May 15th, 2007

  • pgdf

Sixties Novels, Part 14

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF AMERICA, Robert DeMaria, Saturday Review Press, 1973
[cover by Seymour Chwast:]

One of the pleasures of doing this series of posts is the detective work: tracking down forgotten authors, learning new things about literature, etc. And I also happen to have a weird little instance of synchronicity to report this time around.

But one of the things learned in such a pursuit--or re-learned, for it's not precisely a new observation--is generally a discouraging lesson for a working author. It's how the shape of a career can implode, how authors can go from a relatively secure position--nice advances, prestigious publishers--to out-of-print obscurity.

Such is the case of Robert DeMaria.

First off, our candidate this time is not this Robert DeMaria:

The academic credentials don't jibe. Also, note the "Jr." Maybe this is our guy's son, following in his Dad's footsteps. If so, more power to him.

Neither is our quarry the diet doctor of the same name:

No, this is our man, whose works are listed here:

Now, do you note a certain downward trend in the status of the publishers of these works over the years? Big gaps in the C.V.? Also, the fact that they are all supposedly available in reprint editions from Vineyard Press, whose website is dead? It's a sad familiar story, told countless times since writing fiction became a semi-viable career path.

We know one more thing about Robert DeMaria, and that's where coincidence rears its charming head. Literally just last night, I picked up a book I hadn't touched in months: Volume Two of the selected letters of Charles Bukowski. And a few pages in, I found a letter from CB to DeMaria! DeMaria was the editor of a literary zine named MEDITERRANEAN REVIEW, and had just bounced one of CB's stories in 1970. Imagine that....

As for THE DECLINE AND FALL OF AMERICA itself, it looks to be an agreeable little farce. From the dj:

"Centenarian Nelson Pryce is the super-rich patriarch of an enormous family of close to one hundred members. He has also sired an illegitimate branch of Snopes-like characters (named Canabis [sic]) who live in incest and poverty in the woods of upstate New York.... [ellipsis mine]

"Nelson's progeny, an interesting cross section of American society, has its share of colorful characters--an unscrupulous television newscaster, an innocent nymphomaniac, a morbid college professor, a brilliant pornographer, a vacuous United States Senator, and a fifty-year-old virgin who runs a high-class bordello...."

All these folks turn on Nelson for his money. End story.

One last thing about this book: its publisher. I hear the baffled exclamations now: "Saturday Review Press? Who they?" Yes, no one under forty will recognize that name. Yet once they were a power in the land:

How have the mighty fallen....

Back & There Again

Just back from readin' and marryin' (others, not me) in ol' DC.  My friend & muse David asked me to officiate at his wedding, and I did, after getting ordained by Universal Ministries.  Quite a trip all round & I'll try to give a report at a later date.  I also had a wonderful time at the Olsson's reading -- saw lots of friends, old and new, expected and un-, in my beloved City of Trees.  My thanks again to everyone who showed up -- it was a great gig and an emotional one for me, to see so many much-loved faces in one place.  After all this, the Nebula for "Echo," a story I wrote for David several years ago, was the icing on the cake (and will make a nice wedding present!).

I'm off again Thursday for the next stage of this World Domination Tour, to what looks like a fantastic Small Beer-sanctioned night in Northampton, reading with that Superior Duo, Paul Park & John Crowley, along with the Small Beer Gang and two performers from one of my favorite bands, the Winterpills.  Is this cool or what?  Then off to Westchester County and Kamensic VIllage, er, Pound Ridge & Mount Kisco, NY, where I'll be speaking & signing on Friday and Saturday.  I'll post that info later.  For now, here's the skinny on the Artifacts gig. 

As regards picking up your jetpack -- readers familiar with Cass Neary might want to check their wallets, too ...

A Speculatively Spectacular Evening with:

Elizabeth Hand (Generation Loss)
John Crowley (Endless Things)
Paul Park (The White Tyger)

Flora Reed & Philip Price (of the Winterpills)

& a selection of interstitial material (i.e. in the breaks) from Michael DeLuca, Jedediah Berry, Diana Gordon, &c.

Celebrate spring with Small Beer Press’s Speculatively Spectacular  evening of art, readings, music, and perhaps a little more. Beginning 

at 7 p.m. on May 17,  the event will be held at Artifacts, a new gallery at 28 North Maple Street in Florence, MA. Artifacts is housed 

in a converted warehouse, where guests will be able to meet the authors, listen, dance if they are so inclined, and mingle as three 

bestselling authors showcase their latest offerings.A variety of other local authors will read their work, including a number of contributors to Small Beer Press’s tiny lit zine, LCRW. The evening will be topped off by Flora Reed and Philip Price (of the critically-acclaimed Winterpills), who will provide musical  entertainment.  Guests will be expected to peruse the art, be polite to the authors, provide good conversation, and, on leaving, remember where they  parked their jetpacks.

Eugene Green

Eugene Green is an American filmmaker who has lived in Paris most of his life. He claims not to remember how to speak English. He made his first low budget film at the age of 50, Every Night. His second film, The Living World, came a few years later and is completely unique. It's a highly intellectualized medieval fantasy featuring a fearless knight (a young man who wears a sword hanging from the belt of his blue jeans) and his faithful lion (a Labrador with a lion's roar). There are also maidens, an ogre who keeps children in his pantry, etc. I saw this a year ago in France, a subtitled version, and I can't describe how effective this film is. Green's strength lies in the richness of his words and you believe his world. As far as I know, this is not on DVD--if anyone knows different, let me know.

Green's only film on DVD is Les Pont des Arts. Here's a desc. lifted from Xploited Films, which carries it:

The lives of two troubled souls unexpectedly intersect in this ambitious drama from French auteur Eugène Green. Sarah (Natacha Régnier) is a gifted operatic vocalist who has been cast in a production of Monteverdi's Lamento Della Ninfa that's being recorded for release on LP.

While Sarah's talents are certainly up to the challenges of her role, the conductor overseeing the production (Denis Podalydès) verbally browbeats her and sends her into an emotional tailspin that she can't shake, despite the encouragement of her boyfriend, Manuel (Alexis Loret).

Elsewhere, Pascal (Adrien Michaux) is a student working on his master's degree in philosophy. However, two things are distracting him from his work — an intense fascination with the artist Michelangelo and his poems, and his crumbling relationship with his girlfriend, Christine (Camille Carraz). Pascal falls into a severe depression when Christine finally leaves him, and he's contemplating suicide when he hears some music that gives him a new lease on life — Sarah's recording of Monteverdi.

I didn't like this quite as well as Le Monde Vivant, but it's still well worth watching and, at its center,has an incredible version of Monteverdi's "Lamento della Ninfa."

It's intellectual miminalism seen through a nouvelle vague lens, but surprisingly effective. You got to check Green out. He, like Lance Kerrigan (Clean, Shaven and Keane) is a great unknown filmmaker. Le Monde Vivant is a must-see picture.