CHASING SHADOWS by Fred Wilcox

CHASING SHADOWS

Memoirs of a Sixties Survivor
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Reminiscences of a time that seems golden only when seen through a beer glass. Wilcox (Uncommon Martyrs, 1991), a nice kid from the sticks, came to New York City with dreams of living the hip life in the '60s and turning out great art. To judge by this memoir, he wound up spending most of his days chasing down free drinks and cheap thrills at Manhattan dives, whose patrons he evokes with affection: ``Stanley's wife, a swollen goose egg perched on the edge of her stool, swills down oceans of vodka. She yawns, derisively, at the screwballs who love her bar. Exiles, fugitives, and chasers of shadows squeeze into Stanley's.'' It is a time of squatters' flats, ``hippie chicks,'' heroin, Bob Dylan, a time frequently measured, for Wilcox, in shot glasses. He recalls working high-building construction, always drunk (``the concrete floor of each completed deck is littered with beer cans and broken half pints of liquor''), recounts avoiding the draft by flummoxing the army psychiatrist with arguments that all people have homosexual tendencies, remembers hard days on the street, drug ripoffs, racial hatred. He has a deft touch for conjuring up the right period details, especially the inane stoned conversations that marked the era (``Hobbits got their shit together. Kind of like beats, man. Kind of like us, only better, man''). Still, although reasonably well written, the memoir carries a certain emptiness: Not much seems to have happened to Wilcox, apart from the usual bad trips and a few exceptionally nasty hangovers, and we see little self-reflection and even less self-discovery in the course of his narrative. Charles Bukowski covered this beat much better from the vantage of the West Coast; so, too, did Emmett Grogan, whose New York memoir, Ringolevio, runs rings around this book. Add this to the long been-there-done-that shelf of '60s autobiography.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-877946-75-3
Page count: 172pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996