Last spring, shortly after my novel, Banned for Life, was published, my actor friend Jeremy Lowe sent me this photo via Facebook.
It was taken at LAX just before Jeremy embarked on a months-long tour of Asia, and the title of my book supplied Jeremy with a ready-made joke, since he was himself, in a sense, about to be banned (though not for life, since he’s now back in Los Angeles). Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess as to where that copy of Banned is now; Jeremy left it in a hostel in Thailand, where he hoped another guest would pick it up and read it.
Not long after I received the photo from Jeremy, I received another from my filmmaker-musician friend TJ Nordaker.
The photo was TJ’s way of saying how much he relished Banned. I was so touched that I wrote a post at TNB about the nine years that went into writing the book, which was largely an excuse to show off TJ’s photo, as well as Jeremy’s.
I wasn’t anticipating additional photos, but over the next several months, my collection grew. None of the photos were requested, which I thought would be cheating; and now, as Banned closes in on its first year in print (it was officially released on May 5, 2009), I thought it might be fun to share my archive, which—who knows?—may expand.
Now, before I continue, have to say that I was surprised at the support I received from my fellow contributors at TNB, who bought the book and, in many cases, publicly vouched for it. I was surprised because I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the back-stabbing, every-man-for-himself, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately movie business. In any case, Nick Belardes was the first TNBer to embrace the book, which he did at both TNB and Bakotopia magazine. That’s Nick below, peering above a Dagwood sandwich of volumes, with Banned (meat or cheese?) in the middle.
In a second shot published in Bakotopia, you can clearly see that Banned is in the company of other books by TNBers: Everything Asian by Sung J. Woo, and Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald—a galley in the latter case. When Sung saw the Bakatopia photos, he remarked that my book looked like it could beat up his book. I’d like to think that Banned would never have such an impulse, though he’s a big boy to be sure—too big, according to publishers who refused him for that reason.
Greg Olear is another TNBer who’s done much to help promote Banned. When he was interviewed by The Poughkeepsie Journal, for instance, about his then-forthcoming novel, Totally Killer, he posed for a photo with a stack of books by TNBers in the background, including Banned, whose binding can be divined, despite being out of focus.
Greg and I soon became friends, speaking often on the phone (he lives in New Paltz, New York, three time zones ahead of me), and I told him that I was afraid Banned would be off-putting to women readers, since its narrator, Jason, has a swagger that some might take as the mark of a jerk. Greg assured me that wouldn’t be the case; his wife, Stephanie, he said, was presently enjoying Banned, and he forwarded a shot she’d snapped of herself at the Jersey shore.
I was further heartened by Nicole, an Arizona resident and TNB reader who not only posted the below photo on Twitter, but dedicated, in a tweet, a song to Banned: “Seeing Red” by Minor Threat. (Peewee, one of the characters in Banned, was, in Jason’s words, insane about Minor Threat.)
Minor Threat was fronted by Ian MacKaye, who went on to start Fugazi, and I had an exchange with TNBer Meghan Maguire Dahn about Fugazi, in which she memorably commented that one show she attended “was so loud I was inescapably aware of all my internal organs – and I inventoried them.” She kindly supplied this photo when her copy of Banned arrived. It was taken at work, she wrote me, after I asked if it was taken at home, wanting to believe that at least one writer has an office so professional and organized.
Meghan lives in Connecticut. Meanwhile, in Seattle, TNB reader Kymberlee also provided photographic proof of Banned‘s arrival, which she posted on my Facebook wall with a caption about snuggling up in bed with the book. I hope it kept her awake—a rude sentiment for anyone but an author, and even then.
TNBer Zara Potts has been a good friend to both me and the book, and she posted this still life in the View from your Phone section here at the site. It was taken in Auckland, where Zara makes her home, so, even though I’ve yet to make it to New Zealand, at least Banned has traveled Down Under (including Australia, thanks to Simon Smithson and my friend Daniel Bernardi).
Last Christmas, Zara visited her hometown, Christchurch, where she snapped a shot of Banned in a bookstore. Later, she told me, she went to the store again, and the copy seen below—the store’s last copy—had been sold. It had some reputable neighbors on display, including John Irving, Anne Tyler, Nicholson Baker, and Alice Munro. But, Zara, is that a bogan in the upper right corner of the photo? It couldn’t be, right? A bogan in a bookstore?
In addition to its international forays in Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, and England (thanks, James Irwin), I know that Banned has also materialized in South America—Brazil, to be exact—care of TNB reader Alexandre, who, in the spirit of Zara, posted the below photo here at the site. As ever, Banned shows up with Pop Salvation and Totally Killer, but this time Franny and Zooey joins them—and, interestingly, I remember Alexandre making a comment on the TNB tribute to J.D. Salinger.
Elsewhere, on TNBer Matt Baldwin‘s shelf in San Diego, Banned and Totally Killer are in cahoots yet again. I see that T. C. Boyle and Raymond Chandler are well represented—but, Matt, what is Fresh Kills about? Given my dark side, I may have to read it.
I only recently became aware the below picture, which my friend Jeannie posted at dailybooth.com, where she was maintaining a photo journal (since abandoned) of her current reading fare. In pondering the photo, I wonder if she was biting the book out of affection or, vampirically, to convert it. Or did she mean to digest the book, beginning with the letter B; or was it only the letter B she found worthy of eating? The picture lends itself to a number of interpretations.
Some have requested Banned as a gift, I’m humbled to say. My friend Connie, for example, from Bakersfield (where Nick and Jeannie likewise live), asked that one of her sons give her a copy for her birthday (which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day), and when he did her bidding (clearly knowing what was good for him), I was rewarded with the shot below. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Banned looking so relaxed.
Then there’s my friend Jon of Providence, who received Banned from his sister for Christmas. I’ve mentioned Jon at TNB, though not by name; in my piece about the Manson murders, “3301 Waverly Drive,” he was the guy who asked me to drive him to the former home of Sharon Tate when he made his first trip to L.A. in the summer of 2008.
I’ve also written about my friend Wade at TNB, in a piece entitled “The Assholes.” He’s a musician—his band, A Thousand Dozen Gloves, is terrific—and he travels quite a bit, and at one point Banned was a frequent companion; in fact, judging from the below photo, it may have been a stowaway.
Then again, the following photo establishes that Wade took the book out of his bag on the plane, so he must have known it was there. Or maybe he was just annoyed with it for sneaking inside his bag, and so placed it in the penalty box, so to speak, forcing it to smell his shoe for the duration of the flight.
In all seriousness, though, Wade has been a steadfast advocate of Banned. He read it twice, as did my blood brother (or so we once decided we were) John T. Woods, who’s an actor. (Check him out in a webisode of Bitter Lawyer.) He’s also smart, charming, and handsome; and when I moaned at one point last summer that nothing seemed to be happening with Banned, he posted the below photo on Facebook, urging his FB friends to buy and read it; and naturally, since the recommendation came from John Woods, at least one woman complied. Dude, you make a blood brother proud!
Around that same time, I did my first bookstore reading (at Stories, in my neighborhood, Echo Park) with Brad Listi, and that night my friend Gianna took a number of photos, including the one that follows of me in action. Yes, that is a bookstore—or, to be specific, it’s the patio behind a bookstore—and, yes, I am in fact reading from a copy of Banned, though it’s a far-away blur.
Below is one of the copies of Banned sold that night. I think this particular copy is being held by my friend Charlie, who now spends most of his time in Spokane, though I don’t know if his copy of Banned is now in Spokane with him. We unfortunately haven’t spoken since a party at Christmas, when he stranded our friend James by wandering off drunk with James’ car keys—which is very like something that might happen in Banned.
Finally, the photo below was posted on my Facebook wall by TNBer Gloria Harrison of Portland, Oregon. It shows her daughter, who’s obviously pregnant, writing a valentine to her inamorato, who’s reclining with the puppy, while Banned happily plays a minor part in so sweet a scene. Gloria’s caption for the photo was as follows: “There’s a metaphor here, but I can’t quite tease it out. Something about being a pregnant teenager about to have a baby… I’ll work it out.”
You know, most novels sell well under 1,000 copies, and I think there may now be 500 copies of Banned in the hands of readers—most sold, some given away—and that’s a far cry from what I’d naïvely imagined for the book’s prospects a year ago, and yet, for the most part, where Banned has gone, I daresay it’s been loved. I’ve received wonderfully inspiring messages from friends, acquaintances, and strangers, and they’ve meant much to me, whether photos were attached or not.
Meanwhile, when I read with Brad last summer, he presented a copy of Banned for me to sign, and I remember including a message to the effect of: “If this book ever does anything at all, it will have been because of you.” I was referring to TNB, which, of course, Brad started. I had no forum for getting out the word about Banned, except that Jonathan Evison suggested that I write to Brad about becoming a TNB contributor, and Brad accepted me, based on Jonathan’s recommendation and, perhaps a little, the fact that I’d briefly met Brad at a reading in L.A.’s Chinatown a couple of years prior—a meeting I was sure he wouldn’t recall, though he did.
I mention this because it’s not just the first anniversary of Banned‘s publication; it’s also the first anniversary of my arrival at TNB, and what a year it’s been.
Where’s Banned? Banned is home, wherever that may be, or so I think as I post these words at home; and I’m grateful—and much obliged, as we used to say in my native South—to everyone at TNB who’s made it one.