Gave a “Cheesesteak” to my optometrist, who usually knocks the cover price off the price of an exam. (Then she displays the books by her patients on shelves in her waiting room.) Gave another to a fellow at the health club (Overbrook High School ’63). (I expected him to say, “Where can I buy one?” when I described it. When he didn’t, I figured, What the hell?) Sold a “Schiz” to a commix-world fellow, who’d been cleaning out his house and gave me some stuff ranging from the arcane to the valuable. (I wanted to give him my book, but he’d been involved with publishing himself and insisted on paying.) And I gave a “Pirates & the Mouse” to the woman who’d helped get my books displayed in in Logos Books (1575 York Ave, for those in the area.)
She reports that Logos has sold two “Cheesesteak”s, (She has also suggested I show my appreciation for the display by waiving my share of the proceeds. I declined this suggestion.)
…Jeffrey Toobin’s “The Run of his Life: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” I like Toobin’s writing in “The New Yorker” and commentary on CNN, and I wanted something clear and direct and easy to read. I had followed the case at the time and I had seen both of the recent TV series, so I didn’t learn much, if anything, that was new. (SPOILER ALERT: O.J. did it.) The most interesting part to me was Toobin’s dissection of the attorneys, prosecution and defense. He is unsparingly critical of their personalities, ethics, and, even, court room performance. (Of the principals, only Barry Schenck comes through looking good.) I had grown up thinking I wanting to be a criminal defense attorney. (I even had a six-month run at it before getting canned.) I guess I had about a dozen jury trials, civil and criminal, and, boy, was that not for me. I still have tremendous respect for lawyers who do that, but this book sure reinforced the beauty of me getting off that track.
My latest piece is up at http://www.tcj.com/reviews/belgian-lace-from-hell-the-mythology-of-s-clay-wilson-vol-3/
“Belgian Lace From Hell,” the third and final volume of Patrick Rosenkranz’s “The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson,” has landed.
Rosenkranz is our leading historian of underground comics. His “Pirates in the Heartland”(Fantagraphics. 2014), took Wilson from his birth in 1941, through his ground-breaking, taboo-shattering work in the glory years of the UG. His second, “Devils and Angels,” (2015) carried the narrative from 1977 into 1989. Now “Lace” brings readers to Wilson’s diminished present, in which a traumatic brain injury has left the once charismatic, Hell-rattling artist unable to care for himself.
The book is generous in its display of Wilson’s art. It is rich with quotes from past interviews of Wilson, who was among the most engaging interviewees known to man. It is replete with anecdotes from his friends, fellow cartoonists, and women that capture his color and complexity, his genius and his impossibilities. It features a tender, brilliant, heart-breaking introduction from his wife, the unsinkable Lorraine Chamberlain, and extracts from a journal (or diary) she kept that honestly, bravely, painfully details the quality of their post-injury life. “Lace” is, at once, rewarding, both in the comic and the tragic sense.
And it left me often feeling like a crabby shit.
Sold one “Schiz.”
The buyer, a fellow in his 30s, originally from Milan, now living and working for an unidentified corporation here, is an aspiring thriller writer. Likes Grisham, Lee Childs, reads how-to-books, attend conferences on the topic. After he had moved on, another regular, who writes in the café, offered to bail me out of these conversations. “Oh no,” I said. “I enjoy them. It’s part of the process.”
In other news…
1.) “The Schiz” has moved measurably closer to in-store availability. My warehouse vision (me) has readied several cartons for shipment to the distributor. Following the “This End Up” arrows and applying the mailing labels was easy. Now that I have developed my taping skills, things should move quickly along.
2.) Milo and I have been kicking around the title for my new collection of commix-related pieces. “Messiahs, Misanthropes, Litigants & the Loss: Tales of Creativity and Conflict” has nosed ahead of “Darf Mein Gehr in Kolledj” (“For this I went to College”). We are shooting for self-publishing next spring. The distributor is already on board.
3.) Sent off the second of two pieces I’d promised tcj.com. That clears my desk of works-in-progress, and I’ve returned to my VISTA year. I’ve tried this as fiction, non-, and a hybrid. It’s the 50th anniversary, so it seems like time. I’m thinking e-book, but I’m open to suggestions.
Sold one “Outlaws, Rebels…”
The buyer was in New Zealand. I was so excited at breaking into an entirely new continent, I overlooked that I was spending $8.13 more in postage than he spent at Pay Pal. More successes like that and I may be pan-handling on Telegraph Avenue.
In other news, Adele and I have completed affixing new price stickers to 600 copies of “The Schiz” and await cartons and address labels to ship them to the distributor’s warehouse. Milo has prepared an enthusiastic-to-the-point-of-giggle-inducement press release to accompany each of the review copies with which he will be flooding the media. And he has hooked up this very web site (from which, by the way, all my books can be ordered) so that it can receive and send e-mails like I have an actual operation running.
Is that cool, or what?
…”Life and Fate,” an 850-page “great” novel by Vasily Grossman, a Russian war correspondent and novelist. It had been recommended by Adele’s brother and an ob/gyn at the health club, a couple decades apart, and I decided it was time to give it a try. It had been written, I learned, in the 1950s, and, in 1960, following its completion, the KGB had seized Grossman’s manuscript, carbon copies, notes, and typewriter ribbon. In 1974, a decade after Grossman’s death, a microfilmed copy was smuggled out of the USSR and published in the west six years later.
L&F centers around the battle of Stalingrad, but chapters occur in Moscow and other cities, on the steppes, within a physics lab, inside a Russian prison and labor camp, a German concentration camp, and a train to — and inside — a gas chamber as the pellets drop. There are more than 150 “Chief Characters,” and I was referring to their list until the end to keep them straight. (It did not help that among these characters were Krymov, Karimov, Kirilov, Kolikov, Khmetkov, Karpov, Krylov, and Klimov.) There are explorations (and debates about) individualism and totalitarianism, freedom and fascism, Hitlerism and Stalinism, fate and divine judgment, society and prison. There are passages of poetry and power, love and hopelessness, anguish and courage.
Like I said, “great.”
If you can make the commitment, do. The only downside is that “normal” novels — even contemporary prize-worthy ones — pale before it. I have tried two since finishing and put both down.
Gave away one “Cheesesteak.”
It went to a law school classmate. He had introduced himself first week because our fathers had been law school classmates and neither of us wanted to become lawyers. He wanted to become a newspaperman and I wanted to be a writer. I became a lawyer and he became a reporter, bureau chief, and executive with the NY Times, WSJ, Forbes, and Time, Inc. (He was also the only other person in our class of 172 whom I knew for certain smoked dope.)
In other news, “Heart” was declined by an agent to whom it had been personally recommended by an author of high repute. The agent said publishers were “reluctant to publish memoirs about medical conditions.” Which seemed to overlook substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia, assorted cancers, and all sorts of people cured of all sorts of disorders through faith and spirituality. Maybe the shelves are short on heart surgeries, but I would have thought an open niche a good thing.
Which shows you what I know.
My latest piece has gone up at http://www.firstofthemonth.org/every-picture-tells-a-story/
In the summer of 1970, at about the time of the release of her novel “Play It As It Lays,” Joan Didion spent a month driving through the Gulf Coast states with her husband John Gregory Donne hoping to discover a magazine piece to write. In 1976, “Rolling Stone” sent Didion to San Francisco, hoping she would report on Patty Hearst’s trial. Neither hope materialized into publication. Now Knopf, in “South and West,” has issued selections of notes Didion took and passages she drafted on these trips. The bulk, 102 versus 13 pages, come from the first.
Sold one “Schiz.”
The buyer had been sitting at the next table, discussing, what sounded like, renovation of a rental property. He had a white beard, black t-shirt, ball cap, hiking shorts. He liked the back cover’s “Much Reviled.” Thumbing through, he said, “Reminds me of… What’s his name? Bukowski?”
“I was aiming for Nathanel West,” I said. “But I’ll take Bukowski.”
He said he was a sculptor, painter, “would-be architect.”
Most people go for “Cheesesteak” over “The Schiz.” People tend to go for almost everything — except “Most Outrageous” — over it.
My latest piece is up at http://www.tcj.com/reviews/purgatory-a-rejects-story/. I think it lost its title (“Alone”) but it begins:
As Tolstoy almost said, in high school, all alternative cartoonists are the same.
No one who has read R. Crumb (or any of several others) will be surprised by “Purgatory (A Rejects (sic) Story),” by Casanova Nobody Frankenstein (F.U. Press. 2017). But it still impales the heart.
Crumb, at least, had sisters and brothers.
Crumb, at least, was white.