Thursday, June 25, 2015

don't hand me that

Yesterday here, I was typing a Walt Whitman poem and I really didn't wonder, "What made me think of Walt Whitman?"  Then later on last night, picked up Mystery Train by Greil Marcus, and realized I'd been reading about Walt Whitman earlier in the day, in that book's Epilogue.  Ah-ha.

Mystery Train has a Prologue at the beginning and an Epilogue at the end, and after that there is a section titled "Notes and Discographies" which is as long as, or maybe longer than, the book proper.  A ton of music background and analysis.

In Mystery Train's Prologue, Marcus describes an evening on "The Dick Cavett Show" (must have been 1970) when the guests were New York literary critic John Simon, Erich Segal -- Yale prof. and author of Love Story, and Little Richard.  As Simon and Segal debate the novel's merits (or lack thereof) Little Richard seems to be waiting, watching for his chance to enter the conversation.

Marcus describes Segal -- sinking, sliding, gradually, deeper and lower in his chair, annoyance rising on both the part of the critic and the author, Little Richard meanwhile champing at the bit and then finally exploding in an energetic chaos of words and enthusiasm: 

"I wrote a book!  I wrote a book!  It's called 'I Got What I Wanted But I Lost What I Had!" and John Simon being utterly at a loss as to what to make of this...And Little Richad continuing his -- what we would now call a "rant" ... "Oh my Lord!  Ooh my soul!" or something...

Could Greil Marcus be exaggerating?  I hope not.  Is it on You Tube?

And this story reminds one of a similar report, when authors Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer appeared on Cavett along with New Yorker journalist Janet Flanner:

[excerpt, N.Y. Times piece written by Dick Cavett] ------------- Mailer's entrance was the tip-off.  He came on from stage left doing that pugilist walk:  his hands were fists and carried high, and he had the tousled look of having visited a favorite bar or two en route.  His suit was disheveled, his bow to Miss Flanner courtly, and his refusal to shake Vidal's extended hand caused a murmuring in the audience.

When I said I couldn't help noticing what had just happened, I was told by Mailer that he did not approve of Vidal and found him intellectually shameless....Mailer then quoted himself.... ------------ [end, excerpt]


Did The Dick Cavett Show, with its guest scholars, talkers, writers, and artists, teeter on the brink of anarchy and dust-up on a semi-regular basis, "back in the day"?


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