PROFILE George Watsky was 15 the first time I saw him perform one of his poems. The venue was an afternoon open mic at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, a one-week program that immerses teens in the art of jazz. I was 14, and was impressed and charmed by Watsky's fast-talking savvy. That the last line included the word "fuck" made the poem a crowd-pleaser to the teenage audience.
The following year, Watsky the San Francisco lyrical prodigy was back with another captivating poem. Read more »
Lately publishers seem to be following two rough guidelines: first, anyone can write a memoir; second, if it's a blog, it might as well also be a book.
Waiter Rant, based on (you guessed it) a blog of the same name, does plenty to refute both unspoken rules. Author Steve Dublanica may have some pithy anecdotes, but he fails to compile them in any cohesive or thoughtful way. At best, his book is a series of blog posts stretched out to chapter length. At worst, it's plain dull. Read more »
Kylie Minogue (born 1968) isn't the world's greatest star, but she is for me and for Simon Sheridan, the Bristol-based pop culture journalist best known for his biographical work on Britain's sauciest birds of the 1970s including its porn actresses. Oh my, that's a far cry from Kylie's innocent sexiness! But what Sheridan's The Complete Kylie (Reynolds & Hearn, 272 pages, $29.95) suggests is that Kylie would not have attained her present fame had she maintained the innocent, Dakota Fanning-like presence of a child star. Read more »
Kevin Killian is an inveterate and unapologetic collaborator: even when writing solo, there's always another presence. Whether he ventriloquizes through this other, or assimilates or deconstructs it is the reader's call, and it's a difficult one to make. The poems in Killian's most recent book of poetry, Action Kylie (In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni, 128 pages, $15) are places where T.S. Eliot's cats LOL, Antonio Banderas anagrams to "no brains on a date," and Kylie Minogue's derivativeness is more compelling than genius. Read more »
Maybe it's the urge to purge months of presidential campaign propaganda or eight years of George W. Bush. Maybe it's the holiday season. All I know is this: barf is in. The evidence is all around us. On TV, you'll find Hurl, "an eating competition with an extreme sports chaser" that couples tunnel rides in steel balls with mac 'n' cheese gorge-fests in an attempt to make contestants vomit. Read more »
REVIEW I'll remain calm while reviewing Bernadette Mayer's new collection of poems, Poetry State Forest (New Directions, 128 pages, $17.95). It's sort of a B-sides-and-rarities collection. I first heard "Easy Puddings" through a recording of a reading-interview Mayer gave with Susan Howe on KPFA-FM in the 1970s. While not all of the poems are new, all of them might be new to you.
This dense forest is, first and foremost, public property. Read more »
History is written on the skin. For proof, look no further than Russian Criminal Tattoo Encylopaedia Volume III (Fuel, 400 pages, $32.95), the final chapter in Danzig Baldaev's epic, KGB-approved, ethnographic study. Alexander Sidorov's excellent introduction traces the travels of tattoos from sailors to criminals. Then begins the parade of harshly imaginatively iconography (via Baldaev's drawings) and grave faces (within Sergei Vasiliev's photos). Read more »
REVIEW The struggle of young, white activists aspiring to the authenticity, confrontational stance, and street credibility of groups like the Black Panthers has generated some of the most enduring myths and storylines of the 1960s. Read more »
ISBN REAL America has just ended its quadrennial psychoanalysis of every state in the union, ultimately prescribing a mood enhancer. I'm glad that appointment is over, of course.
But I have to say I'm gonna miss watching the candidates participate in their grueling dance marathon with vain, neurotic America, a contest that involved gliding from state to state at breakneck speeds in a perversion of the open-road mythology. I'm gonna miss those blow-up maps of the nation, so detailed that CNN will have to team up with Google Earth to outyell the competition again in 2012. Read more »