A few smiles in my direction – and the check for “Schiz” (and postage) arrived from my high school classmate in France.
In other news…
My article/story “The View From Schrebnick’s Seats” will appear in a forthcoming “First of the Month”
And I have been asked to review a recent biography of Maxon Crumb and to contribute an article on EC Comics or Victor Moscoso to a comic arts magazine. At the same time I had begun work on an new project.
This is all inter-related and lights up the portion of my brain devoted to planning ahead.
This story begins with my as-yet-unpublished-by-Full-Bleed article on Andy Kaufman and his biographers. As this article developed, certain segments were written as standard-issue, third-person, outside-the-action journalism and certain with me as a first person participant (“I”) and certain as if about a fictional character (“Goshkin).
I enjoyed writing Goshkin, so I wrote a short piece or two centered upon him. Then having written “Seats” as a first-person “true” narrative, I decided to re-write it as “fiction” with him at its center. Which is what FOM will publish.
Writing fiction again – after, pretty much, a 30-year hiatus – was fun. So I decided to write a “novel” about Goshkin. But rather than begin from scratch, I would substitute him into existing pieces, replacing whomever had been at its center previously, without establishing continuity between these pieces or resolving contradictions between them, including an unpublished short story I wrote in 1969, the Kaufman article, and an unpublished article I wrote a few years ago devoted to determining who killed John Kennedy. (Spoiler Alert: It was Oswald.)
The question was already present as to whether this was a burst of artistic genius on my part or if I ought to adjust my meds when these new offers presented themselves, offering opportunities for more Goshkins to arise.
My way forward is unclear.
…Art Out of Chaos: An Illustrated Biography of Maxon Crumb (Malcolm Whyte), Duck Lessons (James LeCueyer); Missing Person (Patrick Modiano); Glass Houses (Louise Penny); Trumptrump (Warren Craghead); The Rifles (William T. Vollman); A Self Made Man and Wrestling With His Angel (Sidney Blumenthal); The Lady Who Used to Own Him Has Moved Away (Bruce Simon, ed.), Caught (Henry Green), The Old Man and Me (Elaine Dundy), The Artist Himself: Rand Holmes (Patrick Rosenkranz).
But my café presence attracted the curiosity of two fellows.
The first, a writer himself, expressed surprise I was permitted to sell books there. He was a writer himself, with a Columbia “J” School degree and by-lines in solid magazines. He has published a first novel – about Jews, Germany, the Holocaust, millenials, and identity, if I recall correctly – through a small, indie house in Brooklyn that usually does poetry and has pretty much left promotion to him. He had scheduled a couple non-book store readings (and accepted my offer to do one in our Vanne Bistro series). I also offered to swap books with him – but that was taken under submission.
The second fellow was not surprised and, in fact, remarked that I was be carrying on a vanished tradition of Berkeley authors selling their books in cafes. I said I was unaware of this tradition, though I recalled an emigre from North Africa selling his memoir outside Vine Street Peet’s. He mentioned Julia Vinograd, a poet who had recently died, at 75, from cancer. Vinograd was a notable presence, once honored as Berkeley’s poet laureate, a position seemingly created for her. In 50 years, she had published 50 books and sold 150,000 copies (six a week), mostly by hand, walking the streets in full-length black coat and black-and-yellow cap, while blowing soap bubbles. “Maybe I should add bubbles to my act,” I said.
In other news…
“I Will Keep You Alive” has arrived from the printer’s.
I rarely read anything I’ve written once it appears in print, since I know I will fixate on things I would chance, and the excitement here is further tempered by our being restrained from selling (or giving away) copies until the official release date (April 1). How can we be praised if our book can not be read? Why write a book if you can not be praised?
Delayed gratification is such a drag.
Gave away one “Best Ride.”
The recipient, a valuable contributor to an e-mail basketball discussant group to which I belong, earned it though forwarding – and recognizing the literary excellence of – that Alan Iverson piece I linked to a bit ago.
Meanwhile, for those of you following the story, the promised check from the scoundrel with the two bagel-munching children hasn’t arrived yet. If you run into him, I have a clue. His name is “Ari.” (Which reminds me, I’m also waiting for the pdf of the unpublished-but-better-than-“Tapping-the-Source” surfer novel, for which I swapped another BR a couple years ago, to show up from Santa Cruz. You know who you are.)
It could wobble one’s faith in mankind.
In other news…
1.) “I Will Keep You Alive” has shipped from Montreal, estimated DOA unknown. (Google “Bob Adele Levin Keep Alive” – or something similar – for further information.)
2.) A reader of “Cheesesteak” praised its “great sense of irony and humorous exaggeration,” but my favorite line was his “Who would have guessed (you’d been a lawyer) by looking at you.” I derived some special satisfaction there.
3.) And I’m tentatively scheduled to have two articles in “Full Bleed” in 2019. One is “The 10 Most Important Underground Cartoonists, Not Counting Robert Crumb,” and the other is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Andy Kaufman,” of which I am particularly proud. It kicked off a new direction for my writing which I’ve stuck with while waiting for it to appear.
1.) Sold a “Cheesesteak.” The fellow arrived at the café accompanied by two small children. They engaged bagels and cream cheese; he inspected my books. His mother, he said, was from Philadelphia, and his grandfather.
“They’ll love it,” I said.
His mother was 60. His grandfather was 86. My story fell in-between. “They’ll love it anyway,” I said.
But he only had a couple dollars, and I couldn’t get my Square to work. I signed the book; he promised to send a check. It’s been five days but mail is slow.
I haven’t received any Christmas cards yet either.
2.) Swapped a “Cheesesteak” to a reader at this month’s Vanne Bistro soiree for his collection of autobiographical short stories. He’s an 85-year-old ex-teacher, ex-commercial fisherman. I’m looking forward to it
3. Sold a “Schiz” (also on credit – but international this time) to a former high school classmate from Germany, who now lives in France. This was momentous for she became the first person to buy a second copy of “The Schiz,” having given her original copy away and wanting another for herself. “I adored it,” she wrote, “it knocked me off (sic). Great and extraordinarily original.” (I couldn’t’ve said it better myself.) She even compared it to Michel Houllebecque’s work, to which she had turned me on a few months ago.
In other news, the printer says “I Will Keep You Alive” will ship the week. We will have an e-book edition too.
But following last “Adventures” announcement of the April 1 release date for “I Will Keep You Alive,” two people asked if they should pre-order from Amazon or wait and buy it from me. That this represents only about .007% of my alleged FB “friends” is not discouraging. I expect numbers will increase as the drumbeats of publicity roll.
In other news…
1.) The proofs of the above-mentioned IWKYA have been approved. The presses (in Montreal) are set to roulez.
2.) Editing continues on my new collection. The son-of-a-gun resisted my command to shift from two spaces following each period to one, so I am doing this sentence-by-sentence. I view it as a meditative discipline. (Also, the book’s title is again in debate.)
3.) The week’s undisputed highlight was the arrival of “Pop Wasteland” #4. It contains a review of “The Schiz” (probably its first), blended into an over-all assessment of the entire Levin canon – well, 5/7ths of it – (a definite first there) by the fabulous J.T. Dockery, which reads in part, “(Levin’s books) are essential tomes, like some alchemical foray… in the area of delineating the fringe of the fringe, the weird of the weirder, seperating the dark from the light and investigating the shades of grey matter in between.”
He dug the plot. He pinned the relevance for today. He caught the influence of Elmore Leonard (conscious), Lenny Bruce (not-so, but yeah), and Imanuel ben Solomon ben Jekubiel (who?). Levin, he says, “puts a light around the truth to bring it forward within the grotesque-
burlesque of the hyperbolic/absurdist spectacle…”
What a trip!
Should you wish to read more – and how could you not – (besides me, among others, are Max Clotfelter, Mike Diana, Aaron Lange, and Wostok) – see www.jonfallen.com or www.lulu.com/spotlight/timallenwriter or e-mail IG@pop_wasteland. Something should work.
At the Safeway check out, between “People” and “O,” a magazine commemorated the 55th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. “From the secret files of ‘The National Enquirer,’” it said. “LBJ ordered the murder.” “Brother Bobby stole president’s brain.”
It occurred to Goshkin, based on the rack space this magazine commanded, that belief that a conspiracy lay behind this murder had penetrated American culture more deeply than he had believed.
His friend Fortsch, an early believer in the responsibility of a particularly vast and elegant conspiracy, had explained that the Warren Commission had been ordered to cover it up because, had the truth been known, the American people would have arisen and overthrown those in power. It occurred to Goshkin that this belief in the American people had been misplaced.
Fortsch had later explained that the reason so many other conspiracies had come to flourish, conspiracies involving, among others, the CIA, Mafia, Cubans, Russians, and Texans, was that those in power had fostered them in order to taint by association with their lunacy the one true conspiracy, which was the one in which Fortsch believed. It had occurred to Goshkin that, while this might be true, the same argument could be made by believers in each of the other conspiracies.
Goshkin had once admitted to Fortsch that his resistance to belief in the vast and elegant conspiracy was motivated, at least in part, by an unwillingness to accept that our fates were in the hands of such an all-powerful cabal of evil-doers. Fortsch had accepted this concession. But when Goshkin later posited that Fortsch’s own belief was motivated, at least in part, by an unwillingness to accept that our fates were in the hands of a random universe in which a nebish like Oswald could kill a mensch like Kennedy, Fortsch replied that Goshkin was in league with the coverer-uppers.
It occurred to Goshkin that everyone wove a cocoon of the meaningful around him/herself, be it religion, politics, family, art, the Oakland Raiders, the Grateful Dead, within which to hunker against the emptiness and chill.
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.
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.
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.