Tuesday, 12 February 2008

January Vice Literary Reviews

Here is some stuff I wrote about some books in January for Vice.

Hamburger Eyes: Inside Burgerworld
Publisher: PowerHouse Books

If you are not aware of Hamburger Eyes by this point in life it’s time to put this magazine down, wipe your ass, pull your trousers up, skip the flies and hand wash bit and get online. Once you’ve pre-ordered this bite size compendium and you are preparing yourself to force it all it down at once like a big Scooby Snack and forever imprint these black and white snapshots of everyday beauty into your synapses forever you may as well take a look at burgerworldchronicles.com and find out exactly what you’ve been missing out on all this time. The enlightened and converted will scoffingly tell you that you’ve only been oblivious to seven years of possibly the greatest tri-annual, 100 page, 3000 print run photo zine of all time. So really it is pretty handy that they have put all the best bits in one place. And even if you are one of the scoffing, supercilious assholes who knew about it all along and lauded it over everyone else then you still kind of have to get it because it has previously unseen work by Ray and David Potes, Boogie, Ryan Furtado and all those other guys who are much better than you at turning the ordinary into the extraordinary just by actually looking around themselves every day and pressing a button.


Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing and the Erosion Of Integrity
Anne Elizabeth Moore
Publisher: The New Press

Ohkay, ohkay, ohkay. So Punk Planet always was like a tarted up, overly democratic version of MRR and making up terminology to justify your fairly unprecedented conceptual views of the direction of the media industry might be erring a teensy weensy bit into Michael Mooreville and yep the whole thing can come off at times as if it’s preaching a sermon from the same self righteous mount as the fat, beardy, glasses guy himself. HOWEVER, the problem is that the ever youthful and quick to see red in the face of aesthetic butt-fuckery Anne Elizabeth Moore (no relation btw) really has a point in this concise treatise on the infiltration of the independent media by the goliaths of corporate compromise. Maybe I’m just a push over but it seems hard to disagree with her common sense arguments and you don’t have to look far to see that she may be very right after all… Either way its far more believable than the ‘octopus theory’ that our buddy Kev was trying to convince us found TEN faults in 9/11. Octopus? Ten? Huh?!


Arnold Newman
Publisher: Taschen

Norman Mailer, Igor Stravinsky, JFK, George Harrison, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso… It’s an impressive enough call sheet before you even bring to the board the fact that this gnomey, little fella with one of those hyper-wise Jew-faces that can only ever adorn those born in New York in the first half of the last century actually created the much copied technique of ‘environmental composition’. This means that Newman is best remembered for artfully positioning painters amongst easels, sculptors amongst statues and Stockhausen amidst tones of machines that pretty much make him look like he’s hiding inside a space ship. However, Newman’s most affecting works are perhaps his black and white stills of the American rural working classes. Our photo editor spent about an hour yesterday staring at ‘Walls and Ladders: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1939’ shaking his head and mumbling incomprehensibly about “the Germanicness of his spatial awareness”. Or something. Have a look for yourself. It’s pretty great.


I Am Blind And My Dog Is Dead
Sam Gross
Publisher: Overlook Press

Sam Gross wasn’t really like other cartoonists of his generation. Gross was neither his real family name nor a name of choice but a name forced on the Putkovic’s as they entered Ellis Island on their way into New York escaping the Urals. Gross’s disturbing, embittered, one frame sketches would gain him a name amongst his New Yorker contemporaries that would eventually propel him to editorship of National Lampoon Magazine and bizarrely a staff job on Sesame Street. I guess the latter role explains a lot of the borderline insanity involved in a kids show featuring a giant talking bird, a monster whose sole sustenance was cookies, a numerically obsessed vampire and a gay monobrowed couple. Here, for the first time in 30 years, is a hardbound collection of the work that must of caught Jim Henson’s eye including widows committing suicide with their cats, witches giving birth to ginger bread men and almost Shrigley-esque line drawings underscored with bleak “This Is The End Of The Line” maxims. Creepy guy.


Torpedo Volume One
Publisher: Falcon Vs Monkey

Woah. A new quarterly compendium of short fiction and illustrated narrative storytelling is a pretty brave endeavor. A new quarterly compendium of short fiction and illustrated narrative storytelling coming out of Australia just seems a bit much. Don’t those guys just sheer sheep and moan about dingoes eating their babies all day before running people over after rolling out of the drive through ‘bottle shop’ with six crates of Thooeys New (NO ONE actually drinks Fosters in Australia, like all other sane people they recognize that stuff for the goats piss it is)? Turns out: nope. Instead they produce sleek, handsome volumes of new work by great writers like Jim Shepard, some stuff by writers you will have never heard of like Ronnie Scott and some amazing illustration work particularly by some guy called Tim Malloy. All of this for $20 AUS, which is about a five pounds last time I checked and you will get far more from Torpedo than you will spending a fiver on that boneless box that Colonel Sanders keeps tempting you with on TV every day. Trust me. The box just cost me two days locked in a toilet razoring out my innards. Never again.


Vanessa Del Rio: Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior
Publisher: Taschen

Despite every effort to dress this terrifying woman’s indiscretions up as personal expression and an attempt to liberate the female self from the prevailing cultural constraints of the period this lavishly presented lunk of dead tree never fails to come across as anything other than as sordid as a five quid wank in a peep show booth. Which is probably exactly the kind of thing the lady herself would have reveled in. I mean come on, how are you going to follow through on the introductions premise that Del Rio is some kind of role model for repressed minorities when on every other page she’s being repressed orally, anally and vaginally by massive white cocks. And when she isn’t being slapped around the face by hairy 70’s porn star shlong she’s being hailed as “the person I most dreamed of having sex with” by a guy who named himself after a cartoon, (allegedly) killed a man, rapped about killing other men and directed his own awful attempts at pornography before relapsing into making huge amounts of money simply by being unable to say words like anyone else. All of this said, if you shell out £300 you do get a copy sealed with a kiss from Vanessa herself, which really is kind of cool. I bet Snoop has ten copies on pre-order.


James Knight

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