Once upon a time in a charming corner of San Francisco, a print and design sensei named Johnny Brewton started the X-Ray Book Co. He owned a letterpress and wanted to publish fine and limited edition books, chapbooks, broadsides and ephemera.
The first issue of X-Ray Magazine, a literature and arts journal, was published in 1993. There were 10 issues in total. Each printing ran anywhere from 100-225 copies—an extraordinarily low limitation. Over the years, many greats graced its pages. Charles Bukowski, Billy Childish, Allen Ginsberg, John Cage, Jamie Hernandez, etc. etc. The pièce de résistance is the cover art for Issue No. 4, which was created by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson took a photo of porn star and Ivory Soap shill Marilyn Chambers, shot it full of holes with a .45, put on lipstick (Chinese Red) and kissed each one. He did that 226 times; one for each copy.
Issue No. 1 originally sold for $7. The covers are made from actual x-rays. When a copy comes up for auction (which rarely happens) it usually sells for +/-$1,000. Brewton has produced work for Tom Waits, Mark Mothersbaugh, Barry Gifford and a host of others. His chapbook for Hunter S. Thompson, Mistah Leary – He Dead, is one of the crown jewels in my collection. That guy is the real deal, kids.
The chapbook was a eulogy for the recently-departed Timothy Leary. It included a sheet of blotter with Leary’s face. Do not drop, indeed.
X-Ray Magazine ceased publication in 2004 and from its ashes rose Bagazine. It’s a magazine! In a bag! Bagazine is an assemblage of hand-made original works of art. Bagazine No. 6 was just published and I’m happy and honored to be a contributor.
Issue No. 6 is limited to 100 copies. The stipulation was that all contributions had to be hand-assembled. I submitted a prototype back in June which was accepted and I spent all of July assembling 103 pieces. (100 for publication + 3 press copies.)
I made a small chapbook containing a poem I wrote many years ago about a conversation I had in an elevator. I had five rubber stamps made and used two colors. Each book required six strikes. Many strikes weren’t useable. I made close to 800 strikes in total.
I set up a print and production shop on my suburban backyard patio. I’d spend warm summer evenings and weekends cutting, stamping and binding. My fingers would blacken with ink and I constantly poked myself with a sewing needle. The Daughters would sit and watch, always begging to help. We’d listen to Ray Charles, Patsy Cline, The Platters, Johnny Cash and The Beatles. I filled their ears with the good stuff.
The book is two leaves; a heavy cover stock and a lighter grade paper for the text block. I printed the cover graphic in red and the title, poem, byline and limitation in black.
The two leaves were scored with a bone folder (yes, there’s a proper tool for folding paper) and saddle stitched with bookbinder’s thread (Wild Rose 18/3).
If you want to read the poem, click on the pics.
Also included in this issue is my old pal, Jim Camp, proprietor of the synaesthesia press. A long time ago, Jim and I published a chapbook for Bruce Springsteen and Nick Hornby. Artistic differences caused a time-out in our friendship that lasted a few years, but we have since reconciled. I still mourn the lost time.
Jim’s piece is a vintage black and white photograph tipped into a single-leaf chapbook. As he explains, “…everyone is a photographer…but nobody has any pictures.”
Each book contains a different photograph, making each copy totally unique and, therefore, totally awesome.
My payment was one copy. I’ve been paid a lot more to do work that wasn’t nearly as gratifying. I’ve been a fan of the X-Ray Book Co. for a long time and am genuinely thrill to be included. Hell, yeah, Merry Christmas.
It’s time for a holiday break. I don’t want to get all Oprah on you guys, but 10,000 thank-yous to everyone who took the time to visit, read, like and comment over the past year. Time and attention is your most valuable commodity and I am flattered that anyone would spend some of theirs here. Writing is a source of tremendous joy in my otherwise ordinary existence. If it weren’t for this outlet I’m not sure where I’d get my jollies. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Patience and Fortitude with their wreaths standing guard outside the New York Public Library on 42nd and Madison.
Or is it Fortitude and Patience? All these years and I still can’t tell one from the other.