The contest, which is part of the Louder Than Words literary festival, is named after the acclaimed British guitarist Wilko Johnson, best known as a member of Dr. Feelgood in the ‘70s; early this year Johnson’s collaboration with Roger Daltry of The Who, Going Back Home, charted at No. 3 in the U.K.
“It’s named after Johnson because it is a competition for young writers and Wilko Johnson was a teacher – he has an English degree from Newcastle Univeristy,” explained Louder Than Words co-curator, Simon Warner, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture.”
“In addition, he [Johnson] is a capable and committed wordsmith in his own right,” Warner said. “Beyond that, too, he is a respected, avid and obsessive reader – appreciationg words associated with music and in books and journalism, national and international.”
The winner will be chosen by a “panel of high calibre judges drawn from related industries – writing, the academy, the music business,” Warner said.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 and the award will be presented at the festival on Sunday, November 16, 2014.
The winner will receive: a full weekend festival pass, a complete set of 100 titles from Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 album series, and will be published on the Rock’s Back Pages website.
Louder Than Words will take place November 14-16, 2014 at The Palace hotel in Manchester, England.
As described on the Louder Than Words website, the festival includes “’in conversation with’ sessions, panel discussions, interviews, workshops, performances and casual opportunities for engaging with performaners, authors, editors, publicists, reviewers, press, artists and aficionados.”
[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in the new issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]
A new edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Taps at Reveille” is the latest volume of “The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F Scott Fitzgerald.”
It will be published in the U.S. on May 31, 2014.
The stories were written by Fitzgerald in the 1920s and 1930s for publication in the Saturday Evening Post.
The stories were edited and all of the sex, drugs, inebriation and antisemitic sluts were removed.
General editor James West, Sparks Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, tole The Guardian he thinks this new edition is important “because we want to read what Fitzgerald wrote, not what the editors at the Post thought he should have written”.
“Before these stories were bowdlerised, they contained antisemitic slurs, sexual innuendo, instances of drug use and drunkenness,” said West, Sparks. “They also contained profanity and mild blasphemy. The texts were scrubbed clean at the Post.”
There are two things you need to know before you read my review of Tom Spanbauer’s fifth novel, “I Loved You More” (Hawthorne Press). Thing one: I was in Tom’s Dangerous Writers writing group up in Portland, Oregon for a year and a half, and Tom was my fiction writing teacher for six years. So I’m biased, I admit it; I think Tom’s a damn good writer, one of the best.
Thing two: I’m straight. It’s important you know that, given the story Tom, who is gay, tells in “I Loved You More.”
Tom’s book – which spans 25-years starting in the mid-‘80s — is about a gay man, Ben Grunewald (Gruney), who falls in love with a straight man, Hank Christian (the Maroni), and then, years later, in the third and final part of the book, while still in love with Hank, becomes emotionally involved with a straight woman, Ruth Dearden. Ben is devastated, and feels totally betrayed when Hank hooks up with Ruth and those two get married.
OK, that really doesn’t do it, so let me try again.
Tom’s book is 466 pages of heartbreak. Think about the love affair that went so wrong for you, the one that tore you down, left you devastated and in pieces. Yeah, that’s this book.
When the “I Loved You More” starts, everything that Ben is going to tell us has already happened. And Ben reveals right up front, in the first nine pages, that this story is about a love triangle, and that Ben ended up the odd man out. Tells us right at the start that Hank married Ruth. In other words, tells us upfront that this is a tragedy, and things are not going to end well.
The rule of three.
More than likely, you’re like me and think that something like this could never happen to you. That you could love a man, then love a woman – two extraordinary people, two unique ways of loving, from different decades, on different ends of the continent, and then somehow, through an accident of the universe, or a destiny preordained – either way you’ll never know – what’s important is that what happens is something you could never in a million years have planned, and there you are the three of you, dancing the ancient dance whose only rule is with three add one, if not, subtract. If three doesn’t find four, three goes back to two.
Add or subtract, that’s the rule.
So we know at the start how it ends. Well sort of. Not exactly. Tom makes us readers think we know how it ends, but of course we don’t.
It’s one hundred years after William S. Burroughs’ birth. To celebrate, the New York Times has published two intriguing essays regarding what the Times calls the “so-called literary bad boys.”
James Parker writes:
It’s the question every writer faces, every morning of his or her life: Am I Malcolm Gladwell today, or am I Arthur Rimbaud? Do I sit down with my pumpkin latte and start Googling, or do I fire a couple of shots into the ceiling and then stick my head in a bucket of absinthe? Which of these two courses will better serve my art, my agent, my agenda? Old hands are ready with the answer: If you want to stick around, kid, if you want to build your oeuvre, you’ve got to be — in the broadest sense — sober. You’ve got to keep it together. There’s no future in going off the rails. “You go in dutifully, slavishly, and you work,” commanded Norman Mailer, his head-buttings long behind him. “This injunction is wholly anti-romantic in spirit.” But his sternness communicates the strain, does it not, the effort required to suppress the other thing: the room-wrecker, the Shelley inside, the wild buddings of Dionysus.
This is where the literary bad boy lives today, at any rate — in the mind of the writer…
Rivka Galchen writes:
In the seventh grade I admired a charismatic, witty girl who had a particular way of writing her lowercase a’s. After some practice, I took to writing my lowercase a’s in the same fashion. Sometimes we find ourselves emulating a trait that’s merely proximate to something wonderful — you can wear a white suit every day, but it won’t get you any closer to revolutionizing American journalism. Emulating that girl’s charisma or wit would have involved much more work, and trying to think and write like the best of the “literary bad boys” can be near on impossible. The handwriting, or the suit, are manageable.
And I would argue that certain traits we associate with the “literary bad boy” — traits we spend the most time excoriating or lauding, with excoriation and laudation amounting to almost the same thing — are more like the handwriting or the suit than the essential substance. They have little to do with the genuinely countercultural thinking or the intelligently transgressive prose. Instead they are, upon inspection, just the fairly straightforward qualities of persons with more financial or cultural or physical power who exercise that power over people with less. There’s nothing “counter” about that, of course; overpowering in that way implicitly validates things as they are, and implies that this is how they ought to be. So I presume that when we value literary-bad-boy-ness — and there is a lot to value there — those traits wouldn’t be, if we thought about it, the essence of bad-boy-ness; those traits aren’t even distinctive. They’re just trussed-up versions of an unfortunate norm.
Even William Burroughs mocked that idea of a literary bad boy. In his oft quoted short story, “The Lemon Kid,” he wrote: “As a young child Audrey Carsons wanted to be writers because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.” The passage is funny, hyperbolic and also somehow psychologically accurate. Audrey dreams of the trappings of a writer, not of writing. Burroughs’s language illuminates the covert dream within the dream: the moneyed associations of Mayfair and the yellow pongee silk suit, and the de facto purchasing of a person whitewashed into the term “a faithful native boy.” The transgression in the fantasy is revealed to be a self-flattering illusion; the real fantasy, nested inside the manifest one, is the standard and childish desire for dominion….
This photo essay with words provides some insight into what makes for the right enviroment for writing — at least for these five writers: Colson Whitehead, Douglas Coupland, Mona Simpson, Joyce Carol Oates and Roddy Doyle.
Kim Gordon’s collection of essays, “Is It My Body?: Selected Texts,” will be published by Sternberg Press later this month.
The book collects essays Gordon wrote for various publications including Artforum in the 1980s and early 1990s.
From the Sternberg Press website:
Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, Kim Gordon—widely known as a founding member of the influential band Sonic Youth—produced a series of writings on art and music. Ranging from neo-Conceptual artworks to broader forms of cultural criticism, these rare texts are brought together in this volume for the first time, placing Gordon’s writing within the context of the artist-critics of her generation, including Mike Kelley, John Miller, and Dan Graham. In addressing key stakes within contemporary art, architecture, music, and the performance of male and female gender roles, Gordon provides a prescient analysis of such figures as Kelley, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Tony Oursler, and Raymond Pettibon, in addition to reflecting on her own position as a woman on stage. The result—Is It My Body?—is a collection that feels as timely now as when it was written. This volume additionally features a conversation between Gordon and Jutta Koether, in which they discuss their collaborations in art, music, and performance.
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
Bob Dylan reads, and over the years he’s read an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction. He’s name-dropped writers in his songs and in his interviews. “Ballad of a Thin Man” famously mentions F. Scott Fitzgerald:
You’ve been through all of,
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books,
You’re very well read,
It’s well known.
In “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” he sings:
Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley,
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.”
Dylan spends pages of his memoir “Chronicles” talking about books and authors.
Below I’ve listed ten books that Dylan has read and appreciated. Some are featured on his website, others he’s spoken about in interviews.
In some cases I’ve included text off Dylan’s website. In others there are quotes from Dylan about the book.
1 Bound For Glory by Woody Guthrie
Bob Dylan, in “Chronicles”: I went through it from cover to cover like a hurricane, totally focused on every word, and the book sang out to me like the radio. Guthrie writes like the whirlwind and you get tripped out on the sound of the words along. Pick up the book anywhere,turn to any page and he hits the ground running. “Bound for Glory” is a hell of a book. It’s huge. Almost too big.
2 The Conscience of the Folk Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Young by Scott Barretta
From Dylan’s website: Israel G. “Izzy” Young was the proprietor of the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The literal center of the New York folk music scene, the Center not only sold records, books, and guitar strings but served as a concert hall, meeting spot, and information kiosk for all folk scene events. Among Young’s first customers was Harry Belafonte; among his regular visitors were Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. Shortly after his arrival in New York City in 1961, an unknown Bob Dyan banged away at songs on Young’s typewriter. Young would also stage Dylan’s first concert, as well as shows by Joni Mitchell, the Fugs, Emmylou Harris, and Tim Buckley, Doc Watson, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurt.
The Conscience of the Folk Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Young collects Young’s writing, from his regular column “Frets and Frails” for Sing Out! Magazine (1959-1969) to his commentaries on such contentious issues as copyright and commercialism. Also including his personal recollections of seminal figures, from Bob Dylan and Alan Lomax to Harry Smith and Woody Guthrie, this collection removes the rose tinting of past memoirs by offering Young’s detailed, day-by-day accounts. A key collection of primary sources on the American countercultural scene in New York City, this work will interest not only folk music fans, but students and scholars of American social and cultural history.
3 The Anchor Anthology of French Poetry by Angel Flores, editor
From Dylan’s website: Introduction by Patti Smith.
4 On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Bob Dylan on his website: “I read On the Road in maybe 1959. It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s.”
Bob Dylan in “Chronicles”: Within the first few months that I was in New York I’d lost my interest in the “hungry for kicks” hipster vision that Kerouac illustrates so well iin his book, “On the Road.” That book had been like a bible for me. Not anymore, though. I still loved the breathless, dynamic bob poetry phrases that flowed from Jack’s pen, but now, that charaacter Moriarty seemed out of place, purposeless — seemed like a character who inspired idiocy. He goes through life bumbing and grinding with a bull on top of him.
From Dylan’s website: Few novels have had as profound an impact on American culture as On The Road. Pulsating with the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, illicit drugs, and the mystery and promise of the open road, Kerouac’s classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be “beat” and has inspired generations of writers, musicians, artists, poets, and seekers who cite their discovery of the book as the event that “set them free.” Based on Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady, On The Road tells the story of two friends whose four cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naïveté and wild abandon, and imbued with Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On The Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.
5 One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding by Robert Gover
Dylan praised the book during an interview with Studs Terkel on radio station WFMT in 1963. “I got a friend who wrote a book, it’s called ‘One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding,’ it’s about this straight-A college kid, fraternity guy, and a 14-year-old negro prostitute, and it’s got two dialogues in the same book. One chapter is what he’s doing and what he does, and the next chapter is her view of him. It actually comes out and states something that’s actually true… This guy who wrote it, you can’t label him. He’s unlabelable.”
6 The Oxford Book of English Verse by Christopher Ricks, editor
From Dylan’s website: Here is a treasure-house of over seven centuries of English poetry, chosen and introduced by Christopher Ricks, whom Auden described as “exactly the kind of critic every poet dreams of finding.” The Oxford Book of English Verse , created in 1900 by Arthur Quiller-Couch and selected anew in 1972 by Helen Gardner, has established itself as the foremost anthology of English poetry: ample in span, liberal in the kinds of poetry presented. This completely fresh selection brings in new poems and poets from all ages, and extends the range by another half-century, to include many twentieth-century figures not featured before–among them Philip Larkin and Samuel Beckett, Thom Gunn and Elaine Feinstein–right up to Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Here, as before, are lyric (beginning with medieval song), satire, hymn, ode, sonnet, elegy, ballad, but also kinds of poetry not previously admitted: the riches of dramatic verse by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Webster; great works of translation that are themselves true English poetry, such as Chapman’s Homer (bringing in its happy wake Keats’s ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’), Dryden’s Juvenal, and many others; well-loved nursery rhymes, limericks, even clerihews. English poetry from all parts of the British Isles is firmly represented–Henryson and MacDiarmid, for example, now join Dunbar and Burns from Scotland; James Henry, Austin Clarke, and J. M. Synge now join Allingham and Yeats from Ireland; R. S. Thomas joins Dylan Thomas from Wales–and Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet, writing in America before its independence in the 1770s, are given a rightful and rewarding place. Some of the greatest long poems are here in their entirety–Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’, Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’–alongside some of the shortest, haikus, squibs, and epigrams.
7 Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians by Thucydides (Author) , Jeremy Mynott (Translator)
Dylan in “Chronicles”: “[It’s ] A narrative which would give you the chills. It was written four hundred years before Christ and it talks about how human nature is always the enemy of anything superior. Thucydides writes about how words in his time have changed from their ordinary meaning, how actions and opinions can be altered in the blink of an eye. It’s like nothing has changed from his time to mine.”
8 Last Train To Memphis by Peter Guralnick
From Dylan’s website: Train to Memphis was hailed on publication as the definitive biography of Elvis Presley. Peter Guralnick’s acclaimed book is the first to set aside the myths and focus on Elvis’ humanity, as it traces Elvis’ early years, from humble beginnings to unprecedented success. At the heart of the story is Elvis himself, a poor boy of great ambition and fiery musical passions, who connected with his audience and the age in a way that has yet to be duplicated.
9 The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, by Sonny Barger
Bob Dylan in the 2012 Rolling Stone interview: Look who wrote this book. [Points at coauthors’ names, Keith Zimmerman and Kent Zimmerman.] Do those names ring a bell? Do they look familiar? Do they? You wonder, “What’s that got to do with me?” But they do look familiar, don’t they? And there’s two of them there. Aren’t there two? One’s not enough? Right? [Dylan’s now seated, smiling.]
I’m going to refer to this place here. [Opens the book to a dog-eared page.] Read it out loud here. Just read it out loud into your tape recorder.
“One of the early presidents of the Berdoo Hell’s Angels was Bobby Zimmerman. On our way home from the 1964 Bass Lake Run, Bobby was riding in his customary spot – front left – when his muffler fell off his bike. Thinking he could go back and retrieve it, Bobby whipped a quick U-turn from the front of the pack. At that same moment, a Richmond Hell’s Angel named Jack Egan was hauling ass from the back of the pack toward the front. Egan was on the wrong side of the road, passing a long line of speeding bikes, just as Bobby whipped his U-turn. Jack broadsided poor Bobby and instantly killed him. We dragged Bobby’s lifeless body to the side of the road. There was nothing we could do but to send somebody on to town for help.” Poor Bobby.
10 Confessions of a Yakuza, Dr. Junichi Saga
In the 2012 Rolling Stone interview Bob Dylan was asked about some lines in songs on Love and Theft that seem to be very close to lines in Saga’s book and Dylan responded: Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It’s true for everybody, but me. I mean, everyone else can do it but not me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who’s been reading him lately? And who’s pushed him to the forefront? Who’s been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it’s so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing – it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.
I’m working within my art form. It’s that simple. I work within the rules and limitations of it. There are authoritarian figures that can explain that kind of art form better to you than I can. It’s called songwriting. It has to do with melody and rhythm, and then after that, anything goes. You make everything yours. We all do it.
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
This past week the Village Voice published a wonderful essay on Lou Reed. Peter Gerstenzang zeroed in on the import of Lou Reed’s songwriting, calling him “Bob’s equal,” the Bob being, of course, Mr. Dylan.
Even knowing there was a cat around named Bob Dylan, who often gets the credit for marrying poetry and mature ideas to Rock and Roll, Lou Reed, who died from the results of liver disease, is, I believe, every bit Bob’s equal. Unquestionably as important, possibly more influential. Although there’s some similarity in their backgrounds (they’re both real rockers who listened to Little Richard before they ever read Rimbaud), Lou did things differently than Dylan. Where Bob introduced surrealism and symbolism into our music, Lou Reed did the same for realism. Perhaps, more accurately, photorealism.
Sure, Dylan told us about the mystery tramp, Queen Jane, that ghostly Johanna, people who lived in our dreams. Reed, no matter where he grew up or who he studied with, told us about people who lived in New Yawk. In 1964 or so, with Dylan delighting in “majestic bells of bolts” and tambourine men, Lou was writing, in complex, but no uncertain terms, about the kind of people who couldn’t resist the siren’s song, the supremely majestic feeling of shooting smack. Or speed. No code words, no metaphors, no clever substitutions. And, without any obvious moralizing, how when these drugs turned on you, you just wished you were dead.
Although I expect that much of what I post here will deal with music, I’ll also write about writing, especially related to the novel I completed earlier this year, “Days of the Crazy-Wild,” and a new one I’m currently at work on. I’ll also, on occasion, talk about books I’m reading, films I’ve seen, art and whatever else makes some kind of serious impression.
My first post, which went up yesterday and is about Bob Dylan’s Another Self Portrait, is the second music column I’ve written for the new Australian version of Addicted To Noise. I’m writing a monthly column for the new ATN.
I’ve also posted the first chapter of “Days of the Crazy-Wild,” and there’s a link to it next to the “About me” link near the top of this page. I hope you’ll read the chapter and let me know what you think. My hope is that it’ll pull you into the narrative dream, and as you read it you’ll feel like you’re experiencing what it was like on the West Coast back in the early ’70s when the counterculture and it’s ideas and ideals still seemed to be alive.
I’ll also sometimes post lists of what I’m currently into, and they’ll look like this:
1. Coming Apart, Body/Head (Matador).
2. “The Butler” (in theaters now).
3. “The God of Nightmares,” Paula Fox (W. W. Norton & Company).
4. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Neko Case (Anti-).
5. The Isle of Wight recordings, Bob Dylan (Sony Legacy). Available as Mp3 downloads if you don’t want to buy the $100 Another Self-Portrait box set.
6. “Oh Come On, The Julie Ruin (TJR). Song and video.