Sunday, July 30, 2017

Chester Himes

I didn’t start my young adult reading required classic writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or Harper lee rather my entry into the literary world (at least in the case of novels) was Chester Himes. I first began reading his novels while still in Jr. High School. My young mind was stimulated with tales of hookers, pimps, drug dealers and violent, corrupt cops in the set mythical kingdom of 1950’s Harlem. There was something salaciously mysterious about this dark, scandalous world. I remember sometimes looking over my shoulder while reading a particularly explicit sex scene, or an explicit burst of gory violence while in class.  
Chimses’ flawed heroes, like
Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, stoked my curiosity and stimulated my need for excessive violence and unscrupulous practices.
In adult years, I took in his later work, (mostly written after the disillusioned writer emigrated to Europe) finding an even more savage Himes, such as the brutal Plan B, where the author murders many his most famous characters in one fell swoop in an orgy of violence that makes American Psycho read like The Little Prince. The apocalyptic story, tells the story of an all out race war that begins in Harlem and later consumes the entire planet. And Yesterday Will Make You Cry, a frank, powerful account written as a novel about the author’s experiences in prison. One of the best ever written in my opinion, an even stronger gut punch than John Cheever’s prison novel, Falconer.

Himes will probably never go down as one of the greats in literary history on the level of a Cheever, but his colorful stories and tough tales will forever be an inspiration to me.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Jacques Yves Cousteau - King Of The Sea

When the Leopard was but a cub, one of my childhood heroes was explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher Jacques Yves Cousteau. I came to know from his TV show in the late 60’s early 70’s The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. I never missed an episode. 

I remember buying, with my own money from my paper route, a plastic model kit of his famous vessel, The Calypso (Immortalized by the John Denver song of the same name) (!).  I worked so hard on this thing, and felt so proud. It had a tiny helicopter and a teeny yellow sub (partially designed Cousteau himself) included. I also went the library and took out his first book, packed with pictures,
The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure. Don’t think I ever returned it. Here's hoping the New York Public Library never track me down.