Twenty years as an outsider scouring the underbelly of American culture has made Howard Hampton a uniquely hardnosed guide to the heart of pop darkness. Bridging the fatalistic, intensely charged space between Apocalypse Now Redux and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," his writing breaks down barriers of ignorance and arrogance that have segregated art forms from each other and often from the world at large.
In the freewheeling spirit of Pauline Kael, Lester Bangs, and Manny Farber, Hampton calls up the extremist, underground tendencies and archaic forces simmering beneath the surface of popular forms. Ranging from the kinetic poetry of Hong Kong cinema and the neo-New Wave energy of Irma Vep to the punk heroines of Sleater-Kinney and Ghost World, Born in Flames plays odd couples off one another: pitting Natural Born Killers against Forrest Gump, contrasting Jean-Luc Godard with Steven Spielberg, defending David Lynch against aesthetic ideologues, invoking The Curse of the Mekons against Fredric Jameson's Postmodernism, and introducing D. H. Lawrence to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "We are born in flames," sang the incandescent Lora Logic, and here those flames are a source of illumination as well as destruction, warmth as well as consumption.
From the scorched-earth works of action-movie provocateurs Seijun Suzuki and Sam Peckinpah to the cargo cult soundscapes of Pere Ubu and the Czech dissidents Plastic People of the Universe, Born in Flames is a headlong plunge into the passions and disruptive power of art.
Howard Hampton has written for Film Comment, Artforum, the Believer, the Village Voice, L.A. Weekly, Black Clock, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times, among other publications.
Introduction: Meet The Furies/Pop Goes the Apocalypse I. The Glamour of Extremity 1. Fairy Tales from Strangers Cat Power--Ghost World--Lora Logic--Phoebe Gloeckner 2. Chinese Radiation Tiananmen Square--Liberation Music Orchestra--Cloudland 3. Venus, Armed Brigitte Lin 4. American Maniacs Natural Born Killers versus Forrest Gump 5. Jungle Boogie Apocalypse Now Redux 6. Metal-liad Metallica--Guns 'N Roses--Nirvana 7. Smells Like... Sonic Youth--Kurt Cobain 8. Vamp Irma Vep--Olivier Assayas 9. Screaming Target Seijun Suzuki 10. Blood Poet Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia 11. Sympathy for the Devils Assassination Movies 12. "Nebraska" 13. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere The Uneasy Ride of Rock and the New Hollywood II. Shoot the Guitar Player 14. Let Us Now Kill White Elephants Lester Bangs 15. Bring Me the Head of Gordon Sumner Sting--Hasil Adkins 16. Dueling Cadavers The Mekons contra Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism 17. Aftermath Eleventh Dream Day's El Moodio 18. Build Me an L.A. Woman Los Angeles in Music and Memory 19. Do the Clam Elvis Cinema via Viva Las Vegas 20. Reification Blues The Persistence of the '70s 21. Moles on the Beach/Down in Flames Ray-Gun Suitcase/The Day the Earth Met Rocket from the Tombs 22. Mouse Trap Replica Anthony Braxton 23. Eyewitness News Wire 24. Imaginary Cities/Holiday for Strings William Parker 25. Book of Exodus Plastic People of the Universe 26. Prophecy Girls Sleater-Kinney/Cadallaca--Sarah Dougher--Sally Timms 27. Money Jungle Music Matthew Shipp III. Waterloo Sunset Boulevard 28. Such Sweet Thunder Pauline Kael, 1919-2001 29. Anatomies of Melancholy Chris Marker 30. My Own Private Benjamin Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-1938 and Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship 31. Blur as Genre Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express 32. Nice Gesamtkunstwerk If You Can Get It Tsui Hark/Ching Sui-tung 33. JLG/SS Godard-Spielberg, Inc. 34. Lynch Mob The Straight Story and Critical Myopia 35. Flattering the Audience American Splendor 36. Savant-Idiot, or Pull the Last Train to Dogville Lars von Trier 37. American Daemons Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Studies in Classic American Literature 38. Wrecked in El Dorado Angel 39. Whatever You Desire: Movieland and Pornotopia From The Big Sleep to Max Hardcore 40. Gold Diggers of 1935 Pennies from Heaven and London Calling 41. Apocrypha Now! An Imaginary Discography of Thomas Pynchon's Paranoids Notes Acknowledgments Credits Index