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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

aryan kaganof reviews johan van wyk’s autobiography, “man bitch”

Man Bitch

“there is such a vast difference between a thought, and writing a thought. the gap between them can never be bridged.”

i have never read a book that so perfectly describes the abject uselessness of being an academic as does johan van wyk’s “man bitch”.

“literature that is moral is boring.”

man bitch is structured as a tryptych – durban/europe/durban followed by a lengthy coda – durban/mozambique/durban/poland/durban. the european sections of the book describe the protagonist johan van wyk’s journeys as a traveling literature professor. the inanity and emptiness of “professing”; of literature itself as a means of making a living – is excoriatingly portrayed.

“i read dostoyevsky’s possessed, an old everyman’s edition. i was surprised by the relevance to my own situation. i felt like his character, stephan trofimovitch, who was overtaken by historical events, and who felt that all the social changes amounted to was ‘that he was forgotten and of no use.’, i thought that, similarly, my life was useless, and my book was an attempt to remind the world of my existence.”

the real life of protagonist johan van wyk takes place in the seedy bars, clubs and hotels of durban where he meets a succession of women whose working hours are after dark but not once in the book does he refer to them as “prostitutes”. he loves these women, or at least experiences the nausea that would appear to be the most consistent symptom accompanying the condition of love; and the many women that he is variously engaged in relations with all confess to varying degrees of love for him. but what is this love? perhaps the book’s most important project is to try to understand what love means in the context of a life as unrelentingly grim as is lived by these characters who share a great deal in common with the ubiquitous cockroaches that, according to van wyk, “only fucked.”


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stephen gray and sinclair beiles: which is the real literary con man?

Minutes to Go

Who Was Sinclair Beiles?stephen gray, in his review of “who was sinclair beiles” implies that sinclair was “some sort of impostor? a scam?” gray’s egregious insinuation is further developed in the article: “in the classic accounts of the period, james campbell’s the beat generation and barry miles’s the beat hotel, “our boy” merits only a footnote or two, and no listing of his works, if there were any, in the bibliographies.”

in fact sinclair beiles was co-author, along with william burroughs, brion gysin and gregory corso of the hugely influential “minutes to go”, published by two cities editions. here is some information about this book by jed birmingham of reality studio: “one book in my collection highlights the important role of the independent bookshop in burroughs’ social and creative life. kaddish, naked lunch, soft machine, and bomb were all written in part at the beat hotel, but the book that most captures the spirit of 9 rue git-le-coeur is minutes to go. in his editor’s note to brion gysin let the mice in, jan herman describes the beat hotel atmosphere as like a “laboratory,” and minutes to go is certainly the most representative result of those experiments in lifestyle and literary technique.

i want to focus on the community of bookstores involved with this cut-up collection. in fact independent bookstores made minutes to go a pubished reality. minutes to go was issued by two cities in 1000 copies on april 13, 1960. a limited edition of ten copies included a manuscript page. this reminds me of the limited edition for the c press time. i have never seen the limited time or minutes to go for sale on the rare book market. the john hay library at brown possesses a copy of the minutes to go and displayed it prominently at their burroughs exhibition years ago.

two cities was a bilingual (french and english) magazine edited by jean fanchette, a young doctor. fanchette published expats like henry miller, alfred perles, and lawrence durrell. the first issue was dedicated to durrell. years later, the correspondence between fanchette and durrell from this period would be published by two cities as well. anaïs nin was a correspondent for the magazine. with gysin designing the covers, fanchette fashioned minutes to go to mirror the magazine.”

“minutes to go” is a legendary text; a bible of avant-garde literary cut-up technique. kathy acker, j.g. ballard, lesego rampolokeng, paul wessels, the list of writers influenced by this work could go on and on… furthermore the book has exerted influence on a wide range of industrial culture outside of literature, most notably cinema (peter whitehead, derek jarman, bruce conner etc) and music (john zorn, throbbing gristle, einsturzende neubauten, henry cow, etc). it would not be hyperbolic to describe the entire digital sampling culture of today as being prefigured in this ur-text of experimentation.

perhaps stephen gray is unaware of these trends and tendencies in the culture of the last fifty years? then he shouldn’t be exposing his ignorance in the mail & guardian. he describes sinclair beiles as a “demented con man” but in fact it is stephen gray who is the con man, pretending to be a literary connoisseur whilst in fact writing well shy of the facts. shameful

aryan kaganof

ps. sinclair beiles was also the editor of william burroughs’ “the naked lunch”, he organised a lot of the book into its published sequence, even re-typed many of the pages for burroughs. this is information that can be found in various biographical resources and interviews with burroughs. the imputation that gray makes in his scabrous article, namely that beiles invented, lied about, or exaggerated these facts, is simply disgusting.

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This post originally appeared at Kagablog


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