Tag Archives: books

Thomas Pynchon to receive $100,000 arts award

Although I own several hundred books, I’ve mainly been a reader of non-fiction works (music, art, film etc…).¬† So, last year I decided to make a concerted effort to expand my fiction reading horizons.

One of the authors whose work I had enjoyed in the past was Thomas Pynchon. In the late ’70s and early ’80s I read his debut novel V. and the follow-up The Crying of Lot 49. Like many other people, I made and attempt to read his classic volume Gravity’s Rainbow but, ended up putting it back on the shelf with a bookmark still in it.

After re-reading The Crying of Lot 49, I decided to once again tackle Gravity’s Rainbow. This time I did manage to complete it while both enjoying it and being perplexed. That set me on the road to read even more of his work.

Having recently completed his epic (1,200 pages) Against the Day, I have read six of his eight novels (only Vineland and Mason & Dixon to go). I’ve also read his collection of short stories called Slow Learner.

While many of his works are definitely challenging, they do reward the reader for their efforts.

So, I was quite pleased when the Washington Post published a story on March 20 that Pynchon was to be awarded $100,000 by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Of course, Thomas Pynchon is well known for not being known. That is… he is never photographed, interviewed or available for any type of affair normally attributed to an author hawking his wares.

It’s not expected that Pynchon will make any effort to collect his award in person. In 1973, he sent Professor Irwin Corey to accept the National Book Award in his absence. It will be interesting to see if he attempts a similar gesture this time around.

 

Cosey’s Tale

Cosey Fanni Tutti – art sex music (Faber)

Many people may know Cosey from her work with Throbbing Gristle or Chris & Cosey. But, the story that led up to that point (and beyond) is certainly a tale worth exploring.

In her new autobiography, Cosey details her formative years growing up in Hull on the east coast of England. Hers was a working class background which found her wanting to branch out and explore the arts and music. Her home life was eventually shattered when her strict father kicked her out. While she would still carry on a (fairly covert) relationship with her mother as well as her sister, she found herself dealing with the world on her own.

Eventually, she would connect with a man who was known as Genesis P-Orridge. The partnership became both personal and artistic as they created a body of performance works under the moniker of COUM.

COUM was a loose group of artists from various backgrounds who came and went leaving Cosey and Gen as the main constants of the organization. Through various performances or “actions,” COUM’s profile began to rise… not always from a “positive” response.

They pushed the boundaries of society’s accepted norms and managed to stir up a lot of outrage in the process.

Cosey also had her own ideas for actions and projects related to getting involved in the sex industry. This was done via nude modelling, stripping and films. I was her way of creating a portfolio which could then be used in her future actions and art.

Along the way, one of the others who would become involved was Chris Carter who was keen to add his knowledge of electronics to the group and bring their works into a more “musical” direction. Chris would also serve as the person with whom Cosey would eventually pair up with and leave the possessive/abusive clutches of Gen.

When Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson entered the picture, the bones of Throbbing Gristle would soon come to fruition. Cosey, Chris, Gen and Sleazy decided that the direction to go was a full-on sonic assault on the senses.

TG certainly did leave their mark along the way. They created the Industrial Records label as the outlet for their sound-works and performed many gigs which would leave ears ringing for days.

Their time together as a quartet may have been relatively short but, they became known as the pioneers of Industrial music.

Upon the breakup of TG, Chris and Cosey began their own musical work together. They recorded many LPs and performed worldwide. (A personal side-note: I brought Chris and Cosey to Canada in 1985 to perform a half dozen shows across the country.)

As Chris and Cosey made music, Gen formed Psychic TV and Sleazy the band Coil. But, the TG legend continued to build over the years and offers to re-form began to happen. The harrowing details of these gigs are related in brutal detail with Gen becoming an eternal antagonist in the situation.

In recent years, the reputation of Chris and Cosey’s duo work lead to a vinyl re-issue campaign which saw their work appreciated by a new generation of music fans. At the time, they had adopted the Carter Tutti name and would do performances billed as Carter Tutti Play Chris and Cosey.

In addition to the music and art, Cosey relates a number of scary health related incidents involving herself, Chris and their son Nick.

The stories in this book are related with a direct honesty which often can make the reader run through an amusement park ride of emotions. Not the least anger and frustration at some of the details of events.

It’s an inspiring read, to say the least.

Chris Meloche with Cosey Fanni Tutti, Sandringham House, England, 1986. Photo: Chris Carter.

Future Days by David Stubbs

FutureDays-book

Subtitled “Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany” this book takes the reader on a journey through the heady days of the German experimental music scene from the late sixties into the seventies.

Stubbs begins with a lengthy prologue which traces the social developments of the country through the 20th century. This is done to provide a perspective on what was to come after the Second World War.

After he has established the state of the minds of the German youth through the sixties, he then relates the stories behind the major groups who began creating experimental music.

Full chapters are devoted to some of the best known bands in what was termed “Krautrock” such as Amon Duul, Can, Kraftwerk and Faust. He later explores the “scenes” happening in areas such as Berlin.

He finishes by discussing newer music as well as the influence of the German music on specific musicians (David Bowie) and musical scenes (post punk).

For those not intimately familiar with this music, it may serve as a good introduction to stir up some curiosity. For those of us who are already quite well-versed in the genre, there are still some facts that are revealed that may be new to us.