Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 15 Feb 09 00:44
You are so right, Ed. In my transcription, I put a coat on the old roat. The laborious work I did was archaically non-computerized and pure old school eyeballing rather than cut-and-paste. It was actually closer to pure plagarism, except of course for the error which is not even an embellishment considering the Rexrothian inspiration. BTW, thanks for expounding on that, Steve S. So, Ed, forgive my clumsy keyboard work and please send my apology to the Maysville Order of the Sky Grifter Benevolence Society. Another persona following you around like a shadow all these years has been the real life Little Enis, the All-American Left-Handed Upside-down Guitar Player. He was the subject for your creative non-fiction story, Little Enis: An Ode on the Intimidations of Mortality from the collection, Famous People I Have Known. And, although I haven't read it, I understand that you also wrote about him in another Playboy magazine piece. You have let it be known that Little Enis was also the inspiration for Monk McHorning, the 15-year-old hero of your novel, The Natural Man. Of course, for anyone who has read this delightful novel, Monk is an oversized, hormone-infested, adolescent with no propensity for guitar picking. However, the gamy, ever-so-subtle coarseness is intact. Newsweek called this book, the funniest novel since A Confederacy of Dunces, which is high praise indeed. It is almost as though you latch onto certain characters that strike you as fascinating, and then channel the personality as the basis for your humor. Author Tom Robbins told me that he hates to read anything about his own workssuch as Another Roadside Attraction or Even Cowgirls Get the Bluesfor fear of becoming self-conscious about his own writing process. For this same reason, perhaps its not safe to ask you to analyze your own McCleverhanded wit . (As an aside, even though Robbins has lived his whole adult life in western Washington, he grew up in Virginia. Consequently, his wit also has a very Southern flavoring). However, since you've spent several years on a sequel for The Natural Man, can you tell us a bit about how Monk will revisit us in the near future? Will he be full grown and repentant or eternally young, despite the encroachments of adulthood? I have a suspicion that Harry will also return as our viewpoint character. Also, for some reason, I can envision Prof. Rexroth staging a pranksterish uprising in the local nursing home! Tell us more!
Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Sun 15 Feb 09 08:48
The kind of humor I like best is the sort that turns in on itself and incorporates its own internal irony, like in "Finch's Song," when Finch's brother Claude discovers that Finch has left his little pittance of an estate to Mrs. Mooney: "He left it all to that old two-dollar flat-back, the little pansy!" Claude complains bitterly. "And never done jack-shit for his own goddamn loved ones!" Then too, I'm awfully fond of the cleverly elegant crudities of the Little Enis-Monk McHorning variety, such as Monk's favorite greeting, "Take yer hat and jacket off!" or his favorite farewell, "If you see Kay, tell her I love her!" or Enis's line, "I shoulda been a preacher. I like fried chicken and pussy as much as anybody!" Harry Eastep, as a sexagenerian retired academic, is indeed the POV character in The Return of the Son of Needmore, the sequel to Natural Man that I've been working on, seemingly, forever; and Oodles Ockerman has an appropriately meaty role in the story too. Monk McHorning, unfortunately, got himself killed off in Vietnam in Natural Man, but I may resurrect him, briefly, via flashback. Also, Monk and Oodles produced a child--the boy who shows up in the final scene of NM--, who has grown up to be a televangelist on local cable tv in Monroe, Louisiana, preaching a doctrine he calls "Momentarianism" (its credo is "The Business is Is-ness!") and who will have a touch of the old Rexroatian loquacity. (I owe the Momentarianism idea, by the way, to my friend Merce Levine, who gave it to me free of charge. Thanks a mil, Moice!) And now I'm going out for a walk. As Monk would say, "It's nice out. I think I'll leave it out."
Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Sun 15 Feb 09 09:04
ps: You can listen to all of Enis's marvelous recorded songs (not many, unfortunately), and see some wonderful photos of him too, by going to this terrific website: <www.garyscountry.com> And while you're at it, take a gander at my website, <www.edmcclanahan.com>
Steve Silberman (digaman) Sun 15 Feb 09 09:13
"...and if a man goes out in his back yard and stands there with the raindrops breaking cold against his face and the ozone rushing to his head so fast it makes his teeth taste brassy and the storm rattling around him like two skeletons humping on a tin roof using a soup can for a condom..." http://www.edmcclanahan.com/images/writings/02wrtingsmain.jpg
Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Sun 15 Feb 09 12:51
It delights me more than I can say, Steve, that you managed to unearth that old lost chestnut! I still remember laughing and laughing when I wrote that in Missoula, thirty-five years ago.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Sun 15 Feb 09 13:30
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 15 Feb 09 16:31
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 15 Feb 09 18:44
Ed, out of curiosity, how were you able to have two of the most noted illustrators of the counterculture, Ralph Steadman (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas) and R. Crumb (of underground Comix fame) to create covers for two of your books? Steadman, for those who havent seen it, designed the cover of O the Clear Moment; Crumb did the Dew Drop Inn cover of Famous People I Have Known.
Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Sun 15 Feb 09 21:07
The Crumb cover was strictly my idea. I'd loved his work from the first time I'd seen his "Joe Blow" strip in the first (I think) issue of Zap Comix, and it just seemed to me a natural marriage, Crumb's style with all that '50s and '60s stuff, hippies and honkytonks, Yogurt and Wheatgerm and Little Enis and the Tabletoppers and Kesey and the Pranksters and Jimmy Sacca and the Hilltoppers and so forth. I didn't know Crumb at all, of course, but there'd been a piece about him in Stewart Brand's Co-Evolution Quarterly not long before the question of a cover for Famous People came up, and, Stewart being an old friend, I called him and asked for contact info. Next thing I knew, I was talking to Robert on the phone. He asked me to send him the book and to suggest a passage that might be good for a cover illustration. I did, and suggested a line about "all the Dew Drop Inns in the Land of Doo-Wah-Diddie" in the story called "Drowning in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters," and lo, he went for it, and produced the perfect cover! Jack Shoemaker, my publisher at Counterpoint, chose a wonderful painting ("Hinky Dinky Parley Voo") by the great Paul Cadmus for my next book, A Congress of Wonders. Then when we followed that up with My Vita, I You Will, which features an old fictional story of mine that takes its title, "The Little-Known Bird of the Inner Eye," from a painting by the masterful Pacific Northwest painter Morris Graves, the cover choice was pretty obvious. Suddenly, without ever having thought about it or planned it, I had a little tradition going: great artists on every McClanacover! I became friends with Ralph Steadman, the British illustrator whose madcap genius illuminated so much of Hunter Thompson's writing over many years, through my Lexington friend and neighbor Joe Petro III, a printmaker who has worked with Ralph, Hunter, Kurt Vonnegut, and many other writers and artists. The day I found out that Counterpoint would be publishing O the Clear Moment, I called Joe to tell him my good news, and he said, "Well, that means you'll need a great artist to do the cover." That night he emailed Ralph in England, and the very next morning, mirabile dictu, there on my computer screen was the cover design for my new book!
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 15 Feb 09 21:25
<My Vita, I You Will, which features an old fictional story of mine that takes its title, "The Little-Known Bird of the Inner Eye," from a painting by the masterful Pacific Northwest painter Morris Graves> Thanks, Ed. The one collection of yours I didn't have is My Vita, If You Will. I just ordered it especially for the exegesis of the Dead's "New Speedway Boogie." And now, considering that I reside in the magic Skagit Valley home of those esteemed "Northwest School" artistsRichard Gilke, Guy Anderson, and Morris GravesI'm even more excited about getting the last piece of the McClanacollection.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 15 Feb 09 21:42
My favorite moment from the Ed McClanahan Prankster Reunion and Barbecue in Eugene three months ago was when you and Chuck said goodbye to Geneva, who is Kens and Chucks 92-year-old mother. At the beginning of the party, when her granddaughter Sunshine introduced her to me, I told Geneva what a pleasure it was to meet her, and that I had just written a book about her sons fine works of literature. She leaned into her cane and more-or-less whispered: Well, just dont let those books lead you astray. Then I watched as she hobbled over to the ample buffet featuring a delectable BBQ brisque. She turned to the Mackeys, our wonderful hosts, and told them: Too bad you didnt make enough food. A few hours later, when the Captain Kentucky party was winding down, I heard Sunshine in the other room telling Mountain Girl that she needed to take Grandma home. Geneva walked up next to Chuck. Warmly, Chuck wrapped his fingers over the top of his mothers hand as it rested on her cane. I pointed to Chuck and asked Geneva, so, do you know this fellow? She looked up at me with the same twinkling eyes she shared with Chuck. Yep, I borned him. Keeping on task, she added: When they were dedicating that nice statue for Ken downtown, a lady from my church stopped and asked me what I had to do with these people. I pointed to the big bronze and told her: that guy there. Well, I borned him. It wasnt hard to see how Geneva gave birth to two Pranksters. Then Ed came up and took Genevas free hand in his. Here were two men in their seventies bidding the warmest of farewells to this woman in her nineties. To me, it seemed that Ed was treating this moment as though this might well be their last goodbye. For Chuck there was the radiance of a genuine, uncluttered love for his mom. You could still see the boy in both of them, the Prankster twinkle, but in their goodbye, there was something of the sublimethe best of that Sixties spirit, even. Ed, as you, Chuck and Geneva were saying your goodbyes, there was no mistaking either the genuine warmth, or the generationsGeneva was the mother, you and Chuck were the boys, even though you two were both born in the 1930s. Today there is not much talk of a generation gap, and of course, in that moment, you were very much honoring Geneva, but have you ever given much thought to how the youthful merriness of the Pranksters became a model for the so-called youth generation that followed so intrepidly, with its colorful modes of social rebellion? Do you think the Prankster approach affected how the subsequent boomer generation engaged adulthood, or even tried to obliterate that notion of coming of age, when there used to be such a clear cut delineation between the adults and the kids? Also, can you touch a bit on your relationship with Geneva?
Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Mon 16 Feb 09 20:13
Geneva and I have been friends for a very long time. In the early summer of 1964, my first wife, Kit, and I bought a house in LaHonda, a couple of miles down the road from Ken and Faye's place. We weren't, at the time, thinking of ourselves as Keseyphiles at all (certainly not as Pranksters; they hadn't even been invented yet). Rather, it was just that our friends the Keseys had bought a house in this nice little community within striking distance of Stanford (where, by then, I was teaching in the writing program), and our kids and theirs were peers and play-pals; so we found a place we liked, bought it cheap (19 grand, a house with an acre of redwoods!), and moved in. Later that summer came the bus trip, and the advent of the so-called Merry Pranksters; by the fall of '64, the Kesey compound was swarming with 'em. But Prankster personnel kept making unauthorized long distance phone calls, so after a while Ken took the phone out, leaving Kit and me with the only working Prankster-friendly phone in the neighborhood. That fall (or perhaps in the winter of '65) Ken and the Pranksters hosted a little party--a "Happening," as we called such occasions at the time. Kenneth Anger, the underground filmmaker turned up, and they showed some of the film footage from the bus trip, and, up in the woods behind the house, ritually "sacrificed" a chicken ... and then cooked it over an open fire, and ate it. It was, I would eventually see in hindsight, the very first Acid Test, and there were many more to come. My phone would soon be getting get quite a workout. In April of '65, the San Mateo County cops raided Ken's place, and busted him and about a dozen Pranksters. The next morning, after they'd bonded out of jail, I went up the road to ask whether there was anything I could do to help. "Yeah, there is," said Ken, in what was perhaps the only craven, cowardly moment of his life, before or after. "You could call my mom." I was horrified! Me? I squawked in dismay. But ... but ... I don't even know your mom! "Well, no," he conceded, "but she knows you." And then, at last, I got it: I was on the Stanford faculty, remember--albeit but a lowly lecturer--, and the rascal had been holding me up as one example to persuade his mom that he knew a few respectable people! Greater love hath no man than that he agree to call his friend's mom to tell her that her son's been busted. Happily, it turned out that I didn't have to be the bearer of that terrible news, because the story had already made the papers. I only needed to assure her that Ken was okay--to which she said something like, "Oh, I know he's okay. You couldn't hurt that nitwit if you hit him with a stick." But Mrs. Kesey, I protested lamely, Ken's a genius! We can't expect him to go by the ordinary rules! "Hunh!" she snorted. "I know he's a genius, I just wish he was a little smarter!" Well, that's Geneva for you. We became friends that very day, more than forty years ago, and we've been friends ever since. She's very, very dear to me. The Prankster generation are by and large children of the Depression and World War II, and they learned the great lessons of those times about family and community and mutual dependency at the feet of people like Geneva. By the time the Baby Boomers became teeny-boppers and came west for the Summer of Love or whatever, they would find out all too soon that groups like the Pranksters, the back-to-the-land folks, the communalists, et al, were already fast becoming, paradoxically, the avatars of those old values. And if that last paragraph surprises you, Scott, well, to tell the truth I wasn't expecting it myself. I think I found it under a rock, down in Generation Gap.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 16 Feb 09 20:34
Wonderful story, Ed. (And I could hear the two of you, as I was cracking up!).
David Gans (tnf) Mon 16 Feb 09 23:20
What a story. What a woman!
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 17 Feb 09 03:13
<scribbled by stevebj Tue 17 Feb 09 03:19>
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 17 Feb 09 03:18
>>> The Prankster generation are by and large children of the Depression and World War II, and they learned the great lessons of those times about family and community and mutual dependency at the feet of people like Geneva. By the time the Baby Boomers became teeny-boppers and came west for the Summer of Love or whatever, they would find out all too soon that groups like the Pranksters, the back-to-the-land folks, the communalists, et al, were already fast becoming, paradoxically, the avatars of those old values. <<< This is a very important point, Ed. Thank you for emphasizing it. A divide between the Boomers and the generation born between the Boomers and their parents -- those folks born in the late 1930s and early 1940s -- indeed existed. As young children, you knew real deprivation. We often forget how much immediate post-war Britain and its poverty shaped the lives and perceptions of the members of the Beatles, just as the late Depression and early war years shaped the lives of Kesey, you and others your age. For Boomers, however, the Depression and the war were history. Like a lot of Boomers, I was raised by parents who knew the Depression and war first-hand (both were born in the 1920s), and one of their goals as parents was to do all they could to protect me and my sister from living through what they had lived through. I've never known true deprivation in my life (knock on wood). Ken's (and John's and Ringo's, etc.) generation couldn't be protected because it was all still going on when they were young. I think it had a ton to do with who you all became when you were adults -- Pranksters and Beatles, yes, but grounded in meaningful ways in an earlier set of values that were sometimes scorned, or at least misunderstood, by Boomers.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 17 Feb 09 08:47
<becoming, paradoxically, the avatars of those old values> Ed is absolutely onto something here. Most of is Kentucky stories, in addition to their delightful comic caricatures, are rooted firmly in a sense of the larger community, just after WWII. The chapter I wrote on Divine Right's Trip talks at length about how Gurney Norman treated the return of Divine Right to his long-haired, hillbilly uncle's little farm in Kentucky where, at the edge of a hideous strip mine, he was going to raise rabbits and worms and slowly rebuild the soil. I call Divine Right's trip an example of radical-traditionalism, in its earthy, hippie example of change-the-world hopefulness. In rural Kentucky, it was the sense of community that was the most palpable part of D.R. finding his righteous path, his home. He wasn't embracing "the establishment" but, a Kentucky hill culture where all the marvels of "progress" had largely passed them by. Likewise, a key to understanding the first two works of Ken Kesey, is to appreciate a similar streak of rugged individualism. Cuckoo's Nest is, of course, a story about finding our humanity in the face of a looming, modern authoritarianism. Sometimes a Great Notion, explores our westward expansion at the furthest edge of the continent where the notion of battling the wilderness has become more inward than external. So, both profound books were very much about coping with shifting values wrought by modernization. Ken Kesey, was a large spirited man. Geneva, it should be mentioned, is not much more than five feet tall, but without a doubt, every bit the spirited match for her son.
Melinda Belleville (mellobelle) Tue 17 Feb 09 08:52
>"Hunh!" she snorted. "I know he's a genius, I just wish he was a >little smarter!" I love that! And I love this lady just for her voice. I've known more people than I could count on 1 hand that I could have said the same thing about. <slipped by Scott, with some wonderful insights> I've got to go back and re-read DRT, with my older (and hopefully, more insightful eyes).
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 17 Feb 09 14:33
In one of your earlier stories you mention taking part in the beatnik scene at your college in Ohio in the mid-50s. From an historical viewpoint, one of the most valuable aspects of the Merry Pranksters stems from how they can help us understand, culturally, the segue from that earlier underground social movement of the Beats to the explosion of the counterculture in the last half of the 1960s. The disaffections and sense of post-WWII social malaise of the Beats is said to have vectored forward through American culture. Books such as On the Road, Dharma Bums and the poem Howl created a philosophical template upon which the young participants of the flourishing counterculture could model a bohemian belief system. In connecting the dots, the Pranksters in the early-middle years of the 1960s, with those new and powerful hallucinogens at their disposal, have been referred to as proto-hippies. Kesey certainly recognized that he straddled worlds between the Beats and the hippies. He has also been called Americas first hippie. Ed, you have had a fascinating (participants) vantage point on these significant subcultural shifts. Another Great Moment in Sports from O the Clear Moment successfully rendered what a former creative writing teacher of mine referred to as allowing the personal serve as the universal. Of all your stories in this collection, this is the one thats really sticking to my ribs, so to speak. Mostly, I think thats because, during the anti-war protest, youve captured the chaos, breadth and nuances of the counterculture, as well as some very funny contradictions. What is your take on the preponderance of simplistic characterizations of this era, and, as we wind down with this great discussion of you and your body of work, what do you see as the most valuable things you have taken with you from the Beat and hippie epochs? What, briefly, do you think is the best of that legacy, and the worst?
hypnotoad (dana) Wed 18 Feb 09 15:02
Not to derail the discussion, but I'd like to thank Ed and Scott for a great conversation. While the virtual spotlight is turning to a new discussion today, you are all welcome to stick around for as long as you like.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 18 Feb 09 15:49
It's been terrific... that's a wonderful question in <144> Scott. Bot the questions and responses have been great all around.
Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Wed 18 Feb 09 18:49
Boy, talk about Pranksteresque serendipity! I'm beginning this posting at about 4pm on Tuesday, 2/17/09, and I've just walked in the door from an inspiring protest march, and here, awaiting me, is a question from Scott regarding my story "Another Great Moment in Sports," which is about ... a protest march! Old Man Synchronicity strikes again! This very day in Frankfort, Kentucky, the capital of this beautiful, beloved, benighted state, several activist/environmentalist organizations, spearheaded by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, joined forces for the annual "I Love Mountains Day" march on the capitol building. About a thousand demonstrators, my doddering septuagenarian self among them, marched up the hill (sometimes I wonder whether I love mountains so goddamn much after all) and gathered on the grand stairway before this grand old building, in which so much horrid, unconscionable exploitation of our fellow Kentuckians has transpired over so many years, to protest what might be the most horrid form of exploitation yet, the hideous practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining. There were three splendid anti-MTR speeches this afternoon: the first by Louisville's rising young firebrand congressman John Yarmuth; the second a real barn-burner by musician/schoolteacher Randy Wilson (featuring a fine found-poem recitation of a catalog of the names of lost Kentucky mountain streams); the third a gorgeously written, gorgeously delivered speech by (be still my heart!) the oh-so-gorgeous Ashley Judd! (Ashley, a native of Eastern Kentucky, declared herself a "proud hillbilly" and the mountain country her "spiritual home." She was just smashing in every respect, and she even got us some coverage, at long last, in the local media; the Lexington Herald-Leader--which ignored Wendell's magnificent speech at last year's rally--called Ashley's speech "passionate" and "eloquent." Maybe Wendell just ain't gorgeous enough; he probably just needs to get himself a new hairdresser.) And coming up in DC on March 2nd is a civil-disobedience protest at the Capitol Power Plant, a coal-fired facility that is a heavy-duty polluter in the District, and produces not electric power but steam to warm the substantial asses of our complacent congress. Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben and Terry Tempest Williams will be the point-persons (Pointsters?) in this demonstration in DC; 10,00 people are expected to be present. Some of us will get arrested, and I fervently hope to be among that happy number. So what did I bring to the present from the Pranksters and the counterculture and the 60s? Or, as per David Ganz's earlier posting, "Did it matter? Does it now?" Yeah, it did, and it still does--which is why we're still bothering to do it. Resistance to greed and injustice is always relevant. Meanwhile, feller WELLers, it has somehow become no longer yesterday but today, Wednesday 2/17/09, and time for me to say adieu. This has been a lot of work--more than I bargained for, to tell the truth--but absolutely worth every minute of it. I love telling these stories, and I've had a grand time telling them, as I'm sure you must've noticed. My dad's definition of a good haircut was that it oughtn't to look like you'd had a haircut at all, and that's the way it is with stories: one strives mightily to make the telling seem effortless, relaxed, conversational, natural--itself all a big fat artifice. "Effortless," in short, requires a lot of effort. Scott's fine, thoughtful questions have kept me hoppin', although I don't hop with great agility nowadays; but having a good audience is an absolute essential, and you guys have been a dandy. Those of you who've participated have helped me immensely; just knowing you were out there, listening to what I said and taking my measure as I said it, was heartening and enlivening and inspiring, and I thank you for it. It's been a blast. xoxo, Ed
Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 18 Feb 09 19:08
A blast and then some from this end, Ed! As an ardent fan of your writing for damn near 40 (gulp!) years, I've been honored to have you visit our weird li'l neighborhood. Hope you'll come back sometime.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 18 Feb 09 19:47
Ed, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you on Inkwell.vue. The care and consideration, not to mention the time and energy you devoted to engaging those of us on The Well, has been greatly appreciated. I am delighted that we were able to shine a light on your impressive body of work, and to gain such great insights on your rather amazing network of fellow writers and friends. I'm sure I speak for everyone who participated in thanking you for the opportunity to let us witness, up close (and in such a personable fashion), your wonderful wit and writing. Let us know when your sequel--The Return of the Son of Needmore--hits the shelves and we would be honored to have you back! Best of luck in all your endeavors, Ed!
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 19 Feb 09 02:18
What an interesting, enjoyable discussion this has been, Ed. Thank you.
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