Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Paul Garon

"Paul Garon is an author, writer and editor noted for his meditations on surrealist works and also a noted scholar on blues as a musical and cultural movement," so says Wikipedia about the writer of the foreword in DEVIL AT THE CONFLUENCE. 

So how cool is that? Paul Garon, respected authority on the blues AND surrealism was considerate enough to read through my rough manuscript and offer much helpful advice and then write a very smart intro for the book. I am grateful. And I am embarrassed because I waited almost too long to get up the courage to ask him. Then he came down with the flu the week we were going to press but still made the deadline, so add "unselfish" and "gracious" to the list of exceptional qualities for Mr. Garon.

At the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America website, ( he describes his introduction to the blues and searching for books about the blues:
"There were two I could find: Samuel Charters' The Country Blues (Rinehart, 1959) and Paul Oliver's Blues Fell This Morning (Cassell/Horizon, 1960/1961). I was already accumulating books by Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso and other writers of the Beat era, and gathering books on blues seemed only natural."

He soon became a contributing writer to English blues magazines and in 1970 he helped start Living Blues, the United States' first blues magazine. In 1971 his first book, The Devil's Son-in-Law; The Story of Peetie Wheatstraw and his Songs, was published and, in 1975, his book, Blues and the Poetic Spirit was published. 

In Blues and the Poetic Spirit, Garon discusses the attitude of earlier generations which had only slight curiosity concerning works of primitive art, "It was the Cubist painters – above all, Picasso and Braque – who were the first in Western civilization to recognize the imaginative power of many of these works..." and so: "It is thus only appropriate that the surrealists should also be among the first to champion the singularly exalting imaginative qualities of another realm of primitivism – the blues."

Paul Garon is one of few authors who understands that music and art are both creative expressions of man and thus very similar in their developments. Many blues music scholars and writers regard the music as a separate process and product, independent and isolated from the cultural factors that affected and helped shape all of the arts like painting, sculpture, dance and literature. And that is the flaw of most blues histories. Garon's writings benefit from his contextual understanding of art and 20th century popular culture at the time when the blues came about. That perspective was the catalyst for my approach to St. Louis' blues history – the traditional story of American blues music is inaccurate without context.
Paul and Beth Garon own and operate Beasley Books ( in Chicago, a bookstore of rare first editions and collectible books on subjects such as African American studies, labor history, psychiatry / psychoanalysis and one of the largest stocks in the US of scarce and out of print books on jazz and blues. Some of the store's best books are on display at Chicago Rare Book Center, in Evanston, Illinois.

And other books by Garon include:
What's the Use of Walking if There's A Freight Train Going Your Way? Black Hoboes and Their songs, with Gene Tomko;
The Forecast Is Hot: Tracts & Other Collective Declarations of the Surrealist Movement in the United States 1966-1976, with Franklin Rosemont and Penelope Rosemont;
Rana Mozelle: Surrealist Texts and
The Charles H. Kerr Company Archives 1885-1985: A Century of Socialist and Labor Publishing.

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