Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grad School Anthem

Having been a big fan of the Weakerthans, and chief songwriter John K. Samson, for a long time it's nice to see his first solo album, Provincial, leading off with such a strong track. Riffing on Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece," Samson builds from a foundation of a Ramones-style guitar sound to produce a portrait of academic ennui that any grad student can identify with: 

Samson, who is also one of the founders of the activist press Arbeiter Ring, has also released a collection of his poems and lyrics, which he was recently in Toronto to promote.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cool Covers 3

Another book I picked up at Contact Editions based on the cover alone. A 1958 title from a time when Toronto-based Harlequin Books was marketing books for both men and women, and was dabbling in non-fiction (at least of the "true-crime" nature) and flying the flag a bit with a nod to nationalism. Many Harlequin books from the 1950s have great artwork and titles, but few as remarkable as this:

For the full back-story of Gay Canadian Rogues (as well as other early Harlequins) check out the Dusty Bookcase blog here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cool Covers 2

As a Canadianist I couldn't resist picking up this one-off Archie Digest from 1996 where the gang visits Canada.

I like to bring it to my introduction to Canadian Literature or Canadian Studies class and ask them, as Canadians, what's wrong with the cover image (beyond its obvious sexism) and see how long it takes to find the error.

Answer is in the comments....

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Cool Covers 1

Still reading Mark Polizzotti's biography of Andre Breton, Revolution of the Mind, and am deep into the part of Breton's life where he was desperate to be considered part of the Communist revolutionary vanguard and was constantly rebuffed by the French Communist Party. As the 1930s draw to a close Breton's battle shifts to oppose Stalin's version of Communism and results in a friendship and intellectual collaboration with Trotsky. The schism between Trotskyists and Stalinists also becomes personal as Breton breaks all communication with Paul Eluard over his support of Stalin (Louis Aragon had been "excommunicated" earlier for the same reason). With all this infighting I was compelled to pull out my favourite copy of the Communist Manifesto:
I picked this up a decade ago when I was working at Contact Editions on Mount Pleasant. Published and printed in Moscow in 1954, it is quite the deluxe edition, the cover featuring embossed portraits of Marx and Engels, and their names appearing gilded (not so clear from the scan above). The interior is also surprisingly high-end for a mass-market paperback with photographic plates, some in colour. In many ways it resembles a bible, which I suppose is appropriate as Communism was to replace conventional religion. What is also surprising in the interior is the half-title page:

Here we have Stalin sticking his head into a lineage with Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Initially I thought this was hilarious, with yet another example of Stalin's immense ego, and his pretensions to intellectualism--and notice that he comes first: me Stalin me come first. But after recently reading about Trotsky's assassination and starting to look through Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands, I now just find it sobering.