Literary Review

Moody’s Seattle

Seattle and the Demons of Ambition
By Fred Moody (St. Martin's Press)

Traveling, to me, is more than just going somewhere you haven’t been before to take a bunch of pictures and possibly relax at a beach or whatever other amenities present themselves. It’s an opportunity to step outside of one’s self and, be it a neighboring city or a distant country thousands of miles away, ponder the different approaches to life that you could have taken and may still. In preparation for my travels, I always like to read up on the history and culture of my intended destination, and in all my pre-travel readings I have never read a book that excited me so much and primed me for where I was headed as when Seattle was in my sights and I happened upon Seattle and the Demons of Ambition.


William Parker: Conversations (Rogueart)

The memories that stop being memories due to constant use”- Laurie Anderson

Beauty is a puppet that keeps dangling in front of me-Anselm Keifer

Not since John Zorn’s Arcana project and Art Taylor’s Notes and Tones, a comparison many will make, and which Parker says in his brief intro is the book that inspired him to do this project, has there been a book of interviews so vital, so down to earth and so personal. What we have here are 34 interviews conducted by Parker over approximately the last decade, 30 of which are with so-called free jazzers/improvisers, two with new music composers, one with Patricia Nicholson Parker (his wife, a dancer and an organizer of such events as the ongoing Vision Festival), and one with photographer Jacques Bisceglia who also contributed a beautiful black and white and color centerfold (27 photos) of most of the artists being interviewed.

The Richness of Life

A Walk to the Paradise Garden
by Leon Arden (Muswell Press)

In a dusty, cluttered Manhattan apartment overlooking the Hudson River, an old married couple, Jacob and Beryl, bicker and nag at each other as they live out uneventful days of bickering and nagging.  Then Jacob has a stroke, and their lives are never the same again.  Instead, Jacob, Beryl, and their only son, Russell, are forced to confront new circumstances.

A home carer moves in, Jacob becomes deeply depressed, and the family must ask themselves some tough, existential questions: What makes life worth living, and has one ever the right to call it quits?  And if someone needs help to die, is the person who helps a compassionate deliverer, or just a murderer?

Do You Remember Bob Mould?

See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody
by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad (Little, Brown)

This is an obvious must-read for anyone interested in punk rock: the story of the main force behind one of the top five American punk bands, Hüsker Dü. And though by page 150 Hüsker Dü has broken up, there's a lot of interesting stuff after that. By which I don't just mean his also excellent band Sugar, his solo albums, etc. More than most music bios, this is the story of a man whose job just happens to be "musician."

That's not to say that it's an entertaining book full of uproarious anecdotes like Keith Richards's autobiography. This book lacks that sort of celebrity dazzle and charm; Mould's wit is dark and wry (such as his memory of a Finnish festival performance where he "saw an inebriated local approach one of the festival agents and, mistaking him for a tree, began to urinate on his leg") rather than sparkling and exuberant.

ANNIVERSARIES: New Directions Founded 75 Years Ago

As the publisher's website explains, New Directions was founded in 1936, when James Laughlin (1914-1997), then a twenty-two-year-old Harvard sophomore, issued the first of the New Directions anthologies. "I asked Ezra Pound for 'career advice,'" James Laughlin recalled. "He had been seeing my poems for months and had ruled them hopeless. He urged me to finish Harvard and then do 'something' useful."

Few American publishers have been more useful to the cause of poetry. Yes, ND has published much great prose as well, both original (notably a huge number of Henry Miller essay collections), and in translation (Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, the success of which funded many other projects; Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea) or reprinted/collected (Delmore Schwartz's In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories). Nonetheless, poetry -- less often supported by the major presses, especially early in a poet’s career -- is where the press has made its biggest impact.

From a Whisper to a Scream

Deliverance from Evil
By Frances Hill (Overlook Press)

In the recesses of America's collective psyche, there's a dark area of madness. Madness of the kind that took place in the God-fearing Puritan village of Salem in 1692, when a group of pubescent girls orchestrated so much mayhem that they destroyed the lives of hundreds of people, and caused more than a dozen upstanding citizens to be hanged as witches. How could it have happened in a rational society? How could people have stood by to let such madness play out? And if it happened once, can it happen again?  

Down the XXX Rabbit Hole

Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography by Robert Rosen (Headpress)

Ever wonder what kind of creature lurked beyond the green XXX door, helping create the $8 billion a year monster that is the porn industry? Ever wonder how Marvel’s X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman himself were behind it all?

The superhero tale is revealed in the just released, no-holes-barred Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography about men of steel, women of easy persuasion, phone sex, and the revolutionary fusion of computers and erotica.

The author is porn wunderkind Robert Rosen, known to men's magazine fans as Bobby Paradise. He studied under Catch-22's Joseph Heller at New York's City College in the '70s. He spent the next eight years freelancing and writing speeches for the Secretary of the Air Force. Between gigs, he drove a cab.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


by Herman Leonard
(Bloomsbury USA)

Herman Leonard soaked his film in chemicals before he headed out to capture jazz players, so its emulsion would be able to capture low light images. That's the left brain.

Smoke from cigarettes explodes, curls, whispers, hisses, and punctuates jazz giants from Duke to Billie to Louie to Miles -- a literal expression of a cliche, "cooking," that instead of making the image smaller, enlarges it. That's the right brain.