Stuart Kaminsky; Leonard Cohen; Gerald Kersh
Stuart Kaminsky died yesterday. I didn't know him well at all but when I was starting out going on twenty-seven or so years ago I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved the Toby Peters books and how I'd published a lot of crap in the down market men's field but now wanted to try mystery novels. He wrote back with advice I still honor today. I still love the Toby books and almost all of his other books, too. I'm not sure why but his death shocked me more than any other recent one. I'm still sort of stunned by it. Peace, Stuart.
Leonard Cohen's early 60s novel sold three thousand copies hardcover. I was one of the three thousand buyers. And I was hooked for life. A fair number of people don't like his work because it's a "downer" but I've always found his struggles to be those of an intelligent and way articulate man trying to make sense of of our short time here. In The Nation this week David Yaffe posted a very long and extremely enlightening piece about Cohen. It's well worth reading.
"In 1966 Cohen was a poet and novelist--he had sold a few thousand copies of his novels and collections of verse in Canada--who was just learning to perform. The poetry world was small, the Canadian one even smaller, and Cohen was seeking a bigger stage. A chance encounter with Judy Collins led to his serenading her, on the phone, with "Suzanne." She recorded it almost instantly. Shortly thereafter, Cohen found himself giving an impromptu performance for Hammond in his room in the Chelsea Hotel. Hammond later pressed Cohen to reproduce in the studio what he had heard in that room, but it didn't work out that way. Cohen needed to be almost hypnotized to be so hypnotic on songs like "The Stranger Song," "Master Song" and, really, all the tunes that ended up on Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). Cohen was no folkie; according to Hammond, Cohen felt that he needed to augment his voice with strings, with odd distracting timbres and windup toys, and even with amateurish white backup singers who sounded like they were harmonizing in a schoolyard. (Later, the Cohenettes would become sassier and more racially mixed.) It was the artist, not the label, who wanted to sweeten his dark songs with fiddles and studio trickery. The album has endured for more than forty years, and all its eccentric features heralded the shape of Cohen's sonic choices to come."
For the rest go here:
I have six collections of Gerald Kersh stories. His Night and the City remains one of my favorite novels and movies of all time. And his short stories are masterful. The mind that could construct "The Queen of Pig Island" is rare indeed. But today in an old Ellery Queen annual I stumbled on "The Scar." I'd never heard of it before. Most of it is related by a down and out old entertainer who's time is long past and who is probably a bullshit artist in the extreme. The bulk of it is a tale the old fart tells the man who lives in the same shabby rooming house. It's an interesting view of Britain right after the war and of what life was like for a man who never made it. But the ending--wow. It's a great twist that writers especially will appreciate. Well worth looking up.
Where're they ever going to find an actor with Jack Lord's monsoon-resistant hair? He could run along a beach during a hurricane and nary a single hair would fall out of the place. Now that's acting.