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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Richard Seaver's "The Tender Hour of Twilight"

Without a doubt Richard Seaver and his world (Barney Rosset, John Cadler, and for me, the Malcolm McLaren of publishers, Maurice Girodias) are the one's who inspired me to do my press TamTam Books.  Which in turns means that I have a small collection of books on these publishers that always looked at the big picture, and usually (and hysterically) fail in some form due to the devil details of publishing.  The release of the late Richard Seaver's memoir "The Tender Hour of Twilight" is a remarkable journey of American publishing at its best.  Taking chances and fighting the good fight for literature that needed support from the guys behind the writers.  Publisher's memoirs are usually like the great crime heist book.  You always get a set of interesting characters doing something impossible.  And publishing sometimes looks and reads like "Mission Impossible."

Seaver's book is in two parts.  His life as an magazine/literary editor and his first sighting of Samuel Beckett as well as with the wild man of alt-lit Alex Trocchi - his partner in crime at the time.  Its a very heady and beautiful portrait of Paris in the late 1950's and it has that romantic tinge that makes one want to re-live or re-imagine his life in the Left Bank.

The second part deals with his life at Grove Press - the revolutionary and super cool publishing house controlled by the late great Barney Rosset.  Here we have the relationship between the two guys plus people like Maurice Girodias, who is a great character in life and literature.  For those who consider themselves book nerds or anyone who is interested in the cultural history of publishing - Seaver's book is extremely important.  This is what one may call a keeper.

Charles Fourier's "The Hierarchies of Cuckoldry and Bankruptcy"

This can be a handy handbook for those who are into the Occupy movement as well as being a jealous lover.  Two subject matters all in one volume.  Or maybe they're related to each other?  Nevertheless Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a philosopher who had a deep interest and concern for Society of his time and age.  And of course, none of this have been dated at all.   "Cuckoldry" and "bankruptcy" is both an unfaithful wife and economy.  The two roads to ruin!  

Fourier was much admired by Marx, Barthes, Walter Benjamin, The Situationists, and The Surrealists - and one can see why.  Fourier has a very dry wit, and he also has a clear headed view on the culture of marriage and banking.  The one big sour note in this book is that he wasn't much of a fan of the Jews.  Because Jews were the bankers, blah blah.  But still, don't throw the bath water out of the tub, or whatever that saying is.  Wakefield Press, the publisher, is a remarkable press.   Their books are small, but large in importance.  I would buy their publications blindly.    Please look over their site at http://wakefieldpress.com/index.html

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Adrift in Soho" by Colin Wilson

About three years before Swinging London hit the headlines, Colin Wilson of "Outsider" fame was writing about the down and out (and in) Soho.  This was Wilson's second novel which reads like a memoir, and is a really beautiful snapshot of boho London before it was defined by the popular media of the time.  For some life was very causal, and for the hardcore Soho citizen a way of life that totally ignore the mainstream view of life.  Colin Wilson always struck me as a romantic, but in a very good way.  And this is a very solid and a very quick read into the world of Soho, London and its citizens.  And like any good book on London, the city becomes a character in the story.  The edition I read is New London Editions and it promises to be an important press.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Open Love Letter to Aleksandar Hemon

Dear Mr. Hemon,

I've gone to bed with you every night for months (first there was The Lazarus Project, then The Question of Bruno, now Nowhere Man) and subsequently, I suffer from the delusion, shared by people in love, that I will never find anyone else who makes me feel the way that you do -- no one whose prose satisfies me the way that your prose satisfies me. I have felt this way before, and when it ends, as it must, there are always a few unsuccessful liaisons (very nice books, but) before I find some new author to be faithful to, for at least as long as their novels last. I am sure that you will make other readers very happy, and I am only jealous of their ignorance of you, the pleasure of opening you for the first time.

At least, there is comfort in the knowledge that I can return to you, in a few years, when I am older and perhaps wiser. Rereading your body of work with my new hypothetical wisdom, I may grow to feel that my previous affection was merely childish infatuation compared to the depth of feeling that suffuses me in this hypothetical future. Still, in the midst of a passionate one-sided literary affair, I find it hard to imagine it ending. To clumsily paraphrase you, you are like everybody else because there is no one like you.