Collection of personal essays, and reviews of pop-culture phenomena such as Seinfeld, Lawrence Welk, self-help, Gloria Steinem, The Critic, Walt Disney
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252 pages, Wingspan Press (Oct. 2007)
Selected from 30 years of published work, the 49 best prose pieces, including deeply personal essays and memoirs, reviews, and creative nonfiction. Notable: Essay "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," all about Elvis's 1956 hit recording; "Seinfeld Sucks," written in 1993 before everyone came to hold that opinion; "Allen Ludden: An Appreciation" of the bespectacled '60s game-show host. Witty, sharp, political (essays on Serbia, Bosnia, poetry contests, Newt Gingrich, political correctness).
Death by Poetry
On September 20, 1993, I was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward for the first and only time. An intern escorted me upstairs and through a pair of locked doors to the psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, and to the nurses there I meekly surrendered my belongings and clothes. These were searched, inventoried and locked away. I was given a hospital scrub suit to wear. Three things of my own were permitted me: my earrings, bought in the early ‘70s, each a dangling gold wire sporting one red African trading bead; my wristwatch; and my current pack of cigarettes.
It was then about five p.m. The day had vanished in evaluators’ offices and cubicles, and in arid waiting rooms where I alternately stared at the carpet or sobbed with a child’s abandon, a child’s wracking, feral grief. No intake worker or nurse had advised me to buck up, or take my lemons and make lemonade – the sort of things depressed people hear, and despair of. In acknowledging that I wasn’t a whiner or slacker but seriously ill, they had given me a slender consolation even as they fastened a hospital bracelet stamped “PSYCH” around my wrist. Dinner had been served to the patients half an hour past, but someone ushered me to a table in the ward’s common room and brought a plate of roast beef with gravy, quite cold. I ate it all – I had weighed into the ward at an all-time high of 136 pounds – and then, hardly noticing the presence of others, I went to my assigned room and bed, tucked my watch and cigarettes inside the pillowcase, drew up the thin blanket, turned my face to the wall and slept.
ICU was home for eight days. Each morning a nurse issued me a fresh scrub suit to wear: gray, sea-green or municipal blue. I judged the nurses as gifted or hostile by whether they cared if my tops and bottoms matched. The scrub suit