R.I.P.: John Perry Barlow

Complicated guy. I thought his politics were a mess, and that he got conned by Tricky Dick Cheney (real limits of libertarianism exposed) though he later denounced the heartless creep and others — but why is this system better than being a progressive, man? (I know, I know, the wide-open West, etc etc.) Bob Weird is my least-favorite Grateful Dead member, but I will say he and Barlow did a lot to undercut the hippie-doofus image of the band with frequent passages about guns and violence and murder. There’s some worthy links here. I intend to grab his book in June.

Le Guin Nails the Charm of Ace Doubles

In the introduction to the first Volume of her Hainish Novels and Stories she recalls from 50 years earlier::

The first three novels in this volume were published by Donald A. Wollheim, the tough, reliable editor of Ace Books, in the Late-Pulpalignean Era, 1966 and ’67. The first two, Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile, came out as Ace Doubles: two short novels by two different authors in one paperback cover, like two trains running towards each other on one track. When one train hit the other you turned the book upside down and started from the other end. And Ace Double was a very good deal for under a dollar. It was not a very good deal for the authors, or a brilliant debut in the publishing world, but it paid, it got you into print, it had readers.

And one of them was this high-schooler in Montana named Miles. I loved Ace Doubles because they were well-edited and of reliable quality. And even on my teeny budget I could get whatever ones appealed to me. Of course, the what didn’t occur to me is that, “Yikes, this low price means the writers didn’t get paid scrunt!” I didn’t read Le Guin until the unavoidable The Left Hand of Darkness, but some of my favorites included: James White Second Ending / Samuel R. Delany The Jewels of Aptor (1962);  Samuel R. Delany The Towers of Toron / Robert Moore Williams The Lunar Eye (1964); Fred Saberhagen The Golden People / Lan Wright Exile From Xanadu (1964); A. Bertram Chandler Space Mercenaries / Emil Petaja The Caves of Mars (1965); Jack Jardine and Julie Jardine (jointly as Howard L. Cory) The Mind Monsters / Philip K. Dick The Unteleported Man (1966); Lin Carter Tower Of The Medusa / George H. Smith Kar Kaballa (November 1969). I took a pretty extensive break from sci-fi from the time I graduated college until I moved to MA.

 

Couple Little Notes on James Wright

I see there’s a new biography about him. I should go back over the poems first. After a too-formal start, they do get dramatically stronger (and harrowing) and then better in a more reflective way toward the end. Wright and Richard Hugo were students of Ted Roethke and did hang out together. Here’s a couple anecdotes from Hugo about Wright. He said Wright was both wonderfully engaging and kinda terrifying to be around — since, though Hugo didn’t understand this exactly, if Wright was out at all, he was in a manic phase. Hugo said Wright slept with a full tumbler of straight whiskey next to his bed so he could start gulping it the moment he woke up. Hugo recounted another time when Wright’s son, Franz, was riding in a car with them, and noted that Wright knew his boy (who also won a Pulitzer for poetry) was gifted with language. As an example, he mentioned the six-year-old exclaimed, as they passed a big stars and stripes flapping on a pole, “Look! Our country’s flag!”

 

The Answer

Well, time’s up (didn’t seem to generate a lot of interest). (I take it back — had not checked in a while, and there seems to be considerable hits.)

The answer is that Norman Mailer (Henry Abbott), Gunter Grass (Johann “Jack” Unterweger) and William Buckley (Edgar Herbert Smith Jr. — just died this year) all vigorously promoted the early jail release of convicted murderers who then went on to murder again, or, in the case of Smith Jr., attempt murder. Unterweger was the worst — he checked into the Cecil Hotel Room 1402 because it was where Richard “Night Stalker” Ramirez lived, and then went out, fooled the LAPD into giving him tips, and slaughtered three prostitutes.

The extra added dark laughter is that all three monsters became notable writers and flattered their famous-author mentors as faves (Smith was by far the most minor scribe). Why, a fine writer couldn’t be a psychopathic human-reaper, right? I don’t know about Unterweger, but I do know the other two played on the egomania of Buckley and Mailer to get their way with them. Anyone who admires me this much must be a fine fellow, right? The final detail is that Smith Jr. thought Buckley was such a tool that he contacted him after his victim got away, expecting Big Man to cover for him. Instead, Buckley contacted the cops and turned Smith in. Without, however, covering himself with shit and walking the streets for a week.

R.I.P.: Brian Aldiss

I recommend Trillion Year Spree to anybody who might remotely be interested.

Due no doubt to some failure of my literary imagination, I have a hard time with a lot of his other works. (Thought Non-Stop was boring as hell, tried to get started with the Helliconia Triology several times without success.) But I do want to hail two short stories — “Let’s Be Frank” (very original idea) and “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (you can read the whole thing from a link in the obit), very different from the film “A.I.,” more of a mere inspiration, both works engrossing in their own way.

Plug for Chester Himes

So there’s a new biography out there. And I certainly agree with the basic conclusion of it. I discovered Himes by accident because, strangely enough, he apparently had a huge fan in Missoula, MT who sold all his ’60s paperbacks to a local used store. I started out in the summer after I graduated from college with For Love of Immabelle and had to pick the shards of my brain off the ceiling. I resolved to read everything I could find by Himes and I have. My only mild disappointment was his autobio, The Third Generation, which seemed too careful and cleaned-up to me. (Well, Pinktoes has long porno-mechanical stretches mixed in with wonders.)