David Markson, Women and Vodka

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The first edition of this unusual anthology, in which short stories and excerpts from larger works (including a piece by Isaac Babel) are collaged together and commercially packaged into a convenient narrative of female decline. The cover features an illustration by the illustrator Lou Marchetti, who lent his distinctive style to many crime fiction and western pulps of the era.  Mark Merrill was a pseudonym of David Markson, and this is his first published book. The anthology was re-released in 1963 under the less titillating, but perhaps equally convenient title Great Tales of Old Russia.

While the primary motive behind the book may have been financial, as with his other early detective novels, the collage aspect of the book and the excellent selection of Russian works are the beginning of a trajectory that would culminate in Markson’s great, last collage novels.

I never knew Markson well, but when I worked at the Strand in the early aughts I sometimes used to talk to him about books in the evenings when he would come in and make his rounds. This wasn’t unusual; Markson’s well-known affection for the bookstore extended to many of the employees. I remember that he was the first person to mention the works of Isaac Babel to me. I was foolish enough to wait a few years to read Babel, just as I foolishly delayed reading Markson’s own work until after my acquaintance with him . Seeing Babel’s work here reinforces that particular regret of reading a book later then one would like.

The cover art of this book has a resonance to me that goes back even further. My first foray into bookselling was at the age of 9. I specialized in Louis L’amour books, a natural decision because at the time he was my favorite author. I discovered I could buy them at garage sales for 10 cents and sell them for 25 to 50 cents – a significant amount of money in rural Oregon during the decline of the timber industry in the 1980’s. I judged the salability of a western largely on the cover art. Marchetti’s work on the cover of a L’Amour made it eminently saleable. Seeing his work more than a quarter century later, on the cover of a work by somebody who has since become one of the my favorite writers, gives me that particular sense of vertigo one feels when disparate strands of time suddenly elide. This feeling is so often caused by the physical fact of books, and is one of the great pleasures of reading that I don’t think will ever transfer to their electronic counterparts. -Adam Davis

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Merrill, Mark, ed. [pseudonym of David Markson]. Women and Vodka. New York: Pyramid Books, 1956. First edition. 12mo, 190 [2] pp, wraps [illustrated by Lou Marchetti].

OCLC locates only five holdings of the first edition.

A square, near fine copy with some light creasing and toning to the wraps. 

Purchase.

More books by David Markson.

Wallace Berman, Billy Jahrmarkt and the Greatest Gallery

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A handmade mail art collage announcement made by Berman for an event at Billy Jahrmarkt’s Batman Gallery, which featured Lew Welch and Kirby Doyle reading, as well as a film or performance by Paul Beattie and Bill Spencer. The postcard is illustrated with a pasted down photograph by Wallace Berman, which features Lew Welch peering out from beneath a hole in a dock or floorboards, with the large leatherbooted foot of Kirby Doyle poised above his fingers. The image appears on p. 61 of Wallace Berman: Photographs.

The event which this commemorates was likely the joint reading of Welch and Doyle’s “Din Poem” in 1961, which is mentioned in the chronology in Ring of Bone. The event was likely held on the opening of George Herms’ show that year at the gallery – a reminiscence by George Herms in Foley notes that Beattie showed a film and Doyle and Welch read at his the opening of his exhibition that year [Foley p. 21]

The Batman Gallery had opened in November of the previous year, and though only active for 5 years, was in retrospect on the most important alternative art galleries of the west coast. The walls had been painted matte black by Bruce Conner, who was the first artist to be shown. Jahrmarkt was a close friend of Berman, whose Verifax collages were created on a machine given to Berman by Jahrmarkt. A very early work by Berman with an excellent assocation, linking him with a close associate and the greatest gallery of the time.  

Berman, Wallace. Mail Art Announcement for an Exhibit at Batman Gallery.

San Francisco: 1961. Collage, silver gelatin print. ink, and postage stamp on card stock [3 5/8 x 6 1/4″]. Addressed in Wallace Berman’s hand to Billy Jahrmarkt and postmarked in May of 1961.

Ray Johnson Dreams of Marcel Duchamp

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Johnson, Ray. Untitled Collage “Duchamp had also painted an overdoor in the drawing room. . .”.

np: [1958]. 8 1/2 x 11″, collage with graphite holograph on white paper. Folded twice and housed in the original mailing envelope, postmarked in 1958.

The publication last year of Not Nothing: Selected Writings, 1954-1994, by the excellent people at Siglio Press was one of my favorite books of the year. It brought much needed attention to Johnson’s work as writer, and he was one of the most consistently fascinating writers of his time, though his strange texts are often overshadowed by the emphasis on the visual element of his work.

This is my work by Johnson – a simple collage consisting of an engraving of men working on roofs, from an unknown source, matched with a handwritten text by Johnson recounting a dream visit to the Duchamp residence. An early tribute to an artist that would arguably influence Johnson’s body of work more than any other, as references to Duchamp abound throughout Johnson’s oeuvre.

Ray Johnson wasn’t the only artist to dream about Duchamp – the matter of fact quality of his account is similar to Joseph Cornell’s transcriptions of dreams he had about Duchamp in the late 60’s, or even the gangster in the fourth case of the film Dreams That Money Can Buy – the Duchamp scene -in which the gangster wants a dream that will help him win horse races – all three scenes installments in a hypnagogic, alternate dream history of influence in conceptual art.

The work was included in Not Nothing: The Selected Writings of Ray Johnson, as plate no. 8.

Boy London and Peter Christopherson

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The first advertisement made for the infamous London fashion store, a large format poster designed by Peter Christopherson. Boy was formed in 1977 on King’s Road by John Krivine and Steph Raynor. Christopherson at that time was both a member of Throbbing Gristle, and of the design company Hipgnosis, who had been responsible for some of the most recognizable album covers of the era, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Krivine invited Christopherson to create the initial design for the store after seeing COUM’s poster designs for the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Christopherson was responsible for the initial concept and design of the store, including the typography, and also the window displays, which showed an unconscious or dead young man. Genesis P-Orridge described them to Jon Savage as follows: “The idea was that a boy had climbed in to steal stuff, accidentally knocked over an electric fire and set the place on fire and burned to death. And these were the leftovers of the boy. So there was a Doc Marten boot with bits of flesh and there was a bit of his jeans and buttock and a finger with a ring and some mouldy hand. And they were in little forensic dishes in these glass boxes like you would find at the Black Museum. So this was just a parody of a mixture of forensic evidence and vandalism.” – [P-Orridge, quoted in Ford 7.4-7.5]

The window display was provocative enough that the windows were soon vandalized, a problem that would dog the early days of the shop. Boy London would go on to become on the most influential and controversial fashion lines of the 80’s. Christopherson would go on to form Coil with John Balance. A rare example of the early work of the most innovative and provocative designer of the period, or of any period.

Christopherson, Peter. Boy London. The Strength of a Country Lies in Its Youth. London: Boy London, [1977]. 16 1/2 x 23 3/4″, offset litho.

A strong, very good example, never folded, with creasing along the left margin.

The San Francisco Zookeeper Who Let Michael McClure and Bruce Conner in to see the Lions

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The San Francisco Keeper’s Voice, edited by zookeeper Alexander Weiss, was one of the most unusual little magazines of the 60′s. The magazine was actually a zine devoted to the art of being a zookeeper, with contributions from zookeepers, though some issues included poetry, including a contribution from Richard Brautigan in a different issue.

One of the most interesting poetry happenings of the 60′s was when Michael McClure read to the lions in the San Francisco zoo, which was filmed by Bruce Conner – clips can be seen on Youtube. I’ve always wondered how McClure and Conner got into the zoo, and on the back of this copy, which McClure had mailed to Marshall Clements, he lets the cat out of the bag (or the lion out of the cage) –

“Marshall, Alex Weiss the ed. of this paper is the lion keeper who opened up the lion house for Bruce Conner & I… ”

McClure has a poem in this issue, and in the editor’s note to the poem Weiss seems to also obliquely hint at the event – “Michael McClure is a poet of inter-organic importance. His “Beast-Language” Poems have created quite a stir among mammals of all kinds.“

 

 

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Weiss, Alexander, ed. San Francisco Keeper’s Voice, Vol. 1 No. 2. San Francisco: Alexander Weiss, 1965. First edition. 4to, 8 pp, offset printed and stab-stapled. Addressed to Marshall Clements in McClure’s hand, with six line holograph note.  [23978]

 

Good Old Solomon

 

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I’ve been fascinated lately by publications from the German underground in the 60’s and 70’s, specifically those that came from communes. There are a surprising number, and for some reason they are largely unknown on these shores. This book, Guter Alter Salomon, was published by Klepperkommune Mainz in 1970.

It was printed by Geburtstagpresse, one of the key underground presses of the time, and like many of their books it utilizes a great, narrow 4to format – narrow enough to fit into a pocket, but the height gives a larger printing field for images. The choice of format may have also been economical, as a book in this format would likely use a standard sized sheet of paper with little trim loss.

The book is a collection of old testament and religious quotes about sex, interspersed with provocative, political pop art illustrations by one Wolfgang Blacha. I’ve been able to find out little about the artist, but would be glad to hear from anyone who knows of other work by him, or have more information about Klepperkommune Mainz.

Klepperkommune Mainz. Guter Alter Salomon. Mainz: Geburtstagpresse, 1970.

The 1968 Columbia Strike at the Speed of Mimeograph

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Up Against the Wall / Mother Fucker, 1968

By the 1960’s, the Mimeograph was not a new technology, having been in widespread use for decades. Towards the end of the decade, however, something novel happens – various social movements began to use the cheap and easily available technology of the Mimeograph to respond to events with increasing speed, sometimes even during the event itself. In San Francisco, Com/Co and the Diggers begin use their Gestetner’s to respond to current events. At the Invisible Circus event at Glide Church, Brautigan and Com/Co set up the John Dillinger Computer Complex to print “news” leaflets covering the celebration. In New York, the Motherfuckers lug a mimeograph machine to community meetings with Bill Graham about the Fillmore East and issue leaflets denouncing his speaking points while he is still addressing the crowd. But no event embodies this tendency more than the occupation of Columbia University in 1968, when a network of groups issued an avalanche of mimeographed leaflets from occupied classrooms and off campus apartments in order to comment on the events and urge the participation of others.

It was a watershed moment in print culture that has interesting parallels to the use of social media during protests in recent years. Cataloguing a recently acquired collection of flyers from the strike has given us opportunity to examine this relationship between print technology and activism.

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Division Leap offers a collection of more than 150 pamphlets, leaflets, circulars, minutes, manifestos and communiques related to the 1968 Strike and Occupation of Columbia. Please inquire for more details.

Marianne Fritz and the Weight of Things

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Photograph of Marianne Fritz, from the dust jacket flap of her second novel.

Last month I heard that Dorothy, A Publishing Project was publishing the first English translation, by Adrian Nathan West, of the Austrian writer Marianne Fritz’s debut novel, The Weight of Things – originally published in 1978 as Die Schwerkraft der Verhaltnisse. The publisher and the translator should be commended for bringing the work of such a criminally neglected writer to English readers. I have only a neophyte grasp of German, and had previously only been able to stumble through pieces of Fritz’s work sentence by sentence with dictionary in hand. This translation seems to ably capture the irony and horror of Fritz’s novel. I think it would be of interest to anybody with an interest in experimental literature, and hopefully it will gain Fritz the readership which has largely eluded her work, even in her original language, and lead to the translation of her later works. It has been perfect late November reading on bus rides home through the rain and the dark.

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The first edition in German, with the band announcing the Robert Walser prize.

I first heard of the work of Marianne Fritz chasing footnote to Sebald’s haunting poem In Alfermee, in his selected poems, Across the Land and the Water. The poem begins, in English translation by Iain Galbraith –

“Threading sleep

letter by letter

comes a language

you don’t understand

The exhausted eyes

of the writer the fingers

of one hand on the

keys of her machine”

The translator’s footnote suggests that the reference is to Fritz, and probably came out of discussions between Sebald and the German critic Heinz Schafroth in 1997, whom Sebald visited around the time that he was delivering the lectures which became On the Natural History of Destruction. Schafroth was one of the few critics to pay attention to Fritz’s work with anything other than derision, and he wrote the foreward to her Was Soll Man da Machen.

The brevity of The Weight of Things does little to prepare the reader for what follows. Fritz would subsequently embark on an extended literary project she called “The Fortress”, replete with numerous diagrams, which ran to more than 10,000 pages, and which withstood all attempts at proofreading, typesetting, casual reading or tidy critical summaries. Her third novel, entitled Dessen Sprache du nicht verstehst (Whose Language You Don’t Understand) is 3387 pages long in my 12 volume Suhrkamp edition. Naturgemass I and II would follow, each of which was published in 5 volume sets.

I don’t know if Sebald read Fritz. The aforementioned Was Soll Man de Machen, which was sort of an advance installment and cast listing of Dessen Sprache. . . was at one point in his library, but is listed in the short list of books he had once possessed but had disposed of. This didn’t necessarily indicate displeasure on Sebald’s part – according to Jo Catling, in chapter 11 of Saturn’s Rings, Sebald often sold or otherwise disposed of books in his library.  The title of Dessen Sprache. . . is certainly evocative of the sense of  dislocation which Sebald’s narrators sometimes seem to feel when listening language and not being able to comprehend it, especially while traveling.

The Weight of Things can be purchased at better bookstores, or from the publisher. We have a number of first editions and signed books by Fritz here, and in the shop.

For further reading – there is a German language website devoted to Fritz, which includes some unpublished pages from the third installment of Naturgemäß. Adrian Nathan West has written a blog post on Fritz and translating Die Schwerkraft. . on the Paris Review website, and another piece here.  There is also the text of a discussion between West and Kate Zambreno over at the Believer.

The Archive of Camofleur

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16. Ellison, J. Milford [1909-1993]. Archive of Photographs Relating to a Camoufleur

Np: c. 1930’2-1940’s. Approximately 143 photographs, most mounted onto black paper- a few with captions – along with 15 other items of ephemera, including announcements for exhibitions, news articles, three items of correspondence and restricted army orders, all housed in four manila folders. A number of the photographs have fallen from their mounts, and the black paper the remainder are mounted onto is chipped and creased at extremities, but condition is otherwise generally very good.

 

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In a 1980 interview by Paul and Rita Kress which is hosted on the San Diego State University website, Ellison detailed his career as an artist. Ellison was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1909. He studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Chouinard Art School, and afterwards moved to California where he taught and exhibited in the seceding decades.

During WWII Ellison was drafted, but was excused as he was overweight. He saw an ad for a meeting about becoming a Camofleur in Los Angeles. In 1944 Ellison went over to England to do camouflage work in the field, including camouflaging eight fields in southern England prior to D Day. Subsequently Ellison was sent back to London where he was an an instructor in the mines and booby traps school. After four weeks Ellison was sent to France and Belgium, where he worked to camouflage fields and worked on paintings in his spare time, which culminated in a 1945 exhibition at the La Jolla Fine Arts Gallery and the La Jolla Museum of Art.

This collection consists of four folders, the bulk of which are taken up with photographs tipped onto blank album paper.  along with assorted ephemera from Ellison’s career, including orders. Approximately half the photographs pertain to the camouflage work, including photographs of camouflage in the field and the designing and manufacturing of camouflage, aerial views, photographs of restricted camouflage test areas.

The nature of camouflage is to elude recognition, making photography of them a paradoxical act. The photographs derive an odd and lasting power from the degree to which they deceive the viewer or not, or in the manner in which the facade of invisibility is constructed. The most confusing of the photographs are of a camouflage testing area, in which no camouflage seems apparent, even on close gaze, and the power resides in knowing the context –  that there is a camouflaged object within view.  To confuse the gaze further, some of the photographs are obviously model constructions, perhaps test dioramas which are eerily similar to doll houses.

An interesting chapter of the longer story of fine artists working in the field of Camouflage beginning with WWI – a distinguished lineage which included the surrealist Roland Penrose and numerous Australian artists. $2500

 

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B. Traven and the Flight of the Buchergilde Gutenberg from Germany

 

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20. Traven, B. Der Marsch ins Reich der Caoba. Zurich, Vienna, Prague: Buchergilde Gutenberg, 1933. First edition. 8vo, 254 pp, bound in full slate blue cloth with red blind-stamped titles. Printed dust jacket.

The first edition of the third book in the Mahogany series, and the first book published by the Buchergilde Gutenberg in exile following the seizure of the Berlin Press by the Nazis earlier in that year. This was the first Traven title from the press to bear a dust jacket, and it was a striking one, reproducing a chalk drawing attributed to “FUCK.”

This wasn’t necessarily a middle finger extended to the Nazi’s, but rather the name of the artist, Bruno Fuck – a pseudonym of Boris Angelushev, a Bulgarian artist whose work is featured on a number of socialist publications of the 30’s.

The book didn’t appear in English until the 1961 British edition, under the title March to Coabaland, reprinted in 1964 by Dell as March to Monteria. Treverton 705.

A fine copy in a striking, near fine example of the dust jacket, with several short marginal tears which have been neatly repaired at verso. Sold.

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