Where's The Book Thread Gone?
Posted 01 April 2012 - 02:10 AM
A Terrible Mistake, by HP Albarelli.
Although this list is technically in alphabetical order, this also happens to be my number one draft pick. There have been a lot of interesting books written about the shared history of LSD and the CIA, but all of them have been very incomplete. Albarelli put 10 years into writing the book on the subject—a huge, exhaustively researched and documented monument that centers around the sad, strange death of Frank Olson. The book is very troubling in any sense. I was often struck by how totally the CIA had infiltrated Washington, DC by the mid-fifties.
In the end, what’s most impressive about A Terrible Mistake is how much history it was not able to cover. Focusing on Frank Olson was not a literary device; the story behind MKSEARCH, MKNAOMI and MKULTRA is too big for any single volume. Fortunately, Albarelli’s next book will be about George Hunter White, a major figure in the covert history of the United States and a big player in Olson’s fate as well. It’s more than a little disturbing to contemplate how far along these projects are in 2010.
After the New Economy, by Doug Henwood.
The majority of my reading in the past year has been in Economics, shaped by a couple new jobs that required me to become a fake expert in the field. Perhaps in the near future I’ll do a separate Reading List focused on that, but for now, let me recommend one single volume as the best written, most thoroughly documented book on the subject: Doug Henwood’s After the New Economy. Henwood does something really remarkable here. There are dozens of sources per page, but he juggles an academic level of density with J.K. Rowling readability. He keeps all his math & policy discourse grounded in real world effects on actual working human beings. All in all, this book is fucking devastating because it uses nothing but the US economic system’s own numbers and words—there is no moralizing here. Along the way, Henwood also provides an education in deciphering market metrics and business news. He is a concise and scrupulous teacher. Henwood is often framed as a rabid Socialist, but I get the impression his political agenda is that of a disgruntled accountant...he’s just angry that the numbers don’t really add up on the American Dream.
Equally Worthy: his earlier book Wall Street: How It Works and for Whom is just as good and thorough. Most fans of Henwood suggest starting there, and it is powerful stuff. If you’re interested in a guide to Wall Street, though, the unfortunately named Eric J. Weiner has cornered the market with What Goes Up: The Uncensored History of Modern Wall Street as Told by the Bankers, Brokers, CEOs, and Scoundrels Who Made It Happen, an “oral history” where three generations of Hidden Rulers talk candidly about criminal conspiracies they got away with. It is awesome and very inspirational.
C Street, by Jeff Sharlet.
Sharlet has been doing important work for a long time now covering Christian Dominionist movements, especially in military and political circles. His previous book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, is essential reading if you’re not already familiar. (Start with “Jesus Plus Nothing.”)
Theocrats are scary people, and Sharlet tracks the most powerful among them carefully here. This is the grey zone where The Family morphs into The Fellowship, which has also been referred to as ”The Christian Mafia” and a ”Frat House for Jesus.” This is serious material,of course: the ghost network he outlines in C Street shaping foreign policy, domestic initiatives, and partisan talking points. The amount of media collusion and access to corporate money here is nothing short of spooky.
Infrastructure, by Brian Hayes.
When I was a but a youth, my very favorite shit was David Maculay’s work. I spent a lot of my time in school libraries hiding from Education, and books like Pyramid, Castle and Cathedral hit me like black and white acid trips. Then I got ahold of The Way Things Work, which was hundreds of full-color pages that used thousands of woolly mammoths to teach about a million years worth of human invention. (If you have children, they should have The Way Things Work ASAP.)
Brian Hayes has given us a grown-up version of what Maculay did, presented as a “Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape.” This is not for everyone, but if you’re even reading this, it is most definitely for you. Hayes is a gifted writer and consistently makes the mechanics of the mundane into illuminating reading. This book is especially necessary for post-Apocalypse living, since it really does work as a proper Field Guide, allowing you to visually decipher the municipal grid as you make your way across a dying Empire, fighting with rabid mutants and bizarre cults every step of the way.
Intelligence in Nature, by Jeremy Narby.
Narby is most famous for The Cosmic Serpent, but I believe this to be his best work so far. It is short but potent, packed completely full of amazing stories and ideas. Narby is comfortable leaving most of his questions unanswered, opting instead for a broad and challenging overview. Having read this through a number of times now, I think that makes it a stronger book. The sheer scope of information and possibility that gets covered in less than 300 pages makes this a rare gem.
Unlike Cosmic Serpent, Narby is not advancing a grand, unifying theory here. Intelligence in Nature is more like a documentary survey of an emerging science, with art film tendencies towards beauty and wonder. ”Narby asks good questions in this book but he doesn’t go very far with them,” remarked Swami Gopalananda. This is quite so: and who among us wants to be told what a good question should mean? Instead Narby cultivates a living museum of contradictory and fascinating evidence, reminding us that these are good questions with no easy answers. Nature remains unknown to us even in 2010, and this is a humbling and perfect book.
Killing Hope, by William Blum.
The title of this book could not be more perfect in 2010. As the current White House resident continues the CIA/CFR foreign policy that’s shaped the United States since 1947, the world “HOPE” has a special and sickly resonance.
Killing Hope is story behind 50 years of Bipartisan Consensus about killing people overseas in order to make the world safe for Democracy. As Blum phrases his focus, this is a survey of “US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,” and the book delivers the good in a relentless way. It’s clearly written but far from easy reading. Personally, it took me months to finish all 55 chapters, but I’m apparently kind of a hippie. In the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 ad campaign, there was a chorus of rhetorical questions about why the world hates the United States government. This is why, in about 500 pages. Heavy reading but necessary for any US citizen.
Mirage Men, by Mark Pilkington.
This book is a great example of Doing It Right: although I disagree with the author’s conclusions, it was so well written, and provided so much original material, that it’s still an essential read. The subject is something very familiar to Brainsturbator readers—the role of intelligence and military agencies in creating and circulating carefully planned disinformation about UFOs. Without question, Pilkington proves that dozens of well documented UFO incidents, long considered to be legitimately paranormal, were in fact psychological operations testing by agencies within the US government. Unlike 99% of the UFOlogy genre, this book is a goldmine of original research, thinking and documentation. The most interesting material, to me, was the operational details of running and monitoring such a strange covert project. Page after page, this book provides a window into a world every bit as alien as a mothership from Pleiades. This is the first book since Richard Dolan’s first volume of UFOs and the National Security State that I would consider an actual “must read” for curious mammals.
Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets.
Yup: quite possibly a perfect book. I expected a narrative account of Stamets’ life working with fungus, but what I got was a working manual on mycoremediation: treating toxic soils and waste sites with the power of mushrooms. The book’s higher-than-usual pricetag is justified by the textbook level of information quality and quantity. This is basically everything you would need to get educated and then get involved with the powerful technology of mycelium bioremediation. Is there a recipe for dealing with anthrax and biowarfare agents? Affirmative. Are there several pages on the proper usage of a mycelium strain that literally eats pavement and can digest an entire road in less than two years? Yes. It will be a long time before anyone tops this — an essential reference.
Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, by Andy Hunt.
This is a book that took me by surprise: although it’s written for programmers, I found it to be one of the best “meta-productivity” tutorials I’ve ever read. This rewards multiple readings and offers a simple, grounded approach to getting your projects organized, your head straight, and your workdays faster and easier. There are a lot of books that re-organize the basic lessons of Napoleon Hill’s original self-help classic Think and Grow Rich, then sprinkle the cake with recent neuroscience and pop sci speculationizing. This is something much more valuable: a practical, hands-on synthesis that’s purely focused on what works. The authors carefully selected their ammo on the basis of research and experience, but they opt for the shotgun approach when it comes to the actual presentation. They steamroll over the point that not every idea will work for you personally by providing a compact encyclopedia of motivational, organizational and creative techniques. I dig it...you will, too.
The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship
The Collins Brothers are a rare treat. I don’t include them here because I agree with their worldview, or even the thesis of this book. I’m recommending this because it’s a well-written, meticulously researched window into another Reality Tunnel. You will disagree with a great deal of what you read here, but that’s precisely why I would urge you to read it. The case they have built here is intricate, fascinating material. The questions they raise are extremely important in our technological era.
What they present here is a Conspiracy Theory in the best possible sense, and the integrity of their case makes this a most educational book. Reading about right-wing conspiracies is depressing, reading about British conspiracies is often quite tedious, but reading about a conspiracy of the most brilliant men in the English speaking world, plotting to create and control a global civilization and establish a successful One World Religion, well...that’s entertaining stuff. What the Collins Brothers have uncovered here is important and neglected history. The actual existence of a secular humanist, Fabian socialist, techno-Gnostic conspiracy is beside the point. Reading this book will make you a smarter person, and that’s really the best praise you can give a dead tree.
some good stuff right there
Posted 22 April 2012 - 06:52 PM
The Big Picture
Prometheus Rising, by Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson has blessed our species with a lot of really damn good books, and I personally owe him a great deal. It was difficult deciding upon what single title I would recommend—since the Illuminatus! Trilogy is too weird for most people, Ishtar Rising is too controversial, and Quantum Psychology was rooted in the foundations laid out in Prometheus Rising, I settled on this title. It’s a workbook, and each chapter ends with exercises based upon the concepts that were discussed. As I have mentioned before, I thought I understood this book and “got it” for two years before doing the exercises and realizing how meaningless “an intellectual grasp” of a subject really is. In other words, I wasted two years—don’t repeat my mistake.
The Lucifer Principle, by Howard Bloom. I would recommend you check out Bloom’s essay “Reality is a Shared Hallucination” first—if you dig that, then this book will blow you away. Bloom has a rare gift for re-united threads from dozens of different, “separate” disciplines of science into cohesive, headfuck insights. Every chapter of this book is solid gold. I feel I should also mention that of all the books I’ve lent out to my friends, I get the most negative feedback on this one, so not everyone agrees with me that Bloom is dead-on.
The Secret Teachings of All Ages, by Manly P. Hall. We’ve discussed Hall before, and this book still stands up as a masterpiece decades after it’s author passed away. The single best introduction to the history of the occult you can possibly find.
The Cartoon History of the Universe
I’m still a comics nerd. I still re-read Watchmen and Preacher once a year or so, but in my opinion nothing comes close to the greatness of Larry Gonick’s series The Cartoon History of the Universe. It is (mostly) beautifully illustrated—there’s a few issues in Volume Two that were clearly rush jobs, or perhaps a long drug episode—and it’s also funny and informative.
Gonick’s scope is huge, and he really does deliver on the title premise. Not only that, but the History itself is accurate enough to get me through high school without paying any attention to the actual textbooks I was supposed to be reading. Gonick covers damn near everything, and he does it scrupulous accuracy and good humor. Your kids will thank you for buying these books.
In looking up the links for these books, I found out Gonick has recently published the first volume of what he calls The Cartoon History of the Modern World, which apparently covers from Chris “genocide” Columbus to the US Constitution. I haven’t read it, and I would hesitate to recommend it, since some of his books have been very rushed and frankly disappointing. If you want to pick it up anyway, here you go:
The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Volume One
Monsters and Magical Sticks: There’s No Such Thing as Hypnosis?, by Stephen Heller. I re-read this book 5 times in a row and put it down. I haven’t picked it up since because I’m still unpacking everything that got blasted into my head. Mr. Heller has written a book of singular depth, reminding me of the experimental “horror” novel House of Leaves (which I also recommend highly) with it’s reflective layers of meaning and simultaneous perspectives. I read this book 5 times and I still couldn’t say if it was the most empowering book I ever read, or just the most disturbing. Let me know if you figure it out.
Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say, by Douglas Rushkoff. I used to recommend the Edwin Bernays book Propaganda to people who wanted to understand the media control system and the power of mass persuasion. I recently read Rushkoff’s book, and it was a great relief. After all, Bernays wrote his manual back in 1928, and Rushkoff offers a much more evolved and straightforward look at the same mechanisms. Also, fuck Bernays—neither he nor his descendants deserve your money. Rushkoff is a very busy and insightful mutant and his work is worth your time and money. If you still want to read Bernays, here it is for free.
Mind Control, World Control, by Jim Keith. Although Keith constantly makes conclusions or insinuates connections that seem insane to me, he really was among the best authors the “conspiracy theory” field has ever seen. I dearly wish that people would pay him even a fraction of the attention that gets paid to more sensational bullshit like William Cooper‘s, uh....classic. This is Keith’s finest book, exhaustively researched but still a very short read—there is no wasted space anywhere, this is one of the meatiest books I’ve come across on any topic. And I think you will agree, this topic is important and fascinating, not to mention over-saturated with mere speculation and poor thinking.
The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs, by Daniel Odier. As much as I love Burrough’s writing, I believe that this collection of interviews is the most accessable, and dangerous, summation of his work.
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto. Brainsturbator has discussed the real goals of US education once before—and that article needs to be re-written because it honestly sucks—and Skilluminati recently posted some John Taylor Gatto essays. This book is the best of it’s kind and Gatto has more credibility than any critic since Jonathan Kozol.
UFO/UAP Phenomena and “High Strangeness”
Rigorous Intuition, by Jeff Wells. Yep, this book is not even out yet. However, the single best writing I have found anywhere online about these topics is from Jeff Wells, who runs a website of the same name. This book will be a collection of his best essays, expanded and organized. I feel perfectly confident saying this will be best book on deep politics, occult history and paranormal events that has come out in years.
UFOs and the National Security State, by Richard Dolan. The best-researched, most-credible, least-bullshit UFO book. Can I give a better recommendation than that?
Revelations, by Jacques Vallee. This book is powerful medicine. Almost the entire tapestry of UFO belief and mythology in the United States, here in 2007, is the result of a deliberate disinformation campaign that Jacques Vallee records in clinical detail here. From Roswell to Dulce to the Greys, Vallee traces how carefully managed “leaks” and con games grow from rumor to legend to commonly accepted fact. This book will disturb you because it is emphatically not a “debunking” but actually opens up even darker possibilities than hostile aliens.
The Archaic Revival, by Terence McKenna There is more food for thought about the UFO Phenomenon in this book than you will find in 100 books that are actually about the UFO phenomenon. McKenna was an honest and fearless thinker, and this book is truly outstanding.
I use that term in the most positive and enthusiastic possible sense. These books are in a category unto themselves and were instrumental in shaping how I see the Universe.
Finite and Infinite Games, by James P. Carse. Pound for pound, I have never found a book this potent. Very short read that altered my life and whole conception of the Universe forever. If you’re in tune with Brainsturbator, that’s probably all you need to read. Out of all the titles listed here, get this one first.
TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, by Hakim Bey. Although this entire book is freely available online, I found myself re-reading it so often that I’ve since bought three copies, one of them was literally read to death while I was bouncing around the country in my irresponsible youth.
Liber Null and Psychonaut, by Peter J. Carroll. We’ve discussed Carroll before—read some excerpts of his work right here, and download the first chapter of this book right here.
Revelation X, by The SubGenius Foundation. I almost feel embarrassed saying it, but this is the greatest book I’ve ever read. Nothing touches this and I think it will be a while until a more complete statement on the human condition can be formulated. I realize that almost sounds sarcastic, but it’s seriously that good.
And more, I want them all specially Prometheus Rising I havnt read that yet
Just bought The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
will start tonight
Posted 15 June 2012 - 05:38 PM
Forget Lydia Lunch, Nick Zed, Henry Rollins, Michael Gira and all thosecontemporary writers trying to achieve an ultimate expression of sordid nihilism and depravity layer by layer. This is the shit! This book outstrips them all. Superstar diarrhea dribbling into shoes; tampons up the ass to plug the loose anal sphincter; physically damaging excessive enemas; paedophiliac consensual cocksucking; prostitution of their very own minors consummated via the feigned naivete of compliant parents; gross out greed and paltry pay-offs; a virile, rampant, eruption of egomania that makes Hitler’s megalomaniac ambition a withered stump by comparison, all this pure filth and Macaulay Caulkins warm, wet lips too!
Yippee! Nobody can ever compete. Everyone should at the very least have this book in their toilet for guests as a matter of decadent etiquette. Perfect water closet reading for the closet cases.
Forget the relentless character assassination of Goldman’s Lennon book. Or any Elvis expose. Here we have achieved a nirvana of the gratuitous. Thank you Victor, Oh, thank you Victor!
All my life I hoped that a book that proclaimed it told you “the whole unexpurgated, shocking story” would really do it. 50 years after my birth, here it is. This is the most perfectly fabulous and amoral book about the
excess and undeserved privilege accorded the celebrated, successful and rich in America ever to be inked onto dead trees. Everything it claims to contain is contained within its hallowed bowels, and more, and more.
Fantastic. I can’t believe that it’s not exposed prominently in every cornershop Bodega, supermarket and bookstore chain across America and number one in the best sellers lists everywhere! As the back says: “The Boy Reveals how he got to know Jackson (and sex);
Trips to Foreign countries with Jackson (and sex); What he saw when Jackson got naked in front of him (and sex); the sexual games he played with Jackson (and more sex). There are snapshots, love notes, depositions, even spindly drawings of Michael’s malodorous and “smelly” penis by the boy; (oh, “the boy”, by the way, is Jordie Chandler who rather surprisingly is credited with having co-written the screenplay for “Robin Hood-Men In Tights” with his father at age 10. Go figure!)
It has to be noted however, that, falling temporarily prey to his acute sense of social responsibility and his principles of investigative journalism with integrity, Victor M. Gutierrez does dwell a little too much upon the mundane legal ramifications and maneuverings of all the parties involved for my prurient tastes. Although, I guess, upon reflection, I am forced to concede that it probably is, in the end, important to be led through the opportunist treacle that glues every character forever together in Michael “Willy Wonka” Jackson’s sexual Chocolate Factory.
After all, this is a real-life (real?), fairy-tale with multiple professedly happy endings. A terminally degraded Michael Jackson gets his man, or rather his boy, and gets away with it. Jordie Chandler gets his man, or rather his paedomorphic superhero and millions of dollars in perpetuity. Daddy Chandler gets his boys, notoriety and access to millions of dollars. Mummy Chandler gets vacations with her endearing superstar, nice gifts of expensive watches and jewelry, and the rewarding parental pleasure of seeing her beloved son taken good care of by the man, or rather boy, Jackson. Victor gets his man, mother and boys, and, I sincerely hope because he deserves to, his own share of dollars. Yes, sirree, it’s that good old fashioned American success story once again.
This kind of shameless self-corruption is what made America great; and I for one am deeply grateful. There is something calming, and infinitely reassuring about having ones deepest cynicism about human nature and its
innate badness confirmed so rapidly, uproariously and completely. I can sleep better now, safe in the knowledge that the poor scum get banged up, but that the rich and famous scum are, and will always remain, pillars of the community in any truly democratic, and free, society. All hail the American
Thismakes me want to read it
And - All That Glitters Is Not Gold -by Raymond Chandler, Jordie Chandler's uncle
Also someone needs to do a documentary about Micheal Jacksons mentally Ill fans who defend his reputation like an army of vicious ants
Posted 20 June 2012 - 06:14 PM
Patti Smith has a mythic imagination. As a young, desperately poor poet from southern New Jersey, she headed to New York to seek her fortune, nothing in her purse. Her mother had assumed she would follow her into waitressing. But Patti, though practical and a survivor, had her sights set not on slinging hash but on searching for immortality and beauty and magic. She already recognised a divine succession of poets – Blake, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Genet and the Beats – and she wanted to join them. She was creative and liked to write, read and draw. Eventually, she became the renaissance woman of the punks, a great rock singer and composer – but before that she had to fashion her look, her personality and her verse.
by Patti Smith
Buy it from the Guardian bookshop
Search the Guardian bookshop
And survive. She had no real friends when she arrived in New York, just a few names, and no job prospects. But it was July 1967, she was not yet 21, and other drifters and hippies helped her find food and shelter. Eventually, she got a job working in a bookshop, she met Robert Mapplethorpe, who was the same age and just as poor, and they took a Brooklyn apartment together. They each collected little talismanic objects and set great store by the way they dressed; both had an innate and highly original sense of personal style. And he was fiercely ambitious and coveted artistic success.
In her careful, sometimes painful self-sculpting, Smith had found an inspired and equally determined collaborator in Mapplethorpe. As she says in this memoir, which is so full of memorable sentences: "We were both praying for Robert's soul, he to sell it and I to save it." (Robert's theme song was the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil".)
Patti and Robert were both born in 1946 and both were raised by poor parents, she in Germantown, Pennsylvania and then New Jersey, he by a Catholic family on Long Island. Like all lovers, they told endless stories to each other about their childhoods: "We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad." They both succeeded. As a child he'd been a mama's boy and had made necklaces for his mother, but later, as an adult, he identified himself in the public mind through his photographs with pain and blood and exotic sexual practices, and even with something as seemingly transgressive (but actually innocent) as pictures of child nudity. She had held factory jobs in New Jersey, where the other workers accused her of being a communist because she was reading a bilingual edition of Rimbaud's Illuminations. She'd given birth out of wedlock, as we used to say, to a child she'd had to put up for adoption. Later, when she lived with Mapplethorpe in Brooklyn, she turned herself into a disciplined poet and breadwinner. For a long spell she supported the skinny, charismatic Mapplethorpe, who at the time was making "altars" of found objects somewhat in the manner of the American surrealist Joseph Cornell. He discovered photography only later, but once he settled on it as a career he was tenacious and highly tactical in plotting his rise in the world.
She obviously has a great gift for appreciation, though in her case that should not imply a lack of discrimination. It seems that from the very beginning she was alert to influences that would help her to explore and to firm up her peculiar sensibility, which was at once edgy and lyrical, both demotic and hieratic. She was more relaxed about their ability to survive; Robert was much more anxious about money. She was primarily interested in sniffing out people with talent, not as a careerist but always out of respect for their artistry. Mapplethorpe had his eye on the main chance.
In those days, before the internet and Google, it was difficult for working people to put their hands on books and information. All these years later, Smith still remembers the few art books she possessed and that she would consult again and again, just as she remembers their few records and books of verse. And she recalls in vivid detail her first encounters with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, saints in her pantheon of great artists. For her, many sites in New York were sacred: "It was exciting just to stand in front of the hallowed ground of Birdland that had been blessed by John Coltrane, or the Five Spot on St Mark's Place where Billie Holiday used to sing, where Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman opened the field of jazz like human can openers." Robert's idols were visual artists, though very cerebral ones – Duchamp and Warhol. Patti indulged in long introspective bouts, but she learned from Robert just to get on with it and forge ahead in her work – a trajectory that for her was always God-centred, doing drawings "that magnified His motion".
While I was working on my biography of Jean Genet in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Paris, I would receive phone calls from Patti in Detroit. I'd never met her and was introduced to her only many years later in front of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but she was calling me to encourage me to persevere and to finish this onerous seven-year task. She knew how devoted I had been to Mapplethorpe, with whom I'd collaborated on journalistic stories about Truman Capote and William Burroughs (I also wrote an essay for one of his first gallery shows, in Amsterdam). She told me that she and Robert (who had recently died of Aids) used to read Genet out loud to each other when they lived together. When my biography finally came out, Patti was staging her big comeback with a free concert in New York's Central Park; she told her audience that they must all go out to buy my Genet book.
This genuine devotion to her private artistic saints and to her old friends characterises the entire book. It is her own Lives of the Saints, and it is thoroughly imbued with faith in her own artistic mission.
Her love affair with Mapplethorpe, to be sure, had its painful moments, especially as they were both discovering that he was gay. Although they had been sexually intimate for several years, he began to pick up extra money as a rent boy. Jim Carroll, a friend who went on to be a punk musician and the author of the autobiographical The Basketball Diaries, was also hustling, in his case to support his heroin habit. When Mapplethorpe asked him how he could be certain he wasn't gay, Carroll said he'd never done it without being paid – which was not the case with Mapplethorpe. Before long, Robert had a handsome young lover and eventually a much older and even more handsome lover, Sam Wagstaff, a rich art collector who launched his career.
What Patti found even more difficult to accept than Robert's homosexuality was his social ascent. She could understand his love for men, but in order for her to spend time with his new, rich friends she would have had to change her ways.
Just Kids should interest any reader who wants to know how an artistic career can be launched. Smith gave a carefully staged and prepared poetry reading at St Mark's in New York that won her lots of attention and publication – and even the offer of a record contract. She began to work as a music journalist for Crawdaddy! and Rolling Stone. She begged the editor of Rolling Stone to let her write a piece on Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill's wife, muse and favourite singer; when Patti handed in her article, the editor said "that although I talked like a truck driver, I had written an elegant piece". She had an affair with Carroll and with Sam Shepard, with whom she wrote a play.
Her transition to musician seems, in this account, to have been disconcertingly easy. She bought a guitar and soon knew how to play it. She turned some of her poems into songs. She put together a band – and before long she was a megastar touring the world. Mapplethorpe produced a portrait of her that undoubtedly helped to cement her image; with her gift for phrase-making, Patti writes: "Robert was concerned with how to make the photograph, and I with how to be the photograph." Suddenly, Robert was showing photos in galleries attended by "a perfect New York City mix of leather boys, drag queens, socialites, rock and roll kids and art collectors".
Like that art opening, this book brings together all the elements that made New York so exciting in the 1970s – the danger and poverty, the artistic seriousness and optimism, the sense that one was still connected to a whole history of great artists in the past. This was a small community that was carefully observed by the media; it also flourished at the moment when New York was becoming the cultural capital of the western world.
Edmund White's latest book is City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s.
Posted 08 July 2012 - 04:48 PM
Posted 21 July 2012 - 08:07 PM
I. Bought that for my dad!
and I have an original red black and white Raging Bull Poster that I almost gave him with the book, but I decided to keep it
it's too cool
I just read that Queens Biography, the old one, my BF spotted it in a charity shop
It was pretty terrible
very superficial and Boring!
how can a book about Queens be Boring!
one thing I got out of it is the positive input of Ghrol over the years which I wasn't really aware of apart from his drumming obviously
I suppose I should appreciate him more
I also read the Patti Smith Autobiography which didn't pull any punches or hide any uncomfortable truths in its portrayal of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorp and the drug use, male prostitution and ultimately his death from AIDs in remarkable contrast to the Queens book!
but the overriding thing I got from it was the incredible Love and trust and artistic relationship they shared, it was heartbreaking and beautiful, they were totally loyal to their shared vision and each other, in their own way despite all their other relationships
If you havnt read it
Posted 02 September 2012 - 09:55 PM
Also want to get Stranger In a Strange Land
Posted 19 October 2012 - 08:30 PM
Posted 26 October 2012 - 11:29 PM
probably my favourite Hemingway
if only for the setting
Posted 04 November 2012 - 02:53 PM
Want to see it
Sounds interesting, it's filmed by a documentary crew, documentary style and with a narrator
It's basically about a man and his family dynamics, his senile mother giving her mansion to a new age shyster instead of him , and his newly born son completely dominating his wife's attention so he feels abandoned by her as well
parts of the book are from his children's point of view which I imagine will be hard to film
Posted 02 December 2012 - 06:03 AM
Gets pretty predictable at parts but surprisingly good read
Posted 03 April 2013 - 05:00 PM
it was weird, I enjoyed the first half but it seemed to turn into some kind of strange sterotyping of Korean women that was a bit unpleasant
And the political dystopian element wasn't convincing either
No sense of urgency or jeapordy really, a bit flat
saying that It can't have been that bad as I read it cover to cover in a couple of hours
So it was engrossing
Maybe I need to re read it
Posted 12 October 2015 - 05:57 PM
Really want to read this
The Devil's Chessboard by David Talbot
"What follows," David Talbot boasts in the prologue to his new book The Devil's Chessboard, "is an espionage adventure that is far more action-packed and momentous than any spy tale with which readers are familiar." Talbot, the founder of Salon.com and author of the Kennedy clan study Brothers, doesn't deal in subtlety in his biography of Allen Dulles, the CIA director under presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, the younger brother of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and the architect of a secretive national security apparatus that functioned as essentially an autonomous branch of government. Talbot offers a portrait of a black-and-white Cold War-era world full of spy games and nuclear brinkmanship, in which everyone is either a good guy or a bad guy. Dulles—who deceived American elected leaders and overthrew foreign ones, who backed ex-Nazis and thwarted left-leaning democrats—falls firmly in the latter camp.
Mother Jones chatted with Talbot about the reporting that went into his 704-page doorstop, the controversy he invited with his discussion of Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories, and the parallels he sees in today's government intelligence overreach.
Mother Jones: You seem to have a thing for brothers—particularly for younger brothers in the shadow of their more prominent older brothers. As it happens, you yourself have a successful older brother—former child actor and Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Stephen Talbot. Do you see yourself in Allen Dulles or in Bobby Kennedy?
David Talbot: No one has pointed that particular analogy out before. But definitely it's there. I had a very close relationship and still do with my older brother. We both went into progressive media work, and live in the same city still, San Francisco, and have worked together off and on over the years. So I guess I have a feel for what that chemistry is like between brothers.
"His own wife and mistress called him 'the Shark.' His favorite word was whether you were 'useful' to him or not. I think that you can make a case for Allen Dulles being a psychopath."
MJ: Given that Allen Dulles isn't exactly a household name these days, did you feel the need to inject your book with extra drama?
DT: No, because I actually do think the history is so epic that it actually kind of writes itself. Dulles is not a household name anymore. He was at the time, though, particularly as part of this two-brother team. He was on the cover of all the magazines. For a spy, he was kind of a glory hog.
But what I was really trying to do was a biography on the American power elite from World War II up to the 60s. That was the key period when the national security state was constructed in this country, and where it begins to overshadow American democracy. It's almost like Game of Thrones to me, where you have the dynastic struggles between these power groups within the American system for control of the country and the world.
MJ: Is that why you chose not to include much about Dulles' childhood or his internal strife or the other types of things that tend to dominate biographies?
DT: I focused on those elements that I thought were important to understanding him. I thought other books covered that ground fairly well before me. But what they left out was the interesting nuances and shadow aspects of Dulles's biography. I think that you can make a case, although I didn't explicitly say this in the book, for Allen Dulles being a psychopath.
They've done studies of people in power, and they all have to be, to some extent, on the spectrum. You have to be unfeeling to a certain extent to send people to their death in war and take the kind of actions that men and women in power routinely have to take. But with Dulles, I think he went to the next step. His own wife and mistress called him "the Shark." His favorite word was whether you were "useful" to him or not. And this went for people he was sleeping with or people he was manipulating in espionage or so on. He was the kind of man that could cold-bloodedly, again and again, send people to their death, including people he was familiar with and supposedly fond of.
There's a thread there between people like Dulles up through Dick Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld—who was sitting at Dulles's knee at one point. I was fascinated to find that correspondence between a young Congressman Rumsfeld and Allen Dulles, who he was looking to for wisdom and guidance as a young politician.
MJ: I'm interested to hear you mention Rumsfeld. Do you think the Bush years compared in ruthlessness or secrecy to what was going on under Dulles?
DT: Definitely. That same kind of dynamic was revived or in some ways expanded after 9/11 by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration. Those guys very much were in keeping with the sort of Dulles ethic, that of complete ruthlessness. It's this feeling of unaccountability, that democratic sanctions and regulations don't make sense in today's ruthless world.
MJ: And do you see echoes of the apparatus that Dulles created in some of the debates today over spying on allies and collection of cellphone records?
"I think Dulles would have been delighted by how technology and other developments have allowed the American security state to go much further than he went."
DT: Absolutely. The surveillance state that Snowden and others have exposed is very much a legacy of the Dulles past. I think Dulles would have been delighted by how technology and other developments have allowed the American security state to go much further than he went. He had to build a team of cutthroats and assassins on the ground to go around eliminating the people he wanted to eliminate, who he felt were in the way of American interests. He called them communists. We call them terrorists today. And of course the most controversial part of my book, I'm sure, will be the end, where I say there was blowback from that. Because that killing machine in some way was brought back home.
MJ: Let's talk about that. For 500 pages of the book you lay out Dulles's acquisition and use and abuse of power in and out of the CIA. And then at the end you take a deep dive back into some of the Kennedy assassination conspiracy ideas that you explored in Brothers. It's not an uncontroversial subject. Did you worry that including that might color the reaction to the rest of the book?
DT: Yeah, you always worry, because unfortunately this climate has been created over the years that discourages and intimidates scholars and journalists and investigators from looking into these dark corners in American life that should be examined. Poll after poll for the last 50 years has shown that most American people don't accept the official version. The only people who do are the media establishment and the political establishment, at least in public.
To me it's one of the greatest examples of media incompetence and negligence in American history. I even confronted Ben Bradlee about this, who was probably JFK's closest friend in the Washington press corps and wrote a book all about JFK and their close friendship. "Why didn't you, with your investigative resources, try to get [to] the bottom of it?" You should read what he says in Brothers, but basically it came down to, "Well, I thought it would ruin my career."
I think I have studied this about as much as anyone in my generation at this point, and my final conclusion after 50 years was we have to go there, we have to look at the fact that there's a wealth of circumstantial evidence that says not only was there, at the highest level, CIA involvement. Probably in the assassination cover-up. But beyond the CIA, because the CIA wouldn't have acted on its own.
"If you have fears at 63 after a career in journalism like I have, taking the risks I have, then you don't belong in journalism."
During the Kennedy period, there was a sense that he'd broken from the Cold War hegemony and that he was putting the country at risk, and that he was a young, untested president. He was maybe cowardly. He was physically not fit. So they just felt, for the good of the nation, that as painful as it probably was to do, he had to be removed. That's what I think the consensus finally was about him. And Dulles would have been the person, as the executor of this kind of security wing of the American establishment, who would have been given this job.
MJ: Given that exploring these theories has been perceived as a career-killer, did you not have those same fears yourself?
DT: If you have fears at 63 after a career in journalism like I have, taking the risks I have, then you don't belong in journalism. That's what journalism should be all about: taking risks and asking the questions that no one else is.
MJ: Alright, last question for you. [Connection cuts out. MJ calls DT back.]
DT: Aaron? There you are. They're fucking with us again! The NSA!
MJ: The NSA, of course. Okay, so: When the Devil's Chessboard movie comes out, who should play Allen Dulles?
DT: [Laughs.] That's a very good question. In fact, the book is being read widely in Hollywood now, and I have no idea. But there have been some interesting suggestions. One is William Hurt, who kind of looks like him now in his older age. You know, to tell you the truth, we'll see if Hollywood will be willing to take this on. Brothers had a long and winding road in Hollywood. And it was about to go many different times and then the plug was pulled on it. I still think this is kind of a verboten subject in Hollywood, particularly the Kennedy stuff. But, you know, we'll see. We'll see if they're braver with this one.
Posted 12 October 2015 - 05:58 PM
And this too
So You've Been Publicly Shamed is the rather clumsy title for Jon Ronson's latest book.It deals mostly with instances of people who have said or done stupid things online and faced public,worldwide even,ridicule and/or scorn and is a fascinating insight into the way the internet influences and often brings out the worst in people.Arguably most of the people Ronson features have been the authors of their own misfortune but it's the reaction of the mob,the invisible of people "out there" that he's more interested in,safe in their anonymity to verbally crucify the hapless and the ill-advised en masse.
While a large part of the book revolves around the misfortunes of those unfortunate to have incurred the wrath of the mighty keyboard warriors of Twitter,Facebook and the like it's about Shame in all it's forms,how it affects people, how people handle it.or don't,and its deliberate use by vested interests.
As with all of Ronson's books his faux naive persona,the slightly bemused nerd struggling to understand,belies his intellect and skills as a reporter, a big part of the reason I suspect that many of those in the book spoke to him when they'd turned down countless others.Mostly it's quite light-hearted then we hear the flip side of shame,the people who didn't in any way deserve the treatment they got,if indeed any of them did,stupidity not being a crime anywhere in the world as far as I know.These are the people pushed so far by the shame of their treatment by those who should know better that they killed themselves,and it's to Ronson's credit he names those responsible.I just wish he'd been able to interview the creature that made a teenage girl's testimony at her rape trial such a traumatic experience that she later committed suicide,now there's someone who deserves to feel shame for the rest of his life.I felt ashamed as a human being that another of my species would treat anyone in that situation in such a way.
A fascinating book that I read very quickly,such is Ronson's free flowing style,one that along with James Goss's more comically slanted tilt at the perils of the online lynch mob and social media in general "Haterz" has made me think long and hard about what the internet has mutated into.
Posted 12 October 2015 - 07:05 PM
Ronson began to wonder what happens to the people on the receiving end of an Internet mob's rage. Through digging into the stories of and conducting interviews with well-know people like disgraced author and journalist Jonah Lehrer and ordinary, previously unknown people like Justine Sacco, Ronson provides a vivid and disturbing picture of what happens to the people on the receiving end of vigilante-style justice and raises interesting philosophical questions about what this means for our larger culture.
This book in no way defends the actions of the people it depicts, though Ronson does have sympathy for his subjects. Instead, he poses a very thought-provoking question: are you so sure this can't happen to you? While it's one thing for the Internet to bring real criminal actions to light and ensure they don't go unpunished, it's another thing for someone who does something stupid or ill-conceived to be subjected to the same scrutiny. After all, how many of us can say we've never made a tasteless joke or said something others might construe as offensive because we thought it was "safe" to do so? In this digital age, when we're all trying to express ourselves in 140 characters or less, it's far easier for that message to reach an audience we didn't intend it to reach.
This book's strength is that it humanizes the people on the receiving end of Internet justice and makes you ponder whether the scorched earth campaign waged against people like Justine Sacco is justified. At the end of the day, her life has not only been damaged, but destroyed, and it may remain that way forever, thanks to Google taking and storing everything anyone has ever said online. Does that punishment really fit the crime?
You'll feel uncomfortable when you read this book, and you should. I know I did. I squirmed as I thought of the times when I jumped on the outrage bandwagon and then moved on with my life without really stopping to wonder what had become of the people on the other end of the outrage. People should be called out for their bad behavior, but do they deserve to have their lives decimated? Do they deserve for their family and friends to have to worry about being associated with them, for fear that their names might be tainted as well? Do they deserve threats of violence? As Ronson points out, there's a reason why the stocks and pillories were phased out of our system of justice. We ought to be alarmed that they're reappearing because, digital or no, the effects they have are real and lasting.
Posted 12 October 2015 - 10:52 PM
Mnn saw this in the comments looks good
Instruments of Statecraft
Engaging, illuminating and riveting
By Jesse Alexander on May 31, 2000
"Instruments of Statecraft" is a powerful and significant book that unveils how US counterinsurgency doctrine was consciously modelled on the practices and achievements of World War II fascism. In his review of US Army manuals of the 1950s, author Michael McClintock notes that there is a frightening similarity between the Nazi's perception of world politics and America's behavior in the Cold War.
McClintock reveals how the US has undertaken the worldwide task of removing anti-fascist resistance and other criminals (labelled "Communists" or "terrorists") from the theatre of national and international politics.
McClintock points out that in the struggle against "Partisan Communism" the killing of anyone furnishing aid or comfort, directly or indirectly, to such partisans, or any person withholding information on partisans, was well within the provisions of acceptable superpower behavior.
McClintock shows how the policies advocated by Kennedy's dovish advisors, and standard US practice in Central America were founded on the fundamental state terrorist policy of the utility of "evacuation of all natives from partisan-infested areas and the destruction of all farms, villages, and buildings in the areas following the evacuations" - standard US procedure in South Vietnam, for example.Engaging, illuminating and riveting,"Instruments of Statecraft" is a must-read for blind-faith patriots everywhere.
Posted 30 June 2016 - 04:25 PM
I want to read the books referenced in this article
It's a weird article alright
Posted 30 June 2016 - 04:26 PM
Carl Jung was recruited by Allen Dulles, through Mary Bancroft, to provide psychological profiles of Hitler and the German psyche.
Dulles met with him on several occasions; Eisenhower read his report before the final invasion of Germany.
It is quite difficult to track down this information; some of it can be found in the furnished links at the bottom of the post. It was Deidre Barr, in Jung, a Biography, who first reported this information.
In Jung: A Biography,. author Deirde Bair tells us that Jung was “Agent 488″. He secretly worked for the Office of Strategic Services, which was the predecessor to the CIA. His first contact with the OSS was through his patient Mary Bancroft. She worked for Allan Dulles who was the OSS chief in Switzerland and later became the first Director of the CIA. In 1941, during World War II, Jung’s job was to analyze the psychology of leaders. In return Jung became privy to top-secret Allied intelligence.In 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower read Jung’s ideas for persuading the German public to accept defeat. Allan Dulles relied on Jung’s psycholgical advice, including Jung’s prediction that Hitler would kill himself. Later, Dulles said that “nobody will probably ever know how much Professor Jung contributed to the Allied cause during the war… [and that his work needed to remain] highly classified for the indefinite future.”
On one of these trips, Hyde traveled from Lyon to just inside the Swiss border where he was met by car by Mary Bancroft. Mary got out of the car; kissed Henri on both cheeks, and drove off in another car with a man. Hyde drove Mary’s car to the Geneva Airport, picked up Paul Mellon (O.S.S.-MO) who had just flown in from England. Hyde drove Mellon to a beautiful old hotel overlooking Lausanne where Jung was waiting for him upstairs in a hotel room. Mellon’s mission was to hear Jung’s psychoanalysis of Hitler’s mind and the German collective unconscious. Hyde waited for Mellon in the hotel lobby, then drove Mellon back after his meeting with Jung. Paul and Mary Mellon had been patients of Jung’s since 1938. Mellon wanted to see Jung again during the war; family therapy revisited. Paul and Mary, husband-wife patients of Jung, had raved to their brother-in-law OSS Station Chief London, David Bruce, who had married Paul’s sister Aisle, about Jungian psychoanalysis.
Note: The following article is from a relatively unsourced website, so the information should obviously only be considered tentatively. It relays information that I was unable to find anywhere else. it does follow fairly closely with other information about Jung’s recruitment by Allen Dulles
Sunday, October 14, 2007
C.G. Jung and Allen Dulles
A fair translation of
The “Profiler” of Hitler
The Swiss psychoanalyst of the collective unconscious collaborated with the American secret service between 1942 and 1945, protected by future CIA Director Allen Dulles.
His analyses of Hitler and Mussolini for propaganda purposes interested General Eisenhower.
For code 105, Burns [an alias for A. Dulles]. I contacted the famous psychoanalyst, professor C. G Jung. His analyses of the reactions of German leaders, especially of Hitler because of his psychopathic tendencies, should not be underestimated. Jung is persuaded that Hitler will resort until the end with all despaired measurements, but he does “not exclude the possibility of a suicide in one moment from crisis.” Words simple, direct, classified as “secret” and dispatched of Bern in the afternoon of February 3, 1943 to announce a small revolution. Artisanal beginnings of “psychological shaping”, still experimental marriage of espionage and psychoanalysis applied to the highest level. Because the enigmatic “Burns”, the mailer of this telegram (see our exclusive reproduction on page 47) is no other than Allen Dulles, a Master of American espionage entered Switzerland early and was installed in the heart of Bern. As for “105,” the coded recipient of the message, it appears to be colonel David Bruce, one of the heads of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, ancestor of the current CIA.
How one of the most significant spies of the century (Allen Dulles will be propelled to the head of the CIA in the post-war period) and Carl Gustav Jung, the inventor and explorer of the concept of the collective unconscious, compare their reflexions during WW II and enter the psyché of Hitler? It is the history which tell of the recently declassified American documents and of the new Swiss sources found by “Hebdo”. As many files show this collaboration, as all that touches with the psychoanalysis, thrived in quite disconcerting circumstances.
It all begins with the arrival in Bern of Allen Dulles at the end of 1942, a few hours before the complete closing of the borders. Dulles’s mission, as explained in “Underground Germany”, consisted in “making to a report/ratio on the secret movement of anti-Nazies in Germany”. What pushed him to contact Dr. Jung was appreciation of his knowledge of the Germanic heart, shared during a discussion in Harvard in 1936.
Dulles is not satisfied to see Jung collect useful information (as the telegram of February 3, 1943 shows): He also recruits one of Jung’s patients. Was the patient recommended by the psychoanalyst? We are unaware of this. But we know that the American spy “tended to accept the judgement of Dr. Jung of the man” (even an unknown, note) “as long as one had not brought the undeniable proof of the opposite to him” (new letter of March 14, 1950, reproduced below).
The Master spy, who lacks personnel in Switzerland, thus trusts a named beginner, Mary Bancroft, journalist, American and wife of a Swiss citizen, she thentook treatment from professor Jung to rid herself of repetitious sneezes. This 38 years romantic woman is favorably impressed by Dulles, “this 49 year-old pipe smoker with the pink face, a gray tweed and equipped with a pair of piercing blue eyes, with the air of open and merry manners.” She falls under the charm of Dulles and accepts the offer of employment. Here it is the apprentice spy, and soon mistress of her owner.
On the couch
Carl G Jung profits in turn from the confidences of Mary Bancroft and the regular visits of Dulles, as this last in a letter gone back to February 1950 explains it (Allen Dulles Papers, Université of Princeton, Box 39, folder 3): “During my stay in Switzerland, I from time to time had long conversations with Dr. Jung concerning the political news and the characteristics of the disasters leaders of the Nazi Germany and fascistic Italy.”
As many meetings which make it possible to the psychoanalyst to observe the operation of the duet of American spies. Amused, it launches in Mary Bancroft while drawing on its pipe: “Your friend Dulles is hard to cook, I am content that you are his confidante.” Which hastens to encourage Jung to specify its thought: “Of the men like Allen, very ambitious and in stations of being able, need to intend female opinions to give best their judgements and not to exceed the limits.”
The beginner has well sorrow to hold her language. She precipitates at Jung as soon as Dulles entrusts a mission to him which requires greatest discretion, as she explains it in “Autobiography of has spy” (this autobiographical work published in New York in 1983 is unperceived past and is quasi untraceable in Switzerland, note).
Jung learns thus that Allen Dulles required of Mary Bancroft to write a book on the plot missed against Hitler, by tapping a maximum of information to the passage to surviving plotters, Hans Bernd Gisevius, a spy of Abwehr based in Switzerland.
Very quickly informed of the bonds which link Dulles and Bancroft with Jung, Gisevius also requires him to meet the psychoanalyst. It had indeed been impressed by the article of 1936 devoted to “Wotan”, the German god of the war whose Jung announced the alarm clock devastator.
The interview offers a new role to Jung, quickly promoted consulting in interrogations. Having discussed with Gisevius, Jung advises Mary Bancroft on the tone right to adopt with its German interlocutor “to make him spit the piece”: “never ask him a fact! It is of the same psychological type as you: this kind of question would put it out of him and it would be the end of the discussion free, associative, which makes it possible to learn from the things.”
Put at the current of the meetings of the Jung-Bancroft-Gisevius trio, and thus of the indiscretions of sound apprentie, Allen Dulles cille not. But it ends up exploding when Mary evokes its extraordinary capacity to send mental messages to Gisevius, gift which intrigued Jung at the point to require long explanations of him on this subject.
It is that, well before the invention of the gadgets worthy of 007, Mary Bancroft and Gisevius had developed a means of communicating that would not have disavowed Q, the equipment supplier of Jump. Mary Bancroft claims indeed that it was enough for him to think of Gisevius during ten minutes so that this last understands that it was to call it. An anecdote which is not taste of Dulles which launches to its mistress: “I would like that you ceases these enfantillages! I do not make a point of entering the history because I am quoted in a note with the bottom of a page detailing the cases studied by Jung!”
The American spy feared that the posterity does not forget its work of the shade not to retain that will have it dazzling of Jung. It is however the reverse which occurred. The specialists in the psychoanalysis spent these five last decades chamailler to know if one were or not to present Jung like a sympathizer Nazi, suspicion that Dulles qualified into 1950 of “gossip” (rumour) and that Jung charges to “its enemies the American freudiens which hate it” (new letter of September 24, 1945 deposited at the polytechnic School of Zurich).
During this time, the specialists in espionage detailed the exploits of Dulles without discovering the discrete traces of its profitable collaboration with Jung. A lapse of memory which should be soon repaired, as the last sums devoted to Dulles show it which start to briefly announce the presence of Jung among its consultants (to read in particular “Allen Dulles” by James Srodes, 1999, “Gentleman spy” by Peter Grose, 1996 and “From Hitler’s doorstep” of Neal Petersen “, 1998). An injustice that the close relations could have repaired more quickly, if they had dared to evoke their memories publicly: “the members of the family knew that Jung had known Dulles, Ulrich Hörni confirms, who takes care on the files of the psychoanalyst in Switzerland, but they never spoke about it openly. You include/understand, this kind of subject was rather secret.”
Mary Bancroft: Patient and Spy
Questions about Carl Jung: Why Did Carl Jung Cross the Road
A) Carl Jung didn't cross the road. He followed the road, to individuation. Carl Jung didn't need to cross to the other side. He…
Makes me wonder if the Simpsons writers modelled their "Burns" character on Allen Dulles
Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:14 AM
I think I will buy it, it sounds great
I love Falcons anyway
Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:23 AM
Its power derives in part from its simplicity of form. The project is announced in the opening pages: to follow peregrines in one small area of the Essex coast from autumn through to spring. The motivation seems double, both to pursue a fascination with the birds and to get far away from people, "to let the human taint wash away in emptiness and silence". An essay on the peregrine inaugurates the mesmerising process of entering its world ("Like the seafarer, the peregrine lives in a pouring-away world of no attachment, a world of wakes and tilting, of sinking planes of land and water").
Thereafter it takes the form of a diary. He spends day after day out in the landscape, in the changing light, observing, following. His senses sharpen, his noticings grow more acute as he sinks into the animal's world: "I shut my eyes and tried to crystallise my will into the light-drenched prism of the hawk's mind." We learn the creatures' signs, their needs, habits and fears. We understand the subtle intimacy of predator and prey, their interaction in an endless present tense that shimmers with beauty and terror.
It is Baker's extraordinary prose that makes this possible. He can distil the mood of a landscape in a couple of sentences: "The morning was strange and wraith-like, very pure and new... The sun had no grip of warmth." His brilliance with verbs does much to arrest the drama of motion and moment: "a wave of sparrows dashed itself into a hedge"; "Godwits ricocheting across water, tumbling, towering."; "Peregrines sear across the cold sky and are gone."
As with Ted Hughes, whose writing Baker's most resembles, the harsh vitality of the living world is perceptible at every point. Take this astonishing sentence describing crows sitting on the ground: "Jackdaws charred the green slopes to the north with black." His way with similies is equally impressive. A mouse spins an acorn in its hands, "like a potter at his wheel".
Baker's prose reads as laconic, but it is also rich, sensuous and occasionally extravagant. The enormous technical accomplishment of The Peregrine reveals a paradox at the heart of the greatest descriptive writing: as the language becomes more passionately exact, it becomes simultaneously more transparent, falling away instantly as it launches you into the reality it attends. It transports us far from the "human taint", deep into the unfolding actuality of the living world.
Adam Foulds's novel 'The Quickening Maze' is published by Cape
Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:32 AM
Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:34 AM
The story of The Peregrine’s writing is remarkable, and has a mystery at its heart. For around a decade – from 1954 to 1964 – a myopic office worker from Essex tracked the peregrine falcons that hunted over the landscape of his county. He pursued them on bicycle and on foot, watching through binoculars as they bathed, flew, stooped and roosted. He carried Ordnance Survey maps on which he marked in ballpoint pen the locations of his sightings, with circled capital letters – P, SH, HH, BO – recording raptors by species (M is for Merlin, K is for Kestrel). He learned to predict the peregrines’ locations by means of an intelligence that began as logic and ended as instinct, and in a relationship that began as fascination and ended as obsession.
Even the savage winter of 1962–63 – when the sea froze for two miles out from the shore, and spear-length icicles hung from eaves and trees – didn’t deter Baker from his quest. After a day in the field, he would retreat to the spare room of his Chelmsford terrace house, and write up the details in journals that together run to more than 1,600 manuscript pages.
In the mid-1960s, he compressed those journals into a book fewer than 60,000 words long, and written in ecstatic, violent, enraptored prose. The journals were coal to The Peregrine’s diamond: crushed, they became the book. He collapsed 10 years into a single “season of hawk-hunting”, and “stripped” the narrative “down to the livid bone”, to borrow a phrase from one of his early poems. Instead of plot, he deployed pattern. The same actions recur across the book’s course: man pursues falcon, falcon pursues prey.
Baker's Essex is landscape on acid: super-saturations of colour, wheeling phantasmagoria, nature as hypernature
Repetitious in structure, the prose is nevertheless huge in drama – and much of this arises from the extraordinary energy Baker invests in his language. His style possesses what Charles Olson – laying out his theory of “open field poetics” in 1950 – called “percussive” and “projectile” powers. Grammatically, his prose is dense in metaphors, similes, verbs and adverbs; accentually, it is thick with stressed syllables. This combination of axe-knock emphasis and high-impact syntax results in sentences that are stunning to read.
The mystery: at some point during the writing of The Peregrine, Baker went back to his journals and destroyed nearly all the passages in which he had recorded his field-sightings of the falcons. He left no account of why he had done so, and no version of the originals. By means of this redaction, he ensured that the most astonishing sequences of the published book flew free from any tether, and could not, as it were, be read back against the real.
Birdwatchers speak of the “jizz” of a bird to mean the sum of characteristics – shape, plumage, posture, call, habitat – that allow its instant identification from a general impression. A bird’s jizz is its gist and vibe: the aggregation of its particulars into a compound signature of life. Baker’s style has its own jizz. I think I could encounter a sentence of his prose anywhere and identify it immediately as his.
Adjectives and nouns wrenched into verbs; surreal similes; flaring adverbs: these are among the specifics that make up his unique gestalt. “Five thousand dunlin … rained away inland, like a horde of beetles gleamed with golden chitin.” “The north wind brittled icily in the pleached lattice of the hedges.” A yellow-billed cock blackbird is “like a small mad puritan with a banana in his mouth”. A woodpigeon dead on a winter field “glow[s] purple and grey like broccoli”.
A ghost of a narrator … Baker as a young man on the Essex coast. Photograph: Special Collections, Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, and the Estate of JA Baker
I’ve never taken LSD: thanks to Baker, I don’t need to. His Essex is landscape on acid: super-saturations of colour, wheeling phantasmagoria, dimensions blown out and falling away, nature as hypernature. Baker has inspired many imitators over the years, aiming to riff and rip to a comparable intensity of description. I’ve been one of them. But our style always feels brittle and synthetic in comparison with the original – mere Bakerlite.
Early in The Peregrine, he describes a dunlin being caught by a falcon that approaches it from behind at greater speed. “The dunlin,” he writes, “seemed to come slowly back to the hawk. It passed into his dark outline and did not reappear.” The image is space operatic: a small craft trapped in a larger craft’s tractor beam, and drawn relentlessly in. Baker’s book possesses a comparable traction. It locks on to its readers, and they pass involuntarily into it. By no means does everyone like it. I’ve heard it described as fascistic for its fetishisation of northerliness and predation. I know people who turn away from its misanthropy, which I think of as species shame. But no one doubts the book’s bleak bite.
Unlike much that passes for the culture of nature, The Peregrine cannot be passively consumed. It sticks in the craw, it rakes the mind. The reprimand it offers – with its rituals of killing, and the spitting self-hatred of its narrator – to sentimental representations of a capitalised “Nature” is surely one reason for its contemporary grip. Under the sign of the Anthropocene, messy entanglement has replaced cool spectatorial distance. In an age of mass extinction it has become hard to tolerate notions of nature as an external or salvific “other”, except as forms of cute or kitsch.
Baker’s sanguineous nature is very far from cute. It exists at the frayed edges of things, in a scruffy landscape of medieval woods and suburban sprawl, salt marshes and sea walls. Human experience is drastically decentred in favour of what the philosopher John Gray (another of the book’s admirers) calls the “godless mysticism” of creaturely life. The Peregrine is not “green” literature. It suggests no basis for the establishment of an environmental ethics born of commonality. “We are the killers. We stink of death,” writes Baker in the most self-lacerating passage. “We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away.” Yet its furious vision has given it an oddly hopeful power over many of its readers.
Over the years I have been told many stories of the effects of The Peregrine on individuals. A former student cited it as the main influence in her decision to move to direct action as a means of environmental protest. A man wrote to say that he had grown up in working-class Walsall and at the age of nine had read The Peregrine. “A whole new world opened up to me among the post-industrial gloom of the 1980s,” he said, “and directly as a result of the book I came to see the kingfishers that lived on the canal banks, and from there arose a lifelong fascination with the more-than-human world.” He went on to become a professional conservationist, bringing everyday nature into the lives of young people.
Several years ago, I came to know a young musician living in a south London squat, and performing as frontman for a hardcore punk band. He was a talented, troubled person for whom “nature” as usually understood was irrelevant. But the dark fury of The Peregrine spoke to him. He read it repeatedly, and lent his copy out often (though always claimed it back). He and I collaborated on a project one summer; there were plans to work together again. Then he died of a heroin overdose aged 23. He was buried in a winter field in Cornwall, with the cars of his friends pulled up near the grave, their stereos blasting out his music in tribute – and placed in the coffin with him was his copy of The Peregrine.
No other book – save perhaps Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, which stands as The Peregrine’s golden twin, offering light to its darkness, relation to its depletion – has been so influential on the recent British literature of landscape. Roger Deakin, Tim Dee, Kathleen Jamie, Richard Mabey, Helen Macdonald, James Rebanks and I are among the many to have acknowledged its force. The Peregrine is increasing its territorial range, too. It was published last year in Germany, and editions are forthcoming in Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and Hebrew.
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A page from Baker’s bird-watching journal, March 1956. Photograph: Special Collections, Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, and the Estate of JA Baker
The book’s impact is not confined to literature. An opera company is presently considering an adaptation. A one-man theatrical interpretation is in development. A decade ago, the Australian composer Lawrence English picked up a copy from a friend’s desk and opened it at random. He read a description of an owl silently hunting, and was gripped by the intensity of “listening” in the prose. “The book changed my life,” recalled English in 2015. To him it marked a “turning point in the 20th century” in its “recognition of the role humans play in shaping their environment”. In response English produced an album that surprised me when I first heard it for its sonic scarcity. Responding to The Peregrine’s preoccupation with absence, English used frost-bitten drones and high strings to compose a burnt-out, irradiated soundtrack: a half-life soundscape of white ash.
He sent a copy of The Peregrine to the film director Werner Herzog; Herzog read it and was astonished. He has since spoken often of the book, and it is now one of only three required texts for his Rogue Film School – along with Virgil’s Georgics and Hemingway’s story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. Herzog describes The Peregrine as inducing “ecstasy” in the radical sense of the word: not just entranced or frenzied, but literally beside oneself. There are moments, he notes, “where you can tell that [Baker] has completely entered into the existence of a falcon. And this is what I do when I make a film: I step outside of myself into an ekstasis; in Greek, to step outside of your own body.”
The attraction of The Peregrine to a film-maker is obvious: the pristinated vision, the sudden rapid pull shots (a stooping lens), the immense field of vision, the swivelling eye. The attraction to Herzog is clear, too, compelled as he has been in so many films by obsession, extremity and wildness (Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man, The Ends of the Earth). The puzzle to me, for years, was why Herzog had not yet filmed The Peregrine. In 2015, I wrote to ask if he was planning to do so. “If anyone can, it should be you,” I said. I sent him a photograph of my local peregrine perched on a church spire, part-gargoyle. Herzog replied within a few hours, generous about my own writing on Baker, but adamant about the book’s adaptability: “A feature film would be very wrong. There are texts that should never be touched. Georg Büchner’s Lenz is one of these cases. In fact, whoever tries to make a feature film of The Peregrine should be shot without trial.” Oh! Right. Message received and understood.
Thirteen years ago I described The Peregrine as “not a book about watching a bird, [but] a book about becoming a bird”. Baker himself often suggests a comparable process of conversion, writing of how – by means of primitive rituals of following and mimicking – “the hunter becom[es] the thing he hunts”. Now, though, I no longer believe The Peregrine is a book about “becoming a bird”. Truer to say that it is a book about “failing to become a bird”.
Unmistakably Baker longs for the deterritorialised experience of the falcons, wishing as they do to live in a “pouring-away world of no attachment”. And there are many moments of extreme interspecies identification, as when he finds himself “crouching over [a] kill, like a mantling hawk”. But these ecstatic moments are always followed by Baker’s wounding awareness of his anchorage in a crabbed human body. Again and again, subject-object distance is almost closed – only to yawn wide once more. Baker craves to “think like a falcon” (to adapt the title of Thomas Nagel’s famous 1974 thought experiment) but also knows he cannot slip his form or quit his species.
Baker is, as English nicely puts it, a “ghost of a narrator”. He tells us almost nothing about himself. He scarcely eats or drinks, doesn’t sleep, never defecates, has no life beyond the fields and the sky, barely describes his clothing or his body. In mystical terms, he is an ascetic depleting himself in advance of disembodiment. In shamanic terms, he is a body preparing for sky burial. In terms of virtual reality, he is readying himself for upload into the cloud, and transformation into pure avatar. But however imagined, this activity of self-depletion can never quite be completed. Baker seeks a conversion from human to falcon, but the book’s desolation arises from the futility of his hope for this magical metamorphosis.
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Illustration: Alex Hedworth
On 1 July 1940, when Baker was 15 years old, the secretary of state for air in Britain issued the “Destruction of Peregrine Falcons Order”. Adult and juvenile birds were to be shot, eyasses killed in the nests, eggs smashed and eyries disrupted. The order was made under wartime emergency defence regulations: peregrines were deemed too great a threat to the carrier pigeons that RAF bomber crews routinely took with them on flights. If a plane ditched at sea and a location could not be radioed through, the pigeons would be released with a leg tag to report their position. Falcons were dispensable, airmen were not – and so the falcons died. During the six years that the destruction order was in force, around 600 peregrines were shot, and unnumbered eyasses and eggs were destroyed. In certain counties – especially in southern England – peregrines were almost exterminated. By the time the order was lifted in 1946, the number of nesting pairs in England had been reduced to around half of its prewar level.
The recovery of the English peregrine population from its wartime decline was incomplete when the next major human threat emerged. In 1956 – two years after Baker took up birdwatching – the first symptoms of the crisis became visible, as increasing numbers of peregrine pairs failed to hatch chicks. The toxins of organochlorine pesticides used in agriculture, most notably DDT, were concentrating as they moved up the food chain. Raptors suffered increased adult mortality, and a thinning of eggshells to the point of non-viability.
Unlike much that passes for the culture&#160;of nature, The Peregrine cannot&#160;be passively consumed. It sticks&#160;in the craw
The result was, in the words of raptor-specialist Derek Ratcliffe, “a spectacular crash of population with a speed and on a scale seldom found in the vertebrate kingdom”. By 1963, only three territories were reported as occupied by peregrines in southern England, and Scottish and Welsh populations were also in freefall. “Few winter in England now, fewer nest here,” writes Baker early in his book. “The ancient eyries are dying.” He was well aware of the connection between pesticide use and peregrine death: hence his hissing fury in the book at what he calls the “filthy, insidious pollen of farm chemicals”. “If further decline had continued unchecked,” noted Ratcliffe later, “extinction of the peregrine in Britain could have occurred around 1967” – the year The Peregrine was published.
As the falcons were dying, so the Essex landscape was also undergoing its most drastic transformation since enclosure. Urban growth caused green belts to bulge and break, and the postwar drive for big-field farming and agricultural self-sustainability resulted in the destruction of thousands of miles of hedgerows. We know from Baker’s letters and poems that his affection for the Essex countryside, especially inland Essex between Great Baddow and West Hanningfield, was profound – and his pain at its disruption correspondingly acute.
An even greater threat hangs over The Peregrine, though, than the extinction of a single species in a single country or the devastation of a loved landscape. In the famous prologue of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, an imaginary American town is poisoned by a “white … powder” that drops from the air “like snow upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and the streams”. This is the powder of agrichemicals – but of course it is also the dust of radioactive fallout.
It is hard to read Silent Spring outside its cold war context, and I also take Baker’s book to be nuclear as much as it is pesticidal. Baker was researching his book through the first decade of atomic and hydrogen bomb testing, and began writing it shortly after the Cuban missile crisis. In 1957 construction work started on the massive nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea, right in the heart of Baker’s hunting territory. Generation was commenced in 1962. His prose is riven with nuclear anxieties: this is a book in which death falls from the air, and in which the landscape is figured frequently as “burning” and “dying” on a planetary scale.
Flying high: why peregrine falcons are kings of the urban jungle
Fifteen years ago, relatively little was known about Baker. This was partly due to the writer’s strategic development of his own mystery. In the winter of 1967, he was given an Arts Council award of £1,200. The Daily Telegraph reported on the award: “The most unusual of the [recipients] is John Baker, who lives in a council house in Essex and does not want to say which town in case the neighbours discover what he does. He has no telephone and never leaves his home.”
As the cult of Baker has spread and strengthened, much more has been discovered in terms of biography. Thanks to the efforts of David Cobham, James Canton, Mark Cocker and especially John Fanshawe – who painstakingly gathered and secured Baker’s archive, including journals, letters, book drafts and a list of the titles in his library – our picture has now filled out. This autumn, Little Toller books will publish the first biography – the beautifully titled My House of Sky by Hetty Saunders.
The two details that perhaps bear most forcefully on The Peregrine are Baker’s extreme short-sightedness, and the agonising inflammatory arthritis that afflicted him for most of his life. By the 1960s his illness was so severe that it was first stiffening and then fusing the joints in his spine, fingers and legs. Suffering as he did from curtailed vision and a stiffened body, the peregrine stood as both his dream totem and his prosthesis – perfected in precisely the ways that Baker was lessened. A peregrine’s eyeballs magnify vision by around 30% in comparison to human sight, allowing it to spy prey from sky high, and then fall on it at up to 270mph, the fastest speed of any creature on earth.
What Baker could not see unaided, he saw with the aid of technology: his Miranda 10 x 50 binoculars and his featherweight JH Steward spotter scope, which he carried with him in the field. “Binoculars and a hawk-like vigilance,” he wrote, “reduce the disadvantage of myopic human vision.” The Peregrine is therefore a product of what Tim Dee has nicely called “the magnified century”. Faces, in The Peregrine, usually have something held up to them: some object or prosthesis interposing between eye and world. Imagery recurs of visors, masks, helmets and lenses.
I have come to think of Baker’s style, in fact, as a kind of augmented-reality visor – an Oculus Rift of text that enables otherwise impossible precisions of seeing and movement. This is one reason why reading Baker is such hard, unsteadying work. He causes us to lose our usual footings in the world. Landscape becomes surface, unfolding around us as we go. The brain is strained by the dynamic dissonances of his prose, and the eyes by its uncanny geometries. Focal range ramps and flattens unpredictably. Horizons lure and retreat. One ends a reading of Baker – lifts the visor – exhausted and exhilarated.
Peregrines didn’t become extinct in England. Science saved them – and so did literature. In part because of the research of Ratcliffe and others into the link between pesticide use and eggshell thinning in British raptor populations, and in part because of the global impact of Silent Spring, the use of DDT and other organochlorines was restricted. The impact on raptors was massive. Writing in 1991, Ratcliffe noted:
The present state of the British peregrine population represents a most heartening turnaround in fortunes from the dark days and gloomy predictions of the early 1960s …It is not often that we are able to celebrate a conservation success, but this one is better than probably any of us had dared to hope.
Twenty-five years on from Ratcliffe’s relief, however, and 50 years on from Baker’s book, the “conservation success” story of the peregrine in Britain looks both less and more secure.
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Photograph: Mark Bridger/Getty Images
Less secure, because raptor persecution in the UK is presently at atrocious levels, in large part as a result of the game-shooting industry. Numerous birds of prey – peregrines among them – are illegally killed each year on and near shooting estates. Most upland populations of peregrines are presently in decline. The Forest of Bowland population has fallen from 18 pairs to zero in eight years.
More secure, because peregrines have now moved into our cities and on to our infrastructure in increasing numbers. Before the 1980s there were few records of peregrine falcons nesting on humanmade structures in Britain, with Chichester Cathedral the oldest known nest site. In 1991, eight pairs nested on humanmade structures; in 2002, 62 pairs. In 2014 there were nesting peregrines on an estimated 180 artificial structures, including churches, radio masts – and the cooling towers of the nuclear power station at Bradwell. Increases have happened in cities worldwide. New York alone now has more than 16 nesting pairs, on bridge girders and apartment block window ledges. Brick, steel and glass, it turns out, provide prime peregrine real estate.
Yes, the peregrine has proved to be an excellent urban adaptor, or what in German is known as a Kulturfolger – a “culture-follower”. The conditions in cities are advantageous for falcon life. High buildings give good vantage points for hunting, and secure locations for nesting. Cities tend to be warmer than open country, and more protected from the elements, thus reducing the likelihood of death by cold among fledglings and adults. Most importantly, cities offer an abundance of prey, chiefly in the form of pigeons (another massively successful Kulturfolger). Falcons even seem to be evolving new hunting and killing techniques among the skyscraper canyons of high-rise cities. The result of these accumulated benefits is that peregrines can breed earlier, more often, and more successfully in cities.
Peregrines have come to my city, Cambridge. For years a pair nested in a steep-sided chalk pit at Fulbourn – the closest thing to a sea cliff you can get in the Fens. Then, in 2013, a new pair came to the Cambridge University Library, a modernist masterpiece of brown brick. They nested on a sixth-floor ledge: blood-spotted pigeon feathers would spiral down to settle at the feet of incoming library users. After two years there, the pair moved to a 19th-century Gothic revival building in the heart of Cambridge, nesting 20ft or so above pavement level. Somehow they fledged a single chick there, amid the ruckus of the street.
The falcons are there still, and have become part of the life of the city in wonderful ways. Each weekday morning for eight months of the year, I pass under the church spires that the falcons like to use as plucking posts. Most mornings I glimpse one of them up there, perched on a curlicue of stone: flint-blue back, barred chest and the bath-duck yellow of eye-ring and feet. The pavement below the plucking post gets spattered with the body parts and feathers of their prey species: mostly city pigeons, but also starlings, woodcock and golden plover.
Once, walking past the church, I was stopped in my tracks by the body of a white dove. It lay bright on its back across a kerbstone, wings outstretched, headless and with its chest opened up and its red guts eviscerated. I looked up and there was the male falcon – the haruspex – on the spire, backlit by winter sun. I squinted at this impossible creature, felt both its closeness and its drastic distance. How did Baker put it? “The hardest thing of all to see is what is really there.”
• The 50th-anniversary edition of The Peregrine by JA Baker is published by William Collins at £12.99. To order a copy for £11.04, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.
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