THE LAST SITTING (& LUST SETTING) OF MARILYN MONROE

 

marilyn-keyhole
Photo by Bert Stern/Illustration by Jim George

(In all my years of freelance writing, I only ever had one article rejected, and that was because it was deemed too “suggestive.” It was a review of a book entitled The Last Sitting by Bert Stern which featured some of the last photos taken of Marilyn Monroe and the photographer-author’s personal account of the experience. Having reviewed it for my hometown newspaper, The Reading Eagle, in late 1982, I was fortunate enough to have a very progressive editor in Al Walentis, but he still had to answer to the powers-that-were. One of those powers—let’s call him Donald Dim—vetoed the piece after reading only the first paragraph. He then took a Dim view of every word thereafter in which he could infer something salacious—even objecting to the innocent phrase “makes no bones about it.” While I’m no stranger to double entendre, in the context of the review, wouldn’t “makes no bones” mean the very opposite of what he was accusing the phrase of connoting? My illustration, a keyhole-view of Marilyn, was also nixed. Interestingly, during the same period, the paper was happily accepting X-rated movie ads ($$$$), one of which included a small drawing of a bare-breasted woman (UU). To his credit, Al offered me the chance to edit out the offensive bits and rewrite the piece, but since I felt I did a good job of accurately capturing the tone of the book and the author’s state of mind, I declined, and so it never ran. Until now. For the record, my original title was “New Books Feature the Flesh and Flash of Marilyn Monroe”–plural, because I reviewed two others at the same time. At long last, here is the one which ruffled the Eagle’s feathers.)

Pussyfooting was never Bert Stern’s style. In The Last Sitting (William Morrow and Co. 192 pages), the photographer makes no bones—or bons mots–about his intentions circa 1962: “To get Marilyn Monroe in a room, with no one else around, and take all her clothes off.”

Much of his near-obsessive desire certainly could be attributed to artistic lust. Stern was unquestionably lens-horny to shoot Marilyn. Besides craving to snap that one immortal portrait, a picture the equivalent of Edward Steichen’s famous black-and-white of Garbo, Stern was dreaming of a white chrysalis—a glowing, pale, blonde beauty whose metamorphosis into her ultimate and definitive stage of au naturelism he could orchestrate and forever capture with his camera.

Should, however, MM’s accessibility extend beyond the realm of photography, should layout evolve into laydown, Stern was ready and welling.

The aesthetic side of Stern’s steamy fantasy was realized. In vogue with Vogue, he managed to get himself commissioned to shoot a fashion spread of the world’s most famous blonde for the publication—a coup he felt would be the magazenith of his career.

Whether by the intervention of a helpful hand of fate, his own shrewd manipulation of circumstances, or the utilization of the persuasive powers of Dom Perignon, Stern did indeed get his subject alone in a room, with no one else around. And while he shed light, she shed clothes.

Three highly charged sessions in the summer of ’62, some six weeks before Marilyn’s death, yielded the Steichen-caliber smiling black-and-white Stern aspired to as well as fashion shots of MM wrapped in rich furs and slipped into elegant black gowns, along with dozens of exquisite nudes.

Tame by today’s standards and practices, the nudes, in both color and black-and-white, are of two main groupings. In one, a topless Marilyn, shot through sheer silken scarves, is wearing a year-old scar (from gall bladder surgery) like a gash on a fresh peach. In the other set, a completely naked Marilyn is lying under, over and around cloud-white sheets on a bed. With stitches and without a stitch.

She is suspended in whiteness. Horizon is non-existent, as ground and background melt together in what Stern calls “a clear nowhere,” much like the dream sequence from Ingmar Bergman’s From the Life of the Marionettes.

Whether Marilyn is undressed or dressed to keel over observers, the photographs in The Last Sitting are superior. Made of Sterner stuff, as it were, the images spectacularly accomplish what their creator set out to do: “match his art of seeing to her mastery of the art of being seen.”

Stern’s desire to lay more than eyes on Marilyn, however, went unfulfilled. His knowledge of her was decidedly more corneal than carnal. But just barely, he claims. At the conclusion of the second marathon session, Marilyn was reportedly—cue up Glenn Miller–in the mood.

But Stern says something stopped him, and the seemingly imminent consummation was nipped in the bed. Stern backed off, Marilyn fell asleep. Gentlemen prefer blondes with all their faculties.

Some will undoubtedly find the very notion of such a prestigious artist as Stern deciding to nearly-kiss-and-tell tasteless. Granted, the luscious photos, not the reminiscences, are the essence of the book. But this is no mere tryst-and-shout exercise in sensationalism.

Stern rarely drools into these pages. His text has a distinct peeking-through-a-keyhole quality, but the voyeurism is more poetic than licentious. He always speaks of MM in exceedingly worshipful tones, even bucking those who chastised her notorious tardiness, stating, “I never understood that attitude. Goddesses don’t play by the rules.”

Since Annie Gottlieb is co-credited with the text, it is impossible to discern just how much of the straightforward yet lyrical tenor is her doing. Giving Stern the the benefit of the doting, however, there is in his strange brew of no-nonsense candidness and pulse-racing fantasizing an almost Tom Ewell-like (in The Seven-Year Itch) neurotic bent. More frank than funny, though, this stripe of insecurity humanizes what could have been, with clumsier treatment, general braggadocio.

The specifics of the experience cannot be substantiated, since only one of the victorious principals of the fateful, fruitful shooting is alive. But taken with a grain of salt—or saltpeter, as the case may be—Stern’s charged account is a fascinating adjunct to a portfolio of photographs every MM admirer will cherish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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BLONDE ON BLONDE WAS DYLAN’S GOLDEN HOUR

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(Note: This, with a few minor changes, is a piece I wrote back in 1983 for a series my hometown paper, The Reading Eagle, ran entitled “Album Classics.”)

“I’m the first person who’ll put it to you and the last person who’ll explain it to you.”
–Bob Dylan, 1978

It’s kind of a don’t ask/won’t tell situation. You don’t ask, he won’t tell. And for those who did ask, more often than not, Bob Dylan has elected not to tell. At least not too much.

A clue to his press behavior was crystallized in the following exchange between the erudite Jonathan Cott and the enigmatic Dylan in a ’78 Rolling Stone interview:

Cott: I guess there’s no point in asking a magician how he does his tricks.
Dylan: Exactly!

Elsewhere in their discussion, Dylan likened himself mediumistically to his mentor, Woody Guthrie, who said that he pulled songs out of the air.

“That meant,” said Dylan, “that they were already there and that he was tuned into them.”

Cott’s magician-parallel was a good one. Overall, Bob Dylan has been a musical magician–a singing sorcerer who has summoned up his own spirits, conjured songs out of the air, and transformed pieces of shiny black plastic into something indeed quite magical.

Like Blonde On Blonde.

“One of the most pleasing things about Blonde On Blonde,” wrote then-critic Jon Landau in a ’68 article for Crawdaddy magazine, “is that by shifting the focus from the impossible epics of earlier works to subjects which were closer to himself personally, Dylan was able to create a more powerful and lasting artistic tension than he ever was out of things like ‘With God On Our Side.’”

Blonde On Blonde was rock’s first double-album and the last album Dylan recorded before his breakneck pace of living climaxed with him literally breaking his neck in a motorcycle accident in July of ’66.

“At the time of my Blonde On Blonde album,” he later said, “I was going at a tremendous speed.” In life and, apparently, on his motorcycle, though he has never gone into much detail.

Dylanesque as it sounds, the album’s title was not a Zimmy (well, he did say we could call him that, didn’t he?) invention. As Dylan recollected—or failed to—in a ’69 Rolling Stone interview, “I don’t even recall exactly how it came up, but I do know it was all in good faith. It has to do with just the word. I don’t know who thought of that. I certainly didn’t.”

(While it may purely be coincidental, ever notice that the first letters acronymically spell BOB?)

Lyrically, musically, thematically and emotionally, Blonde On Blonde was a milestone in contemporary music. Dylan’s incomparable phrasing was played against the spare, soulful and eloquently simple (or simply eloquent) musical backing of Nashville Cat Charlie McCoy’s band, augmented by the likes of Al Kooper and Joe South.

Amusingly, the significance of the album’s kickoff, “Rainy Day Women Numbers 12 and 35,” wasn’t quite as high-minded as those who gleefully latched onto the catch-phrase “Everybody must get stoned.” Of course, the double-entendre is there. But if one listens to the verses of this Salvation Army-gone-awry number, clearly the song’s operative word “stoned” refers not to a euphoric condition, but rather to the act of being knocked, kicked, harassed, oppressed, criticized, slandered, maligned, beaten down or tangled up in blue.

Likewise, the “They” refers not to turned-on friends, but to those who wish ill will toward men (and women). In fact, the chorus is the only section of the song which can be (mis)interpreted as a paean to altered states. The smoky connotation doesn’t hold up beyond that.

(Dylan’s line, “They’ll stone you when you’re sent down in your grave,” rings forever true—evidence the heartfelt Mommie Dearest and Albert Goldman’s endearing The Lives of John Lennon.)

As for the cryptic title, Dylan psycho-analysts—preferring to sniff between the lines—failed to consider the possibility of a happenstance explanation. It has subsequently been revealed that Dylan either wrote or recorded (or both) the tune on a rainy day with two females, aged 12 and 35, present. Honest to Bob.

Similarly, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” is “just about that,” admitted Dylan. “I think that’s something I mighta taken out of a newspaper. Mighta seen a picture of one in a department store window. There’s really no more to it than that. I know it can get blown up into some kind of illusion. But in reality, it’s no more than that. Just a leopard-skin pill-box. That’s all.”

“It balances on your head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine,” sings Dylan of the millinery monstrosity. (Note the similarity of John Lennon’s guitar solo in “Yer Blues” to the stinging Dylan-fingered lead guitar licks of this blues-rocker.)

“Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” is inspired nonsense—an irresistible, funny, surreal tour de farce. Displaying his absurdist agility and a superlative vocal, Dylan delivers such wonderful lines as:

Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked

and:

When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon
Where I can watch her waltz for free
‘Neath her Panamanian moon
And I say, “Aw come on now
“You know you know about my debutante”
And she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
“But I know what you want”

While Dylan’s unpolished and rough-around-the-etches harmonica playing has been disparaged by some over the years (virtuoso mouth organist Larry Adler felt his blowing and sucking, well, sucked), many more consider it beautifully soulful and spirited. As such, it lends an ingenuous charm to the songs so graced.

“Temporary Like Achilles” marries the two predominant elements of the album; it is a love song performed in the blues idiom. Love, lost or found, is all around Blonde On Blonde: “Just Like a Woman,” “I Want You,” “Visions of Johanna,” “Sooner or Later (One of Us Must Know),” and the epic “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” another gift from the gods.

“(‘Sad-Eyed Lady’) started out as just a little thing,” said Dylan, “but I got carried away somewhere along the line. I just sat down at a table and started writing. At the session itself….I just started writing and I couldn’t stop. After a period of time, I forgot what it was all about, and I started trying to get back to the beginning (laughs).”

Speaking of his work in general, Dylan stated, “The words are just as important as the music. There would be no music without the words. Indeed, despite its haunting melody, the lyrics of the 12-minute “Sad-Eyed Lady” (which accounts for one of the LP’s four sides) stand on their own as gorgeous poetry:

With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims
And your matchbook songs and your gypsy hymns
Who among them would try to press you

In The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Bob Dylan’s legacy is summed up thusly: “Bob Dylan’s importance to the development of rock is rivaled only by that of The Beatles. His influence went much further than the innovative qualities of his lyrics, his semivisionary songs effecting a change in the consciousness of an entire generation and opening up a general awareness of attitudes, both personal and political, that, without him, might still be stifled and denied today.”

If by some simple twist of fate you’ve never heard Blonde On Blonde—whether you’re too young to remember it or you’ve spent the mid-‘60s in a coma—by all that is wholly superior, listen to this magnum opus. Everybody must get milestoned.

 

 

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

JIM BY GEORGE (A Self-Interview On Jim Shorts)

Q. So what’s Jim Shorts about?
A. About 178 pages.
Q. No, smartass—I mean what’s it about?
A. As if you didn’t know.
Q. Look, I have to ask questions that I think others would ask, so it’s imperative that you treat me as a stranger.
A. Well, you’re strange all right. But OK, I’ll play along.
Q. Take three. What’s Jim Shorts about?
A. It’s a collection of 50 stories, poems and specialty forms with line drawing illustrations.
Q. What are specialty forms?
A. Pieces written in play form or letter form or newspaper column form, etc.
Q. But my question—once again—was what are the pieces about?
A. Again with the about?! They’re funny stories about absurd human behaviors and about surreal situations. Crazy people doing crazy things.
Q. Now we’re getting somewhere.
A. We’re getting some wear all right; already you’re wearing on me.
Q. Ah ha—there’s that wordplay you’re so fond of. The book is chock-full of puns. The title’s a pun, too.
A. Aren’t you a quick one.
Q. Be nice.
A. Yes, some poems are written in normal English, but all the stories and specialty forms and other poems are written with intricate wordplay—puns, malapropisms, spoonerisms, portmanteaus, onomatopoeias—the whole nine yuks.
Q. What inspired you to write in that style?
A. Well, I always played with words, so whenever I came across actual authors who did it, I was fascinated and inspired. It’s like finding another person who speaks the same foreign tongue you do.
Q. Who were some of those writers?
A. Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, James Joyce, John Lennon. I could add Bob Dylan to them. And Jerry Lewis.
Q. Jerry Lewis?! How so?
A. The way he would get names wrong in his movies. He would say it differently every time. I use that device fairly often, as it’s emblematic of short attention spans and poor listeners, both of which are all too prevalent in the so-called real world.
Q. Your drawings have an off-kilter, wacky quality.
A. Thank you. You’re very absorbent.
Q. Ha! OK, Mr. Wordplay. Who influenced your artwork?
A. I’m sure I got something from everyone I ever liked. Early on, Max Fleischer cartoons, Tex Avery cartoons, Warner Brothers cartoons, old Disney films, Walter Lantz, ‘60s comics, Mort Walker, vintage Mad Magazine, then John Lennon, Saul Steinberg, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, R. Crumb. I also like the drawings of Charles Bukowski, James Thurber and Shel Silverstein.
Q. When you write a story, are the illustrations done at the same time?
A. Actually, with quite a few of them, the drawing inspired the story or poem.
Q. So you did some drawings for the book first?
A. No, I saved a lot of my old drawings, and I wanted to use some in the book, so I created a story or poem around them.
Q. Was that hard to do?
A. No. If you look at them hard enough, they’ll tell you a story.
Q. What were those drawings originally done for?
A. Nothing in particular. I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. I just drew them with no thought behind them. They weren’t planned. Automatic drawing. The artwork in the book spans many years–some go back to my teenage years and some were done much more recently. For some of the pieces I wrote, I found preexisting drawings that happened to fit. The rest were done specifically for the story or poem.
Q. Was that difficult?
A. It just requires more discipline. When I simply draw with no preconceived idea, anything can happen. But when I need an illustration, there are obvious constraints. But I was used to that from when I did artwork to go along with articles and interviews I once did for my hometown newspaper.
Q. So although this is your first book, you’re not a novice writer?
A. No, as with drawing, I’ve been writing one way or another from an early age. But I assume you mean professionally. I freelanced for quite a few years in the ‘80s and ‘9os, first for the newspaper, then for a few magazines.
Q. Such as?
A. Guitar World, Starlog, Guitar (then called Guitar For the Practicing Musician), Prevue.
Q. You say you did interviews. With anyone we’d know?
A. I would hope so. Many famous names, some legendary, including Gore Vidal, Muddy Waters, Steve Allen, B.B. King, Carl Perkins, Cybill Shepherd, Willie Dixon, Tony Bennett, Albert Collins, Nicolas Roeg, Bo Diddley, Jean Shepherd, Susanna Hoffs, Dick Cavett, Junior Wells, Jay Leno, Steve Cropper, Joseph Wambaugh, Danny Gatton, to name a partial list.
Q. You’re a regular Larry Kink.
A. Hey, I’ll thank you to suspender the wisecracks.
Q. OK, back to your book…
A. That’s what I’m here for.
Q. With 50 different pieces, was it hard to dream up that many plots or scenarios?
A. No. A few of the pieces are based on actual events and/or people.
Q. Give me an example.
A. “Orville’s Raccoon Problem” is based on an actual case where a guy killed his mother-in-law with an ax but claimed he couldn’t see in the dark garage and thought she was a large raccoon.
Q. You’re pulling my leg.
A. I wouldn’t do that since it would hurt me.
Q. But seriously, this really happened?
A. Yes, and I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere. So I built my tale around that insane incident. Another idea I got from a newspaper article was for “Bad Mood Rising.” A man actually shot his brother-in-law because he didn’t like the music he played at a party.
Q. Unbelievable. You couldn’t make something like that up.
A. Sure, I could. What do you think I did with most of the pieces? It’s called fiction. Even with “Orville” and “Bad Mood Rising,” beyond what I just said, everything else is my own concoction. I took the basic event and made up my own story.
Q. Those stories sound violent, yet you call it humor?
A. Black humor. Sometimes black-and-blue humor.
Q. Any others inspired by real-life events or people?
A. “The Man With the Invisible Horn” was inspired by just that. There was a guy who hung out at Open Mics, and he would intrude on the performer by “playing” his imaginary horn(s). He moved his hands as if he were playing and he made sounds with his mouth. There’s a few like that in the book, but, as I said, anything beyond the basic plot or incident is fiction courtesy of my fevered imagination.
Q. You have some parodies in Jim Shorts.
A. Yes, there’s an advice column parody of “Dear Abby” called “Dear Blabby.” There’s a few television parodies: “The Twilight Evzone,” in which a present-day man suddenly finds himself back in ancient Greece. In “Fantasy Eyelet Redux,” a man’s fantasy is to experience the Old West and he ends up in a saloon in the company of legendary lawmen and outlaws alike. “Cack-Out on 34th St.” is a “Dragnet” parody.
Q. There’ve been a lot of “Dragnet” parodies over the years–
A. Not like this one.
Q. Touché.
A. English, please.
Q. Getting back to the writing style itself, aside from being funny, what is the reason to change and play with words and write in what is practically a new language—or at least a new version of English?
A. Changing even a single letter in certain circumstances can actually enhance or at least underscore the meaning. To give a very simple example, when the aforementioned Orville committed the crime, like Lizzie Borden he whacked his victim many, many times. That’s not merely excessive, it’s axcessive. The wordplay works on different levels. You can enjoy it superficially, I think, even if you don’t fully recognize the references, because it simply sounds/looks funny. Then if you really delve into the words, there’s cultural, geographical, political, zoological, botanical and theological references in many of the puns. So in that way, it’s like a puzzle that reveals more the closer you examine it. A glass onion, as one of my influences would say.
Q. What is your writing routine or process?
A. I have none. I just write. Even in my sleep. I dream wordplay, especially when I’m working on a piece and I’m in the mode of “speaking” that language. So I keep a pad and pen on my bed. There’s no pattern. Sometimes a title inspires a story, sometimes I don’t have a title until after I’ve finished the piece.
Q. Do you ever get writer’s block?
A. Not really. I may get stuck on a certain line or part of a story, but I never really have the classic, dreaded writer’s block. If I have a moment where I don’t know what to write, I’ll write a story about a writer who doesn’t know what to write. Ideas come and I try to capture them before they fade, which happens sometimes when they occur while I’m asleep or just half-awake. I’ve lost some good stuff that way.
Q. When you announced this book, you mentioned that it isn’t for everyone–
A. Well, no book is, really.
Q. But what is it that some people wouldn’t like?
A. What I meant was that in this era of fast food, fast entertainment, fast news and fast information, a book which requires a lot of concentration and thought may be off- putting to those who like a quickie, so to speak. And I don’t mean to sound elitist, but the truth is, reading and understanding such a book does require a certain level of intelligence and awareness. No one is likely to get every reference in the book. But if you know nothing of history and culture, it would likely confound you. I mean, the wordplay encompasses everything from B-movie actors to trees. But I think part of the fun is that puzzle-like aspect I mentioned. Repeated perusals might reward the reader with more revelations: “Oh, that’s what he’s referring to!” Or so one hopes.
Q. Might anyone take offense at anything in the book?
A. Anyone might.
Q. Elaborate, please.
A. You never know with people. Someone had seen my poem “The Lady With Elephantitis” and was offended. She had a relative with the illness and claimed I was making fun of people suffering from the condition. But I wasn’t. My poem is a kid’s-eye-view of it. When I was a very little kid, for a brief period I lived in Philly, where my mother was from, and there was a woman on the block who had the affliction. When I was told it was Elephantitis (which is a bastardization of the actual name Elephantiasis, by the way), I didn’t understand—was she turning into an elephant? Was she part-elephant? So the poem is an exaggerated view from a young child’s imaginative perspective.
Q. Any other sensitive areas?
A. Who knows? There’s always someone offended by something. But I have no agenda. I’m an equal opportunity offender.
Q. You mentioned adult content—
A. There’s a sexual encounter in “The Babble of the Sexes,” but there are no four-letter words. On second thought, I would guess there are plenty of four-letter words, but not of the profanity persuasion. But it’s explicit in my own original language.
Q. Have you had any feedback yet?
A. I just made the book available, so no one else has read it yet, at least not the whole book. However, I started the book a long time ago, then put it aside when I realized what a pain in the ass trying to find a publisher would be. Back then I sent samples of it to some of the essayists who contributed to a book entitled Lewis Carroll: A Celebration, which I had reviewed for my hometown newspaper. I remember sending them “Emile and the Nigh Visitress” (about a scavenger huntress tracking down a man with a forked tongue), “The Cardsharks” (a poem about three threatening intruders who force people to play cards for money) and “I Gave My Love” (a nonsense poem). They wrote back with very kind words.
Q. Don’t leave us hanging—what did they say?
A. They said they “delighted in” and “took great pleasure” in the pieces I sent. One of them, Donald Rackin, a noted Carroll scholar and author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: Nonsense, Sense, and Meaning, wrote:
“Thanks for the copies of your work—which were delightful. Your debts to Carroll and Joyce and Lear and Lennon were evident, but your work is nevertheless your own and an accomplishment to be proud of. I congratulate you.”
Professor and author Terry Otten of Wittenberg University also took the time to write, as did the other contributors I contacted. Although I knew Rolling Stone had no use for such fiction, I sent some samples to them anyway, and Robbie Myers, then in the editorial department and now editor-in-chief of ELLE Magazine, responded with:
“You are indeed a clever fellow. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your pieces.” So I was very pleased they all gave me high marks.
Q. As opposed to groucho marks?
A. Hey, I warned you!
Q. Sorry, what’s next for you?
A. I already have two other books that I’ll offer up one at a time—a children’s book and then a follow-up to Jim Shorts. Next on my list, I’ll be working on a book of profiles of people I’ve interviewed.
Q. Veddy good. I hope Jim Shorts will pique the interest of a lot of people who love wordplay and humor.
A. So do we.
Q. Thank you for our time.
A. Thank you for halving me.

(Anyone interested in purchasing the PDF of Jim Shorts should contact Jim at:
jimgeorgebooks@gmail.com)

JIM SHORTS – my first book

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This isn’t a book for everyone. (I’m quite the salesman, aren’t I?) Inspired and influenced by the wordplayful writings of Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, Edward Lear and John Lennon, Jim Shorts is a decidedly non-mainstream collection of 50 stories, poems and specialty forms (playlets, advice column, letter, magazine article, etc.) with line drawing illustrations. In an era more suited to soundbites and short attention spans, the dense wordplay and punning preclude this from being a quick and easy read. Evelyn Wood herself, rest her speed-reading soul, would have been hard-pressed to zoom through my pages, at least without grasping the enhanced meanings the altered spellings and fused words add to these fictional pieces. Therein lies the key. The strange words are not arbitrary and haphazard. This is not merely a trunkload of malaprops (though there are many). This is not Norm Crosby on acid. No, most every syllable is deliberate and, more often than not, contextual. Some of the poems do appear in “straight” language, placed at intervals to clear the mental palette, as it were, but the majority of the book is stylistically what has become known as Joycean. Actually, while indebtedly tipping a glass and raising a hat to those afourmentioned authors, I would prefer, at the very least, Geoycean. Or better yet, Georgean.

How would I categorize it? Nonsense? Sure. Surreal? Definitely. Absurdist? Guilty. Avant-garde? Fair enough. Experimental? OK, but no Bunsen burners were used in the creation of this book. Above all that, humor–be it black, satirical or just plain wacky–is the aim. And in my art of arts, I do believe it’s a very funny book. Funny, punny and honey for those who are sweet on words and have a taste for cunninglinguistics. (Which reminds me, be advised there is adult content, albeit in distorted language.)

What are the stories and poems about? In plain English–unlike the stories themselves–“Blue Spaghetti” is about a floundering restaurateur who tries to spice up business by serving up a gimmicky, colorful dish called Pasta Azul. A disaffected young man with bad skin finds solace when he runs away to join other like-faced comrades in the “The Fresh Foreign Lesion.” A bandleader with a strict dress code faces a mutiny from players who want to wear shorts onstage in “The Litre of the Band.” “The Cardsharks” are a roving trio who goes door-to-door, forcing their hosts into playing card games for money that the intruders invariably win. In “Orville’s Raccoon Problem,” the protagonist faces a murder charge for axing his mother-in-law while claiming that in the dark garage he mistook her for a large raccoon. Not quite feel-good stories. Then again, if they trigger anything from chuckles to guffaws in the reader, maybe they are.

After wasting far too much time chasing my tale(s) seeking a publisher and finding them unwilling to even read the book, self-publishing seemed my only option. However, that method, too, is problematic, as I cannot afford to print hard copies. Furthermore, due to the idiosyncrasies in the book’s layout, it cannot be uploaded to the usual ebook formats. Consequently, I have decided to release it on a grassroots (sha la la la la, I live for today) level as a simple PDF. As such, it can be viewed in a two-page open-book format, which is better suited to an illustrated offering like this. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s easily emailed, and, most importantly, it’s the book I created in the form I wanted without any interference from a muddleman.

And so, if any of you would like to try on Jim Shorts (one size fits all), I’m selling the PDF for $10 USD. Those interested can pay either via PayPal at jimgeorgebooks@gmail.com or directly to me at an address I’ll provide when you email.

Thanks for lending an eye.

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