Commentaries - May 2012

Brother in Elysium

When I lived in New York, my favorite weekend escape was the town of Beacon, just up the Hudson. DIA, fresh air, and a change of pace were always a draw for the family, but my favorite part of the trip was invariably the Hermitage bookstore. It was located on a hill off the main drag in a small house by a silo of some sort, and it specialized in poetry, mostly American small press editions of the 50s, 60s and 70s. There was usually a record playing in the back room, a small, but meticulously curated collection of books on the shelves and tacked to the walls in mylar bags. Jon Beacham ran the store with a then-girlfriend whose name escapes me. For a while it seemed that everyone was going up there to buy a few books and grab some soup with Jon. Jon had a Pilot press that he used to print a couple books and ephemera to accompany the exhibits—the Zephyrus Image and Auerhahan Press were most memorable. When a Vandercook 4 came up for sale, Dan Morris of The Arm in Williamsburg and me drove up to give Jon a hand moving it into his place.

Eventually Jon closed the shop and moved back to New York, and gradually, printing began to take precedence over book selling. Jon’s knowledge of artists’ books and private press editions is vast, and it shows in the work he produces under the Brother in Elysium imprint. Check out the work at:

The Shock of the Lenders & Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik

tr. Molly Weigel, now out from Action books

Jorge Santiago Perednik, editor of the essential Xul magazine, from Buenos Aires, is a poet of transformations and intimacies, gestures and jests, epochal lyrics and lyric epics, lurid lines and luring stanzas. The sheer intelligence of his social critique brushes constantly against the shine of his poems' sounds and cuts. Molly Weigal offers a perfect introduction to this great poet of the Americas.

Gertrude Stein's war years: Setting the record straight

A dossier edited by Charles Bernstein

Over the past several years, Gertrude Stein’s war time record has been subjected to a stream of misinterpretations, distortions, and disinformation in the mainstream press. Most of these articles are written by authors who are hostile to Stein's literary works and who admit to their inability (and unwillingness) to read her work, including the works by Stein that directly address the issue at hand. In this Stein dossier, key documents are provided that refute the sensational tabloid accounts of Stein's activities, views, and affiliations during the war  years, when  she and Alice B. Toklas lived in Bilignin, France (near Lyon and Geneva). Stein's  connection to the Vichy government is complex and these complexities are fully explored in the essays and articles linked here. 

Edward Burns, in his essay published for the first time as part of this dossier, writes that “the translation of Pétain’s speeches has preoccupied Stein’s detractors in recent years; they have used it as the wedge (along with a clearly ironic remark about Hitler’s deserving the Nobel Peace Prize) to denounce her — the denunciation by extension extends to her literary works.

Gertrude Stein taunts Hitler in 1934 and 1945

(Sieg heil, sieg heil, right in der Fuehrer's face.)

On May 6, 1934, The New York Times published an interview by Lansing Warren, entitled "Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics." The full piece is available on-line at the Times site.  A pdf of the article, as it appeared in the paper, in available here (useful given that the OCR version on the Times site has a few minor errors).