Art of the Motor

Paul Virilio

Virilio is a philosopher/theorist who writes clearly and thinks idiosyncractically regarding how information is digested and distributed through electronic, television, radio and computer technology. The journey is no longer critical, but the arrival is all too crucial. For example, Virilio clearly maps out how the Gulf War as seen by the outside viewer is nothing more than a video game. Technology has not only changed the world, but through modern speed of transportation and electronic media, it has buried the old by rewriting the past. Information is no longer content, but it is speed itself that is the content. TB

Publisher: University of Minnesota
Paperback: 184 pages

The Aleister Crowley Scrapbook

Sandy Robertson

Every little thing you want to know about the man who called himself “The Beast.” Hardcore fan material with many interesting photographs of his artwork, girlfriends and pals, and rock stars and literary figures who were influenced, touched, destroyed and seduced by Crowley. Plus the greatest selection of photos of the man whom the British yellow press endearingly called “the most evil man alive.” Crowley may not have been the most evil, but he did have a great sex life. Typically, Crowley came from an uptight religious family who were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a strict fundamentalist Christian sect, and what is a poor boy to do but rebel against Victorian England? If the reader of this “scrapbook” wants in-depth information on Crowley's writing and philosophy, they should look elsewhere—this book is not it. What this book does give is a decent overall look at Crowley and his world including, briefly, Yeats, Bowie, Jimmy Page and the greatest fan of them all—Kenneth Anger. TB

Publisher: Weiser
Paperback: 128 pages

Scott Walker: A Deep Shade of Blue

Mike Watkinson and Pete Anderson

Scott Walker is a man of brooding mystery, and more than likely even a mystery to himself. This biography captures the swinging London of the early and mid-‘60s, but has a hard time focusing on Scott Walker’s demons and delights. What we do know is that in the era of Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles, Walker had a fixation on middle-of-the-road crooner Jack Jones, and an intense love for Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel. The combination of these two musical models with a splash of Phil Spector was the basis of the music of the Walker Brothers and the brooding sound of Scott as a solo artist.
Walker is interesting in that he was and remains a man out of sync with musical fashion—too brooding for the groovy ‘60s, too non-pop for the ‘80s, and too abstract (Tilt) for the ‘90s. His hatred and fear of fame, his work methods, and his suicide attempt are all documented in these pages. TB

Publisher: Virgin
Paperback: 287 pages

Cinema, Censorship, and the State

Nagisa Oshima

Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima is a brilliant theorist on, and critic of, the Japanese political/cultural system. All of the tracts in this book eventually come back to what it was like to be a youth living in postwar Japan. Paralleling the student/Situationist strikes in Paris of 1968, the Tokyo university students’ insurgence of the late ‘60s was the main springboard—politically and artistically—for Oshima’s cinematic and textual work. These essays (from 1956 through 1986) fully articulate his progression from political activity to filmmaking. In his cinema, there is a sense that bridges are being destroyed. One of the interesting aspects of Oshima’s films and writing is his attempt to elicit change in his country’s mythology concerning sexuality and racism. Oshima writes and films about the outcasts in Japanese society with a conviction that must seem audacious to a Japanese audience.
On its surface, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1982) is a film about the cultural differences between the Japanese and their prisoners during World War II. Upon closer inspection, the film becomes a commentary on sensuality and how it relates to Eastern and Western cultures The prison camp is a fish bowl, where one can watch objectively as the participants joust for power and sexual roles. Lawrence is also an exploration of the SM relationship between the characters portrayed by pop stars David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Death by Hanging (1968) not only looks capital punishment, but questions who is being killed by the state. The longest piece in the book concerns Oshima’s battle with Japanese censors over his erotic masterpiece Ai No Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses, from 1976). He won the case eventually, but it seems Oshima felt no great victory in this. Cinema, Censorship and the State is outstanding not only revealing for Oshima’s unique position in Japanese cinema, but for profiling a stimulating thinker who is struggling with the concept of being an artist in a country that may not care for modern cinema. TB

Publisher: MIT
Hardback: 308 pages

Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton

Mark Polizzotti

Rightfully called the “pope” of Surrealism by his critics, André Breton controlled the movement with a strong hand. He was also one of the major figures of cultural life in the 20th century. One cannot imagine not having Breton to kick around in this world as he brought up major themes for this century—spiritualism, radical politics, psychology and the occult, and had the personality to gather a group of writers, poets and artists into the movement known as Surrealism. He was also an underrated poet and critic, and was witty in his critique of his culture. The reader learns that for such an outrageous, sexually minded artist, he was also a prude. Although he was one of the first to check out sexuality in a so-called scientific, objective matter, he was extremely homophobic and had a strong distaste for brothels. Breton demanded a “work ethic” yet banned the Surrealists from working day jobs. He suffered great financial burdens. Breton was a romantic who put his women on a pedestal… and, in the course of his many marriages, often left them there.
This biography by Mark Polizzotti (who also translated many of Breton’s works into English) captures Breton in his glory. There are also revealing glimpses of Tristan Tzara; Breton’s troubled relationship with his one-time best friend Louis Aragon (somewhat of a rat!); Antonin Artaud; Dali; and other greats in the movement against the rational. TB

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Hardback: 754 pages