Rebello’s Advice On Getting Published

Snoozie's Trattoria
Snoozie's Trattoria

Johnnie Rebello sat farting into the vinyl-covered corner booth cushion of Snoozie’s Trattoria. Dark-green upholstery, table top made of scarred railway ties, web-wrapped five-and-dime vanilla candle flickering in a desperate attempt to disguise the digestive fumes.

“So let me see if I got this right,” he said. Rebello squinted mean eyes through the cigar smoke he blew in my face. I recognized the ashy cloud as a challenge of sorts. I was certain that Johnnie had seen the gesture in some cheap mafia movie, because the bookshelf hanging on the paneled wall behind his fat head was filled with old VCR tapes of Sicilian mob fantasies.

“These two guys,” he said, “these two literati punks told the editor-at-large of some fish-wrap local rag that your story was — whatdya call it? — melancholy — that the right word? Too sad for an audience that lives in a happy part of the world where no one ever sneezes loud or has bad breath. So you murdered the story and now you want me to bring justice into an unjust world. How exactly?”

“That’s almost right, Mr. Johnnie.” I knew I sounded silly calling him Mr. Johnnie, and he knew it too, I’m sure, but the scene was written before we met, and I figured who the hell was I to change the master’s screenplay. Probably he got it from off the same dusty shelf where he kept his cigars and celluloid entertainment.

“It’s like as if they put the scalpel in my hand and told me to cut off all the meat and leave no blood behind if I wanted them to arrange it on the public plate,” I said. “So I did like they insisted. I trimmed the story down to cud and bone, and they sent my meal back to my kitchen.”

“Couple of mixed metaphors crawling around in there, but we can discuss that weakness another day. For now, just tell me this. These inkmeisters allowed the reading public in Happyland to go hungry cause they didn’t like your presentation?”

“No, Mr. Johnnie. Not that. They just served the crowd another chef’s meal.”

“Did you taste it? This other cook’s food? Was it any good?”

“I prepared filet mignon. He made them liverwurst and mayonnaise on white bread.”

“But the mayonnaise wasn’t melancholy, now was it?”

I hung my head and half-closed my eyes in an attempt to seem humble if not downright ashamed of myself. “Like always, Mr. Johnnie, you got right down to the heart of the matter.”

“It’s all right, kid. Mind if I call you kid? I mean most people don’t think I’m the kind of man who’s read Graham Greene. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve got problems with gas, or maybe it’s this fancy trattoria that makes ’em think I don’t know good literature when I read it.” Johnnie lifted his left butt cheek, let off some steam and sighed. “So, okay, kid. So maybe this time round the busboys ate your steak while the honored guests feasted on liverwurst. But there’s always another recipe waiting to be born.”

“Hey, I like that last line. Could I maybe use it in my next story, Mr. Johnnie?”

“We can hash out a contract tomorrow. One-time rights I might consider. But today let’s discuss this problem you’re having with melancholy blood. I can tell you this much right now; only those who own passionate appetites enjoy blood for dessert.”

Johnnie snapped together two of his chubbiest fingers, and a waiter in a dark-gray, shiny sharkskin suit skittered over to the eight-track player that sat on the bar. He pushed a few buttons until Pachebel’s Canon filled the air and complemented the cigar smoke and neon-orange glow that buzzed from the blinking OPEN sign that hung in the wide picture window. I blinked through the haze, stared out the window and watched a Ford station wagon pull into the parking lot and stop in front of the barber shop across the way. A tall pale man wearing a short-sleeved polyester shirt got out of the car. He walked into the barber shop, in spite of the fact that his head was completely bald. I considered making the mystery behind that scene the major plot point of my next story. The station wagon I understood. But why a polyester shirt?

“Thanks for the background music, Rudy,” said Johnnie. “It’s a good song, kid, isn’t it?”

“One of a kind, Mr. Johnnie. But it lends itself to melancholia.”

“That and lost lust. Maybe that’s what you want to cook next. Lost Lust a la Mode. Fuck Happyland and mayonnaise, kid. They’re not your target audience. I mean you understand why Happyland’s population prefers liverwurst to filet mignon, don’tcha?”

“Not really. I gotta tell you, though, it wasn’t justice I came in here looking for. But then, you knew that. You always seem to know the end of your stories before you write the first sentence.”

“It’s all about experience, kid. And experience is a matter of intellectual eyesight. Some people think that because I’m kinda fat and old-fashioned — and because I spend most of my time sitting in this vinyl-covered booth — that I don’t see things for what they are. Like as if I don’t know the difference between liverwurst and beef. But you came in here looking for an exegetical explanation as to why your story was rejected.”

“Exactly, Mr. Johnnie. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“And you don’t want no steenkin’ critique, am I right?”

“No way, because –”

“Because critiques are all about encouraging imitation.”

“You sure are literary, Mr. Johnnie. I’ll bet you’ve read all three thousand pages of Proust.”

Johnnie lifted his right butt cheek and smiled. By the bubbly sound he muffled into the booth I could tell that at that moment he was feeling happier than anyone in Happyland could ever pretend to be. For one swift Proustian second I understood the difference between Johnnie Rebello and the bald guy in the barber shop.

“So let’s compare,” said Johnnie. “Your protagonist and the one the winning chef created. How were they the same?”

“They both became dead soon after the first paragraph. They both sired wannabe writers. They both were loners in a lonely world.”

“Differences?”

“One was fat, the other was thin. One was poor, the other one thought he was poor even though he lived in a bland middle-class suburban neighborhood.”

“So okay, Marcel. Mind if I call you Marcel? Let’s get down to the business of melancholia. Both of these heroes were quick turning dead, and death is a lonely business.”

“So you’ve read Raymond, too?”

“Don’t change the subject. I know we’ve reached the painful part of this session, and Pachebel’s crescendo isn’t helping to lighten the mood, but if you want the public to eat your next meal and then lick the plate for more, then you’ve gotta stop lying by way of omission.”

Johnnie snapped two different chubby fingers together, and Rudy came running.

“Roberta Flack this time, Rudy. Killing Me Softly.”

“I think that tape skips somewhere, Mr. Rebello,” said Rudy.

“That’s all right, Rudy. Better to have lust and lost, as my dad used to say. Have I told you about my dad, kid? He’s dead now, of course, but man that guy could cook a crab and toot a horn.”

“Sounds like a good story.”

“Singing my life with his words. You understand that line, kid? Tell me, how’d your rejected story end? On what note, exactly? On a scale of Happyland to Melancholy, where did your story land?”

“Well, I guess the ending was sad. I’ll admit that much. I mean a man dies and leaves behind a son who wants to be Henry David Thoreau wearing muddy work boots as he traipses through a back-bay meadow.”

“And the winning chef?”

“More Russell Baker than Henry Thoreau. Background music described but unheard. No mud. No bay. No meadow.”

“There you have your answer, kid. In Happyland you can write about death, but you can’t expect readers to admit its odor.”

Secrets

Paul Monette
Secrets Kill

I read a lot of books these days, because writing won’t come easy. The fact is that writing won’t come at all.

I’ve grown too old to meet my ancient dreams of publication inside an empty corridor and welcome them with cliched open arms.  At my age, at least for me, dreams move backward in time. You hug yourself in the middle of the night and recreate the past. The second that you begin to wonder why, you switch the scene and imagine a different dream. Sometimes you sleep; most times you just forget.

One hope I entertained when I was in my thirties was to become business-like about, if not immune to, criticism of my writing. A story is no more than a product goes the flatulent wisdom so many gurus dispense to unsuspecting fools and willing customers alike. Push one out and then another. Don’t waste time contemplating a publisher’s unpredictable decision.

Maybe the poor girl felt constipated at the very moment she leafed through your manuscript, unable to relieve herself in time because her boss was in the bathroom, and anyway she had a crush on him and wouldn’t want him to think she had to poop. So instead she pooped on you, but not on you, on your story; because your story didn’t fit. This time. Maybe next time when the crush man isn’t next door dreaming her into bed, while she’s trying to settle her stomach by way of mere wiggling.

So get on with the next story. Forget the first one and the second. Matter of fact, stop counting.

But all of that ersatz wisdom is just empty advice. And too much advice abounds. And yes, I enjoy the word ersatz. Ersatz is art. Pretend is pedestrian.

Scene One: Two potential lovers bump into each other in a narrow corridor. They blush as they brush. Against each other. A slight brush, mind you, because it’s got to be about anticipation. The act itself rarely lives up to the first-draft rendition.

Art Ersatz walked out of the bathroom and into the narrow corridor. He was careful first to let the toilet finish flushing, so she wouldn’t wonder what he had been doing.

She was Pedestal Pedestrian, the slush pile reader. Art hired her just so he could one day blush and brush with her.

When they bumped, brushed and blushed, Art opened his cliched arms.

“Oh, Art! Your arms! I adore your open arms!” said Pedestal.

“You fit within the crux of them today. Want to get published with me?”

“Couldn’t we just anticipate for a while longer, Art? Can I call you Art? And didn’t you mean to say crook?”

“Sure enough, Peddy. But before we meet again, please delete the exclamation points. Exclamation points are verboten nowadays. Frank Conroy used to teach his Iowa Writers Workshop sycophants the sinful nature of exclamation points, although he ran amok with the same inside his arty masterpiece, Stop-Time.”

“Are you finished in the bathroom, cause I really gotta go.”

If I followed guru-given advice, I never would have written that scene. To tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but a lie, I wouldn’t be writing anything at all, because the pronoun I is as verboten nowadays as is Art Erstaz’s elevated exclamation points.

And next march forward the readers, the critical fans, the self-made editors with their own flavors and tastes expressed in one-part harmony.

“Oh, when is something going to happen? You know, happen. No one wants to read literature or poetry, and certainly no twenty-first-century, action-packed, numb-minded reader will accept the notion that writing can be art.

“No, no, no. No art for me. Give me Thomas Harris’s blood-soaked nightmares of frantic female prisoners held in tunneled dungeons by sadistic serial murderers who favor moths and butterflies over real sex. Or better yet, hand me a book by an award-winning nonsense man whose protagonist shoots people in the head with an airgun. Now that would make a great movie, yes. And by the way, can the word film; the notion is affected and the ticket price exorbitant.”

All good advice, and sure to water down the work and relieve a reader’s tension.

So instead of writing stories or otherwise poetic verse, these days I re-read books that once meant much to me.

This past week, I re-read Paul Monette’s Becoming A Man. I first read Paul’s story during the 1990s, when television images of men invaded by viruses resembled the alien forms introduced in 1950s’ Science Fiction flicks of fear. All about the nervousness of nuclear holocaust. While school teachers dressed in polka dot blouses taught us children to kneel and cover our heads when the siren sounded, flying saucers swirled and dipped toward Earth in black and white. Seamless doors swished open, and skinless creatures crept across the swamp and sauntered into suburbia, there to imitate us and at last to conquer our bland existence.

Paul Monette lost. First one lover, then another, and at the end himself.

Becoming A Man, I think, was his final book. And yes, it’s art. And yes, again, the story he told employed the first-person pronoun, as well as all manner of points exclaimed.

But this second time I read Paul’s book not to figure out a virus, nor to visit with an alien. Instead, I read and wondered how and why. How does a dying man — Paul died of AIDS not quite three years after his last book’s publication — find courage, much less reason, for writing about his own deterioration?

I am old now. My death will not likely be so exotic as Paul Monette’s, but just as sure, and equally inexorable will be the passage from now till then. I, however, can find no reason for writing anymore, not about life or about death.

A few days ago, I sat with a friend, cups of coffee and curiosity on the table between us. She told me that she couldn’t live without believing in an afterlife. In times past — distant history — I’d have mocked in silence her faith in such a messy manuscript. Today I admit my envy.

I don’t believe in god or in a heaven or hell, except in those manifestations I see and feel while still alive. So, unlike Paul — and perhaps unlike my coffee-table friend — I chuckle at the notion that from on high I’ll look down to see a man or woman reading a book I wrote. No. What I wanted and failed to produce was a book that I could see held in another person’s hands before I died.

There was a second reason I re-read Paul’s book, another reason that had nothing to do with his sex life or his viral invasion. I read to better understand the nature of keeping secrets. Secrets kill. Secrets kept and secrets revealed; they kill us from the inside out.

I’ve written much about being abused by my mother as a child. And I’ve been roundly criticized for writing about the subject.

First of all, it’s true that many people cannot understand the sheer brutality, the blood and the haunting that follows a person’s footsteps forward and into the grave.

My mother beat me with a strap, tied me down, hung me by the neck until I began to turn blue, bit my hand so hard that she left puncture wounds that resembled those made by a wolf, slapped my face black-and-blue, and then forced me to tighten back the tears for sake of an act to show a visiting neighbor or relative.

But the Brownie photographs with scalloped borders show otherwise. There I sit around a kitchen table with my mother smiling adoration for me and my younger brothers. There I kneel before a sparkling Christmas tree, surrounded by gifts, Lone Ranger’s guns, Mickey Mouse’s ears, Howdy Doody’s freckled face.

And so those of my readers who view those pictures become maddening gurus all over again, dispensing Art Ersatz’s fatuous advice. Leave it in the past, they tell me. How could you possibly limit your writing to such subjects?

Secrets, that’s the how of it. Because although the ranch house, tiny box of a prison, in which I grew up owned open windows, if not open arms, in summertime; although my screams for help soared through window screens; although my face bore the wounds, my eyes the sadness, my heart the hopeless sinking. Although all of that was true, everyone around me decided to honor my mother’s secret, that she was mad.

And how far different from my own forced secret was Paul Monette’s? Two different flavors. Paul’s a Sexual Sahara; mine a Tortured Tarantella. Both a form of suicide.

So I cheer Paul Monette, but not for his preference in lovers. I applaud him for the courage he owned, the courage to can the exclamation points, to forgo the gurus, to put the I inside the art and to write until the end.

Turning Error Into Art

Hawker Hurricane
The Art of War?

When I was a young child, I used too much glue whenever I put together a model airplane. I could see the fine details—the erect plastic nipples on each tab A, the receptive bellybuttons on each slot B, the ridges, the cutouts and the seams—but I couldn’t manage the combination of patience and coordination required to apply just enough pressure to the tube to release a tiny droplet of epoxy. Instead, I squeezed too hard, and clear sap leaked all over the wing, jammed up the landing gear and blurred the pilot’s windshield.

It’s not easy to wipe glue off plastic. Paper towels are useless—they tear and shred, and leave unattractive tatters of themselves behind—and cotton cloths aren’t much better. The glue thickens as it breathes, so you have to wipe fast, although even with a rapid swiping motion you can never get to all of it before scar tissue forms on the fuselage. Still, I tried my best to make my models neat and clean.

I used paper towels on the B-52, and cotton cloths on the Hawker Hurricane; and then, out of frustration with the inevitable, smeared deviation from exactitude—and out of respect for the Spitfire’s legend—I tossed the towels and cloths and I developed my own method for turning error into art.

I unscrewed the cap of the next soft-metal tube, pinched its bottom end, then rolled my thumb and index finger along its body, from foot to nozzle, over and over again, until all of the tube’s transparent blood oozed, seeped, ran and coated the model’s surface. Next, with the tip of one finger, I pressed, pulled and drew the thickening glue into a level sheen, as if I were painting the airplane without a brush. When I got it all as smooth and even as I could, I used an artisan’s razor to etch a few signature details. A bolt of zigzag lightning on the nose, the rough outline of a seductive lady under the window, my initials on the tail.

These lines that I drew folded in on themselves, changed course by force of gravity, and all but disappeared as the glue congealed like tired lava and then dried and flaked like a bad skin condition; but I knew what I’d meant to say by slicing them there.

My friends and brothers laughed at the results of my experiments. Back then I could not absorb ridicule any better than glue, so I gave up building the machines of war. I threw away the B-52, the Hurricane and the Spitfire; and in a fit of passive, inward temper, I declared that I’d hated airplanes all along and that I much preferred the force of nature to the power of weapons.

And yet, you cannot stop a spy from guarding secrets, nor keep a determined athlete from his sport, and so I soon replaced my glue-and-plastic art form with another exercise, this next adventure more forgiving of a young boy’s errant glance toward what delights him. I took up digging for Saturday-morning worms to use as lure for mindless catfish fed and swimming in the lake that lies below the highest hill in Bronwell Corners. I traveled muddy paths through wooded marsh at sunrise, filled my lungs with the erotic aroma of rotting vegetation, spied the flick and swoosh of rabbits darting through the reeds, nicked my fingertip on the sharp point of a fishhook, sucked the blood and cast the line.

I sat down beneath a canopy of maple leaves, listened to proud cardinals singing, and felt the summertime shadows run through me. I stared beyond the grassy bank, slipped off my shoes and socks, pushed my legs forward and let them dangle over the edge. My toes touched and then broke the lake’s cool surface. I shivered as the red cedar water tickled my ankles. I closed my eyes and imagined that a raft made of tree limbs and thick vines floated just a few hundred feet from where I rested.

A tall man dressed in a burlap toga, and wearing a straw hat on his head, rowed the raft. He smiled at me. His teeth were white and his eyes were yellow. When he’d moved the raft nearer to the shoreline, the man threw me one end of a vine.

“Tie me up, boy,” he hollered. “I have something to say to you.”

I stood up, grabbed the strong, green rope and tethered it to the tree trunk behind me. I tugged hard at the vine, letting the slack fall in circles at my feet, until the raft floated close enough to the bank that the man could jump ashore.

“You fishing or dreaming, son?” he asked.

“A little of both, I guess. It’s better than building model airplanes.”

“That’s why I’m here, boy,” he said.

I think my expression told him that I felt puzzled, because the tall man shook with a round belly laugh and then went on to explain what he meant.

“Was it the glue or the ridicule that drove you to dangle your feet in red cedar water?”

“I never really liked airplanes.”

“But you enjoy the aroma of rotting vegetation, and the flick and swoosh of rabbits reminds you that you can run like a frightened beast. That’s right, isn’t it? Flick and swoosh is what you called it, no?”

With that the man again began to laugh. This time he laughed so long and hard that he seemed to lose his wind. I watched as he chuckled and snickered, giggled and groaned, sniggered and roared, before he fell to the ground in front of me and rolled side to side, all the while holding on to his middle.

“I won’t ask you why you’re laughing at me,” I said.

I glared at the tall man and I waited. Eventually, he lay still and seemed to regain his composure. He looked at me through watered eyes and winked.

“I know that,” he said. “I know you won’t ask. You won’t even ask me who I am. I’m a little bit of God and a little bit of Jim the slave. I’m the poet you think you are today, and the craftsman you might not become tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to become you,” I said.

“Of course not. Not now that you see that my hat is made of straw and my toga isn’t seamless silk. You thought I’d be sporting a black beret and quoting windbag Whitman, didn’t you?”

“I told you, Mister, I don’t want to become you. I never wanted to become you. I don’t even want to know who you are.”

“I’m a bad-boy poet, son, and I work hard to earn a living. Sometimes I squeeze too much glue along the seams, but I’m too smart and too foolish to take up fishing. If you want to hitch a ride on the raft, then you must leave the windblown, black-beret attitude behind you. You’re too young to sound like a prophet and too old for plastic-model tantrums. And scar tissue, son, scar tissue is part of surgery, so get used to it,” he said.

“I don’t understand you,” I said.

“I think you’ll want to pull in your line now, then tomorrow return to etching zigzag lightning on the nose and a seductive lady or two under the window. There’s not much meat on even a well-fed catfish.”

And then the tall man left me sitting there alone.

Written in February 2000

Rules, Read Them, Then Resist Them

Bridge To Nowhere
Find Peace Wherever You Can

“To get your ideas flowing, start by surfing around the writing blogosphere.”

A few days ago, I read that bit of advice on a writer’s web site. That writer writes about — on her “blog,” that is — about . . . yes, you guessed the answer . . . she writes about writing; or “blogging,” as so many people seem nowadays to name the practice.

Some people seem to think that “blogging” about what other “bloggers” are “blogging” makes for a captivating “blog.”

More power to them. No one needs me to point out the fact that there’s room for everyone here, nor to explain that here is not a place at all.

Just me, perhaps, but I find the type of “blog” that is in essence a series of links to other web sites, with a few blasted cartoons grabbed and copied from the ether, along with a few quotations from popular quotation sites, boring, derivative in the extreme, unoriginal and not worth the time required to read them.

If I want cartoons, I don’t need you to capture them for me. If I find myself in need of a quotation from a famous person, I know where Bartlett lives, so I don’t need you to provide a map to Bartlett’s castle.

But that’s just how I think.

And I’m not adverse to considering other people’s opinions on the subject. I’m just opinionated, as are you, no matter how much you deny it. Yes, Virgina, we’re all full of opinions. The pertinent secret is that a person oftentimes is best advised to keep a particular opinion private, at least long enough to allow for listening to what others say. After listening, then shoot away, but not the other way around.

Rules. Yep, there are many “blogospherical bloggers” who are not only willing, but who are as well just dying to give you a list of rules for effective “blogging.”

So I’ll give you mine. Why not?

1. Can the word “blog,” as in don’t use the word. The word writing is a fine word as it stands. Will the world heed my advice on this one? A definite nope. Still, as a writer, I can write whatever I want to write, so long as I do not intend to incite a hostile argument or even worse. And I promise you that today is the last day I’ll use the word “blog” on this web site. Silly word.

2. Write about whatever you want to write, and post it to your web site (and yes, the term “web site” obviates the need for using the word “blog”). Come on, repeat after me, “Blog; the word sounds much the way a person’s nose sounds when it’s gurgling goo.”

3. Include a famous quotation if it seems essential and therefore relevant to the subject about which you are writing, but please, spare your potential audience an article that features a string of remarks made by other people dead or alive. We want to read what you have to say, not what The Bard, or Burroughs, or C.S. Lewis had to say. Exception: If you’re writing about The Bard, or Burroughs, or C.S. Lewis, then quote away.

4. By all means include a cartoon or a photograph snapped or drawn by someone else, if it seems essential and therefore relevant to the subject about which you are writing. But please, spare your potential audience an article that features a string of other people’s cartoons and photographs, drawn or snapped by people other than yourself, dead or alive. Exception: If you’re writing about a cartoonist or a photographer, then copy and paste away.

5. Resist following the advice of other published writers, as to how you should write or what you should write, at all cost. Those who frame their stories around constructs invented by published authors are the people responsible for the flat sameness that haunts our twenty-first-century bookshelves, touchable and digital alike. Unless. Unless your goal is publication above all else. If it’s publication you want, and not much more, then by all means imitate, regurgitate, negotiate and dilute with gurgling goo.

6. If you read what someone else has written and posted to a web site, then please comment if you are of a mind to do so; writers crave response. BUT! Comment on the writing, or on the subject matter, NOT on the writer as a person.

7. If you post an article, story, essay or mere rumination to your web site, welcome comments about your writing and comments about the subject matter of your article, but refuse to accept comments that are aimed at you as a person. Matter of fact, DELETE the highly personal comments. Comments aimed at the writer are reflections of the intellectually poverty-stricken people who post such comments, and not a reflection of you or your writing.

8. Realize, as in admit, that your opinions are just that. Some readers find your writing interesting. Some readers find your writing drab and uninspired. Just refuse to allow those who are disinterested in your writing, or those who find your writing uninteresting, to stop you from writing the way you write. You want to write about angst? Write about angst. Chances are good that the reader who recoils at the subject hasn’t suffered angst the way you have; that reader simply equates his experience of sadness with yours, and thinks that his opinions are shared by most every other reader. Read William Styron. Or don’t.

9. If you want to propose the invention of a new word or phrase, then do so, but make it clear to your reader that you are applying for such a patent. For instance, there is, as yet, no such thing as a “literature-oriented” writer. If you mean to describe a writer who prefers what nowadays is commonly referred to as “literary” writing, then say so.

10. Resist proposing hatred in any form. No one is kidding anyone here. Each one of us hates something. But if it’s a particular political party that causes you extreme discomfort, then write about your reasons in a reasonable manner. If it’s organized religion that gets your chivo, then write about what yanks your goatee in a well-trimmed fashion. Please, though, understand that proposing the organization of a new political party comprising atheists, agnostics, and radical haters of organized-religion, or haters of Republicans, or haters of Democrats, or haters of vegans, or whatever, is proposing that we spread more hatred throughout the land. Recent events in Tucson, Arizona should suffice to convince any reasonable person that we’ve had our fill of hatred.

11. Never write a list that includes just ten items.

I welcome your comments regarding how I wrote this brief article. As well, I’d enjoy hearing what you have to say about the article’s subject matter. If, however, you write a comment that is aimed at me the man, I’ll delete your words.

Finding Forrester In The Evening

William Forrester
"The firsht rule is that a writer writesh!"

Two films with writers as central characters, same silly story.

Finding Forrester, 2000

Sean Connery plays brilliant, Pulitzer-Prize-winning, washed-up author William Forrester. Featuring yet another great hairpiece for Sean, that and his ever sexy lishp.

Rob Brown plays God-given talent Jamal Wallace, kid from the streets of New York who dribbles a mean basketball and rat-a-tat-tats an even meaner set of typewriter keys. Of course, no one knows the answer to the age-old question, “Are writers born inside a bubble made of miracles?” But after watching this film, your insides are sure to swell with the resounding answer “Yes! By God, yes!”

Conflict point numero uno (all good stories require seemingly insurmountable conflict points, right?): Sean Connery Forrester — and let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this production could have earned much cash if say, Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin played our aging author — and Jamal, oh what a perfect up and coming name made in Liberal Heaven, Wallace meet by chance. If memory serves me well, Mr. Pulitzer finds himself in possession of the kid’s backpack, and the kid wants the backpack back.

Jamal requests Forrester’s help, although his strong sense of dignity forbids the possibility that he beg for such assistance. Mr. Hairpiece resists. We the audience, especially we writers in desperate search of inspiration, know that Sean William Forrester suffers the dread disease known to authors from F. Scott to Capote to Lil’ Ole Us as Writers’ Constipation.

Forrester has for so long born this backup that he’s become a recluse (another oh-so-original idea regarding burned-out and all-but-forgotten scribes).

I refuse to include a spoiler here, but one pivotal scene requires, yes requires that I comment. Sean Pulitzer sits before his typewriter. Jamal Meanstreets sits at his typewriter. The two stunning authors face each other. Sean begins to tap tap tap. Jamal hesitates. Sean asks Jamal, “Whatshthematter?” He goes on to tell Jamal, “The firsht rule for a writer is that a writer writesh!”

Oh, woe is I? That before watching this film I wasted so much of what might have otherwise become my stellar career seems an unintentional mortal sin! After all, I coulda’ been a contenda’.

Starting Out in the Evening, 2007

Early In The Evening
"You want to bed my mind?"

Frank Langella plays brilliant, washed-up author Leonard Schiller whose books are out-of-print. No fine hairpiece or sexy lishp featured in this one, just a flabby old man who still owns a well-toned mind, but we are treated to a hidden away photograph of Frankie, aka Leonard, when he was young and irresistibly hunky.

Lauren Ambrose plays God-given talent Heather Wolfe, rich, cute and erotically inspirational child (as in makes even an old man want to bed her for sake of the afterward intellectual conversation) from the mean quadrangle of your typical Ivy League University who hugs you because she loves your intellect and records the depth of a washed-up author’s personality in one helluva Masters Thesis. Of course, no one knows the answer to the age-old question, “Are writers born inside a bubble made of miracles?” But after watching this film and juicing up over Heather’s sensitive flesh, your insides are sure to swell with the resounding answer “Yes! By God, yes! I think I’m coming!”

Conflict point numero uno (all good stories require seemingly insurmountable conflict points, right?): Frank Langella Schiller — and let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this production could have earned much cash if say, Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman played our aging author — and Heather, oh what a perfectly delicate name made in Hubba Hubba Heaven, Wolfe meet by less than chance. If memory serves me well, Heather Hubba Hubba pursues Frankie, slithers first into his confidence and then into his bed (just to stare, not to touch, mind you) in order to commit research for her thesis.

Heather requests Schiller’s help, although her strong sense of dignity almost forbids the possibility that she beg for such assistance. Mr. Flabby resists. We the audience, especially we writers in desperate search of inspiration, know that Frank Leonard Schiller suffers the dread disease known to authors from Hemingway to Hellman to Lil’ Ole Us as Writers’ Constipation.

And of course, Schiller has for so long born this backup that he’s become a recluse (another oh-so-original idea regarding burned-out and all-but-forgotten scribes).

I refuse to include a spoiler here, but one pivotal scene requires, yes requires that I comment. Leonard Langella sits before his typewriter. Heather Hubba Hubba sits in the next room over, yet engaged in intimate contact with her mentor’s soul, pad of paper and magic pen in hand. The two stunning authors face each other through the ether. Leonard begins to tap tap tap. Heather hesitates. Leonard asks Heather, “What? You want to go to bed with me? Flabby old brilliant moi?” He goes on to tell Heather (with his soulful stare and not with words, mind you), “Well, all right, but remember that you cannot always interrupt me this way, because the first rule for a writer is that a writer writes!”

Oh, woe is I? That before watching this film I wasted so much of what might have otherwise become my stellar career seems an unintentional mortal sin! After all, I coulda’ been a contenda’.

So why do I call these stories silly? And why if I thought them silly did I watch them?

Second question answered first (this is a favorite trick that we writers born carrying the burden of God-given talent employ; it’s called Reverse Agitation).

I’m a sucker for a story about writers, even writers whose sexy lishps, Hollywood hairpieces and flabby bellies belie the reality of a writer’s boring life. After all, and as I already said, I coulda’ been a contenda’. And yet I’m not.

First question answered next.

In neither of these two films are we allowed to see or read the supposedly exquisite, award-winning and poetic prose that any of the four main characters wrote. I oftentimes tap away, or scratch pen point onto pad of paper, but somehow my writing isn’t award-winning material.

Oh woe is I! Maybe I should have been born tall and quick enough to dribble a basketball, or sexy enough to bring brain-dead authors back to life just by suggesting that they go to bed with me.