Category: What I’m Reading

What I’m reading.

Women, by Charles Bukowski. A novel of unrepentant womanizing, with nods to the writing life….

Page 140 (from the 8th printing by Ecco/HarperCollins):

There is a problem with writers. If what a writer wrote was published and sold many, many copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold a medium number of copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold very few copies, the writer thought he was great. If what the writer wrote never was published and he didn’t have the money to publish it himself, then he thought he was truly great. The truth, however, was that there was very little greatness. It was almost nonexisistent, invisible. But you could be sure that the worst writers had the most confidence, the least self-doubt. Anyway, writers were to be avoided, and I tried to avoid them, but it was almost impossible. They hoped for some sort of brotherhood, some kind of greatness. None of it had anything to do with writing, none of it helped at the typewriter.


What I’m Reading.

Conquest of the Useless: Reflection From the Making of ‘Fitzcarraldo,’ by Werner Herzog, the German-born filmmaker’s reflections — drawn from his journal — on the making of what amounts to one hell of an impossible film.

P. 195 (from the first edition hard cover):

Mauch was operated on by Dr. Parraga, with our extraordinarily skillful cook putting in the sutures. Since all the anesthesia had been used up during the almost eight hours it took to operate on the two people wounded by arrows, Mauch was soon in agony, and even analgesic spray did not do much good. I held his head and pressed it against me, and a silent wall of faces surrounded us.

Mauch said he could not take any more, he was going to faint, and I told him to go ahead. Then he thought he was going to shit in his pants from the pain, but he could not decide between the two options, and in the end did neither. On a hunch I sent for Carmen, one of the two prostitutes we have here because of the woodcutters and boatmen. She pushed me aside, buried Mauch’s head between her breasts, and comforted him with her lovely soft voice. She rose above her everyday existence, developing her inner Pietà, and Mauch soon fell silent. During the operation, which lasted almost two hours, she said over and over, ‘Thomas, mi amor,” to him, while the patient yielded to his fate. As I stood watching, I felt a deep affection for them both.


What I’m Reading: PRISM Index.

Get This Now: PRISM Index, Issue #1.

I have been seriously remiss for not writing about this sooner: PRISM Index, a lovingly crafted, hand-made art and culture magazine straight outta Columbus, Oh. Not only does it feature an original silkscreen cover by artist and founder Jeffrey Bowers, it comes bursting with goodies: drawings, stories, photography, excerpts of graphic novels and a funny, stand-alone mini-comic called Horror of the Hodag! Oh, and did I mention the multimedia components? A CD and DVD chock full of music and video compilations — the latter of which contains Jay Rosenblatt‘s must-see I Just Wanted to Be Somebody. I’m still going through all of the pieces (this is the sort of publication you chew on in bits), but if I had to pick one reason to pick up this wonderful magazine, it’s for Trent Harris’s moving essay on his friendship with artist Bruce Conner. It left me gasping.

Find the first issue via the magazine’s website, along with a short list of bookstores and galleries that also carry it. It is worth every penny of its $22 cover price.

What I’m Reading.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, by Tom Bissell, a highly intriguing memoir and analysis of why video games can inspire passion, anguish and even addiction.

P. 126:

As I sat there trying to figure out what to do, Mass Effect, despite its three-hundred-thousand-word script and beautiful graphics, was no longer a verbal or visual experience. It was a full-body experience. I felt a tremendous sense of preemptive loss and anxiety, and even called my girlfriend, described my dilemma, and asked her for her counsel. ‘You do know,’ she said, ‘that you’re crazy, yes?’ On the face of things, she was right. Here I was—a straight, thirty-four-year-old man, worrying over the consummation of my female avatar’s love affair. But she was also wrong. To say that any game that allows such surreally intense feelings of attachment and projection is divorced from questions of human identity, choice, perception, and empathy—what is, and always will be, the proper domain of art—is to miss the point not only of such a game but art itself.

What I’m Reading.

The Painted Word, by Tom Wolfe, a breezy book-length essay that tracks the increasingly conceptual, immaterial path of 20th century American art (and the rise and fall of some of its biggest critics).

P. 108 (from the 1987 Bantam printing):

And there, at last, it was! No more realism, no more representational objects, no more lines, colors, forms, and contours, no more pigments, no more brushstrokes, no more evocations, no more frames, walls, galleries, museums, no more gnawing at the tortured face of the god Flatness, no more audience required, just a ‘receiver’ that may or may not be a person or may or may not be there at all, no more ego projects, just ‘the artist,’ in the third person, who may be anyone or no one at all, for nothing is demanded of him, nothing at all, not even existence, for that got lost in the subjunctive mode — and in that moment of absolutely dispassionate abdication, of insouciant withering away, Art made its final flight, climbed higher and higher in an ever-decreasing tighter-turning spiral until, with one last erg of freedom, one last dendritic synapse, it disappeared up its own fundamental aperture…and came out the other side as Art Theory!

What I’m Reading. Plus: Cheese Giveaway Extravaganza!

Nubian goat Lizzie (or Nisa or Penny…). After you finish Goat Song you’ll feel like you have a whole herd of goat pals. (Photo by Dona Ann McAdams.)

I just finished devouring Brad Kessler‘s Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A short history of herding, and the Art of Making Cheese. No pun intended, folks. Reading Kessler’s memoir of what it’s like to leave the New York art and literary world to make goat cheese in Vermont — with his photographer wife Dona Ann McAdams — is about as mouth-watering a reading experience as I can remember. Written in lush but straightforward prose, with beautiful photos by McAdams (the one-time chronicler of the downtown performance art scene), Goat Song made me want to run out and buy a little Nubian doe and start milking. The book is a surprising mother lode of information about art and culture. (Did you know that both the devil’s horns and cloven hooves and the shape of letters in the alphabet all owe their origins to herding?) It’s also a page turner, with hair-raising chapters about staving off coyote attacks and hilarious passages about goat sex. (“It’s like a frat house,” writes Kessler, of a male goat’s post-coital preening around his fellow bucks.)

And because when you finish reading Goat Song, the first question is, naturally, “Where’s the cheese?”  — as in where can I taste Kessler’s home-aged tomme? — is proudly offering a cheese giveaway courtesy of  New York City’s Les Enfants Terribles, the only restaurant in the city that serves it. Tell us why you “cut the cheese” in the comments below and the Canal Street bar-restaurant will send you a coupon for a free fromage sample.

In the meantime, be sure to pick up a copy of Kessler’s book. You can find it right here.

What I’m Reading.

Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum by Michael Gross.

This dishy page-turner chronicles more than a century’s worth of rich-people scoop and intrigue at the Met (including an entertaining account of how the venerable institution was built upon the private collection of a fake general with a warehouse full of pillaged Cypriot artifacts). I’m still reading the sucker, which checks in at 486 pages, but thus far one of my favorite quotes comes from a museum annual report that details what went down the first day the museum opened its doors to the unclean masses on Sunday in 1889:

Many visitors took the liberty of handling every object within reach; some went to the length of marring, scratching, and breaking articles unprotected by glass; a few proved to be pickpockets, and other brought with them peculiar habits, which were repulsive and unclean.