Adventures in Marketing: Week 131

Sold – in a surprising moment – a “Schiz.”
Faithful readers will recall the grey-haired fellow who told me he already had a book. (See “Adventure 130.”) Well, the other morning, he showed it to me: “A Curious History of Mathematics.” Then he asked if I knew a German poet whose work included a Goethe/Baron Von Munchausen pastiche. (I didn’t.)
Are you a mathematician or a poet? I said.
A broken-down physicist, he answered.
In truth, all three professions would have left me equally at a loss.
But a few minutes later, I noticed his wife, to whom I had never spoken, eying my two books. She had been a chemical engineer in Mexico, I learned, and in the U.S. had worked at UC. A memoir about growing up in West Philadelphia, I said. A black comedy about lawyers and doctors, I said about the other.
She picked that one up.
A half-dozen murders and kinky sex, I said. Illustrated.
I have to admit I was trying to steer her elsewhere.
What, after all, are people going to think about me?

In other news…
Of the 40 or so recipients of my high school class newsletter, two have ordered copies of “I Will Keep You Alive.” The over/under had been five.
Meanwhile, the manuscript has reached the printer’s. The professionals have been trying to rein in the mania driving me to promote/directly sell the book now. Respect the interests of the distributor’s sales reps and book stores, they say.
The release date is April 1. Review copies will go out before. (So, shortly before, will my solicitations to those on my mailing list and at FB.) There will be a launch party at a North Berkeley café. (But for more information about the book now, Google “Bob Adele Levin Keep You Alive.” You will find some in English and some in either Korean or Japanese. All say it is larger than it actually is.)
In an effort to absorb/deflect my energies, I’ve started revisions on my projected next book. The title (its fourth) is now “Messiahs, Mysteries, Misfits, & Misanthropes: True Tales of Conflict and Creativity.” It’s a new collection of my comics/cartoonist related writings. (The initial debate there was whether to deliver one 450-page book or two 225-page ones. It looks like we’ve compromised on one 325-pager.)
And if that doesn’t work, I may have my medications tweaked.

On D.E.

Running a month or so behind on my NY Times magazines, so just read Giles Harvey’s piece on Deborah Eisenberg. Anyone who’s has work inside them like I do can certainly relate to her character who feels he’s “hurtling through time, strapped to an explosive device”; but I was even more struck by the pleasure she takes from old age, knowing “I’ve survived this ordeal, and now I don’t have to worry. I know how my life has worked out. All the anxiety that I put into the hard questions has fallen away. I can take my satisfactions where they are.” I wish that for you all.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 130

No sales. One limited expression of interest. One second-hand compliment.
The interest – a lingering look – came from a distinguished fellow: well-trimmed white hair, sporty black-and-white checkerboard-patterned shirt, impressive Germanic accent.
“Wanna buy a book?” I said.
“I already have a book,” he said.
A good, if overly literal-minded, response.

The compliment was relayed by the fellow who had bought “Cheesesteak” two weeks ago – and had not yet read a word. “My wife is enjoying your book very much,” he said. “She grabbed it from me.”
“Is she from Philadelphia?” I said.
“Southern California,” he said.
Which, at least, speaks, if not to the universality of my work’s appeal, then to its cross-continental reach.
(A few days later, the fellow said he had begun reading the book himself and, as a sports fan, had enjoyed running into Robin Roberts in Chapter 3. This chapter had material I would consider more influential to the path of my story that Robin or even the Whiz Kids, but I told him, while he could not expect any more baseball, he could look forward to basketball and boxing.)

In other news…
“I Will Keep You Alive” is practically ready for the printer. The back cover copy has been finalized. (“Churn” defeated “sea of.”) The price will not be lowered, despite the page count coming in under what the catalog promised. (“What can you get for an extra dollar anyway?” I argued. “You plunk down a $20. You don’t care about your change.”) There will be no authors photo. (Mystery hasn’t hurt Pynchon or Ferrante.)
There was one we liked on Adele’s iPhone. But a shadow on my dome made it seem like I was wearing a yarmulke, which, in turn, made my scarf appear to be a tallis.
Not the image I am shooting for.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 129

Sold one “Cheesesteak.”
The buyer was about 70. He wore a baseball cap, had collar-length hair and a Southern accent. He knew Wilson and his “Buy Bob’s Books!” sign drew him to my table. A retired j.c. English professor from the peninula, he was in town for a friend’s birthday party. The friend was from – or had spent years in – Philly, so my book seemed a perfect present,
I could not agree more. So if any of you know someone from – or who has spent years in – Philadelphia… Just saying.

In other news…
When I saw that the new book by the physician/celebrity author, from whom I had sought a cover blurb for “I Will Keep You Alive,” had received a glowing review in the “Times,” I thought that if I congratulated him, he might be nudged – from guilt, if nothing else – into delivering.
What will he say, besides “Thank you”? I wondered.
He said, “Thank you” – and provided a link to another review.
Upon which I did not click.

Speaking of IWKYA, the only fussing left prior to shipping to the printer is over the back cover copy (with or without celebrity blurb), which Milo, Adele, Mary, and I have been pruning, and the decision whether or not to have an authors’ photograph Everyone favors this, except the authors, and since the authors are also the publishers, it seemed they might carry the day.
But Adele just found one in her cell phone, taken six months into my recovery, that we could live with, so now, if we can shape up it’s resolution, Bob’s, as they say, your mother’s brother

Life in These United States

“What’re you writing?” the fellow at the cafe said.
“A mini-story,” I said.
“Mini-story?” he said.
“I think,” I said.

Here it is:

Adventures in Marketing: Week 128

Sold a “Cheesesteak.”
The buyer had worked four decades as a public defender. He had already been a regular at the café when I staked a claim, which meant he had seen my sign and books for 128 weeks (actually 129 since I used the same number twice) of my outfit’s operation. While we had once exchanged names and occasionally acknowledged each other’s existence with nods and smiles, he had never before picked up one of my works or shown any interest in them. Why he did this particular morning was one of life’s mysteries.
Albeit, not a major one.

And I swapped an “Outlaws, Rebels…”
It went to a neatly bearded, under 50 fellow who dropped by the café and was intrigued by my set up. He was, himself, an author and publisher (of books about trolls, Rosicureans, clairvoyants, and unicorns), and since he traveled without cash and I view my Square as a measure of last resort, we explored other mercantile options, with the result that I am to receive the latest copy of his journal of “Art & Magic for Tea-Drinking Anarchists, Convivial Conjurers & Closeted Optimists”, and he my essays about cartoonists whose creative efforts flow in related channels of the unconventional.
I expect we will each add to the other’s understanding of the universe.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 127

Sold one “Schiz” and one (discounted as part of the package) “Best Ride.”
The buyer had stopped by my table in the café several days before and asked if I would be there Wednesday or Thursday. I was; he wasn’t. He was a short, elderly fellow, wearing an OAK-town baseball cap and traveling with a back pack, so I figured him as a rambling sort. “If I miss you, I’ll get you,” he’d said, while leaving, which, if enigmatic on its face, proved right-on in its execution.
Turned out he was retired from UC, where he’d worked in computers, and was enough of an old school basketball fan (See: “Best Ride”) to bring up Wilt scoring 100 against the Knicks in Hershey.

Then at the deli, I ran into the “Cheesesteak” Buyer, whose father had graduated West Catholic. He hadn’t sent it to his father yet, but he had leant it to his father-in-law. He introduced me to his two children and his wife, who turned out to be a fan of the Pat’s dining experience. (See p. 9.) We exchanged tips on how not to be taken for a tourist there, so she was looking forward to her next visit and putting this knowledge to use.

In other news…
It looks like the best selling author/cardiologist (See earlier Adventure) will not be providing a blurb for IWKYA. (“Enjoyed the first few chapters and will read more when time permits,” doesn’t quite cut it.) The publicist is considering other options. (She suggested thinking locally – librarians, bookstore owners – but I nixed that. Nationally-known or nothing, I said.) We go to the printers in a month, and I am already obsessing over how many copies and evaluating invitees to the launch party.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 126

Just when I thought there would be nothing to report, up walked Ed.
“Look at that,” he said to my sign.
“Checkered Demon,” I said.
Ed was about my age. Maybe younger. Yeah, younger. He had that New York look, Michael Cohen-sized. Heavy green zipper jacket. Greying curly hair. He did not know Checks. He did not know Wilson. Hell, he did not know Robert Crumb. “Underground comix?” I said.
“I know underground crime.” He looked at me. “I’m serious.”
Ed had hustled pool on both coasts. “Nine ball. Eight ball is for girls.”
You did not pay after each game. You settled up when you were done. He played a guy all night. At the end, in defiance of all convention, the fellow paid by check. Given the circumstances, Ed did not object. The damn thing cleared. The point was, some people you could trust.
“8:09,” Ed said. “Time for the Cheeseboard.”

In other news…
1.) In 48 hours my review of Dan O’Neill’s book has drawn zero comments at, two “Like”s at FB, one self-referential remark at my blog, and a flattering plug at “The Comics Reporter.”
Thanks, Tom – and Mike, Eric and Budd.
2.) The poet to whom I’d swapped a “Best Ride” for his latest collection compared the metaphors to William Burroughs’s. With my having already complimented his imagery, this cemented our relationship firmly enough to support conversation about insufficiently appreciated talents of American letters.
The two of us.
3.) Looks like “I Will Keep You Alive” will have an e-book edition available at the same time as the print one.

Why Does the 12-Inch-tall piano player sing?

My latest piece is up at

It begins:

“Is Dan O’Neill our age or older?” Adele said.
“Older?” I said.
“Well, he’s still got all his marbles,” she said. “Or as many as he ever had.” The occasion for these remarks was our receipt of his first book in 30 years, “The House Next Door” (Hugh O’Neill & Assoc.). “It’s the first time I’ve understood the relationship between gold and money.”
“You understand it?” It is part of Adele’s charm that I generally must identify for her who the person is that has outraged Stephanie Ruhle that morning. She returns the favor by identifying for me each Czechoslakian teenager who had made the quarterfinals of the tennis tournament of the week.
“Gold. Money. Corporations. The environment. It’s bigger than his fight with Disney.”

Adventures in Marketing: Week 125

None of the three people mentioned in last week’s adventure have reappeared. It is like expressing interest in my books is grounds for deportation by alien invaders.
But another brave fellow picked up a “Cheesesteak.” He was a very thin and very pale, with red hair and in white shorts and a white t-shirt. He looked about 12 but was studying piano at the Jazz School. I asked who he liked.
“Monk,” he said. “Bud Powell. Horace Silver.”
“Bill Evans?” I said.
“Why do people from the east always like Bill Evans?” he said.
I asked if his parents had been supportive. He said their only advice had been not to become a lawyer because lawyers were only paid by the hour. Well, it seemed they would not to have to worry about that.
He read two chapters while eating a bagel with cream cheese.

In other news…
To promote our forthcoming “I Will Keep You Alive,” Adele and I had sought cover blurbs to honor both its spiritual and medical qualities. Through someone who knew someone who knew someone, we got Ram Dass to satisfy the first. But physicians affiliated with heart care-related foundations would not support a commercial venture, despite the unanimity among literary agents we’d queried that “commerciality” was not its paramount feature, and the best-selling author of non-fiction, who belonged to our health club, said he received too many requests to accept any. Then I tossed a last-minute Hail Mary letter to a similarly successful physician/author, and he offered to read a pdf and consider it. That was unexpected and gracious and – no matter how it turned out – appreciated. So I bought his new book, a gesture I did not extend to Mr. Too-Busy-To-Even-Ask-Your-Name-Or-What-Your-Book’s-About.

Finally, the cartoonist/philosopher J.T. Dockery has written, not only the first review of “The Schiz,” but a semi-overall Levin career assessment. It will be published soon in the fringe-of-the-fringe ‘zine “Pop Wasteland,” whose selections draw from the pens of the enraged, the displaced, the misaligned, those who do not fit or care or tolerate the crap the rest of us do, and who with a bit less luck or talent or bio-chemistry would be like the fellow outside the café at this very moment, bouncing from leg to leg, gesticulating with arm upon arm, screaming at the newspaper racks. Several of these contributors, sensing a sympathetic je ne sais qua in my own writings, have sent me their work to review. Becoming the toast of this town had not been within contemplation when I first walked into Creative Writing 101a 55-years ago, and I look forward to reading what J.T. has to say with renewed appreciation of – and smiles at – the rugs upon which life sets out for us to slip.