Scratch 'n' Sniff

For the “Shrivelled Up” & the “Stupefied” I have written a serious & proper chorale. This chorale is a sort of bitter preamble, a kind of austere & unfrivolous introduction. I have put into it all I know about Boredom. I dedicate this chorale to those who don’t like me. I withdraw. Image © Simon Miller

A Mammal’s Notebook: The Collected Writings of Erik Satie

Erik Satie

“The first collection of Satie’s writings available in English… A pivotal character in the French avant-gardes from the 1880s to the Dada movement of the 1920s. Dismissed as a bizarre eccentric by most of his contemporaries, Erik Satie is recognized as a key influence on 20th-century music.”

Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Paperback: 192 pages


C’mon Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus

David Cassidy

“At his peak, he was the highest-paid solo performer in the world-bigger than Elvis, Paul McCartney and Elton John. He was the star of one of the most successful shows in television history, took everything he recorded to the top of the charts, and was overwhelmed by money, fame—and especially women—while still in his early 20s.” Result? “… nights of desolation after the fans went home… the singing career that sold over 20 million albums—and brought him a grand total in royalties of less than $15,000… the endless cavalcade of groupies that invaded his bed… his passionate, often stormy relationships with fellow stars Susan Dey and Meredith Baxter.” Happy? C’mon! GR

Publisher: Warner
Paperback: 256 pages

Cad: A Handbook for Heels

Edited by Charles Schneider

Several years before the revival of the Lounge Scene, Charles Schneider produced the Lounge Bible. Far more combustible than Combustible Edison, Schneider’s Cad: A Handbook for Heels resurrects the lost world of Eisenhower-era men’s magazines in all their leering, drooling, endearing naiveté. “Booze! Beatniks! Burlesque!” screams the book’s cover, promising “the forgotten lore of the red-blooded American male.” Cad keeps its promise.
Part parody, part appreciation, Cad takes the form of a vintage skin mag, in this case one of those bargain-basement imitations of Playboy that sprang up everywhere in the mid-’50s. The tongue-in-cheek “articles” include manly advice columns (“Ask the D.I.”), how-to manuals for swingers (“Cad’s Culinary Companion,” “Cad’s Cocktail Hour”), ribald humor (“Pinocchio’s Woodpecker”) and profiles of men who lived the dream, from Russ Meyer to legendary black-velvet artist/beachcomber Leeteg of Tahiti. It’s all done to a T, right down to the pseudo-intellectual patois of the sybaritic Thinking Man.
And let us not forget the cartoons and pictorials, some vintage (“June Wilkinson Dances for You”) and some wickedly funny, faked photo shoots (of beatnik babes and a B-movie producer’s casting couch). The rogues gallery of contributors will tell you everything you wanted to know about postwar Cocktail Culture. What Esquivel’s Space Age Bachelor Pad Music is to one’s stereo, Cad is to the (kidney-shaped) coffee table. JAB

Publisher: Feral House
Paperback: 152 pages

Camp Grounds: Styles and Homosexuality

David Bergman

Essays on camp, featuring such immortal icons of this camp century as: Dusty Springfield, Ronald Firbank, Mae West, The White Negro, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis, Tennessee Williams, Lypsinka, Mötley Crue, Twisted Sister, Ratt, Andy Warhol, Carmen Miranda, Dean Martin, Liberace, Raquel Welch, Tom Cruise, Susan Sontag, Kristy McNichol, AIDS! The Musical!, Norma Desmond, and et al. Plus these flaming camp slogans, suitable for bumper sticker or T-shirt: “Art From Pain,” “The Re-creation of Surplus Value from Forgotten Forms of Labor,” “A Drag Queen’s Genitals Must Never Be Seen,” “Fascinating Fascism,” “The Lie That Tells the Truth,” “It’s So Bad, It’s Good,” “Humor in Leftovers,” and “Outrage Against a Homophobic Mass Culture!” Conclusion for the 21st century-Camp is an attitude you visit. GR

Publisher: University of Massachusetts
Paperback: 300 pages

Camp: The Lie That Tells the Truth

Philip Core

This serious, though not humorless, encyclopedia of personalities, places, objects and artifacts pertinent to camp has juicy illustrations, intelligent, pithy writing, and an incredible bibliography, and gets bonus points for including both obvious and obscure references in equal measure in a successful attempt to articulate a vision of camp sensibility which encompasses a lot more than the standard drag queens/retro furnishings/”bad-movies-we-love” concept. No “camp-lite” here. MG

Publisher: Plexus
Paperback: 212 pages

The Can Book

Pascal Bussy and Andy Hall

Can’s musical experiments demonstrated how fettered to the Blues rock music really was, even in the psychedelic era. From blissed and transcendent, down-shifting to ear-wrenching and ominous, Can are now recognized to have been the bridge between the psychedelic rock era and the now-dormant punk experimentalism of PIL or the Pop Group. Based near Cologne, endlessly laying down improvisational jams in their Inner Space studio, Can incorporated the academic electronic music of Stockhausen, the low-end physical thrust of funk grooves, diverse ethnic musics and countless other sonic inputs into a thoroughly hallucinogenic free-form musical assemblage all their own. Can founder Holger Czukay’s shortwave collage experiments like “Song of the Vietnamese Boat Women” and Can’s world music E.F.S. (Ethnological Forgery Series) predated Byrne and Eno’s “groundbreaking” My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by well over a decade. For those who already know the above to be true, this well-researched history will elucidate numerous bits of vital information such as Damo Suzuki’s arrival on the scene and the conditions under which Tago Mago was recorded. SS

Publisher: SAF
Paperback: 192 pages

Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile

Samuel Kinser

While some of the author’s critical apparatus might be goofy, he nonetheless takes a distinctive approach to Mardi Gras. He disputes commonplace thoughts about the roots of carnival traditions in rural pagan rites; judging them fallacies of the nationalistic “folk spirit” ideologies prevalent in 19th-century Europe. Instead, European Carnival is seen to be a 14th-century, urban, courtly response to the meatless fasting and sexual abstinence of the 40-day Catholic Lent preceding Easter.
Carnival as practiced in New Orleans, and in Mobile, Ala., takes many of its prominent features from these 15th- and 16th- century European celebrations, as filtered through the fantasies of the 19th-century imagination: pseudoclassical origins and decorations, Renaissance attire and secular acceptance of human folly. Mardi Gras’ faux aristocracies and courts are seen as fantasy enactments by elites who saw their political and social power slipping away in the industrial and political changes leading up to and following the Civil War. The more rigid racial divisions in Mobile created a “ceremonious carnival” that reaffirmed existing social barriers, while the more diverse population of New Orleans generated a “carnivalesque carnival” that titillated itself with transgressions. Certainly food for thought when one is passed out in a New Orleans alleyway, face-first in a half-eaten King Cake. RP

Publisher: University of Chicago
Hardback: 415 pages

The Carpenters: The Untold Story

Ray Coleman

Death has always been a sure-fire tonic for flagging pop-music careers, but few have reaped benefits as great as the Carpenters. Singer Karen’s 1983 death from anorexia nervosa did more than boost their CD sales; it bestowed the squeaky-clean duo with a posthumous hipness (albeit tinged with irony) that eluded them during Karen’s life.
Here is the first in-depth look at these Nixon-era songsters. Unabashedly an authorized biography, Coleman traces Richard and Karen’s career from their humble New Haven roots to their triumphant years ruling the Top 40 all the way through their slow decline in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Mindful of who his sources were, Coleman unstintingly praises their music (even “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”!) and trashes the media for dismissing the C’s in their heyday. Naturally, no mention is made of Todd Haynes’ underground film Superstar, a bizarrely brilliant dramatization of the Carpenters story enacted with Barbie dolls.
Nonetheless, there are enough warts to keep the book out of the hagiography section. Between descriptions of Karen’s eating disorder, Richard’s Quaalude problem, and mother Agnes’ domineering tendencies, Coleman delivers plenty of reality to offset such saccharine exercises as “Top of the World” and “Sing.” Some of the best parts are Richard and Karen’s romantic travails. The real Carpenter love life was closer to “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “Superstar” than “We’ve Only Just Begun.” One of Karen’s few promising relationships was quietly scuttled on orders of high-ranking Carpenter management (Herb? Agnes?), while Richard’s dates were always running afoul of his parents and sister. You can only imagine the stuff that’s between the lines. It may not be Carpenter Babylon, but it’s vital reading for anyone who’s ever fallen (no matter how guiltily) under the spell of Karen’s haunting voice. JM

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Paperback: 352 pages

Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History

Vivian Perlis

Charles Ives (1874-1954) was probably the most singular American composer of the first half of the 20th century. However, he spent his adult life as an executive at an insurance company, which made him rich—and an avid patron of orchestras and composers—while his music went unrecognized until 1939, when his Second Piano Sonata, Concord, was first performed.
Remembered takes all of Ives into consideration through interviews with family members, associates in the insurance world, and people of music. The result is as rich a remembrance as one can find of nearly any composer. This volume is invaluable for its recollections of the pre-Cage American avant-garde (most especially the interviews with Elliot Carter and the late Nicholas Slonimsky). SH

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 238 pages

Chasin’ the Trane: The Life and Music of John Coltrane

J.C. Thomas

It is doubtful that any other soloist in jazz since Charlie Parker has had the impact of John Coltrane. His musicality and spirituality have long been imitated—with varying results. Thomas has hit every primary source imaginable in the preparation of this book—touching on everything from Trane’s astrological chart to the reproduction of a transcribed solo. While this approach often means slaving through a bunch of metaphysical hoopla (and no biography of Coltrane has been written without that component, unfortunately), it helps to form a true portrait of the man and the musician. SH

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 264 pages

China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture

Jianying Zha

As if a language barrier weren’t enough, the wall of a 3000-plus character writing system has prevented the curious American from having even a casual knowledge of Chinese pop culture.
China Pop does a great deal to explain the how and what of its subject, but its unfortunate lack of visual aids makes the damn thing feel like a term paper. Also, after reading China Pop, the would-be cultural explorer has no more luck than previously should he be trying to figure out who the hell is on those posters and cassettes in a Chinese record store.
As of now, though, this book is all we have, and anybody looking to know anything about this topic will have no choice but to read this, incomplete as it may be. Hold on to your ‘60s Judy Ongg records until the definitive reference work appears—no doubt she will become the next Petula Clark. But it will take more than China Pop to inform the trend-spotting cognoscenti. SH

Publisher: New Press
Paperback: 224 pages