The author is a CCNY grad, the son of Dutch/Belgian immigrants in the diamond trade. He tells bits of his personal story, a life influenced by a host of great writers, particularly writers having something to do with New York. Melville stands out. Others include Poe, Henry Miller, Whitman. I quite enjoyed much of it, especially the Melville. I guess I felt that if as great a writer as Melville could have failed as a commercial artist, there is no shame in it. I was taken by an image of him working in his crappy job while harboring his dreams of might. Tytell quotes a novel in which Melville is depicted
Busch evokes, better than any historian, the pathos of Melville’s fortitude. Behind him is a wall of charts and schedules, stacks of printed forms on shelves, and before him is a small worktable with a box of pencils and a ruled notebook” “I thought of the sailor to Polynesia, the librarian of whales, inscribing poems no one might read in a government-issued notebook with the pencils given him for writing down the provenance of foodstuffs, the ownership of hides in stinking piles in the cargo holds of ships.
The Munsee Indians of New Jersey originally called the island whose land he coveted Manahactaniek, or place of general inebriation. – [This strikes me as a wonderful title for a short work]
After his first visit to New York, Charles Dickens accused the press of “Pimping and pandering for all degrees of vicious taste, and gorging with coined lies the most voracious maw.” In American Notes, Dickens compares journalists to vultures, “the vilest vermin and the worst birds of prey,” who would frighten off any good “Samaritan of clear conscience.”
Beatrice [Henry Miller’s wife] began criticizing Miller as an idler. At a time when work was plentiful, he found a variety of menial jobs that lasted for brief intervals.: garbage collector, bellhop, bartender, typist, file clerk. In Capricorn, he could claim that he chose these jobs because they “left my mind free.”