Across My Big Brass Bed, Gary Amdahl
I failed rather conclusively to write a short description of Across My Big Brass Bed when
it was first published in 2014, and am failing now as well. It seems to me to be “perfectly
indescribable.” Which is in fact part of what I set out to accomplish, but I see that my
failure to be knowledgeable and persuasive about my own work is going to be a
hindrance now too, as the novel in a new edition has just been published. I and the
publisher want the thing purchased and read, but publicity is a tar-pit in which greater
animals than I have perished. cont'd
Descriptions, as we have come to know them, depend on convention just as much as the
novels themselves (as we have come to know them) do. In the absence of infantile
“hooks” (as reviewers have come to know and depend on them), here are a few words
describing what I wanted to accomplish.
I wanted first of all, at the source, only to explore why Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay”
had so moved me when I heard it on my little red transistor radio, lying in bed one night
in 1969. Certainly it was the music itself, Pete Drake’s pedal steel guitar, Dylan’s strange
voice—lower and smoother than in previous hits but still a mind-blowing departure from
other singers I liked, The Walker Brothers, The Classics IV, Johnny Rivers—and the
profoundest of the old country rhythms. But I was also thirteen, right? I got an erection.
We go to bed at night, as babies, as little children, expecting to wake up in the same
world and in the same bodies, the same selves, that we mysteriously left when we fell
asleep. And, for what seems like forever, we do. Then one day, having done nothing but
go to sleep and wake up and go to sleep and wake up, we find ourselves profoundly
changed—so much so that we can very easily fall prey to despair over the brief pointless
torture that life suddenly seems to be. Some lucky few wake up simply older and wiser
and stiffer in the joints, weaker in the lungs and limbs, but some wake up, as Dostoevsky
put it, as 'sick men, wicked men.
I am certainly one of the latter, and have tried in this novel, to do two things: to suggest
how swiftly and seamlessly, how instantly and wholly, the transformations overwhelm
us, or at least overwhelmed me; and to record an account of my transformation that
doesn't declare me innocent of all wrongdoing or attempt to expiate admitted evil—or
even, as in my literary models (Augustine, Rousseau, Dostoevsky et al), to simply
confess, repent, and be forgiven, but to show how it happened sans the conventions that
make it all seem natural and entertaining, but in the end false and lifeless.
That is to say, I have attempted to write a true and living book that is emphatically and
proudly a fiction—not a memoir.Gary Amdahl tells the story of how it felt to be raised in the counter-culture of the US in the 1960s. A book of diverse influences, references, sexual mores, never lesses, and the whole cover is up so you can read what reviewers have said over the years.