Like I said, I want to write something that vaguely resembles a review of things I am looking at, but these past few months have been sort of a blur of events, and although I have indeed been plowing through a lot of interesting material, I’ve had no free time – I mean, really free time – to write anything about anything. And by now I’ve probably forgotten more than half of it. Which raises the question, Why bother reading anything (or watching any films, or attending any live performances, or doing anything cultural) at all? There are many publications that devote themselves to chasing the Newest of the New – your average weekly, for instance, which every week breathlessly gushes over the latest films and touring bands, or monthly music magazines, or even the occasional literary publication, although it becomes less and less likely you’ll find any reviews in those things. Or so I’m told. But why bother? It all just goes by, it’s like being stuck in a car or train, or even a plane; eventually, all the beauty and variety of things passing the windows becomes a blur.
Meanwhile there’s the Lemon Hound blog, whose author seems to have unlimited energy and time to produce very thoughtful and thought-provoking commentaries on all things literary (and outside of the literary too, nice interviews and such on photography, for instance). This blog seems quite capable of keeping pace with the rapidly evolving everything out there that I find so daunting. The great thing about Lemon Hound is the steady snap and crackle of an active mind at work – stripping away the shroud of grey bureaucratic whef and revealing la vie poetique as a continually shifting and evolving adventure. It’s totally the shiznit.
I think I may have been prepared for my discovery of Lemon Hound by reading a poetry anthology by Jerome Rothenberg and George Quasha called America: a Prophecy. It’s great, it weaves all kinds of American poetry with Native texts, mythology, Shaker hymns, old Blues, you name it. All in thematic sections. It’s a bit long (just under 600 pages) and the themes seem to start to come unravelled near the end (or maybe my neurons were simply poetry-ed out), but it appealed to my personal sense (or nonsense) of poetics, and fed it plenty besides. It was published in 1974 – they don’t make them like this any more. Rothenberg is still kicking though, I read mention of him in a recent e-newsletter from City Lights Books. One other magical thing about this book – in the inside cover is written “Artie Gold March 1976”. How cool is that? Found it somewhere for a buck …
Part of the problem, for me, is the sheer volume of stuff I could review. Every week I do a music show on the radio (The Kitchen Bang-Bang Law), and I explore a lot of new sounds – CKUT’s CD library is a constant cornucopia of the latest releases by mainly indie, obscure, experimental, unknown, and possibly unknowable artists. Today I happened to be running through (quickly through) several months’ worth of radio shows, and I was struck by the evanescence of it all … sounds flow quickly by, and are forgotten. So today let me remember and commemorate the pleasure of listening to Growing, the way I was touched to the core by the lyrics of Tanya Davis, The Consumer Goods and Rae Spoon, and how Aids Wolf blew the cobwebs out of my benighted brains (and blew out my brains, besides).
So there’s that, and then there’s all the stuff I got at Expozine, which I have been working my way through since November (no, not done yet). I traded a CDR for a delightful Bromp Treb 7” single on Apostasy Recordings, and a chapbook for a copy of the yummily designed Gladtree Journal, both from the affable John Shaw. The Bromp Treb record is the kind of oddball sound art that I have a special affection for, somewhat childlike explorations of percussive scrapes, bonks, and boinks. The Gladtree Journal features poetry and texts by a lot of figures of the Northeast indie underground music scene, like Dred Foole, Matt Valentine, Marcia Bassett and Byron Coley. The tankas (five line poems) that Coley penned in The Gladtree Journal salute each and every record released by The Fugs over the years.
Maybe sitting next to the poet Valerie Webber had something to do with my coming into possession of these goodies. I also acquired a whole bunch of other trash tankas by Coley, Webber and Thurston Moore, on the topic of George W. Bush (may he rot in hell) and the complete Neil Young discography. I also got a lovingly designed and assembled chapbook of Webber’s own poetry, Thin Little Arms Build Castles. The poetry moves easily between a certain amount of seriousness about the word, and a good dose of self-deprecating goofiness. There’s musicality in them thar hills.
Sitting at the row of tables behind me was one Warren Hill, legendary record collector and entrepreneur. From him I purchased (for a twooney) a copy of $2.00 (comes with mixtape) no. 13. The mixtape in this case was of rare 70s gospel numbers, and the chapbook featured creative nonfiction (Trisha Lavoie, Simon Liem, Anna Leventhal), poetry (Camilla Wynne outs a poem she wrote when she was eleven), drawings (Billy Mavreas, Nadia Moss) and record collector nerd ramblings by Mr. Hill himself, on the topic of hunting down a living member of The Gospel Eagles. This combination of great zine reading and great mixtape listening is a total joy orgasm for $2.00. I mean come on.
What I like about Expozine, and about life in general, is its randomness. I picked up any number of random comics, zines, chapbooks and such (as well as five back issues of Vice magazine – which were full of the usual shit). One such random find was Les Fleurs du Mal, Sept. 2006 (‘the video art issue’). Clearly a student publication, it contained a number of quite good essays on the topic, such as ‘Portrait of Aleesa Cohene’ by k.g. Guttman, ‘Vernacular Video’ by Tom Sherman (this one is really great), and ‘Film and Video: Cain and Abel’ by Mike Hoolboom. Hoolboom is an entertaining writer – for instance: “I believe that the cinema is a history of forgetting, which is undertaken collectively, with groups of people sitting in the dark, in the darkness of our lives, and for taking up this task, this necessary ordeal of forgetting, as a filmmaker I crave only applause. I want the clap.”
A less random purchase was Jeff Miller’s Negative Capability no. 1, a collection of poetry and prose which merely drove home the point that he’s not just a good writer, he’s a fucking good writer.
Speaking of random, I continue to haunt thrift shops and obscure record emporiums in search of The Stuff. Not too long ago I dragged Ian Ferrier into Sound Central, because I hadn’t gone there before and I needed to pee so bad it was tragic. It’s a newish record shop on Coloniale, and they don’t really want you to use their bathroom since it’s right behind the cash register, but an exception was made for me because of my abject pleading and begging. But they do have a coffee bar for the browsers, and good stuff to browse too. Like how about a copy of Christina Carter’s Electrice for $3.99, or the original vinyl LP of Muscle In by Three O’Clock Train for $4.99? Crazy. (Ian bought a CD by Sam Shalabi that I’d never seen before, or even heard of.) There’s a lot of vinyl there, lots of used CDs and new CDs too, with an emphasis on the punk rock.
Yes, I still prefer my LPs super-cheap. At Beatnik, I have managed to find gems like The Slits’ Cut album for a buck (and a West German import to boot? Why not?), PiL’s Flowers of Romance for $2, Mick Ronson’s absurd Play Don’t Worry for $3 … There is a worrying trend on the vinyl front, unfortunately – certain stores have realized they can sell this stuff for more than they used to. Marché du Disques, for instance, has a superb selection of vinyl in their basement, but what was once a haven for dollar record fiends is now jacked up somewhat. Still, a decent copy of David Bowie’s Heroes for $3.99 is nothing to sneeze at – how often have I bought a record for a buck only to find it utterly unplayable? And there is still a selection of dollar discs, where I found a Danielle Dax EP amongst other treasures.
Cheap books? Found Jung’s illustrated Man and His Symbols in perfect condition at a Renaissance down on St-Jacques West for $1.99. That thrift shop in particular has a great book section. The Salvation Army and the Renaissance on St-Hubert seem to have slumped into a sort of stasis, I haven’t found a thing there for months, whereas turnover seems to be the order of the day at the Renaissance on St-Laurent (north of Jean-Talon) and the big Salvation Army down on Notre-Dame.
But I am blasé about books these days, really … I think I am glutted, basically. My ‘to read’ shelves groan with beautiful things awaiting my attention. (In my pending pile are Subduing Demons in America by John Giorno, And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Burroughs and Kerouac, The Magellanic Clouds by Diane Wakoski, Going Down Swinging no. 27, Our Starland by Emily Holton, from the book that doesn’t close by Joe Blades … it all makes me drool.)
At the moment I’m working my way through the last few pages of Georges Bataille’s Eroticism. What a great mind he has! It’s not a matter of ‘is he right? is he wrong?’ Rather, it is the sheer delight of reading someone who can cast such an oblique light upon questions that all of us – especially those of us still bothering to be aware – have struggled with at some point in our lives. (For those of you not bothering to be aware, the television awaiteth.)
Next time – some movies I have watched, some performances I’ve seen.