Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Day of the Triffids (1951) by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids was made into a forgettable 1960 film.
Book Review
The Day of the Triffids (1951)
 by John Wyndham

  The Day of the Triffids is a nearly forgotten (in the US) science fiction classic by English genre Author John Wyndham.  Wyndham spent a career laboring in the lower echelons of English publishing before breaking through with The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both of which sold in an amount which ensured his fortune.

   Like The Midwich Cuckoos, Wyndham expertly evokes Cold War vibes, namely fear of invasion by an alien "other" with a relentless hive mind.  Here, the monsters are not alien babies but giant walking plants that communicate with one another and kill with a sting.  Wyndham doubles down on thematic complexity by staging a mass blinding of 98% of humanity the night prior to the Triffid uprising.   The idea of a mass blinding of humanity is itself a durable theme, see Blindness by Jose Saramago, published in 1995, and the subsequent film version.

  If you can track down a copy, it's worth a read, especially for sci-fi fans who may have missed The Day of the Triffids because of its borderline in-print status in the United States.  There is also a recently published sequel, Night of the Triffids, by a separate author.  I actually mistakenly read Night first, and it was decent, much better than one might reasonably expect from a sequel written decades later by a different author.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Lonely Londoners (1956) by Samuel Selvon

Samluel Selvon was the child of East Indian immigrants who came to Trinidad.  He moved to London as a young man and later lived in Canada for many years, where he languished in obscurity.  The Lonely Londoners is the first realistic depiction of the West Indian immigrant experience in London after World War II.
Book Review
The Lonely Londoners (1956)
by Samuel Selvon

   The Lonely Londoners presumably earned its place in the 1001 Books project because it was the first novel that tackled the experience of West Indian immigrants to London after World War II.  Samuel Selvon was the children of East Indian immigrants to the West Indies, and after World War II he made his way to London and eventually to Canada, where he lived in obscurity for decades before his death.

  The Lonely Londoners are a group of loosely affiliated West Indians, mostly unattached young men and one extended family, who are trying to make their way in the wilds of post World War II London.  Selvon uses the now familiar West Indian patois, with everything short of "Mon" thrown in the pot, in a way that brings to life these types in the same way that the Beats used hipster slang to convey their American characters.  Lonely Londoners reads more like a series of character sketches than a fully formed novel, and at only 150 pages, it winds up before the reader begins to deeply identify with anyone.

  Interracial relationships were a necessity because of the heavily male representation among West Indian immigrants, and the most compelling moments in The Lonely Londoners concerns these encounters.  Selvon casually handles a topic that might have prevented an American author from ever being published.  As the characters themselves point out, the West Indians were citizens of the realm, and should have been entitled to full credit in the home capital, but of course the actual experienced was different, with racism manifesting itself in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways.

  The Lovely Londoners is another title in the 1001 Books project that dramatically reflects the location of the editors (England).  The Lovely Londoners isn't even in print in the United States, and it may have never had an American edition beyond the initial press.  Finding it was a matter of some trial, and on Amazon you can expect to pay 10 dollars or more for the 150 pages of text.  My library copy was brought directly from storage, where it had lay unread for over 20 years.  Astonishing.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Blue of Noon (1957) by Georges Bataille

Georges Bataille
Book Review
Blue of Noon (1957)
by Georges Bataille

   George Bataille is something of an outlier in the outer precincts of 20th century culture.  He was active at the same time and places as the surrealist, but he wasn't a surrealist.  He was popular when the existentialists were popular, and with the same people, but didn't get along with the big existentialists.  He was influential on Foucault, Badrillard and Derrida and is generally associated withe the literature and study of "transgression."

  Blue of Noon, about a decadent intellectual who spends his time drinking and carrying on with three different women, was written in the mid 1930s but not published until 1957, presumably because it is and was a legitimately shocking novel in terms of its forthright depiction of junkie sex and substance abuse.

 Henri Troppmann is a literary figure in the vein of a Henry Miller protagonist, or perhaps more accurately an updated type from Joris-Karl Huysmans' 1882 classic, Against Nature.   Bataille adds the dark psycho-sexual twist that would be so popular with later 20th century avant-gardes.  At the same time Bataille didn't make a deep impression with the average reading public, and his works remain relatively hard to come by- I think the San Diego Public Library keeps Blue of Noon "off the shelf" requiring patrons to actually request it.  Having read it, I understand why, but still.   The first English translation was only made in 1978.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by John Wyndham

The Midwich Cuckoos has twice been made into a movie called The Village of the Damned.
Book Review
The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
 by John Wyndham

  In America, most people will be familiar with the movie versions, both called The Village of the Damned.  I'd never heard of Wyndham before I picked up the 1001 Books project, now I know that he is the first rate English science fiction writer of the late 50s and 60s, following in the tradition of H.G. Wells.

  Like the movie, The Midwich Cuckoos is about a small village where the population awakes after lying unconscious overnight to discover that all 60 eligible women are pregnant.  Nine months later, 30 boys and 30 girls are born, all with golden eyes. As they grow up, the villagers discover certain...qualities that the children have that make them extremely dangerous.  Although a largely conventional sci-fi narrative, Wyndham expertly deploys the fear of "alien contamination" that was such a prominent feature of cold war discourse (think of Doctor Stangelove and his "precious bodily fluids") in a fantastic context.

  The Midwich Cuckoos was tough to locate and no longer in print in the United States.  You'd think there would have been a movie version from the second making of The Village of the Damned but nah.

The Golden Notebook (1962) by Doris Lessing

Book Review
The Golden Notebook (1962)
by Doris Lessing

  The Golden Notebook is a novel with serious legs. You can attribute it's staying power to a number of factors.  It sits at the intersection of race, class and politics that animated many discussions in the 1960s.  Lessing herself was raised in Southern Africa, so she brought valuable insight to the noth/south discussion that continues to be a central issue in the subject of world literature.  The Golden Notebook is also a precursor of "post-modern" or "meta" fiction while maintaining strong roots in the tradition of the great English Victorian novel.

  Anna Wulf, a writer, single mother and "free woman" at the center of The Golden Notebook, is one of those ur-20th century women who define the experience of being a "modern" woman.  Lessing and Wulf are not exactly care-free prostlyizers for free love, quite the opposite.  The primary literary theme is that of Wulf's disintegration through a series of unhappy relationships.  The technique of The Golden Notebook is the use of four separate notebooks, each with it's own theme: Black for Africa experiences, Red for communist experiences, Yellow for love affairs and Blue as a catch all.  Excerpts from these notebooks are contained within a framing narrative of Anna Wulf's everyday existence.   Thus, The Golden Notebook spans vast territory, from pre-World War II southern Africa to the America driven market for television versions of literary properties in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

  Lessing's astute depiction of the emerging world of modern publishing, particularly television and magazines is worth singling out from the weightier themes of global communism and terrible interpersonal sexual relationships.  Lessing provides the most sophisticated takes on television and women's magazines as I've read seen in any novel from the 1001 Books selections.  Considering that I'm not into the 1960s, you would think that the novel would have been more reflective of these areas and their impact on the novel reading public.

Show Review: Nite Jewel and Cole MGN with J Nadya

Show Review: Nite Jewel and Cole MGN with J Nadya
@ The Ace Hotel rooftop bar in downtown Los Angeles, CA.

  I go back like 5 or 6 years with Nite Jewel, since the second golden age of this blog back in 2010-2011.  Now, my girlfriend is managing her husband, Cole MGN.  Cole was performing in his new project with singer J. Nadya.   This was the live debut of this particular combination of Cole MGN and J. Nadya, which still lacks a "band name."  It was also the first live show for Nite Jewel in some time.  I haven't seen her live since 2011.  I think Nite Jewel put out a great record but it didn't sell very well and she didn't tour very much (at all?) behind it and... the record came out in 2012.  I think it's great when artists can afford to take that much time off, but there is a clear conflict between that type of timeline and the the type of timeline required to gain a maximum audience for one's music product.

  Nite Jewel's new jams were solid. I'd imagine that the next LP is partially completed at this point.  It could still be released in the last part of 2016 if it gets finished in the next few months.  She is now performing as a two piece with another woman.  They both play keyboards and sing and then there are pre programmed tracks.  Her voice was strong and it reminded me of the potential that people saw in her work as early as 2009, when she was a part of the LA Times Best Coast/Dum Dum Girls/Pearl Harbor/Nite Jewel entertainment section feature.  She's working in a space, that of the "indie dance queen" that has a real audience, both critical and popular, but she's never had the dynamic live show that you see from the category winners in this artistic space.

  Cole MGN and J Nadya was a "whoah this could be huge" type of experience.  First of all, J. Natya sings in a kind of doo wop falsetto that has the kind of quality that can take you all the way to the billboard pop chart, a la I Love Makonnen.  J. Nadya simply sang, and Cole MGN played keyboards, triggered the pre programmed tracks and sang backing vocals into a vocoder.

  One of the songs actually reminded me of Dirty Beaches "True Blue" jam in the way that it reached all the way back from the present to fifties era popular music styles.  The crowd included many people I identified as members of the "downtown los angeles" scene.  I think it's a pretty beats driven scene with artists like Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus and the Odd Future gang serving as artistic icons.

  The roof top bar at the Ace Hotel is not completely unpalatable on a Sunday night, but it was crowded and most everyone seemed to be there for the music.  The Ace Hotel rooftop bar has at least three distinct areas, the entrance/patio, the covered bar service area, and the pool area past the covered bar service area, so you could be in that portion of the bar and not even know there was live music in the entrance/patio.  

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