My staff of thousands insisted on a plug for me: The Z Collection: Portraits & Sketches, my reflections on many of the writers and artists I have known, worked with, or written about, is being published by AC Books in New York in time for the fall book season and is listed for sale in the U.S. by Los Angeles-based RAM Books and Distribution in RAM’s 2015 Fall/Winter catalogue. (It’s a PDF. Scroll down to page 32.)
The title of this modest collection seems like a reference to “The X Files,” but I had something else in mind: the hidden “Z closet” at Harvard’s Houghton Library. An archivist once showed me its treasures concealed behind another locked door: Charles Dickens’s screw-tipped walking stick, the one he used to protect himself from escaped convicts on the Romney Marshes; T.S. Eliot’s straw boater; two locks of hair (William Wordsworth’s and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s). Adjacent to the closet behind another locked door was Emily Dickinson’s entire writing room: the desk she worked at and the piano she played; the family portraits she looked at on the walls; her pinky ring and the wax sealing device she used to seal her letters; a sampler she cross-stitched as a child. Artifacts give history a physical presence, though we turn to dust. This collection is not a walking stick, a straw boater, a lock of hair, or a writing room. If it turns out to be an object worth keeping around, preferably on an open shelf, so much the better. Consider it a time capsule made of words.
5 x 8 inches, 240 pp
Retail price: $15.00
“The Z Collection shines a penetrating light on a score of writers, both mainstream and countercultural, among them William S. Burroughs, Norman Mailer, Nelson Algren, William Styron, Paul Theroux, E.L. Doctorow, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It makes them vividly present in ways you won’t find elsewhere. They sail into view propelled by invaluable insights and historic perspective. This “time capsule made of words” is full of literary surprises.”
— Heathcote Williams (Whale Nation, Shelley at Oxford, and Of Dylan and His Deaths)