Daniel Menaker

Altitude Check

Friday, November 22, 2013

At the terrific Skylight bookstore in LA, I read two nights ago. A small, cozy reading, with four or five old friends in the audience, ten or fifteen others. And a cousin, Susan Mogul. We tried for five minutes to follow the branches of our tree but ended up out on separate limbs. My guess: She is my second cousin once removed. (The family is huge, on both my mother’s WASPy side–four aunts and one uncle–and my father’s revolutionary emigrant Jewish side–six uncles. I once counted more than forty first cousins.)  But she was right there, kindly, not removed at all. Noel A., who runs the events (and the store) has you sit upstairs in a kind of work attic, with screens and pens and papers spread out over counter-like surfaces. Then, when it’s time to read, he comes upstairs and fetches you and you walk down the stairs like a bride or a dignitary. It’s funny. You half expect to hear “Hail to the Chief” or at least “Pomp and Circumstance.”  It went well, even though the little slips of paper I put in the book to mark sections I wanted to read slipped away and down, like November leaves. But I figured it out.

Stayed with Leo Braudy and his wife, Dorothy. Leo a Swarthmore ’63 classmate and the author of “Trying To Be Cool,” a memoir of the Fifties in Philadelphia, just out now, and terrific. Esp the stuff about doo-wopp music, in which he analyzes how essential all the singing parts are–not just the lead but the bass and the falsetto. Now it’s off to Seattle, for another reading. My Amazon number (yes, yes, I check) seems to be keeping pace with the plane’s altitude climb–which is bad. Not the altitude–the number.

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“The Kazekevich Oeuvre”

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Here is a note to me from Michael Arlen, at one good point The New Yorker‘s television critic and author of wonderful books. It was written in 1980, when I was a fiction editor. It was written at a time when the ads were plentiful, the staff somewhat bloated with graying haints, and we had time to mess around.  I’ve changed the names, but the hilarity and desperation bred by personal but unsolicited submissions remain undiluted.

Dear Dan,

There is a foolish person by name of Igor Kazekevich who lives in Portugal (fortunately) & claims to be a friend of my family’s & who sends me stories I politely decline on the part of the magazine (on account of their foolishness), but who now apparently feels that I am standing in his way, preventing greater intimacy and cutting down on story sales with the Editorial staff & so, short of sending him a letter-bomb myself or even telling him to go away, I have taken the coward’s way out & told him to send his foolish stories to D. Menaker, Esq.  Thanks a lot, you say. Yes, I know. I agree. But think of it this way. He’s not, at least, a friend of your family’s–though, come to think of it, there’s always that possibility & perhaps he & you will hit it off famously, he will come over from Portugal & have Thanksgiving dinners & so on.  Also, you have a secretary, or certainly should have one or maybe two, if the people here are treating you right, & she can handle the Kazekevich correspondence without your even knowing about it. Also, possibly I am dead wrong about the Kazekevich oeuvre (a word he is unfortunately fond of using) & he and you, quite aside from Thanksgiving dinners, will form one of those Maxwell Perkins-Tom Wolfe bonds (or was it Fitzgerald?)—- People will say, “Kazekevich was nothing, unknown outside of Portugal (and of course Arlen’s family) until Menaker took him over.” So, think of it as my loss & your gain.

Michael Arlen

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