Got and read (the whole whopping 32 pages) his flat-out children book, Crictor (1958). I feel I have enough of his stuff now. Points:
Lovely that it’s set in a “little French town” where he can get the costumes and shops and landscapes intriguing and correct. Especially fun parts include: Madame Bodot feeding her “baby” boa constrictor milk from a bottle; knitting him a long wool sweater to wear in the snow; his diverse and clever interactions with French kids; and of course his foiling of a burglary in Madame Bodot’s apartment which makes him a snake-hero. Especially weird part: Madam Bodot being tied up and gagged by the thief reminds you of Ungerer’s bondage proclivities.
The ages recommended for the book are 4-8 and I was 6 when it came out. Wish I had read something by him at that time. Can’t imagine my reactions. But I know why he didn’t turn up in my elementary-school bookshelves.
The teachers sensed he was weird. Could cause waves.
About 15 years ago, Tee Pee records sent me a promo of the debut by the band High Strung. I loved it, never got around to writing about it, never received any more material from the group, forgot about them.
I read a couple of positive reviews of Black Mad Wheel, a horror/sci-fi novel with a music theme and a fascinating plot.
And the author is High Strung honcho (songwriter, lead vocals and guitar) Melerman.
This afternoon devoured Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987. May have more to say but I must get in that Riad and his buddies obsession with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie was an utter surprise hoot (Sattouf does a marvelous job of capturing the kids’ imitation of the Schwarzenegger scowl).
The Edgar Rice Burroughs reissued paperbacks had been thrilling me since Junior High School and the same Frazetta cover art drew me to Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when they first appeared. And it was a serious graduation — Howard was more modern, more violent, more weird, more fevered than ERB.
I outgrew Howard and his hero (who I started calling “Onan the Barbarian”) before the reissue series finished up. I needed fiction characters with interiors. I knew little about Howard’s life except that he was from Texas and most of his Conan material had appeared in the sacred Weird Tales. Everything came flooding back when I saw the captivating and wonderfully realized 1996 film The Whole Wide World (Vincent D’Onofrio performance of a lifetime). I immediately tracked down the Novalyne Price book One Who Walked Alone (more apt title, but I see why they didn’t use it). Both the film and the memoir are hugely recommended for their presentation of the value fantasy had for certain isolated souls trapped in the vast Western horizons. The Price book makes a more explicit case for Howard’s fatal fixation on his mother.
Captivated by Lord of the Rings in junior high, I discovered the Ghormenghast Trilogy early in high school and spent a good deal of my sophomore year reading Titus Groan. Some of my (ahem) less intellectually-evolved classmates thought it was weird that I read thick paperbacks alla time and would ask “You still readin’ Tight Groin?” (hyuck hyuck hyuck). Perhaps because of all the shit I got, I never did finish the three books, but went crazy about the illustrations, which I thought were a superb example of a writer who was also an illustrator being the ideal person to do the visuals.
Then I screwed up and forgot about Peake for decades until after his passing I learned he was primarily an artist. Then I continued to screw up and only got a version of Alice in Wonderland that he illustrated (since he seemed like an unquestionable descendant of John Tenniel).
Just a while ago I stopped screwing up and got a copy of Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art compiled by Sebastian Peake and Alison Eldred, Edited by G. Peter Winnington (Peter Owen, 2006). I am beyond enchanted. Among dozens and dozens of prized new pictures, I think I now have the definitive rendition of Algernon Blackwood’s Wendigo.
I agree with the nay-sayers about Cuckoo’s Nest in that Nicholson is terrible in the top-hero role (unfortunately, James Dean was dead) and agree with the plus-note people that Louise Fletcher redeems the foul, dated sexism of the concept of Nurse Rached. (Kidz, it was this: stuffy, norm-obsessed, perfectly domesticated women were holding freed spirits and wild men back. Like they had that power.)
When we visited him in St. Louis, we took the outstanding walking tour from his home. He showed us the house where one of my prime mentors/inspirations/parasitic-demons grew up, William S. Burroughs. Bit grand but unassuming, except for the peculiar sculptures that lined the walkway up to the house. (Obviously inhabited by people more like the author and less like the guy who invented the adding machine.)
“They insisted there should be no sidewalk notification of what this was,” said David, “because they were afraid of the hordes of weirdos that would show up all the time.”
When I regularly wrote poems, their beginnings were effortless, pure pleasure. The lines would start blooming in my head and I would write them down soon as possible. Sometimes took two or three sessions to complete a work. I would reread many times and do refinements and revisions, but those first flashes were all fun.
Only got a half-dozen (not-great) poems in the last 40 years. But occasionally a small piece of writing like a caption or a blurb or a short preview will suddenly start flowing out of the tap in my brain. Happened today when I was driving. Had to keep repeating the thing to myself until I could get to a keyboard. But I didn’t mind a whit.