The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Lowry’

What We’re Loving: Lovers, Lizards, Lowry

May 9, 2014 | by

jliz

The Jesus Lizard, in a photograph from The Jesus Lizard Book.

I don’t usually go in for collections of letters; it’s hard to imagine sitting down and reading one cover to cover. But I couldn’t resist picking up a volume of love letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, in large part because it’s titled The Animals. It sounded sweetly romantic, and it is. Isherwood, some thirty years older than Bachardy, is Dobbin, an old workhorse; Bachardy is Kitty. Though they discuss all manner of subjects in the body of the letters—dinners, friends, business, and art—they are topped and tailed (no pun intended) with joyful, intimate love: “I feel a need to tell Kitty today how dearly Dobbin loves him and how faithfully he waits and guards the stable until Kitty’s return. Dub has been quite off his feed since Kitty hasn’t been there to tempt him with morsels held by those pure paws.” Bachardy sometimes even includes cutouts of fluffy white kittens in his missives. Apart from the adorableness, there is, of course, other great stuff here: not least, Isherwood’s coining of the word psychofiesta. —Nicole Rudick

“You’re eighty-two years old. You’ve shrunk six centimeters, you only weigh forty-five kilos yet you’re still beautiful, graceful and desirable. We’ve lived together now for fifty-eight years and I love you more than ever. I once more feel a gnawing emptiness in the hollow of my chest that is only filled when your body is pressed next to mine.” That’s the beginning of philosopher André Gorz’s Letter to D, written to his dying wife. A year later, the couple took their own lives, together. The book itself is slim—as the friend who sent it to me wrote, you can read it on the crosstown bus—but it contains a fully realized true love story. —Sadie Stein

Nothing grates like a self-mythologizing coffee-table book, but in the case of the Jesus Lizard’s new tome—called, simply, The Jesus Lizard Book—you can forgive any aura of congratulation. These guys deserve to pat themselves on the back. One of the finest, most primal rock bands of the nineties, they drew a cult following in that they seemed to be, in fact, a cult, with David Yow the deranged high priest and David Wm. Sims his brooding voodoo-deacon. If the spectacular photography in The Jesus Lizard Book is to be believed, their shows resembled nothing more than that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where some poor dude has his still-beating heart removed in an elaborate ritual. (In the world of the Jesus Lizard, everyone is in the Black Sleep of Kali Ma.) Granted, Yow could be an oblique shock-jock—“I had a tendency to pull my balls out and hold them glistening up to the microphone,” he says—but at his best, he was as compelling a frontman and lyricist as anyone in music. In, say, “Karpis” (“Alvin’s feelin’ restless, cellblock H / A carton of smokes for ten minutes of pleasure”) his lyrics have a gritty economy, telling an unmistakably terrifying story without having to spell anything out. —Dan Piepenbring

While reading through an interview—blind item!—that’s running in our upcoming issue, I was led by a series of Google searches to a would-be epitaph written by Malcolm Lowry:

Malcolm Lowry
Late of the Bowery
His prose was flowery
And often glowery
He lived, nightly, and drank, daily,
And died playing the ukulele

The “Death by Misadventure” tag in his coroner’s report calls the ukulele bit into question (or does it?)—and Lowry’s actual tombstone, it turns out, isn’t quite so literarily engraved—but the verse did remind me of another of my favorite would-be epitaphs, that of W. C. Fields. When asked by Vanity Fair, in 1925, to contribute to a piece called, fittingly, “A Group of Artists Write Their Own Epitaphs,” he came up with this, a riff on his running (and playful) disdain for the City of Brotherly Love: “Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.” —Stephen Andrew Hiltner
Read More »

1 COMMENT

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface

January 7, 2013 | by

We loved Joel Lovell’s profile of George Saunders in yesterday’s Times Magazine. Lovell quotes generously from Saunders’s preface to the new edition of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. By special arrangement with the publisher, we bring you the preface in full.

1.

This book was written in the Rochester, New York, offices of Radian Corporation between 1989 and 1996, at a computer strategically located to maximize the number of steps a curious person (a boss, for example) would have to take to see that what was on the screen was not a technical report about groundwater contamination but a short story.

I had graduated from the Syracuse MFA program in 1988 and had been writing stories that owed everything to Ernest Hemingway and suffered for that. They were stern and minimal and tragic and had nothing to do whatsoever with the life I was living or, for that matter, any life I had ever lived.

We billed our hours, and I would respond to any disrespect toward my person by declaring (in my mind, always only in my mind): “Thanks, a-hole, your project has just funded a Saunders grant for the arts.” And, for an edit that could have been done in an hour, I would bill that program manager’s project an hour and a half, then use the liberated half hour to work on my book.

This book.

Read More »

28 COMMENTS

Staff Picks: Whither the Library, Mafia Men

March 23, 2012 | by

Like many editors and critics, I depend on the New York Public Library because it has the books I need when I need them—whether it’s an obscure edition of Les Fleurs du Mal or a monograph on Mary Lamb—and because it is one of the few places in New York where anyone can work in peace and quiet, and with free help from experts in their fields. Now there are plans to overhaul this unique institution and tear out seven floors of stacks. Scott Sherman and Caleb Crain make me wonder why.  —Lorin Stein

“The Mafia is the consciousness of one’s own being, the exaggerated concept of one’s individual strength, the only arbiter of every conflict of interests or ideas.” So wrote Giuseppe Pitrè, a nineteenth-century scholar of Italian folklore, and so opens Cosa Nostra: An Illustrated History of the Mafia, which landed on my desk this week. It’s strewn with more bars, cops, and bloody corpses than the best crime movie. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

The Keith Haring show just opened at the Brooklyn Museum, and though I haven’t made it out there yet, I’ve been following the museum’s Tumblr blog featuring selections from Haring’s journals. They’re putting up a page each day, and most so far are from the early seventies, when he was a teenager, but some of the site’s earliest posts show Haring playing around with ciphers and visual repetitions—hints of what is to come. —Nicole Rudick

Ron Padgett and John Ashbery discuss the life and work of Frank O’Hara in this recent conversation at Harvard. The bittersweet reminiscences include O’Hara’s introduction to Larry Rivers at a party. To hear Ashbery tell it, it wasn’t long till they were canoodling behind a window drape. —Josh Anderson

I was recently blown away by Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry’s famous account of a day in the life of a British Consul suffering from latest-of-late, DT-stage alcoholism. The Consul, one Geoffery Firmin, has reached that fatal apex of the disease in which reality splinters into an inscrutable funhouse, and the quotidian becomes demonic. The vivid depiction makes a sad kind of sense, for in many ways it was a porthole into the late Lowry’s own troubled mind. (Although it must be noted that Volcano’s tragic star is also totally hilarious.) Even if you haven’t read Lowry’s work, you can watch the entire 1972 Oscar-nominated documentary about his life here for free. It is truly fascinating. —Allison Bulger Read More »

1 COMMENT