Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Old Man and the Sea(foodery)

Hey everyone, sorry it's been awhile. I've been traveling for work to places like Cocoa Beach, Florida, where, outside of my hotel window, there was a pratically-lifesize plastic replica of a pirate ship which spouted water as it basked in the hotel pool and play-area, just next to an indoor/outdoor thatch-roofed bar called Rum Runner's or Caribbean Jack's or Margaritatown Pub and Seafoodery, or something like that. I didn't get much sleep because there were small metal speakers landscaped into the courtyard. They played 70's cocaine ballads by bands like Steely Dan and Chicago 24 hours a day.

Anyway, I will give a full update of my life and travels when I get back from San Diego next week (including an assessment of my first red-eye travel experience, coming up this weekend. Preview: "It's Monday and I'm really tired."). Also, I have a fun story about how I saved the life of one of my favorite old-school punk rockers while on my way to a Keys to the Streets of Fear show in Brooklyn.

In the meantime, if all the press about James Frey hasn't actually driven you to become addicted to drugs and still holds some interest for you, check him out on Oprah today as she performs the talk-show equivalent of a novocaine-free root canal on Frey's soul. Or, just read the highlights on Gawker.

Also, today is the Old Man's birthday. He's 30, which I guess means we'll have to start calling him the Very Old Man. Happy Birthday to my very special Very Old Man.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Different Hoaxes for Different Folkses

I’m still sorting out my thoughts on the literary trickery perpetrated by James Frey and JT LeRoy, brought to light in the media these last two days. My initial reaction is: Fantastic! It’s about time the lit community did something interesting and scandalous, for chrissake. Jonathan Franzen may bemoan the lack of celebrity in American letters, but more juicy frauds like these could finally land contemporary writers the ignoble acclaim their Hollywood counterparts have been enjoying for years.

I think Laura Albert (the likely author of the work of JT LeRoy) is a great writer, and James Frey an okay one. I think the publishing industry is largely a gimmick-driven sham, and that the market for literary writers is shrinking in favor of novels written at a fourth grade reading level (i.e. chick-lit and Harry Potter). At some point Frey and Albert, unsuccessful as fictionists, decided to stop struggling and give the people what they want. At some point, Frey and Albert realized that what people want is stories about kids doing drugs and being raped and beaten; stories of human misery and violence and suffering. Of course, it would be too French to admit we like the rapes and the beatings enough to stand alone, so give it all a very American ending paved with the riches of a full recovery, major royalties and a movie deal. They fed us our fairytale and we ate it right up.

Some people say (and I agree) that art is a mirror held up to society; a sincere reflection of all that is beautiful and hideous about us. JT LeRoy is a celebrity artist who never existed. That is brilliant beyond my ability to express it. James Frey took a work of fiction no one would publish, changed its genre to memoir, and landed a book deal with the most prestigious literary publisher in the country. Art meet society. Now touch gloves. That is called playing the game, my friends.

If it can be said that art expresses (or tries to express) some kind of truth about human experience and existence, then it seems, on the face of it, that James and JT have betrayed us all. But if you want to make the point that a truth of existence is that everyone’s a big fat fucking liar, maybe, just maybe, they’re onto something.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bad Back / Bad Book / Dancing, Flesh-Eating Corpse

I've returned to work for the New Year with high spirits and a wrenched back. On Saturday, I went to a party attended mainly by University of Iowa graduate students, and young organic farmers from Van Buren county. The grad students were harmless, of course, but the farmers, used to bailing hay and wrestling cattle, were perhaps a bit overzealous in their approach to the basic swing step. Luckily, my paralysis on Sunday morning was only temporary and I am now just left with a fading reminder of my similarly fading youth.

In other news, I have a double book review published in this week's issue of Boston's Weekly Dig. I've wondered lately if it's somehow in bad faith to be involved in the publishing and reviewing of books, then I remember how little either pays, and wonder, instead, why I didn't go to law school.

UPDATE: My dear friend Janaka, aka J. Cannibal, aka The Hotness, is profiled in this week's Dig. You may remember his other profile in The Boston Phoenix a few months ago. I would venture to guess that he's currently Boston's most profiled poet/undertaker/burlesque-dancer which makes him famous. Congratulations on being famous!