Sold a “Lollipop” to a legal aid lawyer with whom I’d worked in Chicago. (He’d come to Berkeley a few months after I did and, sticking to his roots more avidly, devoted his career to tenants’ rights.) I’d intended the book as a gift, but he’d sent a check with a note saying he’d like to discuss our different post-Chicago experiences (and have me identify who was who). I offered lunch or coffee, my treat, since, of the five former colleagues I’d sent a book, he’d been the only one to respond, and I’d wondered how they’d react to my unflattering account.
Then I sold a “Fully Armed,” “Most Outrageous,” “Schiz,” and “Goshkin,” in what had to have been the most idiosyncratic selection of my work to date, as well as the largest cash purchase since the woman in the grip of a manic episode walked into the café.
The sale began with an e-mail from a man who said he’d bought a “Cheesesteak” from me a few years ago. It was all that he could afford then, but now he was set for more. He wanted “funny.” He wanted “recent.” As further clues to his tastes, he had liked “the jewish (sic) stuff” and could “talk LA boxing, 1949-1950.” (Had I heard of Keeny Teran, a flyweight, whose career had been derailed by heroin?)
I was intrigued even before his order arrived accompanied by a check written on the account of a woman whose identity was undisclosed. Can you tell me something about yourself? I asked. “Google me and find out a lot,” he said.
The first hit on his name brought a six “WOW111″ article in a Santa Cruz newspaper – and then I had to read it Adele. My customer had passed though San Francisco’s beat and hippie eras. He had played drums behind big name musicians, rock and jazz. He had 65-years of gallery-worthy paintings sitting in a Marin County warehouse he refused to publicly show. He had walked away from a critically acclaimed exhibit of his photographs at SF MOMA to find a guru in India. For a life of “artistic freedom,” he had chosen “purity and obscurity (over)… business and critics and fame.”
To have him connect with my writing was cool.
In other news…
1.) My favorite non-remunerative conversation was with two grandmothers, one Anglo, one Hispanic, one writing a book about humming birds, one teaching elementary school, who’d sat down at the next table and noticed my display. We talked writing and the cost of housing. They complimented my bracelets and boots – a good way to incline me favorably – and asked if my tri-partite wedding ring meant I had been married three times. (No, I did not feel hit-upon.)
2.) My philosopher-neighbor (See: “Adventure 317″ referred a colleague-of-sorts to me. He is writing about the significance of reprint comics, and while I was honored to be considered an authority on the subject – as I would on any subject, come to think of it – unfortunately, in my days of comic-immersion, reprints weren’t even a glimmer in Stan Lee’s eye.
3.) My “In Box” also brought me H. Harris Healy, iII (sic), who asked (a) how I was; (b) if I’d been “fully jabbed”; and © if there was a grocery store nearby. I replied (d) who are you; (e) who do you think you are taking to; and (f) there was a supermarket next door to the café. He said (g) he was the one who had agreed to handle my books on consignment (of whom I had no recollection); (h) he had a niece with liver cancer; and (i) if I’d send her a gift card, he’d reimburse me. I said (j) how about he paid postage and 1/3rd of the cover price upfront and kept all proceeds; (k) too bad about your niece; and (l) I had a blank Holocause Museum Memorial card lying around on which I could inscribe a message of his choice if he’d provide her name and address.
The payment and information have not arrived.
1.) Sigrid Nunez. Sempre Susan. I’d read and enjoyed three or four books by Nunez. If you want to know about Susan Sontag, this short memoir may be all you need. It was for me.
2.) Timothy Snyder. Bloodland. I understand there was some criticism from historians but the horror-upon-horrors committed by Stalin and Hitler — 1500 murdered in one paragraph, 1250 in the next – landed like blows to my head.
3.) Rachel Cusk. The Last Supper. Three or four books by Cusk too. This was about a family trip to Italy. I usually don’t read travel books but I found this for free somewhere, so the price was right, and, given Cusk’s prose style and intelligence, anything she writes is worthwhile.
4.) Renata Adler. Irreparable Harm. And speaking of style and intelligence. A magazine article I’d read previously in an anthology, but reprinted in book form, so I’m counting it.
5.) Paul Buhle & Dave Wagner. Hide in Plain Sight. Another “free” shelf acquisition., A few interesting observations about post-Blacklist careers in Hollywood and NYC and the influence of Popular Front thinking on pop culture, but I’m tossing this one back.
6.) Jim LeCuyer. Stories for Clever Children. A slim volume by a pal. Witty, wise; smiles resulted.
7.) Frank Conroy. Dogs Bark…. A collection of magazine pieces culled from my philosopher neighbor’s cast-offs. (See “Adventures in Marketing 316″). Conroy is excellent on musicians, jazz and classical, but I could take or leave the rest.
8. Timothy Snyder. On Tyranny. After Bloodlands, I wanted to see what he thought. Also, since there’s an illustrated edition, I thought I’d review it; but tcj had already run one (negative) and didn’t want me.
9.) Tobias Wolff. Old School. The second pick-up from my neighbor. Adele loved it too – and recommended it to her brother, who’s enjoying it on last report.
10.) Bill James. Popular Crime. Pick-up #3. James uses his knowledge of analytics to score a couple points early, but once he blamed the Supreme Court for the increase in crime in the ‘70s (and the creation of mega-prisons) he proved he ought to stick to batting orders and when to bunt.
That’s the link to my latest piece at FOM. It’s a trifle — but my own.
Sold an “Outlaws, Rebels…” to Marcel, my Christian Scientist café buddy, who plans to give it to a friend from college days (Humboldt State). Marcel, in recent days, has given me an article from “Barron’s” on genetic screening for cancer and photo-copied newspaper articles about his family history (mother’s side) as cattlemen in Texas. He also invited me to lunch. I accepted but said he would be my guest since, in light of his purchases, I can write it of as a business expense.
In other news…
A more conventional citizen, a classical pianist/composer (atonal works, I’m guessing), paid much attention to my books’ art and paged through “Cheesesteak” and “The Schiz,” reading snatches, but bought zero. If he’s got a CD, maybe I’ll offer a swap.
I did give a “Lollipop” to a 90-plus, recently retired exercise instructor who, upon hearing of my recently bummed back, brought me (and Adele) rubber stretch bands to aid our fitness. She was not my only barter of the week. But the other deserves more back story. (No pun intended.)
The route of my thrice-weekly cardio-walk takes me up Spruce Street to the reservoir and then down. Recently, a couple blocks from home, someone began leaving out books in a carton on the sidewalk. As “free books” go, these were better conditioned and more appealing than the usual.
Three trips in a row, I took one (Tobias Wolfe, Frank Conroy, Bill James). Once, the apparent owner, a gentleman in his late 80s, while working in his garden, made a recommendation. Thereafter, I would pass along my thoughts about my selections. Finally, I asked, “Are you a writer or academic.
He said he was a retired professor of philosophy. “Are you an academic?”
“I’m a retired attorney – and a writer.”
“What have your written?”
“Well,” I said, somewhat sheepishly, “I write about comics and cartoonists.”
“Oh,” he said, “I write about comics and cartoonists too.”
He sent me links to reviews he had written of books about Fredric Wertham and superheroes in “The Journal of American Culture” and to his analysis of “what makes a
superhero, philosophically speaking” in “Philosophy Now.” This led me to give him an “Outlaws, Rebels…,” which led him to offer me a hardcover of his “Myth of the American Superhero” to which I responded with a “Pirates and the Mouse.”
This falls deservedly under “You Never Know…,” don’t you think?
Sold a “Lollipop” to a fellow (contractor/author) with whom I’d played pick-up basketball for months and months on Saturday afternoons, before, between games, we got past first names and learned we’d overlapped for one year at Brandx without being aware of each other’s presence. (“Enjoying hell out of your book,” he says.)
Sold a “Cheesesteak” and a “Schiz” to a second cousin (grandmother/fine artist), now from Boca Raton, originally from Alliance, NJ, where our families had settled when they came over from Kiev in the late 19th century. We may have met at a Cousins’ Club picnic in the summer of 1960 from which I recall jumping off a tire-swing into a creek.
In other news…
1.) “Lollipop” took some ribbing from the fellow whose memoir I’d edited due to my having asked him to identify Silky Sullivan for his readers, while in my first couple chapters I’d baffled him with Preston Sturges, Saul Alinsky, and The Rule in Shelley’s Case. “Who is better known?” he demanded. “Saul Alinsky or Silky Sullivan?” Are your readers expected to bring along an encylopedia?
Google, I answered.
2.) “Are these books free?” a visitor to my table asked. She had shouler-length, uncombed, sparse white hair. She wore a baggy black zipper jacket and baggy black pants. She wore teardrop earrings and had small, piercing black eyes.
“They’re for sale,” I said. “Ten, fifteen, ten, twenty.”
She looked more closely. “I’ve never heard of any of them.”
“That’s why they’re for sale. I f people had heard of them, I wouldn’t be sitting here.” I smiled and handed her my card. “Now you can learn more about them and me.”
She absorbed the content – and said, “Zei gezunt.”
Sold five Lollipops. One went to a reliable customer/semi-relative/retired attorney in NYC, who explained he hadn’t bought earlier because he’d been ill. One went to a reliable customer/café pal/retired UC administrator, who explained… Well, actually she didn’t. One went to a sometime customer/retired physician/e-mail correspondent (mainly basketball). One went to a long time friend from Philly/psycholgist-turned-B&B-owner/now living in the Carribean, which required me to equip my business account to accept funds wired internationally. (So if you know any oligarchs in need of a way to launder funds…) And one. along with a Schiz, went to an adjunct college professor in Texas/apparent UG-comix fan, whom I “know” only through FB, hence a “stranger” and those sales a special thrill.
I also sold a Best Ride. It went to another stranger, affiliated with a production company in LA which, further inquiry revealed, seeks “interesting” properties to develop into films. Now solicitations from outfits which have spotted possibilities in my work are not unknown to me. [Just this morning one came from an allegedly Chicago-based company that had seen such “potential” in one of my books (unnamed) it would “offer more than 540% investment to Republished or Published (it)” (sic.) Their “investment seems to take the form of reducing the cost to me of their re-publishing my book from $1699 to $1299, a “one time opportunity.”] So this “stranger”’s plunking down $10 American coats his presentation in a titillating patina. But I recall the producer he once told me, “You know how it works. I tell you how much I love your book, and you never hear from me again,” so I am not ordering any Teslas yet.
(Another weird thing is that BR has been around for 45 largely ignored years, but recently a fellow – now friend – who had optioned its film rights shortly after its publication told me he was trying to revive his project. Now here comes this guy, and, the last time someone wanted to option one of my books, I was immediately contacted by someone else who did too. It’s like once somebody in Hollywood gets their eye on something, someone else does.)
In other news…
1.) My correspondent who writes e-books for the Christian bondage market asked if I was the author of Most Outrageous: The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester. I said I was and asked why she wanted to know. She said she had wondered what I wrote and found it at Amazon.
This led me to click the link she provided, where I saw the book had two reviews. One (five stars) was posted in 2008, praising it as a “powerful and disturbing” reminder of the forces of cultural repression in America. The other (two stars) went up a few months ago and complained there were not enough cartoons.
You can’t please everyone.
2.) The editor of a book I recently reviewed requested the editor of the on-line journal where it appeared to re-write one of my paragraphs. My editor forwarded her request, and I said I preferred my version but suggested her’s run in the “Comments” section. The complainant seemed okay with this – but seems not to have proceeded with the purchase of either of my books she had been contemplating.
3.) On a more positive note, the fellow (See “Adventures” 313) who bought Outlaws, Rebels… let me know it had found a place on his shelf for books he has found “meaningful.”
That’s three people, previously unknown to me, that book has touched sufficiently to take the trouble to express appreciation for it.
I am grateful.
Sold an “IWKYA,” a “Lollipop,” a “Pirates & Mouse” and “Outlaws, Rebels…” (jointly), and (just about) a “Most Outrageous.”
“IWKYA” went to “Marcel” (last mentioned in “Adventure 309″), my Christian Scientist-raised café pal. (Did you know Ms. Baker-Eddy okayed dentists? His mother went every few weeks.) I gave him third off cover-price, as befitting his subsidized-living status.
“Lollipop” went to “Pat,” a buddy from my pick-up basketball days, who has since moved on to tennis and, now, pickleball, which he recommends for aging joints.
“Pirates” and “Outlaws” were purchased, via PayPal, by a “Richard,” which puzzled me somewhat since I had sold neither of those recently and, just a week or so ago, a woman in North Carolina had said she planned to buy both. Was he her, I wondered. Was he buying them for her? Had she transitioned in the brief period since e-mailing me her intent? Discretely, I inquired, “How should my dedication read?” And “Richard” revealed himself to be, indeed, “Richard,” an UG comix fan and “collector” who already had one of the books in question but desired signed copies of both.
“MO”’s sale was even more circuitous. A couple years ago, I had advised “Coop,” a fellow at the café who worked primarily in off-the-books agriculture, about a problem he was having with SSI. To thank me then, he had bought a “Cheesesteak.” I had thought the problem solved, but that turned out not to have been the case and he required further assistance. This time he slapped $10 on the table.
“I can’t take that,” I said. “Buy a book.”
“Lemme buy you a coffee instead.”
“I have a coffee.”
“Lemme buy him one then,” he said of Pat, who was about to join us.
“He has a coffee too.”
“So I’ll buy him a book.”
“That’s what he’s here for. (See above.) You’re cutting into my gross.”
He left the money on the table, and since Monroe had previously expressed his interest in “MO,” I decided I would credit it to his account.
First of the Month has published excerpts a review of Lollipop:
Followed by excerpts from the book itself:
Copies available ONLY from www.theboblevin.com or by sending $20 to Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.
Less than 75 remaining.
Don’t be left out.
Holy Moly! I’ve been at this SIX years.
[For those of you who don’t know what “this” is, every morning I sit in a café with a selection of my books and a sign, either “Buy Bob’s Books” (S. Clay Wilson), or “Meet the Author” (J.T, Dockery). I record all sales and noteworthy conversations that result – as well as related matters – here. Performance art, I think of it, an opinion, based upon the number of galleries who have invited me, unshared by a single curator.]
Sold five “Lollipop”s, one “Schiz, one IWKYA (via Amazon).
The “Lollipop”s went to (a) the editor who bought two last week. It was for a contributor to his mag who teaches a course on the ‘60s. (Now if he adds it to his reading list…); (b) a fellow at the café to whom I’d given a copy because (i) he’d lacked cash and (ii) my new iPhone wouldn’t accept my old Square. His check finally arrived; (c) a lawyer-pal/aspiring novelist/ regular reader; (d) and (e) a college pal/ex-journalist/attorney who wanted one for himself and one for a friend in Chicago.
The “Schiz” went to a therapist-friend following a discussion of the rewards and tribulations of our professions.
IWKYA went to the attorney to whom I’d offered a pdf after she’d said she was disabled from handling a physical copy (for $15) an e-book of which there are none. After discovering she could save some bucks ($7, new, $11 used), she must have decided the pain and suffering was worth it. (She did post a lovely five-star review (“intimate,” “vivid”) which, unfortunately, due to the scam our former distributor pulled, will benefit only Jeff Bezos.)
In other news…
1.) Sent a “Lollipop” to a review which only discusses books about Chicago or by Chicagoans. It provides a brief bio of its stable of reviewers; you pick three; and if one wants your book, you send it. I chose two attorneys and one South Side resident, and the younger attorney asked for my book.
2.) A college friend, who had served four-years in Air Force intelligence, complained that I had mistreated the military in “Lollipop.” He noted that while I was living penuriously in the Y (See: Chapter II), he was out-earning me a few-fold, living in a high rise in Alabama, on a floor filled with nurses – and probably in less danger than I was. (I told him, next edition, I’d give him a footnote.)
3.) A café regular/novelist/UC writing professor, who has been reading “Goshkin,” e-mailed me he found in “rich AND strange.” (I liked that “strange.” I see it as a future blurb.)
4.) Have begun clearing storage boxes from the basement. The first to hit the recycle bin were drafts of “The Schiz.” Future generations of scholars will be out of luck. You libraries that failed to come calling for my papers have no one to blame but yourselves.
My latest piece has gone up on-line:
Here is a sample:
Dade walked into the café and handed me a lemon-orange, 32-page booklet of odd multi-colored drawings, spotted with odd words, a joint work from the mid-to-late ‘60s of a sextet of Chicago artists who, from the oscillating lines and melting shapes, the jarring chromatics and lingual nonsense, had sat through too many screenings of The Yellow Submarine. When I reached home, waiting was a brick-red, 68-page booklet of odd, multi-colored, wordless drawings, the product of a solo Chicago artist who may have been in the same audience, sucking on the same sugar cubes.
Dade had known nothing about the orange book, The Hairy Who Sideshow (1967), not even how he’d come to possess it. I had heard the name “Hairy Who” but knew nothing about them. I had received the red book, Sketchbook of an Artist (2022), because I had promised to review it. But I had known nothing about its creator, George Hansen, except that, in the early ‘70s, he had received a cease-and-desist letter from Albert Morse, Robert Crumb’s attorney, because Hansen’s style too closely resembled his client’s, and I had only known that because, nearly a decade before Dade reached my table, I had written about Albert and Robert.
By the time you reach 80, I thought, you have cast enough lines into the sea that you can not be surprised what you haul in before breakfast.