“I AM NOT I ANY LONGER WHEN I SEE.” From Gertrude Stein’s FOUR IN AMERICA.
I am not unique in thinking Gertrude Stein’s writings as utterly complicated and utterly simple. The contradiction sends me and most people to the biography, to the anecdotes, to the people who surrounded her, to her life story, to Petain, to Hemingway, to Toklas to… to… a memory of going along to the Paula Cooper Gallery on Wooster Street say sometime between Dec 31, 1979 and mid-afternoon Wednesday January 2 to listen to the reading of THE MAKING OF AMERICANS. According to the card this was the sixth reading.
It seemed so necessary to do this as Ruth and I lived above Milady’s on the corner of Prince and Thompson Street in a small three room apartment that rented for $163.00 a month.
So, during those days we or I alone or she alone would drop in for a while and listen to the book.
I would go home and try to find the passages--- in the Something Else Press edition which seemed a required book at that time among--- what was enjoyable and what I thought I followed as I listened was usually not there on the page, even when I found what had been read in the gallery.
According to the Internet these readings went on for 25 years… in 1996 the gallery moved to Chelsea… and such events became memories of a time that now seems so long ago as to be ancient history.
On the card back then I had written what I must have heard:
he was not very certain in his existence for them.
There isn’t very much existence in them.
Hopefully, allowing the colloquial to eat at the book English I could have escaped writing
On my shelf I have always kept two other SOMETHING ELSE PRESS books, both by Daniel Spoerri: AN ANECDOTED TOPOGRAPHY OF CHANCE and THE MYTHOLOGICAL TRAVELS… I have not supplied the complete titles of either book and there is another book by Dick Higgins but that has gone missing… all of which explains in some way the despair that allowed me to write a letter to Jack Shoemaker, an actual letter, as I had found a letter from him turning aside from considering a version of ST PATRICK’S DAY back in 1980 [to be published by the University of Notre Dame Press in Spring 2016] when he was running North Point Press… these days he is vice-president and literary director of Counterpoint Press and their website announces that they do not consider fiction unless it comes via a recognized agent…
Back in 2000 and 2002 Barbara Probst Solomon published in the journal she founded and edited THE READING ROON two excerpts from what I called JUST LIKE THAT… she published the opening and the conclusion of this book which I thought of as a description of A beginning of the Sixties from what is now the last century. The book takes place in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). The first line of the opening, “Are you a Jew?”. The last line of the ending of the book was longer, “Only, I was held and held in memory by Martin, by my father, by being in Brussels, by Gary poking his finger into a bullet-scarred wall off the Kurfurstendam--- all shaped up into the journey and the what had happened on my spring holiday that year in Leipzig in the German Democratic Republic when I went over from Dublin to get away from it all, as I had thought, but stocking the future when, dear one, you ask and I begin.”
I wrote later what I thought was a book with the title THEN that was to be of THE end of the Sixties from the previous century. A piece from it appeared in the Notre Dame Review revolving about Anthony Burgess when he was at Columbia University in the early 1970s, that time when people seemed to want to live inside the spirit of Charles Manson.
Of late, the whole manuscript has acquired a new title FORGET THE FUTURE. At one time I had used that title for a something that pursued James Thomson, the poet who wrote THE CITY OF DREADFUL NIGHT from Scotland to Ireland to London to Spain to New York to London.
David Rattray caused a long section from it to appear in BOMB… but that is so long ago and I am sure forgotten as sadly David Rattray is forgotten by that magazine which continues… (there are so many worthy writers in Brooklyn that have to be catered to) and now you know why I wrote to Jack Shoemaker to see if he might be interested in FORGET THE FUTURE…, a real letter I have written, as slow as a snail… about a book from the Sixties of the previous century in the hope that Shoemaker is not given over to the amnesia that is epidemic in what is delusionally called the publishing industry.