Somehow missed Larry Rivers wrote an autobiography? I missed you, Larry Rivers. It’s called “What Did I Do?” and I found it this afternoon at Booklegger’s behind a book behind another book. I started reading it on the bus home and I missed my stop… just by one stop. And really I live between two stops so that’s kind of bullshit. So far, “What Did I Do?” is even nuttier, chattier, and wilder than I expected, even for that nutty and chatty post-war, whatever that means, generation of writers & painters & musicians & people. They knew how to swing, those post-war pricks. It’s a hardcover. It’s in perfect condition. It cost me $10. The blurbs are no joke. A Johnny Depp-era Allen Ginsberg & Kurt Vonnegut & an “After Henry”-era Joan Didion & Arthur Miller & Tama Janowitz all fawn over it. Arthur Miller says it’s proof Larry Rivers was a “certifiable inmate of our asylum-century,” which is nuts. Now, this is not the first watershed discovery I’ve made just roaming the stacks on a Thursday afternoon at Booklegger’s. I doubt I would’ve stumbled upon ”What Did I Do?” in the clutches of Amazon’s algorithm. AMZN, to its credit, keeps pestering me to buy a copy of Frank O’Hara’s “Meditations In An Emergency.” Who does AMZN think I am, ruminative Don Draper? Maybe eventually AMZN would’ve found WHAT DID I DO? for me, but that moment has passed. Even if Amazon did find it for me, I couldn’t have “Looked Inside!” far enough into an $0.01 selling at a $9.99 markup to find the scribble on page 43 that says “I miss you, Larry.”
Sex used to be."Sex used to be the consolation prize - now it suddenly becomes another one of the psychological problems. Well, there is nothing to do but go on working. "
Tennessee Williams, Notebooks, July 1 1942.
All real work is hard.
Read this hungover on Sunday so read it again on Tuesday and still think it’s chapter, verse.
"Everybody has a hard job. All real work is hard. My work happened also to be undoable. Morning after morning for 50 years, I faced the next page defenseless and unprepared. Writing for me was a feat of self-preservation. If I did not do it, I would die. So I did it. Obstinacy, not talent, saved my life. It was also my good luck that happiness didn’t matter to me and I had no compassion for myself. Though why such a task should have fallen to me I have no idea. Maybe writing protected me against even worse menace.
I agree that it’s been a good time for the novel in America, but I can’t say I know what accounts for it. Maybe it is the absence of certain things that somewhat accounts for it. The American novelist’s indifference to, if not contempt for, “critical” theory. Aesthetic freedom unhampered by all the high-and-mighty isms and their humorlessness. (Can you think of an ideology capable of corrective self-satire, let alone one that wouldn’t want to sink its teeth into an imagination on the loose?) Writing that is uncontaminated by political propaganda — or even political responsibility. The absence of any “school” of writing. In a place so vast, no single geographic center from which the writing originates. Anything but a homogeneous population, no basic national unity, no single national character, social calm utterly unknown, even the general obtuseness about literature, the inability of many citizens to read any of it with even minimal comprehension, confers a certain freedom. And surely the fact that writers really don’t mean a goddamn thing to nine-tenths of the population doesn’t hurt. It’s inebriating.”