Image from Pluto Press — so much reading to be done!
Image from Pluto Press — so much reading to be done!
Well! It has been a while since I’ve blogged, I think the Michael Jackson post was just a bit too hard to follow. And it has been a long couple of weeks full of events and book festivals and far too much alcohol and a bike accident that left me battered and scraped and bruised…
So I wanted to introduce Nobody Rocks Press, a great independent press just starting up like my own. Unlike PM Press, however, they have fully embraced the new digital reality of the 21st Century and have eschewed all physicality for the world of the download. So grab your new and improved kindles and get ready for a crazy ride. We’re all watching with breath held…
‘Twas a warm Wednesday evening at Stories bookstore in Echo Park (it’s new and one of my favourite little independents, they’ve got great selection, great coffee, and great patio seating, who could ask for more?). We milled, mingled, I tried half-heartedly to figure out who exactly Greg Aden was, a friend of a friend and the reason I was there. When after some warm up acts, Jason Flores-Williams, author of the cult-classic The Last Stand of Mr. America, set the crowd on fire. Raw and powerful…and shocking. I can think of nothing more likely to jolt you, eyes blinking and extremities tingling, entirely out of the ruts of your everyday life and into the greater world of experiences you could never ever imagine. Explicit as all hell, and I think my eyebrows must have hit my hairline. They have almost returned to their original place…I didn’t get any photos the night of the event, but here’s one of the man himself at the march on May day.
The San Francisco Examiner calls him “a literary force of nature…A train wreck of genius.” I’ll let you know if I agree when I read it, or you can tell me. I will say in all honesty it was a reading like none other. The only other person who could possibly match the content is my friend Larry Fondation (yet another amazing writer), but I must admit, I haven’t seen him read those particular pieces in a crowded room.
And of course, we finished the night off in alcohol fueled style at the Gold Room. It was rather joyous.
And it will be interesting to see if it works…I am torn by the question of the new electronic media. It means that books are immediately available at the touch of a button to anyone with the technology to read them. It makes books a great deal less expensive, though the kindle and sony player are still costly enough to keep them out of the hands of the masses (for now). It makes books searchable, you can pull directly from the text for quotes and notes, you can store loads of them on your computer and carry all of them with you wherever you go.
And yet…and yet I find such a pleasure in books themselves. It’s a very sensual pleasure to open a book for the first time (and the hundredth), or to look at a row of them sitting on your shelf. The books you know and love shoulder to shoulder with the new and the unexplored. Troves waiting to be mined. Knowledge still hidden but on the brink of revelation. Words of power and beauty. Imaginings that will throw your mind wide open. Illustrations of grace, and the art and colors rampant over the covers. I know I’m a big book nerd, but that shit gives me chills. And what would those classic crime novels have been without those amazing lurid covers? I wonder.
I imagine the future will be a hybrid of the two desires, the usefulness and easy access of one. The physical joy of the second. For myself, nothing beats a book for reading in the bath, or lying curled up under covers, or kicking it on the beach (Sand, water, sleepiness and electronics are always a bad combination). And I love marking up those tomes of theory and philosophy with a pen and writing the ideas sparked in the margins. Books are for passing on as well, often I finish a book and immediately know which of my friends would absolutely love it. What greater pleasure then to share something like that? And I will always love the smell of ink when you get a box of books fresh from the printer. The anticipation and weight and feel of them in my hands. Staring at them on my shelf and the brief joyous reliving of other worlds that comes with it.
But I will be getting a digital reader one day, once the damn price has come down. And I am rather excited about that. And I suppose it’s good for the trees, and the landfills full of remainders that no one could be convinced to buy. Of course that might be cancelled out by the oil and metal required to create any technology, and the business practices of all corporate bastards, it’s a complicated world we live in. But I think having access to ideas and information in many different forms can only be a good thing. And I’m a bit jealous of the incredibly low overhead, though truth is it’s uncertain exactly whether this new technology will lead to decent wages for writers and publishers, and how. Of course, the publishing industry as it exists is crumbling anyway, we’re only a few years behind the music industry. So cheers to some of the leaders in the field, may they flourish and open up new visions for what is possible…
It’s tough, it’s a tough business. I spent all of Sunday at the West Hollywood Bookfair, and all on my ownsome as well, though it gave me time to think. And resulted in one book being stolen while I was distracted…a cookbook of low-fat vegan deserts, go figure. I hope they choke on their carob brownies of course, as stealing from any independant publisher is a cardinal sin, especially from my broke self! But I still found it funny. At any rate, we did pretty well I think.
I got there way too early since I’m all new at this, didn’t bring enough stuff, and had far too much time on my hands. And I soon realized that I was sitting next to the Ayn Rand folks, ha! They even gave me some good advice on how to make it look like I had brought enough stuff to fill the two very large tables I was given, and were very complimentary on the aesthetics of my display. They were giving a lot of stuff away…you’d think given Miss Rand’s philosophy they’d be busy proving the worth of their wares by selling it for top dollar…it’s the market that decides value after all! Maybe they figure propaganda works like heroin. It finally got better when the show started, a little old lady singing folk songs in russian, followed by readings of russian poetry, I really enjoyed that bit, hugely, though i couldn’t hear too well. Russian poetry is amazing, though not being close enough, I am not sure what they were reading, it looked like books so I imagine Pushkin and maybe just maybe Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva and Mandelstam and…I love Russian poets. I love the fact that the marquis was packed full of older russian folks to hear poetry.
The people watching was good, you could spot the well-kept and expensively maintained hollywood types, no one exciting though. The police wandered by. They didn’t think much of my stuff, though i thought about trying to sell them a real cost of prisons comix. A jedi knight walked past, followed by vader. A lot of couples were wandering around, and i thought again to myself, how do so many couples look alike?? Is it that people are just looking for themselves in someone else? I think that must be it, or perhaps their expressions come to match each others over time or…I don’t know. But too me that seems a horrifying fate, I’d rather be with someone very different who is always making me think new thoughts, try new things. And who doesn’t make me feel like I’m looking at myself in a mirror when I stare into his eyes. The absurd was not missing of course, like the woman with the dog carrier in camoflauge olive and pink, and her wee silly dog wearing some frilly dress thing with rosebuds on it. And the old guy who looked at my books with disgust, we had mumia postcards and he snorted and said that that guy would slit my throat if he could. I smiled. Then he asked me if there were any right wing bookstalls there, and I happily sent him along to the Ayn Rand folks next door.
The best folks there were the booth opposite to me and to the left. Smart gals productions. Their booth was freestanding, and they set up cloth to hang down on all sides, they hung little stars from the roof…and I’m thinking snidely to myself, ha! damn hippies. Bet they’re selling tiedye and clothes made from old saris…but no, they took the two tables down, opened up their bags and pulled out a large perfectly fitted booth size mat and lots of pillows. Then they proceeded to loll about on pillows, and read. One of them was reading Vonnegut if I am not mistaken. A couple of people came by, sat down, chatted. And when I say a couple I mean two. All day. And that is all they did. It actually seemed quite agreeable to lie on pillows in the middle of a bookfair on a beautiful sunday and read, so I had quite a lot of respect for them as they packed up. Though I am curious to know just how you make a living at that, I rather imagine they don’t.
Anyways, this is the happy stuff, even apart from the economy life has been sucking, lucky for everyone I don’t write about that shit.