a stub that will increment but not be completed until the Heartache: (B.U.A.) Breakup under Analysis & Revolutionary Road sections of Darlings & Monsters Spiral & the New York memoir, Always the Wrong People are completed, in about three years!
Moi: Michael, reading Screen Memories brings to mind the question “will there be a sequel?”
MêME: The Postscript, not completed, indicates as much. There will be two sequels, one for the 25 years in publishing and theater in New York City, and a third and last for the subsequent years back on the West Coast, in earth-quake country, chiefly in Seattle. I have the opening for Part II which allows me to link up with the problematics indicated in Part I, it is called Always the Wrong People.
Moi: What do you mean by “problematics”?
MêME: The childhood trauma, the effect of the abandonment at age 9 months and that weird imprisonment by the governess that was so debilitating while yet over-protective, and has resulted in a life-long need to be as free as possible, aversion to being helped, the fortunately only occasional unhappy relationship with a denigrating father, which produced insecurities & disorientations of all kinds, the dithering I note retrospectively, say in the Oakwood section of S.M. persisted in New York; and nonchalance which derives from having my grandfather Werner von A. as a model, both its fortunate derivative, that I can or used to be easy-going, but also that I become involved with all kinds of people that it would have been better of not to, a lack of discretion I call it, and that though I was brought up as though I would have money, which I then didn’t, I didn’t learn the importance of greed in this culture. Nonchalance again. That led to a series of menial jobs in adolescence – S.M. cites them - and the only good thing to be said for them was that they Americanized me and taught me the spoken language, which came in handy in translation work, taught me the common touch. I continue to feel positive about the general run of Americans, as I did as a German kid about American G.I.s. post 45 to 1950 when I shipped out of Bremerhaven on the USS Maurice Rose.
Lack of necessary obsession with money – this has to be instinctive as it is with every real New Yorker – but for the children of the upper class -
and understanding the need for it, characterized stretches in my life in publishing, and had consequences.
I can see where the trauma effected some of my decisions later in life, and in a deleterious way. As indicated in S.M. and also on-line at
though I imagine having someone like Wieland Schulz
for a partner is scarcely typical, one of the two major, the second of the seriously “wrong people” in my NY City life, and I blame myself for letting Schulz get to me for a stretch and to frazzle me as did so many others, for not going to a lawyer sooner, this is something that ought to have been done on principle as soon as I got wind of what he was up to! There are certain chances that you don’t get twice. Not as bad as my grand-dad Werner von Alvensleben not poisoning Hitler when he had the chance, but the matter will gnaw at me until my dying breath. At least I caught on eventually and as it says in Handke’s Walk About the Villlages “freed a bit of blue sky”, at least in New York. If I’d know what a great and deep shit detector Handke had at the time that he communicated to me how dark he felt Schulz was….b but I didn’t, took it too lightly.
MOI: What do you mean, by Always the Wrong People?
MêME: This only changed once I had done the psychoanalysis. And I did not take psychoanalysis non-chalantly at all! And you won’t be really be able to conduct the interview until I have completed part II or have taken a look at the Urizen & Schulz matters & some other matters that are online, about Roger Straus, about the restaurant Elaines, but see below I have the opening of Part II, and define what I mean by the “wrong people”, and also ran in a few of them in Seattle.
Moi: Overall, it sounds as if you regret coming to the U.S. as a kid?
MêME: I would not come a second time. But I was seduced by the Americans that then surrounded us, that OSS/CIC troupe that protected the anti-Nazi villa where they could party, but chiefly by The Declaration of Independence. I would visit & at length, but check out other options around 1949/50 where to go. Canada would have been preferable, it is not an imperialist country, but is also a new country, which is what I wanted. I wanted not just out of Germany at the time, but out of a forever warring Europe. The reading of Karl May’s 70 novels of course introduced a lot of geographics into the romantic adventurous imagination. No Baluchistan, but certain South American countries, Mexico, Argentina, the Pampas, would have come under more serious consideration. Mexico I came to love being in later in life, and felt much more at home at than I ever did in the U.S., although toward the last decade of my life in Seattle I would not have minded living in Paris, or London, or Madrid or Lisbon. I started to feel very European and missed being there. The lack of a past in the U.S. began to bother me. The same same of so much of it. On the other hand, the sudden prospect of the U.S. turning socialist, in 2016, gives me optimistic pause.
Moi: But haven’t you become quite American in all these years?
MêME: I suppose so. But I still don’t chew gum or flounce about. On a more serious note: a few years ago I had a a moment when I realized how American I was. A song by Al Greene came on, a gentle r & b soul, might also have been by a few other folks, Otis Redding, and it hit a spot that said, “you are an American”, I too sing the blues, for childhood’s sake, and thus identify with American Blacks more than with any other folk, I heard that music first in 1945, in Spring, AFN Bremen. I am hooked on a few other utterly American matters, Baseball which initially was the substitute for childhood soccer, Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boys of Summer instead of Werder Bremen. American literature, a lot of it. But I think I have far more aversions than attachments. The landscape yes, of course, nature, but that was never linked to a nation for me, Alaska was a major experience, so was the South West. The people are friendly, as I experienced them as G.I.s, it’s just that only at the rarest of moments have I felt to be an American. The disappointment set in not just in Sour Orange as that first American Chapter of S.M. is called, and which was a shock that I often felt I never got over, but continued to, politically, at Oakwood when I got a good whiff of the McCarthy Hearings, of American paranoia; by the Bay of Pigs in 1961 I was ready to be an insurrectionist. By 1968 I wanted to find a troupe for the insurrection. All this was seen very much through the eyes of a descendant of 20th of July opponents of Hitler’s, through what I learned of the failed opposition. And Revolutionary Road (Sentimental Journey # 3! the second novel part of the Darlings & Monsters Spiral project is about someone a bit like myself who believes “the revolution” must break out at any moment and who lives and behaves like that and does all kinds of things to further such a happening, it catches the mood of the period until it devolves into the absolute impossibility of anything of the kind, although, as in The Man with the White Suit the “revolution” keeps ticking away, somewhere underground.
Moi: But you have no regrets about leaving Germany?
MêME: No, none at all.
Moi: In that case, why a life-long preoccupation with German literature?
MêME: Disappointed in the U.S., as you can read in Screen Memories, I decided to check out where I had come from with that 1956-57 Junior Year Abroad, and but for theater and literature was once again disappointed in Germany, the country still spooked me as it had as a kid. I tell myself that if I had stayed in Germany I would one way or the other have had something to do with German literature, as an editor, perhaps as a writer. I might easily have become part of a theater, more easily than in the U.S. Back in the U.S. I sought to stay attached to what I liked in what I had left behind, to import it, make it part of my life, to stay whole.
Moi: And in that respect you pretty well succeeded, no?
MêME: Halfway I suppose. http://artscritic.blogspot.com/2015/12/provisional-obituary-on-reaching-eighty.html
I got lucky with a few things, especially Handke, what came as a surprise, at least until I realized again what a garbage heap of a culture this is, that what had been created could so quickly disappear and that there was no continuity. That has to do with the institutions, the Cult of the New, and the people that manage the culture industry, certain matters persist at the universities, but the universities are divorced from the culture at large, are their own special world.
“ALWAYS THE WRONG PEOPLE…” is what I said, it slipped out, when the firm went under in the early 1980s, said to someone whom I regarded as “the great fondness”, though, I imagine, I might have confided as much to a few other people I was close to; the realization had evidently been building up for some time, yet the statement begged quite a few questions.
For one, who might have been the right people? Did the even exist? Actually, I had met a few, more than a few, I wasn’t misanthropic, it just so happened I didn’t have sufficient truck with them, but ended up in bed, also literally, with a lot of the wrong people. That that might be the case the overly, fantastically optimistic part of me could truly not have known, imagined, or been able to assess at the time that I took my headlong plunge, in Alaska, at a McCabe & Mrs. Miller’s type orgy on Chena Ridge, outside Fairbanks, in November 1960. The current into which I dove in New York, where I gradually oriented myself, did not appear egregiously wrong, not until you took a close look. But that I had not done as I would in the future for indigenous pests & illnesses when setting out on a trip to a third world country, take a close enough look at the individuals, as I did as of the mid-80s, and still made some mistakes, who, after all, withstands a truly hard close look, the messes you found there. Experience would teach me, it did teach, at the end of college I realized that I needed American experience, and I certainly have it now, the darkest past of New York, and in the early 80s I seemed to have sufficient experience to reach the conclusion that it was always the wrong people, or had been so far, or at crucial moments. At least I now had experience, I told myself, which I knew I had not when I stopped writing stories during my senior year in college, bruised now, an aging Tom-Cat with a nip bit out of each ear, and a split lip. Is that what I had wanted? A lot of experience of all kind? Yes, it must have been. You had to take your chances, or - I don’t know - become a quietist, work for the post office. I could even see myself doing that if settled with a brood. On reflection I began to doubt whether the “great fondness” had been the right woman for that confession (see anon for justified reservations), although “great fondness” was, I concluded, a stronger foundation if permanence I wanted than passion. Passion blinded and subsided. “Great fondness” was a rare position in a firmament where love was meant to win the day but never did, which left me heart-broken or which I elided at the last moment, apparently not wanting to be permanently bound. What did I really want? I wanted to toss these thoughts, they seemed garbage, out with the day’s garbage and go have a drink at the Raccoon Lodge, and perhaps Happy Hank would be there and he and I could hook up and hold the pool table against all comers, as we had the last time that I had I had been in my preferred “happy go lucky” state of mind. The only excuse, or excuses I had for myself, could come up with - no stopping these thoughts it seemed - was that however wrong these people had turned out to be I had had not the faintest. Well, but that was not entirely true either. I had had warnings, inklings. However, I had not necessarily have a choice… but to hold my nose? There were times that there was very little choice indeed. Thus, the “wrong person,” so it occurred to me, might even be myself, in which case the over-all equation became absurd: how does the only halfway right person, (I allowed my vanity to accord that much to myself!) then venture forth with others who turned out to be the wrong persons.” I had had some warning, and not only from mutual acquaintances. Even my own senses had been alerted, but I had chosen to ignore the advice of the acquaintances and of my eyes and nose. In a few cases there had been no choice. It had been as on wintry river where you quick-stepped from one ice floe to the other. Thus the “great fondness’s” reply to my statement that always the wrong people was “destiny” was an assessment that applied even more generally than to me: it was wrong all around, was it, a fool’s ship? I had mounted a fool’s ship with blazingly optimistic eyes. I was the super fool. It was foolish to try to live the “right life” in the wrong life, as I recalled I was not the first person to conclude.
If the “great fondness” had really been also the “great confidante” we might have sat down and examined the specifics of the matter, the dirty half dozen most eeegregious – oh how I love that word whose eees screamed - as I did with a confidante who, however, was not the great fondness but a former lover with whom I secretly hoped to re-align as we examined night after night the evil carnivorous spider web which entangled her firm. The half dozen really wrong people with whom I had become involved, what qualities, if any, did they share in common was one way of approaching the problem to make it less abstract. Each and every one of them had been immediately physically ugly, and since I did not, could not ignore as much I decided to look past that physical ugliness, it wasn’t denial, I congratulated myself on not being unduly, as I put it, influenced by physiognomies. Eventually I learned that such physical ugliness was an expression of something inside these people, however it had got there or developed I said “wrong people” in some puzzlement and unhappiness for so much effort having been spent on such a great venture, such a cause; and the “great fondness”, actually I had only had one other, who was not entirely ignorant of some of the people I had become involved with, thought my predicament “fated.” She might have been analytic, descriptive, enumerative as I will be, as indicated, if she had also been my confidante. Fated since when? I thought back on my childhood and earlier life than coming to the big city. Indeed, there were a few of the “wrong people,” perhaps it was the mark they had left on me that had destined me to encounter, to be at the mercy, of that half dozen that had left their mark on my life now? However, being born stupidly preternaturally optimistic, not fatalistic, and unreflective in these terms, I can’t say that I had been apprehensive that I might meet some “wrong people” or, on being warned, imagine how “wrong” they could be. What a concept after all! What if all the “wrong people” held a convention how many of them would there be, what would they do to each other, how had they become “the wrong people” (WPs… wropeapes) In what respect where they wrong? Were they wrong to all people who encountered them? In the case of the half dozen I am thinking off, the answer is actually yes, they left an ill odor, a mark on each and every one they harmed, but they were not monstrous criminals were they? Criminals yes, to one degree of another. They were not gangsters, they had intentions, they were unusually selfish, they were unusually, preternaturally… greedy aside being unusually physically ugly, those were the chief features that each shared, that marks them, and yet: each of them, nearly, must not have been ugly as children? They had become ugly, something ugly in them had started to manifest itself in them physiognomically - I had to stiff upper lip in their presence, look past their ugliness, to ignore that feature. I had one friend who just about vomited each time he had met them, and by chance he had met each and every one of them, if only briefly, and if I had not suppressed that impulse… the thought completes itself. How could you allow the impulse to vomit free reign, wouldn’t you vomit out your intestines during your first week in the big city? Yes, physically ugly, not beautifully ugly like Popeye the high-rise steel worker whose face was the first to introduce that category into my mind, a man whose face had become pockmarked by flying bits of molten steel, rivets flying about as he worked building high rises. Question became whether “the great fondness” herself had been a “wrong person”, the most severe of the delusions, of self-deceptions? After all, there had scarcely been an inkling of a warning about her, yet a few people had made negative noises - “all that schmoozing”, - and I had not inquired further., after all, there were far too many positives, the reasons for the fondness outweighed the doubts.“Not inquired further,” was a commonality, a refrain in my relationship with them on hearing negative comments. “R. screwed me on that deal.” “S. is very dark!” Really? “At least very German.” German dark might be bad news indeed. I however had not noticed anything of the kind. I was taking chances, perhaps I was an adventurer? I had little choice. If I did not take a chance I would have to leave the city and fend in less dangerous quarters. Perhaps I secretly meant to get hurt? A friend suggested that being adventurous implied fundamental masochism. But I detested pain, all kinds, I plained, I could suffer it, but not gladly. Yet the thought nagged. I decided to take a close look at how I’d gotten into that fix of “always the wrong people” and what I might be able to do to cheat fate. Another novel!!!