I take the subway in the mornings to downtown L.A. and since I’ve moved from riding the Red Line to the Purple line I have a much shorter trip. So, I’ve taken to reading short stories to pass my time.
I’ve been lugging around a little paperback in my purse and I finally finished it this month! The book was Harlan Ellison’s GENTLEMAN JUNKIE AND OTHER STORIES OF THE HUNG-UP GENERATION. I have the 1983 published edition which feature 22 stories. This book first came out in 1961 and is a collection of Harlan Ellison short stories which were first in other magazines like Rouge Magazine, The Saint Detective Magazine, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder Magazine to name a few.
This book gets cred for validating Harlan as a “master of short fiction” and it was also the only paperback to be reviewed by Dorothy Parker in ESQUIRE magazine.
I happened to pick up this little paperback a while back wandering around my favorite used book store in the valley. I do like Harlan Ellison, having read a few odd and ends and I figured I’d read some more. Yup.
There is an eloquence to Harlan’s writing, he’s very observant and often angry. Harlan pushes buttons and he’s pushing the reader to face biases and racism while showing just how easy it is for one person to hurt another with out a second thought. Humans are most selfish creatures.
Though these stories were first told in the 50’s-60’s they are still relevant now. Harlan finely paints the scene and thing just play out where some get their dues, or rather lay in the bed they made by their own choices. It’s not easy or comfortable to face even while reading but I was hooked, like a junkie, to seem them out.
Here are some bits on few of the stories in the book:
FREE WITH THIS BOX! starts with a kid, David Thomas Cooper. He’s obsessed with finding a complete set of buttons of comic characters from cereal boxes. There’s 24 in all! He’s gone so far as to take them from cereal boxes on the store shelf when he’s out with his mom. Will David get caught? What lesson is he gonna learn?
THIS IS JACKIE SPINNING follows a radio disc jockey who is way up on top pushing music talent and he thinks he can pull one over on the guys who really run the biz.
NO GAME FOR CHILDREN is Herbert Mestman the well to do married man versus juvenile delinquent neighbor Frenchie Murrow. Frenchie despises Herbert and has a rep to protect.
ENTER THE FANATIC, CENTER STAGE was one of my favorites. A small, close-knit town known as Prince is graced with a new resident, Gunther Duvoe. Gunther comes to open “The Duvoe Art Gallery” in the center of town and once the painting are unveiled the whole town comes apart.
RFD #2 was another of my favorites for it’s clever angel in the telling. A woman has acquired the assistance of a detective agency to find a man she fears is trying to kill her. The correspondence is done all through a series of letters over the postal service. Sure today it would be quick with calls and emails, but it’s a good cat and mouse game.
The last story; THE NIGHT OF DELICATE TERRORS was the punch to the gut and most stirring with recent events going on in the real world. A black man and his family are driving through the south towards Chicago, while there’s a bad snow storms. This is set during a time when there was still segregation. It was so infuriating, seeing that anger and hate and what it does to people. Today we are still struggling to get along, have true equality, find peace and to be better people.
It was well worth the time to read with all the ups and major downs. I also like sharing the stories I read and they helped start some good conversations. You know, a good part of reading is sharing the tales again.
Now it’s time for a new book! Yup.