#18, SUMMER 2005



READS by Dolman


POETRY, OKAY? Of course the great masses will always be wary of, if not outright dissing on, poetry. And indeed, most folks claiming the title of "poet" are highly suspect. But the truth remains that the poet is one of the deepest artists of our time, and he doesn't require any electricity or other corporate energy whatsoever to practice and perform his craft. So you tough guys with your amplifiers, laptops, circuitry, and power strips might want to heed the words of no less a tough guy than Emmett Grogan, from his book Ringolevio, writing (about himself in the third person) of his first time in prison: "He became friendly with a lot of guys on the tier, and they lent him books, and taught him a lot of things he had never known, but always wanted to learn. The books were generally anthologies of poetry, which are highly prized by long-termers because you can read them over and over without getting bored; the abstract phrasing of the words stimulates your imagination, and gives your mind opportunity to think for itself." I think that says it all, and with that I bring you reviews of a veritable barrage of poetry books......

FEBRUARY 03 by Todd Colby, Alex Gildzen, Thurston Moore, Matthew Wascovich (SLOW TOE PUBLICATIONS)
One small-press chapbook-type imprint that I've been watching lately is Slow Toe out of Cleveland, Ohio. I like them because they're part aesthetes, part rockers, with the latter side winning. This book, February 03, is a great place to grab at the Slow Toe aesthetic, mixing the work of rocker/writer Thurston Moore, writer/rocker/Slow Toe proprieter Matthew Wascovich, old-school Cleveland lifer Alex Gildzen, and relatively 'traditional' poet Todd Colby. Plus, the premise of the book is some on-the-fly jamming: each participant wrote a poem a day throughout the month of February 2003, expressly for inclusion in this book, which publishes all 112 poems (28 days x 4). Some of these are the briefest of toss-offs while others are intense swaths of real beauty and meaning, but even at its most casual and nonsenscial (I'm looking at you Mr. Moore, although Colby also turns in several ultra-brief whatsises), the book moves and rocks and makes things happen.
       I think the MVP (most valuable poet!) of the book is Alex Gildzen. I'd never heard of him before, but he was first published in 1969 and lends some middle-aged streetwise serenity to the affair, with nice rhythmic post-William Carlos Williams imagery, heavily autobiographical, with an age and grace that reminds me of Ira Cohen, actually, but Gildzen's verse is more abbreviated, in that WCW "Red Wheelbarrow" kind of way. Let's see, I'll find a couple . . . okay, p. 32, from 6 Feb 03, "dice on her bosom/cherries in her hair/Nina Mae McKinney/a bowl of sass," or the entirety of 17 Feb 03, "without sun/the watermelon mountains/look rancid/a pile of rinds," or another one, "Melina begins our day/by walking back & forth/across my body" which I thought was real sexy, but actually just now rereading the poem I realize Melina is his cat. (I guess it would be kind of implausible if his girlfriend stood up and walked on him every morning. Sexy, though.)
        As for the other guys, all are distinctive and vital to the whole. Wascovich is real solid, building punk abstractions out of short lines that are like quick and lean boxing jabs, "your stance / a clumsy study / tonal tunnels / dig into brain hole / into the sex progress / a quiet avenue / lost love term," or "real estate / legal pad / stop sign / soldier boot fry / by the veteran's administration," or "kick box fukkin dna / along the cracked streets / of upper haight / water drains into recessed lights / the hotel is quiet / in the lobby / foreigners thank each other / route 80 does not sleep / under weather advisory." Meanwhile, Todd Colby and Thurston Moore sort of duke it out for the title of court jester and/or class clown, although with completely different approaches -- Colby comes off like the quiet and clean-cut guy with the dry humor who takes his jokes seriously (two of his poems in their entirety: "(A Dingy Plum In The Sullen Cashier's Hand)/I want you to watch yourself take off my clothes" and "(A Cup Of Cocoa With 2 Sad People)/It didn't happen."), while Moore is the shaggy rockin' wildman who treats his serious bits as jokes ("the stooges calendar offsets the vintage wood as does the fur teacup lp cover framed in queero album frame as does the warhol spoo and the daniel moore omnibus of warrior quotes. shitting here is a virtual picnic."). As with all good poetry, there's a lot to read in between the lines and a lot to think about in the blank spaces. America's turn towards overt (instead of covert) war-fueled totalitarian capitalism is of course a constant presence, as February 2003 was real close to a certain unilateral invasion of a certain not especially threatening Middle Eastern country, but really, most of the goods here are much smaller and close to home than that, so get a copy and see how they shake out according to your own perspective . . . .

These next two Slow Toe missives are presented in classic 8.5x11 mimeo style, top-stapled (see the three staples in the cover image to the left?), as opposed to the perfect-bound February 03. Hard to get past the cover on this one (drawing by Dylan Nyoukis -- yes, that is a penis AND a hook for a hand), but on the inside is a five-poem solo joint by Wascovich. Takes about 60 seconds to read, so you've got plenty of time to go back and read it several more times to see what you missed. Cuz isn't that what poetry is all about? The changing same? The noticing upon second or even fifth read that, in the line "and i'll peak thru the bookshelves at you like a god damn dork," the spelling of the word "peek" as "peak" is probably intentional, because what a writer does is indeed "peak thru bookshelves," rising above the huge glut of words-on-paper out there in order to communicate directly with YOU? And then there's other insights you might not think about until the second time, like "i'll tell you what's great is the paris poems of cesar vallejo / there's so much to keep us occupied / if it isn't survival it's notes from an amplifier" . . . .

As previously suggested, Slow Toe writers are often better known as musicians. For example, Thurston Moore. For another example, Elisa Ambrogio is the pepperpot singer/guitarist for the upstart splatter trance trio Magik Markers, who've been travelling the globe playing festivals and touring with a lot of big names. But don't think she doesn't deserve to be a "writer" or anything, because she's a pretty powerful poet in ways that have very little to do with rock'n'roll mobility. Her first piece in here is called "Thomas Cranmer," and I hope that's not his real name because this is a pretty tough love-gone-sour poem. Funny, too, though probably not for Mr. Cranmer: "What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon? / And the day after that? / I'm not going to play canasta with you / I'm not going to like Carla Bozulich with you / Red Headed Stranger was just fine without her / And the day after that? / I'm not going to / smoke weed from a crushed wild cherry pepsi can with you / work fuck and own a dog with you / You will do your laundry / sweep your floors / and make a tape loop. / And the day after that? / A stranger in a bedroom for four years / I am so slow at everything." Yee-owch. There's also a heavy sex poem, and a great little recount of a passing television epiphany starring Marianne Faithful. Five poems in all, by each writer, for a total of ten. Next to Ambrogio, Wascovich's punchy style is more allusive and abstract -- there seems to be some sexual allusion going on, but the theme I'm mostly getting, in a rather subtle way, is one about nationalism and politics, via lines like "modern men don't follow key heroes / standing behind fence in a fear trance / senseless / morning tube rush / anticipated unanticipated situations / cheap academy take me home" and little flashes like "america / hideous protection / precarious delicate."

WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU HERE? (for the Magik Markers), by Byron Coley - Thurston Moore - Matthew Wascovich (SLOW TOE PUBLICATIONS)
And speaking of the Magik Markers, here's a little book written just for them. This is actually intended as an insert into the Magik Markers album I Trust My Guitar etc. -- 1,300 copies were made, a thousand for the LP run, the remaining 300 released as stand-alone literature. I gotta say, it's a tiny little thing (just one poem by each writer, a total of, yep, three), and feels a lot more like an LP insert than anything that could be called a "book." Then again, this "book" is in fact part of a time-honored tradition called a folio, which is "A large sheet of paper folded once in the middle, making two leaves or four pages of a book or manuscript." Hey, it could've been another even shorter time-honored poetry vehicle known as a broadside, which is just a single page printed on only one side, and you woulda really been crying "ripoff," but shit, maybe this is how poems are supposed to be presented, just one to four at a time, because poems are like concentrated words, and unlike concentrated orange juice, they actually get less tasty if you water 'em down. Maybe poems aren't supposed to be stacked in books to the ceiling, they're supposed to be taken singly as laser-beams to your brain and heart. So how are these three particular lasers? Coley's is a short-and-sweet declaration of situation and intent ("but now the hurricane / will not be buckled / so throw up yr arms / and ride the fucking currents"), Moore's is more of a quick impressionistic zine-y show/band review than it is a poem, and not unrefreshing as such ("elisa plucking low string on upside down guitar surrounded by whistling feedback" . . . "really really the real deal, -- cdrs w/ no info wrapped in cardboard and duct taped --"), and Wascovich does his punchy thing, here with a fractured summary of the Markers' attitude and energy ("the bring it women plus man fury / an alley outside door silver tinsel curling / real pussy says fuck the east coast / touch us you freaks").

THE BUDDHIST THIRD CLASS JUNK MAIL ORACLE, the Art and Poetry of D.A. Levy, edited by Mike Golden (SEVEN STORIES PRESS)
Slow Toe is from Cleveland, which was also the home of D.A. Levy, who is one of the greatest of all American poets. I do not say this lightly, either -- I really believe it to be true. Certainly in the "post-War" category, he's a true god. You might've heard of this guy, like I first did, via Thurston Moore, who mentioned him in a Sonic Youth song ("Small Flowers Crack Concrete" from the year 2000's NYC Ghosts & Flowers) and then mentioned him again in his Arthur Magazine Bull Tongue column. After that, I read and dug a very small amount of Levy stuff (about 1/800th of this super-heavy online site), but I didn't truly fall in love until one day when I happened across a Levy excerpt in a great anthology called The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (1999, Thunder's Mouth Press). This happened very soon after the 2004 U.S. Presidential Appointment, and it so effectively cleared my head of all the pop-political bullshit it had been muddled in, I just have to share the whole excerpt with you:

From Tombstone as a Lonely Charm (Part 3)
by d.a. levy

if you want a revolution
return to your childhood
and kick out the bottom

don't mistake changing
headlines for changes

if you want freedom
don't mistake circles
for revolutions

think in terms of living
and know
you are dying
& wonder why

if you want a revolution
learn to grow in spirals
always being able to return
to your childhood
and kick out the bottom

This is what ive been
trying to say--if you
attack the structure--
the system--the establishment
you attack yourself
& attack if you must
challenge yourself externally

but if you want a revolution
return to your childhood
& kick out the bottom

be able to change
yr own internal chemistry

walk down the street
& flash lights in yr head
at children

this is not a game
your childhood
is the foundation
of the system

walk down the street
flash lights in yr head
at children but be wary
of anyone old enough to kill

learn how to disappear

before they can find you

(that is, if you want to
stay alive)

if you want a revolution
do it "together"
but dont get trapped in
words or systems

people are people
no matter what politics
color or words they use
& they all have children
buried in their head

if you want a revolution
grow a new mind
& do it quietly
if you can

return to your childhood
and kick out the bottom
then become a being
not dependent on words
for seeing

whenever you get bored
change headlines
colors politics words
change women

but if you really want
a revolution
learn how to change
your internal chemistry
then go beyond that

walk down the streets
& flash light at

You can get this lovely pearl of true contemporary wisdom and TONS of other stuff in a fine collection called The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle, which was also the name of a magazine Levy self-published (the last issue came out in 1968). There is a LOT of poetry reprinted here -- "Introduction to the Cement Fuck," all 28 pages of "The North American Book of the Dead," excerpts from "Cleveland: The Rectal Eye Visions," "BLIND MYTH doing a death dance on GROUND ZERO," and definitely much more -- also several of his original covers and pages from the magazine, as well as a clutch of his wild collage art and concrete poems. There's also a long investigation by editor Mike Golden into his rather turbulent police-hounded life, and the mysterious circumstances of his apparent suicide at age 26, and the whole thing adds up to a very bittersweet song about the mostly successful statist suppression of the 1960s American Revolution.

So while Slow Toe and Levy were getting me back into a poetry state of mind, I stopped by a blowout winter sale at Chicago's landmark Quimby's bookstore, where tons of old random zines, comix, and books were on offer for little more than a dollar apiece. Five to ten years ago I probably woulda spent at least $50 at this thing, flinging a dollar or two at any comic with autobiography (however cheesy) and/or nudity and/or Crumb, any zine with a tour diary (however cheesy), any interview with a Siltbreeze recording artist (hell, any record review of a Siltbreeze record might've tipped the scales), but at this stage in my life I just looked at everything and said, "That'd be cool -- but I don't have room for it in my apartment anymore." Story of my life. But I did find one little book for a buck that I immediately decided to make room for, and you bet, it was more poetry. A nice little book from 1991 by the one and only SST recording artist Jack Brewer. You might know him as the vocalist for Saccharine Trust for the last 25 years, but then again you might not -- there just doesn't seem to be a whole lot of Sacc Trust freaks out there. Regardless, this is a book by a modern-day poet-struggler hipster-saint (look at that picture on the cover, somewhere between Jesus the C and your local big-city art gallery owner) that is both tough-as-nails and sweet-as-an-angel, and this guy is honestly no small heir to the legacy of guys like Levy. I read the whole book beginning to end in one train-ride home from work, and he especially nailed me early with "Elysian Fields":

There are troops on the pavement,
meetings in the basement,
secession in our hearts,
terrorists in the school yards.
They're fasting in the prisons,
messiah has risen,
the curfew is set at six,
the dogs are working double shifts,
but the last time I saw you
you were lying on Elysian fields.
All I could comprehend
Is that I failed you again.

Holy shit, it kills me when he hits the "you were lying on Elysian fields" line. But he keeps going and turns it into a heavy sex poem:

Nothing is beyond me
When you are under me --
you are below me;
heartfully, soulfully.
Oh what I would do to possess
the love you so freely give
and stick something sensible inside you.
But the last time I saw you, you were lying on Elysian fields
as you gave a solemn stare
into the heavens.

Damn. He also seems to understand the imperialism on which modern American society has always depended, and, unlike most 'radicals', he includes himself as one of the dependents: "all the slaughters of the world that lie beneath my fingers to comfort my aching existence so that I can spit ink." And speaking of imperialism, check this on page 25, a poem that opens "I lay on the floor: my head laxed in memory./I realize Bush doesn't understand me." The title of the poem is "Election '88," and that's the original George Bush being name-checked, and here it is 15 years later and these Bush fucks are still in power and they still don't understand shit. So yeah, the book is almost 15 years old, but relevant, spiritual, heavy, under the radar, and etcetera -- nice one.

More poetry: Daniel Nester's 2005 sequel to his 2003 book God Save My Queen. Perhaps you recall the concept of the original, a poem for each song on each Queen album, in order, from their s/t debut (1973) through Hot Space (1982). I really wanted to like the book because, like Nester, I was a huge Queen fan in my youth (and in fact Hot Space was the last Queen album I ever bought, the week it came out, at age 12). It certainly had some good writing, but the one-for-each-song concept never worked for me. It seemed too arbitrary, and a little awkward. Awkwardness is also the word of the day for the sequel, but this time it's the awkwardness of Queen's 1980s career -- picking up right where the first one left off, II provides poems for lesser albums The Works (1984) through the posthumous Made in Heaven (1995). The band was struggling, and this career awkwardness frees Nester to really embrace his own awkwardness, both stylistically and autobiographically, and his Queen project seems to find its legs as one part disjointed liner note/band history, one part awkward memoir. For example, there's a hilarious bit where the young Nester collects a set of four Queen interview picture discs, one for each member, insisting that each one contains a separate interview with the person pictured, only to find, while his friends gather around guffawing, that all four contain the exact same full-band interview. Nester also chronicles the withering away of Mr. Mercury in straightforward, heartfelt, and well-researched terms. Stuff like: "There seems to be a debate in the literature over Freddie's last words. Jim Hutton says he said "Pee, pee," his signal to get help to the bathroom. Minutes later, he had tightened into a coma. He was gone. Other accounts have him saying "Cooee," which is what he said to call his many cats."

This one is weird in so many ways, almost all good. First of all, the return address said "Prescott, AZ via Amsterdam." Kinda weird. Then, the enclosed postcard said "Hey Blastitude!! C. Ptak wrote me a nice note after finding a little book of mine and this led me to you! This book is available at the cool bookstores of the Netherlands or from me: maxsympathy at yahoo dot com. Max has been kicking around for years and will probably run into you soon! He has performed with, roadied for, or bothered every cool American fuck since Jello met Biafra! Survive! Max Sympathy!!!" Whoah, C. Ptak, the Netherlands, "every cool American fuck"? Who is this guy? "Finding a little book of mine"? What was it, under a rock? Also weird is the book itself, which is three small hand-sewn chapbooks that are hand-bound inside a cover that is made from an old LP jacket (the spine of my book reads Diamond Life by Sade). The end result looks, reads, and holds very nicely! It opens with an epigram, "Respect Your Elders....Same Way You Respect Handguns & Traffikkk," and the whole thing has that one-unwashed-man-against-the-empire feel to it -- equal parts straight poetry, anti-imperialist invective, arcane philosophy, crazy talk, and HC lyrics, like "Goth Child" ("Goth Child! Your mama's in rehab / Goth Child! You smell like a meth lab / Goth Child! You're mangy and dirty / Goth Child! You're still under 30") or "Joyous Dirge of the Downwardly Mobile" ("measuring salt measuring sugar / got no beef got no larder / buying cigarettes with food stamps /
sell yourself under street lamps") or the prose piece "Modern Physical Forces From People At Bay." ("Television commercials are the highest art conceivable? Are we still feigning use of our minds? Do we pretense towards realizing something or are we eking out an automated existence? Is there anyone who can honestly proclaim that they are not an insect? Yes? Please, explain this to the rest of the insects.") And much, much more (even though it's a short book). I'm not totally sure where Max Sympathy is coming from, but that's a good thing, and wherever it may actually be, it's definitely an interesting place. "Subscriptions, dough-nations, salutations: maxsympathy at yahoo dot com."

I got handed this little baby by one of the proprieters of Your Beeswax, a relatively new chapbook imprint sort of based in Chicago and/or Oakland and definitely based at yourbeeswax.blogspot.com. They got it to me just in time for spring, and it really made my season. First of all, really sweet creative packaging -- a screen-printed fold-out pouch that contains nine poems, each on their own little loose piece of paper, the author name and book title appearing only on a wrap-around paper seal that holds the whole thing together. The poems are short little rumination-flashes on, as the title suggests, the nature of spring, and they're just lovely. Check this: "the lilac trees/stars I see/your scar shot/with lightning/maymoon/the wind stirs/the waves, and in turn/your profile blooms/night sky/petals/cupped hands/who in the world?/patient with the intelligences". I'm just a sucker for that kind of quick sweet imagistic stuff. These nine small flashes take about 20 seconds to read and at least a whole sweet season like spring to mull.

And now for some books that aren't poetry:

LIFE & LIMB: Skateboarders Write From The Deep End, edited by Justin Hocking, Jeff Knutson & Jared Jacang Maher; MAMAPHONIC: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts, edited by Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini (both SOFT SKULL PRESS)
Back on the zine-review page I was saying how zines offer a unique literary experience that is somewhere between essay/memoir, comix, newspaper/ magazine news-profile-feature-opinion, etc. Here are two anthologies from Soft Skull Press that are assuredly hit-and-miss but still generally engaging in just that unique zine fashion. Personal essays, memoirs, op pieces, mini-rants, poems, drawings, photo essays, 2-6 pages by each contributor. You can dip in anywhere in either book and read a page or two, an entire essay or two (almost all are short and fast reads), and then flip a random 48 or 102 pages to another couple pieces and see what's on those folks' minds. Great bathroom reading (and that is high praise in my house anyway) -- not every piece you start will compel you to finish, but almost all of them, even the outright cheese, carry at least some entertainment and enlightenment value -- and sometimes even edutainment value!
       Life & Limb: Skateboarders Write from the Deep End is by skateboarders and about skateboarding. The sport of skateboarding is one of those things where an entire culture, feeling, aesthetic, and lifestyle coalesces around an activity that isn't necessarily a part that everyone participates in: the nuts and bolts of riding around on a board. I myself have only skateboarded once in my life, for about 10 minutes. That was 15 years ago, and I didn't show much promise, but to this day I still dress like a skater and I really like the music they listen to. You could say I'm a poser, and I couldn't deny it, but you could also say that I paid attention to what certain people were doing in order to find a style for myself that is both sharp and low-maintenance, functional and defiant. My point sort of being that a lot of the nuts and bolts stuff about skateboarding kind of goes over my head, but skateboarding is a street sport and therefore the athletes aren't secluded in some stadium, they're just out there in the world, so there's that chance of everything in the world sneaking into these stories, such as "exploratory punk rock cassette purchases . . . . (for example: The Fartz)"; "She was wearing an old Pink Floyd concert t-shirt (perhaps a hand-me-down from her dad), and some blue shorty-shorts."; Toyota Corollas and SUVs in Placerita Canyon; "typing on my G3"; Led Zeppelin's In Through The Out Door and its multiple covers; and much more. (For another example of this, see the excellent Tent City DVD, in which a crew of tent-camping road-trippers sees the suburban, urban, and rural wilds of Australia through the prism of skating anywhere they can.) And of course, if you don't like an essay, you can always jump to the next, because it's a casual book in that casual skateboarder way.
       Not so casual is the book Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts, because its essays are entirely by moms with young kids, and moms with young kids are usually not the most casual people in the room. But they are often the most fun person in the room, along with their kid, and the book captures a lot of that too. The essayists here are all mothers of young children who are also working artists, so you get a lot of that 'I live in a big city and work from home as a technical writer while writing poetry and essays in my (increasingly rare!) free time and I'm a strict vegan (but my kids aren't vegan they can make that decision on their own as they get older)' kind of thing. I'm all for the lifestyle, I really am, but I also believe in the old Buddhist adage "Show, don't tell," and how can you not cross that line when you're writing from this perspective? I wanted to like this book because I'm the father of a 2 year old and I figured I'd be able to relate and my wife would like it too -- we also usually eat vegan! But when we get together with our friends who are also new parents, all anyone seems to talk about is how smart our urbane semi-revolutionary consumerist parenting decisions are; how proud we are to be buying wooden toys instead of petroleum toys, to be eating vegan (even if the food often comes in the same old petroleum-derived packaging) and buying organic (even though we drive to the organic grocery store and half the organic produce was trucked in at great ecological expense from New Zealand or something or other). It's not that I don't want to talk about these things at all, I just don't want to preach about these things when we're all so obviously converted -- this bizarre anti-nature culture we live in has us so against the wall we even proselytize to each other. Unfortunately, reading this book seems like more of the same. Which isn't to say that there's not a lot of information, survival tips, and support to be found here, because there is. It's kinda all over the place, and it covers a lot of different types of people, and the good stuff is there if you want it and not there if you don't want it, and you can read a little bit of any page and get the feel. You never know what you might find; I just picked it up for the first time in a month, and came across this from a piece by Laura Fokkena called "Letters to Aisha" (speaking of poetry): "In Iran, before television, they used to play a game in which everyone sits in a circle and recites a line from Rumi. The letter of the last line recited by the person before you becomes the letter of the first line you recite. This game goes on for hours; every person playing it must have committed an incredible stock of poetry to memory in order to participate, but it was popular enough that it was something normal people did, you know, to spend an evening, the way we watch Seinfeld." Damn, that didn't even have anything to do with parenting! Thanks Mamaphonic!

SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson; NIGHTWINGS by Robert Silverberg
When I was in high school I had this rule where I could only buy hip-hop albums on cassette. The reasoning was that I only had a cassette deck in my car, and hip-hop was best listened to while driving. Well, I now prefer CD for hip-hop, whether at home or in the car, but another long-standing media rule of mine remains intact: science fiction should only be read on small paperback, especially when you can go to your local used bookstore (mine is called the Armadillo's Pillow, 6753 N. Sheridan, Chicago) and pick up a couple randoms for $2 apiece. On my last visit I got Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and Nightwings by Robert Silverberg. Stephenson has been getting recommends from all over for several years now. I first came across the Snow Crash book when I was delivering pizza and Luke the Freak brought it to work one day. He was like, "Read the first page of this book," and a bunch of us did, finding with amusement that it was about a pizza delivery man of the future. I had always meant to read the whole thing for myself one day, and it took about six years, but I finally just finished it. The pizza thing ends up only lasting for the first chapter (there always has been a high employee turnover rate in the food service industry), but there's plenty more to entice and dazzle -- this book never lets up. It's basically a crazy hyper-future virtual-reality hipster-nerd swashbuckling action movie on the printed page. I can see why this guy is popular -- he has possibly the highest Ideas Per Page score (ipp) I've ever seen in a sci-fi writer -- very possibly averaging close to the rare 2.0 (I'd conservatively put the whole book around 1.6 or 1.7, which is very high, especially for a 470-page book), with some multi-page stretches easily surpassing even the ultra-rare 3.0. His version of a virtual reality internet called the Metaverse which users "goggle" into is both very fanciful and very plausible, and his version of a hyper-privatized American society marked by hyper-inflation, hyper-advertising, and severely gated communities with violence and wasteland everywhere else is too. I'll give it, what, ten years? Five?? Only problem is that in Stephenson's future there still seems to be a lot of oil going around . . . .
As for the other book, Silverberg's Nightwings . . . wow. I kinda loved it. I had no prior experience with Silverberg, but someone I trust said I might like him so I spent the two bucks. And damn . . . apparently Silverberg is/was an incredibly prolific writer (easily in the 100-book club) who had a few distinct phases. This comes from his middle (late 60s-early 70s) dark, heavy, philosophical period and it is a rather melancholy tale narrated by an old "Watcher" who is travelling cross-country on foot with a "Flier" and a "Changeling." This is one of those so-far-into-the-future-that-it-seems-like-the-ancient-past set-ups, which is about the only kind of sci-fi I can really feel right now, because it's a future without oil. Actually, the book breaks the progression of mankind into three cycles -- the first cycle, which is the dawn of man until he becomes a fully technological animal (we're still in it, barely), the second cycle, which is where most classic sci-fi is set, marked by the discovery of other worlds and life forms and astounding technological progress, and the third cycle, in which Nightwings takes place, after the inevitable technological collapse of society, here brought on by the disastrous invention of giant machines to control the weather. In fact, in this world America is almost entirely underwater, so our characters are wandering around what used to be Europe, to such ancient cities as "Perris," "Roum," and "Jorslem." A third of the way into the story, Earth gets invaded and easily conquered by intelligent humanoid extraterrestrials, and that's when it really gets interesting. Silverberg's prose is simple, clean, almost biblical, with plenty of insight and wisdom. Like this: "It was an ugly thing to behold: human beings acting as road-agents for the invaders. But it was inevitable that we should have begun to drift into their civil service, since work was scarce, especially for those who had been in the defensive guilds." He also predicts the internet quite accurately, except that instead of being stored on computers it's stored on the disinterred brains of deceased humans! I also love this sort of hoo-hah: "It was now the twelfth of the twenty hours, and time once again for me to do the Watching. I went to the cart, opened my cases, prepared the instruments. Some of the dial covers were yellowed and faded; the indicator needles had lost their luminous coating; sea stains defaced the instrument housings, a relic of the time that pirates had assailed me in Earth Ocean. The worn and cracked levers and nodes responded easily to my touch as I entered the preliminaries [. . .] I grasped handles and knobs, thrust things from my mind, prepared myself to become an extension of my cabinet of devices." Jeez, is this a sci-fi book or a noise tour diary?

SUICIDE: No Compromise, by David Nobakht (SAF PUBLISHING)
I wasn't really ready for how, um, CRAPPY this book was going to be. It's poorly written, poorly laid out, and I don't think the proofreader even showed up. Nonetheless, I read the whole thing voraciously and even as I was astounded by the sheer crappiness, I was entertained and edified, so I still can't really call it a failure. At least half of the book is done "oral history" style, so the weak writing doesn't completely dominate, and Rev and Vega have a lot of funny and streetwise things to say. (I don't have the book anymore so I can only quote it from memory, but there's one great bit where Rev talks about his wild appearance back in the early 70s, saying something like, "People used to look at me like I was some bizarre person from the future. Which I guess I was.") Also, it did what any music book should do: it made me want to listen to records, namely the first two Suicide albums, again and again -- I mean, jeezus, what a MONSTER that first Suicide album is, and I really like the second one too. Plus, I now really want to hear, for the first time ever, their 1988 album A Way of Life, which sounds pretty heavy and underrated, and was apparently recorded in 50 minutes TOTAL. What's more, apparently Vega and Rev have released something like 27 solo albums between them, and every single one of 'em sounds worth a listen. I honestly had no idea. So really, I did get a lot out of this book, not to mention the reproduction of a "Martin Rev score" that I swiped for the contents-page background of this issue of Blastitude, here, look.

Here's something perfect for closing this book review page out -- a little yarn-bound color-cover comic book by Britt, the guy behind the wildly exciting Not Not Fun record label. This comic provided me with lots of laughs, with its constant flow of super-crude one-page three-or-four-panel retardo-riffs, reminding me of Peter Bagge's Stupid Comics meets the mega-absurd non-jokes of David Rees' My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable collection. Here, let me just read you a couple strips: one Pacman ghost talking to two other Pacman ghosts who are hanging out smoking a blunt and drinking a 40. "Hey, you guys seen Pacman?," he asks. "Nah, sorry dawg," they answer. "Yeh, we just been gettin ripped. Why you lookin' for him, anyway?" The ghost's deadpan response: "I wanna kill him cause he's been eating all my cherries and shit." Or how about the one where a man is talking to a bird. "Are you one of those flightless birds?" he asks. "No, of course not," responds the bird. "I fly like a bad-ass actually." "Oh yeah? Then do it, I dare you!" counters the man. In the last panel, the man watches with astonishment as the bird appears flying a helicopter. "Check it!," says the bird. Alright, that's just two of the funnies, now go enjoy the rest of the romantic love up in this young piece for yourself!