Herbert Gold, still alive and still cranky

Subtitled “A Memoir,” this easy-to-read assemblage of previously published essays and new material from one of San Francisco's favorite literary beatnik sons is a cri de coeur: “Until the death rattle dies in my chest, the program is to get on with living.” Gold, born in Ohio in 1924, educated in New York, veteran of WWII, and flâneur in Paris courtesy of the G.I. Bill, has lived, loved, and written in S.F. since the '50s. Author of some 30 books, he's still best known for his 1967 Fathers: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir. Still Alive rambles and is repetitive, but each retelling of an old story is slightly different and reveals a little more. Gold still dislikes his first wife, and is still hopelessly in love with his second, Melissa — the more so because, after divorcing him, she was killed in a helicopter crash before they could meet for a scheduled birthday lunch. Even though he mentions more than once that his brother Sid (a failed writer, subject of a heart-wrenching chapter, and the book's dedicatee) was drawn by R. Crumb, he never mentions that the crash also took the life of Melissa's companion, Bill Graham. The last essay in the book examines Gold's up-and-down 50-year friendship with Saul Bellow. Among Bellow's famous last words to Gold, who obviously took them to heart: “Don't count any writer out while he's still alive.”

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