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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Osamu Dazai's "Schoolgirl"

Whenever i put pen on to a paper or I type words I think of Osamu Dazai.   The craft of his writing with the mixture of his character equals a major influence on me, and I suspect on contemporary Japanese literature as well.  For instance, Mishima's major influence was Dazai.  Well, sort of.  He didn't want to be a Dazai, in fact, he hated his work.   But the truth is hatred of Dazai's character and work was a sign of love and respect to the great decadent literary figure - and Dazai was extremely decadent in the Japanese context.   Drinker, womanizer, cad, drug addict, and extremely handsome - and a writing talent that is extremely superb.  Dazai is one unique writer, and a day doesn't go by where I don't think about him.  Hmm, perhaps this is really an obsession on my part, but let's put that aside for the moment.

"Schoolgirl" is a snapshot of the day in the life of a young girl, with her inner thoughts, her 'childish' impressions mixed in with great awareness of her world.   It reads like a narrative poem, with some quiet beautiful moments, but with a 'punk' attitude.  Well, punk attitude in 1939 Tokyo!  You can smell the coming disaster in these pages, and they a writer/poet can smell the culture as it happens - and Dazai is one of those writers who for sure knew how the wind was blowing at the time of his writings.  This small book is under a 100 pages, but it hits hard like a heavyweight fighter.  One of the great writers of the 20th Century, and "Schoolgirl" is small in size, but huge as a classic piece of literature.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Secret Historian" by Samuel Steward

A remarkable world that Samuel Steward lived in.   A collage professor turned tattoo artist who also happened to be a great sex adventurer - Justin Spring really captures the underground world of Gay sexuality and life in the 20th Century.   But for that we have to be thankful for Steward's zeal for keeping track on all his sexual adventures.  Steward built up an erotic museum of sorts - and this gentleman of pleasure is a wonderful figure in Gay social history.  Essential read for anyone who is interested in the counter-culture and the sexual world via the world of Hustlers and tattoo artistry.  And now I have this incredible urge to read his "Phil Andros" novels.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"The Story of The The Kinks: You Really Got Me" by Nick Hasted

The Kinks couldn't do no wrong from 1963 till the early 1970's. By all means and reason they were my favorite band. With Ray Davies, one had a writer that was up there with Cole Porter and (more likely) Noel Coward. In the early 70's I went to see the band whenever they came to Los Angeles - and the shows were more music hall than rock n' roll. Davies always came off to me as slightly like Laurence Olivier in the Entertainer. When you go into a Kinks album, it is very much of a world that doesn't exist anymore. Post-War England as re-imagined by The Kinks.

This is a very good biography by Nick Hasted on Ray, Dave Davies (the brother), Pete Quaife, and Mick Avory. Although in the big picture extremely successful, but in the miniature details a life full of doubt and pain. For whatever reasons the brothers can barely stand each other - and the other two musicians in the band had often suffered under their tortured relationship. Ray and Dave, raised in a house full of sisters, are very eccentric in their ways. Yet totally opposite in character. Dave dived into the world of London 60's and Ray stood by the side and caught it all on paper and music. If one was to get a book on the Kinks - this one is it.