Monday 8 October 2012

Richard Grayson

This is a real person, not the fictional character. His name came across my dash last week as the editor of The Hipster Huckleberry Finn. I did a bit of investigating and learned THHF is a real book and Richard Grayson is a real writer.

The guy has a pretty epic autobiography on his website (linked below), so you should totally read that. I’m just going to point out some of the highlights because his piece is rather long.

Richard was actually born Richard Arnold Ginsberg in Brooklyn, New York on June 4, 1951. His Jewish parents, both born in New York City to parents who had emigrated from Eastern Europe, changed the family’s surname when Richard was six months old. And so he became Richard Grayson.

Richard spent his childhood in Brooklyn. He was a smart kid and good at school, but he began to suffer from daily panic attacks at age 15. Although Richard sought psychiatric help, his conditioned worsened. After graduating high school in 1968, his panic attacks increased. Although he had planned to attend CUNY Brooklyn in the fall, he was unable to leave the house – sometimes his agoraphobia was so severe he was unable to leave his bedroom. Reading was his escape.

*Note: in his autobiography, Richard mentions that he liked superhero comics, and that he would often pretend to be The Flash. Why did he not pretend to be Robin – they have the same name?!  

Eventually Richard’s psychiatrist prescribed Triavil, which brought the panic attacks under control. Richard was able to attend college in the fall of 1969, only a year later than originally planned. Really, his recovery from anxiety is quite inspirational.

After undergrad, Richard pursued an MFA, which ultimately led to a series of adjunct positions as a college writing instructor. In fits and spurts, he has kept this up to this day. He also, of course, spent a lot of his time writing fiction. I have appended a list of his selected works below.

Richard also engaged in what he calls “publicity art.” These included facetious runs for political office and the establishment of international fan clubs for his grandparents. (Man, why didn’t I think of that?”

He also ran for office in South Florida in the early 1980s. In Richard’s own words:

“Campaigning for the Davie Town Council in 1982, I advocated giving horses the right to vote. My platform consisted mainly of bad puns, like pledging to vote “neigh” on everything till horse suffrage was passed, offering the town a “more stable” form of government, and in the end forgoing campaign speeches because I had “become a little hoarse myself.” I got 26% of the vote as the media routinely covered my antics.”

Love it! I think I could be convinced to vote for a candidate who made such epic puns.

He also ran for President in 1983. “On the Florida primary ballot as a candidate for delegate to the Democratic convention (supporting myself), I received over 2,000 votes – but Mom, whose name I had put on the ballot as a candidate for alternate delegate, got twice as many votes as I did.” Classic. You just don’t mess with old ladies in Florida; they have an iron grip on power.

In 1994, Richard worked to defeat a ballot referendum that would have rolled back the county’s gay-rights legislation. After the referendum passed (!), Richard became a volunteer for the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida. Now when he appeared on the news he had “Gay Activist” under his name rather than “Political Candidate.” Luckily for GLBT residents of Gainesville, the Human Rights Council was “ultimately successful in getting a pro-gay rights majority elected to the Gainesville city commission.”

In the 1990s, Richard did some traveling and attended law school “for fun.” He eventually ended up, along with his family, in Arizona, but that was a short-lived move. His anxiety began to return, especially after he was mugged outside his apartment.

He spent much of the 2000s in Florida, where he wrote fiction and ran for various political offices. In 2010, though, he was back in Arizona where he ran for the House of Representatives as a Green Party candidate. Given that this was Arizona, he unsurprisingly did not win.

He seems to also spend a fair amount of his time in Brooklyn. Richard is the main writer featured on the Dumbo Books blog (Dumbo Books published The Hipster Huckleberry Finn).

*All quotes are from this two-part autobiography.

With Hitler in New York and Other Stories

Lincoln's Doctor's Dog and Other Stories

I Brake for Delmore Schwartz

I Survived Caracas Traffic: Stories from the Me Decades

The Silicon Valley Diet and Other Stories

Highly Irregular Stories

Richard has also published many stories in various literary magazines. Look him up – he seems like a pretty cool guy!

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