Sunday, December 30, 1979

The San Francisco Voice reviews Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

The current (December 29, 1979) issue of the San Francisco Voice has a review by Daniel Curzon of Richard Grayson's With Hitler in New York:

Taplinger Publishing Co., 200 Park Ave. South, NY, NY 10003

Buy this book! It's wonderful. It costs only $7.95. Where else can you get as much pleasure -- both emotional and intellectual -- for so little?

At first I thought With Hitler in New York wasn’t very gay in its content, but the stories get gayer later in the book. Richard Grayson is a real writer, whether he’s writing on gay themes or not. He’s witty and deep, playful and honest. I don’t know whether he is gay or not. I hope he is, because we need all the first-rate writing we can get. If encouraged, Grayson might more explicitly gay-themed stories. (indeed, if all the gay writers wrote about gay life and left straight life to the straight writers, there’d be precious little straight stuff written)

If you’ve been reading the bulk of the books coming out of the big New York presses and finding yourself slowly starving to death for genuine artistic nourishment, buy this book. For the truth, dear friends, is that if readers who like soul-satisfying fiction don’t buy these books when they appear – less and less often, please note – then very soon they won’t be able to buy them at all. They simply won’t be published, and we can all die of literary malnutrition.

The situation in publishing is much worse than I suspected. I’ve always discounted the so-called American preoccupation with making money. But I’ve come to realize at last that vulgar is really all that publishers care about. The corporations are destroying literature. They must be stopped. They are robber barons, neither pure nor simple, who care only about profits, profits, and more profits, just like the oil companies. If you think this doesn’t matter, just remember that these corporations control what you read. They have a monopoly on the market. They must be required to publish quality fiction in the same way that the FCC requires TV and radio stations to broadcast some quality programming. No corporation should be allowed to keep true literature out of your hands just because they have the power to do so.

Don’t read With Hitler in New York all at once. The blunt, declarative sentences are best appreciated when spread out. I also think the author shouldn’t have included three stories about how hard it is to write a story. Two would have been enough.

But there is much here that is truly beautifully done, like the story about an uncle the narrator hates, and “The Princess from the Land of Porcelain,” which may be the finest story about a lesbian ever written.

Richard Grayson probably had to ill to get a collection of stories published by anybody in these disgusting days. The least the literate reader can do is avoid the chaff from Avon, Dell, and the like, and get this book, the real stuff.

-- Daniel Curzon / IGNA

Tuesday, December 25, 1979

Washington Review of the Arts reviews Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

The December 1979-January 1980 issue of the Washington Review of the Arts reviews Richard Grayson's With Hitler in New York on page 34:

WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK by Richard Grayson,

Taplinger Publishing Company, 200 Park Avenue South,

New York, New York, 10003, $7.95

The title story of this collection of stories by Richard Grayson begins:

"Hitler's girlfriend and I are waiting for him in the International Arrivals Building at Kennedy Airport. Ellen and I stand in front of the West Customs Area. My brother is standing in front of the East Customs Area. He is waiting for my parents. My parents and Hitler have each landed at the same time, at seven o'clock. My parents are flying KLM from Saint Maarten. Hitler is flying Laker from London and Manchester . . ."

Hitler arrives in a leather jacket. He suffers from jet lag. He has breakfast at McDonald's – he likes fast food. Hitler and friends have dinner at Shakespeare's in the Village and Hitler hopes for another New York blackout. Later Hitler dunks his girlfriend in the swimming pool:

"'You're a sadist, you know that?' Ellen says to Hitler after they get out of the pool. Hitler shrugs. 'He did the same thing to me in Greece last year,' she says."

This is the closest Grayson comes to characterizing the familiar Hitler. Otherwise Hitler drinks Becki's beer and makes jokes and tried to cheer the narrator up when his grandfather dies. The story ends, "Hitler put his hand on my shoulder and tells me to sleep well."

This story, "With Hitler in New York," is wry and funny and wonderfully imaginative. And Grayson avoids what might be expected – either intrusive fantasy or broad comedy. The tone instead is cool and neutral. Watching Grayson pull off this story is like watching a flying Wallenda. It is dazzling and dangerous.

"'What do you think of Hitler?' Ellen asks me as I take her to her parents' house. We are driving along the Belt Parkway at midnight with our car windows wide open, but there is not a hint of a breeze.

'I kind of like him,' I say. 'I never realized he was so witty.'

Ellen kisses me on the cheek at her parents' house. I watch to see that she gets in safely."

In its bland, neutral control, the story is chilling not only because of the subject but the irony of the setting. The setting is nice, everyday family. The friends seem genuinely friends. The narrator is touchingly grieved at his grandfather's death and sympathetic in his concern and observation of Hitler. The tone and realistic style of the story creates a jolting closeness. "With Hitler in New York" implies that the fantasy of the supermarket tabloid is close to true, closer than the news that's fit to print.

Richard Grayson is thirtyish, but he has published over a hundred and thirty stories, two of them "Understanding Human Sexual Inadequacy" and "Super Fab Senators," in the Washington Review. The dissimilarity of these two stories is not atypical. Grayson uses more diverse forms than any story writer I know. At the same time he maintains a distinctive quality that blends. Unlike many collections of short stories, which to read at once is like eating a quart of ice cream in one sitting, these stories are varied and spicy enough to urge you on. In fact, the numbers and versatility of Grayson's stories give the impression that stories must light on him like flies. If God is in the details, as someone said, it is also true that stories are in details, and Grayson seems not only good at detail but sees than even at varying levels when accumulated, they can make a story. Take "Peninsular People":

"The Weitzes, who live on the peninsula, are a five-surfboard family. They are aspiring or failed actors; they are psychology majors turned dancers; they are mountain climbers and real estate saleswomen and managers of Burger Kings. The Weitzes live above their means. All of them smoke marijuana, and are liberated, and are Unitarians, and are bored . . .

"There is Mrs. Vincente, who didn't listen to people and refused to put her mother in a home, and her son Louis, who keeps taking the law boards in hopes of scoring better and who is marking time in the meantime. They like living on the peninsula."

Grayson often uses "names" of our time, underlining, like Warhol, our perpetual consciousness of "names" and employing them, as Warhol did, as an emotional reflection of our culture. Presented here are stories on Justice Burger and Pol Pot. Appearing are Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Fulton J. Sheen, John Ashbery, and others. Grayson uses them best in a casual off-handed way as he does in "In the Lehman Collection." Or "Real People," a story based on the national game of "guess-who-I-saw-today":

"Betty Friedan is walking across City Hall Park. She is not wearing a bra . . ."

When the names themselves dominate the story as in "Chief Justice Burger, Teen Idol," the device is too obvious. The same is true, I think, in "Lincoln on the Couch," an historical flashback. The author seems forced to balance the obviousness of the device with an equal degree of outrageousness and irreverence. But even so, Grayson uses the incongruity of the language to create fresh and funny scenes:

"Yuck, thinks Mary Todd, looking across the breakfast table at her husband's face . . ."

In a different form of story, "Go Not to Lethe," a TV soap opera is celebrating its twenty-seventh anniversary with its twenty-seven year star Grayson Richards and his co-starring Jewish family. "Au Milieu Interieur," which first appeared in the anthology Statements 2 published by the Fiction Collective, is composed as a series of questions. It begins, "What is a dream?" The development of the story is the characterization of the narrator, which is both complex and fascinating. "Au Milieu Interieur" is an example of how fine an experimental or innovative form can be when handled by a writer who understands the organic development of a story.

Throughout all these stories Grayson's style is supermarket informational with intrusive irrelevancies. Though Grayson refuses to limit himself, especially in the Jewish family stories he will resort to a traditional setting and atmosphere. But commonly the irrelevant details is presented with as much weight as the supposedly "important" facts, making a scene as non-selective as experience itself (which is of course ironic since Grayson as the artist is ultimately controlling and selective). Some of the most successful stories are the scenes of the Jewish family. "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind" begins:

"Here we go again. Grandpa and Grandma have taken the newspaper coupons and the shopping cart and gone out to Pantry Pride. I am in the apartment watching Great-Grandma Chaikah. She is watching Dinah Shore.

'You know she's Jewish?' Great-Grandma Chaikah says. 'Southern but Jewish.'

I nod. The bell rings. It is Mrs. Brody, our neighbor."

There is also more to enjoy in this book than stories. The introduction by the author is so nice you want to run to the phone and urge Richard Grayson to begin his autobiography immediately. Even "A Note on the Type" is a lark:

"Few people have noticed the similarities between the fiction of James M. Cain and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Of course, the common denominator is that both are set in Electra . . ." And "Exquisite pornography," it tells us, "is often set in Granjon."

I must admit that there are one or two stories in With Hitler in New York that I could have done without. "Ordinary Man," a sort of science fiction story, is one. And I wish Grayson would rewrite "The First Annual James V. Forrestal Memorial Lecture" because it begins marvelously and then disintegrates, which the story itself admits. I say that, knowing that probably fourteen new stories are buzzing around Grayson this instant. But I say it because Angela Cozzarelli, who is practicing to be the great intellectual figure of the 1990s and the nice Jewish boy who went to the Newman Club picnic to watch his heartthrob Eddie Dugan play softball without a shirt, deserve better. They are individual and real and wonderfully conceived. The fact is that even in a story one might quarrel with, Grayson is still so good there is always a lot to like and admire.

This is a terrific book. Read it. Give it to your friends.


Sunday, December 23, 1979

Minneapolis Tribune reviews Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

The December 23, 1979 issue of the Minneapolis Tribune features a review of Richard Grayson's With Hitler in New York:


With Hitler in New York and Other Stories, by Richard Grayson (Taplinger, 190 pages, $7.95)

Reviewed by D.G. Wnek

For weeks and weeks I have tried to think of an ingenious way to say “With Hitler in New York” has no literary merit whatsoever. Inferior quality, unfortunately, does not inspire ingenuity. To put it bluntly: this is the worst book I have read in my life.

Richard Grayson’s anthology of short stories is unbelievably bad, bad, bad.

How bad is it?

Well, after a writer reviews his chosen book, he gets to keep it…I am not keeping this one. I want to give it to someone I really despise.

If that sounds harsh then consider this: the author himself refuses to accept responsibility for writing these stories. Grayson blames their existence on “the anarchist’s bomb that killed Czar Alexander II in Petersburg in 1881 (which) led to Russian pogroms and to the anti-Semitic May laws of 1881.” These events, he says, eventually led to his presence in this country as a writer. He also advises readers to address negative criticism to the anarchist who planted the bomb—not him. How fortunate for him and his mailman.

Grayson’s stories have no real plot, no meaningful action, no memorable characters; they do little more than exist. In “Infant Sorrow” a celebrated weightlifter feels unloved and remembers when he was constipated. In “Notes toward a Story for Uncle Irving,” the author begins a tribute to his uncle, then ends with, “And it’s a shame on you, Uncle Irving, you ignorant, boastful, cowardly, neurotic, foolish old man.” In “Princess from the Land of Porcelain” a married woman finally finds contentment in her dreams—as a lesbian. In “The Mother in My Bedroom” a mother who once hid under her son’s bed as he entertained various lovers, must spend the rest of her life in her son’s bedroom. And in “With Hitler in New York” Hitler returns to America to smoke joints, watch television and eat at McDonald’s.

The remaining 22 stories—sometimes confusing, usually boring, and always absurd—impart nothing of any significance to the reader.

Grayson writes about meaningless lives, meaningless actions, trying to uncover something meaningful. He never does. He only shows that those who embrace the monotony of existence become monotonous figures.

Even his better stories, “Chief Justice Burger, Teen Idol” and “Classified Personal” are not, in fact, short stories. They are nonsensical fragments, inchoate exercises from his coffee-stained notebook, perhaps funny little things Grayson, instructor of creative writing, might show his classes at Long Island University and Kingsborough Community College. Grayson knows this. He also knows that his other works, those which most resemble short stories, are decidedly fifth-rate.

In “A Thousand Other Worlds,” Grayson the protagonist writes a short story of the same name that literally comes to life. The story, a touchy thing on a low-cholesterol diet, sees a Truffaut double bill at the Carnegie Hall Cinema with its author, then demands to be sent to The New Yorker. Grayson obliges. The story is rejected.

The following week he takes it to the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference where John Gardner criticizes it: “To me, it’s just nonsense. And it’s not only nonsense, it’s immoral. Immoral.”

So the story bites him in the leg.

So Grayson realizes his anthology is a cornucopia of crap but would rather laugh about it. He would rather write another silly little story that parodies his own work than accept the responsibility of working harder to express meaningful ideas written in traditional literary form. Gardner was right: this nonsense exemplifies stream-of-consciousness with no conscience.

Call it avant-garde departure from traditional literary structure. Call it playful exercise with traditional literary form. But do not call such nonsense literature, for such literature makes “Betty & Veronica” a selection in The Classics Club.

And now, I must find someone I really despise.

D.G. Wnek, a journalism graduate, is currently working for Northwestern Bell.

Tuesday, December 11, 1979

New York Post reports on Richard Grayson's Right to Be the Life of the Party Party & Gloria Vanderbilt's Candidacy for U.S. Senate

In the New York Post today (Tuesday, December 11, 1979), Jack Martin's Headliners column features a story about Richard Grayson's new New York state political party, The Right to Be the Life of the Party, and his plan to draft socialite Gloria Vanderbilt to run for the U.S. Senate in 1980.

Friday, November 30, 1979

Two Richard Grayson Stories in STAR-WEB PAPER #7

Richard Grayson has two stories, "Notes on the Type" and "Mark the Public Notices," in the current (1979) issue of the literary magazine STAR-WEB PAPER, edited by Thomas Michael Fisher in La Mesilla, New Mexico.

Other contributors to issue #7 include Ron Koertge, Rosmarie Waldrop, Gerald Locklin, Lyn Lifshin, Tom Ahern, Duane Locke and Peter Payack.

Tuesday, November 13, 1979

US Magazine covers Richard Grayson's candidacy for Vice President

US Magazine in its current (November 13, 1979) issue features an article on political candidates in the 1980 election that includes a section on Richard Grayson's campaign for Vice President.

Monday, November 5, 1979

The Kings Courier reports on Richard Grayson's Candidacy for Vice President

The Kings Courier this week (11/5/79) reports on Richard Grayson, Brooklyn's candidate for Vice President.

Saturday, November 3, 1979

CHOICE: Reviews for College Libraries reviews Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

The November 1979 issue of Choice: Reviews for College Libraries has a review of Richard Grayson's With Hitler in New York:

Choice: Reviews for College Libraries

November 1979

With Hitler in New York and other stories, by Richard Grayson. Taplinger, 1979. 78-20695. 7.95 ISBN 0-8008-8406-X

Fiction as joke, word play, vehicle for whimsy: these are the hallmarks of Grayson's stories. Most of these 27 stories – written over the past seven years – have appeared in little magazines. While occasionally eliciting laughter (e.g., "What really happened in Cambodia"), several stories seem to be merely cute, ingenious, alike in texture and tone. An Art Buchwald piece cannot be extended beyond a page or two without breaking down, and that is what Grayson's efforts ignore – with predictably uneven results. The celebrating of a fictional soap opera ("'Go not to Lethe' celebrates its 27th anniversary"), a conversation with a dejected (and rejected) "sick" story ("But in a thousand other worlds"), a hyperbolic rendering of conversation ("Wednesday night at our house") – together these illustrate the matter and manner of Grayson's fiction. One is left with the impression of a writer whose forte is the one-liner, a Bob Hope who would be a Saroyan.

Thursday, November 1, 1979

New review of Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

A zine (no publisher known, no date) has published a new review of Richard Grayson's With Hitler in New York:

WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK by richard grayson. $7.95 from taplinger, 200 park ave south, ny 10003.

i first read grayson in writ (8), a story about joe colletti i believe. well, joe colletti has become one of my folk heroes, so i guess you're gonna know i'm gonna recommend this book for some good time reading. my only complaint is that i feel it coulda been more cohesive. its a collection of short stories - sure, but there's so many characters we meet. uncles, aunts, sisters, joe colletti. woulda made a hilarious novel. its okay for me as it is, but collections of short stories are hard to sell. unless you write science fiction.

good science fiction. so just pretend this is a good science fiction collection & i'm sure you'll never forget joe colletti. that's the sign of a good character, one you can't forget, & its addictive. i sat down during one of my lax periods & wrote a joe colletti story. every writer should have at least one joe colletti story to share with his friends. & they should also have a copy of the original which can be found in this great book by richard grayson. three cheers & a beer, only $7.95.

Wednesday, October 31, 1979

VARIETY reports on Richard Grayson's plan to draft NBC President Fred Silverman for U.S. President

Today, October 31, 1979, Variety features an article, "Stand Aside, Jimmy and Teddy," on Richard Grayson's attempt to draft NBC President Fred Silverman to run for the Democratic party nomination for President of the United States.

Saturday, October 27, 1979

The National Examiner reports on Richard Grayson's Candidacy for Vice President

The National Examiner this week (October 27, 1979) has a feature story on Richard Grayson's candidacy for Vice President and his plan to draft as a Presidential candidate the head of NBC, Fred Silverman, and "run America like a TV network."

Saturday, October 20, 1979

The National Enquirer reports on Richard Grayson's Candidacy for Vice President

The National Enquirer this week (October 20, 1979) has a feature story on Richard Grayson, candidate for Vice President, photographed campaigning on Ninth Avenue at West 19th Street in Manhattan and promising to appoint Charo as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Thursday, October 18, 1979

Federal Election Commisson issues advisory opinion on Richard Grayson's candidacy for Vice President

The Federal Election Commission has issued an advisory opinion to Richard Grayson regarding his candidacy for the Vice Presidential nomination in the 1980 New Hampshire Democratic primary:

October 5, 1979


Mr. Richard Grayson
1607 East 56th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11234

Dear Mr. Grayson:

This is in response to your letters of July 21 and 31, 1979, requesting an advisory opinion on the applicability of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, ("the Act") to your candidacy in the New Hampshire Presidential Preference Primary.

Your letter states that you are a candidate for thenomination of the Democratic Party for the office of Vice President of the United States. You add that you are planning to circulate petitions to have your name on the ballot in "the 1980 New Hampshire Vice Presidential Preference Primary on the Democratic side." Since you are a candidate for Vice President, and since SS 100.6(b) (1) (ii) of Commission regulations speaks only of presidential preference primaries, you ask whether the "New Hampshire Vice Presidential Preference Primary" would be considered an "election" under the Act.

An "election" is defined in the Act to include a "general, special, primary, or runoff election". 2 U.S.C. SS 431(a) (1). Commission regulations go on to state that a primary election is an election held prior to a general election" as a direct result of which" candidates are nominated for election to Federal office, or which "is held to elect delegates to a national nominating convention." See 11 CFR 100.6(b) (1) (i), and (iii).

Under New Hampshire law, its presidential primary shall be held "for the purpose of determining the preferred candidates for president and vice president to be selected at the national conventions of the various political parties."1/ While New Hampshire law permits the separate designation of presidential and vice presidential candidates, the allocation of delegates among candidates is based upon the percentage of vote received by presidential candidates only, and only presidential candidates may designate delegates to be certified.

The candidate of the Democratic Party for the office of Vice President is nominated at the Democratic National Convention, and not "as a direct result" of the New Hampshire Vice Presidential Primary. Furthermore, because the New Hampshire Vice Presidential primary does not elect delegates to a national nominating convention, the Commission concludes that such Vice Presidential primary is not an "election" under the Act or Commission regulations.

In the circumstances presented here, the "primary election" for candidates for the Democratic nomination for the office of Vice President is considered to be the Democratic National Convention since that convention has the authority to select a nominee. See 11 CFR 100.6(d) See also Advisory Opinions 1976-58, and 1978-30 copies enclosed. Therefore, limitations on contributions to Democratic Vice Presidential candidates apply separately with respect to two "elections", the Democratic National Convention and the general election.

See 2 U.S.C. SS 441a. Similarly reporting requirements relating to the filing of 10 Day Pre-Election and 30 Day Post-Election Reports would be met with the timely filing of such reports before and after the two "elections" noted above. 2 U.S.C. SS 434(b). See also Commission regulations at 11 CFR 104.4.

This response constitutes an advisory opinion concerning the application of a general rule of law stated in the Act, or prescribed as a Commission regulation, to the specific factual situation set forth in your request. See 2 U.S.C. SS 437f.

1/ N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. SS 58:1
2/ See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. SS 57:5, SS 57:8

Monday, October 15, 1979

SMALL PRESS REVIEW reports on Richard Grayson's "How to Flatten Your Wallet"

In its October 1979 issue, Small Press Review has a page 7 feature reporting on Richard Grayson's "How to Flatten Your Wallet" in connection with his book With Hitler in New York.

Thursday, October 4, 1979

Wednesday, October 3, 1979

Penn State Daily Collegian reviews Richard Grayson’s WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

The Penn State Daily Collegian reviews Richard Grayson’s With Hitler in New York in its October 2, 1979 issue:

Rapid-fire style
‘Hitler in New York’: Notes from the front
Daily Collegian Staff Writer

“With Hitler in New York” and other stories by Richard Grayson, Taplinger, $7.95, 190 pages.

Richard Grayson teaches at a college I’ve never heard of. The slipcover for this book boasts that his stories have appeared in more than 125 literary publications, none of which I’ve ever heard of, either. And, unfortunately, he writes stories that, for the most part, I won’t ever remember.

Grayson uses a rather set reserve of subjects to write about: old people (mostly grandparents), death, sex and being a very unspecial person.

Nothing wrong with that list of subjects, except they’ve all been given the literary work-over several times. Nothing wrong with that either, but you’d think that if a writer was going to try a used subject he’d try a new angle. That is what’s wrong here.

Grayson has an interesting rapid-fire style, but he doesn’t say much worth reading. He’s mastered the basic points of prose only to discover that he hasn’t got anything to say.

This problem is further frustrated by what seems to be a conflict of motives.

Grayson will have his moments as a successful comic (for example, in a piece called, “Chief Justice Burger, Teen Idol”) or as an analytical observer of people and events, but sometimes he doesn’t seem to know what he wants the story to do. Should it be funny? Should it have a message? He seems confused or, what may be worse, he may be trying to do both, a job for writers of higher caliber.

Grayson’s efforts are further hampered by his tendency to present as stories what seem to be more like plot outlines for what will eventually be stories.

He will introduce a situation, sprinkle in a few quickly introduced characters and proceed to have them interact. There is no meat here. Whey do they do what they do? Why do they say what they say?

Certainly some degree of this can be implied, but Grayson brings the reader in too close too fast. If he wants us to note the quirks in a character’s behavior his attitudes, we simply need to know more. Without the background, the reader is left with a blank check for the story’s message.

These flaws (or perceived flaws, if you want to be fair) are characteristic of fully two-thirds of the stories contained in this book. The remaining third does work, and they work well. They may not completely justify the cost of the book, but they do go some of the way toward indicating a promising new American writer.

Monday, September 17, 1979

Publishers Weekly covers Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK's innovative review copies policy

In its September 17, 1979 issue, Publishers Weekly featured a news item covering the innovative review copies policy for Richard Grayson's book With Hitler in New York:


The Taplinger Publishing Company has announced that it will pursue an innovative policy in regard to review copies of "With Hitler in New York," the book of short stories by Richard Grayson ("Grayson pokes fun at American life . . ." PW, April 23). Review copies will bypass critics and be sent directly to the Strand Book Store in New York City.

"This efficient system," observed the author, who originated the plan, "will save postage and bothersome packaging for literary critics."

Reviewers may now contact Taplinger and request that copies of "With Hitler in New York" be sent directly to the Strand rather than to their homes or offices. The book will be credited to each reviewer's account by the bookstore.

Sunday, September 9, 1979

New York Daily News reports on Richard Grayson's candidacy for Vice President

In "Hats in the Ring: A Soap Box Derby," an article by White House correspondent Frank Van Riper, the New York Daily News today (September 9, 1979) discussed the Vice Presidential candidacy of Richard Grayson.

Newsday reviews Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

Today, Sunday, September 9, 1979, Long Island's Newsday reviews Richard Grayson's short story collection With Hitler in New York in Section C on page 23. The back cover of the paper has a teaser for the review: "Best Seller for a Newcomer?":

Book Review

Saturday-Night Hitler


(Taplinger, 190 pp., $7.95)

Reviewed by Ethel Shapiro Sarrett

How would the Jewish residents of Brooklyn react if Hitler came to visit them today? This is the premise of the title story of a book that marks the debut of a promising Jewish comic author. At 27, Richard Grayson has the wild sense of humor of a "Saturday Night Live" regular. Some may find his gags offensive; others will be laughing all the way to the analyst's couch.

In the title story, the narrator picks up a German chap named Hitler at Kennedy Airport and brings him back to Brooklyn to the general apathy of everyone concerned. ("Ellen's mother does not talk to Hitler except to say, 'Pass me the salt bagel.'") Hitler gets stoned over the Belt Parkway, translates a Yiddish song on the Brighton Beach boardwalk, and comforts the narrator when his grandfather dies. What is the reader to make of this? Is Grayson saying that the post-Holocaust generation is so jaded in 1979 that they would not care very much if another Hitler appeared? Or is he, since his Hitler is not a Nazi leader but a college student and brewery worker, trying to rid Jewish-Americans of their irrational (if understandable) antipathy to things and persons German? Grayson seems to want to have it both ways.

In the section titled "Family," Grayson gives us portraits of normal Jewish life – with a lot of mishigass thrown in. Great-Grandma Chaikah can't understand why no Jews ever make strikes on "Bowling for Dollars." Grandma, forced to rely on Social Security, shops for groceries by removing price stickers until she gets to a price that she likes. Grandpa spends most of his time watching "Eyewitness News " and wondering whether Farrah Fawcett has a foreign accent.

But there is poignancy here as well. In "Wednesday Night at Our House," Grayson employs a question-and-answer format to schematize the dreary, immobilized lives of a Brooklyn family of five, each member to weak to help the others.

Grayson takes risks. Sometimes his jokes fall flat. But more often than not, the reader is dazzled by the swift, witty goings-on.

Ethel Shapiro Sarrett is a free-lance reviewer.

Thursday, September 6, 1979

Baltimore City Paper reviews Richard Grayson's WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK

This week's Baltimore City Paper has a review of Richard Grayson's With Hitler in New York:

Friday, September 7, 1979


by Rick Peabody, Jr.


By Richard Grayson

190 pp. Taplinger, $7.95

If you like Steve Martin, you'll love this book!

Richard Grayson is a 28-year-old word wizard from Brooklyn who packs more laughs into these 27 stories than Martin managed in all of Cruel Shoes. While both men possess wild imaginations, Martin's prose is stiff and semi-literate by comparison.

In Grayson's world, Hitler is resurrected and visiting modern New York; Abe Lincoln hates flapjacks and lies around doing nothing while Stephen Douglas sleeps with Mary Todd; Justice Burger is deluged with fan mail; stories come to live and go to the hospital or bit novelist John Gardner on the leg at a writer's conference. Famous people litter his stories, dropping in and out of outrageous situations. It is the kind of humor that has made Flann O'Brien a cult figure and which has enabled Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew to be the literary hit of the summer.

The "Families" section of the book deals with the stereotypical Jewish family and these stories are the most real, seemingly autobiographical. Grayson weaves the landscape of tradition, and the heartfelt characters together with the absurdities of human relationships, to tell some hard truths in these highly charged tales.

Other standouts in a book of standouts are: a story told through a series of "Classified Personal" ads; "A Note On The Type," which parodies such notes; a story that disintegrates as it progresses; a soap opera starring the author; his notes on the flyleaf; and a fantastic cover.

Very few writers under the age of 30 have had anything published in the New York publishing world. Grayson is the beginning of a whole new wave. He deserves your attention. Steve Martin's book may be at the top of the charts, but if there is any justice in this post-Monty Python world, Richard Grayson will be the next Vice President.