Author Archives: jtsullivan

About jtsullivan

I'm a fiction author, a poet, a magazine editor and a sax player.

We’re Making a Movie

My good friend, Ian Dickey, with whom I’ve collaborated musically for the past 15 years, is making a feature film, starring his Hungarian shipmate, Sabi. They work together on a sludge tanker in the New York City harbor. The idea is to film a conversation on a long drive from New York to Florida. Simple, right? I hope it will be.

Ian’s started GoFundMe campaign you can contribute to. He’s also enlisted me in the film as an actor, producer and camera man, once it gets rolling. Anyone who contributes will be given a credit as a producer, and a reimbursement of funds once things get off the ground. He’s already made two short films I’ve been impressed with, and I’m sure this one will be just as cool.

Drafts

I was listening to the version of “Natural Mystic” that appears on Exodus by Bob Marley. Way different than the earlier version I’d listened to as a teenager with The Wailers’ original lineup. That one had a full horn section and background vocals from the group that seemed to add so much. By the time of the final version, the group had changed substantially with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer gone. And Bob Marley had just survived an assassination attempt.

It got me thinking about how different versions of the same artistic work might reflect the context of the artist’s life at the time. I don’t know if one version is better than the next, just different.

I’ve read about certain poets changing their poems even after publication. Of course there are books that are “unabridged” or “unexpurgated.” You may see newly published versions of the edited manuscripts of well-known works now, too, to get a taste of the editing process.

Sometimes it can seem subjective, the changes that get made. Sometimes it’s very clear how the work has been improved.

Idiocy

I’ve come back to Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot after more than 20 years away. It’s a total pain in the ass to read. I’ve read his other big ones more recently and found them riveting. I suppose my problem with this one is I don’t find Petersburg’s interpersonal intrigues among its 19th-century elites as intriguing as I once did. I find them frustrating, like adolescents. Still, there’s something in The Idiot that makes me keep going, and it’s the Prince, who’s at the center of it all but who’s also the book’s main observer. He’s presented as the pure-of-heart innocent, “the idiot” who’s not really an idiot at all. What’s the most interesting to me now, after all this time away, is the insight into the Prince’s mind’s workings written sometimes across several pages. This is something that influenced me, and stayed with me for a few years after the initial reading, but I guess I’d forgotten. Now, it reappears like an old friend reminding me: You can go in-depth into a character’s consciousness, and it can be more interesting than the physical action around him.

Also I’m reminded of this masterpiece, maybe not as pure of heart:

A Red-Tailed Hawk in Brooklyn

A red-tailed hawk
Mark Bohn of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region – Red-tailed Hawk (from Wikipedia)

Yesterday I spotted a red-tailed hawk perched on a tree near Marcy Playground, Myrtle Ave. in Brooklyn. The bird was a few feet long and at least a foot wide. I thought, from the back, it was an owl, until I looked at its face. I also wondered why an owl would be out in the daylight. I’ve become more interested in the birds around town since being at home for most of the past two years. I had no idea a hawk would reside in my neighborhood. I also thought, at first, it was clutching a rat in its talons. I’m told rat poison can kill the birds inadvertently.

The Vibrojets, Live at Pete’s Candy Store

Last night in Williamsburg, I went to see live music for the first time since March 2020. My friend Tommy Mattioli was in town from Wisconsin to play vibes. The band had about eight gigs scheduled for this week, but all but two were cancelled. Their next is at An Beal Bocht in the Bronx on 10/29. The Vibrojets at LIC Bar was the last show I saw before the pandemic hit, so I was glad to get back into it with them. Pete’s is a vaxx-only space, and the back door to the garden was open. The sound, I have to say, was excellent.

The Savage Detectives Redux

Have you read this one, yet? I’m on my third reading of it since 2016. It’s long, and this is unusual for me to re-read anything. But there’s something about it that’s so compelling. His other books are great, too, but I had a hard time with his other big one, 2666. I made it through the violence of its midsection. I enjoyed The Third Reich, especially, and most of the others. But The Savage Detectives is still my favorite Bolaño. I know many others have said the same.