A Memoir In Progress

I was a frustrated software developer and unpublished novelist working at a Wall Street bank in 1993 when I first heard of a strange and exciting new phenomenon taking place on our computer networks: email, Usenet newsgroups and the World Wide Web. A new communications technology was about to change the world, and I quickly made up my mind that I wanted to be part of the change.

I left the banking industry to join Time Warner’s new media division, where I played an integral role in the now-famous disaster known as Pathfinder. I also launched my own website, Literary Kicks, was hired to build Bob Dylan’s website, and had my own first taste of creative satisfaction and personal success. In 1999, I finally struck it “rich”, cashing in on one of the biggest IPOs in stock market history, just as my marriage broke up and my workaholic tendencies reached a hysterical peak. A year later, the high-flying dot-com stock market began to crash. My paper wealth disappeared along with my job and much of my remaining sanity. I was beginning to gather my resources back together in 2001, only to face new shocking events of a completely unexpected kind. This is the memoir of a software developer who learned how to be a survivor, and a record of the life lessons learned along the way.


The chapters below, composed and posted between January and December 2009, make up a complete first draft of what I hope readers will consider a relevant and universal story. I’d like to thank the many readers who posted helpful comments and advice following each chapter (you can read these comments below). Here, still untitled, is the first draft of the story of the most difficult and dynamic ten years of my life.

 

Chapter One: THE BREAK

Summer 1993: How I became a computer programmer … Why I was working on Wall Street … A co-worker alerts me to the existence of the Internet.


Chapter Two: FINDING THE INTERNET

Fall 1993: I hunt down and find the Internet, becoming obsessed with Usenet newsgroups … I find my first online home at rec.music.dylan … The nascent indie/literary scene of the early Internet days.


Chapter Three: BECOMING LEVI ASHER

Winter 1993/1994: My first short story, a satire about my job, is accepted by the first online literary journal, Intertext … I make a sudden decision to create a pen name.


Chapter Four: LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET


Spring 1994: Life as a Wall Street techie … I get an idea for a website called Literary Kicks.


Chapter Five: THE LAUNCH

Summer 1994: The World Wide Web grows more popular … I launch Literary Kicks one quiet summer day.


Chapter Six: ENTER MOZILLA

Summer/Fall 1994: Technological innovations on the web … The first “browser war” begins … The culture of Wall Street in the 1990s.


Chapter Seven: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WEB KIND

Fall/Winter 1994: Going on a radio show … Hanging out on Usenet … Meeting a whole lot of new friends, “creatures of the web”.


Chapter Eight: JOB-HUNTING: HOTWIRED, DELPHI AND PATHFINDER


Winter/Spring 1995: a new job market emerges in New York City … I seek out and evaluate various job opportunities.


Chapter Nine: THE BEAT

Spring 1995: the neo-online Beat Generation/literary scene in the early web days.


Chapter Ten: THE SUMMER OF THE WEB

Summer 1995: I begin working at Time Inc. New Media (Pathfinder) … Silicon Alley starts to take shape, and the NASDAQ stock market starts to take notice … Grateful Dead concerts on Father’s Day weekend.


Chapter Eleven: IN THE PATHFINDER BASEMENT

Fall/Winter 1995: Working for Time Inc.’s web startup, Pathfinder.com.


Chapter Twelve: LIT SCENE

Winter/Spring 1996: The online literary scene is really starting to come together … I organize the world’s first “web writer’s reading” in downtown New York City on Valentine’s Day 1996.


Chapter Thirteen: CLICKING THROUGH

Summer 1996: technical challenges at Pathfinder … Silicon Alley becomes real … I help to build Pathfinder’s groundbreaking advertising servers.


(First Quarter Interlude)


Chapter Fourteen: DISCONNECT

Fall 1996: a friend and I get a historic opportunity to create a book of fiction and poetry from the web … At Pathfinder, our big project is starting to look like a disaster … Opportunity to build BobDylan.com.


Chapter Fifteen: PATHFINDER GETS PERSONAL

Fall/Winter 1996: I do my best to avoid becoming involved in Pathfinder’s Personal Edition, one of Silicon Alley’s most historic and laughable failures … The quiet launch of Personal Edition.


Chapter Sixteen: MOVING TARGET

Spring/Summer 1997: defeatism and desperation at Pathfinder … Rising hype in Silicon Alley … Building Bob Dylan’s website … Two of my favorite Beat Generation writers die.


Chapter Seventeen: GETTING REVIEWED

Fall 1997: Coffeehouse: Writings From The Web is published … We get a few good reviews and one bad one.


Chapter Eighteen: DISNEYWORLD

Winter 1997/1998: Staying sane in Silicon Alley … Unhappiness at work … An inspiration from Dostoevsky turns into a hare-brained creative idea.


Chapter Nineteen: DINNER WITH DOSTOEVSKY

Spring 1998: I direct a digital movie of Notes From Underground


Chapter Twenty: WEBBY VALLEY

Spring/Summer 1998: LitKicks gets nominated for a Webby Award but is going nowhere fast … Creative frustrations … Dreams of indie publishing


Chapter Twenty-One: MY MOVIE

Summer/Fall 1998: My digital movie of Notes From Underground hits the streets and gets some attention.


Chapter Twenty-Two: FRINGE

Summer/Fall 1998: Drifting at Time Warner … More work disasters and literary confusion.


Chapter Twenty-Three: JOB-HUNTING: BROADCAST AND IVILLAGE

Winter 1998/1999: The dot-com stock market begins to peak … I entertain job offers and plot my next move.


(Second Interlude: July Breather)


Chapter Twenty-Four: LIKE IT’S 1999

Early 1999: Why I needed to get rich quick … Turbulence at work and at home … The kids … Rooftop dreaming.


Chapter Twenty-Five: DESIGN PATTERNS FOR AGONY

Early 1999: Arriving for the new job at iVillage … Hesitating to walk in the door … Why bad tech projects happen to good people.


Chapter Twenty-Six: WORKING FOR CANDICE CARPENTER

Early 1999: The inspiring leader of iVillage.com … Courage and anarchy in the office … Work as a character-building experience … A new CTO is hired.


Chapter Twenty-Seven: A LITERARY LIVING ROOM

Early 1999: Why I didn’t care about the late 1990s lit scene … Poetry clubs of Greenwich Village … Performing at the Living Room with David Amram.


Chapter Twenty-Eight: BEFORE THE IPO

Early 1999: Borrowing money for a stock market gamble … chaos and a new boss at work.


Chapter Twenty-Nine: CELEBRATION DAY

March 1999: The long-awaited iVillage IPO is a historic success … I’m rich and my company is famous … The parties begin.


Chapter Thirty: METAMORPHOSIS

Spring 1999: After the IPO, willing myself reborn … Planning a big 5th birthday party/concert for Literary Kicks.


Chapter Thirty-One: BACCHANAL


Summer 1999: The meaning of happiness … Searching for my place in the world … IVillage goes to the movies … the crazy Literary Kicks Summer Poetry Happening at the Bitter End is the hot ticket one Wednesday night in New York City.


Chapter Thirty-Two: BREAKING POINT

Late Summer 1999: Transferring into the marketing department at work … Confusion and malaise … Pokemon cards and San Francisco … Divorce.


Chapter Thirty-Three: SINKING

Fall 1999: Finding a new home … Dealing with post-divorce trauma … Things go from bad to worse at work.


Chapter Thirty-Four: MILLENNIUM

Late 1999: On “probation” at work … Trying to find my footing … Changing pop/Internet culture in the age of Eminem and Kid Rock … I become a hermit in the middle of New York City … The Y2K scare, the apocalypse … Times Square, New Years Eve, at the turn of the millennium.


Chapter Thirty-Five: RUNNING THE NUMBERS

Early 2000: Working with the Community team … Learning how to develop good product proposals … Launching member profiles on iVillage … Listening to Springsteen … A quiet peak moment passes unnoticed by all.


Chapter Thirty-Six: THE BIG SLIDE

Spring/Summer 2000: An article in Barron’s magazine kicks off the dot-com stock crash … Share prices plummet and an industry falls apart.


Chapter Thirty-Seven: PICKING UP

Fall/Winter 2000: After the crash, a destroyed industry gathers its resources … Mentoring sessions with Candice Carpenter … Initial plans for LitKicks 2.0 … The Mets in the World Series … A confusing election night … An unexpected turn of fate.


(Third Interlude: Bringing it Home)


Chapter Thirty-Eight: VERSION 2.0

Winter/Spring 2001: Digging into Java programming … Dot-com market continues to slide … Reinventing Literary Kicks as a message board community site.


Chapter Thirty-Nine: FALLING OUT

Summer 2001: worrying about getting laid-off … Plans for BobDylan.com … Getting laid-off … Becoming an independent consultant and thinking about e-books … A welcome phone call.


Chapter Forty: TUESDAY

September 2001: scrambling to finish BobDylan.com in time for the record release … An all-nighter followed by an unexpected day … Dust and death in the financial district … Firemen and the primal scene.


Chapter Forty-One: GATHERING

Late 2001: the aftermath of September 11 … Self-publishing my first novel as an e-book … Getting a literary tattoo on my 40th birthday.


Chapter Forty-Two: POETRY AND POLITICS

Early 2002: intense debates about how the USA should respond to Al Qaeda … Getting back onto the poetry reading circuit … Being unemployed … A new poetry club opens up at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery … The LitKicks Spring Peace Poetry Happening.


Chapter Forty-Three: LUCKY GUY

Summer 2002: a cool new job building websites for art museums … The philosophy of poker … Finally getting together with Caryn, climbing a mountain, being in love … A sudden farewell to the cool new job.


Chapter Forty-Four: HOW TO GO BROKE

Late 2003: unemployed again … Borrowing money from the parental units … Searching out business opportunities for LitKicks … Another Bowery Poetry Club reading.


Chapter Forty-Five: SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE

Early 2003: a new teaching job … A breakdown in the classroom; a wayward Sharpie … The invasion of Iraq … Literary Kicks community members go crazy on me … Bounced paychecks … Reaching an all-time low.


Chapter Forty-Six: THE RAFT

Summer 2003: another new teaching job … Learning .NET … A new consulting gig … Learning PHP … Wondering what to do with LitKicks … Not seeing the literary blogosphere … Kids growing up … Big questions and the eternal search for whale oil in the universe.

 

3 Responses

  1. just a suggestion. this is a
    just a suggestion. this is a great memoir but to make it stand out even more you could maybe precede each chapter with a page of automatic writing about the chapter to come. like just letting the fingers move without thinking etc. like kerouac etc. just an idea. the book is fine as it is. i just thought maybe it would give the book a bit of a “beat” identity”

  2. Thanks for the suggestion,
    Thanks for the suggestion, Michael — well, in a way this is the function the three “interludes” between the chapters are supposed to serve — a little automatic writing about the writing, to give the whole thing another viewing angle. I’ll think about doing some more like this for the next draft …

  3. i couldn’t stop reading – and
    i couldn’t stop reading – and i only just found out about litKicks because our writers group (in berlin, germany) couldn’t agree on cormac mccarthy (i’m with you on this. i think john gardner would’ve puked). crazy enough, there are parallels if only because i also moved into this space (coming from a different direction) in the early 1990s. really enjoyed this and i’m looking forward to reading much more from you! cheers!

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Litkicks is 26 years old! This website has been on a long and wonderful journey since 1994. We’re relaunching the whole site on a new platform in June 2021, and will have more updates soon. We’ve also been busy producing a couple of podcasts – please check them out.

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