Why a book on John O’Brien? This idea had its genesis when I was talking to John’s mother, Judith O’Brien, after a reading by Erin O’Brien when she released her book The Irish Hungarian Guide to The Domestic Arts at a gallery located in Lakewood, Ohio (John’s hometown). It was a brief conversation with Judith, I told her Leaving Las Vegas is a book that had a tremendous impact on me, and I spent several minutes explaining why. Judith, or as I called her then, the only time I’ve met her up to the time of this writing, Mrs. O’Brien, was so appreciative that I took the time to speak with her about this but I wasn’t quite sure if she thought I was just nice or if she understood the weight, the gravity, the impact that this novel could have in the hands of the right reader.
The mental template for this project is Henry Miller’s Time of The Assassin. As far as structures, if I want to talk about homecoming themes, from Hamlet to Pinter’s The Homecoming, there is also the template of Homer’s The Odyssey. If there’s a treatise of one writer discussing another, where a reader learns some, as much, or more about the writer as the subject, I can think of none which accomplishes this to the degree of The Time of the Assassins. I’m going to expand this explanation more than once throughout this introduction and call upon Miller and Miller’s subject as an influence and to some degree, a prototype. Miller’s subject is the eccentric French 19th Century poet Arthur Rimbaud. This may seem like a detour, and maybe it is, but it won’t be the last Henry Miller detour we will take Miller’s “study,” a term that he or a manager or a publisher or someone in between labeled it isn’t a “study.” This misnomer doesn’t do the subtitle of his book justice. The title should not have been: The Time of the Assassins a Study of Rimbaud by Henry Miller. The Time of the Assassins is more of a therapy session for Miller than a study of Rimbaud for the world. Yes, It’s much closer to a, you guessed it, “reflection.” It’s not that we don’t learn much about Rimbaud’s work, we do. It’s not that Miller does not become studious or academic at times. He does. This is just a slice of the book, though, and we also gain the opportunity to observe Miller’s relationship with Rimbaud’s work. Sometimes Miller disappears from the conversation and produces pages about his subject which could have been written by many people, but he always comes back. He is at times as much of a subject as Rimbaud. Once I decided to move forward with this book on John O’Brien of greater Cleveland, Ohio, I realized that Dave and I, and the small, dedicated group who believed in this project, should not solely critique, study, appreciate, or even, the runner up, create a consideration.I mentioned this approach to every contributor without mentioning the model being Miller’s work. I didn’t want anyone to run out or go online and order the book because observing the project through that lens may have changed or influenced the finished product. In fact, contributors will be learning this as they read this introduction for the first time.