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

Lie of the Truth

René Daumal

“'At the beginning there was error'—so science should measure error, not an incorrect alleged truth. To calculate the sun and the moon or the decimal value of pi only makes one look as silly as the next person. Art seeks life, but the only life is ego death. And what is perception of the outside world except the head, heart or stomach reaching for it?” MS

Publisher: Hanuman
Paperback: 44 pages

Paintings and Guns

William S. Burroughs

Burroughs talks about painting technique—his and other people’s—in the first chapter. One of his favorite methods is shooting cans of spray paint with a shotgun (which he has placed in front of a piece of plywood) the random splattered paint on the plywood being the finished piece. In the second chapter he talks about whether we need police or not, suggesting that when people start feeling comfortable without police, the police come along and start trouble. What we therefore need is a criminal strike, in which every criminal agrees not to commit any crime for one day, paralyzing the system. Four or five days of that and we would say, “Why do we need police?” Twenty-thousand gun laws passed in 20 years, but the murder rate goes up and up: “After any shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people that didn’t do it.” DW

Publisher: Hanuman
Paperback: 104 pages

Yes No

Francis Picabia

Hanuman Books are sweet strawberries covered in the most delicious creamy chocolate in the feast of literature. They are petite and firm, exotic and very, very sexy little items, guaranteed to add secret glamor and sophisticated depth to even the most shallow of pockets. Yes No, by “dadaist” and painter Francis Picabia, is 47 discerning, midget pages of evanescent aphorisms. Gems of cynicism, melancholy observation and caustic comment worthy of any aspiring, or asp-like, queen’s tiara of wit. The brief messages, warnings and considerations are drawn from his journals and notebooks dating from 1939 through 1957.
“Beauty is relative to the amount of interest it arouses”—Picabia
This is an anthology from the revered lineage that includes the dandyish sublimity of Oscar Wilde; the fastidious camp of Quentin Crisp, or even the more obscure English Edwardians like James Bertram and F. Russell, whose Victorian misogyny and skepticism were illustrated more exquisitely than the “corpse” itself by Austin Osman Spare in The Starlit Mire. Yes, aphorisms are a justly grand tradition of which one can only approve, given that one is a reasonable person. And—in this age of advertising slogans and soundbites, bumper stickers and designer corporate logos as street fashion—a reminder of the priceless art of word games, the contradiction, collision and collusion in fresh revelation “to see what they really say,” as Brion Gysin so prophetically indicated in his cut-ups.
“Art is the cult of error”—Picabia
We are to savor the menu of resident connoisseur Picabia’s palette of human tinctures and emotional flavors. As you have rightly guessed, dear reader, all is artifice, contrivance, and bouquet.
“Serious people have a slight odor of carrion”—Picabia
Yes No is sublime evidence for one of the essential conclusions of any intelligent 20th century culture: that “art” has been distilled repeatedly and thoroughly until it may quite rightly be perceived and defined as an attitude of and to Life (yes, complete with an “if” right there in the middle).
“Many artists devote their time to their painting, I ask myself why are these people so fond of bad company?”—Picabia
There are strong arguments to suggest that “art” is merely an expression of a neurosis given space in our personae by the luxury of free time thanks to the advent of tools, technology and overt or covert economic systems of slavery and privilege. “Art” has no biological source, no survival imperative. What was once a “craft” for making functional and magical “things” is now a dubious and unnecessary postexistentialist requirement of taste. Nothing more than that. Just an obsolete but amusing symbol of a fantasy of neurological superiority.
“Art is a pharmaceutical product for idiots.”—Picabia
By the way, don’t worry if the word “art” never enters your vocabulary! This simply means that you are extremely culturally healthy, and/or blissfully and justifiably elsewhere. So, at that next soiree, or opening, or dreadfully dull social occasion, nip into the bathroom, sneak out your well-worn copy of Yes No and just try substituting any old power word or enemy’s name for that tired old word “art” and you will be surprised at the good time you shall have. GPO

Publisher: Hanuman
Paperback: 57 pages