Author Archives: Jeremy Mercer

About Jeremy Mercer

Jeremy Mercer is an author and translator who lives in in the Luberon with his fiancée, two children, five cats, two chickens, ten fish, and one pregnant dog. He is currently on the market for a cheap horse. More at http://www.jeremymercer.net

On Niche Annoyances and Traffic Circle Fountains

Fountain Circle by Seth Lemmons. CC 2.0 License.

What’s the Big Deal? (Fountain Circle by Seth Lemmons. CC 2.0 License)

My favourite crossword blogger, Rex Parker, recently went on a rant about how crossword puzzles depicted in film and television are often completely spurious. Fictitious grids are written into scripts and rarely respect the rules of crossword or clue construction. As result, something that escapes the notice of the vast majority of observers incites disdain and outrage from the devoted few who care about such things.

I find these sort of niche annoyances fascinating because they are a window onto foreign worlds of passion and knowledge. This is why I was so tickled when my friend, the water artist Pierre Luu, went on a tirade against the placement of fountains in traffic circles. Personally, I’d liked to see water spouting about as I drove past. What could be the problem? Continue reading

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Faction, Magical Realism, and This

Washing Hands Campaign by Emmanuel Bakary Daou. © Emmanuel Bakery Daou, 2014. All rights reserved. Courtesy Rencontres de Bamako.

Washing Hands Campaign by Emmanuel Bakary Daou. © Emmanuel Bakery Daou, 2014. All rights reserved. Courtesy Rencontres de Bamako.

I had just finished reading a review copy of George Plimpton’s oral biography of Truman Capote at the time I wrote my first true crime book, so I had flexible notions of just how objective and “true” true crime had to be. When my book was published, one of the more sincere journalists in the newsroom was aghast at the narrative liberties I had taken. I remember cooly responding, “Relax, it’s faction.”

A decade or so later, Viken Berberian gave me an early draft of his book Das Kapital, A Novel. I was alarmed by the factual liberties he had taken: the novel was set in the early 21st century yet the terrorist group blew up the Crystal Palace exhibition centre, which in fact had burned to the ground in 1936. When I mentioned this, he said, quite cooly if I recall, “Relax, it’s magical realism.” Continue reading

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In Praise of Bookstores

Jonny Diamond is at the heart of an enthralling and hopeful new project. He explains it best in his own words:

I lived in a bookstore in Paris for six months. It was a romantic and terrible experience: a Turkish toilet, cheap wine by the Seine, all the books I could ever read, cockroaches at the bottom of syrupy cocktails, freezing nights on a short cot in the art section. Wonderful and terrible.

While there, I met the man who would introduce me to my wife, the man who would give the speech at my wedding, and the man who would—years later, in New York—kick-start my professional life. Three different men, one bookstore.

The wife in question (the only, the wonderful wife) owned a bookstore in Brooklyn. It was there I went after Paris, for my first job in New York, cash-in-hand at the end of a shift. I loved that job, loved more what it led to. My wife, Amanda, now runs a different bookstore, in a different town. Happily, it has both bar and children’s section—my four-year-old and I can be found there often.

Bookstores have always been central to my life, and remain so: for the pleasures they afford, the opportunities they provide. Bookstores, at least for my young family, are both escape and livelihood.

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Best of 2014 – Black Dwarf

Sampling old musical passages to create new music is a rich and widely discussed practice. But sampling old music to make new photography?

My work with the °CLAIR Gallery introduced me to the photographer Petr Lovigin and his remarkable ‘Black Dwarf’ video. Simply put, it is the most beautiful piece of art I saw in all of 2014. It has everything I love: oddity and splendor and, perhaps most importantly, a nice little intellectual kick; thanks to Lovigin, I discovered that Alexander Vertinsky was the baddest Russian composer and artist I’d never heard of.

I sent Petr an email in Bangladesh where he is in the midst of a multi-month project. He answered three questions for me:

1. Why Vertinsky? Is he beloved in modern Russia?

I think that no. Already one century past his maximal activity. But for me that time (Silver Age of Russian Art, October Revolution 1917, Civil War 1918-1920) is very interesting… I know all the songs of Vertinsky but his romance ‘’Black Dwarf’’, the story behind it – it’s like it is about me.
Continue reading

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One Another

© Alisa Resnik

© Alisa Resnik

Books have always been comfortable camouflage for me. A novel in your pocket is a superpower; pull it out and you’re transformed from awkward misfit to contented savant. The same goes for a notebook and pen and don’t get me started on the glorious refuge of a host’s bookshelf while waiting for the third glass of wine to kick in at a party.

I’d always thought this façade was unique to book people, or perhaps artists too, who could shield themselves in their sketch pads. But then I met my friend Alisa Resnik. She started carrying a camera not so much out of a love for photography (although that was there, profoundly) but because it was so deeply agonizing for her to interact with humanity. The camera calmed her social neuroses and was a way to connect. “I would never describe myself as a photographer,” she wrote to me. “I just see the camera as an instrument that lets me communicate with people.”

Continue reading

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Buddhist nomad in action!

Quinn Comendant, immersing himself in another project.

Quinn Comendant, immersing himself in another project.

Keen readers of the Running Eye Blog might have noticed the occasional contribution from Quinn Comendant, the wandering coder from Chico who has taken part in exceptional projects in … well, in just about everywhere. Beijing, Paris, Berlin, Greece, Turkey, London, California, etc. etc. etc..

Recent years have seen him embark on a wide-ranging spiritual quest that involves a strain of Buddhism, a thirst for meditation, and a perplexing guru. Even though Quinn is mostly preoccupied by these ephemeral pursuits, happily he still has time for the occasional cultural lark (see his above-pictured starring role as the mutant mime Loupe) or an applause-worthy political engagement.

Falling into the latter category is his recent involvement in a hack-a-thon in Mexico meant to develop technology that solves issues of migration in Latin America. The life of a migrant is particularly horrible; as Quinn notes, “things are fucked up here: the government has acknowledged more than 27,000 people are disappeared, 60% of women on some routes are raped.”

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Cannibalism & Killer Fairies

tink2

Killer psychopath bent on revenge or sassy rascal with a heart of gold?

When you have small children, you consume a lot of children’s entertainment. And, sometimes you consume the same bit of entertainment over and over again. Forty-seven viewings of Cars, Good Night Gorilla read so many times the spine is in shreds, the tune to Baby Beluga welded so deeply into the synapses that fantasies of strangling Raffi haunt your waking hours.

After a while, it’s natural that a few narrative inconsistencies or plot peculiarities begin to stand out. Take Tinker Bell. In the original Disney version of Peter Pan (1953), she is a jealous sprite who twice tries to have Wendy killed, once by getting the Lost Boys to shoot her out of the sky, once by helping Captain Hook plant a bomb in her temporary tree home. Yet, in the Disney Fairies incarnation, [Tinker Bell (2008), The Lost Treasure (2009), The Great Fairy Rescue (2010), etc.], which are prequels to Peter Pan and feature the ‘birth’ of Tinker Bell, she is so syrupy that you begin to wonder what event will eventually transform her into the blood-thirsty fairy that wants Wendy dead. Do all her fairy friends get massacred before Tinker Bell’s eyes, only for her to be rescued from the flesh-spattered carnage by Peter Pan, which creates a mix of repressed trauma and unhealthy emotional dependency that manifests itself with murderous inclinations? Continue reading

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Did I Say The Wrong Thing?

It’s hard not to admire a good simile. They make literature more evocative: ‘Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa.’ (Nabakov from Lolita.) They add venom to political bite: ‘He looks like a female llama surprised in the bath.’ (Churchill on De Gaulle.) And they help etch the cry for social justice into a nation’s memory: ‘We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ (Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream.)

Inspired wordcraft such as this is enough to leave you dizzy. But, alas, this is not the time to praise good similes but to bemoan the bad ones.

Anybody who’s spent time in front of a gaping white page knows that expressing oneself in a clear, original, and incisive manner is Herculean chore requiring both persistence and wit. Similes are a particular gamble because a good one can invigorate your work, while a bad one can leave readers unmoved, or worse, wincing. (Would students across America be memorizing King’s speech if he spoke of justice rolling down like a stray tennis ball on a uneven court?) Continue reading

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Horizon Editions

Friends of KMZ Pia Copper-Ind and Christopher Ind have launched a new venture, Horizon Editions, which will publish quality art and photography books about the Middle East and Asia. To mark the upcoming release of their first title, Mao, Christopher reflects on the genesis of the company and the fraught but fecund world of modern publishing …

Strangely, as many things, Horizons grew out of necessity and hardship. I left my job in London where I had worked for many years as a Middle East publisher and I wanted to move to Paris with my fiancé Pia. I was offered a strange and inconclusive job proposal in Dubai for which I never received any money. As a result, we had shifted our entire lives to Dubai. But, out of necessity grows opportunity. My now wife and I, Pia, decided to found our own publishing house as we had been spending our own moneys running after sponsors in the Gulf region to finance books on the palaces of Syria, the architecture of Sanaa, Yemen, the new architecture of Qatar, the Haj pilgrimage, etc… The Orient was my domain of predilection and of expertise as I had travelled widely through Iran, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi, etc. where I had the good fortune to meet Pia in Tehran at a cocktail party. Continue reading

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Alice the Nepali Flying Dog

Copyright Kathrine Piper

Those who’ve followed the literary wanderings of Sparkle Hayter know she’s had some peculiar adventures in her life. Just consider a short list of the locales where she’s lived and written: Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion; the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan; a seven-storey art squat near the Paris opera house; a Bollywood apartment in Mumbai.

Still, even with this exotic track record, Sparkle’s latest exploits almost defy belief. During a writing sejour in Delhi, India to complete the latest installment of the Robin Hudson mystery series, she took a side trip to Nepal to get her visa renewed. While in Kathmandu, she happened across a bedraggled, half-starved puppy with to-die-for eyes. And, you guessed it: Sparkle cracked, adopting the dog and naming her Alice. She’s now spent the better part of six months raising money and negotiating the convoluted Nepali, Indian, and Canadian bureaucracy in an attempt to get Alice to a safe home. Continue reading

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