Adventures in Marketing: Week 44

Sold two “Best Rides.”

That Berkeley author/publisher (See earlier blog) wanted to check me out. “Give me the one from the New York publisher.” (Since BR doesn’t reflect how I write now, I threw in a free “Cheesesteak.”) Then that UC English major (See even earlier blog) lived up to his promise to buy a novel once he had some cash with him. (Given what I hear about his department, I suspect he wanted to see what Old White Men have been up to,)

In other news, the home answering machine picked up one of those “I’m trying to reach the Bob Levin who wrote ‘XYZ'” messages. (These are less frequent, though more exciting, than those hoping to schedule an appointment with Bob Levine, the acupuncturist.) My mind immediately swung into its usual fantasy, which, tellingly, involves my receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars fro Hollywood rather than, say, an inquiry as to when I might be free to pop over to Oslo to pick up my award. Since the caller did not identify his purpose, I Googled his name and found he might be an assistant secretary general at the UN, a defensive tackle for the University or Arkansas, or a fellow who shared his Twitter photo with a monkey.

Stay tuned.

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

Adventures in Marketing: Week 43

Sold three books. (I hate to say it, but Donald Trump may have the economy booming. Trickling down to my café table anyway.)

An M.D. at Café One bought a “Best Ride” and a “Schiz.” (He’d already bought a couple of my other books, so he must be a true fan, not just being polite.) Then an aspiring writer at Café Two, with whom I’d previously bantered “career guidance,” bought a “Cheesesteak.”

My display at Café One also drew into conversation a more accomplished and better known, while still under-appreciated Berkeley writer. We talked Commerce and Art. (He has his own non-profit publishing house to which he kindly invited me to submit my next manuscript.)

And in yet another testament to semi-unconscious networking, this fellow with whom I had played basketball for over a decade without knowing his surname, let alone that he had studied with John Barth before becoming a regular contributor to national magazines and author of several books, graciously gave me contact information for his agent and okayed my using his name as a referral.

I may have to start looking more kindly upon my fellow man.

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

I I just finished…

…”The Sightseer’s Complement” (Lord Cadieux, ed. Rotland Press,) purportedly Number One in a series of “excursions into filth and absurdity.” A “pleasure reader” tipping its hat to Olympia Press’s Travelers Companion books of the 1950s and ’60s, contributors include Tristram Tappertith, Alfred Prue, Fatty Jubbo, Pearl S. Fuck, Agatha Tarbox, and Dr. Nelson Leathercherry. Works, both prose and picture, bear titles like “The Dreadful Apotheosis of the Frothing Charger,” “Do I Like Assholes,” “The Passionate Soiling pf Petra Peter Putridapolis,” and “Blow Job.”

Tongues-in-cheek abound. Winks flutter. Desire and erections are doubtful.

The book is a gem. Trim, tidy (4″x6″ — or so — 40 pp.), well-conceived, exquisitely executed. Ironic and appreciative, twisted and fun. (A perfect gift for the proper connoisseur.) Pornography as art — why not? If, as Kenneth Tynan has noted, it is honor-worthy to stimulate the eye or oar, what do we have against the pelvis?

Adventures in Marketing: Week 42

T. asked how the book sales were going.

I looked up from my table. I said I seemed to have saturated the market.

We had met at the other café where I do business, when he had said my “Buy Bob’s Books” sign was too confusing. It should say “For Sale.”

I had offered to swap him a book for such a sign.

He had not availed himself of this opportunity.

He asked if I no longer went to the other café.

I said half the time I did.

He said he no longer did.

When he had been living in his van, he said, he had needed the café for Wi-Fi. Which meant he had to buy a coffee ($3), and then a pastry ($3) and, if he stayed for lunch, a sandwich ($6) and another coffee. But now he had a room in a house. He had a big screen TV. He never even went on his lap top.

And reading did not appear to factor into his equation.


“I have never seen so many people stealing books, burning book. And this is Berkeley,” said the woman seated outside the café, a backpack under her poncho, shopping bags by her sides. “Mostly redheads.”

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

Laughing in the Dark

My latest piece has gone up at

It begins: Fortunately, laughing out loud – even talking loudly to yourself – is not frowned upon in Berkeley cafes. (Indeed, frowning upon someone, no matter how offensive and high-decibel his ravings, is so eschewed, you would think it would have frowners hauled before some Human Rights commission.) So I was free to snort my way through “Turkish Trilogy,” by Wostok and Friends, unrestrained.

Readers Respond (cont.)

Ten of my old pick-up game regulars attended this winter’s reunion at the west Berkeley bar. We discussed a few hearts, a hip, a cancer, two backs. Five of us still worked. Only one played basketball.

One fellow, who’d worked for the park district, told me he’d enjoyed “Cheesesteak” and regretted missing the launch party of “The Schiz” (flu). Copies were still available, I told him.

Three fellows had bought copies at the launch party. Two did not mention it. Which did not surprise me. But one, a lefty trial attorney, said, “I read your book.”

“What’d you think?” I ventured.

“It was funny.”

Which did surprise me. “Which book?”

“The new one.”

“‘The Schiz’?”

I mean, it is funny, but most people…

He said he had liked the skewering of lawyers and doctors.

He also said, when it got slow, he skipped ahead.

I did not believe it was ever slow, but, over all, I was pleased.

“How’s the heart?” I said.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 41

Sold one “Cheesesteak.” The purchaser was a young woman, visiting Berkeley from San Diego, seated beside me in the café. I gave her my card. She was so far outside the demographics of my general buying public, I was hoping to hear her response.

Otherwise, it was a bevy of chitchat. There was a financial planner from Cincinnati, who had brought out his son, an Antioch student, to begin one of his work stints. We talked Yellow Springs, Woodstock, People’s Park, and Robert Maplethorpe. There was a homeless fan of Bob Dylan and Steve Jobs, whom I hadn’t seen since another café we both frequented made him and his several stuffed shopping bags feel unwelcome. (He hadn’t known I wrote books.) There was an Eritrian-born systems engineer, a fan of Raymond Carver’s, who’d worked all over the world and was now taking a break, deciding whether to become a writer himself or an entrepreneur (and, if the latter, whether here or in Africa).

And there was an elderly gentleman, who paused on the way to his table and stared at my sign and books. This was not unusual, but he kept staring.

“Wanna buy a book?”

“Are you Bob?”

I was.

“I’ve heard of you.”

This I doubted. “$5-to-$20.”

“Are you here often?”

“Three or four times a week.”

“Maybe when I get my check.”

I could have said I take credit cards. I should have said that, at least, to the financial planner.

My Latest

I put this link up on Facebook yesterday but I thought I should blog it too.
It’s a contribution to my on-line pal Bob Ingram’s anti-Trump site. Much of it comes from previous FB posts of mine which I strung together and expanded.

I Just Finished…

…two books.

The first was “Border Cantos” by Richard Misrach, a photographer, and Guillermo Galindo, a musician/composer.
It is a remarkable book about a remarkable project. Misrach has been photographing the Mexican-US border for over 40 years. Since the 2000s his work has focused on its “militarization.” On his trips, besides taking photos, he has collected objects left by migrants and forces of the border patrol, including books, dolls, shotgun shells, water bottles, and steel slabs, which Galindo has used to compose and play music. The art, the politics, and the humanity encompassed within this volume is over-whelming.

The second was “Crash” by J.G. Ballard, a highly regarded dystopian novel, blending the violence of lethal automobile accidents with the perversities of sex. (I can not recall reading another book in which the words “semen” and “vulva” appeared so frequently.) The subject matter did not engage me; the characters did not involve me; even the sex, perhaps to my credit, did not arouse my fantasies. I was relieved to finally finish it and move my reading on.

A Nice Welcome

My on-line pal Bob Ingram greeted my first submission to his anti-Trump site HOCUS-POTUS with “Dang, Bob…
Remember Steve McQueen in Mag Seven saying, ‘We deal in lead’? We deal in nasty and you’re one of us.”

Warmed my heart.

Will link to it soon as I hear it’s up.