“It wasn’t what I was planning to have inscribed on my tombstone,” I said, “but I may have to go with what the universe has dealt me.”
“So how does it feel to be called ‘the underground-comics aficianado Bob Levin’?” my friend Marty had asked, referencing my designation in the NYT that morning, quoting me in its obit of the great cartoonist/artist S. Clay Wilson. “Note,” Marty’d gone on, “they said the, not an.”
Marty was not the first to have noted my celebrity. I had already heard from more people than usually acknowledge my blogs. The most surprising was a young fellow – well, not so young any more – I had not heard from in 45 years when a dog had bitten off a piece of his nose.
The Times’s pigeonhole coincided with me already stepping away from the path of my “own” books. I had accepted an invitation from the editor of the on-line Comics Journal to review Drawn and Quarterly’s publication of the collected King-Cat Comics, by John Porcelino, about which and whom I knew virtually nothing, and I had asked the same editor if I could review New York Review Classics publication of the collected “Trots and Bonnie,” by Shary Flenniken, about which and whom I knew somewhat more.
In responding, the editor let slip that I might hear from NYRC about its republishing my book about the Air Pirates, of which Flenniken had been a founding member. Now, this would be a kick – but I had heard the same thing several years ago – and not a word more – about NYRC republishing The Best Ride to New York after the Daily News had called that baby a “lost classic.” (“It’s not ‘lost,’” I’d said, “I have boxes in my basement.”)
Maybe they’ll go for a two-fer, I thought. Slip-cased. Or printed together, like those old sci-fi paperbacks. Read one; turn it over and upside-down; read the other. You can’t say I haven’t had an eclectic run.
For those who might be interested the Journal has posted my career-spanning (his) interview of Wilson here: http://www.tcj.com/the-s-clay-wilson-interview/
Adventures in Marketing: Week 89
No sales – but gave away one Best Ride.
But two people (one friend, one café guy) have committed to buying the new, photo-illustrated edition of Cheesesteak. Only 998 left, so get your pre-orders in.
In other news…
A nicely dressed, white haired woman, who’d seen me around the café for months, stopped at my table, looked at “Cheesesteak’s cover illustration, and said she’d never eaten one.
“I thought it looked like a penis,” I said, “but my wife said it looked like a vagina, so we figured we had things covered.”
I have used this pitch before without as much success as, say, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”
“The artist said,” I added, “he was aiming for a Jaws poster effect.”
“I get it,” she said. “Because it’s vertical.”
This fellow in the back of the café called “Bob” and waved me over.
He had said he’d buy a Schiz the next time he had cash on him, but, as it turned out, he only wanted to show me a picture on his phone someone had sent him of that moon people had been talking about.
Then he went from table to table showing everyone his picture of the moon someone else had taken.
I called a writer/friend to discuss next-step medical appointments.
His surgery is looking definite. He may have to wear a bag.
He said how impressed he’d been by The Schiz. “I don’t know anyone else who could have written that,” he said. “That’s a novel that could make a career. Or obliterate one.”
The New Yorker ran an article on William Melvin Kelly.
Kelly had published four novels and a short story collection by the time he was 33 – and no further books in his remaining 47 years of his life.
After my friend “Max Garden” (See: Cheesesteak) turned-on, tuned-in, and, in 1967, dropped-out to Jamaica, he and his family became friendly with Kelly’s, who already lived there. The magazine article says that when Kelly came back to the states, he and his family lived in a sixth floor Harlem walk-up, and he scrounged groceries from dumpsters. Max, who came back earlier, settled in the East Village where, he once told me, he was “too depressed to roll our of bed in the morning and go downstairs for a bottle of gin.”
Kelly taught at Sarah Lawrence for 30 years. Max… Well, you’ll have to read my book.
Max once sent me a signed copy of Kelly’s Different Drummer. After reading The New Yorker, I took it from the shelf. From the placement of the bookmark, I don’t seem to have finished it.
ALL OF BOB’S BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS VERY WEB SITE.
Sold one “Schiz” and one “Cheesesteak,” both to a desk clerk at the Sens Café and Bistro (formerly the French Hotel), which is home to one of the cafes where I peddle them.
In other news…
My cell phone rings.
I figure it’s a robot.
But the caller leaves a message. He wants “to develop” a movie about my baseball novel “Away Game.”
My excitement is tempered only by the fact that a different Bob Levin wrote “Away Game.”
I explain this when I return the call. I offer the other Bob Levin’s e-mail address. Then I add, “But if you want to develop a movie about a basketball novel…”
There is a pause while, in retrospect, I think he does something on his computer. “You’re exactly who I want to talk to,” he says. “‘Best Ride to New York.'”
It turns out his development plan for “Best Ride” involves a new cover and what sounds suspiciously like an e-book and print-on-demand deal.
Which will only cost me $$799.
And no word from Logos Books, for whose Father’s Day display designed to break me big in the Big Apple I had sunk double-digits into a promotional budget. Well, maybe it will hold me over through the Fourth of July.
I had sent a gift “Best Ride” (my existential basketball novel) to an address that turned out not to exist. Since it had gone Media Mail, the post office wanted me to pay again to get it back. I had enough copies. I figured this a Sign from God. Give it to that guy, I said, indicating the clerk whose name tag read “Big Dawg” and who kept a Wilt Chamberlain commemorative at his window. I figured him a hoops fan.
When I came in yesterday, Mr. Dawg caught me. “Hey, remember slipping and sliding all the way to New York?” He looked at the woman who was waiting on me. “I can’t mention the other stuff. But it’s gettin’ good now.”
(“Best Ride” — and all of Bob’s books — are available at this very web site.)
Sold one Schiz.
I’ve known the buyer, a recently retired tenants’ rights lawyer, since he ran a legal aid outpost office in Chicago’s infamous Robert Taylor Homes, and I was a VISTA on the South Side. He asked if I’d felt a loss of identity when I’d stopped practicing. I said my identity had never rested on my being a lawyer. “It was more a trans-sexual thing, like I was walking around inside the body of a lawyer, but actually…”
Also swapped two Schiz’s, one for a poetry collection, one for a classy zine — and shipped eight books to NYC for Logos, 4 Schiz, 2 Cheesesteak, 2 Best Rides. (And a BR has been spotted in Powell’s in Portland. They want $8.95 for it. You can get it here, signed, for less.)
In other news, the only one of the health organizations I’d sought a plug for Heart from to reply said it did not give endorsements. I told its rep I understood perfectly — and that would be one more charitable non-profit not to receive a sizeable bequest from my estate.
No sales again.
Not only that but the last two “customers” at the café have avoided eye contact entirely. This I could understand if “The Schiz” was the book in question, but “Cheesesteak”…
And my Manhattan-based efforts have constricted. Only partly from choice, Logos will have an exclusive east-of-Berkeley sales dealership on “Best Ride” and, until my actual distributor kicks in, a temporary one on “S” and “C.” I understand there are flyers and a display. This could be fun.
In other news, at the suggestion of my entrepreneurially-inclined friend Budd, I have e-mailed honchos at the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiologists hoping for an endorsement of “Heart” which will make it more attractive to agents and/or publishers. No responses yet, which will be kept in mind when it becomes time for charitable bequests.
Finally, I was interviewed by two fellows who hope to make a documentary film about Dan O’Neill and the Air Pirates. This seems an entirely DIY, low-budget operation, but of the half-dozen folks who’ve expressed similar interest, it’s the only one to actually get cameras rolling. Since they wouldn’t tell me the questions they’d be asking in advance, I’d prepped by skimming by book, which I hadn’t read since it came out. Boy, it was good! Maybe if the film is released, there’ll be a second edition. Maybe an NYRB Classic.
So a lot is going on. Still, there are moments just after wakening when I lie there thinking, Just what am I doing?
But they pass and I get up and do it some more.
Sold a “Schiz” and a “Fully Armed” to an old friend/retired psychologist in Philadelphia. Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a stranger (contractor) in the café. Sent a “Schiz” and a “Cheesesteak” to a recently resurfaced fellow who’d helped me a lot on my Air Pirates book. (He send me a pdf of his new book on Darwin.) Sent a “Cheesesteak” to a rock guitarist who’d given me a copy of his CD when I visited him in the hospital on my Mended Hearts rounds.
In other news, a woman with whom I attended 4th through 12th grade has offered to pitch “Best Ride” and “Cheesesteak” to bookstores in Manhattan, where she lives, Brooklyn, and Philly. (She expressed discomfort with “The Schiz” but is willing to look at it.) Her other activities include playing the harp at and singing in the chorus of her church (Episcopalian)and being an on-again, off-again booking agent for a chamber music group so this endeavor sounds adventurous and amusing to us both.
And the Berkeley indie author/publisher said he would do “Heart,” except he wasn’t publishing anything for the time being. But maybe when he secured his next grant… So pitches to agents and publishers continue there.
[Bob’s books remain available from this very web site.]