Many years ago, when I was an assistant buyer, restocking books from publishers, one of my first responsibilities was buying blank books, a job, by the way, that I once again have. Back then, our major source was from Quillmark, a division of Random House, and the books were sold by the merchandise (kids) rep.
This was really the first rep from whom I actually bought new product We had a spinner rack, so my main job was keeping the rack full, but not so full that there was overstock. Each season I’d buy pretty much all the new product, reorder anything that sold in a reasonable amount of time, and call it a day. My biggest problem was getting product restocked in a timely fashion, a problem I still run into when a rack gets a little thin. And that’s a reminder that I should restock the Spitfire Girl wooden bookmarks.
To make a long story short, she hated Milwaukee, just hated it. She couldn’t find a good bagel, she couldn’t find a good deli, the restaurants closed too early, you had to go to the suburb to find a weekday matinee. Clothing stores, theater, you name it. All bad. But just as often New Yorkers take to the place. Recently a visitor said to me, "Everyone here is so friendly." I replied, “No, it’s just that since we've been walking around, I've run into five people I know."
A New Yorker visits and starts, at least temporarily, planning their move. Stacie and I hear it several times a year from authors, and the same day I wrote this piece, a publishing exec told me she started contemplating home prices. But I can think of at least one customer who pines for her former home in Manhattan weekly, always discussing her move back, but never quite geting there.
I’m sure you can find this for any two cities, certainly for any other city and Milwaukee, but there’s a weird New York-Milwaukee dynamic that only an ex-New Yorker might catch. Perhaps it’s all this moving back and forth. In Kipp Friedman’s case, it was college that sent him to the Midwest, leaving Manhattan to attend UW Madison. It’s all there in his new memoir in essays, Barracuda in the Attic.
Growing up as one of three sons of the writer Bruce J. Friedman, they had adventures many of us can’t imagine. I have a brother-in-law who is a noted playwright, but he didn’t take me to the Four Seasons in a limo when his show opened. And I can’t imagine spending a week at the Beverly Hills Hotel with an unlimited expense account. The whole experience reminded me quite a bit of the "Ricky Ricardo/Don Juan" extended adventure in the "I Love Lucy" series.
Kipp’s upbringing does resonate with me more than just another New York story, as before moving to Manhattan, the family lived in Glen Cove and Great Neck, two Long Island towns in the orbit of any two-car family living in Northeast Queens, as we Goldins did. Both our fathers liked to eat at the Jolly Fisherman in Roslynn. His dad’s bachelor pad was just a few blocks from my where my sister and brother-in-law (the playwright) lived in New York. Oh, and his father grew up on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, just like my Dad, and my dad and his grandfather were both cutters in the garment business.
Another thing we have in common was a childhood love of comic books. I wish I had known about Jay Bee Back-Issue Magazines; it sounds like heaven. I didn’t know if Kipp had a comic budget like I did; I snuck in extras under my shirt. And of course I did not have a brother like Drew, a fan who became part of the industry, collaborating with his writer brother Josh on work for Raw, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon, and High Times.
So with a pedigree like that, and an essay like “Comic Book Fever,” you can understand why his memoir was published by Fantagraphics. Another essay is about the transition during his childhood of horror movies from controlled, orderly terror to rule-breaking screamfests like “The Night of the Living Dead” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Just the kind of gore that skirts the artsy and cartoony that forms much of our graphic novel section, and is subsequently spun off into hugely successful series like "The Walking Dead."
Kipp Friedman is appearing at Boswell on Thursday, October 3, 7 pm. He's best known in Milwaukee for his photography and his work at the JCC. Our event is co-sponsored by the JCC as well. And if you'd like to get more of a taste of Friedman's memoir, Fantagraphics has a first chapter teaser online.