Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bio Randisi; Phillip K. Dick; Frankie Laine

Bob Randisi Update Update
This just in: Vince Van Patten is appearing on Fox News Live on Wednesday, February 21 at 10:00 AM, not February 10 as stated in the previous post. Check it out.


'Voices From the Street' by Philip K. Dick
A bleak mainstream novel by the sci-fi legend.

By Ed Park, Ed Park is a founding editor of the Believer.

IN "Search for Philip K. Dick" (1995), Anne R. Dick (the third of the visionary science-fiction writer's five wives) recalls a potentially life-changing response to the manuscript of "Confessions of a Crap Artist," a mainstream novel he had finished in 1959. "Alfred Knopf, himself, wrote Phil a letter saying he was interested in publishing it if Phil would rewrite the last third making the female character more sympathetic," she reports. "He compared the quality of Phil's prose to that of Salinger, Roth, and Mailer…. We were both thrilled with this letter. But Phil said, 'I can't rewrite this book! It's not that I don't want to, it's that I'm not able to!' "

In an alternate universe — of the sort that Dick fluidly conjured in novel after novel — Phil can do the rewrite. Encouraged by critics, he happily departs the precincts of science fiction, which had nurtured and released 10 of his books, and has a successful career producing highbrow, gently experimental fare. He reworks the territory of soured domesticity (à la Richard Yates and John Updike) in a working-class milieu anticipating Raymond Carver. Decades later, his oeuvre (like Philip Roth's) is lovingly enshrined in our national pantheon.

None of this happens in the real world, of course, save for that last outrageous twist: This spring, four of his best novels will appear in a Library of America volume edited by novelist and stalwart PKD champion Jonathan Lethem. Lauded in science-fiction circles, Dick (1928-1982) gained mass exposure after the movie "Blade Runner," based on one of his books, was released the year of his death. His carpet-yanking virtual realities have been film fodder ever since — most recently, Richard Linklater's stunning 2006 adaptation of "A Scanner Darkly."

But mainstream acceptance was Dick's first novelistic ambition, one that took years to dispel. An early fan of "scientifiction" stories, Dick also read widely outside the genre. In 1940s Berkeley, beginning at age 19, he roomed in a converted warehouse occasionally occupied by literary figures like poets Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer, with whom he struck up friendships. During this time, according to biographer Lawrence Sutin, he was inspired to steep himself in the classics ("I gained a working knowledge of literature from the Anabasis to Ulysses," Dick wrote in a 1968 "Self-Portrait"), with special attention to modernists like Ezra Pound and John Dos Passos. Sutin notes that from 1951 to 1958 Dick wrote dozens of science-fiction stories and six science-fiction novels, all of which were published, and seven mainstream novels, none of which found a publisher in his lifetime. "Confessions of a Crap Artist," written in 1959 and published in 1975, is a lean, semiautobiographical divorce drama that nimbly shuttles between points of view. The other surviving mainstream manuscripts gradually found their way to print, and with the publication of "Voices From the Street," finished in 1953, we have a complete view of the path not taken.

At the center of "Voices" is Stuart Hadley, a handsome, New Yorker-reading 25-year-old and amateur painter who is languishing as a repairman at Modern TV Sales and Service. Called "Stumblebum" by his boss, Jim Fergesson, Hadley is a dreamer with unclear dreams. His marriage leaves him cold, and his wife's pregnancy intensifies his feeling that life has trapped him. (His solution: memory-obliterating pub-crawls.) Taking note of a natty young man, Hadley imagines his bookcases hold "French novels in French paperback editions. Gide, Proust, Celine…." A liberal sort with socialist Jewish friends, Hadley is simultaneously attracted and repulsed by a group of holy rollers led by Theodore Beckheim, a charismatic black preacher — and also by the "strong, calculating, ruthless, efficient" Marsha Frazier, who runs a haphazardly produced magazine called Succubus that turns out to be anti-Semitic.

Whereas "Confessions" had both a wrenching, violent climax and a sense of humor, "Voices" is obsessed with rage and race and is unremittingly bleak, a mood intensified by its chapterless format. The title suggests James Joyce's polyphonic "Ulysses," but Hadley is a dominant, unifying presence. Though an early story line centers around an avuncular character named Horace Wakefield, hints of a Bloom-Dedalus dyad get snuffed early. The only deviations from Dick's patient, observant style are Beckheim's tour de force of a sermon and Hadley's violent, drunken ramble, reminiscent of Joyce's hallucinatory "Nighttown" chapter. (At times the novel reads like a hazy, low-rent version of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead," with Hadley's inchoate ambition as above reproach as Howard Roark's will to power; Hadley's one-night stand with the fearsome Marsha is, troublingly, a more vicious version of Roark's rape of Dominique.)

The word "primordial" pops up frequently in "Voices," and it's tempting to read this early book as a Dickian ur-text. Most fascinating is how Dick's major theme — a playful, terrifying disjuncture between realities — has leaked into this seemingly solid, realistically rendered setting. The book begins mock-epically, with store owner Fergesson opening up shop in Old Testament fashion ("his seventh day — a cup of black coffee"). Promoted to manager, Hadley grapples with the dark thought that "he might suddenly, blindly, burst out and destroy the safety of his microcosmos. In his archaic fury he might smash, demolish, pull down the only world in which he could exist." He quickly becomes accustomed to "the permanent reality of a small retail store," but those dark forces swarm in and destroy the status quo. By book's end, he is carving out a second life, starting a whole new world from scratch.

Dick completed one other novel in 1953. "The Cosmic Puppets" (published a mere four years later) is a slim, intermittently spooky book, a minor entry in the PKD canon but one that functions as a mind-bending footnote to the gargantuan "Voices." In it, New Yorker Ted Barton returns to his Virginia hometown to discover that everything has changed — street names, houses, inhabitants. The local paper reports that he died as a 9-year-old, and he discovers that the current townspeople operate under a mutual, sustainable delusion. All Barton wants is to get back to the status quo — a return to normalcy. What follows is a Zoroastrian freakout-cum-battle featuring golems, spiders, moths and gods. If "Puppets" is a lot more fun to read than "Voices," that shouldn't diminish the real struggle suffusing the longer, lonelier shadow of a book. The struggle lies not just in Hadley's losing bargain with the real world but in Dick's changing notion of what sort of writer he needed to be. •

Ed here:Imagine if Dick had finished Confessions the way Alfred Knopf wanted him to. A good chance Dick ight have been able to escape the sf ghetto. But what about the sf masterpieces that lay ahead? Confessions is is one my favorite literary novels because in it Dick feels free to expand on his characters more than his themes. And it's the usual neurotic, agigated and vaguely despicable Dickian crews. It's my favorite book of his. As for The Cosmic Puppets, it was half of an Ace Doubklebook and is a minor but entertaining sf novel with horrorific elments. I reread it last night to see how it held up. It was first opublished whole in Satellite sf and then appeared soon after in Ace DB. I remember not being disappointed eiter time.

Ed here: You liked him or loathed him. I liked his hits. I've heard some of his jazz albums from the forties and I thought he was pretty bad. Way too much crooner-sobbing and a vibratto that was frequently out of control. He probably could have had a longer run at Columbia but he had a run in with the reigning asshole there Mitch Miller. One of th reasons Sinatra left Columbia because, at the time "How Much is That Doggie In The Window?" by Patti Page was popular on Mercury, Miller came to Sinatra and told him he had a similar piece that would require Sinatra to bark--yes, bark--several time sin the record. I have no respect for Sinatra as human being--he wouldn't even do his own fighting; his thugs did it for him--but he was th best pop singer of all, flat out. To ask a man of his talent to bark...Mitch Miller said as late as 1962 that rock and roll would never last.


Singer Frankie Laine dead at 93
By Claudia Luther, Special to The Times
1:53 PM PST, February 6, 2007

Frankie Laine

Excerpt from "That Lucky Old Sun"
(MP3 audio)

Excerpt from "That's My Desire"
(MP3 audio)

Excerpt from "Rawhide"
(MP3 audio)
Frankie Laine, the singer with the booming voice who hit it big with such songs as "That Lucky Old Sun," "Mule Train," "Cool Water," "I Believe," "Granada" and "Moonlight Gambler," died today at Mercy Hospital in San Diego. He was 93.

Laine entered the hospital over the weekend for hip replacement surgery but suffered complications from the operation, said his friend A.C. Lyles, the longtime producer at Paramount Pictures.

In all, Laine sold well over 100 million records and was hugely popular not only in the United States but in Britain and Australia.

Even after his popularity crested after the rise of rock 'n' roll, Laine was heard for many years singing the theme to the TV series "Rawhide," which featured a young Clint Eastwood and ran until 1966.

Most of those who remember Laine for his biggest hits would hardly know that his body of work included "Baby That Ain't Right," "Rosetta" and many other songs that were more in the style of what Laine considered his roots -- jazz and blues.

"Years before Elvis Presley, Laine brought a potent blend of blues, jazz and country to popular music," jazz critic Don Heckman said. "Rarely acknowledged in Laine's work, he sang with the easy, loose phrasing and imaginative articulation of jazz performers."

Laine started out in jazz but was sidetracked by arranger Mitch Miller, who fashioned Laine into the popular artist that he is best remembered for being.

"When I told him I'd probably lose all my jazz fans [with these songs], I was right. I did," Laine told David Kilby of Australian Broadcasting Corp. "But he said I would pick up a lot of other kind of listeners, and I did, so he was right, too."

Miller produced most of Laine's hits in the 1940s and 1950s, including "Mule Train" and "That Lucky Old Sun." He said he loved Laine's voice because it sounded like "the blue-collar man, the guy who didn't know where his next paycheck was coming from."

Laine at first refused to do "Mule Train."

"You can't expect me to do a cowboy song," he told Miller. "I won't do it!"

But Miller persuaded him to record it and it was one of Laine's biggest hits.

Though Laine was big of voice, he said he didn't like being referred to as a "belter."

"I was just trying to emphasize the rhythmic aspects of the songs I sang, using my voice the way a jazz soloist uses his instrument," he said in "That Lucky Old Son," his 1993 autobiography (written with Joseph F. Laredo). "'Crooning' may have the more commercial style, but it wasn't for me."

Francesco Paolo LoVecchio was born March 30, 1913, the eldest of eight children of Sicilian immigrants who settled in the Little Italy neighborhood in Chicago. His father was a barber whose customers included Al Capone; his maternal grandfather was the victim of a mob hit. Laine said he came from a "big and poor, but happy" family.

As a kid, Laine sang in the all-boy choir at church, but first became excited about music when he listened to one of his mother's records on a windup Victrola: Bessie Smith singing "Bleeding Hearted Blues," with "Midnight Blues" on the flip side.

"The first time I laid the needle down on that record I felt cold chills and an indescribable excitement," Laine would say later.

This record was his first exposure to jazz and the blues, which would draw him into music.

At 18, with the Depression underway and his father out of work, Laine hit the road as a dance marathoner. Altogether he participated in 14 marathons, coming in first on three occasions. He and his partner, Ruthie Smith, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for dancing 145 days straight (although he disputed Guinness, saying he and Smith danced for 146 days).

Laine said the life of a marathoner wasn't as grim as was portrayed in the 1969 film, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

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