by A. D. Winans. 189 pages. Dustbooks, P.O. Box 100, Paradise, CA 95967.
Book Review by Michael Basinski
While layin on the floor behind the stove with channel-locks and pipe wrench and with matches and in the sticky strange stuff that collects in backs of stove and in cat hair, crusts, crumbs, dried carrots and grape seeds, A. D. Winans’s book Holy Grail summed me to the couch! Bring Coffee. Bring Eyes. Bring Mind. And eventually I made it there, with band-aid on thumb, of course, and other un-band-aided cuts and coffee and read in one great sitting this Winans’s Grail book. It was better than workin behind the stove. It was better than the band-aided finger blood seepin up around the band-aid. It was better than Kool-Aid. There are many now and many new about Bukowski books. Some of them good and some of them moistly good but Grail has a few more slices of meat on the sandwich, and mustard, and cheese! It is better and it is the best or the harvest. Me thinks the heaping pile of ham on this history of a sub-role of the underground, small press world is what makes it, this Grail, a good number. Let’s begin with what yanks you in line and keeps handcuffed to the reading. Oh course, there is the Bukowski thing. For your money, and mine, Winans has got Bukowski down. His is not a bio. It is a perception. His is not just homage or a prayer or a rant or some stupid beautiful vomit. Winans makes/takes a penetrating snapshot that clear catches Bukowski for all he was, complex, many faceted, motivationated variously, tremendously candidly just human with his own ideas of and on this and that and he followed his own nose. Wouldn’t and don’t you? And then this book, it places Bukowski in the context of the formation and surge of small press publishing in the 1970s, that small press that made Bukowski the king of that very world. And this is then the same world that we live in that you are reading in this second. Now! So you have Bukowski in relationship to Winans, himself defined here as the other side, underground of San Francisco. Not the Beats, as you know them, but as one of the writers of the North Beach section of San F. No not the white wine. No not the dull rich kid poet on every corner. But he Winans the street wealth workin San Francisco. People do work there, you know. Somebody delivers the Pet Milk! Where was I sitting one New Year’s Eve? In the 1970s? Some bar off Castro maybe? Probably this bar is gone in the dot.com nightmare. Oh well, all things change, but it was a workin people bar, lots of wood and tables and cheap drinks, and the bar tender tells that his New Year’s resolution was not to smoke before noon! Ah, that is Winans’s of San Francisco - oh yes there is the North Beach drinker and poet and the poet underground community, and that is nicely detailed here but there is this stance, this way of seeing into the world that allows Winans a clean Windex clean window and that he captures here. So the book is not just about Bukowski, or just about Winans, but also about Second Coming, a magazine edited by Winans, if you don’t know it. And a great magazine (and press) it was. If you can, gather a special Bukowski issue (I have one) worn and beautiful. And find others also. Search for your history! Go to a library! And Winans relates his adventures and misadventures with Second Coming and COSMEP (if you don’t know from COSMEP- read the book) and it you are from the small press (like these days) and wanna know your oh so important history - read the book. Then there are Winans’s wonderful adventures and dealings with Jack Micheline and Bob Kaufman. You do know who these poets are? Don’t you? Search my friends. I gotta get out their poems again because Winans makes a portrait of them and of San Francisco small press world with Jack Micheline and Bob Kaufman as bestest of any on the street San F. scene as I have readed. It is all frankly wonderful. It is a weave and a please. And thought, as I sit here in this winter, with band-aids, and a full bladder, it is as if I and you are now in The Saloon, The Coffee Gallery and Micheline, Winans, Kaufman, Bukowski?. Well it isn’t. But here is a history, a history of what we are here, here in this THE HOLD. Because of Bukowski and Winans, Micheline, Blazek, and others. Yes, Winans has made us a great book here, a history and story, a portrait, a glimpse, a reality, a sandwich, lettuce, and mustarded, Swiss and baloney, ham and salami, mustard again and horseradish and tomato.
Bukowski and The Beats: A Commentary on the Beat Generation (Translated fro –the French by Alison Ardron)((Followed by: An Evening at Buk’s Place - an Interview with Charles Bukowski) - all by Jean-Francois Duval.**
256 pages. $15.95. Sun Dog Press, 22058 Cumberland Dr., Northville, MI 48167 [email protected]
So, let’s say that Duval has for sure done his homework. If you are new to all of this Beatness and Bukowskiness this is a clean and focused place to start. Not to cluttered with critical gibberish, factual, I mean tons of the factual, not over written or beating you up or slapping you with this theory or that. But not watering down the drinks either. A huge amount of pictures and additional material. A gigantic bibliography of Bukowski books, CDs. tapes, articles, and the same with the Beats. He has stuff listed that I have never seen. Stuff I never heard of! And he has generously footnoted all he says. Oh this does not make this a textbook! It just faithfully gives you the places that Duval has discovered that allows him to write his exposition. I’m impressed. Duval does some definitions of Bukowski in relation to The Beats. And points out that in this way and that he, Bukowski, is like The Beats and vice-versa and then unlike The Beats and Kerouac this way and then that. Read it and follow the thinking in the facts. The book is rounded out by then a long and solid interview with Bukowski, an interview that does not repeat that same old same old. It is new stuff. It is clean, a good slice. A thing of smartness and a good thing to own. But now I wonder. On what shelf shell this book rest? With Kerouac, Ginsberg, The Beats, or with Bukowski? I don’t know. Maybe this is a new shelf altogether. Well, make it new, said Ezra.