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.
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
“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: https://www.firstofthemonth.org/life-in-these-united-states/
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.
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.