Thursday, May 21, 2009

Phil Ochs

Nobody likes William F. Buckley--evil man.

But I wasn't sleepy and I was watching Charlie Rose, and he was replaying Buckley clips because the son was on. There was a late clip of Buckley, looking like a grotesque of himself, like his Buckley mask had melted. He was saying that he'd done everything and that his life was over, but that he couldn't commit suicide, that being a sin. I felt the normal amount of sympathy that you might feel for someone who was a walking bag of shit--thought, he must have suffered from depression. Didn't quite say "poor man" but almost got there---feeling sorry for him, a little. Snapped out of it--oh, yeah, oh, yeah--there are good depressives and there are...walking bags of shit who are depressed.

Immediately thought of Phil Ochs, at first thinking well that's a strange skip, but then, no,

not so much--the sixties, the war...depression, and in Ochs case suicide.

And so I downloaded Rehearsals for Retirement because I don't have it on CD and Amoeba was closed. The opening lines make up the saddest couplet ever, well maybe not ever, but it's like something out of Wyatt, so universal, a perfect articulation of end-of-the-line despair:

The days grow longer for smaller prizes

I feel a stranger to all surprises

A brick wall of a couplet, high art, I think. Disturbing art is somehow (more) uplifting...that someone in such great pain could come out with those lines. Could only come out of intense pain--a kind of last gasp.

I'd read some bios but years ago, so I did a little late-night google research, refreshed my memory--that album cover with his tombstone, died in Chicago '68 (real date of death is, I think, '76)--that he was so torn up by, whatever you want to call it, the failure of the revolution, the death of the American dream (was there one?). His despair, depression, whatever was at least partly rooted in his concern for humanity.

Perhaps despair was (is?) an appropriate response to the times. And is it an essential ingredient in art?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Advertisements for Myself

I’ll be doing lots of readings this summer and fall. Here’s a partial list(some dates aren’t set yet).

Really looking forward to spending some time in NYC. I was there in '05 but just passing through, on my way to Yaddo. Last read there in '02 at Zinc Bar when my first novel, The Chandler Apartments, was published.

PM Press is an aggressive little publisher--they've put together a full reading schedule. A pleasant surprise--I can't complain that they aren't pushing the novel. If it doesn't sell I'll have to find something else to whine about. World-wide depression? But that shouldn't hurt the sales of such a low-priced ($13,95!) little novel.

I’ll be reading with Summer Brenner, author of the novel I-5, also, coincidentally, from PM Press. Check the various venues for times (Bowery Poetry Club reading is at 2pm):

Thursday May 28th Brecht Forum451 West Street NYC(212) 242-4201

Friday May 29 Wooden Shoe 508 S. 5th St. Philadelphia(215) 413-0999

Saturday May 30 Bowery Poetry Club308 Bowery NYC(212) 614-0505

Sunday May 31st Bluestockings172 Allen St. NYC(212) 777-6028

Monday June 1st Melville House 145 Plymouth St.Dumbo, Brooklyn(718) 722-9204

Monday June 15th Moe’s Books2476 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley (510) 849-2087

Thursday July 23rd Pegasus Books2349 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley (510) 649-1320

Tuesday September 29th City Lights Books 261 Columbus Avenue S.F. (415) 362-8193