Sold a “Cheesesteak,” a “Schiz,” a “Most Outrageous,” an “Outlaws, Rebels…,” all to the same woman. (I gave her a discount for buying in bulk.)
She had arrived at the café, handing out Meyer lemons from a tree in her yard, to all the customers. Squeeze one each morning into hot water, she explained, to clear the body of toxins. She had blue eyes, a round, smiling face. She had short gray hair under a wide-brimmed straw hat. She wore a loose-fitting black top and wheat-colored Himalayan butterfly pants. She had also, I later notice, taken 18 books from the “Free” shelf and piled them on a chair at her table.
My work seemed to have interested her in me so much that she paid several visits to keep me posted on her thoughts. (And I felt grateful enough for her purchases not to interrupt.) So I learned of the health problems of her sister who operated heavy equipment at a nuclear waste disposal site, the personality of her brother-in-law, a Mohawk high-beam walker, the dialogue her own interest in the dharma had led to with a local Catholic worker-priest, and her suspicions that the Amazonian special ops warriors she read about in intrigue novels were real.
So I did not get a lot of work done that morning.
Gave away two “Cheesesteak”s. One went to a woman in Munich who had been an exchange student, senior year in high school, with whom I have been in recent correspondence, mainly about politics (French, German, USA). (She promised to cover postage.) The other was to a baseball-capped 83-year-old fellow, in town from Santa Cruz, visiting his daughter. He’d seen me in the café before and, this time, decided to see what I was about. “Do you write?” I said. “All my life,” he said. He had, he explained, storage lockers full of novels, paintings, cartoons, that he had never tried to have published or exhibited. “If I don’t do something soon, they’re headed for the city dump.”
I also got a visit from a portly fellow in an electric wheelchair. He was not looking to buy but had been attracted by the cover. “I love cheesesteaks,” he said.
One hipsterish fellow, tall, thin, lots of blacks, lifted and paged through “Cheesesteak” and asked if it was a novel. When I said “No” but that “The Schiz” was, he lifted and paged through that.
Meanwhile, the Fathers’ Day display of “C,” “S,” and “Best Ride” has gone up at Logos Books in Manhattan. (I would post a photo if I could figure out how to.) This is the largest display of books by Bob Levin ever assembled without Bob Levin sitting beside them.
In other news (1) “Heart” was rejected by a small, independent publisher which said it sounded “quite interesting (but)… does not quite fit…”; (2) the super-agent/former student of Adele’s brother who’d suggested we call him was in a meeting when did and, six days later, seems not yet to have left it.
One of the neat things about writing on-line is that you never know whom you are going to hear from or when. In the past, I’ve heard from two relatives (one brother, one son) of players on Temple University’s 1958 (NCAA semi-finalist) basketball team and three fans of a B-movie actress who had made a big impression upon me as a teenager in “The Wild One.” Then the other day I heard from a niece of an actress I’d written about several years ago in the Broad Street Review, Julia Anne Robinson, correcting a factual error of mine and providing some new information. [The actual COD was smoke inhalation from a fire in her condominium caused by faulty wiring, and she was planning on becoming a nurse.] I had called the article “Whatever Happened to Baby Jessica?” but BSR’s editor thought differently: http://www.broadstreetreview.com/film-tv/the_unfnished_business_of_marvin_gardens.
‘Marvin Gardens’ and Woodstock’s lost innocence
In The King of Marvin Gardens I sensed Bob Rafelson flinging his seasoned assessment of Nixon’s America into America’s teeth. Perhaps tellingly, the adults involved in this dark and quirky film subsequently…
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1 Darius Smith
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23 hrs ·
okay, you swine, i’ve changed my passord. let’s see you screw with me now. (and thanks to ace backwards for the suggestion.)
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1 Michael Dolan
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What did you study at University of Pennsylvania?
8 Pending Items
FOM put up the second half of “Bob Reads Two Books.” Here’s the link:
Bob Reads Two Books (Part Two)
Thomas Farber is a 73-year-old, Berkeley/Honolulu-based, author/editor/teacher. Boston-bred to a physician-father and poet-mother. Harvard educated, with 10-days of Yale Law School, quit for a more sizable hit of outlaw/adventure/romance, abetted by a Guggenheim, a Fulbright, “Here and Now” (El Leon Literary Arts. 2015) is his 29th book (novels, short stories, non-fiction, epigrams and more), a collection of 16 pieces, the shortest three pages, the longest 21, a mean of five.
It opens in 2014, with Farber looking at a snapshot of his parents, taken when he was five, his father now dead 40 years, his mother nearly 30. They “do not know…,” he thinks, “how they will age, how they will die – all that their strength and love cannot spare them.” It closes with him – recently confronted by a street crazy bellowing, “Do you want to die right now/” – facing major heart surgery, hoping to survive to write another book.
Farber did. This is it. But that assault was the event which fixated his mind upon the fate that had not yet reached him – but inevitably would.
Which will reach us all.
Sold one Schiz.
I’ve known the buyer, a recently retired tenants’ rights lawyer, since he ran a legal aid outpost office in Chicago’s infamous Robert Taylor Homes, and I was a VISTA on the South Side. He asked if I’d felt a loss of identity when I’d stopped practicing. I said my identity had never rested on my being a lawyer. “It was more a trans-sexual thing, like I was walking around inside the body of a lawyer, but actually…”
Also swapped two Schiz’s, one for a poetry collection, one for a classy zine — and shipped eight books to NYC for Logos, 4 Schiz, 2 Cheesesteak, 2 Best Rides. (And a BR has been spotted in Powell’s in Portland. They want $8.95 for it. You can get it here, signed, for less.)
In other news, the only one of the health organizations I’d sought a plug for Heart from to reply said it did not give endorsements. I told its rep I understood perfectly — and that would be one more charitable non-profit not to receive a sizeable bequest from my estate.
My latest piece is up at First of the Month. You can read it here.
Bob Reads Two Books (Part One)
If you are a Patti Smith fan, you probably know the events at the core of M Train (Knopf. 2015), her beautiful and brilliant memoir. In 1980, Smith married the MC 5 guitarist, Fred Sonic Smith. In the prior five years, she had released four albums and published three books. In the next 14, she released one album and published one book. She and Fred settled in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, had two children, settled into bohemian domesticity.
…”String Theory,” a collection of David Foster Wallace’s articles about tennis.
Besides having written one of the most (deservedly) acclaimed novels of the last 50 years, Wallace was a good regional (and so-so Div. IV) tennis player. His volume-concluding “Federer Both Flesh and Not” has been considered, with Updike’s “Kid Bids Hub Fans Adieu,” one of the great pieces of sports journalism, scaling (like Roger Federer and Ted Williams) beyond genre into genius, into art. The other efforts in this book — on Wallace’s “career” on mid-western courts, on Tracy Austin and the disappointments of athletes’ autobiographies, on the then-journeyman, now-coach Michael Joyce, and on a particular U.S. Open, esp. the economic aspects thereof — are rewarding, each in its own way, as well.
Wallace seems incapable of presenting sentences for print that are not eye-opening, smile-inducing, and/or mind-bending. His understanding of the game is deep and his insights into its play novel. His player portraits apply admiration (mostly) and malice (occasionally) as Sargeant applied pigment. The inventive curiosity of his mind leads Wallace away from the clichés, sentimentality, and sheer repetitiveness that burdens most sports writing into explorations that are fresh and dangerous both on and off the tournament grounds. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized he hadn’t reported (or I’d missed) how Federer’s match came out, and it hadn’t mattered.
No sales again.
Not only that but the last two “customers” at the café have avoided eye contact entirely. This I could understand if “The Schiz” was the book in question, but “Cheesesteak”…
And my Manhattan-based efforts have constricted. Only partly from choice, Logos will have an exclusive east-of-Berkeley sales dealership on “Best Ride” and, until my actual distributor kicks in, a temporary one on “S” and “C.” I understand there are flyers and a display. This could be fun.
In other news, at the suggestion of my entrepreneurially-inclined friend Budd, I have e-mailed honchos at the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiologists hoping for an endorsement of “Heart” which will make it more attractive to agents and/or publishers. No responses yet, which will be kept in mind when it becomes time for charitable bequests.
Finally, I was interviewed by two fellows who hope to make a documentary film about Dan O’Neill and the Air Pirates. This seems an entirely DIY, low-budget operation, but of the half-dozen folks who’ve expressed similar interest, it’s the only one to actually get cameras rolling. Since they wouldn’t tell me the questions they’d be asking in advance, I’d prepped by skimming by book, which I hadn’t read since it came out. Boy, it was good! Maybe if the film is released, there’ll be a second edition. Maybe an NYRB Classic.
So a lot is going on. Still, there are moments just after wakening when I lie there thinking, Just what am I doing?
But they pass and I get up and do it some more.
…”Some Rain Must Fall,” volume five of Karl-Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle.” It picks up shortly after volume four ended, with Karl-Ove entering a writers’ program, and concludes several years later when, not without much intervening drunkenness, despair, and shattered relationships, he has one book out and, after a period of blockage, a second on the way.
The conception — and execution — of this work continues to be compelling. There are passages of stunning power. Unlike earlier volumes, there are no disconcerting time shifts but there continue to be the annoyances of frequent references to Norwegian writers unknown except to other Norwegians and the reappearance without identification to characters who have been encountered before but forgotten. I found it cool to have events that had been explored earlier, like the death of his father and its immediate aftermath to be re-explored from a different point in Karl-Ove’s life, and I liked encountering characters whom, in a traditional novel, you expect a lot more of than what happens here (or in life); but some might find this annoying.
If you’re looking for a 5-600 page novel to read, this would not be a good choice. But if you wanted to read five or six of them by the same guy, start with volume one and keep going.