Letter from the Founding Publisher: New Moon
I am writing you about a new version of my book New Moon, appearing this fall. New Moon is my original, core book, my story about growing up in New York, discovering my second family and their hotel in the Catskills, changing my name from Richard Towers to Richard Grossinger, and going to Amherst College where I met my wife-to-be and North Atlantic Books cofounder, Lindy Hough. It is also a coming-of-age tale, bridging the 1950s and 1960s and mapping a transition between eras as backdrop for my own growing up.
North Atlantic’s roots lie in a 1964 Halloween ceremony (or “happening” in the pre-Burning-Man parlance of the era) that a group of us conducted in a glen off College Street in Amherst, Massachusetts, followed by Lindy’s and my decision to start an interdisciplinary literary journal based on the events of that night—experiences recounted in context and detail in New Moon. We published the journal, named Io after a moon of Jupiter, for twelve years in Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, and Vermont, ultimately expanding it into a small indie publishing company in Vermont in 1974. Three years later we moved North Atlantic Books to California, though we never changed its name.
If you read the 1996 hardcover, this is a very different manuscript. It has been changed by 1500 hours of work during which I shortened the time frame, transferring the last hundred pages to my other memoir books, and sharpened the detail and tightened the meter in the rest.
The original New Moon was a faithful rewriting of my high-school and college tales twenty years later in the eighties and nineties. This rewrite adds another layer of depth. In particular, I have filled out characters, events, and landscapes, and dug more discretely into certain elements, particularly psychoanalysis, baseball, and tarot.
Here is a link to my discarded afterword, some of which was used in the book.
In an era of global displacement, institutionalized violence, and sexual flagrance, I wonder about the relevance of a narrative set in the nuanced and quixotic fifties and sixties. Yet when I go back to the mysteries and wonderments of this text, I realize that our stories, innocence, and intimacies are all we have. Our willingness, our enthusiasm even, to live what we are born into is what heals us and gives us hope.
A good story is a prayer that feeds the gods. Its message back to them is thank you, this world is a magical and redemptive place, despite its many enigmatic appearances and atrocities to the contrary, for our yearnings are universal and speak to a covenant we share. Somewhere amid déjà vus, riddles, oracles, intimations, and elusive nostalgias are the alchemical ingredients of life on Earth.
This is my own telling of a myth at the level of a campfire story, or a science-fiction overlay, parable, or rock ballad. Its possibility is its melody, hauntingness, and sincerity, what those tell of an enigma that can’t be solved, can only be lived.
New Moon’s landscapes feature 1950s New York City (P. S. 6 and Bill-Dave Group among the venues), Camp Chipinaw (also Camp Swago, Camp Wakonda, and Camp Kenmont), the Nevele and Grossinger’s in the Catskills, Horace Mann School, Arista Teen Tours (across the U.S. and Canada in 1962), Amherst College, the Sullivan County Democrat, Robert Kelly’s salon near Bard College, Stan Brakhage’s Rollinsville cabin, and Aspen, Colorado, circa 1965. Its themes include games, comics, and teen detective series of the 1950s; coercions of Hebrew School and Color War; a parallel search for sacredness and meaning in baseball, rock ’n’ roll, science fiction, and tarot; a transition through Freudian psychoanalysis to Jungian symbols and literary and shamanic magic; survival in a family in which both my mother and brother later committed suicide; the shadow of atomic war from Los Alamos through the Cuban crisis; adolescent alienation and fear; teen romance and courtship in a changing era.
There are numerous smaller venues: the Wizard of Oz and Dragons of Blueland; Central Park; clouds, stones, and planets in high-school science; speedskating and ice hockey; experimental films; Teilhardian and Gurdjieffian cosmology; the search for Bridey Murphy; interpretation of dreams; political and spiritual awakening; going on my first date to the game in which Roger Maris hit his sixty-first home run in 1961, and so on.
Among my writings, New Moon differs from books like Planet Medicine, The Night Sky, Embryogenesis, and Dark Pool of Light in that it is purely novelistic and anecdotal and relies on aesthetics of voice and view without a backup subject matter. As my attempt to write a literary nonfiction novel using the material of my life, it rests solely on its storytelling and narrative drive, yet it gives rise to the constructs and themes of my later topic-oriented books. It is also the cornerstone of my larger novelistic trilogy in which all three books are ambitiously literary while also psychospiritual and visionary. It also has many of the incipient themes and topics of North Atlantic as they emerged or changed within the culture of the fifties and sixties. My own coming of age coincided with the press’s birth and coming of age.
Out of Babylon is the story of my larger family with an emphasis on the history of Grossinger’s, my brother’s transit from prep quarterback to mental patient to street person, my mother’s and brother’s suicides, and my search for my real father (who was neither my stepfather nor the legal father whose name I carry). A revised version of the 1997 book is underway. It also brings the publishing aspect of North Atlantic Books up to the present.
Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage is the direct sequel to New Moon, the story of Lindy’s and my fifty-plus-year relationship and our initiation together into adult life.
New Moon pays homage to the novelists and poets of my adolescence: Robert Penn Warren, T. H. White, James Baldwin, Robert Lindner, D. H. Lawrence, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, as well as to Bobby Darin, Dion & the Belmonts, Paul Anka, P. D. Ouspensky, Carl Jung, A. E. Waite, Stan Brakhage, Arthur Clarke, and without my knowing it, J. D. Salinger, whom I somehow imitated without reading. I wrote lyricisms, epiphanies, and dirges akin to the ones that sustained me during those years.
Out of Babylon pays homage to William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Charles Olson, and Herman Melville.
Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage pays homage to Robert Creeley, Robert Kelly, Annie Proulx, Nadine Gordimer, Anita Shreve, William Blake, Pat Conroy, Orhan Pamuk, Vladimir Nabokov and, embarrassingly, Erica Jong insofar as I tried to write a more sincere and nuanced version of Fear of Flying.
In all three books I am shooting for a complex, seamless literary epic in which changes of tone and voice reflect shifts of consciousness. New Moon is the entry point and, for now, the only available book (other than earlier versions of itself and Out of Babylon).
This edition of New Moon is distinguished from the original by having a subtitle A Coming-of-Age Tale, a cover by my old Goddard College student, painter James Rauchman (in place of the Jungian mandala on a black background), and a paperback format. I invite you to take a look.
North Atlantic Books