jan 07



This month I Netflixed two fascinating documentaries, Jandek on Corwood and The Stone Reader. The Jandek movie in particular is a must. Just like my favorite book last year, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon, the films explain our desires to understand the men (or women) that create our favorite works of art.


JD Salinger asked in Seymour, why readers ever “look a gift horse in the mouth?” To what use is a biography? A good man that writes terrible books can’t motivate us to read them. But a man of questionable character, like Roman Polanski, Joseph Cornell or Salinger himself can just as much create something that strikes a chord within us. So how do we seperate the artist from the man? Especially seeing as, sometimes even a man that “looks in the Mirror and Smiles” can get on our nerves so much we might revist his work, and reassess our feelings about it.

“Jandek” has released 50 albums since 1978, under his own label “Corwood Industries” and mailed them out from a PO Box. He made minimal contact with the various zines that featured and reviewed his disks, even as his cult following grew wider. Jandek came out shortly after the documentary was released in 2004, but still keeps a low profile.

But the stark incredible sadness of his music was all he needed to communicate. What makes the film come alive is seeing how concerned the interviewees – music journalists and college radio DJs – were about their subject. You can sense how afraid their were for him, paranoid, as they were, that he was strung out someplace on the streets in Houston, locked in a mental hospital, tying a noose at that second, anything but – as it ironically turned out – a white collar executive.

Projecting their own demons, maybe? Looking at the surface of a deep water body seeing only our reflections, like we do with a new lover that is gorgeous but doesn’t talk so much.

An entirely different situation plays out in the lesser, but still interesting, documentary The Stone Reader. The occassionaly grating filmmaker Mark Moskowitz bought a book when he was 18. He found it twenty years later in a basment box and finally completed it. He fell in love with the book and got online to find the rest of the writers work: it turns out the book hasn’t been in print since 1972 and the writer published nothing since. So he seeks out the writer and brings a camera around. It’s an interesting film because Moskowitz is a true neophyte to publishing although he is a voracious reader. He can’t believe the man that wrote the NY Times review The Stones of Summer wouldn’t know anything about the man that wrote it. After two years, he finally finds the author Dow Mossman, who was asked in an interview how he felt about the situation, answering, “You’d really have to have spent 10 or 15 years reading and trying to figure out a rather huge/fat first novel, crack up some, get apprehended in some great reviews, then never hear anything at all, wander for six years, meet a red-haired woman, get married, keep reading, have two fine sons… But, mostly, in terms of this question, you’d have to get up every morning at four o’clock and spend, mostly, 10 hours a day for 19 years in a weld-shop, pickin’ up and weldin’ steel, every 10 yards x 15 miles (which, incidentally, I loved to do) and then have someone like Mark Moskowitz ring your phone one sleepy Thursday night (I think it was) to understand this question properly….”

Can we still disappear? Will we always find someone out in the end? Having let someone go long ago – a person with a name so common that Google is futile, but also a person so uncommon I will never forget – I think it’s healthy, if not neccessary, to have people in your life you will never see again. We grow and we change, so several chapters seperate you from that time that passed. It’s a reminder that the world, where it matters –in the flesh – is not as small as the Internet makes it seem.

Posted by site admin at 10:00 pm |

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Some time ago, the New Yorker profiled this fascinating eighty-nine year old, ” whose fashio pictures from the heyday of couture—the lat nineteen-forties to the late nineteen-sixties—were influential in animating a stilted genre.”

Posted by site admin at 6:45 pm |

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