Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Comedians by Graham Greene

Strange, second-tier Greene, but his prose style is as piercing and evocative ever.  A doomed love affair struggles for breath in the shadow of Duvalier's Haiti in the early 1960s.

Joe Gould’s Secret by Joseph Mitchell


Good long short memoir about an eccentric Greenwich Village character in the 1940s and 1950 who claimed to be writing an oral history of modern world but turned out to be doing not so much, simply revising again and again the same several chapters of his own early life. But how he was lovingly supported by hundreds of intellectuals and others in Manhattan, and cherished for his oddness.

Driven to this by my reading of the Harry Smith bio of Szwed, as Smith and Gould share many similarities.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Cosmic Scholar: The Life and Times of Harry Smith by John Szwed


Early Abstractions films: various soundtracks added by various people.

The Critic, Ernest Pintoff, short comedy film, Mel Brooks voiceover.

Heaven and Earth Magic.

HS Mahagonny: based on Brecht/Weill opera, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Compo, Seven Flute Solos:

Shirley Clarke, documentary film maker. Bridges-Go-Round, The Connection, The Cool World, Kaleidoscope (w/ HS)

HS paper airplane collection:

shape note/sacred harp records

John Fahey summary of contents of HS Anthology of Folk Music: "The evidence is in the shakedown."[169\

HS on what his collections meant: It is a way of fooling away the time, harmlessly as possible. [271]

Make a person think they think and they love you; make them think, and they hate you." [ 332]

HS on "automatic synchronization" of his films--
Fred Camper: ... as I was sitting on the floor near a stack of records, [Harry Smith] said, "Hey, you, pick a record, any record." Without looking... I passed the first record on the stack up to him. He looked at it and aid, "You idiot, not that record." [97]

Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 by T.J.Newman


Cheesy, breathy, melodramatic page-turner about the intricate rescue effort of survivors on a jet that crashes moments after its takeoff from Hawaii. A handful of passengers stay inside the plane when it sinks, surviving in a precarious air bubble. (The rest of the passengers, who evacuated on the surface, drown or burn to death.)

Compelling but sort of empty and by-the-numbers characters.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa


The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares


Bizarre surreal 1940 novella by a Borges acolyte. A fugitive (a writer?) on a remote island begins seeing visions of buildings and people, and overhearing their conversations (they cannot see or hear him), and he falls in love with a woman he sees. Running off to wikipedia to figure out the rest of it.

I believe we lost immortality because we have not conquered our opposition to death; we keep insisting on the primary, rudimentary idea: that the whole body should be kept alive. We should seek to preserve only that part that has to do with consciousness. [14]

All that I have written about my life -- hopefully or with apprehension, in jest or seriously -- mortifies me. I am in a bad state of mind. It seems for a long time I have known that everything I do is wrong, and yet I have kept on the same way, stupidly, obstinately. [34]

... when one is alone it is impossible to be dead. [54]

Friday, December 08, 2023

The People Immortal by Vasiliń≠ Grossman


Vivid account of a Red Army group in Ukraine in 1943 as they finally begin to turn the tide against the Nazi invasion. Unusual, shifting pov style of narration. Grossman unknown to me, but was the first to publish acclaimed fiction about the war during the war, and was a national hero in Russia for inspiring hope in a beleaguered time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze


Sort of a high-class, grad school version of Jim Thompson.  The shell-shocked veteran turned criminal teams up with the femme fatale to hatched an armored car robbery, using an abandoned mine shaft as the perfect getaway/hideaway where they can also bury the evidence.

Prose style strong, at times a litttle too self-conscious and minute for my taste. But I'd recommend the book to fans of noir crime fiction.

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