David Bruce: Authors Anecdotes

• Johnny Brewton is the creator behind the zine X-Ray, which consists of 226 copies, each one at least slightly different. It was definitely an artistic project, and lifetime subscribers included the J. Paul Getty Museum, the rare book department of S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo, and the University of Wisconsin. One contributor was Hunter S. Thompson, who helped create the cover of X-Ray#4 by putting on lipstick and kissing a few copies and by shooting a bullet through every copy. (The cover was a photograph of Marilyn Chambers holding a box of Ivory Snow.) Another contributor to X-Raywas Charles Bukowski, who impressed Mr. Brewton with his work ethic: Mr. Brewton wrote Mr. Bukowski on a Monday requesting some poems, and by that Saturday—not even a week later—he received an envelope containing some poems. Mr. Brewton says about Mr. Bukowski, “I was amazed at how generous he was—he really gave backa lot and supported small presses; he taught me a lot about professionalism and deadlines. He was always on time.” Yet another contributor was Timothy Leary. Mr. Leary’s publicist, however, in a phone conversation told Mr. Brewton, “Mr. Leary has to charge one dollar per word for articles and stories. Are you sure you want to do this?” Because the zine made basically zero money, Mr. Brewton sarcastically replied, “That fits my budget perfectly! I’ll buy one word.” The publicist asked, “Which word do you want?” Mr. Brewton replied, “I don’t know. Have Mr. Leary decide.” The publicist spoke to Mr. Leary, and Mr. Brewton overheard Mr. Leary say, “That’s great! Yes! I pick the word ‘Chaos’—that’s my piece!” Mr. Brewton titled the work “A One Word Dosage from Dr. Timothy Leary” and put a card saying “Chaos” inside a pill envelope—each of the 226 copies of the issue contained the one-word contribution.

• Students at MIT have occasionally hacked (that is, pranked) the school’s works of art. Actually, one hack really wasn’t a hack — it really was a work of art. Artist Scott Raphael Schiamberg installed what appeared to be a field of wheat in Lobby 7. On a Monday in May 1996, students and faculty strolled through the wheat. Mr. Schiamberg received much media publicity, and he received many congratulatory emails. One MIT employee emailed him, “It took my breath away. All Mondays should be so beautiful.” Of course, MIT students added a few touches of their own to the work of art — such as a cow and a scarecrow. However, MIT students liked the field of wheat, and they did not like some of the other works of art on the MIT campus, such as Louise Nevelson’s Transparent Horizons, which MIT students criticize as being like much other MIT art: In the students’ word, the art is “ugly.” MIT hackers once installed a desk and a study light in the top of the sculpture, and they once rededicated it with this plaque: “Louise Nevelson / b. 1990 / Big Black Scrap Heap / 1975.” And occasionally MIT hackers will install authentic-looking but satiric “works of art” in MIT galleries. For example, in 1985 MIT hacking group James E. Tetazoo installed “NO KNIFE: A STUDY IN MIXED MEDIASEARTH TONES, NUMBER THREE” in MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. The “work of art” consisted of a large plate, small plate, fork, two spoons (one a soup spoon), and glass on a tray placed on an upside-down trash receptacle. A statement accompanying the “art” satirized art criticism. The first sentence read, “The artist’s mode d’emploi relies upon minimalist kinematic methods; space and time are frozen in a staid reality of restrained sexuality.”

• The Society of Design in Pennsylvania (the home state of letterer, illustrator, and designerJessica Hische, who lives in San Francisco, California) wanted herto visit them, so they created a unique invitation for her with 27 registered Pennsylvania vehicle license plates. They were vanity license plates, so each plate bore carefully chosen letters. Put together, the 27 license plates (each license plate is separated from another with a slash) spelled out the invitation: “DEAR JES / SICA PLE / ASE CONS / IDER VIS / ITING SO / CIETY OF / DESIGN I / N PENNSY /LVANIA A / ND SHAR / NG CAPTI / VATING A / ND AMAZI / TYPOG /RAPHIC W / ORK THAT / WILL AMA / ZE ASTON / ISH MOTI / VATE AND / PROVE TO / BE BENEF / ICIAL TO / AN ENORM / OUSLY LA / RGE CROW / D THANKS” — of course, she said YES to the invitation. Actually, she wrote in her blog, “Of course my answer is a resounding ‘YES! I will marrycome to visit you!’ In fact, not only will I come visit you, but I’m bringing each of you a present. Each of the 35 people listed on the site will receive an original drawing as my sincerest and most heart-felt appreciation for making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Already got started on two of them! There are days when I wish I could hug the universe. Today is one of those days.”

• As a beginning cartoonist, Ted Rall wanted people to see his art. After meeting graffiti artist Keith Haring, he thought, “Hehas the approach.” What is the approach? Instead of working to please editors, who are pleased by generic work, simply get your art in front of the people. Therefore, Ted took his cartoons, went to the bank he hated working at, and ran off 700 copies very early in the morning on the bank’s Xerox machine. Then he and his girlfriend walked through Broadway, Harlem, and Times Square and pasted the cartoons wherever they could. The walk and pasting took four hours and covered seven miles. He put his PO address on the cartoons and got fan mail—and he got letters from editors who wrote, “I was visiting New York. I saw your cartoon on the wall and ripped it down. I was wondering if you’d mind if we ran your cartoons.” Ted quit the bank job he hated and became a professional cartoonist.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.









John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce



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