Harry Jordan in Pick-Up(Beacon, 1955) is close in temperament to the author, just as Goodis’ stories, as Garnier’s Goodis: The Life in Black and White shows, are deeply autobiographical – one assumes. Harry shares with his creator his own experience with road kid childhood, army experience, aggression, lusts (girls), and appetites (consuming greasy fried food, red meat, and sweets). Of course, they have much in common with the typical American male reader of pulps. Goodis’ tastes in food and watching and describing fights are, like those of his protagonists, those of people who, unlike himself, cannot afford better diet (greasy-spoon stew, chop suey, canned peaches, jelly beans).
One establishment that fascinated Willeford and Goodis was the storefront café, diner, or hash house. This is where Pick-Up starts, with Harry behind the late-night counter slapping a frank on a bun, slathering it with chili and onions for a lonely sailor who washes “the unpalatable mess” down with hot coffee. A beautiful, hung-over woman comes in. This Helen, “my Olympia” (the allusion is to Manet’s masterpiece reclining nude), becomes the love of Harry’s life. Later, Harry becomes a fry cook at a lunch room in downtown San Francisco, dishing out eggs, bacon, burgers and fries from a menu that makes no distinction between breakfast, lunch, and dinner—just the kind of place at which Goodis’ friends were afraid they would end up if he invited them out to eat.
Witnessing a bar fight is another common experience of working class urban men. The first happens when a workman insults Helen; Harry kicks him in the nuts, then the gut. Later, when Helen’s alcoholism had destroyed her mind, Harry discovers her with a sailor. With relish, he uses a shard of a broken bottle, “moving the sharp, glass dagger back and forth across his white face with a whipping wrist motion.” Al Darby, in Of Tender Sin, does even worse, on Philly’s Skid Row.
Willeford, like Goods, is excellent at involving readers with precise descriptions of the atmosphere of places as familiar a part of working men’s lives as the newsstand, cigar or book store where they purchased paperbacks like Cassidy’s Girl and Pick Up. The 1950s were the height of the industrial age. That means rooming houses, bars, movie and burlesque houses, taxi dance halls, , and the downtown neon-lit streets and dark alleys.
Harry and Helen are both noble losers. Alcoholism is one reason; their social status is another, and their authenticity at understanding mutuality is a third. Harry and Helen have a love for each other so great as to have no boundaries, and that of course pits them as profoundly against the world as are Romeo and Juliet--that is, to the death. But there is not one drop of romance. They both admit being “pretty much failures in life.” But in this bleakness, they are free from the pettiness and falseness of the world. The lovers do not care any more about success or survival—like Jander and Vera in Somebody’s Done For, also pub 1967. Fate is against them, and it is intertwined with the culture that has made them outcasts. A gigantic part of this is inferred but not stated until the end of the book, in fact the last sentence. Whatta wind-up (you gotta read this book; it was a Black Lizard from 1987, first pub. 1967, the year Goodis died).
Barris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Edith (Cohen) and Nathaniel Barris, a dentist.He attended Drexel Institute of Technology where he was a columnist for the student newspaper, The Triangle. He graduated in 1953.
Barris' first wife was Lyn Levy, the niece of William S. Paley of one of the founders of CBS. Their marriage lasted from 1957 to 1976, ending in divorce.
Born on June 6, 1895, Broadcast Pioneers member Leon Levy and his brother Isaac (Ike) were founding members of this organization. Ike was a practicing attorney and Leon was licensed dentist. Leon was granted his degree in dentistry during 1915 from the University of Pennsylvania. He practiced for a dozen years. Dr. Levy was president of the corporation that owned WCAU (Universal Broadcasting which later became WCAU Broadcasting) from 1928 until August 1, 1949. The Levys took WCAU Radio from a small radio station not even heard in all parts of the city to a 50,000-watt clear channel heard on the entire east coast of the United States. It wasn’t until 1928 when the Paleys; Sam, Jacob (Sam’s brother who was sometimes called Jay) and William (Bill was Sam’s son) purchased a third interest in WCAU for $150,000 that the station went full-time. Now you may have heard of Bill Paley, the guy that built CBS. Well, the Levys were investors in CBS (so was Jay and Sam) and their station was the network’s first affiliate. Leon Levy married Sam Paley’s daughter, Blanche. The couple had two children, a son named Robert and a daughter called Lynne. David Goodis was very good friends with Dick Levy(David Richard Levy) was son of Ike Levy. Frank Sinatra wed Ava Gardner at Levy's parents house in Philadelphia on November 7th, 1951.
Greetings from Seaford Beach, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Although it may look calm and idyllic we all know the brighter the sun, the darker the shadows. We know that there are many more people out there in the shadows with their NoirCon 2016 T-Shirt.
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