Saturday, February 14, 2009

Keepin' It Real (Now with Footnotes)

I’m a big fan of what my friend The Novelist (obviously not his real name) refers to as the “stunt memoir.” You know the kind, the books written by folks who choose to spend a year living by as many of the laws laid out in the bible as possible (1) or visiting the sites of presidential assassinations (2)(giving new meaning to the moniker “Deadhead”) or buy a piece of artwork created by the late Andy Warhol (3)(4).

Top of my list right now is the soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture-blog-turned-book-by-author-who-scored-a-seat-at-the-Iron Chef-judging-table stunt memoir Julie & Julia and here’s why. Julie Powell, the Julie of Julie & Julia, makes no bones about why she started the project and that—without question—she was engaged in a project (5). It’s why I like what A.J. Jacobs did (though I would never do it) and what Sarah Vowell did (I would have totally gone shotgun) and the book Richard Polsky wrote (6).

The stunt memoirs that irk me are the ones that mask themselves as complete and utter accidents. Books where poetic and meaningful life lessons came into the world by pure happenstance. “I was on this intensely personal and healing journey and only realized later that my travels through India with $5.00 in my pocket and a single Hershey Bar might help others put their lives together. What luck that I have a photographic memory and can remember the transformational conversations I had with everyone I met during that year.”

Um. No you didn’t.

1. The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs
2. Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell
3. I Bought Andy Warhol, Richard Polsky
4. Yeah, that’s right, I’m footnoting in a blog post. I’m a nerd.
5. You'll notice I didn't say book project. Just because someone decides to spend a year picking pennies up off the sidewalk doesn't mean they're writing a book...though, wow, I hope they are.
6. See…if you didn’t check out these handy footnotes you have know idea what books I’m talking about. Footnotes are good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Way Cool.

OK. So we’ve already established that Gerard Way is very, very cool. Rock star. Comic book writer. Fantastic.

What’s funny is that I’ve never really had the rock star fantasy. I never had the delusion that I would one day be performing before a sold out crowd at Wembley Stadium or have a video on MTV (since I grew up in the days before reality television took all the fascinating unreality off the station). But I have had one rock music fantasy.

Music writer.

I can’t explain to you the pangs of jealousy and admiration that I experience when reading someone like Chuck Klosterman (Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story & Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs are must haves for anyone who wants their bookshelves to have that I’m hip enough to be anti-hipster vibe) or Rob Sheffield (Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time – best read with a box of tissues nearby and a “something-in-my-eye” excuse at the ready).

I mean, just picture it. Someone comes up to you at a party and says, “What do you do?”

And you reply, “I write for Rolling Stone.”

Or, “I’m working on a book about the Sex Pistols.”

I mean sure, you could try saying, “I’m a superhero.” But I’m thinking that would result in an entirely different party experience.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bif! Pow! Bam!: Part II

Continuing this idea of people with cool dual careers…you know who else is cool?


No, not Batwoman…even though right now she’s the blogosphere’s favorite red-headed lesbian superhero talking point (I know…it’s kind of a niche fandom) because she’s taking over as Detective Comics headliner. The other red-headed femme bat—Batgirl.

And not even Batgirl the comic book character per se.

No, I'm talking about the Batgirl that Yvonne Craig brought to the trippy Technicolor small screen Batman for just 27 episodes between 1967 and 1968. Episodes like “The Entrancing Doctor Cassandra” which featured Ida Lupino as Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft.

The Batgirl with the kicky theme song that included the how-could-you-not-love-this line, “What is your scene baby, we just gotta know.

The Batgirl who was introduced to the world with the following: “Gotham City, like any other large metropolis, abounds in girls of all shapes and sizes - debutantes, nurses, stenographers... and librarians.”

That’s right. Yvonne Craig’s Barbara Gordon was a librarian and a superhero. A librarian. And a superhero.

It’s a book geek’s dream…especially if said book geek also devoted a good portion of his grad school time rolling around in the fabulousness that is feminist literary theory and you came across this little gem.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Biff! Pow! Bam!

I am a big fan of the graphic novel and an occassional fan of the comic book.

Right now I am obsessed with the fantastic Gerard Way comic The Umbrella Academy. If the name sounds familiar (or even if it doesn't) Way is the frontman for My Chemical Romance whose video "Welcome to the Black Parade" will give you a pitch perfect idea of the tone of Umbrella Academy and the artwork done by Gabriel Ba.

But you know what this means right? It means that Gerard Way is a rock star and comic book writer. He is the coolest guy on the planet.

No. Really. I mean it. He plays rock music and writes about superheroes.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Accidental Mitzvah

I have a fondness for hardcover books. A fondness that causes me to damn both my bank account and the limited shelf space I have at my disposal.

But I've discovered that some of my hardcover purchases count as accidental good deeds.

Proceeds from Michael Chabon's nonfiction Maps & Legends will benefit the 826 National, a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization with locations in seven cities across the country. The various 826 locations operate behind fictional storefronts: 826 Brooklyn is a Superhero Supply Co.; 826 Chicago is The Boring Store; 826 Michigan is The Robot Supply & Repair Co.; 826 Seattle is the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company; 826 Valencia is a Pirate Supply Co.; and 826 Boston is The Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute.

A portion of the proceeds from Scott Douglas's Quiet Please, Dispatches from a Public Librarian will benefit 826 Los Angeles...the Echo Park Time Travel Mart.

I know, it's not the same as donating a kidney or volunteering at a homeless shelter, but it's something.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Get a Room (Or a Cab)

Sitting on the train this morning, reading Sara Roahen’s book Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, my relative peace was disrupted by a couple who boarded the crowded train under the mistaken impression that they were characters in some delightful romantic comedy. They stood in the center of the train (directly beside me), holding the upper rail while pressed face-to-face (which the young woman involved found to be the absolute height of fluffy pink rebellion) giggling and teasing one another.

But they were not in a movie. They were, instead, kind of annoying and could only have made me more uncomfortable had the young woman’s overstuffed bag been hitting me in the head instead of the head of the poor woman in front of me.

It was then I read this line in Roahen’s chapter on the culinary platypus the Turducken, “More mornings than not in New Orleans, I wake up vaguely nauseated.”

And that, my friends, is synchronicity.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

You don't scare me. Much.

At what point does a case of writer's block metasticize itself into a full blown phobia? As in, it's not that I don't have anything that I want to be writing about but, instead, just can't seem to bring myself to start a new project.

Interestingly enough, I can't seem to locate the proper name for a fear of writing. I found: dendrophobia (fear of trees); anablephobia (fear of looking up); genuphobia (fear of knees); papyrophobia (fear of paper); and thaasophobia (fear of sitting).

I did find graphophobia...but that's a fear of writing or handwriting as opposed to the act of writing. Scriptophobia is a fear of writing in public but, again, that's not quite it.

Maybe the person who was supposed to write it out had a case of writer's block.

Or they suffered from nomatophobia. Fear of names.