Thursday, September 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW! BLAST 2 -- WAR NUMBER BY WYNDHAM LEWIS, EZRA POUND ETC. (Black Sparrow Press, 1993  -- originally published by John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1915)

Much to the dismay of such luminaries as Bill Shute and Brad Kohler I am not what you'd call a huge fan of prose and poetry whether printed or bleated for that matter. Sure I can dig Patti Smith talking about being beaten up by dykes accompanied by the original duo of Lenny Kaye and DNV Sohl while I find Tuli Kupferberg rather entertaining either with or without music, but for the most part I am reminded of high stool English and old biddies trying to convince malleable students of the "pleasures" of Keats 'n Longfellow as if, for some strange reason, either one had any relevance to a 'luded out chippie who thinks she knows it all. Sheesh, just give me "Milk Milk Lemonade" and leave me alone with alla this hearts and flowers stuff now, willya???

Hokay, this stuff is different. Vorticism, England's only (and some may say "Thank God!") contribution to the Modern Art Miasma is a bit different in that there was an underlying current ot bared-wire intensity to it that the Cubists and other Stalinist wannabes who thought that art would change the world for the better (sorta like David Crosby thinking that SGT. PEPPER woulda ended the Vietnam War inna jiffy) just didn't have in 'em. And like a whole lotta the "avant garde" musings of the earlier portion of the previous decade Vorticism sure comes off DATED when compared to that gal who used to shove yams up her twat, but dated in a good way in like I wonder why the great-great-GREAT grandparents didn't get into this stuff like they did with Valentino?

Anyway here's that recent reprint of the Vortiicist mag BLAST, #2 to be exact (#1 is languishing somewhere in about fifty years worth of collected books and magazines, probably along with all of those other books I am seeking but just can't locate right when I need 'em!). Its an oversized effort which reminds me of an old forties-vintage high stool yearbook the folks would thumb through in order to sneer at alla the teachers and pupils who hated 'em (well, at least I did that with mine before they all ended up in the trash heap)...heck, all of the ads are crammed inna back just like in an old yearbook though there's nothing along the lines of congrats from the local dairy or Sam's Pizza Palace. Just plain ol' ads stacked there just like you would see with an old ish of PUNCH or any other English publication of that, despite their irreverence and snobbish demeanor were just as staid 'n banal as one would imagine.

But BLAST sure ain't any of that, what with the neat layout (love the type, crooked and all) and the examples of Vorticist art which can range from primal degenerate to mind-pattern expanding. The Nazis really would have had a ball with Jacob Kramer. The art is snazz, tho I will admit that the overall writing affects me less given my definitive lack of appreciation for the printed word given it lacks the bop of a Meltzer or Patti Smith singing about brain spittles, and although you might gander that T.S. Elliot was a fine scribbler to me he doesn't really hold that much of a candle to some of the more feral writers of his century whether they be dibbling in dalliances impure or just trying to screw the system just like everyone else.

Wyndam Lewis tho, really was one who hit the whole Vorticist pressure point on the noggin with his rather mean-spirited style, reflecting the carnage he really must have been knee-deep in while stuck in the trenches of the First World War (or did he join after BLAST #2 made its way out? Not too sure and please do not pick on me for my utter lack of chronological order!). His piece on the competing art movements sweeping across Europe made for a good early evaluation from a guy who seemed to be scouting out the enemies in the realm of creativity more than he was the Jerries.

Ezra Pound makes his stand here too with some early examples of that writing that Ernest Hemingway would later say proved the man's insanity almost as cranky as Lewis, and the man even says ill about the People You Are Not Allowed To Say Ill Of even at this early stage in the game which did surprise me a bit given how he was a friend of fellow Vorticist Jacob Epstein and others of the kosher persuasion. Maybe if he had been captured by the local authorities when these writings were being scribbled he wouldn't have been making those radio broadcasts for Italy. But he still would have been crazy.

Historical true, fun reading at times and a nice bit of word and vision to appreciate in the truest sense, this book naturally has me on an ever greater search for the first BLAST. After that comes THE ENEMY, but am I way too ignorant and obtuse to appreciate those? I know I sure am if this very review is any indication.


MoeLarryAndJesus said...

The best lecture I ever saw was a 2 hour lecture/slideshow by Keith Waldrop (owner/guru of Black Sparrow Press) about Wyndham Lewis and the Futurist/Vorticists. He was a rock star complete with Leon Russell hair and he had a great command of the material. I wish I had it on video, but this happened in 1980, so it most likely does not exist.

Anonymous said...

Black Sparrow did a real public-service by reprinting the original BLAST 1 & 2 in beautiful over-sized editions at a reasonable price.

The so-called BLAST 3 which they also issued is (unfortunately) a modern creation, mixing legitimate Vorticist items with modern criticism and (not so) creative writing, which is about as convincing and useful as putting an 80's or 90's Fuzztones track on a BACK FROM THE GRAVE compilation, something that thankfully never happened.


Alvin Bishop said...

Keep 'em comin', Chris!


MoeLarryAndJesus said...

Correction: Keith Waldrop owns Burning Deck Press, not Black Sparrow.

Ezra Pound Sign said...