Friday, July 29, 2005

The Business of Books by André Schiffrin

I have finally got round to reading André Schiffrin's excellent book on the impact business practices have had on publishing in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. This book is required reading for anyone who cares how knowledge is disseminated to the public. Market Censorship and Focus Groups effectively kill any ideas that appear fresh and new. It is only through independent publishing houses and booksellers that unique ideas and different perspectives on life are allowed the time of day. From my perspective, of working in college radio for 11+ years, the public needs access to varied arenas to nurture alternate views. Too often, people assume the only kind of music that's out there is played on the larger commerical stations. This kind of mass marketing of ideas and sounds crushes public taste by 'dumbing it down' and not allowing it to develop. People need to have the opportunity to gravitate towards sounds and ideas they prefer. It should be a fundamentally organic process, not something which is force fed to people. How can one determine what appeals to himself or herself if he or she does not have access to a variety of choices? People are effectively crippled if they cannot discuss matters sensibly. How can a person make an informed decision if he or she is denied information? André Schiffrin's book deals with all of these ideas by his personal journey through contemporary publishing. He has produced an essential text for studying the way the culture industry works.

from the Verso website (

The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read
André Schiffrin

Postwar American publishing has been ruthlessly transformed since André Schiffrin joined its ranks in 1956. Gone is a plethora of small but prestigious houses that often put ideas before prof it in their publishing decisions, sometimes even deliberately. Now six behemoths share 80% of the market and profit margin is all.

André Schiffrin can write about these changes with authority because he witnessed them from inside a conglomerate, as head of Pantheon, co-founded by his father bought (and sold) by Random House. And he can write about them with candor because he is no longer on the inside, having quit corporate publishing in disgust to setup a flourishing independent house, the New Press. Schiffrin's evident affection for his authors sparkles throughout a story woven around publishing the work of those such as Studs Terkel, Noam Chomsky, Gunnar Myrdal, George Kennan, Juliet Mitchell, R.D.Laing, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P. Thompson.

Part-memoir, part-history, here is an account of the collapsing standards of contemporary publishing that is irascible, acute and passionate. An engaging counterpoint to recent, celebratory memoirs of the industry written by those with more stock options and fewer scruples than Schiffrin, The Business of Books warns of the danger to adventurous, intelligent publishing in the bullring of today's marketplace.

"It is at once a riveting chronicle of the qualitataive rise and fall of the American reader and a very personal book." – Village Voice

"Andre Schiffrin is an old-fashioned New York publisher, the sort that loves and believes in books. Not just best-sellers, but little books with big ideas." – The Times

"André Schiffrin presents a sombre portrait of American publishing where the pursuit of profit has strangled alI creativity." – Nouvel Observateur

André Schiffrin was, for thirty years, Publisher at Pantheon. He is the Director of the New Press, which he founded in 1993. He contributes a regular column on publishing to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

re: Go-Kart Mozart review --

Thanks for the correction, I should have said that Manfred Mann covered "Blinded By the Light" in the 70s.

"Mann formed a new jazz-rock group called 'Manfred Mann Chapter Three'. The latter quickly evolved into 'Manfred Mann's Earth Band', a synth-driven rock 'n' roll band which scored a U.S. No. 1 hit in the 1970s with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light," popularizing the then unknown singer-songwriter." -- off a Manfred Mann website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Go Kart Mozart - Tearing Up the Album Charts

Go Kart Mozart
Tearing Up The Album Charts

Go Kart Mozart makes music in the style of brit-pop. The band hails from Birmingham and was founded by Lawrence Hayward. Their name comes from a line from the lyrics of Blinded by the Light, a song by Manfred Mann. Lawrence is primarily known for his work in the band Felt from the ‘80s. After the Felt years, he formed a pop band that lasted for three albums called Denim. His latest, Go Kart Mozart, has just released its second album “Tearing Up the Album Charts”. Lawrence is a bit of a cult figure in the UK music scene, having been referenced and praised by the likes of Pulp, Belle and Sebastian and St. Etienne, among other bands. He still remains kind of a misfit and a recluse.

“Tearing Up the Album Charts” captures his love of suburbia and pop music in an uncanny way. It is a clear homage to glam music of the ‘70s and carries on in a DIY appropriation of that style—all catchy guitar riffs and keyboard solos. One song on the album, 'Fuzzy Duck' is a litany of '60s and '70s obscure band names taking in Bacon Fat, Plastic Penny and Ultimate Spinach. This should ground the listener in the appreciation of trash culture that Lawrence revels in. He explores the jaded and empty spaces of suburbia through short pop songs that rarely exceed two minutes. The entire album lasts precisely 33 minutes, which is perfectly respectable for a pop disc. Most of the songs come from Lawrence’s personal experience as mediated through the prism of popular culture. That said, most of these songs deal with being unemployed and going out getting wasted on drugs. Crystal Meth abuse is the subject of “At the DDU”, while “Donna and The Dopefiends” has to do with the relationship he has with his female drug dealer. The interview at the bottom of this review mentions that the song “Transgressions” is about a trend for spraying Lynx body lotion on to your tongue for a cheap high. Lawrence also discusses ‘70s pop ephemera, the song, “Listening to Marmalade” regards the ‘70s band “Marmalade” in a fond light. An album like this is a nostalgic speed freak’s trip through the underside of decadent nowhere towns in the UK.


Track Listing:

Glorious Chorus
Summer Is Here
Electric Rock & Roll
Listening To Marmalade
At The DDU
On A Building Site
Fuzzy Duck
Delta Echo Echo Beta Alpha Neon Kettle
Donna & The Dopefiends
England & Wales
City Centre

Tonight -at River Gods in Central Square (Cambridge)

Another night in -- I will DJ the late set tonight, from 11pm to 1am or so. DJ SO is starting the night off, with Brainstorm co-ordinator James Kraus doing the lynchpin set in the middle. Benji is in Beijing on Business. I hope he returns from China with more than a bootleg of an American 'Country' singer's album.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Cancelled - Jay-Jay Johanson

Unfortunately I receieved an e-mail last night saying the NYC show is cancelled. I don't know if he's still playing concerts in Canada or if the entire tour is due to be rescheduled. As things are now, my plans for Monday are in limbo.

Heart of the Festival - Cannes via agnes b. - French Film Festival in Boston

This DVD can be found in agnes b. stores and online. It is a 56 minute documentary accompanied by two shorter visual documents (slightly over 20 minutes in length each) compiled and arranged by Gilles Jacob, the president of the Cannes Film Festival. To my knowledge, this will be shown several times at the upcoming French Film Festival at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. I don't know if agnes b. is one of the sponsors of the festival or not. However, considering that this film is on the schedule, it seems like a good fit to offer the DVD for purchase in the Museum Store. Agnes b's film production company, Love Streams, has produced a good stable of contemporary, independent films (Gaspar Noe's "Seul Contre Tous", Claire Denis' "Trouble Every Day", Patrice Chereau's "Son Frere" and Emilie Deleuze's "Mister V"). I intend to look investigate shortly.

The Boston French Film Festival starts this Thursday, July 7, 2005.
36 Quai des Orfèvres
8:00 PM
Opening Night Film
36 Quai des Orfèvres by Olivier Marchal (2004, France, 110 min.). A box-office hit in France, 36 Quai des Orfèvres pits Daniel Auteuil against Gérard Depardieu in a taut, atmospheric thriller set in the shadowy world of a Parisian police force fighting organized crime. When their superior tells them that his choice of a successor will be based on who can bring down a gang currently causing havoc, he sets off a brutal competition between the two division heads, Vrinks (Auteuil) and Klein (Depardieu). Each has his connections into the gang world, and doesn't hesitate to use them against the other. Beautifully photographed in rich, dark tones with slivers of silvery light, 36 Quai des Orfèvres is both an homage and an updating of France's strong tradition of crime films. In French with English subtitles. Description adapted from the Film Society at Lincoln Center.
Tickets: MFA members, seniors, and students $12; general admission $15.

The copy from the agnes b. website reads:

The "Heart of the Festival" DVD
This DVD is an anthology of the greatest moments of the Cannes Film Festival narrated by its president, Gilles Jacob who lifts the curtain on historical backstage secrets and events of The Cannes Film Festival in an exceptional compilation of three segments which, thanks to their star-studded cast, form a passionate and moving history of the Festival. Its myths and rites, its legendary participants, prizes and unexpected happenings are both touching and hilarious. Its evenings of elegance and glamour and its magical and surprising encounters are featured. This DVD offers a unique opportunity to enjoy and enjoy again, to witness unforgettable images of major stars and to hear the greatest moviemakers in the history of cinema discuss the secrets of their art. "I love movies; I say it from my heart! I am very happy to share my passion through this outstanding DVD collection," says agnes b. "The Heart of the Festival" DVD, part of the "I Love Movies" Collection of agnes b. Total running time is 160 minutes, format for all zones.