Mister Lazarus

May 9, 2008


Once upon a time there was a local music magazine called SLAMM, which was the predecessor to San Diego CityBeat. The Editor in Chief of SLAMM was a man named Andrew Altschul who I wrote under for several years.

Aside from being an effective Senior Editor, Altschul was a prolific and persistent writer, clearly on his way to doing something bigger. Since then he has had his short fiction and essays published in national periodicals (including Esquire and StoryQuarterly), has contributed frequently to The Huffington Post, won a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, and in April, against the odds, released his debut novel on Harcourt called Lady Lazarus.

“It’s about poetry, punk rock, and suicide,” says Altschul. “It follows the life and career of Calliope Bird Morath, a young poet who is the daughter of a famous [San Diego] punk rocker who killed himself when she was very young.”

Lady Lazarus is a fab read. Not just because it’s good, but also because it’s set right here, in our San Diego, with scenes at the Casbah, Coronado Bridge, Spreckels Theater, The Arizona Café, and inside the offices of a “fictitious” magazine called SLAM. He also includes the real names of San Diegans in the media and uses the names of real local band and musicians to give the reader the feeling of authenticity.

“The book has a lot to say about rock music, poetry, and celebrity,” says Altschul, “It examines the toxic relationship between art and fame, and our culture’s pathological obsession with scandal, particularly the scandals of young women.”

This is the point in the article where I should mention bias. Not only is Andrew a friend, he also wrote me into his novel. Indeed, there is a character in Lady Lazarus named Edwin Decker who is portrayed as a slovenly, salacious, obnoxious rival journalist. Where he gets these notions about me I shall never know.


Andrew Altschul will read from his novel at Winston’s Drunk Poet’s Society
on Monday, May 19. Edwin Decker to open.



  1. I love hearing writerly fairy tales of making into the big publishing houses. Andrew’s book sounds great.

  2. I know, Harcourt, how cool!

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