Missing A Beat
The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Syracuse University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Seymour Krim described his nonfiction articles or essays or “pieces” (whichever term you prefer) as “grapplings with life, desperate bids for beauty and truth and the slaking of personal need, hot mortal telegrams from writer to reader however disguised by subjectmatter.” No better description of his offbeat, on-the-mark work could be...
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Thanks are gratefully extended to the Estate of Seymour Krim for rights to publish his works. The following essays appear here Courtesy of the Estate of Seymour Krim: “What’s This Cat’s Story?”; “Milton Klonsky: My Favorite Intellectual”; “The American Novel Made Me”; “The 215,000 Word Habit: Should I Give My Life to The Times?”; “Remembering Harold Rosenberg”; “On Being an Anglo”; “Anti-Jazz:...
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In 1993 I became the customer of a near-lunatic who guarded the most dejected, flimsy, poorly stocked book table in New York. In hindsight, it was the perfect setting for a fairy tale discovery. The vendor displayed barely a dozen items, including a yellowing 1961 paperback called Views of a Nearsighted Cannoneer, by someone named Seymour Krim. The attraction was immediate. Its cover featured a black-and-white photo...
PART ONE: Intellectuals
1. What’s This Cat’s Story?
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The publication of this book of pieces—actually grapplings with life, desperate bids for beauty and truth and the slaking of personal need, hot mortal telegrams from writer to reader however disguised by subject matter which seems to be at a remove—marks the end of a long shipwrecked journey for me and the beginning of a new one. I am going to try and devote the writing time left to the more openly and...
2. Milton Klonsky, My Favorite Intellectual
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I first met Milton Klonsky in probably the early spring of 1945. I had inherited a (to me) charming small apartment at 224 Sullivan St. from a girl I had been dating who suddenly winked at me in bed one morning and said with a smile that she was getting married. She had realistically been cheating on my remarkable self-conceit that I was irresistible and had nabbed herself, while I was absorbed in making love to me,...
3. The American Novel Made Me
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I was literally made, shaped, whetted and given a world with a purpose by the American realistic novel of the mid to late 1930s. From the age of 14 to 17 I gorged myself on the works of Thomas Wolfe (beginning with Of Time and the River, catching up with Angel and then keeping pace till Big Tom’s stunning end), Hemingway, Faulkner, James T. Farrell, Steinbeck, John O’Hara, James Cain, Richard Wright, Dos Passos, Erskine...
4. The 215,000 Word Habit
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Excuse me while I put my New York Times aside and try to write this piece. It’s now 8:35 in the evening, absolutely no baloney, although we used to use a shorter word, and I’m still working on Section B, page 4—“For Ferraro, Lost Friendships But Stronger Family,” continued from page Bl. I’ve already had my supper (broiled tilefish, little potatoes, bean salad, a glass of Boucheron blanc de blanc), not my...
5. Remembering Harold Rosenberg
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He moved very slowly in the last couple of years, this towering figure who could have passed for Captain Ahab, rising and dipping with his cane in hand as he inched his way up Tenth Street toward Third Avenue to get a cab. That’s when I mostly saw him when he was in town; he and his wife May had a place in East Hampton for at least half the year, and for another two months he also taught in the Committee...
PART TWO: Whites and Blacks
6. On Being an Anglo
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Taos, N.M.—There are only four recognized breeds of people out here: Anglo, Spanish, Indian and hippie. At 55 I’m naturally an Anglo, which would have furrowed the brow of my innocent, trusting mother, whose maiden name was Ida Goldberg. But it amuses me to be stuffed into the identity of the ruling American archetype that helped make my life miserable as a kid. Being an Anglo, I begin to see, is not a joyride. Local Mexican-Americans...
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Jazz is the music of U.S. colored people. It came out of squalor, ignorance, the most ignoble and pathetic kind of conditions, which ultimately produced its beauty and excitement. But do white jazz-lovers who experience the warmth or brilliance of the music, who adopt the “philosophy” of jazz, truly realize what they are doing—do they want to embrace the values of life that helped produce this music?
8. Ask for a White Cadillac
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After I wrote my article on the white jazz hipster and novelty-digging people of every stripe who imitate the Negro’s style I came in for biting criticism in Greenwich Village, where I live. Friends of mine, and newly made enemies as well, accused me of being anti-Negro; the influx of tense, self-conscious, easily offended Negroes who have recently hit the Village has made any frank statement about colored...
9. Black English, or the Motherfucker Culture
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Probably the most paralyzing assault of the black masses on white America is not in the actual physical violence of burning cities, riots, the new melodrama of the streets that makes taking a walk an existential experience, but in the battering use of what ordinary middleclass people call dirty language. The proliferation of muthafuckas, shit, piss, prick, white bitch suck my...
PART THREE: Success and Failure
10. Making It!
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When has an inside phrase like “making it” or so-and-so’s “got it made” shot with such reality through the museum of official English? In this terse verbal shorthand lies a philosophy of life that puts a gun in the back of Chase Manhattan rhetoric and opens up, like a money-bag, the true values that make the Sammys and Susies of modern city life run today. You’ve got it made. How the words sing a swift...
11. Norman Mailer, Get Out of My Head!
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I sit with Mailer’s The Armies of the Night to the left of my typewriter and Miami and the Siege of Chicago standing straight up beyond the roller so that it can look me right in the eye but I know that the books will be incidental to what I must say. These are Mailer’s latest writings and as an engaged literary man I must deal with them, especially with...
12. Mario Puzo and Me
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Mario Puzo is only two years older than I am, but it sometimes seems like a hundred, and I don’t mean that in the sense in which Mario put himself down for appearing physically aged when he had that nightclub face-off with the suntanned Frank Sinatra in Hollywood. I felt this difference in real, inner, human time when I read The Godfather. Mario talks about having “a thousand years of illiterate Neapolitan...
13. The One & Only Million-Dollar Jewboy Caper
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...in the San Juan Star so that all the heavy-drinking statesiders down here (where I’m teaching) could see the dark star of Breslin’s talent in the bottom of the bottle. I wanted to alert people everywhere that Jimmy the non-Greek was writing better than ever, that the words sizzled and struck out at you like grease being tormented on a griddle, that line for line and...
14. For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business
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We are all victims of the imagination in this country. The American Dream may sometimes seem like a dirty joke these days, but it was internalized long ago by our fevered little minds and it remains to haunt us as we fumble with the unglamorous pennies of life during the illusionless middle years. At 51, believe it or not, or believe it and pity me if you are young and swift, I still don’t know truly “what I...
PART FOUR: Jews
15. The Menahem Begin Image
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This is a strictly inside-page style note on the way Menahem Begin’s manner, looks, voice and fierce identification with Old Testament Father Abraham, as if 6,000 years ago were yesterday, is bound to shake up assimilated American Jews when he comes over here. Unless Menahem pulls his punches as a guest, that vast majority of American middle-class Jews is set to experience an implosion under the...
16. Sitting Shiva for Henry Miller
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I am writing this four days after we got the news that Henry Miller finally cashed it in out in Santa Monica, at the Old Testament age of 88, and the ghetto is sad. That was Henry’s name for his favorite part of Manhattan, from Astor Place over to the East River and south to around Broome Street. “The ghetto is the only part of New York which is dear to me,” he once wrote. “The rest of the city is an abstraction, cold, geometrical...
17. My Sister, Joyce Brothers
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I once spooked Dr. Joyce Brothers, the most formidable JAP (Jewish American Princess) in the country, and she has haunted my life ever since in revenge. I know she’ll never stop until I do her justice. When I call the Weather Bureau, they plug Dr. Joyce after the temperature and tell me I’ll find hope if I call 936-4444 (“Hello, I’m Dr. Joyce Brothers: Medically speaking, there is no such thing as a nervous break-...
18. Epitaph for a Canadian Kike
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How much of what I’m going to say about Sam Goodman— yes, Sam, I’m trying to come to terms with you at last, you prick, you enduring pain in the world’s ass!—is “true,” actual, the way it really was, and how much is my own anxiety-specked creation I don’t know, ultimately; but if God existed and he wanted a view of Sam on earth (or Sam on concrete since I only knew him in N.Y.), as heaving and personal...
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Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 2 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2010