Adventures in Marketing: Week 36

Sold a “Schiz” to an editor/publisher of indie books to one of which I had contributed. Swapped a copy of “Outlaws, Rebels…” to a Serbian cartoonist/filmmaker for a pdf of a graphic novel of his. Gave a copy of “Cheesesteak” to an eminent octogenarian conspiracy theorist in Philadelphia, turning the other cheek to his judgment that my own views on his primary area of expertise were “preposterous and indefensible.” Gave another to a fellow in the health club locker room whose inquiry about the reliability of its scale led me to inquire, “You from Philadelphia?” (He was astounded to learn he had an accent.) Overbrook Park. Central High School ’67. Out here visiting a sob.

So much good will established, but with the postage to Serbia, finished in the red.

My Head and Lydia Davis (con.)

Here is a Lydia Davis story:

105 years old
she wouldn’t be alive today
even if she hadn’t died

why is this a story you may very well ask
why isn’t this another one

I just finished…

…”Marine Layer” (BlazeVOX Books. 2015) by Kit Robinson.

We’d met playing pick-up basketball at Live Oak Park. (He was better.) He knew I’d written “Best Ride,” which warmed my heart, and we had a mutual friend — whom neither of us see any longer. Kit left our game, but when he joined my health club, I introduced him to the other poet I knew there as “a language poet.” (I must have read that somewhere for I did not know a “language poet” from a Baltimore oriole.) “Oh, is that what I am?” Kit said. When I said I was having difficulty with his poems’ meaning, he said, “What does ‘meaning’ mean?” Which was helpful.

Kit has published 20 books. In this one, the poems run a page or two. They are composed of simple, declarative lines, one lain atop another like bricks, but with no periods to hold them. Each word seems carefully chosen, but links between lines are not always apparent. They seem ordered more by internal, improvisatory associations than more customary and comforting principles.

The poems address time/moments. Memory. Appearance/disappearance. Fate/destiny. “(T)he conditional nature of existence.” There is frequent “mist” or “fog.” The poems can be funny too. Word play is often at work. “Workers of the word, unite,” Kit writes. “Home is where the harp is.” “Shine on Harley-Davidson.” Knowing of — and sharing — Kit’s interest in bball and Bob Dylan, it was fun to see Purvis Short and Crazy Chester on his pages. “I couldn’t shoot for shit” and “While fishermen hold flowers.” But here he is at his more gnarly:

No likelihood of neighborhood
Blue bottle fly by night stocking
Sovereignty is bat shit
The star inside the rock.

Or, how about:

A movie theater is a restaurant
A cigarette is a glass of milk.

Does it help that “A pronoun is a glass of milk” too?

I suggest rereadings. I suggest thinking. Some fog lifts. Some fog clears.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 35

Sold one “Cheesesteak.” Its cover caught the eye of a fellow at the café, an ex-Berkeley High teacher, who was from Conshohocken and graduated Temple, ’62. He balked at the price, but I threw in a “Huge,” and we were cool.

In other news, a) it looks like we’re a “Go” with Milo’s distributor pal. “The Schiz” will be in his company’s fall catalog — and maybe “Cheesesteak” too. So coming soon to a store near you… (But to avoid the rush, you may order both — and other of Bob’s books now — from this very web site.)

And b) the ten lucky winners of the “Cheesesteak” lottery at Goodreads have been announced. (There were 690 entries, and the over/under — well, there is no “under” — on how many heartbroken losers will now order a copy they must pay for is Zero.) Statistical analysis shows one was male and nine were female. They reside in nine states. (Texas had two.) Mostly they came from cities I had not heard of. (The biggest were Talahassee, Corpus Christi, and Columbus, OH.) Mostly they read, like, James Patterson and Steven King. The youngest was 20 and he oldest not within a decade of me.(The over/under on how many of my previous books the winners had read is Zero too.)

I inscribed each copy “Thanks for the interest. Enjoy.” I included my card/e-mail address in each. I look forward to any responses.

Life in the 21st Century (con.)

The Vietnam vet who had installed the garage door had disappeared. Miguel, who had fixed the door the last time, had quit the business. The woman at the 877 number took the information and said someone would call him within the hour and the job would be done within four. When he called back two hours late, the woman said she would put him through to the dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted to confirm he was Levy Robin. Robin Levy said that was not so. The dispatcher wanted to confirm he lived in Kipplefinger, California. Robin Levy said that was not so. The dispatcher said he would put him through to his supervisor. The phone rang 15 times before an electronic voice said there was no room for additional messages. When he called back, the woman said she would have someone call him immediately. An hour later, when he and his wife walked past the answering machine they saw that someone had called on the number he had told them not to call and that because of emergencies, no one could come until tomorrow.

[Bob Levin’s books are available from this very web site.]

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 33/34

Sold a “Huge” to a musician/impresario pal at the café. (“Doesn’t pull any punches, does it?” he said.) Shipped a “Cheesesteak” to the younger brother of a high school classmate. I’d sent her a freebie but she wanted to pay for it. “Okay,” I said, “but I’ll send another to someone as a gift. How ’bout Nelson?” Shipped a “Schiz” to a director/writer/teacher pal in LA who said he’d finally sent me the check he’d been meaning to. Shipped another to a musician/writer pal in NYC who’d mailed me and envelope that had been lying on his desk so long that, he scrawled on the outside, he’d forgotten what was in it. A check was what.

In other news, I spoke with the distributor with whom Milo had connected. He seems willing to include “The Schiz” in his fall catalog of new releases; but, he warned, there will be problems, like shipping and payments taking forever and stores not wanting to order it since it isn’t technically “new,” even though it’s never been in stores. Plus, Milo says, we shouldn’t send out review copies until the book is in stores, as opposed to, say, getting the book reviewed so stores will want to stock it.

Don’t ask me. It’s all a learn-by-stumbling-through-the-dark-banging-into-walls-while-smiling-goofily-whistling-a-happy-tune kinda thing to me.

I just finished…

Some months ago I asked my friend Bud (not to be confused with my friend Budd if he had read David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” He said he had not, and if any of his friends had, he expected it to be me. I, in fact, had tried once and failed early. Now I decided to live up to the burden of my reputation.

My goal was 10 pp./day, which would have taken me 107.9 days, including 96 pp. of footnotes, some with their own multi-page footnotes. But I could not hold that pace. The type was small (and the footnotes smaller); my eyes tired. The content was thorny; my brain ducked and dodged.

About p. 200,I turned to Wikipedia for a summary of the plot(s). Once I knew what was going on, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. I don’t think I was cheating. It situated e more than it revealed secrets. Besides this is a book that deserves multiple readings, not that I expect to do that. On the other hand, I don’t know what novel with which to follow it.

There are, I would say, three story lines running toward but never quite connecting with each other. (Wallace says they do, only not between the covers of the book.) One involves a tennis academy, one a nearby addiction treatment center, and one a terrorist group of legless assassins. The time is a not-too-distant future, when naming rights to years, like bowl games, have been acquired by corporate sponsors and much of the northeast US has been turned into a toxic waste dump in which mutant creatures proliferate.

It is a hoot. The book is very funny and very smart. Wallace employs an amazing mind. His interests and areas of knowledge are vast. No moment, no skein of light or sound, escapes his senses. And despite his interest in minutiae, he delivers some heavy shit. There is, for instance, the reflection from a character in hideous pain that since he can bear if for this second, he can bear it for the next second, and then, second by second, he can endure.

Keep that in mind and inauguration day approaches.

There Goes Another Relationship

When I was new to FB, it suggested as someone I “May Know” an attractive brunette with extremely large bazooms. Our connection was not readily apparent, so I clicked on her name and learned only her hometown and that she had only one other “Friend,” another woman with large bazooms. Since I knew someone in her hometown, I recommended him to her as a friend and alerted him to watch out for her. “Bob,” he replied, “she isn’t real.”

A week ago, I received a Friend request from an attractive blonde. Her bazooms were not in evidence; in fact she seemed preppishly dressed enough to be Socially Registered. She had no friends either, but she self-reportedly lived in NYC and worked for UNICEF. What the hell, I thought.

I accepted her request. I asked why she wished to be my Friend. Was it, I wondered, my literary output, the sense of mystery and danger registered in my home page photograph, the wit and pith of my posts in this very forum.

She enigmatically answered, “Where are you from?”

I mulled this over. Since my city of residence was evident, I said, “Philadelphia, originally. You?”

She (seemingly) mulled this over, replying some days later. “I am American.”

“Your syntax,” I said, after further consideration, “doesn’t seem to be.”

“Ok,” she said, a day and a half after that. Perhaps she was busy with UNICEF.

Then 12 days later, she said, “Hello.”

“Ok,” I replied.

“Good,” she said. That took her eight hours to arrive at.

“Hello,” I said, five hours afterwards.

“How are you doing?” she inquired the following morning.

“Ok,” I said, the following afternoon. “You?”

“Same Ok,” she said.

Then “Where are you now?” she asked this morning.

Reflections on a Trip to SFMOMA

1.) Walking from Powell Street BART, none of the first 10 snatches of conversation I overheard were in English. Could the alt-right have a point? (I do not count the unintelligible madman screaming in the open space at 3d & Mission.)

2.) A good place to begin is the Rest Rooms on the entry floor. You will not be disappointed.

3.) Bruce Conner is a lot of fun. I hope he had a happy life.

4.) For $15, the salad with sliced chicken breast delivers a lot of lettuce.

5.) Seeing art “live” makes you realize why people want to own it.

6.) Can someone explain to me why what Chuck Close does is more significant than building a ship out of toothpicks inside a bottle? (Of course if Damian Hirst built a big one inside a big bottle it would probably go for millions.) After looking at several Chuck Close portraits, I began looking at other people in the gallery. As works of art, they were much more impressive.

7.) Am I the only person to note the similarities between Bruce Conner’s Dark Sculptures and Mike Diana’s “Boiled Angel”?

8. It was maybe our best museum visit ever. Adele said, “I was not bored, and I am always bored at museums.”

9. Along the way, I had picked up a laminated sheet of paper listing Bruce Conner’s drawings from a wooden box attached to that gallery’s wall. No one else took one, but no one stopped me either. I foresaw it being added to the other items Adele and I had brought into our hope during the last 40-odd years. But before we left, I precisely positioned in on a bench in another gallery on another floor. I saw it as a Bruce Conner-inspired act of art. Plus it was a statement about acquisition.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 32

Sold three copies of Aaron Lange’s “HUGE,” afterword by me, but sold none of my books; but I swapped a copy of “HUGE,” plus a copy of “Cheesesteak” to a museum-worthy photographer at the health club for the coffee-table sized artbook of his from the last exhibition of his work. Advantage Levin, though I have to admit he mainly wanted the comic.

However my on-line “publicist”‘s efforts have produced a second request for a review copy of “Cheesesteak.” The good news was this came from a blogger in Philadelphia. (Hey, I thought, that’s my market.) The bad news was this was “a lifestyle blog for young women dining, shopping, playing, and living” in Philadelphia. So I wrote the blogger that while I was not now and never had bee n a young woman dining, shopping, etc. in Philadelphia, some of my readership once had been and that if she and her readers didn’t find my book of relevance, her and their parents might. She replied, good naturedly, that she was looking forward to reading it.

In other news, I phone-interviewed Mike Diana for my essay-in-progress about him and his work (transcribing half done), and received an inquiry from an artist in Croatia if I would be receptive to looking at her new comic. (She thought to ask me because I had written previously about the Serbian artist Danilo Wostock.) Sure! I said — and thought, What’s next? Bosnia? Montenegro? Albania? (The first term paper I ever wrote — 4th grade — was about Albania. Everyone in the class was assigned a country. Mine was not a plum one.)

But I digress. These requests are a source of pride and pleasure and wonder to me. How did I become this guy whose attention is sought by extreme artists on two continents? (How, in fact did I come to comfortably, consistently find extreme art fine and worthy and exciting?)

“Your father would be proud,” my friend Budd said.

“Not if he saw the pictures,” I said.

“At your stature,” he said.