Thursday, May 10, 2007

This is the print-on-demand reprint of the original 1982 hardcover book. I can't find a copy of the cloth edition in New York City; the only one that exists seems to be in the Berg Collection at the main New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, and it's not available to the public. It's there because the book was dedicated to my friend Dr. Lola Szladits, who was the curator of the Berg Collection back in the 1970s and 1980s. I met her when we were seated next to each other at a 1978 National Arts Club dinner in honor of Saul Bellow at which he was given the Medal for Literature and at which John Cheever and Bernard Malamud spoke. That dinner is one I write about in the last piece in the book, "Diarrhea of a Writer." Sometime in the late 1980s, the Berg Collection had an exhibit on books inscribed to their dedicatees, and the last item in the exhibit was my copy of Lincoln's Doctor's Dog which I had inscribed to Lola. I will try to locate a copy of the hardcover book with the original black dustcover; it had a drawing in white ink of Lincoln, a doctor, and a dog.

Washington Post Book World column

Washington Post
February 28, 1982
Book World, page BW15

By Michelle Slung


THERE USED TO BE a publishing joke, to the effect that the perfect mix of ingredients for a best-selling book would begin and end with the title Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog. Doctors are still “in,” but maybe not so much as they used to be, before one of their number got murdered, and canines have been supplanted by felines. As for Lincoln, well, for a while, anyway, he had to take a back seat to the Nixon industry. Yet that hasn’t stopped one young writer, Richard Grayson, from calling his latest book exactly that—Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog and Other Stories.

To be published in early May by Maryland’s White Ewe Press, it will join that column in Books in Print which features, among others, Lincoln’s Favorite Poets and Lincoln’s Religion, and perhaps in time a few ardent Lincoln scholars will find themselves ordering it by mistake. If so, they will encounter this sentence in the title story: “Lincoln’s doctor’s dog’s mother was a bitch.”

Meanwhile, in a contemporary variation on the same idea, Berkley-Jove has scheduled for next summer a trade paperback whose time may not have come and gone by then, The Preppy Cat. If that makes you want to stone the author responsible, you might find yourself hounded—excuse me—by the ASPCA, because the book is being listed as by Leland Stanford Cat VIII. In addition, Holt, Rinehart is proposing to bring out The Joy of Stuffed Preppies in the early spring. Here again, the authors are hiding behind fictitious identities, publishing as Randall C. Douglas III and Eric Fowler. The title, for sure, is open to a number of interpretations, and they’re probably right to protect themselves.

New York Times Book Review Column

New York Times

January 16, 1983
Book Review
Page 22



An Anemic Send-Off

APRIL may be the cruelest month for poets and taxpayers, but for booksellers nothing approaches the cruelty of the first and second weeks after Christmas, when sales typically plummet by about 65 percent. Unit sales of hard-cover fiction during the last week of 1982 fell 71 percent compared with Christmas week, while sales of books on the hard-cover general list dropped 66 percent.
Given that anemic send-off into the new year, it is hardly surprising that most of the book industry can't wait for warmer weather. Look at January 1978:

According to New York Times computer-ranked sales of best sellers, sales of hard-cover fiction best sellers totaled only one-third of those of the previous month. The comparison was slightly better the following year. Last January, after an especially poor December, sales rose to 55 percent of the previous month's total. Sales of hard-cover general best sellers have followed a similar pattern over the past five years.

In some parts of the country the lag continues well into February. ''We usually don't pick up again until almost March,'' a bookseller in Philadelphia said, adding that January is a great month for browsers, ''because they have the store practically to themselves.'' Yet because sales depend on the weather as well as on the availability of big books, January has occasionally lost out to February, April or even May as the worst month for hard-cover book sales.

During slow seasons, however, there is still considerable movement in the relative position of individual titles. A good example is ''In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America's Best-Run Companies'' by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. The book sold few copies in the major chain stores during Christmas week and ranked only No. 29 on the Times list. But now it is eighth on the list, with the chains accounting for 31 percent of total sales.

Happy Anniversary

FEW books remain on the Times best-seller list for more than a couple of months, but this week ''Jane Fonda's Workout Book'' marks its 52d week, even moving up a notch to second place. Meanwhile, although Shel Silverstein's ''A Light in the Attic'' slipped from 5th to 13th place, the book of cartoons and verse is currently celebrating its 61st week as a best seller.

Unforgettable Titles

WE reported here some months back that Richard Grayson, searching for a formula that would guarantee best sellerdom, had titled his forthcoming collection ''Lincoln's Doctor's Dog & Other Stories.'' A number of readers noted that George Stevens published a book titled ''Lincoln's Doctor's Dog & Other Famous Best Sellers'' in 1939. Mr. Grayson said he had not known of the Stevens book, but he was so taken by his version of the title that he decided to stick with it.

The idea sounded good in theory: Since individual titles about Lincoln, doctors and dogs have tended to do well, one that combined all three subjects might do three times as well. Alas, that has not been the case. Sales figures for the Stevens book are not available, although it does not seem to have been a best seller. But the Grayson book, published last spring, has sold fewer than 200 copies. ''The only thing I can come up with,'' the author said after making it clear that he does not regard the sales figures as a literary judgment, ''is that Lincoln isn't as popular as he used to be.''

Mr. Grayson, who teaches creative writing at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has written four books that have sold a total of about 1,350 copies. Whether or not they are memorable as literature, their titles tend to be unforgettable: An earlier Grayson book was ''With Hitler in New York,'' and Mr. Grayson's latest effort, a paperback for which he received $3,000 from the Florida Arts Council, is titled ''Eating at Arby's.'' Scheduled for publication next month is a new opus: ''I Brake for Delmore Schwartz.''

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Library Journal
December 15, 1982

LJ's SMALL PRESS ROUNDUP: Best Titles of 1982
By Susan Shafarzek

Pages 2303-2308

THE TIME is long past—if indeed it ever existed—when the small press world could be regarded simply as a haven for the beginning. True, the beginner often finds a place there, but, increasingly, so does the season talent, to whom the major publishing houses can no longer offer a venue. It appears that the alternative presses have become just that, and they are an alternative for the libraries, as well. Those interested in keeping to the front of aesthetic and literary trends will find the small press world a rewarding, supplementary source.

Not everything from the small presses is outstanding, of course. Many are still the province of the cranky and the refuge of the uninteresting, but looking over more than 300 small press books seen this year, more were found that were valuable than not. This review aims to provide a rounded sample of the best of these. (2303)

. . . .

Humor is also the hallmark of Richard Grayson's excellent collection, Lincoln's Doctor's Dog and Other Stories (White Ewe, $11.95, cloth). These range from the surreal and punning to the poignantly reflective. (2306)

Susan Shafarzek, co-editor of the Washout Review, is on the staff of the Graduate Office of the State University of New York at Albany, in addition to her doctoral studies in the writing program there.


Small Press Review
September 1982
Vol. 14, No. 9
Pages 8-9

LINCOLN’S DOCTOR’S DOG & Other Stories by
Richard Grayson (White Ewe Press, P.O. Box 996, Adelphi, MD 20783,
$11.95) ISBN 0-917976-13-4

Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog & Other Stories is a collection of 22 fictions by Richard Grayson, all funny, all playful and all engaged in the shift from persona to persona, from voice to voice that characterizes the wit of experimental fiction. Grayson achieves some startling effects in “A Sense of Porpoise” in which a porpoise replaces a boy’s dead father. The situation produces the pun, but also some fine speculations on the relationship of child to parent. “Why Van Johnson Believes in ESP” had the character of both parody and the play that is at the heart of new narrative technique. The complications of narrative voice become even greater, often funnier, sometimes more frightening in the autobiographical stories about growing up in New York in the late 60s and early 70s.


The Miami Herald
Sunday, April 4, 1982
Living Today
Section G, Page 1
Lincoln's Doctor's Dog's Author
'Giving It All Up for Computers, and Other Stories'

Herald Staff Writer

Thirty-year-old Richard Grayson was sitting in his furnished Davie apartment, six months into his eight-month lease, rereading the New York Times Book Review from March 14:

"Richard Grayson's first book carried the title, With Hitler in New York. Some reviewers liked the book, at least one detested it, and readers ignored it in droves. It sold only about 500 copies, according to the author, who teaches English at Broward Community College in Davie, Fla.

"When it came time to compile a new book…he decided to appeal to a broader constituency. Having heard that books about Abraham Lincoln, doctors and dogs usually sell well, Mr. Grayson is calling his new hardcover book…
Lincoln's Doctor's Dog, and Other Stories."

Except for an extra sentence or two and a couple of adjectives, that was the whole thing in a nutshell.

A friend who is into Eastern culture called Grayson and congratulated him. A lady from Queens with a handicapped kid wrote asking for Grayson's autograph if he wasn't too busy.

He wasn't, though he is considering taking up computer programming this summer at the community college.


Richard Grayson, who has published 150 short stories in dozens of obscure literary magazines, recently was teaching a Compare and Contrast lesson to his beginning English class at Broward Community College. Something about the American Revolution versus the Russian Revolution. Only one student knew what a Bolshevik was.

Grayson was making the point that a good Compare and Contrast didn't have to be one paragraph about Russia followed by one on America (although that was one way to do it). You could have both revolutions in the same paragraph. It wasn't clear if anyone was getting this concept.

There is no other way to put it: Broward Community College does not feel like the kind of place anyone one would be doing serious writing. It feels like a place where future pharmacists, computer programmers and dental technicians will learn to write sentences without comma splices if they pay close attention. It feels very clean and scrubbed, very healthy and wholesome. Lots of tanned young people wearing very little clothing hurry up and down geometrically pleasing stairwells. You could cast Brave New World here. Almost no one looks fat or excessive or impolitic. It's the kind of place that might make one of Richard Grayson's elderly characters say: "So many sensational young people and nice teeth, too."

Graffiti from radio

The graffiti covering desks in Grayson's classroom are not literary. They're mostly from the radio. A sample desk in Grayson's class says: "Styx…Trash…For Sure…Lou Reed…Rock and Roll Forever."

More than once Grayson has thought that were Melville or Hardy around today he might go electronic.

"I know most of you, when you get the urge to read, lie down until it passes," he says, though not in a mean way. The tone is of a man being left behind.

Still, Grayson remains faithful to the course curriculum. He talks about comma splices.

"I once had a student who said, 'Don't you put a comma every fourth word?' We're going to have a very animated discussion on commas Monday…We'll have a real good discussion on the dash. The dash is wonderful. When all else fails – use the dash."


Richard Grayson, whose favorite food is the hamburger, likes life in Davie. He is making the most money ever in his life, $14,000 from the community college, plus a $3,000 grant from the Florida Fine Arts Council. And there are perks: Teaching at the college entitles him to take computer programming at a reduced tuition rate.

This is his ninth college teaching job. To make ends meet he has worked at places like New York City Technical College, where, his resume says, he was a substitute adjunct lecturer.

He does not consider any of this noble.

His fiction has never paid much. Taplinger Co. gave him a $500 advance for the first short story collection, With Hitler in New York. The book didn't sell enough copies to cover the advance. Nor does he expect to make anything on Lincoln's Doctor's Dog, scheduled for release in May. There was no advance for that one.

Most literary magazines that publish his stories count circulation in the hundreds, not thousands: Apalachee Quarterly, City, Writ, Shenandoah, Texas Quarterly. The big ones pay $50. The small pay nothing. Welter, the University of Baltimore's literary review, just accepted one of his stories. His compensation will be two free copies.

The story is about a painter who becomes a computer programmer.


Richard Grayson started writing regularly at 18. He had just spent a year in his room, scared to come out. Grayson didn't know it then, but he was suffering from agoraphobia, a fear of mixing with crowds. It was a nervous breakdown of some sort. When he reappeared in the spring of 1969, everything seemed fresh. It was a classic case of being rehatched.

"I wasn't the best in my creative-writing class. I was maybe in the middle of eight. But I kept at it. I'd keep sending my stuff out when it was rejected. I sent out the same story over and over. Others gave up."


The absurd is on Richard Grayson's mind.

He takes major historical figures and drops them into mundane American settings like his native Brooklyn. There's absolutely nothing funny about Hitler, right? Grayson's Hitler flies into Kennedy on a Laker flight, smokes a join on the Belt Parkway, eats Szechuan in Brooklyn Heights.

Constipation is sad and private, right? Richard Grayson wrote this about one of his characters:

"When he was very young, he was constipated. Sometimes he did not go to the bathroom for weeks. His grandmother would cry that the boy's appendix might be on fire…In the summer, people would come into his grandmother's bungalow to watch him straining at the stool. The bathroom door would be open wide and sometimes people would bring their guests for a weekend barbecue….

"When there was a bowel movement his grandmother would make a party. It was more for the adults than him."


His stuff is autobiographical. At times he doesn't bother to disguise it. In the middle of a short story about a lawyer he interrupts the narrative: "The 'I' of this story is really me, Richard Grayson, and not some literary device….Please, you can see I'm a sick person. What would it take, a few pages in your lousy literary magazine, to make me happy?....If I can't have your respect I'll settle for your pity."

"Pitiful," wrote Kirkus Reviews.

"I used to get rejections saying, 'Grow up.' Truly cruel ones. The kind that level with you: 'You have no talent. Give up.' They discourage you for a couple of days."

The Los Angeles Times thought he was funny; Newsday said he had a wild sense of humor, yet some telephone company official stringing reviews for the Minneapolis Tribune almost had a nervous breakdown:

"This is the worst book I ever read in my life," he wrote, "a cornucopia of crap."

The telephone review man said he planned to give Grayson's book to someone he despised.


In his spare time Grayson cooks up minor media events. It amuses him and brings a little of the recognition you don't get when you're trying to do something enduring in Davie. He started a campaign to run Burt Reynolds for U.S. Senate.

Burt refused.

Grayson ran for Davie Town Council as a lark last month, saying horses should be given the vote and the council should be abolished because it didn't do much. This offended local newspaper editorial writers, who have a genuine concern about the quality of leadership on the Davie Town Council.

Grayson lost.

When his grandmother, Sylvia Ginsberg, was lonely and depressed last year, he sent out press notices saying she was a superstar and that he was starting the Sylvia Ginsberg Magazine and fan club.

She died.


Grayson expects to be famous.

"I have a feeling I'll be discovered in my 70s. I can't really say why. I just feel that's the way it is. It's fate.

"I've done things a lot of people tried to do and couldn't. I've had books published by a commercial publisher. I'm young, too. Maybe I'll go on for 10 years without having a successful book, and all of a sudden I'll have one.

Wilder slept there

Two years ago Grayson was a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H. A small group of promising writers, composers, painters and sculptors spends the summer at a wooded retreat. You work in your cabin all day and gather for discussions in the evenings.

"You're treated so well," Grayson remembers. "Like you're important. I wasn't used to being treated well."

He lived in the same cabin where Thornton Wilder once worked. At the desk where Grayson sat, Wilder wrote Our Town.

Each year, when the summer's over, the fellows write their names on the wall of the cabin where they stayed.

As he added his to the long list, Richard Grayson scanned the other names. A few were familiar.


"Of course sometimes it hurts me that I have friends who make $70,000 doing what I might call trivial things.

"My best friend Linda I've known since first grade. She's the editor of a magazine. She owns two houses in Washington, D.C., as investments. She's written a book. But I have things she doesn't have. Her book's about roller skating. She's doing a story about travel in Costa Rica. The magazine she runs is for weight watchers. I don't think she has the same feeling toward her material that I do. I have the freedom to write what I want."

A couple of years ago Richard Grayson was depressed about not being known. Then a Mount Holyoke professor sent him an English 234 paper. It was a detailed analysis of "Summoning Alice Keppel." A short story. By Richard Grayson. That kept him going a couple of extra days.

And there is more:

"Linda has a friend who taught high school in Wisconsin. He was going around the class, asking everyone their favorite writer.

"And one kid said, 'You've probably never heard of him, but Richard Grayson.'"


Best Sellers
May 1982
Vol. 42, No. 2
May 1982

Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog and Other Stories
Richard Grayson

White Ewe Press (P.O. Box 996, Adelphi, Md. 20783)
ISBN 0-917976-13-4

Despite my initial reservations regarding this volume when it reached me, I must confess I like Richard Grayson and his work. The twenty-two fictions in Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog and Other Stories display a versatility which commands attention. And they are very much in the American vein—that vein of autobiography which has been a constant from the beginning of our literary history down to the confessional mode of the recent past. The title tale, which is certainly captivating, pretends to be the biography of Lincoln’s doctor’s puppy who grows up to be elected to a state governorship and achieves fame as a lecturer. Grayson can parody human excess and human frailty, parent-child relationships, and recreate a 1960s scene with poignancy. There is even a dazzling memoir of George Washington’s granddaughter. And in “Diarrhea of a Writer,” Grayson exposes that pride and pain which are the nutrients of a writer’s growth. The questions he had wanted to ask Saul Bellow at a dinner honoring the novelist all fade when the Nobel Laureate tells Grayson, “I’ll look for you.”

Richard Grayson has been found, at least by this reader, and found-out, too. From the evidence he is serious and comic, charming, given to outrageous puns, and a sharp-eyed observer of and participant in Life’s absurdities.

—Nicholas J. Loprete, Jr.


Kirkus Reviews

May 1, 1982
Grayson, Richard
And Other Stories
White Ewe $11.95
5/5 LC: 81-69117
Grayson's two story collections--With Hitler in New York (1979) and this new one--together suggest the literary equivalent of a kid's messy room: cozy for the kid, junk strewn everywhere, but a little horrifying to anyone standing at the doorway. Grayson's most constant character here is himself-as-writer: "Please: you can see I'm a sick person. What would it take, a few pages in your lousy literary magazine, to make me happy? . . . If I can't have your respect, I'll settle for your pity. . . ." And pitiful indeed are many of these stories--cheap, silly, little more than names, puns, and jokes about the author's desperation for readers (hence the title). Still, there is something boorishly, oddly charming about Grayson's ability to stop in the middle of some childishly junky piece to ask, sincerely: "When I write myself into a corner, as I have done once more, do you have to give me credit for trying?" And there are two real short stories here--"A Hard Woman," "What Guillain-Barre Syndrome Means to Me"--which, though sketchy, indicate that Grayson can be a writer when he wants. For the most part, however: juvenile literary clowning, only faintly--and erratically--amusing.


Orlando Sentinel Star
April 18, 1982

Grayson is more
than Bellow clone

Lincoln's Doctor's Dog and Other Stories
By Richard Grayson
White Ewe Press: Adelphi, Md., $11.95
Special to Sentinel Star
"Lincoln's Doctor's Dog" is the title story of a collection of 22 fictions by a highly gifted young Florida writer and English professor at Broward Community College named Richard Grayson. I say fictions rather than stories, the conventional word. Most of what Grayson writes is not conventional. (These 22 fictions/stories originally appeared in 22 publications.)

In the last piece in the book, the author confesses – I think we may assume the narrator is speaking for the author – that he yearns to be part of The New Yorker world. Unfortunately for Grayson, I am not a New Yorker editor. As such, I would have gladly accepted, among other contributions, "A Sense of Porpoise" and "Here at Cubist College."

Early in the book, I thought of Saul Bellow. It wasn't a matter of influence. I find his work and Grayson's unalike. It was something else that brought Bellow, usually cited as our most cerebral fiction writer, to mind. Grayson has a splendid command of language, he is steeped in literary history, is highly intelligent. All things that have been said of Bellow. But the 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature never seems burdened by a felling that he is but laboring in well-plowed fields, that the road to originality lies in constant experimentation.

Grayson is obsessed with avoiding those well-plowed fields. Straightforward narrative is old-hat, though to show that his hands are clean he occasionally takes time out to demonstrate that he can excel at this too. As a sort of unfair litmus test for whether you will enjoy Grayson, I quote two puns and a locker room exhortation by the Coach.
1. "There is no middle ground between us. I have led a bowdlerized life, while you have led a baudelairized one."
2. "…she had ignored all small Krafft-Ebbing warnings."
3. "Every time you think, you hurt the team. Every time you think you hurt the team you're right. Gents, get out there and win this one for Edmund Wilson!"

In still another vein, and unlike anything else in the book, is "I, Eliza Custis," written as a nineteenth-century memoir by a granddaughter of Martha Washington. I didn't find it compelling reading. But only a master of prose could have made such a narrative ring true, and it does. In the concluding piece referred to earlier, a young writer blurts out to Saul Bellow: "…your books mean a lot to me." My thinking of Bellow at the beginning of the book became more explicable.

My advice to the young writer would be to emulate Bellow in one crucial respect: Let your instinct be your guide. Don't worry about what's been done before. If Joyce took fiction as close as it can get to Yes and Beckett to No, there is still plenty of room somewhere in between for Saul Bellow. And for Richard Grayson.
J.F. Hopkins is an Orlando novelist and short story writer.


Publishers Weekly
April 9, 1982
Volume 221, Number 15
Page 42

Richard Grayson. White Ewe Press (P.O. Box 996, Adelphi, Md. 20783),
$11.95 ISBN 0-917976-13-4

These 22 brief, sometimes forced, sometimes playful stories by the author of “With Hitler in New York” are not for everyone. Grayson is not successful in all of his experiments and the uneven quality of this collection will disappoint some. However, this writer of stories is not afraid to take risks, not a bad quality, and he can be very funny indeed. Try “Here at Cubist College,” an entertaining spoof of the academic world, or the amusing title story in which Sparky, Lincoln’s doctor’s dog, becomes a successful politician and lecturer. In quite another vein, “I, Eliza Custis” tells the story of Washington’s granddaughter, and in other tales Grayson writes of the ‘60s and ‘70s and being young in New York. Grayson has many voices, plays many roles in this collection, but he seems to be a versatile, interesting experimenter with promise for the future. [May 5]