Tuesday, July 31, 1984

MIAMI SOUTH FLORIDA MAGAZINE Reviews Books by Richard Grayson

MIAMI SOUTH FLORIDA MAGAZINE is featuring an article on Richard Grayson on page 32 of its current (August 1984) issue:


Richard Grayson is a young writer who experiments with the short story form. His stories don't necessarily have the traditional beginning, middle and end. Some are extremely brief but intense sketches. Some jump radically in time or place. Others are stories in the form of notes, questionnaires and interviews. They are all stories which uncover a person who must deal with the shallowness, anonymity and pain Grayson finds in today's life. Grayson deals with that subject with poignancy and humor.

A four-year resident of South Florida, Grayson lives in North Miami Beach, teaches English at Broward Community College in Davie, and has had more than 125 stories published, most in exceedingly outre magazines. Some of these stories have been compiled in three hardcover books. Others are gathered in two chapbooks, which are thin, softcover collections. His latest publication, I Brake for Delmore Schwartz (Somerville, Mass., Zephyr Press, 1983) contains, paradoxically, much of his earliest work. In many of these stories, he deals with his personal vision of his Jewishness. His characters face loneliness and alienation with little loving absurd gestures. "Reluctance," the opening story, is about the love he felt for, and the pain he caused, his great-grandmother. "She told me," he writes, "she would make cookies when my own son was born, and when I said that would never happen, she just grabbed me up to her mammoth breasts and shook me until I laughed and said okay, I will have a son."

"By now," claims Grayson, "I've forgotten which work is autobiographical. Some of it is."

He also plays with perception, challenging the way we take the appearance of things for reality. "One of my feelings is that we live in a time when the perception or the so-called appearance of things is more important than what is real. Good writers always challenge our society. I hope to get people stirred up and even angry and outraged," he says. "I don't like telling people what they want to hear because they get enough of that on television."

And he does outrage, especially in his "press releases," a black comic part of his fictional work. As part of his experiments iwth perception and the way the media shapes ours, Grayson sends out press releases for his make-believe organizations like Future Fetuses of America and The Devil Broadcasting Company, which has "non-programs" like Satan Place, Route 666, and I Love Lucifer. He and his mother ran as delegates to the Democratic Convention on the platform of the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War. The publicity they received via the press releases garnered the pair more than 10,000 votes.

The surrealist Latin American writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges are his literary models, so it is not surprising that Grayson produces such stories as With Hitler in New York (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1979). He portrays Hitler as nothing more than an ordinary, likeable person with ominous undertones to his personality, thus asking and telling the reader how Hitler was able to reach his stats in the first place.

What makes Grayson's work outstanding, though, is that he mixes conventional narrative styles and subject matter with experimental games and unconventional material.

True, some of his experiments don't work, such as the tiresome and cliched Eating at Arby's (Brooklyn, NY: Grinning Idiot Press, 1982) but when I read the opening lines to the title story of his latest book, I know I am communicating with a person who is not afraid of looking down toward reality:

"Sometimes when I wake up in my loft bed in the mornings and I see the bars on the windows, I remember I am in prison. I try to feel repentant for the awful crimes I have committed, but then I remember that this memory is a false one and that the bars on my windows are only to protect me from other people . . . . Other times I decide that I really am in prison."

---Ann Reaben Prospero


Richard Grayson at Waldenbooks, Books & Books, 296 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, and Bookworks, 6933 Red Road, South Miami.

Monday, July 16, 1984

U.S. News & World Report covers Richard Grayson's presidential campaign

Richard Grayson's presidential campaign is covered at the end of the article "Why all those others run for president. (Politics '84)" by Thomas J. Foley on page 91 in U.S. News & World Report this week (July 16, 1984):

Why all those others run for president. (Politics '84)
by Thomas J. Foley

Voters who don't think much of either Ronald Reagan or Walter Mondale for President might ponder the merits of Earl Dodge, Richard Grayson or Alphonso Steward.

Those three are among the some 200 announced candidates for the White House. Most take themselves seriously, but only one or two have a chance to win more than a few thousand votes.

What motivates them? Some are members of established political parties. Others are plugging special causes. For many, it's ego, a love of publicity or simply a joke. Running for President is simple enough. All it takes is a 20-cent stamp on a letter to the Federal Election Commission, although actually getting on the ballot is much harder.

The biggest November vote getters among the also-rans could be the Libertarians, amking their fourth run at the White House, this time with attorney David Bergland of Costa Mesa, Calif., as their presidential candidate. In 1980, they came in fourth behind Reagan, Jimmy Carter and John Anderson when presidential nominee Ed Clark won more than 900,000 votes.

The Citizens Party, which got more than 230,000 votes in 1980 with environmentalist Barry Commoner as its presidential candidate, is back with a new champion--Sonia Johnson, a feminist who was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for promoting the equal-rights amendment and other women's issues.

One of the most visible of the minor campaigns is that of Lyndon LaRouche, founder of the U.S. Labor Party, who is making his third try, this time as a Democrat. He claims to have raised 3 million dollars so far, including more than $450,000 in federal matching funds. Eight years ago, LaRouche received slightly more than 40,000 votes.

Some White House hopefuls are hardy quadrennials.

Former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, who is now 77, first ran for President in 1944 and has been throwing his hat in the ring nearly every four years since. At least 13,000 Republicans in West Virginia's June 5 presidential primary took Stassen seriously enough to mark his name on their ballots.

Gus Hall, general secretary of the U.S. Communist Party, is in the race for the fourth time. As in 1980, his running mate is black activist Angela Davis. They drew 45,000 votes four years ago.

The Hall campaign operates under a unique status: It need not list its contributors with the FEC, even though it collects and spends more than the $5,000 that triggers federal reporting requirements. The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that such a listing would subject supporters to harassment and would be a violation of the supporters' First Amendment rights.

Earl Dodge, a 50-year-old father of seven, will carry the banner of the Prohibition Party.

Olympian challenge. The ultraconservative American Indpendent Party is not fielding a candidate this year but instead is backing former Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards, candidate of the Texas-based Populist Party.

Ben Fernandez, a wealthy California business executive, is trying for the second straight time to win the Republican nomination.

Some candidates for President seem to be in the race just for fun.

Larry Harmon of Los Angeles, creator of Bozo the Clown, announced his write-in candidacy in costume at Washington's National Press Club.

Alphonso Steward of Garysburg, N.C., boasts a campaign committee called Students for ADS Project Love (a Masters Peace). Before he decided to get an unlisted telephone number, the 54-year-old college student told reporters he planned to make Jane Fonda his Secretary of Energy and Cary Grant Secretary of Agriculture.

Garrett Trapnell is running again this year, but from a different constituency. Serving a life sentence for hijacking an airliner, he is now in the Atlanta federal penitentiary. Four years ago he was in prison at Marion, Ill., when he won a court challenge allowing him to run as a write-in candidate.

Cyril Sagan, a chemistry professor at Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania, has a simple platform: He would bar lawyers from becoming judges.

Philip Baker of Shively, Ky., promises voters they will be able to shuttle to the moon and planets.

Lester Byerley, Jr., of Manahawkin, N.J., has a more earthly pledge. He would give every citizen $10,000.

J. John Gordon of Worcester, Mass., pledges to wipe out the national debt in 1 hour. The first step would be to substitute alcohol for oil as an energy source.

Hugh Bagley of Keyes, Calif., takes his stand on annexing Mexico.

Then there is "Hymie the Waiter." Hymie Meyer of San Francisco notes there has never been a waiter behind the desk in the Oval Office, adding: "I looked at the current political situation and realized I was as unqualified as any of the other candidates."

Donald Badgely of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a 1980 contender, is back again with his long white hair, beard and shepherd's staff. He is campaigning for a six-day week and a 360-day year.

Susanna Dakin, an artist in Venice, Calif., suggests world peace might be guaranteed if the leaders of nuclear nations were wired to detonate first in the event of attack.

Richard Grayson, an unemployed English teacher from Davie, Fla., who wants to move the nation's capital from Washington, D.C., to Davenport, Iowa, is one minor candidate who thinks ahead. Conceding that defeat is likely this year, Grayson says: "I'm thinking of moving to New Hampshire now to get an early start for 1988."

Tuesday, July 3, 1984

Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) reviews Richard Grayson's I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ

On pages 123-125 of its summer 1984 issue, Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) has a review by Robin Hemley of Richard Grayson's I Brake for Delmore Schwartz:

I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ, Stories by Richard Grayson (ZephyrPress, 13 Robinson Street, Somerville,MA 02145, 95 pp.) $4.95

Here is an imaginative and engaging writer who breaks all the conventions of contemporary fiction with a devilish relish. Grayson gets away with everything your Writing Teachers told you not to do. His stories are self-conscious, fragmentary, and biggest sin of them all, usually plotless. But we forgive Richard Grayson all his sins, mostly because he is so imaginative and clever, and he has such a strong, compelling voice. Totally unafraid to take risks, Grayson tells stories from the point of view of a man in love with Nikita Khrushchev, a man obsessed with the fact that he looks like Delmore Schwartz, and even from the perspective of the cold that killed our ninth President, William Henry Harrison. Personification. Another sin.

At various points in his narratives, Grayson dares you to read on: "You really want to read this?" he asks at the beginning of "Nice Weather, Aren't We?" "You don't have to, just to humor me. It's all right. I know I'm a nice guy, I don't have to prove anything to you. . . " With a beginning like this, my first reaction is, "You're right. I don't have to read this," and I almost put down the story as my nagging Writing Teachers would have me do. But Writing Teachers are a little like your conscience; they're meant to be ignored. And Grayson's voice helps you ignore them. When I started this story, I thought it would be my least favorite, but now I think it's one of his best. He keeps setting you up in this story, telling you he only writes true stories, that everything he says is true, and then destroying each one of these illusions. And each time he does it, you masochistically want him to go on manipulating you. He manipulates you with such a flair and with such whimsical details that you can't hold it against the guy: "Sometimes you hear the craziest things. Writers like me often jot them down in notebooks so we can work them into our stories. I got on the elevator the other day and this old lady with a poodle looks at me with a smile and says, 'Nice weather, aren't we?' Weird. That's going to go in one of my stories some day."

Yes, Grayson's stories are metafictional, but he's not just another Coover, Barth, or Donald Barthelme. Though Grayson isn't quite as polished as these writers, he's got something else over them. He's not simply concerned with breaking stylistic conventions and letting things like character fall by the wayside. Grayson's stories, however wild, are humane. And the first person functions as a well-rounded, independent character in Grayson's work, often taking on a confessional attitude.

The titles in this collection are often as whimsical as the stories they describe: "Oh Khrushchev, My Khrushchev," "Slightly Higher in Canada," "Y/Me," "That's Saul, Folks." Still, as much as I am engaged by Richard Grayson's writing, I feel a bit like like someone reporting on an underachieving genius. Sometimes his rule-breaking doesn't work, and his stories are a little too spare, fragmented, and self-indulgent. At these times I'd like to go up to Mr. Grayson, shake him by the shoulders, and say, "Get serious, stop having so much fun. Now let's see what you can really do." I recognize this reaction might just be one of those little Writing Teachers getting to me again, but like your conscience, they can't always be ignored.

One thing's for certain, though. Grayson always hits the mark as far as voice is concerned. Few contemporary American writers have such a compelling, intriguing voice, totally believable and unabashedly contrived at the same time.

- Robin Hemley