Thursday, December 05, 2013
City Grocery Bar: Dr. Theresa, Bill Boyle, Megan Abbott, me (creeping around in the background as usual), and Ace Atkins. We were there to mark various milestones. One of the happiest is Bill's debut novel GRAVESEND, which is finally out in physical form. We all got one. You should get one too! GRAVESEND by William Boyle. Look for it wherever fine books are sold, and tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you! Ace and Bill rightly smoked big fat cigars to celebrate. It took us a while to nab a spot on the balcony: at first it was occupied completely by an Elaine Stritch convention! Ha ha, they didn't really look exactly like Elaine Stritch circa Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY, but a distinct "Ladies Who Lunch" vibe was coming off the balcony. The first time Dr. Theresa and Ace went to scope out the situation, one of the Elaine Stritches grabbed the lone empty chair on the balcony and pulled it slowly toward herself with forbidding proprietary certitude. Much in the spirit of the feisty Elaine Stritch! Before stepping over to the bar I bought so many books at Square Books I don't even want to tell you. (Look: you can see the overstuffed, wrinkled brown paper bag of books right there on the table.) My eye fell upon George Singleton's recent story collection STRAY DECORUM, for example, and what could I do but get it, especially after the one-two punch of that great interview with George in LENT MAGAZINE? But what sealed the deal was opening it at random and seeing my new favorite short-story title. George also came up with my former favorite short-story title, "This Itches, Y'all." And here is the new winner: "I Think I Have What Sharon's Got."
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Hey remember the time I told you that interesting fact about how Adrienne Barbeau and William S. Burroughs and Norman Mailer shared a common interest: the "orgone box"? Ha ha, those were the days, when I told you that. Well, I just read in this Norman Mailer bio that he also "constructed a variation: a large, polished wooden egg large enough to hold a person in a fetal position." Oh, Norman!
Monday, December 02, 2013
Pacific Time Zone, but I don't think there are any spoilers here), so I thought someone might stumble across this "blog" while struggling to answer the vexing question, "Who is this jerk and how did he get to do a voice on ADVENTURE TIME?" I am that jerk and I will tell you. I started writing for the show way back in October of 2012. My old friend Kent Osborne, who is the "Head of Story" for ADVENTURE TIME, called out of the blue and asked if I wanted to give it a try. My first instinct was to say no! I didn't know how to write for cartoons. I knew Kent worked for the show, and I had watched and enjoyed a few episodes with my nephews, because it was their favorite show, but I didn't feel qualified. Kent said not to worry, it was just a two-week freelance job. So I said okay. I have hardly ever turned down a quick freelance job! I didn't know that those two weeks were secretly a kind of audition to see how I got along in the writers' room. I got along fine because everyone was nice as pie. And so the assignment turned into steady employment, for which I am grateful. It's the best job ever! I live in Mississippi. Three times a week I meet with my friends in Burbank by video. We just make up stories and talk about feelings and that's about it. Well, there is also a good deal of typing. One of the coolest parts of the experience for me was when my dad helped out with the "We Fixed a Truck" episode. For some reason I recall with special fondness and clarity a chat that Adam Muto and I had about Klarion the Witchboy and his mystical cat Teekl, two characters from Jack Kirby's comic book THE DEMON, not that it yielded anything for use in the show, nor was it meant to. But as often as not the germs of episodes are contained in such random digressions. Very occasionally I will travel to Los Angeles and go to the office in person. (And once Pen and Kent came to Mississippi.) I flew out to read my "Root Beer Guy" lines for tonight's episode. ADVENTURE TIME is recorded mostly like an old-time radio play, with a bunch of people standing in a booth together, stationed at separate microphones. But how did I get the part? Kent suggested I do it, that's all. I didn't think it would really happen. The name "Stephen King" was bounced around as another possibility, but he was never approached. I think Adam asked me during a conference, "Do you think you could do it?" And I answered with joking bravado, "I AM ROOT BEER GUY," paraphrasing Flaubert on the subject of Madame Bovary, ha ha ha, oh boy, what fun we're having now. I should emphasize that the idea for the Root Beer Guy story was all Pen's - that's Pendleton Ward, creator of the show - and brilliantly fleshed-out and brought to life by storyboard artist/writer Graham Falk. Incidentally, I met Owen King, one of the writer sons of Stephen King, at City Grocery Bar during the annual book conference we have in my town. You should come! Kent came to the book conference once! I almost said to Owen King, "I beat out your dad for a role!" But instead I didn't say anything. ("Click" here for another example of something I didn't say.) In the first place it wasn't strictly true, and in the second place it is usually best to keep your fat mouth shut. The only reason I even thought of it was because of how much Mr. King's voice resembled his father's. Now, how did Anne Heche end up playing "Cherry Cream Soda"? After we finished the outline I blurted (fairly inaccurately) that Cherry Cream Soda's part was something like Anne Heche's in DONNIE BRASCO. And Kent cried out, "Let's get Anne Heche!" Because he's kind of obsessed with her, I guess you'd say, though it is a harsh word with which to describe Kent's gentle fascination. And then they got her! And she did it. She was amazing! The genuine emotion with which she imbued her lines gave me no choice but to actually try. So I tried. And now you know as much as I do about life. How sad.
Hey there's a new interview with George Singleton over at the Lent Magazine. To enjoy it, "click" here. George always gives the best interviews and a new one is big news. He is hilarious and insightful. He always makes me laugh. He says stuff in here like, "Hell, I spend half my time just trying to think up names. I’m just going, 'God, I’ve used that name – Frank! Frank has shown up in a hundred short stories.'" See, that is the real scoop about writing. He says, "Well I’m not a big fan of anything I’ve written in the past because it’s kind of dead meat... I bet if I got hit in the head and forgot who I was and read those stories I’d go, 'All right, maybe they deserve to be published in a magazine.' But I’m not sure I would... There are these people out there who talk about these meals they’ve eaten years in the past, and they go, 'That was the best meal I’ve ever eaten twenty years ago in Paris.' Okay, good for you. I just say it was food, and what's the next meal?" Heed this gnomic master, young geniuses! He does come out as strongly pro-Vienna sausage, and down that one dark path to madness I cannot follow.
So now I'm back to this Norman Mailer bio. He just experienced "nothing less than a vision of the universe." And I was like, "Hey, Philip K. Dick had one of those! And so did Grant Morrison." Everybody gets a vision of the universe but me. :(
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Jimmy at The End of All Music. I bought an LP called BABY SITTIN' WITH BUZZ CLIFFORD. Here are some of the liner notes, touching in their slick earnestness, full of tender, harmless lies: "Less than a year ago, Buzz Clifford was a high school senior seeing action with his varsity football team. Today, thanks to his best-selling Baby Sittin' Boogie, he's the brightest young singing star on records... Buzz made his first attempts at singing and composing when he was nine. His parents presented him with a guitar instead of the hoped-for pony... Buzz has worked during the summers as a stuntman, construction worker, maintenance man and lifeguard, and was an all-around athlete in high school... Buzz had to be shoved onto the stage, but then amazed his friends by handily winning the contest over a group of other teen-agers who had practiced for weeks." (See also.)
Forgot to mention that when I saw Abby she was getting ready to board an airplane with a load of Thanksgiving stuffing. I was worried about security regulations dealing with the transport of liquids! If there is one thing I can tell you about Abby, it is that she would never make a dry stuffing. Abby reassured me that the chicken stock would be entirely absorbed into the bulk of said stuffing. An email confirms that Abby's stuffing reached its destination with no problems and was enjoyed by all, just as I hope you have enjoyed this inspiring holiday tale about the triumph of the human spirit.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
1) I had a drink with Abby at Manuel's Tavern! She ordered a "snakebite" so I ordered one too because it sounded good and it was. 2) I think a grifter tried to grift me at the gas station in Lincoln, Alabama. Nice try, grifter! After I left the grifter, hours later, I started thinking, "Did he have a confederate steal my suitcase from the back of the car while he was distracting me?" But I was driving and couldn't turn around to look. Anyway, my suitcase was okay. I had that book about the English Civil War in it. Was I secretly hoping that the grifter had stolen it so I wouldn't have to read it anymore? I don't know. Who can plumb the depths of the human heart? Ha ha, the word "plumb" just reminded of me of when I was teaching and Michael turned in a story that had this sentence in it: "She was plum." And all the grad students were salivating mightily and saying what a great sentence it was but I was like, "Did you mean she was plump?" And Michael sadly said yes. He forgot to put the "p" on the end of the word. And the grad students were chastened, which hardly ever happens. And I was like "IN YOUR FACE!" But maybe they were right and Michael and I were wrong, yes, even Michael, who wrote it. "She was plum" is more interesting than "She was plump." That just goes to show you! Something.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Lee Durkee heard about McNeil's trouble with the misprinted book, and McNeil's feelings of being all alone in the matter, so Lee wrote me with a message of encouragement to pass along to McNeil, a little story of something that happened to Lee, which I quote for you now: "I once, on a flight to Sri Lanka, was reading a book by Tobias Wolff, IN THE PHARAOH'S ARMY, and midway through the memoir due to a publishing error the book switched into a novel by a different author and kinda blew my mind. I thought Wolff had gone all experimental on me. Later I noticed it was a slightly different typeset. I left the book at a hostel where perhaps it is still bewildering people. It was really odd. I kept reading and reading trying to figure out how Wolff was gonna wrap this all together." Last night I saw Lee at a party, and he told me that what further confounded him was how the change happened between the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I forwarded the email on to McNeil, who responded: "Well, obviously, what happened to Lee isn't at all the fault of the publisher, but rather a result of longitudinal chicanery by that longitudinal laugh riot of the universe - the globe. You see, in order to get to Sri Lanka, you have to cross the 'International Date Line,' which of course means 'all bets are off!' I forget who said that. Once you cross that imaginary (not so imaginary in my book!) line, ships often sink, standardized language melts away, gold flies out of your teeth, and typeface often changes type. I wouldn't be surprised if my Jerry Lewis book had been shipped from Hong Kong. It's a nice touch the way Lee left the novel in a hostel. Now someone we know needs to accidentally buy it used online and the circle will be complete." Cutting-and-pasting these messages for "blog" "publication," I note that both Lee and McNeil adhere to the elegant and traditional practice of following each period they type with two spaces. Classy! I gave up on that years ago. Think of all the energy I've saved. BUT AT WHAT PRICE? (I removed their "extra" spaces so that the "post" would "adhere" to "blog" "standards." Think of all the work I did to reduce the quality here. Is that "ironic"?) Hey, I'm just going to keep typing. "All bets are off!" as McNeil once observed. Nobody reads these long "posts," or the short ones either, but perversely that's what keeps me typing. Like, yesterday I wrote a long "post" containing the words and phrases "Joycean technique" and "Faulkner" and "palimpsest" and "portent" and "unspoken emotion" but then I deleted it. WHY? For all practical purposes, a deleted "post" is the same as a "posted" "post." It was about this sentence in Adrienne Barbeau's autobiography: "We were married four months later, on New Years Day 1979, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, by a one-armed judge who years earlier had lost his hand in the mixer at the bakery where we'd gotten our wedding cake." I'm way past that now. The marriage is over. Adrienne Barbeau has just met a man who has "the ability to alter bacteria with his hands." She says of him, "I wonder who gave him the huge pearl ring he's wearing. I wonder why the nails on his pinkie fingers are so long." In other book news, I was lurching around Square Books yesterday and found myself strangely drawn to a paperback of JUNKY by William S. Burroughs. I found myself wondering why I've never read it. I read the first couple of pages and thought they were pretty good. So I bought it. It was only afterward, going through the introduction as I sat at the counter at Ajax, that I put it together: Old Bull Lee from ON THE ROAD is Burroughs, as I well knew. What I didn't know is that this edition of JUNKY has, as an appendix, a whole deleted chapter about William Reich, fave theorist of Adrienne Barbeau and Norman Mailer! Who cares? Randy, the owner of Ajax, saw me eating a hamburger and asked, "Why aren't you eating a Pendarvis sandwich? I can't remember the right name." I reminded him that he was thinking of "The Osborne Sandwich." Don't worry! I still think it's going to catch on. Books! As you know, I always like to have a little pocket-sized book to carry around in my little pocket-sized pocket as I promenade about the town like Blazes Boylan. And the other day when I was at Off Square Books I found just such an item, filled with poems using the great old spelling I love: "YEE dainty Nimphs that in this blessed Brooke/ Doo bath your brest;/ Forsake your watry Bowers, and hether looke/ At my request." There are a lot of "hey ho's," so that even the most dire subject matter takes on a jaunty hue: "But whether in painfull love I pine,/ hey hoe pinching pain:/ Or thrive in wealth, she shall be mine,/ but if thou can her obtaine./ And if for gracelesse greefe I dye/ hey hoe gracelesse greefe:/ Witnesse, she slew me with her eye,/ let thy folly be the preefe." He's talking to his sheep. All the narrators in this book are talking to sheep. Pretty early in that poem, the narrator sees "the bouncing Bellybone/ hey hoe Bonny-bell:/ Tripping over the Dale alone,/ shee can trip it very well." Bellybone! I have no idea. Bonnibel (sp?) is Princess Bubblegum's first name, FYI.
Friday, November 22, 2013
this book about the English Civil War and this Norman Mailer bio to read the Adrienne Barbeau autobiography for the Doomed Book Club. I did not expect much overlap! But it turns out that Barbeau and Mailer are both devotees of the theories of William Reich, which, as Barbeau puts it, deal "with an individual's life energy, how it may flow freely or be physically blocked." Mailer "would later build his own version of Reich's infamous 'orgone box,' a telephone-booth-sized chamber where one repaired to replenish or accumulate orgonic, or life energy." You may recall the orgone box as the contraption Old Bull Lee shows off in ON THE ROAD. Why am I telling you this? I don't know! A guy has to do something to fill the numbing, relentless, empty hours, and I don't have an orgone box. This "blog" is my orgone box! For example, after I titled this "post," I recalled that Sally Timms used to portray "Cowboy Sally" on this kids'show that Barry B. and I used to make, and Cowboy Sally had a "magic box" (which sits on our mantel to this very day in Oxford, Mississippi), and wouldn't Cowboy Sally and Her Magic Box make a great illustration for this "post"? But I looked around and couldn't find a photo meeting the requirements, so I emailed Barry B. Unfortunately, he got back to me almost immediately, so that very few empty, numbing, relentless minutes were filled with the intended anticipation. But I'll take what I can get! Also, Megan Abbott has spoiled an upcoming scene for me. Apparently, Barbeau's husband John Carpenter is going to be attacked by a bat while watching the Jerry Lewis telethon.