First comes the book.
Then if you’re lucky the reviews.
Or in some cases, if you’re unlucky.
Or if someone out there has it in for you.
Or worse yet, has it in for the topic of your book.
An example of this last scenario is Frederick Turner’s recent study, in the Icons of America series,
Renegade: Henry Miller and the Making of “Tropic of Cancer.”
No sooner was the book out, than a lady novelist with a pseudo-feminist axe to grind named Jeanette Winterson came along and tried her damnedest to bury it. With fangs bared and claws flailing, she vented her envious spleen not so much on the author but rather on the subject of his well-informed and impeccably researched work. And therefore, if only by inference, took Turner to task simply for daring to write laudingly about such an ‘unworthy person’as Henry Miller.
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I never thought I’d find myself making a point of saying something positive about drug companies. Given that in far too many respects the pharmaceutical industry must certainly rank in the upper echelon of criminal organizations. (I’ve read enough learnéd articles, watched enough in-depth documentaries, spoken with enough ‘insiders’ to know that I’m on fairly solid ground in making this assertion.) Which doesn’t mean these dudes don’t frequently shower us with any number of exceptionally beneficial products. Far from it. Not only do I regularly gulp my fair share of Ibuprofen (you know, like when I’m feeling a trifle tired and still have work to do or places to go); but as someone who managed to get the clap all of eight times, rest assured that I heartily applaud (hah!) the happy existence of antibiotics. And did all the more so after reading how gonorrhea was treated before penicillin came along. (For an especially harrowing description, see Vance Bourjaily’s novel Confessions of a Spent Youth.) So yes, there are plenty of top-notch drugs around, including legal ones -:) Notwithstanding past horrors like Thalidomide, and despite a shameful plethora of harmful to outright deadly drug-industry malpractices that are still rampant today. From making sure the world stays awash with unneeded (and yet highly profitable!) medications to freely using the peoples of so-called third-world countries as guinea pigs for their potential poisons. In between which the list goes on and on, ad infinitum and ad nauseam.
So what then in God’s name could I possibly have good to say about the buggers?!
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IRA COHEN, who sadly passed away earlier this year, did many wondrous things in his life. (I am borrowing the word ‘wondrous’ from William Levy; he used it with reference to Ira’s works in an essay entitled “The Art of Hate,” which appeared in his book Natural Jewboy, Ins & Outs Press, 1981.) But one of the things Ira definitely did not do was write The Hashish Cookbook. Hence, contrary to popular but terribly misinformed belief, Ira was also not the pseudonymous author Panama Rose. That was instead Ira’s then-girlfriend Rosalind. We’re talking Tangier, Morocco, mid-1960s. Rosalind invented the recipes, Rosalind wrote and designed the book. At Brion Gysin’s suggestion. Meaning that it wasn’t even Ira’s idea. What Ira did do, in New York 1966, was publish the book under his Gnaoua Press imprint and sell it. 10, 000 copies in six weeks. Oh yes, and then over the years usurp authorship credit, by allowing everyone who wasn’t there at the time (and thus knew better) to believe that he was Panama Rose. This ruse, this historical lie, became such a cornerstone of Ira’s personal mythology that practically all the obituaries led with it: in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Independent, as well as a touch more coyly in the Guardian.
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Friends and Colleagues,
On the morning of Tuesday, April 26th I received the below appended mail from Ira Landgarten. I’d been expecting it for days, but hoping against hope for a miracle.
In due course I shall write at length about Ira. He and I go back such a very long way. And despite the fact that we hadn’t been on speaking terms for many years, I continued to love him as a special kind of brother and to greatly respect and admire his artistic talents and his work. In short, we were connected at the hip. Nor will his passing in any way change that. ‘Speaking terms’ means nothing, it’s what’s in the heart that counts.
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