Great Artists in the Great War

The Great War, which began 100 years ago today, launched the tank, the sub, the plane, and mustard gas, and toppled the Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian, and Ottoman Empires.

All the Great Artists were affected by this war:

The French
When 1914 rolled around, Bonnard was too old Read more »

Foiled, yet again

There’s a retrospective of James Lee Byars at PS 1. I had written about our “friendship” in Art in America in 1978, and, since I’ve been looking for a venue to deploy my 1,000-foot-long roll of aluminum foil, I thought I’d do a tribute to Byars, who deployed a 1,000-foot roll of paper in a Kyoto monastery in 1963, and the next year, a 1,000-foot pink paper tribute to Shakespeare in Central Park. (In 1968, I took part in the paper man he laid in the street in front of MoMA.)
My $56, 20-microns-thick roll of silver Boardwalk 7126 Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil had been lurking Read more »

Yo Velázquez

Here’s the first page of my latest metamemoir:

I arrived in Madrid, by myself, on April Fools’ and left on Good Friday. There was no fancy rationale for these dates—the first was the earliest flight I could get at a cheap rate by the time I was finally ready to buy, and the second was simply to beat the Easter crush.
I hadn’t been to Spain since the summer of 1 Read more »

Serra vs. Junker

Richard Serra and I agree, I think, that sculpture is not a joke (not Hirst, not Koons, not even Duchamp, except as a limiting case).

It is deadly serious, an attempt to reduce, not elaborate, toward an essential gesture.

It is the manipulation of a single material—a monolith (single stone)—to define  space. Read more »

Biopic

Personally, I would be delighted to have Streep play me in the biopic, although they’re saying Swank has more physicality, and given the budget, they’ll probably go with Posey. Either Parker or Buster. Thanks for mentioning Irons, but he’s a bit long in the tooth.

Junker vs. Twitter

I applied to Twitter for a job as an Old Man.

My pitch was that, although they did not list any openings as such, I could put them in touch with the past…and help them expand their hopelessly limited sense of “culture.”

Foosball tables and free yoga, indeed.

They did not reply.

I feel that I am the victim of age discrimination and must seek the advice of counsel.

A Sleepy Intro

When I was a boy, just after the War, in Chappaqua, New York, we didn’t own many “new” books. We subscribed to LIFE and the Saturday Evening Post, and we had a World Book encyclopedia and a multi-volume study of American military campaigns; I specialized in our wars against the Indians.
So I don’t know how to account for our possession of I Remember Distinctly: A Family Album of the American People 1918–1941, published in 1947. Perhaps it was a gift, but from whom?
In any case, I read it religiously as a pre-teenager, that is, regularly, year after year.
What I liked about this hodgepodge of vintage photos spiced with captions by Read more »

A Sleepy Hamlet

I’ve started my new book, which will turn  The Junker Quartet into The J Quintet.

It deals with postwar Chappaqua, Chappaqua, the sleepy hamlet, a phrase Wikipedia uses to describe the town that inspired the eponymous (1966 druggie) film starring William S. Burroughs, Ravi Shankar, Allen Ginsberg, and The Fugs, which can be seen in all its 1:18.38 of glory on YouTube.

O Heizer, where art thou?

Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass,” a big rock now being installed on the LACMA campus, is almost exactly the opposite of the “Levitated Mass” he did in 1969, a much smaller rock dropped into a trench in a Nevada dry lake.

Nobody saw that piece in 1969 except the collector Robert Scull, who had commissioned it, and me.

Folks lined the streets to watch the current rock sleep during the day in Long Beach, for example, before moving on through the midnight streets.

In 1969, Heizer was rejecting the confines of the gallery/museum interior to work directly—and remotely— in Nature.

In 2112, the trucking of the rock has been turned into a media circus, as if the difficulty of the work mattered, as it surely does today.

Pollock dripped away inside a tiny shack/studio; today’s artists can command gigantic resources to realize their conceits (for them).

Being far-fetched—as “Levitated Mass” literally isis difficult these days, because there’s been so much esthetic inflation.

LA Times critic Christopher Knight, for example, an ardent cheerleader for the new “Mass,” has compared the Heizer to some of LACMA’s other monstro commissions and concluded that Heizer’s is “just about as butch as it gets.”

Whatever turns you on, Mr. Knight, although, it seems to me, that Heizer is the opposite of butch; he’s not posing, he is—or at least was—if anything, a pure, that is, uninflected, man, an isolated, hard-bitten, outlaw. He was out there in the desert, by himself, using a pick ax and shovel in the hard pan of the dry lakes when Smithson was diddling on 57th St. with pebbles and mirrors.

Knight’s history is as shaky as his rhetoric: “Heizer conceived the sculpture 40 years ago. One might wonder whether the finished work will feel old-fashioned — an early ’70s relic, like bell-bottom pants, disco and Ms. magazine.”

Incidentally, Knight acknowledges that “Incidentally, a different Heizer sculpture also titled “Levitated Mass” was commissioned in 1982 for the former IBM building on New York’s Madison Avenue at 57th Street.)”

But Knight denies (to me in an FB correspondence) that Heizer is repeating himself.

He’s not, obviously; he’s flipped his principles on their heads.

Rewarmed an old (executed) idea.

And caved in to exactly the arty hoopla-camp that he once despised.

The Tetralogy

I have now completed my four-part metamemoir:

An Old Junker, a blognovel (2006-2010)

Dear Howard, a graphic novel (1982-1986)

By, the complete journalism (1965-1969)

I, a typographic novel.

The search for a publisher may be endless, so if you’d like to see an advance copy, just ask: junker.howard at gmail.

eAOJ

An Old Junker is now available on Kindle and Nook for $2.99.

The fact that you can buy it on  paper for $1.25 is no excuse.

Rejection Rejected

My past continues to haunt me: in today’s Financial Times, Lucy Kellaway denounced my attempt to write a decent rejection note:
“…Howard Junker, the founder of literary magazine ZYZZYVA used to return short stories with a covering letter that began: “Gentle writer, Please forgive me for returning your work and not offering comments. I would like to think of something to make up for my ungraciousness, but I don’t think a few quick remarks would really help.” He signed off with a handwritten, ‘Onward! J’

“How charming, I thought when I first heard of this. But then I read a blog from a not-so-gentle writer who had received the very same letter on many occasions and found it anything but charming. The point is that no standardised letter can ever soften any blow. Rejection is rejection and it hurts.”

Please note: I did not scribble “J,” but “H.”

And my note included a lot more stuff, including words of compassion and encouragement.

Might I add that no standardised [sic] letter was ever enough to deter certain determined, but untalented writers from submitting again and again.

MC&HNY

Usually, we take our family photo at Thanksgiving, but this year Rozanne had a terrible cold, and only Madison and I were representable:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Rozanne was feeling better, we took the ferry to Tiburon and got shot:

 

So, we wish you PEACE and merry & happy

 

@the Mechanics’

It was great fun last night at the Mechanics’ Institute, doing my first solo. I read: Editors Anonymous, Bad Boy, Flashback, Dear Mr. President, Kay Ryan, My FB, The Fisher Collection…from An Old Junker.

And, when asked what I was reading, answered (truthfully) Wilfred Thesinger’s Arabian Sands, the great late-forties trek through the Empty Quarter….

I sold two books, one to someone I hadn’t even known before.

Coming Out

At first, I thought my relationship with Katherine Heigl, star of Zyzzyx Road, one of the lowest grossing movies of all time, would speak for itself.

But, as an aspirational public figure, an author seeking to promote his book, it seems I am going to to be forced to answer questions about my sexuality and gender.

It’s not enough, these days, to simply admit you are Old.

Therefore, I would like to declare, with complete disambiguation, Read more »

Monday’s pop-up

started at 11 a.m., at Omnivore Books, where I denounced foodieism,

thence to Mission Branch, Public Library, where I read my take on Hard Times,


thence to Mission Pie for some banana cream,

thence past some dog shit (which you don’t see all that much on sidewalks any more)

thence to UCSF’s Mission Bay campus at Serra’s Ballast [because it had started to rain, designer and old friend Tom Ingalls held an umbrella for me],

thence to di Suvero’s Sea Change, where I denounced The City’s outdoor sculpture in general,

thence to Oldenburg’s Cupid’s Span, which I denounced in particular,

thence to GAP headquarters, where I ripped off a quick shot of Serra’s Charlie Brown, because I was afraid Security would kick me out, which is exactly what happened two seconds later,

thence to The Beat Museum, where the clerk, Brandon, who’s reading in the LitCrawl on the 15th, told me that Kerouac hated the copy editing of The Subterraneans so much that Grove Press offered to rescind all their changes if he would change the locale from New York to San Francisco, which was the happening place,

and finally to City Lights, where I was pleased to find five copies I had not put there myself as part of a marketing stunt, even though this shelf was in the fiction section.


Saturday’s pop-up

started at noon, at Whole Foods on Haight:

Bodie’s grandmother, in town from Kingston, NY, requested something about “the fifties,” so I read her my piece about my classmate Skinny, who had been struck down by polio in ’54.

thence to Coco-luxe:

I read my take on hot chocolate to Malik, whose family’s from Palestine; he made me a “Hot Pudding,” which is thickened by steaming—a bit gloppy; afterward, he suggested I might have preferred a “luxe,” which, for a buck, adds a shot of cocoa and is thick, but sippable.

thence to Booksmith:

Amy, in town with friends for the bluegrass festival, was browsing Best American anthologies, and agreed to let me read her about a drabble, a story of exactly 100 words.

then I passed Matt, who works for a database company, writes freelance jokes, and performs as the one and only cover band for the legendary Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. He asked for something about the President so I read him my letter informing the President that his older daughter had been killed in the dusty city of K…where she had dismounted from her rusty pickup to fire an RPG at a Taliban drone and stepped on a weapon of mass destruction….

thence to Roland’s Bagels:

Roland’s, perhaps because of my harsh assessment, perhaps because of the landlord’s avarice, closed long ago, and has been replaced by WING WINGS, a wing joint.

 

Rio Liang’s review

“I was quite fascinated…quite  entertaining…most interesting….surprisingly funny…showcasing a man whose various–often strongly worded–views on art, literature, and life combine to define a singular editor.”

This review appeared in Ruelle Electrique in August, but has just now crossed our desk.

P.S.: the portrait Liang slugs in is of the editor Felix Feneon, by Felix Vallotton—I discuss them on p. 101.

Hals of Shame

Imagine my surprise when browsing Peter C. Sutton’s 1986 Dutch Art in America to find, in his survey of the Legion of Honor:

Once attributed to Frans Hals and hailed as a masterpiece, the dashing Portrait of a Man in White [you must plug in the name "Hals" to bring up the image] is now recognized as the work of a clever follower. Read more »

Today’s Pop-up Tour

Today’s pop-up, site-specific book tour began at 12:30 at Browser Books; the plan was to revisit the route described in the opening chapter, “Slice of Life,” a real, closely annotated day in the life, in order to make sure that the reader, who had been alerted by the three epigraphs to expect the frustrations of a “novel of ideas”—sketchy main character, vaporous plotting—was aware that the narrative was not going to be trad.

Lucey B., who joined the tour, tried to explain as much to  a gentleman who will remain nameless because he claimed he already had the book, that in fact I was his favorite author.

Then I read about running into Dave Rockefeller at the Met and Bob Hughes at MoMA to Tony Meier.

Then grabbed a bite at Baker & Banker.

Made cute at New People.

Then, on the 38L, the Geary Limited, read about seeing the Poet Laureate one night when he seemed to be asleep, but was actually reading.

Pop-up readings, day two

I was a little slow to get started—what was I really going to do? was it really worth it?—but I finally got my act together and, after finding no one I could approach at the Laurel Village Starbucks or Noah’s (I have a good bagel rant)…I went on to Peet’s and told Jeff, who was gobbling his lunch on the bench outside, that I was on a pop-up book tour and might I read him Read more »

Pop-up readings

I began my campaign of pop-up readings yesterday. The first was on College Ave., in Berkeley, in a clothing store that had a window devoted to Audrey Hepburn. I read the clerk my piece about Read more »

Leah: Pass/Fail?

In today’s SF Chronicle, Leah Garchik’s column:

Howard Junker’s new book, a collection of blog entries, is “An Old Junker.” Junker, founder and former editor of the literary journal Zyzzyva, is regarded by many – well, let’s say by me – as a person who holds strong opinions.

Hoping to mention the book, and having over time received e-mails including those opinions, I wrote to him, suggesting he is known for his “hot temper … kind of Larry David-esque,” and asking if he ever Read more »

Amazing Amazon

It is discouraging that An Old Junker, cover price $10, is offered by one vendor on Amazon new for $4.45; however, it is encouraging that another vendor asks for $48.87 new, and another for $55.29.

9/1/11: Atta

In Atta, a brilliant novella just published by semiotext(e), Jarett Kobek channels Mohamed Atta, ringleader of 9/11, looking back on his life.

“This also is my story,” thinks Mohamed Atta, “I too am an immigrant success.”

Kobek’s tour de force, his writing-within-the-constraints, is not just a compelling version of the terrorist mindset, it is also a useful antidote to commemorative treacle.

An accompanying long story, “The Whitman of Tikrit,” reconstitutes the last days of the Tyrant, poetaster Saddam Hussein.

It is not too late to read this even more ingeniously told story, either.

Combs Over

In keeping with the ancient Sanskrit advisory to simplify my life, I chucked my combs yesterday.

I had two: a pink one with a handle and a faux tortoise shell with fine/coarse teeth.

eBay never entered my mind, but perhaps I should have put them in storage, until Junker House is opened to the public and they could be laid on top of the bathroom vanity, along with my tube of Crest and vial of Ban.

Vermeer: Nails & Nail Holes

I don’t know who invented the trompe l’oeil nail (sticking out from the surface of a painting); it may have been some dude decorating a tomb in southern Italy circa 300 BCE.

It doesn’t matter; it’s always been a popular trope.

Vermeer, though, did a great job with nail holes, especially Read more »

Comments

D.H. in an e-mail: only on page 33. and laughed out loud twice.

K.K. on Facebook: I’m in a swoon over my favorite old Junker.

DeWitt Henry reviewing on Amazon: Amongst the charm, the spleen, the flapdoodle and lived personal and literary insights there are two deeply moving thoughts of mortality that are worthy of standing as prose poems. The first, near the opening, is “Curtains” (“there will be some twists, some messy business, then the curtain falls”); the second, “Portrait,” closes the book (“life had taken its toll…but the eyes are resolute; you may look into them and see my unfathomable sadness and sorrow”). They frame an epigramatic collage that wittily captures an Read more »

Hard to See

Michael Kimmelman bemoaned the poor visibility of the Last Supper last week in the NY Times.

The Mona Lisa, of course, is the worst. Always surrounded by crowds that have streamed through the approach corridors (oblivious to the several Leonardos, etc. on the way). With flashbulbs reverberating like gun shots off the protective plastic.

The Ghent Altarpiece, which I saw in April, is pretty bad, too, although it’s still possible to get a sense that the point of the whole thing is not the lamb (which was of course the golden fleece that brought the money to Ghent), but a very realistic Adam and Eve.

It is possible to buy a private hour in the Rijksmuseum  for six thousand euros.

Read more »

Pie vs. Cake

I’ve always known myself to be a pieman, and that self-knowledge was reaffirmed by last Saturday’s Cake Contest  at Omnivore Books.

There were some good ones. (Click and then click again to enlarge.)

But they were, after all, merely cakes.

It’s the difference between crust and icing.

Between filling and “cake,” gluten-free or not.

A pie is easy to slice, and every slice is the real deal, but a multi-layered cake, not so much.

Read more »

One-martini Lunch

The author and the publisher enjoyed a one-martini, celebratory lunch at Spruce yesterday.

There were also a few business details to discuss in as much as the publisher is headed off for the summer to his ranch in Wyoming tomorrow afternoon.

Shared were: a Caesar, graciously pre-chopped; plus GOLDEN POTATO GNOCCHI MAITAKE MUSHROOMS, PEAS AND FAVA BEANS, PANCETTA, PARMESAN, and SHORT RIB SUGO RED WINE FAROTTO, ENGLISH PEAS AND CARROTS, and, for dessert, BEIGNETS Read more »

Launch Party

At a party at the publisher’s home in the Presidio yesterday, the author listens pensively as the publisher makes some introductory remarks.

Readers follow along as the author reads out loud.

After signing a few copies, the author pauses, sighs in relief.

O Dogshit

A dog was shitting on the sidewalk, so I asked its owner, who was standing by with a blue plastic dogshit bag, why she didn’t pull him over to the curb or the bushes.

I can’t control him, she said of her ancient tawny Lab.

But he’s on a leash, I observed.

If I interrupt him, she said, he’ll just start walking away…

[No animals were hurt in the creation of this post.]

Ai Weiwei, Jeff Nunokawa & Me

Ai Weiwei’s Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009 was published earlier this year by MIT Press; it covers the same period as An Old Junker.

In the July 4th New Yorker, Rebecca Mead reported that Princeton English prof Jeff Nunokawa offers a daily “note” to his 3,000 Facebook friends (mostly his students). He began in 2006 as well, “as an alternative to burdening his students with too many exhortatory e-mails.”

Personally, Nunokawa views his daily, first-thing-in-the-morning note as “almost like a Lacanian session.”

A book may be forthcoming; Nunokawa  “used to think of his notes as a prolegomena for a book; now I would see a book as prolegomena for the notes.”

How Blogging Saved My Life

I never could have written a book without blogging it first.

A book seemed too large an effort, too comprehensive.

Maybe a “book” is not as awesome a thing as it once was, but for most of my life it seemed like something other people could do, but I would be well advised not to even try.

I did try, of course, a post-collegiate novel that went nowhere and, a few years later, an autobiography that I signed a contract for, but whose final draft was turned down, luckily for me.

A few more years later, having worked as an editor with short story writers and essayists and memoirists, I began posting some vignettes, some rants, some reminisces…on a daily basis.

Nobody cared whether I did or not.

So I did. After a few years, I had posted a lot of them, enough, it seemed to me, after I retired, to assemble them into a book.

Nobody cared whether I did or not.

So I did.

Take a Seat

Instead of sitting around all day reading Stone Butch Blues (an incredibly powerful book I had somehow missed, but was reminded of by a Pride Week list of books-that-meant-the-most-to-me), I went down to Fort Mason to see the Seat show.

My fav, the exquisitely crafted Japanesque-environment by Paul Discoe (double-click on image to enlarge):

Read more »

An Angry Old Man

There were Angry Young Men when I was young, but they were mostly British.

Perhaps I could be an Angry Old Man now, if I promised not to be crabby.

Reading Jeffrey Henderson’s introduction to the Loeb Juvenal and Persius made me think satire is the way to go:

Juvenal presents a character who seems to be an ordinary citizen of the metropolis of Rome, ranting at the excesses and outrages that surround him, a simple man who is so frustrated at society’s hypocrisy and corruption and at its failure to address burning issues of inequality Read more »

The Danielle Steel House

Many American writers, from Poe through Welty, have had their houses preserved as shrines.

Now that her kids have grown, the doyenne of San Francisco writers, Danielle Steel, has mostly moved to Paris.

She still goes to the dentist, sees her lawyer, and writes in The City, but… as she explains in her blog….

Perhaps we should petition that her house, formerly known as the Spreckels Mansion, be set aside to provide  her admirers with a locus of veneration.

A local architect has already noticed it needs preservation.

At worst, it could serve as an urban Yaddo.

Or as an incubator of litmags and small presses.

The Louis XVI ballroom with its lovely view (I assume) would be a great place for readings and fundraisers.

There is ample parking.

Bring the War Home

I am tired of our Young Adults (SLGBTQAs) fighting in weird time zones in inclement weather against foes who are driving around in pickup trucks, when they’re not schlepping through the boonies.

I am no pacifist and I am not soft on terror, but for the theater of our next military incursion, I suggest North America.

It would help facilitate a U.S. transition to democracy, especially after  the fundamentalist extremists and tribal leaders were rounded up and forced to listen to Lady Gaga.

There is, by the way, plenty of North American oil to defend. And natural gas.

Speaking of which, it is time to conclude our unfinished business with Canada. I have  no Read more »

Camo

It’s hard to be cynical enough when dealing with Big Tobacco, but take a look at the Altria ad in the current Atlantic.


There are some gray, that is, brown, areas we should not look too closely at, but, there are also some colorful, humanistic, deeply concerned areas we should focus on.

Such as “recognizing our responsibilities.”

What is really lovely is that this ad, on p. 82,  is embedded in an article, “Invisible, Inc.,” on military camouflage.

One wonders what the good people at The Atlantic were thinking when they 1) accepted this ad and 2) placed it.

The ad’s subtitle, by the way, is “Take a closer look at ALTRIA.COM

The Long View

I ran into my old friend Dale in the shower at the Koret pool last week. He swims with the Masters (and, a few days before,  had  made another ride for AIDS to L.A.). (I  swim after the Masters finish, to get to the other side.)

We’d met in 1978, standing next to each other in the Bach Society Choir— we were both teaching at local private high schools.

I published his account of having infected his wife, who in due course died of AIDS.

Since he now spends much of his time up at Sea Ranch, I suggested we have lunch that day. We did, at the new Piccino, in Dogpatch, which was delish.

As I gave him a ride home, we stopped by the new Potrero Hill library: from its upstairs gallery, a long view.

 

 

Debut

I made my debut as an author, reading at Peri’s, one of the great dive bars of Marin, on Tuesday, May 17th.

The official title of the event was “First Draught: Pints & Prose.”  It was organized by the Tuesday Night Writers.

In my allotted five minutes of open mic, I acknowledged the featured reader, Molly Giles, whom I’d published a couple of times (and whose writers’ group had developed Amy Tan), introduced my publisher, IF SF Publishing editorial director Brooks Roddan, who took the photo below, and read the first section of the first chapter, Editors Anonymous.

I killed.