Picabia, Nihilism, and Searching for Meaning in Art in 2017

This is going to be a little bit dark and weird, but I can’t help it: it’s 2017. The universe doesn’t care about us! Maybe 2018 will be better. (Those numbers look weird. I don’t want to count from Christ.) But I was asked about what book or movie or art exhibit affected me most this past year, and what came to mind was the Picabia show at MoMA. I was amazed by the show. I loved it and learned from it and I’m still thinking about it.

Inevitably, in 2017 the thought of the Picabia show also brings Trump to mind. The two men have things in common. Both have been plausibly called nihilists (as have I, in fact, in connection with my “punk” history). Both inherited enough money to live comfortably their whole lives. (Picabia was born and raised in Paris; his father was a Spanish-Cuban aristocrat with a sugar plantation and his mother came from wealthy and intellectually distinguished French merchants.) Both lied and misrepresented themselves a lot and were sexually self-indulgent and untrustworthy. They also lived to insult and provoke. How could what is repulsive and ridiculous and scary in Trump be fascinating and intriguing in Picabia?  I suppose art absorbs everything without damage; societies don’t. Societies are about living in harmony and prosperity; art is about how things are.

Francis Picabia, “Très rare tableau sur la terre” (1915)

I mentioned I have a “punk” background. A lot of what punk was about was “authenticity” or “honesty.” Of course, a quality carried to its extreme becomes its opposite (the universe appears to be curved) (or, as Picabia put it, and MoMA adopted for his show’s title: “Our heads are round so our thoughts can change directions.”) Picabia was so fraudulent he was completely real. He probably found that “heads are round” line in a newspaper somewhere. It doesn’t sound like Nietzsche, who was the writer Picabia usually stole from, and by all accounts the painter didn’t read much.

Picabia, of course, is primarily associated with Dada, that and with Duchamp, who was his lifelong close friend, and from whom he also seems to have taken a lot of ideas. Duchamp was an originator of conceptual art more than he was a Dadaist. Picabia is largely a mixture of those two tendencies, Dada (“anti-art” art) and the conceptual. Also “of course” Dada and punk have things in common: mockery of the idea of skill or virtuosity in art, a general inclination to subvert… Irreverence, brattiness, aggression. Dada was also thought of as nihilist, though it was a kind of idealistic nihilism, in that it was largely a reaction of anger and despair regarding the values and social structures and political leaders responsible for the unprecedentedly horrific and pointless carnage of the First World War.

Francis Picabia, “Parade amoureuse,” (1917)

The 20th century was full of massacres. People are always trying to put the killing in perspective, find ways to say it’s not so bad. I often wonder myself. I wonder how lucky I am not to have been in a fully hot war zone, or an imposed famine, or some other murderous situation in my lifetime (yet). I wonder how large a proportion of general human life is about murder. I wonder how much time throughout history the average person has spent with his life immediately threatened by other human beings, as in a war zone or an extremely violent neighborhood or household. I tried to figure it out recently. The best I could do was find statistics on violence. A World Health Organization report online read that “In 2000, an estimated 1.6 million people worldwide lost their lives to violence—a rate of nearly 28.8 per 100,000. Around half of these deaths were suicides, nearly one-third were homicides, and about one-fifth were casualties of armed conflict.” Somehow the numbers didn’t really enlighten me as to how miserable exactly it is to live in our world. The most surprising thing was what a large proportion—half—of violent deaths are deliberately self-inflicted. That suggests that perhaps things are even worse than they seem.

Francis Picabia, “Espagnole a la cigarette,” (1921)

Figuring out Picabia is almost as hard as figuring out how mean human life is. I’ve always appreciated Dada but have not been particularly fixed on it, partly because, whatever “metaphysical” position I may have (nihilist?), I love art (and being “honest,” I don’t want to deny that, however uncool it may sound). I depend on art. Art is the only answer I have. I hardly believe in anything else, and, supposedly, Dada was about subverting art, demystifying it, mocking it, destroying it. The thing is, even more than capitalism, art absorbs all its opposition. Once you acknowledge it, it owns you. And that’s what’s so revealing about the Picabia show. It demonstrated the power of art despite all arguments to the contrary, seeing as how some of the most beautiful and interesting art of the century was created by someone, Picabia, with nothing but contempt for art, if an apparently irresistible compulsion to create it. Art is the field for those who want to know what’s going on, whether they like it or not.

Francis Picabia, “Portrait d’un Docteur” (1938)

Everything about Picabia is suspect, except for maybe two things: the quality of his work and the respect and affection he won from his friends, extraordinary brilliants like Apollinaire and Duchamp and Gertrude Stein. Not only was Picabia independently wealthy (he spent a lot of money on fast cars and yachts), apolitical, and intensely egotistic, it seems that he was a narcotics addict. He was a rampant plagiarist, most egregiously in his many writings, half of which were aphorisms, most of which he copied from Nietzsche. He didn’t draw very well. He mostly liked living the high life on the Riviera with his witty friends and many and simultaneous lovers and wives. It all seems completely frivolous, when not positively evil. Yet not only are his works tremendous, but a lot of their aura positively comes from their dubious origins and aspects—unlike say T.S. Eliot whose conservatism and anti-Semitism can incline one to rethink one’s opinion of his art, Picabia’s plagiarism and appropriation actually confer glamor. He’s proving that plagiarism does no harm in the hands of a good artist. People don’t own ideas. He’s enlarging your mind. Can a self-absorbed immoralist make great art? Of course.

Picabia was essentially a Dadaist before Dada. Dada was founded in Zurich by Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, et al., in 1916. Tzara wrote Picabia, inviting him to join them, in 1918. Picabia had been painting his “mechanomorphic” canvases, which were basically diagrams of industrial/electrical machinery copied directly from a popular science magazine, since 1915. (There is actually a case to be made, too, that Picabia painted the first ever purely non-representational—abstract—painting with his Caoutchouc of 1909.) Unsurprisingly, Picabia’s friend Duchamp was meticulously depicting machinery and machine diagrams before Picabia.

Francis Picabia, “Tetes superposees,” (1938)

I’ve always been something of a snob about Dada, I should mention, too, because, as seductive and invigorating as it was, by the time I was born Dada was passé, inevitably. Every artily precocious high school kid ate it up, and who wants to be an artily precocious high school kid? So we made up “punk” instead. Now, at age 68, I’m both less threatened by Dada and less pridefully snobbish. The thing about it, that I now see Picabia most fully demonstrating, is that, despite everything, Dada still presented sensibility. Despite being “anti-art,” practitioners of Dada made art of great beauty. I first learned this from the exquisite collages of Kurt Schwitters. Dada had a lot of inner contradictions. How was it possible to oppose art, mock art and all its pretensions, while making art (from garbage) as beautiful as Schwitters’s is. Somehow it wasn’t inconsistent. I could hold the opposing ideas in my head at once and still function. I’m smart (as Donald Trump likes to say)! My generation grew up with the idea of authenticity and passion as the ground for art-making. Cezanne through Pollock. But something else was going on too, and as much as I loved it—Duchamp and Warhol and Kippenberger—there was still a thread of skepticism in me about art that is apparently frivolously or coldly calculated, or even derisive about art-making altogether. But, in fact, as I’m sure you know already, you can be fake and not give a damn and still make great art, especially if there’s some wit involved too. That’s exciting.

Francis Picabia, “Femmes au bull-dog” (1941)

Another interesting thing is that I don’t know how to explain how good Picabia’s paintings are. Like a lot of painters in the past couple of centuries he had many periods and styles. The one thing you could say about him, the way in which he was consistent, is that all the paintings seem to have followed from fairly simple formulae. Copy mechanical diagrams from technical magazines. Superimpose elements and outlines of images across each other. Arrange figures copied from soft porn magazines. Attach series of objects or prominent arrangements of heavy marks to the surface of images. There’s a lot we still don’t know about him. I remember when it became generally known that that whole period of his mildly-porny/cheerful-communist poster imagery was actually copied from European soft porn and other mass market magazines. It took a while for scholars to figure that out—same for his appropriation of Nietzsche in his writings. I learned a new thing from the MoMA exhibit: I didn’t know that Picabia as a young man, circa 1905 (he was born in 1879), had been an apparently serious, successful post-Impressionist, making paintings that looked to me like Robert Crumb doing Albert Sisley, and that, despite Picabia’s sincere-seeming Impressionist conservatism (by 1905, to be Impressionist was to be conservative), many of those paintings were apparently copied from post cards, rather than painted in true Impressionist style, en plein air. In other words, at that point he was behaving as a conceptualist/Dadaist without there being any indication that he wasn’t in fact a striving, conventional young academic painter. What was up with him???

Basically, I think he wanted to get ahead as an artist and he was very smart and he didn’t care what means he used. The ends justified the means, he felt, probably without giving it much thought at all. It’s like love and war. Who knows? But the lesson I took away is: trust your sensibility. It’s all you have, there are no other rules in art. Van Gogh and Picabia are pretty much opposites in any way you can think of, but they are both genuinely great (to the extent that humans get to use the word “genuine”).

Francis Picabia, “Lachete de la barbarie subtile” (1949)

There’s so much that’s clumsy and/or kitschy about Picabia’s canvases, but it doesn’t matter. Their richness makes up for it, where it’s an issue at all (clumsiness and kitsch have their own charms too). His paintings are like what the human world is saying at that time and place, which is all that art can be. Like the world itself at one point, around 150 million years ago, said “turtle,” the human world speaks in art, and during Picabia’s lifetime his art was eloquent. It still is. Perhaps it was as conceptual as it was “retinal” (to use Duchamp’s term for art as simply a visual experience), and often it is sourced from vulgar or commonplace imagery, but on the wall it tells you what is happening in the 20th century, and it is fascinating, poignant, funny, gorgeous, and sad.

There is no meaning, there is only sensibility. Trump is an ugly monster because he’s an amoral, egomaniacal nihilist who’s put himself in a position to control people’s lives for his own benefit. Picabia is a beautiful monster, however disturbing his nihilism may seem, because he’s an artist with an advanced sensibility who gave that sensibility free play in his work. The nihilism increased the freedom.


Richard Hell: Confessions of a Book Collector

I went up to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair the other week. I’ve collected books since I was a teenager. When I was a little boy I collected birds’ nests. There’s something about collecting that’s connected to childhood — amazement at the world, maybe, generating a desire to possess it…in acts of undercover self-definition. It’s the classic need to own “pure” beauty and so be reflected there, subtly sabotaged by the realization that nothing is owned that isn’t internal. One does want one’s books to love oneself only, but they never do; they’re available to all.

Walter Benjamin wrote a famous essay about book collecting, “Unpacking My Library,” which is what he’s doing in it. He’s drunk from his books and the essay is daffy (“I’m unpacking my books. Yes I am.”), while still seeming (mostly) sincere, and he remarks on the connection to childhood, though he saw it differently. He looked at the collector’s acquisition of a book as its “rebirth,” as, for children, “collecting is only one process of renewal: other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application of decals….To renew the old world — that is the collector’s deepest desire,” which is plausible, but I think every true collector has unique motives. Because a collection is a mirror, a self-realization, one’s inner life made visible. You are what you love, and what you know, and a book collector’s library makes those things material.

I’m glad I grew up before the internet, because, as we all know, the web has devastated brick-and-mortar bookstores. When I was a teenager in New York in the late Sixties, Fourth Avenue for five blocks below 14th Street was practically nothing but used-book stores, and the new-book stores in the neighborhood kept smudged and curled, overflowing sections of consignment small-press publications, mostly local. My favorite recreation was to systematically investigate the shelves of all those stores. In the poetry sections I would look at every single book I didn’t already know. Being penniless, I took joy in finding something that was way more valuable to me than to the bookseller. I hardly ever bought a book that was presented as a collector’s item. I still feel that way — part of the pleasure of finding a book is that other people don’t particularly want it — and it’s a reason I buy fewer old books than I used to.

Now everything that’s old or rare is a collector’s item, thanks to reality TV (Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, Comic Book Men, etc., etc.) and because dealers can consult the web. There’s no more rooting around through dark, dusty shelves and boxes (half the pleasure of the hunt is simply being in the woods). It’s true that, strictly in terms of convenience and availability, the web is a great market for lower-end first editions — if you know the right questions to ask of sloppy, unregulated dealers. Brian Cassidy, an enthusiastic, soulful young dealer of my kind of material (Sixties mimeo poetry, for instance), has a booth at the annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair — where the dealers are regulated and rarely sloppy. At the Fair two weeks ago, he described to me how book collecting seems to be following general economic trends in that the finest examples of the higher-end things are becoming more and more expensive, while simple, clean first editions, without any extras (such as author inscriptions, say), are cheaper and easier to find than at any time in decades. It’s not the same, though, to be staring into the glare of shifting screens and ordering books from unknown merchants whose stock may not be exactly what you expect once you can examine it. And nothing costs $1 anymore.

What is the appeal of a first edition? I can explain what it is for me. First of all, a book is unrivaled as human information formed for maximum delectation — knowledge and beauty made manifest. Proust liked books more than people; in fact he wrote that a good book is the only way to know another person, another person’s world. Conversation with a friend is superficial by comparison. That’s fair. But I’ve forever sought books desirable for another quality, namely, ones that look exactly how they mean. For me, that meaning, “content,” tends to be poems. There are a couple of modern books I know that come close to that, to being deployed language reified, ur-books, paradigms. But I have once held in my hands a volume that fully attained that object. Don’t scoff at its obviousness. It was a book so rare that very few have been lucky to leaf through it, and there’s no other way to understand. Namely, an original printing, hand- colored on paper printed from his own etchings by its author/printer/publisher: Songs of Innocence and Experience. The poems seem swirled up on the water colored face of the deep itself, by William Blake, lamb and tyger. It proves there’s some hope. (Modern examples of this ideal, for me, are Ted Berrigan’s Many Happy Returns and Bill Knott’s hardbound Nights of Naomi, though perhaps the recent volume that’s the closest example of one that, like Blake’s, merges visual art with words is Berrigan’s lyrical, barbaric, modern American reconstruction of Rimbaud, The Drunken Boat, drawn and hand-lettered by Joe Brainard.) Of course, my real hope, more than to acquire such books, is to make one myself before I die; sometimes I think I’ve come close. (Benjamin: “Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method.”)

But I was talking about the mystique of the first edition. For me, it’s a time-space gestalt centered on the writer: I love the original printing for everything it says about its moment — its moment in culture, but more specifically the moment when the writer him- or herself first received and reacted to that public realization of a work. It’s the most intimate display of its being — more so even, for me, than the book’s manuscript. A first edition collapses time, or it transmits an instance netted by its hollow facets. The first edition is the absolute context, in time and intent, for the pure sequence of spaces, letter forms, and punctuation (and/or graphics, maybe) that is its pretext. That context being such elements as dust-jacket subject and design; the book’s means of reproduction; its dimensions and its format; typeface; the tone of its author bio; innumerable, sometimes unforeseeable or even invisible variables; and everything they suggest: the time and place of publication and its temper, the genre of the book, what can be surmised from the identity of the publisher. Like everything human, books happen in time, and they almost always are consistent with their era. By relishing the specifics that “date” first editions, you can feel both the curious fascination of another moment and its larger irrelevance, that time is not much more significant than a hairdo, even while we revel in the hairdo because it belongs to the author in the picture on the dust-jacket flap.

I did once take a stab at switching roles and going pro myself. When I was about twenty-one, my best friend was working for a specialized bookdealer and had become expert in literature in translation to English. I was crazy about my favorite nineteenth- and twentieth-century French writers, and we decided to borrow a couple hundred bucks and a car and do a two-week Midwest biblio tour, routing ourselves via the best used-book stores out to Indiana and back. We’d home in on Apollinaire and Rilke, Cossery, Hamsun and Vallejo et al.,  to catalog for mailing to all the university libraries and bibliophile mailing lists we could muster. It was one of the greatest non-sexual road trips I’ve ever taken, and we returned with cartons and cartons of fantastic books. We typed up the listing and printed it on a cheap old desktop offset press I had in my apartment. Then we realized we’d rather keep the books. So we divided them up between ourselves and set about working to repay our investors.

As much as I miss the sweetness of afternoons browsing low-rent used-book stores, I do invariably get a rush of happiness and anticipation simply from seeing somewhere a wording that refers to my fetish: Triolet Rare Books, Caliban Book Shop (“Used & Rare Books Bought & Sold”), Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books. The stock of such shops is carefully curated and priced accordingly, but there are still books in them I want more than other people do, and it’s sweet to find one. I also love the sellers who are bibliophiles more than they are salespeople, who want the books to find a good home—and such dealers do still exist. Many of the stores do half their yearly business at fairs, with the New York Antiquarian weekend often enough representing half of that. Most of them bring their very best things. Those coveted items when out of reach can be painful, but the pain is worth it. There’s pain built in to the whole enterprise, most profoundly in that futility of “ownership,” to say nothing of the impossibility of completion (as in being a collecting “completist”). But as I sit here, in the midst of my library, I feel again what I’ve often felt before. I love my books. Sometimes I need courage to look at them because they’re so good.

The Village Voice Spring Arts Preview:



Hell Goes to Bresson: A New Devotee’s Cinema Conversion

One of the happier features of my life is my membership in a small film discussion group we call the Sons of Hugo Haas, but from its inception I’ve found myself feeling humiliated at our meetings too: It shames me to find out how judgmental about movies I am compared to the others. They love movies the way Dante loved Beatrice, or at least the way Casanova loved women. I’m in love with movies too but I’m always finding a given one less than ideal. It’s not just that the glass is half-empty, but that it’s dirty, and the water in it should have been something else. This tendency to judge and compare makes me feel spiritually embarrassed. So this is another reason I’m grateful to Robert Bresson. His work makes it possible for there to be movies about which I have no reservations. He is incomparable. (Well, there’s Godard, but that’s another story.)

I came to Bresson late; I’m his new most devoted convert. I only found him when his retrospective traveled the country in 1999. That experience was humbling too! I’d thought I was pretty knowledgeable about and appreciative of movies, but somehow I’d missed Bresson even though Godard was my hero and I knew Godard admired Bresson above all directors. I’d seen the stray film of his over the years, but they didn’t play often, and I was inattentive enough to find the movies unaccountable: dull, plodding, and seemingly pointless. I’d even been led his way by the public admiration of two other people I normally might have listened to, Dennis Cooper and Patti Smith, but still I didn’t get it. Part of the reason for this is that Bresson, far more than even Godard, who makes Steven Spielberg the running sick joke of his In Praise of Love (2001), abjures the tricks of success that define Hollywood.

Bresson forgoes all audience manipulation, which of course is Hollywood’s raison d’être, and he also eschews drama, the province of the theater. There are no special effects in his movies, and in fact he uses only one lens, a 50mm (the lens that presents the view most similar to what the eye sees); he’s very sparing with music (in fact, by the last few films he doesn’t use any that doesn’t originate in the action); and, most purely and subversively of all, he doesn’t use actors, but rather non-actors whom he refers to as “models,” none of whom he ever used more than once, and whom he rehearsed relentlessly to get all taint of expression out of their speech and faces. He wanted to present the real that’s possible via moving pictures—shot followed by shot—and accompanying sound, not drug his audiences with the stimulation of their biochemical systems and the triggering of their conditioned responses.

Bresson was originally a painter, and as is clear from his movies, a man of great erudition. He was also one to whom questions of how one should behave were of extreme importance, while also, in a mystery like those spiritual ones his films evoke, believing, as a Jansenist Catholic, that life is comprised exclusively of predestination and chance. His unique approach to filmmaking developed as a combination of his sophisticated understanding of aesthetics and his preoccupation with the way things are on the deepest level. He dispensed with all techniques that weren’t faithful to film exclusively; and as a worshiper of God he showed again and again how we are all helpless in the mesh and meshings of a reality that made us and how, as painful or mundane as it can be, the beauty of this, or at least the beauty of acknowledging it, is continuous and eternal.

Richard Hell will be introducing Bresson’s The Devil Probably—his choice for “the most punk film ever made”—at his “Scowl” film series at the Pioneer on August 22.


The Right to Be Wrong

It’s gotten to where just the name does it: Lester Bangs. It makes me happy. It’s like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Of course, even apart from the guy it signified, its perfection of pure form is stunning, but what it evokes as the signifier of the person is even better. I think of his innocence and goodwill first, and his compulsion to talk about whatever was going on and to figure out what mattered (starting from music) and it makes me sorry I can’t call him up. It’s strange. I didn’t even like him very much when he was alive. Just five or six years ago when his biographer was asking for stories about him I told him that when I knew Lester I didn’t take him very seriously or pay very much attention to him. That though doubtless my distaste was partly that of the junkie for the lush, I mostly thought he was a buffoon. Lester was this big, swaying, cross-eyed, reeking drooler, smiling and smiling through his crummy stained mustache, trying to corner me with incessant babble somewhere in the dark at CBGB’s, 1976 or so. He was sweet like a big clumsy puppy, but he was always drunk and the sincerity level was pretty near intolerable.

Now I miss him.

Of course it’s easier to like a good-hearted, hardworking dead person, the extremely edited Lester, than the obliviously intrusive physically present one, but Lester has made way more friends than most since he died. Posthumously, he’s become the noncharismatic Elvis of rock writers: obscene provocateur and polite mama’s boy, vulnerable and egotistic, trashily prolific and artistically transcendent, anti-drug and full-time addict (who died young that way); but most of all forgiven everything and adored by his fans while being the most popular model for those who would essay his trade. Well maybe that’s a little strained; probably Jack Kerouac would be a better comparison, if not as much fun. Because Kerouac actually did influence Bangs a lot and the appeal of Lester shares a lot with Kerouac: that innocence and goodwill and drive to describe and be true to what matters in life. People like a writer’s writing because they like the writer’s company. Writing is intimate and finally what draws you to an author’s work is the shape of the mind and quality of feeling you find there, and Lester, like Kerouac, reads like a real good friend to a lot of people.

I have to interrupt and confess how I’m struggling to resist taking revenge on rock critics. I was a musician and I’ve thought a few times of rating the critics the way they do the artists. But I’m really really going to try to restrain myself. How petty would that be, if I were to go after them? Not only have they generally been real good to me but my life is more fun than theirs. I must try to be large I must try to be large. I don’t want to be a jerk. I’ll just say that I believe Lester deserves his supreme popularity (he liked me the most).

But I’ve got to go after the self-importance of the best-known worst of them a little. The rock writers, naturally, want to believe that their genre, like say the movie criticism of the Cahiers du Cinéma writers such as Godard and Rivette, is sometimes actually the work of important artists. In fact Greil Marcus, in the introduction to Bangs’s previous collection of rock journalism, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (1987), wrote, “Perhaps what this book demands from a reader is a willingness to accept that the best writer in America could write almost nothing but record reviews.” (That line is typical of the way Marcus ruins good things by laying the burden of his pretentiousness on them.) And it’s true that writers as good as Patti Smith and Nick Tosches wrote about pop music seriously, with full respect, and really well. But I don’t see much justification for a line like Marcus’s about Lester. Lester was lovable and perceptive, but the writing is wired thinking-aloud; it’s pure process, and my feeling is that Lester had too many blind spots and neuroses for writing that depends so much for its value on the shapeliness of his mind and reasoning. As with Kerouac, you go to Bangs’s work to be refreshed with your pleasure in the characteristic beauty of his mission and mind, to be reminded of the presence of a certain being that inspires and provokes. But it hardly matters what pages you read—all the appeal is in the tone and ethical/aesthetic values, and you get them immediately, so a little goes a long way.

Nevertheless, of all the most highly regarded rock journalists (say Tosches, Robert Christgau, Marcus, and the execrable and excremental Richard Meltzer) Lester was the only one who valued self-doubt and who actually seemed to like the music more than he liked himself. Lester was a critic who reserved the right to be wrong, which seems to me admirable. Like many rock writers Lester took extreme stances, but unlike the other most flamboyantly contrary of them, he didn’t paint himself into a minuscule corner of supported music, and he didn’t go sour with cynicism and resentment (or maybe he did a little toward the end—1982 for Lester—when punk seemed to end up genuinely, fatally, hopeless). Lester was large and he was interested in doing what was right—which sometimes entailed willfully offending those whose values he opposed—not merely being right in his taste and musical standards. He wanted to learn. What’s appealing about him is the same thing that he valued in the music he wrote about: the life in it—engagement with and responsiveness to the world. To put a positive spin on the spew-and-rant factor, he didn’t care about beauty except as flow. He wanted everything included. He was confrontational but it came from goodwill, from his belief that feelings—sensitivity to what’s going on—are what matter and that if you’re going to really notice things, really perceive, there’s going to be a lot of sadness and horror and filth as well, so to some extent they’re a necessary part of beauty. Basically, Lester always wanted people to care more. That could be really tedious, but when the examples of things due more loving regard are such as White Light/White Heat and Raw Power and Pangaea, it gets interesting.

If you like Lester, you’ll like this new book. It’s a lot like the other one but it has more Miles Davis and Rolling Stones than Lou Reed and Iggy and some big chunks of autobiographical writings.