Literary Days: Tom Veitch: C Press: $1
I know of three American “novelists” whose work deserves if not more money and recognition then at least more praise: Harry Mathews (The Conversions), Kenneth Koch (The Red Robins) and Tom Veitch (What’s, a Psychic Novel). Selections from Mr. Veitch’s novel as well as other prose pieces by him have recently been published under the title Literary Days. These short selections read like one continuous story. They demonstrate, to me at least, that Mr. Veitch is an extremely talented and interesting writer, so interesting that William Burroughs, upon reading Literary Days, was prompted to scan, shift and intersect it. Also, Mr. Veitch is young (23).
In person Mr. Veitch is immodest and shy, so much like one of his characters that few people believe in his existence. Where is “he” in his “work?” Ask that question but never try to answer it. Mr. Veitch’s characters don’t seem very worried about their identities; in fact, there don’t seem to be any characters in his work, though there are many proper names, such as Nana-bana-dog, Tristan Tzara, Maw and Pa, Thom, as well as he, she, it and I.
Besides being “the best comic writer since” himself, Mr. Veitch manages to write sweetly. Not honey and doves, because I don’t think he is interested in honey or doves, since they are after all jokes, and he does not tell jokes. His comedy is sustained by moral force and probably also by the joy of knowing that the work he does is new, interesting and likely to inspire someone else. I find no trace of black nausea in his work.
His favorite theme is “childhood”:
I offered him a cup of hot tea from my thermos, and he drank it with great thirst.
“What’s the matter kid?” I said in his native tongue.
“Mirobbila ses tid fos vol jok roc yot gim boy boy!” he screamed
I assented and gave him one.
“Fok,” he said.
His second favorite theme is food:
Between that time and my twenty-eighth year my literary activity was furious. I attended every literary tea and dinner from August 28th, 1940 to July 17th, 1951, which amounted to over 4,399 teas and 9,821 dinners, at which I consumed a total of 10,732 gallons of tea, 8,440 assorted cakes and cookies, 9,821 steak dinners, 18,024 glasses of wine, 15,555 toothpicks, 24,778 sardine sandwiches, 62,001 cheese crackers, 88,201 pieces of string bean, 400,700 (approximate) spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, 14,290 alka-seltzers, and 1,904,799 assorted confections, desserts, tarts, pies, vegetables, soups, demi-tasses, cups of coffee, appetizers, sandwiches, crumbs, fruits, pills, whisky sours, fly specks, cantaloupes, ice creams, welsh rarebits, herringbones, chicken livers, goose gizzards, chocolate ants, kidney stones, pig knuckles, flying farts, garbage trays, billard balls, dunce caps, cutlasses, crabgrass, kangaroo tongues, belly-buttons, barber shears, window ledges, tenthooks, slippery eels, toadstools, tradewinds, telephones, salesman, climatizers, rapid transits, junk trucks, peters, pickles, pipes, peppers, etc., etc., etc., . . .
When I read Literary Days at night I wake up in the morning.