Friday, April 18, 2008



The publicity people for the Library of America must have missed sending me a copy of A.J. Liebling that just came out. An editor at a newspaper sent me a copy as they were not going to review the book.

I always look forward to the Library of America books and in the Fall they have some interesting ones: the second William Maxwell, a Philip Roth and a book of poetry by Ashbery. I hope I will not be over-looked as the bound galleys should be coming shortly. In the summer they are doing a second book by Philip Dick which I will talk about one of these days.

But to the Liebling. If this editor had not sent the book to me I would not have discovered this meeting with Louis Ferdinand Celine:

For myself, I shall always remember him as a big-shouldered man, unexpectedly rugged and tweedy for a Frenchman, sitting in the dining room of the Vanderbilt Hotel in New York in 1934, eating strawberry ice cream after rare roast beef and at intervals pausing between enormous mouthfuls and great, grasping swallows to shout obscene regret for the Middle Ages, when the Church assured the common people that they would go to hell after death and be miserable in the meantime. "Then, at least, there were no false hopes," he said.

So, while I might have been skeptical of why the LOA was doing Liebling, I have been won over. The book is a compilation of all his writings during the Second World War and while it is a little marred with the fakery of having a celebrity editor whose name I will not mention it is a real book.

Many of us are waiting for the LOA to do the collected poetry of Melville, the books of Sherwood Anderson, the work of T.S. Eliot and of course: Where is Hemingway? Where is Glenway Wescott? Edward Dahlberg? William Carlos Williams?


In THE WRITER'S CHRONICLE, the trade journal of the creative writing business there was an announcement of the PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL. "Over 200 members of the publishing industry attended a reception for the festival in March, boarding the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 to celebrate the upcoming event"--- hours waiting in a vast storage facility to board, searched as if getting on a plane, a thousand waiting to sail... lines like entering a detention camp--- "the on-board luncheon featured readings"---before the food people were ordered into a stadium seating theater to hear speeches about how the Cunard lines (remember they gave us the Titanic: the ship that God couldn't sink, as they say but as Julian Green once told me, "As they were saying that the iceberg was making its way..." were in favor of crossings, communication... And then there was a pathetic rock band with dragooned "writers" singing anti-George W Bush lyrics; I kid you not, and then the President of PEN was going on about the impending dawn of fascism in the US as witnessed by the denial of entry to a convicted criminal writer at Newark airport. The decor of the boat is down-market Las Vegas. "was hosted by Salman Rushdie, the festival chair"--- no, he did not show up as he had more important things to do: he was in London shilling for another of his unreadable novels.

Two writers by chance this week asked me if I had received the brochure for the PEN conference. Did you do what we did: throw them out? I did not ask why they had thrown them out but can only guess---

If anyone remembers Georgi Markov, the exiled Bulgarian writer who was murdered in London by agents of the Communist regime in Bulgaria they might remember his wonderful exposition of why the Communist regimes loved writers conferences, readings, writers visiting factories, writers retreats: the regime always dreaded the appearance of another book and the inevitable task of having to read it so why not find agreeable and progressive ways to hinder the writing of books and maybe even hinder the reading of books for probably the best way to discourage reading is to have writers read their own works in public along with colleagues, one of which always goes on for too long


I went to a sad lunch for Dirk Wittenborn at The Museum, a restaurant connected to that dreary junk shop MOMA. The dining room was large for the one round table so it seems that they had at one time expected more people. Never having met Wittenborn, never having read a word he has written or seen the film he wrote THE FIERCE PEOPLE--- like most people, as it seems to have gone direct to DVD, or seen another documentary he produced about the hard lives of rich kids and will I be going to see a new film he wrote that is due in the summer The Lucky Ones, something about Iraq War and I am sure it is not celebrating the American effort there---

These lunches happen all the time. They are designed to get word of mouth going... the occasion for this is the publication in August of PHARMAKON.. murder, drugs, rich people, fathers, children, privilege, cover-ups, pain, anger, sex...

Why write a novel instead of a screen play, I asked Dirk. "In a novel you can show thinking," Dirk replied

At the actual lunch of course the question who will write the screenplay and I was wondering, again, why bother with the novel as only then did people at the table seem animated: the movies are the reel world. Why do writers set themselves up like this? Well, money of course and the rich are as grubby as the next person and probably even more so...

Dirk was talking about his three therapists and I could hear them as they alternatively moved through his little talk: the one who dealt with his father/son issues, the next one who dealt with his intimacy/women issues and the last with the issues of drugs...

The pork loin was dried out and without flavour.

PHARMAKON has an opening line that the author is proud of: I was born because a man came to kill my father.

31--- I was reading THE WAGES OF EXPECTATION the biography of Edward Dahlberg by Charles DeFanti... DeFanti quotes as his concluding lines the epitaph that William O'Rourke had written for Dahlberg, For whatever Dear Readers there are now, or are to come Edward Dahlberg wrote 18 books and one masterpiece that will endure; at the end of his long life he had less than six people he would have called friend."

In a Village Voice review of this biography also written by O'Rourke:

"Dahlberg's bile was in direct proportion to the neglect he felt, which of course was enormous. Even if you produce a master work--- which Because I was Flesh surely is--- you can be ignored because literature plays little role int he life of the commonwealth."


"Dahlberg led his life seemingly enunciating one state above all, that of the writer as pariah, the glorious nay-sayer unsullied by commerce, fashion and vain success."

Dahlberg was payed the wages of his own expectations: rejection, isolation, and the curse of superfluity."

O'Rourke's review appeared in the Village Voice on April 16, 1979.

Can anyone imagine such writing in the newspaper that goes by that name today in the year 2008?

32 PS---

We were in Enzo's (Second Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets) for pizza this afternoon.

The guy from the funeral parlor across the street was in for a slice.

After he left I mentioned to Mike that I usually see him standing in front of the parlor waiting for a delivery.

If you shake hands with him watch his eyes. They start from your eyes and go down. He's measuring you. If you've shaken hands with him scratch your balls three times that'll keep him away for now.

As I was leaving Mike was looking in the Village Voice at a profile of Philip Glass. Enzo's is mentioned. Glass is a nice guy, Mike says. He comes here.

I tell Mike I see Glass around, sometimes up at the Domincans' bodega.