Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

The Asbestos Diary

AsbestosDiaryThe Asbestos Diary

by Casimir Dukahz

Published by Oliver Layton Press

Published 1966
281 pgs.

Reviewed by Gary Taylor

May 8, 1966.

But why do you call it an “asbestos diary?” asks Luk.

Because in it I have written all about you and me, among others, and it hasn’t gone up in smoke and flame.

“Are you some kind of creep from outer space or something?” the boy moans, clutching his hair. “If anybody finds it, you’ll go to prison and I’ll go to reform school!”

“I’ll explain that it’s farcical satire if not satirical farce,” I reassure him, “a bathetic dramaturgical of petulant pubertal villains wooed by picaresque hero…then everybody can read it!”

So the reader is introduced to the Diary, a mad collection of short episodes with various junior hustlers.

This is an extremely absorbing, extremely funny book, but not without its moments of pathos. The pleas that it makes for Equality are well-stated and cleverly handled (one of them is laid out typographically like the “long long tale” in Alice in Wonderland). The language pulls no punches, and I often suspect the author of using shock language specifically to shock the “average reader” into some sort of different point of view.

Tangents • May 1966

Don’t think for a moment, though, that this book has been written for the—uh—“lay” population. It is as much a titillatory tome as any other, but its difference is that it does have “redeeming social importance.” Interspersed among the short episodes (each dealing with a different boy, each giving the date and the age of the contact) are the author’s satirical swipes at almost everything, from Messrs. Johnson, Humphrey, et al. to the mechanics of laying a hen—and never mind the egg. He also has his moments of social consciousness.

Consider, for example, the kind deed done to humanity by the author (“Duke” to his friends) in the matter of the old whore. After one of his old inamorati has been sent to the hospital with “the two worse of the seven sociable diseases, plus stricture and involvement of the prostate and bladder—and potent penicillin which killed Mark…,” Duke goes to the boy’s funeral and later, after having purchased two small household items at Polter & Geist’s Department Store, visits the old whatever:

I threw a sawbuck in her lap saying it was hers in any case but to tell me the truth: Is she free from disease? “I’m clean as your mother, dearie!” she lisped, sealing her doom, and soiling my gloved fist on impasto complexion I clipped her on the jaw, lowered her unconscious form to the bed and ripped off her clothes. Then I unwrapped my purchases: a pound of powdered Plaster of Paris and a pastry tube…mixed powder with water to smooth batter, poured it into pastry-tube the nozzle of which I shoved up that malodorous maladied twat where at least one young explorer had been wrecked on his maiden-voyage—and squeezed! Avant-garde frictional fiction has ever rung with praise for the whore with the heart of gold. Now I give you something new: the whore with the plaster vagina!

If that act is not of “redeeming” importance, I’d like to see one that is.

On the serious side, however, Duke relates short tidbits of his exploits with everyone, from Winter to Joseph, who gives Duke an itemized bill. In the table of contents is given each boy’s name and age, and some telling lines revealing the episodes—gems in themselves, such as “Lenny—at 17—on the Anxious Seat in the Amen Corner”; “Go-go—at 3 weeks—The Ballon-boy”; “Kurt—at 16—A tisket, a tasket, a damned deceiving basket!” and “Carry Me back to Old Virginity—Cuckolded by a thermos-bottle.”

All in all, a highly entertaining book.

© 1966, 2016 by The Tangent Group. All rights reserved.

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