Commentaries - June 2009

I am generally a disciplined reader. I read one book at a time. At most: two. I start and finish, start and finish. The exceptional time of year is now — late May, early June. The end-of-summer deadlines don’t press quite yet (after July 4 they do and will). I am reaching for the shelf of books that piled up over the year, with more enthusiasm about reading than I ever otherwise feel. It’s why I got into the work I’m in. This year I’ve gone especially wild. I am reading, in mostly random rotation, all these now:

- Vladimir Nabokov’s 1936 story, “Spring in Fialta”
- Vertov from Z to A eds. Ahwesh & Sanborn
- Joyce Carol Oates’ newest collection of stories, Dear Husband,
- Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic
- Jeff Toobin’s The Nine, gearing up for the Supreme Court nomination hearings
- David Milch’s Stories of the Black Hills
- Walter Kirn’s anti-meritocracy memoir
- Norman Mailer’s huge Hitler/devil novel, The Castle in the Forest

Thanks to Allison Harris, I now have put together a list and quick summary of episodes of NYPD Blue written by David Milch — those for which, at least, he officially received credit. (There’s little doubt, early in the show’s run, that he had a big hand in all episodes.)

Finally I met Tony Green in person. Yesterday at the Writers House. We’d been in contact since March of 2001, and now here he was, having come all the way from New Zealand. First time in Philly in twenty years. I’ll save space for more about Tony’s performance when the recordings are available on PennSound, but for now let me happily pass you along to CAConrad’s entry at the PhillySound blog, where Conrad begins his informal review of Tony’s appearance at KWH with this sentence: “Magic is a word I want us to reclaim from rolling eyes.”

The photo here shows Tony reading from one of his poem-tubes.

I’m hosting David Milch at the Writers House next spring. I’ve long been a fan of this quirky genius. To prepare, I’m reading and watching. First up: Hill Street Blues. Milch, it’s said, rescued the show from its tendency toward silliness. “Trial by Fury,” the first episode of season 3, was all his — and it won an Emmy. I think this was Milch’s very first crack at a teleplay. Amazing.

I’ve tracked every show Milch wrote (is credited for writing) — many in seasons 3 and 4, and two near the end. For the very latest episode, May 12, 1987, in season 7, they brought Milch back. The result is “It Ain't Over Till It’s Over,” of course.

Here’s a PDF giving you of all the Milch-written Hill Street Blues. Some full episodes are available on Hulu. Only seasons 1 and 2 are available, so far, on DVD. Season 3 is available in a new-ish service provided by Amazon; you pay $1.99 to watch each episode on demand.

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Later: Patrick Dillon points out to me that Hulu offers all season 3 episodes for free: here.

“There is nothing on earth that can prevent a poet from writing, not even the fact that he’s Jewish and German is the language of his poems.” — Paul Celan.