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Posts Tagged ‘Patti Smith’

Amusing Myself: An Interview with Bob Neuwirth

October 6, 2014 | by

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Photo: Larry Bercow

In Just Kids, Patti Smith calls the painter and singer-songwriter Bob Neuwirth “a catalyst for action,” and she should know—it was Neuwirth, “trusted confidant to many of the great minds of his generation,” who urged her to write her first song. In a recent interview with Smith, Neil Young said that Neuwirth is “almost a Biblical figure … It’s just amazing that this guy has been shadowing through all these artistic communities.”

Down the decades, Neuwirth, now seventy-five, has made the scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Berkeley, Paris, Nashville, Santa Monica, and Austin, stopping in at the fabled festivals of Newport, Monterey, and Woodstock and associating along the way with Janis Joplin, Lou Reed, the Coen Brothers, Brice Marden, T Bone Burnett, Joan Baez, Shel Silverstein, Elvis Costello, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson, Larry Poons, The Band, and The Band’s former front man, Bob Dylan. In Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan recalled the decades when he and Neuwirth were especially close: “Like Kerouac had immortalized Neal Cassady in On the Road, somebody should have immortalized Neuwirth … If ever there was a renaissance man leaping in and out of things, he would have to be it.”

For someone on the receiving end of such high praise from the famous, though, Neuwirth has a rather low view of fame itself. “Being famous is a full-time job,” he told me over lunch recently in the West Village. “You can get more done being anonymous. I know how people can get famous, but they have to want to do that … It has to tickle the G-spot of their minds, because being anonymous is so much more powerful. You can get so much more done if you’re not worried about fame and fortune. You can get a lot done.”

Since he came out of Akron, Ohio, in the early sixties, Neuwirth has focused primarily on painting, but he’s equally as well known for his music. He cowrote Joplin’s song “Mercedes Benz”; put out five mostly excellent solo records (including Last Day on Earth, a collaboration with John Cale); appeared as Dylan’s running buddy in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary, Don’t Look Back; had his songs recorded by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger McGuinn, and Peter Case; and worked with everyone from the Welsh filmmaker Sara Sugarman to rockabilly legend Rosie Flores.

Later this month, Neuwirth and his small band will join the journalist David Felton for “Stories and Songs” at Manhattan’s Dixon Place on October 15 and at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on October 19. We spoke about these upcoming shows, among many other diversions.

What can the audience expect from “Stories and Songs”?

I’m interested in the living-room, intimate atmosphere of it. The whole point is, what happens when somebody shows up in a performance space without a preset agenda and has to bring something to the table, much in the way Keith Jarrett approaches a concert in which he doesn’t know what the first note is going to be? It’s almost unbelievable to hear his Koln Concert and think that Jarrett just cleared his mind before he walked onto that stage—it’s sublime. That’s our ideal. It’s 95 percent improv—aside from a couple of anchor songs, touchstones that I can rely on if things get too hideous.

Has that backfired? Do you ever get scorched by embarrassment?

Daily. On or off the stage. I’m scorched by embarrassment every time I look in the mirror. Especially when I’m trying on a bathing suit. Read More »

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Anthony Cudahy

January 7, 2014 | by

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Cudahy in front of his painting Untitled (Vanessa).

I was first introduced to artist Anthony Cudahy in 2011, when I interviewed him for Guernica. I was moved by his fleeting scenes of silence—a woman pinning a boutonniere on an unseen man’s tuxedo jacket, two girls hugging in a bedroom while one stares at herself in the mirror—and amazed by the wide range of work from an artist so young (he was only twenty-two). When Adrian West pitched his translations of Josef Winkler’s novel Graveyard of Bitter Oranges for the Daily, I immediately knew Cudahy’s work would best accompany Winkler’s tales of death and phantoms in an unfamiliar country. Both invoke the Flemish hells of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder—lively, complex, symbolic, the best kind of fever dream.

I met with Anthony at his studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he is an artist-in-residence for the Artha Project. Amid the stacks of wood planks from the neighboring furniture studio and the incessant clanking of pipes, we discussed the benefits of the Internet for the art world, growing up in Florida, and his hatred of the color yellow.

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What We’re Loving: Lawyers and Criminals

April 26, 2013 | by

Albertine Sarrazin

Albertine Sarrazin

In spring of 1971 the New York Times got hold of a top-secret, seven-thousand-page history of the Vietnam War. When the Times ran a series based on the Pentagon Papers, it sparked one of the biggest First Amendment battles of the last century. Leading the Times’s defense was the young lawyer James Goodale. In his new memoir, Fighting for the Press, Goodale gives a fascinating blow-by-blow account of the legal arguments, personal rivalries, and inspired teamwork behind that famous defense, which started from the principle that there is nothing inherently illegal about publishing classified information. “My philosophy as a publishing lawyer,” Goodale writes, “was that anything could be published. I had always found that if you took a word out here and there, shifted a paragraph here and there, anything was possible.” In later years, Goodale worked his way up to become house counsel for The Paris Review: we look forward to volume two. —Lorin Stein

When Albertine Sarrazin’s L’astragale was published in 1965, the autobiographical novel, about a young woman who escapes reform school and embarks on a life of prostitution and petty crime, became an overnight sensation. The fact that the glamorous, enigmatic author died at the height of her fame, at only twenty-nine, has only added to the book’s mystique. In her introduction to a fresh edition from New Directions, Patti Smith describes the book as her youthful talisman and Sarrazin as “my guide through the nights of one hundred sleeps.” I think it is a book to read when you are young; in some ways I am too old to have just discovered it. But even knowing this, I reveled in its entertaining, gritty weirdness. It bears mentioning, too, that the translator is Patsy Southgate, writer and fellow traveler of the Paris Review. —Sadie Stein

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The Long and Short of It

October 16, 2012 | by

  • Adorable, literal interpretations of author names by illustrator Mattias Adolfsson.
  • “I know I said that if I lived to 100 I’d not regret what happened last night. But I woke up this morning and a century had passed. Sorry.” Geoff Dyer, Jackie Collins, A. M. Homes, and others attempt the 140-character novel.
  • Speaking of brevity, Ian McEwan declares that the novella is the superior written form because “you can hold the whole thing structurally in your mind at once.”
  • Qin Dynasty book burnings.
  • Patti Smith: “I remember the very first time I saw Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson together, when they were younger, and I thought, Those two kids could have easily played us [in Just Kids] when they were first starting. There’s something in his eyes. And Robert [Mapplethorpe] was also a bit shy, and a bit stoic. Kristen has a very special quality. She’s not conventionally beautiful, but very charismatic.”
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    Dear Paris Review, What Books Impress a Girl?

    June 8, 2012 | by

    Dear Paris Review,

    Someone sent me this text message yesterday: Whats a book I should read to make girls think I'm smart in a hot way? I want to seem like a douchey intellectual instead of my deadbeat self. What should I tell him?

    Sincerely,
    A

    Dear A,

    The correct answer is probably that your friend should be secure in his tastes, find someone who loves him for who he is, and not worry about impressing anyone. Many movies have demonstrated the pitfalls of posturing and the inevitable public unmasking that follows. That said, our job here is to try to answer questions, and as such, I took the unusual step of soliciting a range of answers from both men and women.  (My own immediate response was to offer the following formula: worst book of great author, a gambit that men of this type also apply to albums, i.e. Metal Machine Music, which they will claim is underrated.) Then too, there is the dual nature of the question: Does the author wish to come across as a poseur for some reason, or attract a woman of substance?  If his goal is (inexplicably) the former, the female contingent offered the following names: Madness and Civilization; The Power Broker; Žižek (any), The Brothers Karamazov. (All worthy reads, needless to say, but often used for ostentatious or intimidating purposes.) And, added one, “I like DFW, but he’s the novelist equivalent of a neg.”

    As to books the women whom I spoke to found appealing (and please note that this implies actual reading, not use as props): At Swim Two Birds, The Beauty Myth, “any book read twice.” Elaborated one: “Extra points for Martin Amis memoir, minus points for other Martin Amis nonfiction. Someone who actually appears to be reading William Gaddis for real and not just carrying it around will always rate a second glance. And a straight man reading Mary Gaitskill would be nearly irresistible to me.”

    When faced with the same question, male correspondents provided the following terse responses: “Cantos, Pound.” “Kathy Acker.” “Sontag.”

    Portnoys Complaint,” said one, “may as well be Yiddish for douche.”

    Others were more expansive. “How about Laszlo Kraszahorkai’s Satantango? It’s ostentatious, hip, handsomely designed (looks great on a bedside table), and comes with seals of approval from Sontag, Sebald, and James Wood. It is also, for the most part, unreadable.”

    Gravitys Rainbow, all the completed Caro LBJ books, Brothers Karamazov. But if you really want ‘I am a brooding intellectual with an effortless knowledge of contemporary culture,’ I think Matterhorn is tough to top.”

    “There’s a difference,” remarked one colleague, “between getting a girl to think you’re smart, and getting a girl to WANT to talk to you. The following are books that will make girls want to talk to you.

    —Greatest pick-up book of all time is Just Kids by Patti Smith, because every girl has read it and they ALL want to talk about it.
    —Any book ever written by Haruki Murakami
    The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
    White Album by Joan Didion
    What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Don’t question it. Just trust.)”

    And in corroboration, one fellow says: “If it means anything, the only time a girl ever sat down and started talking to me out of nowhere was when I was reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem in college.  Didion has an effect on people.”

    Take this for what it’s worth, and we hope you actually find a book you love in the process.

    Have a question for the editors of The Paris Review? E-mail us.

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    Burning Books, Listening to Just Kids, Casting Fleming

    May 22, 2012 | by

  • For those with Spotify, all the songs mentioned in Just Kids, in playlist form. (Perfect for a rainy day!)
  • Duncan Jones has signed on to direct a biopic of Ian Fleming, based on Andrew Lycett’s The Man Behind James Bond. Everyone knows the man himself okayed Sean Connery to play 007, but who should fill the enigmatic writer-spy’s shoes?
  • A letter from Edgar Allan Poe to Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” has sold at auction for $164,000. In it, Poe refuses an offer to publish in Hale’s magazine, explaining, “To send you a crude or hastily written article would be injurious to me, and an insult to yourself—and I fear that I could, at present, do little more.”
  • William Peter Blatty, better known as the author of The Exorcist, is suing Georgetown University in church court, disputing his alma mater’s right to still call themselves Catholic given some of its secular policies.
  • “Frat boys burning textbooks to celebrate graduation burn down frat house.”
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