Michael ParkerRead my copain Michael Parker’s latest humdinger of a novel, If You Want Me to Stay, oddly twinned in my brainpan now with Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, happenstance of chronology. Kids growing up with soul music for solace, is that a genre? In Parker’s novel, it’s “Joel Junior” Dunn, who—“mama run off” ’s “learned how not to love,” whose daddy’s “gone off,” who’s trying to do right by’s younger brother Tank. He’s down in the coastal plain of North Carolina, he’s not in pre-gentrify’d Brooklyn. (One point in a list of “THINGS I NEED TO TEACH TANK”—“Difference between Stax/Volt and Motown.”) Parker (“Joel Junior”):
I sometimes, left to my own half-formed judgment, strayed . . . like my brief flirtation with Motown, a label my daddy didn’t much care for because, he said . . . it made black music palatable to white people, lightening it up so it would cross over to the pop charts. My daddy when he was on could be an I-got-there-first snob. He could lecture for hours on the production quality of Motown versus anything out of Memphis or Muscle Shoals, the former being slick and given to the latest technology and the latter being sloppy in the way that perfect things just naturally are—filled with human error, the fuckups there to honor not Allah like the imperfection in the carpet but Jesus-I-don’t-think-so, though if anyone ever came close to convincing me I was bygod Mavis callin’ Mercy . . .
Marvin GayeOr, earlier:
We all three knew the story about Al Green’s girlfriend dumping a pot of boiling grits in his lap. We knew he survived and found Jesus in his heart. We knew about Sam Cooke getting shot in a motel by the woman worked behind the counter who he thought was hiding some girl he wanted to get with who had run off from his room when he’d tried to pull her dress off, taking his pants with her . . . We knew that Marvin Gaye had been shot by his very own daddy, and that he, like our own daddy, was prone to going off. (That one got away with me the worst, a gone-off genius getting shot by someone who like as not took care of him and protected him and loved him when nobody else would . . .)
Patti SmithAnd somehow the refusal of guilt and redemption is where one always returns, Patti Smith’s “Babelogue” moving straight on into “Rock ’n’ Roll Nigger”:
I haven't fucked much with the past, but I've fucked plenty with the future . . . In heart I am Moslem, in heart I'm an American artist, and I have no guilt. I seek pleasure. I seek the nerves under your skin. The narrow archway, the layers, the scroll . . . We worship the flaw, the belly, the belly, the mole on the belly of an exquisite whore. I have not sold myself to God.
Joe OrtonScoop’d up at the Friends of the Library—The Orton Diaries, edited by John Lahr. Noted one signature bound in upside-down, good excuse to read publickly, book-invert’d, Elisha Cooke-style, next to the potted palm, no? Random entry of Thursday 6 July 1967:
Weather hot, muggy. Spent the whole day typing the first act of What the Butler Saw. P. Willes rang. ‘Who was that other gentleman sitting with you and Kenneth Williams last night?’ he said. ‘A lorry driver,’ I said. ‘He didn’t look like a lorry driver,’ Willes said, tartly. ‘No,’ I said, he’s given it up and has taken to selling second-hand clothes.’ ‘Are you ever going to wash that tee-shirt of yours?’ Willes said. ‘You’ve been wearing it for ages.’ ‘I let the sweat collect,’ I said, ‘and then when I pick someone up it gives them a kinky thrill.’ Willes rang off after a chat. . . .
Henry Budgen rang. He said sex in Cyprus is difficult. ‘It’s difficult anywhere if your name is Henry Budgen,’ K. H. said.