ZEN BASTARD: Paul Krassner, who edited The Realist from 1958 to 1974 and again from 1985 to 2001, is now writing a column for the New York Press. This is good news -- probably.
I went through a period in the mid-'80s when I regarded Krassner as a literary hero, and another period in the late '90s when I got sick of certain tales that he likes to repeat ad nauseum and adopted a more disdainful attitude. (Note to Paul, if you're reading this: We already know that Harry Reasoner didn't want to shake your hand, we already know that the FBI described you as a "raving, unconfined nut," we already know about the wanted poster with your face on it, and we already know what you said when someone called you the father of the counterculture. You can stop telling us those stories. Really.) Like many waves of disillusion, that one passed. Krassner once again occupies a warm spot in my heart, flaws and all -- partly for creating one of the best magazines of the last half-century, partly for a gag HBO censored from a sketch he wrote (they left in the part where a man orders a "Lee Harvey Wallbanger" but cut out the barkeep's comeback: "One shot, or two?"), and partly for a juicy handful of articles that will always stand among my favorites:
1. "The Parts Left Out of the Kennedy Book" (The Realist, 1967) -- a brilliant sendup of William Manchester's The Death of a President. It starts with some tales about JFK that were widely known but had not yet been reported, moves to some more dubious material, and ends with a scene of Lyndon Johnson screwing his predecessor's head wound. Krassner never labeled which of his articles were real and which were satires, and many people apparently decided that this one was true.
2. "A Sneak Preview of Richard Nixon's Memoirs" (Chic, 1976) -- a similar hoax. It's not as infamous -- probably because no one believed it -- but in many ways it's just as good. Its most notable assertion is that the 18-minute gap in the White House tapes occupies the spot formerly held by the sound of H.R. Haldeman fellating his commander-in-chief.
3. "Memoirs of a Conspiracy Nut" (Argonaut, 1994) -- an outtake from Krassner's own memoir, detailing his descent into hard-core conspiracism in the early '70s. The cast includes Scientologists, Charles Manson, Mae Bussell, and Squeaky Fromme, and it climaxes with a vividly rendered mental breakdown on a bus to Watsonville. The last line's a bust, but the rest is fantastic.
4. "Who Killed Jerry Rubin?" (The Realist, 1995) -- an investigatory satire. To this day, I wonder how much of it's true and how much is false.
Those aren't the only high points in his C.V., but they're the crown jewels, and they justify everything else Krassner's done. Alas: his first story for the Press is devoted largely to repeating the same old anecdotes. But I'll give the guy a chance and keep reading it. The man's struck gold before, and he just might do it again.
posted by Jesse 7:11 PM
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