We’ll soon find out what capacity my heart has for write-muscle shitwork,” sighs 58-year-old Richard Meltzer, pondering brain rot in his umpteenth collection of gonzo essays. Meltzer, an early rock critic, unmatched stylist, and sometime testosteroid, earned his cult and not much money reviewing albums by their covers, analyzing his bottle cap collection, and savaging his adopted city in periodicals that later fired him and classic nocult screeds like L.A. Is the Capital of Kansas and Gulcher. Whereas his bodybuilder’s write-muscle made more than a few passes at being and nothingness sound like workouts, Meltzer’s heartsickness pounds through Autumn Rhythm. By the end, what he IDs in hero Bukowski—”the matchless clarity of spew”—inspires a surprise convulsion of psychodrama.
Vivid, graceful, desperate, and funny—always funny—the book breaks down into half-thoughts, big ideas, absurdist digressions, and the occasional haiku: forgetfulness, old people’s clothes, writing-as-process, writing-as-legacy, ageism, drugs/drinking, his beloved cat, politics, the “meatdance,” etc. Halfway in, an event sets him off. “Twenty-five years ago, before many of you kiddies were born, I slipped the sausage to Helen Wheels, who died last week.” Some throat-clearing later, he bitterly dismisses Dad (dead) and gets on now senile Mom, she of “paraboloid knockers and a dandy spherical ass,” the “v. first object of my hot dang desire.” He climaxes—and births his meatdancing write-self—in a penetrating passage. Relating how, as an adolescent, he rolled on his father’s condoms and then put them back, Meltzer wonders if his old man unknowingly “popped his cork way up her forbidden cranny with the lingering AURA of my dick surrounding his own suffer-meat? Interesting thought!” Indeed—his most interesting yet.