Jeff Smith noon, March 8
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What David Antin Talks About at D.G. Wills Bookstore When He Talks About Andy Warhol
Last Friday evening (7:00 PM, May 13, 2011) I went to La Jolla to hear former UCSD-prof David Antin read and discuss his new book of essays, Radical Coherency, published by the University of Chicago Press. The event was at the D.G. Wills bookstore.
I had not been in downtown La Jolla in several years, although I am often at the UCSD Library conducting research. I once lived on Draper Street in 1999-2000, and was once down and out there in 1993...I tell you, if you're going to be down and out in San Diego, be down and out in La Jolla (that is for another blog and another time, and my gradual memoir I call Now I Know What Happened to Me). I had not been to D.G. Wills Bookstore since, oh, 1995, when a friend and I went there and I took some of my books and signed their copies of one I co-edited with Larry McCaffery, Expelled from Eden: A William T. Vollmann Reader.
The only book they had of mine in the shelves was Wild Turkey. I had five new ones with me. Dennis, a beer in hand, made a "oh no" face and said, "Well, I can't afford to buy them, but if you want to give them to me..."
Sure, sure, that was fine. I have excess copies and I like all bookstores in San Diego and Los Angeles to at leas have three or five of my titles. In trade, Dennis gave me a copy of Antin's new book and a discount of William Gass' The Tunnel, a mammoth-sized novel I have been meaning to read for over a decade (along with other Big Books such as David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren).
I went to the reading with two friends, Nacho Man and Red Burrito. Red looked at the Maserati and Ferrari dealerships and said, "La Jolla is like a different world." He was flabbergasted at the sight of a white-haired woman in her autumnal years riding a chopper down the clean streets of what Raymond Chandler referred to in his unfinished manuscripts as "Poodle Springs."
I think Andy Warhol would have appreciated La Jolla; I am certain David Antin would feel the same, as he talked much about Warhol when he talked about his book, and the essay in it about Warhol. Antin was running around with the avant-garde crowd of language poetry and experimental performance art in New York during the salad days of the obscure and pretentious.
Antin also talked about a paper he once delivered at a symposium called "The Metaphysics of Expectation," adding, "But I never published it." I decided then and there to appropriate the nifty title for a future something:
Nacho Man, who was a bit zingy on meds and bourbon, wrote on a piece of paper (while Antin delivered his concise oratory on the avant gardes of yesteryear): I am the only real poet here.
He did not write poetry.
He asked Antin to sign his arm.
Antin did not.
The thing with readings at D.G. Wills is that the store is not really set up for them, there's not much space to set up chairs -- and yet, that is the charm of it all, the fold-out chairs placed into book aisles and the book room, around about stacks nd boxes of printed materials that would make any bibliophile dizzy with Linotype print and Smythe-sewn signatures delight. Wills has had famous authors over the years come there (like Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg,Oliver Stone) , the fans stacked outside, speakers set up so the reader can pontificate into a microphone for that half of La Jolla to hear.
And what would the Bird Rock Bandits have to say about that? Oh, wait, they're all in prison now for murder.
While writers of all strata love to read at D.G. Wills (I have yet to), often the publicity departments of commercial publishers prefer to set up readings and signings with the the more chain-oriented store down the street, Warwick's -- such was the case when William Vollmann came in 2009 to promote his 1,400-page tome, Imperial. He said, later, he would have preferred to read at Wills, but Viking Penguin booked him in the more spacious venue.
"Was it intellectually stimulating?" I asked a weary-looking Red Burrito.
"Oh yes, indeed," said Red and yawned.
I bought tattered copies of Jean Paul-Sarte's Nausea and Kathy Acker's Great Expectations, titles that seemed fitting for the evening, a Friday the 13th.
Nacho Man gave me one of his meds and I gave him one of mine.
"Let's go to TJ," said Nacho, "right now!"
I was too busy imagining Andy Warhol in La Jolla -- -the movie I was playing had Warhol and Antin driving away in a black Maserati.
Illustration by TJNachito, used with permission.