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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: The Conference of the Birds

The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis
Another beautiful, beautiful book -- a graphic adaption of a very old Sufi folktale, in which a group of birds undertake an epic journey to find their king. Though Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam, this parable about the search for God could and should be looked at through a philosophical as well as spiritual lens. Peter Sis is an award-winning children's book illustrator and his talents are on full, glorious display here. Put that in your Kindle and smoke it!

- Emily

Staff Gift Recommendations: Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fall-Out by Lauren Redniss
One of the most unique books in the store. A graphic biography of the famous scientists that celebrates their romance and life's work with every detail, down to the glow-in-the-dark cover (get it?). The pages are printed using a method called cyanotype, which produces vibrant, colorful images that fade with extended exposure to light and restore themselves when covered. The author's love for and dedication to her subject matter bursts from the page-- she invented her own typeface and even included gravestone rubbings. This book proves that Kindles could never replace books.

- Emily

Staff Gift Recommendations: Crass 1977-1984

Crass 1977-1984
For the music historian in your life - A look back on one of the greatest independent punk labels that ever was, Crass Records. From Andrew Roth's PPP Editions, Crass 1977-1984 : A large folio, bagged in mylar, exhibiting fifty-one pieces of Crass Records ephemera from the collection of punk archivist Toby Mott. If unfamiliar, Crass Records was extraordinary in its attempts and intention to politically move and affect society through carefully planned multi-media. Incorporating literature, film, music, and the now-iconic work of artist Gee Vaucher, in just eight short years, Crass Records left a legacy that's unlike anything else in music history.

- Rebekah

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: The Fifty Year Sword

The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Danielewski (Signed!)

Fans of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Only Revolutions, and The Whalestoe Letters rejoice! While you’re waiting for Danielewski’s much-anticipated serial novel, The Familiar due out in 2014, we have a treat for you: 14 signed copies of Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword! This extraordinary novella from 2005 is yet to be published in the U.S. and hasn’t been available in U.S. bookstores, but we have copies and they’re signed, and if you’re not familiar with this book, it’s beautiful. Illustrated with drawings by Peter van Sambeek, this is essentially a ghost story, but one clearly of Danielewski’s unique imagination and lyrical prose.

Great gift for Danielewski fans, House of Leaves fans, graphic novel fans, fans of ghost stories, and people who know a great book when they see it.

Treat yourself or make someone else very, very happy.

You can pick one up through our website here, in-store, or by calling Book Soup at (310) 659-3110

Staff Gift Recommendations: I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan

I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan
by Alan Partridge

At last! The true story of UK's greatest DJ and talk host. Here, Partridge - with great honesty and a bit of wit - writes about the down and down of his world. Oh, and he's a pal of Steve Coogan.

- Tosh

Staff Gift Recommendations: Republic Lost

Republic Lost
by Lawrence Lessig

A must-read expose for the politically inclined or the politically apathetic. Lessig doesn't blame the average American for having given up on the political process, because that process is broken. He even provides suggestions for how we can solve the main issue in American politics, the undue influence that is allowed to corporations by a "government of the people, by the people, for the people". Only once that problem is solved can we hope to make meaningful changes, whatever we think those changes should be.

- Kate

Staff Gift Recommendations: Speaking In Tongues: Wallace Berman & Robert Heinecken

Speaking In Tongues: Wallace Berman & Robert Heinecken by Sam Mellon & Claudia Bohn-Spector
The companion piece to the wonderful Wallace Berman & Robert Heinecken exhibition taking place at Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts. Curators Sam Mellon & Claudia Bohn-Spector investigate the lasting effect both Berman & Heinecken have had on the world of photography - as well as the special bond between the two. A gorgeous design job, perfectly packaged and limited to 1,000 - and close to sold-out. Pick one up before they're gone.

- Rebekah

Staff Gift Recommendations: Diary of a Rock 'N' Roll Star

Diary of a Rock N Roll Star by Ian Hunter
One of the great classic rock 'n' roll memoirs is now back in print... in the UK, but we have it! Mott the Hoople's Hunter writes about being on the road with great wit, charm, and insight into the world of rock in 1972. Glam lives! (And Rebekah agrees).

- Tosh

Staff Gift Recommendations: Pilgrimage (Signed)

Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz
Totally new and different work from the classic photographer. Leibovitz concentrates on objects and homes of legendary figures such as Thoreau, Emerson and... Elvis. Strange, mysterious, and beautiful. Signed copies in stock!

- Tosh

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: Bad As Me

Tom Waits - Bad As Me
(Special Edition Lyrics Book and Bonus disc)
This is a must have for any fans of Mr. Waits and excellent music. The lyrics book comes with amazing photos and the bonus disc, while only containing three extra songs, makes the whole package. Grab it!

- David

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: Julius Shulman: Los Angeles

Julius Shulman: Los Angeles

by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods

No one captures the mid-century California dream like Julius Shulman. His photos bring modern architecture to life. So crisp, so inviting, you want to live in these photos! Give this to the Mad Men fan on your list and pour them a high ball too!


Staff Gift Recommendations: An Obscene Diary

An Obscene Diary: The Visual World Of Sam Steward

by Justin Spring and Sam Steward

This photo book supplements Spring's 2010 biography of Steward, a fascinating academic and tattoo artist who was practically a professional homosexual! Carefully cataloging his sexual conquests on index cards (his 'stud file'), Steward was essential to Alfred Kinsey in his sex research. He took photos too, dirty enough to make Tom of Finland blush!

- Dan

Staff Gift Recommendation: Los Angeles Denim Tote!

Denim Los Angeles Tote!
I love this bag! We also carry other versions in black and natural, but the denim is adorable. And stuffed with books it's a perfect gift!

- Paige

Staff Gift Recommendations: Paris to the Past

Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History By Train by Ina Caro
A brilliant gift for anyone with a love for history, Paris, architecture, French cuisine, and/or travel. If you have any intention of visiting France or have a loved one on their way, this will only enhance their experience...

Twenty-five one day train trips journeying through seven hundred years of French history alongside Ina Caro's spectacular and discerning eye for detail and splendor - A beautiful love story.


Staff Gift Recommendations: Sacrament

Sacrament by Clive Barker
There is one Clive Barker novel that is not in print in America: Sacrament. The reasons are inscrutable -- this is a crime. But, sly dogs that we are, we've managed to snag a couple of import copies. Sacrament is one of the man's best, and some believe it is his most personal. It's definitely worth your time, and it's the perfect gift for the discerning Barker/fantasy/horror fanatic.

- Manny

Staff Gift Recommendations: Street Boners

Street Boners By Gavin McInnes
This is a great book for the cynical bourgeois fashionista in your life. However, if you have a lot of people like this in your life, please reconsider your life choices.

- Dustin

Staff Gift Recommendations: Photographs A-Z & Never Any End To Paris

Photographers A-Z by Hans-Michael Koetzle
Koetzle's favorite and brief survey of the classic photo books of all time. With reproductions of the original layout - Oh, my, my, a classic!

Never Any End To Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas
What sounds like an iconic and cliche book about a foreigner going to Paris to write, becomes an awesome and twisted tale of European literature and its importance. Best novel of the year!

- Tosh

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: We The Animals

We The Animals
by Justin Torres

Did you love the deep family connection of Tree Of Life, but hate the dinosaurs? This debut novel whispers like the curtains of a dining room window left open in midsummer as three boys come of age in upstate New York. My favorite work of fiction this year.

- Dan

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: For Foodies & Chefs!

The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria by Ferran Adria
A graphic novel style cookbook by the world's most coveted modern chef. It isn't fussy but rather breezy and perfect for inspiring everyday meals for you and yours. I bought several for gifts. you may want to do the same.

Menu Design In America by Steven Heller, John Mariana, & Jim Heimann
Just right for those that "have everything" - This isn't a book that I would necessarily buy for myself but I would love it as a gift. Great for history lovers and fans of graphic arts.

- Ruth

Staff Gift Recommendations: I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics

I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics
Compiled by Ritch Shyder and Mark Schiff
Funny, dark - and like most road stories from comedians, probably about forty percent lies. Totally enthralling, couldn't put it down. Features stories from Larry David, Chris Rock, Mike Meyers, Joan Rivers, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Brett Butler, Jay Leno and tons more.

- Dustin

Staff Gift Recommendations: Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography

Believing Is Seeing:
Observations on the Mysteries of Photography

by Errol Morris

Errol Morris is a brilliant filmmaker, and this new book is a strange kind of detective story... By exploring the stories behind specific photographs, he asks if the pictures obscure as much as they reveal. A beautiful treasure.

- Paige

Monday, December 12, 2011

Staff Gift Recommendations: Hollywood Rat Race by Ed Wood, Jr.

Hollywood Rat Race by Ed Wood, Jr.
For the slightly tilted Hollywood fan on your holiday list, give Ed Wood, Jr.'s Hollywood Rat Race a look. It's a fascinating glance at the ins and outs of show biz life through the eyes of one of Hollywood's favorite punching bags. Wood has put together a bittersweet memoir, a love letter, a hate screed, and a surprisingly practical guide to the film world. Written in the inimitable Wood style, Hollywood Rat Race is sure to tickle any fan of the movies.

- Manny

Staff Gift Recommendations: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch

I know Twin Peaks hasn't been a "thing" in mainstream popular culture in some time, but that doesn't mean the devout fan base is any less rabid. The Secret Diary has been re-issued and makes the perfect companion gift for those amazing Twin Peaks Gold Box Sets, Lynch Coffee, The Blue Velvet Blu-ray, The David Lynch Lime Green Box Set, Crazy Clown Time (signed by Lynch) and the fantastic new big art book Works On Paper (Also singed). What fantastic maniac doesn't want all of this? & Book Soup carries them all.

- David

Staff Gift Recommendations: Love You Forever

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Pass on the message of unconditional love to a young tyke in your life! This book changed my life at four years old. My mother gave it to me for Christmas and I still have it to this day - beat & worn - and will forever cherish it.

For readers, ages 4 to 8. A tremendous gift with a powerful message that has the ability to touch a child's heart for a lifetime.

- Rebekah

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shiro Hamao's "The Devil's Disciple"

"eroguro-nansensu" or as they say in English "erotic grotesque nonesense" was a school of writing in 1920's Japan. Decadent, druggy, kinky, and...fun. The most famous writer in that movement without a leader was Edogawa Rampo (yes it is a play on the name Edgar Allen Poe) and Shiro Hamao. Hamao was a lawyer by trade from a very well connected family. He threw that life away to become a crime writer, and an early supporter of gay rights in Japan. Died young, yet a dandy, Hamao had it all. And we can be thankful for Hesperus publishing these two short novels "The Devil's Disciple" and "Did He Kill Him?" 
Both stories are pretty pulpy, but it drips with Asakusa 1920's life, and both have a gay sensual quality. Imagine Cocteau writing a gay noir detective story - and that is pretty much what is here. So yeah, not a masterpiece, but nevertheless a fascinating writer in a fascinating country in a very exciting series of moments. 
Both stories deal with seduction that leads to a crime - and no regrets! One can only hope shortly that there will be more Shiro Hamao stories in English.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ry Cooder's "Los Angeles Stories"

The stars are lined up perfectly for musicians who write books.  Some of my favorite books are by rock n' roll people i.e. Patti Smith's "Just kids," and Nick Cave's novels.   And now we have a superb collection of short stories by guitarist/songwriter Ry Cooder that deals with Los Angeles from 1940 to the mid-50's and its brilliant.  What you get is a series of snapshots of life in different neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and some of these places don't exist anymore - but yet they live via Cooder's writing.  After reading this book I wanted to rush off and locate volumes on Los Angeles history and its tall tales.
All narratives are strong, and very Noir in its approach and the way it looks at urban life.  Money is tight, the fear of communism is in the air, and more bad times are just around the corner - yet the eccentricity of the characters are incredibly endearing - even though they're very low-level criminal types or even murderers.  Nevertheless "Los Angeles Stories" is a classic of urban history research and fiction.   After each story and while reading them, I was consistently googling to see if they actually exist or not.  Some do and some don't and that's all part of the fun.   Essential!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Simon Reynolds' "Retromania"

I think "Retromania" is the best music book of the 21st Century so far.  But of course I am not including the great rock n' roll memoirs, but just talking about "music books" as a cultural thing.  And this is a very important book to me, with respect to how music fans react to pop in general.  If you are like me, a long term fan of pop music and its trends,  and you are middle-aged, one thing comes to mind.  There is nothing new happening in contemporary music.  In fact its a shocking fact.  If i get a buzz on something that's out there, more likely it came from the distant past - the 60's or 50's even.

Simon Reynolds doesn't have an answer for all of this, but he is the first writer of my generation to comment on how pop is just plain old.  And old is not really bad, but...its still old!  Reynolds even goes beyond music and into fashion as well.  His knowledge of pop culture is right on the dot, with respect to him focusing on various trends and readings on contemporary culture.  I also find his writings on the download culture fascinating.  And if you are a music fan, one can imagine that one is busy downloading as fast as they can, but more likely not hearing everything.  So therefore we're hording music instead of enjoying and thinking about music.  And is this a good thing?  Most say no, but habits are hard to break.

What i do know is that the shock of the new probably won't happen to me in my life time.  I remember certain records giving me that 'wow.  The Yardbirds double A single of "I'm a Man' and "Still I'm Sad."  The first Roxy Music album.  And the Kinks "Village Green Preservation Society."  The first listening of those records put me into the 'now.'   And that is what's missing in my listening life right now - the 'now' factor.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot" by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette

Superb.  Jacques Tardi adopted "The Prone Gunman" by Jean-Patrick Manchette and its splendid.  Without a doubt Manchette is my discovery of a new(ish) noir writer - and his stuff is pretty bleak, in a very French style of course.  Nevertheless the narrative is about a trained assassin who wants to quit his work, but alas can't.  He has a thing for Maria Callas and a tender heart - that is hidden from everyone, including himself.  But make no mistake he's a murderer. Tardi's illustrations are pretty perfect, and visually he tales the tale.  This is the second release in English of this dynamic dual.  One hopes that there are other titles lurking ahead or in one's drawer someplace in the latin Quarter.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Enrique Vila-Matas' "Never Any End To Paris"

A wonderful fine for me.  And to think of it, I only picked this book up because it had Paris in its title, and its published by New Directions.  Such a beautiful start, and the end is just as wonderful.   Enrique Vila-Matas' novel "Never Any End to Paris"  is for me a mediative and hysterical look at a writer and the writing Parisian writing world, that exists in real life, but also in one's imagination.
It reads like a memoir, and for all I know it is a memoir, but alas, one can see this as almost an early Jean-Luc Godard film.  Zillion of quotes, and literary & film references a go-go.  And that is part of he fun of this novel.
The main character is an obsessed Hemingway fan who may or may not be a talented writer.  And that in the end is not that important, what's the deal is the life one imagines.  Everyone from Boris Vian to Guy Debord come through these pages, and one can write an endless amount of footnotes if that was the need.  But alas, its a trip to a romantic notion of a writer drifting through Paris 20th century literary life.  It was sad to see this novel ending...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"People" by Blexbolex

The cover of "People' drove me to this book. At first it looks like a great kids book - and technically it is, but alas, there is something being said here that is not obvious. Typically Blexbolex draws an image of a music "conductor" but then on the opposite page, with the same held baton he draws a "tyrant." So one" starts to make comparisons between the two pages. Another example is an illustration "party goers" and the opposite page is "hermit." And so forth.

There is something very Jacques Tati about it all. It maybe due to the retro look of the book, but also the commentary on the images where one thinks there would be no commentary. "People" serves many purposes. It can be an excellent book for a second language reader, or for those who need graphic design ideas, or..... there is the textural meaning what it means to be labeled and filed in a specific manner and form. Blexbolex is working on many levels here and this is an excellent book.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

McKenzie Wark's "The Beach Beneath The Street"

Without a doubt one of the better books out there on the Situationist International. And come to think of it maybe the best overall history of the movement that wasn't really a movement at all. McKenzie Wark breaks down all the main characters in this world - and tells exactly what they contribute to the literature or the series of actions that makes up Guy Debord and his world. And speaking of Debord there are a lot of others who contribute to this living critique of our world. 

I am also happy that there is great mention of Boris Vian and even my Dad shows up on these pages. Especially the fascinating chapter on the Scottish writer and the man who was always in the right place, right time and even more important - the right people, Alexander Trocchi. This is very much an essential guide to the Situationists and all the by-products of their culture that came before and even after. And the cover turned poster - is a must as well!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jake Arnott's "Johnny Come Home"

At last! The first 70's glam rock novel. And by the wonderful London observer and stickler to details - Jake Arnott. Like Arnott's great London 60's crime novel "The Long Firm," "Johnny Come Home" takes an intense look into the music scene of London's glitter era. Johnny, is sort of based on Gary Glitter - but I don't think it is actually him, just image wise. But the narrative deals with a gay couple involved in radical politics as well as a woman who is in that world as well as getting involved with a glam-struck rent boy, who is basically supported by the Gary Glitter character.

The novel is pulpy, but it is also a great snapshot of London culture and Arnott has a great feel for that time and the Capital's damaged citizens. Essential rock n' roll read.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Arthur Rimbaud's "Illuminations" (translated by John Ashbery)

I think what's amazing here is that a magnificent American Poet John Ashbery at the age 83 (or something like that) translated the great poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, whose poems were written when he was in his teens. The ultimate teenage rebel icon touched by the grand poet of American letters, whose work is still controversial and has a bite. One wonders what took so long? 
The truth is in this book, well, kind of. Rimbaud will always be this cloud that floats above us. It is there to be captured and read, but can one ever own the feverish imagery of his poems? Rimbaud's work is in Ashbery's DNA by now. 'Illuminations' is one of those perfect books or even moments, and Ashbery captures the essence and flavor of Rimbaud's vision and words. Mega-important!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"David Bowie: Starman" by Paul Trynka

Two words, David Bowie. And its two words that i say to myself for the past 40 years or so. I wouldn't say I was obsessive about the man and his work, but for sure a fan. And I don't think he's a genius. I think he is a highly motivated hard worker who had to study his craft to become what he had become. Which, of course, is a great pop star - and an incredible singer. But also a wow gee songwriter. In other words he has the whole package. 
The theater world, the black american music world, the gay world, and of course the pure showbiz of it all that is one thing that separates Bowie from other rock artists - his love and respect for showbiz. He may grown to hate it, but he will never deny its special power over himself and his audience. 
My favorite part of the Bowie story is his young years trying to break into the pop music world. And he tried for at least 12 years before the Ziggy Stardust thing happened. No overnight success story here, but just a lot of hard work and hustling. And speaking of hustling, this bio really shines on the gay British pop music world of the early 60's. Bowie knew who was spreading the butter - and he played up to the expectations of that world. 
There are a lot of good books on Bowie and there will be more. But this is an exceptionally good biography on the man, and one still after reading it, wants to know more. And that is why he's a star.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"The Record Players: DJ REVOLUTIONARIES by Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton

Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's previous book "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" is probably one of the best music orientated books ever. The mighty two here goes into the culture of the DJ with all its subtitles and layers of what that means. "Last Night..." deals with the history of someone playing a recording for someone else - and therefore many sub-cultures were invented for this purpose. I think what was remarkable about this book is that I had very little interest in DJ Music. But then I read the history..... Oh man its interesting. And totally open to anyone who likes to read about pop culture history. Excellent book. 
And now we have their "The Record Players" and it too is fascinating, but it is a weaker book due that we don't have the dynamic narrative to go with it. Yet, who gives a shit. This is an essential group of interviews with important and very top DJ's. Everything from late 50's British DJ's to Techno and beyond. What is conveyed in this book is the love of the recording and its music. A lot of the key people are interviewed such as John Peel, Tom Moulton, Jimmy Savile (yes even him!), Frankie Knuckles, Afrika Bambaaataa, Francois Kevorkian, and so on. So yeah get "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" first, but then go to this one. One can smell the DJ Booth off the page.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Richard Prince's "American Prayer"

A collector to me is always someone who exposes him or herself via their obsession or collection.  Richard Prince is an artist who totally focuses on the importance of the image and how that image is used in various contexts.  So its fascinating how he takes on something so personal - in other words his book collection.  And it is a book collection to end all book collections.  He has many signed rare editions, but also loves the nature of the pulp paperback - but even that has a rare quality to it.

The books he mostly collects are editions that were produced in 1949 to the year 1984. "1984" being one of his favorite novels, which was written in 1949, and by chance also the year of his birth.  So this is a collection that defines Prince as an individual and an artist.  This beautiful book has tons of book covers - but more importantly documents various titles.  For instance he has every version of "On The Road" possible, but beyond that he has editions that are signed by Kerouac to various greats - William Burroughs, Ginsberg, Vidal, etc.  And the fact that he somehow got these signed books is surely a man focused on the communication between the writer and his readers/friends.   He also collects Jimi Hendrix letters - which as far as I know have never been published before - but that's fascinating.

But the meat and potato of his collection is 20th Century classics - and how those classics talk to him as an artist is really something.  This has to be one of the great books on an artist and his muse - books.  And  the fact that we get some great excerpts is a plus as well.  A book that can be in the art  as well as in the literary criticism section.  Love it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oriana Small's "Girlvert: A Porno Memoir"

Oriana Small is a big talent as a writer. And one of great charm as well. And it is unusual (for me) to find great charm in the world of Porn. Nevertheless "Girlvert" is a journey into the heart of the valley (San Fernando Valley to be exact), the headquarters that is everything Porn.
I used to work on Sherman Way in Reseda in the 80's and I would see many of the sex club workers, porn actors and actresses as well as all the other by-products of that field and era. "Boogie Nights" captures that time, place and period quite well, and "Girlvert" also gives me a birds-eye view of porn filming and living. Although the world in the book takes place in the 21st Century, it still seems very 80's like. Some things never change.
Oriana Small is a porn actress who goes by the name of Ashley Blue, and appeared in hundreds of films. One becomes numb reading one sex act after another, but the tedious aspect of such a life is so well developed by Small's talent as a memoir writer. She is only 29 (at the time of writing this book) and yet wise way beyond her years. In her glory period as a porn actress, she was very much focused on the moment, and the book comments on the need to stay stoned or in some sort of high. What struck me interesting is that it can be any type of job where you have to perform - and the strain of keeping that lifestyle or drug use up just to make it to the next day or even moment is a fascinating process. Her lifestyle becomes bizarre in the sense that she couldn't fully see the big picture, but the details were being focused - but only for that moment or two. Therefore, due to the drinking/drug input and just having a great deal of cash around - the focus is only for the next 12 hours or so.
Small specialize in doing all the hard-core porn performances and her approach to doing these scenes are interesting in that she is always rebelling against something out of her past. Her family life was messed up and that is totally not out of the norm, but she had to do something to make a mark on this world. And at that time it was her talent to do porn. And porn is an interesting medium because there is something else being played out besides the erotica or the erotic impulse. The power shift between the partners being filmed or directed. A lot of it is just to produce a product to sell, but there is also an art to it as well. But one can watch these films as a weird fantasy land, where one acts out their sexual/violent impulses – or is it a world that is designed by the producers/actors/director – or how much imput does it come from its viewers/audience? There is a mechanical aspect of porn that leaves me numb, but then again, may be the numb part is an aesthetic of some sort.
For her "Girvert" film series, she sees herself as more as a performance artist. Small has no regrets for the life she had lived (and still does in a sense by working with her talented porn director/photographer & husband Dave Naz) because she sees it as an unique life experience. This is not a book of woe, but more of a personal journey into an unique and very specialized world. Porn, in general is boring, but when you have a character you care about or find interesting, or at times the way it's shot, it is something else above the average viewing of bodies mixing together.
Also the design work on this book is top-notch. Its a beauty of a production, and Oriana Small fits in pefectly with the elegence of the design. As a writer, I think we will read her works for many years to come.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Television: Marquee Moon" by Bryan Waterman

I have strong memories being a total Television obsessive before hearing one note of their music. Their visuals got me. A band looking this cool, I knew had to sound great. When I first bought the single "Johnny's Little jewel" it was like a dream coming to life. I knew this song was an odd choice for a single, and the author Bryan Waterman brought this up - but then again, one can tell by the visuals that Television were never going to play by the rules. If Tom Verlaine and company were animals, they would be under-fed house cats. Totally proud, and happy in their own world. But once they find food, they're going to tear into it like wild animals. 
And their music conveys that tension to me. When I heard the first note of "See No Evil," the opening song to their album "Marquee Moon" it was like being stabbed by electric guitars in a dark alley. Very violent, and very poetic. To this day, and many years after, it still gives me goose bumps. And "Marquee Moon" is perhaps one of the great rock albums ever. I want to say the greatest of the greats, but ..... is that too dramatic of a statement? 
As a music movement (which it wasn't really) the CBGB years were magnificent. I don't know if it was in the NYC water system, but it seems like the early to mid- 1970's brought out the genius of various folks there. The Ramones of course, but also Richard Hell, who is equally brilliant as Verlaine. The fact that both of them were in the same band drives me insane. Its too good! Besides Hell needed to have his own outlet -and he too made an incredible classic album "Blank Generation." 
And these two guys - Verlaine and Hell - were (or are) incredible poets. But focusing on "Marquee Moon," it is such a beautiful record with stunning songs. The ultimate guitar rave up album, but with the touch of "French Symbolic Poetry" thrown into the mix. But what Verlaine adds (besides his name) is a contemporary POV that is haunting and deeply romantic. But passionate in a very very cool way. 
Waterman's book is a good one. He touches on all the greatness in the band, and his focus on the lyrics is much needed. You may have read all the gossip in "Please Kill Me," but this is a much more reflective look into the mystique and wonder of Richard Lloyd, Fred Smith, Richard Hell, Billy Ficca, Patti Smith, and Tom Verlaine.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bill Morgan's "The Beat Generation in New York"

Well, i am in New York City at the moment(s), and its too hot outside to actually do a walking tour- but i think this is the book to bring with you when you are in NYC. Bill Morgan is the official historian of everything that's BEAT. And here he takes you to neighborhood-to-neighborhood to all the Beat haunts and lofts/apartments. As well as the bars, the jazz nightclubs, and various parks where one score Heroin or grass. In other words this is pretty essential travel guide to one of the great cities on this planet. 
The shocking thing is also how much has changed since this book was written (in the 1990's). Buildings don't exist, so what you get is sort of a ghost tour - and Manhattan in many ways is a ghost - but with only respect to memory and history. Its a beautiful form of memory - not my own, but from history. And the Beats, without a doubt, made NYC a strong presence. Even if you don't plan to go to New York City, this book is pretty much an essential document of Beat life. In other words, I love it!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tosh Talks May.27.2011 Frank O'Hara

"Tosh Talks" about Frank O'Hara, the great New York City Poet

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Raymond Roussel's "Locus Solus"

I read this book some years ago, and to this day I felt I dreamt it. Not meaning it's a Surrealist work - and some argue it is - at least by its nature. But re-reading "Locus Solus" reminds me of the Museum of Jurrastic Technology here in Los Angeles. One goes into the museum not sure how it will turn out in the end, but for sure you are going for a wild intellectual and sensual journey. 
There is no real plot for say, but more of a group of settings where things happen Some are narratives and some are almost visual set pieces. Which explains why Roussel was a major influence on the visual arts of the early 20th Century as well as to poets. His mixture of images within bizarre settings never gets stale. The wealthy scientist Cantarel takes a group on a tour of his estate, and what he has in his collection.... Oh my! 
In many ways the book is about obsessions. About capturing a moment and keeping it is some form or another. And that the author is Raymond Roussel, perhaps one of the great obsessive writers ever. A wealthy man who paid for the publication for this book (as well as his other titles). An author who eventually put together a huge stage show in Paris - and a man who traveled around the world and never left the ocean liner. So the world of his choice are all in his head. And this is what makes his work so great. 
There is logic, but its in a science fiction turn of the century way of looking at the world. And that is another odd aspect to his work is that he is clearly a man from the 19th Century dealing with the 20th Century world. Without a doubt a work of genius, and a book I will re-read again and again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"The Lost Album: A Visual History of 1950's Britain" by Basil Hyman

The coffee book design is made for books like "The Lost Album." Photographer Basil Hyman's beautiful reproduction of the black and white years of Post-War England. Half of it is his photographs of sites, people (no one famous) burned out music halls, pubs, and etc. But within these pages you get actual ration cards for food and gas, a program for a dance hall performance, ticket stubs from the tube, as well as from various shows, newspaper clippings - its all incredible. 
The book is beautifully designed and the paper has a textural touch that brings back memories - but the thing is this is not my memory, but Hyman's thoughts and visuals of an era that is extremely importrant. The 50's U.K. built the pop stars that will soon change pop culture in the 60's - and seeing the rationing cards, the harsh black and white imagery, which was really the world at the time - is both extremely moving and beautiful. Essential book to the ultimate max.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tosh Talks May.13.2011

My little talk on Raymond Roussel

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paul Scheerbart's "The Perpetual Motion Machine"

Paul Scheerbart is a total mystery to me, but yes, what a wonderful mystery. German writer of the early 20th Century who focused on poetry and plays as well as being a fan of glass architecture. This small and quite eccentric book is Scheerbart's focus on his scientific invention "The Perpetual Motion Machine." 

After reading this book I haven't the foggiest idea what the Perpetual Motion Machine does or what it's supposed to do - but nevertheless I am sure it is a remarkable invention. For the sole reason that this book is a remarkable invention. With his diagrams in trying to locate the right wheel in the right direction, this is something Scheerbart thought long and hard on. And the beauty is not the result, but the process in getting there - if he even he got there. 

Wakefield Press is surely one of my favorite presses. Besides this jewell of a book they also published the mind-liked "An Attempt at Exhausting aPlace in Paris" by Georges Perec. All part of the Imaging Science series

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tosh Talks MUJI May.06.2011

A major new (and very interesting) book on MUJI, a chain store in Japan and parts of Europe. Excellent inexpensive products of all sorts - but with a strong design attached to it. Very remarkable!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tosh Talks Apr.29.2011

"Tosh Talks" about his family via the great Charles Brittin book of photos. A must- have of course!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Fatale" by Jean-Patrick Manchette

A tough little superb French noir novel that is sort of a revenge against the rich and mighty, but also a snapshot image of class difference and hatred due to that difference. The main character is sort of a professional serial killer, who is a shark looking for the rich to kill. And like all classic noir novels, there is not a wasted word in the book. Manchette for sure has that "it" quality down, and i pray that more of this late writer's work will come out. So far three novels and two graphic novels in English. More? More

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Form of a City Changes Faster, Alas, Than The Human Heart" by Jacques Roubaud

By reading these Paris city poems by Jacques Roubaud, one can sense that there is an "Oulipo" stance with its wit and presence. But then again, this is probably one of the best 'poetic' books on Paris. In fact it reads like a map - and for some reason I am drawn to the visual aspect of Paris and how its streets are placed in sections and how it is attached to the big boulevards.

There is a dual aspect to these poems. One is the importance of a language that investigates Paris, but also it is an accurate portrait of a city. So what we have here is Paris as it is laid out by Roubaud's wit and observation. And it goes back to Baudelaire, Queneau, and various French Surrealist poets, with respect to how writing is very much a form itself -and that form represents Paris itself. So not a critique on other writings on Paris, but a nod and a tip to the hat to those who came before and was seduced by Paris' presence.

My only complaint about this book is that it isn't bilingual, but then again I am sure there were budget considerations. And the translation by Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop is pretty readable and fun - and fun is a big part of Roubaud's work.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tosh Talks Apr.23.2011 Serge Gainsbourg

"Tosh Talks" about "Gainsbourg Inside" Look into the inner world of the magnificent Serge Gainsbourg

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kurt Schwitters' "Three Stories"

The mega-great artist Kurt Schwitters is also a fantastic poet. But what we have here are three (very) short almost like fairy tales, one poem, and an appreciation by artist E.L.T. Messens, and a response from Schwitter's son Ernst. 
The book is only 32 pages, and sort of the perfect read for a good soak in the bathtub, or a bus ride from Silvelake to Hollywood. Elegantly designed as well. Nothing fancy, but just a nice object to behold. The stories themselves are modest, but for sure worth the read, and the poem reminds me of his visual work. One got the impression Schwitters walked around London and just picked up its vibe for his poem. Love it.


Anyone who knows me (do you?) knows that i have a strong passion for this particular Japanese chain store. Muji has been around since 1980, and it specializes in minimal great designs and fantastic practical products. Everything from the bicycle to the Umbrella to a cotten white dress shirt to dresses to underwear to kitchen stuff. So basically they offer the napkin to the pre-fab Muji designed house. 
I discovered this store in 1989, and have been a huge fan since then. Besides Japan, they opened up stores in Europe. London and Paris has superb Muji outlets and in New York City. What got me stuck on them was their stationary products - specifically their writing instruments and blank notebooks. What they offer was something that had no identity, but perfectly designed. A weird combination perhaps, but there no logo stance is actually their logo. 
"Muji" the book pretty much describes the seduction of a clean interior with very minimal designed products. A perfect world to me is a house (designed by Muji) with their product. The only thing i haven't tried Muji is their food line. Mostly crackers, ice cream and various types of drinkable liquids. But I am not sure if I want to open the packaging because it looks too beautiful, too perfect. The packaging maybe more important than what's inside it. Perhaps? 
Nevertheless a fascinating book on a fascinating company. Long may they live!