The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘sixties’

Leave Alexa Alone

October 6, 2016 | by

Listening to Steely Dan’s Gaucho.


The cover of Steely Dan’s 1975 LP Katy Lied shows an out-of-focus praying mantis floating amid bulbous plants. I used to stare at it as a kid, listening to the record in my dad’s leather reading chair and wondering who this “Steely” was. He sounded sort of like Bob Dylan, if Bob had just been defrosted out of a block of carbonite. (I was intensely devoted to The Empire Strikes Back, so carbonite was almost always on my mind.) Other Steely Dan records like Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, The Royal Scam, and Aja opened onto a strange and ominous world: double helixes in the sky, Haitian divorcées, the rise and fall of an LSD chef named Charlemagne, someone who drinks Scotch and then “dies behind the wheel.” The photo on the inside gatefold of the Greatest Hits showed two nasty-looking guys standing in what appeared to be a hotel dining room. Read More »

Flying Saucers Over the Art Department!

September 13, 2016 | by

How the book designers of the fifties and sixties tackled alien invasions. 

A still from Forbidden Planet, 1956.

It’s impossible to know what sort of cover design will make a book fly off the shelves. Through timidity, this often leads to a certain monotony in covers, especially when they’re genre specific—“If it worked before, it’ll have to work again, eventually.” At times the uniformity is comical: it’s hard for book people of a certain age not to remember, say, the gothic romance subgenre without bringing to mind the same cover that was on every one by the end of the sixties—a woman, at night, dashing (often in a white nightgown) from a darkened mansion in sinister woods. Familiarity bred contentment; every reader knew what to expect when they saw the lady running.

Flying saucers as a phrase entered the modern English vocabulary at the end of June 1947, immediately after the initial sightings by Kenneth Arnold in Washington State—which, as it happened, turned out to be the first of thousands of such sightings. The subject was becoming more popular by the week, and publishing houses such as Henry Holt, Fawcett, and Citadel were quick to recognize the need for books on it. But what kind of a cover should go on a book about flying saucers? At the outset, there was no consensus as to what the saucers even actually looked like: they were described as blinking lights, purple blobs, flying wings, boomerangs, shiny metal balls, floating kerosene lamps, pie plates, hubcaps from an old Terraplane; in photos, during the first ten years, the most popular model resembled either the top of a chicken incubator, or part of the casing of a 1937 Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Read More »

Diane di Prima Digs in San Francisco

September 12, 2016 | by

Father Daniel Berrigan: Poet, Priest, Prophet

August 29, 2016 | by

At the Hundredth Universal Esperanto Congress, and Other News

August 6, 2015 | by


From the 1909 Esperanto Congress.

  • In 1969, Life ran a photo essay called “What it takes to be a lady author anymore,” with predictably outmoded advice: “swim a little,” for starters, “exercise in a bikini,” and be “photographed in bed.” The magazine photographed Jeanne Rejaunier—who was promoting a new novel called, ironically enough, The Beauty Trap—in various titillating poses, and also raking leaves in a Victorian dress. “Just possibly because she smiles so prettily on the book jacket (the back and the front of the book),” Life wrote, “The Beauty Trap is now in its fourth printing.”
  • Today in obscure centennials: “Last week the 100th Universal Congress of Esperanto was held in Lille. The public program included a traditional dance workshop in the Place du Théâtre, an ecumenical service in the Eglise Saint-Maurice and concerts by Esperanto singers. There were also introductory lessons in Esperanto, and an international football match between Esperanto and Western Sahara. (The match was abandoned at half-time with Western Sahara 4–0 up.)”
  • Rock music and fiction haven’t blended terribly well over the years—there’s a Great Jones Street here, a Goon Squad there, and not much between. But 2014 saw no fewer than five entrants in the ongoing contest for Great American Rock Novel, and “interestingly, none of these 2014 titles concerns itself with conveying the over-the-top elements of rock on the page. Rather, they focus on characters dabbling in rock within the larger context of their more domestic pursuits: growing up, falling in love, finding a path, having a family; in short, the arcs that have been part of the novel’s scope since at least Austen. Much of the trouble for these characters comes when their more universal journeys collide with their need to make music, play in band, tour in an airbrushed bus.”
  • Salvador Dalí’s childhood diaries remain untranslated, which is a shame, because they find him witnessing the unrest in the lead up to the Spanish Civil War: “At this point in the journal, the illustrations by Dalí … have become morbid. An old man hangs from a noose with his tongue lolling out. On the facing page, a warrior with sword in hand extends the severed head of a long-haired man toward the viewer.”
  • On the literary scene in Ukraine, which has a strange emphasis on finality: “Ukrainian literature—or Ukrainian culture more broadly—employs the words last quite often: last territory, last bastion, the last issue of a magazine, the last books of a bankrupt publisher, the last Ukrainian-speaking readers, writers, translators. There is a well-known contemporary classic, a collection of essays by one of Ukraine’s best-known authors, Yuri Andrukhovych, called My Last Territory; there is an art management agency called Last Bastion.”

Sex, Lies, and Audiotape

July 8, 2015 | by

Republishing Talk, fifty years later.

tape 2 001

tape 1 001

The author with her tape recorder. Photos: James Dugdale

Even before its publication, my book Talks salacious reputation preceded it: a highly respected editor rejected the manuscript with the words “repellently raunchy.” After a long trail of less colorful rejection letters—later enclosed in plastic and strung together into a kind of mobile by an artist friend—the book finally saw the light of day in the spring of 1968.

The day after she received her copy, my mother, traumatized, made a beeline for the nearest therapist’s office. My father, on the other hand, viewed the book only as an object, something he could show off to his colleagues in the garment district—Fink the Mink Man et al.—but he never opened it. And when any of them asked him, “Do you realize what’s in this book?” he just shrugged and pointed out the pretty picture of me on the back cover. Read More »