I Have Returned

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

I Have Returned
Pictured: Not General MacArthur

I'm back, fuckers! Did you miss me?

Today has been mostly devoted to housework and the like, and I fear the next few days will be sort of spotty vis a vis posting, given that I have family currently en route from the hated Logan International Airport to my little town, and they'll be here through the holiday. But I've already starved you for #content, and the last thing I want is for you to wander off and find some other website to enjoy, so I intend to do my level best to soldier on as best I can until things well and truly settle down next week.

ANYWAY. I have just concluded a week spent in the company of family, under the shadows of palm trees, with tropical breezes on the wind and waves crashing in the near distance. As is my wont during these weeks, I did a lot of reading and also imbibed a bunch of beer. Most of the beer was very disappointing, but I was not upset, because I accepted it as a reminder that nothing is perfect, nor should it be; when one is loafing in paradise, one should be required to deal with at least a handful of annoyances.

(I am pausing here to note that the list of annoyances in question does not need to include a poolside rendition of "Kokomo" courtesy of the one-man synth band hired for the evening's entertainment, and yet it fucking always does.)

It's creeping up on ten o'clock as I write this, so rather than try to be genuinely creative, I'll just tell you what I've been up to on the cultural consumption front, a little about where I think I'm headed on the creative front, and ask you a question that might seem silly but is actually rather serious. Here we go:

Reading: I still haven't finished the collected short stories of Mark Twain, but while I was away, I decided to hit the pause button on that and read some other stuff instead. Here's what I picked:

Gong This Book! The Uncensored History of Television's Wildest Talent Show, by Adam Neff. As readers of a certain age will already have surmised, this is a book about the behind-the-scenes story of The Gong Show, the delightfully cheesy "talent" show produced and hosted by TV impresario Chuck Barris. Having watched untold hours of Gong with my parents as a kid, I was eager to find out more, especially in the wake of later revelations regarding Barris' possible (but likely made up) exploits as a CIA agent; the book did not disappoint.

You Like It Darker, by Stephen King. I have a long-running tradition going with my dad — whenever King releases a new book, I buy him a copy, and then I buy one for myself. I had this new short story collection sitting in my queue for a few weeks prior to my trip, and was excited to dig in after finishing Gong This Book! Very, very different reading experiences, obviously, but this is a pretty solid bunch of stories, and you get the added bonus of an extremely belated and totally unexpected sequel to Cujo in the bargain.

Glitz: A Novel, by Elmore Leonard. I figured since I was going to be on or near a beach, I should read something extremely pulpy, and given that I'd never read any Leonard prior to this trip, I accepted what seems to be the consensus pick for his best work. Very good shit, for the record, and a story that put a pretty big (albeit very indirect) bug in my brain regarding the direction for my next novel.

Watchers, by Dean Koontz. Similar to Leonard, I was a total Koontz novice a couple of weeks ago; similar to Glitz, I settled on Watchers because it seems to be the consensus pick for his best book. Having read Watchers, I don't know if I need to delve any further into the Koontz oeuvre; it's a solid enough read, but it didn't do much to shake my uninformed opinion of this author as a poor man's King, and although it does boast a certain amount of emotional impact — as all stories about golden retrievers must — it's also distractingly dependent on reams of uninspired dialogue. There's also one reeking whopper of a terrible love scene.

Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops, by James Robert Parish. This one does, as they say, what it says on the tin: It's a compendium of behind-the-scenes stories regarding some of the most infamous whiffs in Hollywood history. I'm not done with it yet, but I've already learned more about Cleopatra and The Chase than I ever knew I needed to know. For example, were you aware that Marlon Brando had what amounted to his own private Tahitian island?

Watching: I didn't watch anything while I was away, because international streaming rights agreements are a pain in the ass. Well, that isn't entirely true; seeking to break up the monotony of doing bunches of crunches and push-ups, I did spend a lot of time watching old General Hospital episodes that were edited down to focus on a 1986 storyline about a well-to-do doctor who fakes his own death to punish his wife and the man she's having an affair with (and who he also suspects of having stolen his family fortune). While hiding out in a nearby town, he meets and instantly falls in love with another woman. It's all here and I highly recommend it.

On the flight back, I finally got around to watching Richard Linklater's Hit Man, starring the currently unavoidable Glenn Powell as a fictionalized version of a real-life college professor who moonlighted as a part-time pretend hitman for his local police department. If you have Netflix, it's delightful and undoubtedly one of the best pieces of licensed content the service currently has going for it; if not, you don't need to lose any sleep over losing the opportunity to watch it. In a different era, it might have been a massive box office hit. Alas.

After finishing Hit Man, I watched the first half or so of Remembering Gene Wilder, which is exactly what it sounds like — an appreciative and evidently at least mildly comprehensive overview of Wilder's life and career. I haven't yet reached the '80s, when Wilder made the string of shitty comedies that prevented me from caring enough about him to watch stuff like Silver Streak when I probably would have appreciated it most.

Elsewhere: The most recent episode of the Record Player gave me an opportunity to blab at length about Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats — and my love of Nilsson in general — in the exceedingly good company of Mayor Matt Wardlaw and our very special guest Peter Lubin.

Around the Corner: Reminder that my debut novel arrives on the 24th of THIS HERE MONTH. I'm also in the early stages of compiling material for my next non-fiction book, which I promise to discuss here as soon as there's more to share — and I also spent a couple of hours yesterday banging out an outline for the next novel, which will be a humorous yet cynical detective story. I'm envisioning it as a sort of modern Chinatown with jokes. I hope that description makes you smile, because I'm itching to get started on this thing — I want to see the protagonist, middling private eye Marion Largo, in action.

Last item! I spent the last week dealing with a relatively low yet persistent level of guilt regarding my absence from this space, yet I am also aware of the fact that I continually struggle to keep up with newsletters I subscribe to which publish on a far less prolific basis. Given that I'm about to start juggling at least two book projects, I'm really wondering how you feel about the six-posts-a-week schedule I've been more or less maintaining since January. Is it too much? Not enough? Just right? I'm trying to give you the biggest bang for your buck — especially those of you who are actually spending actual bucks here — but I also don't want to overwhelm you and/or clog your inbox. Cast your votes below, and I'll see you back here tomorrow.