Another book I helped to publish

Long-time readers know that I’m a book philistine. I refuse to use e-readers, I collect Modern First Editions and, for a brief time, was a bottom-rung rare book dealer. But my book bona fides were cemented when I partnered with Jim, one of my best buds and the proprietor of synesthesia press in Los Angeles, to publish a chapbook for Bruce Springsteen and Nick Hornby.

The Cliff’s Notes version is that Hornby gave us permission to reprint his essay on Thunder Road and Springsteen gave us permission to reprint the lyrics on a broadside. The stipulation was that the labor, materials and proceeds had to be donated to charity. We raised a little over $16,000 for Hornby’s cause in London. Here’s what happened in greater detail. It was an epic, eight-year struggle. A story of failure and second chances. Of lost friendship and redemption. It’s the best post I’ve ever written or ever will write.

Jim and I have come up with another chapbook. [Jim, mostly, if I’m being fair and honest.] This one is written by Tosh Berman, the son of Wallace Berman. Wallace Berman was an American artist who is considered the forefather of assemblage art and was an integral figure in the 1960’s California art scene.

Wallace is one of the faces in the crowd on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. He’s right next to Tony Curtis. Tosh was 12-years old at that time and this story is his remembrance of when Brian Epstein reached out to his father to secure permission to use his image.

“Around March of 1967, my father received a large envelope that was addressed from London.”

So begins Tosh’s short narrative, June 1, 2014. The hand-sewn chapbook is letterpress printed using both moveable type and photopolymer plates. There are three tipped-in color illustrations.


Four variant color covers were used; Steel Blue, Factory Green, Kraft Speckletone and Safety Orange. The print run is 300 copies.


Each copy is signed by Tosh.


You can order a copy of June 1, 2014 from the synesthesia press eBay store for $19.95 plus shipping. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, the book is available at Alias Books East. There’s more stuff to come off the press so keep your eye out. Here’s part of Jim’s mission statement:

“As a bookseller, I generally specialize in good used books of a subversive nature. In other words, anything by or about Beatniks, Commies, Pinkos and Reds. Most artists are subversive by nature and love all things smutty, so I like art books and Artists’ Books, outlaw poetry and prose or anything you’d be embarrassed to show your mom.”

You won’t read that in the Houghton Mifflin annual report.


Berman’s hand-assembled magazine, Semina, was published from 1955 to 1964 and ran nine issues. None were for sale. Copies were given away free to his friends. Currently, there’s a complete set available on the collectible market for $6,750. And that’s for a letterpressed Facsimile Edition printed in 1992. Original copes of the fragile publication are exceedingly scarce.

As a child, Wallace told his mother he would die on his 50th birthday. That premonition came to pass when, on February 18, 1976, his 50th birthday, he died in a car accident that was caused by a drunk driver.

58 thoughts on “Another book I helped to publish

  1. How is it I never heard about this project? You lead an interesting life much more than you give yourself credit for. You have to wonder how he knew he would die on his 50th Birthday?

  2. Now whenever any of us suggest you turn your memoirs into a book, you baulk at the idea and say you couldn’t possibly do that. And yet….you know? I know it’s different, but still!

    You’re a very cultured chap aren’t you 🙂

      • Come on out, you can stay in the Kingdom whenever you want.
        And we don’t require visitors to bring water with them, it’s the locals we are going to somehow get more water out of by charging them more for it… It’s some magical process I haven’t quite understood. But, no, visitors are always welcome – we wouldn’t want to hurt the touristm industry.

      • You’ve been to a backyard party where Springsteen graced a stage. You had the idea for the Thunder Road chapbook and saw it through to fruition. Those alone would be enough, but your words, too, are magic. You are welcome to visit the Kingdom any time you’d like. I may put you to work entertaining the Little Prince while you are there, but that’s more a concern for you than for me.

      • Golly. When you put it like that, it all sounds pretty great! I’m going to make it a top priority to stop whining so much. It won’t be easy but I have good intentions.

  3. Haha, your buddy Jim sounds like a naughty boy! Commies, Pinkos and Reds have already written too much, so I’d be more interested in the Beatnik literature. Actually, I never knew Beatniks had the time to write. May your Tosh venture achieve the success it deserves!

  4. I am going to have to get one of The Krewe to pick up a copy for me! There were plans to be out in Lalaland in May, but it seems I am going to be upcloseandpersonal with a physical therapist until June. Beats the fuck out of knee surgery, so I ain’t complaining. xoxoxox

  5. You never cease to amaze me. I should probably order one. I love books, and the Beatles. Is this another ‘all profits go to charity’ deal??

    • I took payment in copies, which is payment enough for me. Not sure about the financing but it’s not for charity. Get a copy. You’ll get a kick out of it.

      Glad I amaze. Never felt like the kind to amaze.

  6. Hello Book Philistine – That’s a good description for you since you help other people publish books but won’t publish one of your own. Or were you referring to ancient barbarians? Anyways, no more excuses – especially since you have your subversive friend Jim, who could help you. 🙂

      • Ok…did you feel that? Or do I need to do it harder?! You would be wise to give your readers what they want – this is one of those now-or-never-moments in your life. I don’t have anything more encouraging to say than that. 🙂

      • More! More! I don’t want to get all poor-me and whatnot but I wish I’d had that kind of encouragement when I was a kid. Even in high school it would’ve helped. By now, I fear I’m too old and set in my ways to change. I went to high school at Midpark in Middleburgh Heights. Do you know where that is? It’s now closed. Not enough students to populate it. Sad. And a proper metaphor for how much influence it had on me.

  7. I’m glad that you and Jim overcame your differences on the Bruce Springsteen and Nick Hornby chapbook to collaborate on this second chapbook (something I never heard of until reading this post). The work of a dedicated, skilled craftsman is incomparable. We have a guy like that at The Grind. When he quits, we’ll be screwed. Guys with talent like Jim’s seem irreplaceable, unless he has an apprentice. Very cool post about a very cool project.

    • I’m glad Jim and I rose above our difficulties too, but I mourn all the lost years. How many true pals do you get in life? Five or less, if you’re lucky. Especially if you haven’t been to college,where a lot of life-long friendships are apparently made. Still, I’m glad we recovered. He subsequently came to NYC and we picked up chatting like two old ladies like nothing ever happened.

  8. You are a man of many talents, but somehow I am surprised by this. I only wonder what else you have up your sleeve. Oh, do tell us. I’ve never heard of a chapbook. I’m glad you were able to resolve your differences with Jim. Struggles of lost friendship are the hardest kind of struggles. Writing the stuff you must hide from your mother, the best stuff. Although not my mother. She’s read everything! Great post. I want to read your other post now about your friend.

    • Now, if I told you what else there is to reveal, there wouldn’t be any more surprises, would there? That’s like no more birthday cake. So I’ll save you from that disappointment.

      Chapbooks are small pamphlets. They can be a single story or a poem. Elegant things. Usually a small print run and a small audience, to boot.

      I wonder if I want that kind of open relationship with my daughters? The kind you had with your mom where they can bring the dark, offensive stuff to me? No. I think I want a firewall between us in those instances. I’m their dad.

  9. That’s great to see, well done — and clearly made with both love and first class production values. Are you giving it a bot of a media push — on the radio, newspapers etc.?

  10. You really are an artsy intellectual. But in a cool way. Not stuffy. I want that same tattoo.

    Now I have to go read that other post. Balls. I have stuff to DO today.

  11. I wish I was more of a book snob, but I’m pretty pretentious about my food, so I’ll have to stick with my Kindle. I can only afford to be elitist about one thing at a time, unless I win the lottery at some point, then I’ll be a snob about everything.

    I read the detailed post, and it’s such a cool story! I’m always impressed on what you can accomplish if you just ASK. I always assume that people would say no, so I don’t even bother asking; I miss a lot of opportunities that way.

    • Being a food snob is awful enough. Leave the book snobbery to me.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the whole story. Nobody was more shocked than me. I never thought it would happen. It sure took long enough to complete the project, but it was worth it. The finished product is a masterpiece.

  12. Wow. Not too shabby for a Polish kid from Cleveland. I don’t know whether I want to hug you for your enterprise and hard work or punch you in the arm for keeping us in the dark for so long. Seriously, very nice, Mark.

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