My father Gus Blaisdell dropped dead from a heart attack in Albuquerque, New Mexico right in the alleyway behind the Frontier restaurant and what used to be, until it’s closing in late 1996, his regionally famous Living Batch Bookstore. His heart attacked on a Wednesday night shortly after teaching his Horror film class where he’d screened and lectured (“brilliantly”, according to his longtime graduate assistant Bubbles) on the 1926 Japanese film Pages of Madness. Inside his worn canvas Living Batch book bag, which he carried with him everywhere, filled with his current readings, notes, and journal writings, was a letter that began; Dear Beth, The untitled collection of my essays I propose falls, natch, into three sections: 1) essays on photography; 2) on painting; and 3) on movies.
When I received this bag from his widow (fifth wife), a year and a half after his death, along with 40 boxes of his papers, I was elated to have some instruction, some guidance, from “His Heaviness” (a title I bestowed and he relished), on how best to proceed in honoring this brilliant, difficult and fascinating man. Hence, the book begins.
A message from N. Scott Momaday:
Dear Nicole,The book is a clear mirror of the man. It is beautiful and moving. Gus and I made a legendary journey to Rainy Mountain in the hard weather that shapes mind and memory. It was a quest, a journey eminently worth making.With deepest thanks.Scott
The Living Batch bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico was a haven in the desert southhwest for poets, writers, readers, photographers and artists from 1970-1997.
By Patricia A. Nelson, manager of the Living Batch Bookstore
(this lovely piece was incorrectly attributed to Writings of Gus)
( an excerpt from a holiday edition of the Living Batch NEWS)
…In giving books, we proffer a deep solicitude. We focus our attention on the solitude of another in an intimate speculation which yields a quaintly formal gift. Our gift is full of our generous pride in how well we’ve ‘read’ another: how we’ve discerned their taste; pondered a confidence; thoughtfully packages our advice, praise, criticism; celebrated a kindred spirit or tried sweetly to please an alien one.
We try to give ourselves objectified in another’s words. Bookgiving is a discrete form of self exposure. We often think we should sprinkle little trail markers through important books we give away. ‘Right here! Read this! My soul is bared!’ Alas, we can give the book but not our unique reading of it.
Every new reader gives a book a new reading. The exclamatory babble of happy booktalk is an exchange, a mutual enthusiasm mediated by books. We suppose our giftbooks are meant to spark such talk. Perhaps we give essays we found full of glad affinity or a marvelous gnashing of teeth. Or a cookbook, our own copy spattered & stained with the preparation of happy communal feasts. Or a simple sing-song storybook that read our children to sleep night after reliable night. We might articulate a turning point in our understanding, pass on a spiritual guidepost, replay the thrill of ideas once startled awake by words which did not lead us gently but urged us hotly in pursuit.
We are, of course famous for giving books to all save one soulless obligatory nod who once responded peevishly, ‘Please! No more books, I already got one last year.’ We’re sending him socks.
GUS BLAISDELL COLLECTED editor William Peterson and I had a blast (uncontrolled adrenaline for me) at the book release. It was a lovely and crowded event at THE BOOK STOP in Albuquerque where many great friends, colleagues, and students showed … Continue reading →