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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Why A Man Should Be Well-Dressed" by Adolf Loos

This book is not only about men's attire, but also the Vienna mindset from the author and great visionary architect Adolf Loos.  The structure of Austria's class system has a lot to do with how people dressed during the turn of the 19th into the 20th Century.  What's charming (and this book is nothing but charming) is Loos' writing style which seems to be geared for the fashion magazine of its time.   One thing that comes through is that Loos knows his landscape, and he knows how that landscape should look - so its natural for an architect to be also interested in clothing, because clothing is another form of architecture.   So what's fascinating about this book is not the subject matter itself, but how such an interesting man, a great designer, looks at the world of fashion and fabric.  And yes, a must for the dandy's book collection, without a doubt!

Adolf Loos

Friday, November 25, 2011

"No Longer Human" by Usamaru Furuya (based on Osamu Dazai's novel)

It has been a Usamaru Furuya month for me, since I read "Lychee Light Club early this month. And I liked it a lot - but this is really my cup of sake. "No Longer Human" is a classic and great Osamu Dazai novel, and Furuya does a good job in updating the story (slightly). 

A story of a wealthy young teenager who had everything but quickly loses it due to feelings of severe alienation. Yes, it could be a Who rock opera concept, but in the hands of Dazai its a poetic downsizing of a character slowly losing his sense of identity. His only hope really is becoming a writer. And the book (and graphic novel) is based on Dazai's personal life. I discovered this writer while living in Japan, and at the time (and still does to be honest) makes perfect sense to me. Whenever I write something I think of Dazai first. And its interesting Furuya has taken on this novel as a graphic piece of narration. His work is super great and sophisticated.  "No Longer Human" is a three part series. I can't wait till volume 2

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"The Doors" by Greil Marcus

"The Doors" by Greil Marcus

Reading Greil Marcus is always a pleasure.  And its the reason why I am reading this particular book, because I really don't have a passion for the Doors or their imagery.  But on the other hand they are a band that's important to my personal culture.  Being raised in Los Angeles, I saw the Doors at the Whiskey, opening for Them with Van (the other) Morrison.   It may have been the first show in a club, not sure.  My mind I was around 12, but I think i was actually 14.   Nevertheless I went there with my Dad to see Them, and the Doors was a superb surprise.  I think it may have been before their first album was released, but I remember being really impressed with Jim Morrison's voice. It sooth as well as rocked.  And there was something quite personal in the way they communicated with their audience in the club.  On the other hand, Them was very cold and cool.  Not a bad thing mind you, but totally the opposite of the Doors.

The next I saw the Doors it was at an outside concert - and I thought they were boring.  They didn't have that concentration or the force of their show at the Whiskey.  And at this time it was around the height of "Light My Fire."  But the magic was gone, at least to my young ears at the time.

The other times were non-musical  - but I remember being invited (with my Dad) to the back stage of the first Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young show at the Greek theater, and as we were walking to the entrance of the backstage, Morrison was being escorted out by a security guard.  Then all of sudden Stills shows up and tells the security guard to let Morrison stay.  And that was my memory of the evening!  The next time after that I saw him in Topanga Canyon, drinking beer in a brown bag behind a wheel of a parked Volkswagon bug.  Of course all of above could have just been a dream, but....

But back to the book, Marcus uses the Doors' culture and music as a springboard on his thoughts on 1960's American culture.  its basicially a long riff how culture and band connects and makes commentary on to each other.  Marcus is writing this book as not only a fan (and he's a very critical fan) but also the state of the world via the eyes of Jim Morrison and Co.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dennis Cooper's "The Marbled Swarm"

A very beautifully layered novel that one can almost taste the narrative. Considering it deals with cannibalism among other things this may not be your type of flavor - but it is an essential read by one of the great English language writers alive. What strikes me about the novel for me personally is the jaded aristocratic voice that runs through it. All of Dennis Cooper's novels have a strong visual sense - and usually with the minimal language. "The Marbled Swarm" is different because the text is so dense and beautifully spread out - that its just a joy to go over the sentences over and over again. It has its own music, and the images that come from the "music" is both funny and highly poetic.

A lot of people will probably react to the violence and sex, but to me in the hands of M. Cooper its a beautiful instrument that plays a haunting melody. In about six months i am going to re-read this book - not only for the pleasure of the text, but also to dig into the narrative that is as twisted as the secret tunnels that are featured in this novel.