Filed under: Literature
BLOOD’S A ROVER
An alternative history of the USA exponentially more bitter and twisted than Don DeLillo’s Underworld; an underworld more monstrous and demented than Dante’s Inferno, James Ellroy’s Underworld USA trilogy is a wild ride!
Beginning in 1958 with American Tabloid, on to The Cold Six Thousand with America reeling in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, and culminating with Ellroy’s current volume Blood’s a Rover, those very BAAAAD BROTHERS we hate to love make their swan song appearance. It’s 1968. J Edgar Hoover, Howard “Drac” Hughes and The Mob are the unholy trinity. Nixon is their pawn. Those who work for them, with them and against them would be hard pressed to disentangle their bewitching mess of loyalties. They are stone cold killers, heroin smugglers, right wing, racist, damaged, self-destructive, window peepers, guilt consumed, lovers of women (or men clandestinely). The 1970s are upon them; the world is changing; the tide is turning; their days are numbered…
In his signature staccato style, and interspersed with spurious document and diary entries, Ellroy has written an apochryphal history of the mid-twentieth century. This is seriously crazy shee-it!!
THE COLD SIX THOUSAND
—reviewed by Rata
Papercraft: design and art with paper
Papercraft is an extensive survey on the insatiable trend of innovative art and design work crafted from paper. It explores the astounding possibilities of paper and gathers the most extraordinary creations – from small objects and figures to large-scale art installations and urban interventions as well as three-dimensional graphic sculptures from a vast spectrum of artistic disciplines ranging from character design, urban art, fine art, graphic design, illustration, fashion, animation and film. The book also includes a DVD with fun DIY printable templates for creating your own paper characters and toys as well as a curated selection of the best stop-motion animations.
Filed under: Design
A visual history of typefaces and graphic styles, vol 1 1628 – 1900
Cees W.de Jong, Alston W. Purvis, Jan Tholenaar (Ed.)
This exuberant selection of typographic fonts and styles traces the modern evolution of the printed letter, reproducing pages from exquisitely designed catalogues showing type specimens in roman, italic, bold, semi-bold, narrow, and broad fonts. Also included are borders, ornaments, initial letters and decorations, and many spectacular examples of their use. Victorian fonts, spectacular in their complexity, are accorded a prominent place. In addition, examples from lithography and letters by inscription carvers and calligraphers are also included and described.
Featuring works by type designers William Caslon, Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke, Peter Behrens, Rudolf Koch, Eric Gill, Jan van Krimpen, Paul Renner, Jan Tschichold, A. M. Cassandre, Aldo Novarese, and Adrian Frutiger.
Filed under: Design
Epica book twenty two: Europe’s best advertising
Patrick Taschler (Ed.)
Epica book twenty two: Europe’s best advertising features more than 950 commercials, print ads, innovative media ideas, publications, internet sites, direct marketing operations, packaging design projects and integrated campaigns honoured in the 2008/09 Epica awards, Europe’s premier creative awards show.
Epica Book 22 is introduced by Amir Kassaei, Executive Creative Director of DDB Germany. It includes articles by Lewis Blackwell and Mark Tungate, author of Media Monoliths and Adland (Kolan Page), who also contributed the creative synopses.
Filed under: Design
What do you love?
What do you love? is IdN’s 15th anniversary edition and is their biggest-ever publication to-date! A massive 452-page hardcover packaged with higher resolutions DVD-9 production! Featuring specially commissioned work from 250+ of the highly talented creators who have collaborated with IDN over the last decade and a half — sharing their thoughts on the past; and their visions of the future.
Filed under: Literature
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2009 is awarded to the German author Herta Müller, “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed“.
Unfortunately none of her books are currently available in translation, though the distributor in Australia seems to be expecting stock of The Passort and The Land of Green Plums by mid-November.
Filed under: Literature
by David Peace
I have been a huge David Peace fan since crucifying myself on The Red Riding Quartet (now filmed for British Channel 4 as The Red Riding Trilogy and available on DVD) at a rate of one per week. Peace’s high octane exposure of police corruption, collusion, conspiracy and cover-ups in the four novels based around the Yorkshire Ripper murders in the 1970s and 80s reads like a British James Ellroy. Dark, savage and brutal; experimental, repetitive and rhythmic; Peace’s style would not appeal to everyone, especially not if you’re after an easily apprehensible, simple narrative in the thriller genre. In fact, I have wondered whether Peace would get published if his themes were not so unremittingly violent.
With a move to Tokyo in 1994, Peace has proceeded to do for Japan under US military occupation what The Red Riding Quartet did for Yorkshire in the prelude to Thatcher’s government. The first in the projected Tokyo Trilogy, his formidable Tokyo Year Zero, is based around the true story of serial killer Yoshio Kodaira, and follows the gradual breakdown of the central investigating detective. Part two, Occupied City, is again inspired by a true incident, the horrifying mass murder by cyanide poisoning of staff at the Teigin Bank in Tokyo in 1948. Peace acknowledges his dept to Rashomon and In a Grove by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, for the structure of Occupied City. Like these two stories his novel examines the nature of ‘truth’ from the viewpoint of all witnesses and invested parties: the victims’, investigator’s, suvivor’s, an American scientist’s, a medium’s, journalist’s, business man’s, a Russian soldier’s, the honest detective’s, the condemned man’s, the real killer’s, the mourner’s. In a circle of twelve candles, a seance is conducted summoning each ‘ghost’, who tells his version of events — by documents, diaries or rants — until a synchronicity of views reveals more of the case and circumstances.
Once again Peace has created false heroes and vulnerable anti-heroes, excruciating deaths and even worse lives, an environment of suspicion and self-interest, all predicated on the horrors that men inflict on each other and then attempt to deny.
—reviewed by Rata
Filed under: Music
THE ROAD TO WOODSTOCK
by Michael Lang
Given there were a finite number of cameras and recording equipment rolling at Bethel NY in August 1969, it seems remarkable that the Woodstock industry has managed to maintain such a healthy level of productivity over the years. This year’s 40th anniversary has brought with it a slew of new products — DVD box sets, previously unreleased recordings (Sly, Johnny Winter), the Rhino 6-CD retrospective, and Ang Lee’s film Taking Woodstock. It appears as if our appetite for this stuff is insatiable. While the whole thing could be written off as a cynical exercise by corporate firms cashing in on baby-boomer nostalgia, it’s equally possible that, living in a world daily wracked by global financial meltdown or global warming, there is something genuinely warm and fuzzy about a time when half a million young people came together to celebrate peace and music.
Michael Lang’s account of his road to Woodstock joins a host of others that have appeared over the past decade. Given his role as co-creator of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, you’d be hard pressed to argue his right to tell his own story. At the outset of the 1970 movie, Lang can be seen riding a horse through lush fields of grass, like some sort of dope-smoking Marlborough man. In another scene, he is seated coolly on his motorbike, mumbling inaudibly to camera, looking for all the world like the most relaxed dude on the planet. It’s a remarkable performance, given the festival’s organization was going to hell in a handbasket at the time.
Lang’s memoir dispatches his Brooklyn childhood and teens in less than a dozen pages, before moving on to his time in Miami in 1967 where, barely out of his teens, he ran a head-shop specializing in bongs and psychedelic posters. It was in Miami he got his first taste of mounting music festivals, producing a two-day event at Gulfstream park featuring the likes of Hendrix, Zappa and John Lee Hooker. Though the experience left him bankrupt, he soon had his sights on bigger things.
The bulk of Lang’s memoir is given over to the lead-up and planning of the legendary Woodstock Festival. It’s a saga fraught with drama and intrigue, populated with naive young Jewish stockbrokers, drug-addled hippies, sharks and swindlers, and simple country folk facing their worst nightmare. The logistical planning behind such a venture defies all reason, and Lang, with the support of Artie Kornfeld, and financial backers John Roberts and Joel Rosenmann, goes at it with the enthusiasm of a nine-year old. How he slept at night is anyone’s guess, as the best-laid plans go awry and the bills mount up like there’s no tomorrow. But Lang demonstrates an uncanny business acumen. With his long curly locks and relaxed smile, he is able to bridge the disparate worlds of high finance, hippies, and hokey farmers. Despite facing insurmountable odds, including members of the Hog Farm commune, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, and a vast peace keeping force made up of New York’s finest, Lang somehow manages to weave together a thousand loose ends into the most legendary music festival of all time.
His greatest crisis occurred one month out when local folk in the town of Wallkill voted to ban the Festival. Then, just when there were no more wheels left to fall off the wagon, Lang was introduced to dairy farmer Max Yasgur, who agreed to rent out his farm near the town of Bethel. The rest, as they say, is history. With the clock ticking, the organizers realized they could either build the stage, or a fence around the festival site. The inevitable decision to focus on music over profit was captured beautifully for posterity in the immortal stage announcement: “It’s a free concert from now on. That doesn’t mean that anything goes, what that means is we’re going to put the music up here for free. What it means is that the people… who put up the money for it, are going to take a bit of a bath. A big bath. That’s no hype, that’s true, they’re going to get hurt”. Of course, it was Rosenmann and Roberts, rather than Lang, who took the bath, when ticket receipts utterly failed to recoup outgoings.
Lang’s devotes less space in his book to the actual music at the Festival, and this may have something to do with how totally stoned he looked in the film. He runs through most of the performances, selectively interspersing his own memories with those of others who were at the Festival — performers, stagehands, punters. In many ways, Woodstock was too big an event for any one person to capture; everyone there experienced just one part of the puzzle. For some performers — Joe Cocker, Santana, Richie Havens — it was a ticket to immortality. For others, such as Quill and Sweetwater, it would lead to obscurity. By the time Hendrix finished his set around 10.30am on the Monday, Lang can only remark: “What had seemed an eternity now felt like the blink of an eye. Nothing would be the same again”. As others begin work clearing the rubbish and cleaning up Yasgur’s property, Lang headed for Wall Street and the eventual washup.
The final part of Lang’s book recounts the inevitable legal wrangles that ensued in the wake of the Festival. Lacking capital to buy their way out of debt, both Lang and Kornfeld were bought out by their partners for a song, relinquishing all rights to the Woodstock name. The big winners were Warner Bros, who bought into the film rights and made a subsequent killing. But Lang, in true hippie style, walks away from it all with a shrug, ready to move on to the next thing. My only regret is that he tells us too little about his life post-Woodstock — making albums with Karen Dalton, managing Joe Cocker and Rickie Lee Jones, and producing the 1994 and 1999 Woodstock festivals.
Lang ends his book with Barak Obama’s inauguration, referred to in the Wall Street Journal as ‘Washington’s Woodstock’. Forty years previously, Jimi Hendrix gave us his incendiary rendition of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’, a fragment of hope rising out of the ashes of Vietnam. It seems fitting that Lang ends his book with Hendrix’s words, from a 1969 poem about Woodstock: “We washed and drank in God’s tears of joy. And for once, and for everyone, the truth was not still a mystery.”
—reviewed by Des
Filed under: Literature
by Hilary Mantel
On Tuesday 6 October Hilary Mantel was named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for Wolf Hall, published by Fourth Estate. Wolf Hall has been the bookies’ favourite since the longlist was announced in July 2009.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel was picked from a shortlist of six titles. A.S. Byatt, J.M. Coetzee, Adam Foulds, Simon Mawer and Sarah Waters were all shortlisted for this year’s prize.
Wolf Hall is set in the 1520s and tells the story of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to prominence in the Tudor court. Hilary Mantel has been praised by critics for writing ‘a rich, absorbingly readable historical novel; she has made a significant shift in the way any of her readers interested in English history will henceforward think about Thomas Cromwell.’
James Naughtie, comments ‘Hilary Mantel has given us a thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century. Wolf Hall has a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail. It probes the mysteries of power by examining and describing the meticulous dealings in Henry VIII’s court, revealing in thrilling prose how politics and history is made by men and women. In the words of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell, whose story this is, “the fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes.” ‘
This is the first time the publisher Fourth Estate has had a Man Booker Prize winner. They have previously published three shortlisted books — Nicola Barker’s Darkmans (2007) and Carol Shields’ novels Unless (2002) and The Stone Diaries (1993).
Hilary Mantel spent five years writing Wolf Hall and she is currently working on a sequel.
Filed under: Design
Open Manifesto 5: Identity
Open Manifesto is an Australian-based journal encouraging critical writing on the topics of graphic design and visual communication. In this edition, Steve Averill discusses how he came up with the name U2 and how his close relationship and design partnership with the Irish rock legends has continued to develop over 30 years. Wally Olins shares his views on the principles behind branding, its impact on society and how we all seek to belong. Paula Scher critiques the branding of New York and New York City, while Simon Hong talks about his experiences branding Abu Dhabi. Neil Dowling and Nils Clauss meet with North Korean refugees to discuss the severe challenges they face after escaping to South Korea. Bennett Arron talks humorously about identity theft: the theft of his personal identity and his fight to regain it. Real life Superhero Master Legend discusses managing his secret identity, while Larry J. Kolb shares his experiences as a CIA operative working in the covert world of spies. Check it out.