I got completely engrossed in Robert's book. His writing is very intense and very much himself, and the topic is so gripping. What a special book. I'd like to get his email address so I can write him about it. Also do put me on the list for events around it.
|photo by Pat Dagler|
Congratulations on producing this!
I've forgotten how it was that you and he came to meet.
I'm so very drawn into your writing in your new book, impressed and moved by the intense truthfulness of your voice. I'm only at the beginning of part 2, but I couldn't wait to send you this fanmail. Please put me on your list for any readings or other events you are planning.
Congratulations and very best wishes,
Robert Roth is a friend of mine & hence I've been lucky enough to read most of this work in various fragments & drafts over the past two or three years.
I think it is absolutely extraordinary & I love it.
Also, I can think of nothing quite like it - the nearest analogy I could begin to draw is if the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon had been written by a 60ish year old New York Jewish anarchist with an singular talent for friendship & anxious self-scrutiny in equal measure, a love of baseball, a highly developed sense of humour & perhaps rather unfashionably, a huge & generous heart.
I really can't recommend it too highly - do yourself a favour & order a copy (see forward below). You won't regret it. If you buy a copy & you aren't wowed by it, mail me & I'll send you the price of the book
I'm not quite finished with the book but I already think that it is an extraordinary piece which constantly tries to push the limits of truth. You've truly managed to harness your thoughts in a sensitive,intelligent manner. I hope you get the recognition you deserve.
Next time you come to breakfast ...could you bring for purchase three copies. I would like to give a copy to several people.
Marjolijn de Jager whom you've met bought a copy. While she was fishing for the money, a friend of hers took the book from her and read the back. As he handed it back to her he said with a mixture of mischief and awe, "High octane!"
How's that for a succinct review?!
Thank you so much for your prompt shipment of the copies of Robert's Health Proxy, and also for the two extra copies you sent. Ironically, I had just read Robert's Acknowledgements and your Foreword (and still had the book in my hand) when I belatedly took the phone message, and heard your voice. I'm sorry that I missed speaking with you, but I really did enjoy reading your evocation of Robert's very distinctive and compelling voice and vision. You really grasped what I know to be true about Robert, and I thank you for all your effort in making Robert's sensibility available to a wider world.
Not to worry about Robert's book. There are blurbs on our web site www.yuganta.com, if anyone's interested. I'm amazed that you could have come to an assessment of the book within the two- or three-minute perusal of the book while we were all talking around you. But you may be going by some instinctive feel. The book is actually richly varied--poignant, passionate, moving, angry, desperate, experimental, whimsical and, in its celebration of love, caring and community, ultimately, if precariously, hopeful.
Don't worry about Janet. She's strong-willed. Explains where her brother got it from !
HEALTH PROXY and AND THEN arrived today, both looking very beautiful.
The excerpt on the back cover of HP is stunning and really makes me want to read the rest of the book.
(Thanks for the thank you in the acknowledgements.)
Liliana read the back of Robert's book. Said to me, "Mom, did you
read this? I am not sure I understand it." So, I read it and we
talked. I went on to read Robert's acknowlegements. I just loved
reading them -- I loved the tone in so many of them. I fell in love
with his friends. I loved the language he used. For me, these few
pages were a work of art in themselves. I felt a little jealous --
Robert has so many friends he loves and feels such a deep
connection. How beautiful he is.
I'm almost finished with your wonderful book, but my son, his wife and their two bulldogs are due to arrive any minute on a visit so I probably won't get to write you until Tuesday. But a few quick words now.
It would be good if we could exchange perhaps a series of emails next week--on shared and differing concerns etc.
It may surprise you but the place in your book when I most identify with you is when you're delivering the papers. I'm working class--the first in my family ever to go to college. When I ended up in academia--what I thought was a serious world and what I learned was a tank full of sharks--I found I only had one choice. To rebel--and to make that rebellion clear at all times. It cost me one thing of course--an audience. (I write books far better than some of the stars but since I have virtually no name recognition.) I simply hate the academic world--and that hatred has sharopened my perceptions. Also my love (like yours) of sports--I still bounce the bball though I was never that good at it, but I have a black belt in karate (though all that teaches one is humility) and I think karate is what saved my colleagues from my angry fantasies.
Politically when pressed I called myself an anarchist socialist. But that's a contradiction? Not if you understand socialism...
I've attached a couple pieces here to give you some sense of my work. One is the first chapter from my book on Busk's Amerika. The others are two monologues from plays.
The main thing about your book--it makes one (this reader at least) want to meet the author and spend a day talking with him. (Which I hope we can do the next time I'm in NY. My son is a director there and his wife an actress so I do get in to visit them at times. This Fall for sure.) What comes across in your book is you--in all your insights, contradictions, honesty, fears, allegiances, etc. And often in extremely memorable prose. I'm going to try now to finish the book--I just got to the news of Lisa's death--before my son gets here.
So many ideas! It's all exciting!
A reader at this end complained that your book was a lot of "sex and death." I told her that if that were the case, it clearly belongs in the class of great texts!
Here's another responding:
''...Late last night, as I was unpacking my one of many overnight bags, I came across Robert's book - surprising how one forgets everything when a new baby comes into the family and one is so involved with this joy!
Anyway, at midnight, I opened the book and began to read the last page, flip thru the pages and then read the beginning! Well, after your writing, I just had to turn to the "middle" - thinking how am I going to find the "middle - the part that is exclusively the keystone, cement, glue. . . I must say that I did not see it as 'sex and death'. I saw it as the beauty of someone close to you passing on - thought of my dad and your dad - and then those thoughts carried me thru the end of the exact "middle" of the book! beginning on page number 47.666666! That in itself probably has meaning to the whole story.
I have choices right now - do I eat breakfast to ward off fainting as housework and chores came very early today while it is still cool OR do I just crawl back into bed and start with the First part. Ummm?? guess I will eat And read at the same time: want to see more about death and sex - perhaps not in that order, though!...''
Janet also read the book & loved it too.
Will get a copy of the book in the mail to you tomorrow. It's first chapter is the essay I sent you. The book is my attempt to diagnose post 9-11 Amerika. I cooked out on the grill last night. Not bad. I was a single parent for years with my two sons. They always complained about my cooking. Now they call asking for the recipes.
I feel a sort of pause in things given that I've taken the last 3 days off. One of the things I'm hoping to do in the next week is share with you all sorts of different ideas about your book and see where that takes us. I hate to write conventional reviews--and this is not a conventional book. And so long before I write the review I just want to play freely with many topics.
One that first occurs to me is what it means to have a political existence today. I see your book as marking one sort of crisis in that. You point out early how in your alternative world "you have to continually prove in deeply culture-bound terms your right to exist." As you know the easiest way to do so is to be PC. And to constantly downgrade the personal. One of your great strengths is that you reject both of these moves. That enables you to be moving in new directions and seeing the flaws in ideological positions. There are other deeper crises in the book--and I'll get to them on subsequent days. Since the review is for a political journal I think one thing to perhaps talk about is the tendency to downgrade the personal. And also to flee it. One other great strand in the book is your sense that you draw a curtain around yourself at the very same time that you open yourself to the anguish of others.
One concept of the political is that it begins with the anguish we feel in new historical situations and how old ideas no longer work. In some ways your book is a chronicle of experiencing this in a certain time frame. On which this question: I think the book ends in 2007 (when you're 62) (and I'm 64 you youngster). But around what date do its first events begin? After 9-11? I know you often go much further back in time but also from some point where the writing of this book first really took off. What year was that?
Do you know Rilke's book The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge? Quite by chance I'm rereading it now in connection with one section of my novel that I'm now working on. But there is both a parallel and a difference with your book. A criis. It's deepening. The past re-looked at in terms of the crisis. Rilke's crisis is with a terrifying dimension of being itself irrespective of any historical situation. (and of course for all his greatness he is terribly a political). Yours is with a specific historical situation--but also how it forces us to see things about the personal we don't want to see/most people refuse to see.
Been reading your book, enjoying it very much.
I didn't realize how much of it involved gay material. Have you thought of sending your book to any of the gay publications for a review.
My guess is that one of the great virtues of your book is that it will so often piss off so many of the leftist liberal intellectual members of your group. Everyone wants thinking to be this fucking self-congratulatory process in which a group lays holy hands on itself. Thinking should never confirm--it should always disrupt. You dramatize an essential problem: how to negotiate inside that reality.
In the novella Tonio Kroger Mann talks about an artist who cursed the spring every year because he knew he was going to lose a week to 10 days when he couldn't work. Visits and vacations are like that. I spent the first 3 hours today struggling just to get writing again, and will probably have to throw out those pages. p.134--the problem that any genuine piece of writing has!
And now the failure of what I tried to write this morning is eating on me so I'll close for now. (It's about perhaps the best job I ever had. Summer after junior year in college. Working as a janitor. Having 6 of the 8 hours free to sit in a furnace room and read.)
Thanks for the stuff you sent this morning. I'll look for it later today.
I think the balance between the two kinds of pieces in the book works very well. As a reader I like to pause after a long narrative chunk to catch my breath. The sections that make you stop seem to me often perfectly placed for this.
On another note, one of the strengths of the book is your willingness to explore your own vulnerabilities. Most thinkers--especially academic ones--do everything to conceal this. At their own expense for they are then taken over by being dishonest with themselves. For personal reasons I of course find the stuff on the pain of aging very powerful. I fight this battle--and am terrified by my own aging. You are also very honest about your conlficted feelings about your friends and this is especially courageous since many will read the book. There is one issue where you don't carry through as far as I'd like however. And note this will not be in the review! I refer to the sexual. You drop so many painful comments and I kept reading thinking that at some point this is going to be explored in depth. But then that didn't happen. One reason why this is important is because you confess--as few males ever can--that you have become afraid in this area. The reader wants to know why--what experiences produced this. And the reader (this one at least) wants a confrontation with this and a hopefully "happy" resolution.
There's an issue that impinges on this for me in your work and always has for me since I became a leftist in the 60's (and have proudly remained one). I refer to the way that many people avoid ever looking deeply into their own psyches by supporting all the right causes and attitudes. And of course they back this often with the notion that looking into one's psyche is bourgeoise or some such shit. All this is part of the way that politics can be used to flee one's psyche. My own effort in my theoretical work is to bring marxism-psychoanalysis-and existentialism together in a radical synthesis. One of the efforts of the book I just sent you is to go --"to the left of the left." I think too often we on the left have been prisoners of our own ideologies. And in this connection I often wonder about the relative absence of the psychoanalytic in your book. (Note I'm not talking about dogmatic Freud or the bullshit of the American psychoanalytic capitalists with adjustment to capitalism as their idea of health. I'm talking about a radical attempt to know everything about oneself that one does not want to know! (That for me is one definition of the psychoanalytic. The other: what you don't know about yourself is what you do--to the other!) Let me know your reactions to this.
Ironically PC crap on the left is especially so in the sexual arena where everyone is so busy claiming their freedom that they fail to know why their experience doesn't really equate with that belief. Sexuality is of immense complexity and we only begin to know it when we make our anxieties--and not the lies we tell ourselves to avoid them--our starting point.
I love your book. I started reading it today and I don't want to put it down. I was going to weed my garden this afternoon, but I read instead. And I love working in my garden.
Your book is wonderful. Your presence on the pages is very strong. I felt like I was hanging around with you for a day.
I'd like to send a copy to my friend Linda. How much money should I send you for a book plus shipping to Michigan?
Am about two-thirds into Health Proxy: wonderful....painful...beautiful.....original...endearing...repulsive...provocative...informing...and more......
Are your grammatic idyosyncracies deliberate? Particularly punctuation--particularly comma usage? Do you want me to submit a proofed copy back to you? I was a small town, small newspaper editor in the late 1950's and have a somewhat developed knowledge of same. But it occurs to me that you may want to write roughly, rawly, idyosyncratically all the way through to and including such matters: there is a certain democratic parallelism between your manner of expression and the content of your fierce, cross-category yearning for mutuality. Let me know.
I am still digesting and living in your book. The intimate details have brought me so much closer to you and to myself. I believe that it is very important.
Your relationships are so rich and diverse. I am very fortunate to be able to call you a friend.
Struggling to get a section of my book finished. But was reflecting on what I think is one of the key themes of your book. Aging--and especially what it is for those of us on the left. Nostalgia for a romanticism of youth; the recognition of the lies built into that; the living with one's own body (at 59 I had an affair with a 28 year old woman who, believe me, looked like kristin scott thomas. O did my dick sing a swan song) ; the disillusionment with all the ways friends have compromised or remains stuck in old ideas that give them group identity, etc. You sound many notes on this one my friend.
Is there still a sexual revolution that the left has to constitute? I think so.
All the best,
Your book reminds me of both Plato's Republic and Burroughs's My Education. In the first case, your book is a series of philosophical dialogues, but without drawing absolute conclusions as Plato does. Burroughs's book is a book of dreams similar in form to your book the way he and you move back and forth from reflection/event/story to other reflections/events and stories. The two books are not really similar except in the form of narrative. Like I said, one is about dreams and the other s about being awake..
It's not exactly it, but you say something like: "Queer theory is just another academic discipline where people get graded." true enough. George
Slouch-runner (away from Jerusalem and) toward the identiless night!
Can you see it? Can you taste it? Can you feel it? So close! Tantalizingly! Frustratingly! So close!
Actually (speaking as prophet, now…speaking as Prophet Now), you are there! In the always-sought-never-was-always-will-be at hand mystery (signifying, in this use, beyond names and thingness, not inaccessibility—though that, too, in ordinary understanding). I, as brother, as fellow traveler, as initiate of sorts (although we here are talking of the least exclusive, most democratic sort of inclusions) want to be of what use I can (probably none at all) in pointing to what you likely are after (I could be dead wrong, of course) and to Arnie, too, whose And Then piece I really got involved in, and risking the usual and natural rejection that comes when I try this sort of thing (it bumping into personal pride and like barriers), I nevertheless am saying, it's all so close, you have worked so hard, and it's just behind you, so to speak, just requiring what some Zen folk call a “backward step”…anyway, on a good day, and I have a mixed bag of days lately, I might be able to give you that nudge that tumbles you into your deepest longings. Then again…I could be all deluded. Doesn't feel that way. Ooops! A sure sign?
But…just read the last few words of Health Proxy and, like every book I have loved, I didn't want it to be over, seriously thought of starting in at the beginning immediately. And like the greatest of books, it isn't a book at all, but a being, a being teetering on the edge of a subsuming mystery in which being and non-being are atoms.
I interiorly dialogued with nearly every section, wrote mini responsive essays in my head.
One of the last was this: your wonderful (and wonderfully expressed [made it worth it in its own right]) desire to connect through your lyrics to all the world's children is already fulfilled: when the children shout their jump rope chants; when the children sing their rhyming songs; when the children call their hip-hop rhymes; in these and beyond into the most startling issues of a non-thing so vast and open in every direction, you yourself are singing. Nontheless, it will be cool when they also sing your personal lyrics.
And “singing” may be just the write (heh-heh) metaphor, given you are bard indeed! What a bard! What a voice for now! And Now! For Now, just because you are SUCH a voice for now—beyond the typical cultural stuff of now that bothers you—rooted in and blossoming from this substantial now that jerks awake in shivering fits of awareness, tearing itself from the comfortable covers of the oh-so seductive deep sleeping machines, indeed, from its own sleep mechanisms, and goes shivering through worlds stripped of their anodyne coverings, through rotting killing fields, sordid alleys, through the junkie streets, each angry fix another passage towards…
So, yay, I call you brother, cognizant of the still limiting gender illusion, but embracing it nevertheless because if we would be peacemakers we must also be warriors, not of the flesh, but of the living flesh, the word, the word that enlarges, opens up into life, locates the limitless in the limited, swallows the tiger and flees from the gnat, in short, shrinks not, even from shrinking.
Hail Brother Writer—the same yesterday, today and tomorrow—the great small success is yours, like it or not—and the greatest of all successes, the success transcending success is at hand…if you want it. And if you don't, it nevertheless is yours!
P.S. Love the book!
Not a P.S. Love you!
so good to hear from you. I was actually just sitting down to write YOU a quick hello and see how things were going for you on your end. Sounds like lots of stuff going on in your life --- i always love that about you.... parties here, gatherings there, etc.. not bad to be surrounded by friends and love all the time...
So i must say i FINALLY was able to sit down with your book last night... i am so excited to read it, i didn't want to put it down, but i was too tired last night to keep reading. WOW!!! amazing so far and i haven't even gotten that far!! it truly is great... you are such an amazing writer, so vivid, so clear.... wow. I don't know if i mentioned before, but thank you for acknowledging me in the acknowledgments... i don't know that i deserved to be there, but it truly means a lot to me that i was. You are too sweet!! I will definitely report to you when i finish your book to let you know what i thought of the finished product (since i did read bits of it online when you had sent it to me) ...
are you getting ready for the 4th?? i am planning on working, staying away from the crowds... i know what you mean about being in limbo--- it's a scary feeling at times, but i know things will materialize for you sooner than you know it :)
well i gotta grab some grub.... i seriously just want to read your book :)
Now for the compliment. Janice Eidus is really enjoying your book. To quote her directly, she says, It's intelligent, engrossing and compelling."
I really, really didn't want to miss it! What a truly wonderful celebration! Your friends and supporters (and maybe even neighbors?) packed the Brecht and offered a big, warm outpouring of joyful enthusiasm that I'm sure you will remember always. I'm very happy I was able to witness it and be a part of the event.
Not waxing quite as eloquently as Arnold, I would say that there are three things that also strike me most about the book. 1) At age 20, I was described as someone who "plays with words like little toy trains." I am hopelessly hooked on interesting writing and love that you always deliver it. The book is a testament to how well you do that and how you can sustain a bar-setting level of quality throughout a full length work. 2) You lift the proceedings beyond the wordplay to yet another level. You offer a steady flow of insight probing both the personal and the political, gracefully moving from the amusing to the alarming, from the challenging to the comforting. 3) There is a very deep and sincere feeling of our common humanity that emanates from every page. The book engages us with all the core people stuff--a fear of looking foolish, wonder at the mysteries of sex and love, conscientiousness in the care and treatment of others, uncertainty about the place of death in our lives, coping with the recognition of our own individual mortality....
I only have a small part of the book left to read so I'm slowing down a little like savoring a good meal (though not chewing as slowly as you and the bearded men, I'm sure).
Hope you are planning a book tour. This project is definitely road worthy.
Although I'm only half-way through "Health Proxy," I wanted to write to you about how impressed I am with your insights, your incredible honesty, your compassion and your willingness to let yourself be exposed in ways that are not so much "confessional" as embracing. But that also requires an honesty from the reader that is desired but, I'm afraid, rare. We do what we can too often to protect ourselves from what we truly are.
When you came to the part about the WBAI "coup" and then the counter-coup, I began to recall the petty bickerings the left that I encountered and endured over the years. This is one of the reasons I have become a "radical pessimist." I don't think the human race is wise enough to save itself from self-destruction. Every time I heard the words "development" and "growth" I see another plot of green land turning into brown, grey, hard and busy. It seems that there is a love-hate relationship to this earth by humans that is more hate than love. And the need to be united in trying to do something to turn this poorly treated planet around is, to me, a dream that is quickly fading. I have a grandchild which means instead of thinking about the earth for the next twenty or thirty years when I might still be above ground, or the next fifty or sixty for my children's sake, it is now extending into nearly a century and I cannot see it as a time in which people will be able to live the kind of lives that have any humane connection to the ones we see as the best in us now.
But getting back to what you were saying about the WBAI mess: egoism seems to be a natural consequence of social or political prominence. And the desire to "settle accounts" with those who have injured you seems much a part of that. My wife died slowly over a twenty-year period from Multiple Sclerosis. (We wrote a book about her illness which you are welcome to have a copy of gratis if you send me your address again. I've misplaced it..) In those many years of her dying, I found all sorts of reasons to be angry at people in the medical-industrial complex, but also discovered kind, genuinely caring people. I have discovered as well that harboring negative thoughts about others that one knows creates very strong negative energy that can do one a great deal of damage which have no effect whatsoever on the person one dislikes. So I "let go" these angers and find myself more often than not willing to accept people I dislike on their own terms, whatever they might be. It makes my being feel lighter than being in a perpetual state of anger at injustices I have endured. I think that the Left, if it ever is again to make an impact on the direction of this slipping world, must try to grow up and stop splitting off into the angry factions and claques that often make it so ineffective. The Right doesn't have anything to do but maintain the status quo and that takes up a lot less intellectual and emotional energy.
I hope you forgive the rambling. I am looking forward to seeing you Friday and hope you have the time to have a nice talk with me after the performance.
delighted to hear it!
Well you're in for the long haul in my view -the book will last...
I talked to Steve last night. He enjoyed the party, met Joel briefly, wished he'd had more time to talk with you, and not only bought but has already read Health Proxy. We had a stimulating conversation about it over the phone.
Did you typo' my name when you put Karat... with a "t"?? the only reason i ask is because i have a friend who would/does call me that.. so i thought that was funny :)
i do wish i could have been at the book reading... i must say, i JUST finished your book last night!! and loved every minute of it! i can not tell you how much i enjoyed it --- i loved all the stories and i loved how it was like reading a person's mind.. in that it was a little scattered... in a good way! You are truly an amazing writer, so clear and so vivid. I'm tongue tied at trying to express myself to what i just read... but WOW.... it was awesome...
i gotta run to my neice's t-ball game in a few minutes, but wanted to drop you a quick line and say thank you -- the book was great!
take good kara of yourself !
Arlene was really nice. I'm sorry i didn't get to speak with Gene. I looked for him, but he was gone..
I'd love to get together. I'm just trying to figure out when I'm going to go away.
getting here it was quite hot -
one rose in a vase on a chair
pleasant hubbub of chit-chat
crackers and good cheese
Robert Roth's cool work,
but a careful form
taking care of the caretaker
so we are here
whoever we are,
July 8, 2007
Hoping to see you soon,
Just a quick note to tell you that my friend Ena in CA called today and she was just raving about you and your book. You because she just loved the "you" that was revealed in the book, and she kept using words like "principled," and "Loveable," and "honest," and "intense." But she is a shy person about expressing herself and I know she won't write you so I am writing to tell you how much she enjoyed HEALTH PROXY, which she immediately passed on to someone else she loves.
Sorry that Bob and I were not in the city for your party at Brecht Forum, but I am sure it was a great celebration! I think this gave a lot of people who value you and what you do a great opportunity to display it in person. We just got back from North Carolina and my niece's wedding there, a big family reunion.
I hope to talk to you soon.
Just started reading yuor book in earnest, in a somewhatlinear manner, in Cambodia, where I landed up after my soul had vertually left me after 36 days in Bangalore.
Fascinating, beautiful, courageous, profound . . . already recommended it to two people. Have been underlining, this is my way of reading a book seriously . . . even though some may consider it spoils a book's appearance.
I am just finishing Health Proxy! I've been reading both in big gulps and little sips, the whole while having a very intense conversation with you. In a way it is easier to have the conversation with the book than the actual you. No awkward social interactions have to intervene. Is this an odd thing to say? All social interactions have some degree of awkwardness, the shifting of consciousness from one realm to another while addressing the other who--as you point out--exists largely in your own construction. This is such a fascinating book and it holds me in the grip of its voice--which is why I have to limit myself in reading it when I too am working with similar subjects.
You have such a complex intelligence and such a flat (and emotionally powerful) way of examining the nuances of social and psychological interactions on large and small scales. I am very moved and impressed because I think your work is unique, the voice so fully present despite your early statement in the book about being so open to other people's pain that you are constantly in a state of low-level trauma that keeps you constantly observing (and separating) from yourself. (That is my paraphrase, and I hope you find it accurate.) This is a book of tremendous immediacy and urgency, the narrator constantly present, often startling, even shocking in his observations. I understand what you mean when you wrote me that you bristle when people refer to your book as a memoir or a novel. It is neither and yet has elements of both. Of course the narrator is constructed, yet he is constructed in a facsimile of you. A counterfeit of yourself yet a very archetypal counterfeit, a narrator who understands that personality (and maybe even "character") is the mere vehicle through which we can be known and have to express ourselves. Yet what limitations that imposes--limitations that are both social constructs and persons constructs, and also hard wired in part. I know I have moments, glimpses of the fact that I myself am more than, or at least different from, my personality--but I have no other way of inserting myself into what we know as the "real" world. So what you are doing in Health Proxy, narrowing the space between narrator and self (which can only be narrowed but never eliminated) is very moving to me. It is also a very loving book.
Anyway, I'd like to buy two more copies to give to close friends. (And maybe I should also have you send a copy to my brother from Chicago too, Ron, who you met at my book party. He is not much of a reader though Linda, his wife is--but I think they might be shocked by your book. They liked you. Later they were intrigued that you knew Muriel, who is fairly well-known in their psychoanalytic circles. They talk about things you're writing about yet I don't know to what degree they allow themselves to experience them. I suspect they may be shocked, perhaps very shocked if they actually take in what you write; in ways they don't realize and would no doubt defend as "appropriate responses," they are deeply conventional. They are fine people too. They do not read my writing when I send it to them though.) Aside from my very dear friend Ena, in California who adored the work and thought it was important, I don't know anyone else who has read Health Proxy yet. And I have hardly been in NYC this summer, mostly traveling, as I told you-- and now I am deeply pressed for time and isolation for my own writing, which I'd back-burnered. Another person who must read this is Lynda Schor, and she, as you may know, has moved to Mexico--either permanently or maybe permanently though she'll be back in NYC. I will give her a copy. She'll be back for several weeks in the fall. Meanwhile I've been e-mailing her about the book because I have been so involved in it. Lynda, too is a sort of anarchist though you are more consistently so. Do you know my friend Ellen Conley? Another I want to read this. So will you send two more copies to me in NYC at my address, and let me know--since I won't get there to see them arrive? I'll send you a check again. Then later I'll send you Ron and Linda's address and you can send them a copy too--when I won't take their responses personally.
I am taking your book very personally as well as standing back from it so you are hearing my own musing about how it may be received. How brave you are! I am thinking about its reception among people who are important to me because the tight associations you draw between what you experience and how you analyze it--with much intelligence and sophistication and yet raw response that cuts deep--is exactly what I want to do in my writing, what I try to do in fact. So I feel that I will be affected by hearing responses to you as well as to myself. Does that make sense? Too egotistical (Of course.) I know we are completely different kinds of writers and yet not, at the same time. I am made self-conscious by your assessments of others' responses to you and also by your comments on various hierarchies, the implicit ironies of your experience, and your astute comments about academicians (although I don't consider myself one, really, even though I have the privileges of the position--if divisions like that can be made).
Maybe we can talk more by phone. I'm up in the country now, getting ready to plunge back into writing more of my memoir, my own multi-leveled experiences and my mother's, in the month left to me to work. I've been resisting mostly because I can't plunge into such deep and boundary-less places without time to myself and time to buffer myself from the self that wants to be seen by received identity. I think you will understand this.
One thought that just occurred to me: your book is like Doestoevsky's Notes From Underground turned inside out, loving and fearful where the wonderful Underground Man is contemptuous and fearful. Notes is a book that I adore, a novella, comic because of its acknowledgments of psychological and socially-imposed paradoxes, and ultimately Dostoevesky's character's impulse is the same as your narrator's: loving--yet the love, the desire, and any manifestation of it, is more than that character can open himself to for fear of being seen and dismissed. He yearns to be seen but he is terrified by it so he lacerates others and himself instead. Yet I consider D's book a very spiritual book; I teach it and have great difficulty in communicating that compassion to others, despite my many, many attempts. That character is not likable, deliberately so. Your narrator is lovable.. (Your more seamless self.) Yet he is insecure and self-lacerating, full of ideas just like D's narrator. But the difference is that your character actually interacts with the world, takes those risks; he is not just as an observer of himself from his "mousehole." He is brave.
Also both are books that are very concerned with morality in a deep and overarching way.
Finished your book in Cambodia (one of the good outcomes), this time in a linear fashion, whereas earlier i had been peeping in at random. It was original, and so many times, I wished you were next to me, so we could discuss something you had said, . . . which had sent me on my own bylanes of rumination.
Well, it is unique, courageous, eclectic, funny, touching, original, heartfelt, passionate, endearing, and thought-provoking. I hope I can write about it in greater detail soon.
And feel free to use any of the above, or my older comments, in a blurb.
In Cambodia, again stressed because the money situation (on the whole) has gotten tight, and I'm trying to figure out the large plan, and it looks rather complex
If you know of anyone who will have two rooms for a month, preferably partly empty rooms, starting around Sept 12, let me know.
Yes, I'll arrive in New York Sunday night, and I'd love to get together with you during the week for a cup of coffee.
My wife Norma and I are in town to celebrate our twenty-fourth anniversary.
I've started reading your book. What amazing writing!
Thanks for the advance word.
Right now, I'm in the middle of Health Proxy. You're the voice of a generation!
You must think all the time! There are things in the book which happened to you that you digested and wrote about. Some of these things I may never have even acknowledged as occurring in my regular day. The transitions from one vignette to another kept me wondering where things were going and how it was going to wrap up. I really enjoyed the read.
Thank you for sending it to me. Look forward to the sequel one day!
My friend Barbara got immediately engaged in your book. She found it very powerful and original.
I just wanted to tell you that I read your book (as soon as I got it that day) and that I found it very interesting and enjoyed reading it a lot. You are a very brave writer and that makes your writing great. I enjoyed reading about cenén, since she used to come by, but when I heard she had died I was never able to know anything else about her. And, of course, since you explore the theme of illness, it was interesting to read the perspective of someone who has helped sombody who is going through an illness. Congratulations on your book and I look forward to reading more from you in the future. I'll see you in october or before!
What awe-inspiring rsponses. How appropriate for an awe-inspiring book.
I'm sorry for my short previous message. I was at work and in the middle of a stupidly stressful day. I mean stupidly because people were stressed for no reason. In the end there was no reason to freak out. Anywya, I'm sorry.
I wanted to tell you that I read a lot of your book to Sheri in Indo, mostly when she had a stomach flu and was bed-ridden. Although I had read it before, I was once again touched by how well you convey relationships in this book. You describe, although not nauseatingly, how each relationship is unique and particular, as well as how close it is to you. Since I know you a little, and recognize how much you cherish your closeness with others, it made me see inside you better, and I also thought that I should try to think of my relationships similarly, to not take them for granted.. Your description of relationships was not functional, but rather more appreciative of the unexplainable, which is really what makes people close..
Anyway, I'm sitting now to write. I hope you are having a nice weekend.
By amazing coincidence, I dreamed about you this morning! I bumped into you in a New York coffee shop and we talked in the entry way for so long that customers complained about the door being held open and letting in cold air. I was telling you how stunning your book is, that it creates a whole world, that one sees this world through your eyes, and that passage after passage is a knockout. Now, that was only a dream, but I've been meaning to write you the very same words. Glad of this double nudge.
Your e-mail doesn't say when this is happening.
But I am glad to have gotten this notice from you because I wanted to tell you how much I have been enjoying your book. The only time i feel free to read is when i take an hour before my volunteer time at Methodist Hospital. I sit and read while sipping gingerale and eat hot crisping french fries and pretend I don't have anything else in the world to do. About three years ago for two years I had an Aunt dying of small cell lung cancer for whom I had the responsibility of making those life and death decisions so there are so many familiar moments in what I have read so far.
But I do have to tell you that your writing is beautiful and filled with honesty and clarity of emotion.
Thank you for sending me that documentary! It was nice; I enjoyed it and it gave some sense of the book, which is a fine book, a maverick book, full of humor and pathos and observation and richly distilled thoughts. Well done -- the book -- and nice idea -- the video.
I Just wanted to let you know that I almost finished reading your book Health Proxy on the planes home last weekend.
I completed it this morning and have to say that I really enjoyed it!
Your presence in the world is very well felt and yes there are wild berries singing whom may escape your ears directly but they are singing none the less.
The flow of your piece, your stream of consciousness was very refreshing.
I am constantly thinking about all of the experiences I have collected in my lifetime and could definitely relate to the way you related the experiences you have had with so many diverse people along the way.
I laughed out loud when I read page 133 with the construction worker who wasn't getting laid either way!
That is a Great Moment!
I am most appreciative for what you wrote on page 66.
Much of this I have observed and much of it I have experienced.
There is a lot of Personal Growth contained in what you write here which comes from the act of allowing yourself to experience the world in all of its facets.
Yes, I enjoyed reading Health Proxy and look forward to reading more.
And Then is next on my list.
BTW, I read HEALTH PROXY at the same time I was reading FINAL EXIT. Pretty heavy combination!
Hi to you too, thanks for 'dropping in'. I'm not a very good correspondent at present, I'm afraid. It's just life taking over - full time job, family etc....
I have been reading 'Health Proxy' and following you on your journey under the skin of your friendships. Some of your observations about your own and other people's reactions are tough, as a reader you've got to wonder about your own reactions, but there's such warmth and strong affection in your writing. It's very special.
What are you working on at the moment?
All the best
I received the book this afternoon. I just had time to read the acknowledgement and was already intrigued! I also like the design--refreshingly stark.
I look forward very much to reading it. Thanks for being so prompt.
I'm finally able to immerse myself in your book.
(I'm not a multi tasker and when I'm reading a book I don't want the potential of being disturbed)
I'm at the part where you lost your job - what a lucky break, no?
Everything resonates- the 2 sides of a jewish family (my father's side - blue collar conservative though he was not look down on me bec of my politics and my poverty and my mother's side has never had anything to do with me until now wierdly)
I am usually very shy among people I don't know but I'm planning to come on sunday
your publishing Lysteria's piece inspired me to offer my stdents to create a journal just for them and i've already gotten a few poems surprisingly
reading your book reminds me of something i wrote this summer -i'ts a travelogue of my train trip across the country -i couldn't fly bec of my eye
thanks for thoughts on Tango -I'd like to show you sometime the short film (5 min)I made of a scene from it
see you soon,
I would have loved to attend the party today. Unfortunately, I am swamped with work. I hope you will all have a great time.
I have started reading your book on the train every day. It's really good.. Powerful and honest!
It was good to see you on Sunday. I've read half of your book, and I think it's extremely good.
The video is a nice job too - not only is it elegantly made, but Langager and Smolarski pass the documentary acid test of honouring their subject matter whilst still creating something with a palpable sense of their authorship.
Once I finish I take a long time writing a book up. I've already begun yours in my head.
Things are settling into a rhythm at last and I do hope to finish soon. I think you know I was traveling from mid-Aug. to end of Sept. Most of it not pleasant, though I am good at sneaking pleasure in--like a new landscape--when I can. Oct. was catch up month, including legal work for my parents and trips to CT to look into the retirement place. Add a giant ETC. I have almost no social life at the moment. I'm pretty monkish so that is not too bad, but I feel like a functionary these days. Which is a drag.
Anyhow, please be patient.
For over a week now I've been trying to get a few moments to write. At last I've read your book and have been very drawn in by its warmth and nitty gritty honesty. It's truly a family book but you seem to push open the conventional understanding of family to extend it to the neighbourhood, in fact if you don't mind my saying so, the book seems to turn on Jesus' summary of the commandments - love your neighbour as yourself. You seem to find out about yourself and your own feeling for your self through the many anecdotes about your interactions with others. It's truly a spanner in the works of this profit, ambition and prestige crazed society. Thank you again for your kind acknowledgement of my very slight input ? By the way, I went back to listen to the Wild berries opera on Michael's web page and enjoyed it all the more for knowing some of the background from your book!
I was thinking of you all on Sunday 21st (come and gone so quickly already!) and hope the launch was fun.
Take care and all the best,
Was re-reading parts of health proxy last night. I find your honesty to be amazing. I wish you had written three or four more books like Health Proxy.
I've been meaning to write you for what seems like a long time -- I guess since I finished reading Health Proxy, which seems like many months ago already.
You remember me, I assume. Ted. I sat next to you at George's 70th birthday party last summer. We talked about my dissertation, about your book, which you signed for me.
I told you I'd get back to you after reading it, and here I am.
I read it soon after I met you. I was struggling with the final chapters of the dissertation, and I started reading the book on a flight to Vancouver. (My partner, Andrew, lives in Vancouver, and he works for Air Canada and it's cheap for me to fly. Have you ever been to Vancouver? I'll fly you out sometime.) I started reading your book on the flight and I was engaged at once. I read and read. I got to Vancouver and struggled to work and write and, to an extent I did. But I'd leave it aside and take long walks, and I'd pick up your book and read.
I'd never read any of your writing before (I know George has, over the years.) I found it inviting, seductive. You have a sensual, intimate way of relating to your own self, to the world around you, to your reader. I love the smooth shifts to museums, to friends, to relationships, to the past. I love your thoughtful commentary on growing older; your commentary on your own body is wonderfully grounding. You take the reader right into the moment of writing; at times I felt I was there at the table at the coffee shop as you were writing.
I myself am sitting in a coffee shop now and I don't have your book with me. I read it many months ago. I was going to write you at once, with all the details fresh in my mind. But alas, we don't always do things. But now that I don't have the book with me, I can tell you what stands out in retrospect. The scene at the museum with you, your academic friend who wore the headphones, and Allen Ginsberg, who didn't. The scene at the Guggenheim (I think) with your mother giving tours and your father snoring in his chair with his newspaper, breathing resistance. I recall Lisa and Lisa's mom -- you captured both of them -- especially her mother -- beautifully. I recall your heated moments on the basketball court, arguing with some guy -- I think you said he was a Black separatist -- over politics. And, of course, the wonderful piece about the berries. That was delightful.
Yes, as I write, more and more comes to mind. Your apartment on Christmas day -- once bustling, now quiet and very empty, and how you like to walk the streets feeling you have the run of the city. The awful, loud, intrusive music blaring outside. And, of course, the profound suffering of your friends in sickness. You view reality unflinchingly, without dramatizing it in a maudlin, sentimental way. You probe, earnestly.
I recall the scene, during the first Gulf War, with your academic friends over dinner. One of them yelling at the television. Bright, sensitive left-wing academics -- themselves insensitive to their own aggressive use of power in the halls of academia. I remember now NYU's commencement ceremony, and your disgust at the president's hypocrisy.
I tend to hate commencement ceremonies. The speeches are hackneyed and canned. Ritual without life; it's like sex without pleasure.
I think of Claudia. Two months ago my own little pal of fifteen years died. I was devastated. He was having trouble breathing and the vet advised euthanasia. Simba was right there on the examining table; I was stroking him and confronted with this horrible form to sign. I leaned over and kissed him and wept and asked him what to do.
He never had to be put down. He was scheduled to be euthanized, but he died in my arms before the doctor even got to us. The best gift the cat could have given me. I picked him up, he recognized my scent, put his head on my shoulder, gasped a few times, and died. It was one of the most intimate experiences of my life. I was so glad I was able to be there for him.
I have another old guy at home. Templeton. We're doing the best we can. We're inseparable.
I've written more than I intended to. But you start writing and you don't always know where it'll take you. Now that I've finished and submitted the dissertation (my defense is December 13th) I want to get back to my journal, to probe life the way I used to. Reading Health Proxy was inspiring. Thank you.
Take care Rob. George tells me you have a birthday coming up. Maybe we can meet up for a coffee or a drink sometime.
The books arrived yesterday, and how handsome the book is. Thanks for : sending them, acknowledging me in the acknowledgements (and Daniel), the lovely dedication in each book.
We have just had a 36 inch snow fall, and I am off to dig out my car. I should be able to get to the bank today or tomorrow.
I send my love and thanks.
I was just thinking of you and suddenly realized that it is December 7th and that I'd missed your birthday, so these are my three days late birthday greetings for you! I know this has been both an ecstatic and excruciating year for you, and I am wishing for much more of the former and less of the latter in the coming one. I think it is so great about your book, the fact that you were able to say all that you did, to deliver a sense of the deep and permeable world in which you live. We haven't communicated in a couple of weeks, so I don't know if your mother is doing better--though you were more optimistic when last we exchanged words. I know how hard that/this is. And yet there is joy in your sentient reality too, in your love for the world--and the reciprocated love that you experience.
Anyway, this has been a mentally hectic period for me, so I won't go on and on, but just want to see I am thinking of you, thinking of your birthday, and I wish a very good year for you.
Thank you for that lovely dedication.
The following was written in late August.
Just finished reading Health Proxy. I am flooded with emotion. You are a great writer and poet with an abundance of passion, compassion, intelligence, sensitivity and disarming observational skills.
When I first picked up your book I skipped all over the place looking for myself and people we knew collectively. I didn't have much success understanding the book...reading parts here and there mostly confusing myself. Two days ago I started at the beginning and read straight through to the end only stopping when the thoughts and memories triggered by your writing overwhelmed me. It happened a lot. I didn't want to be so sad or remember so much. . . .
Take good care of yourself.
Great to see you last night and I'm so glad to have your book, and thanks for the nice inscription; it is beautifully written, just the small passages I've dipped into, and I look forward to reading it entirely.
I think that is a very good and perceptive review, but isn't it astonishing & wonderful how different people bring different preoccupations to your book? -I think it is a measure of its great richness that it acts as a sort of magic mirror to us all.
I hope one day 2007 will be remembered as the year that Health Proxy was published.
I read the review and found it amazing to think that we actually delivered the Fervat's for that initial year they printed it in English.
Health Proxy was really appreciated by me. You definitely put your self out there in a way that we could all learn more about the experiences we endure.
I hope your Mom is more comfortable.
Thanks for the heads-up on another great reveiw of your book. It's a terrific, maverick, moving, provocative, one-of-a-kind book, and deserves all the good things people are saying about it.
Some movement on my own book of late. They're saying now (my publisher) that it will be out by the beginning of March. My publishers say they're emerging from a very difficult six months of their lives, but now they're back on the case, plannning a different cover (I didn't like the cover in the first place, getting the galleys ready for my inspection soon, and hope to have a book in my hands at the end of January. Who knows if it will happen, but I can hope, at least. I have another reading coming up on Feb. 5 (at Cornelia) and it would be nice to have at least one copy of a physical book to read from.
Best of luck to you,
I wanted to write you a quick note, being too taken by many passages in your book to do it justice. For me, it could not be read in a linear fashion. I chose to hop around and cherry pick passages. (I have read about a quarter.) I understand now why you had difficulty describing it, because your language and form are a melange of essay and poetry. And, what's so remarkable is, in the prose, which is so often incredibly lyrical and precise, your personality unfolds. You are exactly how you describe yourself, with uncanny precision. And, exactly how you describe yourself is how the narrative unwinds.
Some of the truths you relate so beautifully are painful to read, your struggles, all of our struggles, for honesty and righteousness and how they turn on us. One favorite section was the graduation at NYU, the usurping of the spirit of bohemianism by the educational monster, who would turn the reincarnation of those people away at the door. But how mistaken a thought that bohemianism is a demographic!
No wonder those young people were so moved. Until I could talk to you about what you hoped to attain, I wouldn't have the hubris to make any suggestions. Forgive me if this sounds a bit fragmented. I am tired and did want to get something to you before I went to sleep. Our two web sites are www.roussimoff.com and www.freaksuncensored.com I would meet you one day and give you a VHS of the movie. Goodnight. You gave me quite a bit to think about.
How are you?!! First of all, let me thank you for your book - I've finished it long time ago, just did not write you right away. But today I thought about some things from the book again, and I realize, that I've felt many connections to what you say, both when reading and afterwards, in the things I do recently, and I think this is rather strange, as you write it from Manhattan and I read it here in Vilnius... But I think what connects is being critical and ironic about things.
Currently I say that I live in a really exotic country, this exoticizing helps me to create a distance and not be sad about really bad things, like backlash family and abortion policies. At the moment there is a big fight about it here, even though resources are definitely unequal and the side supported by Catholic church is much stronger, but still sometimes there is a feeling that there is a chance to win for us, the critics of these policies, if we try very very hard. However, then I remember the place in your book where you describe how it feels spending evening among gay friends, who talk about themselves as "we" and the rest are the hetero America, and this situation is a good reminder, that basically the fight can never be won, at last the one I am thinking about.
Anyways, I also like to remember the place about meeting the Pope in the spirit of forgiveness inside the prison of his mind... :)) This is a very relevant remark for current situation here!
I hope you're really well, but would be better if you confirm it yourself by replying to me!
Shortly I will be goin to US again, but will only transfer in NY, so there wont be enough time to come to the city, and its a big pitty, cause I would like to very much... Anyways, I really hope to hear from you.
Best wishes and a big hug,
It was an interesting experience listening to people read your book. For some odd reason, they brought out so many things that I never picked up on when I read it.
Congratulations. It's a great book. Sorry I left without saying goodbye; you were surrounded by people.
The book is exquisite. Just thought I'd let you know.
very intense, very deep, eye opening.
Love and light!
I hope things have gone relatively well for you in the last month. I still have glowing memories of your beautiful whirlwind of an event, as well as vivid recollections of brilliantly insightful and exquisitely sensitive evocations of contemporary human experience in the book itself. Speaking of Health Proxy, I have two people’s reactions to reading the book to share with you. First, Eileen here has read the book twice, and expressed the yearning to have a readers’ group discussion of it; she spoke of your writing as “so honest, honest courageous, strong, humbling to read.” Second, my long-time behavioral therapist Laurie (Dr. Laurie Livingston”, a Jewish lesbian from Illinois originally, a little younger than you and me) reported that she was savoring reading your book. We’ve discussed Health Proxy and your sensibility during parts of two separate therapy sessions. While saying that that she might have specific differences over certain political positions expressed in Health Proxy, she marveled at the openness, creativity, and aliveness of your depictions of your own and others’ experience. She was very impressed by the way in which value the voices of so many disparate people. She was very struck by your willingness to question the very strong stands you take, which she felt was an uncommon strength. And she appreciated the radical vision, so rarely seen today (I’m trying to paraphrase from memory), while feeling for the hardships of both seemingly increased isolation in the present environment and, at the same time, dealing with aging and loss. I’ve given out a few more copies of your book, and will let you know any further reactions as they are expressed.
My final (well, maybe not final) take on your writing is that it is a magnificent testimonial to a vision of the morality of freedom. Well, I think that’s enough praise for one letter, so take care, and I’ll be in touch soon regarding my visit in mid-October.
Thank you. Your book is very interesting. I learned something new. A pee or piss group…? And they do it on each other?
Did you say your birthday is December 2nd? My niece, Arlene, her birthday is December 2nd.
Yes, it is alright to print my grandson, Thomas in the next issue of “And Then”!
I try to read every page in “And Then”.
People live very interesting lives.
Keep up your good work!
I am enjoying your book, although I am reading it rather slowly.
Today, you made me laugh with the description of the ice outside a supermarket and “deductive” reasoning.
As the years have gone by I have become much less “liberal” in my thinking, but I like to hear your thought process on a lot of events we have both lived through.
Greetings from the Bronx!
I wanted to congratulate you again on the publication of your book. It has a wonderful readability about it that made it a pleasure from beginning to end.
As I do with real good books, I passed my copy on to my family on the west coast. So at the moment your book is now being read in Portland, Oregon, of all places.
In fact, I’ll be heading out that way shortly for a month’s stay.
I guess over the years I’ve been kind of used to seeing short pieces of your work. But together they make for a good narrative.
The book title is fine but if you go into reprint in the future I thought you might consider the title The Gripes of Roth. It’s a title I could picture on The New York Times bestseller list.
I particularly liked you untitled poem on page 48 with its closing lines…
A sequin gown dresses a hidden frown
I love Health Proxy. I will treasure it.
Thank you so much for your book. I read it cover to cover, and was moved how openly I feel you share yourself, your feelings, your struggles, your loses—
I hope you don’t mind, but there are portions that I’ll be sharing with friends of mine, and not only regarding Health Proxy issues—
Being, existing, aging. What a journey
Thank you so much for your trust. I’m enjoying the book. Fantastic experience.
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