BURIED IN TOMES: We're all booked up for a week or so. Even if we put our ongoing community outreach on hiatus, even if we quit watching old seasons of "30 Rock" on our Kindle, even if we got our addiction to online bingo under control, even if we spent less time practicing t'ai chi ch'uan in Bluff Park, we still wouldn't have time to finish all the books we get in the mail.
We've already sadly had to shelve "Sex and the Single Fireman," the third book in the "acclaimed Bachelor Firemen series," with "quick wit and sizzling love scenes."
But we have cleared our plate for a mess of books that all came in more or less in one big blast from a couple of our favorite poets - both of whom just happen to be local boys from the ever-vibrant and generally hilarious Long Beach poetry scene, and both professors, emeritus or otherwise, at Cal State Long Beach.
Four of the books are by Gerald Locklin, although, happily for your time- strapped correspondent, only a bit of the four books is new to us.
It's still cause for a literary party, though, since three of them are Locklin novellas in the form of a re-release, from Spout Hill Press, of his immensely enjoyable and funny trilogy of Lockin's sly and exuberant takes on genre fiction: In "The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen," he does the private-eye spoof; in "Come Back, Bear," he takes on the classic Western saga; and in "Last Tango in Paris," he goes full-steam ahead into the sex story using
Throughout the trilogy Locklin braids his brand of stand-up poetry with Bukowski winks and a bit of Brautigan, pushing life into the timeworn genres he's both honoring and lampooning, and doing it briskly, with chapters often running at his clipped poet's pace - some of the chapters' titles are as long as the chapters themselves.
The trilogy comes on the close heels of yet another collection of Locklin's poetry - there's plenty for an anthologist to pull from over the course of more than 125 books of poetry Locklin has had published over his amazing career. In "Deep Thinking: Selected Poems 2008-2013" (Presa Press), we find Locklin mostly in his beloved art galleries and museums, letting the visual of Hopper, Warhol, Matisse and Miro steer his words. You practically have to read this one with one eye on the book and the other on Google Images. It's worth the effort.
WORDS OF WEBB: Next, our fairly attractive personal secretary was weeding out the junk mail and was about to toss a book in the furnace. "It's just poetry," she snorted as she moved toward the grate.
We spotted the author's name just in time: Charles Harper Webb, one of our favorites. After doing the cumbersome paperwork releasing our secretary from our employ, we settled into a reading of Webb's latest collection "What Things Are Made Of" (University of Pittsburgh Press).
Like Locklin, Webb swerves effortlessly between humor and the sort of introspection that we all must feel from time to time. You can almost weep at the title of "Dismantled for Goodwill, Our Son's Crib."
But Webb, who has long been a student and curator of the comedy found in the Long Beach school of poetry, is spectacular at the funnier side of life. Who can't identify with the confounding way memory works, jettisoning knowledge in favor of trivia?
In "Jackass: The Viewer," Webb fumes at his easy recollection of every scene in the movie full of idiotic stunts, while so much of merit has slipped into the ether. He's flummoxed about his inability to recall "how to take square roots, or who won the Battle of Bull Run, or the difference between Lope de Vega and Cabeza de Vaca, or exactly why my ex-wife filed on me, but I remember the white guy in Tokyo who snorted hot wasabi until he threw up. His fellow diners seemed incredulous at first, then laughed so hard that one bent down and threw up too."