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Reviewed in the Manhattan Mercury

Kiss the Sky: Fiction & Poetry Starring Jimi Hendrix

ltd. ed. 1000cc ISBN 0-931181-24-0 (due 3/21/2007) 425pp (ed. by Richard Peabody) 15.95 Featuring work by: Matt Agosta, Sherman Alexie, Brian Ames, Mark Ari, Lester Bangs, Bruce Bauman, Robert Bixby, Theodore Carter, Robert Cooperman, Jarvis Q. DeBerry, Barbara deCesare, Matthew Dillon, Kevin Downs, Richard Flynn,
Sunil Freeman, Yael Gen, Jessica Hagedorn, Tony Hoagland, Dave Housley, Willie A. Howard, Jr., Reuben Jackson, George Kalamaras, Matthew Kirkpatrick, L. A. Lantz, Nathaniel Mackey, Graham Masterton, Adrian Matejka, David Meltzer, Nancy Mercado, Steve Messner, Martin Millar, Matthew L. Moffett, Rick Moody, Michael Moorcock, Rebecca Motil, David Nicholson, James Norcliffe, Erik Orsenna, Gerry Gomez Pearlberg, W.T. Pfefferle, Meredith Pond, Doug Rice, Martin Seay, Tim Seibles, Lewis Shiner, Rozanne Gooding Silverwood, John Sinclair, Michael Spann, Chris Stevens, D. E. Steward, Darrell D. Stover, Ross Taylor, Sara-Jayne Townsend, Jeremy Trylch, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Michael Ventura, Afaa M. Weaver, and Walter Williams.

"The beauty of this book isn’t the big names who’ve contributed, it’s the vision of the writers who are here and the pervading, ghostly presence of Hendrix. He hovers over every word like a laughing, beatific god in rock heaven pantheon. And like any god, a mythology has grown up around him, chronicled here like the Greek myths.

The rock stars, especially those who died young, beautiful and talented, have become our new gods. Anointed before the cult of celebrity, they stand apart, larger than they ever were in life.

Kiss The Sky is a celebration, not of life, but of the idea of Jimi Hendrix. It’s lovely, dirty, elegiac, gritty and literally fantastic by turn. But isn’t that what a god deserves? It’s not so much about him as the effect he’s had on people, more than three and a half decades after his death. There’s a sense of regret at his passing, attempts to alter history – but still a sense that this is a god’s destiny.

The work here comes from the heart, not the bank account. But that’s where good music originates, too. At their best, the pieces here connect with the spirit of Hendrix, free-flowing, high-flying. They touch the sky, caress it, kiss it (with tongues), and make love to it before floating back down.

To read this is actually to gain a new appreciation of Hendrix. Not so much his playing, but of the man refracted through so many prisms, whether revered or seen with affection. Read, and you’ll listen to his work again – but you’ll never hear it in quite the same way."

                         —Chris Nickson, author of The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to World Music and Solid Air: The Life of John Martyn

“Jimi Hendrix’s music was the blank slate upon which the late 1960s was written. His was the soundtrack for realities as harsh as civil unrest and Vietnam fire patrols or for unrealities as pleasant as heavenly dreamscapes that helped transcend the tumult and (yes, I was there!) terror of the times. Like Lester Young’s sax or Nick Drake’s vox, his brief, ferociously sustained burst of creativity cast a spell that will never be broken. Rick Peabody went prowling for some clues as to why that is. With Kiss the Sky, he returned with the whole damn slate, filled to bursting.”—Alan Bisbort, author of “When You Read This, They Will Have Killed Me”: The Life and Redemption of Caryl Chessman, Whose Execution Shook America and coauthor (with Parke Puterbaugh) of Rhino’s Psychedelic Trip.

The premise could be a dream assignment for a rock fan in English class: Write a poem or story that in some way involves Jimi Hendrix. Editor Richard Peabody collected such literary experiments by Lester Bangs, Michael Moorcock, Sherman Alexie, Rick Moody, Lewis Shiner and assorted lesser-knowns for Kiss the Sky.

With about 60 entries total, the volume is long (425 pages), but fortunately, none of the pieces are. Peabody weeded out most of the pointless fan fiction in favor of works that tend to examine the impact of Hendrix on individual lives. A few too many writers take the Hendrix-as-rock-god route. In one of the better attempts at deification, Matthew L. Moffett’s “The Color of Sound,” an underground religion springs up in a futuristic society, where John Tesh is the model for musical genius. Guess who’s Jesus to the underground cult? If he’s not portrayed as an actual god, Hendrix appears as an “electric angel” or benevolent ghost, although some writers try to humanize Hendrix through almost-true glimpses of the past and future. One vision has Hendrix shuffling on in the iTunes era, trying to fit the 12 steps into his comeback album. But Hendrix doesn’t show up at all—at least not directly—in some of the collection’s best works. Perhaps he stares knowingly from a bedroom poster at deceitful young lovers. Or his guitar is almost a character unto itself. Or his penis: in Matthew Dillon’s “Heavy” a pre-op tranny sells a bronze cast of Hendrix’s manhood in order to afford the removal of his own.
Over and over, and however they’re manifested, memories (or  myths) of Hendrix give meaning to the lives of others, whether they roadied for him, saw him at Woodstock, or just heard about him from a story told by a drunk old hippie.

— Crystal K. Wiebe, Harp Magazine  July/August 2007


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