Friday, September 09, 2011

Words On Paper

You're living for nothing now,
I hope you're keeping some kind of record.

Famous Blue Raincoat: Leonard Cohen


E@L has had several great out loud laughs in the last few days. Not least was induced by this photo he found on Joanne's I Have Seen The Whole Of The Internet blog-like funny thing aggregator. You know, the type of blog that gets hits. He can't put the photo up here or he'd just keep giggling and not finish the post...


And the other bunch of guffaws, many of them embarrassingly public, were from reading Steve Hely's winner of the award for the least subtle book title of the year,

How I Became a Famous Novelist
How I Became A Famous Novelist.

Hely is a writer for 30 Rock (love it), Family Man (not seen it) and The Office (US Version, not seen much of it, but it's funny), and you can certainly see the type of idiosyncrasies of many of the characters in these shows in the characters in this book. That is a GOOD thing, because, well, E@L laughs out loud at the idiosyncratic characters in 30 Rock. So he is the target demographic here.

Plus, natch, he had been planning on being a famous novelist himself one day. Soon. -ish.

The book rams a hot satirical skewer up the arse of the publishing industry (possibly, well, for all E@L knows about it, Hely could be completely making it up) and not to mention the banality-loving mouth-open-when-they-read public (E@L has sinus issues) that keeps the industry tearing down trees and polluting the rivers and oceans with run-off from the pulp mills for fun, profit and entertainment. Dumb readers. Out there. In general. Not you. Not me.

It's a hoot. If you do nothing else, grab a copy in the airport bookstore (they still have them?) and turn to the charts on pages 42 and 44, at the end of Chapter 2. Hely has written a facetious NYT best-seller list; it is an hilarious send-up. Guffaw 1.

In Chapter 3 he lists his guy's - Pete Tarshaw - 16 Rules Of Writing a Bestseller. E@L is not going to run through them all here as that would be, like, a spoiler. More like copyright infringement. OK, except for these two.

Rule 9: At dull points include descriptions of delicious meals. Guffaw 2.

Rule 16: Include plant names. Guffaw 3.


True story. At one point in time, E@L was preparing to consider getting ready to start making notes for his N-word [not *that* n-word] yet again, and thought, fuck, in all these books you read the people must be, like, fucking botanists! He thought, fuck I've gotta flesh out (as it were) the strip-joint and b-j stories with something else, like, um, nature walks. There's nature in Hong Kong, right? There are mountains, hey, must be nature somewhere nearby.

He remembers getting bugged by all these red-bodied dragonflies buzzing over his pool, or swarming halfway along Bowen Rd path and wanted to, you know, make it seem like he knew about dragonflies the way Nabokov knows butterflies, for the N-word. So he went looking up names of the many types of dragonfly in Hong Kong.

He kids you not.

Phew, enough of that shit now. "He saw a lot of dragonflies. They were near trees and some flowers. On the mountain. "


Pete's goal is to get famous quickly so he can turn up at his ex-girlfriend's wedding the next year and show them all that he is not a loser. E@L is not going to tell you how well that plan turns out. Comedy, right? So he spends several months banging on his typewriter, and hey presto - famous. Or infamous, whatever, no such thing as bad publicity...

Two points of order, Australians (the groom-to-be in an Aussie) do no called rugby "rugger". They call it rugby. Neither, when cheering do they shout "hurrah!" (wtf? - is this Goodbye Mr Fuck And Chips?), but "hooray!" (or "Oi Oi Oi").

Other than those minor points, the book is an epic of hilarious literary slapstick. OK it gets a bit hokey at the very end, (Rule 6: Evoke confusing sadness at the end), but then, you know, endings... and beginnings.

Pete Tarshaw was not a blocked writer though. He already has a way with words, he churns out brilliant faux applications for foreigners who desire the prestige of America's ivied universities. So sit and write? Can.


The movie Limitless, another case in point.

Eddy is a self-proclaimed writer who has been not writing a book for 9 years. Not one word. Sit and write? Cannot.

Now, a few chemicals and he pops a great book out in four letters-falling-from-the-ceiling days.

E@L wishes. It takes him four days to finish a paragraph, a sentence, sometimes just a word.


The best modern book on this theme, well the best E@L has read and can remember, is John Colapinto's (4.5 stars on Amazon)

More about About the Author
About The Author.

In this one, Cal is supposed to be a writer, but expends all his energy on stories he tells of his sexual shenanigans over dinner parties, and in the end, never puts words on paper. His quiet cycle-riding flatmate Stewart has been taking it all in... When Stewart dies in a crash, Cal finds a manuscript in his flatmate's room, a brilliantly written novel that contains all the tales that Cal has been telling, the ones that he was supposed to writing in his novel.

E@L read this one in Hong Kong. E@L told his buddies how much he liked the novel, but their response was unexpected, though it should have been expected. They wanted E@L to keep telling them those stories of his outrageous action-adventures in the underbelly of the expat elite (in the what?!), and they would write it down as a novel and sell it as their own.

E@L of course did not believe them, just as Cal did not even know that Stewart was capable of writing, but it did stimulate him to start a blog. He thought it best to get some of the stories down, as a copyright sort of thing.

But he would save the best of these stories, the one's he thought were the funniest and that meant most self-deprecating in most cases, for the N-word.


And you know, E@L is getting old. Sure he looks great and jovial, sprightly, adventurous (he wore no underpants when he walked up to the shop last night - he forgot to put them on) and still young at heart. [Heart? let's not talk about cardiac disease in the family, OK?]

Realistically, unless some medication comes his way, the N-word will not eventuate. If only for the fact that he has too many good buddies now and too much of a social life.

Well is he is feeling old. And he is feeling that every second word he types is misspelled, that all the 'i' before 'e' stuff that he used to be so pedantic about is gone, and that ellipses in his all sentences. Sorry, that *there are* ellipses in all his sentences. He feels that his hands are too slow for his brain, or his brain too slow for the keyboard, or that the letters on the keyboard are jumping around in order to confuse him.

So he is sitting and writing them down now, all the inappropriate stories he has only ever told over dinners in mixed company, all the best ones.

The Taiwanese sumo wrestler story, the Cheshire Cat story, the getting rolled by a hooker with metal staples in her tits story, the first-time rim story, the two Mongolian girl's story, the nearly got a b-j in a bar that doesn't find that stuff amusing story, some Bangkok stories (the "oh, don't tell me you're a man" story, for example), some Singapore stories. He used to say that in his first two years in Hong kong he had already tallied up more *interesting* stories than he had in his previous forty years. Well, he's been in Asia for more than 13 years now...

He is writing them down before he forgets them, before he has to dig out a thesaurus to look for a word that means 'thesaurus' and before he has to Google everything, everyfuckingthing.

People tell him he is not so funny any more. Maybe he has lost his sense of humour. The rest of his senses can't be far behind.


p.s. E@L's friend Mike McClung, aka Mercer Machine, has been head down and arse up recently too - writing that means, working hard ai it. He has a heap of fantasy stories coming out all over the place. Check his blog for details.

( Hang on! Doesn't a heap have to be all in one place, sort of, you know, by definition?)


My favorite version of Raincoat, Tori Amos from the Tower of Song tribute album. Apologies for the corny video.

1 comment:

Michael McClung said...

It's not a heap, just a backlog :)

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