Sunday, June 24, 2018

Saturday Music Club: mostly jazz, a lot of keyboards, some singing...

Teo Macero and the Prestige Jazz Quartet: "Just Spring"

Randy Weston: "African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant"

Blossom Dearie Trio and Quartet: "I Wish You Love"; "Bag's Groove" 

Aretha Franklin Band: "Won't Be Long"

Toshiko Akiyoshi: "The Village"

Toshiko Akiyoshi 2007 interview:

from the same interview: on being a Japanese jazz artist

Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra: "Drum Conference"

Thelonious Monk: "Don't Blame Me"

Lenny Bruce's tv series pilot The World of Lenny Bruce 

Friday, June 22, 2018

FFB: ESQUIRE'S WORLD OF HUMOR edited by Lewis W. Gillenson (Esquire/Harper & Row, 1964); TRUMP: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN, V. 2) edited by Denis Kitchen (Dark Horse, 2016); THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem and Bill Kartalopoulos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Anthologies of humor remain a tricky thing. In 1964, Lewis W. Gillenson, former editor of Coronet and about to begin his career, in 1966 as VP and Editor-in-Chief at Grosset and Dunlap, as boss editor at a number of different publishing houses before his death in 1992, was allowed to survey the backfiles of Esquire, a magazine which had, like The New Yorker before it, established itself with the aim of at least secondarily being a home for humor and wit, while in its case being a handsome, sophisticated magazine for men. Esquire staffer David Newman was tasked with writing the chapter introductions and running commentary through the book, so that Gillenson was not required (or perhaps was not trusted) to explain why his selections were so much more redolent of Coronet than what we might've expected from a selection from Esquire...
You might think, given that Harold Hayes's editorship had already made its mark with the magazine by 1965, revivifying it from the relatively anodyne magazine it had managed to become in the mid '50s, as former staffer and Esquire fanboy Hugh Hefner pushed the Esquire model further into a would-be hip but earnest salaciousness with his new magazine, that a coffee-table book devoted to Esquire's thirty years of often very impressive publication might dig heavily into the contributions of the likes of Dorothy Parker, Ring Lardner, and all the old crowd that might've had stronger ties to other magazines, such as James Thurber and H. L. Mencken, as well as the new lions such as Dan Greenburg and at least some of the New Journalism finding a supportive nursery in the magazine...but, instead, you get a Whole Lot of David Newman. Most of it not bad, but also not all that compelling. Even given he was about to co-script Bonnie and Clyde with fellow Esquire staffer Robert Benton.

And when you don't get David Newman, who with Benton also manage to cough up a rather remarkably fogeyish parody of Mad magazine as it was ca. 1964 , less than ingeniously titled Bad, much of the point of which being how nihilistic as well as gauche the rather restrained and bland Mad of that era was. There are single pieces each from Parker and Lardner and Thurber and Jules Feiffer and Ed Fisher and Jessica Mitford and Philip Roth and Harvey Kurtzman and David Levine and Mencken (and George Jean Nathan profiling Mencken) and  Terry Southern's minor classic "Twirling at Ole Miss" ...the major intrusion of what Esquire was becoming famous for in the pages...even Newman, as original writer of the Hayes-commissioned (and apparently a Harvard Lampoon concept in the Hayes years there) "Dubious Achievement Awards" beginning in 1962, is not represented by any of those then-available pieces...and not by any means because excessively topical pieces have been eschewed. And the selection of single-panel cartoons at the back of the book is somewhat surprisingly Off, as well, most of them feeling like New Yorker rejects of the time, though Gahan Wilson's sole representative work is unsurprisingly a highlight. Gloria Steinem, from about the period she was assistant editor of Kurtzman's Help! magazine (where she was succeeded by Terry Gilliam, before it folded and he draft-dodged to England) does contribute some wit to the "service" article for university freshmen, "The Student Prince", in collaboration with Benton, who is also overrepresented.

I hope to provide an index to this one soon, as no one else online seems to have done so.
But before Kurtzman was to begin editing Help! at the penny-pinching Warren Publications, or going broke after self-funding Humbug with his fellow staffers, but not long after leaving Mad when William Gaines wouldn't allow him partial ownership of the newly reformatted magazine, he was able to produce two 1957 issues (and get started on a never-released third) of Trump, a magazine which had no relation to our current lampoon of a U.S. president. Lavishly funded by Kurtzman fan and not-quite-pro-level cartoonist Hugh Hefner (someone's joke was that Trump had an unlimited budget, but still managed to exceed it), Trump strove to be adult in ways that Mad had never quite allowed itself to be, and was the first project where Kurtzman was able to work extensively with such similar spirits as Arnold Roth (one of the partners in the immediate successor Humbug)...published on slick paper in full color, and costing a somewhat prohibitive 50c a copy, the simple freedom to do what they wanted often seemed to work against the perfectionist Kurtzman...the two issues were published several months apart, in what was meant to be a bimonthly to start. Not having the impetus to produce more work more regularly also perhaps resulted in the feeling most readers get that the magazine didn't get to shake itself down, to find a firm footing in what it was hoping to achieve, compared to the other Kurtzman magazines...but this lavishly produced facsimile volume, featuring the two issues, some of the roughs and first drafts of material from them and the prospective third issue, and commentary by project editor Dennis Kitchen and others is a handsome and valuable book...but not one, as one moves from piece to piece in the archive here, very often compellingly funny, even when achingly well-done.  A brief piece from Playboy hyping the new magazine is excerpted rather than run in full, which seems odd, given the Playboy branding (perhaps meant to diffuse the damage to the Trump title by 2016); Hefner's publishing company was running into some financial pushback by the time of Trump's second issue, and perhaps Hefner was also not too pleased by sales reports, but, as everyone notes, he did donate what had been Trump's rented office space in New York to  Kurtzman and company for use till the lease ran out as homebase for the slightly more durable Humbug...

While Jonathan Lethem is a frequently brilliant writer, and a lifelong enthusiast of comics (he draws as well as writes his very funny comic strip of an introduction to this tenth annual volume, having just, as he notes, published his first scripts in professional comics), he (as he might insist, himself) was perhaps the least qualified guest editor the series had up to that point, and further admits that he's been particularly unengaged with "mainstream" or large-publisher, narrative-driven, mostly superhero-featuring they, and most of the kinds of comics those publishers will also offer, including crime-fiction and horror comics, are largely missing from this volume. And while that in itself isn't crippling...there's a lot of good work done in other modes in the comics field, and most of that in more need of exposure than the large publishers' work, for the most part...the heavy reliance in this volume on excerpts from graphic novels and other longer works, and almost no complete works as presented, makes for a less satisfying experience, if, again, a set of valuable pointers.  And leading off with Roz Chast and Jules Feiffer does tend to set the bar high, even for such fellow veterans as Peter Bagge. 

Unlike the first two volumes above, not everything here strives at all for humor, but much of it does, and much of that succeeds...rather better than the cover image, as cute a notion as it is (Raymond Pettibon's Ignatz Mouse drawing on the back cover is rather better)...

From WorldCat:

The Best American Comics 2015

Editor:Jonathan Lethem
Publisher:Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Mom and dad. 

Can't we talk about something more pleasant? (excerpt) / Roz Chast ; 
Kill my mother (excerpt) / Jules Feiffer 

Superheroes détourned.
Theth (excerpt) / Josh Bayer ; 
Sadistic comics / R. Sikoryak ; Mathilde's story / Diane Obomsawin ; 
Blane throttle (excerpt) / Ben Duncan 

The wrenchies (excerpt) / Farel Dalrymple ; 
Prometheus / Anders Nilsen ; 
Palm ash / Julia Gfrörer ; 
The good witch, 1947 / Megan Kelso 

No tears, no sorrow / Eleanor Davis ; 
Pretty smart / Andy Burkholder ; 
The Colombia diaries, Sept 14-16 (excerpt) / Gabrielle Bell 

You might even hang them on your wall. 
No title (I was fumbling), no title (the credits rolled), and no title (as we can) / Raymond Pettibon ; 
Lâcher de chiens / Henriette Valium ; 
Pythagoras / Ron Regé, Jr. ; 
76 manifestations of American Destiny (exerpt) / David Sandlin ; 
Cretin keep on creep'n creek / Mat Brinkman ; 
briefly, before dawn / Rosaire Appel 

Biopics and historical fictions. 
selections from Hip hop family tree / Ed Piskor ; 
Woman rebel : the Margaret Sanger story (excerpt) / Peter Bagge ; 
The Great War (excerpt) / Joe Sacco 

Working the cute nerve. 
Fran (excerpt) / Jim Woodring ; 
Little Tommy lost : book one (excerpt) / Cole Closser ; 
Mimi and the wolves (excerpt) / Alabaster ; 
Pockets of temporal disruptions (excerpt) from Safari honeymoon / Jesse Jacobs ; 
Misliving amended / Adam Buttrick 

Raging her-moans. 
My year of unreasonable grief (part four) (excerpt) from Lena Finkle's magic barrel / Anya Ulinich ; 
Someone please have sex with me / Gina Wynbrandt ; 
After school (excerpt) from Unloveable, vol.3 / Esther Pearl Watson 

The way we live now. 
Informanics (exerpt) / Matthew Thurber ; 
Cross delivery, Screw style, How did you get in the hole?, The pen, and We can't sleep from The hole / Noel Freibert ; 
Comets comets / Blaise Larmee ; 
Crime chime noir / A. Degen

No class (excerpt) from School spirits / Anya Davidson ; 
Net gain, Swiping at branches, and The perfect match / Kevin Hooyman ; Behold the sexy man! from Well come / Erik Nebel.

***For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog...

Panel dedicated to Trump at the 2016 New York Comic Con. From left to right: John Lind, Denis Kitchen, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffee and moderator Bill Kartalopoulos.

Friday, June 15, 2018

FFB: ADVENTURES IN THE SPACE TRADE: A Memoir by Richard Wilson (Drumm 1986); FANTASTIC WORLDS Nos. 3, 4 & 5, edited by Sam Sackett (Sackett/Kemble 1953); COLD SNAP by Thom Jones: Limited Promotional Sampler (Little, Brown 1995}

The Very Small Press, and a Brief Form of a Little, Brown Book

Richard Wilson isn't  "The Forgotten Writer" of the 1950s and '60s, but he'll do till another unjust example asserts her or himself (next week, no doubt). In his youth one of the NYC-based Futurian Society group of fan writers, editors, artists and more, Wilson wasn't ever the flashiest nor most prolific of the bunch, but his wry and empathetic approach was notable early on...and that he was not too prone to pomposity might be suggested by his most sustained series of works being the stories about the protean Harry Protagonist (with the first two stories meant to be retro-fitted into the series in a mooted collection that has not yet appeared):
Even more remarkable, even given his primary career, more than simply his day job, for most of his adult life was as a wire-service journalist (first for the small Trans-Radio Press, as the primary staffer in Chicago, then for Reuters in NYC--sometimes working with his wife, Doris "Leslie Perri" Baumgardt, and his old friend and collaborator Cyril Kornbluth), he published only three novels, the last in 1960 and that a short one, released as half of an Ace Double with one of Andre Norton's novels, and a novella, "The Story Writer", in 1979. But when he did publish, he was often collected in the year's best volumes and on the shortlist for or winning the SFWA's Nebula Award, and at least two of his stories from the late '60s, "Mother to the World" (1968) and "A Man Spekith", were widely hailed and (it was perhaps hoped) suggested a newly sustained re-engagement with writing new fiction. As it turned out, not so much, till after his retirement from a position as instructor and archivist at Syracuse University...and those stories were not collected in a Wilson volume till well after his death in 1987, in a pair of volumes edited by John Pelan, collecting his best short work, issued by Ramble House with the unfortunate amateurish packaging that well-meaning imprint tends to offer. 

The late Thom Jones, best known still for his first collection The Pugilist at Rest, is not a forgotten writer at all, though he's not a name to conjure with at this point...he apparently wished to have readers (and editors such as Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond J. Smith) forget what I think might be his first published story, "Brother Dodo's Revenge", a fine animal fantasy from a young writer which seemed to most embarrass him in its publication site, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1973, an issue where he shares space with Avram Davidson, the poet Walter Kerr, John Sladek, Edward Wellen, Dean McLaughlin, Waldo Carlton Wright, and, it's true, Andrew Offutt in one of his more presentable efforts in the 1970s, an unusually stag cast for the magazine, and what is probably still Harlan Ellison's best single shorter work, "The Deathbird", as the cover story, a cover by Leo and Diane Dillon. But, then again, one must keep up appearances, particularly if one is a pompous and ambitious up-and-comer in the 1990s. Hence my never actually purchasing a Jones volume, but I do have this expensively-produced, die-cut example of a promo sampler of stories from his second collection, as issued in early 1995 as an enticement to reviewers and particularly book-buyers, on the wholesale and perhaps even retail level (I don't remember if we had stacks of these to put out at our bookstore, but it seems likely).

And then, back in the earliest 1950s, there were (as there had been going back to the 1930s and would continue to be to the present) the more ambitious examples of the fannish small press, with few "semiprozines" (the mildly budgeted little magazines of the fantastic-fiction community, which made token payments to contributors) but a few more ambitious fanzines, which featured some notable contributors offering fiction and essays and other writing and art which was perhaps not quite right, or too eccentric or personal, for the paying markets. 
Fantastic Worlds, Summer 1953
as above
Fantastic Worlds, Fall 1953
as above

Most of the reason these have caught my eye is the early publication of fiction by David R. Bunch, who would continue to be one of the more interesting if polarizing contributors to the field, mostly in the form of vignettes and short fiction, much of it set in a future human society of Moderan, where humanity has become increasingly flensed by literal as well as metaphorical and spiritual mechanization...the satirical variations he ran on this theme, and in other allied work in other settings, was usually deft and engaging. (To place him in the firmament, perhaps consider him as somewhere between Theodore Sturgeon and R. A. Laffterty, and pulled a bit toward the "Cordwainer Smith" orbit, but with the intensity of focus of some of Barry Malzberg's work.) And that these three issues, at least, are online, and ready for all to see. It's a useful service, being able to dip into the content, if not necessarily the context, of these productions of their time...and unlike the back issues of the professional magazines, copies of this and other fannish productions are even less likely to come to the open electronic or surviving bookstore market.

More to come on all these items...but for more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

FFM: A January 1951 Newsstand Photo...and some of the magazines on display...

Getty Images is handling orders and rights for this photo, which Paul Di Filippo drew to the attention of Facebook Vintage Pulp and Paperback forum members:
-which they might ask not be reproduced here, in this non-commercial context:

The following issues, available in January 1951, are visible in the photo:
Comment: a pretty good example of how Sam Merwin was doing good things with the Thrilling Group sf magazines, even if Edmond Hamilton, Leigh Brackett's husband, was still writing "Captain Future" stories (however, I would have then and still do prefer seeing those to the fringe "nonfiction" both John Campbell and Ray Palmer would engage in in their magazines, Palmer having just left the Ziff-Davis magazines, below, in Howard Browne's hands...and the tendency for both Campbell and Palmer to ride hobbyhorses, which was going to begin seriously marring Astounding by the latter '50s, and would become even more pronounced in the magazines Palmer would publish as well as edit.

Howard Browne's issues would tend to resemble Ray Palmer's, only lacking any of Richard Shaver's crackpot "revelation" fiction...after the spike of impressive fiction, particularly in Fantastic Adventures, in 1950, as Browne had hoped to offer an "upgraded", at least semi-slick version of Amazing...which saw one "ashcan" dummy prototype, but went no least until the rather handsome, semi-slick Fantastic,  and then Conflict and The Seven Seas/Tales of the Sea, appeared in 1952 and 1953 respectively, with Amazing retrofitted in '53 as well. But the larding of little fillers, and even talented writers such as William McGivern and Rog Phillips often delivering simply competent fiction, rather than their best efforts, all too often.  Fantastic and to some extent the short-lived titles and Amazing did step up their games for a couple of years, but by 1955, mediocrity would rule OK again, as Browne left for a Hollywood career and Paul Fairman took over with an even less engaged approach to editing...though Browne, then Fairman, were fortunate in having as an assistant from the mid-'50s onward Cele Goldsmith...who would become editor herself by decade's end. 

From the same publishers as Startling Stories, which had a slew of corporate names...
Slightly unusual for a western magazine to dig back as far as the 'Teens for all but the biggest "names"...though Raines was at least at the edge of that sort of reputation.

The Rex Stout novella indexed below as reprinted in 3/52 EQMM:
and in the 1952 collection, Triple Jeopardy:

    The American Magazine [v151 #2, February 1951] (Crowell-Collier, 25¢, 8½" x 11", cover by Peter Stevens Sumner Blossom, editor. Details from (No image available for this issue's front cover.)

All the Mercury Press titles lined up, including the then recently-sold American Mercury...

Anthony Boucher doing double-duty at EQMM, even as he co-edited his own magazine, below:

I first read an excerpt of this novel in the 1977 "250th Anniversary" issue of The Saturday Evening Post...(please click to enlarge the images below)

Issue Date: February 1951; Vol. LXXII, No. 326 
UNTOLD FACTS IN THE KOREAN DISASTER ... William Bradford Huie, editor.
DOWN TO EARTH: Alan Devoe on Hunting
THE MYSTERY BUS RIDE ... Robert Lowry.
THE VOICE OF MARGARET TRUMAN: A Critique ... Dr. Putzi Sczerbowski, LL. D.M.
CONFESSIONS OF A WAR LACKEY ... Lt. Comdr. James Monroe Madison, USNR
FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE: Night over South Africa ... Robert de Koch.
THE YOUNG THIEVES ... Chandler Brossard.
THEATRE: The Young Man Named Fry ... George Jean Nathan.
MOVIES: The Death of the Hero ... William Poster.
BOOKS: Noble Hawks and Neurotic Woman ... Chandler Brossard.
TV AND RADIO: What Hath Two Billion Dollars Wrought? ... John Tebbel.
WHY NO KOREAN WAR SONGS? ... John Tasker Howard.

About American Mercury...
That's the January issue of The New American Mercury in the photo, just after the sale of the magazine by Mercury Press to the first in a succession of ever more rightwing and soon particularly anti-Semitic and racist owners...this first set, under editor William Bradford Huie, were more in the mode of William F. Buckley, Jr....who would be an intern at the magazine under the next administration in 1955, and would leave it to go found National Review. Up through the end of the Mercury Press years, it published a lot of interesting work, including Walter Miller, Jr.'s first short story, and some impressive George Salter covers while a Mercury Press title. 

The Reporter, 23 January 1951

John Norris queried about Masterpieces in the Comments below; turns out it was a Ziff-Davis color plates reproductions of famous paintings magazine, presumably meant to be an annual, at least, that probably never saw a second issue, at least under that logotype. (Click to enlarge any of these images.)

Some of the paperbacks John also identified:

(though I think I like the composition, if not the execution, of this Canadian cover even better:)

Looks like it's the Graphic rather than the Harlequin edition of Roeburt's Corpse on the Town:

And the last issue of the expensively-produced, lavish fashion and arts magazine Flair, as Fleur Cowles's pet project is shut down in the face of paper-shortage fears in as the Korean War heats up (her husband's publishing company was most notable for Look magazine, Life's chiefest rival among large-format photojournalism magazines; Venture was a later, expensive project). Possibly Ronald Searles's first US publication.

For more conventional Friday Books entries, please see Patti Abbott's blog.