Archive for the ‘sylvia beach’ Tag

Bitty Titty Soft and Bouncy (Day 72)

Sylvia Beach with James Joyce at Shakespeare & Co., Paris 1920

Sylvia Beach with James Joyce at Shakespeare & Co., Paris 1920

Another bitty day but progress was made. Kicked off with some Channel 4 work looking forward to to 2014, meeting a sports presenter to further develop a really interesting  idea we began kicking around a couple of months ago. From there I walked along a golden Malet Street past the University of London to the British Library where I installed myself in the Anthropology Library to work on the music project prompted by my interview with Jon King of Gang of Four yesterday. Got a few ideas down to start to set the scope and whacked them over to my radio friend. Then settled down to process my notes from the David Amram phone interview last night – mainly making sure it’s all legible in the long run.

Finished off my initial research into Sylvia Beach over a bowl of hot Greek bean soup in RADAland, sitting next to two glamorous, screwed-up actresses discussing boyfriend trouble and CBT experiences – in other words, very good quality eavesdropping material. The Beach research touched on her time in Savoy and mentioned Chambery where I went to university for a year, a not oft-mentioned town.

Once back home I  gave Malcolm Garrett a ring to set up an in-person interview with him about Tony Wilson & Manchester. Malcolm, who I know through working together on the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment committee, is the excellent designer behind the Buzzcocks record sleeves among many others, so first entered my life in the form of the silver and orange cover of Another Music in a Different Kitchen which delighted the teenage me. Rounded off things by getting in touch with Barry Miles, biographer and friend of Allen Ginsberg.

Took off for Chalk Farm on that note, the work day ended, to see the opening of an exhibition of photos of Andy Warhol (who I loathe and consider the opposite of Ginsberg – I wrote a scene about their meeting out back in a New York club where Ginsberg cut the twat neatly down to size in his own gentle way) and Edie Sedgwick (who, from the vaguest memory I have of the book I wrote about her – oops, Freudian slip, read about her I consider somehow tragic, like Basquiat and all the other cowardly damage Warhol left in his wake). It was at my friend/associate Alex Proud’s gallery in The Stables, an extravagantly large space, not really the right shape but different and fun.

From there to the 10th anniversary party of mySociety, a digital agency I admire hugely which is why I sacrificed the Channel 4 Christmas do to it (which was conveniently and teasingly  beside the Stables) and trekked off to Mozilla in St Martin’s Lane to see Tom Steinberg and crew. And that I’ll leave for my next post…

Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier in Savoy, not a million miles from Chambery

Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier in Savoy, not a million miles from Chambery

It’s only love give it away (Day 59)

Rounded off the week with a delightful phone conversation with Rosebud Pettet, a long-time, close friend of Allen Ginsberg, who lived with and beside him for over quarter of a century on&off. She was at his bedside when he passed on to the great poem in the sky and wrote a story about that experience which she shared with the likes of Patti Smith, Francesco Clemente and Philip Glass as well as Allen’s brother Eugene and partner Peter Orlovsky. She gave some beautiful insights into life with Allen from their meeting in the 60s when she was a teenager to his final years when he finally moved out of the building they had shared on the Lower East Side for yonks.

At one point in her travels Rose lived in London (not three miles from my end of the call) and at another point she was in Christiania in Copenhagen where I was last week.

christiania copenhagen hippy quarter

I began the day back in the walled kitchen garden of Kenwood researching Sylvia Beach and her relationship with Joyce, with whom she was very close and supportive, not just around the publication of Ulysses but in his Parisian family life too.

In the afternoon I wrote about the legendary 4th June 1976 Sex Pistols gig in Manchester, attended by some 35 people and yet which inspired a great blossoming of music from Manchester including Joy Division and The Fall and their knock-on effects. It’s a good way into exploring the interface of truth and mythology around Tony Wilson, Factory and the Manchester scene of that golden era.

Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock and Steve Jones - Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester - 4th June 1976

Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock and Steve Jones – Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester – 4th June 1976

All week I’ve been trying to get in touch with a lead singer from another great band of the time to interview, wracking my brains about who I know who would have worked with him in recent times. Was drawing blanks from that line of inquiry until I was standing at the bread bit of the local supermarket during the weekend when I turned around and there he was. Singer of one of the great singles of all time and a landmark of punk, both of us loaves in hand, both in our silver fox period, face to face over a basket of family shopping. The world works in mysterious ways…

Autosuggestion (Day 56)

kitchen garden kenwood london

london seen from kenwood

A day of two halves (which is more than you can say about the England-Germany match in the evening). First half was located in the walled Kitchen Garden of Kenwood House overlooking the city on a cold but azure day. I began reading about Sylvia Beach and the story of her Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris. She has been on my radar for a good while as a potential publishing casestudy – she’s central to the Ulysses story as its bold and generous publisher and being as it’s my favourite book in the world, a natural for me. I was at the current (not entirely related) iteration of the store last Saturday afternoon when I picked up Beach’s account of its history under her direction.

The weird thing is that as I broached the book, written in the late 50s and published by the University of Nebraska, it emerged that Shakespeare and Company was opened without fanfare on this very day in 1919. I take it as a good sign.

I’ve already done research on Gertrude Stein, looking at her contribution to visual arts in particular, and on publisher Robert McAlmon but haven’t quite been able to pin down who the right subject is among the Lost Generation.

The low yellow light in my office du jour and the perfect blue sky was a delight and I stayed as long as my scarf, gloves and hat allowed. I concluded with a read of Ginsberg’s major poem Kaddish which I also picked up at Shakespeare & Co. last weekend and started reading on the quay just below the Beat Hotel.

shakespeare and company bookshop paris

On my return to the warmth of home I immersed myself in the world of Joy Division and Factory Records, watching the rest of Grant Gee’s excellent documentary, made with the style and care that characterised the best of Joy Division and the Factory phenomenon. I’m finding Tony Wilson an increasingly difficult subject as the disparity between his surface and his catalytic achievements which spring from his deep passions stretches your sympathy at times, as well as skewing a lot of what is recorded about him.

Tomorrow I’ll start having my first pass at drafting the chapter and see where that takes me. Unknown Pleasures will accompany this first assault…

To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you
I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you
In a room with a window in the corner I found truth

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