Certain books and authors have left incredible indelible marks on my psyche. Here are some of my private treasures all of which molded me, shaped me and moved me. I could triple this list but these are the works that immediately came to mind. I hope that one of these titles inspires you to create art in your natural medium.
The Ticket That Exploded, William Burroughs (1962)
I picked this book up on a whim when I was 18 years old and completely devoured it. It was my introduction to this seminal artist. Strange, surreal, homosexual science fiction. I remember reading this thing and nearly falling out of my chair as he started laying out stories about Johnny Yen and his torture films, flesh machines, strange lotions and hypnotizing chickens. I was floored. Visions of Iggy and Bowie fucking and sucking around Berlin '76. It was an incredibly validating experience! I felt so empowered, I said to myself “I'm on track here, I'm on course and I'm doing all right.” It was a fog light pulsing in the distance.
Further reading: Interzone, Queer, et al.
Of Walking in Ice, Werner Herzog (1978)
Easily the most valuable book that I own in terms of monetary value, well, if it wasn't so thoroughly and forcefully enjoyed. In 1974 German filmmaker Werner Herzog found out that his close friend had taken ill and was dying in a Paris hospital. So naturally he decides to travel to 800+ kilometres from Munich to Paris on foot, in December, under heavy snowfall. It takes him 3 weeks. This is his diary. Isolation and exhaustion give birth to incredible epiphanies, some firmly rooted in reality, others completely absurd, but all undeniably authentic if only for the day. Tiny fleeting moments of beauty are amplified by his misery and solitude.
To be viewed: Land of Silence and Darkness, Bells From the Deep
History of the 20th Century (1969-70)
I found a stack of fifty of these magazines in a junk shop for a dollar each. They are absolutely incredible! I'm a 20th century history buff and these are better than any textbook that exists. The design and photography are breathtaking and the writing is incredibly detailed and insightful. I haven't been able to find out much about the publisher online but it looks like it was a weekly, subscription only, publication. Possibly a book club? It looks like there were 96 issues published from 1969-70. They are full of muted coloured info graphics, battle maps and thoroughly un-P.C. political cartoons. A gold mine for collages. Some rainy Sunday I'm going to upload them.
Further reading: Another series by the same publisher, History of the First World War
RE/SEARCH #8/9, J.G. Ballard (1984)
RE/SEARCH is a brilliant publisher out San Francisco that put out a handful of crucial subculture books in the 80s. Subjects range from freaks to films, from music to masochism, but all completely essential clandestine studies. Industrial art and music, esoterica, nihilism. This issue is entirely dedicated to the “science fiction” writer J.G. Ballard. I use quotations because if you've read this stuff you know he transcends the genre. 171 pages of post apocalyptic, post sexual, post mortem prose. Highlights include: an evangelical essay about William Burroughs, a collection of his perverted dystopic collages, and a 30-page interview in which the godhead waxes poetic on topics such as puritanism, suicide, and Grace Jones. Desert island fare.
Futher reading: J.G. Ballard, Crash, Atrocity Exhibition, et al, then RE/SEARCH—all of em, son.
Pan, Knut Hamsun (1894)
This was my bible when we were writing our first album, Ghosts Emerging. The protagonist lives in a cabin in the Norwegian woods with his dog Aesop. Such splendid isolation! Throughout the course of a year he struggles with self image, social interaction and pure desire. A portrait of stoicism with sporadic violent irrationality when confronted with perceived social slights. Perspective is everything, seek perspective. Hamsun writes: “often on a rainy day a small joy possesses one so that one retires into a private happiness . . . at other times even unusual events cannot jolt a man out of a dreary and cheerless mood. For it is within ourselves that the sources of joy and passion lie.” In response I wrote the song “Les Neuf Soeurs”: “Love speaks to me in so many ways, while life travels through me in waves.”
Furthur reading: Hunger, Mysteries