostly collages that he termed "Scotch (after the tape) Art and works with various forms of text. "I am Immortal and Alive" is a catalog to a show that is now taking place in Barcelona. If it is like this catalog, then the show has to be a real beauty as well as a document on a fascinating artist and his time and placement in contemporary art.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Simon Reynolds' "Totally Wired"

Not only did Simon Reynolds wrote the ultimate history of Post-Punk, but maybe the only one? Nevertheless "Totally Wired" is a perfect brother or sister to his "Rip It Up." Basically a collection of interviews with the key players of Post-Punk - all British except for David Thomas, Lydia Lunch, and the great James Chance/White.

The subject matter of both books are interesting, but what makes it really shine is Reynolds intelligence and asking the right question to the right person. All interviewees are superb, intelligent, the cloudy area of early 80's music is given much deserved focus. Meaning groups like Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd, Slits, etc. It was an exciting time for music because Punk opened up the door, but who did what and how once that door was opened is an interesting subject matter. For me as a listener it was a paradise of sorts with beautiful graphics and wonderful fashion.

But beyond that was heavy thinking, heavy fun, and weird beautiful recordings. Post-Punk is a huge canvas and Reynolds does a good job in covering the major thinkers and stars and almost stars. I wished there was something on my favorite, Cowboys International, but alas, another book perhaps.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Yves Klein by himself

With a recent surge of Yves Klein books on the market, this 4.5x7.5" leather bound book from Klein scholar Klaus Ottmann stands apart with its attempt to emulate Roland Barthes' 1954 essay on French historian Jules Michelet and his "organized network of obsessions". Condensing texts and the ideas that inspired Klein intermingled with biographical facts, YVES KLEIN by himself (Editions Dilecta) takes a comprehensive look into the philosophical sentiments of one of the most influential artists to come out of the post-war period.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Robert Westerby's "Wide Boys Never Work"

Right now, London Books Classic is putting out important books. And of course for those who know me, the work they are putting out is from the past. Which sounds like i have no interest in the present, which....is basically true - but on the other hand...

"Wide Boys Never Work" was written in the late 1930's and it is about a troubled youth who runs off to London to become something, that he can't be in his home town. What he finds there is sort of a paradise where you can make a new identity among the thugs of Soho, London. And saying that there are numerous colorful characters in this novel, but for sure the main character is London itself.

A Wide Boy is a term meaning gang kid or criminal. And it is in this world where the main character finds himself in a pleasurable light - although that world has a lot of danger, it still appeals to his sense of identity. also of interest is the Homosexual element in the gang world which is expressed quite well in this novel. Jimmy, the main character, is not gay, but through his boss witnesses another world that he wasn't aware of.

Iain Sinclair for this book wrote a magnificent introduction as well as a strange afterword, yet it fits in the package quite well. London Books Classic is a press that focuses on London as a magnet to wonderful mysteries and situations. "Wide Boys Never Work" is a classic London Noir book and I strongly recommend those who are interested in London the city as well as its dark culture.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Night and the City" by Gerald Kersh

"Night and the City" is pretty amazing on different levels. On one end I don't think its a great novel, but as a portrait of a time, place, and a certain type of character it's totally ace. Written in 1938 and mostly taking place in Soho London it is a snapshot of a group of hustlers trying to stay above the water-line of sorts.

The main character is Harry Fabian, who for god knows, should be a major iconic fiction figure. But alas, what we have here is a pimp who lives his life in a certain amount of fantasy. No self-control, not that bright, but at least he has the talent of a hustler, but hustles in small steps instead of a larger plan. And yes, he does have a large plan of opening up a wrestling ring/club, but he also a man of very little talent.

The fun part of the book is knowing that he will hit downward, but how? The big character in the book is West London and its citizens. Along with Fabian we get Helen's road to ruin as well Phil Nosseross, the British Pound counting nightclub boss. Remarkable book and an amazing new press out of the UK : London Books Classic.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pierre Cardin: 60 Years of Innovation

To honor this year's 60th anniversary of Italian-born French designer Pierre Cardin, a retrospective from Assouline Publishing released this past February. Authored by Jean-Pascal Hesse, director of communications at the Cardin fashion house and conseiller d'arrondissement for the City of Paris, this 200 page hardcover takes a look inside a groundbreaking career and the history of a futurist: "My favorite garment is the one I invent for a life that does not yet exist, the world of tomorrow." (Pierre Cardin)

August 28 @ The Echo: Lit Crawl 2: It's a F*cking Read-Off

Be sure to check out "Lit Crawl 2: It's a F*cking Read-Off" @ The Echo in Los Angeles August 28th (brought to you by PEN Center USA & Stories) with MCs Laurie Ochoa & Joe Donnelly (editors of SLAKE) plus Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times. Competing in the read-off? James Greer, Joseph Mattson, Allison Burnett, Katie Arnoldi, Dennis Danziger, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Samantha Dunn, Edan Lepucki, Graham Moore, Neal Pollack & Rachel Resnick... Rowdy judges, 8 minute compositions, screaming & yelling, booze = "I'm attending".

For more info, be sure to visit the event's website: http://litcrawlla.com/

Super Fun Real Book Event

So I can't say that I have read Gary Shteyngart's new book, Super Sad True Love Story (follow the link in the title of this blog for the New York Times review), though it is in my short stack of books next to my bed of books to read as soon as I finish the handful that I'm reading now. I can say however, what big fans of Shteyngart we here at Book Soup are. And I can say that I personally find his take on ubiquitous ebooks debate rather apt.

Two nights ago, at the Skirball Cultural Center, Shteyngart had the audience in stitches while reading from his new book. And as the line of people waiting to get their books signed stretched through the lobby a funny thing happened, as you can see in the picture above (photo by Bonnie Perkinson). A savvy young woman had Shteyngart sign her iPad.....and not the back of it, but the screen where the full title page was fully displayed. Apparently, this is not the first time he's signed an eReader. He laughed about it, signed the screen and moved on.

There was something about this action that I just loved, that a woman would allow the screen of an expensive electronic to be signed in permanent marker, that Shteyngart would laugh about his book about, among other things, the obsolescence of books and the proliferation of ebooks being read as an eBook.

Needless to say, it was a great event and one I won't soon forget.

Happy Reading,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Donna Santisi: Q&A

From Kill Your Idols, Inc: Ask the Angels: Photographs by Donna Santisi, a re-issue of a highly sought-after piece of punk history... Originally published by Marcy Blaustein in 1978 with comb-binding, Ask the Angels takes the crown as one of the first books to ever document the early L.A. punk scene. 2010's Ask The Angels has been expanded and supplemented with essays by Alice Bag, Kristian Hoffman, Exene Cervenka, Trudie Arguelles, KK Barrett, and includes a foreword by the late, great Brendan Mullen (owner & operator of the infamous LA punk venue, the Masque). Donna Santisi will be at Book Soup Thursday August 12 to sign the re-issue and we were lucky enough to conduct a small Q&A with her in conjunction. Read on to learn about what first brought Santisi to Los Angeles, the first time she met Patti Smith, and which photographs are among her favorites. One can pre-order a signed copy of Ask the Angels here

Your first camera...?
My first camera was a Mamiya/Sekor 500DTL. My friend in college had one and I really loved the feel of it. I had seen Janis Joplin several times and I was so inspired by her power and emotion. I wanted to capture that so in 1969, I purchased my own.

Those are beautiful cameras. Very substantial. Is most of your work in Ask The Angels shot on the Mamiya/Sekor 500DTL? Or were you one to shoot on varying camera models?
All of the images in Ask The Angels were shot with my Mamiya/Sekor 500DTL. I used it exclusively until 1983 until it was stolen from my apartment.

Have you gone digital in the last handful of years? Is the digital format something you enjoy working with?
I was reluctant to go digital. Then, after I had breast cancer in 2005, I began to notice all the beauty around me in nature. I decided to try something new and bought myself a Nikon D70S. I was amazed at the quality of the images. Also, it was great to see the results immediately - to not have to wait for the proofsheets. I still have my Nikon N90S, but I find myself using it less and less.

Was there anything or anyone in particular that drew you to the late 70's punk scene in Los Angeles?
Patti Smith. 'Horses' was a mind-blowing revelation. The music was like nothing I'd heard before and Robert Mapplethorpe's image of Patti on the cover - it was very inspiring. I saw Patti perform and I immediately knew that I had to document this extraordinary time. I bought a ticket for the following night, grabbed my camera and never looked back.

Patti's incredible. Have you seen Land250? Properly titled after the Polaroid Land 250 used throughout the book, it includes a ton of her photographs, sketches, poetry, etc... It's quite amazing. You did get the chance to shoot her, yes? When and where did that take place? And what was that meeting like? Meeting someone who has such a profound effect on your artistic development...
In 2008, Fondation Cartier in Paris had a major solo exhibition of Patti's visual works called "Land250". I was fortunate enough to go to Paris and see her photographs and drawings. It was remarkable. I have been photographing Patti since 1975. I met Patti just a few days after photographing her in concert. I actually ran into her in a coffee shop and happened to have the photos with me. Patti asked if she could take the photos. About a month later, in Tower Records, I picked up Back Door Man because Patti was on the cover. As I flipped through, I discovered that Patti had given my photographs to the interviewer and my work was published for the first time! The last time that I photographed Patti was 4/21/10 when she received ASCAP's Founders Award.

Ask The Angels was published in 1978, and by all accounts, it seems to be one of the first books published to ever document the Los Angeles New Wave and early punk rock scene. What was the initial intent for the book? To document your friends? To be sold locally? Or were your expectations more grand?
Ask The Angels was published by my friend Marcy Blaustein. Marcy thought that it would be an interesting project. She liked my photos and thought others might like them too. I saw it as a way to document what was going on in the LA scene. I felt it was important for people to know about these incredible bands and the impact they were having. Initially we put the book out because of our interest. We didn't know if or how much reception there might be on the part of others. It was solely about the project and what it meant to us more than any ideas of grandeur. When we completed it, Ask The Angels was offered locally in record and book stores.

Were you surprised by the cult status it has taken on since 1978?
Yes, I'm very surprised. But, by the same token, I can understand. It was such a special time. For me, Ask The Angels was like a yearbook.

The book includes a foreword by Masque founder & owner, Brendan Mullen. At what point in putting this book together did Mullen pass? And how has his passing affected the final outcome and/or your feelings on the re-release?
Brendan passed right before the final edit. He had written a piece for the book. As a tribute to him, we decided that we would use his text as the foreward.

In your career, you've captured some incredibly raw moments on stage... What do you find to be the most important factor in obtaining a great on-stage photo?
First, patience. I wait for the moment to evolve. I don't start snapping when the artist takes the stage. I'm very selective... And second, the connection I feel to the music and then capturing that moment.

Which photos in Ask The Angels count as your favorites and why?
First, Patti Smith cradling her guitar. To me, it encapsulates what it is to be a musician. Second & third, Hellin and Trudie and Chip Kinman of the Dils. These two photos really capture what the LA punk scene was like. Fourth, Patti Smith with violin. It brings back great memories of hanging out at the Tropicana with Patti, her manager Jane Friedman, and her band. [And lastly,] Stiv Bators with Tish and Snooky. It is a fun remembrance of a very happy day.


Whether you're an "original" Poison fan or are growing up today alongside "Rock of Love" on VH1, you might be interested to know that author Christopher Long will be in the building tonight discussing his new book, A Shot of Poison! Curious about what happened behind-the-scenes and in the Poison tour bus? Power plays, jealousy, & strange, reclusive behavior is what. Poison fans, prepare to be shocked! 7:00pm @ Book Soup tonight!

Preorder a signed copy of A Shot of Poison here