Saturday, January 23, 2010

Left Bank Books Moves to New Location!

Left Bank Books, that Elysian pasture of literary tenderness containing the best book -for -book used and antiquarian collection of literature in the City, is moving down the block from 303 West 4th St(near Bleeker and 8th Ave.)at the end of the month- well maybe the second week of February.The new location is at No.17 8th ave near 12th St.,where in expanded space it will take over premises previously occupied by Cheri, a vintage clothes store.
Left Bank Books was a quiet used bookstore run by the redoubtable Arthur Farrier, long-time Village resident with beret and playful sense of humor, when Kim Herzinger, who had previously taught English literature at the University of Southern Mississippi, and is a leading authority and author of several tomes on Donald Barthelme, bought and rechristened the store Left Bank in Jan 2005.This followed a move to New York City and his needc for a place for his humongous collection of first editions.

I have spent many evenings hanging out at Left Bank and mixing with a collection of offbeat Village visitors, displaced mystics and body therapists from all over the US,ratty book scouts digging through trash for buried treasure , European intellectuals passing through the City, and occasional nouveau riche blondes of the West Village needing a quick $900 fix for their more literary boyfriends, all congregrating there. What a proudly diverse collection of humanity in one of the most wonderful crowded browsing spaces and where literally every volume, from the four figure gems to the Twenty-five to Thirty five dollar items,is worth savoring.

Kim has accepted a professorial position in Austin Texas at the University of Houston-Victoria, but the store will carry on - run by the swift-thinking person who has often surprised me by turning up at the most unusual book fairs in the City-with a tart comment in tow.

This area by the way is close to the former home-many years ago occupied by the late Eric Schwartz, sole proprietor of Fantasy Archives, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. Eric sold to the public by appointment and in printed catalogues and lived upstairs in a walk up on 8th and 13th in a large room packed with bookcases, where the bathtub was filled with neatly stacked volumes that reached to the ceiling.When I once dared to ask Eric whether and where he slept, he pointed to a stack of three hundred books on the center of the floor and ,upon closer inspection, I saw that a small cot lay quietly buried underneath these sovereign science fiction volumes.

It's an area steeped in book history, even aside from the characters described in Ron Sukenick's legendary Down and In,a literary history of Downtown NY to be reviewed in these pages.

May Left Bank carry on its glorious traditions forever!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sarah Palin, Patti Smith,Harry Smith, Ahmadou Kourouma,

She Who Shall Go Nameless apparently had the Number 1 Best Selling Book in Hardcover in 2009, according to a recently published PW report.A close friend of mine,knowing of my predilection for consuming vast quantities of literature, told me in no uncertain tone that she hoped that I hadn't purchased a copy of "Going Rogue". I hadn't and still haven't, although I don't generally make it a practice to read this sort of material. But it says something about the never ending detritus read by the American public that this book and Glenn Beck's right-wing pale imitation of Colbert are at the top of the best seller list, as is again Ayn Rand , whose ghoulish self-centered individualism (Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead) has been revived after Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and the whole sick crew of the Chicago School of Economics used its ill advised precepts to help dig the biggest hole in the American economy in almost a hundred years.
I must confess however that I did read "Mein Kampf" for the first time 20 years ago- sometimes it's good to read rants before they're adopted as the marching song in the streets. In the nameless one's case, however, it's just another trashy celeb bio more than anything,or is it more infectious than that?

Highly recommended are two books by reccently deceased author Ahmadou Kourouma from Cote d'Ivoire---Waiting for the Beasts to Vote and Allah is Not Obliged- the latter just out from Anchor Boooks in the USA- The first is a great piece of storytelling by Bingo, a West African storyteller(sora) and king's fool, recounting the adventures of Koyaga , dictator of the mythical Gulf Coast- a magico- satirical history of African dictatorship ; the second, written shortly before Kourouma's death,is the story of the last few horrifying years told through the eyes and pen of a child soldier. Both are worth pursuing here or in the UK.

Patti Smith has a new memoir out- Just Kids- which tells of her early life living on the cheap in New York with Robert Mapplethorpe before they became,separately, icons of our world. It's a sweet piece of writing from a fiercely intelligent and truthful writer-I remember her when she was selling books in Scribners-the once two level magisterial bookshop on 5th and 48th St She was as delightful a spirit then as she is now- Go Rimbaud, Go Johnny Go!

For a time Smith lived in the Chelsea Hotel and made the acquaintance of, among others Harry Smith.-Harry passed from our world in 1991- litle known beyond his fame in the music world but an enormous influence on the counterculture- He was a collector, an amateur anthropologist, painter ,and maker of experimental films -

His collection of folk, fiddle, gospel, hillbilly, blues ,cajun, murder ballads,religious ecstasy and various off- beat pieces from the 20's and 30's became the basis of Folkways Famous six LP Anthology of American Folk Music- which was probably the single most important collection -maybe the UR music piece used by Dylan , Van Ronk ,Baez and the entire folk+ movement- It introduced America to the Carter family, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson and many others. But Smith , who made experimental films (like the kabbalistic stick figured Heaven and Earth) as early as the late 40's and 50's and was a talented painter, has been forgotten in the dusty gloom of a life lived in the company of people like Alan Ginsberg but always somwewhat in the shadows. He was neither a member of the avant garde who would commercialize his work nor a bohemian associating with others in rebellion, so much as a transgressive toothless wonder-yes a bum in the old sense of the word-- who lived from flophouse to flophouse and hotel to hotel ,and had his art thrown out for failure to pay rent and chucked into Staten Island's landfills in the 60's. At last, after years of living in Boulder and being involved with the Naropa Institute , he returned to NY to accept a lifetime music award and died paranoid and convinced that he was being poisoned at the Chelsea hotel in Nov 1991.

The Getty Museum ,some years after devoting exhibitions to Smith's work, has issued a brilliant volume of essays dedicated to him, edited by Rani Singh and Andrew Perchuk.It is entitled Harry Smith-The Avant garde in the American Vernacular This tome helps restores Smith, personal warts and all, to the important position he held in American arts in the 20th Century.

As Keats said-on the act and art of listening and seeing---
Away Away for I will fly to thee
not charioted by bacchus and his pards
but on the viewless wings of poesy
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet
nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs
but in embalmed darkness guess each sweet
wherewith the seasonable month endows
the grass the thicket and the fruit tree wild
white hawthorn and pastoral eglantine
fast fading violets covered up in leaves
and mid-May's eldest child
the coming musk rose full of dewy wine
the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves

and for this unexpected treasure, in decay and ecstasy- away away I will fly to thee

Friday, January 8, 2010

On reading in the NYT that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s name may have been spelled wrong and thus missed the no fly list

C 2010 Edgylit

Mr. Abdul\baluchi\shoebomb\in\gucci
You’re denied a visa
Ms. Fayez\bin\quetta\burqa\fatale\feta
You’ll have to go back to make pizza

If your last name’s six syllables or more than twelve letters
You’ll have to be go home or be shackled in fetters

Your name is too long for the no-fly list
And besides our experts cannot spell terra/wrist

They don’t know whether it’s Usama or Osama
The tea party birthers still spell it Obama
So let’s do away with this never-ending drama

If your name is too long, kitty litter
You’ll have to commit suicide on Twitter

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mary Daly Dies- Pat Me Down Poem

Mary Daly, radical feminist author and teacher and inventor of a new language for women- see "Pure Lust" etal , pased away. She was a revered teacher at Boston College,writer and leader in the LGBT movement -as innovative in her way as G Stein. Read her works- they will only grow in importance.

A few words----on the new airline rules

Pat Me Down
C 2010 Edgy Lit

Pat me down pat me down
Search me and take what is found
I won’t have fits or starts
If you touch my private parts

We will do what’s required
All our nerve ends are inspired
I’m a true patriot
All this terror makes me hot

pat me down I won’t frown
I am shaking in my knees
I will gladly do striptease
So please do what you please

Pat me down pat me down
I’m not nervous I won’t sweat
But forever in your debt
‘cause these patdowns make me wet…

An exhibitionist- it’s de rigeur
Loves that TSA voyeur!