“My wife liked it,” my health club friend (Penn ’65) said, “and she didn’t know anything you were talking about.” “What about you?” I said. “I liked it. Good title,” he said. Well, that won’t make my list of quotable reviews. I thought.
Sold two “Cheesesteaks.” One to a fellow from the Philly suburbs (high school classmate of one friend/med school classmate of another). One to strangers. Regular customers at the French they had eyed my book once, then broke down and bought it. No responses as yet.
In other news, I received a pdf of the fully laid-out “Schiz” from Milo. For the first time I saw the illustrations in place I laughed out loud at three of the first four. The text impressed me too. I think we have a hit, I told him, and opted for the higher of the optional print runs we’d discussed. On the downside, my line editing has caught some troubles. The big one is that between conversions from Word Perfect to Word and formattings and divine intervention portions of multiple, multi-party conversations have been lumped into single paragraphs rather than standing apart speaker-by-speaker. Who-said-what is clear, but you must pay attention.
Clarity suffers. Readers are inconvenienced. On the other hand…
If I had been concerned about “inconvenienced” readers, I wouldn’t have written this book. Plus, Cormac McCarthy left out quotation marks entirely, and William Gaddis went with –s, so I can be said to be striking my own blow for avant guarde individualization. Plus it adds an improvisatory jazz feel, altering the reader’s rhythm. Plus it’s like a tip-of-the-hat to John Cage’s openness to randomness. Plus Milo says he found it Altmanesq.
That’s quite a pedigree, but I’m waiting to hear from Adele.
Sold a “Most Outrageous” to a fellow at the health club, who is now one shy of a complete collection of my work and says he will bind them in leather. Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow at the café I’d about given up on, even though I’d given him a “New Yorker,” which I’d thought would’ve cemented our relationship. (He claimed he gets so into his iPad each morning, he’d never noticed my sign.)
In the Notable Reaction Department, there were: the café acquaintance who said he only read books about Buddhism but would offer me “spiritual support.” (Fuck you,” I’d thought. Which suggested I could use some.); the voc. rehab. counselor, and ex-Philly gal, to whom I’d thrown plenty of business when I was in practice, who said she still had my notice of “Chessesteak” on her desk and was planning to buy one. (Hasn’t happened yet); a lovely note from a defense attorney relating how much she’d enjoyed having her own recollections jolted. When she’d been at Barnard, she reported, attending an Odetta concert was tantamount to declaring yourself a Communist. And she had a friend who broke off her affair with Jim Kweskin (the second of those reported) after her mother “swooped down from Greenwich CT, draped in her minks and trailing the scent of Chanel #5” and threatened her.
IN OTHER NEWS
The front and back covers of “The Schiz” are done. Our focus group has responded “WOW!” and “WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW!” A final line editing from Milo (I will keep my hands off it, so I don’t rewrite anything), and it’s off to the printer.
Oh yeah, we’ve raised the price a nickel.
As for “Heart,” having finally overcome the trauma from the rejections and silence when I sought an agent some months ago, I am trying again. First query has gone out; others to follow.
Only one sale, a “Best Ride.” It went to a Claremont member who’d bought three books, week-by-week, earlier. He says he feels like a fan of Dickens, waiting at the port for the ship to arrive with the latest installment.
A couple nice reactions from college pals who’d finally read “Cheesesteak.” One claimed it was the first book he’d finished since Ted Williams’s biography in second grade. One college semi-pal sent me notice of his new collection of poems and since I’d already bought the last collection of poems he’d sent me notice of, I replied he might consider buying a copy of “Cheesesteak,” a notice of which I’d sent him. And the woman who’d taught at Swarthomre but didn’t know where West Philadelphia was and had begged off buying a copy because she didn;t have cash with her has been in the café twice and avoided eye contact with me.
Meanwhile, I’ve been experiencing these shifts in perception. For one, I’d been hoping that “Cheesesteak” would lead to deeper relationships with people from my past (and present). That hasn’t happened but it has helped me see some relationships more clearly. It used to be that I would spend much time in my head in discussions with friends or myself about why these dissatisfactions. Now I see, well Mr. A is excellent on a particular area, which is of interest to him, but difficult to engage about anything else (unless he initiates the discussion) and Mr. B is excellent on many subjects but will not discuss them with anyone who does not share his opinion about one of them (which I don’t). I can live with these realities.
Another thing is how comfortable I have settled into this person who writes quirkily about this ‘n’ that and sits in a café peddling his work. The lawyer-me is practically gone (though he can be recalled swiftly, like when someone makes a crack about workers’ compensation fraud). Even the recovering-heart patient me, who I want to hold onto, is fading.
And now the writer-me has to get back to boning up on Serbia. Which is a different story.
Sold three CHEESESTEAKs, one to a second cousin of Adele’s/former Berkeley/present Philly suburb resident, one to a niece, and one to a Berkeley pal as a gift (his second — they make wonderful gifts) for an ex-Philadelphian in Oregon (where that Shakespeare festival is) for a fellow whose name he couldn’t recall, so he couldn’t have it personally signed. Also sold a BEST RIDE to the same niece, who overpaid and elected to take that rather than a refund.
Best reaction came from an ex-Philadelphian pal/high school basketball star, a few years younger than me, now living in LA. “Loved it. It’s GREAT!” and was reminded to recount how he had scored 30 points against Pickles Kennedy in a summer camp league game, and made an underhand layup against Trooper (“You remember Trooper Washington?” “Yeah, I remember Trooper Washington”) Washington. Meanwhile, his wife stood beside him, rolling her eyes.
In related news, Spruce Hill Press has successfully paid on-line the Board of Equalization for the sales tax due for its first fiscal year.
And THE SCHIZ, Spruce Hill’s next release, has had its back cover approved by its author (me) and passed on to its cover illustrator (someone else) for his final touches. To pre-order, send $25 to Spruce Hill Press POB 9492 Berkeley 94709 (me, again).