Thursday, February 12, 2009

Writing, not writing, about Vietnam, Revisionism, and the daily round

Late last night, passing time at the computer, wasting time, I read some journal entries from 1985. I’d forgotten they were in the machine. That was the first, or the second year I worked with the Institute for Historical Review. I was publishing the monthly newsletter Prima Facie. It was distributed to some 4,000 journalists around America. It was a good idea. My idea. Willis Carto was about to fold it in because of costs and lack of response. The journal was full of the guys who worked in and around the Institute. The writing was more like notes for something else. Poorly written, poorly expressed, poorly organized.

It was around that time that I must have stopped, for the last time, being a writer in any serious kind of way. I had already been writing for 30 years, always found it worth my time, but never as a professional. It never occurred to me to try to make a living as a writer. Getting into revisionism was the final nail in that coffin. I have written a few nice things since the 80s, they’re in Confessions, in Bones and Liver. With Confessions I never even tried to sell it. I still have a few soft-cover copies of the book 20 years later. I had hopes that Liver, which was staged as The Man Who Stopped Paying, would find an audience, but when it failed I took it as a normal turn of events. I wasn’t even disappointed.

It’s not accurate that I had never thought to make a living with the writing. That’s why I went to Vietnam in 68. In my mind I would catch a freighter bound for Saigon, jump ship there, and look for the war. I would not do the politics of the war, but record how it was to be on the ground in the middle of the war. How it would be on the highways, in the towns and cities, the countryside. How it would be to risk my life a little, how it would be for me in Vietnam remembering how it had been for me in Korea. Once I got there I had yet another failure of imagination. I did not place myself above the scene and consider it as a professional, but allowed myself to be absorbed by small events, never imagining the structure for the book as I moved along. After nine, ten months, when I was back in Hollywood with Jenny, while I had some 60,000 words and the memory of mind and heart to work with, I put the whole affair to one side. I had to make some money. I borrowed 3,000 dollars from a book dealer on Hollywood Boulevard and opened a print shop and picture framing business. And there was the end to the Vietnam book.

I recall one time when Jenny asked me about what I was doing. Ignoring the book manuscript to contribute money to the household. I told her to not worry about it. That I was doing what I wanted to do. That was the truth of the matter. And there you have it. What kind of writer is that?

Six years ago I did put some writing together with Break His Bones, but there is no market for revisionism, and I was not interested in trying to make a market for it. I ran ads for the book in student newspapers at Harvard, Texas and Berkeley, but in each instance they were censored after one or two runs. I just let it go. That’s how it is for revisionist writers. That isn’t how it is really. The primary reason I did not sell Bones is that I did not make a real effort to sell it. I think at the time I told myself I was too busy trying to keep my head above water. There are hardly a dozen people in all the world who make a living via Holocaust revisionism. Millions, hundreds of millions of dollars are raised by the other side, those who want, who feel they must, destroy revisionism in the name of the taboo they support. That’s just how it is. The real reason I did not, have not, sold Bones is a failure of imagination. The simplest thing for me to have done was to go on the road with the book. That was the ticket for me.

On the Road. I still remember when I first read Kerouac. In 1958/59. I was on a subway returning to Manhattan from the Bronx where I had visited with a young Greek lady. I still recall how stirring it was to read how Kerouac used his experience, how he used his language. Those were the days when I took it for granted I would be, was, a writer. It was the next year that I first read Henry Miller. And I still remember her name. Takis. Still recall the night with her in my studio apartment in the Village lying on my bed chatting when she suddenly turned and threw herself on top of me, put her mouth on mine, pressed against me all the way down, and then the moment I reacted how she pushed herself away and leapt off the bed. After half a century I still feel the excitement of the moment, and the sense of loss.

No comments: