Diddy Wah Diddy: A Beale Street Suite


Diddy-Wah-Diddy: A Beale Street Suite is a crazy-quilt mosaic about a near-mythical place located, concretely, in Memphis, Tennessee, and abstractly somewhere on the road between Rapture and Perdition. The novel is a-historic, preferring the beautiful lie to the truth as plain as a mud fence. The novel, if we can call it a novel (and we can), is peopled with musicians, conmen, strippers, magi, foreigners, storytellers, ghosts, villains, heroes, fairy-tale sons of Adam like Elvis and Santa Claus, and the imps of the perverse. Told in myriad ways, including short stories, plays, poems, and song Diddy Wah Diddy moves from Creation to Revelation and, in the end, emerges from the smoke and circus mirrors, to stand naked under the bright, bluesy Beale Street sun.



Ampersand Books
“They say—they used to say—that anything can happen on Beale Street.  Here it does.”
Ampersand Books
"Mesler has created a work of serious fun here, full of memorable images and worth revisiting for the sheer pleasure of its gymnastic wit."
Ampersand Books
"In Diddy-Wah-Diddy, Corey Mesler has tapped into a Mesler beyond Mesler.  It's got his signature virtuoso brand of linguistic pyrotechnics, of course, but the inspiration of place seems to have catapulted him right out of whatever limitations he may have had.  And he had very few limitations.  So the thing is some kind of heady elixir, a marvelous entertainment, a streamlined invention that soars despite its heavy cargo of bedrock emotion. Mesler is some original man of letters.”
Ampersand Books
“The fevered dream of a Beale Street that could have been…or maybe was. Club BingoBango is the center of the known universe, with celebrities and local toughs and beautiful, dangerous women. Mesler has spun a tale of intrigue and delight.”
Ampersand Books
"The tales, written in a raucous freestyle reminiscent of early Tom Robbins, roam a mythical Beale Street history that takes in Santa Claus, witches, the devil in many guises and, of course, Elvis.
Ampersand Books
“Corey Mesler has cornered and captured the Memphis that has always interested me the most, the Memphis that's inextricably tangled up in its own mythology. And he's done it in such a way that we leave with the essential truth: Memphis is a phantasm, an accumulation of stories, most certainly a ghost town. As Michael Ondaatje gave us the New Orleans of Buddy Bolden, Mesler brings us to that other American city of song and throws us into its theater of strangeness, its lust and languor, its rage and bite. Not content to leave the mythic characters of Memphis under layers of sediment, Mesler brings them out, onto the streets, into the night again.”
Ampersand Books
"These are not stories for children. Not even for some adults. But if they are stripped bare of Southern niceties and filters, they are artfully laced with humor and boundless imagination."
Ampersand Books
“With a playful, bebop narration, Corey Mesler transports the reader to the original Beale Street, where the heroes are musicians, bartenders, hustlers and strippers. Their dreams for a better life lead them to both love and betrayal, to angels and demons. And throughout, Mesler’s prose gives the stories such a distinct rhythm—a sense of drumming, melody, and passion—that you literally hear the music.”
Ampersand Books
“Corey Mesler writes riotous prose--fluid and lush and crazy. It's verbally rich and witty--half literary, half hoodoo. Imagine James Joyce on Beale Street with Elvis. Or something like that. Wacky but poignant!”
Ampersand Books
“Diddy-wah-Diddy is an outlaw work, riffing connections faster than the eye can follow or the mind can see, a narrative shapeshifter at work and play, coming off like some literary Coltrane, dancing through waves of cascading metaphors and narrative riffs, voices and visions, startling conjunctions and intuitive revelations. Literature doing what it does best, forging a new way of seeing - a profound meditation on the human condition wrapped in a wild blue jazz solo.  With Diddy-wah-Diddy, Corey Mesler’s unique voice has found its fruition in a narrative tour de force.  Him and his work both stone cold literary outlaws. Memphis on the cutting edge.  Representing."

And so we went down to the Club BingoBango on Beale–and this was O 1930something when Beale was Beale I think you know what I mean, and there were four of us, near as I can recollect; Beanie Sullivan, the Irish bootlegger, Red Rolly Kastlecream, baseball’s first black shortstop I think he was, Sweet Annie Divine and myself.

There was news out on the street and the Club was the center of that news and well we were just as likely to be involved as not.

They had this new sax man there from Idaho name of Alexander Jimspake, no one has to tell you what he’s done since, and he was setting up and the drinks were going around and the Club’s ceiling which was cake frosting I’m pretty sure was dark and far away.

Well we thought we’d live forever that night.

And the jazz was just heating up and this new sax man  was blowing a barrelfull and our table was sort of loud and the hub of the wheel of happening I might add and people were stopping by buying drinks and such and talking about the space program or some such.

Sweet Annie Divine just lolled her big head around and licked her fat redmartini-lady-grey lips and opened her wide wide eyes wider and said–

I am the Duchess now and the old Duchess put out to  pasture.

And we thought sure she was.

The next table had a fine tall white woman dancing on it with nary a care and underpants that said “The unexamined life is not worth living” written crack to crack in cool red thread and there was a big fat man sitting there name of Samuel Pepys who was tighter than Dick’s hatband banging
on the table with his hamsized fist like to shake that white woman off.

About midnight Sam the bartender–the original Sam the bartender and not the one from Monroeville, Alabama who came along much later–picked up his gavel and called out–Order in the court. We’re gonna line the republicans along the wall and shoot the sunsabitches.

Which we did.

Red Rolly kept drinking kerosene and lamb’s milk and talking about the big leagues.

Twentythousand leagues, Beanie Sullivan said.

There was some Bible readings, some card throwings, hoodoo, one or two illicit passes of hands under the table clothes relieving the pressures of the times, Sweet Annie having the sweetest palm since high school for sure.

Big skinny ring-wearing joker came up to Beanie Sullivan saying–You’re a bootlegger I’ve seen you.

Beanie Sullivan betraying not a little worry sweating under his spit curls and deerstalker cap until the fellow shot out one long thin hand saying–Name’s Darby O’Gill an Irishman’s brother and the second cousin to Michael Robartes himself by God.

So we relaxed and the drummer flammed like a butcher on horse and Jimspake wheedled out long liquid noseblows till the Duchess, the new Duchess, announced there was a party at the White House and the president and his first lady ever were inviting black folks up to just talk for a while about what he called the State of Things.

There was a guy there somebody from the Rainbow Club I think who used to room with Caravaggio in college and he told us some tales like to never forget about that scene and its since unrecognized repercussions.

Club BingoBango known as the Best Bar on Beale and a place where a man still tips his hat to a drag queen served up all the right concoctions: Zombi killers, Fire on the Dick, Live Long and Prosper, Cucumber Zingers, I Love the Catskills, Red Fish Blue Fish, Poseidon’s Clap, The First Crucifixion,
Sorcerer’s Deodorant, and a thing made with kiwis and stump water which was the house specialty and which no one had dared to name.

We tried them all.

The Duchess when she had a snootful began to palaver about how she once slept with Freud while she was vacationing in Antibes and how he was a member in good standing yessir and we had to shut her up with some barbq Sam kept around for just such occasions.

I remember no one like the Logical Positivists at this time and much ballyhoo was raised about this with finger wagglings and fist shakings and it I guess was pretty much good natured for such a tempestuous bunch.

No one’s gonna have Immanuel Kant to kick around anymore, I remember saying.

Wildeyed cat came in shooting his pistol up into the air bringing down ladlesful of icing and stinking the place up with blue smoke hollering–Names Robert Ford and I ain’t no coward.

Huck, the bouncer, chastised him with a Louisville slugger. It was that kind of night.

Somebody in the corner was singing offkey in a cracked Mississippi accent-

I gots four ugly women
Giving me fits
I gots two ugly sisters
With sco-li-o-sis

–till the ivory man walked over slowly and catheterized him into sadeyed silence.

Heard Lady sing that oncet. Can’t stand to hear it since, Bones said.

About dawn the four of us–and a fifth, Ginger “Styx” Quetzlcoatl, drummer for the BamBam Five–stumbled out into the street where we headed up toward the river reflecting the first Tang-colored raze of sunrise and we ran into Allen Ginsberg and a friend of his he called Gabriel and a dog walked on two legs.

We invited them all along.

We started out for Arkansas or the White House or the Promised Land which might have been just another club I can’t remember and Gabriel said he wanted to play us a little something and we said Fine fine…

Anyway that was around the time this cat called Albert Einstein spilled to me about this atom he was splitting which I started to tell you.