Perhaps 'Mulligan Stew’ was his greatest book. I’m not at all certain. It may have been 'Red The Fiend', or 'Imaginative Qualities Of Actual Things’ , with its extraordinary opening paragraph and its obj ective look at the comedy, the burlesque event, called 'The New York Art Scene’ , of the 60s and 70s. Ostracised he was, for that book, by all the regulars in The Cedar Bar, many of them mentioned by name. Gil would sit alone at the bar, drinking his beers, chain smoking cigarettes, and taking it all stoically and not without some pride in what he had done. What is writing about if not things seen, things experienced?
A beautifully written book, this, but I no expert on such. This I do know, it pierces to the very soul, if such exists. Gil writes like a surgeon, scalpel in hand, expertly cutting into the memories of a life lived, then, like a skilled collagist, he reassembles the pieces into what could be called a meaningful whole, but what is meaningful (he might say) and what is whole (he might also say) . Yet, and yet, the freshness of this writer’s vision and memories shine through, at times painful, painfully true, and real, and we had all been there or, if we are lucky, will be there one day.
I give you here a sampling:
“Most of his friends were dead or far away, staggering into the apathy and complaint of old age. He was, that is, virtually alone, his wife dead for many years, his children distantly attentive, formally so, but no more than that. When he thought of his youth he could scarcely believe that his memories had anything at all to do with the absurd life he was now living, an observation, he knew, that was far from original. Somehow, he had thought that his old age would miraculously produce finer, subtler notions
of what? --life? But he was no better, no cleverer, no more insightful than any shuffling old bastard in the street, absurdly bundled against the slightest breeze."