Forum / Quite Possibly The Most Underappreciated American Writer Of The Second Half Of The 20th Century

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    Chris Okum
    Aug 07, 10:41pm

    Leonard Michaels sits in his office, tilts back in his chair, stares at the student sitting across from him, asks his student to leave, gets up from his chair, shuts the door, locks it, and then lights a cigarette: "My roommate was an expensively dressed kid from a Chicago suburb. Though very intelligent, he suffered in school. He suffered with girls though he was handsome and witty. He suffered with boys though he was heterosexual. He slept on three mattresses and used a sun lamp all winter. He bathed, oiled, and perfumed his body daily. He wanted soft, sweet joys in every part, but when some whore asked if he'd like to be beaten with a garrison belt he said yes. He suffered with food, eating from morning to night, loading his pockets with fried pumpkin seeds when he left for class, smearing caviar paste on his filet mignons, eating himself into a monumental face of eating because he was eating. Then he killed himself."

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    Chris Okum
    Aug 08, 01:33am

    Good to see we have lots of Leonard Michaels fans here. Very cool.

    Sometimes this place reminds me of the train I take to work every morning.

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    Mathew Paust
    Aug 08, 08:01pm

    Wha..? We've been busy translating, interpreting, critiquing and memorizing Sally Houtman's latest poem. Michaels, huh? Leonard? Anachronistic name. I'll get right on it...

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    Matthew Robinson
    Aug 09, 12:26am

    Leonard Michaels is a bad motherfucker, definitely does not get due credit for his very-obvious-if-you've-read-him influence on many of today's "top" short story writers. I got his Collected Stories I think after you mentioned him on here a different time. He's the man.

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    Gary Hardaway
    Aug 09, 01:35am

    He can be Googled. I still don't know or care about him. But I'm very middle brow and all, but never ride a train to work or anywhere.

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    Mathew Paust
    Aug 09, 07:38pm

    I've just downloaded his collected essays and read several of them. His writing in this form excites me, but from what I've read about his fiction I suspect it is too dark for my taste. Chicken, I know, and contradictory considering how much I like Chris's stuff. I may decide differently after reading more of Michaels's essays. Our public library has nothing by him as I would prefer reading a sampling of his stories before committing my thumb.

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    Chris Okum
    Aug 10, 02:52am

    Mathew: Leonard Michaels is a little dark, yes, but he earned the right to write from that place of darkness. He wrote an incredible book, Sylvia, about his first wife, that is simply one of the best books ever written about the disintegration of a relationship and the helplessness one feels when watching someone they love slip into madness. I Would Have Saved Them If I Could is his best collection of stories. The Men's Club is a great little novel as well. Avoid the awful 80s film adaptation with Craig Wasson, though.

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    Mathew Paust
    Aug 10, 03:28pm

    I'm keeping an open mind, Chris. Much impressed so far by his essays.

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    Mathew Paust
    Aug 11, 03:06pm

    Most interesting Michaels essay thus far (I'm sipping this collection like I sipped Jameson's back in my serious sipping days): Bad Blood (poets v. philosophers) http://www.ronslate.com/poets_and_philosophers_bad_blood_essay_leonard_michaels

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    Matthew Robinson
    Aug 11, 04:13pm

    P.s. this phrase is killer: "eating himself into a monumental face of eating because he was eating."

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    Mathew Paust
    Aug 11, 07:51pm

    I side with the poets, because they're more intuitive, even tho I don't always have the patience or knowledge to appreciate some of what poets consider the best poetry. Philosophers annoy me. I see them as more akin to punsters and rhetoricians--cleverness über alles seems to be their forté. I'm too slow to keep up with them.

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    Barry Basden
    Aug 13, 01:47pm

    I'm starting with his diary. I want to see what the fuck he couldn't tell anybody else...

  • Samuel Derrick Rosen
    Aug 16, 09:43pm

    To side with the poets is to side with people that are as different between one another as Donald Trump and Ghandi.

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    Mathew Paust
    Aug 17, 03:19pm

    Good one, SDR.

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    Mathew Paust
    Sep 14, 02:18pm

    Thanks to Okum I caughgt the Leonard Michaels bug. Here's a fascinating look at him through the eyes of a friend, David Bezmozgis: http://www.bezmozgis.com/leonardMichaelsEssay.html

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    Chris Okum
    Sep 14, 03:30pm

    Nice one, Mat. Never read this before. Thanks.

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    Mathew Paust
    Sep 16, 09:55pm

    Just posted on my blog:

    “Quite possibly the most underappreciated American writer of the second half of the 20th century.”

    Thus proclaimed the subject line of the Fictionaut forum discussion last month that introduced me to the late Leonard Michaels. Embarrassed to admit I'd not heard of him, and admiring Chris Okum, the writer who opened the subject, I downloaded Michaels's Collected Essays. I read them almost as fast as I read crime novels.
    [more: http://mdpaust.blogspot.com/2015/09/forgotten-books-sylvia-by-leonard.html]

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