Writing in Elsewhere

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LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI INTERVIEWED (2000): The angry old man

7 Jul 2010  |  8 min read  |  1

Lawrence Ferlinghetti sounds in feisty spirit. Indeed, my call to his famous City Lights bookshop in San Francisco finds the 81-year-old deeply irritated, if not to say downright angry.It's all because of the recently released album of him reading selections from his poem, A Coney Island of the Mind, his 42-year-old poetic meditation which has been translated into nine languages.No, he wasn't... > Read more

THE GREAT WALL by JULIA LOVELL: Built it and they'll believe it

5 Jul 2010  |  2 min read

When Richard Nixon stood on a segment of China’s famous wall in 1972 he announced, “This is a great wall and it had to be built by great people” the anti-Communist American president was playing the diplomacy game on his break-through mission. But he was wrong on a number of counts. He had fallen for the widespread notion of a “great wall” when there are many... > Read more

VENICE: PURE CITY by PETER ACKROYD (2010)

5 Jul 2010  |  4 min read

If you had been in Venice last year and gone to see the elegant Bridge of Sighs you would have had an unpleasant surprise. This passage between the Doge’s palace and the prison -- those taken to the clanger would, at the very least, sigh -- was itself a prisoner of the 21st century. It was surrounded by huge covers over the surrounding buildings which were undergoing renovation, and... > Read more

SCENES FROM A REVOLUTION by MARK HARRIS: He not busy being born is busy dying.

28 Jun 2010  |  3 min read

That film is a collaborative art is accepted, but it can also be a war of attrition where inflated egos collide at the interface of culture and commerce. And in Hollywood where the stakes -- money, careers, egos -- are bigger, and can disproportionately rise or fall dramatically with any project, then the stories from behind the scenes can be outrageous. Peter Biskin's Easy Riders,... > Read more

HOWLING AT THE MOON by WALTER YETNIKOFF AND DAVID RITZ

21 Jun 2010  |  1 min read

Yetnikoff, former head of CBS Records who helmed the company's sale to Sony, tells a racy, drug-fuelled story of 70s and 80s excess, fame and fantasy. He opens by describing sex with Jackie Onassis (it's a dream, but he is to meet her later that day to talk about him writing a book of his mad life) and then his day really begins. There are vodkas, snacks of cocaine and marijuana, a... > Read more

Bruce Springsteen: Streets of Philadelphia

MARILYN by ANDRE de DIENES: Little girl heading for the big time

14 Jun 2010  |  4 min read

For those who came of age after her death, Marilyn Monroe belongs to that generation of American males whose idea of cool was smoking a pipe and reading Playboy. That seems pretty tame to those who grew up with designer drugs and Hustler -- so Marilyn is merely a frozen image from a safer era of the sexual revolution. The mystique of Marilyn -- as with the genuinely famous, a... > Read more

THE FAT MEXICAN by ALEX CAINE: Uneasy riders

1 Jun 2010  |  2 min read

When Hunter S Thompson spent a year in the mid Sixties riding with the Hells Angels to emerge with his book Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, he ushered in the era of "New Journalism" (in which the author is part of the story). For his heroism under violent circumstances, Thompson became the writer that many journalists wanted to be -- but... > Read more

THE MONTY PYTHON AUTOBIOGRAPHY by THE PYTHONS(2003)

24 May 2010  |  3 min read

The shadow of the Beatles is cast long over Monty Python's Flying Circus. The late George Harrison always said he felt something of the band's spirit passed to Monty Python, which appeared on television as the Beatles were breaking up, and Paul McCartney would stop recording to watch the show. Harrison later underwrote the Pythons' Life of Brian feature film (using his home as collateral)... > Read more

THOMAS KENEALLY INTERVIEWED (2010): The people's historian

17 May 2010  |  7 min read

To put it bluntly, Sarah Whitelam didn't muck around. The day after John Nicol sailed off for Britain – the man with whom she'd had child and promised to remain true to in the days before his departure – she recovered from her disappointment and married the convict John Walsh. These were very different times – the colony of Sydney in 1790, just two years after the... > Read more

THE AUSTRALIANS: ORIGINS TO EUREKA by THOMAS KENEALLY

12 May 2010  |  2 min read

Among the many peculiarities in this wrinkled history of the Australian people -- from pre-European times through the First Fleet and up to the Eureka Stockade -- is that one of the first strikes in the fledgling colony was by Indian "coolies" who had been imported in the 1830s to be what was in fact, slave labour. These truculent Indians wouldn't tolerate the irregularity of... > Read more

ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS by JOHN LYDON: Reviewed 1994

10 May 2010  |  11 min read

“With the Sex Pistols we were hated, absolutely despised. There was no audience there at all to any great extent. We sold a few records in a small banana republic called Britain.” – John Lydon John Lydon -- better known as the sneering Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten -- enjoys lying. He says as much in his rambling anecdotal and opinionated autobiography.... > Read more

Sex Pistols: God Save the Queen

THE SIXTIES by ARTHUR MARWICK: The big picture of the isms and schsims

9 May 2010  |  2 min read

One of the more mindlessly amusing one-liners about the Sixties says that if you remember them t.hen you weren’t there. Duh. That sitcom aphorism reduces the decade to flakiness and drugs, and bears no serious scrutiny at all. By rule-of-thumb and common consensus, what are loosely called the Sixties are the five years between She Loves You and Woodstock, a period which witnessed... > Read more

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Fire

SEDITION AND ALCHEMY: A BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN CALE BY TIM MITCHELL (2005): Opportunity knocked

26 Apr 2010  |  2 min read

John Cale, now 66, was an unlikely candidate for a career in heretical, innovative rock'n'roll. Born in a village in South Wales, he showed prodigy-like musical talent. At 13 he was the viola player in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, having started on piano and been a church organist. At grammar school he studied Berg, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, played dixieland jazz. Then he heard... > Read more

John Cale: Imitating Violin

DYLAN HORROCKS INTERVIEWED (2010): The graphic novelist as social commentator

12 Apr 2010  |  6 min read

At the launch of the long overdue local publication of his graphic novel Hicksville in Auckland recently, Dylan Horrocks said he grew up in two places: In New Zealand and in comics, and both were on the edge of the ‘real world‘. “This was stuff I thought after I finished Hicksville,” he says later. “It wasn’t like I went in trying to explain this.... > Read more

JUST KIDS by PATTI SMITH: Nourished by love and art

3 Apr 2010  |  4 min read

In 2004 when Patti Smith released yet another predictable album, the critic Ian Penman correctly observed, "It sounds like she hasn't heard a single thing outside her own music for about 25 years". Smith, acclaimed for her marriage of rock’n’roll and poetry in the late 70s, has been in a creative whirlpool the past four decades and her constant referencing of her... > Read more

HICKSVILLE, a graphic novel by DYLAN HORROCKS

3 Apr 2010  |  1 min read

In interviews Dylan Horrocks, the 43-year old New Zealand writer and artist of the graphic novel Hicksville, is candid enough to note that more people in his home country know about his book than have actually read it. That's because it was serialised in his own magazine Pickle over the years from '92 but when the final episode was due he was offered a book deal for Hicksville through a... > Read more

100 ESSENTIAL NEW ZEALAND ALBUMS by NICK BOLLINGER

22 Mar 2010  |  1 min read  |  1

The purpose of books of lists - and the list of lists is growing by the day -- is probably two-fold: you get to look through and tick off what you've got/done/seen or whatever and make a note of other points of interest to see/collect/experience. The second point is to argue with them: in your head you question the selections, howl in disbelief at an inclusion and rail silently at an... > Read more

Black Grace: Black Sand Shore (1994)

GRIFFITH REVIEW: FOOD CHAIN edited by JULIANNE SCHULTZ

15 Mar 2010  |  3 min read

At regular lunches with a group of friends last year our conversation frequently turned to food, and not what was on our plates. We would discuss what might be called the politics of food: how many miles particular foodstuffs clocked up to get into our supermarkets and restaurants; how certain types of fishing were stripping our oceans; and how cheap and bad food is readily available but we... > Read more

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

15 Feb 2010  |  1 min read

Joe Ely who grew up in Lubbock, West Texas (Buddy Holly's hometown) is something of a legend in Americana/alt.country rock: he was on the road in the early 70s hitching around to play gigs far and wide but also formed the formidable band the Flatlanders with Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (both of whom have gone on to remarkable careers in the own right); and his hard rockin'... > Read more

Joe Ely: Radio Hell

JABBERROCK: THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF ROCK'N'ROLL QUOTATIONS by RAYMOND OBSTFELD AND PATRICIA FITZGERALD

6 Feb 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

This lightweight but cheap paperback provides some funny observations (such as Elvis Costello's "Rock'n'roll is the lowest form of life known to man"), but mostly it proves we're lucky these people can sing, because their insights can be as shallow as a birdbath. Rickie Lee Jones offers: "I never knew that life was so serious and hard and cruel. You can't depend on anything... > Read more

Elvis Costello: Radio Radio