The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Monday Miscellany


“The Bat-Man” by Chip Kidd and Tony Millionaire from Bizarro Comics #1. I can’t quite believe I haven’t seen this before… (via Martin Klasch)

Could Have Been Something — José da Silva interviews Billy Childish for The White Review:

Critics want you to get in your box and shut up. That’s why they don’t like it that I’m a writer, musician and painter. That’s totally unacceptable to their small minds… I’m looking for freedom from being categorised or identified with aspects of myself. But at the same time I use this very strong biographical information to negotiate a world – a world which I find quite mental, by the way. So I still refuse to identify myself as Billy Childish the artist,  painter, writer or musician, because in my estimation only an idiot would want to be something.

Accommodating the Mess — Tim Martin on B S Johnson,  ‘Britain’s one-man literary avant-garde’, for The Telegraph:

In principle, at least, Johnson’s declared mission echoed the great Modernist cry to make it new. Politically socialist and from a working-class London background, he cultivated pithy distrust for the complacency of his novelist peers, “neo-Dickensian” writers, as he called them, who were using a 19th-century form to gratify the “primitive, vulgar and idle curiosity of the reader to know ‘what happens next’”. A truly modern novel would seek, in Beckett’s phrase, a form to accommodate the mess, stripping readers of their escapist illusions while remaining ruthlessly true to the writer’s experience.

This obsession with so-called narrative truth runs through Johnson’s work, accounting for its most unorthodox experiments as well as its greatest flaws.

See also: Juliet Jacques review of Well Done God! Selected Prose and Drama of B S Johnson for The New Statesman.

And finally…

The mild-mannered Richard Hell in the New York Times:

After running away to New York in 1967, at the age of 17, with dreams of becoming a writer, Mr. Hell collected some good editions of favorite books. Then, in the 1970s, when he became a drug addict, he traded them for cash.

“Those were pretty much my only liquid resource,” he said. “So I sold them all over the years.”

Since getting his health and career back on track in the ’80s, he has replaced most of the ones that got away. Given the number of books now neatly stacked into the East Village apartment where he has lived for the last 38 years, he has more than made up for lost time.

Hell’s memoir, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, is out this week. The cover was designed by Steven Attardo.


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