Feed on

He left the dodoes to rot, he couldn’t endure to eat their flesh. Usually, he hunted alone. But often, after months of it, the isolation would begin to change him, change his very perceptions— the jagged mountains in full daylight flaring as he watched into freak saffrons, streaming indigos, the sky his glass house, all the island his tulipomania. The voices— he insomniac, southern stars too thick for constellations teeming in faces and creatures of fable less likely than the dodo— spoke the words of sleepers, singly, coupled, in chorus. The rhythms and timbres were Dutch, but made no waking sense. Except that he thought they were warning him . . . scolding, angry that he couldn’t understand.

— Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Kenny Wisdom notes: It is probable, if not altogether certain, that Thomas Pynchon has read Hermann Broch, as should we all.

Ethel Waters and Her Jazz Masters “That Da Da Strain” (1922)

Schoolgirls for Mob Criminals

By the time her old man found Mary she was hard as nails and twice as tough, she didn’t like it for nuts. I could hear them yelling back and forth from the next room, and a couple of times I looked through the keyhole and watched them.

The old man was walking up and down the room, yelling and waving his hands and the ends of his moustache stood out like a puppy’s ears. Mary was sitting on the bed, and betweem swigs of rye was telling him where she got off.

“What the hell of it— supposin’ you don’t like what I’m doing. It’s my own life— I like it this way. Ware you gonna do about it?”

“Do?” her father shouted. “I’ll do plenty. I’ll bring the police up here. They’ll know how to handle you and the scum who brought you here. No matter how rotten and diseased you are, you’re still my daughter, my own flesh and blood. And I’d rather see you dead than like this.”

Ha-ha-ha! You give me a laugh, you old dodo. Me and my scummy friends! You’d like it better, I suppose, if you knew I was workin’ in some lousy five and dime store for twelve bucks a week— after I finish high school and college. I don’t need any more schooling for what I’m doing around here and you’ll never see me again.”

Suddenly there was quiet. I looked through the keyhole again and I made out the old man standing by the dresser. There was a bottle in his hands and I knew without even seeing what it was. It was the pills Doc left behind or her to take so’s she could get a quick cure of what was ailin’ here and get back to work. Sulfanilamide. It would fix her up quick, he said, not like the old times when you had to keep goin’ to the doctor for a year…

— from “Schoolgirls For Criminals” by Susie Donnell, Real Crime Cases, March 194??. Published by Fireside Publications, Ltd., 135 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada.

Want to know more about mid-20th century Canadian true crime magazines ? Here’s a lead.

Caz Dolowicz adds: some people like true crime, some people like Jack Soo, some people like both.

There is a general withdrawing from orifices after a while, drinking, doping and gabbing resume, and many begin to drift away to catch some sleep. Here and there a couple or threesome linger. A C-melody saxophone player has the bell of his instrument snuggled between the widespread thighs of a pretty matron  in sunglasses, yes sunglasses at night, this is some desperate company Slothrop has fallen in with all right— the saxman is playing “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and those vibrations are just driving her wild.

— Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Glenn Miller! The Nicholas Brothers! Dorothy Dandridge! Hermann Broch? Jack Soo? Don’t blame Caz Dolowicz, he voted for Debs!!

In Lucas, Kansas

Samuel Perry Dinsmoor
built a “Garden of Eden”
containing among other thins
trees, sidewalks, fences, flower beds,
fish pool,
bird and animal cages
U.S. flags,
a “Goddess of Liberty”,
soldier, Indian, animals, birds,
a monument showing
“The Crucifixion of Labor”,
angels, the Devil,
Adam & Eve,
the Serpent,
Cain & Abel
and a visitors’
dining hall.

All these things
are constructed in cement
and by 1927
he had used over 113 tons
or about
2237 sacks
of cement.

Photo by
Glenn R.


— Jonathan Williams (Truck Books, 1977)

“In Lucas, Kansas”: devotees of grass-roots art may have a big time traipsing around Kansas. Not only is there the Dinsmoor phantasmagoria, there are things in Humboldt (by Dave Woods), Belle Plaine (by David Rousseau), Wellington (by C.E. Tracy), and Wilson (by Ed Root). I also have a report on a curious Victorian grave in the town of Hiawatha. —JW

No Tiene Nada Gowanus

—inbound traffic on the Gowanus Exp… favor, send your mouth on a vaca… and rain, the present tem… no tiene nada

— William Gaddis, from J.R. (1975)


Jim Knipfel is also with William Gaddis

It Was Black, Black Took.

Black ink best wheel brown.

Excellent not a hull house, not a pea soup, no bill no care, no precise, no past past pearl goat.

— Gertrude Stein, from Tender Buttons (1914)


“It’s worthwhile knowing Homer could nod.” — Gerald Finzi to Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1952.


There was morning gray in the sky as the sedan crossed Brooklyn Bridge. There was some pale blue in the sky as Vanning parked the car off Canal Street. He used the subway to get back to the Village, and upon entering his room the first direct move he made was to start packing his things. After some minutes of that he changed his mind, sat on a chair near the window and smoked cigarettes while he toyed with various angles. He was certain they didn’t know his address. He told himself not to be too certain of anything. The logical step at this point was something simple, something easy. And the easiest thing he could think of was sleep.

He slept until late afternoon, showered and shaved, concluded after a mirror inspection that he looked just a little too banged up for an appearance at the advertising agency where his illustrations were due. After breakfast, he used the restaurant phone booth, told the agency art director that he was sick with an upset stomach. The art director told him tomorrow would be all right, joked with him about the effects of alcohol on a man’s stomach, told him milk was the best medicine for a raw stomach. Vanning thanked the agency man and hung up. He took a subway uptown. He didn’t know where he was going. He wanted to get away from the Village. He wanted to think.

— from David Goodis Nightfall (1947)

Out at sea a single clarinet begins to play, a droll melody joined in on after a few bars by guitars and mandolins. Birds huddle bright-eyed on the beach. Katje’s heart lightens, a little, at the sound. Slothrop doesn’t yet have the European reflexes to clarinets, he still thinks of Benny Goodman and not of clowns or circuses— but wait. . .  aren’t these kazoos coming? Yeah, a lotta kazoos! A Kazoo band!

— Thomas Pynchon, from Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Jayne Mansfield did, on occasion, also sing sing sing.

I suppose that I owed it all to General Butler— Beast Butler, as they used to call him in New Orleans, and as far away as London, after his notorious General Order Number 28, that any woman showing contempt for any officer or man of the Federal forces should be treated like a woman of the town plying her vocation. Or to go back a step before, I may have owed it to the New Orleans lady, whoever she was, who got on the horse car– they were really mule cars— one fine spring morning with her little girl. Or back another step, I  may have owed it to Flag-Officer Farragut’s fine gold braid, which was an invitation to a little girl’s fingers, when he sat down beside her. She stroked the braid, and said to her mother, “Look, pretty.” At which, the conqueror patted her on the head and called her a dear little child. So the patriot mother spat in his face, and Butler issued the order.

And then one day I came walking down the street…

— Robert Penn Warren, from Band of Angels (1955).

Also: Raoul Walsh looking pretty, according to HiLoBrow.com.


Frisco Gal by Clarkson Crane is, if not the worst book, ever written, published, sorta semi-skimmed looking for even one half-worthwhile passage, it’s certainly in the running. If I was Naomi Martin, as Frisco Gal once was, I’d have changed my name too. I wish I could at least say Clarkson Crane was borrachón filling the page for money but with Angie Dickinson as my witness, I can find no evidence to support that thesis. Forewarned is forearmed.

— Kenny Wisdom, Fiction Editor

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