Thursday, August 27, 2015

franzen a david brooks type writer, stinker prose

Franzen is a Pundit dissembling as a novelist.

Here the link to the NY Times Book Review review which strikes me as sensible as compared to the others I have read, the Guardian's
 was worth reading though it did not give a clear idea of the book as Colm Tobin does. The three excerpts re-inforce my judgment Franzen is a Pundit dissembling as a novelist.

The church on Siegfeldstrasse was open to anyone who embarrassed the Republic, and Andreas Wolf was so much of an embarrassment that he actually resided there, in the basement of the rectory, but unlike the others—the true Christian believers, the friends of the Earth, the misfits who defended human rights or didn’t want to fight in World War III—he was no less an embarrassment to himself.
For Andreas, the most achievedly totalitarian thing about the Republic was its ridiculousness. It was true that people who tried to cross the death strip were unridiculously shot, but to him this was more like an oddity of geometry, a discontinuity between Eastern flatness and Western three-dimensionality that you had to assume to make the math work. As long as you avoided the border, the worst that could happen was that you’d be spied on and picked up and interrogated, do prison time and have your life wrecked. However inconvenient this might be for the individual, it was leavened by the silliness of the larger apparatus—the risible language of “class enemy” and “counter-revolutionary elements,” the absurd devotion to evidentiary protocol. The authorities would never just dictate your confession or denunciation and force or forge your signature. There had to be photos and recordings, scrupulously referenced dossiers, invocations of democratically enacted laws. The Republic was heartbreakinglyGerman in its striving to be logically consistent and do things right. It was like the most earnest of little boys, trying to impress and outdo its Soviet father. It was even loath to falsify election returns. And mostly out of fear, but maybe also out of pity for that little boy, who believed in socialism the way children in the West believed in a flying Christkind who lit the candles on the Christmas tree and left presents underneath it, the people all went to the polls and voted for the Party. Even the dissidents spoke the language of reform, not overthrow. Everyday life was merely constrained, not tragically terrible. (Olympic bronze was the Berliner Zeitungs idea of calamity.) And so Andreas, whose embarrassment it was to be the megalomaniacal antithesis of a dictatorship too ridiculous to be worthy of megalomania, kept his distance from the other misfits hiding behind the church’s skirts. They disappointed him aesthetically, they offended his sense of specialness, and they wouldn’t have trusted him anyway. He performed his Siegfeldstrasse ironies privately.

In the heart of the heart of the country, Purity “Pip” Tyler was on her knees in front of a toilet, sifting through the soggy logs of her own fecal matter, wishing she could be anywhere else, doing anything else, particularly birdwatching. Like her great grandparents, who had moved to the Midwest a century earlier in search of cheap, arable land and found themselves nearly stamped out of existence by The Depression, Pip fashioned herself an amateur ornithologist. In her earliest memories, power lines sagged into smiles beneath the many tiny weights of sparrows, backfiring trucks sent a flock of warblers winding into the sky. In her family, birdwatching was tradition. Her great grandparents, once they’d somewhat established themselves in Hoover’s America, spent weekends spying wrens in Appalachia. Her grandparents took bus tours down the Pacific Coast, searching, her own mother and father spent every summer crisscrossing New England in a Winnebago, their enormous binoculars trained on the trees. Like all children unwittingly do, she had inherited other,

Purity in Oakland MONDAY "Oh pussycat, I'm so glad to hear your voice," the girl's mother said on the telephone. "My body is betraying me again. Sometimes I think my life is nothing but one long process of bodily betrayal." "Isn't that everybody's life?" the girl, Pip, said. She'd taken to calling her mother midway through her lunch break at Renewable Solutions. It brought her some relief from the feeling that she wasn't suited for her job, that she had a job that nobody could be suited for, or that she was a person unsuited for any kind of job; and then, after twenty minutes, she could honestly say that she needed to get back to work. 


Thursday, August 13, 2015



The day upon reaching the evidently momentous de 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.

Returning nearly entirely broke from a year in Europe during which I had translated three Hesse novels and been paid a pittance scouting for Sam Lawrence, Danny Gordon, who was in charge of a section of  Columbia Pictures in NY that read book galleys in its search for film stories, proved a savior in getting me a where I'd be paid anywhere from $ 25 to $ 75, depending on the size of the book galleys, and turn in a story outline, in the present movie tense, and a book evaluation. The evaluation went to the supplier of the galleys: Publisher's Weekly who saved themselves what it cost Columbia to employ a stable of readers. This would prove immensely useful in my future as editor and publisher, since I learned how the Columbia readers worked and what Publisher's Weekly did with the book reports, how it boiled them down, time that I tried to save Publisher's Weekly when my time came by providing consise favorable advance reviews that were nearly immediately publishable. Aside reading my eyes out in the shoebox, its previous resident, one Lane Dunlop had left behind, in a huge drawer beneath the window seat, a trove of 19th century British lit from the NY public library, and a host of French surrealism. I got in touch with Lane, we became friends, and after I left Michael Lebeck's apartment at 18th and 8th Avenu that I inherited upon Michael moving in with the Sufi sect, Lane inherited that apartment, who switched from translating from the French to Japanese.

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 @:

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.



Wednesday, August 12, 2015


The first scratchings of these, chiefly, investigation of the workings of memory & consequences of early childhood psychological wounds - for this self-analytic memoir of age one to twenty-one – my way of finding out who I am, to come face to face, face to face with myself: I try to think what motivated me, the then mid 1960s obscure sense that it might be a good thing to find out what that murk inside me was, I felt troubled, and it turns out I was so for good reason. Even within the first half dozen years in the United Stated, from age 14 in 1950 to Sophomore College year in 1956, I felt haunted by the country that I had fled - “like a black bear with Texans and their hounds at its heel” is my exorbitant analogy - yet longed for a particular place – a fir forest that was also part farm, called Fichtenhof/ Fir Place or Manor - whose initial loss - I was four years old in 1940 and taken away to avoid the bombings – was one of my first wounds, which wound - by this writing - has grown into one of my most important “screen memories,” a veritable magnet for associations of all kinds. That screen memory, together with an even richer one of six months prior, of a catastrophe when two toy railway train locomotives collide inside an Alpine tunnel, and you and I have the fractured psychogram of a young child. And if you know just these two screen memories plus my aboriginal Oedipal dream of a Billygoat chasing a four year old me up a clearing in Fir Place, you would be a seriously worried child analyst! However, there was no child analyst around! Not even anyone to wonder why I might have looked such a delighted child as my mother leads me, a harnessed toddler, through the flower beds, who then looks so miserable, like such an unhappy child, in his sandbox with his governess hovering nearby.
Fir Place kept pre-occupying me, always hovering in the back of my mind, during the first two years in the so sour experience of West Orange, New Jersey, and while at summer camp or when camping, and also at Oakwood School: on graduating from high school I was meant to spend a summer as a lumber jack in the Quebec north woods. I was pretty “woodsy” and had started to become so during early childhood.
Subsequent to coming to the U.S. in 1950, – - I returned twice to Fir Place, during a Junior Year abroad in 1957 and in 1964, a year spent literary scouting and translating. Both times I paid brief, memorial, walk-about visits to a place and its village that evidently occupied a paradisiacal spot in my experience.
Paradise lost, the reasons why were discernable, were clear to me. But I can visit any time, virtually, courtesy of Google Earth! Although Fir Place is much changed, the surrounding farming area not so much. As a matter of fact, the surround is much spruced up since the end of World War II in 1945. The Fachwerk (wood-reinforced walls of the) farm houses look freshly painted, the huge clump of a Chateau looks glazed – in my recollection it is filled with refugees who have hung ragged laundry out of the windows.
The one good story I wrote in college – Sandro – also features Fir Place. I had the idea for the story – after just having written a truly dreadful, forced something - outlined it for a toughy, for Professor John Ashmead, discussed it and had it in two drafts. An F was succeeded by an A+. Everyone loved it, Bill Packard published it in the Haverford-Bryn Mawr review prior to a breakdown as editor of the campus paper. Sandro (see Appendix) came as no other story had so far in English, it welled up, formed like a fairy tale, sort of wrote itself, the way I had started to write shortly before emigrating. It is a lyrical story of death and loss, set in Fir Place. I was astounded at what one Bryn Mawr girl brought to, found in it – and I suppose ought to have married, entrusted myself to someone who had such deep insight, ways of seeing into matters of which I was unconscious.
Thus the first scratchings were made in the mid-1960s & I showed them to Aaron Ascher, an editor at my publisher, Viking Press, and I think I showed them to Aaron because Aaron was my then best friend Frank Conroy's editor for Frank's famous-to-be memoir Stop Time. Frank had found his voice. I read chapters as he was completing his childhood (the then too hurried) memoir in his shoebox of a studio on Ann Street, vis-a-vis City Hall Manhattan - and suggested to a Partisan Review editor to do a section, as they then did. Were Frank and I in competition with each other? I am uncertain, which may means that in some respects the answer may be yes even though I had no intention of emulating his way of sinking mine shafts into childhood for a series of them to form a spectrum of the whole of it. I realized that I would have to go about it very differently. I can't really find too many other signs of competitiveness in my relationship with that friend (but of his with me in a # of matters, see the Conroy portrait in the Appendix): we played even-steven at chess for thousands of miles & months of summers!, and Frank was, I knew early on, brighter than I, who, however, knew that he was the deeper and slower of the two. Aaron said that he found the material utterly fascinating, a reaction that both surprised and intrigued, and thus encouraged me over the years to keep scratching away while I was in the world of N.Y. publishing and had a contract with Viking, and a different editor, dear Alan Williams, for a very different book - on an important figure in the German resistance to Hitler - that yet related in many ways to the material of what is now called Screen Memories. That book, on Colonel Kurt Grosskurt of Canaris's Abwehr,(German Counter Intelligence)
had been suggested by Ladislas Farago a code cracker & historian of espionage.
The subject of the German opposition interested me because my parents, since the mid-30s, as well as other family members had been in that opposition (other family member had been in the SS!) and then became involved in the the 20th of July plot to assassinate Hitler, were arrested,
spent time in Gestapo prisons, were strung up or had heir heads cut off, and the fact that the parents, especially my grandfather,
survived - while I as a child was in debilitating "protective custody" - was the kind of improbable event that is then termed miraculous. Or as the street has it: "That is the way the cookie crumbles!" Well, in instances it is possible to look at cookie crumbs crumb by crumb. E.g. Why was my grandfather not executed after being condemned to death after he had been so fortunate to have a most dubious friend (Count von Helldorf)
suggest that he spend the night of the "Long Knives" in 1934
at his hunting lodge? After all, he had ridiculed Hitler at a famous lunch (his wife, my grandmother, famously said that she'd just as soon "not have that gentleman for lunch again."!), Hitler had accused Opa A. of being the "certain Herr von A." who had been about to launch a coup that the "Night of Long Knives" had allegedly averted & had made the threat (it was a joke and justifiably paranoid Hitler had taken it seriously) to call out the Potsdam garrison to have Hitler arrested - something that my grandfather's superior, General Schleicher,
Hitler's predecessor as Chancellor, had indeed been in a position to do, but didn't, just as little as Opa had the good sense to kill a man he knew to be the head of a murderous & mad organization; and so Opa A. instead spent time in four different concentration camps, was liberated at Buchenwald, but occasionally was on vacation (!), during one of which, Christmas 1940, he figures significantly in my so all-important first screen memory, as a displacement for a threatening disliked father. Cockie crumbs become boulders. What would that screen memory look like without him, what would have replaced the metaphor of two toy train locs that collide catastrophically inside a make-believe papier mache tunnel?
That I was born into Hitler's world therefore had all kinds of quite personal consequences of which you/ I become (gradually) aware, awake as your historical awareness wakens, becomes conscious.
Research on Grosskurt was bound to deepen my background on that subject, but a book on Grosskurt, at that time, in the 60s, also, I hoped, would serve as model for military opposition to the Vietnam war. Grosskurt, initially, seemed a fine prospect for such an undertaking. As compared to the Junker Military caste's often belated nationalist opposition to Hitler, Grosskurt's origin as Protestant Pastor's son, in Bremen, pointed to opposition for reasons of conscience.
One of my favorite reading moments was coming on darling Jean Genet realizing, in his Thief's Journal, that as he worked his way back from Poland through Germany to France that in Germany the police and the criminals were one and the same - how this appalled his French sense of how the world was constituted!
And it was not just my parents' role, but my grandfather - who in that astonishingly brief Christmas time - became especially dear to me, that played into my interest in that past; that is, even initially, the interest was historical and political. That it lacked psychological self-understanding was remedied, at least roughly, with a psycho-analysis that I undertook in the 1980s. Yet from early on the family configuration, and as it existed in my psyche - exquisitely Oedipal - and in some respects contradictorily - seemed determinative, and interest in the determinative aspects of the past became intimate once I regarded it from the perspective of the long term effects of a child's psychic wounds.
I took a few stabs at the book as the years wore on, however became ever busier with translating and entry into editing, book publishing. The Grosskurt project itself was abandoned in the mid-70s because Grosskurt had, for one, been unable to overthrow the government or prevent the outbreak of WW II (pathetically, in frustration, he had tossed a rock at the Reich's chancellory in 1938, the kind of detail that will stick) but - the Hitler government receiving intimations of disloyalty - shipped him off to the Eastern Front; taken prisoner of war at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 he died a Russian p.o.w.: there was no book there, certainly not of the kind I envisioned, although the research on it, in the Gestapo trove that the U.S. had schlepped to Washington, D.C. and at the IFZ, Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, proved invaluable.
For example, I found out that dear old philandering Dad had had one of his numerous affairs with Colonel Grosskurt's secretary – no matter how dire the life or death situation, all kinds of hanky-panky flourishes, in the underground of the opposition as well, and rarely is it of the Casablanca high romance kind. And that my mother saying "the police always know less than you think they do" proved correct. What had the Gestapo had on my father when they arrested him immediately after the failed 20th of July coup? That, as the head of the Unilever-owned German fishing concern Nordsee Deutsche Hochsee Fischerei, he had supplied the conspirators with fish! That was one matter for which you were not strung up! At least not in advance! But you'd keep you eyes on the guy! A discovery from a house search in 1943. My mother's links to the Rote Kappelle
must have shown up when that conspiracy was decimated.
In the early years of the new millennium I wrote up the analysis as A Patient's Experience of his Analysis. Screen Memories (including its title) would be inconceivable without having done that work.
At that point, 2003, I could look back and see someone like myself born in the mid-30s to parents who turn the child over to a governess because they are too busy, also with conspiratorial work that invariably overlaps with social life, and for class reasons, and which child's earliest years are shaped by the experience of war, that for reasons of the village culture and for reasons of reading lots of fairy tales, acquires a dark fairy tale quality - B-17teens become mythical birds of prey, moths in the night-time sky that searchlights spot with puffs of smoke going off near them, dragons teeth are sowed, a nearby camp becomes the place where lives the man who eats children, and is to be avoided.
You could scarcely call my early life typical of a German boy my generation, yet via the media - radio, newspapers - I became absorbed by and in war, and a militant nationalist by age six, so it appears! Parents of course utterly appalled, Guenter Grass then 14 and living in Gdansk cheers me on as I sing "We Lay off-shore Madagascar and had the Plague on board" to my parent's Christmas telephone call in 1942.
I was raised chiefly in rural environs; kids in the cities had a much harder time of it. I imagine I can be said to have been privileged with that unfortunate governess protector jailer Ms. No who kept me in emasculating protective custody & neglected in not that atypical a fashion; yet it was the kind of neglect that allowed for time to read and to dream. A streak of sheer orneriness (and perhaps the example of the negative role model uncle) kept me alive and not totally goodified, and then linked up with what I call "My Idyllic years" (1945-1950} with its inception with the arrival of refugee cousins at our place in the vilage of Schönebeck {Prettybrook) outside Bremen - "Idyllic years" was one initial title for the book, the most favorable memories had displaced the grimmest. Peter Weiss's Abschied von den Eltern (Farewell to my Parents) played a role, also because Peter had become a friend.
Perhaps my experience as an emigrant who has to make his way in the demos is somewhat more typical.
In 1991, sick of Bush I, of the savings and loan debacle and a Malibu where every home owner had a real estate license and tried to sell the neighbor's house, I went to Mexico, supposedly for six months, to complete the book. I had in mind something called "Hotel Franscesca" in the former French copper-mining town of Santa Rosalia, opposite mainland Guaymas in Baja Sur - seven pesos a day for a room and breakfast and a view of the Sea of Cortez/ of California. Already on my way down Mex I, on the elongated peninsula, rumors abounded that Hotel Franscesca was closed down or had become a whore house.
Initially, traveling alongside the Pacific and its cold Japanese current and lacking for warm water, I headed for Bahia de los Angeles, of Steinbeck's American Flyer fame, and seriously considered putting up in a trailer in Tony Resendiz camp (Tony the Turtleman who was bringing the turtles back, a descendent of Steinbeck's Doc marine biologist) & converting my computer to D.C. electricity, but chance would have it that - retrieving mail in Santa Rosalia - I encountered someone who sang the praises of Mulege (Moo-lay-hay) a town a few miles further south, that proved a semi-tropical rural haven as compared to Bahia de los Angeles and Tony the Turtleman's exceedingly ascetic frugal semi-desert ways. And indeed the Hotel Franscesca was closed: climbing the northern bluff of Santa Rosalia (a town of three avenidas thrust into a copper canyon) to check on a splendid wooden structure, it happened to be open house for hombre de nogotacion who would resuscitate the hotel's commercial viability. The gentelmen asked me if I was a prospective Norte Americano hotelier.
All impulses of the kind needed for the completion of any of my several major projects faded in the idyllic pastoral rural, if occasionally exceedingly hot and amoeba-rife Mulege environment. I produced one long very shaggy dog screenplay (amusing the hell out of myself!), translated an Erich Wolfgang Skwara novel and did a few Handke essays for an annual Austrian lit conference at U.C. Riverside. Who wants to dwell on the "Third Reich" with Mangoes falling ripe off the trees into your mouth! Shuffling through the mucho pulvo rural paths, or a burro as transport for longer forays into a wonderful back country. And you could probably make a mint selling something called "Hitler Cola" to anti-American Mexican sheeples? If the small stipend on which I lived, that and some royalties, or if Roger Straus had not bilked me out of three quarters of my royalties - I had the fantasy of moving to Michoacan to live in a tropical high altitude (cool!) pine forest with the tribe that worships the Monarch butterfly!
With my Handke project in pretty good shape around 2013, and several other entirely unanticipated books completed (1) but, but for many fine sections, a huge novel, Darlings & Monsters unlikely to be completed in this lifetime, I set to serious work on Screen Memories - that I could get done in a few years, and for once complete it I did, without indulging in too over-optimistic a fantasy. The minutae keep flooding in from an aroused deeply ploughed memory!
Initially, I wrote a section, a very contemplative one (since eliminated) for the morning that 14 year old me is about to step ashore the U.S.N.S General Maurice Rose at the Brooklyn Port of Embarkation in October 1950. In that section, which coursed over the major events of my young life, I toggled between calling myself Gabriel & I [Gabriel/ I is how that looked] a combined first and third person!] which contained the truth of uncertainty; how well did I actually know myself, recall who I had been at that time; even with a psychoanalysis and subsequent working through. This was a time that I sought to objectify my casenes as it were & Screen Memories was meant to become “objectified” & I called myself Gabriel Orloff, but in the process seemed to lose all intimacy, and not really gain anything, rather the opposite: a not fruitful constraint, not the wished for novelistic freedom - yet, though abandoned, that perspective will not have entirely disappeared, and I regard it, retrospectively, as a valid step in acquiring an outside perspective on myself. The idea of a Gabriel Orloff had seemed to permit the introduction of fantasy – I was hoping that some kind of transfiguration might transpire, into a Farbrizio!, as it had with the Sandro story during freshman year: unconscious dreamwork could be trusted to do that work - after all, though I find memory to be untrustworthy, dreams are not, nor are Screen Memories which are a species of historical dream (2).
However, I was forced to give up on novelistic temptation which would also have meant the sacrifice of certain journalistic truth values. So what was it going to be?

The book, as it developed, changed titles from Irretrievable Losses, to Losses to The Idyllic Years [for the transitional years 1944-1950 having been the best of them] to Screen Memories for the importance of the major traumas and how they were remembered & transfigured, how they figured in my life.
My objective in writing, as I proceeded, with numerous unearthings along the way, then became to investigate the long-term effect of a series of early childhood traumas, which manifest themselves in a series of major screen memories of age 4 - evidently the most exciting and eventful year - 1939-1940 - of my life, I kid thee not!
To that end I went over the first 21 years of my life sometime in great detail (and could go over the rest, especially its major turning points) to discover the unconscious as well as conscious effect of these traumas - that elicited what you might call automatic passive compliance or active semi-compelled decisions with existential consequence; and in that process became engaged with my memory and its workings. E.g. I became puzzled why I had no recollection whatsoever how I came from Fairbanks to the forest fire I had started to fight outside Galena, at the Yukon, in Summer 1960, why I drew a total blank where I had anticipated memory to speak, as it had in nearly every other instance: I had gone 24 hours without sleep, and the memory that was laid down during my next sleep session, however, starts with my being on the fire line, and a P-38 above showering me with fire retardant. What immediately precedes it is forgotten, has in fact never had the opportunity to be remembered. The initially discovery of this lacuna proved to be a very disturbing experience, it cast doubt not so much on the experiences that I seemed to recollect with considerable certainty but on the overall record: where I had been able to say that “the body does not forget” - however its many ways of remembering - and be in a position to prove it, doubt was suddenly cast on that certainty.
Sleeping on events to lay down, inscribe memories suddenly became very important. When had I not slept for extended periods of time, and thus not be able to remember possibly crucial events in my life? - For the first two major screen memories and the preceding first nightmare evidently well enough. Subsequently there were stretches upon stretches of nighttime bombing attacks and nights spent awake.
The date of the first bombing attack on Bremen coincides with the second screen memory, that becomes that of a tearful expulsion from paradisaical Fir Place. Yet was I really in Berlin when the Zoo was bombed and the animals screamed or did I only hear of that attack and fantasized, projected their screams into my memory and into a 1955 story: after all, I recall very distinctly being in an above-ground reinforced beton bunker in Spring 1944 as a physician was preparing to remove my tonsils and I was drifting off into the land of anesthesia as the bunker shook and the mirror trembled. In other words: whether or not I actually heard the screams of the animals from my parents apartment in the Budapester Strasse in Berlin, if Zoo animals screams were even audible there!, what the recollection shares with that of the first bombing attack in Spring 1940 is my hysteria, which was induced much earlier, by my governess; my Oedipal dream, also at age four, provides ample evidence.
The memoir ends with that mad resolve in November 1960, at a McCabe & Mrs. Miller (the Altman film) type party on Chena Ridge, Fairbanks Alaska - a resolve that apparently shook me physically so that fire-fighting friend Carlson could not but help comment that I had just reached a major resolve... it happened to be to follow the path of Pound's ABC OF READING: that being the adventure I was going to be on instead of the variety of anything but artistic ones I had been contemplating, and of which the ABC OF READING route had not been one but, evidently, surfaced unconsciously; where what seemed to matter most asserted itself: yet without the kind of realistic preparatory assessment to which I was subjecting the other adventures: I had already ruled out driving nitroglycerine trucks in Venezuelan oilfields (I had evidently seen one too many films!), not yet entirely the fantasy of diving for conch shells (The Moon and Six Pence - I was not going to be poor in the South Seas!). As I mention: if I had known that the negative role model of my youth, an uncle in Mozambique, had been a big game hunter & enforcer of the poaching laws in a territory the size of Switzerland, and no longer ship-chandlering in Lorenco Marquez, I would have joined him. I was a good enough shot, I was sure healthy after nine months in Alaska. I would learn Portuguese. Although Werner had lived fairly crazily as a young man, by the time Frelimo got him to leave his game preserve fastness in the 1980s (they tied him to a Baobab tree and fried one of his now beloved animals to death before his eyes, as they knew it would break his heart - but, after all, they did not kill him the former enforcer of the poaching laws!), he'd become quite wise: he only did photo safaris & confessed that everything important he knew he had learned from his friends in the bush, and, nearly albino white blonde, had adopted the facial physiognomies of a black chieftain. With my ideological convictions I can see myself joining Freelimo & might have been shot dead by Portuguese colonialists if not by an adder that wrapped around a front axel and stung through the brake pedal opening & I imagine I would not have stayed forever in P.E.A.

What to do with your analysis is the question, now that you have at least an inkling, perhaps more of self understanding, existentially in your context & time and place.

1) LIST OF BOOKS/ Write Some Numb's Bitch, The Developing Account of Time in the Baja Part I, Steeped in Seattle (Prose Poems), the Handke essays

2) Screen Memory definition/

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website


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