In his latest podcast at realitystudio.org Jed Birmingham zeroes in on the immensely talented Carl Weissner and his cut-up novel The Braille Film. Birmingham, who met Weissner in New York and Paris, talks about what made him so memorable and how he bought the book at auction some years ago for $75, believing it and Weissner — both — were undervalued. The Braille Film, with a “counterscript” by William Burroughs serving as an introduction, was published in San Francisco in 1970 and was originally priced at $1.95. Today’s asking price on the rare book market ranges from $180 to $300.
Weissner, who died in 2012 in Mannheim, was acknowleged in Germany as the pre-emininent translator of American dissident writers such as Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Nelson Algren, Ken Kesey, and Allen Ginsberg, along with many others … like J.G. Ballard, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa … the list goes on and on (see this bibliography).
Two of the things Birmingham nails in his podcast is Weissner’s deeply sardonic sense of humor — the way he laughed at what was ridiculous in life and literature — and how encyclopedic his frame of reference was. When Weissner quit translating for a living, he turned to writing his own very sexy fiction in both English and German, including Death in Paris, Le Regard d’Autrui, Manhattan Muffdiver, and Die Abenteuer von Trashman (The Adventures of Trashman).