Author Archive | Dan Wakefield

Cure the Blahs: “The Ballad of Klook and Vinette”

Feeling the January blahs? Wake yourself up with a stimulating new production of “The Ballad of Klook and Vinette” put on by the exciting new Brian Fonseca Theater Company. Founder of The Phoenix Theater, Fonseca is to theater in Indianapolis what Vonnegut is to writing – innovative, thoughtful, un-afraid to rock the boat. Fonseca’s first production was “Hooded – Being Black for Dummies” and it lived up to all the adjectives employed in the previous sentence.

I have read the script of the new show – “The Ballad of Klook and Vinette” – it pulses with life, and takes you on a roller coast ride of unexpected dips and highs that will rock you out of your snowbound rut. Klook is a drifter who is tired of drifting, Vinette is on the run but she doesn’t know what’s chasing her. Meeting over carrot juice, they take a chance on love. . .

Take a chance on this life-brimming play, with the extra attraction of music directed and performed by Tim Brickley, an original artist who plays at The Jazz Kitchen and The Chatterbox. The Fonseca Theater Company is staging its first year of provocative productions at Indy Convergence, 2611 W. Michigan.

Performances beginning this Friday, January 25 through Feb. 1; Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 5pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. Purchase tickets at  https://fonsecatheatre.org/buy-tickets/or by contacting Associate Producing Director Jordan Flores Schwartz by email at jschwartz@fonsecatheatre.org or by phone at 678-939-2974.

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Why Vonnegut stays relevant

I was asked by the director of the Middletown (PA) public library to answer questions from his readers about the work of Kurt Vonnegut. Since I have edited and written introductions to three books of Vonnegut’s works, and I had the pleasure of knowing him for more than forty years, it was assumed I would know all the answers. I didn’t. There was one answer I felt good about, though. It was the last question I was asked, by John Grayshaw, director of the library. He asked

“Why do you think Vonnegut’s works are still so popular? What is their staying power?”

This is what came out of my head in response:

Other contemporary writers of his era seem “dated,” like Updike and Roth, who were writing of their time – Vonnegut was writing of past, present and future. Young people are not interested in the suburban life of the 1950s. Vonnegut transcended that.

He gave people hope. He showed he cared for the planet. What other writer of his time did that?

Mailer? Mary McCarthy? Fitzgerald or Hemingway?

He cared about the clumsy, the poor, the downtrodden. He saw that they too had a right to be fed, clothed, and housed against the elements.

He refused to write battle scenes of war, knowing that they made people see slaughter as glamorous. He wrote a war novel in which there are no battles. Saturation bombing is not a “battle.” It is only a devestation.

Next to The Beatitudes the lines he quotes most were from his fellow Hoosier Eugene V. Debs:

“As long as there is a lower class, I am in it; as long as there is a criminal class, I am of it; as long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

He asked why people don’t say things like that anymore. He said them. He dramatized them. He built stories around them. He fed our imagination. He knew were hungry.

Nuff said.

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My Favorite Year: In Los Angeles with Eve Babitz in 1971

My latest piece appears in the LA Review of Books: My favorite year: In Los Angeles with Eve Babitz in 1971

Men didn’t conquer Eve Babitz, she conquered them — and wrote about it, in seven published books and assorted articles and stories. Not only did Eve repel unwanted advances, sometimes even an unwelcome opinion could evoke her wrath, which could just as well be a kick in the shins as a withering retort. One friend of mine refused to go to any party he feared might include Eve, having been withered by her once too often. The list of her conquests is long, and it includes me, in my year at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard.

My plush year was thanks to the royalties of my first novel, Going All the Way, which hit the Time magazine best-seller list in 1970 and was a double main selection of the Literary Guild, alongside Michael Crichton’s Five Patients. As Lili Anolik, author of the loving and perceptive new book on Babitz, Hollywood’s Eve, reports, I was “riding high” when I met Eve.

My first week in Hollywood was blessed by two former neighbors who lived behind me on Ocean Front Walk in Venice when I started writing that novel two years earlier. John and Sandy Gibson were working in publicity for Atlantic Records when I landed at the Marmont, and they fixed me up with Eve. I met her in a bar two blocks from the Chateau and I knew when she smiled that this would be a dream year. She was flagrantly beautiful and proud of it. Her outfit was simple and direct, a very short skirt and a very tight sweater. I called my old friends from our New York days, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, to tell them my good news, which was Eve. Did they know her? The question was naïve. Everyone knew her.

You can read the full story here.

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield