Monday, June 30, 2014

"Blog"trospective 14: Graveyards

If there's one thing everybody loves it's a graveyard! So let's make a list of "links" to all our graveyard-related "posts" (and don't forget to "enjoy" our previous "blog"trospectives: 1. Tom Franklin 2. Phil Oppenheim 3. Movies 4. The Moon 5. Sandwiches 6. The United States 7. The Beach Boys 8. Arnold Stang 9. Books With Owls in Them 10. Gelatin 11. Monkeys Riding Dogs 12. Kent Eating Chicken 13. When Megan Lived Here)... GRAVEYARDS! APOSTLE by Tom Bissell features visits to the graves of all twelve apostles---artsy project includes grave desecration---barbecue next to a graveyard---bats at Faulkner's grave---being funny after a funeral---"The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's Church"---Bissell, Tom; plays Marvel Ultimate Alliance while he should be searching for the apostles' graves---Bissell, Tom; searches for the graves of all 12 apostles---block of wood psychologically represents a coffin---Bohemond's gravestone---Britton, Connie; sighted when we were staying at a motel with a graveyard attached to it---character in DRACULA wakes unclad in a churchyard at night---churchyard with gravestones in THE COMPANY OF WOLVES---circus performers' graveyard---coffinmaker who yells about his craft, a---confounded from beyond the grave---cowherd lies in open graves---Dee, Dr. John; grave of used as touchstone in children's game---discussion of appropriate things to carve on gravestones---doll cemetery---dream of---eating dirt from the graveyard---engraving of Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly hanging out with a spirit in a churchyard---Evans, Linda; slaps a man with a leather strap at her father's grave---exhumation of Tycho Brahe---fairybabes hang around in---famed ventriloquist confronts his mother's ghost at her grave---few loose rails thrown over Meriwether Lewis's grave, a---flea climbs into the grave of the flea who loved him---frogs as quiet as grave-rocks---funeral bell---Gigot peeks through some graveyard shrubbery at his own funeral---grave gone to without its occupant being aware of the entire catalog of celebrity memoirs I have read---graveside service for Thomas Paine poorly attended---graveyard right there in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn---guy dug up from his grave and mocked on a throne---hair growing out of cracked-open tombs---Hayden, Sterling; attends the funeral of Marshal Tito---I am reminded of something Bill Taft said to me in a graveyard---Johnson, Robert; disputed gravesites of---Lee, Sir Henry; has an effigy of Mistress Vavasour placed on his grave---listening to "Brick House" by the Commodores on the way to Meriwether Lewis's grave---man buried under the flagstones of a kitchen---man who collects coffins, a---mansion where the arrangements for Jayne Mansfield's funeral were made, the---Mature, Victor; consults the caretaker of a cemetery---McNeil ponders a career as a graverobber---men run howling about graves---monkey ghost described outside of tomb---monks rob a grave!---Murray, Bill; attends the funeral of Elvis Presley---my brother attends Michael Jackson's memorial service (there's no graveyard here but you can "click" back on several interesting "posts" about the day, so why not?)---Naked-Rumped Tomb Bat---night-crows on tombs---ominous crow cawing in a graveyard's barren tree---"Pale Pity" asked to consecrate Meriwether Lewis's final resting place---parrot screams curse words at Andrew Jackson's funeral---pasta recipes inscribed on tomb---PET SEMATARY---pigs get skinny after drinking from a trough made from a coffin---"Policeman at Cemetery"---purported King Arthur and Guinevere dug up from their graves and wrapped in silk---Roman vampire burial site---Saunders, George; writes book set in a graveyard---shirtless man reads at grave---shrugging disrespectfully at graveside---Shubuta cemetery---STRIKING DISTANCE (film) concludes at cemetery---supposed gravestone of Till Eulenspiegel---toad dressed as Elvis suggested as candidate for formal burial in a grave---tombs of the prophets, the---"Tombstone Blues"---trip to Poe's grave postponed in favor of GILMORE GIRLS finale---UFO lands behind a cemetery---Van, Bobby; grave of---witches dance on Berlioz's grave---Yorick skull (from gravedigger's scene in HAMLET)---York, Joe; makes a complex and satisfying visual pun using a gravestone---youthful graveyard encounters of Megan Abbott and Barry Hannah---Zola heroine lives next door to a drunken undertaker.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Alarming Woman in a Cemetery

Megan Abbott came back to town - for just one night, alas! - to talk about her excellent new novel THE FEVER. I did a little Q&A thing with her at Square Books and encouraged her to tell the story about when she, as a child, saw two drunken old salts perched together on a New England gravestone, yelling imprecations at those who would disturb the dead, and one of them had a big, vivid, and fresh wound on his neck. After the event, Jimmy, who was present, said the story reminded him of the time Barry Hannah "saw a naked woman on a gravestone and it scared him." I told Jimmy I was unfamiliar with the story. He said it was in an essay he had sent me. I remembered the essay, but I did not remember the naked woman on the gravestone, a strange thing not to remember. I remembered some things about writing from the essay. Here's a slice I have cut and pasted for you with little skill:
Later, on the same subject, Barry observes, "The well-groomed square will often outwrite the professional hippie, and I have witnessed the unsettling fact that fine novels come from men and women with so little personality they are not even annoying." There is a Roger Miller song called "Squares Make the World Go 'Round" that is concerned with a similar subject, in which Miller posits that "Government things can't be made do/ By hipsters wearing rope-soled shoes." But what of the naked woman on the old tombstone? Jimmy sent me the essay after a Good Idea Club that had gone especially late, and I was probably asleep and/or intoxicated when I read it. My poor eyes must have missed the section that began "That summer I met an alarming woman in a cemetery..." Rereading it, or reading it for the first time, I see that she is sitting on a grave, but she does have her clothes on. Later there is some partial disrobing. The cemetery is next to a reservoir where UFOs are said, by a neighbor, to land to "take on water."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

His Pirate Get-Up

"Johnny down there in his pirate get-up, shooting off cannons all hours of the night. David strolling the beach in his top hat and cane, growing more and more agitated, until one day he tries to make Johnny's island disappear. Johnny walks to the other side of his island and discovers a whole bunch of magician's props washed up (or dumped!) on his beach...I kind of wish I didn't know about those two now." That's McNeil, ruminating further on his discovery that Johnny Depp and David Copperfield own neighboring islands.

The Magic Island

You know how much McNeil likes islands! So McNeil just sent me these sentences in an email: "Did you know David Copperfield owns his own island? And it is, as far as I can tell, next door to the island Johnny Depp owns." (See also.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This Is Hell

Lee came over to watch the Richard Burton version of DOCTOR FAUSTUS. "A vanity project," Lee called it, then rightly fretted that there was not a better phrase for a thing he likes so much. Dr. Theresa observed that the movie looked like one of Roger Corman's tributes to Poe. Lee noted how much Burton's Faustus, in the early scenes, resembled Bill Murray. We all agreed that Bill Murray would make a great Faustus. I recited, along with Mephistopheles, the only line I know from the play: "Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it." When I said it, Lee shouted, "Look, he's crying!" We agreed that it's the only version we've seen in which Mephistopheles cries at that line. "It's like a really good STAR TREK episode," Lee said, and in the end that was good enough for all of us.


Yesterday I "cleaned" my "office" and found a scrap of paper on which I had scribbled, like a modern-day Plato, "Intent is meaningless." - M. Abbott *** appended was an indecipherable note about Joan of Arc's ankle bone (see also), I don't know what that was about.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Compound Weasel

Lisa Howorth's new novel has an owl in it almost at the very end. She was saving it, but she must have known that all great books have owls in them. The owl wasn't a complete surprise. As Lee Durkee and I were just discussing, one of the amazing things about the book (FLYING SHOES) is its contagious enthusiasm for the natural world. It's about a grim and unthinkably tragic subject in large part, but is studded with bright, unexpected action set-pieces and a bravura deployment of hilarious cussing unrivaled in literature (see also). In fact, with a few chapters under my belt I walked up to Ace Atkins's office and told him he had a rival. Ace has gotten excellent mileage with the irresistible scatological compound animal word ****bird (I mention as much in that recent interview I did with him) but Lisa might have gone him one better with ****weasel.

What Happened

Uh, I don't know. Nothing. Maybe all those movies cooked my brain. I ran out of things to say. Who cares? One day I went to that used book stall I've told you about and found a copy of RICHARD III for $2. I've been lazily looking for it. It always seems to be out of stock at Square Books, though they have many, many other Shakespeare plays. Off Square Books too, where they keep their used stock. Is RICHARD III that popular? Do people treasure their ratty old paperbacks of RICHARD III? Are they buried with them? The one I bought has a lot of underlinings in it. The previous owner underlines something and writes "FANTASTIC!" next to it. A long while back Lee Durkee mentioned to me that RICHARD III had two hilarious murderers in it who reminded him of Beckett characters, but their best stuff was cut out of most productions. So I looked them up in the book and Lee was right and I was going to "blog" about it but suddenly the prospect seemed so wearying, sitting here typing up Shakespeare dialogue. I took a nap instead. I'm still not up to it. McNeil emailed to tell me there were some Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies coming on TCM last night. That reminded me of an email he sent in early April: "Hey, I was watching 'Send Me No Flowers' again the other night and I thought that we should make a pact. When one of us gets a terminal illness, the other should hang around like Tony Randall's character and make careless insensitive remarks and drink all the time. That gives one of us something to look forward to! Hahaha. See, I've already started."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Big White Pie

First of all let me say maybe I was a little too hard on IF A MAN ANSWERS yesterday. I mean, if I didn't find the image of the big white pie arresting would I have spent so long searching the "internet" for it? Like J. Hoberman said in the New York Times today, "'The Nutty Professor' both depicts and manifests inadvertent disclosure," and I'm certainly no better than Jerry Lewis in that regard. And how snobbish of me to suggest that the film could not be put into conversation with LA CHINOISE. The palette of the fantasy pie sequence is pretty close to Godard's, and who knows? Godard might get a kick out of that big white pie. It's not hard to imagine an entirely white pie in a Godard movie. That big white pie might have put Godard in mind of his man Tashlin. And anyway, when Godard was making LA CHINOISE he wrote this on a big poster, according to the book I have about Godard: "It is the rich who create languages and who endlessly renovate them from top to bottom... A school that selects, destroys culture." Know what I mean? Because I don't. I sort of do. I think I do. Besides, the big white pie makes me think of a line I like from a recent New York Times obituary. It's for the original "Miss Subways," upon whom "Miss Turnstiles" was based in my sister's favorite movie ON THE TOWN, and it tells how a later Miss Subways "was said to have received 258 marriage proposals, at least 182 orchids and, from a lovelorn bakery worker, a vast lemon meringue pie." I've watched a couple of Will Rogers movies in my Lonely Film Festival. "He's like Brando!" I yelled, but I yell that about everybody. This one Will Rogers movie, STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND, has a musical saw in it, which reminded me of when Megan and Jimmy got so excited about Marlene Dietrich's ability to play the musical saw. In the movie, Anne Shirley goes to see her betrothed in jail (he's set to be hung for murder!) and he shows her how he's been spending his time learning to play the musical saw. He plays "There's No Place Like Home" and all the other prisoners hum it with intricate harmonies and lugubrious pathos. (The book that came with my John Ford box set [Ford directed STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND] quotes Darryl Zanuck poking fun at "the kind of thing John Ford does when he is stuck and has run out of plot. In these cases, somebody always sings and you cut to an extreme long shot with slanting shadows.") This movie also has a wax museum in it, which is, as we know, something Megan Abbott generally enjoys. Anne Shirley's character's name in STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND is Fleety Belle, which is the kind of thing Jimmy and Megan might like too.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Comparatively Subtle Winkie

Wow, I have been watching a lot of movies over the past two days. More than normal, even. Gorging on them, really. I don't think it's safe. I feel funny. But I'm on hiatus, so what else am I going to do? It's been a lot like a McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival, but McNeil isn't around so it's a Lonely Film Festival. Oh, sure, Dr. Theresa sits in once in a while but she does things during the day like a real human. Coincidences pop up, the kind you get during an actual McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. Why, just today I accidentally watched two movies in a row with Cesar Romero in them - 25 years apart in the making! Imagine if you will the awakening of my giddy childlike wonder at such an occurrence. The first Cesar Romero movie was WEE WILLIE WINKIE, starring Shirley Temple. It was in this John Ford box set I've had for years, filled with oddities by that director I've only begun to sample. The next Cesar Romero movie was IF A MAN ANSWERS, which McNeil gave me years ago, but not as long ago as he gave me that John D. MacDonald novel I finally read. IF A MAN ANSWERS was still in the plastic. In more ways than one! It made the blunt, sentimental colonialist propaganda of WEE WILLIE WINKIE look downright politically subtle by comparison. Ford at least gave his murderous revolutionary bad guy (Cesar Romero) some warmth and complexity. Meanwhile, the greatest fantasy that Sandra Dee's brain can possibly generate is that of tying on an apron and serving an enormous white pie to Bobby Darin.
(I regret that I found only this single tiny, low-grade representation of the giant fantasy pie on the "internet." But you can tell that it's a really big pie, right? Also some birds fly out of it but one of them just seems to lie there and flap sadly and I don't think that was on purpose.) After all that I guess I thought I should have some Godard, kind of like slugging back a shot of wheatgrass. But LA CHINOISE made me think of McNeil too. You know how McNeil loves carpet and furniture in the movies! And LA CHINOISE is a movie about furniture. That is a lie I just typed with my own fingers but I guess I'll stick by it, I mean, look at that lamp. At least you could put WEE WILLIE WINKIE and LA CHINOISE in conversation with each other, I mean, they were made on the same planet, hey, I told you I was going crazy, okay, time to take an aspirin and watch more movies.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reed Richards

GIANT came on TV late last night and I watched the whole thing. It's long! But you can't stop watching it. Everybody remembers James Dean from the first part of the movie when he's dressed up like a cowboy, all those iconic poses. But you can't beat James Dean in the second part of the movie, with the old-age makeup! They give him exaggeratedly white temples like Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four. He sits inside a dark restaurant at night during a thunderstorm and wears his sunglasses (pictured)! This is the James Dean I would like to emulate, fashion-wise. Check out the flower in his lapel. Later he stands outside during the storm with the rain coming down on him still wearing his sunglasses and miraculously smoking a drenched cigarette in his rumpled brown suit with the yellow flower in the lapel (a yellow rose of Texas?) and John Waters moustache and old-age makeup and Reed Richards hair. This frame from the movie doesn't give you a real good sense of what I'm talking about but I don't care, that's your problem. A few minutes later (the same night in movie time) his hair is completely white, by the way. Was it turned white by romantic disappointment? Did the rain supposedly wash out the dye? Was that supposed to be dye? I can't believe it was a continuity mistake. It's too... GIANT. Maybe I missed something. I usually miss something. Anyway, his hair turns white.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Basic Instinct

A nice-sized crowd showed up this evening to watch Tim Youd type the final three pages of THE SOUND AND THE FURY. I got there way early, before anybody besides the staff, so I got to see Tim carry his Underwood and desk to the side porch of Rowan Oak in preparation. A little spider of a color I have never seen before - at least on a spider - started climbing on the page. I'd say it was a fluorescent green spider. "Neon," said the photographer. Then she snapped a picture of it. Bill Griffith swatted a mosquito that had perched on my neck. "I've saved your life!" he yelled. "And not for the first time!" The yard filled up. Lizzie was there. "I read the wikipedia page on BASIC INSTINCT yesterday," she said. I asked why. "Because I didn't want to watch the movie," Lizzie explained. It made sense! She said her favorite movie was something called TEEN WITCH. When Tim Youd finished typing THE SOUND AND THE FURY everybody clapped. He held up the two pages. (He types the whole novel on one page, over and over itself until it's pretty much a black rectangle, with a safety page underneath it to soak up the ink when the first page inevitably tears.) "He tore that page UP!" I screamed in a kind of ecstasy. "You sound like a sports announcer," said my friend Amy. And you know, I FELT like a sports announcer. Here's an old photo from another event entirely, but it shows you how Lizzie feels whenever she runs into me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Out to Lunch

Let me tell you about my thrilling day. I turned on THE TARNISHED ANGELS, which I had dvr'd from TCM. I think before Megan Abbott left town, she and Bill Boyle and I were talking about watching it, but it was impossible to get hold of. After Megan left, I noticed it coming on TV. So I watched some of it this morning but then I started feeling guilty because I shouldn't watch it without Bill Boyle! I watched enough to see that it contained a goodly percentage of the cast of WRITTEN ON THE WIND, which, like THE TARNISHED ANGELS, was directed by Douglas Sirk. Those angels were so tarnished! As you can see from the above frame. Plus Mardi Gras! I mean, it takes place during Mardi Gras. But I turned it off. I was trying to decide what to read next and I recalled that maybe Megan and I were going to read this book of Mississippi ghost stories I got for her by way of apology after rudely scoffing at a ghost story she told me in a public forum. The Rowan Oak ghost story in the book supports BOTH sides of our argument and even quotes our pal Bill Griffith. So I called Megan but she never answers her phone and maybe she called back but I never answer my phone, so you can see the difficulty. So I didn't know whether to start the ghost story book or not. Then I remembered that last night Tim Youd told me he was on the last 17 pages of THE SOUND AND THE FURY, which he is typing as part of an art project at Rowan Oak. So I walked down there hoping I could watch him type the last few sentences ("They endure" and all that, isn't that it?) but the kid sitting by the door told me that Tim was at lunch and Bill Griffith was at lunch and everybody was at lunch. So I went to Square Books instead and bought PYLON, the Faulkner novel on which THE TARNISHED ANGELS is based, and I sat there in the store and read that mint julep murder mystery that Bill told me about, which included a kind of shabby carnival magician (attention Megan Abbott!) and which I must have read years ago, because it's in the book KNIGHT'S GAMBIT, but most of my life is just a blur to me now, which is why I type up these little pieces of crap.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Happy Lizard

One of my favorite things in the most recent Adventure Time episode "Breezy" was when Lizard Princess was blatting on a big old horn and Finn came in and started playing the horn exactly like something out of Wadada Leo Smith and Lizard Princess just looked so happy! This is Lizard Princess looking happy in that moment. So happy! She likes that Wadada Leo Smith kind of music. Lizard Princess!

What's Wrong With Eggs and Toast

You recall how I hadn't read any Robert B. Parker books about his detective Spenser, so Ace Atkins loaned me a few... well, now I have read those AND one of Ace's books about Spenser. Today I read about Spenser eating eggs and rye toast in a diner. Then he says he should have ordered the hash instead. So! Today, also, I had lunch with John Brandon, who was in town to read from his new book. And we both ironically (?) had eggs and toast. Then, while I was waiting for John Brandon's reading, I sat in the City Grocery Bar, sipping on a Pacifico and reading the first two stories from his new collection. In the second of those, a young man rejects his mother's offer of eggs and rye toast! In other words, I read TWO DIFFERENT BOOKS BY TWO DIFFERENT AUTHORS TODAY IN WHICH THE CHARACTERS WERE UNSATISFIED BY EGGS AND RYE TOAST! I was sad because I got to the bar at 4:02 and 4:02 used to be the time when Megan and I would meet when she lived here, but I was all alone, reading a book in a bar like a real dope, even though the book was a good one. Before his reading I told John that his second story put me in mind of Salinger somehow, and John's response was an expression of benign puzzlement. I left John's reading early (it was a long one, a doubleheader) and went back to City Grocery Bar, where I ran into none other than the aforementioned Ace Atkins. We were talking about Chandler when who should walk up but Tim Youd, the artist who is typing THE SOUND AND THE FURY at Rowan Oak right now! So I introduced him to Ace and they had a good conversation about Chandler. I can't remember what else happened, I guess that was it, no, something else probably happened.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Chickens of the North

"I met a chicken and managed not to eat it!" Kent exclaimed in the message accompanying this photo. You know how much Kent likes to eat chicken! So I salute his restraint. And yet I contend there is something shifty in his expression here. I believe Kent is in Alaska by now - last I heard he was on his way - but I have no idea whether this is an Alaskan chicken or a chicken Kent encountered earlier in his journey. At first I thought it was adorned with a fabulous crest such as perhaps only the chickens of Alaska sport, but then I realized what I thought was the crest is just part of the chair Kent is sitting in.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Please No Vulgar Language

Dr. Theresa and I went out of town to an awesome wedding this weekend! I did not take my little notebook in which I jot all my precious jottings whenever I go somewhere because it's not polite to jot things at a wedding! Also, I forgot. So the night before the wedding, at a kind of pre-wedding jamboree, I found myself wanting to jot something but I had nothing to jot with nor on. But Wright Thompson was there, and he is an ace reporter, one of the top sportswriters in the country. I mean the world! He is always getting on a plane for somewhere. I think he's in Mexico City today. I felt sure as such a man he would have jotting material on hand at all times! But he handed me his phone and said, "Text it to yourself." I had to admit that I did not know how to text something to myself. So Wright took the phone back and upon my return home I was pleased to have an email from him that consisted solely of this phrase: "The tail end of her vibrancy" - for that is the phrase I had wanted to jot. You see, also in attendance was the man who knew one of Bob Hope's mistresses! I bothered him for more details, because our previous conversation on the subject was cut short. He said that she was in her 70s when he met her and at "the tail-end of her vibrancy." They met at an art show that took place in "Elvis's old house" (!) overlooking Sunset Boulevard. She was still quite a jet-setter at the time, he said, and married to "one of the Avon Brothers." I do not know anything about the Avon Brothers. Who are the Avon Brothers? I think that's what he said. I didn't have my notebook. There had been a lot of bad weather on the drive, and we were all worried about the weather for the wedding - an outdoor wedding at a beautiful farm on the banks of a river. But the sun came out on the wedding day! And on the ride to the farm I even commented on the happy break. So of course as soon as we set foot on the farm - the very moment! - a scary line of clouds became visible over the horizon and we were suddenly blasted by Biblical winds, really terrifying winds (although, as Dr. Theresa pointed out, it was also kind of exhilarating, because you don't often find yourself standing in the middle of a wind like that), and then the lightning started, and soon thereafter the pouring rain. Most everyone got under the big tent where the post-wedding dinner was to be served and waited out the storm. Wright watched the Belmont Stakes on his versatile phone with a cluster of other interested parties gathered around him, and I had the pleasure of hearing Wright Thompson call the race and provide color commentary for the rest of us who were not close enough to see the tiny screen. The wedding was delayed for some hours, which I am sure was stressful for the bride, but we in the mob had a very cheerful time, as you can see from this photo of Tom Franklin and me, taken by Beth Ann Fennelly. As you can also see, I have just run through the drenching deluge across the flooded yard because that's where the whiskey was. And an enterprising young bartender whose tip jar was filling with rainwater! Here you see us enjoying drinks from personalized Mason jars, a pleasant souvenir of a memorable wedding. The sun was low by the time the weather cleared. The ceremony was lovely, the bride and groom were lovely, and a gigantic rainbow appeared! Oh, and I met a man named Zeus for the first time in my life. He was a guest at the wedding, an impressive figure in a black suit, a black cowboy hat, and a bright fuchsia necktie, a darkly handsome fellow, I would say, tall and mysterious - in short, worthy of the name Zeus. Imagine if your name were Zeus and you weren't handsome and mysterious enough to pull it off! On the drive back home we stopped at a gas station somewhere in Arkansas and a sign taped to the register said "PLEASE NO VULGAR LANGUAGE" which I found an admirable sentiment.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Radio Duck

"There's a reason they say, 'A duck takes to water like a duck.'" That's something I just heard someone say on the radio and I liked it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Brown Spots

Let's have a little roundup of everything that is exciting on the "internet" today! ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY has a clip of an upcoming ADVENTURE TIME episode featuring guest-star Peter Serafinowicz. I even wrote a song for Peter Serafinowicz to sing! That song does not appear in the clip. But I think it appears in the episode! Before you watch the clip you have to watch an ad: Jennifer Aniston hawking some kind of cream that erases your telltale brown aging spots. A natural sponsor for ADVENTURE TIME! Elsewhere on the "internet": a love letter to Megan Abbott, courtesy of the SLATE magazine. I found out about the article at last night's Good Idea Club meeting, where it was paraphrased succinctly as "Megan Abbott is the greatest genius ever," and we all agreed! We toasted on it! The reviewer is so flustered by Megan Abbott's powerful writing that he trots out Yakov Smirnoff and MATRIX references in a kitchen-sink attempt to express the totality of his appreciation - and he is charmingly embarrassed by the hopeless nature of his own efforts. A fitting tribute to Megan Abbott, whose work destroys all those who come in contact with it! In a good way! Later this month I will sit down with Megan Abbott at Square Books and talk to her in a public forum about her incredible new novel THE FEVER. Stay tuned! I feel in my heart I should illustrate this "post" with a photo of Yakov Smirnoff.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Beer Tastes Good

Just got back from the final meeting of Good Idea Club. "What is Good Idea Club?" you ask. And as always I answer, "Go to hell!" The inner workings of Good Idea Club are a secret. Just today McKay was asked to describe Good Idea Club on videotape and she said, "TURN THE CAMERA OFF!" She refused to go on. That's a true story! By McKay's reckoning I have probably already said too much! But I was walking down the street to Good Idea Club and the last purple light was in the sky and I ran into Jimmy. "Bats!" Jimmy said, pointing at the sky. And I looked up and saw three little bats with translucent wings chasing each other. "There's lots of bats at Faulkner's grave," Jimmy said mysteriously. He did not elaborate! When I got to Good Idea Club I wrote down what Jimmy had said on a torn-off part of a brown paper bag. We had champagne and pizza at the last-ever meeting of Good Idea Club. McKay used her grandmother's champagne glasses, which she had never used before. It was my favorite kind of champagne glass, the coupe. On many a New Year's Eve Dr. Theresa and I have had champagne out of a martini glass because it was the closest thing we had on hand to a coupe. But these were the real thing, and when we ran out of champagne we drank beer. Beer tastes good out of somebody's grandmother's champagne coupe. And that is all you will ever know about Good Idea Club and goodbye forever from Good Idea Club.

Brother Loon

Remember that movie I just watched with John Wayne, and he yells, "Evening, brother!" to an owl? Well, I just interviewed Ace Atkins for LENT magazine (read it by "clicking" here!) and in the course of the interview I mentioned that I had never read any of the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker. So Ace loaned me two of them and I finished one and have almost polished off the other and I feel I must mention that though neither of them have owls in them (so far), Spenser hears the call of a loon (the bird of that name, I mean) in one of them, and he speaks to the loon, just like John Wayne. He even calls the loon "brother." I can't say he yells at the loon. He appears to speak calmly to the loon: "'Right on, brother,' I said to the loon."

Monday, June 02, 2014

Watching a Guy Type

I was sitting here in my office at home, reading a Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker that Ace Atkins loaned me, when something in the book - I can't figure out what, though I went back and looked - reminded me with a start what I meant to do today: go over to Faulkner's house, where an artist named Tim Youd is retyping THE SOUND AND THE FURY. The sky was bright blue when I left, but on the very short walk it clouded up considerably and the birds were tweeting weirdly too, in my estimation. By the time I was making my way up Faulkner's walk, I felt like I was in a really different place. Then when I reached the porch steps I could hear typing coming from inside! It gave me a ghostly feeling. So I opened the door and there was the guy sitting at a replica of Faulkner's desk, retyping THE SOUND AND THE FURY on a replica of Faulkner's typewriter. I didn't want to interrupt him but he said talking to people was part of his thing. His plan is to type 100 American novels over five years. He's already done 25. He said he mostly does it in Los Angeles because that's where he lives. He got a good review, he said, for typing Bukowski's POST OFFICE in the parking lot of the post office where Bukowski sorted mail for 12 years. I almost mentioned Faulkner working in the post office here (which he quit because, if I am recalling correctly, he said he didn't like being "at the beck and call of every S.O.B. with 2 cents for a stamp") but I didn't. When he said he was working on the final two Chandler novels back home (having already typed the first five) I did mention that Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay of THE BIG SLEEP - no news to Mr. Youd, of course, who said that as a side project he is going to retype that screenplay at Musso & Frank's, where both Faulkner and Chandler used to drink. Which reminded Bill Griffith that they're going to have a mint julep party when Mr. Youd finishes retyping THE SOUND AND THE FURY. And that reminded Bill Griffith of a Faulkner detective story I have not read, in which the murderer is discovered because of his inability to make a decent mint julep. Mr. Youd talked about what he considered the disintegration of Philip Marlowe's code of honor throughout the Chandler novels. He also said that PLAYBACK, the final one, is a lot better than people say. It's the only one I haven't read yet, so that's good news. Of course, Mr. Youd also likes it, he says, because it's just 160 pages long. For easy typing! So go by and watch him type (he's there all week) and give him a friendly hello.

Sunday, June 01, 2014


There was a Burt Reynolds movie from 1987 coming on late last night so naturally I had to sit there and watch it, if only in memory of Burt Reynolds watching parties gone by. It was MALONE, and I saw right away that it was a straight-up (if unofficial) contemporary remake of SHANE. Instead of a little boy, they made the hero-worshipper a teenage girl (Cynthia Gibb, pictured, worshipping Malone). They also removed the mother from the story, resulting in the truly uncomfortable consequence of the hero-worshipping child taking on some aspects of the lonely prairie wife (I am sure you recall Jean Arthur making eyes at Alan Ladd in SHANE). That ain't right, I tell ya! Malone was like Shane with a really extraordinarily puffy hairpiece. But I guess SHANE wasn't good enough. Remember the guy who wants all the townspeople to clear off their land in SHANE? In this version, he still wants the townspeople to clear off their land but I'm pretty sure he wants to take over America too! It wasn't exactly clear what the bad guy wanted, but he had a big map of the USA in his office and babbled about patriotism a lot and had an army of assassins to do his bidding, so I think I'm right. Plus he had a henchman who was the spitting image of Leonard from NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Anyhow, they end the SHANE part of the movie twenty minutes early and Burt Reynolds spends the final twenty minutes just killing people. One guy he kills with a bale of hay.