Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

South Bend Indiana in works of great literature

I’ve been sick since about Friday or so. It’s the usual December 0% humidity, everyone else is sick sort of thing that gets me every year. Vitamins have kept it semi-controllable, but I wish I could sleep 20 hours a night until it went away. And that doesn’t jive with getting any work done, or with my whole blue light/wake earlier plan, which is largely derailed now. (Although I’m trying to get a little artificial sun in as we speak.)

I did finish reading that Edward Bunker book Education of a Felon. I liked it a lot, aside from the fact that there’s an abrupt ending, and the two halves of the book are very lopsided. I was at the 50% mark, thinking the book was about over, and then the second half went by much faster. It’s one of those “why won’t he learn his lesson” things, and it’s not the typical two strikes and then a home run that you see in almost all formulaic writing. While the book started with this Bukowski-like description of old timey Los Angeles, he ended up in this fierce depiction of prison life and violence. And in the late 60s/early 70s, the shit really hit the fan as race relations became a full-on war within the walls of San Quentin and other big prisons. Part of this pissed me off, the whole black panthers/Angela Davis agenda, which was basically to kill whitey. Anyway, showing another point of view for that made it interesting.

And the weirdest coincidence was when he was on the lam and left California in an old car, intending to drive to New York and check out some jazz clubs or whatever. On his way in the freezing winter, his car died in… South Bend, Indiana. This is like in Kerouac’s On the Road there’s a reference in there somewhere that he was on a Greyhound bus and they stopped in South Bend. Every time I re-read that book (which is maybe once a year), I always stop and laugh at that point.

I’m reading Mikal Gilmore’s rock essay book Night Beat now. What’s weird is that I totally don’t remember buying it. I have an old copy (it may be out of print) and it has no jacket, so it anonymously hid on my shelves for maybe a year or so. Or maybe someone gave it to me, I don’t know. I was looking for another book the other day and flipped it open and read a page and thought it looked pretty damn cool, so I’m on that. And what’s weirder is that I didn’t realize until halfway through the introduction (and weirder still, I never read introductions, because after you write a few, you realize they are bullshit) I found out that his older brother was Gary Gilmore, aka the guy executed by firing squad in Utah in 1976. I guess he (Mikal) wrote a book about that (there’s also Norman Mailer’s hugely successful The Executioner’s Song) so I’ll have to check that out.

Reading a book of essays is a good warmup for thinking about taking ten years of journal and compressing it into a couple hundred pages of book. The first question: sequential, or by topic? Maybe I will read everything and the only topics will be “out of town” and “the weather today”. Maybe it’s better to have things date-ordered because of references and whatnot. The next obvious question: do you edit the entries? When I did the annotated Rumored to Exist, I did not remove a single typo – I just annotated the mistakes. A certain zine editor I know (think small fonts) was absolutely flabbergasted that I would not make the changes. But to me, that was the past, and I could make a second edition with the corrections, but the purpose was to annotate the first edition. The Dead Sea Scrolls have not been copyedited or spellchecked for the same reason. On the other hand, the second edition of Summer Rain did have mistakes fixed. I didn’t do much more than minor copyedit changes, because I was happy with the story and I was mostly just re-setting the book into a new format at a different printer.

What’s between the two? Gilmore took a bunch of old essays he wrote for Rolling Stone and a scad of other papers and magazines, and basically re-poured them, thinking about them more, adding strength, adding content that makes it more purposeful. It’s like restoring a ’47 Chevy to look just like a ’47 Chevy, but maybe it’s got an electronic ignition not invented until the 70s, and there’s resin glue or fiberglass or whatever in the structure that wasn’t around, either. This thought makes me want to cut apart all of the entries, try to take the ones that worked best or mattered the most to me, and then edit or extend them until they are great. And yeah, that isn’t a compilation, like a greatest hits album, so maybe it goes against the spirit, but it’s also a hell of a lot better of a product.

Or I won’t do shit and just fester about this for months. Who knows. I do know I have finished all of my xmas shopping except Sarah. I keep threatening to get her either a Fry Daddy or a Playstation 3, but in reality, I need to think of something better.

Okay, time to sudafed up and read this book.