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A kaleidoscopic study of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Melodrama, biography, cold war thriller, drug memoir, essay in fragments, and mystery, Thousands of Mirrors is cult critic Ian Penman’s long-awaited first full-length book: a kaleidoscopic study of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Written over a short period "in the spirit" of RWF, who would often get films made in a matter of weeks or months, Thousands of Mirrors presents the filmmaker as Penman’s equivalent of what Baudelaire was to Benjamin: an urban poet in the turbulent, seeds-sown, messy era just before everything changed. Beautifully written and extraordinarily compelling, echoing the fragmentary works of Roland Barthes and Emil Cioran, Eduardo Galeano and Alexander Kluge, this story has everything: sex, drugs, art, the city, cinema, and revolution.
About the Author
Ian Penman is a British writer, music journalist, and critic. He began his career at the NME in 1977, later contributing to various publications including The Face, Arena, Tatler, Uncut, Sight & Sound, The Wire, The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and City Journal. He is the author of Vital Signs: Music, Movies, and Other Manias and It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track.
"A book about a film-maker but also, hauntingly, about the way our tastes and passions change over time."
—Betsy Reed, The Guardian
"Sneakily brilliant … Thousands of Mirrors is wise and chatty, keenly observed and casual."
—Christine Smallwood, 4Columns
"A painfully self-interrogating book, at the centre of which is the "monstrous" figure of Fassbinder, a centrifuge of absurd, gargantuan appetites, impossible productivity, heartbreaking melancholy, ever present paranoia, bleak cruelty, volcanic tantrums and rare, dissembling sweetness."
—John Douglas Miller, Frieze Magazine
"Unfolding as a sequence of 450 numbered fragments, the book intersperses insightful observations about Fassbinder’s life and work with Penman’s own first-person reflections on art, autobiography, and the culture of the 1970s."
—Art in America
"Ian Penman’s Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors Is a Love Letter to Postwar Counterculture."
"An essential companion to the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder."
—the Los Angeles Review of Books
"Ian Penman’s Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors is in large part a book about dreams, and about interrupting them. Fassbinder belonged to a generation of left-wing artists, musicians and filmmakers whose aim was to shake their audience out of a slumber. You could, borrowing a term from Trotskyism, call these artists ‘entryists’. Though rooted in the avant-garde, they weren’t content with creating works for unshockable cognoscenti. They believed that if they could smuggle their ideas into the mainstream, the result would be an ‘explosion in the heart of the commodity’, as the late Mark Stewart put it, a disruption of the unthinking common sense of an affluent capitalist society. The sleepwalking masses would be jolted into an awareness of the true poverty of their lives, and into the political action necessary to change it."
—The London Review of Books
"Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors, by the British critic Ian Penman, offers the alternative: an erotics—of cinema, of memory, of the gradual wreck of history. The sensuality of Penman’s book is inseparable from the music of his prose."
"A Thousand Mirrors is only two hundred pages long, written in a short burst to emulate the filmmaker’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later process. Aiming for the revelatory velocity that let Fassbinder turn out three or four features a year. Yet this meditation on Fassbinder’s scorched-earth life and aesthetics had been germinating for four decades: an obituary for an unwritten obituary...Shock corridors: It’s a trance, a fugue state of mind. Drifting through personal back alleys and intellectual boulevards à la the wanderings of Walter Benjamin and Geoff Dyer. A maze of epigrams, aphorisms (“Aren’t all masks death masks?”), anecdotes, and numbered fragments. An exquisitely companionable guidebook-inventory of a vast, intimate mental space Penman dubs the Fassbundesrepublik... Fassbinder’s worlds—on-screen, on set, and in “real life”—were built on power plays and naked abjection. Septic histories and ugly memories. Reservoirs of tears overrun with crocodiles. Formalist gestures and throwaway conceits. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere: The book redoubles the reflections, a party in Penman’s head where Fassbinder corrals Douglas Sirk, Brecht, Godard, Artaud, Samuel Fuller, Gerhard Richter, Jean Genet, and Jean Genie. “Broken English” on the stereo. Let’s play a game of truth or despair ... "