HOW THE WOLVES REMINDED ME OF MY CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY (rev.) My Voyage on a Stream of Consciousness

wolf pack

 

I’m watching a documentary about wolves.

The narrator calls one of the wolf packs The Jets,

which of course makes me think about West Side Story,

where a gang called the Jets sing:

When you’re a Jet,

You’re a Jet all the way . . .

From your first cigaret

To your last dyin’ day

 

jets

 

This makes me remember being on Long Island

and sitting through my niece’s Sunday-school play,

a parody of the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter.

 

In this version, a Hebrew-school class

stood in for the sitcom’s high-school class of Sweathogs.

 

sweathogs

 

The concept might have had promise,

but Mr. Kotter had become Mr. Kosher

and the children sang:

 

           When you’re a Jew,

           You’re a Jew all the way

           From the day of your bris

           To your bar mitzvah day . . .

 

(I’m not making this up; if you don’t know what a bris is, ask your neighbor.)

 

welcome back

 

The actual Welcome Back, Kotter song was written by John Sebastian,

who I remember meeting one day at Maria’s,

the coffee shop in our town where artists and other citizens

gather in the morning.

maria's bazar

And that reminds me: another time at Maria’s,

I was reading a collection of excerpts from famous writers’ diaries.

 

As I sat at Maria’s, I read Gail Godwin’s account

of buying her lunch at Maria’s!

 

Isn’t that amazing!

 

godwin

 

It’s definitely the same Maria’s, since Gail Godwin lives in our town

and I see her at the health club where we both exercise.

 

Now I remember that the collection included pages

from Norman Mailer’s diary.

 

mailer

 

He mentions that his first mother-in-law called him a pisherke.

This means “little pisser”

and is the Yiddish version of “too big for his britches.”

 

(If you look up pisherke on the Internet,

Google directs you to this story. Yes!)

 

My mother also used that word, which is not just a coincidence,

since my mother and Mailer’s first mother-in-law were friends

and had grown up in the same town.

 

In addition, the in-laws lived next door

to the beautiful young woman who played my mother

in the first play I acted in.

 

blind alley

 

That was a community-theater production

of a thriller called Blind Alley. I played a wise-guy little boy.

pisherke, in fact, although the family in the play

wouldn’t have known or used that word.

 

When I asked the former in-laws about Mailer,

the former mother-in-law said, “He was a jerk”—

so the pisherke remark was probably not as affectionate

as Mailer assumed.

 

The former father-in-law thought Mailer was a genius.

 

Then they told me something that a graduate-school friend

considered a contribution to American literary history.

 

They said their daughter was the real author of The Naked and the Dead.

That was the best-seller that established Mailer’s reputation.

 

naked & dead

 

Naturally I asked what they meant.

 

She did his typing for him, as wives did in those days,

and she made a lot of editorial suggestions.

typewriter

Although she may not have written the book,

her ideas could have played a part

in the book’s literary and commercial success.

His next books may have suffered

from the loss of his former wife’s guidance.

 

wolf

So—about those wolves:

 

you can do a documentary about wolves

without giving them cute anthropomorphic names.

A wolf pack is inherently fascinating

and doesn’t behave like a singing, dancing street gang.

 

As for literary history,

please spell my name correctly in your footnote.

 

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2 comments

  1. […] Source: HOW THE WOLVES REMINDED ME OF MY CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY (rev.) My Voyage on a Str… […]

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