1. What I’ve Been Reading: Norman Mailer - A Double Life by J. Michael Lennon

      

    *It may be that the only significant accomplishment I can claim for the month immediately following the birth of my second child, is the reading of this door-stopper - 900 or so pages of literary biography.

    A word about the cover (top, left). Is this really the best the team at Simon & Schuster could come up with for the authorized biography of one of the heavyweights of 20th century American letters? 

    The image itself - by photographer, gallery owner, and Mailer friend Molly Malone Cook - is less a portrait than a snapshot. Perhaps there were licensing issues that prevented use of the portrait by Diane Arbus (top, right), but biographer Lennon justly praises this particular portrait and features it inside the book. It’s just one of many alternatives the publishers might have explored.

    And then there’s the font. Seriously? It’s the kind of font you might  anticipate on the cover of a pulp spy novel, or perhaps an Austen Powers spin-off. But on the cover of a 900 page biography, a work of enormous dedication and research? If I’m J. Michael Lennon, I’m let down and gutted.

    Excerpt, in which Mailer is following the campaign trail of Richard Nixon (The un-italicized paragraph is from Mailer’s account): 

    'Posing as a security guard, he scrutinized faces for thirty minutes. What he saw helped him understand why the new Nixon had such stout support.

    Most of them were ill-proportioned in some part of their physique. Half must have been, of course, men and women over fifty and their bodies reflected the pull of their character. The dowager’s hump was common, and many a man had a flaccid paunch, but the collective tension was rather in the shoulders, in the girdling of the shoulders against anticipated lashings on the back, in the thrust forward of the neck, in the maintenance of the muscles of the mouth forever locked in readiness to bite the tough meat of resistance, in a posture forward from the hip since the small of the back was dependably stiff, loins and mind cut away from each other by some abyss between navel and hip.’

     

  2. Town & Country

    Two more from my days shooting for the @ilovetexasphoto Instagram last week.

    Pic No. 1: IH35 and Ben White Blvd, Austin, Texas

    Pic No. 2: Bastrop, Texas 

     

  3. I guest-hosted the @ilovetexasphoto Instagram account for three days last week. On day two, I made this portrait of Sonny, who runs Space Recording and Rehearsal Studio in South Austin.

    Sonny’s a good guy, and the Space facility is a great resource not only for musicians, but also for photographers, theatre groups, and anyone else who needs a room in which to practice their craft. Space is purpose built,  sits on a pretty plot of land, and great care has been taken with the architectural details. It’s also affordable, even for struggling artists - i.e.most artists.

    Image shot on iphone5, processed with Snapseed and VSCOCam.

     

  4. One more set from Lucy’s Fried Chicken Revival, SXSW 2014.

    Kevin Welch and Dustin Welch are each renowned singer/songwriters in their own right. They’re also father and son. At Lucy’s they played together,  the closeness of their connection self-evident.

    Dustin released his latest album, Tijuana Bible on his own Super Rooster Records label in February of this year.

     

  5. Alejandro Escovedo, SXSW 2014.

    James Homes, owner of Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin, TX, hired me to photograph several hours of artist and band performances at Lucy’s during SXSW this year.

    South-By at Lucy’s is always a unique experience, showcasing primarily local (read: Texas), talent. I’ll post further images over the coming days.

     

  6. Author Philipp Meyer, whose epic Texas novel, The Son, was recently issued in paperback.

    This image is an outtake from a series we shot late one afternoon in Austin, TX. One of the resulting images from the session accompanied a review of The Son in the The New York Times Book Review last year.

     

  7. Kid A.

     

  8. What I’ve Been Reading: Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson

    This is no mere sports memoir. It’s almost Dickensian - harrowing in detail and epic in scope. Tyson emerges, brutal and pitiful, as an emblematic figure at the end of the American Century.

    My school was right around the corner from our apartment, but sometimes my mother would be passed out from drinking the night before and wouldn’t walk me to school. It was then that the kids would always hit and kick me. They were, like, ‘Get the fuck out of here, nigga, you, like, nasty motherfucker.’ I would constantly get abused. They’d punch me in the face and I would run. We would go to school and these people would pick on us. Then we would go home and they’d pull out guns and rob us for whatever little change we had. That was hard-core, young kids robbing us right in our apartment building…

    …I still feel a coward to this day because of that bullying. You never ever forget that feeling. The day that guy took my glasses and put them in the gas tank was the last day I went to school. That was the end of my formal education. I was seven years old and I never went back to class.’

                                   ******************************

    'During those years, for me doing an eight ball a day, three and a half grams of coke, that was just a good night. The more I did, the more I wanted to do it alone. Maybe I was just a pig or maybe I didn't want people to see me that sloppy. By then there was nothing euphoric anymore about coke, it was just numbing.I wasn't even having sex with women with the coke anymore. Every now and then I had a girl with me but it was more to chill out than to have sex.

    I was living a crazy existence. One day I’d be in the sewage with some street hooker trying to get her to have sex without a condom, and the next night I’d be in Bel-Air with my rich friends with a happy face on, celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Right about then I hit rock bottom. I had my morphine drip and my Cialis and my bottle of Hennessey. And seven hookers. All of a sudden the coke made me paranoid and I thought these women were trying to set me up and rob me. So I started beating them. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just demons around me, it was the devil himself. And he had won. I kicked those hookers out of the room and did the rest of my coke.’

     

  9. What I’ve Been Reading: The Trip To Echo Springs - On Writers And Drinking by Olivia Laing

    On the poet John Berryman:

    'The work ended abruptly that fall, though, when he got in a drunken altercation with his landlord. He was arrested and spent a night in a cell, where the cops apparently exposed themselves to him. When news of this humiliating escapade seeped out he was summoned before the Deans and fired from his job. Luckily, a friend found him a post at the University of Minnesota, which would for the rest of his life serve as a home base. He took an apartment in Minneapolis and began a new sequence of poems he called the Dream Songs.

    They’re like nothing else on earth, these mixed messages of love and desperation. The closest comparison I can think of is Gerald Manley Hopkins, had Hopkins been a philandering alcoholic at large in the twentieth century, hip to its rhythms, its cobalt jazz.’

     

  10. Advanced reading.

    My 2.5 year son old tackling a 900 page biography of Norman Mailer. It looks like a staged photograph, but it’s not. I emerged from the shower to find him sitting there, wearing my reading glasses, flicking through the book…