Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information

Edited by James Brook and Iain Boal

“Beneath the media world lies our perceptual framework, and digital media may change how we know what we know.” So insists Chris Carlsson in “The Shape of Truth To Come,” one of the more accessible of the 21 essays and political tracts anthologized within this book. And therein, in the theme “political,” lies the biggest problem with this book. Everything revolves around postmodern socialist/Marxist philosophy.
Resisting The Virtual Life is very much a classic university textbook with its own jargon, esoteric knowledge and politically correct jockeying for status. As dull, verbose, self-referential, opaque, presumptuous and complex in its structures and concepts as Scottish Freemasonry. Don’t get me wrong, please, I myself am absolutely on the side of an immense skeptical suspicion of the “World Wide Web.” What a horrible title. Are we all the innocent little insects unwittingly trapped in a gluey binary Armageddon of telephone lines? Who is the spider? Well, control, of course. Corporations, of course, increasingly insipid and acceleratingly effective bureaucratic governments.
The themes of enforced apathy and mobility of labor really circle each other like sumo wrestlers here. And it’s scary. Which makes this the right time to reassess the malignant cancer of personal computers; the intrusion into intellectual privacy and inner space; the surrender of autonomy; the detached Prozac miasma of virtual passivity and loss of identity that comes with all this dull gray plastic.
Look at it this way, simplistic though it sounds: If “Virtual Life” is supported, proselytized and applauded by your worst enemies, and it is profitable for them, then why consent of your own volition to partake of this “cure-all.” No way is this medium benign! Far from it. It’s the greatest chance to survey all you can see from a great height, just like Jesus in the desert, and who was offering HIM that illusory empowerment?
Uh, uh. Please plow through this, despite the turgid and user unfriendly style and semantics. Because it will do you good! The digital revolution is not benign. Don’t kid yourself, or your self. You are as much fodder for this new economic miracle as your ancestors were when they were forced from the arable land to become a disposable raw material for the iron mills and cotton mills of the 19th century.
Worse still, once uprooted, they were trained to consume the surplus they were enslaved to produce. Now, with less need in the West for covert slavery, the primary purpose of the majority of the population is conveniently reduced to overt and insatiable consumption, in and of itself. Oh, in case you wondered where the slaves are now… Well, occupied Haiti, Korea, Thailand and, when the time comes, Africa once again.
It’s the perfect scam. Hell, they don’t even need a semieducated and minimally healthy immigrant workforce anymore. Why else did you think education and medical services are being encouraged to disintegrate? A mediocratic middle class have unwittingly become the “new serfs.” They integrate enthusiastically with the insatiable “virtual life.” They are compelled to consume this quixotic future. They have even been trained to measure their success by their acquisition of its artifacts and their access to an ever-increasing amount of its software. Like lemmings they bless and feed the hand that signals the route to the final cataclysmic cliff. As the introduction succinctly reminds us, mobility of labor is the capitalist dream and computers realize the ultimate exploitative nightmare. All labor can now travel anywhere without physically moving. Much cheaper and more efficient. Everything piped down a phone wire. Perfect! I don’t think so. Count me out. I unplugged my modem ages ago. Best thing I ever did for my creative mind. Unplug yours too. Read this book, privately. Think hard about it, privately. Practice talking, privately. GPO

Publisher: City Lights
Paperback: 278 pages

The Private Diary of Lyle Menendez: In His Own Words!

Lyle Menendez as told to Norma Novelli with Mike Walker

Mike Walker also wrote Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, which tends to confirm one’s impression of him from this book, particularly from his introduction, as a self-serving and barely literate parasite. As for the disgracefully adolescent Norma Novelli… What a pathetic loser she was! I use past tense in reference to her because she was nothing before she attached herself to Lyle Menendez in a menopausal crush, and she has returned to being less than nothing since. Lyle’s conviction for the “brutal shotgun slayings” of his parents is supposedly exposed and analyzed by this tedious book with its unique angle of having reprinted “actual diaries.” The usual pseudo-psychological stuff; society’s right to know; prevention of future murder by familiarity with the “mind of a cold killer”; and righteous curiosity are the reasons glibly trotted out as justification. I resent having wasted my precious time, an irreplaceable part of my life trying to read this garbage. Yes! A plague upon thee and all who doth sail in thee, oh morass of apathy and pus-drenched conformity that be suburbia! I say. Oh, that feels better!
If you do seriously wish to enter uncannily into the existential world of a sociopathic serial killer and the obsessive mind of a sadistic pervert more completely and shatteringly than you could ever have imagined to witness; a lost soul chillingly and articulately trying to understand how it came to this, and what could possibly have possessed him, then I cannot recommend highly enough Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen by Brian Masters. After all, any right-thinking, socially sensitive observer would have to concur that an all-consuming, uncontrollable hatred for that very suburbia from which so many serial executors are drawn is really the primary common factor in all these sobering tales. Furthermore, and potentially more disturbing to the self-deceiving, I must grudgingly suggest that any right thinking and sensitive person would also have to empathize with that hatred, whilst being careful not to condone necessarily these particularly gruesome expressions of it.
So, anyway, returning reluctantly to the onerous task I have pledged to fulfill: This is a vile book reveling in vicarious consumption on every possible level. It is a gratuitous consumer product in and of itself so superficial and dull in content that it makes tabloids in the genus of National Enquirer sparkle like James Joyce’s Ulysses in comparison. The Menendez brothers are consumed with such immature and ineffective greed, compounded by a mental retardation, that the acknowledgment of this is the only shocking aspect of this drivel. Suburbia was, for the post-Warholian 15 minutes or so, consumed with vicarious fascination. Norma was consumed with a blatantly self-deceiving obsession for Lyle. (Of course this dreadful, dreadful housewife wanted to fuck him!). Erik and Lyle consumed the media attention. The public consumed the media sensationalism. And on and on… A typical American fable of rags to body bags.
Really, all you can say is: What a bunch of repulsive people. Stupid, mundane, unglamorous, uninspired, disposable, vacuous middle-class foolish, repulsive people. Bungling, masturbatory, opportunist, amoral, vainglorious, unattractive, repulsive people. Blessedly, this cast of idiots have either crawled back under the rank stones from whence they came, or been consigned officially under more architecturally demanding, but equally dank, official stones. Which would be fine and dandy if it was an interesting tale well told. But it’s not. It’s a “crock of shit” as you Americans would say, and I can only wholeheartedly concur, European though I am. GPO

Publisher: Dove
Hardback: 263 pages

Satanic Murder

Nigel Cawthorne

We are severely morally challenged and our gullibility retarded if we even consider this any more than preaching to the willfully converted. It’s a bit like books for people who construct model airplanes, but only model airplanes of Rhodesian biplanes built between 1924 and 1925. Unless you have an obsessive, vested interest and need confirmation of your mania, it’s meaningless.
And by the way, of course, the factual and even circumstantial evidence of a thriving biplane construction industry in Rhodesia between 1924 and 1925 is far more compelling and believable than this. GPO

Publisher: Virgin
Paperback: 281 pages

Recovery From Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse

Edited by Michael D. Langone

Having myself been deemed notorious, and occasionally despicable by one of the rather less-than-objective or deductive segments of the ignorance-aligned “vociferous minority” (I presume that’s the opposite of a silent majority, please correct me if I am wrong), I approached this tome with a decidedly voracious appetite.
My own personal crime had been to experiment “for its own sake” with the generically agreed upon dynamics of a “cult” by the simple strategy of reversal of each implicit common quality normally proposed by analysts, commentators, survivors and vested-interest right-wing (often fundamentalist Christian) “cult” groups in their profitable protestations. The research and conclusions that I later reaped from my foundation of an “anti-cult” clearly confirmed the ease with which even an existential surrealist can rapidly attract a devoted and compliant group to an admittedly sexy idea.
Unfortunately, what it demonstrated even more vividly was that being a part of, or administrating, or feeling obliged to constantly feed the group mythology is incredibly time-consuming and boring. The majority of those attracted to any “cult” or “anti-cult” are basically emotional cripples. Which is in no way a denigration, for I would insist that we are all equally crippled, and lost seeking a means to con ourselves into feeling life is innately benign and worthwhile. Equally distressing is the discovery that those who aspire to be part of any “superior” alpha or omega hierarchy are measly dullards with delusions of their own grandeur pretty much without exception.
These observations are not so surprising to most of us. Much more surprising, however, is the apparently universal conviction that the “divine” essence of the “cult” or “anti-cult,” initially followed with absolute allegiance in a highly submissive manner, comes to be perceived later by the more neurotic, devout “members” as in fact a privately inspired and unique product of their own process of spiritual and moral epiphany.
A deep confusion and psychotic resentment can build up if the original “leader” chooses to amend, adapt or in any way change and evolve the original teaching or texts of revelation and salvation. It is fanatically believed, because of the very success of its limitless integration into the personality of the devout “member,” to have become their property. Their holy mission. Their immutable and infallible philosophy of life and immortality. All self-esteem and peer-group status come to rest entirely upon the unassailable and unalterable original source.
This leaves everyone in a double-bind, only if, of course, they truly do seek after wisdom; after compassion; after creativity; after truth; after a new, improved yet individually separate identity fulfilling their most laudable and altruistic aspirations; after fun, laughter, respite and having a good time in the bargain. These real seekers after inspired religious speculation and neo-moral dialogue are confronted with an insoluble problem.
Being “in charge” is the worst nightmare possible and contradictory to any liberating and radical idea or agenda. Being “a disciple” is equally the worst nightmare possible of self-subjugation to a radical idea or agenda that by the very nature of this beast can only atrophy and stagnate by mindless repetition and the dogmatism of the weaker willed.
So you are damned if you do live the “cult” life and damned if you don’t. Everyone else outside your personal “cult” is damned too. Schisms, suicides, murders, confrontations with other “cults” ensue, and misery and existential helplessness engulf all.
Recovery From Cults could have looked at the pros and cons of all cults. Instead it simply trots out the same old, same old lists. A cult is only a cult if it has this or that specific list of attributes. All psychotherapists are either good (i.e. anti-cult) or bad (i.e., not educated in the authors’ and contributors’ rigid and inarguably correct view of the dastardly phenomenon). “Cults” are assumed to be localized aberrations. Christians are good and understand. Christian cults are not Christian cults at all and, of course, “Satanic” cults probably don’t exist, but we’ll allude to their nonexistence as much as we can to play down the vicious, sadistic, warped and foul Christian cults. You see, dogmatism and lack of self-esteem are the same monkey whatever they wear, and whilst I am sure there really are cases of indescribable, altruistic self-effacement and service to the greater good, hey, as the old joke goes:
What is the name of the “cult” where the members have to shave off their hair; give up their clothes; take a number instead of a name; be physically abused and beaten daily; suffer forced marches; have their food controlled; be trained to murder even their own family for their leader without thought or question; use a “cult” slang; be numbed with sleep deprivation and so on and so on? The U.S. Marines, of course.
None of this ambiguity or institutionalized “cultism” is addressed at all. This is, after all, a society where control is violently enforced with deep conviction by state “policing cults.” Where other more unsavory intelligence cults, or even actual cult cults are mobilized, exploited and franchised according to opportunism and the “greater GOoD.” Where even this abomination of depersonalization and sacrifice of individuality is overtly and covertly countenanced only to maintain the illusion of a “bogey-man.” A bogey-man whose nature is so apocalyptically terrible and terrorizing that suspension of disbelief and veracity of perception are voluntarily surrendered to the societal “cult.”
America is the most successful “cult” ever. It is comprised socially, politically, economically and religiously by layer upon layer of “cults.” Not surprising when one considers that the first settlers were themselves fanatical “cultists” escaping disapproval and persecution. The biggest and best “cults,” like the Mormons, the Democrats, the Jesuits, Death Row Records, Bloods and Crips, sports teams, the Nation, etc. poach members from each other, and all unify in reviling the smallest or the weirdest. Often, accessing money is paraded as proof of corruption and bad intention by rivals and newcomers. Most of them will use force, political clout, even assassination to attain and sustain their preeminence. A cult is a cult is a cult. Show me the child and I’ll show you the cultist.
So what can we conclude? No thanks to this book. Well, let’s concede: sad fucked-up lives are sad, and fucked up. Emotional cripples abound and lots of them are lonely and vulnerable to strong pseudo-parental authority. Usually parents bemoan their lost, confused and maliciously misled children, oblivious to themselves as the cause of the alienation. The ultimate, archaic “cult” of the filial family imposes its will above all else, demanding the return of those who have “accidentally” gone astray or run away. Just bear in mind, refugees flee tyranny, famine (emotional as well as literal), isolation, violence, occupation and fear.
Let everyone flee back and forth like headless chickens to join any “cult” they want, I say. It’s unavoidable. For the redundant sleeping masses there can be no life after “cults.” There can be no life outside “cults.” If they want to squabble over possessing certain people, so be it. If they can “retrieve” and “deprogram” or reprogram each other to suit their own ends, so be it. If this process is relentless, unstoppable, cruel, painful and endless for them. If the strongest win. If the omnipotent “cult” of bureaucracy and governmental control reigns supreme… What did you expect ? I have no sympathy for any of them.
For myself, I took apart a “cult” like you would take apart a model engine, to see how it worked. It was never my intention to put it back together again to make it work. My intention was a skeptical act of self-conscious rebellion so that I could detoxify my SELF of the omnipresent and oppressive “cult” pathogen. It was an abjurative act of scornful personality inoculation. A disdainful declaration of infinite and unspecific flux and the repudiation of any tainting of my character by, or experiential vulnerability to, any and all manifestations or interpretations of all possible and impossible forms of inherited “cult” systems. So there! GPO

Publisher: Norton
Paperback: 410 pages

By Surprise

Henri Michaux

In this uncomfortable and ethereal journal of an unwitting psychedelic trauma Henri Michaux is the paramount stylish dandy; in his shamelessly self-promoting introduction, on the other hand, Allen Ginsberg is the fawning, drooling, tourist oaf. So force yourself to ignore Ginsberg's self-adulation. This unsolicited mortification aside, Michaux truly explores with a surgical intent the pain-filled anguish and courage he experienced in facing the mental near-disintegration and perceptual terror herein disclosed.
By Surprise begins with his arbitrary, languid decision to swallow an unknown drug left with him by a vague acquaintance. We never learn the drug's name or its pharmacological family. We don't need to. If you've ever been spiked, or similarly misled your brain by imbibing the random and surprisingly strong neurological stimulant, then you will comprehend how bizarre, frightening and tedious such a situation can become.
Drug stories are impossibly personal and subjectively vivid. They are probably not intended to lend themselves to everyday vocabulary. The ineffable is speechless. Given all these limitations, Michaux succeeds remarkably well—in particular, in conveying the peak paranoia that “this time he's done it!” and will “never come back” and the inevitable, complementary dislocation and ripping of the entire fabric of time.
This is a decidedly worthwhile addition to drug literature. Brief, clear and honest. In its concise way it covers, in a few dense pages, most of the subjective ground other books dwell on ad nauseam. GPO

Publisher: Hanuman
Paperback: 110 pages

Sade: My Neighbor

Pierre Klossowski

I was really hoping to learn something fantastic from this book. Nay, even enjoy it. No such luck. Totally incomprehensible linguistic definitions. There’s no respite from the convoluted grammar and impenetrable ramblings. You’ll have to be desperate for one more book to read on de Sade, or in need of someone else’s opinion to crib for an end of term paper, before you get anything practical out of this thing.
The only revealing detail of this whole monolith is that we are repeatedly informed that Monsieur Pierre Klossowski finds it indisputable—and the one and only, totally triumphant key to understanding and appreciating de Sade—that sodomy is the ultimate symbolic and actual social taboo around which all else falls into place. What a sheltered, cerebral life he must have led. Ah me… next! GPO

Publisher: Northwestern University
Paperback: 144 pages

Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit

Bruce Thomas

First, I should confess to being something of a Bruce Lee virgin. I have not read any other books or articles on him, nor owned a poster of his famous, glistening, muscle-happy torso. Indeed, I hadn’t even seen one of his movies until, in 1996, I finally saw Enter the Dragon. I counted my ignorance a huge advantage in appraising this labor of quite obsessive love by the ubiquitous pop guitarist and dedicated Bruce Lee apologist Bruce Thomas, even as I found my frail sensibility freezing under his unnecessarily repetitive bludgeoning with an overpowering surfeit of insistent adoration.
Certain “wise” lessons and speculations as to Bruce Lee’s motives are clumsily repeated and paraphrased over and over again, in a flawed and ungainly attempt to direct the reader’s opinion. One feels sure that Bruce Thomas wrote and rewrote certain key paragraphs, initially intending to use the best and most flowing (ironically, just like Lee’s jeet kune do) but that in the end he used all of them without discernment, either because he could not honestly select the most effective or because he was too indecisive to act.
Undisciplined writing style aside, the reader is vividly presented with a churlish and rather brutal Bruce Lee who revels in violent street fights and the physical dominance of any and all peers. A pragmatic misfit whose initial attraction to the more formal wing chun system seems to have been primarily to improve his ability in order to beat more rivals into bloody submission, in many ways Lee is a classic “nasty piece of work.”
He was a narcissistically motivated man whose fanatacism grew exponentially to the point of him becoming completely devoid of any socially or self-imposed boundaries as to what he could achieve. Such ambitious amorality resonates throughout this revealing book alongside Lee’s increasingly contradictory but refreshingly clear comprehension of the poetic and mystical implications of his extraordinary martial skills.
There is a feeling that his entire career became a synthetic metaphor for a modern cultural collision: Chinese tradition focused by mercurial American commercialism and the fervor of notoriety induced by Hollywood fame, counterbalanced by the deceptiveness of his Asian blend of joviality and occasional obsequiousness. Yes, this guy was a compelling mess: a stunningly balletic thug with an inferiority complex so voracious and gross that his insatiable ego seems to have expired from the sheer shock of realizing that all media projections are entirely vacuous.
As Bruce Lee’s nature unfolds, he is revealed as a psychotically driven victim of his own ambitious, greedy fantasy, a disintegrating genius who, despite his credulous confusion over the altruism of fame, still remained one hell of a sight in those fight scenes and, apparently, a truly inspiring asshole of a teacher.
Was he that good? That fast? Thomas quotes director Robert Clouse: “All I can say is, he had the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen. In one shot… In order to see his hand lash out and hit… we had to speed the camera up to 30 frames a second. At normal speed it didn’t show on film.” So there you have it. Oh, and yes, drugs were involved in his death. A rare “allergy” to hashish in his brain was the discreet source of his demise.
As to his legacy. Well, thousands of martial arts teachers all over the world with a thousand names and variations of mind-body discipline are making a decent enough living, which is probably no bad thing. Although it remains a truism and a practical reservation to ask what good is any of this when one is faced with a nervous idiot with a gun? His other surprising legacy? Well, I would suggest that more than anything else, Bruce Lee legitimized for the first time the phenomenon of “normal” hetero “real” men drooling and fawning over the compact and perfected physique of another male without phobic guilt, even to the extreme of it being OK to grow up with pin-up posters of that stripped-to-the-waist icon on their bedroom door. GPO

Publisher: Frog
Paperback: 329 pages

Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp

Pierre Cabanne

The author must have been highly respected and trusted by Marcel Duchamp because this series of coversations between two learned and mild men in 1966, two years before Duchamp’s death, are unexpectedly warm, open and relaxed. Despite the many marvelous books reviewed throughout this sourcebook, I am going to maintain that every reader should do everything possible to acquire a copy of Dialogues With Marcel Duchamp as soon as possible. It is really that essential, a sentiment which Duchamp would no doubt deplore on principle.
Marcel Duchamp was selected in one of the few moments of consensus among the bickering and socially feeble Surrealist group as a general mediator. He presided over a group whose chief practice was making, squeezing, honing and pricking conceptual conceits, words and objects until they could pass for disconcertingly comfortable contrivances, things more or less akin to that very art that seemingly froze over its self early in this century, dying in a mire of deceit. Apparence, and appearance sit benignly in a worn, leather armchair blowing out a steady stream of Havana cigar smoke and musing with cynical irony over the possibilities and improbabilities of “deceptual art,” as Brion Gysin once dubbed it.
Upon reflection, this is all rather peculiar and not a little ridiculous. Was Duchamp primarily an armchair critic whose persuasive challenges pushed a pseudo-avant-garde unwittingly and quite fearfully towards a new radicalism disconcertingly beyond painterly concerns and art-historical contexts, and employing surgically logical analyses of method, motive, madness and the absurdity of making any “Thing” with either a small or capital “T”? The impression of Duchamp that emerges from this book is one of an existentialist dandy par excellence whose brilliant brain amused itself in order to alleviate the utter boredom and pointlessness of a shattered Western culture bereft of all style and function, and whose final commentary upon uselessness was to exploit and animate the limits of the intrinsically redundant and meaningless.
So, was Duchamp the seminal imposter of 20th-century art, as many conceptually retarded painters, critics and even dealers with more than a passing vested interest in the merely “retinal” decorations passed off as “art” that Duchamp so wished to terminate with extreme prejudice would have us believe? Duchamp states that he amused himself occasionally by “thing” making, as he would objectively describe it. Money was not his prime directive. In fact, examples are given of his financial disability. Many “things” were made just to give to a friend at a nominal price when they could have been sold through dealers for a far higher price. Surprisingly, throughout his incredibly influential and intellectually colossal life he had only a single “one-man” exhibition in his native France and about four others worldwide.
Duchamp really didn’t give a fuck about established art-world systems of lionization or the accrual of critical esteem. He eked out a frugal living first from librarianship, and later by buying and selling works by Brancusi. He claimed laziness and convenience led him to sell as many of his works as he possibly could to a single patron, collector Walter Arensberg. For Duchamp, minimizing distraction was a preeminent ascetic concern. Throughout his life he sought privacy and was punctilious regarding discretion. He maintained absolute control and discipline in all aspects of his perceptual life, with a level of linguistic and conceptual rigor that remains as extraordinary today as it was to André Breton and Duchamp’s other contemporaries throughout his marvelously inspiring life.
Was he a charlatan? An opportunist? A compelling and ruthlessly effective “art historical” strategist? My personal position would have to be “of course… yes… no… probably… it really does not matter… no… yes.”
Duchamp himself repeatedly claims that all his “things” and ideas are only the result of “an extraordinary curiosity” and a need to alleviate a sophisticated sense of boredom by “amusing” himself. So much the better! His elevation of skepticism to a previously unthinkable level is as contemporary and inspirational as it gets. At one point in this book he tellingly asserts while discussing Surrealism that “There isn’t any existential painting.” Cabanne replies, “It’s a question of behavior,” and dear Duchamp concurs, “That’s it.” The conclusion one could rightly draw after enjoying the twists and turns within this text is that Marcel Duchamp is deflecting us from the inevitable and probably accurate conclusion that he was, and is, the quintessential existentialist painter. Possibly the first and last of his kind, and all the more glorious and vainglorious for it. What is certain is that his clarity of disenchantment and detachment is so utterly compelling and rings so true that his exclusion from any perspective of what has laughingly been dubbed the “history of art” on the grounds of whimsy and sarcasm personified would be an inadmissable omission. He has set us all up forever, redesigned the “game,” reassigned the functions of the pieces and, with disarming charm has put us in a most rigorous and contorted situation of checkmate. GPO

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 136 pages

Nightmare of Ecstacy

Rudolph Grey

The movies of Ed Wood are really an acquired taste, though at this stage in the growth of his expanded cinema cult, the peer pressure to claim to love them is almost as overwhelming as the ridicule they received when he first wrote and directed them. But interest or disinterest in his films has no essential bearing upon an appreciation of the incredible life and times, obsessions and addictions exposed and celebrated in this book.
Of course, most of us know the movie based on this book, which featured Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette and Martin Landau. But what very quickly becomes clear while reading this volume is how much hilarious and heartbreaking, courageous and eccentric material was left out of the film. Needless to say, much of this additional information centers on sex and drugs and aberrant activities, making the plethora of supplementary anecdotes an unexpectedly sordid (which in this context is a positive value) and fabulous bonus. For example, take this little gem from the memory lane of writer-producer-director Tony Cardoza: “In India they sent a 13-year-old-girl up to Tor’s hotel room. So he’s sucking her breast and it tastes kind of bad, and so he turns on the light, and finds that she was dirty, not dark-skinned! And her tit was white where he was sucking it.”
Rudolph Grey collected who knows how many interviews and then painstakingly sifted and assembled them to form a powerful and compelling biography that flows uncannily well. The fractured persona of Ed Wood—transvestite, dreamer, inept hustler and, probably, naive genius—is scarily believable and contemporary. Today, with RuPaul on national television and Hollywood making movies on a seemingly regular basis about drag queens and transvestitism it might be easy to forget the recklessly courageous honesty exemplified by Ed Wood’s “coming out” in Glen or Glenda?. No matter how kitsch his treatment might now seem, make no mistake, he was brave and he was risking everything when he introduced the world to the now mythologized pink angora sweater.
Apart from enjoying tales of the fascinating interplay of wild and bizarre characters who surrounded Ed Wood and, of course, his intense friendship with Bela Lugosi, the reader learns just how truly prolific he was. In addition to the central core of 32 movies that he more or less completed, he also created at least 155 television commercials, also wrote more than 45 books. These in particular beg to be reprinted as seminal explorations of transvestism, cross-dressing and ‘50s-era hustler Hollywood.
Grey includes synopses of these books, which leave the impression that Wood’s books may be the closest readers will get to reading his autobiography. Ostensibly written for sexploitation publishers of cheesy paperbacks the excerpts selected suggest a richness and brutally revealing serial confessional that can only consolidate and increase the reverence in which we might hold this extraordinary man.
Wood died an impoverished and delirious alcoholic, a fact Tim Burton’s film should have addressed in order to lend an agonizing realism to his subject’s demise. For, in the end, what really becomes most apparent and undeniable, and what makes this book and the heroic life it so vividly describes absolutely essential, is the deeply serious implications concerning identity and self and artistic expression manifested by the conclusion we inevitably must draw that… it takes a real man to wear a pink angora sweater with pride. All hail Ed Wood, saint of the gender defused. GPO

Publisher: Feral House
Paperback: 231 pages

Mad Love

André Breton

This book is not the dogmatic Surrealist stream of consciousness satire of romantic love you might expect. It is actually a deeply sentimental treatment of the chivalrous search for the biggest love possible. A love that explodes with “convulsive beauty” and represents from the depths of “the human crucible” a preordained demonstration at its most ecstatic and passionate vibrancy, decanted directly from the joy of memory.
So we move anecdotally between Breton’s passionate search for ideal love, ideal art and ideal chance as a unifying factor and valediction of everything. This is dense and charming, clarifying and inspiring. So refreshing to see romantic love included in the philosophy of revelation through “random chance.”
I always wondered about the artistic lineage of the cut-up for I felt sure there truly must be an essential missing link between Gysin’s cut-ups and Breton’s Surrealist “fortuitous” automatism. Well, here, at long, long last we have it confirmed. Mad Love, therefore, absolutely insists that it is filed, well-thumbed, on your cut-up reference bookshelves right next to Brion Gysin’s The Third Mind, Let the Mice In and Here To Go. These are the foundation stones of any and all credible past, present and future investigations of romantic art, romantic life and romantic love, which incontrovertibly and sacredly insist that they are one and the same quest and process.
Anything built from or for less than total love, total gender and total war on anything habituated as culture or character by our mindlessly billowing species is simply littering existence with cheap distractions that pointlessly extol built-in obsolescence with the sole, paltry function of consuming forever the last traces of nobility and purpose.
Brion Gysin, André Breton and the debacle of contemporary semantics so invitingly invite us to… “Let’s cut it up, to see what it really says.” FOREVER! GPO

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 129 pages