Sunday, September 30, 2012

the first issues of 10 (plus one) horror comics magazines I picked up when young

One thing that strikes me about these is how lacking in oomph the covers were. Even when there's some well-rendered imagery, such as on the Weird Mystery issue (and the almost identically-composed one on The House of Mystery--someone clearly had a formula concept), or a clever situation, as with the House of Secrets, the busy-ness of the covers tends to dampen the effect. Happily, covers tended to improve by not long into the next decade, even among the most "mainstream" of comics. (Even in the '70s, it was notable to me at the time that the handsomest covers seemed to gravitate to the magazines with the weakest contents, such as House of Mystery and Ghosts.)
But I didn't care...if the comic I was looking at had the potential for some interesting horror fiction and art, I was game. Weird War Tales was one of the earliest of horror comics I was able to purchase, and when compared, as I would soon see, to the other DC horror titles it seemed to deliver the horror goods far more often than the traditional horror titles they had. The twist endings the stories tended to have would've been (and are) a bit obvious to more sophisticated reader, but even when they were telegraphed even for me as an 8yo, I tended to enjoy them. (And as one can see below, the "Weird" tag seemed to do well for DC in the recessionary '70s, and thus the creation of Weird Western, the first home of Jonah Hex--I borrowed friends' copies to read that one--and the shortlived addition of Weird Mystery as a title to the DC stable...and, even weirder, of the word Weird to the title of the venerable Adventure Comics for some issues headlined by the supernatural quasi/antihero character the Spectre--also please see below). The ferociously antiwar attitude the writers and artists were allowed to express in WWT didn't hurt my feelings (and between the three popcult prongs of WWT and the television series The World at War [the Granada documentary series was first being syndicated to US stations then] and M*A*S*H, my sympathy for the pacifist position was no doubt bolstered).

Meanwhile, Ghost Manor as a Charlton "book" looked (and as many commenters note, smelled) different (they used an odd sort of press and inks, apparently more appropriate for stamping the likes of cereal boxes), but they did some interesting things at Charlton...they let their artists have more leeway, for less pay, and perhaps most importantly were apparently the first to import Japanese horror manga stories, in translation of course, for US readers, in issues just before and perhaps even including this one. Note that both Ghost Manor and The House of Mystery (below) double dog dare you to knock the battery off their...eaves. (Old popcult advertising reference/joke.)
The House of Mystery was, in 1951, DC's first answer to EC's apparent spike in popularity with their new horror titles,  which had first appeared the previous year. DC's horror comics weren't as well-drawn nor quite as devoted to black humor, but tended to be reasonably good, derivative horror and suspense tales, particularly when compared to some of the particularly lurid imitators of EC, from Dell on down, which lacked the originals' relative wit and sometimes very real sophistication. When the Comics Code was established (see that seal of approval at far right on the cover), DC turned HOM into a vaguely science-fictional/superhero comic...until the late '60s, when it again became a horror anthology, with the addition of a Zacherle/Elvira/EC-style "host," Cain, to introduce stories and generally add an attempt at humor to the "book." (Cain's face can be seen on the left, on the banner across the top of the cover.) Sadly, the stories in HOM tended to be very bland indeed, much moreso than they had been even in the pre-Code issues of HOM.

And if you wanted evidence of how much better the early '50s DC horror stories had been, simply dip into this issue of The Witching Hour, which supplemented its relatively bland new stories with several 1950s reprints, which have a certain vigor missing from the (almost literally as well as utterly figuratively) bloodless new work. One model-esque and two haggish witches were the "hosts" in this "book"--the reprinted demon in the mirror story involved a psychic investigator sort who probably would've gotten his own book in less censorious circumstances back when, and it was, as I recall, very good fun.

Marvel, for its part, wasn't even trying to present new horror stories per se in their "standard" color comics in the 1970s, choosing instead to reprint the Atlas and Timely EC-imitation horror comics from those two ancestors of Marvel, and in new work concentrating on outre heroes/antiheroes, such as their version of Dracula and a rather Peter Parkeresque fellow (with a bit less pointless self-pity) who began turning into a werewolf at the appropriate phases of the Moon, mostly in his  "book" Werewolf-by-Night...Dracula or, as in this first issue I bought, Frankenstein's behemoth might make a crossover/guest appearance. (Marvel had published in 1973 two issues of a digest-sized fiction magazine called The Haunt of Horror, edited by Gerry Conway [who's since made a fairly prominent Hollywood career], but discontinued that and took the title for a black and white, 8.5 x 11" horror comics magazine they published for some years, in imitation of Warren's Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella b&w comics magazines...the latter for their part [not!] the first sustained effort to reach out to the horror comics audience, starting at the turn of the '60s, which had been abandoned by the other comics publishers.)(Correction: The Warren horror comics magazines began publishing in 1964; Dell Comics had stepped into the void first, with the initial issues of Twilight Zone in 1961, and Ghost Stories in 1962--founded after Whitman decided not to co-publish with Dell, and started their own Gold Key line, which took TZ among many other licensed properties away from Dell Comics...Gold Key added Boris Karloff's Thriller and Ripley's Believe It or Not: True Ghost Stories to their line later. Dell also added more horror titles in the '60s.)
The House of Secrets was another title DC had launched in the early '50s to catch the horror wave, and which had been returned to its roots (with a "host" added) in the late '60s...otherwise very much like HOM, as well, in its bland competence in the 1970s (the bits presented about and featuring the host, Abel, brother to Cain and rather bullied by him, unsurprisingly, were rather more memorable than most of the stories offered...another host was Eve, who was not their mother, but I'm sure was just as gleefully meant to tweak the reactionaries among the Old Testament religions as the brothers were).

Meanwhile, Weird Mystery Tales, a relatively shortlived "book," did introduce the one "host" who was less cartoonish than actually in the spirit of horror, "Destiny," who somewhat suggested Death the Reaper, as he wore a monk's habit with hood that always obscured his face, and carried the book of, well, destiny with him at all times...the other, more comic-relief hosts were portrayed as resentful of and a bit intimidated by him. Given that "mystery" in these titles always meant horror, at least in this period, the notion that it was weird horror seemed a bit redundant...particularly when compared with DC's much weirder humor, with a horrorish edge, comic, Plop! (another title of which I read others' copies, including those at a barbershop I was brought to by my parents).

Now, the Spectre was a badass. A murdered cop who was returned to this plane of existence to right wrongs and the typical superhero kind of tasking, he was, as a ghost, almost a minor god, capable of much more than even Superman, and therefore a bit difficult to write...because what, short of Cthulhu's masters, could stand up to or would interest him for long? Particularly as he was almost certainly the moodiest, for fairly obvious reasons, of DC's 1970s superfolk. As a result, the Spectre tended to go away and come back for stretches in the history of DC's publishing, having first appeared back in the early '40s as a somewhat less near-omnipotent figure. Adventure tended to be a "book" devoted for various stretches to superheroes who were being "tried out" for books of their own, or who were kept even if they didn't seem to sell well enough in their own title; the original DC Sandman had been one of the early stars, and Aquaman was the usual headliner in the months around the Spectre in this period. Note, as mentioned above, the addition of "weird" to this issue's title, perhaps to sell to the horrorists out at the spinner racks such as myself. I don't think that was the decider for me, but it didn't hurt. (I also preferred the rather obscure DC hero team The Challengers of the Unknown to such better-known groups as Marvel's Fantastic Four, since the Challengers were basically psychic investigators running across supernatural phenoms, vs. the rather colorful aliens the Marvel teams seem to always have to deal with.)
 Tomb of Darkness, a successor title to the very similar Beware!, was easily my favorite Marvel reprint "book" devoted to the Atlas/Timely EC-style horror comics of the early '50s...and as with the reprints featured in The Witching Hour and other DC books the stories had a punch and a vigor that the new stories, including in Marvel's outre hero books, tended to lack. It is because of TOD that I was first able to see what ghostly skeletons passionately kissing looked like, and for that I am grateful.  (Teeth rubbing together, as you might guess.)
Whitman/Gold Key's The Twilight Zone was the only horror/outre (with a bit of cod sf) title from them I would see (even the Boris Karloff title, originally a spinoff from the television series Thriller, didn't show up on my primary newsstand)..and if Dell had any such titles at the time, I (and my local drugstore, thanks to the lousy distribution comics were getting in the early 1970s) missed them entirely...I was lucky when I'd find two successive issues of Batman or Hulk/Submariner comics at their newsstand (I'll not quite consider Harvey's Caspar the Ghost or Archie's Sabrina the Teenaged Witch comics relevant here...I certainly didn't then).  Rather as with the Weird DC titles, the scripting of TZ comics was rather less bland (not vastly so, but somewhat) than that of the Houses' new stuff, even if the art was often rather perfunctory in the Gold Key comic.

Last and least among my childhood reads in this arena, Ghosts irritated me for being "true" stories about the supernatural, which I most firmly (then as now) did not believe to exist. The magazine tried to get around this, to some extent, by such stratagems as this issue's "The Nightmare That Haunted the World" being about how Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, but other stories tended to either endorse the reality of the supernatural, or, worse, be incredibly mealy-mouthed about it. Didn't buy too many (possibly not any) more issues of Ghosts...but, then, I never did buy any issues of Creepy or Eerie or the other larger-sized horror magazines, either, finding the borrowed copies dull, dull, dull, even when the art was interesting (and they were, of course, more expensive, as allowance was sporadic and often driven by specific purchases, such as of more text-heavy books).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Music Club: some new schools of jazz (and jazz-derived music) since ca. 1960

*Free jazz:
Cecil Taylor with Buell Neidlinger and Denis Charles: Bemsha Swing

( can hear fj sprouts emerging in this Thelonious Monk tribute, on Taylor's first album from 1955)

Cecil Taylor and the Art Ensemble of Chicago:

Air: Weeping Willow Rag

Jeanne Lee band: Sundance

Oregon: Beneath an Evening Sky

Anthony Braxton (with Buell Neidlinger, Mal Waldron and Bill Osborne): Brilliant Corners

(back to Monk; recorded 1987)

The Sun Ra Arkestra and the Blues Project: Batman

WFMU's Beware the Blog post on the 1966 album this is from

Gary Burton Quartet: Ballet

The Byrds: Eight Miles High

Gil Evans Orchestra: Crosstown Traffic

Gil Scott-Heron: Lady Day and John Coltrane

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Resolution

*Acid jazz, Go-go, Ska and such
The Skatalites: Skalloween

Miriam Makeba: Mas Que Nada

the original recording, before Brasil '66, by Jorge Ben Jor 

The Brand New Heavies: What Do You Take Me For?

Incognito: Always There; Nights Over Egypt

Monday Michiru: Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers: Moody's Mood for Love

Of possible related interest:
Saturday Music Club: Early/Mid '80s Jazz-Pop Resurgence
McCoy Tyner and others
Some (latter-day, mostly) jazz big bands

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Friday's Forgotten Books": new links and content

Hosting the links for books with insufficient (or perhaps in a few cases sufficient) attention paid to them, while Patti Abbott attends to other matters, this week and next. There might well be a few additions to this list over the course of the day...and please feel free to let me know of any reviews or citations I've forgotten to include in comments. Thanks to all contributors, and to all you readers...

Sergio Angelini: Salt River by James Sallis 

Yvette Banek: Mairgret and the Wine Merchant

Joe Barone: Buffalo Bill's Dead Now by Margaret Coel

Bill Crider: Red Dragon by "Wade Curtis" (Jerry Pournelle)

William Deeck: The 7th Mourner by Dorothy Gardiner

Martin Edwards: The Man in the Net by "Patrick Quentin"

Ed Gorman: An Accidental Novelist by Richard S. Wheeler;
The Innocent Mrs. Duff by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Jerry House: The House of the Wolf by Basil Copper

Randy Johnson: Gunman's Chance by "Luke Short"

Nick Jones: Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith

George Kelley: The Big Book of Ghost Stories edited by Otto Penzler

Margot Kinberg: Baptism by Max Kinnings

Rob Kitchin: A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis

B.V. Lawson: The Hanging Doll Murder (aka Face Value) by Roger Ormerod

Evan Lewis: Say Yes to Murder (among other titles) by "W. T. Ballard"

Steve Lewis: The Case of the Sleepwalker's Niece by Erle Stanley Gardner

Todd Mason: Alternate Worlds and other work by James Gunn (please see below).

Neer: Death Knocks Three Times by Anthony Gilbert

John F. Norris: A Gentle Murderer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis

Richard Pangburn: A Philosophical Investigation by Philip Kerr

David Rachel: Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories by Gil Brewer

James Reasoner: The Shudder Pulps: A History of the Weird Menace Magazines of the 1930s by Robert  Kenneth Jones

Karyn Reeves: I'll Never Be Young Again by Daphne Du Maurier

Gerard Saylor: Columbine by David Cullen

Ron Scheer: The New Missioner by Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow, as by Mrs. Wilson Woodrow

Michael Slind: Thou Shell of Death by Nicholas Blake

Kerrie Smith: Spinsters in Jeopardy (aka The Bride of Death) by Ngaio Marsh

Kevin Tipple: Still River by Harry Hunsicker

Mike Tooney: Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

"Tomcat": The Red Scar by "Anthony Wynne"

Prashant Trikannad:  The Mighty Marvel Superheroes' Cookbook "presented" by Stan Lee

John Kessel passes along the sad news that James Gunn's wife Jane Gunn died yesterday; Prof. Gunn, now retired, and their son are among the survivors.  Gunn, 89 (and who shouldn't be confused with the younger film director and cartoonist James Gunn) has been contributing interesting fiction and nonfiction (and some documentary film) to the sf/fantasy field since the 1950s, when among his earlier publications was his doctoral dissertation, serialized in Robert Lowndes's magazine Dynamic Science Fiction as "The Philosophy of Science Fiction" in 1953. Among his better-known fiction published over the years has been "The Cave of Night," The Joy Makers, The Listeners, and The Immortals, the last adapted for an ABC-TV television film (1969) and a subsequent tv series (1969-1971) both titled The Immortal.  His The Road to Science Fiction anthologies make for both fine texts and simple good reads, and Alternate Worlds (1975) was his first book-length stab at a history and survey of sf.  He makes some rather controversial assertions here (the most puzzling to me being that sex has no place in sf...a bit like saying that sf can't be about human beings), and the book is flawed (not least in the common failing, among particularly the earlier histories of sf, of trying to pack as many then-contemporary sf writers as possible into the later chapters, thus not leaving much opportunity to discuss much about any of them), but it was both a useful and enjoyable first example of sf history I was to read, not too long after I inhaled Les Daniels's similar volume about horror in literature and popular art, Living in Fear

We can spare a thought for the Gunns, in this sad time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: some more new links

Thanks to all the contributors, and to you readers...if I've missed your, or someone else's review or citation of an overlooked item, please let me know in comments. As frequently, a few more will be added over the course of the day. (And, this week, Thursday on blog we'll have similar lists of Underappreciated Music links, and Friday, "Forgotten Books").

Bill Crider: High Road to China  [trailer]

Brian Arnold: Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979 telefilms)

Dan Stumpf: The Tattered Dress

Elizabeth Foxwell: Kraft Suspense Theater: "Leviathan Five";  Evan Hunter on BBC Radio 4 Extra

George Kelley: John Lithgow: Stories by Heart

Iba Dawson: Red Eye (2005)

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Jack Seabrook: Ray Bradbury on television: "Special Delivery" (Alfred Hitchcock Presents:)

Jackie Kashian: Joel Hodgson 

Jake Hinkson: The Triumphs of Orson Welles

James Reasoner: Get the Gringo

Jeff Flugel: Black Belt Jones; Hot Potato

Jerry House: Dangerous Mission (1954 film)

John Charles: Mister Peek-a-Boo (aka Le Passe-muraille)

Juri Nummelin: short-film animation from 1930s-50s;

Goodbye, Uncle Tom

Laura: The High Chapparal

Marty McKee: The Hypnotic Eye

Patti Abbott: Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

Prashant Trikannad: Wild Hogs

Randy Johnson: Blood on the Moon

Richard Pangburn: Memento

Rick: Mary Rose

Rod Lott: The Choppers (1961)

Ron Scheer: The Man from Alamo

Sergio Angelini: Wings of Danger

Stacia Jones: Madam Satan

Steve Lewis: The Snoop Sisters: "The Female Instinct"

Walter Albert: The Rainbow Trail

Yvette Banek: Cairo Time

Sunday, September 23, 2012

another 10 actors (another Commonwealth edition)

Naomie Harris (UK)
Kate Winslet (UK)  
Maggie Cheung (Hong Kong)
Kate Beckinsale (UK)  
Sophie Okonedo (UK)
Charlize Theron (South Africa)
Emma Thompson (UK)
Lena Headey (Bermuda)
Kelly MacDonald (Scotland)
Indira Varma (UK)

supermarket bdsm gets glossy

Topix, a company that specializes in one-shot magazines that mine the same audiences as Women's Day or Cosmopolitan or Women's Health and People (audiences that don't completely overlap, of course, though they aren't dissimilar), has put out a one-shot (money shot?) issue meant to reach E.L. James's audience...Topix isn't alone in producing this kind of magazine, but they are currently (and probably not for long) alone in having released one that is so simultaneously Just Like every other "service"-oriented one-shot in content (this one has aerobics tips and those for exercises with a kettle-bell weight...for rump-tightening, doncha know, and thus spanking preparedness, as well as "Eat Like a Goddess!"--heavy on the veggies, but also chocolate and oysters--and mixed-drink recipes and party-conducting and online flirting suggestions) and those not quite fitting the topic at hand, but seen as probably appealing to the same audience (a brief and teasing account of the activities of a sex surrogate working with a psychologist who specializes in men's sexual dysfunction--the surrogate being the "Sex Whisperer," no less), along with items that actually have something to do with the romantic erotica novels themselves...a survey of brief reactions to the books by apparent women readers of varying ages and life-partner engagements, sex toy suggestions, a reasonably intelligently-conducted interview with a woman medical doctor who's a sensible, grounded sexual submissive (but who might have some problems going forward, as she notes, as she leans toward lifestyle submission, and it can be tough to be someone necessarily in charge to an important degree in one aspect of life and then, however desirable it might feel, subject to the utter domination of a partner in private life--of course, lifestyle doms and subs have even more negotiation ahead of them than do more strictly sexual D/s folks, unless they make a point of avoiding negotiation altogether). Another featured interview seems less helpful for newbie explorers...a woman who dabbled in submission and dominance seems to suggest, for example, that one can't have bondage play without inflicting pain...a bit like saying you can't have peanut butter without beer. But one hopes the readers can figure that out.

And they had the wit to go get literary recommendations from Rachel Kramer Bussel, which include Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill along with Fear of Flying and Emmanuel (and Venus in Furs and an Alison Tyler novel), but omit Story of O, which seems a bit odd...perhaps in hopes of not scaring anyone off (the "Pauline Reage" novel verging, as it does, on horror).

So, it's a rather goofy but not so much sleazy as chirpy a production, with its sparse ads split rather evenly between other Topix magazines (Celebrity Astrology, Reality Stars: Where Are They Now?, TV's Greatest Judges) and sexual-aid dealers (Adam and Eve, Xandria, Masque dissolving flavor strips--sold as an aid for women who don't like the flavor of men's funk or semen, but I suspect that they might have wider application, for those unfortunates who really hate the flavors and/or scents of their partners...presumably even after bathing). Though there is at least one other ad in the text, a rather sad further attempt by Bret Easton Ellis to campaign to write the script for a film adaptation...his tweet is quoted: "'Why are you reading that mommy porn again?' a follower asks. 'You're better than that.' [Ellis:] Thanks, but, no, I'm not." I haven't read any of the Gray fiction, but having read some Ellis, I'd hazard that Ellis is being a bit generous to himself here.

And at least one James fan likes this magazine.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Music Club: gods of rock

Jawbox: "Grip" (queued at this link at left; full album below:)

Bandits: "If I Were God"

The Staple Singers: "I Wish I Had Answered"

Buffy Sainte-Marie: "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot"

The Kinks: "Big Sky"

Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison: 
"This Train is Bound for Glory"

Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles: "Ain't But the One"

Peter Tosh: "Sinner Man"

Spirit: Nature's Way

 Fairport Convention: "The Lord Is In This Place...How Dreadful Is This Place" 

The Roches: "Everyone is Good"

Bad Religion: "Operation Rescue"

Monday Michiru: "Rainy Daze"

Friday, September 21, 2012

FFB: SECOND HELP!-ING, edited by Harvey Kurtzman (Fawcett Gold Medal 1962)(and HELP! magazine, 3/65); THE MONOCLE PEEP SHOW edited by Richard Lingerman and Victor Navasky (Bantam 1965); THE REALIST edited by Paul Krassner (1958-2001, online archive completed 2010)

The late 1950s and early '60s saw a small flurry of satirical magazines, in the wake of the early/mid 1950s boomlet of satirical comics, in both standard comic-book format and, later, in roughly 8.5 x 11" magazine format, in imitation of Mad, founded by Harvey Kurtzman at EC Comics. After the establishment of comics industry self-policing after the popular embrace of Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and similar attempts to blame juvenile deliquency on comics (among other "perverting" factors in popular culture), EC decided to publish Mad in the more adult-oriented format, and Kurtzman, for various reasons, demanded a percentage of ownership in the new version that EC's William Gaines was unwilling to offer. So, Kurtzman walked, and went on to eventually three other magazine projects, Trump (published by Hugh Hefner, and cut short by a financial crunch at Playboy Enterprises), Humbug! (published by Kurtzman and some associates themselves, and undercapitalized), and (after a 1959 collection, Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book, of original work for Ballantine), beginning in 1960, Help!, as a project at James Warren's publishing house, which at the time was best-known for Forrest J Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland, and was getting into the large-sized comics business with such titles as Creepy and Eerie, which would eventually be joined by Vampirella. Warren was never a publisher to spend any more money than he had to, and Help! reflected its small budget (and, after an initial year of nearly monthly publication, became essentially a quarterly for the rest of its run, to the end of 1965) and some of the lack of certainty of exactly whom its audience was that had been more easily ignored at Kurtzman's previous projects. There was a sexual undertone to much of the humor, particularly in the photographic comics-style "fumetti" stories, and bits of discreet nudity, that was mostly absent from Mad, certainly, but still a certain tendency to go for the rather easy, and sometimes the rather kidsy, joke. But, despite those limitations, Help! was a locus of some rather remarkable talent, in both magazine publication and the broader world of comics and comedy; Kurtzman's first editorial assistant was Gloria Steinem, who apparently was particularly adept at talking well-known comedians and comic actors into posing for the magazine's covers, and occasionally getting them to work as fumetti actors/models (including Orson Bean, Jean Shepherd, and Jack Carter, though usually less well-known comics were employed in the photoplays...such as Woody Allen, or a visiting Briton, then in the US with a small Oxbridge Fringe-style troupe trying their luck with NYC audiences, John the time Cleese's strip appeared in the magazine, Steinem had moved on and was replaced as primary assistant by a young Minneapolis cartoonist, Terry Gilliam, who worked with Cleese on that shoot...and both would later work together in London on Monty Python's Flying Circus). Meanwhile, writers such as Peter De Vries, Roger Price, Algis Budrys, Robert Sheckley, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Stan Freberg, Joan Rivers and (primarily a book editor) Bernard Shir-Cliff were contributing text pieces and fumetti scripts to the magazine (alongside reprinted work of Saki and Ambrose Bierce), veteran cartoonists such as Jack Davis, Paul Coker (among many of Kurtzman's associates at Mad and later), Edward Gorey, Gahan Wilson and Shel Silverstein were contributing panels and strips, and younger cartoonists also making their names in "underground" comics were contributing, such as Gilbert Shelton and his superhero-parody "Wonder Warthog" stories, R. Crumb, Jay Lynch, and others; Sid and Marty Krofft, the psychedelic puppeteers, had a piece in one issue.

So, such collections as Second Help!-ing, or the 23rd issue of the magazine (only three issues before the last), could individually seem a bit thin, but there are always solid and memorable bits, and both the evidence of what the assembled were capable of, and the since-fulfilled promise of many of the new faces on display (even if such come-ons as Jerry Lewis's tiresome piece leading off the Fawcett Gold Medal collection, or Alan Seus, of all emerging one-note performers, engaging in a weak cover-gag on the issue, were indicative of what was least about the project).

Monocle, for its part, had the most common sort of roots among US satiric magazines: it began as a late 1950s campus project, among some law students at Yale, including the co-editor of the volume cited above, Victor Navasky (who went on to serve as editor and then also publisher for The Nation magazine over most of the last four decades). The students took their cue from Mort Sahl and other emerging satirical comedians, and then Paul Krassner's The Realist, and eventually began publishing in earnest a rather well-written and well-designed irregularly issued magazine, in the sort of tall, thin format favored till recently by Foreign Affairs magazine (or am I thinking of Foreign Policy?) Boasting of contributions by regulars such as Calvin Trillin, Marvin Kitman (put up as a Republican Party presidential contender, against Goldwater in the primaries, by the magazine), fiction writer C.D.B. Bryan, and co-editor Richard Lingerman, the contributions can feel a bit notional at this remove, literary Second City scenes that don't quite hit their targets as hard as might've been hoped...but such pieces as Godfrey Cambridge's "My Taxi Problem and Ours" (simultaneously dealing, early on, with the difficulties of even a well-off black man hailing a cab in NYC, and mocking the title and format of a certain clangorous, and racist, Norman Podhoretz essay of some months before), or Katherine Perlo's poem "The Triumphant Defeat of Jordan Stone", hold up pretty do various other bits here and there, including challenging one-liners (under the heading, "We're Not Prejudiced, But...", "Would you want your brother to have lunch with James Baldwin?") and Robert Grossman's superhero satire strip "Captain Melanin". This Monocle should definitely not be confused with the current newsstand magazine founded in 2007. It should be noted that this "Bantam Extra" book was published in typical mass-market paperback format, and on better-than-average paper, for what was in 1965 a ridiculous price of $1, ensuring some sales-suppression...perhaps Bantam thought they had caviar for the millions, here. 

 And since I'm running very late with this entry, I'll simply note that the online archive of The Realist, which I've recommended before, remains available and invaluable, and much of this material remains as challenging and sadly too often pertinent as when it was published, beginning in 1958... For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Films And/Or Other A/V: some Wednesday links

As always, with these links to reviews, citations, and often the webbed entirety of these A/V presentations, there might be a few more added over the course of the day...and if I've missed yours or someone else's, please feel free to let me know in comments. Thanks to all contributors, and to you who check these out...we're heavier than usual on warnings rather than recommendations, but those are valuable, as well!

Bill Crider: The Pirates! Band of Misfits [trailer]

Brent McKee: Which (US commercial network) series will be cancelled the quickest?

Brian Arnold: The NFL Today, December 17, 1977 (CBS-TV); Misfits of Science

Ed Gorman: The Clay Pigeon; The Larry Sanders Show

Elizabeth Foxwell: Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate

Evan Lewis: The Gunfighter (1950)

George Kelley: Robot and Frank

Iba Dawson: The Wood

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Coming distractions: November 2012 on TCM; Wednesday's checklist: Voice of the Whistler, etc.

James Reasoner: The Lost Future (and Game of Thrones)

Jerry House: Crusader Rabbit

John Charles: Robo Warriors

Juri Nummelin: "Susie, the Little Blue Coupe"

Marty McKee: Judd for the Defense: "Tempest In A Texas Town"

Michael Shonk: Make a List: Franchise Players in the Mystery Genre

Patti Abbott: Margaret (delayed 2011 release)

Prashant Trikannad: Greed (1924)

Randy Johnson: The Waiters' Ball and the career of Fatty Arbuckle

Richard Pangburn: The Descendants

Richard York: La Setta ("The Sect")

Rick: Harry O; Tentacles

Rod Lott: In the Devil's Garden

Ron Scheer: Good Day for a Hanging

Scott Cupp: Re-Animator

Sergio Angelini: Mantrap (aka Man in Hiding) (1953)

Stacia Jones: The Phantom of the Opera (1928) and the Universal backlot; KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park

Steve Lewis: VAMP: Vintage Association of Motion Picture Blogs; When a Man's a Man; The House of the Arrow

Todd Mason: Blues Masters (1966, CBC television); Soundstage: "Blues Summit in Chicago with Muddy Waters and Friends" (PBS, 1974); Rainbow Quest (Pete Seeger's 1965-66 NYC-based series, cleared in repeats on National Educational Television, the proto-PBS)

Yvette Banek: Mr. Lucky (1943 film)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Music Club: Muddying the Waters

McKinley Morganfield, April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983

Muddy Waters (featuring Little Walter): Don't Go No Farther

"Well, it's certainly ONE of the greatest harmonica solos...For anyone interested, this is in the key of E flat and Little Walter is playing a Hohner 64 Chromonica, using the slide/button to achieve the unique phrases he plays here.
That guy was something."

Muddy Waters: Baby Please Don't Go

Muddy Waters Band: Hoochie Coochie Man (live at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival)

Muddy Waters Band: You Can't Lose What You Never Had (originally from Blues Masters; 1966 CBC-TV)

Soundstage: (PBS, 1974) episode: "Blues Summit in Chicago with Muddy Waters and Friends"

Muddy Waters: Live (1979)

Muddy Waters: After the Rain (1969)

Muddy Waters: Field Recordings, 1941 and 1942 (recorded by Alan Lomax)

"Key to the Highway" subset:
Little Walter: Key to the Highway

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee: Key to the Highway (from Pete Seeger's syndicated, then National Educational Television [proto-PBS] series, Rainbow Quest [1965–66])

Big Bill Broonzy: Key to the Highway

"This was recorded 1940/41 with Big Bill on guitar & vocals, Jazz Gillum on harmonica and Washboard Sam on washboard. You can find the recording on Document 5133: Big Bill Broonzy Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 11 (1940-1942)."

The Rolling Stones: Good Times, Bad Times

"the rolling stones got really boring after brian jones left the group."

40 Days subset:
Muddy Waters: 40 Days and 40 Nights

The Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond/Joe Morello/Gene Wright Quartet: 40 Days

Justice (poppy reggae/hiphop-flavored dance): 40 Days

Mark Schultz (Xian AOR): 40 Days

The Band: Mystery Train, with Paul Butterfield; Mannish Boy, with Muddy Waters and Butterfield (from The Last Waltz)

Muddy Waters: Champagne and Reefer

Friday, September 14, 2012

FFB: THE AVON BOOK OF MODERN WRITING (1953) and No. 2 (1954) ed. William Phillips & Philip Rahv, among other "paperback magazines"/periodical books

In 1953, Avon Books decided to join in on the "literary magazine of original content in paperback format" fun already in progress at least at New American Library's Mentor line, with their New World Writing, and at Pocket Books, with their slightly younger series of anthologies, Discovery, edited or co-edited for six volumes/issues by Vance Bourjaily. Avon more than most publishers played both the digest-sized magazine and paperback book sides of the fence simultaneously in the 1940s and into the 1950s...along with Murder Mystery Monthly and Donald Wollheim's Avon Fantasy Reader and Avon Science Fiction Reader (later merged as Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader in a fit of creative energy), Avon both assembled, and reprinted others', anthologies and collections of contemporary mimetic fiction, and published them both in and out of the Modern Short Story Monthly sequence of arguably books, arguably magazine issues, including publications collecting short stories of authors such as Louis Bromfield and Somerset Maugham, and anthologies such as the one edited anonymously for (UK) Faber hardcover publication in 1929 as My Best Story and reissued by Avon in 1942 as The Avon Book of Modern Short Stories.
But, by 1953, with "mass market"-format paperbacks clearly making greater inroads in the market (this was the format favored by such industry leaders as Bantam and Pocket, after all), and the Mentor and Pocket "prestige" anthology series noted above already launched, Avon recruited Partisan Review editors Phillips and Rahv to select a mix of fiction, essays and criticism, and poetry for Avon's own entry into this sweepstakes; the first volume was highlighted by first publication of Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find", along with critical material by Diana Trilling and Irving Howe, other fiction by Robert Musil and Robie Macauley and others, an excerpt from Colette's memoirs, and Lysander Kemp and Barbara Howes as two of "Six Poets" featured. The packaging fell somewhere between the ugly but functional early New World Writing covers, which would list their volume's entire contents, and the somewhat Mondrian-influenced covers favored by the Pocket Books series (please see below). Mentor's self-congratulatory tags--"Good reading for the millions"--were not as much in evidence on the Avon volumes, perhaps in part because Avon was never as invested as NAL in snob appeal, even with this project, seeming as it did like a beefier and much better-distributed version of the editors' typical issues of Partisan Review.

The second volume/issue of the Avon, despite apparently selling a decent but unspectacular (by early '50s paperback standards) half-million copies between them, would be the last for Avon, and featured an even more impressive lineup of fiction, including first English translation (by Anthony Kerrigan) of Jorge Luis Borges's fantasy "Funes the Memorious", an excerpt from Mary McCarthy's The Group, and work by Herbert Gold, Delmore Schwartz, Alberto Moravia and Elizabeth Hardwick (and a memoir by Herman Hesse, and critical writing by rightwing icon Hilton Kramer) among many others. (As noted, Pocket had pulled the plug on Discovery after the sixth issue/volume, in 1955, after two years; New World Writing would continue to appear from Mentor till 1960, with an improving set of covers eventually, then from 1960 through 1964, beginning with the 16th issue/volume and ending with the 22nd, NWW would be published in a paperback line J.B. Lippincott might have created for that purpose.) Aside from such smaller publishers' periodical books such as New Directions, from the imprint of the same name, or such no-bones-about-it magazines as Evergreen Review, the paperback publishers would limit themselves to one-shot original anthologies in contemporary-mimetic fiction (such as Lion Books had done in the early '50s) till the latter '60s, and NAL, this time through the Signet imprint, getting back into the market with New American Review (and competitors of sorts such as the Book of the Month Club's Works in Progress--and it's notable that NAL would let New American Review go, as well, to be published first by Simon and Schuster [though not as a Pocket Book, amusingly, Pocket having been an offshoot of S&S and reunited as its primary paperback line in 1966, but as an S&S Touchstone imprint offer], and then, after several years, by Bantam as American Review).

Not yet seen by me (but now on order) was the third volume, which in the frequent tradition of such things skipped houses on over to Berkley, to become The Berkley Book of Modern Writing, for its last issue/volume.

So, it's probably a pity that no more Avon (or Berkley)/Moderns were issued, but anything slated for a fourth volume presumably appeared in Partisan Review instead...and at least these, and their Pocket and NAL counterparts, were reaching for a period in the early '50s an audience at least fifty times greater than those of such little magazines as Partisan or Hudson Review or The Paris Review (founded at about the same time)...while Ballantine Books did something similar with Frederik Pohl's Star Science Fiction series, and a very few others flourished (I'm not aware of any similar western series, for example, and such British annuals as Winter's Tales and Winter's Crimes, beginning in the latter 1950s, had rather haphazard penetration of the US market....)

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

#7 was the most legendary of issues/volumes of NWW, featuring working-title excerpts of Catch-22 and, as by "Jean-Louis", of On the Road.

***It's also notable, to me at least, how much scrambled information there is online and in print about these series, with at least one source insisting that New American Library/Mentor published New World Writing through 1964, another that NWW folded in 1959 (Mentor's last volume, and Lippincott's first, appeared in 1960); information on Discovery and the Avon/Berkley Book of Modern Writing trio might be less inaccurate, but that's mostly because there's even less of it...

At bottom, Partisan Review and Avon books from PR from 1953-54; then, two of the four volumes of Story magazine's early 1950s parallel adventure in book publishing, apparently, much as with Whispers magazine and 

anthology series in the '70s and '80s, the Story volumes might've mixed new fiction with selections from the magazine issues...and they were published by Ace Books owner A. A. Wyn, possibly in tandem with David McKay for the first volume...