Final Note on Tomi Ungerer

Got and read (the whole whopping 32 pages) his flat-out children book, Crictor (1958). I feel I have enough of his stuff now. Points:

Lovely that it’s set in a “little French town” where he can get the costumes and shops and landscapes intriguing and correct. Especially fun parts include: Madame Bodot feeding her “baby” boa constrictor milk from a bottle; knitting him a long wool sweater to wear in the snow; his diverse and clever interactions with French kids; and of course his foiling of a burglary in Madame Bodot’s apartment which makes him a snake-hero. Especially weird part: Madam Bodot being tied up and gagged by the thief reminds you of Ungerer’s bondage proclivities.

The ages recommended for the book are 4-8 and I was 6 when it came out. Wish I had read something by him at that time. Can’t imagine my reactions. But I know why he didn’t turn up in my elementary-school bookshelves.

The teachers sensed he was weird. Could cause waves.

Hear Crictor read.

 

R.I.P.: Tomi Ungerer

I think I was a bit too old for his kid books, but I’ll never forget that in a used bookstore (in Bozeman, MT?) I ran across a collection of his erotic drawings from a French publisher. I thought “Humph! Yeah, sure.” But when I checked it out –YOWSAH! They were vivid, inventive wildies with a heavy S&M component. I remember I had to hide it away in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but boy, was it a find, a revelation. I was saddened, but not surprised, that it almost ruined his career when the kid-book publishers found out about his porny works. Deserves a major revaluation.

Fine profile from Paris Review.

 

Madfunk Art After Xmas: The Hairy Who

Screamin Jay.jpg

I admit, there’s a couple Roy Lichtenstein works I like a great deal. They’re sculptures. I always disliked his comic-book art from the first time I saw it because, undeniably, it argued that his source material was commercial junk and that his treatments transformed trash into Fine Art. Flooosh. All the vitality and wit in the works sprung from the originals, not Lichtenstein’s re-dos. And it constituted a narrow, square view of what comics could do. No weirdos. No underground.

The first time I encountered work by a Hairy Who artist was when I picked up a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins LP late in my Missoula era that featured the above as a cover illustration. In the language of the day, I thought it was way outta sight. But I believed it was just ace art done by the record company. Hah. (By Karl Wirsum, as it turns out.)

So we’ll skip a couple-three hairy Hairy Who encounters over the years and get to my Art Book present to myself this holiday: The catalog of this exhibit I would love to see in Chicago.

Now, these days Art Books have a real problem. Too small and too-cheap reproductions are the norm. This book is an exception. While I would like it to be inches bigger on all sides, the reproductions are beautifully precise and color-lively and include media like ceramic dolls and photos of the artists at those dazzled-’60s art shows that I had no idea about.

This gets down to it: the raging passions of comics and design and funk and rock&roll had a deranging delight that could be represented in the gallery. Sometimes with downright ominous tones.

If you like what you see, like they say: go, go, gogo.

Surprise Books & Music Kick — En Francaise

Dropped by the French Culture Center (a must-visit for Boston locals — delights abound) and discovered that by chance it was the Library Book Sale. Hundreds and hundreds of volumes — $1 each! Zoot aloors!

What I grabbed:

Cinema magazine (May, 1971), featuring La Salamandre by Alain Tanner (not least because I can never have enough pictures of Bulle Ogier).

Cinema magazine (June, 1981), featuring Les Annees Lumiere by Alain Tanner (Light Years Away in the US) (not least because I saw this strange flick and loved that it did not even try to make linear sense)

Les Gens de Justice by Daumier (1974). Of course the jokes are lost in the French text, but the reproductions are so superior to any American volume I have run across that … less than a penny a page seems like the bargain of a lifetime.

Amour – Erotisme en Cinema, by Ado Kyrou, edited by Eric Losfeld (not sure what this means) (1966). Treasure of new to me film stills, from the heyday of hedonism-on-the-rise in movie houses. The historic stuff is also incredible. Has a bookmark. Looks the most-used of the books I got. Donated to the Cultural Center in 1969. (PS: the cover features a stylized image of Louise Brooks, confirming the country’s obsession with her erotisme.)

Various, La Chanson de L’Annee 2016 (MCA/Universal). Four-CD set! A bit less MOR than I expected, and way, way more fun than 25 cents a disc.

“National Lampoon” (What, Again?!?!)

Almost all of these depressing and catastrophic developments were news to me.  As I said earlier, in what has proved to be the most surprising frequent topic in this blog, I stopped paying much attention to the operation and its spin-offs after 1978 or so. (I’ve never even seen a “Vacation” movie since I regard Chevy Van Chaser as toxic unfunny.) But the NatLamp story is still enlightening on several levels.

One, in the contest to revive a once-notorious outsider magazine, Punk and CREEM now have to give up the Botch Crown to National Lampoon. Obviously no other publication has fallen as far or squandered so much energy.

Two, this is further confirmation of a most peculiar failure of understanding: reviving a brand is weak and lazy. It’s just throwing out an imitation. Inventing a hit brand is a lot harder, but the real task at hand.

Third, the piece touches on a crucial transformation: NatLamp started as a mixture of the subversive and the sophomoric. And it eventually went with the easier option. Part of that whole horrible wave where racist and sexist and generally bigoted humor was considered “bold” or “rule-breaking,” whereas the opposite type of satire was and is the tough way forward.

Yeh, I know — it’s cheap fun to satirize the squares and the Establishment. But those are extinct. The powerful and smug and cruel and hate-mongers and anti-thinkers are the targets of our time, and they can be fired upon.