The New York Times, July 6, 1997

In a Literary City of Tiny Apartments, a Struggle With the Weight of Words

''The point is, you're always going to read,'' said Peter F. Skinner, who has about 6,000 books in his tiny Greenwich Village tenement.

''As Anthony Burgess said, there's no better reason for not reading a book than owning it,'' said Mr. Skinner, who recently moved 2,250 more books to a $90-a-month storage locker he had furnished with bookcases on casters. ''It's always there to read.''

There is an airline claims manager with 4,500 cookbooks in her Murray Hill apartment, an architect with 10,000 architecture books, an obstetrician-gynecologist whose Brooklyn apartment is overrun with books about Napoleon.

There is Edward Robb Ellis, an 87-year-old writer, who shares his four-room apartment in Chelsea with what he estimates to be 10,000 books, including, he reveals proudly, five sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Ron Kolm, a writer and bookstore night manager, lost his bedroom in Long Island City, Queens, to his archive of downtown writing. For years, he and his wife have slept in the living room on a fold-out bed.

He recalled watching his reading material rise to a height of seven feet.

Then there are the serious cases.

Landlords have been known to fire off letters warning tenants to divest themselves of books or face eviction. Mr. Kolm swears he knew a man who took to spending nights on the fire escape, peering in at his books.

''I've been in places where there were books in the bathtub,'' said Henry Holman, who rummages through apartments as the buyer for Gryphon Bookshop on the Upper West Side. ''I've been in apartments where there were books in the bed. I've been in apartments where you were hard put to imagine exactly where they did sleep.''

Those cases are ''getting into the realm of, at least by my definition, a kind of pathology,'' continued Mr. Holman, who lives with thousands of books, and his wife, in a one-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights. ''You might imagine some kind of underground animal bringing in things and making a nest.''

''I can't see you to the door, really,'' explained Ann Douglas, a Columbia professor with 8,000 books in her one-bedroom apartment, maneuvering past a bookcase half-obstructing the front door. ''You know, in some sense, it could seem they were more important than you. And you know, in some sense, they are.''

When Columbia paid to move her from Princeton, she says, the moving company classified her household as a small library and billed extra. ''I kept protesting: 'Look, I have a bed! There's a stove here!' '' she said recently. ''They said, 'Lots of libraries have beds.' ''

The unwritten rule is this: There is always room for one more. And if one, then why not five? Eventually, books overflow even the most expansive shelves. Then the book-besotted learns to rationalize: That pile is not in the way; I can still reach the bathroom.

Mr. Kolm, who lost his bedroom, describes the problem as ''the inertia of motion and the inertia of rest.'' Which is to say, mountains of books do not go away. In fact, they get bigger because the collector goes on accumulating more stuff simply because it is somehow related to stuff he already has.

In his case, all he could do in the end was open the bedroom door and throw things in. The ceiling was crumbling but he could not fix it. ''I could go in and look in the distance and see the plaster was falling down and stuff,'' he said. ''I was sorry, but there wasn't anything I could do.''

Mr. Skinner said he lost control five years ago. ''An enormous tumulus'' of books swallowed up his living room floor. There was no longer room to put down bedding for a guest. Vacuuming consisted of blowing dust off the bookshelves onto the books on the floor. Finally, this spring, he hauled 2,250 books out to a nearby mini-storage building.

Now Professor Douglas is approaching capacity.

''It is getting worrisome,'' she conceded recently. But, she said, ''somehow, I have this mysterious faith. Since I was meant to have all these books, something will open up."



PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (in a black knit cap, standing next to LAURA DERN): ...and the spirit award goes to (fumbling) mickey rourke, yes

that SPRINGSTEEN song from THE WRESTLER's closing credits as MICKEY ROURKE makes his way to the stage)

kisses LAURA DERN, who points out the mic for him when he seems unsure exactly what to do next) goddam, thank you all very much! heh heh heh heh... eric ROBERTS! i just wanna say one thing about eric roberts: eric roberts is probably the best actor i ever worked with, and i dont, i don't know WHY in the last fifteen years, ain't nobody give him a chance to show his shit again because, whatever he did fifteen-twenty years ago should be forgiven, and i wish there would

unspecified crowd reaction)

no, i'm-i'm goddam serious about that, eric roberts is the fuckin' MAN

prolonged cheers)

and he deserves, like i have, he
like-like i got, he deserves a second chance, and i wish there would be one goddamned filmmaker in this room that would, would let him fly because the man, he-he is somethin' elsethank you, eric!


uh, ok, that's enough on eric

from audience, pleading): accept your award!

MICKEY ROURKE: eric'll probably be arrested by the end of today, but ha ha, uh, anyway, um

and that little blonde dude that did that THING, i'm gonna beat your ass when i get outta here (
looks around vaguely), uh


it's uh nice to be presented this award by all these talented, these two talented, three?
i don't know what YOU do, honeybut these two are really, but these two are really good, uh, ha ha, and uh

you know, uh, i-i've just gotten thousands of letters and shit from my
people, strangers and people that know me'bout-'bout my dog that died six days ago, LOKI


looks sad, hand to mouth, choking up), uh, this is for you, baby (suddenly looks happy again) ha ha

and i just got done talkin' to the santa monica police department, they gave me a bed to sleep in ten years ago and i thanked them for, i asked them for two pillows, they told me to fuck off, but anyway, uh

thank you darren aronofsky for, for believin' in me, uh, directors like darren aronofsky


come on, let me finish this, ha ha, uh, i-i told people in the past directors like darren aronofsky come around every twenty-five years, the same way like cimino, coppola, mm, parker, adrian lyne, all the rest of 'em, and i said twenty-five years and he whispered in my ear THIRTY, uh ha ha, and uh, the only thing i want to say to any young actor or any actor that gets an opportunity to work with darren, you better be in shape, because he will break you down, he is one tough son of a bitch and he don't like it when i say that 'cause he goes, "mickey, you'll scare all the other actors away from me," but darren, you know what? if they ain't got the balls to bring it then fuck 'em, you know? anyway, i wanna thank, uh


i wanna thank fox searchlight, peter rice and all the GIRLS, melissa, and i don't know all their names, anne, maria, feh-eh-eh, all the rest of 'em, thank you very much, uh, ha, the little one that i call "gap-tooth," i know you're here, and uh, i wanna thank uh, my memory ain't that good, but my, oh jesus, uh, i wanna thank, uhhh uhhhhh

SOMEONE: marisa!



MICKEY ROURKE: oh! m-m-melissa?-marisa? marisa TOMEI!


her, godammit, she had to do all this with like, uh, bare-assed, and she BROUGHT it, and she, you know, she's a very... is she here? (
looking for her)



anyway, she looksyou know, not many girls can climb the POLE, you understand what i'm saying? and she climbed the pole and she did it well and uh i give her big props for that, she, it was a very courageous performance, uh, we had to like pry her out of the trailer, you know, but that was all right, um

i also wanna thank uh the uh wrestling community who has been very supportive, the wwe, vince mcmahon, uh, who supported us, because we exposed some issues in (
suddenly loses interest in what he's saying, looks down at statuette in hand) oh, that's pretty! we exposed some issues in this film that were very controversial, (looks interested again) like the ste-ROIDS and the co-CAINE and the bangin'-the-girl-in-the-ass-in-the-bathroom but uh, you know, shit like that does happen, you know these guys are on the road a lot and they get lonely, and uh


scott franklin, uh, i got your name right... thank you very much! i know you're lookin' for a job, any directors in here, here's a hell of a producer, and he's broke right now, and uh

gee whiz, uh, what else here, za za...

paula, oh! the hardest working gal in show business, my... uh, she was my PUBLICIST and she had her hands full and, uh, as i said in the bafta awards, uh, she told me where to go, what to do, what not to do, how to dress, who to fuck, not to
you knowbut anyway, paula, i love you, you can go back to the farm after tomorrow! uh

and jp my manager, manager of chaos, god bless you thank you, peter rice, uh, your boss: jim jimminopolis? somethin' like that, anyway, you know, thanks for the money, thank y'all very much (
to sustained applause, whips around mic rock-star-like and goes off)


"1,000 Hours of Staring" by Tom Friedman

Tom Friedman
1,000 Hours of Staring
stare on paper
32 1/2 x 32 1/2 in.

"One work in this show consists of a large blank piece of paper that the artist has purposefully stared at during the last five years." New York Times


Raymond Roussel

While working on his first book he felt "an extraordinarily intense sensation of universal glory." The prominent psychologist Pierre Janet quoted Roussel as saying: "What I wrote was surrounded by rays of light. I closed the curtains, fearing that the smallest crack would let out the rays of light emitting from my pen. I wanted to remove the screen all at once and illuminate the world. If those papers had been left lying around, the rays of light would have reached China, and the bewildered mob would have stormed the house."  He felt himself to be the peer of Dante and Shakespeare; he knew the same glory as Hugo at seventy, Napoleon in 1811, Tannh√§user at the Venusberg. When the book was published, in 1897, he was amazed to find that life went on as usual and that nobody stopped him on the street.

Luc Sante
The New York Review of Books



The New York Times, February 23, 1991

Man Acquitted of Killing and Boiling Roommate

After nine days of deliberations, the jury concluded that Daniel Rakowitz, a 30-year-old dishwasher and self-styled marijuana guru, suffered from mental disease or defect and thus was not criminally responsible for the Aug. 19, 1989 murder of Monika Beerle, whose skull he left in the baggage room at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in a bucket of kitty litter.

After jurors returned their verdict yesterday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Rakowitz thanked them and said, "I hope someday we can smoke a joint together."

"I won't fault you for your verdict," said Mr. Rakowitz, who had frequently interrupted the six-week trial with bizarre outbursts. "The prosecution had an overwhelming case against me. But I'll be getting out soon and I'll sell a lot of marijuana so I can bring to justice the people who actually committed this crime."

Mr. Rakowitz, a former mental patient, said during the trial that he would rather go to prison than a mental hospital because he did not like being medicated.

He testified that he did not kill Ms. Beerle, a 26-year old Swiss woman who studied dance at the Martha Graham School while working as a topless dancer. But he did admit that he dismembered her, bleached and boiled the bones "to disinfect them," and hid them. After rumors that a body had been boiled reached local detectives, he was questioned, and led them to the Port Authority Bus Terminal baggage room, where he had left her skull.

One witness testified that shortly after the killing, Mr. Rakowitz had served homeless men in Tompkins Square Park soup containing a human finger.

A native of Texas, Mr. Rakowitz came to New York in 1985 and walked around the East Village carrying a live chicken and selling marijuana, calling himself the "God of Marijuana."


The Eating Habits of Marlon Brando, Part Nine

A reported Brando snack was a pound of cooked bacon shoved into an entire loaf of bread.

via IMDB


She had died so grotesquely

that her little body had fallen forward into the trunk, and it had closed upon her, like the jaws of a giant alligator.

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier



I took the Lexington Avenue subway
To arrive at you in your glory days
Of the Nineteen Fifties when we believed
That you could solve any problem
And I had nothing but disdain
For "self-analysis" "group analysis" "Jungian analysis"
"Adlerian analysis" the Karen Horney kind
All—other than you, pure Freudian type—
Despicable and never to be mine!
I would lie down according to your
Dictates but not go to sleep.
I would free-associate. I would say whatever
Came into my head. Great
Troops of animals floated through
And certain characters like Picasso and Einstein
Whatever came into my head or my heart
Through reading or thinking or talking
Came forward once again in you. I took voyages
Down deep unconscious rivers, fell through fields,
Cleft rocks, went on through hurricanes and volcanoes.
Ruined cities were as nothing to me
In my fantastic advancing. I recovered epochs,
Gold of former ages that melted in my hands
And became toothpaste or hazy vanished citadels. I dreamed
Exclusively for you. I was told not to make important decisions.
This was perfect. I never wanted to. On the Har-Tru surface of my emotions
Your ideas sank in so I could play again.
But something was happening. You gave me an ideal
Of conversation—entirely about me
But including almost everything else in the world.
But this wasn't poetry it was something else.
After two years of spending time in you
Years in which I gave my best thoughts to you
And always felt you infiltrating and invigorating my feelings
Two years at five days a week, I had to give you up.
It wasn't my idea. "I think you are nearly through,"
Dr. Loewenstein said. "You seem much better." But, Light!
Comedy! Tragedy! Energy! Science! Balance! Breath!
I didn't want to leave you. I cried. I sat up.
I stood up. I lay back down. I sat. I said
But I still get sore throats and have hay fever
"And some day you are going to die. We can't cure everything."
Psychoanalysis! I stood up like someone covered with light
As with paint, and said Thank you. Thank you.
It was only one moment in a life, my leaving you.
But once I walked out, I could never think of anything seriously
For fifteen years without also thinking of you. Now what have we become?
You look the same, but now you are a past You.
That's fifties clothing you're wearing. You have some fifties ideas
Left—about sex, for example. What shall we do? Go walking?
We're liable to have a slightly frumpy look,
But probably no one will notice—another something I didn't know then.

Kenneth Koch