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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race
Book cover for The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race

With an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut

The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race collects all of Paul Krassner's most recent stories, as well as his most famous satirical pieces from past years. Swiftian in intention and contemporary in subject matter, the book reveals Krassner to have the heart of a muckraker and the spirituality of a seeker after truth. In Krassner's world, Lyndon Johnson chuckles over the dead corpse of J.F.K., a psychiatrist hypnotically regresses a woman who shot her television set, and Nancy Reagan's "Just say no to drugs" becomes "If anybody tries to sell you an ounce of marijuana for $500, that's way too expensive, so just say no." Kneading fantasy into reality, Krassner ferrets out the higher truths that spotlight the absurdity all around.

Book cover for The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race
Book cover for The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race

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“Get ready for another innocently subversive (or subversively innocent) gem from humor radical/stand-up comic/publisher Paul Krassner … Krassner makes readers question reality and dig for the truth, a lesson that, even today, is still a radical act.”

“Krassner has the rare ability to alter one's perception permanently.”

“An expert at ferreting out hypocrisy and absurdism from the more solemn crannies of American culture.”

blog — July 22

Remembering Paul Krassner

[Note: You can make a donation in Paul Krassner's memory here.]

Back in 1996, Kurt Vonnegut wrote the foreword to a book by Paul Krassner with the beautiful title The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race. Paul’s own introduction to his book also had a memorable title. It was called “The President’s Penis.” At the launch for it at the National Arts Club that autumn, Kurt rose to his full height at the podium, leaning into it, and said with emotion to the large audience, “Paul Krassner is a national treasure. Indeed, he is one of our most important national treasures.”

There were titters in the audience. Vonnegut glared at them. They had assumed he was being comical in his remarks, since after all Paul Krassner was as irreverent a satirist as has ever carried a US passport. But he wasn’t kidding. And now he raged at the audience, assuring them he was as serious as he had ever been, and that if anyone didn’t agree they were free to leave. No one left. There was a long pause in which Vonnegut cooled off, and people recovered from the shock of seeing him genuinely angry and intimidating in defense of his friend.

Then he continued with his remarks, mostly talking about how enamored he was of a poster Paul had created and put on sale, at the start of the ’60s, consisting of the words “Fuck Communism” against a background of red, white, and blue. Kurt considered this to be, he said, “a miracle of compressed intelligence nearly as admirable for potent simplicity…as Einstein’s e=mc2.” And at the end of his remarks, he invited Paul to the podium to continue the presentation.

Paul was co-founder with Abbie Hoffman of the Yippies and one of Abbie’s longest standing friends and collaborators. Paul founded and still edited, half a century and more later, the Realist, and authored many books, including three from Seven Stories, The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race, One Hand Jerking, and Impolite Interviews. He co-wrote Lenny Bruce’s autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, and probably considered Lenny his bff. Paul wasn’t simply funny, he was kind of the original funny bone of America.

In the last couple of weeks Paul was writing a foreword for me to a biography of Abbie Hoffman by Abbie’s brother Jack and me that Seven Stories is reissuing in the fall. He needed my help to get it done, but he was still funny and warm and smart in all our emails back and forth. I had no idea this was so close to the end. Without knowing anything about it, I felt enormously grateful to him for his gesture of support and the absolute graciousness with which he made it. I’m guessing it was the last piece he wrote. His last words to me, written eleven days ago, conveying his agreement about a sentence in the foreword I suggested he keep ambiguous, were “Mushy lives.”

Paul knew a lot of the same people we did, and was an enormous influence on many of them. And maybe “influence” is too obvious-sounding a word. He was a counter-comfort, comforting because you knew you could go as far as you possibly could to test the limits, no holds barred, and still be comfortably inside the larger net he cast without even thinking too hard about it.

—Dan Simon, NYC 7-22-19

Paul Krassner

PAUL KRASSNER cut his teeth as a journalist at Mad magazine, worked with Lenny Bruce, and founded the Yippies with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. In 1958 he founded the satirical magazine the Realist and has published it discontinuously ever since. His autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture, was published by Simon & Schuster in 1994. The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race, a collection of his best satire, followed in 1996. His other works include One Hand Jerking: Reports from an Investigative Satirist, and Impolite Interviews. Krassner lives in Venice, California with his wife Nancy.

Kurt Vonnegut

Born in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the few grandmasters of modern American letters. Called by the New York Times “the counterculture’s novelist,” his works guided a generation through the miasma of war and greed that was life in the U.S. in second half of the 20th century. After stints as a soldier, anthropology PhD candidate, technical writer for General Electric, and salesman at a Saab dealership, Vonnegut rose to prominence with the publication of Cat’s Cradle in 1963. Several modern classics, including Slaughterhouse-Five, soon followed. Never quite embraced by the stodgier arbiters of literary taste, Vonnegut was nonetheless beloved by millions of readers throughout the world. “Given who and what I am,” he once said, “it has been presumptuous of me to write so well.” Kurt Vonnegut died in New York in 2007.

Other books by Paul Krassner