A Blogger's Book of Days: Amdahl to Zimmerman

Categories: OC Bookly

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It's perhaps only a few weeks until the arrival of the debut novel by playwright, poet, short story writer and all-around sentence-lover (love-slave) Gary Amdahl, published as part of the Amdahl Library by a small if devoted outfit called, amusingly, Artistically Declined Press. So, yes, excitement here at the crib of Bib about that, and so much else in the new year, which starts out just right: reading the manuscript of Amdahl's 400+ page "intellectual/emotional memoir" Across My Big Brass Bed, posing as fiction, or maybe it's the other way around. I seem to be inspired by way of organizing this morning's otherwise sloppy blog post by recent Bibilocracy guest Tom Nissley's excellent, fun and digressive A Reader's Book of Days, which made it into my recent "top picks" list, and stays on top there just now, and also on the top of the staggeringly high pile of books stacked next to my side of the bed, that one which will indeed kill me when the Big One hits (what a way to go!) if in fact the Amdahl does not kill me first, by which I mean that this novel is a Proustian whopper of a reader's (and writer's) reckless joyride, if the slowest, most delicate and elegant document charting the hot-wiring of those stolen vehicles that are memory and imagination.

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This is not a book.
I feel a little like Rene Magritte.  Hey, that's a sentence you don't read too often, huh? I mean, by way of this not really being so much a blog post today as a list or a happily haphazard alphabetically-chronologically under or overdetermined miscellany.  Days or letters of the alphabet or, as is the case with two genius types, novelist Amdahl or Jeopardy superstar and editor Nissley, just the sheer brilliant strength of their respective wills, minds, charismatic writing, makes for organizing. Pick any page of Across My Big Brass Bed, I dare you. Try not to read it. Here's the line I hope to use (written in my scribbled notes somewhere on the manuscript) in the introductory remarks to a review I hope to write about the novel:  "Gary Amdahl is a novelist who does not know when to stop, which is a good thing for his readers." Nice, huh? Or, even better:  "Gary Amdahl cannot finish a thought, and we are all the better for it." As Nissley, there is so much, and so much worthwhile, and the frustratingly beautiful promise of more, which is finally a hopeful and welcome thing. 

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Neither is this!
I move quickly, reluctantly,excitedly on to the Bs with novelist Richard Bausch (The Selected Stories of Richard Bausch) who once again is offering the Chapman Creative Writing Workshop, free and open to the community. Bausch and Chapman University solicit writing samples (no more than twenty pages of fiction, due January 29) toward making decisions about who of you or your ink-stained wretch type pals gets to be a part of this terrific group led by a master writer and teacher, starting February 2. Visit the school's website to find an online submission form. Good luck.

Two days after that applications deadline, film critic Kenneth Turan arrives in OC to have some fun arguing "Why Movies Matter," which should be easy enough considering he's written thoughtful reviews, criticism for the Los Angeles Times for decades and does terrific radio reviews at National Public Radio. He teaches at USC, but drives down to Newport Beach on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 for another show in the excellent Witte Lectures speakers' series hosted by the 
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Witte-y lecturer
Newport Beach Public Library Foundation.  It costs, friends, but of course the money goes to a good cause. Here's the link for online ticket purchase.

Heads up for a few more words about Orange County Chronicles from local writer, historian and one-time county archivist Phil Brigandi. It's one of those collections you see around with old photographs, but Brigandi is our go-to history-teller, plain spoken but smart, a terrific essayist. I so very much dig the particular photograph of a New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps camp in exactly the spot where my kid used to go to school. You can recognize the foothills behind what is the land donated by the O'Neill family to the County, and where Trabuco Elementary students get to study with a small menagerie of farm animals when they are not taking field trips to the creek adjacent or next door to pet the horsies. Cool.
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Across My Big Little County
There's more, much more between A and B and KT but mostly this fan of the smartest, funniest, cleverest all-American topical folk song artist in all of America arrives in our environs in, yes, the most deliciously unlikely and wonderful circumstances. You've heard me and read me going on and on about Roy Zimmerman, and so it'll be no surprise that The Bibliofella will 
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be sitting in the front row at, of all places, a rib joint-dinner theater venue in Orange with a bunch of other charmingly weird atheists (!) this Thursday night to congratulate themselves on being rational and having excellent taste in entertainment, not to mention being rational and entertained, too. It's a benefit, apparently, for an outfit called Backyard Atheists. I don't have a backyard, but still. 

Roy's on tour to promote his remarkable Blue Dot adventure (as in tiny enclaves of partisan reason or at least resignation), documented last year as he visited all 50 states to sing a single, perfect, tailored to meet the needs of each state satirical anthem, each and every one now collected 
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Flying Zimmerman
in a film (DVD on sale) called "Vote Republican." I am thinking the DVD will be available for sale at The Rib Trader on Thursday night, but here's a trailer-ad-video-goosing to explain further. Of course, if I have to explain much further, you are probably not into political satire that is literate, mean, edgy, generous, humane. Mort Sahl, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. See, I knew that you could.

Mr. Bib is himself enough of a geek, err, Roy Zimmerman fan, to have already purchased and watched the movie, first the "bonus track," then the bloopers and, finally, the entirely of the perversely amazing musical odyssey (odd for sure) of Zimmy and his talented, gorgeous collaborator and brilliant fellow lyricist wife Melanie Harby, the George and Ira Gershwin meets Yip Harburg meets Tom Lehrer (that's quite a crowd) duo responsible for so many amazing songs over the years, including that bonus track, recorded live, of "Song of Mitt Romney," which begins a little exactly like this.

Some say that Mitt Romney, he is tone-deaf,
that he gives cluelessness a bad name, 
that he doesn't know any middle-class people 
just people who own them
but I say No!, and so I sing a song of Mitt Romney, 
right in tune with the times, the pitch-perfect Republican nominee 
and he rhymes...with America!

Dig the crazy rhymes, internal and otherwise, the nearly endless punnery, the Wildean wit, the phrasing (Rom-i-nee, nominee) above or on You Tube: Song of Mitt Romney".  Roy the Z. was a founding member of the terrific and then-foremost folk-satire ensemble The Foremen, then went solo. Friends, this was way, way before Christopher Guest's excellent A Mighty Wind, and more political. Just sayin'! 

And if you have read this far you might be way ahead of me, long gone to watch more Roy on You Tube. Here's a short cut to "Ted Haggard is Completely Heterosexual," one of his best, with lyrics. Play loud.  Better, yet, see you Thursday night. 

Across My Big Brass Bed, Gary Amdahl, Artistically Declined Press, 430 pgs.,$16.00

Roy Zimmerman at The Rib Trader. Benefit for Backyard Skeptics.
Thursday, January 16, 7 PM
2710 E. Chapman 
(714) 744-9288


Orange County Chronicles, Phil Brigandi, The History Press, 158 pgs., $19.99

Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.

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