November 30, 2010
It has come to my attention, and perhaps yours as well, that virtually everyone in the digital age considers him- or herself an artist. A glance at Facebook is like a trek through the Casbah, with so many people hawking their photos, their music, their writings, and so on.
How can a seasoned artist make a buck in such a climate? It was never easy, and it’s getting harder all the time, as the competition expands. Soon aspiring creative types will outnumber regular folk, who can only spend but so much money on things that—let’s face it—are almost always headed for permanent obscurity. Then, too, a lot of “artists” give their stuff away for free, leading audiences to think all creative output should be free, unless, for instance, it’s written by Jonathan Franzen, whose wealth must approach Illuminati levels if he charges by the metaphor.
The situation is only going to worsen, and where will that leave the artists—meaning everyone, since everyone’s an artist—of tomorrow? We’re looking at a Mad Max sort of world, except with a lot of hipster pussies; and if you’re honest, you’ll agree that we need to put a halt to this blight of creativity, and the younger we catch our budding bohemians, the better.
To that end, I hereby launch Failed Artist™ Books for Children. Each volume in the Failed Artist™ series will hopefully traumatize impressionable minds and promote staid values. I am myself a failed artist, and a friend to many more, so I’m uniquely qualified to author and illustrate the Failed Artist™ series. Below are the first three titles, sans illustrations, which I’m presently finalizing. Pre-order one or all three. The future of your child—indeed, the world economy—is at stake.
Jennifer is very pretty. See how pretty Jennifer is? Many people tell Jennifer she should go to Hollywood. “You can be a big star,” they tell her.
Jennifer thinks so, too. She goes to Hollywood and moves into a big house where a lot of other pretty girls live. They also want to be big stars, but Jennifer is sure she’s prettier than they are. She spends all her money on singing and acting lessons and tries to get a part in a movie.
But nobody gives Jennifer a part in a movie, and the lady who owns the big house says Jennifer will have to live in the street if she doesn’t cough up some money. How can Jennifer make more money?
She has a friend who knows how. “All you have to do,” her friend says, “is dance around a pole.” Jennifer doesn’t want to dance around a pole, but she has no choice. Strange men watch her dance, and some of the men are scary. How can Jennifer stop being scared?
Her friend knows how. “Take this white powder,” she says, “and put it up your nose. You won’t be scared if you put this white powder up your nose. It’s magic!”
Her friend is right. Jennifer isn’t scared at all. She dances and dances around the pole, for days at a time, and she talks and talks when she isn’t dancing. What does she talk about? Nothing! It’s magic!
One day Jennifer gets a call from a man who wants to put her in a movie. “It’s a great part,” the man says. “You’ll take off all your clothes and pretend to do things that mommies and daddies do. Then you’ll get killed with a hammer by a maniac who just got out of prison.”
This doesn’t sound like a great part to Jennifer, but she does what the man tells her to do. The magic powder helps. “I’m finally going to be a star!” she thinks.
But when the movie comes out, Jennifer doesn’t become a star. Almost no one sees the movie except for maniacs in prison, and they send Jennifer letters saying they want to kill her with hammers. Jennifer is scared. The magic powder helps.
Jennifer does a few more movies. She always takes off her clothes. She always gets killed with a hammer. She receives more letters from maniacs in prison, and some of the maniacs get out of prison and show up where she lives with hammers. That scares her. The magic powder helps.
Then people get tired of seeing Jennifer in movies. Even the maniacs get tired of seeing her. They send her letters that say, “We don’t want to kill you with hammers anymore. We want to kill new girls who have plastic bags sewn onto their chests.”
Jennifer has plastic bags sewn onto her chest, but people still don’t want to see her in movies. She goes back to dancing around the pole. She hates dancing around the pole after being in movies. She puts more magic powder in her nose than ever before, dancing and dancing and talking and talking for weeks without a pause.
One night, while Jennifer is dancing, she steps on a cherry. “That’s strange,” she thinks. “What’s a cherry doing on the stage?” Then she looks in a mirror and sees a big hole in the middle of her face.
“That wasn’t a cherry!” she screams. “That was my nose! The magic powder made my nose fall off!”
Jennifer tries to save her nose, but it’s too late. Her nose is smeared all over the floor. Then her boss rushes up and says, “Hey, nobody without a nose can dance around my pole! Get out of here!”
Now Jennifer lives in the street with maniacs who just got out of prison. Sometimes they attack her with hammers, but that’s only because they’re scared of the hole in her face and her plastic bags, which have burst open. She drinks magic grape juice that has turned her face purple, and her only friends are rats, who’ve given her a disease that makes shaving cream pour out of her mouth.
Remember how pretty Jennifer used to be? Jennifer remembers, too. “If only I’d gone to college and gotten a job like a normal person,” she thinks. But she didn’t, and you’ll look worse than Jennifer if you get any bright ideas about going to Hollywood and trying to become a star.
Wally, unlike other wolverines his age, had no interest in learning how to hunt. He just wanted to play guitar and dye his fur unnatural colors.
“That’s not going to get you anywhere,” his parents and brothers warned him. “You’ll never catch dinner by playing guitar.”
Wally scoffed and called them squares. They could never understand a rebel like him. It was only a matter of finding a few other animals who played instruments, he thought, and forming a band. Soon he met Ron, a rabbit who played drums, and Cal, a coyote who played bass. They rehearsed day and night, almost ready for their first show when Cal suddenly lunged for Ron, grabbing him by his pierced ears and tearing open his tattooed throat.
“Why did you do that?” Wally cried.
“I’m hungry,” Cal said. “Wow, he sure tastes great. You want the intestines? They’re the best part.”
But all Wally could think about was finding a new drummer. He put out the word and met Barry, a bear who played drums, using doe antlers for drumsticks. He was much too big for Cal to eat, and a much better drummer than Ron. Once again, the band rehearsed. Wally was sure it was going to be a hit.
But almost no animals turned out for their first show. Wally was confused. He’d promoted the show all over the forest, and so had Barry and Cal. Where had they gone wrong?
It turned out that a band of rattlesnakes had performed the same day. “Those rattlesnakes are terrific!” Wally heard again and again. “What rhythm! What a great sound!”
Overnight, the rattlesnakes became the talk of the forest. They booked shows in other forests, as well as swamps and deserts. Rattlesnake-mania swept the animal kingdom, and no beast—scaled, feathered, or furred—was interested in seeing Wally’s band.
Meanwhile, Cal met a lady coyote and started spending most of his time with her. He even brought her to rehearsals, insisting that she join the band. “She’s a wonderful singer,” he said. It wasn’t true. She was an awful singer, and when Wally and Barry said as much, Cal quit.
Then Barry left the band, too. It was almost winter, and he had to hibernate. “We can start again in the spring,” he assured Wally.
The rattlesnakes were also hibernating. “This would be the perfect time for a solo act,” Wally thought. Unfortunately, a few birds had recently formed a band, and those animals that weren’t hibernating preferred the birds to Wally.
It was a hard, cold winter, and Wally was hungry. Now he wished he’d learned to hunt, and he sought out his parents and brothers, hoping they would feed him. He found them one day as they were dining on elk in the snow.
“Well, well, well,” they said. “Look who’s here. And you probably want to have some elk, don’t you?”
“May I?” Wally asked.
“No,” they said. “We’re squares, remember? Now take your guitar and get lost.”
Wally died of starvation a few days later. His body instantly froze and thawed when the spring came, just in time for Barry to eat it. He was hungry after hibernating for the last few months, and after his meal, he started drumming on a tree with a pair of Wally’s ribs.
The sound of Barry’s drumming attracted a hunter, who shot Barry dead and cut off his head and had it stuffed and mounted. The rest of Barry’s body was eaten by Wally’s wolverine family, with insects eating what the wolverines didn’t.
Cal was the only member of Wally’s band to survive. He married his girlfriend, and they had a fine set of cubs. As responsible forest citizens, they no longer cared about music. They didn’t want to starve to death or have their heads cut off after being shot or end up in wolverine poop. That’s what always happens to musicians. It even happened to the rattlesnakes and birds.
You just think about that.
I am a book. I was fine before you opened me and woke me from a deep slumber. Why aren’t you watching TV or playing on a computer like other children?
Perhaps you like my illustrations. Is that the reason you woke me? Or do you expect me to tell you a story before you go to sleep?
Very well, I’ll tell you a story. It begins with a boy who read a book, the same way that you’re reading me. Everyone hated this boy. He deserved to be hated because he was unusual, and one of the unusual things he did was read a book. This led him to read another book, and another one after that.
Eventually, the boy decided he wanted to write a book of his own. It’s very hard to write a book, and the boy tried and tried, but he got nowhere. “Please, God,” he prayed. “Please let me write a book.”
But God hates unusual people, so he didn’t answer the boy’s prayers. Instead, the Devil appeared and said, “So you want to write a book, do you? Very well. First you must do three things: sell me your soul, sacrifice a small animal, and move to Brooklyn.”
The boy immediately sold his soul to the Devil, even though he knew he would burn in Hell one day. He also sacrificed his pet kitten, Fluffy. Fluffy was really cute, but he wasn’t so cute after the sacrifice.
Then the boy moved to Brooklyn, where every writer in the world lived. They were all very poor. They dressed in rags and lived in shacks and ate out of garbage cans, and sometimes criminals beat them up and robbed them of the little they had.
But they wrote books, so they were very proud of themselves. The boy began to write a book, too, stopping every once in a while to eat garbage. It took him a long time to finish writing the book, and when he did, someone wanted to publish it right away.
Trees were cut down to make paper for the book. Even baby trees were cut down, screaming in agony while their mothers and fathers watched helplessly before they, too, were cut down.
Then the book was published, and no one bought it, except for a few writers in Brooklyn. “I’ll read your book if you read mine,” they told the boy. The boy agreed, and he read one book after another about professors getting divorced.
The boy thought other people should be reading his book, not just writers. Of course, if he’d been smart, he would have known that writers, being unusual, are the only people who read.
Soon, one by one, all the copies of the boy’s book were marked for destruction so the paper could be used to publish more books about professors getting divorced. The boy prayed to the Devil to make it stop, but when the Devil appeared, he said there was nothing he could do. He told the boy to kill himself. “People might want to read your book if you’re dead,” he said.
It was the only chance the boy had to interest people other than writers in reading his book. So he threw himself in front of a train, which cut him in half. People were horrified, until they learned the boy was a writer. Then they danced for joy and went home and watched TV, as God intended.
No one read the boy’s book. Every copy was destroyed, and the boy burned in Hell. He’s still there, and if you listen hard, you can hear him moan as the fires consume him over and over again.
So there’s your story. Now shut me and put me back on the shelf, where I belong, or you might end up like the boy in the story.
Oh, you turned the fucking page, huh? That’s right, I said a bad word. Go ahead and tell your fucking parents, you little shit. They can destroy my ass for all I care. Nobody will care. I’m a goddamn book.