Massive Words: books

The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe (Running Press)

Published in June, 1983, and weighing in at 1184 (acid-free) pages, this is the only book of Poe’s you’ll ever need. It’s pretty much out of print, but you can find copies of it here or on Ebay here, and those relatively cheaply.

I bought this paperback, massive edition of Poe’s when I was wicked young, and slavishly read every story and poem in the thing. Every work’s in chronological order, and is all the more fascinating for that.

I’m posting this one because I watched The Raven today on iTunes (terrible movie, just terrible, ridiculously anachronistic, but worth it to see EA Poe solve very-modern serial murders), and it made me remember this very complete, quite awesome volume of this American poet’s output.

Massive Words: me

I published a second book, Psychopathic Fiction, a few weeks ago. Today it’s available as an Ebook for the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and through Google books.

It’s a distilled version of my career working with Sexually Dangerous Persons in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts– if you like crime novels, you will enjoy this. I wouldn’t waste your fucking time.

Preview the whole novel here.

If you like it (and want the easier-to-use Ebook files over my posted .pdf file), throw a brother some cabbage, huh?

Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Long Nonfiction Novels About Exactly What People Think and Why They Were Boldly Idiotic– and Brilliant. And Inspiring…

As a rule, it’s children, the developmentally-disabled, and the senile that make us uneasy.

See… we can’t readily predict what they might say, at any given moment.

We still give them excuses for this– we laugh it off, we ignore it… but there’s always that lurking fear: “Will they call me out for being fat? Or bald? Or too [insert perceived feature]?”

So then.

What do we call anyone else who might utter this innocently violent vociferation, this verbal flagellation…this… YAWP of clairvoyance– or at least of searing honesty?

Usually– we call them insane.

We call it Tourette’s. We call it schizophrenia. We call it drunk, or codependent.

Sometimes though, and however rarely (even simultaneously)– we call it writing. We call it art, we call it poetry, and in Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s case… “novels.”

Sure, he went a little mad at the end there (we all go a little mad sometimes, after all– though it’s only the best of us that produces novels, i.e., reproducible wisdom, gleaned from the experience), but then again,how could you not go mad, way down there at the end of a lifetime of writing down everything as you actually saw it–

and not, as so many others have, as how you SHOULD have seen it.

Like Céline, the laughing madman, one simultaneously scary (“Why is he laughing like that? Why can’t I understand it too?”)as well as intriguing (“What in the world is so funny that he keeps laughing at it? Do I truly want to understand that kind of hilarity?”).

Moreover, that Céline himself was a doctor makes his words even more darkly hilarious: we often naturally assume people as educated as doctors would be above thinking things like… I dunno… like we stink like we roll in shit.

It is only upon fully grasping this — that the truly wealthy, smart, powerful or famous are pretty much as fucked up as we are, and so there is nothing to aspire to — that one really begins to understand the truly peaceful (and yet truly horrifying) reality that Céline saw and described in Journey To The End of the Night and Death on Credit (aka Death On the Installment Plan).

Céline gets shit, and sometimes applause, for being anti-human, anti-establishment.

Céline is anti-bullshit. Céline is the guy at the Thanksgiving dinner table, airing everyone’s secrets that everyone at the table knew already. Everyone embarrassed, but not because they didn’t know, but because everything is out there and we’ll have to talk about it or work really hard trying to change the subject….

You know you get it. Make the concession to early-20th century French, and be rewarded as Céline imparts knowledge, however naive and obliquely….

Glean from your experience, is what I’m sayin.

Books– Miles on Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis

Exemplary quote:

“If I was black for sixteen years and I turned white –I mean my insides and everything– shit, I’d commit suicide. ‘Cause whites have knowledge but no rhythm. Classical music was invented ’cause white people didn’t have no rhythm, and they could write it, and plan it and all. Once you have a taste of rhythm –say, for sixteen years– and someone say, ‘Do you want to be white, with all the trimmings?’ Shit no. Brooks Brothers suit is all right, but I’m talking about the feeling.”

That pretty much sums up what you’ll find in a book consisting entirely of interviews with Miles Davis.

Interviews with Miles work more as a test, a gauge of personality, for journalists than for Miles, who’s always, even over the 40-year span of these pieces, consistent: the journalists, however, seem to consistently and rapidly change (depending on the era/year) in terms of how they react to him.

Anecdotes galore: Miles made Mick Jagger wait outside his home for hours to meet them– then decided to send him away without ever seeing Jagger; Miles claims he gave Coltrane his first soprano sax (Coltrane himself, a much more reliable source, said it was left behind by another musician).

So, frankly, Miles is an asshole. But isn’t that one way genius gets heard? Like Metallica? Like their latest direction or not, they’ve always done what they wanted, as did Davis.

Excerpts:

p47: “How much they paying you for an article on me?” For the first time, he looks me directly in the eye.
I tell him I don’t know. Things like that are always open, always speculation. Who knows, maybe the magazine won’t even publish it.
“Whatever you get, you give me half,” he says.

Or this:

p 47: “Sometimes when I call him up,” [he] had continued, “I ask him what he’s doing. ‘Counting my money,’ he says. He’s got money coming in from everywhere. He got the rights to every single piece of music he’s ever written. Sometimes the checks that come in the mail stack up about a foot high.”

Or THIS:

p49: “Well, put this in that article. I got the whole solution.” He pauses, pleased with himself.
“The solution to what, Miles,” I say, getting out a pen and the book.
“To all this Vietnam shit. What we gotta do is draft all the bitches under twenty-five and send them over there. All kinds of tough-looking white bitches, with all that clean, white skin and blonde hair and big tits. When these cats read in the paper that a hundred of them get killed by the Viet Cong, the whole thing will be over in a day.”

OR THIS:

p52: “My lip’s hurting.”
“It looks split,” I offered. A bit of blood trickled down on his chin. He dabbed it with his handkerchief.
“It’s split, all right.”
“Are you going to put something on it?”
“Yeah, this trumpet, what else?” he said.

And the hits keep coming and coming and coming:

p 202: Musician [magazine]: What do you look for in a person to play with you?
Miles: His carriage… first. His carriage of the instrument. You can tell whether he plays or not by the way he carries the instrument, whether it means something to him or not. Then the way they talk and act. If they act too hip you know they can’t play shit.

Dig Miles’ wealth from being himself:

p 237: When he goes to Los Angeles to perform on the show, he stays at Beverly Hill’s sumptuous L’Ermitage Hotel. While there, he orders his white Ferrari air-lifted from New York to L.A., towed from the airport, and parked in front of the hotel. The Ferrari can’t be driven –it’s had a mechanical problem for some time– but it’s a stage prop that makes him feel good.

Miles’ early experiences culminating in his approach to improvisation:

p 243: When I was about fifteen, a drummer I was playing a number with at the Castle Ballroom in Saint Louis… we had a ten piece band, three trumpets, four saxophones, you know… and he asked me, “Little Davis, why don’t you play what you played last night?” I said, “What, what do you mean?” He said, “You don’t know what it is?” I said, “No, what is it?” He said, “You were playing something coming out of the middle of the tune, and play it again.” I said “I don’t know what I played.” He said, “If you don’t know what you’re playing, then you ain’t doing nothing.”

His approach to creation highlighting his general, uhm… irascibility:

p 260: “Some people, whatever is happening now, either they can’t handle it or they don’t want to know. They’ll be messed up on that bogus nostalgia thing. Nostalgia, shit! That’s a pitiful concept. Because it’s dead, it’s safe– that’s what that shit’s about! Hell, no one wanted to hear us when we were playin’ jazz. Those days with Bird, Dizz, ‘Trane– some were good, some were miserable… People didn’t like that stuff then. Hell, why you think we were playin’ clubs? No one wanted us on prime time TV. The music wasn’t getting across, you dig? Jazz is dead. Goddamm it. That’s it! Finito! It’s over and there is no point aping the shit.”
p 262: Time and again, the black man has fucked up. He starts out with his shit together, then he gets damn side-tracked by white folks, y’know, whisperin’ in his ear, “Hey son, you should do this. Clean it up. Tone it down. Get smart. Get jive. Get yourself a goddamn monkey-suit or somethin’.”

Anyway, it’s fun stuff. Get it, rent it, steal it… I dunno. Just read.

Thelonious Monk, The Life and Times of an American Original, Robin D.G. Kelley

You can tell it took 14 years to finish: this is the single most detailed biography/ recounting of a jazz figure’s life I can imagine. And I can imagine a lot.

It took me a year (original purchase date: 1/30/10) to finish this, but it has (seriously, there’s no way it can’t) absolutely every detail you could want about Monk’s life, during virtually every second of it. Kelley interviewed EVERYONE connected to Monk who’s still alive.

And it’s a biography, not an analysis of Monk’s playing (though that’s in here too, as Kelley is a pianist), but it’s still a page-turner (all 588 pages of this door stop).

Give it a shot.