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PEEP Magazine: The Art of Living - In Pictures!

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PEEP 5: Take The Local/Go James Go/Dynamite from Nightmare Land
"Dynamite from Nightmare Land" is a chapter title from The Spy Who Loved Me, a 1960 entry in the James Bond series. Though Bond usually hung in places like the Caribbean or the South of France, "Spy" takes place in upstate New York in the Adirondacks area between Lake George and Glens Falls. As well as being Bond's creator and one of the best title writers ever, Fleming also wrote travel books. It shows in "Spy". Regional color abounds. "Spy" is also the only Bond written in first person. The narrator is female and in the opening chapters she ponders past love affairs. When Fleming as (wo)man dishes unsatisfactory ex lovers he comes on like Sex & the City. Fleming's brand name fetishism was often parodied, but here it fits like a pair of Manolo Blahniks. When Fleming as (wo)man beds Bond he does so in ripe, adulatory prose. Nobody does it better than his own creation.

"Spy" is a mixture of hot fudge romance and low rent pulp. It's set in the kind of motel where the furniture is nailed to the floor. Every character is just passing through. The motel owners are mobsters from Troy, New York and want to torch the place for insurance. The heroine, who is bumming around the northeast USA, has stopped for a temp gig as desk clerk. Bond stumbles onto the scene when his car gets a flat. A Hudson Valley summer thunderstorm rages. It's no picnic inside either. The thugs in "Spy" are pre Godfather. No conflicted anti heroes, just brutal bogeyman who need killing. Bond obliges. "Spy" has evocative passages about the Adirondack forest, digressions on motel scams and pokes at tourist culture: "Visitors may hold and photograph costumed chimps!" An alternate title for "Spy" could be "A Tourist Season in Hell".

"Mobtown" (Hyperion 2002) by contemporary author Jack Kelly also covers organized crime in mid 20th century upstate New York. In the city of Rochester. The year: 1959. When second tier cities were still pumped by smokestack industry while being rotted out by organized crime. Jack Kelly may make his "Mobtown" detective, Ike Van Savage, a series character and move him forward in time. But if Ike ever gets to the here and now, there won't be much for him to do. Modern day upstate New York has absolutely no organized crime. Zip. Such things now are matters of myth-- dwarves bowling ninepins at Appalachia. But for a hard look backward drop into "Mobtown". Jack Kelly writes in the Hammett/Cain/Chandler tradition and is an innovative plot twister. A poetic pulpster. But be warned: characters with "smiles that could cut you to pieces" lurk in his novels.

In the 50's teens also skipped mean streets. Nancy Drew made a fictional town her beat but the equally able Trixie Belden and Ginny Gordon covered the real life mid and lower Hudson Valley . Trixie Beldon's father had a white collar town job but her family lived on a farm. Trixie did heavy chores, knew her way around guns and since copperheads still hissed "I Luv NY" took snake bites in stride. All while solving mysteries. In "The Red Trailer Mystery" she tracks down a missing heir-- a runaway teenage boy whose stepfather kept him a veritable slave on a decrepit farm near Albany. HUD funds weren't as available yet so bad dad has eyes for his ward's mazoola. Trixie scotches that one.

Ginny Gordon was a teen entrepreneur in a town on the east side of the Hudson, about 50 miles above New York City. In each book Ginny launches some small business: a lending library, a swap shop, etc. Though none are located in Enterprise Zones, Ginny does OK. Even as mysteries unfold. In "Ginny Gordon and the Lending Library" a jewel thief arrives on the commuter train, in search of a swag map which got tucked in a book at Ginny's store. The Ginny series is a little darker than some teen tec tales: even good characters have bad aspects. Life on Main Street is lovingly drawn and the demands of small business are treated sympathetically. Ginny is out of print but can be found in the kind of bookstores she herself might run. Trixie Beldon is being reissued by Random House. Many books in both series were penned by Julie Campbell, but pseudonyms were typical to juvenile series, so who knows? Maybe Nancy Drew wrote them.

Despite major points of interest, neither series is great literature. If you want regional kid's lit at its best, go for the Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks. Much has been written re Freddy. In brief, the books appeared from the 20's to the 50's, but are back in print thanks to Overlook Press in Woodstock, New York. The stories took place on a farm in central New York. Freddy was a polymath pig. Among many things he was a detective, a poet and a politician. In the most recent reissue "Freddy and Simon the Dictator" a rat named Simon whips up an animal revolution and takes over a number of upstate farms. Simon is secretly bank rolled by real estate schemer Herb Garble. One rat rule follows with Garble the man behind the throne. Freddy & friends overthrow Simon, bag Garble and restore republican virtue. The small "r" kind. The Freddy series is selling well. Here and overseas.

When talking regional, consider a magazine called "Light Reading", published in 1994 by Scott Munn. Once of Jersey City, New Jersey. Now of rural Britain. Scott lived in JC during the 80's and early 90's under several municipal administrations. His appreciation for the absurd became finely honed. Being an artist he sought to share his vision. But like Scott says "Jersey City wasn't ready". Light Reading only appeared once. Once was enough. The cover was a photo of a botched, crooked yellow traffic line staggering up the main thoroughfare of Newark Avenue-- as if painted by Mister McGoo on a bender. The perfect guideline for life in a city/county where scamming never stops. And where pols with corruption records get eternal returns and never fear looking like clowns. Heck, they love those floppy shoes and honk honk noses. Particularly if someone else buys em. One feature in Light Reading was "Source The Quote". Where you guessed which pol said what. Upon first reading I thought Munn made the quotes up.

But "Light" was far more profound than just a joke book of graft and gaffes. By integrating politics with a sense of the fantastic, "Light" plugged into the transcendent beneath the Naugahyde. Imagine an old discarded couch sitting on the pre Gold Coast shore of the Hudson River, facing the vision of Wall Street. Then imagine that couch flapping its cushions and saying "Together we can make Jersey City a slice of Heaven". Or addressing a passing priest: "When you stop sin, Father, I'll stop all the problems of Jersey City". In JC the sacred trips lightly from the lips of the profane.

If you wish to source the above quotes (hint: think city hall) you can link to Scott Munn's current website, where "Light" lives forever. Way back when, I found "Light" at a Jersey City newsstand. But Didier Moulinier's mail art zine from France "La Poire D'Angoisse" showed up in my Hoboken post office box. "La Poire" was small, crisp and focused. Arriving in a neatly lettered envelope. Examples are linked below. Also linked this month is a lovely layout of pastel Japanese bathrooms (nothing more local than the loo) subtly personalized by Shozo Shimamoto, circa mid Big 80's. Another link stop is "Visit Your Granny" by Rhonda Boothe in Washington State. Visiting "Visit" is like going over the river and through the snow and finding your funny scary enchanting granny (or is she the wolf?) waiting for you with goodies. Such as Bug Meat, Something Fishy and Angel Graft. Meanwhile, down in Louisville, Kentucky, Zan Hoffman (Zidsic et al) has his new improved site ready for inspection. See & hear the Zan Man go. Music! Pictures! Words!

Last Stop: About the Beauty in Art. Graphic & text by Henning Mittendorf, Frankfurt/Main Germany.

When the war with Iraq was looming, I exchanged emails with Henning Mittendorf. Since Henning lives in one of the "old Europe" countries that didn't want to join the fray, we discussed the reasons. One thing Henning said was that after WW2, when he was a child, many Germans developed a deep horror of war and militarism; an attitude the USA very much encouraged. And now, Germans were being asked to reverse that revulsion and they just couldn't do it. An anti war sentiment has always been present in Henning's art. When invoking peace it's a prayer, never just a plea to give peace a chance at any price. When directly addressing war's horror, it's a response wrenched from the soul of someone who knows, first hand, that war can make Hell a place on earth. And unless possessing incontrovertible proof that such a stop must be made, who in Heaven's name would want to go there?

As well as an untitled graphic (which I've dubbed "Dynamite from Nightmare Land") by Henning Mittendorf, PEEP 5 includes his just completed essay: "About The Beauty In Art".

PEEP 5 Contents:

PEEP 5 Cover

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff, "Love & Death, So American Novel"

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff, "Tattoo Picture Book"

Didier Moulinier, La Poire D'Angoisse

Shozo Shimamoto, Beautiful Japanese bathrooms

Henning Mittendorf, "Dynamite from Nightmare Land"

Henning Mittendorf, "About The Beauty In Art"


Scott Munn, Light Reading

Rhonda Boothe: Granny Artemis Home Page

Zan Hoffman

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Copyright (c) 2003 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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