Monday, February 24, 2014
Had a great time watching Vincent Gallo's film BUFFALO '66 last night with Bill and Katie and Megan. Somehow I had never seen it before, and right away I started seeing Jerry Lewis connections (I always do, but this time they were really there). I saw so many Jerry Lewis connections that I'm afraid I forgot half of them on the walk home. Conscious, direct connections? I don't know. Gallo and Lewis were in a movie together, and there was that one time that a New York Times interviewer lumped them into the same general category ("kindred maestros of self-loathing and self-absorption," he appreciatively remarked), but that doesn't prove anything, though in his early scenes with Christina Ricci, Gallo certainly nailed the rhythm, high pitch and tone of Lewisian speech patterns, veering occasionally into the darker, intense and demanding bark of Buddy Love, or angry Jerry in THE KING OF COMEDY (another fantasy about kidnapping). And Megan found this photo of the two on a "web" site that quotes Gallo on how much he dislikes Jerry Lewis (though I don't know, they look like they're having a blast!). So maybe it's just the coincidental shared temperament of a certain kind of filmmaker. (And I'm not even considering David Lynch's debt to Lewis, or the famous affection of some French New Wave directors for his films, though there could be some trickle-down going on, as Lynch and the French New Wave are openly drawn on in Gallo's directorial style.) "A child's fantasy," Megan called BUFFALO '66 last night (not in a judgmental or critical way). Like Lewis in THE PATSY and THE LADIES MAN (just for example), Gallo seems fixated (in this film) on romantic rejection in boyhood as the dominant factor in shaping a man's stunted personality (along with, as in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, monsters for parents, of course). (And now I am recalling what Elvis Mitchell once described to me as Jerry's "fear of sex" - a big factor in BUFFALO '66 - as a hallmark of his [and Lynch's] style.) The emotional climax of BUFFALO '66, like that of THE LADIES MAN and THE PATSY and other Jerry movies, showcases a teary cipher of an ingenue reassuring us (and him) about all the hero's finest qualities, including some that have not been apparent. There's a wide sentimental streak in both filmmakers, one tied to self-regard. These are controlling men (there's a reason why Jerry's book is called THE TOTAL FILM-MAKER), old-school auteurs, writer-director-producers (Gallo even wrote the music for BUFFALO '66, a la Jerry's hero Chaplin - Jerry came up with the thematic melody for the first movie he directed, THE BELLBOY - aagh! somebody stop me) who intriguingly marshal great piles of money and armies of people in the service of an image of themselves as powerless little boys. Like Lewis's characters - most explicitly in CRACKING UP - Gallo's is a suicidal clown, and (here comes a big spoiler about the endings of two movies) just like THE PATSY, BUFFALO '66 gives its hero the great satisfaction of dying before being magically (cinematically) restored (see also). Also, they both wear red shoes. Goodbye.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
"The series failed, but at least the plot for this episode is so tried and true you have to wonder why," writes McNeil. He encloses an eight-second video clip ("click" here) but I know you won't "click," you are too lazy to even "click" on an eight-second video clip, jerk, so now I have to spoil it for everybody by revealing that it says, "A vial of deadly germs imperils an entire city on MY FRIEND TONY, tonight." But now you will never know how funny it is because of the professional cigarette voice of the announcer and the little, almost comic lift he gives to the title of the show, incongruously (but somehow inevitably), considering what has gone before, or maybe I'm just imagining that, but I guess you'll never know. "And here are some of the worst opening credits I've seen. Not THE worst, but the hands to the face at the end....whew," McNeil concludes, but hell, you won't "click" on that either, will you? How I hate you. As consolation, I turn to my copy of THE COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK TV SHOWS 1946-PRESENT by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, which is almost without exception totally useless in our modern world. Yet now I may with glee type up the entire entry on MY FRIEND TONY: "When he was in Italy shortly after the end of World War II, John Woodruff almost had his wallet stolen by a street urchin named Tony. Years later, a fully grown Tony arrived in America to join John as half of a private-investigation team. Professor Woodruff, whose academic career in criminology had given him the ability to analyze the most obscure clues..." ugh, never mind, I can't type anymore, okay, I'll type this one phrase that comes toward the end, "Tony's carefree romanticism," anyway, ha ha ha, "street urchin."
When the Sinatra impersonator announced that he was about to sing a number from the film THE JOKER IS WILD, an ecstatic roar of shock and delight arose from the three members of the Doomed Book Club at our table, for the bio on which the movie was based was our initial text. Our outcry at the relatively obscure allusion must have astonished and baffled the Sinatra impersonator, who was too polished to show it, and launched into the song with his usual ease.
I came upon the Egyptian god Khu in this Norman Mailer novel and I thought, "Wait! Does this book already have an owl in it?" Because (I think) Mailer referred to Khu as a "night bird," and "Khu," I convinced myself, sounds like what an owl says. Eh, more like what a pigeon says, now that I bothered to say it out loud just now. And I know there are pigeons in Egypt because my mother-in-law used to cook them. But are there owls in Egypt? I was too lazy to ask. I did get out my DICTIONARY OF ANCIENT DEITIES, which is a thing I have lying around. And it described Khu (Khou) as a "crested bird." So then I got the bright idea of checking the index for "owl." There were eight listed pages with owls on them, making the DICTIONARY OF ANCIENT DEITIES a book with at least eight owls in it. And I am going to tell you about all of them. But first I would like to remind everyone that the Cosmic Owl (pictured), voiced by the great character actor M. Emmett Walsh, is one of the deities on ADVENTURE TIME, a fact not mentioned in the DICTIONARY OF ANCIENT DEITIES for several obvious reasons. Mentioned, however: Athena is also known as "Glauk-Opis ('Owl-faced')" and (next page) "She is often depicted as a maiden in warlike array attended by the owl and the serpent, both emblems of wisdom." Everybody knows that! But did you know that Blodeuwedd ("Also known as Flower Face" - aw!) was punished for a misdeed by being turned into an owl? It's a story of love and betrayal which I am too tired to tell you. On page 114, "In the branches sit Cronus's sea-crows and and Calypso's horned owls and falcons." It took me a while to find them. There are at least 15 gods and goddess on page 114, split between two columns, and the print is small and tightly spaced. I was reading about "the blood-thirsty bat god Camazotz" and was sure an owl would pop up in that story, but it didn't. Next we find Chia, who, like Blodeuwedd, is punished by being turned into an owl. Boy, that sure was a popular punishment! It doesn't seem that bad. If Chia "became displeased by a man, he had to dress as a woman to avoid being punished by her." Cool! We find that "Durga, the invincible destroyer" is also known as Karali or Kausiki ("Like an Owl")... I should probably (why?) mention that she is the third death goddess so far on our list - from all over the world! - to have the owl as her symbol. "Indra is symbolized by the bull. One of his symbols is the owl, indicating power." And finally I give you Pueo-nui-akea. "Owl god. Guardian. He is an owl god who brings life to the souls who are wandering on the plains."
Saturday, February 22, 2014
I was rather grouchy and irritable at the beginning of the night; I asked Megan Abbott to look up querulous in her dictionary because I was pretty sure that's how I was feeling. And I was right! But then we went to see a Frank Sinatra impersonator - Ace, Angela, Dr. Theresa, Megan, and me - and when he sang "Buddy, you'd never know it, but I'm kind of a poet," I believed it! I believed that this computer programmer from the space center in Huntsville, Alabama (as he finally revealed himself to be) WAS kind of a poet! He wasn't kidding around. He had figured out how to express himself. It was like I was hearing the words of that song for the first time. Here are Theresa and I dancing to the dulcet sounds of the Sinatra impersonator (photo by Megan Abbott). I learned something! (PS: The next morning I remembered that he doesn't work for the space center; he works for the army. I thought he was going to finish his sentence with "space center" but he said "army." But my brain erroneously retained "space center.")
It's in either Chapter 5 or Chapter 6 of ANCIENT EVENINGS that we get more plural "gravies" (sweat is described like so: "something loyal came out of the gravies of his flesh" [!]) and more "sweetmeats." Hey, I was looking around for sweetmeats on wikipedia and came across this terrible and utterly useless sentence: "Confections include sweet foods, sweetmeats, digestive aids that are sweet, elaborate creations, and something amusing and frivolous." Wikipedia! Who writes this stuff? Better check the old WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974, under sweetmeat. "1. any sweet food or delicacy prepared with sugar or honey, as a cake, confection, preserve, etc.; specifically, a candy, candied fruit, etc. 2. a mollusk, the slipper shell. [Dial.] 3. a varnish used on patent leather."
Friday, February 21, 2014
I am going to tell you something gross. As you know from reading this "blog," (ha ha, you don't read this "blog"!) Norman Mailer is obsessed with poop (look who's talking). I guess last time I started reading ANCIENT EVENINGS I accidentally skipped the prologue, because right away in the prologue here is what we get (I warned you it is gross): "My bowels quaked with oceanic disruption, ready to jettison whole fats, sweetmeats and gravies of the old pleasure-soaked flesh." I ran into Jimmy at Square Books today and tried to quote that to him. "Multiple gravies!" replied Jimmy. "That shall be the title of the 'post'!" I announced. Before, I was going to call it "Gross, Norman Mailer." When Jimmy came in off the balcony into the bookstore and I spotted him, I was sitting there in the little coffee section leafing through some essays by William S. Burroughs. I read about a time that Burroughs met up with Beckett. Burroughs was advised to bring his own whiskey "as [Beckett] would proffer none." Burroughs told Beckett about some flying foxes he had seen at a zoo and Beckett didn't seem to care much. Burroughs goes on, in the essay, to express a preference for Proust over Beckett, which surprised me. I think he put it this way: "That Proust is a snob humanizes him." I thought that was a gracious and interesting way to read Proust. I started thinking about that interview I did for Jimmy's magazine, late in the evening when I began to claim that Proust was mean to cats, and that was why I had stopped reading the second volume of his big book halfway through. As soon as I got home, it occurred to me that I had only ever heard of Proust being mean to cats from one person: my friend Jim Whorton. I didn't wish to besmirch Proust posthumously! So I emailed Jim for more details and told Jimmy to hold off on quoting me. Jim Whorton wrote back, "I think I did tell you that, because someone told me that once. But I have since tried (even since telling you that) to verify it and have not been able to. I hope it isn't true, but this friend (her name is Melanie) was emphatic about it. Oh, I hope it isn't true. Starting today I am never again going to repeat gossip." It is kind of like how unreasonably sure I used to be that Nixon enjoyed Campari and soda above all other drinks. Anyhow, I told Jimmy he could still quote me in the interview as long as he used Whorton's email as a footnote. But he didn't - a wise decision as I am very transparent and of course would have kept reading the second volume had I really been digging it, putting terrible accusations about cats out of my mind. Which reminded me: I had JUNKY by William S. Burroughs on my recommendation shelf at Square Books, and his narrator (who is William S. Burroughs, pretty apparently) is REALLY mean to a cat in that book! Spurred on by my discovery that he preferred Proust to Beckett, I snatched JUNKY off the shelf and replaced it with Lynda Barry. Then Jimmy and I walked among the books and talked about which books we had read and which ones we hadn't. He told me about a sentence in A PASSAGE TO INDIA that had really helped him when he decided to quit the football team in high school. "I'm going to tell my dad this!" he thought. And he did. He told his dad, "There are many ways of being a man; mine is to express what is deepest in my heart." His dad, rather like Beckett hearing about the flying foxes at the zoo, was not impressed.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Aw, you guys are going to be super pumped that Faulkner reminded me of Beckett again! In ABSALOM, ABSALOM! the characters (and author) begin to bleed together: "Yes. Maybe we are both Father. Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished... Yes, we are both Father. Or maybe Father and I are both Shreve, maybe it took Father and me both to make Shreve or Shreve and me both to make Father or maybe Thomas Sutpen to make all of us." That made me think of the way title characters from other Beckett novels ("All these Murphys, Molloys and Malones") impose themselves on the narrator of THE UNNAMABLE some decades later. [Though it strikes us belatedly that Faulkner and Beckett share a wellspring in Joyce, which may, in this particular case, be the connection. - ed.] Back to Faulkner, and a character who "believed that the ingredients of morality were like the ingredients of pie or cake and once you had measured them and balanced them and mixed them and put them into the oven it was all finished and nothing but pie or cake could come out." Ha ha, that doesn't remind me of Beckett, I just like it. If you are on twitter you probably follow somebody like that.
I love Lorrie Moore. I haven't read her new story collection, but it was reviewed in the New York Times today and when the reviewer said, "Ms. Moore never makes Ira believable as a sad-sack guy... Would this schlumpy fellow really look at a friend’s garden and think, 'The crocuses were like bells and the Siberian violets like grape candies scattered in the grass'?" I thought, "Well, sure. I mean, why not! I mean, I bet he would ESPECIALLY." This is something I know from personal experience. So that criticism seemed crazy to me. A schlumpy fellow can think all kinds of things about flowers.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Something Natasha Allegri just tweeted ("SILKY CHICKENS" read the entirety of her tweet) made me think of some phrases from ABSALOM, ABSALOM!: "a cloud of chickens" and many pages later "a cloudy swirl of chickens." I had an actual vision of William Faulkner standing in his yard watching somebody (Estelle? Would she feed the chickens?) feeding the chickens, and thinking, "Wow! Those chickens are like a cloud. That is like a cloud of chickens." Old Faulkner! He is Shakespeare one minute and Beckett the next. "... all of a sudden it's all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they dont even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn't matter." Just twenty or so pages later here he is on the same subject (mortality) describing a man's whole life in a succinct deadpan that anticipates Beckett's later innovations: "Yes. One day he was not. Then he was. Then he was not." You know, I almost thought this book had an owl in it, like every other book, but it was "huge fowl," my eyes tricked me, "the trees along the road not rising soaring as trees should but squatting like huge fowl." I have high hopes for an owl, though: there has already been a metaphorical bat ("He was the light-blinded bat-like image of his own torment" - ouch!) and as we have seen in DRACULA and as we have seen in JANE EYRE, bats and owls are cheeks by jowls - ha ha! that's a little rhyme I just made up - in your fancier literature. In conclusion, I am glad Faulkner did not have to bring ABSALOM, ABSALOM! to a fiction-writing workshop nor attend much college at all. "Hey, so this guy's dad is talking to him on the porch for like 25 pages? And then out of nowhere the dad goes into the voice of this other dude he never met? And like gives a whole long complicated monologue from the point of view of GOD in this other guy's voice he never even met?" And Faulkner would have been like, "Yeah?" That part made me think of Barry Hannah's story "Nicodemus Bluff" when the narrator's father "when he played chess, became the personality of a woman, a lady of the court born in the eighteenth century... The woman would 'invest' Dad and he would win at chess with her character, not his own man's person at all... The chess game, as it went on, changed him more and more into a woman, a crafty woman."
Hey remember when Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS showed up on MAD MEN? We were all pretty excited that day! Now recently I have seen Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS on JUSTIFIED and GIRLS, too. That's just plain GIRLS, no GILMORE. What is up with Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS? He is everywhere! Give somebody else a chance, Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS. Just kidding, you're doing great. Keep it up! Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS is on all the prestigious shows, and according to imdb he was "a finalist for the prestigious Irene Ryan award," to which at first I replied "Ha ha ha!" because Irene Ryan was Granny on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, but you know, the more I thought about it (I have not yet "confirmed" this with "internet" "research") Irene Ryan seems like she was the kind of actor who got pigeonholed in one zany TV role but perhaps before that had shown astonishing range, probably onstage. That's my wild guess. I have a very vague memory of being a small child when Irene Ryan was going to be the queen of some parade in Mobile, Alabama (probably a Mardi Gras parade), and we made a trip to that big nearby city to see her. I don't think we saw her. I have a weird feeling I saw a bearded lady and a sword swallower that day. I have the idea that I was like, "Whoa! I'm in over my head!"
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Ace's and watched CITY STREETS and Sylvia Sidney reminded Ace of old photos of his grandmother, so Ace got out his grandmother's pearl-handled revolver and we passed it around. Megan Abbott wanted me to take her picture holding the gun and so I did and imagine my surprise when she pointed it at me, violating one of the primary rules of gun safety, perhaps THE primary rule. I want to remind you to NEVER POINT A GUN AT SOMEBODY, EVEN IF THE GUN IS SUPPOSEDLY NOT LOADED. That is practically the first thing you should know about guns. Guns are not toys. Remember William S. Burroughs. That being said, here is the photo and it is pretty neat considering that I happened not to get killed this time and anyway here I am glorifying it and after all it is "classic Megan Abbott." Note Bill Boyle texting blithely in the background.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Hey that crazy Doris Day movie is on again. Turns out her husband in it runs a wool company. He makes a speech about what "damn good wool" this wool company has. Then when he talks about shaking up the wool business, some indignant wool expert sputters, "Sir, we sell woolens!" Very dramatic stuff. You know, a lot of Doris Day movies are about her being married to jerks and then at the end we're supposed to be happy when she decides to get along with the jerk. I have a feeling that's where this one is heading. But that's not why I summoned you here. I saw most of A STAR IS BORN on TCM the other day, the original version, and now I see why Scorsese put Lionel Stander into NEW YORK, NEW YORK, his STAR IS BORN style movie (though it owes more of a debt to the Vincent Minnelli remake). Lionel Stander (pictured) sure is hardboiled as the studio PR man. I'd say he might be one of the most hardboiled characters I ever saw in a movie. The movie is strange and compelling. It veers tonally from goofy slapstick (a grumpy landlord smashes a light fixture with his head; there's comical fainting and dish-dropping) to screaming, hellish nightmare by the end. Plus you've got that hardboiled Lionel Stander. Some of his dialogue is just great old-fashioned hardboiled cracking wise, like when he runs into Frederic March at the racetrack and March asks him, "What do they do with the actors when you're not around?" and Stander says, "They cut 'em into slices and fry 'em with eggs." There are lots more bitter gems, and you can see the scene on the TCM "web" site by "clicking" here. By the end, though, Stander is so hardboiled it's shocking. Big and depressing spoiler here... Frederic March, an alcoholic, drowns himself. Stander sits at a bar reading about it in the newspaper. He says, "First drink of water he had in years," and "How do you send a telegram of congratulations to the Pacific Ocean?" Whoa! The bartender laughs it up. Unlike the grumpy landlord, there is no comeuppance for Lionel Stander! I kind of wanted to see Janet Gaynor pop up out of nowhere and punch him in the gut. But his cold cynicism was triumphant.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Dr. Theresa and I were driving past a church just now and you know how churches have those little billboards outside with inspirational messages on them? This one said "FATAL FUSION" and that's all it said! On both sides! What is that? Something I'm supposed to know about? I am pretty sure it is not an inspirational message. Sounds like the title of an action movie. I was intrigued! Though not intrigued enough to attend church. I'm probably dumb and everybody knows what fatal fusion is. Speaking of which, I saw Bill and Jimmy at Good Idea Club last night, where we drank wine that tasted like barbecue sauce. And I told them about a description I like in ABSALOM, ABSALOM!: "his eyes looked like pieces of a broken plate" but I didn't tell them the rest of the description ("his beard was strong as a curry-comb") because I didn't want them to know I was too dumb to know what a curry-comb is. The man who is telling that part of the story in ABSALOM,ABSALOM! even appeared to think "curry-comb" was a weird thing to say, because he recalled of his father, who had originally made the description, as if musing on the strangeness of his father's utterance, "That was how he put it: strong as a curry-comb." So a curry-comb seemed like something I should look up in my WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974. And it's "a comb with metal teeth, for grooming and cleaning a horse's coat." So now I do feel dumb because everybody with a horse certainly knows what a curry-comb is but guess what. I don't have a horse. Bill and Jimmy told me last night that during the taping of my Lent Magazine interview I had pontificated at some length about iceberg lettuce wedges so naturally I urged them to send me the transcript of that portion. They've sent just a little of it, which I cut-and-paste here, though I must warn you I repeat some stuff that I've already told you on the "blog." The good news is that nobody reads the "blog." Maybe most of what I talk to anyone about comes from the "blog," because the "blog" now functions as a substitute for my memory, which no longer exists where it used to, in my brain. So I guess the "blog" is "canon," as ADVENTURE TIME fans like to say. But here's the wedge stuff: "JIMMY: How’s your wedge? JACK: This wedge is fantastic. The true wedge connoisseur of the family is Theresa. She loves a good, classic wedge. She introduced me to the pleasures of the wedge. One of many things Theresa has taught me over the years. Pendleton Ward took me to Musso and Frank’s, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. He told me all about how he used to sit there when he was first getting Adventure Time together and work on it. We both ordered a Romaine Salad, which was how it was listed on the menu. But when it came it was like they just sliced a head of romaine lettuce in half and gave me half and Pen half. And that was it! That was your salad! I was like, they are old school here! Grind a little pepper on top, dressing on the side, you kind of spoon some dressing over it and it tastes good! Now, because of that, this wedge seems whorish to me! Tarted up! That sounds like a Harry Potter story. Harry Potter and the Whorish Wedge." Jimmy assures me that plenty more wedge transcript is on the way. Thank God! In conclusion, some dude finally decided to get with the program and send me an "oatmeal selfie." His name is Randal Cooper and here he is. And thank God too for brave souls like him.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I am sticking with ABSALOM, ABSALOM! - just read a part when we go from the book's present to five months in the book's future to almost a hundred years in the book's past, all in a couple of sentences. William Faulkner! What a weirdo. You're going to give me whiplash, William Faulkner. Yes I am going to stick with ABSALOM, ABSALOM! but yesterday I stopped by Square Books to pick up my copy of ANCIENT EVENINGS by Norman Mailer and Laura Lippman's new novel and went up to the City Grocery Bar, where I arrived enough ahead of Megan Abbott, whom I was meeting there, to read well into Chapter Two of ANCIENT EVENINGS. The narrator has not eaten bat poop yet as I was promised, but it is "whispered" about another character, long dead, that he "had been known to eat fried scorpions with bat dung," which reminded me, as long as I was sitting in John Currence's place, that he was once required to fry a scorpion on TOP CHEF MASTERS... no, I think he grilled it. And I recall the judges saying something like, "I would go to a restaurant and order this scorpion!" Yet John has never put scorpion on any of his menus, as far as I know. On the first page of Chapter One of ANCIENT EVENINGS we already get "some aged droppings on the floor, pellets from a small fierce animal." A cat, it turns out! When Megan arrived (a copy of Laura Lippman's new novel AFTER I'M GONE tucked under her arm too) I read her the first two sentences of Chapter One of ANCIENT EVENINGS, which are short and to the point and pretty good, and she said, "It's like Poe!" I had been thinking Lovecraft, especially an early (?) story of his called "The Outsider," which come to think of it is closely modeled on Poe, but how could Megan sense it so quickly? It's because Megan knows everything. One paragraph in Chapter Two starts beautifully, I think: "I now met a ghost."
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I shouldn't even mention this here because I already mentioned it on twitter and lots more people read twitter than read this "blog" because nobody reads this "blog," but I had dinner with Jimmy Cajoleas and Bill Boyle a while back and Jimmy interviewed me for Lent Magazine with Bill piping in occasionally and you can read the interview now. It features TRUE FACTS about lots of your pals from the "blog." In order of appearance: Kelly Hogan, Bill Taft, Caroline Young, Dr. Theresa, Brian Halloran, Kent Osborne, Mark Osborne, Barry Mills, Tom Haney, Gus Jordan, Barry Hannah, Adam Muto, Pendleton Ward, Tom Franklin, my dad, and Chris Offutt. Don't you wonder what sartorial effect ON THE ROAD had on Chris Offutt? Well, now I am telling his beeswax in a public interview! Here is a picture Kent took of me at Faulkner's grave. I didn't like it because when I shrug disrespectfully at Faulkner's grave my fat cheeks puff out grotesquely but Pen said "it looks like an album cover" so everybody look at my fat cheeks. McNeil wrote me about that previous picture from Faulkner's grave: "Did Tom put his hair in curlers for that trip to Faulkner's grave?" No! Maybe a ghost was making it stand up. Speaking of which, I started to read ABSALOM, ABSALOM! and it's pretty great. (Ha ha, I just realized that the Bible story of Absalom has fateful hair in it though that is not what I meant. I meant ghosts. And Faulkner I guess.) I have been terrified of ABSALOM, ABSALOM! for years, so I'm surprised to find myself breezing through it - or, if that is an exaggeration, so thoroughly engaged. There's lots of stuff like this: "his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth. He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts..." So that's pretty all right, huh? And I'd like to remind all the exclamation point haters that there is an exclamation point in the title! But Square Books just called to tell me that the new reprint of ANCIENT EVENINGS is out, so now if I wanted I could read about the hero eating bat poop. But I think I've made a commitment. I'm only on page 17 of ABSALOM, ABSALOM! but it feels like page 50. Hey, speaking of Bill Taft (see above; ha ha! I know you don't exist, so why am I telling you to "see above"?) I got my print quarterly from the Los Angeles Review of Books in the mail yesterday. It's the first issue and I have three very short stories in there and one of them which lasts for two sentences MIGHT be a SOMEWHAT TRUE STORY of Bill Taft in which the character's name is "Bill" but it's fiction so forget what I just said.
Sunday, February 09, 2014
Kent and I went to Faulkner's grave today and it was overcast and gloomy and there was a barren tree near Faulkner's grave and a big crow in the barren tree went, "CAW! CAW! CAW!" Just like that. And Kent said to the crow, "Yeah, we get it, it's a graveyard." Ha ha ha! Take that, ominous crow. To illustrate this "post," here is a very old photo of Tom and Elizabeth and me.
Finished this book about Philip Roth and he made a funny remark to the author about Bach's compositional style, said Bach was "like a guy constantly checking his pockets." Now, I recall that years ago I was infuriated by some really dumb things David Byrne casually said about Bach in a BELIEVER interview, but now that I think of it, he was saying the same thing Philip Roth was saying, but somehow I am still irritated and annoyed by David Byrne's snide pronouncements, while what Philip Roth said made me laugh and even agree. Think about it, I guess. Or don't. Who cares.
Saturday, February 08, 2014
"... like an owl, like a bobcat..." Do I really need to finish typing this simile? Isn't it enough to say that this book about Philip Roth has an owl in it? Hey! Remember how harmless and jolly it seemed when I started listing every book I read that happened to have an owl in it? Ha ha ha wheeeee those were the days. Now it is just a boring, irksome obligation. Everything starts out one way and ends up some other way. And as so often happens, the owl quotation in this case comes from another book. An owl within an owl! What a country. Hey I remember when I was a little kid we used to go get hamburgers at a place called the Bobcat Drive-In. As I recall there was half a terrifying, fascinating real stuffed bobcat leaping out of the wall. That place got torn down when I was still a kid. And there was a regional or local hamburger chain called "Colonel Dixie" (!) about which there was some murder scandal. The hamburgers there were squashed and flat, I think. And the orange drink was flat and tepid. As I recall.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Kent is in town! We went to pick him up for dinner at his hotel, and he happened to be checking in at the same time as Jason Ritter, who used to play Lauren Graham's wimpy boyfriend on the shoe factory show, and with whom Kent had flown in from Los Angeles. Kent introduced me to Jason Ritter and I shook his hand and as I shook his hand I was thinking, "This is the hand that touched Lauren Graham." But I didn't say it! But I almost did. But I didn't. I told Dr. Theresa I was going to "blog" about it and she said, "That's who you want to be? The creepy guy?"
Despite the valiant efforts of Kent Osborne, no one is participating in "The Oatmeal Selfie Initiative." So here is a photo Emily Doe sent me in 2009 of her wisdom teeth, the pulling of which resulted in her increased consumption of oatmeal. Isn't this sad. I mean my existence.
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Megan Abbott and I are reading Claudia Roth Pierpont's book about Philip Roth at the same time, not as part of the Doomed Book Club - as part of nothing, I guess, though in Adrienne Barbeau's autobiography, which we DID read for the Doomed Book Club, Barbeau describes dating Philip Roth for quite a while until she discovered that he was just a guy pretending to be Philip Roth. (As Pierpont's book reminded me, part of the plot of Roth's novel OPERATION SHYLOCK concerns a guy pretending to be Philip Roth, though this particular imposter doesn't date Adrienne Barbeau.) But none of this is what I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell you that Roth describes one of his writing techniques this way: "I'm in the broiler, watch me broil." So that reminded me of the grisly death of St. Lawrence! That's all I wanted to tell you. But I just read this: "I don't write about my convictions... I write about the comic and tragic consequences of having convictions." I tried to write about that once (my detective novel about a guy who tries to stop having opinions but is thwarted at the end by an undeniably excellent Little Lulu comic book) and look where it got me. Hey! Did I tell you my publisher just now got around to declaring bankruptcy? I close with a "link" comparing Little Lulu to AS I LAY DYING.
People of Oxford! Two things: tonight at 9 a jam-packed event at Proud Larry's with some of our nation's greatest crime writers, and I'll read a story about kitties. Saturday morning (!) at the Oxford Conference Center (?) Kent Osborne and I will be on a panel about ADVENTURE TIME as part of the Oxford Film Festival. If you are up at 11:30 on Saturday, come see us, if I am up at 11:30 on Saturday.
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Hey remember when Kent Osborne took my picture outside the diner from LARRY CROWNE? Why sure you do. It's probably all you and your buddies talk about around the water cooler! Well, dang if I didn't just see that diner on the TV show JUSTIFIED. You heard right! Now go tell everybody all about my inspiring true story of triumph over adversity.
Last time I was in Atlanta I saw what looked like a little house on top of Manuel's Tavern. Like a place where pixies might live! I put it out of my mind, I guess, as a possible hallucination. But today my brother-in-law writes to tell me it is a chicken coop. A chicken coop on top of Manuel's Tavern! He sent a corroborative "link" but you're just going to have to take my word for it. Just wait until Kent hears about this! Kent tried to spread the word about "The Oatmeal Selfie Initiative" and was shocked! - shocked! - that I have not yet been drowned in photos of people eating oatmeal. "It takes time to make the oatmeal," Steve Wolfhard said consolingly in yesterday's ADVENTURE TIME meeting. Tom Herpich and I talked briefly about twitter as a tool of repressive desublimation. McNeil sent me an email about a guy he saw picking his nose. The rest of the day is a blur.
Sunday, February 02, 2014
Hello! Here is a picture of Norman Mailer in a top hat, leather vest, and denim shorts, snapped by Bill Boyle off of Megan Abbott's TV screen. We were watching Mailer's film MAIDSTONE. Ace was there too, and he thought it was pretty good revenge for the time he made Dr. Theresa and me watch THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK (which I would like to state for the record here is, I think, about twice as long as MAIDSTONE). "He looks like a hobbit," Ace said of Norman Mailer, and other disparaging remarks. To be fair, when I was in a video conference once, I held up the cover of the Norman Mailer bio to the camera, so that Mailer's face filled the screen instead of mine, and Pen cried out "It's Bilbo Baggins!" - not trying to be funny, more in simple recognition. Megan and I argued that Mailer was a good-looking man. Ace remained unconvinced. Megan Abbott owned up that she saw him once and "he was just a little taller than me." (She's tiny!) I found a number of things to enjoy in MAIDSTONE, but we all agreed that by far the best part of the movie is the famous bloody scene at the very end when the actor Rip Torn goes a little bit crazy and hits Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer FOR REAL and then Norman Mailer tries very hard to bite and rip off Rip Torn's ear. "Click" here to see a demonically grinning Rip Torn on Bill Boyle's twitter feed, in the electrically tense aftermath, gracing Mailer with a startling scatological encomium, unsuitable for printing on the "blog." You will note that Megan Abbott had at that point in the film turned on the subtitles for extra musing and study. Below, another example, from the climactic fight, sent to me by Ace this morning. Ace did admit that MAIDSTONE shares a certain sensibility ("group therapy" he called it) with the original BILLY JACK (which we watched and enjoyed very much, as distinct from its sequel, though, as Ace reminded me last night, THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK had some good parts, such as when there is an all-red Billy Jack and an all-blue Billy Jack and they battle for his soul in a cave, encountering a spiritually significant cobra in a scene that made me wonder if Scorsese hadn't lifted from it for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. I guess I would say that the main problem with THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK is that they gave Billy Jack too much money and he loved helicopter shots so much.) Another common thread between the Billy Jack movies and MAIDSTONE is the dominating personality of the filmmaker, and the film's existence as a stubborn extension of that personality. Ace said that MAIDSTONE was like BILLY JACK "without the karate." And you know, when he said that, I had to admit that Billy Jack knew what he was doing, putting the karate in there and driving the original film with a good, old-fashioned revenge plot.