"Normals isn't..." - John Waters
The Official Weblog of Normals Books & Records in Baltimore, MD.
A Dream Of A Book Buy! And Happy Birthday Cultural Warrior Katie Brennan!
We here at Normal’s Bargain Cobbley World Empire are still abuzz from last night’s party at the Creative Alliance honoring Baltimore’s #1 Cultural Warrior, Katie Brennan. Even if you somehow don’t know her, surely you’ve seen her around, doing the door at High Zero festivals, 14 Karat Cabaret, Shattered Wig Night and Creative Alliance shows, manning tables or phones for WYPR, driving filmmakers for The Maryland Film Festival, peeing the pure stuff in bottles for ex-cons going to meet their parole officers - you name it.
But most importantly: no matter what the weather’s like, no matter how late she stayed up Friday night playing paintball with Joaquin Phoenix, no matter how many groovy events are unfurling in Hampden, she arrives at Normal’s on Saturday afternoons bearing moist tasty cookies the size of personal pan pizzas - now often with her smiling gent Mike who long ago drummed in one of the many punk bands that used to play in Katie’s mom’s basement and get fed pancakes.
And did I mention that Katie has persevered, thrived, glowed and caught just about every show and event in Baltimore worth catching while dealing with a rare and life threatening condition called venus malformation? (Luckily no longer life threatening for her now, though, after laser surgery).
Last night some of Baltimore’s magically kind and entertaining luminaries sang and cracked wise for Katie, including The Tinklers singing a beautiful bass only cover of The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around”, Sea Couch turning the air into warm cocoa butter, Don Peyton plinking his ukulele and crooning “You Ought To Be In Pictures” and Warbling Soul Fountain Liz Downing playing solo banjo and singing a poem by yours truly and one by Chris Toll.
It’s gritty, hilarious, eternally curious folks like Katie and her old pal and boss Morris Martick that keep Baltimore wondrous and worth living in.
(Katie Warblers singing Happy Birthday)
Now let’s sell some books! This week’s golden haul came from a former Chicago film critic packing up and going back to the Windy City. Despite my fierce Jenga skills and stolen Adderall I still couldn’t fit it all in one trip in my space-challenged Toyota Echo.
The Devil’s Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science - Philip Ball. As new Farrar Straus Giroux hardback, $8.
A Jacques Barzun Reader. As new Harper paperback, edited by Michael Murray, $5.
The Beatles After the Break-up, 1970-2000 - Keith Badman. Out-of-print in hardback, Omnibus Press 1990 first edition. Fine in near fine jacket, $30.
The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes, 1962-1970 - Mark Lewisohn. Introductory interview with Paul McCartney. Near fine Harmony Books hardback quarto in near fine jacket, $20.
Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles - Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey. Foreword by Elvis Costello. Fine Gotham hardback, out-of-print, $12.
The Beatles: The Biography - Bob Spitz. Near fine Little, Brown hardback in fine jacket, $10.
How The Beatles Destroyed Rock N Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music - Elijah Wald. As new Oxford hardback, $8.
The True Adventures of John Steinbeck Writer: A Biography by Jackson Benson. Very good + Penguin paperback, $6.
Selected Essays - John Berger. As new Vintage paperback, $6. “The wide range of Berger’s interests and the unabashed curiosity with which he pursues them suggest what a free and fearless person might be like…Tenderness, and an unflaggin interest in the experience of being human, infuse his work.” - Los Angeles Times.
2666 - Roberto Bolano. Near fine Farrar Straus & Giroux hardback first in near fine unclipped jacket. “Published posthumously, 2666 is, in the words of La Vanguardia, ‘not just the great Spanish-language novel of this decade, but one of the cornerstones that define an entire literature’.” $25.
Selected Non-Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges. Fine out-of-print Viking hardback. From film reviews of Welles’ “Touch of Evil” to pondering modern physics, Borges’ vast brain and eloquent pen lay it all out so that we lesser beings can enjoy and understand it. Truly a desert island book. $20.
Revenge of the Lawn - Richard Brautigan. Near fine 1971 Simon & Schuster first paperback printing, $8. “She started crying when she saw the dog lying there like a mutt puddle in the corner.”
The Soft Machine - William Burroughs. Very good minus Grove second hardback printing in very good + unclipped jacket. Light foxing to some of the pages. Great author photo on back during his invisible man phase. $20. “This is war to extermination - Fight cell by cell through bodies and mind screens of the earth….”
Syncopations: Beats, New Yorkers and Writers In The Dark - James Campbell. Fine University of California Press paperback, $5.
Where I’m Calling From - Raymond Carver. Near fine Vintage first edition paperback, $8.
Washington, A Life - Ron Chernow. As new Penguin hardback in very good + jacket that has scuffing to back cover, $10. “Moving and masterly…by far the best biography ever written about the man.” - New York Times Book Review.
Dante’s Divine Comedy: Hell/Purgatory/Paradise. Near fine Chartwell hardback quarto in near fine jacket. With Dore illustrations, translated by Longfellow, $20.
Nicholas Ray: An American Journey - Bernard Eisenschitz. Near fine out-of-print Faber and Faber hardback in fine jacket, $12. “There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth, there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray.” - Jean Luc-Godard.
The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions - Martin Elliott. Very good Blandford paperback, $7.
The Artist As Critic: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde - Edited by Richard Ellmann. As new out-of-print University of Chicago paperback, $10.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life In Letters. As new Simon & Schuster paperback edited by Matthew Bruccoli, $8.
The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life - Simon Goddard. Fine Reynolds & Hearn out-of-print paperback, $10.
The Classical Tradition - Grafton/Most/Settis. As new massive Harvard hardback, $20.
Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice - Tad Hershorn. Foreword by Oscar Peterson. Fine University of California hardback, $15. “In this definitive biography, Hershorn recounts Granz’s story: creator of the legendary jam session concerts known as Jazz at the Philharmonic; founder of the Verve record label; pioneer of live recordings and worldwide jazz concert tours; manager and recording producer for numerous stars, including Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.”
Still On The Road: Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006 - Clinton Heylin. As new Chicago Review Press hardback, $12.
Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism, 1900-1970 - Thomas S. Hines. Fine massive Rizzoli hardback quarto in near fine bright jacket, $40.
Unacknowledged Legislation - Christopher Hitchens. Near fine out-of-print Verso paperback, $15. “A celebration of Percy Shelley’s assertion that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’, these thirty-eight essays on writers from Oscar Wilde to Salman Rushdie dispel the myth of politics as a stone tied to the neck of literature.”
The Complete Dusty Springfield - Paul Howes. Reynolds & Hearn very good UK paperback, $10.
Lost Weekend - Charles Jackson. Very good Carroll & Graf paperback. $4. Gripping gritty tale of a writer in battle with the bottle, made into equally good film with Ray Milland who is pictured on this edition’s cover.
The Stanley Kubrick Archives - Alison Castle. Very good + 2008 out-of-print Taschen hardback, $45.
Temples Of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios - Jim Cogan and William Clark. Foreword by Quincy Jones. Near fine out-of-print paperback quarto, $40.
Out of The Past: Adventures in Film Noir - Barry Gifford. As new University Press of Mississippi paperback, $6.
Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths - Simon Goddard. Near fine Ebury Press hardback, $15. With over 600 entries it will surely have you gibbering and sobbing into your Lilac Mocha Frappachino!
Wouldn’t It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds - Charles L. Granata. As new out-of-print Chicago Review Press paperback, $15.
Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington - John Edward Hasse. Near fine Simon & Schuster hardback, $8.
Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell The Story of The Rolling Stones - Bill Janovitz. As new St. Martin’s Press hardback, $8.
Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock N Roll Music - Greil Marcus. Fourth revised edition paperback. “Probably the best book ever written about rock.” - Rolling Stone. $6.
Collected Poems - James Merrill. Fine Knopf paperback, $10.
Milosz’s ABC - Czeslaw Milosz. Near fine Farrar Straus Giroux hardback, $6.
Beneath the Underdog - Charles Mingus. Good + first edition hardback in good minus jacket, $10. Not my favorite book on jazz, despite my love of Mingus. It lingers a bit too much on his willie and not enough on his bass!
Ghostwritten - David Mitchell. Near fine Random House hardback first of the author of Cloud Atlas’s first novel. In near fine unclipped jacket, $40. “A writer of pyrotechnic virtuosity and profound compassion, a mind to which nothing human is alien, David Mitchell spins genres, cultures and ideas like gossamer threads around and through these linked stories.”
Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die - Francis M. Nevins. Near fine first edition hardback with light foxing to top textblock. In near fine unclipped jacket. Printed by Mysterious Press, $20.
Life - Keith Richards. Fine first edition hardback, $10. Who would have thought that Keith would age so well into the Skeletor he’s been rocking since his 20’s and end up looking like a healthy old man???
The Rest Is Noise: Listening To The Twentieth Century - Alex Ross. Fine out-of-print Farrar Straus Giroux hardback in near fine jacket, $10. “The Rest Is Noise reads like a sprawling, intense novel, one of utopian dreams, doom, and consolation, with the most extraordinary cast of characters from music and history alike. A great, inspiring ride.” - Osvaldo Goliijov.
The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie. Very good Viking hardback first edition, first printing, in very good + jacket, $20.
Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don’t Care - Lee Server. Fine St. Martin’s Press paperback, $8. I had literally just bought a copy of this and started reading it the night before I did this huge buy. It’s incredible. If you have any interest in Mitchum, noir, or old Hollywood it will knock you out. Mitchum was apparently a brilliant kid who was hell on wheels. His father was crushed between train cars when he was only six or so and he saw his brother get hit by two different cars and survive, right around the same time. From there things just get more complicated.
Led Zeppelin: The Story Of A Band and Their Music 1968 - 1980 - keith Shadwick. Fine Backbeat paperback quarto, $10.
Blue Melody: Tim Buckley Remembered - Lee Underwood. Very good + Backbeat paperback, $6.
The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism - Nicholas Weber. Fine Knopf first edition hardback in fine jacket, $15.
The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Very good + out-of-print Henry Holt hardback, $40.
Scott Walker: The Rhymes of Goodbye - Lewis Williams. Near fine Plexus paperback, $8.
Darkness At Dawn: Early Suspense Classics By Cornell Woolrich. Very good + out-of-print Peter Bedrick paperback, $6.
from Writers No One Reads - Alexander Chayanov
A guest post by Russian literary scholar Muireann Maguire, who blogs about literature as Russian Dinosaur
Between 1918 and 1928, Alexander Vasilievich Chayanov (1888-1937) wrote and published (at his own expense) five short Gothic-fantastic tales in separate volumes with print runs of no more than 300 copies, mostly under the whimsical pseudonym “Botanist X.” In his lifetime and until the 1990s, Chayanov was better known as an expert in agricultural economics, particularly peasant labor – and his objections to Stalin’s program of forced collectivization caused his arrest in 1930, exile from Moscow to Kazakhstan, and eventual execution. After his rehabilitation in the post-Soviet period, these stories were re-issued in a single volume and ran to multiple editions, sparking a short-lived Russian “Chayanov boom” and a renewal of academic interest in his fiction.
Scholars are particularly intrigued by the potentially significant creative link between Chayanov’s short story “Venediktov” (1921) and the novel The Master and Margarita (1940) by his much better-known contemporary Mikhail Bulgakov. Chayanov’s illustrator, a friend of Bulgakov’s, gave the latter a copy of “Venediktov” as a gift. Bulgakov was intrigued and somewhat spooked to discover that this story’s narrator is also called Bulgakov, and that his fictional namesake falls victim to a bizarre form of psychic possession, or hypnotic persuasion, exerted by a quasi-diabolic force. Since both Chayanov and Bulgakov share an obsession with demonic characters, carnivalesque grotesquerie and magical chaos, it is reasonable to speculate that the former’s now-obscure tales influenced the latter’s now world-famous fiction.
Three of Chayanov’s stories – “Venediktov,” “The Tale of the Hairdresser’s Mannequin, or, The Last Love Affair of a Moscow Architect,” and “The Venetian Mirror, or, The Extraordinary Adventures Of The Glass Man” – are available in my translation in a collection of Russian twentieth-century ghost stories called Red Spectres. Two still await publication: a love story about a ghost, and a picaresque trans-European adventure starring two accidental mermaids and a magician. All five are indulgently intertextual, erratically citing Hoffmann, Pushkin, Karamzin, Catullus, and the occasional authority on agronomy. For me, the great charm of these stories is their robust pastiche of a genre I love – the late Romantic fantastic. Chayanov intermingles an abundance of characters and tropes beloved of the early nineteenth century: mermaids, mirrors, mesmerists, and card-playing demons who worship Satan in London gentlemen’s clubs. E.T.A. Hoffmann is acknowledged as “the great master” (in the dedication of “The Tale of the Hairdresser’s Mannequin”), but Chayanov’s eclectic knowledge of Russian and European culture is reflected in the multiplicity of his influences. Théophile Gautier’s eponymous opium-hazed artist in the short story “Onuphrius” (1832) could be refracted in the beautiful female spectre, conjured by tobacco smoke blown from a charmed pipe, who enchants the naïve diarist-narrator in “Julia, or Trysts At Novodevichy Convent” (1928). Alexey, the hero of “The Venetian Mirror” (1923), whose double escapes from an antique looking-glass to cause havoc around Moscow and even kidnap his wife, joins a long Romantic tradition of mirror-doubles – but Chayanov may have been inspired by the comparably malign runaway reflection in the 1913 German silent film The Student of Prague, directed by another now little-read author, Hanns Heinz Ewers. Ewers’s film inspired Otto Rank’s psychoanalytic treatise The Double (1914). We can only imagine what Rank or Freud would have said about Chayanov’s fiction had they enjoyed the opportunity to read it – doubtless, a great deal.
In Yuli Kagarlitskii’s phrase, Chayanov “belonged to the flower of the Russian democratic intelligentsia.”** This was a uniquely cosmopolitan and intellectually dowered generation whom Stalin and the Communist Party did their best to exterminate or exile. Chayanov’s fascination with urban topography and architecture, his knowledge of European languages, his passion for engravings and his aspirations to write historical fiction (even during his first arrest he began a novel about the medieval Slav prince Yuri Suzdalskii), all bespeak the breadth of his interests and his apparently inexhaustible energy. His second wife and staunch supporter Olga Gurevich was a theatre historian, whose career was also destroyed by the Soviet regime. Chayanov’s imaginary universe was almost ludicrously antithetical to the political environment of his own time: his entire oeuvre is an anomalous outcropping against the realistic trend of Soviet literature. The rediscovery and translation of his fiction is hard to justify by economic principles, but remains deeply enjoyable for all lovers of the eccentric and eclectic. * Chayanov’s unfinished sci-fi novella, My Brother Alexey’s Journey Into the Land of Peasant Utopia (first published in Moscow in 1920 under a pseudonym) was published in an English translation as a slightly eccentric addendum to the late Professor R.E.F. Smith’s 1977 book The Russian Peasant, 1920 and 1984. **Yuli I. Kagarlitskii, Slavic Review, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 634-642 [link] images: (1) photo of Chayanov, 1921; (2) original 1924 cover illustration by Natalia Ushakova (who gave “Venediktov” to Bulgakov); (3) & (4) recent woodcuts by Grigory Babich for a Chayanov edition via book designer Alina Vekshina; (5) unpublished 1928 illustration by Kravchenko via nasledie-rus.ru; (6) photo of Chayanov This is a guest post by Russian literary scholar Muireann Maguire, who blogs about literature as Russian Dinosaur.