Memos From Purgatory
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by Harlan Ellison
Category: General Nonfiction
Description: Hemingway said, "A man should never write what he doesn't know." In the mid-fifties, Harlan Ellison--kicked out of college and hungry to write--went to New York to start his writing career. It was a time of street gangs, rumbles, kids with switchblades and zip guns made from car radio antennas. Ellison was barely out of his teens himself, but he took a phony name, moved into Brooklyn's dangerous Red Hook section and managed to con his way into a "bopping club." What he experienced (and the time he spent in jail as a result) was the basis for the violent story that Alfred Hitchcock filmed as the first of his hour-long TV dramas ... This autobiography is a book whose message you won't be able to ignore or forget.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1961
eBookwise Release Date: June 2008
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [277 KB]
Reading time: 177-248 min.
"Harlan Ellison is the dark prince of American letters, cutting through our corrupted midnight fog with a switchblade prose. He simply must be read."--Pete Hamill
INTRODUCTION: MEMO '83
Eight years have elapsed since the last time I wrote an update to this book. In 1954 when the events chronicled in Book One: The Gang occurred, I was just about twenty years old. In 1960, the experiences I chronicled as Book Two: The Tombs happened to an Ellison who was twenty-six, had been married and divorced, had been in the Army, and was well into the beginning of his writing career.
In 1969, when the first updated introduction was written, I was already thirty-five, had been through two more marriages and divorces (on the theory that I'd keep trying till I got it right), had moved to Los Angeles, was writing books, movies and television, and was a world removed from the punk who'd joined the Barons fifteen years earlier. By 1975, when this book was published for the third time--demonstrating a viability I could never have guessed when I sat in that basement in Evanston, Illinois in 1961 writing it--I was a forty-one-year-old man who still had one more marriage and divorce laying in wait for him, had already published a substantial body of work, and had begun to realize that I might live to a nasty old age.
It is now spring of 1983 and MEMOS FROM PURGATORY blooms once again, like the lemon and tangerine trees in my backyard here in the City of Angels. By the time Ace Books publishes this new edition, I will be forty-nine. Next year it's a half a century. Jeezus!
There were days in 1954 in Brooklyn, when I was more than damned dead certain I would not live to reach age twenty-one. (Similar days had occurred when I was age fourteen, but then I suppose we all shared that go-to-hell cynicism.) But Fate and Gravity had not yet punched my ticket, and as I sit here ruminating on the tenacity with which this meager chronicle has clung to life, I am warmed not only by the sweet breezes blowing across the San Fernando Valley, but by the better than 50/50 chance that MEMOS said something right in 1961 that may provide a shot at Posterity. When you're in sight of fifty; and acne cases who think The Beatles were maybe an ancient cadre who marched in the Children's Crusade occasionally try to piss you off by calling you an old fart; and you know if you were to go down to East L.A. to try and ferret out the current status of gang life that would update the reminiscences in this book, that you'd be too slow to get out of the way of something sharp and shiny; knowing that you wrote something two and a half lifetimes earlier that still has some music in it makes the springtime seem well worth waiting for.
Hoping you're the same...
9 APRIL 83