And to prove it here is a complete run of John Perreault's Elephant, an unjustly overlooked mag from, what is for me, one of the sweet spots of the Mimeo Revolution: the Lower East Side from 1964 to 1966. Forget geography. The golden age of mimeo is 1964 to 1966, be it the LES, SF, the UK, Germany, Detroit or Cleveland.
Elephant is a rare specimen that roamed wild in the Secret Location. It has become a tough beast to track down. The first issue is down and dirty mimeo in the spirit of the early issues of Blazek's Ole. The inking is gloriously atrocious with offsets on the back of nearly every page. Elephant 2 approaches extinction. I have seen only two copies over the years and both were worse for the wear. The cover is by Perreault and is a great one. The format shifts to the standard 8.5 X 11 side staple job that Fuck You made iconic. Like the first issue's inking, the second issue's stapling leaves a lot to be desired. In the words of Chief Brody, you are going to need a bigger staple. It is extremely fragile. I believe the third issue is professionally printed and it is a step-up in terms of production values, durability, and integration of text and image. Not that this is a positive development. I much prefer issues 1 and 2. Do not let issue 3's good looks fool you. Some of the symptoms of a terminally ill mimeo mag are additional pages and a better design.
I plan on curling up with Elephant tonight and listening to what it has to say about the good old days. An Elephant never forgets even if it has been forgotten.
Mimeo Mimeo is not dead. It is only sleeping. For those of you writing Mimeo Mimeo off, here is a glimpse into Mimeo Mimeo's beginnings. I first came into contact with Kyle through his Creeley;s typography essay. Our friendship grew out of a shared appreciation for Divers Press, an example of coterie publishing at its best. Since 2008 I have been working on gathering together all the Divers Press titles. From the Sustaining Air was a major hurdle. It was worth the wait. A Divers Press classic that until now did not exist on the Web. From this moment on, From the Sustaining Air exists; and Mimeo Mimeo persists.
I just finished reading Jonas Mekas’ Movie Journal. But despite reading Daniel Kane’s We Saw the Light and seeing Ed Sanders’ glyphs depicting the full scope of his total assault on the culture, I never fully appreciated just how closely related New American Cinema was to the Mimeo Revolution. 8mm films as a form of mimeo publication. The importance of approaching Heliczer as both publisher and filmmaker, of the Couch cover of the Mad Motherfucker Issue, of the movie reviews in Kulchur. My blindness in part stems from the fact that I just have not seen many of the films Mekas discusses. One film I have seen is Pull My Daisy. So I was aware that directors Frank and Leslie’s film jumpstarted New Cinema and its stars Ginsberg, Kerouac and Corso kicked out the jambs in terms of the New Poetry. I understood that in both cases artists took control of the means of production and distribution, but early in Movie Journal, Mekas makes explicit the incestuous relationship of underground movie and Mimeo Revolution in a simple, obvious way that was nonetheless a revelation.
The young works of the New American Cinema are criticized for their roughness and for their technical imperfections. Do we read books only because they are perfect works of art? In Yugen No. 6 there are some thirty poems by some twenty young poets, and they are all good. Now it would be stupid to say that there are today – and in one magazine – twenty good poets. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a single Blake in this magazine. Nevertheless, there are some great things in Yugen No. 6. And in the same way there are some great things in Come Back, Africa, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, Shadows, and even in such a bad movie as Private Property. Art feeds on margins, we could say. As Yugen is the living frontier of the New American Poetry, so these movies are the living frontier of the New American Cinema. (“How to Transcend Art” – May 11, 1960)
Mekas merely reinforces something I had pushed to the back burner of my mind. Now I have to get cooking on watching the films. Why Yugen No. 6, and not Semina 4 or Evergreen Review No. 2 or for example? I, and possibly Mekas, was drawn to one poem and one poet, not twenty. In particular, Jack Kerouac’s “Rimbaud”. Mekas’ first Movie Journal entry reads: “There is no other way to break the frozen cinematic conventions than through a complete derangement of the official cinematic senses.” Kerouac spoke the first words of the New American Cinema in more ways than one.
While roaming in a bookshop if I come across a Grey Fox title, I always pick it up and more often than not take it away with me, such as my copy of Gary Snyder's Passage Through India that I bought at the Chicken Barn outside of Ellsworth. The orange covers have faded to yellow, no doubt by the Gay Sunshine, the interview conducted by Allen Young with Allen Ginsberg, that I also picked up at a used bookstore years ago. Composed on the Tongue. The Good Blonde. Old Angel Midnight. All used bookshop purchases; all found through browsing and happy chance. I never set out to find a Grey Fox, but I am always filled with wonder when I see one lurking in the stacks or hiding in a box.
The day I bought Passage Through India I also bought T.S. Eliot's On Poetry and Poets, in the 1957 Farrar hardcover edition, which sat on the same shelf of the Grey Fox title in the literary essay section. On Poetry and Poets contains Eliot's essay What is Minor Poetry? The backlist for Grey Fox Press provides an answer to that question in terms of New American Poetry rather than Eliot's New Criticism. I am always pleased by the juxtapositions and associations that I find in my stack of books picked up after a day of hitting the used bookstores. Much more satisfying than downloading What Is Minor Poetry? off of JSTOR for $44. A simultaneously richer and cheaper experience to be sure.
Here are two pieces of vintage Black Sparrow ephemera from the early days of the press. The card announces the publication of a Wallace Berman poster from 1967. John Martin mailed the notice to Joseph Gold, later Sir Joseph Gold, a famous monetary scholar with the IMF and book collector who lived in Bethesda. Gold must have been on Martin mailing list. This is not the first Mimeo Revolution item I have come across that slipped away from the Gold Collection that is housed in parts in various institutions, such as the University of Delaware. This announcement with the original envelope was re-purchased at Serendipity in the late 1990s shortly before Gold died. Gold was enough of a name on the rare book circuit for Peter Howard to consider this item an association. Gold was money in the bank.
Again we have another example here of small press business correspondence becoming important and interesting as time passes. The announcement has become a work of art in its own right and even the envelope has its joys and value. The addresses, the postmarks, and the bookselling notations of Peter Howard all have their stories to tell. There is a ton to unpack here in terms of art and collecting markets and relationships over the years involving Berman, Martin, Gold and Howard. These are the little details fill in the larger picture and make obsessively researched histories so fulfilling. The Thoreau stamp is the kicker that makes this an irresistible and fascinating piece of documentation. Thoreau's stance on civil disobedience developed in part because of his run-in with a tax collector at Walden. Gold would know all about that. What is John Martin saying to Gold with that stamp? How did Gold interpret it? The seemingly worthless detail, like a nickel stamp, makes ephemera priceless.
How ‘bout a bit of context for Contexts of Poetry?
Given that Creeley talks about materiality and process in his Vancouver lecture, a little attention should be given to when and how it was published. Specifically as Audit 5 Vol. 1 (1968), edited by Butterick and Glover. Other probably know the details more than I do but Audit was started in Buffalo in 1960 by Ralph Maud. I believe it was the official vehicle of the Buffalo English Department. Creeley arrived in Buffalo to teach in 1966. By 1968 Butterick and Glover had taken over Audit’s editorial duties. The publication of Contexts of Poetry by Audit was very timely. Pieces came out that year and in that publication, even more than Words, Creeley puts into action the concepts that are gestating in Contexts. The Postscript to the Audit edition of Contexts could have served as a foreword to Pieces.
As for Creeley speaking through the official publication of the Buffalo English Department. I have mixed feelings about that. I have a vision of the Vancouver Conference as somehow anti-university and anti-academic but that may not be accurate. In this possibly imaginary scenario, Warren Tallman went rogue and established an academic La Costa Nostra in British Columbia. Again this may not be true. The publication of Creeley’s lecture in an official institutional organ like Audit diminishes its freshness and vitality in my opinion, sort of like pressing a tree leaf between the pages of a book. What was a poet chewing the fat in the frontier amongst active poets becomes a lecture for a creative writing class attended by MFA students. The oppositional, informal and outsider nature of Contexts becomes institutional.
Much of this is based on what I think Audit is as a publication. It strikes me as Buffalo’s version of Poetry. It is the literary establishment at SUNY Buffalo. As opposed to Fubbalo for example, which was published out of the student bookshop like an issue of Fuck You at Peace Eye or Corinth Books out of 8th Street. Publication of Contexts in Fubbalo would be like Fuck You Press’ reporting on Vancouver in Berge’s The Vancouver Report. Similarly Niagara Frontier Review would be in opposition to Audit as an alternative magazine independently financed by a student, Harvey Brown (like Frontier Press). Thus Niagara Frontier Review continues a Mimeo Revolution tradition, like Big Table or New Departures, of the disgruntled and disillusioned student rebelling against the university. Fubbalo and Niagara Frontier Review are therefore products of the Mimeo Revolution. Audit is not. Audit is an literary mag like Kenyon Review or Chicago Review. Audit is academic and closely tied to bureaucratic structures. For example, the Audit Contexts of Poetry was funded in part by the CCLM. Like Fubbalo and Niagara Frontier Review, I view de Loach’s Intrepid as an alternative voice within the institution of SUNY Buffalo. That said, de Loach took the government cheese as well I think. Buffalo was heavily involved in the bureaucracy of the little mag at the time. COSMEP held its annual conference in Buffalo in 1971.
The prevalence of bureaucracy dooms the idea of a Black Mountain II project at SUNY Buffalo. The sequel was more traditionally academic and establishment than the original incarnation (likewise with the reprint of Contexts). Like the Vancouver Conference, Black Mountain College was intellectual but not academic. The academy means bureaucracy. Little at Black Mountain College was official or standardized. It was informal bordering on completely disorganized. Particularly in the mid-1950s. In this atmosphere of total chaos (freedom??) monuments of a high intellectual order like the Black Mountain Review developed. A different atmosphere at SUNY Buffalo. Tons of sponsored committees and clubs. An official curriculum for everything, even the alternative curriculum. State recognition and support. Involvement in national organizations. You simply cannot have a Black Mountain II at a state institution. Something will be missing. Or something will be added, i.e. an official, regulated bureaucratic structure. The struggles at Buffalo with loyalty oaths (like Corso) are one by-product of this. The persistent belief that Creeley was not a “true” professor and thus his classes were not proper study for a graduate student was another. Black Mountain Review vs Audit (or Black Mountain Review II) also captures what I mean. The Review remains one of the Ur-publications of the Mimeo Revolution. Audit and Black Mountain Review II are scholastic.
Again let me stress these are all my personal impressions. I would love for someone to tell me what’s what. It would be an interesting project to analyze the little mag/Mimeo Revolution/academic journal nexus of the New American Poetry era through the lens of SUNY Buffalo. Here is a rough list of some relevant publications:
Niagara Frontier Review
Magazine of Further Studies
Moody Street Irregulars
Black Mountain Review II
For example a dissertation entitled “State Sponsored Location from the Upper West Side: Little Magazines in and around SUNY Buffalo (1960-1981)”. God knows the Poetry Collection has the archives to support it. I wonder what the archives would have to say? What do you?
The amount of printed matter that can be accessed digitally is rapidly increasing on a daily basis. I feel this is a good thing as it makes rare and important material, like this edition of Paul Bowles Next to Nothing, available to interested readers. That said, Ira Cohen’s Starstreams #5, printed in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1976, really needs to be experienced in hard copy. For example, digital imaging does not capture the textures of the various papers, such as that of the handmade rice paper. The scans also do not fully convey the element of the handmade coupled with that of the ephemeral. I can think of few publications that exude a persistent thereness while at the same time drawing attention to an extreme fragility. Like all publications made with love, Next to Nothing just wants to be held. It demands a care and attention that its digital counterpart does not.
Bowles himself recognized Next to Nothing’s special nature. Bowles considered it one of the finest realizations of his work. From Ken Lopez:
In Carr's biography of Bowles [Paul Bowles: A Life], Carr recounts that, approximately two years after Jane Bowles' death, Ira Cohen solicited a long poem in the form of a dream from Paul Bowles; that Bowles countered with “one man's dream is another man's reality” and submitted Next to Nothing; that he considered this the most extraordinary-looking book of all his writings; and that, in 1994 (the year of this inscription), when Carr was staying at Bowles's house, Bowles read a discussion of Next to Nothing in the book Paul Bowles: Romantic Savage by Gena Dagel Caponi, and he voiced agreement with Caponi's assessment that: “Next to Nothing turns out to be the most eloquent and final expression of ideas that had obsessed Bowles for years...For a reader familiar with his life story, it holds great emotional power.”
By 1977, one year after publication, Bowles lamented that this publication of 500 copies had already reached $150 on the rare book market and was difficult to obtain. As a result, Bowles authorized a collected of his poetry to be issued by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press, which included “Next to Nothing”. The poem also named the collection testifying to its importance for Bowles personally.
Interestingly, Next to Nothing also serves as a fine example of the Internet’s effect on the rare book market. The Web helped recalibrate what was truly rare and desirable in the market. In an era that made it easy to advertise availability, books which seemed impossible to find turned out to be rather common. Next to Nothing falls into that category. Therefore, Cohen’s edition is more readily available than ever. And at the same price as nearly four decades ago. There are four copies on Abebooks for $150 or lower. It is worth your money in my opinion. In the electronic bookselling, cash is king as collecting requires less and less time and effort.
Some may know Lionni through his design work for Fortune magazine, or for his children's books. It has become increasingly difficult to know of perhaps his greatest achievement: Parallel Botany. Out of print, the book has become like that it describes, the extremely rare and rarely seen. Copies have become expensive to acquire in nature. One has to go to a library, the bibliographical greenhouse.
Maybe this book is more well-known than I give it credit. Egotistically, I feel that if I just learned about it, nobody else has, but in this case I suspect that the fact that the book is out of print has severely limited its readers. Which is a tragedy. The book is as strange, fresh and relevant as when it came out in 1977.
The time is ripe for a reprint.
I read Toujours l’amour by Ron Padgett recently. I thoroughly enjoyed the poems, but that is not why I feel compelled to return to the Mimeo Mimeo blog after a long hiatus. As is often the case with me, my interest stems from the peripherals, from the margins, rather than from the main text itself. Last things first. I could not get over Padgett’s author photo taken by Jacob Burckhardt on the back cover. Ron looks great! Part pimp, part don, part disco. It bears mentioning that this was definitely a look circa 1976. Padgett as Martin Scorsese as the Passenger in The Taxi Driver. Toujours l’amour to be sure.
And if we are talking about New York City in 1976, one must touch on graffiti, and my copy of Toujours l’amour has a touch of that as well. In the presence of a bookplate. For what are bookplates but a form of tagging. Personally I hate bookplates. Some people love them and even collect them. In fact one of the most consistently praised book blogs is one dedicated to bookplates: Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie. I would suspect that Jon Lawson Buller’s bookplate would be collectible just as kitch or bad art has become increasingly collectible. If Padgett with this beard is channeling Scorsese or a member of the hirsute Bronx Zoo (the Yankees that is), Buller calls to mind nobody less than the Hulkster with his defiant fading glory hairdo. As for the cat, I like to think, with a nod to Baltimore ambulance chaser and media icon Barry Glazer that Buller is one of the urinated upon, because like the cat, Buller is clearly marking his territory with his bookplate. His book indeed
"The drama of these first painted creatures is neither the side nor the front, but always behind, in the rock. From where they came. And we did, too . . . "
Everybody knows our shit don't stink. But seriously thanks for keeping the spirit alive. Once it enters your library it can never leave. But really the Revolution never officially checked out, it just could no longer pay the tab. Thanks for paying yours. MM#9 is in the mail.
The final issue of Grass Profit Review is the most graphically complex of the run. This is not that unusual. A mimeo publication's last gasp is in some cases its most well-designed statement. The lifespan of such publications is short. The last issue is always looming. Sometimes it is in fact the first. Last words are not always off the cuff; they can be as planned as a Oscar acceptance speech. Not Taps, but let's have a drum roll, please.
People wonder just what constitutes a Mimeo Revolution publication. Like pornography, you know it when you see it. I am not a purist; I do not think a mimeo mag has to be printed on a mimeograph or a similar business machine. Professionally printed mags are a part of the Revolution, but if you are flipping through a mag and see a business reply card, that publication is not really a player in the Mimeo Revolution. By statute, mimeo publications could not have first class mailing privileges. They were not considered real magazines by the Post Office. The govenment felt they had no business associating with the big boys, like Time, Life and Fortune, let along Poetry or Kenyon Review. In my opinion, Evergreen Review and even Big Table have more in common with the print media Establishment than they do Fuck You or the professional mimeo mags like Yugen.
Speaking of legendary rarities, here is one I was able to track down. An Absolute & Glorious New Year by Marguerite Harris from Fuck You in 1965. What is it about the Mimeo Revolution and impossible to find holiday items? For example, the toughest Divers Press item is A Snarling Garland of X-mas Verses composed by Robert Creeley although not attributed. I still need that one. For those interested you can never Christmas shop for me too early.
There were ten issues of Grass Profit Review and eventually every issue will be on Mimeo Mimeo, except Issue seven. A legendary rarity. Apparently, that issue was printed during a riot in Berkeley in the summer of 1968 and in all the excitement did not get distributed very much. From what I hear it is the only issue that is single sided, evidence that the issue was a rush job in an atmosphere of smoke and fire.
[Prospectus of The Divers Press]. Divers Press, 1953. “Printing is cheap in Mallorca.” Contains blurbs by Creeley for Proensa by Paul Blackburn, Mayan Letters by Charles Olson, From the Sustaining Air by Larry Eigner, and The Kind of Act Of by Creeley. folded to make  p. : ill. ; 14.8 cm
“Printing is cheap in Mallorca.” It is a given that Divers Press was made possible by favorable economies. So much so that Alastair Johnston opens his interview with Creeley by questioning this as a primary motivation for the formation of the Press. “[P]artly that,” answered Creeley. For it was not just the cheap printing cost, but the low cost of living, and of course, literary ambition. Faas on Banalbufar, Mallorca: “Altogether, a very lovely place. And the prices! two pesetas or a nickel for a shot of cognac; twenty-five pesetas, about fifty cents, to have the car fixed, which took the mechanic close to a full day. In France, the same job would have cost $6 to $8, in the U.S. more like $10. Madeleina, a strong, staunch lady who they hired to help Ann with the household, work for two pesetas an hour. Any job involving labour, Bob reported to Cid, was dirt cheap, pathetically so.” Divers Press flourished because of this pathetic situation involving labor and materials. An interesting paradox for a largely left-leaning, pro-labor community.
Proensa, the first Divers Press title, cost between $300 and $400 dollars. As Creeley observed to Johnston, “The same book today  would cost $1500. So then we really go into it.” Cheap printing did not just make Divers Press possible, it made the impossible worth trying. Thus Creeley could get The Gold Diggers just perfect. “So the thing – they were terrific with us, being a small shop. I remember trying to reproduce the drawings for the cover of The Gold Diggers, which has the drawing of Laubies’. There’s a red background, the red kept bleeding through, but they overprinted it at least twice. They went through these incredible efforts and they charged us virtually nothing. Extremely sweet.” Terrific and sweet, but pathetically so, perhaps.
But even in a world of sweet labor and nickel shots of cognac, one must have the money to pay for it, and what made Diver Press possible was not just cheap printing, but as Creeley states to Johnston the “little money thanks to Ann’s trust fund.” Seemingly it was not much, $185 a month according to Faas, but such funds gave a poet concerned with breath much needed breathing room, and Divers Press flourished in this cramped space. Jane Lougee, a trust fund kid from Maine, comes to mind. She inspired and bankrolled the Merlin Group operating in Paris contemporaneously with Diver Press. Ironically the Merlin Group offered to publish The Gold Diggers, but Creeley misinterpreted their offer as mere kindness and published it himself.
Proensa, Paul Blackburn’s translations of the Provencal poets, was the first publication realized by Robert and Ann Creeley’s The Divers Press. Earlier in 1953, Creeley abandoned Roebuck Press, a publishing venture with fellow Mallorca expat, Martin Seymour Smith, due to a disagreement in just what writers that Press should give voice to. Smith wanted to publish his mother, which Roebuck in fact did. Creeley wanted to publish his friends. Creeley: “I was just determined to publish Americans of my own interests. I was far more idealistic than Martin.” Poets such as Blackburn spoke in a language that Creeley could understand and enjoy. Creeley felt Blackburn’s work was the ideal choice for Divers Press’s first statement to the world.
It is somewhat fitting that the first Divers Press book is one of translations. Proensa as an object was an attempt on Creeley’s part to translate a foreign language. Creeley the poet sought to become Creeley the publisher and designer. At the time, Creeley was unsure of his ability to articulate his vision of book design. In fact, Creeley in a later interview wondered if he and Ann even had one. Creeley: “We did the design. That was what was so terrific about these printers, they were so articulate in translating our -- neither one of us were really artists, so we would mock up or improvise what we wanted it to look like.” Like all translators, Alcover and his printers possessed the special ability to listen to the material as well as to the Creeleys. Creeley: “Their patience and ability to stay with us through our own sort of inchoate attempts to resolve design work were terrific. And they had such a physically clear sense of what a page could look like and so -- their sense of spacing was so graceful -- they could do any kind of text and give it that very comfortable feel of words progressing. Just delicious.” They took Creeley’s fumbling and translated it into a strong, coherent sense of design. Just as Creeley himself took such disarticulation and fashioned it into his singular voice as expressed in his poetry of the period.
It could be argued that Proensa is something of a mistranslation of the classic Divers Press design. The Bodoni type seems a different language (French/Italian) than the standard Futura and Mercedes (Spanish) of the later Divers Press titles. In addition, the text-heavy cover design sorely lacks the illustrator’s touch, which defined the Press’ look. Yet Bodoni is the appropriate typeface for Blackburn’s English translations of the French troubadours. Giambattista Bodoni, the Italian typographer and printer from Parma, infused the designs of Englishman John Baskerville with French designers, such as Pierre Simon Fournier and Firmin Didot. The Bodoni typeface, therefore, enacts and embodies Blackburn’s act of translation. Creeley’s dictum that form is never more than an extension of content comes to mind. Reviewing the Divers Press backlist, nowhere is this more apparent than with Proensa. One wonders if the Divers Press format conflicts with Creeley’s concept of poetic form. For example, does Blackburn’s The Dissolving Fabric extend from the content or out of the development of a house design? Is Proensa or The Dissolving Fabric more true to the material as an object? Or are such questions merely mistranslations of Creeley’s often misunderstood and misapplied statement to Olson.
Translations take time and practice. Strangers, like Alcover and his printers and the Creeleys, born of different countries, speaking different languages, do not understand each other immediately. There is a period of getting acquainted, capturing each other’s rhythms, cadences, expressions, and gestures. Proensa may fail to ring true to the later Divers Press, but it is far from a sour note. It is a solid first effort from a fledgling press and a feeling-out-in-process that suggests the later Divers Press feel.
Mimeo Mimeo #9 is out and making the rounds:
Susan Vanderborg on Fiona Templeton’s Cells of Release
Estee Schwartz on the convergence of artist and small press books
Sophie Seita interviewing Ken Edwards and Robert Hampson of Alembic
Ariel Evans on Floating Bear and Semina
The issue was designed along the Lines of a classic mimeo (but really not as it turns out, Cafe Wha??), but performed with desktop publishing software and photocopiers. Faux-retro. Part parody, part performance art. As an object it serves as an introduction into our somewhat amorphous vision for Mimeo Mimeo 10. Initially sketched on a beer coaster at the Longbranch in Austin during the South by Southwest festival, Mimeo Mimeo 10 looks something like this:
Naturally, the original beer coaster (Lone Star) has been preserved in the extensive and meticulously maintained Mimeo Mimeo archives in case any library, institution, or individual collector is interested. If you have any essays or algorithms to make this vision come into focus, send them our way by August 1st.
Like Saroyan's poems of the period, the Lines publications get maximum effect out of what appears to be the minimum. Nowhere more so than in Gertrude Stein. Maybe my favorite Lines publication. The book as an object captures Stein and Saroyan but also makes me think of one of the most misunderstood lines of New American Poetics: Form is never more than an extension of content. I am probably misapplying it here, but fuck it, the Lines' Stein is what Olson and Creeley's first law means to me if we extend form to format.
should just do
everything. no suchartificial distinctions
and "recreation" week &
One of the best things about Antiques Roadshow is when Leigh Keno comes face to face with a Chippendale chest. He motorboats, indeed. Pure furniture porn. And then Keno had to fuck it up and demonstrate that he is a ho like all the other appraising dorks and sign off on his own XXX parody by coming out with a line of inspired furniture that fits right in with your [insert style here] McMansion in some god awful subdivision with HOA fees out the ass.
Some day soon I am going to get a hold of a couple reams of 1960s paper and run a Planned Obsolescence Press chapbook through a printer on it. And it will look just like the Lines Press Aram Saroyan. Now I am not going to be some crazy person and argue that condition does not matter to a book collector. That's bullshit, and Brian Cassidy and Jeff Maser will start contacting me to buy all their hurting copies of shit with detached staples, torn pages and dampstains. But I will say that like a beautiful piece of 18th Century furniture, a great piece of mimeo has a patina, a sense of age, a distressed look. These marks of the passing of time look good; they appeal to me. Look at that Aram Saroyan up there. He has aged well, like George Clooney.
Should the foxing, age-toning and rusted staples of mimeo be considered something of a positive as in antique furniture? Let me state right out, that I do not feel this way about any corporate published hardcover. My copy of the Grove Naked Lunch damn well better be pristine. Just off the press. But with mimeo, there is something about its ephemeral nature, about its poor inking and paper quality that makes a pristine, mint copy somehow unnatural. The distress makes them authentic. Let's jump down that rabbit hole sometime. Why do collectors of rare books detest the signs of age that mark there book as authentic and not a Keno-styled ripoff? There is something here related to MILFs and cougars I am sure. Many collectors are just displaying trophies. Particularly collectors of Modern Firsts. Something that looks good in the library, like Victoria Silvstedt looks good by the pool. That said, I cannot stand detached staples. It is an eyesore, but to replace them would be like giving the publication a case of trout pout. You cannot have a clean, shiny staple on a vintage mimeo. Again like with furniture, you cannot stain or polish too much. Keep that wear and age; do not overdo the plastic surgery.
I would really like to have a conversation with mimeo dorks about this issue, because when I received my copies of Lines Press publications I must say I was pleased with how they looked blemishes and all. Am I crazy here? They were simple, beautiful objects, like pieces of Shaker furniture. In both, the signs of age in the wood (paper) were a major part of their allure.
If the publications of Lines Press have a distinctive look, works/aram saroyan is a perfect example. Simple, classic mimeo, right. Wrong. None of the publications of Lines Press were run off a mimeograph machine although they certainly look as if they were. Many people, including myself, have described them as mimeograph publications, but they were all offset. Some of them were even professionally typed.
Offset makes perfect sense. The process of printing a Lines publication is like a Donald Judd sculpture that Judd conceived and designed but contracted out the actual construction elsewhere. Talk all you want about Ed Ruscha and the many Flux books from the 1960s, but the classic Lines Press titles I think hold an interesting conversation with those more talked about and noisy publications. Judd's work from 1966 will provide the foundation for speaking of works/aram saroyan alongside Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations or Every Building on Sunset Strip.
Before I got a copy of works/aram saroyan, I assumed they were 8 X 11 like Lines magazine or Perreault's Camouflage. works/aram saroyan is actually smaller, though not a pocket book by any means. Make no mistake there is a tremendous sense of space despite the minimal nature of Saroyan's works and it smaller dimensions. works/aram saroyan is by no means ephemeral. It is solid and dense. Like a piece of stainless steel. Mimeograph is the wrong technology here; offset is the proper (and I would suspect deliberate and calculated) choice.
works/aram saroyan is quite simply a beautiful book. In fact a minimalist artists book.