:: Buzzwords Archive: January 2009. Click here for the latest posts.

Forbidden Classics (published 31/01/2009)

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Adelle ‘high class smut peddler’ Stripe has put together a collection of literary erotica to be published by Harper Perennial on Valentine’s Day. The titles are: Venus in Furs (Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch), Fanny Hill (John Cleland), My Secret Life (Walter), The Autobiography of a Flea (Anon), Justine (Marquis de Sade), The Way of A Man with a Maid (Anon), Venus in India (Charles Devereux), The Pearl (Various), Emmanuelle (Emmanuelle Arsan), and Sadopaideia (Anon).

The collection is reviewed by Margaret Reynolds in The Times:

“…From Fanny Hill to Justine and on, erotic literature is always a marathon of repetition. There is the anticipation. There is the act. Then there’s a slightly different proposition. And the act. And then another. No arrival, no consolation, no relief. It is all ‘getting and spending’ and, yes, it is in ‘a waste of shame’. But that insistent repetition goes on beyond the individual text because erotic literature also consumes itself. …It’s rather like the moment in Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses when Valmont is delighted to discover that his sexual quarry, the Presidente de Tourvel, is reading Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa at bedtime. He knows then that she is ripe for his wicked designs. Emmanuelle (1959) by Emmanuelle Arsan (actually Marayat Rollet-Andriane and her husband Louis Jacques) is as well versed in literary erotica as its eponymous heroine is in the varied practices of love. Quotations from other well-known saucy books from Ovid, to Pierre Louys’s Chansons de Bilitis appear as epigraphs to chapters with titles such as ‘The Flying Unicorn’ and ‘Cavatina, or the Love of Bee’. Forget all the indifferent films, this one is still a delicious read. …”

So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away (published )

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To commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death, Torpedo is releasing a tribute issue to the late great Richard Brautigan. Containing fiction and artwork from 50 writers and illustrators around the world, the issue includes an introduction from Brautigan’s daughter Ianthe, art from 3:AM favourite Paul O’Connell and a memorial from Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood.

Tom McCarthy Au Paradis (published 30/01/2009)

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Tom McCarthy was in Paris today for an interview with top weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur ahead of the publication of the French version of Men in Space.

Rural noir (published )

The Irish Times interview Peter Murphy:

When he saw the song title ‘John the Revelator’ on the back of a Harry Smith anthology of American music, it resonated with him immediately. “I couldn’t believe that nobody ever called a book that.” In his neat, sparse kitchen he plays the track on the small CD player on the counter. Singer Blind Willie Johnson rasps the lyrics in deep-bass gravel tones. “Who’s that writin?” he sings. “ John the Revelator”, the high reedy voice of Johnson’s first wife replies over and over again. The recording, from 1927, is almost punk in its rawness, Murphy says.

In a bit of musical serendipity, Angus Cargill, Murphy’s editor at London publishers Faber and Faber, was listening to Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour as he read Murphy’s manuscript for the first time. Dylan played ‘John the Revelator’ as Cargill turned the pages. His editor is among a number of people whom Murphy says “just got it” when they read the book.

[..]

The result is a tale of boyhood in small-town Ireland; an intense friendship with an odd and wildly intelligent boy; a mix of drink, sex, violence and nightmares; and a solidly believable mother-son dynamic shot through with blunt dialogue. There will be comparisons with Pat McCabe’s The Butcher Boy, a book that came out when Murphy was in his 20s. “There was a sense after that that you could not do what Pat did. You attempted that at your peril because the voice was so distinctive. So in many ways a lot of us of that generation had to metabolise him and get that book out of our system.”

3:AM Top 5: Zan (published 29/01/2009)

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A belated yet promised birthday shout-out to 3:AM Brasil‘s tireless editora Zan:

1. ‘Sex Beat’ — Gun Club
2. ‘Bedsitter’ — Soft Cell
3. ‘Fall’ — Jesus and Mary Chain
4. ‘Baby Honey’ — The Pastels
5. ‘The Model’ — Big Black

The Rest is Noise (published )

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Two different views on reading with music. Sam Jordison in The Guardian:

There are a few other combinations I can recommend. The most obvious link is A Clockwork Orange and Beethoven. As Alex is fond of pointing out, scenes of ultra-violence and yarble-busting are well complemented by Ludwig Van. Cormac McCarthy‘s mental-judge epic Blood Meridian goes brilliantly with the squalling feedback of Neil Young‘s Dead Man soundtrack and Arc. Worthy, chugging rock music in the mould of John Mellencamp and The Boss matches up neatly with Stephen King – perhaps because that’s what he likes listening to himself.

After these few, I’m stumped. My own music still goes better with books than other people’s noise, but tunes and novels make such conflicting demands on the attention that they rarely work together. My ultimate preference remains silence. Unless anyone has any other good recommendations.

Gareth Branwyn, guest blogging on BoingBoing, heartily recommends reading the 33 1/3 series of books with the corresponding album:

Each book is somewhat unique, there’s no set formula, although they all focus on a single album and most tend to have a chapter or two to set up the album, a chapter for each track on the album, and then a follow-up chapter or two. The books are each about 130-140 pages, so they’re a quick read — unless you want to ritualize the experience like I do. For each title, after I buy it, I download the album onto my iPod. Every night, before bed, I listen to one of the tracks, read the chapter on that track, then I listen to the track again. It’s really an amazing way of penetrating deeper into the music. Usually after I’m finished with a particular book/album, I’ll obsess over that artist for awhile, tracking down and listening to their entire oeuvre, wishing there was a 33 1/3 book for each record.

I just recently finished the 33 1/3 for Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and then went off and listened to any of his records I could find. I think I understand his work (both his music and his painting) now in a way I never would have without having gone on this journey, little pocket tome in-hand. My next excursion is going to be Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures.

Not Quite Joe Meek (published )

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Harper Perennial have launched a site called Fifty-Two Stories on which they will publish a short story every week for a whole year. What’s particularly interesting about this initiative is that they intend to mix established and lesser known writers (submissions welcome). Go there to discover two gems by Tony O’Neill.

Breslin rumpus (published )

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Susannah Breslin, who used to write for 3:AM back in the day, in The Rumpus:

You know, most of these questions aren’t for me. Generally I don’t answer personal sex-related questions, and a lot of these issues I’ve addressed elsewhere multiple times (mainstreaming) or seem pretty dated (sex tapes). If you want try again after reviewing my blog and work elsewhere, that’s fine. Otherwise, I’m gonna pass. Other examples of interviews that I’ve done are on my blog.

Read on to find out what the questions she passed on were.

No-one ever grows up (published 28/01/2009)

The Informers, directed by Gregor Jordan and staring Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton and Winona Ryder, got trashed at its Sundance premier last week. I’m reserving judgement on the Bret Easton Ellis adaptation, but if this review from Salon is anything to go by, it’s not looking too good:

Some movies, as the saying goes, leave you feeling like you need to take a shower. This movie made me feel like I had just taken one. In prison. On my way to get the bad news at the STD clinic and attend my first 12-step meeting.

Every festival needs a designated disaster, a much-anticipated flick that fails on many levels at once, and “The Informers,” which presents early AIDS-era Los Angeles as a featureless landscape of narcissism and debauchery, fills the bill for Sundance 2009. Even the things in “The Informers” that are in some sense well done, like the tormented, off-center supporting roles played by Kim Basinger (a pill-popping Hollywood wife) and Chris Isaak (an alcoholic Hollywood dad), are in the service of such profound emptiness that they too become horrible.

Ellis’ stories were published in 1994 but set a decade earlier, so by the time we get to Gregor Jordan’s film (co-written by Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki) we’re looking at the ’80s from two removes, as if preserved in amber as a museum of soulless depravity. For those of you too young to have adult memories of the decade in question, a few points: 1) People sometimes had ordinary, reasonably polite conversations, even in the ’80s. Not absolutely all the talking was affectless mumbling, angry recriminations, drug deals or TV news about Ronald Reagan. 2) Sure, we did a lot of drugs and yes, the crime rate was higher. But a surprising number of people had to do stuff like work jobs, buy food at the grocery store and take care of their kids, however indifferently. 3) While evading the question of whether I ever had group sex in that decade, I will speak for other ’80s survivors in testifying that it didn’t happen every single day.

In his better prose, Ellis is able to enliven his vision of soulless yuppie America with a vein of dark allegorical humor and a surreal or grotesque joie de vivre. The stories of “The Informers,” in fact, feature a vampire and/or cannibal subplot that’s been ditched from the movie, leaving us with a murky and pretentious morass of pseudo-realistic, self-loathing characters who can only be distinguished from each other by their Billy Idol haircuts, or fake boobs, or lack thereof.