Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SOME GOOD BOOKS and then a sad story

48

Vladimir Nabokov once said that when he was sent a new novel he would open it, scan the pages and if it contained mostly dialogue he would quietly close the book unread. The point being obvious, I assume…

I did not close Jeremy M. Davies’s ROSE ALLEY (Counterpath Press, Denver) as I am pretty sure Nabokov would also not have closed the novel. The making of a movie in Paris in 1968 told from the various viewpoints of some of the people involved in the making of the movie. Of course I thought of Fassbinder’s BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE--- Fassbinder directed a film form VN’s DESPAIR--- and I was also thinking of Godard’s CONTEMPT…

I loved the genuine nastiness of everyone involved in the making of the movie and the various tones , “ Selwyn Wexler in his hotel room gets a hard-on thinking about me and the blood that goes into his cock could probably be put to better use.” Or. “…Wexler had put Myrna’s jeans in the glove box and gone down on her, complaining obscurely as she licked his neck some time later that he felt like this massive crustacean.” Or. “He settled in a township in Estonia tiny enough to escape the notice of any cartographer born west of the Danube. Content with a life of dirt and blood, gossip, manure and provincial pussy, he read Longfellow and broke up marriages.”

The novel comes with a helpful index. There is none of that cloying insinuating hooking of the reader into the thinking that this I a transcription of the reality of some group of young people thought to be of interest to the fleeting tastes of those who read with ears being penetrated by IPODS.

Counterpath also published sometime ago DIVERTIMENTI AND VARIATION by Heimito von Doderer who some know for his essential novels THE DEMONS, EVERY MAN A MURDERED and THE WATERFALL OF SLUNJ… sadly not as well known at Robert Musil but probably in the long run more significant he is the key for eventually understanding Thomas Bernhard… one can only hope that Counterpath will do THE STRUDLEHOF STEPS… then that link will become clear.

Again, von Doderer appears to be a realist in the dreariest sense of that word but gradually, ever so slowly we are inducted into vision…

53

Turtle Point Press has published:

THE DEAD OF THE HOUSE by Hannah Green--- a novel that sits in the sure company of THE GRET GATSBY, ABSALOM ABSALOM, ON THE ROAD--- a novel of vision and there is again no way to avoid that word--- a whole family history in less than 200 pages, all of American history, written in a language that resonates with the American experience but In such a way that it becomes the common human experience

LORD OF DARK PLACES by Hal Bennett is a far more brutal book than Hannah Green’s novel but --- if you have always suspected that Toni Morrison and all the other hustler of their dark skins were just that little bit of a fraud--- Bennett is the genuine corrective and probably one of the few writers of today who would have found himself walking along with Chaucer to Canterbury with a damn good tale to tell

And four books by Julien Gracq: KING COPHETUA, THE NARROW WATERS, THE SHAPE OF A CITY and READING WRITING.

THE SHAPE OF A CITY describes Nantes in such a way you will be forever using it as a model for when you read anyone else who describes any city ever again…

THE NARROW WATERS, a short boat ride that in 50 pages becomes a whole life’s story…

KING COPHETUA one of a the few novels that I know of that can sit next to Ernst Junger’s ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS with its precise message of BEWARE

READING WRITING if read along with Ezra Pound’s ABC OF READING: all anyone needs to know how to read, how to write and…

In the coming months Jon Rabinowitz who owns Turtle Point will also be publishing:

BY MYSELF by D.A. Powell and David Trinidad the autobiography of a star written in three hundred lines appropriate from three hundred autobiographies of show business people… one has always suspected that everyone in show business is actually the same person.

MARBLES by James Guida, a book of aphorisms… and if Guida can refrain from publishing in the future anything but more aphorisms he will become very very interesting. I will not quote from him as we have to see if he has the =genuine courage of this book or is it just a gimmick

CREATURELY AND OTHER ESSAYS by Devin Johnson is a book of little essays about nature by a man who mostly stays in doors…

Jon Rabinowitz the owner and publisher of Turtle Point Press is the rarest of the smaller publishers: he spends his own money--- taking no money from the taxpayers or foundations--- and publishes what he likes. It eats at me, it is true, that he has never wanted to publish my little books but one lives with such accidents of taste, badly, I fear.

77

A SADNESS falls on me with a phone call from Elliott Anderson’s daughter. He died on May 2nd. I had last seen him in January just after the doctor had taken out his cancerous stomach. He hoped that the intestines would take over. They did not and the cancer killed him. The last picture of him in my head : of his sitting on his balcony taking the sun then going down into the Pacific--- how to find your place?... Take Wilshire to the ocean, turn left and stop.

I first met Elliott really in 1965 at Beloit… before that we had been classmates but he lived in a fraternity but a year in France for him and a year in Dublin for me… he was wanting to write and actually gave the class essay at graduation, then the Peace Corps in Kenya, then Iowa—a visit to him there had Elliott talking about JMG LeClezio, then he was at Northwestern first as assistant to Charles Newman at Triquarterly then editor and famous for many issues devoted to American fiction and for a fat near 800 page issue devoted to the history of the little magazine… eventually forced out of the editorship by a creep by the name of Joseph Epstein who wanted the journal to have more essays since it was a journal published by a university--- since then no one reads Triquarterly (to be sure of this I looked in the NYU library yesterday and the pile of the last two years sits there never having been opened)… then Hollywood took to Elliott and he made money with a production company and wrote a few episodes for TV:

• "Silk Stalkings" (1 episode, 1992)
- The Brotherhood (1992) TV episode (writer)
• "Dragnet" (2 episodes, 1989-1991)
... aka "Dragnet: The Nineties"
... aka "The New Dragnet" (USA)
- Weekend Warrior (1991) TV episode (writer)
- The Payback (1989) TV episode (writer)
• "Adam 12" (2 episodes, 1990-1991)
- D.A.R.E. (1991) TV episode (writer)
- Witchcraft (1990) TV episode (writer)

Elliott told me the producers said they now needed someone younger... so he went into real estate and read mass market thrillers and watched sports. He had tried to write a novel but then couldn’t read or make sense of his own work and he for sure wouldn’t buy a novel like that. He had not published me in Triquarterly for whatever reason--- probably just forgetfulness but I came to forgive him by when I published for three issues ADRIFT, I made a point of publishing friends and people I knew form the group that was putting up the money, because all journals exist for that purpose IN PART if they are edited by human beings and not business machines--- just look at any of the journals edited by Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot for confirmation of that…and that is why magazines like Vanity Fair and The New Yorker are finally only machines that are published to amuse Sy Newhouse much like an erector set used to fascinate clever adolescents…

Elliott was very tall and a man of the west. Anna when she saw us walking down the street said, the tall and the short of it. When I saw him on his porch in January with a tube coming out of his stomach he simply said, what will be… I missed going horseback riding with him in Malibu but I did have a nice lunch with him at the Getty Villa in July--- he insisted on paying---… he admitted to liking Cormac McCarthy and it is due to Elliott that I had discovered Le Clezio when that guy was actually a good writer…

I wonder if Elliott did actually have any manuscripts in that apartment? I do have a magic script Elliott write, western based on Hamlet… I once jokingly suggested that I would like to be a script doctor and make a couple thousand a week. He replied, NO WAY you just reveal yourself as a rank amateur if you had said 200,000 then the guys in Hollywood would have lapped you up. He said that in a nice restaurant in that Santa Monica. We were eating and he was drinking the money from the Hamlet western… people paid him money for many reasons other than to actually see a film made, a person had to understand that about living out here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

We don't know each other but we both knew Elliott. Tears ran from eyes when I got the news of my friend, Elliott Anderson passing away. I only heard about it today, as I did not know him as personally as you, I was his insurance guy. Your piece brought a smile to my face and I want to thank you for that. As I came to know Elliott, I love him as both the man and the human being: a wise uncle or a very loyal friend of few words.

I don't have more to say other than thank you so much. He was amazing and keenly aware. I will miss him as, I am sure, many others will to. Have a great afternoon, and again, thank you so very much!.

Yours Truly,

John Shafer

Willy and Suzy's mom said...

You were very fortunate to know Elliott. And I was fortunte to know him through you. I recall how genuinely delighted he was to see you the first time that we went out to visit him in 1998. I remember the lovely dinner in Santa Monica, walking back along the Pacific, the quiet dark enormity of the ocean and listening to you and Elliott talk, the row of cowboy boots lined up along the corridor of his apt... You always called Elliott the "Marlboro Man" - strong, handsome and rugged. I think he loved talking to you about books, writing and ideas. You reminded him of the time in his life when he devoted himself to writing and thought. You blessed each other with friendship that lasted over forty years. Elliott will be greatly missed.

sandy stavros hittman said...

If anybody could help me get in touch with Elliot's daughter, Erin, I would appreciate it. I knew Elliot. His wife and I were roommates at Iowa and I was also in their wedding. I have lost touch with them after Cynthia's death and would love to forward some pictures to Erin. I always enjoyed Elliot and the conversations we had over his fascinating and exotic cooked meals. He will be missed.
smhittman@aol.com