Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) Continued Part Three (1967)

John Cage

The third in Cage’s series of “Diary” essays (the other parts were published in different contexts), defined broadly as “collections of thoughts that develop out of working and being alive.” The text is formally and discursively roving: its margins, typeface, and color undergo continuous alteration by chance methods as Cage contemplates computers, Erik Satie; life on the road with Merce Cunningham; death; encounters with Mies van der Rohe, Duchamp, and Marshall McLuhan; books; cold remedies, and more. Above all, Diary seems to confront the problem of truly ecumenical thought. Dick Higgins, as the publisher’s original printing technician, meticulously engineered the variations in color, and as such, this may be the most outwardly beautiful of the Great Bears series.

Originally published by Something Else Press between 1965 and 1967, the Great Bear Pamphlet series was envisioned by founding editor Dick Higgins as a “poor man’s keys to the new art,” or a means of exposing the most vital work of the time to a mass-market audience, and vice versa. The series made uncompromisingly radical work maximally accessible, with slim, chapbook-like publications of a mostly uniform, pared down design. Taken together, the pamphlets constitute a firsthand survey of the sixties avant-garde (Higgins, Barbara Moore, and Emmett Williams all had a hand in the editorial process) that is both sweeping and utterly unique, transmitting a still-vibrant signal of expanded possibility in art, music, and poetry. Presented here in a facsimile edition, the Great Bears epitomize the utopian vision of Higgins and Something Else.

5 x 8 inches
16 pages
December 2007

Managing Editor: James Hoff