Autumn Rhythm
Richard Meltzer
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Autumn Rhythm: Musings on Time, Tide, Aging, Dying and Such Biz* online

Autumn Rhythm: Musings on Time, Tide, Aging, Dying and Such Biz
Richard Meltzer
192 pages
November 2003
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Richard Meltzer seems to be allowed to write whatever he wants and get away with it. Maybe it's just sour grapes on my part, but I wonder if he's gone too far this time -- again.

Meltzer is irreverent, sometimes to the point of revulsion but often merely to the point of tittilating amusement. Who cares, really, that he has fantasies of having sex - no, I mean having actual sex - with his mother? He does, apparently, and lays out, as it were, the gory details. He also describes, in an almost but never quite sympathetic way, the long demise of said matron. He agrees with himself to keep his sleeves rolled down so she will not spy his tattoo - tombstone labeled Mom. What a classy guy.

For his father? He spares no such nearly kind sentiments for the one he refers to as "the old fuckeroo...Pompous blowhard; stultifying omnipresence; dreary s.o.b. with a heart of gold, no, silver, no, aluminum; white collar drudge; earnestly mawkish drip-dry sap."

He spends a chapter on a musician named Helen Wheels, describing for our edification her reproductive apparatus and inclinations, and her (to him) meaningless passing: "The wages of Rock is death."

I kept wondering if I was supposed to be reading this book, or if I had not by mistake picked up the prurient musings of a teenaged boy, not meant for adult eyeballs to glom. It was with mild surprise that I learned that Richard is only a little younger than me. There is time, then, for his sensitivities to develop, and with any luck at all, there'll be only a small queue of people whom he's maligned in print waiting to fill his shoes with concrete.

Since I'd hate to be among the portland cement bag ladies lined up outside his hospital door -- both because I'd rather not get on his bad side and be chewed up and spit out with all the body fluids intimately spewed across the page, and because waiting for Richard to pass away would be, like, this huge big drag on my time -- let me pause for one moment and tell you the good things about this book.

The cover art is hilarious -- an old couple with eyeballs blunked out by black rectangles, freaking and grinning. The made-up words like "geezerology" are clever hooks to keep you reading. And it may just be that sandwiched in, kind of like really expensive mustard, among the meaty insults and cheesy cheap shots, are some real human feelings about our common perceptions of growing old, or as Meltzer chooses to put it, "copping in print to being old."

I have to do a lot of editing around the good quotes, but here's one I particuarly enjoyed: "I was in my 50s before I realized barmaids flirt with you not 'cause they think you're cute or respect your wisdom, but to get a bigger tip."

And better of all: "So misery-efficient this life. But if past mis'ries would only just drift away...what a deal!"

© 2003 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for Curled Up With a Good Book

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