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A collection 10 intimate TYPED LETTERS SIGNED by the JAMAICAN-AMERICAN AUTHOR ALSTON ANDERSON to the author & screenwriter RUDY WURLITZER, together with 2 Typed Letters to Alston Signed by Wurlitzer.
New York & Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, November 1962 to November 17th, 1965. [1962]., [1962].. - Ten letters by the Jamaican-American author of "Lover Man" densely typed on 11 inch high by 8-1/2 inch wide creamy buff paper. Addressed to the author of "Nog", Rudy Wurlitzer, each letter is signed "Alston". In a November 1962 letter, typed on both sides of the sheet, Alston dives right in, letting loose his "wild" side which one can at once consider a gift or a plague. "I saw Miles [Miles Davis] last night, but I was so drunk that I got thrown out of the place. (Village Vanguard.) What I heard sounded great. I'll probably go again tonight and take Ruth." Perhaps not surprising considering the cause of his fallout with Robert Graves, without qualms Alston reveals his feelings for Rudy's sister: "I had lunch with your sister yesterday, and tried to make her. No luck. I really didn't like her much in Deya [ie: Deia, Mallorca], but now I love her. She admitted that it's a pity that you're her brother. If you weren't, she'd marry you. And I wouldn't blame her. If I was a woman, I'D marry you." As is the case throughout his letters, Alston philosophizes about writing: "Read the Tibetans, baby, read the Tibetans. The only problem you'll have is that you'll come to realize that there's really nothing worth writing about...." Briefly falling back into explicit descriptions of his lusty feelings, Alston closes with "Bye bye, blackbird".In a 1-1/4 page letter dated December 21st, 1962 typed on both sides of a sheet of paper, Alston first elatedly mentions that he's "been writing. I'm working on a story called 'Diary of a Madman'. Yesterday I threw out something called 'A Good Edjucation', but I may try it again soon." He quotes a couple of paragraphs from his story whose black protagonist resides in an Asylum: "I have a suggestion to make to the President of the United States." he quotes his character, "The next time, sir, that you hear of a Negro trying to enter a Southern (white) University, will you kindly order him to the White House immediately..." The madman (Alston's satirical voice) goes on to suggest that the president offer to build him, in the North, the greatest University one could possibly visualize staffed by "the brightest, whitest professors from the United States, France, England and Germany...." Not only would the government save a fortune on troop expenditure but "It would also spare a town like Columbia, S.C., or Athens, Ga., the pleasure of having such casual visitors as four hundred and fifty U.S. Marshals, the entire 82nd Airborne Division, CBS-TV, ABC-TV, NBC-TV,..." and so on, sarcastically concluding through his character that, of course, the people of those towns might be a little disappointed at the lack of attention. Signed "Alston".In a one-page letter dated February 27th, 1963 addressed "Dear Rudolfo" Alston opens by asking "how did you come by that Italian first name? Don't tell me. It's probably too complicated." He goes on to reveal that "I threw 'Diary of a Madman' away. Man, I was out of my mind!" "I've stopped drinking completely - until July 15th" writes Alston, "By then I hope to have another book of stories finished as well as an article for the Atlantic Monthly on the Dred Scott decision. I plan to make a play on Dred Scott, by the way". He then requests that, if he can, Rudy send him a copy of "Skin Deep". Signed "Alston".On April 23th of that year, Alston writes a one-and-a half page letter to "Dear Rude" to let him know that he's not called Marianne [Rudy's sister] about a story since he's broke and "only recently I've taken to stocking my larder before I go on my little toots. Getting sensible in my middle age. My phone bill isn't paid yet. In fact, I no longer even have a phone...." While he's expecting money from Paris as the publisher Calmann-Levy bought his book "Lover Man", he "foolishly" signed over his money to J.B. who, it turns out is in jail for marijuana possession: "pot of all things. In Paris! where I've smoked at the COUPOLE, man! Interpol, though. Those kats have very long arms." He's excited that he's "on the verge of finishing another book of stories...." "The thing I've been doing" he writes "is getting so damn broke that I have no other alternative except writing or reading or playing solitaire or masturbating...." He goes on to comment on how he perceived the Guggenheim when stoned on synthetic mushroom and closes with "Love" "Alston".In a one-page letter dated May 15th, 1963, Alston declares "Well, I took them all, baby. All twenty-one of them.... I took sixteen before going up to the Museum of Modern Art. All that happened is that I became (and am becoming) intensely introspective....." "I do want the piano", he writes several paragraphs later, "but not for myself. Bud Powell is coming home this fall, and I'd like to hear him play on it." Powell was a noted American Jazz pianist and friend of Thelonious Monk. Closing "With all my love, Alston", Alston has penned a postcript in ink: "Thank you! That kid's head is wild!".Apologizing for not having written in a while, Alston writes, in a one page letter dated August 30th, 1963: "Your last letter sounded a bit disjointed, as though you were associating with lower-class minds...." He relates how he may have upset Rudy's sister by "turning on and getting the giggles" and then sort of apologizes: "Sorry, old man. I'm aware that in some weird way you're trying to preserve her innocence. She's a nice girl." Doubleday has turned down his book and he's bent on getting his act together, "But I ain't goofing no more, baby. I promised myself that I'll be famous at forty, and I think I'll keep that promise for the hell of it. What ELSE is there to do? (Except become a Bhudda, which I might get around to some year.) Following a brief mention of the World Series he inquires as to when Rudy might come back to New York. Signed "Alston".December 7th, 1963: "I was so upset about President Kennedy's death that I couldn't answer your letter before now." Alston is in the same boat as always, "trying to get an advance from Putnam..." and "The New Yorker turned down four of my stories...." "I had the most horrible Thanksgiving imaginable" he writes a couple of paragraphs later "I went to a party and turned on, only to discover to my horror that EVERYBODY at the party was in me." After mentioning a "pretty nice looking redhead on the Lex Ave bus" he writes that he's "going to read RUNAWAY over WBAI next Wednesday. And I'm doing an hour of Bud Powell's music, too." Signed "Alston". There are a couple of light brown stains, possibly from coffee or liquor, to the upper half of the letter.In a two-page letter written from Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts on April 3rd, 1965, Alston writes "I'd like very much to go to Europe with you - I'm particularly interested in Rome and St. Petersburg at the moment, and plan to start studying Italian soon...." His book is going slowly as he's been thinking instead of writing and has become fascinated by television, which he's only had since "Monday", "I think television is, in an esoteric sense, the supreme indication of the one-ness of the human mind. Ditto radio, the telephone, radar, etc., but television is by far the most interesting because of the two primary senses involved...." He fantasizes about building a house on Chappaquiddick [sic] across from Edgartown. "I haven't met any interesting people. Helen Burckhardt (of Deya) is the only person I can talk to on the entire island, which is, of course, not at all unusual." He mentions, in closing, that he's been reading Edgar Cayce and signs himself "Alston" as usual. The letter is creased with some soiling and a few tiny tears to the edges. The top right corner is heavily creased with a longer tear to the right edge.He's not sure what day it is, "But I do know it was a gas to hear from you" Alston writes in a one-page letter dated August 6, 1965. "What the [f___] are you doing in Deya?... And what the [f___] is Ann Truxell doing there?" referring to the American artist Annie Truxell, "I love that chick. She's crazy! Have you noticed? I love Ann Truxell. Tell her that. (I'M crazy.)" Alston goes on to speak of his current lovers and, only in the last paragraph does he mention the novel he's writing "which I'm calling JUST FRIENDS in honor of Bird...." Signing himself "A" followed by a postcript "Baby I'm black! You should see me!" There is a small piece out from the left border of the page, not affecting the text.Still working on "Just Friends", Alston writes in a one-and-a-half page letter dated November 17, 1965 "Not being widely published depresses me, but what the hell.... The only thing I can do is keep writing, which is the only thing I like to do except [f______] and listening to jazz, and if it ever came to a choice the last two would have to go. I'm really pleased with JUST FRIENDS. I'm having a ball writing it...." Expressing his pleasure that Rudy has sold a story to The Atlantic Monthly, he goes on to write "To hell with the Establishment. You're absolutely right, of course, but the only thing I can think of is to run over them!... It seems to me that any writer that's any good at all is faced with that problem at every period in literary history...." About Vineyard Haven, he declares "I love this place for writing... And I'm thinking of -- or rather, am going to -- start a three-act play immediately after I finish this novel...." After confiding that he thinks of Rudy's sister, he mentions that he owes another woman an apology after passing out on her couch. "Prince Gautama sends his regards, and says to tell you that you will be a Buddha in fourteen lifetimes" he writes in closing "So take care. You are EXTREMELY rare." Signed " Alston".The correspondence includes two letters to Alston by Rudy Wurlitzer. Both of these typed letters are signed by Rudy and, as they are not dated, we've been unable to place them in chronological order. The first of these, a densely typed one-page letter on 11 inch high by 8-1/2 inch wide creamy white paper begins with Rudy expressing his pleasure that Alston is writing. He then quickly goes on to explain and apologize for passing on a wrong number to Alston which, ironically, happens to be that of the police station. Alston was likely not too pleased with what he perceived as a joke. "The weird thing is, though, that Heathers gave me that phone number. When I first read your letter I got slightly bugged and thought you were getting insanely paranoid but then I called Heathers and asked her for Marjories number and 440-1234 was the number she gave me. I said: do you know what you're doing sweetheart? And she said: Oh my god oh my god oh my god. It's the police number that I used when I tried to have John thrown out...." Expressing his own desire to have his phone number changed, Rudy elaborates: "The whole problem is how to be alone. You seem to know how to do it now and I envy you. I know it at times when I do I write some pretty good things but when I don't I'm in trouble. You have to protect yourself. Otherwise people get inside you and it takes quite a purge to get them out, sometimes all the way out is the only way...." Speaking of his writing, he says: "Here it is: Sanctity, Eroticism (writing or whatever) and Solitude. In other words, sacred time. When you have more sacred time than profane you're in. . . or something." Signed "love, Rudy" in blue ink.In a half-page letter typed on 11 inch high by 8-1/2 inch wide buff paper with binder holes along the left, Rudy opens by saying: "I haven't written because I haven't known anything. Not on the level of words and letters...." He explains that he's about to ship out from San Francisco on a freighter headed to Curacao in the Dutch West Indies before coming back to New York. Rudy is concerned, however, that he won't find his groove and be able to write: "I'm anxious to get back and yet slightly worried as I haven't been working and I would hate to hit New York turned off.... When I came back to NY from Spain I never did get settled into anything and finally had to leave." Signed "love, Rudy".A significant collection which offers insight into the life and writing process of an important, yet often forgotten or overlooked, Jamaican-American black author. In her biography "Robert Graves: Life On The Edge" Miranda Seymour described Alston Anderson as "a young Jamaican writer educated in America and France for whose one book, Lover Man, Graves wrote the introduction." Born in the Panama Canal Zone to Jamaican Parents, Alston Anderson grew up in Jamaica before moving to the United States at the age of 14. Alston served in WWII and, after the war, took advantage of the GI Bill to study at North Carolina College, and then Columbia University. In 1955, he spent three months residing at the writer's colony "Yaddo" in Saratoga Springs with James Baldwin and others. He left "Yaddo" under a cloud due to "bad behavior" and his association with "objectional characters". He concluded his studies at the Sorbonne where he specialized in German 18th Century metaphysics. Hanging out with other ex-pats, he followed in their footsteps and ended up in Mallorca for a spell, joining up with Robert Graves in Deia. He traveled between Deia, Paris and New York through the 50's. Of Alston Anderson, Graves is quoted as writing "When Alston plays the drums or dances on our terrace, you can judge what a misfit he must have been in his Faculty at the Sorbonne". Graves wrote a glowing introduction for Alston's book in 1959 but by 1962 Alston's doping and drinking which culminated in a highly explicit sexual letter that he penned to Graves' wife Beryl drove a wedge between the two authors. Though admired by his colleagues, his lifestyle prevented him from settling into Academia and Alston would spend his life in poverty. No one claimed his remains when he died in Manhattan in 2008 and he was initially interred in the potter's field at Hart Island. His remains were subsequently accorded the military honor he deserved for his military service and, due to the efforts of a program that tracks down the remains of indigent veterans, he was accorded a military burial at Calverton Natonal Cemetery on Long Island.Although more accurately Jamaican-American, Alston Anderson is considered among America's African-American authors and his book "Lover Man", a collection of stories about the black experience in the South told in a jazz-inflected voice, was published in 1959 when he was 35. Alston went on to write a novel "All God's Children" in 1965 and his short story "Dance of the Infidels" was published in the anthology "Come Out The Wilderness" in that same year. Other short stories were published in anthologies of "jazz fiction" and of "Negro writers". Richard Wright and Terry Southern could be considered among his good friends in addition to Robert Graves. Alston and Terry Southern interviewed Nelson Algren in his Greenwich Village flat in 1955 for the Paris Review.The American experimental novelist & screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer (born 1937) first started writing when working on an oil tanker when he was 17 years old. A descendant of Rudolph Wurlitzer who founded the Wurlitzer piano company, Rudy subsequently worked as secretary for the author Robert Graves who he credits with teaching him to "write short sentences". Settling in NYC in the 1960's he was a friend to Claes Oldenburg, Robert Frank and Philip Glass. With his wife, the photographer Lynn Davis, Rudy moved to upstate New York and also refurbished a cabin in Cape Breton. His highly experimental first novel "Nog" is considered a cult classic. He followed this with "Flats", "Quake", "Slow Fade", and "The Drop Edge of Yonder". He also wrote his memoir "Hard Travel To Sacred Places". Among his film projects, Rudy Wurlitzer wrote the screenplay for the cult-classic "Two-Lane Blacktop", Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid", "Candy Mountain" which he co-directed with Robert Frank, and Bernardo Bertolucci's "Little Buddha".
      [Bookseller: Blue Mountain Books & Manuscripts, Ltd.]
Last Found On: 2017-12-06           Check availability:      Biblio    

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