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Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World by Tosh Berman

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The triumphs and tragedies of growing up as the son of a famous Beat artist

TOSH is a memoir of growing up as the son of an enigmatic, much-admired, hermetic, and ruthlessly bohemian artist during the waning years of the Beat Generation and the heyday of hippie counterculture. A critical figure in the history of postwar American culture, Tosh Berman's father, Wallace Berman, was known as the "father of assemblage art," and was the creator of the legendary mail-art publication Semina. Wallace Berman and his wife, famed beauty and artist's muse Shirley Berman, raised Tosh between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and their home life was a heady atmosphere of art, music, and literature, with local and international luminaries regularly passing through.

Tosh's unconventional childhood and peculiar journey to adulthood features an array of famous characters, from George Herms and Marcel Duchamp, to Michael McClure and William S. Burroughs, to Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell, to the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and Toni Basil.

TOSH takes an unflinching look at the triumphs and tragedies of his unusual upbringing by an artistic genius with all-too-human frailties, against a backdrop that includes The T.A.M.I. Show, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Easy Rider, and more. With a preface by actress/writer Amber Tamblyn (daughter of Wallace's friend, actor Russ Tamblyn), TOSH is a self-portrait taken at the crossroads of popular culture and the avant-garde. The index of names included represents a who's who of midcentury American-and international-culture.

Praise for Tosh:

"Tosh Berman's sweet and affecting memoir provides an intimate glimpse of his father, Wallace, and the exciting, seat-of-the-pants LA art scene of the 1960s, and it also speaks to the hearts of current and former lonely teenagers everywhere."--Luc Sante, author of The Other Paris

"This is the story of a kid growing up inside of art world history, retelling his upbringing warts and all. A well-written, fast-moving book that is candid, funny, often disturbing, and never dull."--Gillian McCain, co-author of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

"TOSH is a delightfully entertaining memoir filled with sly wit and a profound personal perspective."--John Zorn, composer

"One could not wish for a better guide into the subterranean and bohemian worlds of the California art/Beat scene than Tosh Berman, only scion of the great Wallace. Tosh has a sly wit and an informed eye, he is both erudite and neurotic, and often hilarious."--John Taylor, Duran Duran

"There's the life-and then there's the life. With TOSH you can have both. My life, and that of many who sailed with me, was formed by the 40's & 50's. TOSH takes you there."--Andrew Loog Oldham, producer/manager, The Rolling Stones

"As the son of artist Wallace Berman, Tosh Berman had a front row seat for the beat parade of the '50s, and the hippie extravaganza of the '60s. It was an exotic, star-studded childhood, but having groovy parents doesn't insulate one from the challenge of forging one's own identity in the world. Berman's successful effort to do that provides the heart and soul of this movingly candid chronicle of growing up bohemian."--Kristine McKenna, co-author of Room to Dream by David Lynch

"This is a beautifully written memoir, and I highly recommend it to those who are interested in the Sixties, Topanga Canyon, the Southern California art scene, and for those who wonder what it might mean to grow up as the son of one of our most acclaimed artists."--Lisa See, author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

  • Galleys available

  • National TV & RADIO CAMPAIGN:
    LA Times, NY Times, SF Chronicle, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, New Republic, Wall St Journal, Chicago Tribune, and other major daily newspapers and magazines.
    We'll send to the trades: PW, Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist
    Author will write op-eds targeted to national newspapers.
    Will pursue first serial.

    Will pursue review/excerpts/opeds, etc.
    We'll promote it on City Lights' Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Tumblr, blog and web site, and on Wikipedia. Author is active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and actively blogs.

  • About the Author

    Tosh Berman is a writer, poet, and publisher of TamTam Books. As a publisher, he focused on post-war French figures such as Boris Vian, Guy Debord, Serge Gainsbourg and French gangster Jacques Mesrine, as well as publishing Sparks (Ron Mael & Russell Mael) and Lun*na Menoh. His previous book Sparks-Tastic (2013) is a combination of travel journal and thoughts on the band Sparks. His book of poems The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding (2014) came out through Penny-Ante Editions. He authored the introduction to Wallace Berman: American Aleph from the Michael Kohn Gallery in 2016.


    "WithTosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World, the author, the son of the mid-century, Los Angeles artist Wallace Berman, adds a curious dual memoir to the genre's history. . . . Were Tosh's story adapted for the stage, the ideal dramatist for the job would be the late Sam Shepard, the bard of late twentieth-century family dysfunction."-Robert Atkins, Art in America

    "If you have any interest in the wild array of people who defined the West Coast beat/bohemian world, and the various ways it overlapped other worlds, including Hollywood and rock 'n' roll, then you must read TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World by Tosh Berman--John Yau, Hyperallergic

    "It's about what it's like to grow up in the L.A. art community between the Beat years and the Counterculture years. Of all the books I've read about L.A. since I've gotten here, this was the most informative about the L.A. I would have wanted to know."--Michael Silverblatt, Host of KCRW's "Bookworm"

    "Tosh's book is fascinating, fleshing out details on how Wallace morphed from West Coast Beat generation raja into hippie headmaster of LA, centered in the Beverly Glen and Topanga Canyon areas, and, for a time, of San Francisco. . . . His book is filled with wild, with-it insights, buttressed by bounteous black and white photos, yet it is based in a rather ordinary, mid-20th century American upbringing, with extraordinary moments."-Joseph Nechvatal, Hyperallergic

    "This book is perfection. I wish it went on forever. Maybe, somehow, it does.TOSH is almost like a giant map of small city . . . Each sentence is a street. Each chapter is an era. Each memory revealing a secret passage from one place to the next . . . TO READ IT is to WALK IT with Tosh Berman." -Jason Schwartzman, actor

    "This double narrative of Tosh Berman and his father, Wallace, will tell you more about the creative process than a hundred how-to books purporting to do the same."-Jim Krusoe, author of The Sleep Garden

    "Reading TOSH is like meeting your idols, one at a time, for a quiet chat. Everyone is disarmed, and it feels like you've been in the same room with them for about ten hours, or so. Dennis Hopper is unconstrained and friendly, Toni Basil is bubbly, and Brian Jones has just stopped by to say hello. Topanga, as a place is remote--filled with pockets of escapism, winding landscapes of tumult and ennui. Tosh's world is both expansive and crystalline, he traces the edges of his world, and Wallace's world. We get to come and go with Tosh as he navigates his place in and around the tangle of the time."-Soo Kim, artist, Professor at Otis College of Art and Design

    "This book is sublime: vertiginous, melancholy, highly amusing!"-Johan Kugelberg, Boo-Hooray

    "Through the prism of Tosh Berman, only child, born 1954 to Wallace and Shirley, who personified the wild heart of 20th century West Coast art, we are offered a truly intimate invitation into a magic world of outliers, visionaries and shooting stars. TOSH recounts a life 'lived like a good book on a bookshelf,' a memoir resonant with discovery, passion, music, art, sex, celebrity, ego, desire, and dignity. All told with a son's love for his father, a continuing light into the creative life."--Thurston Moore, musician & writer

    "Tosh Berman is one of the most valuable writers, much less people, the earth has upon it. This book is exquisite. I can't think of another word. What it says, how it says it, what it is."--Dennis Cooper, author of The Marbled Swarm

    "Reading TOSH, I felt like I was lying on a couch, completely relaxed and engrossed, while Tosh Berman sat in a chair beside me and told me his amazing life story. And at the end, I was very moved and wanted to cry. The affect that TOSH--the book and the man--had on me was that feeling I get when exposed to great art: a mix of sadness and wonder, which seem to be the two faces of the human heart. Wonderment at the beauty around us--the world, its people--and the sadness that nothing lasts, that all must perish. But this is our journey on planet earth: to be brave and feel both things at once, and it's great art, like this book, that reminds us to do so."--Jonathan Ames, author of You Were Never Really Here

    "It's about what it's like to grow up in the L.A. art community between the Beat years and the Counterculture years. Of all the books I've read about L.A. since I've gotten here, this was the most informative about the L.A. I would have wanted to know."-Michael Silverblatt, Host of KCRW's "Bookworm"

    "If you are interested in California bohemian art-scene culture, eccentric and fascinating family and friend dynamics between unique individuals, and celebrated yet oddly little-known artists with uncompromising personalities, then read this book!"--Roman Coppola, filmmaker, screenwriter

    "If the first movie your father takes you to as a child is . . . And God Created Woman, you can be sure of two things. First, that your father is an extraordinary person. Second, that you are destined to lead an extraordinarily interesting life. Both of these suppositions are made evident in Tosh Berman's vivid and loving memoir, TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World. What a world!"--Ron Mael, Sparks

    "What compels about Tosh Berman's gorgeously written memoir is the proximity of the quotidian and the familiar to the extraordinary, the shocking even, and the enviably glamorous. He recounts a coming of age in which the unexpected laces the ordinary as surely at it does in Alice In Wonderland-only for Tosh, growing up, a cast of artists, nutcases, iconoclasts, stars, and extremists of all kinds provide the distraction and disruption once supplied by the White Rabbit or Cheshire Cat. Add to this his exemplary taste in, and understanding of, a particular pop sensibility-TV, music, Warhol, and comic books. That then heady and head-spinning world, soundtrack to a sentimental education, that was for the young romantics of the mid-twentieth century what clouds and peaks were to those of mid-nineteenth. Brava, Tosh Berman!"-Michael Bracewell, writer

    "Sexually giddy, clairvoyant, messianic-Wallace Berman's socially astute photo-collages were vital bread and butter for several generations of artists. The Wallace B bloodline, from which Tosh sprouted, is a verdant gene pool. For artists-readers, TOSH, the memoir, is a luscious document of Los Angeles in the last four decades of the 20th century. Every page is filled with juicy history. Such surprises include a teenaged Sammy Davis Jr. sleepover, a pet alligator, Mae West, Allen Ginsberg, and dozens of remarkable side characters. Bask in Tosh Berman's honesty and gentle style. He is a one-of-a-kind gem."-Benjamin Weissman, artist & writer

    "Tosh Berman's memoir is the remarkable story of a child being raised in an environment in which his father's artmaking was paramount."-Chris Luna, Rain Taxi

    Book Information
    ISBN 9780872867604
    Author Tosh Berman
    Format Paperback
    Page Count 328
    Imprint City Lights Books
    Publisher City Lights Books


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