April 9th, 2007

  • pgdf

Sixties Novels, Part 2

Plenty of fine candidates for overlooked gems of Sixties lit are being offered by folks in the comments sections of both prior posts. Check 'em out!

It's gratifying to see how readily the concept of this category of books is understood by readers, and how much the literature of this era still means to people. I'm very pleased at the response. Thanks!

Someday we'll have to talk about cover artists particularly associated with the era of the 1960's. For now, I'll just toss out the name Ron Walotsky:

http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/walotsky_ron.html

I always recall many of his F&SF covers when I start musing about my hippie youth. RW died way too young a few years ago, and I'm saddened to see that there's apparently no Wikipedia entry devoted to him, or any home page. How soon we forget.....

In any case, let's move on to our second entry:

2. RICHES AND FAME AND THE PLEASURES OF SENSE, Kathy Black, Knopf, 1971.




My highly perspicacious pal Ned Brooks, in an issue of his legendary zine IT GOES ON THE SHELF

http://fanac.org/fanzines/IGOTS/igotsnew2.htm

says of this forgotten novel: "Seldom does one find a novel from a major publisher that is worse written than Arthur N. Scarm's THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN."

I don't know if I'd go that far, but certainly this book reeks of blandness and uninspired forced composition.

From my cursory riffling through its pages, the book seems to be a slice of contemporary life involving some "seekers" amidst the troubled times, uncertain of what they want. "His dream when he was little was to be a veterinarian he said but now he would like to be a professional soccer player." "And talking to Jill the idea came to me that I didn't necessarily have to get married, or that my husband and I could live separately and have affairs left and right..."

The trouble seems to be that neither the people nor their problems nor the depictions of society are particularly interesting or insightful. There's a little formalistic experimentation--funny punctuation, some sections in script form, etc--but basically it's just tarted-up soap opera.

However, the author's one evidence of genius might occur in her "Prefatory Statements and Acknowledgments":

"This book forced itself on me while I was trying to write something else, and it probably still bears the marks of the reluctance with which a great part of it was composed. After completing my shopping at the A&P (1947), I determined to apply the categories for shelving which I had learned there to the problem of the novel. I therefore began a study of Levi-Strauss's STRUCTURALISM, only to find that Barnard College's classics department was demanding a long essay on Petronius. I began searching for a boyfriend who knew Latin. The search for a boyfriend became more and more entertaining, and less and less dutiful and scholarly. I soon found myself settling on my creative writing teacher, K. Eventually the theoretical and practical aspects of the task I had begun completely fused. The result, which I call *woman verite*, is what I present here."

If only she could have maintained this charmingly loopy manner and tone for the book.

Kathy Black seems to have abandoned fiction for rather New-Ageish books, as seen here:

http://isbndb.com/d/person/black_kathy/books.html

Man, us Sixties types are survivors!

Kerouac



Thinking about 60s novels, re Paul Di’s post, I thought about mentioning Kerouac’s Desolation’s Angels, but decided it didn’t fit the category, and that led me to recall the time I met Kerouac just prior to his death, when I was very young.  He was on his way to give the Melville Lecture at Yale, driving from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla and had picked up a couple of barflies along the way.  He stopped off in Chapel Hill, NC, where I was hanging out (calling it “attending college” would be a euphemism), and Russell Banks, who went on to write Affliction and other books, at the time a grad student at UNC, ran into Kerouac just after he’d been kicked out of the Carolina Grill, a jock hangout where, according to the bartender, he had challenged a football player to fight him in ten feet of water.  Russ hauled him and the barflies back to his place and organized a party. 

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