Friday, December 17, 2010

One last tip: Don't forget these books and interesting sites

Here is a last round-up of previously-reviewed holiday suggestions and interesting literary sites that are worth a browse for gift ideas. As always, these can be found by clicking on the links, and books can be purchased using the Amazon search box here on BellemeadeBooks. However a reader celebrates the final weeks of a departing year have a good read, and enjoy best wishes for a successful and happy new year!

(Above) How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop: The Machine Speaks (Stop Smiling Books/Melville House Publishing) is a tech geek's wild ride through Dave Tompkins's ten-year research and interviews, taking tangent at every opportunity to weave together the improbable uses and history of this one technological wonder. Like most of the inescapable gadgets that come to permeate popular culture the vocoder is unrecognizable from its original form, much like the defense-industry origins of what became the internet which followed it in the 1940s. Now the electronically-altered human voice surrounds us, and How to Wreck a Nice Beach (the title is a phonetic play on the human ear's ability to recognize meaning in speech even in distorted form) is probably more history and detail than a casual reader might need, and Tompkins's writing style is that particular style of rock-music writing, the pop-baroque: Homer Dudley "invented the vocoder when he realized his mouth was a radio station while flat on his back in a Manhattan hospital bed, eyes on the ceiling, a goldfish as his witness."
The Paris Review interviews -- nearly sixty years' worth -- are now all available online, and they are a pleasure to have available at last all in a single place to discover, or discover again. Those who have wandered bookshops and old magazine stacks and stumbled on stray volumes of The Paris Review Interviews in their multi-part book form are now free to spend leisurely hours discovering that their literary heroes (and sometimes, villains) are just as they imagined -- or not as the reader imagined them at all. As expected, Eliot, Marianne Moore, Nabokov, and Faulkner cast long shadows, while Auden, Cheever, Anthony Burgess, and Kingsley Amis best one another's observations sounding as if they had cocktails in hand. (“After fifty, one ceases to digest; as someone once said: ‘I just ferment my food now'": that's Terry Southern's witty 1958 talk with Henry Green.) In an unexpected wistful moment, tough-guy Hemingway lets his guard down: “. . . the best writing is certainly when you are in love.”

Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression (City Lights, 2006, edited by Bill Morgan and Nancy Peters) is an especially timely read, collecting correspondence, reporting, magazine articles, and testimony excerpts surrounding the creation of the poem and the subsequent trial. There are some genuinely affecting early letters to friends (in one he addresses Kerouac as "Dear Almond Crackerjax"). It's difficult now to comprehend what an impact the trial had on American culture. It's equally difficult to imagine contemporary culture without judge Clayton Horn's decision, or justice Potter Stewart's words: "In the free society to which the Constitution has committed us, it is for each to choose for himself." Ginsberg was so uncertain of the trial's outcome that he spent most of the time out of the country, and as a result his letters to Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, Corso, and many others are a written record of the trial behind the scenes.

The fall edition of Toronto Poetry Vendors (TPV) was released in October. Here's an excerpt from the post at maisonnueve: Inspired by the Distriboto machines she’d seen in Montreal, Toronto poet Carey Toane dreamed up the idea of a machine that would dispense poems. When fellow poet and fiction writer Elisabeth de Mariaffi got on board, they found themselves sourcing Wrigley’s Excel gum machines on Craigslist and 3 months later, in April 2010, launched Canada’s first mechanical poetry journal, Toronto Poetry Vendors (TPV).The idea came out of the renaissance in handmade, DIY self-publishing in Toronto and the larger lit community, with all the beautiful hand-bound chapbooks and letter press books just begging to be handled and cracked open and enjoyed for their tactile qualities as much as for their content. I covet these things,” Toane says.

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol 1 (University of California Press) Sam Clemens, the former rough-and-tumble newspaperman in the 1850s, learned that the glitter (and the gold) was in the honeyed words, not the acid truth. It was a philosophy he carried through to his very appearance and public demeanor until his death at the age of 74. Clemens/Twain in his final years was a public figure who crafted his own reputation as carefully as that of any of the fictional characters he created. One hundred years later readers can discover what Twain really thought, and subsequently dictated to be written down, about the people and ideas of his age. The author himself is at the safe remove of the tree-shaded Langdon family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. Call it Mark Twain, uncensored at last.

No comments: