Robert Frank‘s death this past week has left us still reeling. A global response, not surprisingly – America, Canada, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, tv and radio… The list goes on and on.
Allen’s indebtedness to Robert Frank as a photographer was primary.
“Difficulty to maintain continual awareness, consciousness of frame and space, tonal range, chance casualty half-recognized – to look at the world thru an old Leica for years, reduce one’s eyes to that attention – focus swiftly “invisibly”, as Kerouac noticed, shoot from the hip – turn the eye aside then click chance in the “windows on another time, on another place”. And the camera itself was a mixed machine, with Zeiss lens of Leitz body, “not well adjusted”, Frank remarked, so the sprocket holes cut inside the frame…”
“Always, a curiosity about cameras – he liked my little cheap Olympus XA. His printmaker Mr. Sid Kaplan, who taught photography at the New School, could show me, and did, the different knacks of the classic Rolleiflex, all its sprigots and sights, upside-down focus eye-level, and mirrored lens and cap for auto portrait focus – delayed click – Robert smiled at his proficiency…”
“He thought I seemed to have survived and kept busy, gave me credit for knowing what I was doing as an artist, or middle-aged man – saw I lived somewhat on the edge of slum (sic) Lower East Side half prosperity in apartment house penury, East 12th Street, New York – I was greatly surprised at his glum approval, after nearly three decades friendship, we were both “survivors”, at least had no mortal noxious habits, and were still artists, solitary and alone…”
“Kindly teacher, with hesitant humorous trust in himself – and others..”
‘Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand, he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.” (That’s Jack Kerouac, from his introduction to Frank’s legendary photo book The Americans‘, back in 1958
Rest in peace, Robert
Cold war shenanigans – It was Sidney Gottlieb, working for the CIA (tho’ Allen was unaware at the time that this was the source) who first made available to him LSD (and was the source of the first acid trip Ken Kesey took, come to that) all part of the nefarious MK-Ultra program. Steven Kinzer, author of the equally revealing The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War (2013), examines the program and the mysterious and elusive Gottlieb at length in his new book Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control. It’s deeply troubling and deeply depressing read (but a necessary one). Kinzer is interviewed at length on NPR’s “Fresh Air” – see here. Publishers Weekly previously reviewed it – here. Here‘s Sharon Weinberger‘s review of the book that appeared just this week in the New York Times
It’s Friday the 13th – boo! – but there’s no need to get unduly scared!
Allen, despite the images wasn’t really a cat person, but William Burroughs certainly knew his cats
black cats, tortoise-shell, whatever..
Oh, and, while we’re about it, lets not forget the legendary Chat Noire!
No, just another day today, Friday, nothing to get worried about!
Ginsberg-movie sightings! (we’ve mentioned this project before) – Last week in the trade-paper, Backstage – “Now Casting – Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7″ Needs Talent..” – “A male actor, aged 35–45, who resembles Allen Ginsberg is wanted to play the poet in a supporting role. Filming will take place in Chicago, Illinois. Some pay will be provided. Apply here!”
On slightly more momentous matters – Project Plume, “an independent literary initiative dedicated to championing women writers from less represented languages and cultures in English translation” chooses as its first “Trailblazer in Translation”, Fernanda Pivano, (Allen and the Beat Generation’s long-time friend and legendary Italian translator).
See “Nanda famously interviewing a slightly-inebriated Kerouac – back in 1966 – here
An interesting review of the Iron Curtain Journals (in Spanish) by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (with specific reference to Cuba) – We particularly like the (brazen and bi-lingual) title – “La Cuba de Allen Ginsberg – Stupid And Full of Authoritative Bullshit”
“Don’t steal the tapes!” – Abbie Hoffman tapes end up in Brandeis Library