RARA-AVIS: _Pick Up_ the ending

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 17 Nov 2007

The original title of _Pick Up_ was _Until I Am Dead_. Beacon, the paperback original firm that specialized in sex-oriented stories in the 1950s, changed Willeford's title. That title is powerfully ironic, and it is a shame the reader could not see the last sentence in the book, go back to the first words (the title), and see the implications of the protag having been released by The Law, walking in the rain. . . . . This is another of Willeford's "high modernist" devices, I think, the last words returning the reader to the first, a la _Finnegan's Wake_.

Willeford got several fan letters from readers, obviously African American, thanking him for stating their own experience. They assumed he too was African American. They specifically mentioned that his book was one that they--as men--could identify with. Those letters either could not, or need not, have been written today, but they express deeply the situation of the "Negro" in the 1950s.

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