The day upon reaching the evidently momentous dehttp://artscritic.blogspot.com/2015/08/postscript-to-screen-memory.htmlcision to follow my ABC of Reading guide (amidst the swirl of the incipient spooky cabin fever orgy on Chena Ridge) I sold the Nash Ambassador, entrusted Mom + Pop, at fire fighters camp on Airport Road, with my fire arms - a 30/30 Mustang rifle, a generic double-barrel shot gun & a 22 long, 10 shot clip, pistol (to dispense of pests such as camp robber blue jays) - I was thinking of returning for a second time around the following spring; transported myself the short distance to Fairbanks airport and took a first plane to the West Coast, to Seattle it was, a first - and so forewent the fantasied ultra-smooth comfy drive on squeaky, densely packed snow on the forever memorably dusty gravely Al-Can (Trans-Alaskan-Canadian highway) stuck behind a lumber truck. In Seattle a yellow station wagon needed to return to its kennel, San Francisco. I picked up some slightly ominous hitchhikers along the coast, in Oregon, and in San Francisco shacked up with a mutual acquaintance of Michael Miller's and mine, the sexually adventurous Susan Blodgett (downstairs neighbors commented on how hard the floor boards had creaked) - finally to get laid in San Francisco called for a celebration after two years regressing to wrestling, with (a) a hot Mormon girl (whose purpose in life aimed to be "a lady") of forever moist girdle memory & and (b) Mary Swift, who had the perfect all-American 50s body and face, a cutout from a magazine - I kept being astounded that she actually existed whenever she materialized: Mary was not just beautiful, in the perfect generic American magazine movie standard way of the time, but bright, an English major (I had branched out from the Modern Language Department), Fran McCullough, who later became an editor at Harper & Row was a mutual friend - talking would have been easier if we'd got sex out of the way, got over that hump, if her so overt sexuality had been acted out - but, who knows, if we had started to fuck we might have never stopped, that happened, too!
I also had one more date with the girl from Mills College whom I should have married and who wanted me so much, but was forever getting over a case of the dreaded Mono. I ghad entirely resisted during my Stanford teaching days the overtures of the many infinitely flirtatious pretty darling students of mine, but for a single astonishingly well-recalled instance, another "Wild Palms" moment barely averted, because I hesitated when Ms. Davis, who had gone soft on reading Sandro, whether to roll with her into Jean Gosselin's bed - Jean gave me his two room apartment when I was on duty and he was not about. From passion, it would turn out, I'd invariably turn to passion for work, a matter during which the twain can then diverge.
I imagine I said my goodbyes to life-long friend and future author, my Hegel professor, Kurt Mueller Vollmer, and darling Ph.D. candidate, the priestly Jean Gosselin who continued to tend his dorm in Menlo Park Jr. College.
As it was traded in I bought a two-year-old four-door Ford - low mileage but, in retrospect, suspiciously clean crankcase oil - loaded two book and m.s. filled steamer trunks & headed for Aspen, Colorado: Gus's school days, too, had ended as, it turned out, had his marriage, to terrific Janice, first of many wives - I have no idea why Gus was in Aspen, he was not a skier, and he & I headed to Denver to Gus's new woman and there I sought my damnedest to get her best friend - whose purpose in life was to bring "the dance to the Rockies" - into bed. I had been on a sexual roll as of the end of my fire-fighting days in mid-August, until Denver!
In Hill City, Kansas the lovely 1958 Ford began to spew clouds of blue: it needed a ring job, that was all, and the mechanic who towed us refunded the $ 900 that I had paid for it a short while back, a used Ford of my kind was worth more in Kansas than in Frisco, and shipped my steamer trunks to me in New York. I left with a favorable impression of Kansans.
Hill City was located proximate the murders of Capote's In Cold Blood, that had occurred about the same time that Gus and I traveled through these parts and that had not yet been solved I don't think, and on publication of the book - comparing its landscape description to what I recalled - I realized that Capote had failed to note the different shades of brown and tawn and the lands' undulations which could not be described as flat. Gullies. Gulches. Hilltops, gentle ones.
Carless, we grabbed a bus that took what could be described as a Backgammon kind of trip: back and forth and up and down Kansas, up to the South Dakota border, a few miles east and back down to New Mexico - apparently the same little town every 25 miles same same church, same drug store, same courthouse same soda fountains except how they were configured with respect to each other - and what kinds of stacks added up - as far as the St. Louis part of Kansas. There we grabbed an Electra, a turbo-prop of the era with a high crash rate, as we nearly did at La Guardia as the plane descended at such a dangerous askew its right wing tip nearly scraped the tarmac.
Gus got along fine with the girls at the Bryn Mawr Haverford halfway graduation career fortress, at 101 West 85th, corner and Columbus Avenue - marvelous Liz Radin, whom if I'd been as sensible as I am now (have I really become sensible?), I would have married at the drop of nearly anything, since, but for feathers, things drop at a Newtownian rate.
Frank and Patty were living high up a new city-built highrise complex, with balconies, at Amsterdam Avenue, ten blocks north. Frank said he didn't like Gus, not that he specified why, Gus was sharp funny, a delight, a bit emphatic perhaps, but in the company of intelligent men discussing books he was a lot of fun - Frank's likes and dislikes ctd. mysterious until I realized about ten years ago that his nervous system, like Handke's, was autistically challenged. Like Handke he was in some respects, but by no means in every respect, truly different.
We were discussing the then just published Updike's Rabbit Run. I myself preferred Poorhouse Fair, can't say that I was really interested in the lives of the Rabbits of this world, yes so it was no doubt, but also so what. Anxious Angstrom mediocrity. Did Updike have anything all that special? Not that I could see. Very precious. Tended to over-write. Turned out to write really well about art.
During one of Frank's and my regressive - forever transitional - dive drives down to the Bryn Mawr-Haverford past, that also harbored buddies, Frank started an affair with an amazingly Brigit Bardot nubile blonde (awfully soon for being just married I thought, but even while engaged Frank had played around, disloyalty was to be one of his several Achilles heels.) Yet this affair was serious, and the girl could be taken seriously, and, much as I liked Patty I can be said to have played along by being Frank's foil: when the girl came to N.Y. I pretended that she'd come to see me who had hooked up with someone whose Trotzkyite novelist father, Dannie Gordon, interested me far more (the first, I think, of quite a few instances where I cared much more for the parents than the girl!) and Judy, too, was eminently marriageable, but I was not in love, it was to be some years before amorous ardors revivified from heart break ashes. Bryn Mawr girls were as promiscuous as the men, until they married, sometimes forever. Michael Miller & I both sought to bed beautiful Daphne of the Daphne face and truck-drivers bod, no such luck! Daphne was a fried of Frank's who I don't think bedded her either, or of Patty's, she derived from the seven sister, and evidently had the kind of face that fits the song "The First Time I saw your face." I kept running into men who had been smitten, Werner Linz, boss of mine at Continuum-Crossroad Seabury Press, Gene Lichtenstein, friend and editor of the L.A. Jewish Journal, who mentioned that Daphne had been "shrunk" so much she had become boring. But she sure had got around a lot, too.
I had to lend Gus the money to get back to Denver, and he gave me a small precious Buddha for a token. I did not cash the token for about 35 years when desperate in Mexico. Gus and Kurt were friends who would then come crash with me once I lived the loft life in downtown Manhattan in the 70s.
In Philadelphia I met a Bill Beeson who was starting a magazine called Metamorphosis, and I joined him and, after meeting Michael Lebeck via fellow Musil scholar Burton Pike, Michael's Hillsboro Press became Metamorphosis publisher. Fred Jameson, who & I had become friends in Berlin, became a fellow editor and it puzzles me why I didn't bring in Frank? Beats me, he was such a good editor, too! I can't say that I was hogging the position; though Beeson faded quickly, Metamorphosis published lots of things of Michael's friends. Frank and Michael Lebeck, best as I know, met just once, as best men when I wed my first wife: half the right wife in being an artist & as hard-working as I & half entirely wrong in being socially entirely inept & not interested in my writer friends whereas I liked painters just fine.
Jameson had the designer Ralph Coburn do a marvelous modernist Bauhaus design, but I do not recall editorial contributions of his or from his interesting friends. Michael Miller brought in no end of West Coast poets. Frank, who and Patty both lived on stipends, was working on an eventually stillborn novel about a priest, but the Metamorphosis editors wanted no part of it & there was no part I liked sufficiently to be highhanded, as I can or did at moments when I had complete confidence in my editorial judgment. Did Patty teach? Frank and Patty then went to the U.K. for a few years before settling in Brooklyn Heights with their first son (whom Patty, whose mother was the head of Planned Parenthood, had decided to have without consulting her husband - was something that Frank then welcomed, which birth got him to get cracking on Stoptime). Perhaps the U.K. years was why I didn't ask Frank? But that doesn't make sense either & does not explain why I didn't ask him.
The 10 K I had saved for being unable to spend it in the bush lasted only so long and I drifted into all kinds of back office work: Reader of German books for a variety of publisher - which is how I started to get up to snuff on then contemporary German literature; translation doctor, Uwe Johnson's Third Book About Achim;, Alexander Kluge's Lebenslaeufe.
I did work for Grove Press, McGraw-Hill; Braziller, translating & reading and reading for his book clubs), Putnams (Tom Wallace) and Atlantic Monthly Press. The latter, via editor in chief Sam Lawrence, led to my scouting for Atlantic for a year - 1964 - in Germany & then getting Atlantic to publish Peter Weiss and Peter Bichsel's prose. (Amazing that Atheneum, who had a great success with Marat/ Sade, then did not jump on the prose - but that was what American publishing of foreign authors was like, I began to realize: amateur time.)
On my return from Europe on the France in December 1964 Frank suggeseted we get back together at a place called Elains's
and Elains's certainly added a dimension to my N.Y. life. Not only did I make certain life-long or nearly life-long friend, Paul Sylbert, Bruce Jay Friedman, Paul Desmond and Jerry Leiber (I already knew Fred Seidel- as of Senior year ( and we hit it off: I described to him Brecht's notion of rhymeless arythmic poetics, I published a hunk from his first book FINAL SOLUTIONS in Metamorphosis; Fred was intrigued by my translations from Handke's INNERWORLD; I shared his relationship to Lowell's work - the Shako was the first poem I dismembered, already as a senior at Oakwood; we did a party for Peter Weiss during my "social literary" phase, but then drifted apart as I moved to downtown Tribeca and started Urizen Books.), who became authors, but a home away from home that would feed me while I lived uptown.
That first evening at Elaine's I brought along the budding love affair from the France, a willowy stunning blonde, Christine Doudna, the daughter of a Lawrence Kansas professor, who if I'd not been totally broke and could barely afford the shoebox in the Chelsea Hotel, I would have had living with me. Frank, too, danced with her at Elaine's and then joined us in our way downtown cab - or his Jaguar? - which I thought he would take on to Brooklyn. But no, he followed us to my shoebox & in the gentlest possible way I turned him in the opposite directions a few paces before we reached my door. He mentioned that he thought Christine would make love to him, too, as I expect the so passive Christine would have, but I was not yet in the kind of sharing state of mind I would be during my Tribeca days. Frank and I then shared a number of women, unwittingly until witted, one knowingly. It was an instance that requires as accompaniment the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger singing about "Puerto Rican girls" - however the two that we picked up in Frank's Jaguar as they had stopped at a traffic light on their respective scooters were Philippine. We then both dated the prettier of the two, and there was the time as I was picking her up at her upper Westside digs and was being kept waiting outside for an unconscionable length of time Frank Conroy, it turned out, was getting dressed and stashed in a closet, or slipped out the back door. Eventually we all grew up, in Frank's case it took Patty filing for divorce and his having to leave for Nantucket and terrified of ever being unfaithful again to a woman he truly loved- see the story Gossip in Midair.
One reason I married my first wife was to allay her seemingly infinite jealousy upon my spotting a pretty girl - and I could be said to spot a pretty girl a mile away! Once we were married, however, the ring had not its wished for magical effect; I had to avert my eyes, and started to schielen, squint, and I made Katarina do a painting for Elaine's of a mouth on a telephone - a la Lindner - hers, calling to ask whether I was there. I was entirely faithful if only so as not to hurt her, but also scared as I had been of my governess (all entirely in my head as I was eventually forced to admit, projections) until a glamorous JezebelI induced me into an affair, and I left the emasculating marriage prison, what did Katarina say, but: "Oh, just another woman," and was quite ready for an affair with boss Siegfried Unseld. When I was being fattened for the kill, watching t.v. over delicious meal, as Katarina wanted a child, my body went on strike, and I realized that I did not want to be a captive of such a marriage, not a captive of any kind. The emasculating governess effect - of which I had been entirely unaware since I had not lived with a woman since those childhood days - had taken hold.
The re-appearance of Metamorphosis author Michael Locascio (another ghost now) from San Miguel d'Allende and his hippie troupe where they had spent time with "The Hammer" also helped break the marriage spell, and I used the troupe to do the first performances of my translations of Handke plays.
The marriage had been good for work, I could work until all hours in the night because so did perfectionist Katarina for her Harper's Bazaar editors who of course had to find one or the other minutiae to object to if they did not want to make themselves superfluous.
The scouting year 1964 began auspiciously with a flight on Air Icelandic, via Teflavik, to Luxembourg - the then cheapest way - midway to Iceland an Icelandic sheep who pretended to be a stewardess asked if I'd spend a week with her in her pen. The temptation was great and I suggested that we talk about in the powder room during her next break. The first of two Iceland sheep that year, the second and I picked each other up walking in London.
Through Michael Lebeck I had met Robert Phelps, the actual founder of Grove Press (when he lived on Grove Street in the Village), which he sold to Barney Rossett. Robert had a wide- ranging taste in esoteric American and British literature, Brigid Brophy & Rainer Heppenstahl come to mind, close friend of Glenway Wescott, my Jamesian side cherishes his essays. The Phelps friendship was as good as enrolling in the New School, where Robert taught, a Collette specialist he was too, who did a lot of anthologizing, also for Farrar, Straus, and who introduced me to Louise Bogan who needed someone who translated from German to collaborate with her on an Ernst Juenger text. Although I am scarcely a Juenger fan, translating with Louise was an immense pleasure. That work as well as my translation of Musil's great novella The Portuguese Wife led to a three book Hesse translation contract with Harper & Row, editor Roger Klein.
There were moments when the hands to mouth existence, the source of income from all these small checks had started to get to me & I gave serious thought to a full-time regular kind of job. I applied for a copy-editing job at Prentice-Hall, across the river in New Jersey, and even now couldn't or shouldn't get a copy editing job since I need a copy editor for my own work, but became a good line editor & structurer of books (The Handicapper, etc) who made amazing sums doing that kind of work.
One such attempt to get a regular kind of job had the most amusing result. I applied to Aviation Weekly as a writer, and absolutely darling people really liked me, but at the final moment asked if that was what I really wanted to do, go from one unveiling of a new plane or airport to another, it was going to be a costly process to train me in this specialty. I liked these very nice people far too much to lie to them and draw a good salary for some months before dropping out.
However, during that time Dear Old Dad was flying high again and had a high-flying Wall Street partner's chauffeur drive me and Dear Old Dad to the airport, and me back to the big city.
After I had seen my father off and returned to the Rolls-Royce that was parked by, say, the Air Canada curb, what if my Aviation Weekly darlings don't happen to be getting out of a car that has just parked behind the Rolls as I am stepping back in, and wave hello to their dropped jaws. I actually ought to have called them the next day & explained, to disabuse of whatever puzzlement the sight of me had introduced. After retiring as the head of RCA International, Canada, where he had sold huge micro-wave relay stations all over the world, my father had a firm called RKS Consultants. He certainly had recouped from the debacle with Haile Elassi's son.
I hooked up with a group of people at Collier MacMillan who planned to bring the highest level criticism and philosophy to the drugstores of America! And - say twenty years later - read most of Freud the first time in entirety in those Phillip Rief edited paperback editions - the quality paperback impulse, to bring intellectual and reading to the masses at affordable prices was very powerful & I realized had been initiated during the war, not just with Penguin paperbacks as the first English language publisher of that kind, but with oddly sideway length-shaped Army paperbacks (with garish covers) I recalled from late 40s U.S. occupation. I did a lot of reading of German scholarly books for MacMillan and a member of that group - Villacana, who taught at Columbia - brought a woman to a party of mine the only one ever with whom I would have gone into the Sierra Maestre, because she had been, and looked the part, and still in the garb: powerful, wide-bodied, like some of the Inuits I had worked with in Alaska. (The progeny of "seven sisters" were entirely useless in that respect and - upon marrying a German girl - I had despaired of them, poor girls in the ghetto of their up-bringing, as were all middle class men, working class with union affiliation was another matter; not too much of that in publishing then, or now.
But for my inability to endure high temperatures, my revolutionary impulses were not going to be lived out in the tropics, the Brooks Range would have been fine, but the only dictator monopolists in that region were bears; and, later, suffering the wages of the Mexican amoeba
I realized that heat plus beasties would not have made me a good Che companion in Bolivia. My fantasy revolution was based on reading Victor Shklovsky's Sentimental Journey - an account of being a commissar during the wars following the October revolution while engaged with literature, a double-life if ever there was one. - The Cuban revolution had of course already succeeded, and I recall - one of those infinitely memorable moments - happening to be on the balcony of Frank and Patty's apartment - hearing of the infamy of the Bay of Pigs of whose preparations the NY Times had alerted me in Alaska where I managed to vote four times for JFK under the then prevailing register and vote system. Never again!
I was quite well versed in the English and German and Russian modernists of Pound's time, the French came within a few years. However, during that time, surprisingly, I didn't connect with the so-called New York School of poets - Lebeck had some minor Beat connections, Michael Miller's West Coast poets, whose work I read whenever I could. Kelly, Bard College come to mind, a few people that Gus knew, Duncan. But no Frank O'Hara. Not even via friendship with Ruth Landshoff York and her group, Lanford Wilson and Paul Foster, Kenward Elmslie.
If I had had money I would have spent at least a year in Paris, have made a grand tour and spent time in Spain & Italy & London, and have a far better education when I started to drift into publishing.
However, I had to earn my money and much as I may have read and even if I had not had certain huge gaps (the British 19th century novel, German Baroque, to mention only two) I was not going to make a living as a literary journalist: e.g. I spent a year reading everything of Max Frisch - liking his diaries best - for a review for Partisan of his Let My Name be Gantenbein, and didn't really catch on what a miserable self-persiflage that books was! But at the rate of overly conscientious time spent for those few thousand words: you get it. Editing, backing authors, getting books published was the going to be My Way.
The ABC decision in Alaska was made without initial practical considerations, was entirely based on inner necessity and interest, on who I was then. It was pretty much of a leap into the unknown – for which, looking back, I might have prepared myself, as I then did for trips to foreign countries: yet no matter how well prepared, some bugs will find you; unprepared it might be death.
Like many friends, initially we had wanted nothing to do with anything in corporate America, least of all public relations, advertising; the example of my unhappy pathos-drenched businessman father had instilled a horror of being in business. It then turned out that as publisher of Urizen Books it could also be a lot of fun, excluding the possibility that I then had the partner from hell.
That the world of culture would also be inhabited by monsters such as Wieland Schulz & Roger Straus came as a surprise.
Yet initially I got quite lucky once within about half a dozen years I was pretty much in the thick of things.
One matter I failed to do was to have “outs”, say in the event that Lebeck and I had a falling out. We had not a falling out, but within several years he fell away to join a Sufi sect and abandoned all his marvelous learning and early achievements & books and Metamorphosis. Had I noticed any particular weakness there? He had a mad Opheliaish sister who died a kind of suicide, he suddenly had a young little boy, pathetic Dolph, Dutch for a lover. I'd know what to say and do to intervene, and not just now - but there had been no notice. Eventuality I had the opportunity to ask Lebeck what he did at the sect, it was at the 7th Avenue Delicatessen & 57th Srtreet: he'd be "lifting rocks in his head" he said he and his Sufi sect did; rocks in the head indeed! - Perhaps the whole sect was a scam, that lived off its rich converts funds, I never took a close look at the head of it. When the last issue of Metamorphosis arrived from its Dutch printer I lacked the money to mail it out! Pound with all his hatred of money, if you look at the artists for whom he found support, was well-versed in the matter of fund-raising.
Many years later, after doing my analysis and contemplating newly found bi-sexual impulses I concluded that I probably would have been able to make love to Michael Lebeck if it could have kept him from joining the Sufi sect. I loved Michael, for sure, but can't say I was jealous of Dolph, merely alerted that there was a pathetic little boy in Michael. But if it would have taken love-making to show Michael how much I loved him I could have in that instance; well, yes, hugged and kissed, I don't know about the rest. None other comes to mind, can't think of any other male friend that needed that kind of reassurance! Yes, I once held Jerry Leiber while he was heaving after his second wife, the monstrous Barbara Rose, departed from that basket case, but Leiber, though he had his poet's side, was certainly anything but gay.
Now women! They it turned out needed loving all the time! And if you didn't...
I had a relative in publishing, George Aldor, uncle via marriage to aunt "Baby", who was with Praeger A friend of his at Random House. suggested I train as a salesman, I'd get to know both the business & the country. He was of course right in the way sensible people are always right.
By the time I attended the Gruppe 47 meeting at Princeton in 1966 I not only was pretty much in the thick of things but had a pretty good feel for the varieties of post world war II German literature, that of the Federal Republic, but also of the DDR, of Austrian avant garde that hooked up with pre-war experimentalism and Surrealism, and with Alps in the head Swiss kind & if only Aaron Asher had given me a job at Viking this by no meas over-confident, rather the opposite, cherry would not allowed himself to be picked by cherry picker Roger Straus, who'd find a way, sooner or later, to spit you out after he'd eaten the good meat. After a stint as Suhrkamp agent at Lants-Donadio Literary Agency (for all this, if interested see the resume @: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html
and the single really well-paid year in publishing, at McGraw-Hill, planning to found an American version of the edition suhrkamp, I managed to get quite a few fine books into print at Continuum & Urizen Books, under trying circumstances; and a number of translations of which I am indeed proud: the Nelly Sachs O THE CHIMNEYS my mourning work, Handke's WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES; Winkler's FLOWERS FOR JEAN GENET; Hochhut's TELL 38.
I who only wanted to get certain books published then became a publisher faut mieux, see links to my resume & story of Urizen Books & by the mid-80s had the past that I had longed for around the time of graduating and grad school to know what to write.
I think I could go over the rest of my life with the same attention to minutiae that I did from birth to age 21, and there certainly were some major crises, which can be traced to the now aboriginal traumata. Doing a psychoanalysis was worth everything.
Two features of the early trauma manifested themselves: the inability to live within the confinement of a marriage, especially in situ, and a tendency to fall in love, blindly, with beauty, and if incestuous, that much more dangerously. And at times Hamleting like crazy, equivocating! when the killer instinct refused to go into action.
I would also say about myself that I could be dangerously nonchalant if not cavalier - taking after my grandfather in that respect.