My latest piece is up at:
The next time someone asks, “What comic strip would you most like to see reprinted?” your answer can no longer be “Shary Flenniken’s ‘Trots and Bonnie.’” New York Review Comics has taken care of that.
I have two pieces in the newly released FOM but, unfortunately, I can’t seem able to link to them. So if you are curious, you will have to go to www.firstofthemonth.org and look for them One has an April 16 date and one an April 17.
One, which is one of my mini-s, begins:
On the day Stanford beat Arizona for the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship, its coach, Tara Vanderveer defended women’s basketball in the New York Times. “I don’t think anyone says, ‘Well, professional basketball, they’re bigger and stronger, so I’ll just want to watch professional basketball.”
Actually, I say that.
The other, which is a poem, which I called FORE! but the editor didn’t, begins:
Sure nice to see Lydia Ko win again.
Hope you find them. (There’s other stuff there too, not by me, stuff of substance.
In order of finishing.
1.)”A Dangerous Character”: Humphrey Carpenter’s bio of Ezra Pound. Character, he was. Poetry, not for me;
2. Hilary Holaday’s bio of Herbert Huncke. Surprisingly sympathetic.
3. My pal Michael Lydon’s continuing memoir, “Into Music”;
4. Joan Didion’s “Let Me Tell You What I Mean.” I’d probably read all or most of these pieces before, but I can never get enough of her;
5. Elsa Morante’s “History.” Discussed at length in future-to-be-linked-to article.
6. Tom Cushman’s “Muhammed Ali & the Greatest Heavyweight Generation.” Cushman was a terrific boxing reporter and his piece on George Foreman, II, was excellent;
7. Deborah Eisenberg’s “Under the 82nd Airborne.” A couple of great short stories.
8. Sybille Bedford’s “Trial of Dr. Adams.” I’d liked the three or four of other books I’d read more.
9. Carolyn Pennington’s “The Black Gum Well.” Novel set in Appalachia in the 1940s by the mother of a cartoonist pal. (See my Amazon review.)
10. “Childhood.” The first of Tove Ditlevsen’s “Copenhagen Trilogy.” Superb.
Happy to discuss any or all.
Is Jon Krakauer looking for a new book?
Yesterday Artie came down from Napa and I ventured out to lunch at the cafe — outdoors, masked mostly. Arrived 12:30; closed the joint at 2:00 p.m. My social debut in post-Covid reality, Artie a veteran of several combat tours.
He was impressed by three things: (1) how you could get a good sandwich — turkey with the works on jalapeno bagel — for under $20 ($8.75, avocado extra); (2) how quiet and traffic-free Berkeley was compared to wine country; (3) how friendly the staff (Nathalie and Augustine) were. (When I passed along the compliment this morning, Jose said, “Good thing I wasn’t working.”)
I said hello to seven people I hadn’t seen in over a year (plumber, blues harmonicist, widow of former suitemate, retired MSW, his wife, anaesthesiologist, his wife (a nurse) and remembered the names of five of them.
My (“RARE”) red snakeskin Tony Lama’s (See blog of April 3) debuted and were lavishly praised (plumber).
No books sold.
But sent a Goshkin to a high school classmate in France, who offered to cover postage. Swapped another to a cartoonist in Massachusetts for a collection of his strips. And swapped an IWKYA to a cartoonist in Seattle for a book of hers.
I also set up in the café for a first time in over a year. Was there for over an hour, my books, my sign, a bottle of hand sanitizer, but no one stopped.
I’ll tell you, though, receiving my espresso from Jose in a ceramic cup, rather than a paper to-go one was enough to trigger a mini- bite-of-madeleine moment.
In other news…
1.) Received my annual-upon-request royalty statement from Fantagraphics. It showed (a) two e-books sold of Most Outrageous and (b) three e-books sold of Pirates and Mouse. This will keep me in espresso for nearly three days.
2.) I have transitioned from a period of how-did-I-get-myself-into-this-mess, through one of every-moment-is-rich-and-rewarding into one of what-the-Hell-will-I-do-next. The where-things-stand is: one article up at TCJ; one article up at FOM; one article completed and waiting to be sent to TCJ or FOM; one book-by-another fully edited, with follow-up work continuing; one article (challenging) not yet begun.
All Bob’s books are available at www.theboblevin.com.
My new piece is up at First of the Month:
When I put on my Keen sandals, I noticed a tear above the right big toe. When I took them off, I noticed a matching tear above the left. Just the month before I had worn flat the tread on my Day-Glo orange Merrills. My rule, even before I turned 79 and would seem guaranteed to be fading faster than my possessions, had been get rid of two; replace one.
I am not a sandal guy, really. I am not a lace-up shoe guy or a loafer guy and I have three pairs of sneakers (Okay, “Walking shoes”), and Carlos, the Guatamalan at Andronico’s fish counter, had, just that week, praised my “pre-owned” eel skin Montana-brand cowboy boots, the kind, based on two-seasons of Narcos viewing, I’d say nine out of ten Michoacan drug lords prefer. Since I had bought them on eBay, I returned to that bazaar, where, immediately, a pair of gold-and-black snake skin (“pre-owned”) Tony Lamas struck me. They were handsome, distinctive – certainly in Berkeley distinctive – and in the ballpark price-wise, though, with their back pressed against the centerfield wall.
My latest piece is up at http://www.tcj.com/the-personal-statement/
It begins like this:
There was this question of how I come up with the “off-the-beaten path” subjects I write about. The editor wondered if I would read a “major figure.” He wondered, for example, what I would make of John Porcellino. He thought my treatment of my major illness would interest me in Porcellino’s treatment of his, like we had pulled matching decoder rings out of the cosmic Cracker Jack box, enabling special understanding of one another.
When I put on my not-quite 8-year-old Keen sandals, I noticed a hole in the right toe. When I removed them an hour later, I noticed a hole in the left. You are entitled to a new pair of shoes, I told myself.
I am not a sandal guy really and I am not a lace-up shoe guy or a loafer guy and I have three pairs of sneakers (okay, walking shoes) and Carlos, the Guatamalan at Andronico’s fish counter, had wildly praised my “pre-owned” eelskin cowboy boots, purchased at eBay, so I decided to reshop that bazaar. Ostrich cowboy boots seemed plentiful and inexpensive, but I was struck by a pair of gold-and-black snakeskin (“pre-owned”), Tony Lamas, which, if in the ballpark, pricewise, had their back against the centerfield fence.
Also, my previous purchases at eBay (the skinned eels, a heavy bag which turned out to be a speed reflex bag, and a Harris tweed sportjacket from Latvia) had been a simple click-and-purchase. But now I was required to bid. So I offered one penny over the minimum and set back. The auction closes in three days and, so far, I am the only bidder but three people are “watching” so my confidence is shaky.
As back-up, I bid on ostriches too. (And one-minute later, I’d been overbid. By a buck.
In his recent memoir, a writer/friend tells of a 1982 visit he made with his wife to Berkeley from NYC. “We accompanied Will to the dump, had ice cream with our friends Bob and Adele Levin, did our laundry…” Damn, I thought, if that doesn’t fix my place in the literary firmament? Below the dump, but billed ahead of dirty laundry? If Ernest was recalling a catch-up pernod with Scott and Zelda, he would have featured them more prominently.
It did not help when the touted feature documentary about Dan O’Neill and The Air Pirates, for which I had been interviewed at length, aired only as a 15-minute You Tube video with me on the cutting room floor. If video cutters even have floors.
But I have had my moments. The brightest was an inquiry from a major East Coast publisher. Would I review an Afrofuturist graphic novel by a distinguished creator it was releasing. Now my knowledge of Afrofuturism stops at Sun Ra; of the (impressive) influences on this book the accompanying press release mentioned, I had first hand familiarity with 60 percent; of the (equally impressive) credits of the creator, half that. So, knowing what I knew, I would not have picked me as an obvious candidate to review this work. But I jumped from my socks at the chance. Surprisingly, the people who solicited me were excited too. They “grew up,” one said, reading “The Comics Journal” when my off beat pieces about off beat cartoonists regularly appeared there. I knew I had caught on with youngsters who had grown up to become off beat cartoonists themselves, but I had not considered some of these youngsters had grown up to work for major East Coast publishers.
I also received a request from the mother of one of these cartoonists, asking me to review a new novel by her. And, no doubt impressed by my recent credentializing in the NYT (See: “This Writing Life VI), a fellow in North Jersey, whose daughter is taking a course on UG/ALT comix has asked if he might suggest to her professor I Zoom lecture to it.
I said “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes”; but, as I told my friend Budd, “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
“Get past the overwhelmed,” he said, “and get to work!”
I have a new piece up at First of the Month
It begins like this: https://www.firstofthemonth.org/jonah/#more-11558
The first thing he said to me was how did I like the girl he had been with at the party, and I said, “Nice,” and the second thing he said was, “I ate her for the first time last night.”
I thought Jonah was an asshole and he – not to put too fine a spin on it – thought I – being a law student with a judge for a father – was, at best, a pussy and, at worst, a fag.