Thursday, March 31, 2011


You know all about the free books they give away at the university library coffee shop, and how sometimes one of them will be a tawdry-looking mass-market paperback promising sexy shenanigans at a university, which is weird. I found one of those today, bearing the strangely clerical title NO TRANSFER. Declares the front cover, "Required curriculum at Modern University: sex, kicks, fun and games." Yes, the sexy university is named "Modern University." That's really its name! As in, "The bus whined and slowed... 'Modern University,' the driver said, and opened the door." And here's a blurb from the AMERICAN STATESMAN on the back: "Wanta take a 'Trip' without LSD? Step right this way, baby." Okay, got all that? So here are some representative examples of the prose inside: "At six-thirty we all moved to the dining room, sat down, and began eating without formalities... steak and potatoes, a salad, and pie." Sexy! "The next day, Gary's record player came. He'd written his parents before, asking them to send it. Now, just before the end of the term, it was here, along with a number of his records." Trippy! "Their life together was - no single word in my vocabulary could be adequate... She usually fixed some sandwiches, sometimes with canned soup, and with them they drank milk." The narrator is right! There is no word in the English language adequate to describe such experiences!

Did Megan Abbott Dream Rip Torn's Beatnik Turtleneck?

Megan Abbott intrigued and tormented me by saying that she "almost wrote" about Rip and Bob in CRITIC'S CHOICE. She asks whether I remember Rip's "beatnik turtleneck" in the film. "Or did I dream it?" she asks wistfully.

A Rich, Full Life

I spent the morning looking in vain for Rip Torn references in my various Bob Hope books.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Cat and the Matt

Joe Matt, that is! Ha ha ha ha ha! I love to have fun!

The Troublemakers

I am also calling this photo by Kent Osborne "The Troublemakers." Joey doesn't look like much of a troublemaker here, but Dr. Theresa (whom you may recall from her previous photo "The Troublemakers") is figuring out how to use her $5 umbrella as a weapon. If you look carefully, you can see ESPN magazine's Wright Thompson over her shoulder, through the window, looking scared to come outside, because of... "The Troublemakers."

Panelists Galore

Take a look, why don't you? It's my whole panel! Note how we walked around town Socratically, having Socratic dialogues like Socrates. There's Michael Kupperman in the hat, next to Joe Matt, and up the road a piece, Joyce Farmer and myself, all captured for posterity by Kent Osborne, most popularly known as "the Plato of the Oxford Conference for the Book."

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Troublemakers

Kent Osborne took a lot of great photos at the Oxford Conference for the Book. Over the next days I will share some of them with you. I call this one "The Troublemakers." It features Dr. Theresa (seated) and Elizabeth. In fact, I call all the pictures Kent took "The Troublemakers." But don't forget one thing, kids: it's not cool to smoke!

True Fact!

The romantic triangle in CRITIC'S CHOICE consists of Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and a young Rip Torn. At one point Rip Torn luxuriates on Bob and Lucy's silken bedspread, smoking a cigar and barking insults at the elderly Hope. Here's a fun fact to share with your friends! In the movie the bedspread is sparkling blue. On this lobby card it is pink! Think about it for hours. I guess there's nothing you can count on in this world.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fun With Eggs

While Kent was in town he found a copy of Alicia Silverstone's cookbook at Off Square Books and took a picture of it. Here is the part where Alicia Silverstone teaches you to make egg salad sandwiches!

Onion Party

I guess you're wondering why I didn't "blog" yesterday! It is probably all you think about! Well, lightning struck the night before last! I think it struck the house! Or at least the yard! It made the house shake! Dr. Theresa and I woke up screaming in terror! We sort of took turns screaming. We behaved like characters in a Coen Brothers movie! The lightning knocked a painting off the wall and broke the frame! It also killed part of our computer. Dr. Theresa had to drive out to Batesville to get the part! And now the computer is working again. Turned out only the power cord to the modem was really fried after all, maybe - I think this thing is called a modem. So don't worry! Though there was also enormous hail. But everything is okay now! You missed so much, though. Kent reminded me that HARDLY WORKING is a sad clown movie because it starts with Jerry Lewis sadly removing his clown makeup. That is just one thing you missed! Dr. Theresa and I left a party early. I guess after we were gone, Elizabeth ate a whole raw onion on a dare. Okay, I think that is all you missed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Conference Ahoy

Ate grillades and grits last night in a big fancy house with movie stars, poets, comics artists, animators, Pulitzer prizewinners, painters, Paul from City Lights, Shakespeareans, scientists, book people of all varieties, then off for music at Ajax with much of the same bunch, and everybody was a great dancer, sure, but Dr. Theresa danced them all off the floor. Then Joe Matt walked Dr. Theresa and me home! And it was like living a page of a Joe Matt comic book! Book conference ahoy! This is what happens at a book conference, people. Isn't it about time you attended a book conference? You know you want to! Don't forget to come to my panel on Saturday with Joe Matt! Michael Kupperman! and underground comics pioneer Joyce Farmer (pictured, just nominated for a Reuben, the highest award in all of cartooning)!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Music Happy

Music is enjoyable! I sent some lyrics to Kelly Hogan to use on her new album that I believe is coming out soon. I thought I was writing a George Jones song, kind of, except not as good, and when I hit the old "send" button I was kind of nervous about it, but then Kelly Hogan sent my words to Andrew Bird and he wrote music for them and Kelly did her magic on everything, which is what she does, and all of a sudden it is a Dusty Springfield song, except not really, I am just saying it went over from what I thought was the George Jones ballpark (or somewhere in the parking lot of the George Jones ballpark) to something like the DUSTY IN MEMPHIS ballpark, but what it really sounds like is a Kelly Hogan song! And suddenly my faux George Jones thing has EMOTIONAL VALIDITY and when Kelly sings it YOU WILL BELIEVE THAT SOMEONE'S LIFE IS BEING DESTROYED through the medium of beautiful music and it will make you feel funny inside. No, you can't hear it yet. Be patient and keep on the alert!

People Enjoy Books

Don't forget that the Oxford Conference for the Book starts today! Everyone who ever wrote a book will be there. Why not you?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't Be Like That

Are you a fan of things that are great? Then don't forget to come see Mark Childress read from his new novel GEORGIA BOTTOMS - 5 PM today at Off Square Books and if you don't come you are the dumbest person alive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ironing Sinbad's Pants

Hey! I was at the City Grocery Bar last night, and what should my grad student Bill pull out of his backpack but the very copy of SINBAD'S GUIDE TO LIFE I had encountered in the library coffee shop! He was unaware of my mild interest in the volume and it was merely the happiest of coincidences. Here is what I have learned: Sinbad pulls off the neat trick of blurbing himself! On the front flap of the dust jacket he writes, "My friend Oprah Winfrey has called me 'the funniest person in the world.'" Well, that's a paraphrase, as close as my poor weak old memory will allow. Be fair to Sinbad and do your research! Bill has notified me that the last chapter of the book is entitled "Ironing My Pants."

Monday, March 21, 2011


I am devoting the rest of my life to "posting" extremely short little "posts" about the relationship of Doris Day and Jack Carson, as related to me by Megan Abbott. Here's the latest: "Sadly, she dumped him for that husband of hers that stole all her money... what a heel."

A Picture of Doris Day and Jack Carson Dressed As Rabbits

... is what this is. Provided by Megan Abbott. See also.

Sizzling Celebrity Gossip

Welcome once again to "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip" - the exclusive "blog" feature that brings you all the latest in sizzling celebrity gossip. THIS JUST IN! Megan Abbott reports that Jack Carson and Doris Day were "an item." That's it for this edition of "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip"!

Treats Within Treats

Say, do you like MILDRED PIERCE? Well, Megan Abbott has written a nice "post" about MILDRED PIERCE, and within it are nestled some reflections on "blog" fave Jack Carson AND a "link" to another MILDRED PIERCE piece by Laura Lippman! It's like the delicious Tootsie Roll center hidden in your Tootsie Pop brand snack treat!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Speaking of Trumpets and Sad Clowns

Speaking of trumpets and sad clowns, it occurs to me that one of the favorite movies of my friend from Hubcap City - CHILDREN OF PARADISE - is an essential sad clown movie with lots of trumpet in it. Just dig this sad clown action! If you dare!

Allegorical Clown Time

Brian Z. watched a Spanish film entitled THE LAST CIRCUS. I asked with some eagerness whether there were any sad clowns in it, to which he replied, "YES! A sad clown and a funny clown are engaged in a murderous rivalry that is also some kind of political allegory." Well, I don't know, Brian Z. Once I see the phrase "murderous rivalry," I start to feel that we have strayed over into "scary clown" territory, and you know how I feel about that. Not good! I looked up THE LAST CIRCUS on imdb and found that the original title is BALADA TRISTE DE TROMPETA, which if my extremely limited linguistic talent is not failing me, I believe means "sad ballad of a trumpet" or something. There's one thing you can always count on: sad or scary, clowns LOVE their trumpets! Here we have LA STRADA, the saddest and most clownish example, though Ms. Mesina does not appear in her clown makeup in this scene:


Wow! It turns out that Dr. Theresa has seen the ENTIRE alien Viking dragon movie I was talking about. I had no idea! What other secrets is she keeping from me? She filled me in on some of the details. Like, the "hero" of the movie (the alien) has (in Dr. Theresa's words) "wiped out a whole planet of animals that weren't doing anything to anybody." And "even though he feels conflicted" he "has to kill this last one" (the dragon in question). "And the monster is mostly an herbivore," Dr. Theresa concluded. The movie's nonchalance about these matters bothered her!

Aliens and Vikings and Dragons, Oh My

I saw the first fifteen minutes of a movie last night. I would like to tell you about it. There is this alien played by the guy who took the title role in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. And he lands on earth in the time of the Vikings! The Vikings are represented by John Hurt (!) who is an old Viking having a sword fight with his daughter (!!). He wants his daughter to marry some mean Viking and his daughter is like, "No way!" which is why they are having the sword fight, which we join in medias res. The old John Hurt Viking father chops his daughter's arm during the sword fight and then he is like, "I'm sorry! Let me get a sponge." As he is tending to his daughter's wound with a sponge, the mean Viking walks in and announces he has captured the alien. They have the alien tied up outside, and later, when the daughter Viking walks by with a bucket of water (in my hazy memory it is a bucket of water; people in these kinds of movies are always walking around carrying buckets of water from place to place) she glances at the alien and you can tell where that's going! Under interrogation, the alien reveals that he is on earth to FIGHT DRAGONS! As Annette Hanshaw used to say, "That's all."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Retirement of the Magic Jacket

Getting ready to participate in the Dean Faulkner Wells reading this evening. During my section, I am required to say "porte cochère" AND "Messerschmitts" which is going to require all my concentration, so I must beg the audience for complete silence. This occasion calls for my magic jacket - yes, the jacket that everybody loves! It's not me, folks, it's the jacket. Even the dry cleaner expressed his admiration for it! And yesterday - when I was NOT wearing the magic jacket - some dude came up to me and told me about a time he had seen me from afar, walking around in the magic jacket! But I believe this will be the last time I wear the magic jacket. You can only wear a magic jacket so many times. Soon it goes from "Wow! What a jacket!" to "Oh, brother. Here he comes again." It's too NOTICEABLE! That's the problem with magic jackets. I briefly considered - as this will be the last appearance of the magic jacket - wearing my unicorn pin ON the magic jacket as a special treat for the world BUT I CAN'T! I can't be responsible for the consequences! Combining the powers of the unicorn pin and the magic jacket would be akin to a cataclysmic accident with the Large Hadron Particle Collider! So, no, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, but I can't, I just can't.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Index Trouble!

You know of course my deep-seated belief that every celebrity biography (or autobiography) should come with an index and that every celebrity biography or autobiography index should include this entry: "Lewis, Jerry" or else how are we supposed to know how much various celebrities love Jerry Lewis? So I was over at Square Books idly thumbing through the writings of celebrities this afternoon when I came upon a massive volume of Michael Palin's diaries, naturally, because people want AT LEAST 700 pages of what Michael Palin had for lunch from 1981-88 (the years covered in the present volume, I believe). And of course the first thing I did was check for Jerry Lewis in the index. At least there was an index! But there was no Jerry Lewis to be found there, which made me feel peevish and sour. BUT! I was flipping through the pages and came upon (rather miraculously, given the enormity of the book!) a reference to Jerry Lewis that the indexer had forgotten to index! "One of my childhood heroes" - that's what Michael Palin calls Jerry Lewis in his diary (and goes on to praise his "excellent" performance in THE KING OF COMEDY), so then I felt happy again and not so angry at Michael Palin anymore and everything was great for the rest of my life.

Full of Awe

"Yep, you need to go to the land of Awes to become awesome in your personal and professional life! Yellow bricks pave the way for your journey. There’s adventure to be had starting in Kansas and riding that tornado to success." Wow! From Ben Greenman comes a "link" to an article from FURNITURE WORLD, a leading publication of the furniture business.

C'est Magnifique!

I am just going to tell you straight out: this is the best Dean Martin album. I know my statement is going to cause a lot of controversy because people care so much! But I am willing to take the consequences of my boldness because this is a matter of such vital importance to every girl, boy, woman, and man, and even the little bitty babies. PS Cigarette holder!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Hey, I just saw on my friend's "blog" that President Obama has appointed friendly local bookstore owner Richard Howorth to the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. So that's good! It's good when the president appoints you to things.

Giant Robot, Giant Fundraiser

Los Angeles friends of the "blog"! Will you be in Los Angeles on Saturday? That's the day that GIANT ROBOT magazine will start a big art gallery show to raise money for UNICEF and children who have suffered in the recent earthquake in Japan. Here is the address, plus some other details. The show keeps going until the middle of April. Help if you can!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Jerry

Kelly Hogan tells me this is Jerry Lewis's 85th birthday! So now I feel better.

It's Come to This

I keep "blogging" at great length about a Shelley Long movie I saw and then deleting it. Is this what it's come to? Her dress falls off at a fancy party and she sits in a plate of food at a fancy party and she falls down a lot and dips her collar in some soup and sets fire to an enormous fish PLUS her character dies then comes back to life a year later, and it strikes me that your character can either sit in a plate of food OR die and come back to life a year later, you can't do both, you can't possibly earn it, but the main reason I could study this movie forever is because NOT ONE SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE RESEMBLES ANYTHING ANY HUMAN BEING HAS EVER SAID, it's almost perfect in its way, and imagine this going on for a thousand more words, can you stand it? That's what I thought.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping You Informed

Now the twitter really, really wants me to "follow" Kevin Pollak. So far I have resisted. Hey, man, I'm sure Kevin Pollak doesn't want to "follow" me either. It's all cool.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Look What Happened

Over on the "blog" she shares with Sara Gran, Megan Abbott has been reminiscing about hosted movie franchises on local TV - which are phenomena that used to exist - and their importance to a young person's aesthetic education. It's how she first got interested in Jean Harlow! Well, that started me thinking about Max Goodman again, and all the movies he would show when I was a kid ready to be interested in something, and a number of them suddenly sprang to mind - one in which Mickey Rooney has a pet duck THAT TALKS! One in which a woman has a money tree growing in her backyard. One called BIRDS DO IT which I could have sworn was about Sid Caesar learning how to fly, but I looked it up on imdb and it turns out Soupy Sales is the one who learned how to fly and Sid Caesar wisely had nothing to do with it. Megan Abbott turned out great and look what happened to me. I blame Max Goodman!


I forgot to tell you that in RICOCHET, the character played by Denzel Washington is referred to as "the next Jerry Lewis." (!) How could I forget to tell you that? What is wrong with me? It's meant philanthropically, not comedically, I am sad to report, and let me reemphasize that this movie is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.

Of Underpants and Clowns

I am perfectly aware that the thing which most concerns you is what movies I watch on TV at three in the morning when I can't sleep. Last night's feature was RICOCHET. What's the word I'm looking for? Subtle? No, that's not it. "Operatic" might be a polite way to put it. When I flipped to it, already in progress, the first image to greet my weary eyes was a clown staring directly into the camera and blowing a trumpet at me. This is never a good sign in a movie! It means you are about to enter an off-kilter realm where anything can happen and not in a good way. And sure enough, uniformed beat cop Denzel Washington soon has a fateful standoff with a gunman. And he responds the way any normal cop would respond, by stripping down to his underpants in the middle of the fateful standoff, to the surprise of the gunman and the hostage and everyone else. Is his wisecracking partner Kevin Pollak (see the photo above, which takes place right around the time the clown pops out and blows a trumpet) the most surprised of all? I really can't remember. But I bet he makes a wisecrack about it! He even makes a wisecrack after he has been - SPOILER ALERT - fatally shot by like a million bullets. (By coincidence, the cop played by Kevin Pollak does some of the same professional-level celebrity impressions that the real-life Kevin Pollak does in his comedy act!) I guess you think the movie is done with clowns and underpants now. You think wrong! Much later (years later in the movie's chronology) we get this line: "Don't shoot, please don't shoot, I'm just a clown!" The clown is addressing Denzel Washington, who - because he is slowly being driven mad by his nemesis - is wearing an open pink bathrobe and underpants! The clown removes his red rubber nose and waves his hands weakly about in a gesture of clowning. None of this is meant to be amusing as far as I could tell. But mainly the movie consists of John Lithgow suddenly turning around to reveal that he is John Lithgow or stepping into a patch of light to reveal that he is John Lithgow or rising from a stooped position to reveal that he is John Lithgow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Langford Monkey Chantey Ahoy

Say, do you want to see Jon Langford floating in a bathroom sink singing a sea chantey of his own composition on the subject of monkeys? My feeling is that you probably do. The "clip" is from the kids' show that Barry B. and I used to make. Pay attention to these difficult yet worthwhile instructions: "click" here, then scroll down until you see (on the right side) a picture of Jon Langford wearing an eye patch. There is also a parrot on his shoulder of course. "Click" on that picture and all your aforementioned dreams will come true.

Vincent Minnelli Roaming Around in the Woods

Don't forget to come to the big event a week from today: Dean Faulkner Wells presenting her new memoir EVERY DAY BY THE SUN. We "writers" were over at her house rehearsing our parts last night... she told me that George Peppard and Eleanor Parker had come over (to the same house) while filming HOME FROM THE HILL in Oxford, that the film's director Vincent Minnelli was so obsessed with "Pappy" (as Dean calls William Faulkner) that he constantly roamed around the woods near Rowan Oak hoping to run into him (not knowing Faulkner was in Virginia at the time) - the same woods I saw Tom Waits coming out of that time! That's the kind of experience Vincent Minnelli was hoping for, I guess. Dean also told me that she's IN the movie! So that's neat. We heard some wonderful passages from the memoir, including the time she saw "Pappy" climb fully clothed into Bennet Cerf's bathtub to listen to the radio and all about the short, raggedy pants (described in hilarious detail) he wore to her engagement party. All that's just for starters. You have to come to the event to hear the rest. (I found myself calling Faulkner "Mr. Faulkner" in our conversation... I mean, what do you say? I couldn't make myself say "Pappy," and plain old "Faulkner" didn't seem polite either.) Pictured, Robert Mitchum looking very patriarchal in HOME FROM THE HILL.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Q-Tips Tips

DJ Gnosis writes, "Don't ask how or why I found this but I thought you might enjoy it." It's someone on the "internet" upset about the declining quality of Q-tips. But then if you read all the comments, as I am sure you will, he (or she) recants strongly ("I AM SUCH AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I FEEL SO DUMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!") and decides that Q-tips are still great after all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Scrapbook of a Detective

Remember I told you how they give out free books in the coffee shop at the library? There's a new batch, and I picked up a few today... no, COURAGE IS A THREE LETTER WORD was not among them. BUT! There were some other self-help books, such as DEVOTIONS FOR JOGGERS. I left that one alone. Likewise, SINBAD'S GUIDE TO LIFE, which is not about the legendary Sinbad who battled giant birds and such (or so I recall) - though his guide to life would be helpful, especially when facing problems with giant birds! - but the standup comedian Sinbad (pictured). The first few sentences of Sinbad's book (I'm paraphrasing) were something like "I know what you are thinking. What could I possibly teach you about life?" And I was like, "Good point, Sinbad." And I put the book back on the shelf. BUT! There was a book called THE SCRAPBOOK OF A DETECTIVE, VOLUME I, by B.E. Doughty, which I found significant as I had just left my hardboiled fiction class. I am not familiar with the Carlton Press of New York, New York, but THE SCRAPBOOK OF A DETECTIVE, VOLUME I has all the earmarks of a vanity press book, including the "about the author" section, which emphasizes Mr. Doughty's church and AARP memberships and tells us "he has recorded these memoirs at the request of his family and friends... they have been related in after-dinner speeches and other talks to church groups, high school groups, Kiwanis, Rotary, and other organizations." Some of the chapter titles are exciting! "I Become a Secret Agent" - "The Big Fire" - "Bruises, Bites, and Scratches" - "A Foolhardy Stunt" - "I Become a Hobo" - "An Attempt to Wreck a Train!" (exclamation point Mr. Doughty's) - "A Hayseed Clue" (to name just a few). But here's how one chapter starts, to give you some flavor: "On a hot summer day I received a wire message that someone had stolen about fifty new cresoled crossties valued at $3.08 each." The book is inscribed! Mr. Doughty has written, "I appreciate you as a writer and fine guy and I value your friendship." But he did not preface his remark with the person's name! It is inscribed... but to no one! So that's a mystery!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Things Any Person Would Want to Know

While I was looking around on the "internet" to see if I could find exactly what Jerry Lewis said in his blurb for COURAGE IS A THREE LETTER WORD [It's not. - ed.], I ran across this Italian bibliography (?) of books about Jerry Lewis! And from it, I learned things that any sane person would want to know, such as the fact that pages 150-161 of COURAGE IS A THREE LETTER WORD are ABOUT Jerry! And that Jerry WROTE a self-help book called BEING A PERSON - a book with "no numbered pages" (!), and also that the movie tie-in paperback of DON'T RAISE THE BRIDGE, LOWER THE RIVER has a bright pink cover! So many things to learn from you, "internet."

Best Title Ever

Turns out Brian Z. remembered the name of that book all along: COURAGE IS A THREE LETTER WORD.

Blurb Tipster

An intriguing tip from Brian Z.: "Saw some old self-help hardcover today w/ jacket blurbs by: Norman Mailer, Carl Sagan, and... Jerry Lewis. What a trio!" Indeed. Might this be my new Bible? I am willing to go ahead and say yes. So now all that remains is to identify this mysterious volume! As you know, I am among the world's best googlers, but my first pass has come up empty.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Fresh Rupture

Who should I run into in the library today but my smart ex-student? And we happened to notice a little booklet wedged between heftier volumes in the medical section, and we dislodged it and had a nice time leafing through it. It is called PRIMITIVE PHYSIC. It's a reprint of the edition published in 1755, and it seems you can cure anything with cold water, an onion, or the judicious application of electricity. Notes the preface, the 1755 edition was the first to mention electricity. For example, to cure deafness, "Be electrified thro' the ear." Toothache? "Be electrified through the tooth." ("Through" - not "thro'" - that time for some reason.) Not until I got it home did I realize it was written by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, isn't that what he did? Even the diseases sound elegant: "Costiveness" - "Noise in the Ears" - "The King's Evil" - "Convulsions in the Bowels of Children" - "A Tickling Cough" - "Clouds flying before the Eyes" - "The Green Sickness" - "The Whites" - "A Chronical Head-ach" - "For one seemingly kill'd with Lightning" - "The Inward Piles" - "The Quinsy" - "A Fresh Rupture" (which will be the title of my next novel) - "A Windy Rupture" (the sequel, decided my smart ex-student) - "Pearl in the Eye" - "An old stubborn pain in the Back" - you get it! I love that the first step for curing "A Raging Fit" is to "Beat Onions into a pulp." Here's a measurement you get a lot (when they're telling you how much butter or cream of tartar to apply, for example): "the bigness of a Nutmeg." That could be a classy title for a classy novel, too, the kind of classy novel classy people love to read: THE BIGNESS OF A NUTMEG. If I wrote a novel called THE BIGNESS OF A NUTMEG, everyone would love me. Maybe it can be my follow-up to the moving and controversial A FRESH RUPTURE. Well, I haven't even told you any of the good stuff yet. Like, for "The Apoplexy" (from which I often suffer) "Rub the head, feet, and hands strongly, and let two strong men carry the patient upright, backwards and forwards about the room." Raisins come into it a lot, too, reminding me of those hucksters McNeil found on the "internet," curing arthritis - wasn't it? - with gin and raisins. Oh, we're just getting started. Thanks, John Wesley!

Giant Ant Movie

Did you know that Stella Stevens is in a giant ant movie from 2005? She obviously wants to work, people! Nothing against giant ant movies, I have seen at least one I really love, but let's give the great Stella Stevens something other than giant ant movies to do with her valuable time. The dvr is rolling. More on this breaking story as it develops.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Story on "Internet"

Remember how my friend Michael wrote a story? Well now you can read it on the "internet." I knew you were good for something, "internet"!

Oh No, Gigot!

Holy moley! I just watched the end of GIGOT on youtube. And while I am still not convinced it is a sad clown movie, I will say that Gigot gets to indulge in the most maudlin of all excesses, the stuff of a sad clown's dreams! That's right (spoiler alert!), he gets to be present as a witness at his own funeral. He hides in some shrubbery and wipes his big, sticky tears for himself with a leaf. Oh, Gigot!

Oh, Gigot

Mr. Ward and I were just debating whether or not GIGOT could be considered a sad clown movie. Oh, come on! You remember GIGOT! Jackie Gleason is Gigot, a French guy who can't talk. "He clowns for the children, doesn't he?" asked Mr. Ward. "And he's beaten by the adults." The character is in the sad clown tradition, then, I would say - especially the LA STRADA sad clown tradition - except that he never quite makes the jump to being an actual clown, though by necessity he expresses himself exclusively through the art of mime! But by profession, Gigot is a maintenance man. Still, I am certain there must be a scene in which he has big sad eyes and hands a mean person a flower. I should admit I've never seen it, and only ever heard of it through Mr. Ward's agonized retellings over the years. Just to be clear, though, a sad clown movie can't MERELY star a comedian who is acting sad. It must be ABOUT a professional entertainer who makes people laugh yet all the while his heart is breaking. Or, you know, he's tormented in some other secret fashion. Got it? Speaking of Jackie Gleason, I watched the entire movie SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT on one of these here movie channels last night, and I don't suppose I have seen it since it came out in 1977, and here is a line from SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT which I certainly didn't expect: "Do you know who I think revolutionized American musical theater? Stephen Sondheim." That's a line from SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT.

Where are the Sad Clowns?

Many are concerned about where the sad clowns of tomorrow are coming from. The legitimate stage, that's where! For example, here is a line from a Broadway show, quoted in today's New York Times: "You think the old clown doesn’t have deep feelings, huh?" Fears of a sad clown shortage are greatly overstated! You just have to know where to look.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

You Can't Spell "Blow-Out" Without "Owl"

BLOW-OUT has a really good owl in it, by the way, and the owl comes along at a key moment - that's right: the "blow-out"! That owl is like, "What the...?" The owl is like, "That was no ordinary blow-out!" But he expresses it through his acting. Owls bring a touch of class to every project. Thinking of making your own movie? Why not class it up with an owl?

Freaking Out With John Lithgow

Dr. Theresa and I caught the end of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE the other day. By the way, that's what you want to do. Or ideally, you want to catch the VERY BEGINNING with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks, go do some laundry or some other chores for a couple of hours and come back and see the end, which is just John Lithgow freaking out nonstop for like twenty minutes. So we remembered how good John Lithgow is at freaking out. And that reminded me that over on her "blog" with Megan Abbott, Sara Gran is running a Brian De Palma film club. Next up: RAISING CAIN. So Dr. Theresa and I watched RAISING CAIN but we can't talk about it yet because Megan hasn't watched it (again) for film club purposes. Suffice it to say John Lithgow freaks out a lot. RAISING CAIN gave us a great line to say around the house, which we have been doing quite often, I fear: "I know what you're going to do! It's a bad thing and I'm going to tell." You have to say it in a weird voice that doesn't quite match your face. I had another John Lithgow/Brian De Palma movie on the dvr from TCM: OBSESSION, so Dr. Theresa and I watched that too and now we are way ahead on the Brian De Palma film club, though over here it is really turning into a John Lithgow film club. We are thinking about watching BLOW-OUT today, yes, what is wrong with us? We just really like it when John Lithgow freaks out. He is also good at being unnervingly calm and we appreciate that too, don't get us wrong. That's his other thing. I think that's his main thing in BLOW-OUT, in fact. If he is not freaking out in a movie, he is standing there being unnervingly calm like he might be about to freak out. But mostly he straight-up freaks out and that's what people pay their money for, to watch John Lithgow freak out, and John Lithgow gives the people what they want.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Literary Matters

Ugh! Literary matters! Everybody hates them because they are so horrible. That's why we are always so reluctant to put forward our reviled regular feature "Literary Matters." But this one literary matter is okay: "Blog" Buddy Mark Childress is coming to town! Everybody is coming to town! Literary matters are everywhere! They threaten to destroy us. There are so many of them! Soon the very earth will be swallowed by literary matters. The magazines alone are overwhelming and deadly! Suddenly I have so many magazines. My friend Michael J. Bible who works at Square Books and co-edits Kitty Snacks magazine (another magazine!) is in TWO of them! He is in the new Oxford American (with Barry Hannah on the cover) AND the fiction issue of the ESPN magazine. He won a contest! Also in that issue are Wells Tower, Dave Eggers, and John Brandon, to name a stellar few. I wouldn't be surprised if Wright Thompson was in there somewhere. I haven't looked yet. Literature! I hate you so much! Can't you leave us alone, literature? Can't you let us read our ESPN magazine in peace? (Actually, Wright, who is a "sportswriter" by trade, is a very literary writer, in a good way, so the ESPN magazine has always been full of literature when you think about it... just not the fictional variety so much.) Then I got my copy of the Knee-Jerk magazine, which is usually an online thing but now they have done an offline thing which is made of paper and I have a short story in it. It features some material I reworked like crazy from my famous and unlamented lost novel SHUT UP, UGLY, which is apparently never going to come out, but if it does, I will finally get to have one of those "appeared in a significantly different form in..." notices on my copyright page. Something to look forward to! Lots of good fiction writers in the issue, plus me, ha ha! Yeah, but you got your Kim Chinquee, Michael Czyzniejewski (Hey! Both of them once had stories in the magazine Quick Fiction, issue #7, the "Love and Marriage" issue, which also contains a story by McNeil!), Dan Kennedy, Roy Kesey, Joe Meno, an interview with Harold Ramis, and it even has something by that guy who wrote that crazy manifesto that I couldn't handle that time. So check out Knee-Jerk magazine, won't you? You can see why I have been in a "blogging" torpor for the past few days, right? So many literary matters crushing the life out of me. And so many preparations to make! So many literary events! Ace Atkins! Tom Franklin! Lee Durkee! Wright Thompson! and others (including me) will be on hand to read passages from our friend and neighbor Dean Faulkner Wells's new memoir at the Lyric Theater on March 19. She is Faulkner's niece and William Faulkner raised her but there is so much more to it than that! Find out for yourself! She will be there, too, of course, so come by and say hello and get your copy signed! (Speaking of Ace Atkins, I am not saying he is addicted to ebay, but he just bought a photograph of Burt Reynolds pulling a gun on Flipper, who was a famous dolphin at the time, trust me, kids.) Then, on the 23rd, at Off Square Books, Mark Childress strides triumphantly into Oxford with his spanking new novel GEORGIA BOTTOMS! Ha ha! I said "spanking" and "bottoms." I'm bringing my whole graduate class to see him and everyone else in the world will be there too, naturally, so why not you? Mark is always loads of fun! He entertains as well as informs! He's not one of those blah blah blah monotone readers that make literary matters so excruciating for all of us. Come see what I mean! Then - just one day later - it's the book conference! I've told you about my panel with Michael Kupperman, Joe Matt, and (more recently added) SPECIAL EXITS author Joyce Farmer... but what if I told you that Kent Osborne is coming to town for the book conference just because he loves learning? Maybe you'll see him! But who else will be on "panels"? Let me limit myself to people we have mentioned on the "blog" before, because my typing finger is getting tired: Kevin Brockmeier (who also has a piece in the new OA... oh, and Elizabeth does too!), Natasha Trethewey, Beth Ann Fennelly (also in OA!), Wright Thompson (again! Maybe he is to blame for all these literary matters), and lots of wonderful writers like Mark Richard and Karen Russell (both recently extremely well reviewed in the New York Times) I have never gotten around to mentioning on the "blog" for some reason, and we will be celebrating the birthday of Tennessee Williams at the book conference, so maybe I will put on a soiled undershirt and scream a lot, and I am forgetting so many people, and so many other literary matters to which I meant to call your attention just so you can suffer like I do, but this is it for me, I'm stopping now, I will never "blog" again, no one will ever "blog" again, I have used up all the "blogging," it is over now, everything is over now, there is no more "internet," go home.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shoe Factory Show No Longer About Shoe Factory

I am sorry to report that the shoe factory show has not been about a shoe factory for the past four weeks. Not even a brief peek at the shoe factory. Now it is only about people crying all the time in every scene. So much crying! You probably don't believe me because I can't find any pictures on the "internet" of people crying on the show. Lauren Graham isn't crying in this shot, but she doesn't look too happy either, does she? And trust me, she will probably be crying in a minute, and so will everybody else on the show. Mostly they cry for regular reasons, like how everything is crashing down around them. But one thing is for sure: they are always crying about something. Occasionally, very occasionally, they will cry because they are happy, like when Lauren Graham suddenly discovers she is a playwright and she didn't even know she had it in her! She wrote a whole, absolutely perfect first act of a play without even realizing it was a play! Then somebody told her and she started to cry. I can understand that! I love it when I write something perfect without even knowing what it is, or better yet, when a bestselling novel dictates itself to me in a dream. It makes me feel emotional. Finally, let me say - because I sound so sarcastic all the time - that now that I have been watching full episodes rather than just catching bits and pieces I actually enjoy the shoe factory show, which in reality is called PARENTHOOD, but I think they should rename it SEXY CRYING PARENTS because as the shoe factory plot has fallen by the wayside (and truly I don't miss it because it started being about the wacky new shoe factory owner who confounds all the oldsters with his hip and youthful ways) and the crying has markedly increased, the parental characters, both male and female, have begun to wear noticeably sexier clothing. They just wear sexy clothes and cry and cry! I'm not sure what's up with that.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Don't Forget


A Precious Blue-Green Jewel

My friend Chico just emailed me this picture of Lou Costello, Elvis, and Jane Russell, the latter of whom has recently passed away. By coincidence, there is a drawing of Ms. Russell in the new issue of THE BELIEVER, the film issue, which came out today. It's a very Robert Mitchum film issue, and what's wrong with that? Nothing, that's what! Ms. Russell is in there because there are drawings throughout the magazine of people who starred in films with Robert Mitchum. There is also a nice little article about Robert Mitchum's keen mannerisms. My favorite of the drawings is Lillian Gish aiming her shotgun at (an unseen) Robert Mitchum in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Robert Mitchum does not appear in the drawings - just people who acted WITH him, which is a pretty interesting idea, I think. I once saw Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum ALIVE AND FOR REAL on THE SAME DAY, back when I was working for TBS. I was too scared to talk to either of them. Robert Mitchum was smoking a cigarette with his oxygen tank next to him, but that's not why I was scared. I was nervous to approach his shining aura of awesomeness! Jane Russell was far away, but she was wearing a ring featuring a precious blue-green jewel so large I could see it clearly from a great distance. Later Dr. Theresa (not yet a doctor!) was upset that I hadn't said hello to Robert Mitchum, her favorite favorite actor of all time. "What would I have said?" I asked. When I put the same question to Barry B., he answered, "I would have said, 'Robert Mitchum, you are a bad ******* ******!'" And should I mention that Robert Mitchum, despite his apparent frailty, attempted to become "friendly" in a most surprising manner with Caroline's innocent sister at a luncheon later that day? (I guess I should mention that in those days Mr. Ward and I sometimes worked with Lou Costello's granddaughter out in Los Angeles, because that's what I do, I mention things. Oh yeah, and we were just reading about Lou Costello in my "Dean Martin class" because Lou was the first guy to try to make Dino a big Hollywood star, but Dean just went around running up a huge bill buying really nice clothes on Lou Costello's dime and not trying very hard to be a big star, and finally Lou was like, "This guy's not worth the trouble!" [I'm paraphrasing.] Observe how Lou Costello is biting Elvis's lapel as if to say, "I hate expensive clothing!" Plus - and this may also help explain Lou Costello's aggression here - Dean Martin was one of Elvis's primary influences as a vocalist, as we also learned from our text, which - to give proper credit - is, of course, DINO: LIVING HIGH IN THE DIRTY BUSINESS OF DREAMS by Nick Tosches. See? See how I like to mention things? Oh! Like I just remembered when we were out there in Hollywood, there was a crew member who had collected every Abbott and Costello movie on VHS, and I borrowed one from him in which Abbott and Costello play Revolutionary War era ghosts, because Dr. Theresa - a mere undergrad at the time! - was working on a paper about early American history as depicted on film... and now it is occurring to me that I can't recall EVER RETURNING THAT VHS! And I'm pretty sure Dr. Theresa NEVER EVEN WATCHED IT. I wonder if I might rectify this situation!) Jason Polan illustrated my column in the new BELIEVER and did his usual incredible job. In fact, it really floored me! I never know what passage he's going to pick from my little essays (or whatever they are) as the basis for his illustrations. He really surprised me this time! I won't spoil it for you.