Sunday, February 21, 2016

Permanent Midnight, by Jerry Stahl "There's Not Much 'There', There"

First thing to know is that Jerry Stahl is not Burroughs; he's not Bukowski, Mailer and he's not Hunter S. Thompson. He's not that good, few writers are, but Stahl threatens to be that good.

The second thing is that Jerry Stahl is basically a weak person, weak-willed (or at least he was), cowardly almost, even pitiful. He used a lot of pages to complain, feeling sorry for himself, as if he was an innocent victim of life's cruelties.

The third thing to know is that Jerry Stahl was a TV writer, a TV script-writer, sit-coms, cop dramas, pop art, TV commercials. He wasn't a poet, a novelist, an "artist" per se. He was a product of television, a child of boredom, entertainment and self-analysis. Hollywood was his worldview, a type of prostitution. Whenever he'd get out of this idiom, from time to time, he could actually write profound sentences.

The last thing to know is that Jerry Stahl, like other people, was addicted, in his case he was a heroin addict. He was a junkie first and foremost, and he happened to get jobs writing a few episodes for television here and there. But keep in mind, there's not much "there", there.

Stahl's memories of drug addiction, kicking, relapsing, and how much money he made and wasted - almost like he's bragging - all this gets very boring and predictable after the third or fourth incident report. This is not the "Charlie Parker Story"; this is the story of Jerry Stahl, repeated over and over again. His book could've been cut in half, streamlined, it would've been easier to read.

The last 1/4 of the book was really the best part, where he grows up. There was some really brilliant portions similar to Burroughs - the chapters on Phoenix are good, his introduction to the "19yr old, skeleton-thin strawberry named Ruleena" was pure poetry. So it's not like Jerry Stahl doesn't have poetic, artistic streaks of brilliance - he can do it. (Except NOT the section on when he worked at McDonalds, pages 281-290. Go ahead and skip these pages.)

But not to worry: the chapters where he writes about Kitty -- these pages are among the best parts in the entire book. It's worth waiting for.

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