You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

archive for the 'Books' department

Richard Fariña: A Case of Criminal Neglect

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Halfway through Céline’s Death on the Installment Plan the ellipses started floating under my eyelids like retinal flotsam. I needed a break, a breezy intermission. Browsing the stacks I came across Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me:

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My copy of Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969

Oh yeah. I keep meaning to read that. It’s got a Pynchon quote on the back. As it turns out, Been Down So Long has some of the most haunting prose I’ve ever read. Why did I neglect this book for so long?


Punk Bene Gesserits and Biomega in Paris

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

The Autumn/Winter 2010/11 shows at Paris Fashion Week come - for better or worse - leather bound. Also, “tribe” and “tribal” are words that often get tossed about in reference to this season’s collections. Sarah Mower of quoted Rick Owens as saying that his women are, ‘a sect of nuns with inner discipline’. Well, naturally I think Dune:

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Punk Bene Gesserits at the Rick Owens A/W 2010/11 show

All photos from


The Paper Architects (Real and Fictional)

Friday, February 5th, 2010

I meant to write about Lois Nesbitt’s Brodsky & Utkin: The Complete Works sooner, but until recently it was buried in one of my “to be processed” stacks of reading material (easily confused with my “to sit and collect dust” stacks, but I know the difference). Russian paper architects Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin formed a partnership in the late Seventies that lasted roughly a decade. Their fantastic work, according to Nesbitt, “constitutes a graphic form of architectural criticism” of the dehumanizing effects of Soviet utilitarian architecture.

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Doll’s House 1982
from Nesbitt’s Brodsky & Utkin: The Complete Works (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003)


Paradise Kiss

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Living in Atlanta for three years helped to dispel many myths (no, the Tara Plantation has never been real and no, there aren’t any peach trees to be found in Atlanta) and reinforce a few stereotypes (yes, southern folk are hospitable and yes, it’s called the Dirty South for a reason). I miss the humid summer nights, live oaks, the curious ability of kudzu to engulf anything within a couple of weeks if not tamed and the steady stream of pleasant surprises. Coming across Oxford Comics was one of those pleasant surprises, and it still has my vote for best comic book shop. Through the owner’s well-organized, comprehensive inventory I stumbled onto many wonderful finds, like the fashion manga, Paradise Kiss.

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Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss Volume 4, Los Angeles, Tokyo: Tokyopop, 2003. The cast of characters from left: Arashi, George, Isabella and Miwako - caged is “the heroine”, Yukari


Design and Organic Forms

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Even under a microscope, Nature’s lessons in design range from simple structures to complex patterns. German (Prussian) zoologist Ernst Haeckel’s Art Forms in Nature was originally published around the turn of the 20th century and influenced practitioners of Art Nouveau such as René Binet and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Haeckel’s artistic rendering of the “structural peculiarities” of organisms emphasized the ornamental aspects of natural forms. Browsing through Art Forms in Nature provides me with all manner of design ideas for garments, interior decorating, character sketches and sci-fi landscapes or architecture.

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“Discomedusae” from Ernst Haeckel. Art Forms in Nature Prestel Publishing, 2004


Margaret Brundage: From Fashion to Pulpmags

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

One of the many reasons I enjoyed living in San Francisco was the variety of independent shops and the resources they provided me. A frequent haunt was Kayo Books, where I would burrow into their inventory to study the style of pulp cover art, which successfully pulls off doom & distress smothered in erotic overtones. This is the holiday season in which weak attempts are made at erotic doom & distress by a hard-partying zombie army of girls in scary makeup and vinyl nurse outfits. It may seem that the spirit of Halloween is as cheap and empty as that six foot inflatable skull that sits on the doorstep warning kids in a scratchy metallic moan to, Beware! Turn back! Thankfully there is real substance to be found inside pulpmags like Weird Tales, complete with frequent contributions from Lovecraft and envelope-pushing cover art by Margaret Brundage.

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, October 1933


Ton Almighty

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

The velvet rope. In or out. I am puzzled by the folks that stand outside clubs hour after hour, eager to get in or have their name on a magic list. Bouncers part the crowds to make way for the chosen coterie. What is the x factor for cool? At one time there was an equation to solve for whether you have enough of “it”, or bon ton, to belong to the fashionable circle. The equation for ton was well-guarded by, ‘that Most Distinguished and Despotic CONCLAVE, Composed of their High Mightinesses the Lady Patronesses of the Balls at ALMACK’S, the Rulers of Fashion, the Arbiters of Taste, the Leaders of Ton’. (Ellen Moers. The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1960)

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Princess Lieven, lady patroness at Almack’s by Sir Thomas Lawrence, circa 1805