Literary Review en Dudeness Is <span>Dudeness Is</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>April 10, 2019 - 08:15</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/779" hreflang="en">essay</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity align-center"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="812" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-04/star-dude.png?itok=UYf9CE0h" title="star-dude.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="665" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: d. Bindi</figcaption></figure><p>"My dad's a cooler dude than your dad!" bragged my ten-year-old daughter Mina to one of her friends on her phone.</p> <p>Wot? I'm a dad and a dude? Hey, that's pretty cool. I still play music, but I thought Quincy Jones was "the dude." After all, he did release an album in the '80s called <em>The Dude</em>. But where did my daughter pick this "dude" tag up? From my wife? (Doubtful, she might not have married me if she believed I was a dude.) Probably from the Scooby Doo cartoons we watch together. Or from her older brother and his crazed sidewalk skateboard pals in our 'hood. Or maybe she caught <em>The Big Lebowski</em> at her one of her friend's apartments.</p> <p>In the end it didn't matter, 'cuz I suddenly became obsessed with defining what makes a guy a dude. And more importantly, did I possess any of the dude DNA? </p> <p>Fast forward...</p> <p>"Hey, dude!" I grimaced, turned, and saw two tanned, healthy young men in their late teens in baggy, neon surf gear fist-punch each other and continue their conversation. I shuddered and continued reading my morning paper in some nondescript restaurant in Venice Beach. I was on the West Coast for my friend's wedding and a little business, away from the comfort and sanity of my family and home in New York City. Five days into my excursion had left me weak for good deli and something other than surfer lingo.</p> <p>This dude thing had reached critical mass. Dudes everywhere were chasing me. Even on the radio as David Bowie's early '70s anthem, "All the Young Dudes" blasted from my rental car's speakers.</p> <p>Malibu, Huntington, the Valley, and San Diego -- the entire Pacific Coast was crawling with them. From Sunset Strip to the Santa Monica Pier, I couldn't travel anywhere without hearing that word.</p> <p>I decided to query my waitress about this dude thing; after all, she'd been talking to the two surfers.</p> <p>Much to my dismay she said she didn't know much about it, but volunteered that her friend Buddy "probably-definitely qualified as an expert dood."</p> <p>Buddy!?! Now there was a name I could appreciate. Love to meet the folks that decided that was a proper given name for a dude child. Come on. Nonetheless, if I were going to hack free this albatross clinging around my neck I'd have to confront the enemy, regardless of the consequences.</p> <p>I assumed that by polling people I'd reach a coherent working definition. And, perhaps in some delusional manner, determine if I fit the dude criteria for dude-dom.</p> <p>Over the next couple of weeks I randomly put forth the question -- "What is a dude?" -- to countless folks everywhere. From Los Angeles to Ohio to New York, I left them to ponder.</p> <p>Once I settled back in New York, I would collect the data and hopefully piece things together. (And keep in mind this was without any government subsidized art program backing me.)</p> <p>Much to my amazement, as I started to assemble this mythical character I discovered all sorts of shared qualities. And more often that not, these qualities were universals. So much so that the West Coast surfer had more in common with the East Coast Harlem tough guy than either would care to acknowledge.</p> <p>If you asked the average person on the street to bridge such seemingly opposites, it's doubtful they could find any common bonding material. Yet there existed essential elements that were easily interchangeable between characters as diverse as the Silver Surfer and/or Shaft.</p> <p>For starters, all dudes emanate a particular sensibility, lifestyle, and attitude. They neither wallow in squalor nor swim in ostentatiousness. And most importantly, they always remain righteously true to themselves first. Moreover, when possible, they seek out the truth, whether commandeering a woman to her full feminine sensuality or shooting the perfect game of billiards with their peers.</p> <p>I examined my past. Did I encounter any such beings while growing up in Ohio?</p> <p>Maybe they were the characters we referred to in school as "cool."</p> <p>If that was the case, I remember one of my classmates in elementary school definitely fit the profile. His name was Jeff Thompson. And come to think of it, he did possess a certain something, although I'd bet our teacher felt he was a troublemaker. But I don't ever recall him actually causing trouble. (He never started any wastepaper basket fires, but he did boast of masturbating at a prepubescent age.) He just seemed bigger than life.</p> <p>It is possible that dudes, in the purest sense, represent the essence of individuality. They don't copy anyone else. They don't dress like anyone else. They don't sound like anyone else. They exist within all dimensions of popular culture without being too trendy or too stylish. Just look at James Bond and all the leading men he's endured. While the Scotsman Sean Connery (image above) remains the quintessential dude amongst the Bond actors, Daniel Craig (trailer below) has breathed a much-needed dudeness into the contemporary 007 legacy. (Check out Sir Connery in Goldfinger!)</p> <p>A real dude lives on the cutting edge, taking his life in new directions daily while the rest of us just try to keep up with his predestined course. Again, who else but 007 could single-handedly save the world defeating evil in the catacombs of Rome and, in the next moment, sit with the Queen looking unhassled, relaxed, and fabulous.</p> <p>A true dude is free of ego and all of the destructive elements associated with it. He would never say, "Hey, baby, look at me, am I not the most dynamic fella you've ever encountered?" He doesn't have to announce his own self-worth. Those around him will usually do it for him.</p> <p>A real dude doesn't aspire to anything except being at ease with himself. Whether he's feeding ducks in a pond or strolling in a summer rainstorm without an umbrella, nothing is too banal about experiencing the simple side of life.</p> <p>As stated, he is a guy who embodies many desirable qualities. Many folks view him as dangerous, aloof, coy, cute, clever, charming, tough, handsome, endearing, righteous, free, timeless, spiritual, and true.</p> <p>He is not necessarily the most handsome or the most spiritual, but rather the perfect blend of all these qualities. He may be a hero to some and provoke envy in others. And this depends on the individual's perception.</p> <p>Who else but a dude would even attempt surfing a thirty-foot wave and pull it off and ride it all the way to the shore?</p> <p>He doesn't hide behind his clothes. He's got his own style. Check out any cool urban movie, like Shaft or Superfly, to highlight this point. Do you honestly think that rapper Snoop Dogg would have graced Starsky &amp; Hutch without some serious cuts? Or that Curtis Mayfield would've wasted his time writing the theme song for anything less then a perfect dude-heavy flick like Superfly? Ditto for Isaac Hayes and the very righteous Shaft.</p> <p>Anything a true dude wears merely adds to his totality, whether he's chillin' in his tattered old button-fly denims at a BBQ during the day or playing baccarat in his tailor-made tux in Monaco at midnight.</p> <p>A real dude is not without emotion, though many people may be fooled by his leather-tough shell. But once you get beyond his veil of 'tude, you'll find a soft side underneath.</p> <p>He could be cheering for his favorite baseball team on Saturday and crying over the beauty of his sister's newborn baby on Sunday. Moreover, it's not the silly vibe of Ashton Kutcher in <em>Dude, Where's My Car? </em>It's the cool "abide" of Jeff Bridges in the Coen Brothers' epic dude paean <em>The Big Lebowski</em>.</p> <p>So there I was, left with a much broader understanding of what a dude was, is, and probably will always be.</p> <p>Did I possess any of that stuff? Since I've never surfed, this prevented me from drawing any relevance from the beach scene. And I've never been known as a tough street guy, even though as a kid I played two-hand touch football in the street in Akron, Ohio.</p> <p>Yet, I always felt I could be engaging, even when people feigned interest in my opinion. And most of my closest male friends agreed that all guys were "dudish" from time to time. So I guess I could be, too.</p> <p>Maybe all you needed to do was borrow a little -- "Bond, James Bond" -- from time to time. You know, you've been milling about some boring social function when your gaze meets some femme fatale trapped in some mindless chatter with some oafish chap. You imagine yourself offering her an expensive glass of champagne from a bottle you've hidden in the kitchen from the rest of the party. It's got to be better than the designer drink this affable clown offered her. Now if you only had the balls to approach her, maybe you could fulfill your fantasy.</p> <p>Nonetheless, my observations lead me to one universal conclusion:</p> <p>He represents the quintessential man -- a total Utopian state of malehood. Moreover, he is the apex of perfection in man; perfection that no man will ever reach. And he always abides by being truly comfortable with himself in each and every situation in his life.</p> <p>If Adam was the first dude, does that make Jesus the perfect dude?</p> <p>Country dude Kris Kristofferson thought so and even wrote a very dude-worthy song about him called "Jesus Was a Capricorn." Besides, who would argue with Kris, as he's still one of coolest older dudes on the planet.</p> <p>But what about Or Krishna? Or Buddha? Or Muhammad? Or Ghandi? </p> <p>Or your favorite teacher? </p> <p>And what about Dads? Can they be dudes, too?</p> <p>Sure. Just ask my daughter.</p> <p>As for dudettes? Well, that's another story. Best check with my wife.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3841&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="AfC0M5_LuSKB0XFcaqv3ukIzLOAo2Mg0lQ0wtvOXQts"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 10 Apr 2019 12:15:13 +0000 Dusty Wright 3841 at Happy Halloween 2018! <span>Happy Halloween 2018!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>October 30, 2018 - 20:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/614" hreflang="en">short story</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="1600" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-04/tree-legend.png?itok=kEcoOKIW" title="tree-legend.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: Dusty Wright</figcaption></figure><p><em>The Legend of The Sassafras Monster</em></p> <p>Native Americans -- like many indigenous cultures -- believe in the spirits of nature and so the natural world inspires them. It would come to pass that many, if not most of their myths and legends would been passed down and ingested by "white" settlers who decided it was easier to conquer "Native Americans" then co-exist in their natural world. And with any myth or legend, sometimes the facts get twisted and  turned into something that the original story teller, or witness as it may have been, never intended to share with anyone else for fear that the myth or story would become true. Such was the "myth of the Sassafras Monster." But I digress... one must first understand that this story starts with nature and in particular a tree -- the sassafras albidum also called Ague Tree. A species of Sassafras tree native to eastern North America, from southern Maine and southern Ontario west to Iowa, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. It occurs throughout the eastern deciduous forest habitat type, at altitudes of sea level up to 1,500 m. It's aromatic leaf, bark and root are used as a flavoring, used in traditional home medicine, and as a tea. It was once used to flavor root beer, too. And for certain Native American tribe, it was part of their sacred rituals. It was believed that essence of sassafras could bring health and wellness and offer safe passage during certain "manhood" rituals. And this is where my "monster" story begins.</p> <p>I grew up in Northeast Ohio and heard about the Sassafras "monster" from my Grandfather Mac, my mom's father. He had heard about the "monster" from his grandfather who had fought alongside some of the Chippewa during the Civil War. One of the Chippewa braves had heard about a strange ritual from his father who was a member of the tribe where the legend began.</p> <p>Grandpa Mac told my brother David and I the story one dark and stormy Halloween eve. I had just turned thirteen and my younger sibling was ten.</p> <p>The year was 1777, a year removed from 1776 and the new Americans "declaration of independence" from their British tormentors; it was the first year of nationhood. The country was giddy with the future. But what of our Native American brothers and sisters? How would it impact their daily lives, their rituals, their journey? What would become of their freedoms?</p> <p>It was late spring during the month of May. Outside a small village in Ohio, on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, a river very much needed by the Chippewa (Ojibwe) tribe for their livelihood. It was not only their fresh water supply, but it was bountiful with fish and fowl. It also served as part of a young brave's rite-of-passage manhood ritual. For example, in many Native American cultures, the transition is often ceremonial, featuring some feat of bravery or strength against pain, such as success in a first hunt, or surviving painful tattooing or piercing. But the Chippewa's "Vision Quest" / Right of Passage was something that could provoke fear even from the older braves that had endured the ritual many decades previous. Just as important as the quest, the young Native American boys were forbidden to share their "journey" with any of the other boys about their experience for the rest of their lives. Only the elders were permitted to discuss things with them.</p> <p>During the typical vision quest, a young boy fasts, prays, and seeks his spirit helper which usually presents itself as an animal, and which becomes the young boy's lifelong aide and guide. In some places, vision quests are supervised by, or discussed afterwards, with elders. Many tribes would include local terrain -- hidden caves, small islands in the middle of lakes, remote wooded areas removed from their tribe's camp -- as part of the vision quest. The Chippewas favored a certain tree indigenous to the region of their river and water camps. The mighty sassafras. It was that genus of tree that was included in their "brave" ritual. Legend has it that a young brave-to-be was strapped to the trunk of the largest sassafras tree found many, many miles from their camp. And <i>only</i> on a "new" moon night. The darkest night of the lunar cycle.</p> <p>In the early dawn light of one of the darkest days of a late spring day in May a young Chippewa boy known as Broken Tooth from the Sandy Lake Chippewa tribe and son of Biauswah, the chief of the Sandy Lake <a href="">Chippewa</a>, was summoned before his people. Today he would begin his journey into adulthood and the beginning of his quest to become a "brave." He was led from the camp by a "guide" --  Ahmik  (aka Beaver) -- with only a few meager provisions for their two-day long journey into the thickest and darkest region of a heavy forest far from the safety of their encampment. That thick forest could spook even the bravest Chippewa as many believed that the "lost" ghosts of their ancestors and spirit beasts haunted that forest.</p> <p>When the young brave was far enough away from their teepees, his "guide" would locate the biggest sassafras tree he could find and at dusk lash the young pre-teenager to the trunk of the tree. He would be left alone for the entire evening, left alone to summon his spirit animal for protection from the ghosts and real life predators (bears, mountain lions, etc.) roaming the forest. A fire was built to help illuminate the area and to keep any feral beasts away. Moreover, the fire also helped the nearby guide navigate the darkness of the forest if he needed to "assist" the young brave-in-training especially if he heard a cry for help.<b> </b>Rare that a guide was ever summoned as that could have been construed as a sign of weakness during a rite of passage.</p> <p>But on this particular vision quest, only an hour from daybreak, a faint cry from Broken Tooth was heard by his guide Ahmik. Startled, Ahmik cautiously made his way towards the "tree" in case a bear might be lurking nearby. Imagine his shock when he arrived at the tree just as dawn was starting to rise and Broken Tooth was not there. Yet the twine that had lashed Broken Tooth to the trunk of that massive tree remained tight and unbound. It was if the young teen had been swallowed whole by the sassafras for nourishment. The tree's knotted face looked down on the brave as though it was smiling at him; holding some dark satisfying secret.</p> <p>Broken Tooth's body was never found, ever. Not a trace. Ahmik was convinced that the sassafras had indeed consumed Broken Tooth. And that his soul was damned to haunt that forest for eternity! In fact, that tree was never used for any Chippewa rituals ever again. And before the year was out most of his tribe fell victim to a smallpox outbreak that would wipe them out. The few who survived were convinced that a Broken Tooth Sassafras curse caused their demise.</p> <p>For my tough-as-nails grandfather Mac that "tale" provoked a rising curiosity and a need to test his own mettle, try his hand at self-exiled bravery. It was a hot summer morning in August 1913, a new moon loomed after dusk. He convinced some of his young teenage friends to go camping at an old hunter's camp near Chippewa Lake in northeast Ohio. It was a magical place that his father had brought him to a few years before to go deer hunting. On the hike out to the camping site he shared the "Broken Tooth" story with his cocky pre-pubescent friends. They were in no mood for make-believe, but they still remained intrigued by the promise of testing their "manhood." One in particular, the toughest of the lot -- Colin O'Hurley -- taunted the group that it was all a myth and that my grandfather was looking to prank them. But Grandfather Mac remained steadfast and threw it back at Colin, stating that he was "probably too chicken to be lashed to a mighty sassafras tree on this moonless night." The other boys joined in and dared Colin to take the "sassafras" challenge. If he was indeed the toughest amongst them, he would certainly let them tie him to a sassafras in the middle of the woods. Colin laughed them off, stating it would be easy-peasy.</p> <p>After finally arriving at the old cabin the boys quickly set up their temporary camp -- built a fire, spread out their sleeping bags, smoked some cigarettes, ate some beans from a can, and started teasing Colin about tying him up. Mac pulled out some clothing line rope from his rumsack and smiled menacingly at Colin. As there was still a few hours of summer daylight, Mac suggested they hike a few miles down from the cabin near an old abandoned stone quarry tucked away in a wooded area. He was certain the quarry would be lined by a few dozen sassafras trees! The boys pressed Colin until he finally agreed.</p> <p>They couldn't wait to tie up the cocky Colin and leave him to "satisfy the hunger of the sassafras monster." They built a fire for their friend, teased him some more about wetting himself in the middle of the night, lashed him to the tree, and left their friend all alone in the fading dusk light.</p> <p>They laughed and joked all the way back to the cabin, certain that Colin would be taught a lesson, knock his ego down a few pegs...</p> <p>In the wee hours of dawn the boys awoke in the cabin, quickly got dressed, and set off to "rescue" Colin. But a pea soup-thick fog had descended over the wooded region and it hindered their ability to travel with speed and ease. From their approaching vantage they could barely make out which sassafras tree that had been used. Pressing on they finally spotted that beastly tree. But they could not make out if the ropes still entwined their brave comrade. As they stumbled forward they yelped for Colin, announcing their arrival. Suddenly some faint moaning could be heard and the noise stopped the boys cold in their tracks. They cautiously moved towards tree. A few weak embers glowed in the remaining ashes of the fire that had built the night before.</p> <p>As they circled towards the front of the tree, they stopped dead in their tracks...</p> <p>The ropes clung tightly to the trunk of the sassafras tree yet their beloved comrade was gone! They were stunned. They started screaming for him. But Mac was frozen. His mind racing. Could it be true? Was Colin swallowed by that hideous tree?</p> <p>They searched that quarry and surrounding forest for most of the day calling out for their "brave" friend, praying he might be hiding from them. That he had somehow pulled the most amazing prank of all. When it became apparent that he could not be found the boys returned to their cabin and nervously agreed that they would have to summon help. They quickly packed and hiked to the local sheriff's office. Thinking it was all a hoax the sherif was slow to respond to their search and rescue request. But ultimately search parties were deployed and once the local authorities realized that their friend was indeed missing a call was put into the local FBI field office to investigate Colin's disappearance. Mac and his friends were all subjected to heavy interrogation, too. But the boys never deviated from their story. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, but alas no clues to Colin's disappearance were ever uncovered.</p> <p>A year later Colin's parents held an empty casket service for their missing son. The boys were devastated.</p> <p>Colin's case remains unsolved to this day. In the end everyone who'd gone camping on that tragic night believed that the "sassafras monster" must have swallowed their friend and that his restless spirit still haunts the forest around Chippewa Lake.</p> <p>Regardless of the veracity of the myth, I shudder every time a new moon descends upon the land. And I never venture into a forest were a sassafras tree might be looming. Especially on a new moon night!</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3788&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="8-Q4o7quWFtOjKrm1Z5tnOFQYf5_QQwyIxBdjGtkNH4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 31 Oct 2018 00:56:30 +0000 Dusty Wright 3788 at Class Distinction <span>Class Distinction</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>December 16, 2017 - 02:09</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/761" hreflang="en">science fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-06/dispossessed.jpg?itok=Na_Xh5rT" width="430" height="648" alt="Thumbnail" title="dispossessed.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>The concept of ownership -- items, people, ideas -- is the heart of master storyteller Ursula Le Guinn’s 1975 masterwork <em>The Dispossessed</em>. Winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards, the highest lliterary awards for science fiction writers, this story transcends that genre’s boundaries. It is a story of a man Shevek, a physicist/anarchist, from the arid and socialistic planet Anarres who creates The Principle of Simultaneity -- instantaneous communication -- something that will revolutionize interstellar communication between all worlds. This is a tome about philosophical and ideological differences and how one views what is truly the best utopian society or how two neighboring planets occupied by anarchists and capitalists view/exploit Shevek's discovery.</p> <p>The book's narrative timeline is non-linear, so one may feel compelled to reread certain passages or chapters, but once you understand the author's intention and cadence the rewards of the narrative will unfurl in perfect order. In fact, I reread the opening chapter several times to unlock a deeper understanding of the protagonist's predicament. <!--break-->When Shevek travels to the sister planet of Urras hoping to share his discovery, away from the grips of jealous and fearful colleagues, he comes to understand that utopian ideas and political systems all must deal with "ego" for better or worse. Jealousy is also an issue when ego takes over. And power most always corrupts, even in the most benevolent societies. Moreover, enslavement can be both physical and spiritual, and material possessions can just as easily enslave a society as political despots. </p> <p>Buy and read this book and her other classic novels <em>The Lathe of Heaven</em> and <em>The Left Hand of Darkness</em>. You will be handsomely rewarded.</p> </div> <section> </section> Sat, 16 Dec 2017 07:09:59 +0000 Dusty Wright 3652 at Walk on the Wilder Side <span>Walk on the Wilder Side</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>September 13, 2017 - 07:37</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/768" hreflang="en">non-fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div> <p> </p> <p><em>Lou Reed: A Life</em></p> </div> <div>Anthony DeCurtis (Little, Brown and Company)</div> <div> </div> <p>Lou Reed has to be one of the most audacious and iconic rockers to have committed his dark muses to his music and poetry. And writer/professor Anthony DeCurtis's new must-read bio of Mr. Reed perfectly captures the ethos of this misanthropic rocker. Let's be clear, Lou's outrageous life story is truly stranger than fiction. But then again, so are many of our most celebrated artists, especially those who not only create but also live on the edge/fringe of society, pushing their artistic vision on, for the most part, a rather pedestrian audience.</p> <p>From Lou's humble middle-class upbringing on Long Island that included his life altering electro-shock treatments to his dying breath, his life was filled with passion and for pushing people, fans and critics alike, to explore the darker side of life; to if not to "walk on the wild side," at least explore it. Make no mistake, Lou's work was groundbreaking. His art-rock band The Velvet Underground remains one of the most influential bands ever. The music is timeless, the subject matter startling and disturbing; it's easy to understand why many consider them the true originators of the entire alt-rock genre.</p> <!--break--> <p>Mr. DeCurtis was one of the few critics that Lou actually respected. To his credit, he's dug deep. He's interviewed Lou's childhood friends, past lovers and wives, former managers, many of the musicians he played with, <em>et al</em>. In doing so, he exposes how Lou operated -- how he created his music, how he lived his life, who he deeply loved, and how he maintained his artistic vision until his final days. Most Lou fans know of his relationship with his Syracuse University mentor and creative writing professor Delmore Schwartz, but who knew that Lou had pet dachshunds? That he loved doo wop music. Or that he was a hopeless romantic and, even at his worst social behaviour, longed to maintain a sense of "home" life with a "wife" when he wasn't on stage. I didni't know that Lou's cherished transsexual lover Rachel was referred to as "Lou's babysitter" by those close to him.</p> <p>Long Island lawyer Alan Hyman, one of his oldest friends and the drummer in his college band L.A. and the Eldorados, states, "One of the things about my relationship with him is that he liked to shock me. He really liked to say provocative things and see what my reaction would be." That would certainly define Lou for the rest of his days. Five decades earlier, songs such as "Heroin," "Waiting for My Man," or "Walk on the Wild Side" were obviousily shocking when they were released. And yet five decades later, those lyrics and music can still produce strong reactions. In fact, few rock bands today are this bold and dynamic. In today's sanitized PC culture, one would have to look at rap music to witness such brutal honesty. </p> <p>Lou Reed had a very "rich" life, and Mr. DeCurtis shares just how remarkably rich it was.</p> </div> <section> </section> Wed, 13 Sep 2017 11:37:10 +0000 Dusty Wright 3623 at Wicked Wilson! <span>Wicked Wilson!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>May 15, 2017 - 11:27</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/112" hreflang="en">book review</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/430" hreflang="en">Tony Fletcher</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/431" hreflang="en">Wilson Pickett</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src=";start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <div><em>In the Midnight Hour: The Life &amp; Soul of Wilson Pickett </em>(Oxford University Press)</div> <div>Tony Fletcher</div> <div> </div> <p>The art of writing bios is no easy feat, but for British-born/NY-based scribe <a href="" target="_blank">Tony Fletcher</a>, well, he makes it seem all so easy even though his research is exhaustive. His bios on R.E.M (<em>Remarks Remade - The Story of R.E.M.</em>), Keith Moon (<em>Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon</em>), The Smiths (<em>A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, </em>to name but a few, are must-reads. His latest on the turbulent life of R&amp;B legend Wilson Pickett -- <em>In the Midnight Hour: The Life &amp; Soul of Wilson Pickett</em> -- may be his best yet. </p> <!--break--> <p>For the charismatic '60s crossover icon "Wicked" Wilson Pickett, Fletcher pulls no punches with interviews with his family, business partners, musicians, etc., to shed light on his troubled legacy. Amazingly, this is the first-ever bio on the R&amp;B maverick who had some 50 Billboard charting songs, including well-known hits like "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "634-5789," and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." The book lays bare in detail Wilson's troubled soul and how he let his over-consumption of life, all the good and bad, leech into his own personal life causing stress and strife for all who entered his orbit. </p> <p>The book also serves as a social commentary -- civil rights movement, the rise and crossover of R&amp;B music -- of a certain era and for those of us who remember that time period it comes as no surprise. And if you're a guitarist, what a treat to learn about all the amazing musicians who played on his records. Greats like Steve Cropper, Reggie Young, Duane Allman(!), Bobby Womack (who co-wrote songs with him), the very funky Dennis Coffey (wah-wah on The Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack," et al.); even NYC-based guitar hero Marc Ribot, a Tom Waits staple, toured with him in the '80s. But towards the end of his life, the Rock 'n' Roll Hal of Famer would succumb to the demons that fueled his life, spend time in jail, find religion (again), and suffer health problems. Pickett would eventually succumb to a heart attack in early January 2006 at the age of 64. Thankfully, Mr. Fletcher has documented his numerous conquests as well as his failures in this most-excellent bio. </p> <p>Check Tony's <a href="" target="_blank">website</a> for upcoming readings/events and new offerings. </p> </div> <section> </section> Mon, 15 May 2017 15:27:46 +0000 Dusty Wright 3573 at The Street Writing Man <span>The Street Writing Man</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>March 5, 2016 - 11:35</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/553" hreflang="en">celebrity obit</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Tony Warren 8th July 1936-1st March 2016</p> <blockquote> <p>"The first <em>Coronation Street</em> writing team contained some of the biggest homophobes I've ever met. I remember getting on my feet in a story conference and saying: 'Gentlemen, I have sat here for two-and-a-half hours and listened to three poof jokes, a storyline dismissed as poofy, and an actor described as 'useless as he's a poof'. As a matter of fact, he isn't! but I would like to point out that I am, and without a poof none of you would be in work today.'"</p> </blockquote> <p>So reflected the writer and television dramatist Tony Warren on his early uphill, but routine struggle with homophobia of late 1950s Britain. It was a brave and brazen stance given that homosexuality was still illegal. He also stated later that "the outsider sees more, hears more, and has to remember more to survive" and that in those days if you were gay you needed to be three times better than your competitors in order to succeed.</p> <!--break--> <p>Tony Warren was by nature both homosexual and an observer in a world that sought to exclude, persecute and ridicule him and his kind. I saw him once in the 1990s address the crowds in Sackville Park Manchester during the gay Mardi Gras. With genuine emotion in his voice he stated that in 1964 'If I even dared to hold the hand of a friend I would have been arrested and now here I am looking out at thousands of you doing just that.' He hadn't changed but the world around him certainly had.</p> <p>Innovators are all too quickly absorbed into the mainstream they once challenged. It is hard to believe how ground breaking his proposal for a television drama set in a small street bookended by a public house and a corner shop actually was. Britain in the '50s had been staunchly middle class, a drawing room or stately home tableau dominated the stage and burgeoning medium of television. Warren wasn't an angry young man, but his position from the margins made him a determined one. By the sheer force of his drive and personality, this child actor turned knitting pattern model turned children's dramatist, succeeded in getting the provisionally titled <em>Florizel Street</em> commissioned and the set built in the winter of 1960, for the thirteen episodes he had penned. It became <em>Coronation Street</em> the longest running soap opera in the world, fifty six years and counting, and a blueprint influence on countless generations of actors and writers. It broke the mould but created a larger &amp; more realistic one.</p> <p>What made it all the more unusual, apart from it's suburban setting, was it's instantly recognisable population of strong, eccentric and at times terrifying women. There was Ena Sharples, the sharp old battle axe played by the redoubtable Violet Carson in a hairnet, and with a face like a very angry bag of spanners who frequently clashed with the glamorously common Elsie Tanner, who being no better than she ought to be and having a shining heart of pure but vulnerable brass. They in their turn experienced the withering wrath of Annie Walker, the haughty landlady of the pub who harboured hotel-like aspirations, but was riddled with all the insecurities of her desire to reach beyond her social confinement. She was wonderfully realised by Doris Speed, a fright in real life, the typical drag dragon woman with a penchant for leopard print. These actresses are now long dead, but they inhabit the collective memory as the archetypes the so brilliantly represented, a testament to Warren's insight, and eye for detail and pathos.</p> <p>A child of wartime, Warren was brought up by a regiment of women abandoned by husbands who'd enlisted. From his viewpoint under the table he'd listen to these ordinary viragos discuss their worries and their woes, absorbing their mannerisms and gestures. He once told me he'd based Mrs Sharples on his grandmother who was a fierce lady because she hadn't been born beautiful, and there-in lay the grit of her character and the seed for a dramatic pearl. Warren adored women, he felt comfortable with them which is precisely why his creations rang true, but with great success came immense pressure. He found it difficult relinquishing his creation to a committee of script writers, and drink and drugs became the crutches that would ultimately fail him, and when they did he fled to a hippy commune in San Francisco, only cropping up in sensationalised tabloid reports in the English press for the depth of his drunken downfall. It seemed that this talented architect of tragedy and amusement was lazily scripting his own chaotic demise, but the against all the odds of negative expectations, he got sober, and amazingly maintained it for the rest of his life.</p> <p>By the 1990s he was back at Granada Television as a consultant to <em>Coronation Street</em> and in that decade penned four hugely successful novels. His next project was to be his autobiography, a warts and all confection that would detail his affair with Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, and feature walk on parts from Noel Coward, Burt Bacharach, and Sir John Betjeman, the poet laureate who in his final years of dotage regarded the soap opera characters as real people bemoaning to Tony his sadness at the trials and tribulations Hilda Ogden was having with her work-shy husband Stan. Alas the warts proved too taxing, he found the process of excavating the details of his often painfully eventful life distressing and the project begun with his usual boyish gusto, was quickly abandoned.</p> <p>I was with him the night he met the singer Morrissey at a Waterstones book-store event for Michael Bracewell's <em>Englands Dreaming</em>. At one point I could see him scrutinizing Bracewell in his rather quizzical way. The object of his gaze was wearing an old dress shirt which in it's day would have had the cuffs restrained by links, but on this evening they were distractingly flapping around the wrists of their languid, gesturing wearer, which was no doubt the desired impression. Tony leant across and whispered: "What's the score with Michael Bracewell?" and after my expression of uncertainty, he sniffed as an aside "Only a bi-sexual could dress that badly!" He was more forgiving and kindly about his encounter with Morrissey, a major <em>Coronation Street</em> devotee, observing that he's been surprisingly down to earth and nothing like he'd imagined.</p> <p>Tony Warren was made an MBE in 1994, and his life was dramatized by the BBC in the play <em>The Road To Coronation Street</em> to mark fifty years of the series. In 2008 he was the recipient of an honorary degree from Manchester Metropolitan University for his achievements in television and creative writing. He even had a building named after him in Media City. He lived long enough to be thus venerated, but would have disputed any attempt to apply the term venerable. A witty, modest man who viewed the world with a sense of bemused resignation, he became a part of the mainstream, still observing it astutely from the wings.</p> </div> <section> </section> Sat, 05 Mar 2016 16:35:54 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3384 at Music and Sex #3 - in which our hero's long musical weekend continues, etc. <span>Music and Sex #3 - in which our hero&#039;s long musical weekend continues, etc.</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/index.php/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">RomanAkLeff</a></span> <span>January 25, 2015 - 22:20</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/799" hreflang="en">new fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress by Roman <span data-scayt_word="AkLeff" data-scaytid="1">AkLeff</span> (<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-first-installment" target="_blank">first installment can be read here</a>; <a href="/node/3168/edit" target="_blank">second here</a> (the last paragraph of which was moved into this part).</p> <p>After the show, Walter took Norman to the West End, where Norman marveled at the broad beer selection. As they slowly worked their way through a small percentage of the fifty-plus on offer, Walter lamented how inferior college was making him feel.</p> <p>"Screw that," rejoined Norman. "Just have fun and keep learning and next year's freshmen will feel inferior to you. If you already knew everything, you wouldn't have to go to college in the first place. Don't tell me about that, tell me about all the cool stuff you've been doing."</p> <p>"Well, during orientation there was a great band playing outside for free called So What. I know you're not that into fusion, but they were hot. The guitarist, Steve <span data-scayt_word="Bargonetti" data-scaytid="2">Bargonetti</span>, graduated last year, but some of them are still going here. The drummer, at least, Steve <span data-scayt_word="Shebar" data-scaytid="3">Shebar</span>, is."</p> <!--break--> <p>"Yeah, yeah. Meet any chicks?"</p> <p>"Are you kidding? It's an all-male school."</p> <p>"Barnard is right across the street. Don't the girls attend Columbia classes?"</p> <p>"Not most of the freshman courses, they don't. I see so few women, I bought a subscription to the Spartacus Youth League's newspaper because they snuck a woman into the dorm to go door-to-door selling it. She's the only woman who's been in my room since I got here."</p> <p>"What's the Spartacus Youth League?"</p> <p>"A Marxist group."</p> <p>"Don't become the cliché of the bourgeois kid who turns into a Communist at an Ivy League school."</p> <p>Then one of the guys from the other room of Walter's dorm suite, Marcus, came in and sat down. He eagerly related that had worked at the Reed show, and said the producers had turned up the lights and told Reed not to go back out because he'd broken too many microphones. Marcus also had prevented a catastrophe; working in front of the stage, he had alertly caught a steel mike stand Reed had flung into the audience. Afterward, Reed gave him a bottle of Dom Perignon, implicit acknowledgement that Marcus had saved Reed from the potential embarrassment of injuring someone in the audience. Said bottle, Marcus related, was back in the dorm. "I don't know if I'll ever drink that. What a souvenir, right?"</p> <p>Many beers later, they staggered back across Broadway. Norman had brought a sleeping bag so he could crash in Walter's room.</p> <p>The following night, Walter and Norman went downtown to visit their friend Tony, who was at NYU. Over lunch at the cafeteria, Norman and Tony compared notes about working at their college radio stations. After that, Tony guided them up to an abandoned section of the West Side Highway. Having quickly gotten used to the hectic city traffic, Walter felt weird walking down the middle of a four-lane highway. There was even grass growing in the cracks in the concrete, and people were roller skating.</p> <p>Norman once again raised the topic of success, or lack thereof, with women. "We're all smart guys. We're going to figure this out," Tony proclaimed. "And then we'll write a book explaining what women want, and we'll be rich, and before you know it, we'll be getting more pussy than the animal shelter."</p> <p>Then it was time to head up to Madison Square Garden, where they discovered that their tickets had them sitting high up on the left side. They were mostly there to see Bruce Springsteen, but it was a big show to benefit the anti-nuclear reactor group Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), with lots of bands playing before Bruce. Walter knew Gil Scott-Heron from one song, the anti-drug "Angel Dust." He mildly enjoyed Heron and his Midnight Band, and found<a href="" target="_blank"> "We Almost Lost Detroit"</a> chilling. Not a reggae fan – it all sounded alike, he thought, rhythmically repetitious – he suffered through Peter Tosh's set; Norman enjoyed it much more, being more familiar with both the artist and the genre. Conversely, Walter dug Bonnie Raitt's set more than Norman did, especially her covers of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" and Del Shannon's "Runaway." Both friends were thrilled by Tom Petty's rockin' set. And then Bruce took them even higher, including new songs "The River" and "Sherry Darling." Most of his set was much more familiar, so much so that on "Thunder Road" Bruce had the audience sing for him for a stretch. Steve and Norman exuberantly belted out "show a little faith, there's magic in the night. You ain't a beauty, but hey, you're alright."   Walter's favorite Bruce song, "Jungleland," came right before the rousing finish of "Rosalita," "Born to Run," "Stay" in duet with Jackson Browne, <a href="" target="_blank">a medley of songs</a> that Norman explained were associated with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and "Quarter to Three," which Norman further said was a song from the Fifties by somebody named Gary "U.S." Bonds. In Walter's Lit Hum class, Dionysus and his followers had been a recent topic, and the phrase "Dionysian frenzy" came to mind as the band's performance and the audience's adulation reached a fever pitch. There was a troubling moment in "Quarter to Three," right after Bruce was at his most animated, when he collapsed and, after having a towel waved over him, was helped up by Clarence Clemons and the bass player, but after saying something they couldn't understand up in the heights of the Garden's cheap seats, Bruce rallied to finish, including jumping up behind the drum riser to play for the audience seated behind the stage. </p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="420"></iframe></p> <p>It was announced that there were still tickets available for the Sunday night show, starring Crosby, Stills &amp; Nash, so Walter bought a pair before leaving. $18.50 each was a lot, but after a night of barely being able to tell what was happening far down below, it seemed worth the extra $3 apiece for orchestra seats. Norman, who wasn't a CSN fan, said he had to go back to New Haven before that, since he had classes Monday morning, but Walter assumed that with James Taylor and Poco also on the program, he'd be able to find somebody interested in going with him. Maybe, he thought, he would even be able to use that extra ticket to entice a woman to go with him.</p> <p>Sunday morning he was less confident on that point. He'd hardly seen anybody since getting back the night before, and a look in the mirror that morning had revealed a zit on his forehead. But there was also a free outdoor show Sunday afternoon that MUSE had put together. Worried about getting in, he went early, still not having found someone interested in going with him to that evening's concert. Not knowing how late the free show would run and whether he'd have time between that and the Garden show to go up to Columbia and back, he brought the tickets with him.</p> <p>His confidence took a further hit when, before the music had started, he saw Rachel Ackerman, a high school classmate, walk past with another woman. He shouted, "Hi, Rachel," and she waved, but kept on going instead of sitting with him.</p> <p>After he'd thought about it, he realized it would have been awkward to offer her his extra ticket without also having one for her friend, but that didn't lessen the hurt of her choosing not to sit with him. Having arrived an hour early, he had gotten a seat – albeit on sand with sparse tufts of beach grass – fairly close to the stage. He also had plenty of time to think. Maybe Rachel hadn't sat near him because getting out of Bay Shore and going to college was a fresh start and she didn't want to look back. Certainly he himself was enjoying the clean slate of being surrounded by people who'd never seen him get bullied, never seen him do stupid shit.</p> <p>It ended up being a lonely afternoon. At first it was full of time for such musings to a soundtrack of mediocre music by local musicians he'd never heard of Joy Ryder and Avis. After a while, the performers mostly got more famous, interrupted by speeches by Bella Abzug, Ralph Nader, Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, and some other people he'd also never heard of. <a href="" target="_blank">Bonnie Raitt was back</a>, so he got to hear "Angel from Montgomery" again, but she and everybody else -- the Doobie Brothers, only played a few songs. Gil Scott-Heron was also back, reprising "Johannesburg"; Walter paid a little more attention this time and found "Winter in America" beautiful but disturbing. John Hall, formerly of Orleans, played completely unfamiliar songs; Jesse Colin Young played a set that seemed to exist only so there could be a climactic sing-along on his old Youngbloods hit "Get Together." That was cool, but while singing, Walter noticed that he was getting seriously sunburned on this hazy day, was losing his voice from cheering, and losing all sense of connection with the crowd even as he obediently followed all the cues for singing, chanting slogans, applauding the speakers' slogans, clapping along with the beat, and the like. Yet he nonetheless felt oddly compelled to stay for fear of missing something historic, or at least good. His patience paid off when, to his surprise, Crosby, Stills &amp; Nash sang four songs even though they'd be performing again at MSG that night. Alas, no Crosby songs -- two each by Stills and Nash -- but he assumed that wouldn't be the case at the Garden. Later on, <a href="" target="_blank">Jackson Browne played a short set</a>, after which Walter left, more afraid of missing the beginning of the 7:30 concert at MSG, especially since the first band might be Poco, one of his favorites.</p> <p>It turned out that Raydio was the first band on. Walter had enjoyed their hits on the radio, but tonight, exhausted and wanting only to hear Poco and CSN, he paid little attention. Poco's set, once they appeared, was under a half hour, not nearly as long as Walter would have liked, but not only did they play their current hits "Heart of the Night" and "Crazy Love" (plus the title track of the album they were on, <em>Legend</em>), but also some of their more country songs, including his favorite, "Good Feelin' to Know," an aptly feel-good set-closer. Various combinations of other artists popped up after that, most notably James Taylor being joined by Carly Simon, who at some points was nearly humping Taylor onstage as <a href=";x-yt-ts=1421914688&amp;x-yt-cl=84503534#t=114" target="_blank">they dueted on "Mockingbird."</a></p> <p>The climax, of course, was <a href="" target="_blank">CSN's set</a>, which lasted an hour and twenty-five minutes (he actually checked his watch when they started) and included fifteen songs. After a while he was slightly bothered by the relative lack of Crosby, but eventually a trio of his songs were played --though not Walter's favorite, "Anything at All," though on reflection he realized that a quiet piano-and-vocals song perhaps wasn't arena material. After an encore where Walter heard "Chicago" and "Teach Your Children for the second time, he checked his watch again, assuming the set was done, but John Hall, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Jesse Colin Young, Jackson Browne, and a bunch of people he didn't recognize -- wait, was that the singer of Aerosmith? Wasn't that platinum blonde woman one of Browne's back-up singers? -- joined the band for the warm-and-fuzzy anti-nuke song "Power" that <a href="" target="_blank">Hall had featured that afternoon</a>. It was like the theme song of the MUSE concerts. Had it also been played Saturday night? He was so exhausted, he couldn't even remember. When he got back to the dorm, he fell asleep within seconds of lying down.</p> <p>When he wasn't spending all his money on concert tickets, Walter spend it on record shopping sprees, mostly at used shops in Greenwich Village, though he also got a few new records across Broadway at Record Discount. But with subway tokens just fifty cents each, trips downtown were economical enough.</p> <p>At first he got into a weekend rhythm of subsisting on French fries from Cosmo Burger for two meals per day (skipping breakfast). One weekend he even managed to last until Sunday evening before giving in to his rumbling stomach and crossing Broadway for fries. This exhibition of self-denial helped fund the acquisition of a spectacular brace of old albums: Zalman Yanovsky's <em>Alive and Well in Argentina</em>; John Mayall's <em>Blues from Laurel Canyon</em>, <em>Crusade</em>, and <em>The Turning Point</em>; one new LP, released in August: Led Zeppelin's <em>In Through the Out Door</em>; and the real prize and the most expensive item, a fascinating two-LP Beatles bootleg entitled <em>Hahst Az </em><em>S</em>ö<em>n</em> that compiled <em>Let It Be</em> outtakes. Hearing McCartney teaching them "Let It Be" was entrancing, while getting to listen to Lennon sing such unexpected fare as "Suzy Parker," "House of the Rising Sun," "Tennessee," and "Commonwealth" more than justified the set's $25 cost.</p> <p>Back in his dorm room, contentedly munching his fries and listening to <em>The Turning Point</em>, which was a concert album, Walter finally got to hear the tracks leading up to the FM radio hit, "Room to Move." But it was the latter that brought an exclamation from his roommate, Carlton, after it ended: "I love that song! Can you play it again?"</p> <p>Walter had to explain then how a record shouldn't be played more than once a day because the friction of the needle moving through the grooves heated and thus softened them, and replaying would degrade the grooves' sonic data. "But I'll tape it tomorrow and you can listen to that as often as you want," Walter promised.</p> <p>As the weather got cooler and Walter began wearing a coat, another food option presented itself: he began sneaking food out of the cafeteria in his coat pockets, saving it for the weekend in Carlton's little refrigerator. At first he just took pints of milk, and cookies wrapped in napkins. Then one of his pockets developed a hole, and he found that things that went through the hole didn't fall out; rather, they stayed in the space between the lining and the outer layer. Walter started bringing sandwich bags on Fridays and going back for seconds, stockpiling more substantial fare for the weekend. He didn't have to cross Broadway for fries anymore. He was able to buy a number of brand new October releases: The Eagles' <em>The Long Run</em>, The Police's <em>Regatta de Blanc</em>, The Boomtown Rats' eponymous debut with the compelling hit "I Don't Like Mondays," and glory of glories, Fleetwood Mac's double LP <em>Tusk</em>.</p> <p>The last of these he got in the Village while visiting Tony, after which they went to McSorley's, a bar so ancient it didn't even have a women's restroom. Walter ended up playing a makeshift game of chess with a friendly stranger, the board and pieces drawn on a sheet of paper, pieces erased and redrawn with each move. After the game, which the stranger won – Walter had never played chess while drinking beer before – the man put his hand on Walter's and said, " Let's go back to my place and play some more games."</p> <p>"No thanks, I'm with my friend," Walter replied, gesturing towards Tony.</p> <p>"Oh, he can come too, the stranger invited. Walter suddenly realized the man seemed a little too eager. Wait – he knew that tone from his own awkward slips into it: would-be seduction trying to sound casual. He'd heard that the Village was supposed to be a hotbed of gays. Well, if this was what an attempted gay pickup was like, it was nothing to be afraid of. What had he thought it would be like? The vague fears seemed insubstantial, vaporous; he didn't understand the fuss. You just said "no" and the world went on turning. Then he noticed that the cover of <em>Tusk</em> now had lots of lines impressed on it from having been under the paper the chess board had been drawn on. Goddamnit!</p> <p>The only shopping expedition that went seriously awry was not only atypical for being during the day, but for the fact that he didn't even buy anything. It arose from Walter's obsession with Crosby, Stills, Nash &amp; Young, Young in particular, which had led to a quixotic fashion urge: he wanted a Confederate cavalry hat like the one Neil wore in old photos. Walter thought this through far enough to figure out that maybe the gray Confederate hat might send the wrong message, so he switched to wanting a blue Union hat instead. Nor would he be too fussy about whether it was a wide-brimmed cavalry hat or the smaller infantry hat with its slight bill.</p> <p>Now that he was no longer stuck on Long Island, but instead living in Manhattan, the center of the world, he assumed his chances of finding one of these options had gotten exponentially better. Checking the Yellow Pages under hats, he learned of a shop near Times Square. Hey, he hadn't seen Times Square yet anyway, so that seemed like a good trip to make.</p> <p>On Tuesdays, he had no classes between when German ended at 10 AM and Music Humanities started at 1 PM, which seemed like enough time to make it down and back. So next Tuesday, he went directly from the charms of Fraulein Kiefer's class to the 116th Street subway stop, descended the stairs, forked over a dollar for two tokens, and eventually got a 1 train going downtown.</p> <p>On detraining at the 42nd Street stop, he exited and conveniently found himself actually on 43rd Street, which was the street the hat store was on. He didn't have that much luck in his quest, though; the old guy behind the counter looked at him like he had two heads when Walter explained what he was searching for, then flatly said, "We don't carry that."</p> <p>"Well, is it something you could order?"</p> <p>"No."</p> <p>"Do you know if anybody makes them?"</p> <p>"No."</p> <p>Walter didn't bother asking whether that "No" meant that they guy had no knowledge on the topic, or that such hats were not made. He did mentally note for the future that he had to phrase things more precisely; he'd felt somehow that the way he'd asked was a little more polite, but that hadn't made any impression anyway, so next time, aim for precision.</p> <p>At least he had plenty of time to get back uptown for Music Hum. He returned to the exit he'd come from, went down the stairs, and discovered that the turning thing didn't turn to go in, only out.</p> <p>A short black man approached and asked the time. Walter fished his wristwatch with the broken band out of his pocket and said, "11:13." In reply, the man, who seemed intoxicated, said something Walter couldn't decipher.</p> <p>"Excuse me?</p> <p>"Gimme yuh watch 'n' yuh wallet," the man repeated.</p> <p>Well, that was unexpected. Still, he fixated not on the request, but how odd the man's voice sounded, talking so fast that the words blurred together, yet somehow drawling too, which Walter associated with slow talkers.</p> <p>Anyway, Walter's reflexes being what they were, which is to say primarily verbal, he proceeded to debate the man's request in what seemed like a logical fashion.</p> <p>"If you do this all the time, you have more watches and wallets than I do."</p> <p>"What?"</p> <p>Now it was Walter's turn to have to repeat himself. Then the guy flapped his right elbow and said something drawled sloppily that Walter again couldn't understand.</p> <p>"What?"</p> <p>"I got somethin' in muh pocket, so do what Ah say."</p> <p>Right then, a train pulled in and discharged its passengers. When they began coming out, Walter pushed past what he had finally figure out was his mugger and walked up the stairs along with the exiting passengers. By the time he reached street level, his adrenaline had started pumping, too late to be useful.</p> <p>Only now did he realize that he'd attempted to enter on the downtown side. Not that that had been relevant to the attempted mugging. He walked down to 42nd and entered there, still quivering from the adrenaline.</p> <p>Later, when he related the morning's events to his roommates, it seemed hilarious -- his utter naïveté, the mugger's confusion when confronted by Walter's unusual response. But he decided not to tell his parents. There was no point to making his mother worry any more than she probably already did.</p> <p><a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-fourth-installment" target="_blank">Next installment here.</a></p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events to be depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some of it should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, Music and Sex aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></p> </div> <section> </section> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 03:20:38 +0000 RomanAkLeff 3178 at Music and Sex #2 - in which our hero is taken down a peg but his weekend is saved by rock 'n' roll <span>Music and Sex #2 - in which our hero is taken down a peg but his weekend is saved by rock &#039;n&#039; roll</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/index.php/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">RomanAkLeff</a></span> <span>January 8, 2015 - 11:03</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/612" hreflang="en">fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress (<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-first-installment" target="_blank">first chapter here</a>)</p> <p>Walter's biggest adjustment to college life was realizing that he wasn't the hot-shit intellectual he'd thought he was. In high school he hadn't been the smartest guy, but he'd felt like he was up there in at least the top five percent. Here he felt like an idiot at times. Senior year in high school he'd officially been the best player on the chess team, and moreover, first board on the first-place team in their league that year. At Columbia, he lost 24 consecutive speed games to one guy and never managed better than a draw with anybody in the chess club before, feeling frustrated and embarrassed, he stopped attending meetings.</p> <!--break--> <p>He couldn't stop attending classes, though. In the only one he was taking that wasn't just for freshman, Political Theory, he humiliated himself during a discussion of John Rawls's <em>A Theory of Justice.</em> He hadn't finished the assigned reading but, buoyed by false confidence born of years of being able to bullshit his way through discussions, debates, and arguments, even with some teachers. So he tried to participate, but was so definitively shown to be not just wrong, but ignorant, that he didn't voluntarily open his mouth in that class again.</p> <p>Even in music he couldn't always hold his own. One morning as he was leaving the piano practice room he'd signed up for, another student waiting outside it asked him, "Can you improvise a blues?" Walter said he thought he could; the guy asked to hear him do so; and then interrupted before Walter was halfway through his first chorus: "No, I meant a jazz blues."</p> <p>"What's the difference?" Walter asked naïvely.</p> <p>"Like this," his antagonist said, taking over the piano bench and zipping through a complex chord progression full of ninth chords that changed much more frequently than the 12-bar blues Walter knew on a rudimentary level. Anticipating Walter's question, or maybe just reacting to the confusion on his face, the guy explained, "Those are chord substitutions. Every jazz player knows them."</p> <p>Feeling thoroughly worthless, Walter turned and exited without a word. After that, he began to fear humiliation in every interaction.</p> <p>At least he didn't have to worry too much about it in the only music course he had signed up for. It turned out that Music Humanities was geared towards non-musicians, a sort of combination of music appreciation and the history of Western classical music. Despite – or because – of this, Walter enjoyed it. The professor, a short, wizened man named Christopher Hatch, was funny but astute, playing examples from LPs and pointing out interesting details or cracking little jokes.</p> <p>Walter and Music Hum intersected again after he answered a listing on the job board and got hired to man the listening library two evenings a week for four-hour shifts. It was the easiest job he'd ever had, because very few students came in to do their listening assignments. It was a s though he were getting paid to do his reading assignments, since that's what he spend most of those eight hours doing. Sometimes a person or two would show up, but once Walter had handed over their request vinyl and they'd put their headphones on, quiet reigned again, except when two guys (it was almost always guys, since it was a class at all-male Columbia College, though students in other undergrad schools at Columbia University – Engineering, Barnard, General Studies – occasionally signed up for it) were studying together, which meant two guys with headphones yelling at each other because they had no idea how loud they were as they talked over the music in their headphones – music which was unheard in the room except for its barely audible presentation directly from the needle to the air. If there were other people in the room aside from the talkers, Walter would have to tape the talkers on the shoulder and let them know to be quieter, though that rarely worked for long. Comical the first time, this situation quickly became the most – well, only – annoying part of the job.</p> <p>And the money was nice. His parents, especially his mother, had assumed he'd be home on weekends, so he'd been signed up for just the weekday meal plan. Walter, however, had quickly succumbed to the charms of the city. Staying in Manhattan on weekends was certainly more exciting and culturally stimulating than going home to Long Island, but eating on weekends cost money.</p> <p>He could have eaten just fine on the $45 per week he got from the library job, but he was constantly tempted to spend most of it on music. The weekend of September 21, he stayed on campus to see <a href="" target="_blank">Lou Reed that Friday night at McMillan Theater</a> and then most of the so-called No Nukes concerts Saturday and Sunday.</p> <p>Walter had bought his pair of Reed tickets rather late in the game, so he and his high school friend Norman, who came in for the weekend, were seated up in the balcony so far over on the right that much of stage left was blocked from their view. No matter; Lou was front and center almost the entire time, bantering with the audience, throwing mikes and mike stands around with abandon, pretending to shoot heroin during, of course, "Heroin," and letting a young blonde bury her head in his crotch as he sat on the edge of the stage. The band, largely the same as on <em>The Bells</em>, was loose in a good way; they had to vamp a lot while Lou did his jokey shtick. The darkness that dominated <em>The Bell</em>, its sonic murkiness, was greatly lessened in concert, but not so much that <em>Bells</em> songs – only two – didn't have the same effect, though the title track of <em>Street Hassle</em> was pretty different with synthesizer instead of cello – and with the audience clapping along, a little odd given that it's an account of death by overdose.</p> <p>The classic material -- the show started with "Sweet Jane" and ended with "Rock n Roll" (with "You Keep Me Hangin' On" interpolated) and "Heroin" -- lacked the power and bombast of the versions on <em>Rock n Roll Animal</em> that, heard on the radio, had introduced Walter to those songs; neither did they have the edgy tension of the original Velvet Underground versions. But that didn't keep the show from being exciting, with a strong communal feeling of musical solidarity. A bunch of songs in the middle were unfamiliar to Walter; Norman said they were mostly from <em>Berlin</em>, which he described as "the most depressing album I've ever heard, but I like it." Walter made a mental note to look for that LP. The closing "Heroin" was very downbeat, and there was no encore.</p> <p><a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-third-installment" target="_blank">Next installment here.</a></p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of  </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events to be depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some of it should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20thcentury, Music and Sex aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></p> </div> <section> </section> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 16:03:57 +0000 RomanAkLeff 3168 at Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - first installment <span>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - first installment</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/romanakleff" lang="" about="/index.php/users/romanakleff" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">RomanAkLeff</a></span> <span>December 14, 2014 - 00:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/799" hreflang="en">new fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p>[Editor's note: CultureCatch is going to be supplementing our usual critical fare with more new, previously unpublished creative pieces such as this. We've done a bit of this in the past, most notably with Ken <span data-scayt_word="Krimstein's" data-scaytid="1">Krimstein's</span> cartoons and Dusty Wright's music; now we plan to increase our publication of this type of content. Please contact us if you would like to contribute original work.</p> <p>Warning: the chapter below contains "adult situations." But our readers are adults, right?]</p> <p><strong><em>Music and Sex: Scenes from a life </em></strong>-<strong><em> </em></strong>A novel in progress by Roman <span data-scayt_word="AkLeff" data-scaytid="2">AkLeff</span></p> <p>"We only walk by continually beginning to fall forward." - William Gibson, <em>Zero History</em></p> <!--break--> <p>August 1979</p> <p>Walter Faber packed his sales case for his last weekly exercise in futility. He was looking forward to college, but for this summer, at least, it had been a giant liability. Nobody would hire him knowing that by the end of August, he'd be gone.</p> <p>Then again, he hadn't been in demand even before that. He'd quit his job at the Friendly's in the mall after his hours per week had dropped into the single digits, opting for Arthur Treacher's instead. That had been an improvement for a while, hours-wise and in terms of camaraderie – the holiday party, and the night when he'd won a bet by eating a whole cup of horseradish (after secretly sucking on ice cubes in advance) – had been fun. But then, after the holidays, had come the layoff, followed by a series of store managers sadly shaking their heads at his polite, even bashful, requests for employment.</p> <p>Then he'd seen the ad for a salesman, gone for the interview, which had been in a woman's apartment, and been immediately accepted as a Fuller Brush salesman.</p> <p>"They're still in business? I thought they went out when the Depression ended," had said his mother, who knew about the Depression first-hand, having been born (like his father) near its beginning.</p> <p>Yes, they were still in business, but at this point it seemed more like a pyramid scheme than anything else, though while in the company of the attractive woman interviewer/manager who sold him his product, he had been too distracted to figure it out.</p> <p>The first day on the job had been a rude awakening. Five hours walking around in the summer sun, carrying the sample case and the carpet cleaner, with no sales and nobody even home at most houses on the route. He had quickly put in for a route change and been granted a sales area in a more genteel (and shadier, thanks to the trees) neighborhood where nice middle-aged women answered their doorbells and invited him in and even, occasionally, bought something. It was neck and neck whether his small share of the small profits would cover his gas expenses. But he been told it was character building.</p> <p>Truth be told, the characters were the customers. He knew a few of them from before this job, and knew the children of a few more. One of them was even a big part of why he'd kept plugging away at this thankless job.</p> <p>Before he left, Walter grabbed a few more of the potato brushes. They were the most popular item; too bad they sold for just two dollars. He wasn't going to get his money back for unsold merch, so he might as well celebrate his last day how he wanted.</p> <p>He could have turned a profit, however pathetically miniscule, by walking to his route, especially since he'd given up lugging the carpet cleaner. Nobody had ever let him demo it with the little bag of dirt he'd been told to carry with him. Or especially not with the dirt. Who had honestly thought suburban housewives would let a stranger, no matter how young, earnest, clean-cut, and polite – and Walter was nothing if not all of those – throw dirt on their carpets? Anyway, even without the carpet cleaner, it was too darn hot to walk his route, unless he wanted to be all sweaty before he rang his first doorbell.</p> <p>He drove to the rundown house with the old lady. Today he was only going to call on customers who had already bought from him. And the old lady had certainly bought most regularly. Not much, just one thing a week. It was a subtle exchange: he sat with her on her front porch, petting her smelly dog, drinking the lemonade she offered, and chatting with her for ten minutes or so, and she bought something so he'd return the next week. Walter didn't look forward to telling her that this would be his last week (though he definitely did eagerly anticipate never smelling her dog's hot, fetid breath again!), but he also knew he had to so she would understand why he didn't come back.</p> <p>She took it well, enthusiastically wishing him luck at college. When he offered her – beyond the hair brush she had bought – a free potato brush, she had even tried to insist on paying for it. He had disarmed her by declaring it was because she was his favorite customer – very nearly true in a way – at which point, beaming with a look of joy he would long remember, she had acceded to his wish, thanking him with a soft squeeze of her flabby hand on his hand. He'd walked to his Ford Maverick with a warm glow that was due to more than just the mid-August humidity.</p> <p>The next few stops were emotionally more low-key, but he still ended each one with a free potato brush, regardless of whether the lady of the house bought anything today. He sidetracked to Lisa's house, remembering picking her up there in the same car for Norman's graduation party. Afterwards he'd had to break into his own car -- using a table knife to force up the triangle-window's pathetic little latch -- because he'd been so excited by escorting her to the party that he'd forgotten to take his key out of the ignition. He also recalled the return drive, drunk on Schmidt's, with Lisa probably either scared out of her wits by his driving or else inwardly laughing at him. Anyway, as usual nobody came to the door. But it had been worth a try, even though it was slightly outside his approved sales area.</p> <p>And then, backtracking, he made his way to Maria's house. She would not be home, or at least she never had been any of the other times he'd made his rounds – but Mrs. Garcia would be. And as much as Walter lusted after Maria and her abundant cleavage (so much so that he'd even volunteered to conduct her church's choir, though he'd quit after the rehearsal, in which he'd been dismayed to find that, far from the finely machined unit of his own church's choir, its members couldn't even sing in tune on a unison line, never mind harmonies), Mrs. Garcia was somehow even better fantasy material. For one thing, she wasn't a virginal born-again Christian. Oh, she was Catholic, purportedly, but from some of the complaints Maria had voiced, apparently not entirely averse to carnal sin since her divorce. And one look at her revealed from whence the genetic material for Maria's humongous breasts had come. Furthermore, Mrs. Garcia dressed casually in a way that did not entirely conceal her ripe physique.</p> <p>Despite a summer spent jerking off to fantasies of Mrs. Garcia taking him upstairs and relieving him of his virginity, Walter dared not risk embarrassing himself by overtly making a move. But there was no harm, not even any risk as far as he could see, in just being available and seeing what came of it.</p> <p>After he rang the doorbell, he heard a window open above him. Mrs. Garcia's head, wrapped in a white towel, poked outside and she said, "Hello Walter, the door's open. I'll be down in a minute."</p> <p>"Thank you, Mrs. Garcia," he shouted up at her.</p> <p>He walked inside. As usual, the living room was spotless. He could hear the whine of a hairdryer from upstairs. The grand piano sat in the corner, open and inviting. Maybe she would like to hear his music. He pulled out the bench, sat, and began improvising in his best yearning-to-be-Keith-Jarrett style. He knew full well that he was no match for Jarrett in terms of virtuosity, but he tried to compensate with interesting harmonies. Maybe the magic of music would inspire Mrs. Garcia to fulfill his fantasies.</p> <p>"Why Walter, how lovely! Thank you for sharing your talent with me." He turned, smiling, to see her standing behind him, dressed in a white bathrobe. Her dark black hair framed her lightly tanned face and contrasted with the robe. In lieu of a belt, her crossed arms held the robe closed, and also pushed her breasts together, their tops peeking over the terrycloth.</p> <p>"Have you got any other talents to share with me today?" As she spoke, she uncrossed her arms, and her robe parted. She wore nothing underneath. She moved closer, and he buried his face in her bosom.</p> <p>"Walter! You don't just walk into someone's house and play their piano without permission!" The real Mrs. Garcia, dressed in tight Jordache jeans and a yellow halter top, stood at the foot of the stairs, her cross expression banishing the fantasy Mrs. Garcia instantly.</p> <p>"I'm sorry, Mrs. Garcia!" He hurriedly stood and scurried across the room to where he had left his sample case, extracted a potato brush, and extended it towards her. "Today is my last day, I'm going to college next week. Thank you for being my customer."</p> <p>"Why, thank you, Walter. You're such a good boy. I'm sorry I yelled at you. Where are you going to college?"</p> <p>"Columbia."</p> <p>"That's nice, you can come home on the weekends."</p> <p>"Yes, my parents had me sign up for the five-day meal plan because of that."</p> <p>"Maybe you can help Maria prepare for her auditions when she applies to schools next year. She says she wants to go to that damn Bible college her little church has upstate, but I want her to go to Juilliard. She should share her beautiful voice with the world, don't you agree? She sounded better singing with you on piano last month than I've ever heard her sound before."</p> <p>"Thank you, Mrs. Garcia, I'll be happy to accompany her any time."</p> <p>"Great! I'll tell her you dropped by. Have a nice day."</p> <p>"You too, Mrs. Garcia."</p> <p>Later, in the privacy of his room, Walter dwelled frantically on his last view of Mrs. Garcia, her shower-hardened nipples poking towards him through both her bra and halter top, her long cleavage warm and inviting. The physical manifestation of his longing required four tissues to mop up.</p> <p>[<a href="/literary/music-and-sex-scenes-life-second-installment" target="_blank">following installment here</a>]</p> <p><em>Roman AkLeff says of </em>Music and Sex,<em> his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events to be depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some of it should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, Music and Sex aspires to be a </em>Bildungsroman <em>for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood." </em></p> </div> <section> </section> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 05:01:01 +0000 RomanAkLeff 3146 at The Prolific Georges Simenon <span>The Prolific Georges Simenon</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/index.php/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>August 15, 2013 - 01:48</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/768" hreflang="en">non-fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="p1"><img alt="" height="612" src="/sites/default/files/images/Simenon Book Collector.jpg" style="width:294px; height:400px; float:right" width="450" /></p> <p class="p1"> </p> <p class="p1">The Belgian-born Georges <span data-scayt_word="Simenon" data-scaytid="1">Simenon</span> (1903-1989) was a literary phenomenon of the <span data-scayt_word="20th" data-scaytid="2">20th</span> century, giving <span data-scayt_word="Balzac" data-scaytid="3">Balzac</span> a run for his money, at least in terms of output. According to Wikipedia, he wrote over 200 novels plus many shorter works. <em>The New York Times</em> estimates that number (including his memoirs and nonfiction works) as being between 400 and 500. Not unexpectedly then, <span data-scayt_word="Simenon" data-scaytid="6">Simenon</span> is considered by some to be the most successful author of the <span data-scayt_word="20th" data-scaytid="9">20th</span> century, and his creation, Inspector Jules <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="12">Maigret</span>, who appeared in about 75 works, "ranks only after Sherlock Holmes as the world's best known fictional detective." (I'm not sure how <span data-scayt_word="Poirot" data-scaytid="16">Poirot</span> feels about that.) In preparation for viewing and reviewing six of the celluloid offerings in the series <em><span data-scayt_word="Cine-Simenon" data-scaytid="17">Cine-Simenon</span>: George <span data-scayt_word="Simenon" data-scaytid="15">Simenon</span> on Film, </em>presented by<em> </em>Anthology Archives with Kathy Geritz and the Pacific Film Archive, I nestled down with the textural <span data-scayt_word="Simenon" data-scaytid="20">Simenon</span>, and within a week, I had plowed through five of his works, four featuring <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="24">Maigret</span>. An addiction had been born.</p> <p>In <em>No Vacation</em>, <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="27">Maigret</span> escapes Paris, his home base, for a few weeks in Les Sables <span data-scayt_word="d'Olonne" data-scaytid="31">d'Olonne</span> when his wife immediately has an appendicitis attack. While he's visiting Madame in the hospital, a nun slips a note into his pocket urging him to chat with the girl in Room 15, who "accidentally" fell out of her brother-in-law's car while on the way to a dance concert. Before <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="28">Maigret</span> can do so, the young woman dies -- or was she murdered? And who's next? And can the brother-in-law, a doctor and one of the most respected citizens of this small resort town, be culpable? Vivisecting both cultural and economic prejudices, while side-slapping nuns and the press a bit, here's a truly pleasant crime novel.</p> <p><em>Inspector Cadaver</em> (1944) follows along in a similar vein. <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="34">Maigret</span>, now as a favor, unofficially travels to the provincial town of <span data-scayt_word="Saint-Aubin-les-Marais" data-scaytid="36">Saint-Aubin-les-Marais</span> to decimate the rumors that his friend's brother-in-law, Etienne <span data-scayt_word="Naul" data-scaytid="40">Naul</span>, the richest man in the locale, had anything to do with the untimely death of a young man fatally run over by a train late one evening. But to his uneasy surprise, <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="38">Maigret</span> finds that <span data-scayt_word="Naul" data-scaytid="43">Naul</span>, his wife, the victim's mother, and most of the residents want the crime specialist to depart as rapidly as he arrived. Leave well enough alone, Monsieur. Of course, <span data-scayt_word="Maigret" data-scaytid="42">Maigret</span> cannot. Once again finances play a role in how much justice a populace actually deems appropriate for the loss of a life.</p> <p><em>Maigret and the Killer</em> (1969) plays off Simenon's prime strength, besides his capability to instantly hook in a reader. Few writers, indeed, have his ability to lay open the psychology of a soul that murders not for personal gain but to fulfill some emotional vacancy. Here a hippyish "tall, thin fellow in a suede jacket," with one of those huge tape recorders on a strap around his neck, is stabbed seven times in the back in front of witnesses on a rainy Parisian night. He's heir to a mega perfume fortune. Is there a connection to his dad's eau de toilette? Or did he accidentally record a crime on his recorder? Or...? The culprit here could give Norman Bates a run for his money.</p> <p>In the latter work, take a moment to note how the everyday Frenchman constantly reflects on every gent having long hair. Besides Simenon concocting a delicious crime or two or three in each of his tomes, he also captures the charms and prejudices of each of the five decades in which Maigret is trying snare his killer(s).</p> <p><em>Maigret and the Madwoman</em> (1970) renders Maigret at his most guilt-ridden. A highly ingratiating, elderly lady arrives at his office and complains, "At least four times in the past two weeks, I've noticed that my things have been moved."</p> <p>"What do you mean? Are you saying that after you've been out, you've come back to find your things disturbed?"</p> <p>"That's right. A frame hanging slightly crooked or a vase turned around. That sort of thing."</p> <p>"Are you quite sure?"</p> <p>"There you are, you see! Because I'm an old woman, you think I'm wandering in my wits. I did tell you, don't forget, that I've lived forty-two years in that same apartment. Naturally, if anything is out of place, I spot it at once."</p> <p>But nothing has been stolen, so what are the police to do? Not much until this pleasant oldster is strangled to death. Expect a pimp, a manly masseuse, two dead husbands, a musician, plus a crime boss or two to get involved before Maigret can solve this one.</p> <p>But many of Simenon's novels are not crime-ridden, and the majority lack his loveable <em>commissaire</em>. A classic example, and apparently his last effort in the non-crime milieu, is the superb <em>The Innocents</em>, one of the best portraits of a marriage you'll venture across. (It might be mentioned here that while Simenon was wed several times, he was a constant adulterer, often with the live-in help, and he claims to have bedded over 10,000 women, many of them prostitutes.)</p> <p>The hero here is Monsieuer Georges Celerin, an exceedingly happy man. He's been blissfully married for 20 years, he has two delightful children and a perfect live-in maid, and is a co-owner of a distinguished jewelry concern that is acclaimed for the designs he himself creates.</p> <p>Then on page seven, a policeman comes to his office and announces, after touching his cap, "I'm sorry, Monsiuer Celerin, I have bad news for you. You are, are you not, the husband of Annette-Marie Stephanie Celerin?"</p> <p>"That is my wife's name, yes."</p> <p>"She has met with an accident."</p> <p>"What sort of accident?"</p> <p>"She was run over by a truck on Rue Washington...."</p> <p>"Is it serious?'</p> <p>"She was dead on arrival at the hospital -- the Lariboisiere."</p> <p>"Annette? Dead?"</p> <p>Suddenly, Celerin's life is put into a tailspin. During bouts of extreme mourning, he realizes his wife was everything to him, she and his job. Even his children were secondary. But as he starts going over his past memories, he begins to realize there is another way to recall each of those events.</p> <p>Reminiscing about the early days of his honeymoon and marriage, Celerin realizes he "had been happy. He had been full of his own happiness. From now on he would be living with her. He would see her every day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and he would be sleeping next to her at night.</p> <p>"That same evening, they had taken the Blue Train to Nice. His happiness had persisted. He was living in a dream, in spite of his wife's frigidity."</p> <p>Maybe he and Annette hadn't been the ideal couple. Maybe when there were tears in her eyes while they were making love, those weren't droplets of gratitude. And what was she, a social worker, doing in a rather wealthy neighborhood in the middle of the day when she fatally slipped in front of that truck?</p> <p>Brick by brick, his past two euphoric decades are dismantled, and Celerin slowly gets to know the woman he loved far too late. Yes, there is a mystery of sorts here, but the type of mystery many of us have to confront daily. Do we actually know the people we are smitten with or are we examining the world in a way that alters reality?</p> <p><a href="/film/cine-simenon" target="_blank">Click on this link to read my article on his film career.</a></p> </div> <section> </section> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 05:48:50 +0000 Brandon Judell 2852 at