Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader

4 of 5 stars false
Read from August 20 to September 10, 2012

Gysin is less known than he ought to be. Many people only know him through mentions in relation to the writer William S. Burroughs--the final passage of hisThe Ticket That Exploded transitions from printed words to an illustration of Brion Gyin's calligraphic script, the book essentially dissolving. Gysin was also very influential in being the inventor of the cut-up technique, which influenced several of Burroughs' books.

Which is a shame since he was a visual artist, writer, historian, inventor, poet, and avant guarde innovator. There's little of his writing available, I was able to find this in the public library. He is perhaps taken less seriously than he should be, due to the eclectic range of his interests. Robert Palmer of theThe New York Times described him as a man who "threw off the sort of ideas that ordinary artists would parlay into a lifetime career, great clumps of ideas, as casually as a locomotive throws off sparks."

I enjoyed some types of his writing more than others, but the range of concerns in this slim volume is astounding.

He crossed paths with much of the avant guarde and counter culture. He made literary and artistic contacts through Marie Berthe Aurenche, Max Ernst's second wife. He joined the Surrealist Group and began frequenting Valentine Hugo, Leonor Fini,Salvador DalĂ­, Picasso and Dora Maar.

He lived in Tangier, and ran a restaurant called the Thousand and One Nights. He met Burroughs there.

He lived in the Beat Hotel and knew many of the Beats.

He developed artistic styles based around calligraphic and repeated imagery.

He invented the "cut-up" technique. In using a Stanley blade to cut a mount for a drawing, he sliced through newspapers, and realized that the cut up words could be recombined in literature in the same way as collage is used in art, and alerted Burroughs to the technique which was incorporated in Naked Lunch.

He wrote a discerning biography of Josiah Henson (the real life model for Uncle Tom) which gave him an entre into

He invented and patented a form of kinetic sculpture called "the Dream Machine" that induces visions via flashing lights timed to correspond with alpha rhythms.

He wrote song lyrics.

He wrote several novels.

He wrote computer generated permutation poems which make their impact as much through visual pattern as through the words they contain.

Here's a sample of his art:


My complete review, and links to my other reviews on Goodreads can be found here:

Ed Smiley's Reviews > Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader

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