Feature Misadvenutres

Published on January 24th, 2013 | by RLn Staff

0

Phyl Van Ammers on the The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn

Phyl Van Ammers recently talked to Lionel Rolfe, the author whose most recent book is, “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn: A Mostly True Memoir of California Journalism.” It is available on Amazon, both in paper and on Kindle. He will be doing a signing at Skylight Bookstore at 1818 N. Vermont Ave. in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles March 30 at 5 p.m.

Q:      The Misadventures of Ari –  does the title suggest a relationship to Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March?
A:       Oh God no. I never could read Saul Bellow. He was everything I don’t like. Academic, heavy handed, establishment in the worst kind of way. He might have even been a good writer, but I just couldn’t read him. What I could read just got on my nerves–badly. Also, I take my California identity seriously. I’ve made a career out pointing out that most of this country’s best writing came from California, from Mark Twain to Jack London to Steinbeck. Not from the James brothers from Boston, or wherever.  That’s what my book “Literary L.A.” was all about. The real soul of California’s contribution to world literature was born in its Bohemian roots, and then it metamorphosed into something more apocalyptical after World War II. I don’t see Bellow as summing up anything big and stirring–just pompous and stale academia and equally pompous and stale New York publishing. Bellow is in the tradition of James’ parlor room writing.  I’d point out that the best American writer in recent years certainly wasn’t Bellow, it was Bukowski. And no New York publisher ever touched him. I got to admit I do like Philip Roth on occasions. He had a certain bawdy appeal. Bellow sucks. If my book draws from anything–the picaresque novel sort of thing–think Henry Fielding and Mark Twain. I loved Henry Fielding.
Q:  If so, what are they?  Both picaresque novels, both mostly true, both you and Bellow Jewish?
A:    Well, as I said, no, Bellow was never an influence on me. But yeah, I suffer from a Jewish thing. It’s been a big thing in my life. It began in junior high school when the son of a local Baptist minister used to chase me through the back alleys to my home in Long Beach and punch me and call me a “Christ Killer.” I had lots of reason to ponder this thing, Jewishness. At first I equated Jewishness to love of knowledge, a commitment to justice, to ethics, to science, to music–and a lot to what is dismissed as radical politics. Hell, Jesus was just yet another Jewish rabbi in the area urging his people to drive the Romans out of Palestine. I learned about the Holocaust in various ways I’ve written about. Then for a decade I edited the old “B’nai Brith Messenger,” the original Jewish paper founded in Los Angeles in 1892. I think I was basically the paper’s last editor. But I’ve also not come to terms with my Jewishness. I think it was important that Jews had a place they could call their own, just like any other people, but I’m torn, because that country has become a monstrosity led by fascists like Netanyahu, who’ve dealt with Nazism by becoming one. Jews of all people shouldn’t be oppressing other people, of that I’m sure. I’m sure my Jewishness is quite different from Bellow.
Q:       Were you blacklisted?  How did that happen?
A:         I was drawn to the logic of the left and repelled by the nonsense from the political right. Almost all the great artists, writers, musicians, were of the left. It’s best summed up by that wonderful story of Picasso showing Nazis around his studio in Paris, per their request, and the commodant stopped in front of “Guernica” and said “You did this,” Picasso responded, “No, you did that.” I joined the party for six months and left on not great terms. I never was attracted by the notion of “dictatorship of the Proletariat,” just like I don’t like the dictatorship of the ruling class we have in this country now.
Q.    Do you still consider yourself a Marxist?
A:     Well, I don’t think anyone has come up with a better description of how class struggle forms a society. But no, I think the answer is a system that has both capitalist and socialist impulses. If I put a label on it, I’d say I’m a social democratic. I like the idea of economic democracy. We have political democracy but no democracy in the work place, except that which trade unionism can provide.  An entrepreneurial approach is good for some things, things where an individual’s vision is the focus, be it in writing, in cooking, in making clothes. But I think capitalism is lousy for the big things a modern society needs–housing, transportation, finance, medicine. Capitalism is a stupid way to deal with those kinds of things.
Q:     How have your political beliefs affected how you have lived your life?
A:     It’s made it harder. I was actually blacklisted by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and fired from the Inglewood Daily News (no longer in existence) until I was hired by Scott Newhall of the Newhall Signal because of my politics. I know I’ve suffered because of my politics. But I can’t imagine mouthing beliefs in things I do not believe in just to make my life easier.
Q:     Do you think Ari has any regrets about how he lived his life?
A:     Sometimes, sure he does. But the way I described Ari’s life was the only way it could really be.
Q:     Do you think Ari will find real and sustaining love by the end of his life?
A:     I hope so.
Q:     How did you come to meet Studs Terkel?  What was he like as a friend?
A:     Well, it was brief. I interviewed him in the Polo Lounge for some magazine, and we seemed to click. Then he said he had to get to the airport. He could either go by taxi or I could drive him. I was happy to drive him. He said, “You need an agent. Talk to my agent Don Gold, head of the literary department at the William Morris Agency in New York, and use my name,” Terkel said. I did, and Gold, who had sold two books that did incredibly well when published but about 100 publishers turned them down first–Love Story and Jonathan Seagull–took me on. He wasn’t proud of either book, they made him a legendary agent. He put a lot of work editing my manuscript because he thought I made up for his sins of cheap commercialism, which those two books represented in his mind.  I was a writer in residence at Villa Montalvo near San Jose when I first began writing what became “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn.” Gold was my first editor–a second agent, Mike Dorr was the second. Like Gold, Dorr was an editor before he became an agent. Gold had told me he wouldn’t keep being an agent “so use me while you can.”  He got me a good advance to do my first book about my family, “The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey.” I think if he had stayed being an agent, my life, and Ari’s life, would have been certainly easier.

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author



Leave a Reply

Back to Top ↑
  • Like Us On Facebook!

  • The Guide to Fine Dining

    The Guide to Fine Dining
  • Calendar

    April 2015
    S M T W T F S
    29

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityComplete Whale Watch with Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

    Category: EntertainmentJanis Mann & Bill Cunliffe Duo

    Category: ArtSecond Sight: New Representations in Photography

    Category: TheaterMarilyn Forever - A Full-Length Opera

    30

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    31

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    1

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    2

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    3

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: EntertainmentSister Spit National Tour

    Category: CommunitySister Spit National Tour

    Category: EntertainmentRequiem at Rolling Hills

    Category: EntertainmentSomething Funny at the Warner Grand

    4

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: TheaterTaking Sides

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityBreakfast with the Easter Bunny

    Category: TheaterThe Crucifixion

    Category: EntertainmentBobby West at the Seabird Lounge

    Category: EntertainmentEwan Dobson and Guest

    Category: EntertainmentAmerican Monster Burlesque and Blues Show

    5

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    6

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    7

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    8

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterDon’t be Afraid to Pogo

    9

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterFilm Festival: ‘The Red Pony’

    Category: EntertainmentMarian Marie at the Seabird Lounge

    10

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterFilm Festival Opening Night Screenings

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: EntertainmentHaden Triplets at the Annex

    Category: EntertainmentJulian Coryell Trio

    Category: EntertainmentRichard Turner Group at the Seabird Lounge

    11

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtMexican Mobile Consulate

    Category: ArtElks Lodge Groundbreaking

    Category: TheaterHollywood Nostalgia Tribute

    Category: EntertainmentLuca comes to the Annex

    Category: EntertainmentAzar Lawrence Featuring George Kahn

    Category: EntertainmentWhich One’s Pink

    12

    Category: ArtCan the Artists of the World be Censored?

    Category: ArtTies to Modernism

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterLAHIFF Presents DocSunday

    Category: EntertainmentSecond Sundays at Two

    Category: TheaterThe Suburban Showgirl

    Category: EntertainmentTradicíon at the Seabird Lounge

    Category: EntertainmentTribute to the Black Crowes

    13

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    14

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    15

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityThe Quixote Festival

    Category: CommunityBirding with Wild Birds

    Category: CommunityEarl Ofari Hutchinson Gives Talk at CSUDH

    16

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityThe Quixote Festival

    17

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityLong Beach Grand Prix

    Category: CommunityLong Beach Grand Prix

    Category: ArtRolling Hills Homes Tour

    Category: CommunityThe Quixote Festival

    Category: CommunityRolling Hills Homes Tour

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: Theater‘Get On Up,’ the James Brown Story

    Category: EntertainmentJacob Szekely Trio

    Category: EntertainmentDavid Jackson at the Seabird Lounge

    Category: EntertainmentThe Sure Fire Soul Ensemble

    18

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtRolling Hills Homes Tour

    Category: CommunityLong Beach Grand Prix

    Category: CommunityRolling Hills Homes Tour

    Category: ArtCelebrity Lecture Series

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: CommunityLA Local Beer and Food Fest

    Category: EntertainmentSuperhero Soundtracks

    Category: EntertainmentThom Rotella 4tet

    19

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityAuthors Day with Lisa See

    Category: TheaterIn My Life: Tribute to the Beatles

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: TheaterThe Suburban Showgirl

    Category: EntertainmentNova Live at the Seabird Lounge

    Category: EntertainmentA Wailing of a Town

    Category: EntertainmentDavid Garfield Quintet

    Category: EntertainmentA Wailing of a Town

    20

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityWelcome to Night Vale

    21

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    22

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    23

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityGrand Grunion Gala

    Category: EntertainmentAndy Waddell

    24

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityTechnology Conference

    Category: ArtFarmer’s Market

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: EntertainmentBrian Auger’s Oblivion Express

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: EntertainmentSouth Side Slim Blues

    25

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityEarth Day Celebration

    Category: CommunityNature Walk

    Category: CommunityGreen Prize Festival

    Category: CommunityHandmade in South Bay's 2nd Annual Spring Boutique

    Category: CommunityRestoration Highlights Workshop

    Category: ArtHousing Development Opening

    Category: ArtRay Carofano: riverrun

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: EntertainmentNoise Fest 19

    Category: EntertainmentSpock’s Beard

    Category: EntertainmentThe Gears, The Crowd

    Category: EntertainmentAzar Lawrence at the Seabird Lounge

    26

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: CommunityWalk Cabrillo

    Category: ArtOpen Studios at Angels Gate

    Category: ArtQuilt Show

    Category: CommunityQuilt Show

    Category: ArtLos Angeles Artists Propose Solutions to Human Trafficking Through Art

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: EntertainmentSuburban Showgirl

    Category: ArtLA Philharmonic

    Category: EntertainmentLos Angeles Philharmonic

    Category: CommunityAbilities Night

    Category: EntertainmentOil Boom, Sir Madam, the South Hollows

    27

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    28

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    29

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    30

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: ArtPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: TheaterPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    1

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: ArtBach’s Lunchtime Recital

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    2

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: CommunityFeria de Dominguez Adobe Brunch and Tea

    Category: CommunityFriend Fest

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

  • Take a Trip to Havana

    Take a Trip to Havana
  • Join the RLn Network

    Subscribe Today:


    Options


  • Get Home Delivery!

    Get Home Delivery!
  • Reset The Net: Protect Your Privacy

    Reset The Net: Protect Your Privacy