Literature

Afro-lunacy in bloom

AFRO-SURREAL: Fragments from the files of Dr. Snakeskin
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LOST TELEVISION

"Ticket to Heaven," the last of the series of Our Gang comedies, was produced by Oscar Micheaux in 1944, with music provided by Babs Gonzales and his band, Three Bips and a Bop, on a makeshift sound stage constructed inside of a Harlem tenement building. The plot summary is as follows: With the help of Farina, Pineapple, and Stymie, Buckwee runs amok after reading an early Nation of Islam pamphlet that promises a place in heaven to any Black Muslim who killed a white person for Allah. Read more »

Fill 'er up

New poetry anthology American Hybrid has only half a tank
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An anthology of poets who allegedly combine mainstream and avant-garde aesthetics, American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (WW. Norton and Co., 512 pages, $25.95) — edited by Cole Swensen and David St. John — is an idea whose time hasn't come. The word "hybrid" is suspect, its trendiness invented by the auto industry to delay real electric cars, hence the cover's Prius-green font. Read more »

Electric gypsies

A Day in the Life charts the decline of the West and the search for another country
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Tommy Weber ( Thomas Ejnar Arkner, 1938 — 2006) was a trickster, so I cannot help but love him.

Comin' from where I'm from — three tribal peoples: Pamunkey, Scottish, mystery African — I have always adored the Afro-Kelt über alles, and been at least inchoately hip to the centrality of the trickster, whether Eshú Elegbara, the Diné Coyote, or the Danes' own Loki and his spawn Fenrir the apocalyptic Wolf. Read more »

Speed Reading

The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry -- and What We Must Do to Stop It
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The Tyranny Of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry — And What We Must Do To Stop It

By Antonia Juhasz

William Morrow

480 pages

$26.99

In responding to an attack on her book in the Washington Post, Antonia Juhasz explained, "My goal in writing The Tyranny of Oil was to offer an analysis that has been sorely missing in U.S. literature since the 1975 publication of Anthony Sampson's classic book, The Seven Sisters: an unapologetically and vitally necessary in-depth and serious critique of the current state of the U.S. Read more »

His royal highness

Excess and seduction rule the vainglorious art of Yinka Shonibare
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REVIEW Yinka Shonibare's 1998 photographic essay Diary of a Victorian Dandy, Member of the Order of the British Empire runs like clockwork.

At 11 a.m., Shonibare the nobleman is shown waking and then donning a nightcap in his gilded bedroom; he's surrounded by four ruddy-cheeked buxom maids and a pale, thin butler, who each cater to his every whim. At 2 p.m., dressed in a three-piece blue-gray suit, he tends to business in his private library. Read more »

Vanishing points

Real change, or changing the subject — the search for truth within Roberto Bolaño's epic 2666
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ESSAY/REVIEW There is a wry but hilarious scene near the very end of Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 912 pages; $30), in which a French literary critic finds a German writer, Archimboldi, lodging at what the critic calls "a home for vanished writers." After checking into a room at the large estate, the elderly vanished writer wanders the grounds, meeting with the other vanished authors, residents whom Archimboldi finds friendly but increasingly eccentric. Read more »

Speed Reading

The Face in the Lens and Blank Spots on the Map
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THE FACE IN THE LENS: ANONYMOUS PHOTOGRAPHS

By Robert Flynn Johnson

University of California Press

208 pages

$45

A shop in the Tenderloin sells anonymous photos. The pictures are messily packed in boxes and labeled according to whether the subject, sometimes but not always graphic (there are plenty of head shots of failed actors, for example), is heterosexual or homosexual. Read more »

Speed reading

Against Happiness and A Field Guide to Melancholy
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AGAINST HAPPINESS

By Eric G. Wilson

Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

166 pages

$12

Contemporary perkiness has an enemy and timeless melancholia has a defender in Eric G. Wilson, whose Against Happiness is a largely poetic and occasionally prosaic screed. Read more »

Speed Reading

San Francisco Noir 2, Warhol Live, and Andy Warhol: Blow Job
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SAN FRANCISCO NOIR 2: THE CLASSICS

Edited by Peter Maravelis

Akashic Books

300 pages

$15.95

San Francisco has many legacies, including the social movements of the 1960s and '70s. But before more recent utopian impulses, SF was the Barbary Coast — and Chinatown, North Beach, and the Financial District were havens for gambling, prostitution, and crime. Read more »

Speed Reading

The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics creeps out
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THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST HORROR COMICS

Edited by Peter Normanton

Running Press

448 pages

$17.95

It probably comes as no surprise that post–World War II Americans decided Hitler was a lot scarier than the Boogeyman. It's a little more shocking to see that fear realized in their comic books. Read more »