Is the age of the critic over? / Why Brighton Rock is still peerless after all these years / The torrid liaison between Graham Greene‘s fiction and the cinema / Fincher, Aronofsky et al on directing [via @seanjcostello] / Rick Poynor‘s dérive through the arcades of Paris / Patti Smith is writing a detective novel / 50 things you didn’t know about Jackson Pollock.
:: Buzzwords Archive: January 2011. Click here for the latest posts.
Tandeta: critics, Greene, Fincher, arcades, Patti Smith, Pollock (published 31/01/2011)
3:AM Cult Hero: Stephen Crane (published )
By Robert O’Connor.
There were two giants of American literature in the 1890s that everyone else tried to be: Mark Twain, the witty humorist and Horatio Alger, the sentimental moralist. One man who eschewed both of them and created his own style. He also may have inspired future rebellions against literary conventions with his memorable descriptions and attention to language. The man’s name was Stephen Crane.
Stephen Crane grew up in New Jersey. He began attending Lafayette College to pursue a mining engineering degree, but left after a semester for Syracuse University to focus on writing full time. He left after taking one class and decided to become a full-time writer.
Crane moved into his brother’s house in Patterson, New Jersey. He began reporting for the New York Tribune, focusing on the Bowery in lower Manhattan. The Bowery (now the East Village) had been an upscale neighborhood, but by the end of the Civil War, brothels, beer gadders, flophouses and other dreary businesses dominated the place.
The Bowery, 1896 (New York Times)
It was in the Bowery that Crane’s first book, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets was set. Maggie is the sister of the narrator Jimmie. Jimmie shuns her after she starts seeing his friend Pete, and she is shunned by the community. It’s considered one of the first American naturalist novels. It was also praised for its realism and frank depictions of slum life and prostitution.
Crane took the novel to Richard Watson Gilder, with the intention of publishing it in Gilder’s Century Magazine, but it was turned down. Crane became fascinated with earlier issues of Century devoted to the Civil War. He decided to write a psychological portrayal of fear through the landscape of the war. The end result was his novel The Red Badge of Courage. While Maggie didn’t sell, Courage was a hit. Joseph Conrad, who later befriended Crane, wrote that the novel “detonated…with the impact of a twelve-inch shell charged with a very high explosive.”
Shortly afterward, Crane’s reputation was tarnished when he helped get a woman arrested for soliciting prostitution released from prison by claiming they were married. The woman sued the arresting officer for false arrest and during the trial, the defense revealed that Crane was a frequent visitor to brothels. He claimed it was for research purposes. The arresting officer, Charles Becker (who would later be sent to the chair at Sing Sing for murder) was acquitted, but Crane’s reputation was in shambles.
His reputation bounced back after he board the SS Commodore at Jacksonville, Florida, bound for Cuba. He was heading there to be a foreign correspondent. Two miles out of port, the ship was beached and sank. The sinking was widely reported and Crane was portrayed as heroic.
Still determined to be a foreign correspondent, he signed on with William Randolph Hearst‘s New York Journal to cover the Greco-Turkish War in 1897. He brought along his future wife, journalist Cora Taylor, who also wrote for the Journal.
After that war was over, he traveled to England briefly and began writing for English publications. He headed to Cuba to cover the Spanish-American War for Blackwood’s magazine and Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World – the arch rival of the Journal. He traveled with Theodore Roosevelt‘s Rough Riders and praised them despite his run-ins with Roosevelt during his days as police commissioner of New York.
Crane was never in the best of health, but it really suffered during the war. He was sent to the US for treatment, where he was diagnosed with yellow fever and malaria. The World fired him and Crane began filing stories for the Journal.
He left Cuba for England in 1899 and began writing even more in order to collect much needed money. But his health was failing and Cora took him to a health spa in Badenweiler in May, 1900. A week after arriving, Crane died at the age of 28. In his will he left everything to his wife, who took his body back to America and he was interred in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, New Jersey.
Stephen Crane had been a professional writer for ten years, with the greatest success coming in the last five. He was praised by Joseph Conrad, H. G. Wells and Henry James in his time, and a number of great writers of later generations would hold him in high esteem. Ernest Hemingway called The Red Badge of Courage one of the finest novels ever written.
Most writers of his day tried to be either humorists like Mark Twain or sentimentalists like Horatio Alger. Stephen Crane was neither – he wrote vivid and harsh depictions that his subjects demanded. His poetry isn’t as intense, but it was just as experimental. His books of poetry were criticized at the time for not rhyming and being unconventional. Ezra Pound, however, praised Crane’s work and it’s believed that Pound and the other Imagists took inspiration from Crane’s poetry.
Stephen Crane wrote about the worst kinds of violence (poverty and war) in direct and understated fashion – something Ernest Hemingway would also do a generation later. Crane’s work appeared around the time that muckrakers were aiming to change society. But he was a writer before all else.
MORE: Works (Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, Stephen Crane Society) // Poetry // Stephen Crane Society // Stephen Crane by Harold Bloom and Joyce Caldwell Smith (critical essays) // Crane is mentioned in Richard Harding Davis’ essay “San Juan Hill after 12 years“
ampere’s and (published 30/01/2011)
This week’s visuals:
Joris-Karl Huysmans’ À Rebours illustrated
& The evolution of Alice in Wonderland
& Idle doodles by famous authors (Nabokov, Ginsberg, DFW, Kafka, Plath, Beckett)
& Four bookplates by Emile Henry Tilmans
[Image: Jennie Ottinger's hollowed-out books]
Five for: Eight Cuts (published 27/01/2011)
1) Where did the idea for Eight Cuts originate and what is the significance of the name?
In a very early interview I did I claimed that eight cuts gallery had no real meaning. If I try and graft one on now, I will kind of prove what they say about retrospective mythmaking. The idea came after I’d written at the end of 2009 about the literary world needing to take a leaf out of the art world’s book. I wasn’t really seeing that happen – I didn’t see any Nick Serota or Jay Jopling figures in literature. Er, I’ll stop there before I answer question 2 by accident, but long story short I thought if no one else was doing it, I would. Also, after working in the collective environment of Year Zero, ah bugger I’m doing it again with question 3.
2) You describe yourself as a “curator” rather than publisher and the emphasis of Eight Cuts is on, for want of a better word, experimental writing. Your books have no ISBNs and you’ve described Eight Cuts as an “alternative” publisher? What does all this mean? What’s wrong with the current model?
The curator thing is really important to me. It’s something I wasn’t seeing in literature – both organisers of material and the kind of impresario figure, putting together a collection of work and shouting about it. It happens, yes, but a lot of the people who put things together are also writers. OK, I’m a writer, but I keep that separate from eight cuts. My writing fits what eight cuts does, but it has no place there (the exception being live shows – I’m the group exhibitionist) – my personality is in eight cuts solely in the way I put things together. I should add that since starting eight cuts I came across the amazing people at Peirene Press who do for literature in translation exactly what I had in mind – the care as well as the chutzpah that goes into their list is amazing.
With the online shows, I literally curate. I collect pieces of writing, art, music, film around a theme and put them together in interesting ways. That’s curating the same way you would an anthology or actual gallery, but the internet lets me play with readers using hyperlinks to guide people around the shows, readers choose when and where to click – and on what words/images, and where they get taken sometimes reinforces and sometimes subverts their ideas about where they expected to be taken. It makes them see pieces differently from just having them there on the page one after another. That comes from two things – the fact I wish I’d got into the art world, and reviewing a series of poetry books that all suffered the same problem of giving off the feeling they’d just been bunged down in chronological order. That’s lazy. It’s also rude. It’s like The Smiths endlessly rehashing singles in a different order. I feel like saying, we can read your stuff online, or buy the back issues – why should we bother with the book? Tell me something with it that I won’t get from Google. Put the poem about your first twelve year-old wank next to the one about your mum slicing watermelons. Or something. Yes I like your stuff, and I’ll buy your book, but make me glad I did rather than used.
I guess the writing on the publishing side isn’t regular stuff. This year’s four books are a lot more experimental than last year’s. Mainly they’re just great books that happen to be an awkward novella-ish length. Oli is doing something interesting with the non-reflective first person, but that’s a long way down his list of priorities (the most I’ve got from him is “people can’t write first person for shit. ‘I wonder if…’ Who says that? They don’t. It’s shit”). All our writers are people telling their truths. Maybe that’s experimental – an unflinching commitment to hounding down the truth.
I don’t think publishing’s broken. I just don’t think it suits our kind of books. They have more in common with zines, which isn’t surprising. Cody‘s writing was first published by the US zinesters Love Bunni Press and Geneva 13, and Oli runs Gupter Puncher, a free zine distributed in London, Toronto, Oxford and New York. And I didn’t want people to be able to buy the books on Amazon, or order them from Waterstone’s. We want to work with a tiny number of independent stores. Most of the “real” books we put out there are special editions, limited runs. They don’t need an ISBN. They’re more like limited edition prints than cans of corned beef.
3) How is Year Zero connected to Eight Cuts?
Year Zero is a big collective group that spans a vast array of genres. It’s a fantastic place to showcase writing, and discuss ideas. eight cuts is a place where I have curatorial control over the material, and make no pretence to collectivity. And it sells stuff. I really don’t think Year Zero should be about selling – the focus would be wrong. It’d clog people up. Year Zero‘s about experimenting, playing, pushing without any constraints. eight cuts is about taking finished work and presenting it in interesting ways.
4) Your first two books, Charcoal and The Dead Beat, came out last
year could you introduce them?
Cody James’ The Dead Beat tells the story of Adam and his dysfunctional friends as they try, and fail, to get themselves off drugs and into life in 1997 San Francisco. The Hale-Bopp comet provides a fantastic metaphor for their lives, whizzing through space but at the same time just hanging there, seeming to go nowhere. What makes Cody’s writing so special are its warmth, humour, and energy. I couldn’t really put it better than she did in an interview last year:
“I think it’s probably easy to dismiss the characters as stereotypes, if you weren’t in the same scene that we were. The truth is that three of the main characters are me, the fourth was a friend of mine, and all the other characters are people I knew and hung out with. We were characters, misfits, and outcasts, and that’s why we gravitated towards each other, towards a scene where there was acceptance, loud music by bands who didn’t know how to play their instruments, S&M clubs, drugs, alcohol, motorcycles and fights. We weren’t stereotypes – that’s who we were. What upsets me more than anything in novels and movies in this genre (Selby Jr. I’m looking at you) is that they seem hell bent on portraying only the moments of shock and depravity – they rob the reader and the viewer of the full experience. Yes, we were really fucked up and yes, we did bad things, but we were still trying. I still spent some Sunday mornings eating cereal and watching cartoons with a 7ft tranny. And, even though you’re all jacked up and your apartment has no furniture, you still try. Even though the person cooking the turkey has been up for three days and can’t remember how to work a stove, and your guests keep going to the bathroom to shoot up and then keep falling asleep in the mashed potatoes, you’re still there celebrating Thanksgiving. There are still moments of utter joy and there is still so much laughter. If, as an artist, you don’t portray that, you’re nothing but a cheap hack.”
Oli Johns’ Charcoal is a poetic nightmare. He sold me the book with the brilliant opening line “I watch Michael Portillo fake dying on TV” and had me all the way from there. The narrator, Oli, is obsessed with suicide. He spends his life reading philosophy to try and understand it – when he’s not screwing an underage Korean girl he met online – but just can’t wrap his head around it. Then he reads in the papers about the suicide of a model, and he becomes convinced he could have saved her if only he’d had the chance. Fortunately his dalliances with philosophy and a whiff of magic realism allow him to go back in time, and he gets the chance to put his theory to the test…
5) What’s next for Eight Cuts?
What’s immediately next is our second exhibition, Once Upon a Time in a Gallery, which runs from February 1st to March 31st and features work from around 30 writers, artists and musicians from around the world. There will be a launch on January 27th at our monthly words and music night in Oxford Castle. It’s a great time to be looking at fairytales, which form society’s foundation myths. As we build new communities online and blending the real and virtual, we are in desperate need of foundation myths for them. There’s some ridiculously good work. It’s impossible to highlight anything, but aside from the work from eight cuts published writers, Kirsty Logan’s haunting Rental Heart and Sarah Spencer’s heartbreaking portraits of dismembered cyborgs fit together perfectly.
We have some great shows coming up at Oxford Castle – on February 10th we have five of London’s finest coming to Oxford for one night only – Lee Rourke, Nikesh Shukla, Gavin James Bower, Niven Govinden and Stuart Evers – before they invite us back to London. We have four incredible books coming out. Penny Goring’s NecroRococo is going to be a game changer. Penny is the most original writer of her generation and does things with words no one else would dare. Sarah E Melville’s debut novel This is Paulie follows her extraordinary illuminated manuscript Beautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People, developing from the snapshots in that book her petulant, disturbed alter ego Paulie. It’s told almost entirely in dialogue and it reads like a roomful of Andy Warhol Marilyns. Stuart Estell’s Verruca Music is a completely unpunctuated stream of consciousness about a housebound guy who picks his feet as therapy for his depression. It’s laugh out loud brilliant and will reduce anyone to tears. And there’s Robert James Russell’s biting collection of short stories The Mating Habits of College Girls which is like Rules of Attraction with a conscience. Only more acerbic.
I’d like to do more installations this year. Last May, Katelan Foisy came over from New York and we did this thing, Lilith Burning where Katelan dressed as Lilith, the archetypal eternal/infernal woman, and we went round Oxford taking photos of people’s reaction to her, then spent the afternoon in the store room of a local gallery making them into an artwork that we displayed that evening at the Albion Beatnik bookstore where we’d invited everyone we’d met back for drinks, double bass music and a series of readings about feminine archetypes. I’d love to do more of that, mixing art forms and venues, part planned, part spontaneous – taking a theme and seeing how far we can push it.
There’ll be a lot more live shows, wherever we can get a gig (if anyone’s reading). This is the one thing where I do my own stuff in the name of eight cuts – I can’t keep away from the microphone. And I tend to write transgressive pieces that change tone half way through – there’s nothing so satisfying as watching an audience laughing then stopping in their tracks because they don’t have the first clue what the fuck they should be thinking.
The Missing Links (published 26/01/2011)
Roland Barthes‘s The Preparation of the Novel reviewed in the TLS. * René Clair‘s Entr’acte (1924). * 430 King’s Road over 6 decades. * The philosophical novel. * Writers No One Reads (Cocteau? Really?). * The original Heartbreakers live in 75. * A conversation with Ben Marcus. * J. D. Salinger biography reviewed. * John Lydon interviewed by Janet Street-Porter, 1978. * The Neversink Library. * Check out the new Cold Waves tumblr. * Existentialists. * Exploring Mad Men-era New York with Ezra Stoller. * Improbable band T-shirts. * Anis Shivani‘s new rules for writers. * DBC Pierre. * An interview with Gabriel Josipovici. * Josipovici on Thomas Berhard. * Photobooth pictures of Raymond Queneau. * Riot Grrrl twenty years on. * Vice fashion shoot during London student protests. * Gaye Advert‘s top 10 black metal bands. * Ben Myers on Big Audio Dynamite. * The story of Northern Soul. * Saul Bass on human creativity. * Courtney Love at the Oxford University Conservative Association? * Cat’s Eyes (Faris Badwan‘s new band) perform at the Vatican. * Terry Taylor‘s lost Brit Beatnik classic, Baron’s Court, All Change, which, famously, contains the first reference to LSD in a British novel, to be republished this year. * An Erik Satie biography here. * The longest word in the English language? * Help Viv Albertine release her debut solo album. * London Peculiar. * The Paris catacombs. * “Strange Town” (1979). * Pictures of the never-built Riga Metro (via Owen Hatherley). * Hatherley on the commemoration of the 1951 Festival of Britain. * Jacques Derrida on Gilles Deleuze‘s On Forgiveness. More Deleuze. * Poppa Neutrino RIP. * Dennis Oppenheim RIP. * Controversy over the French government’s refusal to commemorate Céline’s death. More here. * “Remake Remodel” (via Darran Anderson). * A brief history of fake news. * Jah Wobble. * An early version of Joy Division‘s “Atmosphere”. * Two Dutch gigs by Joy Division. * Is social networking a pathology? * Why Aaron Sorkin isn’t on Facebook. * Mark Zuckerberg‘s Facebook page is hacked into. * Another Facebook revolution? * On Net activism. * 5 emotions created by the internet. * Novelists and the internet. * How is the internet changing the way we think? * How social networks are driving what you buy. * Was David Foster Wallace right about the internet? * “I Wanna Be Sedated“. * The worrying rise of “fact-based storytelling“: “This scaling back of the private sphere has coincided with something else: a growing belief that it is in personal relationships and feelings that the important truths about the world are to be found”. * Musicians turned writers. * Lars Lyer‘s Spurious. * Rodchenko and his circle. * Baudelaire‘s hand-written corrections to Les Fleurs du mal. * Proust manuscript. * An ode to cinema’s greatest slaps (see pic). * This is England ’88. * Why he created Skins. * Her so-called life. * Mood-altering refrigerators of the 60s. * 59 things you didn’t know about Virginia Woolf. * 65 things you didn’t know about David Lynch. * Blue Velvet deleted scenes. * London street scenes, 1903 (film). * A great series of pictures of 1960s London. * Small Faces book launch. * Mod movies. * Frédéric Beigbeder‘s new squeeze. * Hemingway‘s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. * Free online Hitchcock movies. * Jean Encoule interviews Crime. * William Burroughs shoots London. * Patti Smith on Robert Mapplethorpe. * Patti Smith interviewed in the Guardian. * On Jim Carroll. * Nabokov’s butterfly theory is vindicated. More on Nabokov the evolutionary biologist here. * The Stranglers. * Louis XVI’s not dead. * Anthony Palou lands this year’s Deux Magots prize. * Bret Easton Ellis on violence in literature. * Roberto Bolaño on literature and exile. * Boy George‘s Chemical Generation documentary. * Edwyn Collins on the soundtrack of his life. * Johnny Marr to write his autobiography. * The French Sherlock Holmes. * Rare footage of 60s garage bands. * A Pablo Picasso tumblr. * Hipstamatic exhibition: “[I]t manages to make every moment captured, however boring, feel like the perfect sunny memories of your childhood”. * Hipstamatics. * When Truffaut met Godard. * A short interview with Section 25. * The sexual lives of superheroes. * Norwich: a book-lover’s town. * Keith Levene on why he left The Clash. * Pictures of abandoned theatres. * Sartre pissed on Chateaubriand‘s tomb: Chilean author pays similar homage to Borges. * Iggymoticons. * Apropos of Edweard Muybridge. * Steve Almond talks bad jobs. * Steampunk Sarah Palin. * Homeless chic. * Hipsters as agents of social change. * The best way to cure a hangover. * The Georges Perec revival. * L’angoisse de la page blanche. * Middle-class hip hop! * Los Angeles City Council honours Captain Beefheart. * 60 second Fight Club. * Temple Grandin — the movie. * Hilariously crap US doc on punk from 1979. * No pants subway ride. * In WG Sebald‘s footsteps. * Vintage porn posters. * French mansion house unlocked after 100 years. * An interview with photographer Steve Martinez: “The energy and creativity was what turned me on to punk as a kid — everyone was expressing him or herself so differently and there was a real sense of live fast, die young, the time is now”.