I have made no secret of my deep appreciation of the work being done by the Lost and Found Series at CUNY. They are doing remarkable recovery projects over there and I recommend everybody buying everything they have put out. Well, I just got their most recent newsletter and I was pleased to see that editor Michael Seth Stewart in conjunction with Lost and Found and City Lights has a book out on the selected journals by John Wieners. Get a copy here. Stewart also has some speaking engagements planned. I eagerly look forward to reading this collection. I was a huge fan of the job Stewart did on the selected letters of Wieners and Charles Olson a while back for the Lost and Found Series. Simply wonderful and I had the pleasure of talking to Stewart briefly at the Burroughs Conference at CUNY in 2014, where I expressed my admiration. I am very happy to see him getting wider exposure, not just for himself but also for Wieners.
In celebration of this new collection of previously unpublished material, I would like to present Stewart with Wieners' crushing review of John Rechy's City of Night from Floating Bear 27. I recommend Stewart's collection of Wieners and Olson letters has strongly as Wieners condemns Rechy. I only present Wieners' review because I have the hope that it, like the journals and letters that Stewart has recovered, has not been presented before the reading public for quite some time. I am sure Stewart is aware of this review, the level of his research is astounding, but it is the best I can do. Congrats and I look forward to reading the journals.
THE REPORTERS a review by John Wieners
Dear City Of Night: I know you too well. I think your men’s rooms stink. I was arrested in one. Which is more than you can say. I think that if you were arrested, you would have written a different book.
I don’t think that is your language at all, in City of Night. I think the City of Night is very articulate, or not articulate at all, whichever way you want to look at it.
And a man who reads Colette should look at it a different way, than say, a journeying longshoreman. I admit I haven’t read you all yet, but that is because you are hard to do. There is no difference in you, whether you happen to be in New York or San Francisco, the place doesn’t seem to affect any difference in your articulateness. The city is a loose, sprawling place. It doesn’t seem to bunch you up so you can communicate anything to anyone else except desparateness, or articulate frenzy. The place doesn’t change, only the people do. And do you know, after a while, that they are all going to act the same way. But to get back to language. How can anyone straight read your book?
If only from a morbid curiousity. For it’s morally corrupting. I don’t mean in a moral sense, but in the sense that your senses are impaired by coming into contact with that sort of artificial, hysterical neon-lit cheap glamour, that has no mystery to it, only the drabness of daylight at dawn. Like the dawn, it has no impulse to it at all. It just drifts in, and makes one impatient. To be out, spreading his own light. And I didn’t like your boo, because I just wanted to go to bed, and pretend your world didn’t exist, and that I would not have bad dreams because of it.
And I didn’t. That is how real your book is. It didn’t even affect the unconscious. Of course, it does affect the real conscious. I can see Harvard seniors running off to Times Square after they finish reading it. Or myself even; I never see a boot but I think of the man who turned around and rolled his tongue along yours. But who cares. It is not a work of the imagination, despite the carefully worded descriptions, and carefully built up artificially recorded conversations.
It is a world of false holocaust. The desert and the wind are within you. And the dead dog. They die in Dr. Faustus, too, but she, a real master of the flux and fall of reality, its true glamour, and light, knows there is no real tragedy in that. Tragedy is dead, along with us, if we perpetuate that valley of shadows amongst us. Oh, somebody, please turn off the lights. There is no true City of the Night with them on. There is no truth of darkness. The snake does appear but we wouldn’t know, with this all-seeing One with his all-seeing eye about us. Go blind first, Mr. City of Night, and then tell us of the darkness.
We know you have been dragged along the streets, and rousted, and hustled, and shook down, and blown but have you ever opened the windows to let the night come in. And you were nowhere to be found, and record it for us.
That is the way we want it. Some boy might say: “It’s the story of my life.” But it’s the story of all our lives, and nobody cares but ourselves. I admit it’s better than the newspapers, and a record of the times, but of the true rhythm and destruction of life, our truth as we live it, maybe in an instant apart from other, is there any of that?
Is there any true contemplation or revelation in it? Or merely just a record that is pretty scratched and lightly worn. One does not feel changed, by your art or life, Mr. City of Night. One does not feel disgusted or shocked. One does not seem any part of it. It is a becoming and a going apart. It is what we do with our daytimes and nights. It does not touch the depths, much as McClure’s Meat Science Essays do not reveal any truth about heroin, or cocaine, or peyote, other than what he finds. What else can we hope for? from them. Only that they touch a spot we have all encountered. Not just a surface reporting. A reportage of the depths. A dimension that is limited to one. Not a moon-shot. Nor a hot shot. Not death.
I don’t want it. I only know The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Diana Cooper tells me more about morphine and addiction than William Burroughs. But there you go again. Clawing at your masters. Let them be. Let women speak. They know. They speak so seldom about such matters. But they know. That is why they get shot, and never appear in your City of Night, except as shadowy creatures, like Gene De Lancey, and all she does is provoke tears in you. Dear City of Night, come home, sleep with them, find what joy it is. Just to sleep, not to touch. Let us touch hands. Let us pass the book back and forth. We only want to know. What is there is know but the unknown. The known is here before us. We don’t need that, except as it appears in the beauty out of your eye. It doesn’t have to be reported. It can be catched in a word, an image, not in well-developed phrases, and well-thought of words alone. Let madness come. It doesn’t teach anything. It merely says, beware, the men are around. Near you the depths. Disaster and disease await. Avoid them, at all cost. You have to surrender yourself to attain self.
That flows through the universe, activating the stars.
Well, we all have been through the City of Night, we all have used peyote; and had nightmares and delusions; there isn’t even any madness anymore, because the attendants are always around, and see to it that no one goes mad. They also give us bills for it. And pills. So hallucinogen world I don’t want. It’s been Hallucinogen? all along. Even in childhood. What greater hallucinogen is there than that.
So City of Night, you don’t terrify, you don’t inform, you don’t affect us, you just mystify, bring back unpleasant contaminated memories, that doesn’t cleanse, purify, cost us, anything at all.
All we do is boring, all we can do is expect someone will come along to terrify us, bore us, become us, betray us, be anything to us. But be close, be the thing the way it is, or isn’t, but be something, don’t be dull, flat, one-dimensional landscape, that even doesn’t occupy yourself, except that it holds out an easy way to attain something that you think will fill us or you with despair, nausea, moral learning, disgust, hallucination, evoke memories, of our past, show us the thing the way it is, the way you see it, when all it does, is bore us, and send shivers along our skin, our ears fill up with bloat and bilge; it’s no wonder Cain’s Book is on a houseboat-barge although it does have some interesting things to say on firelight, Fay, the scene, and the orchid-bulb in the dropper. We float among them. We don’t need to be told. It is done for us, anyway. You don’t mean a thing for you ain’t got the thing by its tail, swung as we are, above our own heads, by that mysterious force which is so evident in some or all of us, but so missing in yours or them. For I classify you together: the reporters.