The text below is a short extract from "Milton Klonsky," in What's This Cat's Story? —by Seymour Krim, described as "one of the most important figures in the dramatic change in non-fiction letters that took place in the last thirty years; someone whose writing had "cracked honesty"; who shows "how much a man can know and learn if he is serious and keeps his dignity." These comments come from reviewers on the back cover of the book, which anthologizes four decades of Krim's essays—some about New York City—in a "high-velocity argot" of a writer who is "almost scarily evocative." These reviewers are James Dickey, David Halberstam, Norman Mailer, Murray Kempton and Pauline Kael, who give high regard to the posthumous collection. The excerpt below is in honor of their friendship and mutual contributions. I met Krim only once. I liked him. He called me "Red from Random House":
Krim begins his description of encountering Milton Klonsky repeatedly, when he would "brush past" him in the courtyard of his apartment building—"when I had to walk past the inhuman guns of his eyes" (p. 68).
". . . Klonsky's personality was a subtle, forceful and, later I was to recognize, deeply profound one and it entered my being—tore through it actually—like a torpedo into the unguarded gut of a battle-innocent young cruiser. I had never met anyone even remotely like him nor could I have conceived him in my imagination. Instead of being direct (my holy-grail kick at the time, encouraged by the prose of Hemingway, Eliot, Pound, which made a glistening literary virtue of straightforwardness and which I translated into an ethical ideal—even then trying to convert beauty into life-action!) he was indirect, elusive, paradoxical, frowning, iceberg-cheerless often. And yet one always had the impression, felt the impression I should really say, of a fine and deep mind that was fixed like a rule beyond the every flare of mood, behind his furrowed swarthy face (now Roman-looking, now Jewish, now Spaniard) and in back of those special catlike eyes. The guy's strangeness, uniqueness, was heaped further on my barometric apparatus by his style; although quotations from Blake or Hart Crane or Wordsworth—in fact most of the whole noble repertoire of English-speaking verse—sprang to his dark purplish cracked lips at appropriate moments, he electrically spit out the language of the ballpark and streets too" (p. 69)
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*For further relevant reading inside these webpages, see collect1.htm, where Anatole Broyard and Milton Klonsky are featured together, in memoirs.
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