Books

The Invisible Strings of Returning Pleasure: Jim Moore reviews Holly Prado’s “Weather”

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

“Invisible Strings”: “The Pleasure of Return”

Yesterday afternoon, I had a long phone conversation with the poet Genet Bosque, whom I have seen in person only once in the past 25 years. That occasion was about three years ago, when I had driven from Long Beach to Cecilia Woloch’s apartment to talk with her and another friend about a job interview application at an out-of-state college. I got up in her area early enough to swing by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see an exhibit I had read about that included a handwritten transcription of Allen Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra” in a huge painting. As I wandered into a nearby gallery, I heard a voice say, “Bill!” It turned out that Genet was working as a gallery attendant, which caught me off guard because I thought she was still living up north. We exchanged phone numbers and emails, but did not end up contacting each long until recently, when a brief e-mail exchange led to yesterday’s chance to catch up with each other.

Last night, appropriately enough, I spent an hour reading INVISIBLE STRINGS, an extraordinary book of poems by Jim Moore, a poet who has living and worked in St. Paul, Minnesota for most of the past half-century. I published Jim’s second collection, WHAT THR BIRD SEES, in 1978.

Today, the “invisible strings” continued to guide me along. Just four hours ago, I was at my storage unit, going through boxes of my archives to prepare them for being taken down to UCSD, and I found a carbon copy of a letter I wrote back in early 1978 to Sandra Tanhauser. The letter primarily concerned the attendance of Los Angeles poets at the publication party for issue number 10 of BACHY magazine at Papa Bach Bookstore. In the letter, I mention how I showed copies of Jim’s book to Holly and Harry.

Lo and behold, when I got home I found an email from Harry in which he says that Jim Moore’s review of Holly Prado’s book, “WEATHER,” can be found at the following link (Times Times 3):

https://timestimes3.blogspot.com/?fbclid=IwAR3yzywked7nLcjpzUupOuj7OvLH1u7w9wKegLGM-3mW-AQbXr7Ix7JB0ck

“Invisible Strings,” indeed. “The pleasure of return,” as Jim Moore says in his review.

Books

New National Poet Laureate — and the Overlooked….

The Library of Congress has named Ada Limón as the 24th national poet laureate. She’s the first woman of Latino heritage to serve in the role.

I would much rather have seen Lorna Dee Cervantes chosen for this public role, but these discussions are not something I am permitted to contribute to, other than in the commentary of this blog. For those who are unfamiliar with Cervantes’s writing, I would recommend taking a look at it within the context of Steve Axelrod’s excellent anthology of poetry, “POSTMODERNISMS,” from Rutgers University Press. It’s only within such a comprehensive overview that one can truly begin to appreciate the distinctive accomplishment of Cervantes and how her work refuses to accommodate itself to narratives of unforgivable trauma. Instead, she reinforces the depths of the inflicted wounds of genocide and neocolonialism. Over twenty years older than Limón, Cervantes has more than earned the honor of being our nation’s next poet laureate. I would point out that she is also capable of bringing together factions of poetry that are not always seen as sharing much common ground: https://lithub.com/lorna-dee-cervantes-on-allen-ginsberg-and-the-interplay-between-beat-and-chicano-poetry/

For additional context for Cervantes’s work, consider an anthology that came out in 1993, when Limón was still a teenager. How would Limón’s work hold up if it were retrospectively inserted into the following line-up in the revised version of NO MORE MASKS, edited by Florence Howe?

Pt. 3. Loving in the War Years / Cherrie Moraga / Lorna Dee Cervantes, 1940-. Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway 1981. Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War between Races 1981 / Judy Grahn, 1940-. Ella, in a Square Apron, along Highway 80, from The Common Woman 1970. My Name is Judith 1978. Hannah, from Helen You Always Were/The Factory 1982 / Toi Derricotte, 1941-. The Feeding 1978. On the Turning Up of Unidentified Black Female Corpses 1989. Poem for My Father 1989 / Irena Klepfisz, 1941-. About My Father 1975. Perspectives on the Second World War 1975. Der mames shabosim/My Mother’s Sabbath Days 1990 / Robin Morgan, 1941-. The Invisible Woman 1970. Heirloom 1982. Damn You, Lady 1988 / Alta, 1942-. Bitter Herbs, 1969. Euch, Are You Having Your Period? 1970. First Pregnancy 1970. Penus Envy 1970. Euridice 1975. from Theme & Variations 1980 / Marilyn Hacker, 1942-. The Muses 1968. Sonnet for Iva 1976; 1980. Mother II 1985. Ballad of Ladies Lost and Found 1985. Nearly a Valediction 1990 / Janice Mirikitani, 1942-. Soul Food 1987. Breaking Tradition 1987 / Sharon Olds, 1942-. Solitary 1980. That Year 1980. The Language of the Brag 1980. Pajamas 1984. What If God 1988; 1992. The Girl 1988. First Sex 1988 / Carolyn M. Rodgers, 1942-. U Name This One 1969. Some Me of Beauty 1976. Feminism 1978 / Tess Gallagher, 1943-. Instructions to the Double 1976. On Your Own 1978. Spacious Encounter 1992. I Stop Writing the Poem 1992 / Nikki Giovanni, 1943-. Seduction 1968. Adulthood 1968. Legacies 1973

In looking at this list, I can see more than one other name that would have truly excited me to see as the recipient of this honor: Judy Grahn. Dream on, Bill. Dream on. And Ellen Bass would make a great poet laureate, too!

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As for the Axelrod, et al., anthology, here is some background information:
The New Anthology of American Poetry: Postmodernisms 1950-Present (Volume 3)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0813551560
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0813551562

“Steven Gould Axelrod, Camille Roman, and Thomas Travisano continue the standard of excellence set in Volumes I and II of this extraordinary anthology. Volume III provides the most compelling and wide-ranging selection available of American poetry from 1950 to the present.”

Review
“A Choice magazine ‘outstanding title,’ featuring over 1800 poems, along with introductions and notes, this three-volume set offers the most compelling and wide-ranging selection from the nation’s beginnings to the present day; also available in individual volumes.” ― LitHub

About the Editors:
STEVEN GOULD AXELROD is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of Robert Lowell: Life and Art and Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words and coeditor of Robert Lowell: New Essays on the Poetry.

CAMILLE ROMAN is a visiting scholar at Brown University and Emeritus Professor at Washington State University, Pullman. She is the author of Elizabeth Bishop’s World War II-Cold War View and coeditor of The Women & Language Debate: A Sourcebook and a music book series.

THOMAS TRAVISANO is a Professor of English at Hartwick College. He is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: Her Artistic Development and Midcentury Quartet: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Berryman and the Making of a Postmodern Aesthetic. He is the principal editor of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.

Books

“Translating Brecht” and other thoughts on contemporary America

Fifty years ago, the first issue of Bachy magazine was published by Papa Bach Bookstore. At the age of 23, I had been appointed its first poetry editor, and critiquing and choosing the poems was like running a poetry workshop. I had, in fact, started attending a poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque in Venice, which was at the time located on West Washington Boulevard (now called Abbot Kinney Blvd.), and begun meeting some of the poets who would become the authors I published when I started Momentum Press.

Unlike Bachy, which published fiction and photography, another Los Angeles-based magazine, INVISIBLE CITY, was devoted just to poetry and poets. INVISIBLE CITY was already well established by the summer of 1972, when its sixth issue appeared, Bachy‘s first issue came out at the same time as the sixth issue of Invisible City, featuring the work of Antonin Artaud, as translated by Jack Hirschman, arrived for sale at Papa Bach. Two friends who had met as undergraduates in San Francisco, Paul Vangelisti and John McBride, had started their magazine a couple years earlier; the knowledge of poetry that they brought to Invisible City easily made it even at that point a major resource for working poets on the West Coast.

Among the poems in Invisible City that directly spoke to the political context of the United States in the early 1970s, it was a translation of a poem about translation (“ars translatio”? / “ars transferendum?”) that most impressed me. Franco Fortini’s “Translating Brecht” caught the haunted tenor of being a poet in a country that would overwhelmingly approve of Richard Nixon’s viciousness in prolonging the Vietnam War. I would note, however, that my admiration for Fortini’s poem was not out of hero worship of its subject. I knew and admired both Brecht’s poems and his plays, but not uncritically, thanks in part to the bracing lesson of a play about Brecht’s life in East Germany after World War II, “The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising.”

I am always amazed at how few contemporary poets know Fortini’s poem, but I truly shouldn’t be surprised or caught off-guard by American poets’ preference for their familiar, home-grown poetics. As Willis Barnstone says in a recent interview with David Garyan, contemporary poetry is largely “a circus,” and the publication-contest prize game has proved to be a debilitating distraction for too many aspiring poets.

Here is a link to the interview with Tony and Willis Barnstorm as well as Fortini’s poem.

http://www.interlitq.org/groves/willis-tony-barnstone/job.php

‘Translating Brecht’

Books

The Summer of 2022: A Fable for Your Beach Reading

Once upon a time…..

there was a beach at which a shark would devour a portion of a swimmer every decade or so. Sometimes a lower leg; sometimes more than half a torso.

As years went on, though, the lifeguards began to notice that sharks began to swarm the surf, and it turned out that someone in the crowd enjoyed going in the water with a vial of blood and letting it ooze into the oscillation of the tides. The swimmer would then return to the shade of his beach umbrella (yes, it was always a “he”) and sit back and watch the show. Purchasing such vials of blood was very easy, and required almost no effort. The notoriety to be attained by facilitating a “Shark Thrill” weekend quickly led to serious competition that made skateboarding contests an old-fashioned pursuit.

The lifeguards became experts at instantly texting messages in which they sent their “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims.

The lifeguards, however, felt they weren’t paid enough to sit around and watch the mayhem, so they got busy fundraising for other worthy organizations. After all, one can’t keep losing people indefinitely without replacing them; and obstetricians, for instance, did need more work, especially in high risk pregnancies. What better way to increase their case load than to ban abortions and make contraception illegal? The lifeguards, therefore, sat in their towers working on fundraising advertising slogans that would replenish the payrolls of their favorite Political Action Committees. And, indeed, all concerned were soon successful in accelerating the birth rate of a nation that claimed it was already too large to accept any immigrants fleeing patriarchal tyranny elsewhere. When asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, young men most often said, “Chum Masters,” for what glory was there in being a lifeguard?

As an ever increasing number of young men continued to inundate their local beaches with chum, the lifeguards regaled their traditions with an annual summer bar-b-cue: “Feast, Not Famine: Keep On Jammin’ ” Unlike the beaches, this event was closed to the public.

Books

Douglas Kearney — International Griffin Poetry Prize Winner

July 5, 2022

Seven years ago this month, I was fortunate to have the company and inspiration of five other poets for two weeks at CSU Monterey Bay. CSU’s Summer Arts Program offers professors who teach at a CSU campus a chance to organize a class that gives CSU students a chance to work with other artists and writers who are not part of the CSU system. The challenge of being in charge of such a class is that one is required to do an immense amount of recruiting work. One is given a budget, and the job is to find enough students to enroll in the class.

I managed to sign up a truly all-star faculty for that course in 2015 and their presence enabled my course to attract sufficient enrollment. The five poets who taught in the course included Juan Felipe Herrera, Marilyn Nelson, Ellen Bass, Cecilia Woloch, and Douglas Kearney. I felt especially fortunate to have Juan Felipe Herrera agree to teach a couple days of workshops at the course before he was appointed the national poet laureate. Herrera was certainly a well-known and admired poet, but I don’t think anyone in late 2014 was picking him to be the next superstar.

At that time, in a similar manner, those of us in Los Angeles who knew Douglas Kearney’s work were very aware of how good a poet he was, and in being part of the faculty at Cal Arts in Valencia he certainly did have an institutional affiliation that supported that recognition. One of the things I had noticed about Kearney was simply how hard he worked and how generous he was in sharing his artistic energy and knowledge. Early in the past decade, the program of bringing guest poets to the CSU Long Beach campus had fallen into an abyss of non-support. The total budget the creative writing faculty was given for the entire year was $150. Douglas Kearney deserved a minimum of ten time that to read at CSU Long Beach, but he nevertheless drove all the way to Long Beach to give a reading in the evening after a long day of teaching. It was an extraordinary reading. Kearney literally radiated the full-throated dexterity of the vowels and consonants that pulsed within his poems. Along with Nelson, Bass, and Woloch, the class at Monterey Bay was a memorable convocation of poets enfolding each other within the other’s visions.

I have just learned that Douglas Kearney has won a major poetry prize, and I am utterly delighted to share this news, as well as a link to this brief interview.

https://www.mprnews.org/episode/2022/06/23/st-paul-poet-wins-2022-international-griffin-poetry-prize

Minnesota Now
St. Paul poet wins 2022 International Griffin Poetry Prize
Cathy Wurzer and Gretchen Brown

Books

A Gullible Union Never Learns…..

June 3, 2022

Back on February 4th, I posted my commentary on the acquiescence of the California Faculty Union (CFA) with the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University System. After months and months of refusing to negotiate a new contract in anything resembling good faith, the bargaining process had broken down and the CFA had opted to get the opinion of an outside mediator as to which sides’ claims were more fair. Suddenly, the CO made an offer that seemed to be too good to be true. Instead of realizing that now was the time to press one’s advantage after decades of being barely able to budge the need of equitable compensation, the union settled for a promise that the entire raise would only happen if the Legislature alloted funds for it. It was put to a vote, and 95 percent of the membership voted yes.

I voted “NO.” (See my post for how the ballot was marked.) Four months later, guess what? I got an announcement from the CFA the other day that the California State Legislature and the Governor, at the last moment, pulled the funds that would have provided the full agreed upon raise. The CFA’s letter was full of righteous indignation about how the governor and legislature betrayed the union.

Wrong once again, CFA. You got what you deserved for your gullibility. You trusted someone who can’t be trusted, and your whining is just pathetic self-pity. You have no one to blame but yourself.

If the CFA had really wanted to fight for its membership, it would have demanded a non-negotiable four percent raise (which is way below what inflation is right now) with a chance to convince the legislature that a five percent raise was long overdue to make up for years of austerity and stalled compensation. Obviously, the union was in cahoots with the system the whole time. It was just a public dance meant to convince its membership that “we’re all in this together.” That particular flimsy ideological bromide was at the core of an alleged collaboration between the CSU and the CFA years ago in which union membership was told that if we worked to get a supermajority in the Legislature and we had a Democratic governor that an oil tax would finally be imposed and that the CSU’s woeful budget challenges would finally ease up. And, of course, that was all bullshit.

Yesterday, waiting at a red light, I noticed a placard on a bus: “Cancer won’t wait. Take control.” What’s missing from the second sentence? Four words: “(Let us) take control (of you).” This means, let corporate medicine with all of its self-serving excuses for giving as little service as possible take control of your life. Indeed, let us take control of you the way the way the predator devours the prey.

One should never trust HMOs. One should never trust those who control the distribution of social wealth. In point of fact, if the CFA really wanted to help out the taxpayer, it would investigate why the CSU pays so much for the health care of its employees and how its employees get so little for what is paid. Good luck waiting for that to happen.

********

From the CFA’s announcement:
“News of the Governor’s decision to trade away, at the last minute, funds that would have guaranteed our full four percent in raises, really is a gut-punch,” said Meghan O’Donnell, CFA Associate Vice President, Lecturers, North. “At a time when people are truly feeling desperate to make ends meet, this money, which is budget dust for the state of California – yet would make all the difference for hard-working folks in the CSU – to trade it away for no reason just feels cruel and unjustifiable.

“It’s not the kind of behavior one expects from a man who claims to be a champion of higher education and of the working class. This feels like someone playing political games with our livelihoods.”

How touchingly self-exculpatory the CFA is! The CFA knows full well how the political game should be fought. It just wants to play the idealistic ingenue instead of playing hard-ball and fighting for the raise without which there can no meaningful social justice.

Books

A tribute to Jay Hopler by one of his many readers (Alison Turner)

Tuesday, June 29, 2022

I received a short piece of commentary on Jay Hopler’s poetry recently and wanted to share it with my readers as a follow-up to the notice I posted last week about his death.

As an introduction to Alison Turner’s piece, however, I would also like to call your attention to POETRY DAILY, which today posted a poem by Jay Hopler, “Obituary.”

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGpGdnzMzPxJhtTHGtxkCVvRNvd

It’s as great a self-portrait as I have ever read in so few words. If only Whitman (or Dickinson or Yeats) had more often let a similar sense of humor into the interstices of their poems!

**********

On Jay Hopler’s Still Life
by
Alison Turner

At the relatively young age of 46, Jay Hopler discovered he had a cancer that would kill him, likely within two years. As he recounted to Srikanth Reddy in a podcast for Poetry magazine, while the doctor was telling him what he was in for, he looked out the window at a beautiful late afternoon in Utah and began to writing a poem in his head. No time to lose. The result of the effort that began that afternoon is Still Life, a collection in which he confronts the bleak reality of his own imminent extinction with rage and grief and jokes, and the dazzling language his readers have come to expect from his first two books, Green Squall, winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize, and The Abridged History of Rainfall, a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry.

Elegy is one of the oldest poetic forms, and mortality one of the oldest concerns of our species. Still Life is a self elegy— weird, Hopler said, to be writing it, having recently written an elegy for his father in The Abridged History of Rainfall. Here is a sampling of his takes on his own death.

In a poem after Cesar Vallejo

i will die in the desert on a sunny day
b/c i was born in the islands
on a rainy one

. . .

it will be a Friday b/c today friday stoned & alone I drove
into the west desert & grieved
my own passing & never so much as today do I feel
in the middle of a 2-lane road
empty for 1,000 years in both
directions
(“poem after poem by cesar vallejo w/ a nod to donald justice”)

In a poem for his wife, the poet Kimberly Johnson
it was she that lit the world just then
& not that ember of a sun
her light like a struck string fretting its zing against the pic
nic tables

may that be the music you hear
when they unplug the ventilator

(“love & the memory of it”)

There is rage in these poems (“fuck bigfoot my every star/on real monsters shines/i haunt
my own /damned house in a body sewn/together by doctors”). There is dark comedy (the poem entitled “student evaluation of instruction: obituary edition”).

The formal problem presented by such harrowing subject matter is how to manifest the vitality of a healthy mind in a dying body, to enact both sides of the contradiction. In The Abridged History of Rainfall, Hopler began to use traditional forms and also invented his own forms, a practice he continues in this collection. One of the poets he has cited as an influence on his art is John Berryman, and in an interview with Viviane Eng in The PEN Ten, he said he’d like to have a conversation with Berryman about syntax. Hopler relishes syntactical play, seeing what syntax can do to freshen the page. He uses rhyme, he uses repetition. Wallace Stevens used repetition in his late poems to convey a sense of stasis, the frozen landscape of impending death; Hopler uses it to sing. From the beginning in Green Squall, Hopler’s poems draw tremendous energy from their sound patterns – rhymes, echoes, rhythms. From their music. In fact, Hopler told Reddy that he sees punctuation as musical notation. Significantly, his collection ends with a piece of music composed for him by Paul Rudy. As he states in his notes, “I asked him what he thought I would be if I were a piece of music. This music was his answer.” And under the music, a line of words: “he has been survived” — with no period.

But don’t read Still Life first. Begin at the beginning with Green Squall, poems coming to life in a Florida garden of unremitting fertility in which the young poet is beset with solitude— worries and questions about the meaning of his life. Exuberance, despair, hope, hilarity—it’s all there. (Listen to the title— Green Squall.) The questioning deepens in The Abridged History of Rainfall as he faces grief and the uncertainty of the world upon the loss of a parent.

From my window, I can see the house
Where Galileo invented the telescope.

I wonder what he was thinking
That night, that night he first searched
Heaven. I wonder what it was

He was trying not to see.

(“O, The Sadness Immaculate”)

A still life in painting is called by the French, nature morte—dead nature. A still life “resides in absolute stillness” says the poet Mark Doty. Not Hopler’s Still Life. Life being led through one’s art, in the expectation of imminent death, is still life. And it will break your heart.

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JAY HOPLER’S BOOKS:
Still Life (McSweeny’s Poetry Series, 2022)
The Abridged History of Rainfall (McSweeny’s Poetry Series, 2016)
Green Squall (Yale University Press, 2006)

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Alison Turner’s debut collection, The Second Split Between, was the winner of the 2021 Catamaran Poetry Prize for West Coast Poets, as judged by Dorianne Laux.

Books

The Paris Review and “I Wanna Be Loved By You”

June 29, 2022

One may have noticed that access to this blog was recently blocked for the second time in six months. This time, the problem was resolved much quicker than the first time, but why there is any problem at all remains a mystery to me. GoDaddy seems unwilling to provide basic information to its clientele, who are always at the mercy of their arbitrary decisions about providing servers.

In any case, the blog is back, but I cannot predict how long it will be available. At some point, no doubt, GoDaddy will decide to shift to another set of servers, and leave its customers wondering why they have to spend their time trying to figure out how to remedy the situation. This is just a note to say that if you try to read the blog and can’t get to it, I understand your frustration.

Today, though, I want to call your attention to a post in the PARIS REVIEW yesterday that focused on Marilyn Monroe. It’s the perfect article to read to get you in the mood to find a copy of one of this year’s best anthologies: I WANNA BE LOVED BY YOU, edited by Margo Taft Stever and Susana H. Case, and published by MILK AND CAKE PRESS.

PARIS REVIEW

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2022/06/28/marilyn-monroes-poetry/

Marilyn the Poet
By Elisa Gonzalez
June 28, 2022

Books

VENICE LIBRARY PRIDE MONTH presents panel on JOSEPH HANSEN

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Venice-Abbot Kinney branch of the Los Angeles Public Library was proud to present a panel on novelist, poet, and renown teacher Joseph Hansen today. As an invited panelist, I was delighted to join novelist Michael Nava and senior librarian John Frank in an hour-long discussion of Hansen’s many novels and poems as well as his influence on other writers. Best known for his ten-volume series featuring out-of-the-closest private insurance investigator David Brandstetter, Hansen also was widely praised for other, non-genre novels, including A SMILE IN HIS LIFETIME.

You can also find an article I wrote about Hansen that was published in the LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS at this link:

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/emotions-doesnt-change-facts-remembering-joseph-hansen/

A long interview with Hansen, conducted by acclaimed poet Leland Hickman, can be found in issue number 18 of BACHY magazine. It is worth digging into the library stacks to find a copy.

Next year will be the centenary of Hansen’s birth. As Michael Nava suggested at the end of the panel, someone at UCLA should organize a full-scale celebration of Joe Hansen’s work. Given that his papers are at the Huntington Library and that he co-founded the Wednesday night poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque, it would be fitting that those two organizations collaborate in putting this event together.

You can watch the panel discussion at:

********

I had the honor of publishing two of Joseph Hansen’s books: THE DOG AND OTHER STORIES; and a collection of poems, ONE FOOT IN THE BOAT.

“Awareness of an interfering darkness is what most of these poems take as their subjects — poems about the shadow self and other worlds …. where the two are present together — where the beast is in the body (“Cargo”) or in the world (“The Shark in the Inlet”), or where the landscape contains and does not only have a loss imposed upon it, Hansen writes a terrifically poignant poem.” — Rudy Kikel, Contact II

OTHER CRITICAL COMMENTARY

ALTERNATE: The International Magazine of Sexual Politics
May/June 1980
Volume Two, Number 13

Page 63: HANSEN’S BRIEFS (Review of THE DOG AND OTHER STORIES)

Most often gay fiction takes place in states of id, locations like the Mineshaft, Polk, Fire Isladn. These place exist for a large number of people quite apart from reality. They are the loci of the gay imagination. But many of us also live in unnamed places like most of the places in this book of short stories by Joseh Hansen. Those who have been complaining that gay literature is too urban or fabricates too much will be delighted with this.
Since no one can agree on what gay life actually is, perhaps we’ll stop waiting for the big gay novel that takes it all in – at least for a while – and enjoy. If so, the short story, of which these are wonderful examples, just might be the gay form of the 80s. In and out, quick and clean, just a glimpse of this world or that. How like gay life, which is still more fragmented than whole, still serendipitous.
In this book we confront imaginative possibilities, and the human solutions are as satisfying as the literary ones. Perhaps this comes from Hansen’s experience with plotting detective novels, but I tend to think it has more to do with the opportunities the story form allows. Nothing much has to happen, just that much. And I suppose this is what makes these stories more “real” than most gay novels are able to be. In s short story, it’s not really necessary to hype the actions.
These stories are swift and ironic, rather startling in their effects, though their aims seem modest. They contain hard facts and enigmas alike – like something you glimpse briefly out the window of a speeding bus, something odd sticking out of the landscape, and a little frightening. Although they take place in South Dakota, California, Wisconsin, in the South, there’s a remarkable consistency in the collection. Hansen captures the middle range of America (again, everyone complains gay writers never do this) and it’s seen very clearly, as if through a viewfinder. It looks very easy but these stories took a lot of hard work. They go by, however, smoothly. The problem is, there are so few of them and everyone will want to read more.

BY GEORGE WHITMORE

Inquiries about these books should be sent to William.BillMohr@gmail.com

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COMMENTARY ON THE BRANDSTETTER SERIES

“One of the peculiarities of Hansen’s career, strangely enough, is that he has only very recently begun to receive any acknowledgement of the development of this character from any gay critics. A middle-class role model must not be worthy in the eyes of our radical literary establishment. Or perhaps we’re all so focused on the long-awaited Messiah in the body of the Great Gay Book that we’ve disdained something as mundane as a detective novel. For whatever reason, only the recent publication of Skinflick has drawn any gay critical attention worthy of note. We’ve abandoned our best-selling novelist and our best character in contemporary American literature to the straight audience.
It will be interesting when someone can finally explain why the London Times lauds a book as the best to come out of America in the detective field since Dashell Hammett, and then gay men in the novel’s home country refuse to buy it. That was the fate of The Man Everybody was Afraid Of. There’s been a reprieve issued by Hansen’s publisher, though; three of Hansen’s detective series which are out of print will be reissued this fall in trade paperback. ..the five novels so far published…for those who want to look, we can also see just how completely a significant novelist can use California.
There is a breadth of character development in the entirety of the series that transcends the individual novels. Subplots that might seem inconsequential in isolation become obvious and extraordinarily rich in the whole. The most significant example of this is David Brandstetter’s love affair with Doug Sawyer. Every single exchange between the two is an insightful look at two men attempting love. But when the whole series is integrated, the reader is given one of the most sincere and painfully honest portraits of a gay male relationship that has existed so far in our literature. …California becomes a character in the novels, reflecting the mood and the temperaments of the two and the other men.

Page 25

Books

Father’s Day

I think I’ve been to Dodger Stadium once in the past decade and a half. Brooks and Lea Ann Roddan had been given some extra tickets to a game, and we sat together in some seats that were level enough with the field that the pitcher on the mound would block out the shortstop. We enjoyed the game, but Linda is even less fond of crowds than I am.

I used to go to games in the 1970s and 1980s, when tickets were much more reasonable. For a while, about forty years ago, a fairly large contingent of poets and artistic friends would attend games together. We called ourselves “Artists Interested in Baseball” (AiB). The photographer Gerald Marshall David was the main organizer.

Once, in the late 1980s, I believe, my brother Jim drove my father up from San Diego, and we met at Dodger Stadium, where we watched a game together. I think it was a Saturday afternoon. My dad was tall, strong, and handsome, and worked hard all his life. I wish he had lived long enough so that he could have seen me have some professional success as an academic. Very few offspring of career enlisted military personnel ever become full professors at a four-year college. In this photograph, one of his hands is extended as if to say “I present you my two oldest sons.”

My father died in September, 1994. His widow lived another quarter=century, and my brother Jim and I made sure that she had the best possible care the last three years of her life. The urns with their ashes are now next to each other at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. Jim and I will not be buried there with them, but perhaps that is a way that fate marks those who give service to their country, for both parents were veterans. It is an experience separate from what most citizens can possibly imagine. I know that when I sit at the Academic Senate at CSULB, there are few people around me who have ever set foot on the grounds of the Veterans’ Hospital that is next door to the campus.

I will soon be two years older than he was when he died. I hope that I can work as a professor for at least as long as he was in the United States Navy, enduring conditions that few people serving in Congress can possibly comprehend.