Three expressions of interest; three cards given out; zero expectations.
The first was a 20ish, slim, dark haired woman with rings on most fingers. A first grade teacher, she drove a red mini-Cooper. Her name was Emerald.
“These are emeralds,” I said, pointing at my newest bracelet.
“So are these,” she said, pointung at a ring.
The second and third were part of a family in town from Cincinnati for a bat mitzvah. The first was an octogenarian grandfather: tall and stooped; bald; with glasses and a hearing aid; a black-suited ex-real estate developer.
“This one has a chapter on my bar mitzvah,” I said, pointing at “Cheesesteak.” “One of the worst experiences of my life.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he said.
He picked up “The Schiz.” “I don’t think it’s my…”
“It’s not most people’s.”
The third was a grey-haired grand(?)aunt. I told her I had spoken with a grandfather.
“The tall one or the short one?” she said.
She didn’t pick up either of my books. But when I mentioned two of our friends from Cincinnati, she knew both their families.
There must not be a lot of Jews there.
In other news…
This thing I’m writing… It is fiction and non-fiction and investigative autobiography and what passes for poetry. An important character keeps shifting from male to female on me. Either it is going to be something or I am wasting a lot of time.
Finally, to those of you – actually only one of you – who RSVP’d to the launch party, we may be changing the date. Stay tuned.
But two strong expressions of interest.
The first was a fiftyish fellow – grey hair, zipper jacket, khakis.
“Existential sports novel,” I said. “True crime, essays, black comedy, memoir. Five-to-fifteen dollars. Something for every pocket book.”
“I like the fact you’re self-promoting,” he said. “I take it you have a web site.”
I handed him my card. “I also view this as performance art. I write it up each week on my blog. Maybe you will read about yourself.”
“Let me get back to you,” he said. “I can try a little harder.”
He headed up Hearst toward the university.
The second was younger – ginger beard, quilted jacket, jeans. He was German, had worked at the rad Lab for six years, loved Berkeley, and was back visiting friends.
“Really cool,” he said, “but I have to run.”
He asked if I would be in the café tomorrow.
Neither man has been heard from since.
If they were victims of a serial killer and I was the only thing to connect them, would I be the primary suspect?
In other news…
One of the cafes where I hang has erected shelves on which author-customers can display the work. But four authors – some of whom, I thought, channeling my inner Norman Mailer, can not hold my jock strap – have put up multiple books, leaving no room for anyone else.
When I offered the manager “Best Ride,” after laughing at my photo on the back cover and flashing it around (“Look ar Mr. LEV-in”), he promised to add shelving.
And I have pulled out of two comic-related articles I’d said I would write, both of which were virtually guaranteed publication and small checks, primarily because I could think of nothing interesting or challenging to say and plunged deeper into this story with uncertain but stimulating possibilities. Stay tuned
But mailed a gift “Cheesesteak” to a younger cousin with whom I’d had no contact in over 50 years before connecting through FB. Although the entire family convened every Thanksgiving and Passover, I could not recall ever saying two sentences to her. (She put the actual number of words exchanged between us at zero.) Now I know about two marriages, a few children, two careers, and a 1000 mile relocation; and she has my book. If she likes it, she will recommend it to her reading group. (If she’s reading this, I can offer a group discount.)
And speaking of liking my book, the other morning Adele and I stepped out of the café, and a fellow on a bike said, “Bob? I loved your book. ‘Beefsteak.’ Awesome.”
“‘Cheesesteak,’” I said.
He shook his head. “I’m 15 years younger than you. From Jersey. But it was great.”
“Remind me again of your name.”
He told me. “I haven’t read your other one yet. I’m reading ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’”
“Stegner?” I said.
“Stegner. But when I’m done… I’m sending your book to my father. He’s older but… It’s great.”
“Anyone who’s ever had an adolescence,” I said.
Celebrity. It’s like you can’t walk down the street.
In other news…
Over lunch, Michael told me he had pre-ordered “I Will Keep You Alive” from his friendly neighborhood corporate behemoth trying to take over the world.
“You are costing me money,” I said.
“I’m trying to create buzz,” he said.
“You can come to the launch party anyway,” I said.
March 21. Berkeley Espresso. 7:30 p.m. RSVP.
And one old friend e-mailed that he tried to read “The Schiz” and couldn’t because he didn’t find it “interesting.”
I thanked him for trying, since the majority of the population hadn’t and, of those who did, less than half-a-dozen seem to have thought it as terrific as I did.
Then I chuckled.
In other news…
Of the three projects I have committed verbally to pursuing, I have been working on none but, instead, have had at another project which seems to have no future whatsoever. Have I mentioned that I have a repetitive dream in which it is final exam week my senior year of college and, not only have I not been going to class (true), I have not read the assigned texts and am planning to do that during exam week (untrue), but that I can not recall one of the courses I am signed up for, so that I don’t know what texts to read or when the exam is or in what room? This writing feels like I am creating a mini-version of this dream, live, with double espressos.
Meanwhile, our publicist reports a local book store is amenable to featuring “I Will Keep You Alive” in return for our steering people, who don’t buy from us, to buy from it. While we make more from direct sales, the store adjoins a deli that pushes fatty meats, and since our sage centers on heart disease this may situate it well, potential-market-wise. And finally, the owner of a café I frequent has agreed to us holding our launch party there. (Date to be determined.)
Oh yes, an on-line pal, should he like the book, will try to place a review in a neighborhood paper in Philly.
From little acorns.
My latest piece is up at First of the Month. http://www.firstofthemonth.org/the-view-from-schrebnicks-seats/. (The same issue has one by Adele. http://www.firstofthemonth.org/preface-what-i-want-to-be/)
Schrebnick would not renew when the Warriors moved to San Francisco. He had held two seats since the 1980s which were two rows (and an aisle) behind the team bench – and the recently added, even more prestige-conferring “Hollywood” seats beside the players – and one row (and the same aisle) behind the assistant coaches, trainers and press. When the Warriors were bad and his seats comparatively cheap, he’d comp friends, including Goshkin. But once the Warriors became good – no, great – the seats became so expensive, $750 each ($1500, by the way, for the “Hollywood”s) that Schrebnick sold half his games, as well as some seats for games he kept. For the play-offs, when the seats brought a premium, he sold almost all. But for this final season, he invited friends again, a generous – no two ways about it – act.
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.