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The Weekly Blague

Radio España

If you habla español, then you can understand my interview on El Flexo de Paco Reyero on Canal Sur radio in Sevilla, Spain. I talk about Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon. Since I don't speak fluent Spanish (or even close to it), the interview is done NPR style—I say a few words in English and it switches to the Spanish translation. The interview begins at 7:55 and runs for 17 minutes.

 

If you don't speak Spanish and want to learn about Nowhere Man, then please check out any of my other interviews. Most of them are in English. Or read the English edition of the book.

 

Many thanks to Martín León Soto (aka Maleso) for arranging the interview with Paco.

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The Art of Antonio Cabral

 

Antonio Cabral, a Sevilla-based photographer specializing in the culture and architecture of Spain, is best known for directing the photography for a 2016 National Geographic documentary about the restoration of the Fountain of the Lions in the Alhambra, in Granada. In recent years he's worked exclusively as a photographer, shooting mostly in black and white.

 

I met Antonio and his wife, Lorena, when they came to see my Nowhere Man presentation at La Tregua, in Sevilla. They asked if I'd be willing to pose for some photographs. After looking at the artful images on Antonio's website, I said yes and joined them one Saturday afternoon in Plaza de España, an enormous public square in Sevilla's Parque de María Luisa. You might recognize the square's colonnade from a scene in the Star Wars film Attack of the Clones. In the photo below, I'm reading Nowhere Man in the colonnade, and it's behind me in the color photo further down the page.

 

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"I try to be objective," Antonio said, explaining that his concept of photography is to "see things as they are" but as a "sensitive human being" rather than a machine. He added, "I think that photography is the only language that can be understood throughout the world."

 

Taking photographs involves not only your eyes, but your sense of touch and smell, Antonio said. "Beauty is in everything, in the sublime and in the ordinary," and taking a great picture "has little to do with the things you see and a lot to do with how you look at them."

 

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Antonio also offered some advice for aspiring photographers: "There are those who think that with a better camera they will be able to take better photos. A better camera won't do anything for you if there's nothing in your head or heart. One becomes a photographer when the camera becomes an extension of oneself. Then creativity with the five senses begins."

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We Slayed in Sevilla

From Diario de Sevilla, January 27, 2024. You can read the English translation here.

 

Why has Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon) endured for more than 24 years? Because people keep talking about it and writing about it.

 

The book has generated a miraculous amount of media coverage over the decades, in a variety of languages. The most recent example appeared in Diario de Sevilla the day before a Nowhere Man event last month at La Tregua café in that beautiful Spanish city. (Click here for the English translation.)

 

The article, "Nowhere Man, o todo lo que siempre quiso saber acerca de John Lennon" (Nowhere Man, or everything you ever wanted to know about John Lennon), by José Miguel Carrasco, is a retrospective of my career. But José also talks about how the presentation at La Tregua came about with a lot of help from Aida Vílchez and her "partner in life and art," Maleso (Martín León Soto), musicians in the Nowhere Band who performed Beatles and Lennon songs at the café along with my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, who sang some of her own songs, too.

 

Maleso must also be given a huge amount of credit for providing the translation during the Q&A portion of my presentation.

 

José's article certainly got word out about the show. The turnout at La Tregua was fantástico, the most people who've come to any event I've participated in since the Nowhere Man New York City launch party in 2000. And the crowd's enthusiasm for literature and music was electrifying. All I can say is, "We slayed in Sevilla!"

 

But enough talk about the show. If you want to see what it was like and get an idea of why Nowhere Man is the book that refuses to die, there's a video of the complete event. You can watch it here.

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One Night in Sevilla

If you couldn't make it to La Tregua, in Sevilla, on January 28, here's a video of the complete show. Martín León Soto provides the translation for my Nowhere Man presentation. Bajo Cuerda, La Tregua's house band, covers a few Beatle tunes. And the Nowhere Band performs the Beatles, John Lennon, and Mary Lyn Maiscott originals. That's Mary Lyn on vocals and guitar; Martín on keyboard, guitar, and vocals; Aida Vílchez on guitar and vocals; Juan Carlos León on guitar, and Jorge Collado on percussion and vocals.

 

Here's the set list:

00:00:50 Grow Old With Me - Aida Vílchez & The Nowhere Band
00:04:05 Oh, My Love - Adelardo Mora
00:07:00 Presentación de Robert Rosen
00:11:12 Lectura
00:14:38 Questions from the audience
00:54:08 Nowhere Man - Bajo Cuerda
00:57:22 Things We Said Today - Bajo Cuerda
01:00:38 And I Love Her - Bajo Cuerda
01:03:43 I'm Losing You - Mary Lyn Maiscott & The Nowhere Band
01:08:43 Jezebel - Mary Lyn Maiscott & The Nowhere Band
01:13:12 Midnight in California - Mary Lyn Maiscott & The Nowhere Band
01:17:48 You Can't Do That - Mary Lyn Maiscott & The Nowhere Band
01:21:41 My Cousin Sings Harmony - Mary Lyn Maiscott & The Nowhere Band
01:26:20 Now And Then - Mary Lyn Maiscott & The Nowhere Band
01:30:50 If I Fell - The Nowhere Band
01:33:26 One After 909 - The Nowhere Band
01:36:08 (Just Like) Starting Over - The Nowhere Band

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Hola a Todos

Hola a todos. Yo soy Robert Rosen. Escribí el libro Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon. Ahora estoy en Nueva York pero estaré en Sevilla el 28 de enero en café La Tregua. Voy a leer un poco del libro y responderé preguntas al respecto. Espero verte allí. Aquí un poco del capítulo uno.

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The Road to Spain

 

This is my last blog post before Mary Lyn Maiscott and I leave for Sevilla, Spain. There, on January 28 at 7 p.m. (19:00), at La Tregua café, I'll be reading en español from Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon and answering questions (in translation) about the book. Both the Spanish and English editions of Nowhere Man will be available.

 

My presentation will be followed by the Nowhere Band, featuring Mary Lyn and Sevilla locals Aida Vílchez and Martín León Soto, and backed by Bajo Cuerda, La Tregua's house band. They will perform Beatles and Lennon covers, original songs by Mary Lyn, and more. I hope you can join us for a memorable evening of literature and music.

 

You can read more about the event here, in la revista Yuzin.

 

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If you're unfamiliar with Nowhere Man, here's a link to an interview I did recently with Adam Scull on WPRN Public Radio that does a nice job of summing up both the book and the story behind it.

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Song for Matthew

Though Adam was a friend of mine, I did not know him well...

 

The opening line of Jackson Browne's "Song for Adam" came to mind when I heard about the death of Matthew Flamm the other day. Matt was a good friend whom I didn't know very well but who helped me a lot. The last time I saw him was December 14, 2019, when he and his wife, Diane Keating, came to the New York launch event at the Killarney Rose for my book Bobby in Naziland (since retitled A Brooklyn Memoir). I knew something was wrong when I had a disjointed phone conversation with him several months ago. I couldn't bring myself to ask what it was, and he didn't say. It never occurred to me that he had brain cancer. 

 

Matt was one of the few people I've met in publishing who was in a position to help an author and was willing to do so. He was a writer, poet, and critic who retired a few years ago from his longtime gig as a reporter at Crain's New York Business. I met him over the phone, in 1999, when he was writing "Between the Lines," a column about the book-publishing world, for Entertainment Weekly. This was one of the first Nowhere Man interviews I'd done, and in the course of our conversation he asked what I was currently working on. I told him about Beaver Street, a book about the history of the pornography industry, based in part on my experiences editing men's magazines, as they're euphemistically known. He mentioned that his old college roommate, whom he'd lost touch with, wrote fiction for such magazines. "Do you happen to know David Katz?" he asked.

 

"I worked with David all the time," I said. "He once did a 12-installment porno parody of David Copperfield—you know, a serialization like Dickens."

 

Two things happened next: Matt's item in Entertainment Weekly lit the fuse for the wall-to-wall coverage of Nowhere Man that landed it on bestseller lists. And I began hanging out with Matt, David, and another friend, Neil Wexler, one of the main "characters" in Beaver Street (I call him "Izzy Singer" in the book). We sometimes went to dinner at John's, an Italian joint in the East Village. Matt, David, and Neil were big Godfather fans—Mario Puzo once worked at the magazine publishing company where Neil and I used to work—and John's had that Godfather atmosphere, the kind of place where you half-expected to see somebody get rubbed out over a plate of lasagna.

 

We were eating in John's one night in 2002. Matt had just published in The New York Times a review of W.S. Merwin's poetry collection The Pupil. He wrote that Merwin sounded so worn out it was easy to forget he was once exciting to read.

 

"That was harsh," I said.

 

Echoing Sonny Corleone talking to his consigliere about somebody who had to be whacked, Matt said, "I like the guy. It's not personal. It's strictly business."

 

Later that year, Matt published another piece in the Times that was enormously helpful. As I continued to work on Beaver Street, he wrote a profile of literate writers, including me, who'd toiled in the salt mines of smut. "A Demimonde in Twilight" gave mainstream legitimacy to a topic that many publishers found too taboo to touch (though the Times was too prudish to print the title of my book). In the article Matt also profiled Neil and David, who used a pseudonym.

 

Matt's final work is a book of poetry, Grieving for Beginners, published in October. I was looking forward to reading it and discussing it with Matt. Then I saw the news of his death in "Publisher's Lunch," a daily mailing I get. I only wish I'd picked up his book sooner, because Matt spelled out his situation in a devastating poem, "Night Before Surgery, Lenox Hill." It begins:

 

It could be anything the surgeon said.

In my darkened room, he showed me

on his phone the black-and-white slides

of the mass in my brain.

 

I extend my deepest condolences to Diane and their two daughters, Gabrielle and Allegra.

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The Many Lives of Nowhere Man

In these first days of 2024, as I prepare to travel to Sevilla, Spain, to read from and answer questions about Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, at La Tregua café on January 28, I've been thinking about what a miracle Nowhere Man has been. A book that publishers spent 18 years rejecting has now been in print 24 years in a variety of languages, and it's been a life-transforming odyssey. In 1981, when I began writing the book, I was an obscure freelancer. Suffice it to say that's no longer the case.

 

To celebrate my upcoming journey and the book's longevity, and to remind myself that what's happened is real, I've put together the above collection of ten print editions of Nowhere Man. This does not include another half-dozen print and ebook editions with identical covers. I invite you to join me in this celebration and, if possible, come to see me in Spain for a night of literature and music featuring the Nowhere Band: Mary Lyn Maiscott Aida Vílchez, and Martín León Soto.

 

Till then, happy New Year and ¡Feliz año nuevo!

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Quote of the Year

As another year of worldwide tragedy sputters to an end I've been trying to think of something simple and positive to say, and a question I was asked in a recent interview came to mind: How do you want to be remembered?

 

It's not the sort of question I usually get and it took me by surprise. But the answer I came up with is simple and positive. Before I share what I'm calling the "Quote of the Year," I want to wish all my friends, family, and readers the happiest New Year.

 

"I'd prefer to be remembered as a decent human being and a writer who opened peoples' eyes to new realities."

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All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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Aida Hall

 

Here's another reminder of the many talents of Aida Vílchez and Martín León Soto, who will be our hosts on January 28 when Mary Lyn Maiscott and I travel to Sevilla, Spain, and appear with Aida and Martín at La Tregua café for an evening of literature and music. I'll be reading from the Spanish edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon and answering questions about the book. Mary Lyn will be singing Beatles covers, her own songs, and more with Aida and Martín, backed by La Tregua's house band.

 

In the above video, created with AI, CapCut, and a homemade green screen, Aida takes over for Diane Keaton in a scene with Woody Allen from Annie Hall, dubbed in Spanish. Who said you can't improve on a classic?

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Aida Ono

 

Aida Vílchez and Martín León Soto will be our hosts when Mary Lyn Maiscott and I travel to Sevilla, Spain, next month for a January 28 show at La Tregua café. I'll be reading from the Spanish edition of Nowhere Man and answering questions about the book. Mary Lyn will be singing Beatles covers, her own songs, and more with Aida and Martín, backed by La Tregua's house band.

 

As I learned recently, Aida's and Martín's talents go far beyond the musical. With a little help from AI, CapCut, and a homemade green screen, here's Aida, in the role of Yoko Ono, sitting in with John Lennon for a few bars of "Imagine." Stay with it till the end of this transcendent 42 seconds.

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The Gift of Books

Every gift-giving season I make available signed copies of some of my books. Here's the selection for 2023:

  • Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (updated and expanded 2022 edition), $21
  • A Brooklyn Memoir (2022), $23
  • Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (2002 edition with photos), $19
  • Bobby in Naziland (2019, earlier, slightly different edition of A Brooklyn Memoir), $23

Prices include shipping in the continental US. Please email me for information on payment via Zelle, check, or money order, or if you have any questions.

 

Wishing all of you the happiest of holidays! And to help you get into the spirit of the season, here's Mary Lyn Maiscott's Christmas classic, "Blue Lights."

 

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One Night Only: "Nowhere Man" & Nowhere Band Live in Sevilla

 

Save the Date: Sunday, January 28, 2024, at 19.00 (7 p.m.), at La Tregua café in Sevilla, Spain. I'll be reading en español from Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon and answering questions (in translation) about the book. I'll also be signing the latest Nowhere Man Spanish and English editions, which will be available at the café.

 

A performance by the Nowhere Band, featuring New York City's Mary Lyn Maiscott and Sevilla locals Aida Vílchez and Martín León Soto will follow. Backed by La Tregua's house band, the trio will perform Beatles and Lennon covers, original songs by Mary Lyn, and more. You can check out Mary Lyn's latest release, "My Cousin Sings Harmony," here.

 

Admission is gratis. For more information please call La Tregua at +34 687 94 02 36 or write them at latreguasevilla@gmail.com.

 

Stay tuned for more details.

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"I Loved Paul Like a Brother"

This is the final installment of a transcript, edited for clarity, of the questions asked at my Nowhere Man event at Subterranean Books in St. Louis. Transcription courtesy of Laurel Zito.

 

What did John write in his diary that was most revealing about his relationship with Paul McCartney that was not publicly known?

 

One of the main parts of Nowhere Man is my description of John Lennon's relationship with Paul McCartney based on my memory of his journals. John didn't see much of Paul, but he thought about him virtually every day. He was angry at Paul because Paul wanted a Beatles reunion and John wanted no part of that. He felt that reuniting the Beatles was going backward, and he wanted to move forward. The Beatles were his childhood, his adolescence, his 20s. He was a 40-year-old man with a family. He wanted to leave the past behind. And Paul was just a constant reminder of that past: "Let's reunite the Beatles! Let's reunite the Beatles!" John made it absolutely clear that he didn't want to do that. He said he loved Paul like a brother but he couldn't stand being around him.

 

While John was in seclusion, doing nothing, not recording music, not writing music, Paul was out there recording song after song, hit after hit, and John was extremely jealous. He felt that the only way he could get Paul's attention was if Yoko did something like sell a cow for a quarter-million dollars, and that would make the papers. And Yoko sold a cow for a quarter-million dollars, which at the time was a record-setting price for a cow. There was a big story about it in the papers, and John wrote in his journal that it was a great victory over the McCartneys.

 

In early 1980, Paul was getting ready to go on tour with Wings. He stopped by New York on his way to Japan and called John at the Dakota. He said he had some good weed and, you know, would you like me to come by and we'll smoke some weed together. And John said no. Then he found out that in Japan Paul was planning to stay in the Presidential Suite at the Okura Hotel, in Tokyo. John and Yoko considered that their private suite and he was outraged and repulsed that Paul and his wife, Linda, would be staying there. He told Yoko that we can't let this happen, that she's got to stop McCartney from going on tour and staying in our suite and "ruining our hotel karma."

 

"Yoko did it!!! Paul busted in Japan!!!"

 

He wrote in his journals about how Yoko practices magic. They both were into all this occult stuff: magic, tarot, numerology, you name it. They had a full-time tarot-card reader, Charlie Swan—his real name was John Green. Yoko and Swan went to Colombia, in South America, where Swan hooked her up with a powerful bruja, a witch. And she paid the witch $60,000 to teach her how to cast magic spells. And Yoko told John that she was going to use her magic to stop McCartney from staying in their hotel suite. And what happened was—you might remember this—in 1980, when Paul arrived in Japan, he was stopped at customs smuggling marijuana. He was arrested; he spent 10 days in jail; and the tour was ruined. And when John found out about this, it was the happiest moment of 1980 for him up to that point. Because his life was just kind of adrift, and he was doing nothing. Even his journals were really fragmented. He just wasn't writing coherently. But when Paul was busted he wrote, "Yoko did it!!! Paul busted in Japan!!!" And then he quotes the thing from Monopoly: "Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200." He was thrilled.

 

John also thought he had a psychic connection with Paul. Anytime Paul was in town he said he heard McCartney's music in his head. And then finally, in Bermuda, in the summer of 1980, John started writing music again, serious music, for the first time in five years. And, yeah, he was really struggling to get back in gear and to connect with his muse and write something inspired. What really got John going was that McCartney had just released an album called McCartney II. And one of the songs on there is "Coming Up." The whole song is addressed directly to John, and McCartney's calling for a Beatles reunion. One of the lyrics in "Coming Up" is "I know that we can get together/Stick around and see." John would play "Coming Up" over and over again. It inspired him and he started writing a song that was really a response to "Coming Up." That song was "I Don't Wanna Face It." It has autobiographical lyrics like "You want to save humanity/But it's people that you just can't stand" and "You're looking for oblivion/With one eye on the Hall of Fame." Even though Paul wasn't there, John was collaborating with him by listening to "Coming Up" and responding to it. Some of John's best writing was when he was collaborating with Paul. Which is not to say his solo songs were bad, but his best work was with the Beatles.

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"Double Fantasy" Brought Them Together

 

Below is a transcript, edited for clarity, of another question asked at my Nowhere Man event at Subterranean Books in St. Louis. Transcription courtesy of Laurel Zito.

 

How was John's relationship with Yoko in those last days?

 

Most of the time John was keeping the diaries he was in seclusion and there wasn't much going on. When John and Yoko's son, Sean, was born, in 1975, he was going to drop out of the music business, which he hated, and he was going to devote five years to bringing up Sean. That had been the plan. It's not that he didn't do that. He did it to some degree, but he had a staff of servants and nannies to do the heavy lifting when it came to bringing up a child.

 

John had mostly retreated to his room and he smoked a lot of dope and he wrote in his journals and he dreamed a lot. The journals were kind of a stream of consciousness for five years. I mean he would record everything—what he ate, when he went to the bathroom. You just got like a real granular sense of what this man's life was like, and, yeah, he spent time with Sean, obviously. But he was very much into his solitude and smoking his weed and writing in his journals.

 

John and Yoko had five apartments in the Dakota. They had an office on the first floor; their apartment was on this the seventh floor. John was spending most of his time by himself in the apartment, and Yoko was downstairs in the office doing business. So, yeah, you got the sense that they really didn't see each other that much. He would complain in his journals that he wanted to spend more time with Yoko. He missed her and loved her and needed her.

 

Then towards the end, when they finally decided that he was going to come out of seclusion and he was going to release his first album in five years, that's when John and Yoko started working together and that was a big change. At that point he pretty much stopped writing in his journals. He'd recorded the Double Fantasy demo tape in Bermuda, and then he came back to New York and they started working on the album. They had to find a record company and they signed with David Geffen.

 

For the first time in five years John was writing music and rehearsing and going into the studio and recording. And Yoko was doing the same thing. Double Fantasy, the final album—probably a lot of you have heard it—was a song of John's followed by a song of Yoko's followed by a song of John's all the way through. And working on Double Fantasy brought them together unlike anything that had happened in the previous years when he wasn't working and doing whatever he was doing to pass the time watching the wheels as the song said.

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Books I've Been Reading

 

Shepherd is a Website that works closely with authors in an effort to guide readers to good books. Last year I gave them a list of five books that inspired me to write. You can see the list here.

 

This year they wanted to know the three best books I read in 2023. It was an easy question, and three books sprang to mind: The Overstory by Richard Powers, The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, an iconic author I've somehow managed to avoid reading until now.

 

Click here to peruse the list and see my reasons for chosing those books. Perhaps it will inspire you to pick up one of my books or another book you hadn't considered reading.

 

If you're looking for even more choices, here's Shepherd's list of The 100 Best Books of 2023.

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The Origins of Nowhere Man

Below is a transcript, edited for clarity, of a question asked at my event at Subterranean Books in St. Louis. Transcription courtesy of Laurel Zito.

 

Do you feel that the burglary of your apartment was done by somebody who wanted John Lennon's diaries back or do you think it was just an ordinary burglary?

 

I know who did it: My old college friend Fred Seaman, John's assistant, the guy who hired me to write the book that 18 years later would become Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. He had the key to my apartment. He was staying there when I was out of town and he had three weeks to go through everything and take what he wanted. John's diaries were the key to the project.

 

John and Fred were in Bermuda in the summer of 1980. John was putting together the demo tape for his Double Fantasy album. Fred said that John had a premonition of his death, and John told him that if anything should happen him he wanted Fred to write the true story of his life based on whatever material he needed. This is what Fred told me and I accepted it as face value. Years later I learned that Fred had decided at a certain point he was going to sell the diaries as an art object and he didn't need me for that. He was going to make a lot more money that way.

 

After the burglary I put together a book proposal based on what happened and what I remembered from the diaries. I was going around trying to get a book deal. I went to Playboy because they had that big interview with John and Yoko. I went to Rolling Stone and I met with Jan Wenner, the editor. I told him the story and he believed me but he said he couldn't publish it and that he wanted to save my karma. He told me I needed go to Yoko Ono and tell her the story. So I went to Yoko Ono and she put me on the payroll for six months.

 

The whole time that I was transcribing John's diaries, and long before that, beginning in 1977, I'd been keeping my own diaries. Everything that had happened since the day John and Yoko hired Fred was in there. Fred's first day on the job, in February 1979, he came to me and said, "Someday we have to write a book about John Lennon." And I said okay. I didn't know when this was going to happen, and for the two years, between when Fred was hired and John was murdered, he was in touch with me at least once a week, and he'd tell me everything that was going on with John and Yoko and their son Sean—how they were traveling to Bermuda or their homes on Long Island and in Palm Beach. For two years I was taking notes in my own diaries, and this is what Ono wanted to see. She told me that she didn't know that John was keeping diaries. I didn't think that was true. In fact I'm sure it wasn't. On some pages in John's diaries, like when he was contemplating having an affair, Yoko had scrawled something like, "Over my dead body." So she obviously knew the diaries existed. She told me that John's diaries were sacred and I shouldn't have read them. That's when she asked if she could read my diaries. I said, "All right, that's only fair. I read John's diaries you can read my diaries."

 

I brought over 16 volumes of my diaries, about a half-million words. This covered everything from the day Fred was hired until he was fired. We'd sit around her kitchen table, she'd read my diaries and ask me questions about them. She wanted to piece together what Fred was doing this whole time, and my diaries were like an hour-by-hour account. As far as she was concerned Fred did not have the right to take John's diaries. She had him arrested and she got John's diaries back.

________

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on X (the site formerly known as Twitter) or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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The "Jeopardy!" Effect

Jeopardy! premiered March 30, 1964, on NBC and has run, on and off, ever since, with the current edition now in its 40th season. In New York City, the original show, hosted by Art Fleming (Don Pardo was the announcer), aired at 11:30 in the morning. My mother watched it and all the other morning game shows on a small TV in the kitchen as she did her housework. One day, probably in 1968, I was watching it with her and my uncle. I don't remember the category or clue, but the answer (always in the form of a question) was, "What is 'Penny Lane'?" My mother and uncle didn't know it, but I was a Beatles fan and I did, and it prompted my uncle to say, "He should do as well with his schoolwork as he does with Jeopardy!"

 

Flash forward to December 2003. I'm a professional writer enjoying success with my first published book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. It's on best-seller lists. Excerpts are running in magazines. Foreign-language editions are appearing. It's getting reviewed. But my parents, retired and living in Florida, have not grasped how dramatically my life has changed.

 

One night my father calls. "Did you see Jeopardy!?" he asks.

 

"No," I say, aware that he and my mother are big fans of the show. "Why?"

 

"You were a question!"

 

"What?"

 

All he remembers is that my name and Nowhere Man were mentioned. And this to him is proof at last that his son is "a famous writer." 

 

I obtain a videocassette of the show, from December 26. And sure enough, there I am in Double Jeopardy!, "Rock & Roll Bookstore" for $400: "'Nowhere Man' is Robert Rosen's take on 'the final days' of this Beatle."

 

Flash forward again, 20 years, to October 18, 2023. I'm scrolling through Facebook when my messages and notifications suddenly light up: I'm hearing that Bob Rosen was a clue on Jeopardy tonight!... You've hit the big time, my boy!... You were just on Jeopardy!!... Bob, did you know that you're a Jeopardy question??? I'm watching tonight's episode right now!

 

It's the same category, same question, and same $400 from 2003. Except this time half the world is watching, and at least three people managed to take a picture of the clue.

 

I later find out that Jeopardy! has been rerunning questions since the writers' strike. And they reran my question in the age of smartphones and social media.

 

From "Penny Lane" to Nowhere Man, Jeopardy! loves the Beatles.

 

My Jeopardy! moment 2023.

 ________

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A Night in St. Louis

 SubBooks4.jpg

Zito's transcript of the first question and my answer, edited for clarity, is below. Photo © Mary Lyn Maiscott.

 

You said that John's diaries were taken away from you. Did you have enough material at that time to write Nowhere Man or did you eventually get the diaries back? What happened?

 

I was sent out of town. While I was gone my apartment was ransacked. Everything I'd been working on for like a year was taken from me. I was in a state of shock. I couldn't believe that's how the thing ended. I didn't know what to do. Two weeks passed and I started waking up in the morning and realized that passages from the diary were running through my head. I had passages memorized. A lot of the stuff John had written was just so vivid. I started writing down what I remembered, and the more I remembered the more I remembered. This went on for some time and eventually I had large portions of the diaries re-created. I turned that into a book proposal. That's when I started trying to publish the book. This was late 1982, early 1983, and I was met with a lot of rejection for the reasons I was talking about before—you can't prove that this is true; there's going to be lawsuits. When I finally got the deal 18 years later there were no lawsuits and the more time went on the more people realized that what I'd written was true. More information about John's life had begun coming out, and now, 23 years later, pretty much everything I said has been confirmed in one way or another. There was a copyright infringement trial in 2002 and I was subpoenaed to testify by Yoko Ono's lawyers. A lot of what I wrote in the book I eventually told under oath. That's what happened.

 

A short video clip of my reading from the "Money" chapter of Nowhere Man. Video © Laurel Zito.

________

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John Lennon's Tell-All Memoir

I was thrilled to return to Subterranean Books, in St. Louis, for my first live event in four years. There's a complete audio recording of the reading and Q&A that followed, which I'll make available in weeks to come. In the meantime, here's a transcript of my opening remarks.

 

Hi everyone. Thank you all for coming. I know many of you were here in 2019 for my previous book, Bobby in Naziland, which was re-released as A Brooklyn Memoir. Nowhere Man is a very different book, and there's a new edition with 45 pages of supplementary material, a new introduction, and innumerable corrections, additions, and revisions.

 

I was supposed to do this three years ago. Unfortunately a pandemic got in the way. This is my first book event since the pandemic started, and I timed it to coincide with what would have been John Lennon's 83rd birthday on October 9.

 

Perhaps some of you have already read Nowhere Man, possibly when it was originally published more than 23 years ago. A lot's happened since then. Tonight I'm going to talk about how I wrote Nowhere Man and some of what's happened since 2000. Then I'm going to read three short passages to give you a sense of the book's flavor. I should warn you that one passage has some strong language, which is pretty much unavoidable when writing about Lennon. After I finish reading I'll throw it open to questions.

 

I began writing Nowhere Man more than 41 years ago, in early 1982. It took me 18 years to find a publisher. Everybody I sent the manuscript to was afraid to publish it. They were worried about lawsuits. They were worried that there wasn't enough interest in John Lennon. They were worried that I couldn't provide documented proof that what I'd written was true. I didn't work nonstop on the book for 18 years, but I never gave up on it because I knew it was a story that needed to be told. So I had 18 years to refine the book and get it right.

 

Then, a small indie publisher, Soft Skull Press, made an offer for Nowhere Man and published it in the summer of 2000. They were very good at promotion and after 18 years of rejection I had an international bestseller in multiple languages.

 

So what made the book so dangerous and controversial that nobody would touch it for all those years? Nowhere Man exists because five months after Lennon was murdered, his personal assistant Fred Seaman, an old college friend, gave me the diaries Lennon had been keeping for the last six years of his life and asked me to turn it into a book—it's what John had told him to do, he said.

 

In the new introduction I describe this as the old literary trope: an "ordinary man" in an "extraordinary situation." Did I take at face value what Seaman told me? Yes. Was this naïve? Obviously. Did I recognize the moment as a life-changing occasion? No, I saw it as a job. Of course I wanted to turn Lennon's diaries into a book. I was a writer looking for a story, and the story of the Beatles was the story of my generation.

 

But what exactly was in those diaries that made them such an extraordinary document? Well, they struck me as a rough draft of the tell-all memoir John never had a chance to complete. He put everything in there: the gossip, the fear, the rage, the insanity, the insecurity, the inspiration, the love, and the hate… all the emotions and contradictions that made Lennon who he was. And I had to turn this disjointed mass of raw material into a coherent narrative. Which I started doing. But before I could finish—and this is the story behind the book, which I detail in a chapter called "John Lennon's Diaries"—everything I was working on was taken from me.

 

All of this raises a question that I've been asked repeatedly for the past 23 years: What right did I have to reveal the personal information in a man's private diaries? In other words did I have a right to tell this story?

 

All I can say is that John Lennon was a historical figure, the information in his diaries was of historical value, and an extraordinary circumstance allowed me to be a conduit of that information. Had I chosen to not publish Nowhere Man, this story would not have been told in my lifetime, if ever. So I made a decision: I chose to put the story out there.

 

If you're uncomfortable with that (and I know some people are), there are plenty of authorized Lennon biographies. You don't have to read my book. But if you choose to read it, I will say that I've done my best to give you the truth as I know it.

 

The three selections I'm going to read are from a section called "Dakota 1980." They take place towards the end of John's five-year hiatus, before he returned to the studio to record his final album, Double Fantasy.

________

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The Cross-Examination

Robert Rodriguez and I covered a lot of ground when we spoke recently on his podcast, Something About the Beatles. We talked in detail about the new edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which has 45 pages of supplementary material, a new introduction, and innumerable corrections, revisions, and additions. And we talked about the reading I'm doing tonight, October 4, at 6 p.m., at Subterranean Books in St. Louis, my first public event in almost four years, since the beginning of the pandemic. And we talked about the book I'm working on, tentatively titled No Future, which is set at a radical student newspaper at the City College of New York in the 1970s, as the student left is giving way to the forces of punk.

 

In the course of discussing the many dramas surrounding the publication of Nowhere Man, the subject of Yoko Ono's 2002 copyright infringement lawsuit against Fred Seaman came up. I was subpoenaed to testify at that trial as a witness for Ono, and I told Rodriguez about the bizarre cross-examination Seaman's lawyer subjected me to. Fresh out of law school, the attorney was up against Ono's high-priced, well-prepared legal team that had both the facts and the law on their side, in a high-profile trial that dominated the front page of the tabloids. For the young lawyer, it was a baptism of fire.

 

Ono's lawyer questioned me first, and I told a story that was, essentially, the same story I tell in the Nowhere Man chapter titled "John Lennon's Diaries." Except this time I told it under oath.

 

Then Seaman's attorney had at me. The first rule of cross-examination is: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. This cross-examination was a series of shots in the dark, the attorney hoping to hit on something, anything, that would discredit me. His first question was (and I'm paraphrasing throughout): "Did you burglarize Fred Seaman's apartment?"

 

I looked at him like he was crazy. "No," I said, realizing that Seaman must have believed that Ono was somehow able to force me to do this.

 

"Is this the first time anybody asked you that question?"

 

"Yes."

 

I don't recall exactly where the cross-examination went from there, only that the attorney asked me a lot of questions that did his client no good whatsoever. But I do recall his last three questions:

 

"Did you believe John Lennon wanted you to have his diaries?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Do you still believe that?"

 

I thought about it for a few seconds, and I'm told it was a very dramatic moment. "Yes," I finally said.

 

"Did you pay taxes on the money Yoko Ono paid you?"

 

This was his last desperate attempt to discredit me, and it pissed me off. "I sure did," I said.

 

The lawyer turned and walked back to his seat.

 

Ono won her case.

_______

Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon tonight, October 4, 6 p.m., at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.

 

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on X (the site formerly known as Twitter) or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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Subterranean Preview

 

Wednesday, October 4, at 6 p.m., I'll be doing my first live event in almost four years, since the beginning of the pandemic. If you're in the St. Louis area, please join me at Subterranean Books. I'll be reading from and answering questions about the new and expanded edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.

 

The book has endured for 23 years and achieved cult-classic status because it takes you on a journey through Lennon's consciousness. Read Nowhere Man and you'll feel what it was like to be John. I was able to write such a biography because five months after Lennon was murdered, his personal assistant gave me the diaries Lennon had been keeping for the last six years of his life and asked me to turn it into a book—it's what John had told him to do, he said.

 

The diaries struck me as a rough draft of the tell-all memoir that Lennon never had a chance to complete—which raises a question I've been asked repeatedly: What right did I have to reveal the personal information in a man's private diaries? In other words, did I have a right to tell this story?

 

I'll discuss this at the event. Of course you should feel free to ask me about anything else.

 

I'm also going to read three short excerpts from chapters in the "Dakota 1980" section of the book: "Being Rich," "That Magic Feeling," and "Money." They all take place towards the end of John's five-year hiatus, before he returned to the studio to record his final album, Double Fantasy

 

If you're unfamiliar with me or my work, please listen to my recent appearance on the Something About the Beatles podcast. This will give you a sense of what the Subterranean event will be like.

 

I look forward to meeting you in St. Louis. To paraphrase the Beatles, been away so long I hardly know the place anymore.

________

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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My Father at 100

Had my father, Irwin Rosen, lived, he would have turned 100 on September 23. But he left us in 2005, a vigorous man who had to be dragged to doctors and refused to take certain tests that might have saved his life. If it's true that everybody is born with a finite amount of courage, my father spent most of his on the battlefields of World War II and had little left over to face the verdicts rendered by men of medicine. My last memory of him when he was still healthy was playing touch football on my brother's front lawn. At age 80, he could still move and fling the ball with zip. I prefer not to think of him lying in a hospital bed.

 

My relationship with my father was challenging, and it was only after he was gone that I considered writing about it and trying to make sense of it. When I was a kid, he owned a candy store on Church Avenue, in Brooklyn, around the corner from where we lived. He put in 12-hour days, then came home and went to sleep. Pretty much the only time I ever saw him awake was when he was behind the counter in the store, whipping up egg creams and malteds for his customers and selling them cigarettes. I worked in the store from the time I was seven, making change for newspapers and eventually graduating to the egg-cream bar. I liked listening to my father and his cronies talk about the war, football, and the dirty books he kept on a special rack in the back of the store. But I also got an advanced education in bigotry—I was carefully taught whom to hate. It was ugly stuff, some of the things they said, and I wrote about it in detail in A Brooklyn Memoir, which ends in 1964, when I was 12, just before my father sold the store.

 

Then came my teenage years, which I've yet to write a book about. My father was a law-and-order Republican, I was a hippie, and things in the Rosen household grew so strained, we froze each other out. It was a cold war. Months went by when I didn't exchange a word with my father or my mother. The root of the trouble was the length of my hair and my refusal to cut it. I spent as much time away from my parents as possible, while still technically living in the same house. I moved out in 1975, when I was 22.

 

By the time my parents moved to a retirement community near West Palm Beach, in 1995, my father had mellowed, even toning down the bigotry, and I'd become more accepting of his and my mother's flaws. We were talking again, and I enjoyed visiting them and spending time in Florida. Despite their adamant opposition to my career choice—"You'll starve!"—they were thrilled when Nowhere Man became a best-seller, and they kept a file of newspaper clippings about the book, in many languages. Though the thing that finally persuaded them that I'd achieved some degree of success was when Nowhere Man was a question on their favorite show, Jeopardy. ("Rock & Roll Bookstore for $400, Alex.") 

 

Now, in my own advanced age, I find myself missing the old man and wishing he'd taken the damn medical tests so I could have had him around a few more years. And my mother, who's closing in on 97, misses him, too—despite their 56 years of bickering about everything. That's just the way it goes. The lucky ones get old and some of them do make it to 100.

 

So, on the occasion of my father's 100th birthday, I'll leave you with an excerpt of A Brooklyn Memoir. This is how Chapter 11, "Fragments of My Father," begins:

 

Yes, my father wore his hatred on his sleeve like a badge of honor—because that's what he wanted people to see. He thought it made him look like a tough son of a bitch who was not to be fucked with, and maybe it did. But it was possible for certain people—like me, my mother, and perhaps a few others—to occasionally get beyond this facade, and if you managed to do that, what you'd find lurking just beneath the surface was a seething mass of contradictions.

________

Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon on Wednesday, October 4, 6 p.m., at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.

 

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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Former Lennon Staffers Tell All

I'd never seen this episode of The Joan Rivers Show from 1991, but it popped up on YouTube a few months ago and has already gotten more than 234,000 views and 2,000+ comments. Rivers's guests were Fred Seaman, John Lennon and Yoko Ono's former personal assistant; Lennon's former lover May Pang; and Michael Medeiros, aka "Mike Tree," also a former Lennon and Ono assistant. The theme of the episode was "Former Staffers Tell All," though Seaman was the only one who had something to sell that day: his book, The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir

 

I've written about Seaman, Pang, and Medeiros in my book Nowhere Man, on this blog, and in the case of Medeiros, in The Village Voice.

 

Seaman was an old college friend who, the day Lennon hired him, in 1979, asked me to collaborate with him on a book about Lennon and, after his murder, gave me Lennon's diaries to use as source material for that book. I'm not going to deconstruct, line by line, everything Seaman tells Rivers. Suffice it to say that like his book, it's a skillful blend of truth and lies, and he begins the interview with a fire hose of lies about Lennon's diaries and about me.

 

If you want my perspective, read Nowhere Man. I detail the diary story in a chapter called "John Lennon's Diaries." Or  listen to any of the interviews I've given over the years, many of which are available on the home page and John Lennon page of this Website. Or if you're in St. Louis, please join me October 4 at Subterranean Books. I'll be discussing and answering questions about Nowhere Man. You can ask me anything, and I hope you will.

________

Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon on Wednesday, October 4, 6 p.m. at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.

 

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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Buckley and Me

I never met James L. Buckley, but he was familiar with my work and he did have an impact on my life. Buckley, who died August 18 at age 100, was William F. Buckley's brother and an unlikely Conservative senator from New York, who served from 1971 to 1977, occupying a seat once held by Bobby Kennedy.

 

During Buckley's term in office I was editing Observation Post, or OP, a radical student newspaper at the City College of New York. I often published in OP the surreal drawings of the late artist and filmmaker Robert Attanasio. Attanasio, who was brought up in the Catholic Church and later rejected its teachings, had strong feelings about the church's myriad hypocrisies, which he expressed in his art.

 

In 1974, the church had yet to be exposed as a haven for pedophilic clergy and was considered by many, including Buckley, to be untouchable—an institution off limits to criticism by anybody for any reason. One did not criticize those who spoke for God. It was also a time, one year into Richard Nixon's second term, that the despair and rage his presidency and his endless war in Vietnam engendered were giving rise to a punk sensibility whose mode of expression was outrage for the sake of outrage. OP was a font of this sensibility, and that's why I published an Attanasio cartoon that The New York Times would later describe as "a nun using a cross as a sexual object."

 

The cartoon infuriated Catholic organizations on campus and beyond. In a speech before the senate, Buckley characterized Attanasio's nun as "a vicious and incredibly offensive antireligious drawing" and called for a federal investigation of OP and the expulsion of the students responsible for publishing it. The media firestorm that ensued galvanized OP, giving it a newfound sense of purpose: defending the nun in the name of transgressive art.

 

But there would be no investigation and nobody would be expelled. The First Amendment and a Times editorial in support of the student press (despite "inexcusably irresponsible or offensive actions by undergraduate editors") got in the way of politicians who wanted to cut off all funding for campus newspapers at public colleges. OP, a bastion of free expression, would continue publishing for five more years. And thanks to James L. Buckley, I learned more about the Constitution and the power of the press than I learned in any class I took as an undergraduate.

 

May the senator rest in peace.

________

Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon on Wednesday, October 4, 6 p.m. at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.

 

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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The Bear in Number 12

 

"Modernistic, almost avant-garde, all acute angles and big vertical sheets of glass jutting toward the street, the red-brick structure stands in the middle of a row of mid-19th-century Greek Revival townhouses, on a tree-lined Greenwich Village block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. In its mismatched eccentricity, 18 West 11th Street cries out to be noticed, and I noticed it—and the Paddington Bear in the window—right after I moved to the neighborhood. I don't remember what kind of costume the bear had on that summer day in 1991 (probably a bathing suit and sunglasses), just that I stopped to look and wonder why the house was so different from every other house on the block." –from The Village Voice

 

The above paragraph is the opening of a book I'm working on. Tentatively titled No Future, an excerpt ran in The Village Voice last year. It's about the connection between Observation Post, a radical student newspaper at the City College of New York in the 1970s, and a house that the violent antiwar group known as the Weathermen, or Weather Underground, used as a bomb factory. The Weathermen were not very good bomb makers, and they accidentally blew up the house. Three Weathermen died in the explosion. Eventually, a lavish new house was built on the site, and the owners, metals magnate David Langworthy and his wife, Norma, displayed a Paddington Bear in the window. Every day the bear had on a different costume. If the Yankees were in the World Series, he'd be wearing a Yankees uniform. If a nor'easter was coming in, he'd be wearing a rain hat and slicker. I called him the Paddington Bear of Cognitive Dissonance.

 

In 2014 the house was sold and the bear disappeared, probably never to be seen again in that particular window.

 

I wondered about the bear's fate. I missed walking by the house to see what kind of costume he had on. I inquired about the bear on Nextdoor. Nobody knew what happened to him.

 

One morning last week, I was walking down a block I've walked down many times: West 10th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, one block from where the bear used to be. This time, a beautiful bow window at number 12 caught my eye, and standing on a table in the corner of the window was Paddington Bear, wearing red rubber boots. (It had rained the previous day.) I don't know how long he'd been there, but he's not in any of the Google street view images taken between June 2014, around the time he disappeared, and November 2022. It was the first time I'd seen the bear in nine years.

 

Several days later I returned to check out his costume. He was still wearing red rubber boots, though it hadn't been raining.

 

If the Yankees or Mets should miraculously squeak into the playoffs, perhaps the new owners will be moved to dress him in the appropriate uniform, as his previous owners always did. Then again, it's football season, and both New York teams could prove to be interesting this year. Paddington Bear would look just fine in either Giant blue or Jet green.

________

Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon on Wednesday, October 4, 6 p.m. at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.

 

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on X (the site formerly known as Twitter) or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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Sometimes the Living Know Brooklyn, Too

 

It's been a while since I've posted about A Brooklyn Memoir, my tale of growing up in Flatbush at a time when the beloved Dodgers abandoned the borough for Los Angeles, WWII was still fresh in everybody's mind, and the military veterans and Holocaust survivors who populated the neighborhood suffered from what was not yet known as PTSD. But a podcast about the book that I recorded nine months ago recently popped up. You can listen to it on the above player.

 

Yvonne Battle-Felton, the host of Bookable Space, is a writer and academic based in the UK. Her probing questions about A Brooklyn Memoir got me talking about the racism, hatred, and emotional and physical violence that I tried to forget after I left Flatbush in the mid-1970s. It wasn't until 2012 that I decided to write about those long-ago days; I then spent the next several years recalling fragment by fragment what I'd so successfully put out of my mind.

 

I also read three short excerpts from the book: the beginning of Chapter 1, "The Goyim and the Jews"; the beginning of Chapter 3, "Heil Irwin," which is about my father; and the section from Chapter 9, "The Great Candy-Store Tragedy," that gets into the Brooklyn Dodgers and Bobby Thomson's devastating "shot heard 'round the world."

 

Tune in and return to a New York City that's been lost to time.

________

Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon: Wednesday, October 4, 6 p.m. at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.

 

All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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Start Spreading the News

 

I'm doing my first public event in nearly four years, since just before the onset of the pandemic, at Subterranean Books, in St. Louis. I'm going to read from and answer questions about a new and expanded edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. If you're in the area, please mark your calendars: Wednesday, October 4, at 6 p.m. It's an early celebration of Lennon's 83rd birthday, which takes place October 9.

 

Originally published 23 years ago, Nowhere Man has been translated into many languages and has become an enduring cult classic that takes you on a journey through Lennon's consciousness. You can read about the book on the Subterranean site, or just come to the store, at 6271 Delmar, in the Loop, University City, for an intimate perspective on the life and death of an ex-Beatle.

 

With a little help from my St. Louis friends and family maybe we can reprise the outstanding turnout at my last Subterranean event, in October 2019, for my just-published memoir Bobby in Naziland (since retitled A Brooklyn Memoir). It put the book on the St. Louis Post Dispatch bestseller list.

 

Stay tuned for future postings about Nowhere Man and my Subterranean reappearance. In the meantime start spreading the news. I hope you can meet me in St. Louie.

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All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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A Time Machine for the Mind

In the summer of 1972, traveling alone on a super-low budget, I managed to latch on to an American tour group in Israel. They gave me a free ride through the country, and I kept a journal of that extraordinary month. I was an aspiring teenage writer, on the verge of turning 20, and I'd gotten it into my head that serious writers kept journals, especially when they were on the road.

 

The past several years I've been working on a book about the 1970s, and in the process I've been excavating old journals, including the one I kept in Israel. The excerpt below occurred 51 years ago tomorrow, when I visited Masada. I include it here because tomorrow is also Thursday, August 10—the 1972 calendar, from March through December, is in sync with the 2023 calendar. And what happened in that barren patch of desert 2,000 years ago is a story I heard that day for the first time.

 

A good journal entry is like a time machine for the mind.

 

Thursday, August 10, 1972

Sunrise over Masada, the Dead Sea gleaming in the distance as we gaze upon the ruins of the "impregnable" Jewish fortress, perched on a mesa in the Judean desert. Here, 1,900 years ago, King David and 960 Jews held off the Roman army. The Great Siege of Masada went on for months, until the Romans breached the walls that seem to grow out of the brown and lifeless earth. Inside they found dead Jews—everybody had committed suicide or killed each other rather than be taken prisoner or enslaved, and two millennia later our tour guide calls this mass suicide an act of "heroism," though some, like me, might mistake it for death-cult insanity.

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All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on (the site formerly known as) Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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The Artful Propaganda of the Spanish Civil War

 

Last week, to celebrate my birthday, I wrote about the man I was named after, my great-uncle Robert Rubin Weber, who, in 1938, joined the International Brigade, Lincoln-Washington Battalion, to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and was killed in action at the Battle of Gandesa. I also examined a Spanish Civil War propaganda poster from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA). A selection of these artistically striking posters, designed to convince Spanish citizens of the righteousness of the Republican anti-fascist cause, will be on display through September 15 in the NYU Kimmel Windows.

 

This week I'll examine two more ALBA posters that caught my eye. The text across the bottom of the above poster translates as "The Internationals: United with the Spanish, we fight against the invader"; the text in the seal as "International volunteers of freedom." Though the posters were effective, with volunteers from all over the world joining the International Brigade, the fascist rebels, led by General Francisco Franco and backed by Adolf Hitler, overwhelmed the Republican army. Franco and his repressive regime would rule Spain until his death in 1975.

 

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During the Spanish Civil War, Buenaventura Durruti, working with anarchist labor unions, fought on the side of the Republicans against the fascist rebels, known as Nationalists. He was killed in action, in November 1936, at the Battle of Madrid. The text translates as "Honorable anarchists are against the false freedom that cowards [meaning the Nationalist rebels] invoke to get away with what they're doing."

 

It should be noted that the battle against fascism continues today in the United States, as one of its major political parties has rejected democratic rule, derisively calls those who oppose it Antifa (anti-fascist), and strives to overcome popular will and install an authoritarian regime.

 

There is much to be learned from what happened in Spain 85 years ago.

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All my books are available on Amazon, all other online bookstores, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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