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Famous Americans

Famous Americans

by Loren Goodman, W. S. Merwin (Foreword by)

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This year's winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Loren Goodman's Famous Americans. Hilarious, eclectic, and bizarre, this collection takes the reader on a rollercoaster of a ride through the absurdities of American pop culture. Employing a variety of forms (from epistolary to script to interview and beyond), this work proves to be as much about


This year's winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Loren Goodman's Famous Americans. Hilarious, eclectic, and bizarre, this collection takes the reader on a rollercoaster of a ride through the absurdities of American pop culture. Employing a variety of forms (from epistolary to script to interview and beyond), this work proves to be as much about exploring frameworks as it is about examining the lives of famous and not-so-famous Americans. Goodman questions our concept of what it means to be an icon: he disrupts our assumptions, creating an alternate universe in which nothing remains sacred.

Author Biography: Loren Goodman was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated from Columbia University with an AB in philosophy in 1991, and went on to study at the University of Arizona (MFA, poetry) and SUNY Buffalo (MA, English literature). He is currently pursuing PhD degrees at SUNY Buffalo (English literature) and Kobe University (sociology). He lives in Japan and is active in martial arts.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Loren Goodman's first collection, selected by W. S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, distinguishes itself by its abundant humor and irreverence. — Ciuraru
Publishers Weekly
This year's winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize hails from Wichita, Kans., and currently lives in Kobe, Japan. His relentlessly sent-up American idols include everyone from Max Von Sydow to Ben Franklin ("1731: Fornicates."), and everything from "Blue vs. Gruyere" to thank you notes from Japanese students and "a ton of vibes from Jennifer and Yun-Su." Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
W.S. Merwin's foreword to this, his final (and rather puzzling) selection as judge of Yale's "Younger Poets" competition, primes the reader to expect inspired comic invention in the vein of Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery. But the comparisons are tenuous, if not unfair, and it's far too late in the day to regard what Merwin dubs "the nonsense aesthetic" as something fresh. While Goodman's debut displays an adequate sense of surreal mischief-his wit surfacing most pointedly in prose poems and short pieces like "Yeast" and "A Man of Letters"-it is often diluted in lengthy workshop warm-up exercises that any creative writing student would recognize: an alphabetically arranged list of first lines ("Parting is such sweet sorrow/ parts are missing and it doesn't make sense/ Perhaps the adult is just a child"), a sequence of made-up movie credits, an interview ("Q: What is that you're eating?/ A: Lot a stuff./ Q: Yeah, but what?"), a faux chronology, and a "psalm" that presents variations on sentences beginning with "When I hear the word. " Worse, there is a rambling half-heartedness to their execution, as if the poet were entertaining doubts about the value of the poetic enterprise itself-doubts this book might too easily encourage.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Yale University Press
Publication date:
Yale Series of Younger Poets
Product dimensions:
6.75(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt


By Loren Goodman


Copyright © 2003 Loren Goodman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-300-10002-7

Chapter One



The recital was to take place on a school day. I practiced "floating" day by day I went up and down the black notes on the page. After many days I had memorized floating. A week before the competition, my teacher said "Do not rest your hands on the keys. Keep your back up. Remember to say the title and composer loud and slow." Mom picked me up from school and took me to the place. I said "Floating, by Zanini" and received a large bust of Liszt. "Who is this" I asked my mom. "That is Franz Liszt, the Pole" she said. He looked very much like my Grandmother. "Liszt was loved by all the ladies" said my mother. I picked up Liszt and ran my fingers through his hair, which was a painted crease, and poked in his nose and lips. I imagined Liszt sweating over the piano, ignoring the beautiful women. I admired him for being worse than the other composers, for concentrating more on his playing and physique. His hair looked better than Beethoven's. Beethoven looked mean, but Liszt looked tough. When Beethoven stared Liszt smiled without opening his lips and said "What?" and Beethoven backed off to his little room. Then Liszt played and his hair flew around and became damp and stuck to his forehead, his ruffles flew over the keys and the women looked on and he got up from the piano and looked straight ahead frowning and said "Excuse me."

From the trials of war that tested our nation's most fundamental ideals, a great leader emerged. He was Robert E. Lee ... a master of military strategy ... a man of great loyalty and faith ... there is no greater love than His. It knows no bounds and is truly everlasting. He was, in the words of Winston Churchill, "remarkably lifelike," and today, cuddled safely in grandmother's arms, the ultimate symbol of strength and sustenance.

Now this noble American is honored in a magnificent commemorative work, "Andy." "Andy" wants to feed the fawn, but both of them are a little shy. So "Andy" extends his hand very slowly. The fawn turns to look right at him, and then nuzzles his hand gently for the food. "Oooh! His nose tickles!" "Andy" exclaims in delight. You can almost smell the burning leaves on the crisp, clean autumn air as you view this masterpiece of American art. Artful hand-painting makes Robert E. Lee's face radiate with joy. His posable arms, as well as his lower legs, are handcrafted in an endless circle of seven graceful daffodils. The center of his head embraces a sparkling, full-cut diamond.

As "Robert E. Lee" ("Andy"), you will have the opportunity to rise from the rugged rock of a crested butte on the horizon. You can almost smell the burning leaves on the crisp, clean autumn air as you are selected America's most popular artist.

An old weathered wooden bucket lies amidst blossoming chrysanthemums. Forgotten for years, it has become a quiet haven for Gloria Vanderbilt. She was a true original. One of those rare performers whose voice could touch an old weathered bucket. Even today, nearly thirty years after a plane crash tragically ended her life, Gloria's songs are requested more than ever on radio stations all across America. To hear her call is a rare privilege; to glimpse her in the wild, rarer still.

The night is still and the moon high, when suddenly you hear it ... her very first hit ... Walkin' After Midnight ... an inspiring cry that stops you in your tracks, and leaves no doubt that you are but a visitor in her wilderness domain. She was a true original. A priceless treasure discovered after more than a feeling.

Hold Gloria Vanderbilt in your hand ... feel the cool touch of your deepest emotions ... admire the beauty and detail of a plane crash ... and the solid wilderness, a classic turn-of-the-century symbol of love.

Let us forget her now for a moment, and move to

Babe Ruth ... He was the player who set the standards for excellence in baseball-hitting 25,000 homeruns in a single season and taking the life of his only son during the world series. Now, countless believers make pilgrimages to a grotto near Lourdes to pray to the immortal Babe Ruth.

Equally at home hauling grain across America's rolling wheat fields, bringing the family into town on Saturday night or silhouetted against the skyline of a great city, this legendary player is suspended on poles of gleaming brass, alert to every sound, every movement.

He appears as if in a dream, prancing round and round. A blur of color ... a blaze of lights. So graceful is this beautiful player that he seems to dance around his carousel display. Perhaps that explains why his adorable messages of "loving, caring and sharing" are cherished the world over.

While Jesus is preaching to the crowds, a mother shyly asks him to bless her two children. In response, Jesus opens his arms wide in welcome, and the little ones tumble happily into his lap.

This is Jesus as he appeared in the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert wearing his spectacular American Eagle jumpsuit adorned with sparkling crystals, stones and stars.

Mystical. Mesmerizing. From our world-yet not quite of our world. Jesus' head is sun-drenched and warm, His limbs seem to go on forever, building a bridge between what is real ... and can only be imagined.

This year marks the King's 60th birthday. It's the kind of day years are made of. The ocean breeze feels delicious, and Jesus laughs each time a brass pole secures Him to a rich, hardwood base. All the hours of practice paid off-tonight he's a star. The children he holds in loving embrace can only be imagined.

Now the legend returns to make history all over again-this time as a customized fire engine.

Your cat is a very sensitive animal. How he feels is how he acts. And because you love him, it is important to you to know what your cat is trying to tell you.

Cats will express themselves primarily through body language, such as a wag of the tail or the ripple of feathers. The head faces forward, eyes fixed on the horizon. Some cats are very striking, with a swivel face that allows you to see them from any angle. Although you can't always figure out what they're saying, you know that they are trying to tell you something about an unseen world of peace and beauty where dolphins, rays, angel fish and bald eagles play among tropical colors revealed in early morning light.

As the first cat therapist, I have "listened" to over 10,000 cats.

Imagine yourself in the engineer's seat of the Legendary Noakhail Express. Your odyssey begins in noisy, hot Bombay. It's the perfect combination of modern technology and classic elegance. The wondrous Noakhail Express, covered in 24 karat gold electroplate, hurtles through the snow-covered mountain passes with a cloud of smoke, your hand on the throttle.

This is nature at its most breathtaking ... serene yet magnificent.

In terms of power and performance, nothing can hold a candle to the '70 Chevelle Super Sport 454. Here is the pinnacle of high performance that-flat-out commands attention-and respect-sitting on a freezing-cold patch of ice.

The doors open and close. The seats fold forward. The steering and road wheels turn. You don't have to believe these things, but you have to admit the tall grass, faceted and delicately frosted, glows in rich contrast. Your life can be a new one.

From the power-bulge hood to the rich brown taffeta lined with shimmering gold lame, Chevy's legendary Muscle Car devours the quarter mile in just over 13 seconds. And you can lift the hood for a look at nothing, absolutely nothing.


Excerpted from FAMOUS AMERICANS by Loren Goodman Copyright © 2003 by Loren Goodman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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