Friday, August 27, 2010

August "Forgotten" Music/Friday's "Forgotten" Book: BLUE ROSE by Blue Rose (Sugar Hill, 1989); LIFE OF THE PARTY by Mary Fleener (Fantagraphics, 1996)

Life is not cooperative at all at the moment, so I shall have less to say than I'd like about this wonderful book, which collects most of Mary Fleener's most autobiographical comix stories (as of the '96 publication date) and this bluegrass "supergroup" album, I believe the first all-female gathering of veterans, rather than younger folk who came up together in bluegrass (as the Dixie Chicks initially did, or such younger bands as Uncle Earl).

From her middle-class LA early-teen years, through adventures in the bohemian subcultures (including latter-day 1970s hippiedom and the fringes of American punk rock, surf culture and more), the weirdness of the theoretically conventional "straight" life around that and various eerie bits of coincidence that seemingly could verge on the supernatural, Fleener's bold style (given, particularly in portraying incidences of stress or ecstacy, to Cubist abstractions, such as the cover above) is an excellent match with her wit and wry take on the passing show.

Life of the Party is a good introduction to her work, as would be particularly the three issues of Fleener, one of the several shortlived comics titles she's produced on her own or in collaboration (she was one of the most talented of the contributors to the durable Wimmen's Comix and one of the founding group of contributors to its heir, Twisted Sisters. However, Life is, as too many books are, barely in print, from Fantagraphics and others.

Some samples of her b&w work:

Meanwhile, Blue Rose the band: Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, Laurie Lewis, Sally Van Meter, and Molly Mason (no relation as far as I know) simply recorded this wonderful album, toured a bit as a group, but didn't find sufficient support to remain a unit, if that was ever the intent, and that's really too bad (as well as a poor commentary on the tough life a bluegrass band could face in the '80s and '90s)...these truncated clips, more at the band link above than I replicate here, will give you a sense of their wonderful sound (though the instrumental solos are often what's truncated, in favor of the lovely vocal harmonies):

1. River of Change
2. Geraldine and Ruthie Mae
3. Blue Love
4. Little Birds
5. Your Friendship Carries Me
6. Sad But True
7. Wild Rose of the Mountain
8. Careless Love
9. Train of Life
10. Time Has Made A Change

--though I'm tempted to simply post them all. You probably need this record. I did.

For more of August's "forgotten" music, please see Scott Parker's blog; for more of this Friday's "forgotten" books, please see Patti Abbott's...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Books, College Edition: DREAM MAKERS II: Interviews by Charles Platt; ESSENTIAL WORKS OF ANARCHISM, edited by Marshall Shatz

I matriculated at the University of Hawaii, Manoa as a prospective triple-major (English, Political Science, and an interdisciplinary Planetary Science major), in the Honors Program, and proceeded to take on 18-21 credits per semester of the most challenging courses I could make my way into for the first two semesters, while going in every direction that looked interesting extracirricularly. I was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Hawaii Review, the only literary magazine on campus in those years before Manoa, as an 18-year-old frosh; that appointment was rescinded by the Board of Publications for essentially frivolous reasons and against their own rules, without my (or my successor) being able to get the funds from the BOP to produce any issues. That, while enervating, was lost a bit in the rush of three friends and my campaign, as the Green Slate, for the student Senate of the Associated Students of UH...there were 19 senatorial slots in the College of Arts and Sciences, and 24 candidates. My friend Keiko was easily elected, and I came in 19th, so barely was; our running-mates Darius and Greg placed in the last five in vote totals. We were all motivated to one degree or another by opposition to the Maranatha Christian-cult incumbents on the Senate, who were able to ram through various questionable bills and resolutions in my freshman year; we foiled some of their further attempts, despite most of the executive offices in the new administration being held by Maranathans who had been senators the previous year (Keiko transferred to Barnard College at Columbia U over the summer, but Greg, whose brother was a newly elected Maranathan senator, and Darius were able to enter the senate as Keiko and others dropped of the two School of Engineering senators, Kevin, was an ally on some of these matters, and was also, like Keiko, a punk-rock enthusiast rather more seriously than I a favor, later, in part to thank him for letting me crash with his family, I bankrolled in part his concert event, the Second Pacific Nu Musik Festival, which was a watershed in Hawaiian punk and new wave events). I also became, more by default than anything else, the president of the Honolulu Science Fiction Society.

So it would be hard to blame my reading in those Hawaiian years for my extraordinarily mixed record as a student in 1982-1983, when after three semesters I dropped out of the UH, halfway through my incumbency, and having taken writing courses with Robert Onopa (a 300-level course as a second-semester freshman) and A. A. Attanasio (a graduate seminar in my sophomore year's first and only Hawaiian semester). But I was certainly still reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and the horror-fiction magazine and anthology series Whispers and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and while growing decreasingly happy with the tack The Atlantic was taking, this new incarnation of Harper's was interesting. As was, among the books I was quite happy to find, the now rather obscure collection of interviews with and profiles of sf and fantasy writers called Dream Makers II, the second such volume, assembled by the ever-contentious Charles Platt, who nonetheless with these books was channeling the rather more openhearted and professionally smooth approach of one of his idols, Alfred Bester, who loved writing sf but loved writing and editing (and particularly profiling) for Holiday magazine in its glory years in the 1960s about as much. Platt's first volume did reasonably well, for a collection of interview-based essays, and Platt was able to get backing to touch base with a similar range of writers for the second volume, including such folks as the half-paralyzed and sporadically enraged Keith Laumer, grimly determined to get past the strokes that hadn't yet utterly incapacitated him; Joanna Russ explicitly Outing herself as lesbian, still a relatively bold move in 1983 even if not much of a suprise to those who'd been reading her more autobiographical work; Jerry Pournelle expressing his appreciation for Mussolini and the Fascists, and revealing that he had been, briefly, after his service in the US military in the Korean War, a member of the US Communist Party, largely out of disgust with what he'd just experienced (and, one gathered, his still-strong fetish for Order and Hierarchy), and generally reading how a second set of major writers in the field felt they should present themselves and their work, and what Platt made of them as interview subjects, usually in their homes when they were game to have him over. Fascinating stuff, and certainly Platt's piece on Theodore Sturgeon in this volume didn't make it any easier to miss (what would turn out to be) Sturgeon's last writers' workshop, on one of the neighbor islands, which I couldn't afford to attend so didn't apply for (this was in a period of trying to make my way without taking more money from my parents, which turned out not to work so very well in the depressed job market of 1983-84 Honolulu/Oahu).

Well, having left Hawaii to rejoin my parents, brother and cat, who had moved in '83 to the DC suburbs in Virginia, I got some jerk jobs and began saving money to return to school there, going on to fill out some core requirements at Northern Virginia Community College in 1985, where in working on the campus paper I met Frank Lawrence, my Green/libertarian-left political interests didn't lessen, and in reading a column in Utne Reader about a Canadian journal that sounded particularly interesting, I sent off for a copy of Our Generation, the libertarian socialist and anarchist magazine, which in that issue featured long essays by Noam Chomsky and Murray Bookchin, and shorter pieces (iirc) by George Woodcock and Janet Biehl, among others. Our Generation would soon be supplemented by such more local productions as Social Anarchism, which I would eventually contribute to editorially, and such more farflung publications as The Match! (from an eccentric DIY publisher in Arizona) and Freedom (the anarchist newspaper/newsletter of long standing out of England), and I cast about and supplemented reading the likes of Emma Goldman's massive and often breathtaking Living My Life and Woodcock's and Chomsky's and Daniel Guerin's books, and the likes of Sonia Johnson's political memoirs, with anthologies such as Marshall Shatz's slightly potted but useful and interesting Essential Works. It was nice to have early work by such a Green mover and shaker as Daniel Cohn-Bendit handily cheek-by-jowl with that of Paul Goodman, and both brought together with such progenitors as Proudhon and Bakunin, Kropotkin and Godwin. As with Johnson, not a few of the feminists I was reading voraciously as well, very much including Joanna Russ and the all but anarchist Ursula Le Guin, were echoing much of what the left-libertarian foremothers had noted, applying it to new circumstances. Both on my last academic campus, George Mason University, and off, I grew more involved with the anarchist, libertarian-socialist, Green and other activities at hand, and helped start a few. Very busy times. And some very good reading, to say the least.

Tables of Contents:

For the Platt, from WorldCat:
The first anthology.

Description: xv, 300 p. : ports. ; 21 cm.
Jerry Pournelle --
Larry Niven --
Christopher Priest --
William S. Burroughs --
Arthur C. Clarke --
Alvin Toffler --
John Sladek --
D.M. Thomas --
Keith Roberts --
Andre Norton --
Piers Anthony --
Keith Laumer --
Joe Haldeman --
Fritz Leiber --
Robert Anton Wilson --
Poul Anderson --
Jack Vance --
Theodore Sturgeon --
L. Ron Hubbard --
Joanna Russ --
Janet Morris --
The best of/third edition.
Joan D. Vinge --
Harry Harrison --
Donald A. Wollheim --
Edward L. Ferman --
Kit Reed --
James Tiptree, Jr. --
Stephen King.
Responsibility: by Charles Platt.

for the Shatz, from the table of contents in the online version, link above:
Preface ix

Introduction xi

Part I. Anarchism in Theory: Classics of Anarchist
Thought 1

WILLIAM GODWIN: The Father of Anarchism
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice 3

MAX STIRNER: Individualist Anarchism
The Ego and His Own 42

A Bantam mm paperback!
General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth
Century 81

MICHAEL BAKUNIN: Revolutionary Anarchism
God and the State 123
Statism and Anarchy 155

PETER KROPOTKIN: Anarchist Communism
The Conquest of Bread 184

LEO TOLSTOY: Christian Anarchism
The Kingdom of God Is Within You 229

Part II. The Mind of the Anarchist: Memoirs and
Autobiographies 267

PETER KROPOTKIN : The "Repentant
Memoirs of a Revolutionist 269

EMMA GOLDMAN: Anarchism and the
Liberated Woman
Living My Life 312

the Deed"
Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist 356

RUDOLF ROCKER: The Anarchist "Melting Pot"
The London Years 393

Part III. Anarchism in Practice: Firsthand
Descriptions 423

JOSIAH WARREN: The Cincinnati Time Store
and the Modern Times Colony
Practical Details in Equitable Commerce 425
Practical Applications of the Elementary Principles
of "True Civilization" 443

VOLINE: Nestor Makhno and Anarchism in the
Russian Revolution
The Unknown Revolution 450

FRANZ BORKENAU: The Anarchists in the
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Cockpit 484

Part IV. Anarchism Today: Anarchist Themes in
the Contemporary World 515

HERBERT READ: Anarchism and Man's
Existentialism, Marxism and Anarchism 517

DANIEL GUÉRIN: Workers' Self-Management
of Industry
Anarchism 539

Anarchism and Student Revolt
Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative 553

ROEL VAN DUYN: The Kabouters of Holland
Proclamation of the Orange Free State 569

of the Community
Communitas 575

Suggestions for Further Reading 598
Index of Persons 601

For more "forgotten" books in the midst of college-years memoirs, see Patti Abbott's blog for a guide to the other participants...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Abbey Lincoln, 1930-2010

Abbey Linoln, who'd just turned 80 on our mutual birthday anniversaries Friday a week ago, died yesterday. She made it to eighty.

She wasn't the most technically dexterous of jazz singers, didn't break as many pathways as Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald (few, if any, of Lincoln's gerneration did or could) but she was a restless artistic spirit, unafraid to push her considerable ability to its limits, and with her then husband Max Roach in the latter '50s began a lifelong engagement with liberation activism...and by the early 't0s had also branched out into an ating career (I first remember seeing her thus kn the 1964 film Nothing but a Man, though as a child I'd no doubt seen her in, I thought, I Spy and more kid-oriented series--but it seems she guested on Mission: Impossible, not I Spy). The one obit I've seen/heard so far, from NPR, was careful to note her performances of the Freedom Now Suite, but failed to mention such follow-ups as It's Time, and tended to gloss over most of her continuing career as a musician. I've posted this here before, but we can only hope that Lincoln had achieved her personal Africa, either before her decath, or in whatever afterlife their could be:

From Night Music, the NBC-syndicated series around the turn of the '90s:

From her fifth, I believe, album, but perhaps her first recorded composition:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

FFB & M: Bill Pronzini, SIX-GUN IN CHEEK (Crossover Press, 1997); Fairport Convention, HEYDAY (Hannibal 1987)


Bill Pronzini had assembled both Gun in Cheek (1982) and Son of Gun in Cheek (1987; perhaps sadly not Gun in the Other Cheek, which might be accused of echoing Ellison or the Secret Policemen) out of his fond memories of some of the worst in crime fiction, picking through his extraordinary personal library and beyond, and Mysterious Press published those, perhaps with not the greatest sales among his biliography but I doubt they actually lost money for anyone...but there wasn't as much publisher interest in a companion devoted to the similar worst of western fiction till Steve Stillwell and Bruce Taylor convinced him to do it for their Crossover Press in 1997, publishing a limited edition with minimal distribution...I have copies because Pronzini was willing to offer copies for sale from his own stash, and might still; interested parties should drop him an email at

It's a pity that this book has been so obscure from jump, as it's more relaxed than its companions, and draws on at least as broad a swath of bad pulp, lending-library, paperback, and other sources over the last century...and so as with the other volumes, you get a good sense of a lot of the less ambitious, I think it's usually fair to say, realms of publishing (and perhaps a bit saddening where not fair, as older writers faded and newer ones took on more than they could handle, all put on public display when they really shouldn't've). Pronzini doesn't spare himself, either, in describing at reasonable length one of his least-proud moments, a collaboration with Jeffrey Wallmann on one of the lead novellas published in the revived late '60s/early '70s Zane Grey Western Magazine, under the byline of Grey's son, Romer Zane Grey, as they all were for no compelling reason (at least the ghosted Mike Shayne novelets in stablemate Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine were all attributed to the Davis Dresser pseudonym put to the original novels in the sequence, "Brett Halliday"). And Pronzini isn't the only good western writer tagged here for sins, or at least what Pronzini enjoys dubbing Alternative writing. Sadly, I can't find again, among the many examples of Overly Colorful abuse of antiquated and utterly fabricated language attributed to various stalwart and blackhearted characters, the most ridiculous villain's name...I'll add it to the post when I locate it again.

Pronzini notes, not incorrectly, that the western is an American artform, much as hardboiled crime-fiction was pretty much born in the US...but hardly the only art born here and not the only one to also find excellent practitioners abroad (Jorge Luis Borges alone, with his stories of Argentine ranchfolk and their colleagues, would be enough of an argument against US exceptionalism). Musically, jazz, blues, bluegrass and rock music took shape in the States, as well, among other forms, and when British bands could show, particularly in the 1960s, a facility for similar work, sometimes Well-Meaning folks such as record producer Joe Boyd tried to steer them away from exploring American music too a lot of the songs, collected from late '60s recording sessions for BBC Radio shows for the various forms of Heyday over the last couple of decades, were never given full studio recording by Fairport Convention, the most important and longlived of the UK's folk-rock bands, in most ways the correspondent to the American Byrds. Boyd takes the blame for that in his liner notes, at least in part (and he calls such Canadian composer-performers as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen American, but perhaps they had emigrated at the time). The grumpy young bandmembers (see photo above), already having faced tragedy (several members of the original lineup were killed or injured in a traffic accident before these recordings, after their eponymous first album) and weren't yet quit of it (their second female vocalist, Sandy Denny [above], would die in a fall down a stairwell shortly after leaving the band to form her own, Fotheringay), but they could (write and) record a jokey "If It Feels Good, You Know It Can't Be Wrong" as elegantly as they could a bitter "Reno, Nevada" (a composition by the doomed Yank Richard Fariña), an awestruck original "Shattering Live Experience" as deftly as the similarly besotted Cohen love song "Suzanne"...and such songs of uncertain and lost love as Mitchell's "I Don't Know Where I Stand" and ex-Byrd Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard." The latter-day expanded editions are simply an even better reason to seek this out.

From a few months earlier than the BBC recordings, a slightly rough but quite pleasantly improvisational performance of "Reno, Nevada" by the original Fairport lineup for French tv, featuring singer and multi-instrumentalist Judy Dyble and drummer Martin Lamble (one of the auto-accident fatalities):

For more "forgotten" books this week, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: HOTWIRE #2, edited by Glenn Head (Fantagraphics, 2008)

Fantagraphics is a comics company with a mission to further the art of comics, and to provide a home for artiness...built around the relatively serious magazine, now a periodical book, The Comics Journal, their first big commercial splash was thanks to the Hernandez brothers, Jaime and Gilbert and occasionally Mario, the writer/artists of Love and Rockets, running accounts of life today and in various points in the past of characters in and around Los Angeles and, in Gilbert's stories, in a small town in an unnamed Central American country apparently south of Mexico. But L&R hasn't been the only project, either of the Hernandezes nor of Fantagraphics, which latter has had considerable commercial success of late with their complete collections, an ongoing series, of Charles Schulz's newspaper strips (they'll be tackling Walt Kelly soon)...and the publisher has been a haven for alternative comics over the last couple of decades, publishing (however irregularly) a number of anthologies and single-creator titles out of the "underground" and "alternative" traditions of the 1960s onward...the Hernandezes are of this community, as are such folks as Roberta Gregory and Dan Clowes.

Which brings us to Hotwire (or at least this Hotwire, as opposed to, say, Warren Ellis's project of the same title), with the the slightly more sedate Mome the major anthology comics currently published by Fantagraphics, and both treated as periodical books rather than as newsstand magazines (times are tough, and the shelf-life of books is, of course, greater...and they are marginally less-wastefully distributed). The 2008, second volume of the (I believe) ongoing annual series of oversized anthologies (the magazine has roughly the dimensions of Life or Interview magazines) is about evenly split between color and black and white comics, and features a mix of relatively straightforward narrative and utterly impressionistic comics art. One of my old favorites, Mary Fleener, has an apparently autobiographical story involving a very bad trip involving PCP-laced pot ("Niacin")--as usually with Fleener, things get Very Cubist in her artwork as emotions run high and situations grow fraught. Editor Glenn Head (as to whether that's a nome di fumetti or whether these are legally Head comics is a question I haven't yet pursued) has a decent vignette from the intersecting lives of a stressed psychiatric patient and unhappy wife and the hardly happier Wilhelm Reich (and what befalls him, at least). It's quite a melange, including bits of hardboiled comics of the kind Fred Wertham wouldn't care for at all on over to those he might not be able to make hide nor hair of, including a rather blunt parody of Frank Miller, shown eating canned Mickey Spillane excrement for inspiration.

Joe Bob would definitely have you check it out, even if the indulgence of some of the more rococo post-underground tendencies can get a bit heavy here.

For more "forgotten" books today, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Early August "Forgotten" Music: the Pleasure Seekers

The largely Quatro-sister-populated band, including Suzi Quatro whose solo career peaked in the 1970s and Patti Quatro, who left the Pleasure Seekers and a few years later joined that other all-female band Fanny, flourished in Detroit in the mid to late 1960s, beginning to record in 1965.

Profile Page Link:

From the Quatro Sisters' MySpace page:

The Pleasure Seekers clealy named themselves for the 1964 film. Wikipedia notes that 'in 1968, they were the earliest all girl rock group to be signed to a major label, Mercury Records. They released a second single, "Light of Love" b/w "Good Kind of Hurt", with both singles charting.'

1990 reunion concert...doing a bit of a Motown medley (fuller video here):

Heatwave - The Pleasure Seekers

Derek | MySpace Video

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

B&N joins Borders as For Sale

Big box bookstore chains are not quite dead, but continue to wane...B&N, the healthier of the two big chains, put itself up for sale today.

Here's the online Publisher's Weekly account.