[Editor’s note: Are you having trouble understanding artists through their art? Understand them through their STUFF instead. Art history never elucidates the importance of the artist's dual role as creator and person who owns STUFF, even though STUFF is important: it's what accumulates when you make decisions. Owning someone's STUFF helps you channel their spirit and personal brand. This is our tribute to STUFF. From books, to art works, to phony iPads, these lists will contain both the common and the strange. This week we bring you an excellent but conflicted list from author Rick Moody.]
David Bowie, THE NEXT DAY
I am going to write something about this album on line, and I have been listening to it lately, almost to the exclusion of anything else (except for a couple of other things below), and I admire its unrelenting and catastrophic world view a great deal.
Black Jeans from the Gap
Among my many conflicted feelings about object ownership (and the Capitalist economy implied by acceptance of ownership) are my very conflicted feelings about fashion. In my twenties and thirties, I used to be somewhat afflicted with thrift store chic, always searching for stuff at Antique Boutique and Cheap Jack’s. But in the last ten years I have proven too lazy, or too middle-aged, to care, and now I’ll get three pairs of jeans and wear them until they have a bunch of holes and then I’ll wear them some more. If it worked for Dee Dee Ramone, it will work for me. Usually, I hate these clothes, too, but form somewhere in the middle of my hatred a profane attachment to a single pair of pants will emerge. (PS, I am not sure these jeans really came from the Gap, so this is more an approximation of their provenance.)
Stingy Brim Hat in Black
(See above remarks on fashion.) I have worn this hat when it is warm enough on and off, but mostly on, for twelve or thirteen years. It has seen me from beginning to end of a marriage, through the birth of a child, into middle age, and so on. I wear it now as though it were a flesh-and-blood part of me, not as though it were an article of clothing. Several men of excellent knowledge have lectured me against referring to it as a Porkpie hat, so I now use their advised term.
THE GOLDEN ASS, by Aupuleius, translated by Sarah Ruden
My favorite reading experience of last year. Just the strangest, most post-modern work of antiquity, or so it seems to me. Anne Carson, who trafficks in such things, may know of another, but for me this was a singular revelation of profound dimension. The Golden Ass has lots of sex, dismissive remarks about early Christianity, baldly exaggerated storytelling, magic, and digressions too numerous to mention. What could be better?
Sun Ra, COSMIC TONES FOR MENTAL THERAPY
Nowadays, you get this album as a twofer (on CD, that is) with, I believe, Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow. I had to reach a certain age of despair, with real feelings of imminent demise (probably illusory feelings, but nonetheless before I could fully engage with Sun Ra. But once I understood this recording, the canon of Sun Ra was open to me. And there’s enough music there to occupy the remainder of any human term.
SodaStream Soda Maker
I’m including this simply to indicate that I too occasionally consume beverages. I don’t drink anything of the alcoholic variety anymore, and I gave up Diet Coke because I read the studies on NutraSweet and depression, so that leaves seltzer. Making it at home is fun for my daughter. It’s the perfect device for a four-year-old.
Kenneth Goldsmith, UNCREATIVE WRITING
I’m teaching a course this semester in appropriation and intertextuality in literature, and we’ve been using this book a lot. It is a treasure trove of creative assignments in digital trafficking and is also wise and funny. I know the author a bit, and he’s a mischief maker and conceptual genius of a significant scale. I find arguments against the creative writing establishment refreshing.
Eric Chevillard, PREHISTORIC TIMES, translated by Alyson Waters
Archipelago, which published this translation a year or so ago, is the best small press in the United States of America right now, I think. They publish only work in translation are consistently rangy, thoughtful, and restless about their august task. I have not yet read a bad book on their list. This Chevillard novel came out a while back in France, I believe, and my French is bad so I didn’t read it then. It’s a marvel of Beckettian compaction and comedy, but with real heart, and, I should say, a novelistic agenda. It actually taught me some things about taking your time and avoiding the dread pitfall of overplotting.
Brian Eno, LUX
I have been a consistent fan of Brian Eno since I was a teenager, when I first got HERE COME THE WARM JETS (probably three years after it was released). There have been times in the last decade when I was worried Eno was winding down the operation a little bit. But then, suddenly, just in the last three or four years, he outdid himself again, reinvented the body of work, and LUX, while it sounds exactly like the high ambient style of Eno (1979-1986) should not be adjudged old-fashioned for that reason. In the current world of totally machined and often exceedingly dull electronic music (“intelligent dance music,” never was there a more oxymoronic coinage), Eno’s free floating sprung rhythms are again especially revolutionary. I have probably listened to this album nearly every single day since the day it was released.
Old Green Chair Purchased at the Junk Shop in Millbrook for Cheap
I don’t know anything about antiques, and since my parents were very interested in this sort of thing when I was young, and I hated their acquisitiveness, I glazed over, and glaze over still, whenever the subject is at hand. But I too need to sit on something, so I bought this green chair, which has no stuffing, and is just one of those very simple chairs such as you might put at a small desk to work, and it has an illustration on the lattice across the back, and it probably cost fifteen dollars or so. Its homely simplicity appeals to me. These are the kinds of furniture items that I inevitably hang onto for decades. Though I’d prefer to give it all the possessions away, and someday maybe I shall.