Blast 1

R.E.M.'s "I Believe." Kelly Link's little magazine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Marilyn Manson's entire career, along with that of Trent Reznor. Designer T-shirts bearing the image of William Burroughs. Poetry slams. Cyberpunk. The Naked Cowboy of Times Square, New York City. "The Battle in Seattle." The blog known as bOING-bOING. YouTube. Juxtapoz magazine. Sarah Palin's resignation speech. What can all these disparate items possibly have in common? Each one can, more or less plausibly, be traced back to Blast 1, Wyndham Lewis's seminal 1914 explosion of avant-garde, pie-in-your-face bomb tossing, now available in an impeccable high-quality facsimile edition from Gingko Press. The DIY, anti-bourgeois, nostalgie de la boue cultural wavefront from this publication radiated powerfully throughout the 20th century and continues to reverberate down to the present day -- a thesis convincingly and succinctly propounded in an elegant, backstory-informative foreword by Paul Edwards. Of course, Lewis and his co-conspirators such as Ezra Pound, Edward Wadsworth, Rebecca West, and Ford Madox Ford did not invent the avant-garde nor constitute the only contemporary bastion of that sensibility and lifestyle. Earlier influences such as J. K. Huysmans and Walt Whitman loom large over Blast, and rivals to the Vorticists (a tag invented by Pound for the project) abounded. Still, Blast 1 retains a certain centrality and projects a sense of residing at the apex of all such movements; and reading this edition in 2009 engenders a sense of both its original audacity and eternal relevance. Despite pretensions to sheer anarchy and an unborn surrealism, Blast 1 is engineered as cleverly and logically as one of the sleek racing cars beloved by the Futurists whom Lewis emulated at first. It opens with a catalogue of "blasts" and "blesses," raking foes both predictable and fellow-travelerish with wit and invective, and praising unlikely icons and talismans of creativity and fertility. Pound's poems come next, then Lewis's play, followed by West's story. A critical essay on Kandinsky paves the way for more sloganeering and manifestos, and thus the vortex swirls down the drain -- but the drain is really a hole in the bottom of Lewis's much-idolized ocean, and all the cant and canon of Western art and literature have been bracingly consigned to the cloaca of history, leaving a fantastical, fish-flopping, dripping submarine landscape ripe for colonization by esthetic nomads and other arcane lifeforms. In other words, the postmodern culture of the21st century we now inhabit.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.