Catching Up With Felice Picano

10.31.2010

By Phillip B. Crook

I is for I: Give me three words that describe all that is Felice Picano.
Individual. Curious. Creative. I'm looking for something that sums up who I am every day. Whatever else I am, I'm usually those three things.

C is for chronicler: In Art & Sex in Greenwich Village you write about feeling unprepared for the role you've played as gay literature's de facto historian. Why is that?
It's, unfortunately, because there are so few people around from that time. I've had to embrace it. It's not a bad thing. You have to understand that I was always the youngest. I graduated college and I had just turned 20. So, I was always the kid in any group up until 20 years ago. For me to suddenly be put in this other position, that's what makes it odd to me. I always keep looking over my shoulder for the person who can really do the job right, who is more prepared for it.

A is for Allen Ginsberg: Are you planning to see James Franco's portrayal of him in Howl?
I knew him. I had three or four encounters with him in my life. I may not go because I remember him so very well, because he was such a distinctive character. I may see it on video because you can just shut it off if you're not interested.

N is for New York City: It was your home until you moved away 15 years ago, so what does the city mean to you?
Right now it's really a strange place for me whenever I visit. It's the most changing city in America. It changes in a way that L.A. doesn't. I've been coming out to L.A. since I was 16 years old and on Sunset Plaza there was a glasses store in 1962 that's still there today. Things change in New York so entirely. Every time I go there I'm rediscovering it. I just finished writing a little history memoir called Nights at Rizzoli. I ended up being the manager of Rizzoli Bookstore back in the early `70s, so it's about the early `70s in New York City -- gay life and just what it was like, because there was a four- or five-year period where it was extremely unique and different than it's been since. New York was empty and broke and a lot of people had moved out. It was not as vibrant as it is now but that meant there were other things that could be interesting about it.

O is for Out: If you could control our cover, who would you put there?
I'd love to see a writer. Maybe Len Barot, who goes by Radclyffe. She's about as dynamic now as I was when I was writing a gay book every year and publishing 20 gay books by others a year. She's a smart, funny person. Of course, I wouldn't mind being on the cover either.

Felice Picano, editor of Van Gogh's Ear: The Supernatural Edition, has brought together new work by his fellow surviving members of the Violet Quill, plus many more great talents, to make this seventh and final volume of the Van Gogh's Ear anthology series, founded by Ian Ayres, even more fascinating.

On Tuesday, November 2 at 7 p.m, Picano, Edmund White, and Andrew Holleran will reunite for a literary happening at Manhattan's 192 Books, 192 Tenth Ave., New York City. Visit 192books.com for more info.

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