Blast from the Past

Jeff Nuttall is a personal crusade of mine.  I am making every effort in the Burroughsian world to place Nuttall up with Ian Sommerville, Malcolm Mc Neill and Anthony Balch as a second tier collaborator.  Nuttall's My Own Mag provided Burroughs a writer's forum in which to act out his rapidly changing fantasies regarding the cut-up.  Yet clearly, Nuttall is not on the level with Brion Gysin and Allen Ginsberg in terms of having an impact on Burroughs' life and work.  I like Nuttall and all but I am not going to compromise my intergrity in the Burroughs community by overstating his importance.  Natch.  No, I prefer to be shameless in my quest to make the Olympia Press edition of Soft Machine considered as Burroughs' greatest novel after Naked Lunch.

Despite my over-enthusiastic nature, it is definitely not a stretch to consider My Own Mag one of the greatest mimeos of all-time, and, if you are queasy about that, then at least grant me one of the greatest British mimeos of all-time.  Whatever we decide one with My Own Mag, we can agree that Nuttall was a major player in the mimeo scene and one of the great practictioners of mimeo as a means to communicate with a larger artistic and political community:  Sigma, Situationist, CND, etc.  Later issues of My Own Mag included mailing lists so contributors and recipients of My Own Mag could continue their conversations beyond the pages of the magazine.  Clearly, Nuttall knew mimeo and its culture.

That is just one reason why Bomb Culture is an important book on the Mimeo Revolution to this day.  The book provides a theoretical and political underpinning to the Mimeo Revolution, particularly the mimeo scene around Better Books in London.  See  It makes no difference if those underpinnings seem half-baked, or the product of fully-baked minds, today.  I am not sure that they do appear that way; they sound good to me and they definitely seemed true and real at the time.  Bomb Culture also ties the Mimeo Revolution to junk and assemblage art practice (such as that of Wallace Berman), which is again right on point.

But the real triumph of Bomb Culture, and the reason it is actually more important today for students of the Mimeo Revolution, than in 1968, is the fact that Nuttall gives evidence of the Mimeo Revolution's international scope.  The reason I say this is more important now than ever is the pervasive (and in some cases pernicious) influence of Clay and Phillips' Secret Location.  That exhibition created the impression that the Mimeo Revolution was a bi-coastal U.S. based movement, or, more (in)accurately, a San Francisco and New York thing.  Nuttall, weighing in as the Revolution was happening, makes certain to highlight the Revolution's influence all through Great Britain, throughout Europe (particularly in Germany), into Asia (India and Japan), and the far corners of the world (Australia).  In addition, Nuttall stresses the importance of places, like Detroit and Kansas, to the Mimeo Revolution, areas all but forgotten in the Secret Location.

In some cases, contemporary accounts are too close to an event to report accurately on what is actually happening.  Contemporary newspaper and mass-media articles on the Mimeo Revolution are a great example of this phenomenon.  Yet these sources, and Bomb Culture is one, also many times provide insights that historians years after the event have lost sight of.