Wednesday, June 8, 2011

FROM HERE TO HERE: aspects of a self-portrait

Irish Writers Online asked for a link in which I can write something of how one got from there to here or here to there or there to there or here to here.

1--- In my last year of high school  I saw a blonde girl in the second floor of the school  taking something out of her school locker.  I did not talk to her.  I learned her name: Melinda. I wrote a story set during World War One in which a man dies.  In the second story, from the viewpoint of Melinda, she is waiting for a man who doesn’t come home from war. Years later I discovered that the boy had died on Melinda’s birthday, something I did not know at the time of writing.

2--- I was now a writer when Al Willis published both stories in the student newspaper.

3--- Two books have seen their way into print via Dalkey Archive: THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV and GOING TO PATCHOGUE.

4--- A conversation in Grogan’s Castle Lounge about Ralph Cusack and his novel CADENZA remembered from back many years and called to mind when Gilbert Sorrentino mentioned in an article in The New York Times that he was going to re-read CADENZA that summer.  I wrote to him care of his publisher that I was editing and publishing ADRIFT, the first and still only magazine which announced itself as ADRIFT    WRITINGS: IRISH, IRISH AMERICAN AND.  He suggested I get in touch with John O’Brien who was starting the Review of Contemporary Fiction with an issue devoted to Sorrentino’s  work…  over the years I wrote for the review and discussed the first lists of what would become DALKEY ARCHIVE  which was founded to reprint books that were out of print but still of great value starting with CADENZA in that first list… and from there to original books of which THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV was one of the first and then GOING TO PATCHOGUE appeared a few years later and even went to a second printing, being reviewed across the country. 

4--- ADRIFT   WRITINGS: IRISH, IRISH AMERICAN AND had the ambition and the realized it of publishing all the major writers who happened to identify themselves in some way as Irish, centered upon Francis Stuart and James Liddy, both of whom remain as constant though shaded centers of what came after Joyce and Beckett.  I had poems from both Thomas Kinsella and John Montague that arrived too late.  Aidan Higgins and Desmond Hogan were beyond my reach.   Francis Stuart identified two essential points for readers and writers: opposition to the soft center of Irish writing, the knitting, that seems to have expanded beyond his worst forebodings and the writer, as did Stuart going to Berlin in 1939, has the duty to seek out the place of the greatest moral ambiguity.  Liddy in his long productive years created  a body of visionary poetry unequaled by any other Irish poet, rooted in the felt experience of the real world, twisted by grace and a love of boy angels, he liberated more space for individual freedom than all the politicians and revolutionaries in Ireland’s  splattered history

5--- THE CORPSE DREAM OF N.PETKOV has been reviewed by Andrei Codrescu in The New York Times with glowing knowledgeable praise.  I discovered that the so-called major publishers were happy for me and agents were also but as one honestly said, I can’t eat lunch off of you and that is the only thing that matters… At that time the agent was eating off of Paul Auster.

5---  While I was writing GOING TO PATCHOGUE I was also writing ST.PATRICK’S DAY, Dublin 1974 and pieces of it appeared in The Gorey Detail and in the Review of Contemporary Fiction.  The manuscript was marked up for typesetting by Steve Moore who was then the second in command at Dalkey Archive but it did not appear in print.  For some reason and it was never really clear in spite  of the evidence of this marked up manuscript why John O’Brien  turned against publishing the book, but that is what happened.  Simple as that.  We have written back and forth but as is said something happened and now it is beyond… even Steve Moore confirmed these details: something…

5--- ST PATRICK’S DAY, Dublin 1974 is just that:  a walking around on that day beginning in a room in The Russell Hotel with a man looking down at the end or the beginning of the parade… he walks out to the pubs and walks through all the years of his life in Dublin beginning, 1964, in a little club behind a chip shop diagonal to the hotel ... with a long excursion to Bulgaria… he goes to the memorial reading for Patrick Kavanagh where John Jordan attempts to read a memorial address… and on to life in the Corn Exchange Building and on to … the first long book about actually being in Dublin since ULYSSES. 

5--- Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill was a great champion of ST PATRICK’S DAY Dublin, 1974 offering  to write an introduction in addition to the blurb she wrote but the gang at Lilliput rejected it, out of hand since I was not prepared to pay them to publish it  (one of the secrets of then publishing in Ireland) (Alice Quinn lost the manuscript at Alfred A. Knopf: a sweet woman who went on to being poetry editor of The NEW YORKER)…so the book lingers on and on…

6--- More books… FORGET THE FUTURE  another travel book.. summer in England, 1990  the hottest summer on record.. war getting ready to happen in Kuwait… the life of James Thomson BV...the how to write about a dead poet, THE CITY OF DREADFUL NIGHT, without the fakery of re-creation yet at the same  time entering his head… a long section when the drunken Thomson assaults the blind poet Marston appeared in BOMB  thanks to David Rattray… and another section in another magazine… but again…  there was a voyage midst the book to Bulgaria during the time of the City of Truth… but the narrator is going a little mad

7--- FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY With a Little Bit of Monday.. in Dublin 1999, a man goes over from London to die again in Dublin, he thinks… visiting with the Irish poet N Ni… visiting with Barbara… “A Painful Case”…  who knew him in Dublin in 1964.. but also a memorial to a marriage sunk by a wife who decided her feeling had changed, that she wanted to grow spiritually and she was now comparing her husband and the soon to be former husband to the UPS driver…  the husband’s life with the young children... remembered what had been in the now increasingly wealthy streets of Dublin.. marked by imagined tombs for all the dead of years gone by

8--- LOSS OF DIGNITY… the falling in love.. there has to be a book to be published posthumously... and this is it… not a nice book, a book about lust, nastiness, meanness… within the narrator’s mind

9--- now to:  JUST LIKE THAT A Book From the So-called 60s: A Beginning and  THE END.. a university student over from Dublin, Spring 1965, is in bed with another man who asks in Leipzig in the DDR, Are you Jewish?…  while traveling in the DDR.. all the themes of the so-called 60s are revealed at their beginnings: conflicted  sexual experimentation, intoxication,  the war in Vietnam HANDS OFF VIETNAM... the division of the world… paranoia reflected in the shiny stocks of the MK47s, while the second half of the book is about how those 60s ended on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early 70s, presided over by the talk of Anthony Burgess, imitations  of Charles Manson,  the dead end of Sullivanian sex and the death of the Father and the birth of the man as an adult… both the ending and the beginning sections were published by Barbara Probst Solomon in THE READING ROOM… but as is the fate of most writings in little magazines…

10--- Richard Seaver, Daniel Halpern, , FSG, Knopf,  WW Norton, Dalkey Archive decided  they couldn’t afford to do  JUST LIKE THAT…  the vast sums of money… or maybe they just didn’t like it… though they regretted their decisions and said they admired the prose and the ambition

11--- NOTHING DOING. A man has fallen in love with the Arizona desert and goes looking for a place to be buried… he goes with the stories.. .of a Bulgarian exiled psychoanalyst arriving in the US with only a suitcase of ties, with a Marine veteran who becomes a priest and is accused of molesting boys, yet…there is the doubt.. and American man wakes up in Paris to find his wife saying, I am going to kill our son and ruin your life…and an old man in Douglas, Arizona  teases out the last bits of his life after leaving  New York for the Gadsden Hotel…

12---NOTHING DOING could be seen as a long commentary on Samuel Beckett’s answer to John Montague’s question toward the end of Beckett’s life:
And the arrangements?
In the ground.

1313--- At the moment , being written:  EXIT IS FINAL.. a journey around Bulgaria and why the narrator wants to be living in Strashiza, since it is as beautiful  as Venice or any other obvious place you might mention… the book was to have gone to Estonia but that seems unlikely because in Bulgaria the narrator comes upon the remains of forgotten children who might have been…

131313--- Three other books:    JUST ENOUGH, strangers on the train starting in the 55 Bar on Christopher Street in NYC to a death at the feet of a statue of the Sacred Heart at Bleecker and Bowery.
                                                       THE PLASTIC SLAUGHTERHOUSE begun in Sofia in the winter of 1967/68 and finished in Normandy at Easter of 1968.
                                                                EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS a long document of my life as foot messenger for almost 25 years in New York City, all in lieu of those portraits of Abe Lincoln.

14--- I have also written introductions to AVARICE HOUSE BY Julien Green, to ANATHEMAS AND ADMIRATIONS by  E.M. CIORAN  published by Quartet in London    and an afterword to SEASON AT COOLE by Michael Stephens published by Dalkey Archive.
15--- I have written for The Guardian, for Newsday, for the Washingto  Post, the Chicago Tribune the Los Angeles Times…  There is a good article on comparing Graceland and Rowan Oak.  There is a disturbing profile of Allen Ginsberg…

1515---  THE VILLAGE VOICE in New York City when it was a real weekly newspaper published two stories of mine: “Goodbye W.H. Auden” which was about the poet leaving his apartment on St Mark’s Place, about his lice powder, about the fucking that happened afterward.  Appearing on the front page I was famous for a week meeting as a result John Lennon who had to give me money--- prompted by Yoko Ono--- to buy beer for the party which was defending the right of the Hell’s Angels and listening to Ed Sanders who was just back from writing THE FAMILY and discovering that the latest kink among the Hollywood movie stars was fucking actual corpses and that one should never forget that Manson had been one of those pet dogs which turned on his masters.  And a second story “A Son’s Father’s Day” in which I predicted that I would drink myself to death as would my father drink himself to death: dying as he did in a parking lot two years after the article appeared... I have postponed my own fate and won’t be going that way, at least for today

16---I did interview profiles of Julian Green, Nina Berberova, Julian Rios, , Carlos Fuentes, Tatyana Tolstoya… .Cees Nooteboom and Alain Robbe Grillet…also Harold Brodkey and Nelida Pinon 

17--- I have written many many book reviews, usually doing foreign writers, non-Americans… anything to flee the jacket of ethnicity…

18--- in mind I have interviewed Ernst Junger, Francis Stuart, Ezra Pound, Juan Carlos Onetti, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Julien Gracq, Gyorgy Ivanov, Ivan Turgenev, Herman Melville when he had stopped writing novels… Hannah Green, Jean Rhys, Uwe Johnson in his English exile, Thomas Bernhard, Miroslav Krleza, Joseph Roth in that cafĂ© in Paris, Eugenio Montale in a billiard parlor in Milano and Giuseppi  Berto interrupted us as he came in with George Garrett who was saying this Cuban writer Jose Lezama Lima was asking for you in paradise.