Monday, November 28, 1983

Wall Street Journal Covers Richard Grayson's Presidential Campaign: "This Presidential Candidate Wants Jane Wyman as His Running Mate"

Today, Monday, November 28, 1983, The Wall Street Journal features a story on Richard Grayson as political activist and humorist on page 33, the first page of the second section:
By Brooks Jackson

Q: Who formed a political action committee called “Citizens Who Think Nancy Reagan Should Eat More”?

A: The fellow who’s behind “Absent-Minded Professors for Something or Other,” “FAT CAT PAC” and “People Who Enjoy Prune Danish for Breakfast.”

All of these have been registered officially at the Federal Election Commission by Richard Grayson, 32-year-old humorist, author, unemployed English teacher and candidate for President of the United States.

Mr. Grayson, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in North Miami Beach, Fla., got started in the political game earlier this year when he registered "The Committee for Immediate Nuclear War," touting atomic Armageddon as a cure for boredom and soap operas.

 Five New Committees

Next, he registered "The Committee to Make El Salvador the 51st State," and says he got calls from people in favor.  "They didn't realize I was in jest," he says.

More recently, he satirized anti-abortionists by registering "The Right to Be the Life of the Party." In five days, in fact, he registered five new committees. “I guess they’ll let you register anything,” he says.

The registrations have brought Mr. Grayson a flood of mail. Mostly, he gets advertisements from political button makers, stationery-supply firms and, he says, subscription offers from “newsletter that explain how to raise a lot of money.”

Mr. Grayson says he wouldn't accept contributions, even if somebody offered them.  "Think of all the reports," he says.

Mr. Grayson is in the humor business for laughs--which is fortunate, considering how little money he's making from it.  His first book, "With Hitler in New York," got mixed reviews, and sold about 500 copies. His most recent, "I Brake for Delmore Schwartz," a collection of short stories, received a mildly favorable review from the New York Times, but it's no runaway bestseller either.

 Wyman for Veep

Q: So what’s next for Mr. Grayson?

A: He’s running for president as a Democratic candidate, and accepting public financing, sort of.

“When I go down to the unemployment office I have to prove that I’m looking for work,” he says. “I figure that the presidency is a good job.”

He would like Jane Wyman to be his running mate. “She has experience dumping Reagan,” he says. The president’s ex-wife hasn’t accepted yet.

Saturday, November 5, 1983

Palm Beach Post covers Presidential Candidates Debate Featuring Richard Grayson

The Palm Beach Post today (Saturday, November 5, 1983) featured an article on last night's Presidential candidates' debate at the Cross County Mall in West Palm Beach featuring Richard Grayson, Elijah the Prophet, Richard Kay and George Britt:

Four men who won’t be elected president in 1984 told tens of shoppers at the Cross County Mall in West Palm Beach last night why they should be.

“Who Else is Running for President?” said the sign in the middle of the mall, inviting shoppers to the candidates’ forum. “Who Cares?” was the clear but unspoken answer the four candidates received.

An unofficial straw poll of shoppers showed they preferred the 7:45 p.m. showing of The Dead Zone and the beckoning aroma of Mama Leone’s pizza to the ideas of George Britt, Richard Kay, Richard Grayson or Elijah the Prophet.

“Who are these guys?” was how mall publicist David Citron introduced them. Citron dreamed up the Florida Presidential Forum, which goes on the road today to Lauderdale Lakes and North Miami Beach.

“The difference between them and the Big Seven candidates,” Citron said, “is money.”

And perhaps style.

Kay, who lost the presidential election in 1980 and a North Palm Beach Village Council election earlier this year, was arrested in New Hampshire last week when he wouldn’t leave the state Democratic convention.

Britt, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, has a 15-year-old campaign manager in Texas. Britt ran his mother for president in 1980.

Elijah the Prophet, from New York City, is a self-styled visionary who has a day job with Western Electric and campaigns for world government headed by himself.

“It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when people like us have to run for president,” said Grayson, an English teacher and freelance writer from North Miami Beach. He wore running shoes, jeans and a sport jacket that was too small.

Fifteen candidates promised to be there last night. Only four showed up. A candidate from Alabama got lost in Hollywood, a couple were stranded by the bus strike, one broke his foot and the mother of another died.

While the other candidates had platforms, Grayson had a routine. "Do rich people from Palm Beach shop at this mall? They don't? Then I'll have to take this line out of my speech: If it weren't for rich people, the world would be a poorer place.

The answer to all the nation's ills, according to Grayson, is "immediate nuclear war." If he is elected, he will move the capital to Davenport, Iowa. "That solves the problem of getting the riffraff out of Washington," he said.

Grayson claimed he's asked "Falcon Crest" star and President Reagan's ex-wife, Jane Wyman, to be his vice presidential running mate: "She's already dumped Ronald Reagan once and has the experience to dump him again". . .

Tuesday, October 25, 1983

Federal Election Commission certifies Richard Grayson's political action committee Citizens Who Think Nancy Reagan Should Eat More

Today, October 25, 1983, he Federal Election Commission certified the political action comittee Citizens Who Think Nancy Reagan Should Eat More, the group's treasurer, Richard Grayson of North Miami Beach, Florida, reported.

Friday, October 21, 1983

Des Moines Register covers Richard Grayson's plan to move nation's capital to Davenport, Iowa

The Des Moines Register today (Friday, October 21, 1983) covers presidential candidate Richard Grayson's plan to move nation's capital to Davenport, Iowa.

Wednesday, October 5, 1983

USA TODAY covers Richard Grayson's Presidential Campaign

USA Today has an article in its "Newsmakers" column today (October 5, 1983) covering Richard Grayson's campaign for the presidency.

Monday, October 3, 1983

Brooklyn Literary Review reviews Richard Grayson’s I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ

The Brooklyn Literary Review in its fifth issue (1983) reviews Richard Grayson’s I Brake for Delmore Schwartz:

I Brake for Delmore Schwartz
by Richard Grayson
(Zephyr Press)

Here is a slim collection of fifteen short stories, the fifth collection to be published by Richard Grayson. The style is experimental and occasionally novel.

Grayson respects the traditional approach to writing fiction: the well-wrought stories wherein every word counts. However, his education, two years of fiction writing at Brooklyn College culminating in an MFA, emphasized the experimental, and his own fictions as a result are both structured and fragmented. Such stories as “The Autobiography of William Henry Harrison’s Cold” and “Oh Khrushchev, My Khrushchev” are well-structured, and appeal to the reader on the strength of their novelty. Others are fragmented and spatial like “Different Places” and “That’s Saul, Folks.” These stories appeal too because they capture the rhythms of modern life and play them back faithfully.

Grayson’s themes are the themes of the twentieth century. The theme of isolation abounds in “Hold Me,” where the author comments, “I am living in a place with strangers. Even my family are strangers now.” Other themes covered include the disintegration of the family, helplessness, and sexual indecisiveness.

The writing is often confessional. Grayson approaches writing as a form of self-analysis through which he hopes not only to understand himself, but humanity as well. Here he only partially succeeds, because at the book’s end the reader is left with more insights into Grayson than into the world at large. Nevertheless, the writing throughout is crisp and honest, and the style versatile, making the collection worth reading.

—Tom Lane

Sunday, September 4, 1983

The St. Petersburg Times reviews Richard Grayson's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ

The St. Petersburg Times reviews Richard Grayson’s I Brake for Delmore Schwartz on Sunday, September 4, 1983:

Self-conscious writer draws strength from humor

I Brake for Delmore Schwartz
Zephyr Press, $9.95, hardcover; $4.95 paper

Richard Grayson, author of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, a collection of fifteen short stories with such unlikely titles as “Nice Weather, Aren’t We?” “Is This Useful? Is This Boring?” and “Oh Khrushchev, My Khrushchev,” is a displaced New Yorker who has been teaching and writing on Florida’s East Coast for the past two years.

A word of warning: Grayson is a self-conscious writer who enters into direct dialogue with his readers—that means you—but in a much different way than Henry Fielding did in his “Dear Reader” passages in Tom Jones. Times have changed since our first novelistic fiction, and Grayson will be the first to tell you so.

He begins “Nice Weather, Aren’t We?” with “You really want to read this?” Two pages later, the narrator says, “Do you realize that since the beginning of this story, about a hundred people have died? In real life, I mean.” Then he talks about a fellow student in one of his writing classes, whom he calls “Ruth.” He hates Ruth because she never changes the names of the characters in her stories. Then we learn that the fictional “Ruth” is actually real-life “Bruce,” but the narrator changes his name to Ruth for purposes of the story, especially citing his line, “Fiction’s no stranger than Ruth.” If he had said, “Fiction’s no stranger than Bruce,” he points out, “It wouldn’t have had half the impact. And I’m not sure how much impact it had.”

THEN, he tells the reader that while he was writing that, Bruce walked in—and slugged him.

Seemingly without shame, Grayson commits what some writers consider to be a professional sin: writing about writers. He even writes about a relatively new and controversial phenomenon among contemporary American writers: university creative writing program. I know from where Grayson speaks, because I am a graduate of a university creative writing program; in fact, the same university creative writing program as Grayson. Which doesn’t mean Richard Grayson is a friend of mine—that’s not why I’m writing this review. Actually, I hardly know the guy. (This is the kind of inside info Grayson gives you in his stories.) He tells us about one creative writing professor who calls himself a “post-contemporary writer” and another who teaches him that “every story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end—‘preferably not in that order.’”

Clearly, the meaning an value of contemporary fiction intrigue Grayson. In “Nice Weather, Aren’t We?” the narrator tells us, “I only write true stories. I used to be an editor at a big publishing house in New York and every day manuscripts would arrive. . . accompanied by cover letters like the following ‘Dear Sir: I am presenting a novel about a Turkish princess who became a gunfighter and a sheriff in the Old West to protect her Christian Arab people from the hostility of the Anglo-American outlaws during the days of the cattle boom after the Civil War. . .”

Grayson concludes, “They ought to give the electric chair to whoever tells people that ‘everybody’s got one good novel in them.’”

GRAYSON TAKES some chances. For instance, I can’t think of any other writer who has written in the voice of a germ—as Grayson does in “The Autobiography of William Henry Harrison’s Cold,” in which the cold sees itself as a presidential assassin.

Grayson’s great strength is his humor, and his best stories are the ones that stop a laugh short of heartbreak. “Slightly Higher in Canada” begins with this sentence: “When my aunt called to say that my father had gone to England to get married to some little tramp, I was the one to tell my mother.” The next morning their mother doesn’t wake up; after she does, the narrator and his sister take her to stay with her parents in a retirement community outside Fort Lauderdale. The mother sits out in the sun with her straps lowered, the grandfather plays poker, and the grandmother fixes starchy meals. “Altogether we were down there three months. Over the television they would always tell us the weather up North was bad. Sometimes people came down from the North and they would say the weather wasn’t all that bad, but nobody in the condominium would believe them.

So things go until this line: “After my sister drowned I didn’t think much about it until my father came to Florida with his new wife.” The narrator starts fooling around with drugs, getting high, and “seeing girls who looked like my sister from the back” until his grandfather tells him to go away. He does, to Canada—hence the title of the story.

In “Reluctance,” a young boy is told by his great-grandmother that if he doesn’t wash his fingers “the Germans will get all over them. She said then the Germans would take over my whole body, and then when I was sleeping the Germans could take over my parents’ bodies, and finally the Germans could take over her own oh so large body. . . I did not want that, so I washed.” This very short story—it’s only two and a half pages—telegraphs to us in strong prose the story of this boy’s childhood. The ending brings us up short with his adult reality.

And in “Hold Me,” while the narrator is trying to explain the New Math to his sister, his father comes into the room, crying, and tells them he can’t live with them anymore. At the end of the story, the narrator, now an adult, calls a radio talk show, saying he wants to talk about sending troops to Zaire—but what he actually says is more immediate, more personal, and sad.

Actually—and now I’m telling the truth—I was lying when I said I hardly know Richard Grayson. After reading this collection of stories, I think I know him pretty well. So will you.


The author is a reporter for the Floridian section of the St. Petersburg Times. She has been a contributor to numerous magazines and is the winner of the 1982 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.

Monday, August 29, 1983

Florida Literary Arts Review reviews Richard Grayson's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ and Raymond Federman's THE TWOFOLD VIBRATION

The current (1983) issue of Florida Literary Arts Review has a joint review of Richard Grayson's I Brake for Delmore Schwartz and Raymond Federman's The Twofold Vibration by the magazine's associate editor, Fiorella Orowan:


I Brake for Delmore Schwartz
Stories by Richard Grayson
Zephyr Press, 1983
95 pp., $4.95

The Twofold Vibration
by Raymond Federman
Univ. of Indiana Press, 1982 (repr)
175 pp., $10.95

by Fiorella Orowan

Aristotelian logic does not florish [sic] in Richard Grayson's stories. He instead favors the disjointed narrative:
The next day Caaron buys running shoes. They are ugly. They make her feel good. One thing Caaron has wanted to do is run outside. She runs inside to music, but not outside.

It is the patter and tone of a comic monologue wherein the writer calls attention to himself at intervals, reminding us how hard he is working to entertain:
I know people are making fun of me. But here, on the page, I can hide behind words. I manipulate words, manipulate characters, manipulate events.

Yes, but is it a story? Leaving no stones unturned, Mr. Grayson has an answer to that protest as well:
If you continue reading [this story] it will be on your head. Don't sink to my level. Read something uplifting, like Emerson.

This kind of hysterio comic speculation has pleased readers of, e.g., Tom Robbins who may discover in Grayson a new idol. Like Robbins, Grayson draws on popular culture and undergraduate sophistry to communicate with his peer audience, but his answers beg the question. To "ignore" Emerson, as he claims to do, by citing him is to demonstrate one's immunity to the System, although Mr. Grayson is very much a product of that system. Grayson's is not the nonconformist ethic of the Beats, but is rather a cozy conformity. "I'm a nice guy" he pleads repeatedly throughout the collection:
That's why I try to be witty and tell stories, using dreams and things I've heard around.

But all writers use experience. How are Grayson's characters unique?
When Robin was 16, there were no humid memories. She sang "Get Back" and "Light My Fire."

When Robin was 17, autumn leaves crunched when she stepped on them. She was nearly smothered.

When Robin was 18, she wondered what should be done on weekends.

When Robin was 19, she wrote an essay on envy.

When Robin was 20, there was still less of everything. She said nothing, she was told, but she said it well.

When Robin was 21, chapters were closed.

To the contrary, Robin is Everydebutante; her life is so dull that Babbitt and Mrs. Bridge are comparatively unique creations and this is perhaps the point: Grayson's fiction mirrors the minds of its audience, exploiting the commonplace. As his characters' memories are relentlessly ordinary, his narrative persona are always the same. Whether in first of [sic] third person, the narrator is invariably Grayson and the characters mere props for his perceptions. Consequently the shamelessly narcissistic diction flatters its readers to become the "I" of the story and thus to "write" vicariously through Grayson's creations. It is an insidious technique, but to his audience, it works.

Both the author-narrator and the jacket publicity identify Federman's novel with the work of Samuel Beckett and, in fact, the title is an excerpted quote from that playwright. "The twofold vibration" refers to a narrative technique of progressing simultaneously forward and backward in time and hence The Twofold Vibration must be classified as "avant garde." Federman is intensely self-conscious of both this and his other fictional techniques, as numerous quotes attest:
after all isn't it the role of ficiton, and I don't mean science fiction only, to alter reality for the better, the writer may not be as privileged as the scientist nowadays, or perhaps he is, who knows, for this oblique witness of reality must at the same time seek and avoid precision, he knows that the reality of imagination is more real than reality without imagination, and besides reality as such has never really interested anyone...'s a most puzzling piece of writing, totally incoherent and yet quite moving, I don't think it has ever been properly understood...

...[the narrators] have been introduced simply for the convenience of the allow some shifts of point of view and some creative free play

The narrators are three: one represented simply by the first person (I), one named Moinous ("I/we") and the third is called Namredef (Federman spelled backward). Thus, all three narrators are in fact the author and the "shifts" in viewpoint are merely the author's argument with himself. The novel has no other real characters but an anonymous "old man" which the cynical reader may fairly interpret as, again, the author persona. It is the hapless old man around whom the plot weaves as he experiences various misfortunes including food poisoning and the threat of "deportation to the colonies," but the frequent allusions to Nazi concentration camps makes the futuristic aspects of the plot a mere foil for the novel's real concern, the society's systematic elimination of "undesirables." The novel is ostensibly set in the 1990s, but the only credible aspects of descriptive writing are clearly grounded in Postwar sociology with some gadget accessories very much like those in the James Bond films. Federman's narrators do have some experiences - singly and as a group - on their own, mostly as transients in Eurore, looking for sexual diversion.

The techniques of Beckett and other avant gardists notwithstanding, Mr. Federman's real interest is didactic, and his narrators deliver countless sermons on the decay of civilization, the failure of the System and the sterility of modern life. Despite his characters' defensiveness regarding style and diction, there is no distancing from the relentlessly outre form to suggest that the novel is intended as a parody; one must believe that Mr. Federman is serious in his cavalierly pursuit of Armageddon. One of his lectures, on "why it had to be written this way," provides the prototypical raison d'etre for anti-form:
...the voices on the text exist only as a sequence of cries, the voices can be extended beyond the text into history, but one can never find the door that leads to the origin or the end of the little boy's story...

The message: fictional form is artificial and is not true to the strettolike unbroken continuity of history, human experience or real life. But of course, Mr. Federman, that's why we call it "fiction."

Fiorella Orowan is Assoc. Ed. of F.L.A.R.

Saturday, August 13, 1983

Miami News reports on Richard Grayson's campaign to make El Salvador the 51st State

The Miami News today (Saturday, August 13, 1983) reports on Richard Grayson's campaign to make El Salvador the 51st State.

Friday, August 12, 1983

New York Times Book Review reviews Richard Grayson's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ

This coming Sunday's New York Times Book Review features a review of Richard Grayson's I Brake for Delmore Schwartz:

The New York Times Book Review
Sunday, August 14, 1983
Page 12 (continued on page 29)

Uneasy in Brooklyn

By David Evanier.
223 pp. Berkeley, Calif:
North Point Press. Paper, $15.

By Richard Grayson.
95 pp. Somerville, Mass:
Zephyr Press. Paper, $4.95.


A character named Bruce Orav has been spooking David Evanier for a good part of Mr. Evanier's creative life. Orav is a writer from Brooklyn, with divorced parents (a real couple of characters) to whom he remains in emotional bondage. He has an equivocal sense of his Jewishness; a number of idiosyncratic shrinks (some of whom he abandoned, some of whom abandoned him) trail in his wake; and he is a party to a never-ending quarrel, most of its battles lost, with the recalcitrant stuff of life, in his attempt to wrestle it into some kind of fictional shape.

Orav was about to turn 30 when Mr. Evanier's earlier account of his misadventures, "The Swinging Headhunter" (1983), came to a halt, and Orav has just had his 40th birthday as "The One-Star Jew" ends, or almost ends: These 14 stories that jounce Orav (along with his wife, Susan, and stepson, Danny) through his 30's are not quite chronologically arranged. Thirteen of them have appeared previously in magazines (three in The Paris Review, of which Mr. Evanier is fiction editor), and the title story was reprinted in "Best American Short Stories, 1980," so that there would seem to be some sort of consensus—although I am not able to share it—that each Oravian chunk has enough density to stand on its own.

These first-person narratives range in size from three pages to 42. In an example of the former ("A Safe Route on Eighty-Third Street"), Orav and his wife, who remains an extremely shadowy figure in these pages, endeavor to sublet an apartment from a dotty lady on the East Side, then think better of it. The story "The One-Star Jew" is, on the other hand, a lengthy account of Orav's employment at "JFI" ("Jews for Israel"). Or more accurately, since Orav, despite his first-person narration and a liberal but arbitrary smattering of his dreams and memories, is not much more clearly rendered than his wife, it is the account of the quirks and crochets and sex lives and medical histories of the two men in their mid-50's with whom Orav works most closely. There is probably a first-rate novella to be written about office politics and personalities in a fund-raising organization, with or without the Jewish touch, but this is not it.

Fortunately, Orav's attempts to reduce his parents to subject matter are continually thwarted by these bouncy individuals themselves. Orav's short story entitled "My Mother Is Not Living," which she has read, is probably think indeed next to the woman in the flesh, eked out by Orav's painful memories of her old maternal failings—for example, the time she neglected to rescue him from the attentions of her hairdresser, who, making a house call, fondled the 10-year-old in the bathroom, under the cover of cutting his hair. And the fact that his father ("I have used my father as a guinea pig for my stories and poems most of my adult life") totes around with pride a copy of an unflattering description of himself written by Orav, and "whips it out to show to strangers," is a far more arresting piece of business than the description itself.

But the book's most splendid creation lives in the story "The Lost Pigeon of East Broadway." Widowed and crippled, the 84-year-old Annie Blocker survives quite nicely, thank you, the do-good weekly visits of Orav and Susan as well as the barbed attentions of a series of "black Home Care workers," who, if they bear her no ill will to begin with, are soon enough sucked in by her cantankerous combativeness. Annie Blocker ponders the larger questions: Is a wheelchair really any less humiliating than a walker? Can a Jewish man be a crook? (Yes, she decides, when she remembers Rabbi Louis Ribman, "king of the nursing homes.") She is bigoted, canny, loving, ungrateful, witty and obscene. Where do they come from, Orav wonders, these people still clinging to life on the Lower East Side, "these new old Jews?" The whole of this collection may or may not add up to more than the sum of its parts, but Annie Blocker is worth the admission price.

A less hefty tariff will gain you access to Richard Grayson's fifth book, "I Brake for Delmore Schwartz," whose title may have had life as a bumper sticker before it was placed on this collection of 15 short stories, all previously published in little magazines like The Smudge and Street Bagel. The stories generally revolve around a chap named Richard Grayson. This character, like Mr. Evanier's, is a writer from Brooklyn, uneasy in his Jewishness and very concerned with the esthetics and mechanics of turning things into fiction, and fiction into things.

Mr. Evanier's and Mr. Grayson's stories are full of insanity, nutty therapists, cancerous relatives, broken homes, fiction workshops, youthful theatricals at Catskill bungalow colonies and the morbid wizardry of telephone-answering machines. Writing at less than the top of the their forms, both writers appear as sensibilities in search of story, grab bags of meaningful memory, acute perceptions and mordant social comment, which neither seems able to sift through and transform into art. Yet now and again for Mr. Grayson the shticks become inspired, as in a two-page meditation on the letter "Y" ("Y/Me") in the present volume and in the story "Inside Barbara Walters" in "Disjointed Fictions" (1981).

The histories of some of Mr. Grayson's other characters, like that of Saul in "That's Saul, Folks," are artfully telescoped and given equal valence with the history of the times. That is to say, where were you, reader, when the lights went out for the city of New York? In "Is This Useful? Is This Boring?" fictional beings named Joyce Carol Oates and Donald Barthelme square off over the issue of the fragment as a viable literary form, but then they patch up their differences. The title story threatens for a while to turn into a well-made story about two friends involved with the same woman, and both fearful, in the computer age, of continuing to lead the hand-to-mouth artistic life, but it pulls back just in time. If one is not blessed with a gift for extended narrative (a problem Mr. Grayson faces squarely in "How Not To Write a Novel" in "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog and Other Stories," 1982), then why not go for the spring? And in a 24-page pamphlet, "Eating at Arby's" (1982), Mr. Grayson mastered, or invented, a style equidistant between Hemingway's short stories and Dick and Jane, a feat probably useful and, at that length, far from boring.

In "Nice Weather, Aren't We?" in the present collection, the grandfather of the character Richard Grayson has been leafing through an anthology of Jewish stories put together by a famous writer named "Ballow." "He looked at me conspiratorially. 'Personally,' he said, 'I prefer your little antidotes,'" Others may, too.

Ivan Gold is the author of "Nickel Miseries," a collection of stories, and "Sick Friends," a novel.

Monday, July 18, 1983

Athens (Ga.) Daily News story on Richard Grayson: "Presidential Contender Calls for Nuclear War"

The Athens (Ga.) Daily News has an article today (Monday, July 18, 1983) reporting on presidential candidate Richard Grayson's call for immediate nuclear war.

Saturday, June 4, 1983

Gargoyle Magazine reviews Richard Grayson's EATING AT ARBY'S: THE SOUTH FLORIDA STORIES

The Washington, D.C.-based literary magazine Gargoyle reviews Richard Grayson’s Eating at Arby’s in issue 22/23 (1983):

Eating at Arby’s: The South Florida Stories,
by Richard Grayson, Grinning Idiot Press,
P.O. Box 1577, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11202,
1982, 24 pp., $3, saddle-stitched.

In this short collection, Richard Grayson has found a style of daffy unreality to make his experience of anomie in South Florida. In one-page vignettes, he writes of such diverse subjects as Haitian refugees, Cubans, Blacks, gays, “crackers,” old people, and the proliferation of malls, guns and Colombian dope through the eyes of a Looney Tunes duo, Manny and Zelda. They and their friends talk in Dick and Jane sentences about these subjects. Always they react with zany blankness, sometimes with hilarious “logic,” as in this example:
“Guns can be fun,” said José. “Guns can be fun and help you if you own a clothing store like I do . . . Guns can be your friends.”

“It is important to have friends here in South Florida,” said Zelda. “Manny, I want to shoot that gun. That gun will become our friend, just like José is our friend.”

“Nuestro amigo,” Manny said, as José handed him the gun.

Some pieces zing, as “A Long Boat Ride,” in which Manny mistakes Haitian refugees for newly arrived tourists. Correcting him, Zelda says:
“Soon they will be happy. . . Now that they are in South Florida, they will be very happy."

“Everyone is happy here,” said Manny. “. . . Let’s make friends with those Haitian refugees. Let’s take them with us to eat brunch at the Rascal House.”

“Oh Manny!” cried Zelda. “You are so silly. Haitian refugees do not come here to eat brunch at the Rascal House. They come here for freedom. You cannot get freedom at brunch at the Rascal House.”

Other piece deliberately court banality, as in “At the Beach,” where Chip says:
“. . . It is beautiful here. . . My gay friends and I like it very much. We have fun here. People are nice. The weather is good. We can enjoy the beach and make friends.”

The repetitious style of first-grade primers is surreal; its deliberate flattening suggests vacancy, diminution. Words like “nice,” “happy,” “fun,” clone themselves with dizzy inarticulateness. The satirist’s spleen, though clearly present, is muted. The grand style as in Swift is here deliberately monochrome and reductionist. There’s a buttoned-down quality, a muffling, even evisceration of content in places. Grayson’s too hip, maybe too pessimistic, to breastbeat. For his method, he appears to have taken literally, for humorous effect, a quotation from Emerson:
“Do not craze yourself with thinking, but go about your business. . . Life is not intellectual or critical, but sturdy. Its chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find without question.”

And of course Zelda and Manny do just that. The vacation mentality, the weather, the wardrobe choices (“I like to see people wearing pink pants and white shoes”)—all point to a dreamland emptiness gussied up—or down, in Graysonstyle—as if for the Saturday morning cartoon crowd. It’s a method of despair.

Grayson’s deliberate lightness, though, is flawed by the final “Some Sad News,” where we learn José has been murdered. Though “murder is not fun”—virtually the only thing Manny and Zelda say isn’t fun in South Florida—the heavy-handedness spoils the Disneyland feeling. I would have preferred to have the collection end with the wonderful “A Chanukah Party.” A skewed United Nations gathers at Manny and Zelda’s: Bob the bisexual (who says he’s not bilingual), José the Cuban, Chip the gay, gramps and grandma, and Lois, the black chiropractor from Liberty City who wears Sasson jeans. Lois brings Hassan, her Palestinian friend, to the Chanukah party. Zelda says:
“You will be our Palestinian pal, too.”
“Thank you, Zelda,” said Hassan. “I will be glad to be your pal. I like your Sasson jeans and the food you have brought in from Arby’s.”
Zelda smiled. “In South Florida we are all friends. We are lucky to be here. We have malls and condos and happy, friendly people.”
“I love it here in South Florida,” said Manny. “Every day is like a Chanukah party here.”

Much current writing is decidedly casual. Big deals are out. This is an age of burnout. Grayson follows this trend here with his stylish vacancy, his deadpan blankness. Moreover, the discontinuities that flourished in her earlier fiction are tethered down here. Eating at Arby’s is a seamless collection of virtually the same encounter repeated eighteen times—the two innocents making happy-face babble as if they’re playing dolls. (Maybe the repetition of the encounter itself is a discontinuity, one which suggests hopeless stall.) Reading this collection is a little like finding Clark Kent when you’d hoped for Superman. Eating at Arby’s goes down easy: it entertains, it disturbs, but not too much. It’s a little like a sitcom, where the same joke gets repeated week after week. You like it but you look around uneasily and say, is this all?

—Maryl Jo Fox

Gargoyle Magazine reviews Richard Grayson's LINCOLN'S DOCTOR'S DOG

The Washington, D.C.-based Gargoyle reviews Richard Grayson's Lincoln's Doctor's Dog on page 78 of issue 22/23 (1983):

Lincoln's Doctor's Dog, by
Richard Grayson, White Ewe
Press, P.O. Box 996, Adelphi, MD
20783, 1982, 187 pp., $11.95,

Don't let the cover picture or the title of Lincoln's Doctor's Dog, Richard Grayson's third collection of short stories, mislead you. Despite the realistic line drawing of Abraham Lincoln, a doctor, and a dog on the cover, the title story and the rest of the stories have nothing to do with a dog running to get Lincoln medical help or performing other heroic doggy deeds. Grayson couldn't care much less about Lincoln, his doctor, or his doctor's dog. This is bad news for all of you readers in search of sentimental mush about famous pets, but good news for those in search of a confirmed tongue-in-cheek.

In the title story, Richard Grayson thinly disguises a comic opera as a shaggy dog story. He shows off many of his favorite tricks: writing about writing; terrible plays on words ("Lincoln's doctor's dog's mother was a bitch"); a determination to involve the reader ("First of all, congratulations on your good taste in reading this story. . . But. . . I'd like you to consider if there's something else you should be doing at the moment."); manic speed (Grayson manages to race through all of the dog's life and describe a day in his own life in four pages); and using Richard Grayson as a major character.

One of the pleasures of reading Grayson is just watching him crank up his imagination and run with it. He experiments with different formats: question and answer, short paragraphs headed by adverbs, numbered fragments, and straight narratives. He tries writing about all sorts of different situations. His characters get paralyzed from flu shots, find work with the women of their dreams in x-rated movies, and have intimate relationships (including joketelling sessions) with porpoises. Going farther and father into an idea brings outstanding moments, such as this one in "Why Van Johnson Believes in ESP":
When Van Johnson first left Hollywood, his sister cried. He took her aside. . . and asked her, "Mabel, do you believe in dragons?" That was an old thing between them.

"Yes," his sister answered.

Then she didn't cry anymore and it was okay for Van Johnson to leave for Hollywood.

Grayson usually mixes up similar concoctions of absurdity and realism, with a dash of neurosis thrown in. My favorite stories capture an alienation, a sense of the individual as hopelessly puzzled as he or she stumbles through life. Expressed in "For the Time Being":
They do it with mirrors. That is how other people live. They have tricks I do not know about.

Not all of his efforts succeed. But you have to admire his reach (although you might wish he had exerted a little restraint by keeping the failures out of this collection). "I, Eliza Custis," the first-person tale of woe of George Washington's step-granddaughter, must have been a lot of fun to write in its ornate pseudo-eighteenth-century, self-pitying style ("But I feel it is important to me, having passed the age of fifty, to recount the events of my life for those who wish in the future to know the full story of my existence upon this planet."). But twenty-four pages of this quickly becomes tiresome. Also, Grayson's characters, despite the variety of their external circumstances, are very similar in internal circumstances.

But these are minor objections. Lincoln's Doctor's Dog is a lot of fun to have around the house and requires less effort than any other type of pet.

—Susan Lloyd McGarry

Saturday, May 28, 1983

New York Times reports on Richard Grayson's campaign for President

The New York Times today (Saturday, May 28, 1983) reports on Richard Grayson's campaign for the Presidency as the candidate of the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War

Friday, May 20, 1983

Wednesday, May 11, 1983

ISRAEL TODAY May 6 issue features "The Writings of Richard Grayson"

The Friday, May 6, 1983 issue of ISRAEL TODAY features an article on page 13called "The Writings of Richard Grayson" by Mark Bernheim:

The Writings of Richard Grayson


Which is the harder job – writing literature or writing about it? For those of us committed to writing about writers, we face the challenge to determine who has something to say and who has nothing, when the voice of the genuine writer is to be heard above the copyist or the mimic. At what point does a "promising talent" metamorphose into an established literary presence? For the greats even, when did they enter that state; when were they no longer "new voices" looking for an ear?

Of the many ambitious new writers whose works I receive, I could point to one Florida-based author, Richard Grayson, who seems genuinely posed for flight with a recognizable voice and content his own. A couple of years ago Grayson brought out a collection of sketches whimsically called Lincoln's Doctor's Dog, since he had read that the best selling books of recent times dealt with three subjects – presidents, animals, and diseases – and as a combination, well, a sure thing. Over the past few years he has brought out an impressive number of stories written in a widely experimental range of forms in small magazines. They are important efforts by virtue of their innovative voices and treatments of anxiety. Grayson is able to create a full range of masks from behind which the artist peers out to make his criticisms of artificial modern life. Among young writers born in the mid-point of our century, he holds an important place.

Many readers where drawn into his penultimate publication, commissioned by the Florida Arts Council, the flamingo-colored Eating at Arby's, which I thoroughly enjoyed last year. Grayson sounds a genuinely original voice in this slim volume that punctures the pretensions of never-never land life in what passes as America's idyll. The book is written in a deceptively simple, primitive style which invites our judgment on vacuity as the substitute for human contact. Florida may never be the same again after his portrayal of it in its plasticity and gaud. Underneath the shiny surface, the absence of human values becomes apparent, and Grayson looks everywhere in the exploding population of immigrant – the old, the ethnic, the outcast – for signs of some spirituality:
"Let's make friends with those Haitian refugees. Let's take them with us to eat brunch at the Rascal House."

"Oh Manny," cried Zelda. "You are so silly. Haitian refugees do not come here to eat brunch at the Rascal House. They come here for freedom. You cannot get freedom at brunch at the Rascal House."

"Zelda, you are right. I made a silly mistake . . . someday I hope those Haitian refugees will have brunch at the Rascal House. We should give them free Danish and onion rolls so they know they will be welcome here in South Florida."

"Oh, Manny, you are being silly again. Even in South Florida there is no such thing as a free brunch."

Perhaps the echoes here of Albee and Ionesco will be a bit strong for critics who might term Grayson derivative, but for those who are familiar with the peculiar anxieties of contemporary life – and especially Jewish life, for Grayson comes directly from an observant tradition – his aim is right on focus.

His newest work, I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, is particularly impressive as a collection of pieces written and rewritten over a period dating back to the mid-seventies. To my mind, Grayson is best when he distances himself what only appears to be personal involvement but probably isn't. Nonetheless, when he is clearly creating fictional portraits of other disturbed people of all backgrounds, he is very sharp, and some of his characters will burn themselves into your memory. Did I say characters? One of the best in the new collection puts the narrative on the cold – yes, cold – that killed William Henry Harrison after the shortest term on record as U.S President back in 1841. In some respects, the story is typical of Richard Grayson – the unexpected insight into a cliché, a commonplace of the mind that we have never seriously thought about before. His best voices --- whether a two-page sketch of this pompous cold that saved a nation from an incompetent or a full-length picture of the gloomy artist who would brake – and probably break, too – for a broken figure like the poet Delmore Schwartz – these voices matter.

Grayson has written, "It's the pedestrian realities that are unchanged in my fiction, while the emotions go through great metamorphoses." It is these emotions that make the challenge of writing about writers a promise, never a discouragement.

Friday, May 6, 1983

Brooklyn Literary Review reviews Richard Grayson's EATING AT ARBY'S: THE SOUTH FLORIDA STORIES

The Brooklyn Literary Review has published a review of Richard Grayson's Eating at Arby's: The South Florida Stories on page 306 of issue 5 (1983):

Book Review

Eating at Arby's
by Richard Grayson
(Grinning Idiot Press)

by Bob Tramonte

It has always been my feeling that the best writers are linguists within their native tongue. They are able to bend and use every subtlety, nuance and tick of the language they were born to. This is certainly true of Richard Grayson in Eating at Arby's. In this tastefully wicked and funny tale, he combines the metre and sound of a first-rade reader to strip the pretensions of brain-bleaching vacationland mania and moronizing addlepated materialism. Imagine a writer able to do all that while you're laughing your cojones off!

Try to visualize if you will, Mr. Rogers scoring in Needle Park or Big Bird standing on Pacific Street looking for a trick. That's vaguely what Manny and Zelda are like. They remind us of the children and drunks God watches over as they stumble into every horror Miami has to offer, their innocence and ignorance unscathed. I had the unmitigated cheek to hand Eating at Arby's to three perfect strangers and got the following responses:

Frankly, I couldn't agree more with these three people. After my first reading, I scrambled eggs with my best wing-tipped shoes!

Brooklyn Literary Review reviews Richard Grayson's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ

The Brooklyn Literary Review has published a review of Richard Grayson's I Brake for Delmore Schwartz on page 307 of issue 5 (1983):

Book Review

I Brake for Delmore Schwartz
by Richard Grayson
(Zephyr Press)

by Tom Lane

Here is a slim collection of fifteen short stories, the fifth collection to be published by Richard Grayson. The style is largely experimental and occasionally novel.

Grayson respects the traditional approach to writing fiction: the well-wrought stories wherein every word counts. However, his education, two years of fiction writing at Brooklyn College culminating in an MFA, emphasized the experimental, and his own fictions as a result are both structured and fragmented. Such stories as "The Autobiography of Wiliam Henry Harrison's Cold" and "Oh Khrushchev, My Khrushchev" are well structured, and appeal to the reader on the strength of their novelty. Others are fragmented and spatial like "Different Places" and "That's Saul, Folks." These stories appeal too because they capture the rhythms of modern life and play them back faithfully.

Grayson's themes are the themes of the twentieth century. The theme of isolation abounds in "Hold Me" where the author comments, "I am living in a place with strangers. Even my family are strangers now." Other themes covered include the disintegration of the family, helplessness, and sexual indecisiveness.

The writing is often confessional. Grayson approaches writing as a form of self-analysis through which he hopes not only to understand himself, but humanity as well. Here he only partially succeeds, because at the book's end the reader is left with more insights into Grayson than into the world at large. Nevertheless the writing throughout is crisp and honest, and the style versatile, making the collection worth reading.

Monday, April 25, 1983

Column in Boca Raton News reports on Richard Grayson's appearance at National League of American Pen Women Writers' Workshop in Boca Raton

On April 25, 1983, Marie Tone's column in The Boca Raton News reported on a writers' workshop in Boca Raton sponsored by the local chapter of the National League of American Pen Women:
Richard Grayson, a fiction writer of short stories, entertained the audience with wit and humor on his personal experiences in the field of fiction writing.

Tuesday, April 12, 1983

Boca Raton News article on Richard Grayson's appearance at National League of American Pen Women Writers' Workshop in Boca Raton

On April 11, 1983, The Boca Raton News reports on Richard Grayson's appearance leading a writers' workshop in Boca Raton sponsored by the local chapter of the National League of American Pen Women.

Saturday, April 9, 1983

Library Journal reviews Richard Grayson's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ: "Highly Recommended"

Library Journal reviews Richard Grayson's I Brake for Delmore Schwartz on page 839 in its April 15, 1983 issue:

Grayson, Richard. I Brake for Delmore Schwartz
Zephyr Pr., 13 Robinson St., Somerville, Ma 02145
Apr. 1983. c. 94p. LC 82-63067. ISBN 0-939010-04-6.
$9.95; pap. ISBN 0-939010-03-8. $4.95 F

Forget the title. Forget the introduction. Both are far too cute. But Grayson is a fabulous storyteller and stand-up talker. His stories are short and anecdotal and rely upon captivating the reader immediately; then they sort of swim along, like a heavy bedtime story. Yet, Grayson can make us believe we are listening to something as outrageous as the voice of a dead United States President's cold. It works. We become a party to a benign assassination as we hear the cold alternately brag and confess. Grayson can be harsh and, at times, self-indulgent and completely without taste. Yet, his intelligence and imagination are fine. Highly recommended.
—Page Edwards, formerly with MIT Libs.

Wednesday, March 23, 1983

Tuesday Evening in Greenwich Village: Reading and Publication Party for I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ by Richard Grayson at B. Dalton Bookseller

A reading and book publication party for I Brake for Delmore Schwartz by Richard Grayson took place on Tuesday evening, March 23, 1983, at the B. Dalton bookstore on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street in Greenwich Village.

(We're pictured, top at right, holding a copy of the book.)

Wednesday, March 2, 1983

Publishers Weekly reviews Richard Grayon's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ

Publishers Weekly reviews Richard Grayson's I Brake for Delmore Schwartz in its March 4, 1983 issue:

Richard Grayson. Zephyr Press (13
Robinson St., Somerville, Mass.
02145), $4.95 ISBN 0-939010-03-8;
hardcover $9.95 ISBN 0-939010-04-6

Most of the 15 stories here fall into three broad categories. Grayson is at his best in his most straightforward, traditional narratives, among them "That's Saul, Folks" and "Slightly Higher in Canada." Also pleasant are the author's obviously autobiographical stories, which are built of fragments of memories; he recalls his great-grandmother in "Reluctance," and an uncle dying of cancer in "Hold Me." Least successful are Grayson's more experimental pieces, many of which directly or indirectly deal with his perspectives on writing: "Y/Me" is a short diatribe on the letter "y." "Only Time Will Tell" presents an inconsequential self-interview. And in "Is This Useful? Is This Boring?" the author repeats these queries (asserting that it doesn't matter anyway), until the reader, alas, must answer both questions truthfully.

Sunday, February 27, 1983

Fort Pierce-Port S. Lucie News Tribune reports on Richard Grayson's talk at St. Lucie County Library

The Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie News-Tribune today, February 27, 1983, reports on author Richard Grayson's March 7 talk at the St. Lucie County Library in Fort Pierce:


Writer Richard Grayson will speak at the St. Lucie County Library, 124 North Indian River Dr., as part of the author series, on Monday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the library's meeting room.

Grayson teaches creative writing at Broward Community College. The author's book titles tend to be unforgettable. He has written With Hitler in New York and Lincoln's Doctor's Dog and Other Stories.

The Florida Arts Council awarded Grayson a $3000 grant for his paperback book, Eating at Arby's: The South Florida Stories. His career began in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was an editorial assistant with the Fiction Collective.

Grayson has published more than 150 stories in periodicals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, England, France, and Australia.

Grayson has received a scholarship from the National Arts Council to study at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and an Ottille Grebanier Drama Award from Brooklyn College.

There is no admission charge for the lecture.

Friday, January 14, 1983

New York Times Book Review column "About Books and Authors" features Richard Grayson and LINCOLN'S DOCTOR'S DOG

The January 16 1983 "About Books and Authors" column of the New York Times Book Review features an item about Richard Grayson and Lincoln's Doctor's Dog:

New York Times
January 16, 1983
Book Review
Page 22



An Anemic Send-Off

APRIL may be the cruelest month for poets and taxpayers, but for booksellers nothing approaches the cruelty of the first and second weeks after Christmas, when sales typically plummet by about 65 percent. Unit sales of hard-cover fiction during the last week of 1982 fell 71 percent compared with Christmas week, while sales of books on the hard-cover general list dropped 66 percent.
Given that anemic send-off into the new year, it is hardly surprising that most of the book industry can't wait for warmer weather. Look at January 1978:

According to New York Times computer-ranked sales of best sellers, sales of hard-cover fiction best sellers totaled only one-third of those of the previous month. The comparison was slightly better the following year. Last January, after an especially poor December, sales rose to 55 percent of the previous month's total. Sales of hard-cover general best sellers have followed a similar pattern over the past five years.

In some parts of the country the lag continues well into February. ''We usually don't pick up again until almost March,'' a bookseller in Philadelphia said, adding that January is a great month for browsers, ''because they have the store practically to themselves.'' Yet because sales depend on the weather as well as on the availability of big books, January has occasionally lost out to February, April or even May as the worst month for hard-cover book sales.

During slow seasons, however, there is still considerable movement in the relative position of individual titles. A good example is ''In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America's Best-Run Companies'' by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. The book sold few copies in the major chain stores during Christmas week and ranked only No. 29 on the Times list. But now it is eighth on the list, with the chains accounting for 31 percent of total sales.

Happy Anniversary

FEW books remain on the Times best-seller list for more than a couple of months, but this week ''Jane Fonda's Workout Book'' marks its 52d week, even moving up a notch to second place. Meanwhile, although Shel Silverstein's ''A Light in the Attic'' slipped from 5th to 13th place, the book of cartoons and verse is currently celebrating its 61st week as a best seller.

Unforgettable Titles

WE reported here some months back that Richard Grayson, searching for a formula that would guarantee best sellerdom, had titled his forthcoming collection "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog & Other Stories." A number of readers noted that George Stevens published a book titled "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog & Other Famous Best Sellers" in 1939. Mr. Grayson said he had not known of the Stevens book, but he was so taken by his version of the title that he decided to stick with it.

The idea sounded good in theory: Since individual titles about Lincoln, doctors and dogs have tended to do well, one that combined all three subjects might do three times as well. Alas, that has not been the case. Sales figures for the Stevens book are not available, although it does not seem to have been a best seller. But the Grayson book, published last spring, has sold fewer than 200 copies. ''The only thing I can come up with,'' the author said after making it clear that he does not regard the sales figures as a literary judgment, ''is that Lincoln isn't as popular as he used to be.''

Mr. Grayson, who teaches creative writing at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has written four books that have sold a total of about 1,350 copies. Whether or not they are memorable as literature, their titles tend to be unforgettable: An earlier Grayson book was "With Hitler in New York," and Mr. Grayson's latest effort, a paperback for which he received $3,000 from the Florida Arts Council, is titled "Eating at Arby's." Scheduled for publication next month is a new opus: "I Brake for Delmore Schwartz."

Thursday, January 13, 1983

THE JEWISH JOURNAL interviews author Richard Grayson

The Jewish Journal has an interview with author Richard Grayson this week (January 13, 1983).