Friday, February 21, 2014
I am going to tell you something gross. As you know from reading this "blog," (ha ha, you don't read this "blog"!) Norman Mailer is obsessed with poop (look who's talking). I guess last time I started reading ANCIENT EVENINGS I accidentally skipped the prologue, because right away in the prologue here is what we get (I warned you it is gross): "My bowels quaked with oceanic disruption, ready to jettison whole fats, sweetmeats and gravies of the old pleasure-soaked flesh." I ran into Jimmy at Square Books today and tried to quote that to him. "Multiple gravies!" replied Jimmy. "That shall be the title of the 'post'!" I announced. Before, I was going to call it "Gross, Norman Mailer." When Jimmy came in off the balcony into the bookstore and I spotted him, I was sitting there in the little coffee section leafing through some essays by William S. Burroughs. I read about a time that Burroughs met up with Beckett. Burroughs was advised to bring his own whiskey "as [Beckett] would proffer none." Burroughs told Beckett about some flying foxes he had seen at a zoo and Beckett didn't seem to care much. Burroughs goes on, in the essay, to express a preference for Proust over Beckett, which surprised me. I think he put it this way: "That Proust is a snob humanizes him." I thought that was a gracious and interesting way to read Proust. I started thinking about that interview I did for Jimmy's magazine, late in the evening when I began to claim that Proust was mean to cats, and that was why I had stopped reading the second volume of his big book halfway through. As soon as I got home, it occurred to me that I had only ever heard of Proust being mean to cats from one person: my friend Jim Whorton. I didn't wish to besmirch Proust posthumously! So I emailed Jim for more details and told Jimmy to hold off on quoting me. Jim Whorton wrote back, "I think I did tell you that, because someone told me that once. But I have since tried (even since telling you that) to verify it and have not been able to. I hope it isn't true, but this friend (her name is Melanie) was emphatic about it. Oh, I hope it isn't true. Starting today I am never again going to repeat gossip." It is kind of like how unreasonably sure I used to be that Nixon enjoyed Campari and soda above all other drinks. Anyhow, I told Jimmy he could still quote me in the interview as long as he used Whorton's email as a footnote. But he didn't - a wise decision as I am very transparent and of course would have kept reading the second volume had I really been digging it, putting terrible accusations about cats out of my mind. Which reminded me: I had JUNKY by William S. Burroughs on my recommendation shelf at Square Books, and his narrator (who is William S. Burroughs, pretty apparently) is REALLY mean to a cat in that book! Spurred on by my discovery that he preferred Proust to Beckett, I snatched JUNKY off the shelf and replaced it with Lynda Barry. Then Jimmy and I walked among the books and talked about which books we had read and which ones we hadn't. He told me about a sentence in A PASSAGE TO INDIA that had really helped him when he decided to quit the football team in high school. "I'm going to tell my dad this!" he thought. And he did. He told his dad, "There are many ways of being a man; mine is to express what is deepest in my heart." His dad, rather like Beckett hearing about the flying foxes at the zoo, was not impressed.