A man w/ orange-tinged skin, side-combed dyed yellow hair and a mouth that looks like the “o”-shaped mouths in cartoons, has taken up near-permanent residence in my mind. I go to bed thinking of him and he pops into my head — the surreal and terrifying reality of him — first thing in the morning.
When Argentine poet Juan Gelman died in January, 2014—he left behind twenty books of poetry. He is best known for work rooted in the Argentine political repression of the 70s, when military forces brought a reign of terror to Buenos Aires. In 1976, Gelman’s son, Marcelo, and daughter-in-law, Claudia, pregnant with the poet’s grandchild were “disappeared.”
One Saturday morning over McDonald’s coffee and breakfast sandwiches at their apartment, I tried to explain safekidsstories.com to my father and his girlfriend. Our first “series,” I said, had to do with how choosing a book could make one safer, even if only in one’s mind and heart. Then it occurred to me to ask my dad. This is the story that followed.
Since I began self-publishing, my primary marketing effort, which doubles, in my mind as a public art performance, consists of sitting in a café each morning with my wares beside a sign, personally drawn and lettered by S. Clay Wilson of the Checkered Demon commanding “Buy Bob’s Books!”
This essay links real trips in Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run, to fictive rambles in Russell Banks’ Book of Jamaica, Michael Ventura’s Night Time, Losing Time, and Richard Meltzer’s The Night (Alone). It also takes in recordings, such as Springsteen’s (out of the archives though still under the radar) live CD Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75, that soundtrack passages in Born to Run. But foundational things first: the book of Bruce comes out of Jack’s so this tour starts with…
Un village français, a French television serial, was first broadcast on France 3 in 2009; the channel began showing the serial’s seventh and final season in October of 2016, and at the end of its run sixty-six episodes had been broadcast. Around the time it first appeared a Francophone friend recommended it as startlingly good TV, but warned that subtitled versions other than one season with French subtitles had proved impossible to locate. The belated appearance of a version subtitled in English is a very welcome gift. Along with the policier Engrenages, which stars several of the same actors, Un village français made even malevolent foreigners concede that French TV, under de Gaulle sometimes pilloried as a medium specializing in documentaries about beehives, had no reason to fear comparison to any televisual culture in the world.
The music video above, in which an African emigre duo who call themselves A.M.G. extol Putin, seems to soundtrack Nathan Osborne’s musings on the link between contemporary rap and Trumpery. But there are (always) countervailing trends in the hip hop nation as you’ll see if you try videos in the body of this text by Big K.R.I.T.—a rapper from the Dirty South. He makes conscious music for our mess age: “I don’t rap, I spit hymns.” K.R.I.T. stands for King Remembered In Time. (A.M.G.’s initials, OTOH, are associated with the Mercedes logo.)
Donald Trump is the greatest Rapper of all time. He’s the G.O.A.T. precisely because he doesn’t even have to rap. “Well, how then is he a rapper? It says here in Webster’s…” I don’t mean to be a tease. And please don’t assume I’m suggesting that he’s a rapper chiefly due to his misogyny or his nasty language. But, to move forward, let’s go back a bit…
From an academic conference at Yale: We’re used to Donald Trump punctuating his pronouncements with a quick “OK?” as if to simultaneously block any disagreement and reassure himself that he’s right.
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Trumpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
After 9/11, I wrote a piece called “Risk of Contamination” for Brendan Lemon, who was then the editor of Out Magazine. In the essay I compared the way fear of the female body as a contaminating agent of maleness operated in both western and eastern philosophies and practices. I said a crisis in the concept of masculinity in both the east and the west was endangering the world, and I said this crisis in the concept of masculinity linked geo-political factions that otherwise saw themselves as enemies.
I feel a need to review these ideas.
I remember as a kid, aged eight or nine, watching The Apprentice on TV with my mom. I went to a Christian school (fundamentalist Baptist), so it seemed like something we weren’t supposed to be watching, but who doesn’t have their harmless little sins?
Lucille told me not to come in the kitchen. In my young days when I wanted to watch her slice vegetables and pluck chickens, she warned: “This is no place for the likes of you. I’m telling you, standing next to me at this counter won’t get you nowhere at all. As good as looking a blind cat in the eye. And you know you don’t want to do that.”
But I did. I wanted to see that blind cat all the way through, into her milky eyes and beyond. Sacred it was, that kitchen: the shiny surface near the sink covered in blood, the gizzards and neck put aside to be fried later and eaten—Lucille’s special delicacy—and her tidying up after the mess of flour and butter, her thick batter where she rolled chicken breasts and thighs before frying them in the skillet at dinnertime for the “white folks.” That’s what she used to say, with a grin and a nod, adding: “But we get the good parts.”
We are on the side of the species’ eternal Life, our enemies are on the side of eternal Death. And Life will swallow them up, by synthesizing the two terms of the antithesis within the reality of communism.–Amadeo Bordiga
The night Trump was elected, there were celebrations on the streets of Juba, South Sudan.
Orson, a thirty year-old State Department employee, groped for a word from the nauseous pit of his groin–a groin inhabited by a succubus of pure fear–and found (implausibly, for an unconscious child of the Sokal Affair) “lumpen.”
Lumpen: a Marxist word, more or less.
Bob Dylan’s nod in his Nobel prize acceptance speech to Shakespeare was in tune with Charles O’Brien’s musing on the dailiness of genius in his pre-millennial take-down of George Steiner (which is posted below).
I know I just dropped too many names on you, but please allow me to introduce one more. I was reminded of O’Brien’s music again recently when I came across a Steiner quote in the introduction to a reprint of an early work by the Marxist polymath Max Raphael. The intro’s author cited this bit of Steiner in wannabe mandarin mode–”not only the humanities, but humane and critical intelligence itself resides in the always threatened keeping of the very few”–to sum up assumptions about Mind that Raphael instinctively resisted. Like Raphael back in the day, O’Brien has always been repelled by the yen to equate humanism with prerogatives of “traditionally delimited professional circles.”
Some fight because they hate what confronts them, others because they have taken the measure of their lives and wish to give meaning to their existence. The latter are likely to struggle more persistently. Max Raphael was a very pure example of the second type.
That’s the opening passage of John Berger’s tribute to Raphael whose Marxist scholarship and theories on the practice of art made him, in Berger’s estimation, the “greatest mind yet applied to the subject.”
Angry Young Men—today the concept in its simplicity seems quaint, almost charming. Among millennials, there’s an underground subset of young males wrecked amidst the storms of self-creation and signification. The internet is now nearly the exclusive domain of social and cultural life. For many born without memory of life before the web, there burn weird heart-fires of grievance and resentment, imbued with the alien green hue of nocturnal computer monitors. How to forge an identity out of an endless succession of ironic poses?
The death of Debbie Reynolds moved Laurie Stone to muse on Facebook (and in an email to your editor).
The monetary and the military
They get together
Whenever it’s necessary
They’re making the planet into a cemetery.
Christmas Day, and did I need a gift! Feeling—ever since Elektion Day as if I am living somewhere between under a dark cloud and in a ratcheting-up concentration camp, I thought maybe I could still derive some pleasure—if not solace—from the long-anticipated NBA Finals “re-match” between Cleveland and Golden State.