January 1, 2017

David Bowie, "America."

From the Concert for New York City (after the 9/11 attacks):


david bowie simon and garfunkel america concert...

I encountered that this morning by chance, just after writing about the Bernie Sanders "America" ad. I'm reading the NYT, and the Bernie Sanders ad was discussed in an article about the political ads of 2016. The David Bowie performance came up — via "The Most Read Styles Stories of 2016" — in "David Bowie: Invisible New Yorker." Bowie lived in NYC for a long time — in SOHO from 1999 until his death — and he was never recognized on the street.
He was always in a sharp suit or tux. Regularly at the Met Gala or the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards to support his wife [the model, Iman]. Never caught stumbling out of the hot club at 4 a.m. He’d already been to a lifetime’s worth of parties.

Iman once described Mr. Bowie as a “homebody”; The Onion imagined him as a “pansexual alien” staying in to “do lasagna for dinner.” He led a pretty normal-seeming life. He shopped for groceries once a week at Dean & DeLuca. He loved the chicken sandwich with watercress and tomatoes at Olive’s on Prince Street. He liked to rise at 6 a.m. and get his “buzz” by walking the still-empty streets of Chinatown.

He read a lot. He collected art. He painted. He and Iman socialized with the parents of their daughter’s friends at school. He spent his remaining time meaningfully and productively, and largely here.
I wonder what he read. And he wasn't always in a sharp suit or tux. He was also like this...

... another man in shorts. No wonder you wouldn't know it's him. If we know you as the man in a suit, you can attain invisibility, dressing in the most ordinary way possible.

Ah! And I did find out what books he read:

Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Room At The Top by John Braine
On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
City Of Night by John Rechy
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Iliad by Homer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
David Bomberg by Richard Cork
Blast by Wyndham Lewis
Passing by Nella Larson
Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
McTeague by Frank Norris
Money by Martin Amis
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
Strange People by Frank Edwards
English Journey by J.B. Priestley
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
1984 by George Orwell
The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
Beano (comic, ’50s)
Raw (comic, ’80s)
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillete
Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
The Street by Ann Petry
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
The Bridge by Hart Crane
All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Nowhere To Run: The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Teenage by Jon Savage
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Viz (comic, early ’80s)
Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s — ’80s)
Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler
Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Leopard by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
A Grave For A Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
Journey Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg

51 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

I like that he's carrying "Highway 61 Revisited."

hawkeyedjb said...

Clearly he didn't like being photographed on his morning stroll...

Ann Althouse said...

I've only read:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Divided Self by R. D. Laing

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot

The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West

1984 by George Orwell

Raw (comic, ’80s)

A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn

Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia

Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara

Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Tank said...

I wonder if he read Beano because of Clapton.

Ann Althouse said...

I have a tag for the finger.

I love when there's an occasion for an existing tag that is very specific and not used that often.

Ann Althouse said...

25 times I've used that tag.

rehajm said...

He must have regifted The Complete Far Side. Asshole.

Paul Snively said...

His reading evinces a deep, varied, and penetrating interest in metaphysics and mysticism (the serious kind, rather than the pop kind). I've always found it interesting that he apparently was religious in the Abrahamic vein—even going so far as to characterize some of the effects of some of his choices in life as "Satanic"—without ever lapsing either into received dogma or the usual kind of unstructured, undisciplined postmodern claptrap that usually gets a tag of "lightweight religion" from you, Dr. Althouse.

Laslo Spatula said...

He's carrying a copy of Uncut, a British music magazine that relentlessly focuses on the Usual Suspects of the 60's and 70's.

New McCartney interview -- he talks about the Beatles -- and John!

CSN&Y -- new photos from their Laurel Canyon heyday!

Bob Dylan's Garbage -- what A.J. Weberman found!

and

David Bowie -- a look back at Ziggy Stardust!

Interesting that Bowie read that stuff; he already lived it.

Maybe it helps him remember what the drugs made him forget?

I am Laslo.

BADuBois said...

So, what kind of bird is that in his other hand?

William said...

"The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". What's the opposite of click bait? I can see how Bowie might be interested in a book with such a title, but who else is in the target audience?.......He read A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes. That's a detailed history of the Russian Revolution. It's a useful counterweight to the Zinn book. Bowie had an open and inquiring mind.

mockturtle said...

Ann, you seem to have an affinity--even an obsession--for androgynous males. And yet I don't get the impression that Meade is an androgynous male.

Fernandinande said...

William said...
"The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". What's the opposite of click bait? I can see how Bowie might be interested in a book with such a title, but who else is in the target audience?


Me.

Paul Snively said...

William: "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". What's the opposite of click bait? I can see how Bowie might be interested in a book with such a title, but who else is in the target audience?

Me, too. One of my oldest friends in the (software) industry, who was on the "Blue Meanies" team developing System 7.0 at Apple at the time, recommended it to me, because of a shared interest in the intersection of artificial intelligence and the general scientific/philosophical question of what consciousness is/how it arose in the first place.

I'm somehow unsurprised that Bowie read it.

buwaya said...

I can recommend "A Peoples Tragedy", Figes, without reservations. Excellent.
Bowie seems to have been an interesting fellow.

William said...

What is a bicameral mind? Does it have a Xmas recess. Are its perceptions sometimes ruled unconscious-tutional by the Superego.......I read twenty four of the books on Bowie's list. This doesn't mean that I'm 24% as cool as Bowie, but rather that Bowie is 24% as big a doofus as me. There is photographic evidence that proves this....... I'm no expert in either field, but I think Laing is to psychology as Zinn is to history. Even if--maybe especially if--you read a lot of books, you absorb an awful lot of crap.

Oso Negro said...

Have we ever seen Bob Dylan in shorts, here?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I don't see Watership Down on that list.

AReasonableMan said...

Oso Negro said...
Have we ever seen Bob Dylan in shorts, here?


Jesus, have mercy.

Fernandinande said...

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
I just read his "The Loved One" (and got aholt of the movie he disowned for good reasons) and just started "A Handful of Dust"; a guy actually calls his mom "mumsey".

Bill Peschel said...

"The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". What's the opposite of click bait? I can see how Bowie might be interested in a book with such a title, but who else is in the target audience.

Me too. I bought it a long time ago because the title sounded so cool.

But I wasn't so cool as to read it. I paged through it. Something about the mind breaking down, resulting in the creation of consciousness.

And if that sounds like I'm writing a book report based on the title alone, you're right. I'm that shallow.

But I'll bet that Bowie was recognized a lot on the streets of New York. New Yorkers think it's cool to ignore celebrities. When they're not shooting them several times in the back after getting them to autograph their album.

I am not Laslo.

rcocean said...

Meh, I don't know. His 100 favorite books reads like the kind of list Celebrity PR hacks and Politician press secretary's come up with. Check off all the "famous" books and then throw in a little bit of this and little bit of that to impress everyone. Something for the left, something for the right. Books by every creed and color. Some chick stuff and manly stuff. Nonfiction and fiction well balanced.

mtrobertslaw said...

It is difficult to explain human consciousness using modern evolutionary theory. A good argument can be made that pure instinct is much more conducive to survival than is human consciousness. Exhibit #1: the humble cockroach.

rcocean said...

On 2nd thought, I looked at list and its very quirky - so maybe its authentic. I mean who would put old chesnut's like "The Hidden Persuaders" or "The American Way of Death" in their top 100 unless it was *really* their top 100? Or pick "lady Chatterly's Lover" over 6 better DH Lawrence novels?

boycat said...

I've never known anyone who kept a written list of the books they've read.

mockturtle said...

boycat says: I've never known anyone who kept a written list of the books they've read.

My mother has. Thousands of books all carefully noted with comments. Up until recently, she read at least two books per week ever since I can remember.

rcocean said...

"I've never known anyone who kept a written list of the books they've read."

If you go to the website "Good reads" you'll find large numbers of people who not only do that, they keep a list of all their book reviews.

steve uhr said...

He certainly spent time working out. Nice legs -- should be an exception to Ann's no shorts rule.

David said...

Somebody recognized him and took the photo. The bird Bowie gives back actually seems a little mean spirited. You make your career and fortune selling a dazzling and weird image to the public, and then insult those who take an interest in you. I'm sure celebrity must be a huge pain in the ass quite often, but it's the deal you made, at least in Bowie's case.

People sometimes forget that Bowie was a close friend of William Buckley. Buckley did not suffer fools.

Bowie had great business sense. He was among the first (I seem to recall the very first) to securitize the royalty stream from his work and sell it. Made tens of millions of dollars, still with much new work (not bundled in the security) ahead of him.

JML said...

It is a sad, melancholy song, and while that type of song has its place in life, a presidential campaign isn't one of them. They would have been better off to choose this song: At least it has an upbeat tempo and talks of the gory so many of them seem to crave.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05rfN51Ovmo

Paul Snively said...

William: What is a bicameral mind?

It's been a couple of decades, and I think I donated my copy in the Great Book Purge prefacing my upcoming move across the country, but: Jaynes' thesis is that even homo sapiens, up to about 6,000 years ago or so, had a cerebral structure that was much more neurologically divided than it is now. To oversimplify (even more) dramatically, think right-brain and left-brain on steroids. So, for example, humans were essentially pre-conscious agents, what sociologists would call "other-directed," subject to "voices from God," which were literally flashes of communication from one "camera" of the "bicameral mind" to the other. Then, some 6,000 years ago, the richer neurological connections across the cameras—think corpus callosum, either coming into being or at least becoming more dense—brought this relatively primitive lizard-brain-with-occasional-flashes into the greater integration we now experience, where our lizard brains and instincts are still very much with us, but are much more consistently (?) mediated by our reflective, introspective, and analytical abilities.

By the way, if you've read Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and this sounds suspiciously like a key element of the plot, that's not an accident.

Paul Bird said...

Great picture of Bowie. I like the subtle use of the middle finger.

Robert said...

"I like that he's carrying "Highway 61 Revisited.""

Looks like one of those freebie CDs of cover songs that Uncut always glued on the front of their magazine. I wonder if he bought the magazine for the magazine or for the free CD.

boycat said...

If you go to the website "Good reads" you'll find large numbers of people who not only do that, they keep a list of all their book reviews.

I'm talking about normal people not virtue signalers.

donald said...

You can't get America if you don't read Huckleberry Finn.

Quaestor said...

The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Me too.

Caused me to re-read Homer, and having re-read Homer almost caused me to drop The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind in the wastebasket. Jaynes had an interesting theory that explained a few things but failed to explain others. I wonder if the Iliad appears in Bowie's reading list because of having read Jaynes?

The list brings up a pet peeve of mine, the rules of capitalization. It seems that putting every initial letter in the upper case, including the prepositions and articles has become acceptable academically, and not merely a lazy conceit of adolescence.

Robert said...

"You can't get America if you don't read Huckleberry Finn."

That's a list of his 100 favorite books, not a list of all the books he ever read.

Robert said...

"I've never known anyone who kept a written list of the books they've read."

If you had thousands of fans following you on social media, you might want to plug your favorite books to them.

donald said...

Understood Robert, but he lived here half of his life and he missed the very essence.

Hey. My mom didn't either.

donald said...

I will also say that the top 95 of books she read were all true crime, which is a pretty thick slice of Americana so she had that going for her.

rcocean said...

"I'm talking about normal people not virtue signalers."

Excuse me. I didn't realize you were a troll or a 14 y/o kid.

Carry on.

FullMoon said...

Lot of those books(and chess) popular in the penitentiary. Down at County, mostly Louis L'amour (and dominoes).
Or so I have been told.

boycat said...

Some form of self-serving virtue signalling is what a "here's my favorite book list" proffering is mostly all about. If you can't see that, you can't see jack. Sorry that's too deep for you rcocean.

William Chadwick said...

"I'm talking about normal people not virtue signalers."

Very few people would call me "normal" but I am pretty much the exact opposite of a virtue signaler, and I keep a written record of books I've read.

Michael said...

Someone does not know what a virtue signaler is.

His reading must have been pretty wide to have ended up with these favorites. John Braine, Ed Saunders. Pretty eclectic but in generally very good taste.

Ed Saunders, by the way, wrote the best book on Manson ever written: The Family. He was with the Fugs as you well know.

Ambrose said...

The concert for America was excellent from start to finish. Still a lot of raw emotion in the aftermath of the attack - both performers and audience (mostly first responders).

Sammy Finkelman said...

buwaya said... 1/1/17, 9:25 AM

I can recommend "A Peoples Tragedy", Figes, without reservations. Excellent.

What about "Last Train over [the] Rostov Bridge?"

Sammy Finkelman said...

and the memoir by the person who became editor Look, (I think)

Rhythm and Balls said...

Bowie... just... Bowie.

Even reading that Onion piece it's hard to love the man any less.

He just had that effect on people.

Rhythm and Balls said...

From his obit. My favorite comment:

We just adored him. We wore out our records. We couldn't imagine he'd ever go.

There's no way to top that.

Christy said...

The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes -- count me in. Although I remember being intrigued, I don't remember much about it. Probably because for half a century I've started many notebooks keeping track of what I'm reading but never sustained them. If only I had persevered I could dazzle you all with my insight.

I, too, purged most of my books when I moved, but I think I still have a box of David Bowie videos.