R.I.P.: Glenn Branca

The Racket Rocker has left the building.

I had to admit I didn’t play him as often as I expected to — not least because almost anybody else in the room would go batshit within 30 seconds when I did. I treasure my vintage Theoretical Girls 45. I heartily endorse Lesson No. 1 for newcomers and for established fans, I must note that I played this record as often as any:

Poetry falling up and downstairs.

R.I.P.: J.S.G. Boggs

If your Mom appears as “Margo, Queen of the Jungle” I’m sure an eccentric career is in the cards and the genes.

Another point is that only one artist can do the counterfeit-bills-are-art routine, or at least only one artist can make it his primary bit and become quasi-famous. Boggs lived at the right time to make this work. And, hell, I think his art did provoke interesting questions. But I bet a lot of the time him using his artworks as money got him called a motherbucker.

Spalding Gray by Oliver Sacks

A harrowing, tragic story. The films of Gray’s solo performances like Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box are marvelous, but cannot touch the experience of seeing him live.

Now, I am not a fan of stand-up comedy in clubs (and I enjoy precious few examples on TV). So when I was told the act we were about to see, called Interviewing the Audience, was just a guy sitting at a desk with a notebook, a glass of water, and a microphone, I was “That’s IT?!?! How can that be more entertaining than a lecture?”

But a half-hour in, I was entranced. Gray was not merely crazy-funny or an expert storyteller, he was an irresistible reader of the moment, the audience mood and a weaver of words and ideas that always threatened to fly out of control but never did quite (“TV/Christian Science … TV/Christian Science … TV/Christian Science”). You wanted him to go on like a jazz improviser who can’t miss on an endless solo — picking over the exact content would be as unsatisfying as transcribing the solo. We were all on a wild ride and didn’t know who was at the wheel or even if there was a wheel. (The only serious competition Gray has, according to me, is my friend Josh Kornbluth.)

The one later time I saw Gray live was his initial rendition of Travels Through New England. It was more a work-in-progress, but with hefty passages of the same careening magic. I always wondered what would become of Gray in the long run — it was an exhausting, half-terrifying way to make a living and deep down I sensed how fragile it all was. I was in the early years of coping with my mother’s growing depression and grappling with Gray’s own demons along with him was superb catharsis.

My eyes welled up and I sobbed out loud when I found out what had happened to him. Sacks does his usual masterful job of evoking a person (the Ibsen play insight is amazing), which compounds the pain because he himself is terminally ill.

Like they say, a must-read.