Death and Funeral of Cain — David Alfaro Siqueiros

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Death and Funeral of Cain, 1947 by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974)

Sketch of a Seated Man Reading — Eileen Agar

Sketch of a seated man reading by Eileen Agar 1899-1991

Sketch of a Seated Man Reading by Eileen Agar (1899–1991)

Passionate — Carol Rama

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Passionate, 1943 by Carol Rama (1918-2015)

Game — George Petrovich Kichigin

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Game, 1989 by George Petrovich Kichigin (b. 1951)

Piggy Toy — Liu Hong Wei

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Piggy Toy, 2007 by Liu Hong Wei (b. 1965)

Manjusaka — Xiao Guo Hui

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Manjusaka, 2014 by Xiao Guo Hui (b. 1969)

Justin Reading — Edna Clarke Hall

Justin Reading 1932 by Lady Edna Clarke Hall 1879-1979

Justin Reading, 1932 by Edna Clarke Hall (1879–1979)

David Berman’s review of Pavement’s “Demolition Plot J-7”

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Via, via, via…

Untitled (Woman Reading) — George Jones

[title not known] by George Jones 1786-1869

Untitled by George Jones (1786–1869)

At the airport-security checkpoint on my way to visit my grandmother | Claudia Rankine

From Don’t Let Me Be Lonely

by

Claudia Rankine


At the airport-security checkpoint on my way to visit my grandmother, I am asked to drink from my water bottle.

This water bottle?

That’s right. Open it and drink from it.

/

At the airport-security checkpoint on my way to visit my grandmother, I am asked to take off my shoes.

Take off my shoes?

Yes. Both Please.

/

At the airport-security checkpoint on my way to visit my grandmother, I am asked if I have a fever.

A fever? Really?

Yes. Really.

/

My grandmother is in a nursing home. It’s not bad. It doesn’t smell like pee. It doesn’t smell like anything. When I go to see her, as I walk through the hall past the common room and the nurses’ station, old person after old person puts out his or her hand to me. Steven, one says. Ann, another calls. It’s like being in a third-world country, but instead of food or money you are what is wanted, your company. In third-world coun­tries I have felt overwhelmingly American, calcium-rich, privileged, and white. Here, I feel young, lucky, and sad. Sad is one of those words that has given up its life for our country, it’s been a martyr for the American dream, it’s been neutralized, co-opted by our culture to suggest a tinge of discomfort that lasts the time it takes for this and then for that to happen, the time it takes to change a channel. But sadness is real because once it meant something real. It meant dignified, grave; it meant trustworthy; it meant exceptionally bad, deplor­able, shameful; it meant massive, weighty, forming a compact body; it meant falling heavily; and it meant of a color: dark. It meant dark in color, to darken. It meant me. I felt sad.

Interior in Sunlight — Fairfield Porter

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Interior in Sunlight, 1965 by Fairfield Porter (1907-1975)

Jessica in My Kitchen in July — Chelsea Gibson

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Jessica in My Kitchen in July, 2019 by Chelsea Gibson

Blog about acquiring a Vintage Contemporaries edition of Barry Hannah’s Airships. (Special guest appearance by David Berman.)

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I’ve been a big fan of the Vintage Contemporaries 1980s series for ages now. The books were easily available, cheap and used, in the nineties, and I first read Raymond Carver and Jay McInerney in VC editions, later adding novels by Denis Johnson, Don DeLillo, Jerzy Kosinski to the burgeoning collection. I was thrilled to find a VC copy of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree years ago; I wasn’t looking for it in particular, but the spine of a Vintage Contemporaries edition is hard to miss in a used bookstore. I picked it up of course, and gave the Vintage International edition I’d read to a friend who’d just finished Blood Meridian. The dark, moody Vintage International covers strongly contrast the bright, vivid VC edition (with a surreal painting by Marc Tauss):

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In time, I’d unshelve at least one or two VC editions when browsing a used bookstore, especially if it was an author I’d been meaning to read. I ended up reading and loving Joy Williams’ first collection, Taking Care, that way, as well as Charles Portis’s Norwood (which led to me reading every Portis novel I could get my hands on).

The one I really, really wanted though was the Vintage Contemporaries edition of Barry Hannah’s collection Airships. I must have seen it first–just the spine–in this great write up of VC designs at Talking Covers, and then added it to a mental list of titles to check for. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Grove Press copy I have of Airships; indeed, I really dig its photorealistic cover by Hannah’s contemporary Glennray Tutor—but I guess at this point I have to admit I’m collector (of cheap eighties paperbacks).

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I read them, books, too, of course. Here’s the intro to my 2011 review of Airships:

In his 1978 collection Airships, Barry Hannah sets stories in disparate milieux, from the northern front of the Civil War, to an apocalyptic future, to the Vietnam War, to strange pockets of the late-twentieth century South. Despite the shifts in time and place, Airships is one of those collections of short stories that feels somehow like an elliptical, fragmentary novel. There are the stories that correspond directly to each other — the opener “Water Liars,” for instance, features (presumably, anyway), the same group of old men as “All the Old Harkening Faces at the Rail.” The old men love to crony up, gossip, tell tall tales. An outsider spoils the fun in “Water Liars” by telling a truth more terrible than any lie; in “Harkening,” an old man shows off his new (much younger) bride. These stories are perhaps the simplest in the collection, the homiest, anyway, or at least the most “normal” (whatever that means), yet they are both girded by a strange darkness, both humorous and violent, that informs all of Airships.

Well so and anyway:

Yesterday, browsing my beloved used bookstore, I found, while not really looking for it, the Vintage Contemporaries edition of Airships. I was in the “H” section of General Fiction, looking for something by Chester Himes (which I found, but in the Mysteries section, which I really have never browsed before), and there it was, its spine singing to me from a low shelf. I was happy to note the cover is by Rick Lovell, who’s responsible for my favorite VC editions (along with, obviously, series designer Lorraine Louie). As a sort of cherry on top, my edition has a little gold sticker at the top of the inside cover, proclaiming “Square Books on the Square, Oxford Mississippi.” Hannah taught at Ole Miss for nearly three decades. Square Books is still there.

I was excited with my find and I’m a dork so I tweeted about it. The next tweet I saw in my timeline was this tweet by Christopher DeWeese (retweeted by the writer John Lingan):

(I love the blurb by Thomas Pynchon.)

David Berman was a poet, musician, and singer (and more) who died almost exactly a EemWmbXXgAAvc3zyear ago. He was kind of a hero of mine, as far as these things go, and as such I never made an attempt to contact him, even when he linked to this blog on his blog, Menthol Mountains. I absolutely love the cover he made—or did he make it? I don’t actually know—but I know that he loved Vintage Contemporaries, that they were important to him. I recall John Lingan tweeting about having to cut some of his discussion about the series with Berman in his fantastic profile of the then-not-late artist. I couldn’t find the tweet, but I reached out to John, and he told me I remembered right; he also told me he recalled seeing a copy of Harold Brodkey’s First Love and Other Sorrows in Berman’s room.

I wonder if Berman and I had the same VC edition of First Love and Other Sorrows? The one with the Rick Lovell cover of butterflies on a sandcastle? Or maybe he had the one with the purple cover? I gave my copy to a good friend years ago, and have never seen one with the Lovell cover since.

I also wonder if Berman read the VC edition of Airships. I know he met Hannah, who apparently read Berman’s work. I recall now too that both men show up in The Minus Times Collected, which I never picked up. I’m going to order it now.

 

A Sailor’s Life — Glenn Brown

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A Sailor’s Life, 2011 by Glenn Brown (b. 1966)

Shifting the Gaze — Titus Kaphar

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Shifting the Gaze, 2017 by Titus Kaphar (b. 1976)

The Veil — Louise Bonnet

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The Veil, 2017 by Louise Bonnet (b. 1970)

51 still frames from Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky

Liquid-Sky-001Liquid-Sky-006Liquid-Sky-014Liquid-Sky-016Liquid-Sky-022Liquid-Sky-025Liquid-Sky-026Liquid-Sky-028Liquid-Sky-029Liquid-Sky-032Liquid-Sky-036Liquid-Sky-040 Continue reading “51 still frames from Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky”