Wednesday, March 16, 2005 | Fiction
The book of poems you are about to read marks the arrival of a gifted new writer to the literary scene. His voice, as you will quickly discover in this début collection, glimmers with raw energy, imagination, and a sense of Salingeresque alienation that may well define his generation. The author, whom I am also proud to call my son, has achieved something grand between these covers, and deserves the highest acclaim.
But this book represents so much more than just the early poetic renderings of a young scribe. It is about hard work. It is about diligence. But mainly, it is about an intense mental anguish and near-Ghandian suffering endured by a mostly silent benefactor without whose generous eleemosynary relief this book would not exist. Namely me.
Yes, while the ensuing pages may appear as merely a collection of poems, it can best be described as the fruits of twenty-seven years’ labor in the field of investment banking and three in the highly competitive but equally lucrative field of mutual fund management, during which the author’s father (and sole supporter) bankrolled the quixotic whims of his prodigal son (the esteemed author) while said author, if my AmEx bill is any indication, whiled away his days in bohemian rapture sipping Chai tea lattés in trendy cafés and scribbling outrageous socialist platitudes in leather-bound notebooks. Mergers and acquisitions! Hostile takeovers! I.P.O.s! Private placements! Off-balance sheet financing! These are concepts about which the author remains so blissfully unaware, yet from which he continues to benefit as they fill the proverbial ink in his shiny, new proverbial iBook G5.
Suffice it is to say that I should have cut him off years ago. Then he’d be a lawyer! Or work in Institution Sales like that Eli Feldman kid. Merrill Lynch already made him a junior partner—at twenty-nine! He’s getting married in the fall, too. A real piece of ass I hear—and rich! I mean—Jesus Christ, Jason just take your goddamned GMATs! I’ll pay! An M.B.A. can only help you in life even if you do seem determined to spend it as a fucking moral retrograde …
But I digress. My point is that being a starving artist isn’t free anymore. Even Jack Kerouac had to hit the old man up for some coin once in a while. But when Kerouac penned On the Road in 1958, coffee cost a nickel. For a quarter you could get a three-course meal, a place to stay, and a date with the farmer’s daughter. Not so these days. Ask the wrong person to half-caff your latt-frapp and you could be out six bucks! And so it was with an informed hesitation that I accepted the offer to pen this Foreword: “Well, fuck!” I first exclaimed into the receiver of a collect call, “Finally some recognition!” Not only for my years of indentured servitude, but as thanks for the genetic gifts bestowed (the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, and as senior editor of The Columbia Business Review (’64–’67) these “apples” were self-evident). But as I hung up the phone, my momentary contentment at finally being acknowledged was clouded by a nagging doubt which loomed gallows-like over my head in the form of a question: How much is this bullshit gonna cost me? Am I in for another four years of highway robbery, frustratedly paying bills that chart my son’s daily life as he moves from anti-W.T.O. demonstration (T-shirt, $18), to sushi lunch at Niku ($56), and beers at the Snake Pit ($40), then finally to a late-night drug-store run ($9) where he almost certainly bought rubbers to service the nubile young Betty that would join him for a night of screwing in his overpriced Park Slope apartment ($1,850/month)? CDs! DVDs! DSL! TiVo! Not to mention the slew of “cash advances” that facilitate the purchase of what I can only surmise is reefer, given my son’s complete lack of ambition to find a real job, or for that matter a decent wife who might someday provide me with a grandson? It’s slow-motion fucking patricide!
So, Dear Reader, I give to you the simple budget below. It accounts for the costs of this at-times depressingly slim volume of poetry to me, the exploited oft-naïve and endlessly generous Papa. The budget is by no means exhaustive. It accounts for only the two years during which this book was produced, and I have omitted rent and food, which I also begrudgingly provided. I have also left out such less tangible but steep costs as sleep deprivation, hair loss, and ceaseless mental torment as I watched my son, the hope of my genetic future, ignore my good guidance and make a flurry of exquisitely poor choices that will surely lead him (and possibly me!) to a life of misery and penury. There can be no price tag on such things, yet the cost is oh so high.
So, enjoy the budget! And of course the collection. With the exception of a startlingly Byzantine poem on page 13 which engenders some of the passive-aggressive, politically correct, defeatist angst whose influence I can only attribute to his mother, it’s a pretty darn good read. But in that, there should be little surprise. The author is, after all, my son.
Jeff Oliver is a producer on NBC's Last Comic Standing.