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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Full Service" by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg

"Full Service" indeed.  Scotty Bowers memoir is the not-so-secret of the sexual lives of the cinema famous and the great.  Gossip is an important social function in the world, and "Full Service" is not afraid to go into that territory.  And being a visitor, by reading this book, I find it really interesting.  I am always fascinated with the image more than the truth.  One of the reasons why I like the cinema is the fact that dreams are being projected on a screen - and i never really was (or is) concerned what is real or not real.

So with that in mind I have no reason to doubt Bowers tales in this book.  I am more interested in another shadow world where desire leads to adventures.  And what I got from this book is not the actual sex acts - plenty of that - but the fact that it was a world that was full of secrets - and secrets are very very seductive.  So one should dip into "Full Service" as not as if it was true or not (does that really matter) but the fact that one can go into Scotty Bowers world with a full appreciation of a life that was well-designed and in many ways beautiful.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Proud Beggars" by Albert Cossery

A beautiful and very young prostitute gets killed in the beginning of “Proud Beggars” which sets off a journey of self-discovery. Also everyone is likable, including the young girl's murderer. Welcome to the world of Albert Cossery!

The narrative takes place in what we believe is in Egypt – perhaps Cairo? Cossery is from the Middle-East but lived in Paris most of his life. A hardcore member of the St-Germain crowd, Cossery is a writer of incredible charm, that is full of poison. What is fascinating is that via this novel we enter into a world of beggars – where it is not only a choice for some, but a desired lifestyle. Poverty worn as a sign of pride. Of course there is anxiety in knowing where one is going to sleep that night, or where the next meal will come from (if any at all), but the sense of freedom that goes with the lifestyle is the addiction where these characters roam with great joy.

Albert Cossery

The detective who is investigating the murder, is a closeted homosexual who is deeply attracted to the people he's after. A strange dance or chess game with all the characters who are expressing a certain school of existentialism – Cossery, as a writer, has the knack of expressing a culture in a light hearted way but again, with a sense of great wit, and this book is a very dark comedy. The murder was committed with no real purpose, which is shocking, but what is more shocking is how the characters react to the crime. A very strange book in that sense and it reminds me a bit of Paul Bowles' work. Maybe because its a strange culture to me, but the surrealism of the scenery and the joy that the beggars (at least the main characters) have with life is kind of upsetting. This is another remarkable novel by a great writer.

Albert Cossery

Albert Cossery

The Dandy Albert Cossery

Monday, March 12, 2012

Writer Jean Genet's great little film

Jean Genet

"Indescribable, by his own design. As he writes:

'The mechanism was somewhat as follows. (I have used it since). To every charge brought against me, unjust though it be, from the bottom of my heart I shall answer yes. Hardly had I uttered the word -- or the phrase signifying it -- than I felt within me the need to become what I had been accused of being . . . I owned to being the coward, traitor, thief and fairy they saw in me.' -- The Thief's Journal

He is the ultimate, little eros machine."


Book Soup carries most of his novels and plays, but Our Lady of the Flowers, The Thief's Journal, and Prisoner of Love are good introductions to his work.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Diane Williams

Diane Williams is the literary daughter of Gertrude Stein and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and the more eccentric (which is saying something) literary sister of Lydia Davis.

We carry three of her books. Vicky Swanky is a Beauty, published in a beautiful hardcover by McSweeney's, is her latest and easiest to find. We also carry Romancer Erector and Excitability, which are more difficult to find, and therefore, a bit more exciting. Excitability, in particular, is interesting because it's an earlier collection, and she's not as solidified in her opaque style. She's finding her way to it, which is fascinating to observe, and then to experience in full force in Vicky Swanky and Romancer.

She's not for everyone, but if she's for you, you will love her. For me, it's the closest that prose comes to poetry, the kind of poetry that comes the closest to music, communicating a mood or a feeling in a way that transcends words. Her writing defies explanation, which you can gather by a quick glance at her blurbs, as the reviewers vaguely but enthusiastically endorse her. In light of this, I've included a story from "Excitability" below, which I think is a pretty good example of what she's all about:


How it was in the aftermath of it, was that her body was in the world, not how it had ever been in the world before, in her little room or in their rooms--the people who own the rooms--or at least were managing the rooms, their hallways, or the stairwell, which was not hers either, that she went through and through and through. A man laughed at her for what she had said, and then someone had brought her to this bed.
She looked at the bed stacked high with so many coats, and she decided, It all stops here.
She was clearing up to be helpful before she left, steering herself, when she saw her purse go flying and then it fell down into a corner.
She was down too, walloped by a blow, by some man, and she thought, I understand. She thought, This is easy. She thought, it's as easy as my first fuck. She had opened up so wide.
In the street, crossing to go home, her purse swung on her arm by its strap. She thought the dark air was so soft to walk through.
And for all that the girl knew there had not been a jot on her when she looked--no proof JACK WAS HERE! on her skin in red and in bright green ink, with any exclamation she could see, about them doing things, or about any one of them being of the opinion that her tits sucked.
And for the rest of her life, the girl, the woman, she never made a mark on anyone either that proved anything absolutely for certain, that she could ever see, about what she had done at any time, and this does not break her heart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"The Inertia Variations" by John Tottenham

I stumbled across John Tottenham's book of poetry during a fit of procrastination-induced depression. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the three selves--self-loathing, self-doubt, and self-indulgence--and this seemed like fate. This book, by perfectly and wittily articulating my angst, freed me from it. For now.

Poems such as:

The Challenge

If I am not doing the work
That for some obscurely grasped reason
I believe it is my duty to perform,
Then I cannot, in its place,
Allow myself to do anything else
That is pleasurable or productive.
The main challenge, ultimately,
Is not to fall asleep during the afternoon.


I may as well face the fact
That I am no longer capable
Of doing what I once believed
I was capable of doing.
Not that I had any reason to assume
That I was capable of it.
It was just a feeling that I had.
And now I have a different feeling.

If you think you can't relate to poetry, this is the book of poetry for you. If you are a writer, artist, creative individual, or any other type of human being, this is the book of poetry for you. If you take naps, this is the book of poetry for you.

Mr. Tottenham is a local poet, and he's roused himself up off of his sofa long enough to sign a few copies for us.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Scamp" by Roland Camberton

Slowly but very seriously reading every novel that takes place in Soho London, and "Scamp" by the mysterious Roland Camberton is one of the best.  Written and published in 1950, this novel tells the tale of a 30 year old who is pinning a lot of hopes on a new literary journal he wants to start called Scamp.  But of course he has to raise the money as well as get the writers - and here we have an incredible snapshot of Boho London as well as a London still affected by the war.

The beauty of this book is not really its plotting but its sense of place and time.  Camberton is a wonderful observer of London life and people just barely making it.  One Soho bar or coffee (cafe) after another - you can basically taste the lukewarm weak tea and the even warmer beer off the page.  What makes it for me is Camberton's take on this world - slightly mocking towards its subject matters - but still you get a full understanding what makes these citizens of Soho tick.

Portrait of Roland Camberton by Julia Rushbury

The original and current cover for "Scamp" by John Minton
As usual, when you get a Iain Sinclair introduction, that makes the book a must.  And this new press that seems to be devoted to one of my favorite subjects - London circ. 1950's is a sign of superb editorship.  New London Editions is the press and the three other titles I have read so far - makes this an exciting discovery.