Adventures in Marketing: Week 229

Sold one “Goshkin at Large,” which represents a decline of 80 % over the previous week’s sales, a downturn I can only attribute to the economic policies of the present administration. (Worse yet for my bottom line, the buyer, a lawyer-pal, is someone I’d already privately determined deserved a gift copy for his previous beyond-the-call support of my books.)
Also gave away an “I Will Keep You Alive.” It went to two young women who identified themselves at the Mended Hearts Forum as “college age sisters” who’d both received defibrilators recently. After identifying myself as old as four college age sisters and similarly equipped, we struck up an enjoyable correspondence, covering such experiences as being skinny enough to have our bulges initially make for locker room self-consciousness, especially in my case sice I lacked a “boob” to hide mine under.

In other news…
1.) That fan of “Fully Armed,” whose failurw to find any other books by me had made her an object of curiosity last “Adventure,” took slight umbrage at my surprise. She pointed out that she had looked only in the immediate aftermath of having read FA and that (a) at that point, I had only written one other book, which had come out 15 years earlier, and (b) there was no Google to help her. This left me much abashed, but I think we have become pals again.
2.) In my semi-recently published review “From Croatia With Love” (www.tcj.com), I highly praised the book “Mangalos vol. 1.” Its artist, Ivana Armanini, and writer, Marko Golub have now said really cool things about my piece separately at FB. “The best and most bizarre review ever” (IA) and “Strange, magical writing” (MG).
FLASH! And word has reached me just this morning that “comic activists” in Belgrade want to reprint my review in translation for distribution at a comic festival. “Serbian language,” I am told, “is fantastic for the psychedelic and bizarre,” which, I guess, is how my prose is regarded there and isn’t bad for an old Jewish guy from West Philadelphia. Makes you want to keep getting up in the morning and take another swing at the ball.
[Incidentally, I ought to point out, this very piece, slightly modified but hopefully even more bizarre and magical – though in English only – appears in “Goshkin,” for which orders are still being taken. Just send $15 to Spruce Hill Press. POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.)

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 227 – 228

My pre-publication promotional blitz for “Goshkin At Large,” consisting of an announcement to 300+ FB “friends” and another hundred or so emails to people I actually know, produced five – Count ‘em, FIVE – checks in Spruce Hill Press’s P.O. Box. One from a fellow ex-Philadelphian, one from my lawyer world, one my comics world, one from an ex-colleague/ still friend of Adele’s (and mine), one from the Vanne Bistro readings crowd.
Presses are now ready to roll (or roulez) their being in Montreal. Now I’m in Berkeley, the editor/formatter in Portland. and the illustrator in Kentucky, yet no sheet of paper was touched, let alone harmed, in reaching this state. (Is that science-fiction, or what?) There were a couple blips. Like the printer couldn’t figure out the book’s title from the cover, or believe the only color we wanted was black; but that’s been straightened out, and it’s due to ship Oct. 8. Counting freebies set aside, about 244 remain, so get your $15 to P.O. B 9492, Berkeley 94709.

In other news…
1.) I have been asked to write about a black, gay, back country, Afro-lachian, Afro-futurist outsider artist, who died of AIDS in 1998. I’m up for it, though I can’t help wondering if Cornell West will think us both being born in 1942 America makes me the guy for the job, identity-politics wise.
2.) Long time readers may recall “Fully Armed.” Suffice it to say, it has not received a great deal of attention lately. But just this week I received an e-mail from a woman who said she had known its subject and wondered if I could put her and him in touch. She went on to say that she had read and enjoyed the book when it came out and wondered if I had written anything else, since she had been unable to find that I had. I wondered how hard she had been looking for the past 40-some years, since, me aside, I knew of three other book-writing Bob Levins whose work she might have turned up. Anyway, I directed her to this very web site, and if its cash register rings, there will be another “Adventure” in the near future.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 225 – 226

Despite proving incapable of registering it for sale at Amazon – how do you “upload” documents, anyway? – I unleashed a veritable blizzard of pre-publication promotion for “Goshkin at Large.” An announcement at Facebook to all “friends,” known and unknown, and a massive targeted e-mailing garnered a dozen (misplaced) congratulations (What’s the big deal when you publish yourself?) and a more satisfying (if non-enforceable) half-dozen promises-of-purchase. But when I made my weekly trek to my P.O. box, all that awaited was a letter from my pen pal former client (pun semi-intended), currently serving life in Vacaville.
Maybe next time. (And have I mentioned how character-building a challenge it is to know everyone who bought your book and, more importantly, everyone who didn’t it and try not to let it affect your judgment of them?)

In other news:
1.) The buyer of “Most Outrageous,” responding to my request for his mailing address, identified himself as having come across my book while engaged in “background reading prior to an online seminar on pornography.” Since “M.O.” isn’t directly on point, being more about child sexual abuse, with a side trip into recovered memory, and, crucially, the evidentiary-admissibility measurement of relevance vs. prejudicial effect, when spplierd to the person of 1500 “Hustler” cartoons, I sent him a bonus pdf of my seminal treatise on hard core, “‘Yes! Yes!’ She Panted,” for which he has yet to thank me.
2.) A basketball buddy/poet invited me to sign a Writers Against Trump petition. This may not seem like much, but, for a guy for whom any purchase of his work by a stranger, even a porn-studying one, is a thrill, to be recognized as a “Writer” by his peers (Well, one “peer”) is gratifying… And, yup, there’s my name on-line at this very moment, among hundreds, within shouting distance of Salman Rushdie’s.
3.) Chet Baker, in a 50-year-old interview with Dick Conte, re-broadcast this morning on KCSM: “If my following ever gets too big, I’ll figure I am doing something wrong.”

Press Release

(As if there was a Press to release this to.)

Bob Levin, winner of Best-of-Year awards (fiction and non-), returns with “Goshkin At Large,” a melange of both, tracking its eponymous title character, who bears a striking resemblance to his creator, through two-years of penning numerous articles, strikingly similar to those written – but not always published – by this very same creator, encountering en route Andy Kaufman, Bob Dylan, Edward Gorey, and Lee Harvey Oswald, among others, while seeking meaningful adjustments in his own thought and life, amidst peripheral impediments, like the NBA season, Donald Trump, and COVID-19.
“A hoot,” says noted author and Merry Prankster (semi-retired) Ed McClanahan.
Mind-twisting illustrations by J.T. Dockery.
Limited (professional copy-editing eschewed) edition, guaranteed to possess value-inflating errata for the collectibles market.
140 pp. (or thereabouts)
$15.
Not Available in Stores (or, as yet, at Amazon).
Coming – the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – October 2020.
Pre-order from:
Spruce Hill Books
P.O. Box 9492
Berkeley, CA 94709.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 223.5 – 224

I sold a “Most Outrageous.” I think.
The circumstances are mysterious.
You will recall my reporting that Pay Pal said I had sold an “Outlaws, Rebels…” to someone who had not provided an address where I could send it and whose e-mail address to which an e-mail from me pointed this omission out could not be delivered.
Two days later, though I had gone what-seems at least a year without making a sale through Pay Pal, it reported this second one. This unlikely when-it-rains scenario again unfolded without a mailing address attached. This time my e-mail pointing this out appeared to go through. But it produced no better response than my undelivered one.
I checked my Pay Pal account. The funds for both purchases appeared there. I queried Pay Pal customer service and was told, in sentences which did not seem composed by anyone residing in the continental United States, that it had no further information to provide me.
Wait until you hear from them, I was told.
Okay.

Okay.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 214 – 223.5

Gave an “I Will Keep You Alive” to our dematologist, who’d made a cameo appearance within it, and a “Cheesesteak” to a girl – now a grandmother – who did the same within it. We had met at a high school party, kept in touch, and I last had seen her at her wedding to a Marine ‘66 or ‘67. I had wondered what had happened to her but had forgotten her husband’s surname. Recently out of the blue, I remembered her sister’s first name and, by Googling them both, found their father’s obit, which had both their married names, but I could get no further. Google. Facebook. Nothing. Then out-of-the-semi-blue a guy called me who had been part of the same parties. “Do you remember Anna H___?” I said. “I talked to her just last week,” he said. So I got her number and called – and she didn’t remember me.
But we had a nice chat.

Also Pay Pal says I have sold a copy of “Outlaws, Rebels…”
This is even more mysterious.
It provided no mailing address to send it to, and the Buyer’s e-mail address it gave resulted in an immediate “Permanent error” notification. This address indicated he was at Travis Air Force Base, so I commenced sleuthing.
Trying to gain information from Pay Pal’s customer service proved beyond my level of expertise. (I may have posted a message at a Help Line, but, if I did, I didn’t receive any.) I found the likely Buyer at Facebook, but since he hadn’t posted anything in three years, I didn’t expect much from my “Friend Request” – and received nothing. (His apparent age, 50-ish, and position of responsibility both placed him outside my usual audience demographics, adding to the mystery.)
Then I called Travis. A pleasant young woman said she couldn’t give me a personal mailing address, and if I sent a book to him c/o the base, it probably wouldn’t be delivered. She did tell me that the “@travis.af.mil” portion of the e-mail address Pay Pal supplied was incorrect. “It should be @us.af.mil. Maybe it was a typo.”
“It’s there twice,” I said. “ So I don’t think so.”
We were both puzzled.
“If it’s a scam,” I said. “Except someone’s going to a lot of trouble to get a copy of my book. Especially since there’s no way for them to actually get it.”
“I guess you’ll have to wait for him to realize it was never delivered.”
Sounds right, I thought. Then I can blame Trump for sabotaging the mail.

In other news, I have resolved problems with my “distributor.” Well, not all my problems. I still haven’t been paid. But I am getting back some of my unsold books. (That only took eight or nine books.) So if any of you have been waiting to order them, limited copies are now available.

Last 10 Books (More of Less) Read: VI

Three were by authors I know: Gene Clements (café buddy) “Tillie & Elmer’s Carnal Calendar”; Elizabeth Pozen (cousin) “Salami”; and Ron Kemper (college friend) “Sink or Swim, Brooklyn.” In Liz’s poetry collection, I was more drawn to the poems of her childhood, about which I know quite a bit than of her adulthood, about which I know less. To Ron’s (presumably) autobiographical novel about a boy growing up in Brownsville, I had a contrary reaction. There, I was more drawn to the protagonist’s experiences before he was ten, years about which I recall little myself, than I was to those from ten to 13, where mine are more clearly in mind. Gene’s newest collection of “seniors erotica,” where (presumably) imagination was fully at play, kept me continually distanced – and amused.
A second “group” consisted of novels set in the Old West: Hernan Diaz “In the Distance”; Cormac McCarthy “Blood Meridian”; and Phillip Meyers “The Son.” That one I couldn’t finish, though the Comanche parts held my interest. The Diaz was okay, but the best thing to come out of it was the desire to pick up the McCarthy, which I’d read during an everything-he’s-written phase 30 years ago. That book is not for everyone, but, boy, is it something. Fierce, terrifying, original, and unrelentingly, edifyingly dark.
Then there were “Transit” and “Kudos,” the final two novels in Rachel Cusk’s trilogy. (See: “Last 10…V.”) I don’t remember much about them, except I liked the middle one best. It seemed like she had got her feet under her, in terms of what she was up to, since the first and before she went scurrying off sideways in the third. (Since less happens to the central character in the books than what happens before or between them, maybe readers the “not-remembering” is intended or, at least, understandable.) They certainly expanded my idea of what a “novel” may consists, influencing my own work-in-progress.
Standing by itself is Janet Malcom’s “Nobody’s Looking At You.” I believe I’d read all these essays, profiles, and reviews when they’d previously appeared in the NYRB and “New Yorker,” but she and Joan Didion are my two favorite writers. I admire their minds and styles, and I’ve read nearly everything both have written, sometimes multiple times. That said, in this collection, while finding all Malcolm’s longer pieces terrific, her shorter ones jazzed me less.
This leaves two great finds: Francis Paudras “Dance of the Infidels” and Dasa Drndic “EEG.” Paudras’s is a fascinating account of his years as friend/guardian of the bop pianist Bud Powell. Powell, who may have sustained brain damage as a young man in a beating by police, had also suffered abuse as a child and was later abused by his “wife.” He was an alcoholic and diagnosed schizophrenic, who’d been treated with electro-shock and anti-psychotic meds to the point he was often non-communicative. But when he sat down at the piano, genius came out.
Drndic was a Croatian writer, and her book is replete with names of places and persons unknown to me. (Often I needed Google to tell if they were real or fictional.) Her book, which is set in a present enveloped by the Nazi/Soviet/Yugoslav break-up past, reminded me of Beckett and Sebald (and back-cover quotes added Bolanos and Homer). It is dense and slow-going, but I’ve already started the novel which preceded it.

This Writing Life (3.)

The concentrated direction of positive energy toward my distributer fellow – plus the threat of litigation – finally produced the sales figures for my books. That’s the good news. The bad news is the figures themselves. The weird news is that “The Schiz” outsold “Cheesesteak” and “I Will Keep You Alive.”
Also, Ivana Armanini credits my article at www.tcj.com about her and Komikaze with earning her an invitation to exhibit work from the French Institute Zagreb. Personally, I doubt my influence (or that of tcj) in Zagreb, but I am happy for her regardless.
The article also received several posted comments. An artist/cartoonist, whose work I highly admire, called it “Great.” Another fellow, whom I don’t know, called it “typical Levin,” probably not in a good way. My favorite response came from someone named “chi-go-go,” who wrote, “who the hell is [Name of Character]?… that seems like an important detail that is completely absent from the article,” allowing me to cheekily reply, “Who are you? That seems an important element that is completely absent from your comment.”
This delighted me because, in 1967/68, I had tacked to the wall of my apartment at 47th & Michigan, in Chicago, when I was in VISTA, a clipping from the Sunday NYT of an exchange of letters between a woman, who had seen “The Homecoming,” and Harold Pinter. The woman had posed three questions, the first of which was “Who is [Name of Character]?” and Pinter’s first answer, which I had found cheekily brilliant, was “Who are you?”. Now here I was, more than a half-century later, maybe the only person in America who remembered this exchange, getting to lay it on “chi-go-go.”
Ain’t life grand?

From Croatia With Love

My latest piece is up at:

From Croatia With Love

It begins like this:

In the 1980s, when Goshkin had begun writing about comics, there were those who objected he knew nothing about them. This objection was not entirely unfounded, and while he had filled in some gaps in his knowledge, another generation or two of cartoonists had come along with whom he had not kept up, so, proportionately, 30-years down the road, he probably knew less.
Still, when a Croatian woman contacted him because of their shared “love” of comics and offered to send him samples of her work, he did not explain that he did not apply the word “love” much beyond what he felt for his wife Ruth, or that he barely read any comics. He said, “Sure.”

I have nothing else in the pipeline, so that should be it for a while.

The Return of Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 206-13

No sales.
The café put up a half-dozen outside tables, making possible the vending of my wares, but before I could figure out how to keep six-feet from customers (and decide whether to have wipes handy for any books or money that exchanged hands), someone complaimed to the authorities that they were too close together, and most were taken away.
However, my application for a Small Business Disaster Relief Loan has been granted. The first year is interest free, after which I am to repay it at $5/month, plus 3.5% interest, which, I figure, given tje actuarial tables, a good chunk of which is likely to be coming out of my estate. All I had to do for final approval was answer some bruising multiple-choice, identity-confirming questions (“In what year were you born?” “In what city is Shattuck Avenue?”), have my credit rating approved (a snap), and agree, among other things, to make my best effort to use American-made products and equipment. (Does that mean I can’t have my next book printed in Canada – or China – without getting a call from Attorney General Barr?)

In other news…
1.) The link to my latest “First of the Month” article went up at Facebook, where it garnered 26 fewer “Like”s than photos of my second-cousin’s cat and 56 fewer than photos of someone else’s tomato plants – not even Jerseys.