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Digging Deeper - A Memoir Of The Seventies (edition 2010)

by Peter Weissman

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Member:jasonpettus
Title:Digging Deeper - A Memoir Of The Seventies
Authors:Peter Weissman
Info:Epic Press Ltd (2010), Paperback, 348 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Digging Deeper - A Memoir Of The Seventies by Peter Weissman

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  1. 10
    I Think, Therefore Who Am I? by Peter Weissman (clarabel)
    clarabel: Digging Deeper picks up where I Think, Therefore Who Am I? ends. The narrator is the same, but he's different too, after moving out of the drug world of the sixties and into his mid-twenties. The second book expands the portrait of the younger man as he encounters circumstances and situations common to his generation.… (more)
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A rose, a lily, and sometimes a weed.

People change as they get older, assimilate experience in light of numerous factors and in accordance with a kernel of character that eventually flowers into something recognizable: a rose, a lily, and sometimes a weed.

[Digging Deeper] is the continuation of a journey begun in the psychedelic memoir [I Think, Therefore Who Am I?]. Peter, the narrator of the memoir, describes this process of change while taking a close look at his wife. But his razor-sharp, critical mind was most likely cutting into his own psyche more than anyone else’s. At that moment, which of the three represented you, Peter – the rose, the lily, or the weed?

At the end of [I Think, Therefore Who Am I?], Peter has survived one last bad trip, complete with cold sweat, auditory hallucinations, and a fairly severe case of paranoia. With the experience, Peter confronts an abiding and overwhelming fear of being wiped from the face of the earth in anonymity. As we join him again in [1Digging Deeper], he is living in virtually the exact void he feared: commuting on a train with vacant-faced, lost souls; working in an anonymous building, in an anonymous cubicle; hiding behind a newspaper for fear that he will be forced to speak to someone.

What changes his life is Noreen – a woman he spent a couple of days with months before, helping her through her own bad acid trip. Noreen sends Peter a letter, begging for his help, begging him to let her visit him. When she does, she invites herself into his apartment and into his life. Peter realizes what a powerful thing it is to be needed, and he surrenders to everything that comes with the revelation. Living again, if not purposefully at least more actively, working as a mail carrier to support Noreen and her art, Peter longs to abandon everything in pursuit of writing. But the longing can’t overcome his fear of what such a choice will mean about who he is – in the early stages of his writing, he can’t even commit to more than just one page in a sitting, asking himself later, Because I was self-conscious about seriously considering myself a writer?

Things finally come to a head while the couple is living with Noreen’s parents in a servant’s cottage, Peter maintaining the grounds in exchange for room and board. The two bring a dog home from the pound and, in addition to his other duties, Peter is left to raise, care for, and chase after the mutt. Peter finally confronts Noreen about the inequalities of their marriage, Peter always providing and giving – Noreen always expecting and taking. At the climax of the argument, Noreen slaps Peter and tells him that he is making his own choices in life. Peter retrieves the glasses she’s knocked from his face and, finally making a choice for himself, leaves Noreen.

The introspective self-loathing and doubt of [I Think, Therefore Who Am I?] is still here in Weissman’s follow-up, but with a twist. Even in the midst of his meandering, go-with-the-flow life, he is testing, beginning to engage those bits of himself he wants to give voice, beginning to be a more willful participant than just a bystander sometimes caught up with the events around him. In some ways, taking Noreen in, even though it later became a fairly co-dependent relationship, was the first step towards living instead of experiencing. More examples of that type of behavior are revealed in his jab as a mail carrier. For example, Peter warns several people on his route that their mail is being monitored by unknown government forces. Later, he intercepts religious come-ons targeting the elderly and soft-minded for donations. He takes them home and burns them in his fireplace at home. These choices connect Peter to the world around him as a participant rather than as an observer who simply reacts.

Perhaps the most moving aspect of Weissman’s memoirs is how personal they are. Aren’t all memoirs necessarily personal? Well, no. Many are regurgitations of facts and events, set down on paper to cement the subject’s place in history or some other similarly selfish goal. But Weissman’s narrative is deeply personal and internally driven, more of a meditation on himself and his place in the world than an account of his life. After several chapters, you feel like you’ve been sitting on a porch, sharing a beer, and listening to him ruminate about his life.

Of course, nothing in [Digging Deeper] is more personal than Peter’s struggle to write. At one point, about to critique a friend’s work, he writes, When you present your work, it’s like baring your persona to critical inspection. For Peter, the writing is his persona – and both are equally on display for criticism. It’s a courageous choice. But that’s the one piece of advice Peter remembers and recounts from a writing group he attended, But why fear the images our minds create? … It’s no excuse. We have to let the images penetrate, to batter us – if it comes to that. Anything else is cowardly.

[Digging Deeper] is a smoother book, both in the writing and in the narrative. Weissman has grown considerably as a writer by the time this book is published. The writing is as intelligent and edgy as [I Think, Therefore Who Am I?] but it is more polished. There is less trouble deciphering what Peter is grappling with and where he is going. But these changes in the book likely echo changes in the man. He has grown up. Not the growing up of compromise but of refinement in thought and character. In Peter’s words, There is such a thing as growing up; a notion I’d resisted for years. Of accepting responsibility and doing things you wouldn’t choose to if you had a choice. But disclaim whatever it is that sparks youthful enthusiasm and you lsoe something essential. I spoke to the teenager that evening and the man he’d become, and was relieved.

Peter flowers alright. After leaving Noreen, he meets her again at a play written by a mutual friend. He has an inclination to sprint across the street and run away, an inclination that he follows several times in [I Think, Therefore Who Am I?]. But this time, he stands his ground and speaks his mind, telling her how she had mistreated him and abused his good-naturedness all those years. I’m still not sure what Peter would say at this moment in his life about whether he was the rose, the lily, or the weed – but I’m sure he would’ve felt the roots seeking further depths in the earth beneath him.

Bottom Line: A deeply personal and courageous memoir.

5 bones!!!!! ( )
11 vote blackdogbooks | Mar 31, 2013 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

At first, Peter Weissman's new memoir about the 1970s, Digging Deeper, can be a frustrating reading experience; apparently a sequel to a memoir about the '60s he wrote much sooner after the real events, which dealt mostly with a drug-induced mental illness he went through, this newest volume picks up right afterwards, and starts in the same kind of badly meandering, confused tone that I suspect the entire first volume was written in. Once he settles into his groove, though, Weissman finds a nicely anecdotal, quietly slow tone to it all, one that befits its setting among '70s intellectuals and former hippie burnouts now all living in various leftist meccas in the pre-Reagan years. (If you think of the deliberately languid pace of character-heavy cinema from these years, Weissman's book has much of the same feel.) Plus, although a running theme is his frustration over this memoir taking so long to write, it must be said that Weissman really benefits from the extended period of time between these events and now; it allows him to approach his retelling with a much more balanced attitude, be able to make critical comments about his own youthful behavior, and benefit from getting to foreshadow the cartoonishly conservative swing the country would take right afterwards. You'll need to be a certain type to really appreciate this unhurried story; but those who like the same kind of flowing literature that this '70s memoir talks about will be sure to love this as well.

Out of 10: 8.4 ( )
1 vote jasonpettus | Feb 26, 2013 |
Peter Weissman’s I Think, Therefore Who Am I? took place during the Summer of Love. It was an intimate exploration of the Sixties, the most glorified or vilified decade in recent history, depending on how far one lives from Real America™ (patent pending). His second volume of memoirs, Digging Deeper: a Memoir of the Seventies, chronicles Weissman’s life during a decade not liked by anyone, except perhaps the occasional roaming hipster burnishing his or her sense of ironic superiority.

The memoir begins with Weissman crawling from the muck of hallucinogenic incoherence. Weissman’s inability to speak to others provides a dark comedic undertone to the opening chapters. Through willpower and workplace demands, Weissman transitions from an introverted state brought about by his extensive experimentation with drugs. One of Weissman’s first jobs is for a marketing research firm. Verbal connections established through the short-term exchanges he has over the phone.

While working he meets Noreen again (she appeared in his previous volume of memoirs). She helps Weissman in his reintegration to society. Then, like clockwork, the pair become a couple and then a married couple. One of the underlying themes in Digging Deeper is negotiating with “Normal Society.” Weissman, a Red Diaper Baby, faces additional challenges, since the Sixties weren’t simply an extended vacation by rich college kids to take lots of drugs and sleep around (at least according to historians siding with the conservative victors). The Sixties brought with it a revolutionary promise. The promise remained unfulfilled, resulting in the cavalcade of characters Weissman profiles in Digging Deeper. He works with disgruntled Postal Service employees, dines with wannabe artists, and spiritual con artists. Realizing the revolution has been lost or simply co-opted, Weissman chronicles these engagements and negotiations with a detached precision leavened with cynical observations.
Weissman and Noreen eventually move to the Bay Area. He works at the Post Office with a multiracial work force, including a patchwork of black and white supervisors and managers reflecting the explosive calculus of affirmative action. The Post Office scenes have the flavor of Barney Miller-meet-the Wire, where race, class, and capital expose the fissures of the socioeconomic system in its latter years of global dominance. The sequence where he delivers mail to wealthy patrons of an apartment complex is especially cutting, the shrill spoiled scions of money old and new sounding like the entitled dingbats from Arrested Development. (For added irony, Noreen is the daughter of a major chemical magnate. The magnate prides himself in his part in developing napalm, one of Vietnam’s more horrifying legacies.) However, Weissman’s rage against the capitalist machine isn’t exactly pure. Unable to work on his writing, supporting his wife, and dealing with the frustrations of everyday coalesce into his need to get a hobby. That hobby is horseracing.

I Think, Therefore Who Am I? gave a street-level view of adolescent exploration during the Summer of Love. Digging Deeper expands on that vision, examining a decade rather than a year, and showing the travails of growing up. Forced from the Eden of psychedelic visions and personal experimentation, Weissman has to perform that alchemical miracle of turning sweat into greenbacks.

http://driftlessareareview.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/digging-deeper-a-memoir-of-t... ( )
8 vote kswolff | Jun 19, 2011 |
Peter Weissman's roman à clef continues in this second volume, Digging Deeper. In the first, like an acid Proust, Weissman recorded, in spare economical prose, the discovery and near-obliteration of his self and the hippie milieu of New York's East Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashberry after the advent of LSD. Now, the former head re-enters the real world of the 1970s. While the prose remains carefully controlled, it is given wider range; recording with uncanny accuracy interior and exterior environments, dialogue, people and relationships. The events occur on both U.S. coasts and in Amsterdam. Our protagonist's experiences include a first marriage, juggling writing with working in an urban post office - even a sort of indentured servitude on the estate of his wealthy father-in-law. It is all far more compelling than I can do justice to. Well worth the time of any reader. ( )
11 vote slickdpdx | Jun 14, 2011 |
I've been to a lot of racetracks in my 62 years. As a matter of fact, one of my first jobs was at the Detroit Race Course. My uncle Jerry, a trainer, introduced me to the mysteries of the turf, etc., so I can speak with some authority when I say that I am almost 100% certain that the betters that I have crossed paths with never, or hardly ever ponied up to make their wagers with their heads swimming with Kierkegaardian logic-chopping, and if they were familiar with Talmudic analysis then I'm a monkey's uncle. Not to mention that the only pil-pul-ing they did had to do with taking their morning after headache away as they counted the imaginary bills on their bedroom dresser.

Suffice it to say, that our author is hardly the typical racetrack yahoo, no matter how much he might protest, otherwise. Hell, he can split hairs with the hair-splittingest Thomist. He can out quibble the quibblingest renegade Jesuit in search of a Heavenly Tri-fecta, or even one at Santa Anita. Here's an example from p. 210, our author in full trot:

So now I study my three possible winners, and focussing first on the one I know I'd like to see win, disclaim personal interest in ATTACHMENT, the horse who comes from behind. Is this ostentatious disclaimer a trick of the mind, a pirouette around the long held belief that my intelligence and abilities were for so long misunderstood? And is the rejection thus as much of an attachment as embracing the animal would be? That is, has it led me to oppose a horse out of the same biases that attract me to it? Have I actually disengaged, seen this horse (and myself) for what it is, or through overcompensation short-shrifted the animal.

I 'm not sure . . .

Maimonides was hardly more self-knowing. Pascal never made a shrewder wager.

The RACETRACK MEDITATION is just one of many fine chapters in DIGGING DEEPER by Peter Weissman. It shows our author at the peak of his form. It matters little whether the track is fast or slow, the reader knows with certainty that if he places his bet on our memoirist he will be cashing his ticket at the window almost every time. ( )
14 vote Porius | May 23, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 190655711X, Paperback)

Digging Deeper begins where the author's psychedelic memoir, I Think, Therefore Who Am I? ended. In the first chapter, "Rehabilitation," he reenters a world he once took for granted, and from there takes the reader on a coast-to-coast trip, sardonically observing himself as he presents a slice of the sixties generation negotiating the seventies in discrete, short stories: the compromises implicit in partnership and marriage and the struggle to lead a creative life.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:17 -0400)

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