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.

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D. R. HANEY is the author of a novel, Banned for Life, and a nonfiction collection, Subversia, the inaugural publication of TNB Books. Known to friends as Duke, he lives in Los Angeles.

216 responses to “Introducing the Failed Artist™ Series of Books for Children”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    Brilliant, is all I can say. But then, you know I’ll like anything that makes fun of both Franzen and Brooklyn.

    The ironic thing is, these books, if they existed, would probably sell.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Well, RichRob won’t like the Franzen line, that’s for sure.

      As for the ironic thing, I’ve been slowly putting this post together for weeks, and I showed it to a friend on Thanksgiving, who said, “You really ought to consider trying to get these books published. I think they could be your first success.”

      His phrasing underscores my inspiration for writing this post in the first place. I think “bitter” may be a more apt characterization than “brilliant,” though I’ll of course accept “brilliant” and thank you for it.

      • Greg Olear says:

        You could also do a Suicide Series: Baby Plath, Baby Hemingway, and so forth. “Sylvia and the Oven,” “Ernest Goes to Ketchum,” “Elliott’s Broken Heart,” etc.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Not, hopefully, to sound like a know-it-all, but I did consider taking such an approach. I even looked for cartoons of Sylvia with her head in the oven or Poe dying in the gutter, assuming that such cartoons exist. They must, right? But I couldn’t find any, so I went the “original” route.

          I did find a knock-off of “The Scream” with a cat, which is what I used as the archive image.

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Duke,

    I would like to buy a copy of Jennifer Bombs in Hollywood.
    also Wally and his Band of Losers
    also I Am a Book.

    I would like them in hard cover, please.
    Thank you for your kind attention.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Well, since you’ve even gone to the trouble of italicizing their titles, I’ll gladly place you first in line. But the prices are a bit exorbitant, I’m afraid. New publishing company. No funding and that kind of thing.

      • I would also like a copy of all three books in hardcover. You can send them to any address in the world because we all know that no matter how hard we try, none of them will ever reach me. Your last book is somewhere in Scotland. The first is somewhere in Korea. So it goes.

        The funny thing is that these books would probably sell pretty well in conservative circles. Those people love scaring kids “straight.”

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yes, how convenient that the books don’t exist, therefore can’t reach you. And it’s curious that you and Irene are both insisting on hardcover. I definitely saw Jennifer as being in hardcover, with a glossy finish.

          Oh, and I was parodying conservatives as much as just-add-water artists, in case that wasn’t implicit.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Duke,
          I do insist on hard cover.
          I’m willing to pay for it.
          They will be classics one day.

          • D.R. Haney says:

            I’d like to think so. And I put some time into the covers, so I think they deserve to be in hardcover, and I imagine the artists whose work I ripped off would feel the same.

        • I got it, but people usually don’t like parodies of themselves. I just don’t think that conservatives would really get it. They’d take it seriously and foist them on kids.

          Hardcover’s definitely the way to go with illustrated books.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I had quite a bit of (insipid) anxiety that a lot of people wouldn’t get it. But the jury’s still out. And, you know, if it were possible, I probably would gather a team, including an illustrator, and try to put out one of these titles. I might be able to handle the illustrations myself, though it would involve a lot of time.

          My God, this is a literal-minded comment!

        • Irene Zion says:

          Which artists did you “rip off,” Duke?
          I thought you said you created the covers as well as the content.
          Confused in Miami Beach.

        • I say go for it. At least try to produce one of the books and see if anyone will publish it. I’m sure you’ll get yourself a movie deal with Disney in no time. Hey, I bet Johnny Depp could do the voice of Wally…

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Irene: I was joking about having created the covers. I put them together, but I didn’t provide the illustrations. It would’ve taken a lot longer to do, though I’m capable, I think, of doing it. Also, I’d need a scanner, which I lack.

          David: Yeah, Disney. Perfect. And Johnny Depp would have no problem with providing a voice for me. (How paranoid is it that I think one of the “meat puppets” may well have stumbled on that piece I wrote? But it is possible, don’t you think? Especially knowing, as I do, the vanity of actors.)

        • I wonder how many hits that took. When I posted a Beatdom blog about Johnny Depp buying Jack Kerouac’s possessions the website was flooded with visitors. It seems his name is a great way to snatch web traffic. Or maybe it’s just Depp himself, searching his own name all day.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I can’t get any closer to the comment, Dukey,
          I am devastated that you are not an artist as well as a writer.
          I believed you, again.
          I need reality training.

        • Irene Zion says:

          No more of my sentences will contain the pronoun: ” I .”
          That was embarrassing.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I am an artist. I just didn’t produce these particular illustrations. But, you know, if you need reality, that does give me an idea for a new book.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Dukey,

          Besides being a published, famous writer, what kind of artist are you?
          I really don’t know, so you have to tell me.

          • D.R. Haney says:

            I can draw photorealistically. I used to paint, but I don’t have time to paint anymore. Portraits, mostly. I’ve said before that I like the novel as a form because it’s really, at heart, an art of portraiture, just as acting is an art of portraiture.

            And a famous writer? That’s much funnier than anything I wrote in this post. I’ll remember that when I throw myself in front of a train, as per the boy who moved to Brooklyn in I Am a Book.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Dukey,

          Bitterness does not suit you.
          You have two well-received books published and many devoted readers.
          There are oodles of people who are very envious of you.

          (You may not ever again repeat the train thing out loud, or even think it.
          That edict comes from me, but I am stronger and more powerful than I look.)

          You can delete this, if you think it’s inappropriate or harsh.
          I’ll understand.

          • D.R. Haney says:

            It’s not inappropriate, and it’s not harsh, though my bar in both areas is set fairly high.

            I don’t think bitterness suits anyone, though I sometimes hear its siren lure.

            I’ll take you at your word that you’re strong and powerful — you’ve got five kids, after all! — but I think you’re overdoing it with “oodles,” as well as “very.” But that’s all I’ll say, since to argue further — however realistic I think I’m being — will undoubtedly read as bitterness, when I’m trying (and no doubt failing) to be funny.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Duke,

          I also hear its siren lure, so I know about it.

          You are funny, but sometimes there’s an edge of satire that is a bit scary.
          Comedy needs to be at that edge, though.
          My bad.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          You know, I personally think all art (to overuse the a-word, as seems to be my wont today) has to have that kind of edge. That’s what I’m always looking for, both in the things I write and consume: books, records, and so on. There’s got to be that pungency, if only a touch of it, in order for me to fully respond.

          But here I am getting all serious and stuff. That’s something else that seems to be my wont today.

  3. …sell me your soul, sacrifice a small animal and move to Brooklyn — I laughed so hard I coughed (I’m getting over being sick, but still…)

    When I was told by the “Occupation Possum” who came to our school when I was a kid, that I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up, these books could have really helped me.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’m fighting off a cold myself, and how immodest would I sound if I said that I laughed until I coughed while putting this thing together? Though the piece is so mean, I felt kind of guilty about it. But mean is often funny in my book — my goddamn book.

      I think it’s fine and dandy to tell kids they can do whatever they want, but it seems as though the hard-work angle is all too often neglected. So you end up with the current situation, where people just kind of throw things together, as if inspiration (and unacknowledged narcissism) will completely carry the day. It does sometimes, but rarely. Even work that’s “born” instantly is usually the result of years of preparation.

  4. I would say that you’re right.

    But, I think that because of technology (now I’m going to sound like an old crank)
    that, especially in terms of music, the ease of use just makes everything, well, faster; that ca be a good thing or a bad thing. People can whip out an album in their room and upload it for the world (or their friends) to hear in a weekend.
    (here’s the old crank talking…)
    In MY day, you had to hand write your songs on paper, maybe tape yourself playing onto a cassette
    and find a band through actually going out to the bars or clubs and meeting people.
    Being a songwriter/musician used to be special. Now, I get almost embarrassed to say that I’m a singer-songwriter like I’m jumping on some bandwagon. Oh yeah, girl with a guitar. Actually, I remember some corporate dude saying that on the subway once about me,” Just what the world needs – another chick singer-songwriter” – but really, do we need more of him?

    But, I try to keep the bitterness at bay, because I still do believe in art and the magic powder of a good song.

    And I will stand by this, and you don’t have to agree with me: just because a few hundred people read a book, as opposed to a few hundred thousand does not mean the book isn’t fucking great. And a work of art.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Well, you know, coming from an underground-music background, I agree with you about the few versus the many. A lot of my favorite records are virtually unknown, and as a fan — a snotty music-geek fan — I frankly prefer it that way. But when you’re the artist — in my case, a writer — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s hard to take when you fail to amass an audience. I had a conversation with someone recently about my various disappointments, and he said, “Well, what did you expect?” Which is a good question. I don’t at all expect an audience of hundreds of thousands, but at the same time, it’s depressing to think you’re only reaching your friends and family, you know? Among other things, you wonder if they’re only saying what they do because they’re friends and family, though everyone will always assure you otherwise.

      Meantime, yes, technology is a mixed blessing. Yesterday morning I was flashing back to a time before the Internet, thinking, “How did I ever get along with it?” — meaning that I can instantly search (and find) a missing bit of trivia. (I’m always, to a fault, pondering trivia.)

      But someone very wise once said that the devil’s route is always a shortcut. The shortcut is the very appeal of the devil — I’m speaking metaphorically, of course — and we now live in a world of shortcuts, with more to come, and the devil demands a heavy payment for his shortcuts.

      That’s what we can’t stand to face: that there really is a price. It’s to the point where you can’t say a word against technology, since to do is to potentially paint yourself a fuddy-duddy: “Get off my lawn!” etc. So people are increasingly afraid to speak up — they didn’t used to be, but now you get, at the very least, a disclaimer beforehand — and the result of that is groupthink, which I think is very dangerous. I think I myself am a victim of groupthink to some extent, and I’m pretty outspoken.

      But maybe I’ve (typically) wandered from the subject.

  5. These are uproariously funny! With a sudden yet lingering after-taste of “holy shit, that’s depressing.”

    I seem to vaguely remember a story about how Leo Lionni regretted writing Frederick (mouse who writes poetry finally excepted by his mouse clan when they realize he actually does contribute something to their survival — making all the rest of them happy while they work, or something like that) when his son later refused to go to college. Maybe he should have done something along the lines of Jennifer Bombs (and no, I’m not as amazing with the italics as Irene! I mean, why even try when there’s Irene with her amazing italics?).

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Hey, it took me a long time to figure out how to use italics. I knew zero about HTML when I arrived at TNB, and even now I make lots of mistakes with italics. (I’ll cut that joke short, before it extends for the length of this comment.)

        That’s funny, about Frederick the mouse. It reminds me of actors who forbid their children to go into acting. (There are a number of old movies with “Don’t follow in my footsteps” theater parents.) And, you know, I didn’t think of any of these pieces as depressing — sick, yes; depressing, no — until I read them aloud to friends a few days ago, and one of them — a girl — kept going, “Oh, no,” and “That’s terrible,” and that sort of thing. I thought, “Well, I guess you can expect more of that reaction if and when you post.”

        • This is my favorite sort of humor, though, *and* the most difficult to pull off, I think — humor with the underpinnings of some darker truth.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Unfortunately, I’m cursed with pitch-blank humor, which often tends toward the brutal. I find slapstick, such as the Three Stooges, hilarious. Which may make me a hick. Anyway, I seem to recall someone — I think it was Roger Ebert — saying that hicks like slapstick.

  6. Tawni says:

    “…he read one book after another about professors getting divorced.”

    HA.

    All of these are absolutely genius. I would buy every one, and give them to my son when he turns twenty. (:

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Excellent idea. Catch him before he reads a single book — that is, novel — about a professor getting a divorce. (Though if Don Mitchell wrote a book about a professor getting a divorce, I would eagerly read it.)

      I’m so glad you liked the piece, Tawni. I quibbled a lot before posting, uncertain that it worked.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Duke, I’ll get right on it. The working title will be “Separately and Apart.”

        One of them, a Professor of Home Economics Education, is in fact Jennifer’s mother and the other, a Professor of Large Animal Ecology, is the guy who supplied you with the raw Wally material.

        The marriage fell apart on the issue of what to do with the halved boy, who fell into their hands through a connection with the Coroner’s Office. POHEE wanted to scoop the insides out, varnish the skin, and use him for cake molds — lamb cakes, she thought, were too religious. POLAE, who was into taphonomy as a sideline, wanted to take him to the forest and see what happened — you know, hypothesis-free research.

        It should be easy, except for the illustrations. Maybe you’ll help me out there?

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Wow, Don, your imagination is about as dark as mine. Maybe POHEE could make leather out of the boy’s skin and craft a pair of shoes? Either way, this is the kind of professor’s-divorce novel the world has been waiting for, and, yes, I can help with the illustrations.

  7. Marybear says:

    You are King Evil Genius!
    I throw booze at you =)

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Eagerly accepted! Even though I’m currently on the wagon, but that’s for aesthetic purposes, since I recently noted that I have as many chins as Jonathan Franzen has five-star reviews on Amazon. If only my chin count could equal my own five-star-reviews on Amazon!

  8. OMG! Duke, I am speechless before this brilliance. Just the laugh I needed this morning when I have so much to do before I leave for Kenya that I was all stern and stressed. Thanks!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Ah, thanks for saying that, Gina. Of course I’m very envious that you’re headed to Kenya. Maybe you can provide me with anecdotes when you return so that I can introduce a Kenyan character in a future Failed Artist title — a giraffe that wants to be a painter, say.

      Have the time o’ your life, or, failing that, the best Christmas ever!

  9. Art Edwards says:

    That great philosopher Blackie Lawless once said: This industry isn’t for people who want to be rock stars. It’s for people who need to be rock stars.

    If you don’t need to be an artist, for Christ’s sake do something–anything–else.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      But that need can really be put to the test, don’t you think? It’s like love. You can love mightily and then fall out of love, but I’m not sure that means the love was inauthentic.

      But I say this only because I’ve wondered a great deal at what, in my case, is authentically a need and what isn’t, and the only confirmation I know is that I continue or I don’t.

      • Art Edwards says:

        That’s my only confirmation, too.

        I’m not smart enough to know the difference between a need and an authentic need (maybe it’s a need versus a compulsion). I only know that, despite the mounting evidence that I–that everyone–should stop, I keep doing it.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          You’re singing my tune — and the lyrics are perfect.

          I’ve threatened to quit writing again and again over the last few weeks. I’ve said to friends, “This is it. No more books for me.” Yet, when I had a night off from a data-entry job I was doing, I opened my novel — my new novel, which I haven’t touched since Subversia was announced in the spring — and took another whack at it. And despite everything, including the awful knowledge that the novel still doesn’t work and I’ll have to begin again, I somehow felt invigorated. I had a purpose. Something really mattered, even though experience has taught me well by now that it will likely matter very little, or not at all, to anyone other than me.

          It’s a sickness, I suppose. Which is what I think you were saying with: “for Christ’s sake, do something–anything–else.”

        • Art Edwards says:

          I’m notorious for writing fiction out of spite. Sometimes I work on my novel just because I know it’s the last thing I should be doing if I ever want to get anywhere in the world.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Wow. That would definitely apply to me, Art. In fact, I should have those words — “Sometimes I work on my novel just because I know it’s the last thing I should be doing if I ever want to get anywhere in the world” — stitched and framed and hung on a wall next to my desktop. I know I can’t be the only one, though for many the word “novel” would have to be replaced by “screenplay.” I think there are more people out there writing screenplays than novels these days, don’t you?

        • Art Edwards says:

          Burn whatever fuel’s in the tank, baby.

          A colleague of mine has in the religion section of her Facebook page: “1000 words a day.” I wish I’d thought of that.

          I’m sure screenplays are more popular, but I have yet to curl up with a good screenplay.

          After 14 years of novel writing, I start my first screenplay, for my first novel Stuck Outside of Phoenix, on Dec. 26. A movie-maker in Phoenix wants to make it as a no-budget movie, and all I have to do it write the play. I hope it’s quick and painless.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I used to write screenplays incredibly fast. That was one of the reasons, I think, that I got the jobs I did: because I had a reputation for speed. But as I wrote more prose, taking care to dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s, I began to take more time with screenplays too, though I could still knock one off quickly with enough incentive.

          In any case, I doubt that you’ll find the screenplay as exacting a form as a novel. There’s much more distillation, and the language doesn’t really matter — aside from the dialogue, I mean. I’m taking it the proposed adaptation is a feature, yes?

          I could never give myself a word-count goal, since I know I couldn’t honor it. When I’m in writing mode, I simply try to do the best I can. Some days are productive, and some days aren’t, and if I’m unhappy with the results, I toss them and start anew. I now have to begin my proposed next novel again, as I mentioned earlier. It just wasn’t working.

          Oh, and no, I don’t think I’ve ever curled up with a screenplay. I’ve thrown a few across the room, that’s for sure. I don’t like reading them in general, since they’re rarely rewarding. I especially hate it when screenwriters insist on writing thus:

          ANGLE on

          Jim as he throws down his gun.

          JIM
          Damn it!

          ANGLE on

          Betsy as she picks up the gun.

          BETSY
          It’s not loaded?

          And that sort of thing. I just try to tell a story, in as simple a way as possible.

  10. At the risk of invalidating my own post, I’d like to weigh in to say that this works and is deadly hilarious. “But God hates unusual people, so he didn’t answer the boy’s prayers” might just be the line of the year. I would even possibly read these books to my own children if I hadn’t already instilled in them hopeless delusions of grandeur. And I still contend that somebody could pick this up for a movie adaptation. Tarantino would love Jennifer Bombs.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Jennifer Bombs might not be a bad punk-type name, huh? I say this because I noticed, only after I put together the cover mockup, that the title was reading like: Jennifer Bombs (name of actress) in (a movie called) “Hollywood.” Maybe that would be the way to approach Tarrantino: “Hey, man, I want to set you up with Jennifer Bombs.” If only!

      Meanwhile, I’m glad that you’ve invalidated your own post. I suppose I’ll have to aim again for #17. And, really, your children, being half French, already have the art gene, so in their case any encouragement is bound to pay off. I mean, bloody hell, the French have excelled at every art form, though fans of American movies will no doubt disagree in the matter of cinema. But I disagree with them.

  11. Kimberly says:

    Genius!

    In its purest form.

  12. Zomg ha!

    “Very well. First you must do three things: sell me your soul, sacrifice a small animal, and move to Brooklyn.”

    Win.

    No wonder I failed at that part. I went and moved to Jersey City. Would that I had seen this beforehand!

    So are these going to be TNB Books?

    • D.R. Haney says:

      We’ll have to put that question to Brad. I don’t know. Some people are saying there’s a market for them.

      Meanwhile, a guy educated by Jesuits, like you, would, I’m sure, never enter into a bargain with the devil, who for some reason strikes me as more the Staten Island type, anyway.

  13. J.E. Fishman says:

    You hit it out of the park with this one, Duke.

    True story: An English professor told my agent’s daughter that she was the best writer he’d ever taught and that she should consider taking up writing for a living. My agent’s response: “Can I sue this guy?”

    • D.R. Haney says:

      My God. And to think I shudder at such petty stuff as people cynically “liking” things, tit for tat, on Facebook. Using someone’s daughter that way — a duel might be more appropriate than a lawsuit.

      Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how flattered how I am that you say I hit something out of the park, Joel, though I wish I could say so without using a trite phrase such as “I can’t tell you how flattered…” I blame my landlords, who usually arrive around this time every Tuesday to put out the garbage and do a little gardening, and as I wish to avoid them, I’m about to vamoose. But yours is a standout comment for me.

  14. Jeannie says:

    “..except with a lot of hipster pussies;” I laughed so hard when I read that as I have an unabashed annoyance with today’s hipsters and their lack of artistic abilities.

    These are brilliant, I’d love to see them illustrated in overly bright and bubble figures (see Powerpuff Girls) as caveat to all bright dreamers.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I answered you yesterday, Jeannie, and in fact I thought my comment had posted before the site crashed. I’m fairly certain I saw it on the boards, but in any case…

      I believe I wrote about the illustrations. When I was working on these pieces, I did think about how they would be illustrated. Almost very paragraph represents a page with an illustration, and on one I’d think, “Oh, this will be a picture of the devil,” or whatever. I saw Jennifer as being very colorful, with a heavy use of red, and Wally I saw as a bit more muted, with a lot of earth tones, since it obviously takes place in a forest. I still don’t have a very clear idea of Book. It could go either way, I suppose: colorful or muted.

      Ah, well. It’s fun to imagine what might be, yes? Unfortunately, I’m afraid this will remain, simply, a TNB piece, very shortly to disappear into the archive, where it will rest undisturbed forevermore.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Ah, I just saw that my original comment did post. I don’t know if you saw it yourself, but I just deleted it, since it’s now a repetition, except for this line, which I’ll now reproduce: “I’m glad you like the hipster line. In fact, I changed it at the last minute. Originally, it was “insolvent pussies,” but that just didn’t have the same ring, you know?”

  15. Lisa says:

    Daryl,

    as you know I work with creative people as MY living. I ought to be put out by the above, but actually it made me laugh harder than I have in a while. Nicely done. I will for sure read these to my two children. Not that they have any delusions about how hard it is to make a living as an artist.

    Still, when you start raking in the bucks from the above series, I hope you’ll give becoming a professional writer another chance. (Kidding.)

    Lisa

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Lisa:

      I was pleasantly surprised to see your comment, and even more surprised (and pleased) to see that you’d posted a link to this piece at your blogsite. Thanks. I left you a comment there, but I haven’t made my way back so far to see if you responded.

      You know, for about five seconds yesterday, I did start hallucinating about the genuine prospects for this series, but the hallucinations quickly stopped, thank God. As much as people say the books should really be published and so on, it would take a lot of time, work, and money to produce even one title. It’s that way with any published work, but particularly one involving color illustrations.

      I’m being terribly literal-minded, aren’t I? Maybe it’s time to start hallucinating again. But please let me know if you do, in fact, share this with your children — unless they hate it, of course. No, I wouldn’t want to hear that, so lie and say they liked it, please.

      The Artist Formerly Known as Daryl

  16. coreyB says:

    This is absolutely fucking brilliant! I seriously need a copy of this. It’s a shame that you are without a doubt extremely unusual and God hates you and your so broke that the chances of you having enough money to even get down to a station to throw yourself in front of a train so people will read your book are bleak, because your a fucking genius and you deserve to be read. even if by assholes who only have enough brains for T.V.
    You should definitely publish a childrens series. this way I won’t have to explain to Rimbaud whats in the bottle daddy keeps hiding from mommy or why we can’t afford the new toys the other kids in school have or why I’m home all fucking day, cause he’ll know from your series that being artist just doesn’t work anymore. great job!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Fuck the series, Corey. I‘ll explain the whole fucking deal to Rimbaud, and I bet I can do it in a way he can understand.

      You’ve been very patient, man, and a good friend. I would’ve left a completely different comment a few hours ago, but, as it is, we should arrange to get righteously drunk in the days ahead, with as much of the old crew intact as we can muster. Meanwhile, it won’t cost me a dime to walk to the nearest railroad tracks.

      I kid! I kid!

  17. Quenby Moone says:

    Oh, dear. I’m here and I would love to read it RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND, but, unlikely as it is I actually have to WORK.

    Can you believe it? Neither can I. I’ll be back, deadliest writer in the world.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ll be waiting —

      Second Deadliest…

      • Quenby Moone says:

        I’m not sure how you managed to sneak into my house and steal my brain while I was sleeping, but that can be the only explanation for how uncannily your jaundiced humor mirrors my own! Do you ever have the eerie sense of reading things you’ve written even though you didn’t?

        I love fractured children’s stories, and have written my own. There’s something cathartic about turning cuteness on its head and making it work for evil; I think it must be a certain roiling disgust with pop culture in toto which makes it so completely appealing.

        I had my own brief dalliance with disgust over writers and writing (as per “I Am a Book”) the other day when Lars read me an article about a software program writing sports analysis for college teams, complete with different “personalities” and “profiles” which coughed up the relevant information in digestible bits about this sports thing or that one.

        I just about hung up my hat.

        But then I come and read stories like this and I am renewed. Thanks be to gods for the jaundiced writer.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I’m so jaundiced, even my veins have turned yellow. Or is that due to cowardice?

          Anyway, I think this is the first time I ever attempted children’s stories, jaundiced or not, but I was always a fan of Fractured Fairy Tales on Rocky and Bullwinkel. Children’s stories are ideal subjects for satire, due, as you say, to their cuteness.

          Has anyone ever written a satire of a YA novel? I’m sure it’s been done. Meanwhile, I’m glad your dalliance with disgust over writers and writing was a brief one. Mine appears to be ongoing. But you give me hope, you do, QB.

          Oh, and of course, everything must be done in digestible bits, otherwise no one would pay the slightest bit of attention or learn anything at all. So, you know, lay off that poor software program. It clearly knows the lay of the land.

  18. Yes, yes, and yes. God does hate unusual people. But he loves two-fisted satire. Just like me.

    I think there should also be a You Think You Want An Artist Mommy? series, written mostly by Anne Sexton. And a You Think You Want An Artist Daddy? series, written by Shawn Kemp.

    Also, I would like to suggest including these titles: I Am A Canvas Hanging In A Cafe and, of course, the immediate bestseller I Am The Albatross Of Your MFA Loan.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Unfortunately, we’ll have to coax Anne Sexton back from the beyond to author her series. Unless it’s ghost-written. As per my remark to Greg above, I did consider doing a series of fucked-up, real-life author’s lives: I Am Ernest Hemingway’s Shotgun, and that kind of thing.

      I think you’re right about the potential of Albatross for bestsellerdom. It might also be called Daddy’s Going to Kill Us All Then Turn the Rifle on Himself, or My Final Words As I Slowly Die After Mom Poisoned The Whole Family Nazi-Style. There have been these kinds of incidents since our economic collapse, yes? There’ve got to have been.

      • Ha ha. As if being dead would keep any of the bigs from doing the Clive Cussler routine with Anne. Hell, Roberto Bolano has been dead for a decade and he puts out five books a year.

        Completely seriously though, I think the run of tales above has real manuscript potential. Do a dozen of them, flesh ’em out some, and dance that mess around. I bet you get a bite from the McSweeney’s crowd, at the very least.

        “Swiftian” is overused and has outlived its purpose. Might as well graduate to “Haneyian.”

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yeah, maybe I’ll write a few more in my spare time and put something together. I’m certainly being encouraged to do so, though doesn’t every piece in McSweeney’s have to be a list? Besides, I may be a little too, well, earthy for the McSweeney’s crowd. I think of them as the preppies who rejected me in high school.

          Oh, and your line about Bolano is priceless, and proof that the new Swiftian should be Beaudoinian, not Haneyian. Besides, Beaudoinian sounds much better, once you’ve figured out how to pronounce it.

  19. Lenore says:

    i’m so glad these materialized. how’d it feel to get paid nothing for it?

    …we gotta get dinner soon.

  20. Reno J. Romero says:

    i agree with marybear and quenby moone (great name btw…). but i’ve known this about you for some time now. i can add a few other titles but i’ll save them for a later day. you’re a consummate writer, haney. for this: my beanie’s off.

    or balls off.

    or.

    fried chicken,
    reno

    • D.R. Haney says:

      For God’s sake, Reno, but your beanie back on. I don’t know where you are at the moment, but it’s kind of cold where I am. Oh, and put your balls back on, too. Your scrotum will miss them.

      Here’s fries to go with your chicken —

      Duke

      (Thanks, man. Really.)

  21. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Hmm. I swear when I read this there were no comments enabled. I found this to be a lovely bit of demented genius. And there is at least one line I’ll just have to steal: “But God hates unusual people, so he didn’t answer the boy’s prayers.”

    I will say, though, re: the preamble that maybe it’s not such a bad thing if everyone claims to be an artists, because it seems artists are the most consistent patrons of other artists. It could be a Mad Max Thunderdome, or it could be a super-hippy worldwide daisy chain art swap. nine tenths dreck, of course, but that just means good times for regretsy 🙂

    • D.R. Haney says:

      That line is yours, Uche. I mean, it is if you want it. Take my line–please. That’s an old joke, you know, which I’m adapting, and I’m explaining it so it won’t be funny anymore. Not that it was ever funny.

      You’re undoubtedly right about artists being the most consistent patrons of other artists. I hadn’t really considered that, even though I was recently told that the total audience for literary fiction in the U.S. probably amounts to 100,000 people, of which a good many, if not most, are bound to be writers or those that teach writing (who are usually writers themselves). The problem, I think, is that it’s so easy to get lost, even in such a relatively small crowd. That was the origin of this piece: I was thinking one day about everyone self-promoting at once. It’s like being a kid in class and holding up your hand in response to a question, along with everyone else in class. And who gets picked? The teacher’s pet, all too often. But I think I’m complaining without even bothering to disguise my complaint with jokes. Why can’t I think of a joke right now? Oh, here’s one: Take my wife–please. Damn. I knew that wasn’t funny, and I went for it anyway!

  22. Zara Potts says:

    This reminds me of the ‘Blood on the Battlefield’ piece we did – where we talked about subversive children’s stories. I really think there’s a market for that! You should write some more!

    It’s hard though, isn’t it? The pull of artistry coupled with the realities of life – they don’t mix so well together and yet it seems ridiculous that the two are so often mutually exclusive. I think all artists (in all guises) should be paid to create – for without art, what is life?

    But then again – I guess it’s a matter of defining ‘success’ – as Irene (among others) says above: you have oodles of devoted readers who love your work. You are beloved on this site and elsewhere. And you have a great many friends who adore you.

    x Z

    • Zara Potts says:

      Re-reading my comment I sound very serious. Lighten up, Zara!
      I forgot to say – they’re very funny!

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I’m glad you commented twice, Zara, even if it only to make up for your lack of humor the first time around, because, as you know, it will help me to compete in the ongoing TNB Comment Derby, and if I succeed, it will help me to feel good about myself. I only post at TNB to get attention, you know. I’m starved for attention, so I’ll throw up almost anything here, and it’s comments like yours that make me feel worthwhile and important. So, you know, go on being serious and posting second comments to tell yourself to lighten up. You’re helping me more than you probably realize.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’m not sure how this is going to nest, Z, but in case it posts below my other comment, I hope you’ll know where it was intended to go. I responded to your second comment first because I do so many things backwards.

      I did in fact think of our exchange about children’s stories in our “Blood” piece when I was working on this piece. I warned you that my children’s stories would be even more outlandish than your father’s, yes? Did I succeed? Maybe not.

      I certainly agree that life without art would be unendurable, though I’m afraid that view isn’t shared by many, otherwise more artists would be paid for their work. In the U.S., artists are largely seen as pretentious welfare cases who contribute nothing. Unfortunately, I’ve met a good many artists who deserve to be viewed that way, particularly those who readily identify themselves as “artists.” I don’t typically use that word with regard to myself. Which makes me better than most people, of course.

      But I told Irene that I don’t have “oodles” of devoted readers, and it’s certainly true that I don’t, unless I’m defining “oodles” differently than you and Irene. Hey, I call ’em as I see ’em. But, you know, if a writer has even one reader, that’s a success, particularly in a climate in which there are fewer and fewer readers all the time, apart from text messages.

      I wonder if it’s possible to be paid to write text messages. Maybe there’s a niche for a Franzen-like text-message writer. You think?

  23. Matt says:

    I read these at the office this morning before the site went kaput and laughed so hard I people were coming over to my desk to see what was so damn funny. I’m lucky my boss has a sense of humor as well.

    I have on my shelf a book entitled The Recently Deflowered Girl: The Right Thing To Say On Every Dubious Occasion by Edward Gorey. So I would add my voice to the chorus claiming there’s a market for this sort of material. At the very least, this sort of satire would be right at home in the pages of a magazine like Mad or Cracked.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I think it may be a little too dark for Mad. I don’t know about Cracked. But, you know, the market itself almost never says, “There’s a market for this kind of thing.” We think there’s a market, and act on that belief, and all too often we discover, lo and behold, that there’s really no market. See also: I Am a Book.

      Anyway, I’m glad your boss has a sense of humor. I’m not sure that I ever worked for a boss who has a sense of humor. Where’d you find yours? And can I work with you? Do you think we’d get into trouble if we worked together? What if we lived together? What if you were, like, writing, and I walked into your room and said, “Hey, Matt,” and started talking to you, interrupting your work–would you get mad? Would you use karate on me? I suddenly have so many questions!

  24. J.M. Blaine says:

    Wait, you have to move to Brooklyn
    to write a book?
    Screw that.
    Marching hammers
    & rotten cherry noses
    & wolverine clack tracks?
    I’m goin’ back to my old job
    at Western Auto.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I was recently thinking that I should try to get a job at a Western Auto store. Oh, and only Satan would force a writer to move to Brooklyn. I don’t really know how the sacrifice of a small animal would figure in his plans, though. Maybe it’s kind of like a complimentary mint in a hotel.

  25. Don Mitchell says:

    Duke. A general comment – this is great stuff. The tone is perfect.

    When I got to Wally’s Band I immediately thought of Thurber. You might have seen his “Fables for our Time” but if not, check it out. “The Scotty Who Knew Too Much” (moral: “It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers”) and “The Bear Who Let It Alone” (moral: “You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward”) are favorites.

    Thurber’s best work in collected in “The Thurber Carnival,” which is still in print and used copies abound on Amazon.com.

    What I consider significant about Thurber is that I totally loved his work when I was a boy and I totally love it as an old guy. Does that suggest “timeless?” It should.

    But back to you. I’m with the others who suggest you’re on to something here, meaning that I see a book of these. Maybe a thin book, but a book nonetheless.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thanks, Don. If I were to try and do something with these stories — and I don’t have the time or means — it seems to me that maybe the best way to go about it would be to write a few more and put them together in one book, rather than a series of volumes. It would still amount to a thin book, which is what it would have to be in order to qualify as an impulse buy, which is what I think it might be. But that wouldn’t be true of Separately and Apart, which I’m eagerly anticipating.

      I never really read Thurber. I’ve seen episodes for a TV series he did a long time ago, I forget the name, and I think I may have been assigned to read one of his stories in high school. There are people who swear by him, and I remember Sean Penn saying (though not to me personally) that he read Thurber in jail. He recommended Thurber as excellent jail reading, which every criminal should bear in mind, or at least every celebrity who punches out paparazzi.

      But you said you liked Thurber as a boy and you still do (I refuse to refer to you as an “old man”). Was there an intervening gap in which he fall off your radar?

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Nope, he was always on my radar, because some of his lines stuck in my head. For example, “What have you done with Dr. Milmoss?”

        At some point, probably in the 70s, I grabbed the original book my parents had and brought it to Buffalo. I like thinking of the boy laughing his ass off, never imagining that half a century later he’d still be laughing his ass off.

        OK. Separately and Apart comes after News of Elsewhere, the one that’s nearly a third done.

        Here’s hoping that I got those HTML codes right.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          The HTML codes came out perfect, Don. But did you steal the Thurber book from your parents? There was a book my grandparents owned that had fascinated me as a child–a kind of coffee-table anthropological primer, as a matter of fact, called The Epic of Man–which I stole at some point when I realized my grandparents’ house would probably be closed to me after their deaths. I was right. It was taken over by cousins who weren’t especially friendly. But I still have that book a memento.

          News of Elsewhere is a terrific title, incidentally.

  26. Joe Daly says:

    Bravo, Duke. These stories border on the uncomfortable, because they’re so dead on, and because there’s always that possibility that someone could see the brilliance within and try to make something happen.

    Loved the one about the band. Good Lord, was that dead on. You’d just need to come up with woodland metaphors for heroin, promoters, and touring vans.

    Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I agree with everyone above- you’ve got to take these pups and run with them.

    Good stuff, man.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Yeah, when you stop to think about it, Wally’s guitar needs to have been constructed out of bone and sinew from his family’s kills, or something, the same way that Barry drums with doe antlers. I probably put the least amount of time into that particular story, just because it seemed to me to work right off the bat. And you did note Yoko, yes? I thought about giving her a name close to Yoko, but then I thought it was better to let the readers, all ten of them, fill in the blank.

      But I think the pups’ run will probably end here, alas. I’ve got to sell my soul, sacrifice an animal, and move to Brooklyn, if ever expect to write another novel. I’m not sure I do, really. The vise of life tightens a little more all the time. Or something like that.

      • Joe Daly says:

        Oh, I loved the Yoko angle. Any doubt in any reader’s mind would be obliterated by the line pointing out that she was not, in fact, a good singer.

        I just read a pretty interesting article about the Plastic Ono Band, wherein both Clapton and Harrison confessed to performing onstage while at the same time, looking in pure horror at their singer rolling around on the stage.

        I would counsel you to definitely sell your soul, but for God’s sake, stay the hell away from Brooklyn. That place’ll kill you.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          All kidding aside, I don’t find Brooklyn — or the hipster parts of Brooklyn — to be all that dissimilar to L.A. New Yorkers, especially hipsters, look down on L.A., as I did also when I lived in New York, but if they were honest, they’d admit that, style-wise and taste-wise and attitude-wise, they’re almost identical to their counterparts in Silver Lake and Echo Park. They’re certainly no smarter, as they I think they used to be. But, of course, New York and L.A. are very dissimilar in other ways.

          I think most of the world regarded Yoko with horror when she and John became an item. She was certainly blamed for the breakup of the Beatles, as was Linda, but in that respect, she got a bump rap, I think. The Beatles really broke up because John thought Paul had become too powerful within the band, so he announced he was quitting as the ultimate way of reasserting his own power. Paul was the only Beatle who intensely cared that the band remained intact, and he was apparently devastated for a period afterward, as the others were not.

          Wait. You don’t even like the Beatles, so I guess I should shut the fuck up, huh?

        • Joe Daly says:

          Well, you’re right that I don’t care for the Beatles, but that’s from a musical perspective. I’m fascinated by the stories behind and within the bands and recently read a great piece on their breakup a couple months ago that I found fascinating. I agree that Yoko took more heat than she deserved for the breakup, but there’s no arguing that she wasn’t whispering in John’s ear about how he didn’t need the rest of the band. I also believe that it was her hope that he leave the Beatles and use his talent and celebrity to elevate her to his status. However, ultimately we’re responsible for our own decisions and John had all the evidence and experience to understand the decision he made and to accept the consequences. And you’re also right that by all accounts, his departure was fueled by fear and petulance more than creative freedom.

          Being from Boston, I have a genetic aversion to New York in general, and New York hipsters in particular. I agree that LA and NY hipsters are dissimilar much in the same way that Red Sox and Yankees fans are different- everyone else sees them as equally insufferable, but within the ranks, they only see their own superiority. It’s funny.

          If I had to be stranded on a desert island with either New York hipsters or L.A. hipsters, I’d go with the L.A. ones every day of the week. I think they’re more aware of their shallowness. Agree? Disagree? VERY interested to hear your take.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Joe, Joe, Joe. This will mark my third attempt at trying to respond to your comment. The first time my Internet service went down as soon as I started. The second time I’d just finished a lengthy comment — and it was a beauty! — which I stupidly didn’t copy before trying to post, and guess what happened? Yep.

          Now let me see if I can somewhat recreate that comment. You asked about L.A. and New York hipsters — a desert-island scenario — and I said, well, as I wrote earlier, I don’t see much difference at this point. A friend of mine recently got back from Europe, where he was in a number of cities, and he said the London hipsters were the pretty much the same as the Paris hipsters, who were pretty much the same as the New York hipsters, and so on. It didn’t used to be that way, he said, and he blamed it on homogenization, which he sees as proliferating across the board.

          Another friend of mine — actually, it’s a former friend — once remarked that the hipsters in L.A. drove her crazy, but the hipsters in New York didn’t. She didn’t clarify her reasons, but I think it was because she regarded the hipsters in New York as authentic and the hipsters in L.A. as knock-offs.

          That might have been true at one time, when so many styles originated in New York. Hipsters in New York were probably much more culturally savvy, with their easy access to repertory cinema and fringe theater and world-class galleries and cutting-edge night life, as well as street culture, which even the rich could — and do — observe, New York being a city where people walk, unlike L.A. But the rents in New York have chased out of a lot of artists — and many, if not most, hipsters consider themselves artists to one degree or another — so that now a kid who might have one time settled in New York will head to L.A. or some other more affordable city, while maintaining contact with their out-of-town brethren online. Dewd, saw that funny T-shirt you were wearing in that picture of you and Delilah. Yeah, dewd, it is funny, huh? Totally, dewd.

          So, again, I don’t think there’s much difference at this point between L.A. or New York hipsters, or, for that matter, the ones who live other cities. And back in the day? Well, maybe the L.A. hipsters were a little more friendly, but they weren’t, on average, as interesting–that is, as smart or in the know–as the best of the ones I knew in New York. Were they more aware of their shallowness? They were certainly aware of the shallowness of Los Angeles, and they didn’t take much pride in living in L.A., unlike the pride that all New Yorkers — not just hipsters — took in living in New York, but I don’t know that L.A. hipsters thought of themselves as being shallow; I think they saw themselves as exceptions to the general rule. So, even when I consider the hipsters of yore, it’s still a flip of the coin.

          I’d forgotten, by the way, that Boston has an aversion to New York. I guess it’s a little like the aversion that San Francisco has to L.A., though that didn’t play out in the HC scene the way it did back east. DCHC clashed with NYHC, etc. So funny.

          This is a much longer comment than the original — my apologies! — but about Yoko: I don’t think anyone really knows what she said to John. It was presumed that she was encouraging him to quit the Beatles and so on, but she’s always denied it. No one bossed John around, she’s more or less said; he led himself. And back in the day, I think Linda was blamed just as much for the demise of the Beatles, since she, too, was said to be whispering things in Paul’s ear; but no one acts on a suggestion they weren’t hoping to hear. So con artists have always maintained, and I believe them.

          Whew!

          And now to copy before pressing “Add comment.” I learned my lesson–for now.

  27. Brin says:

    I’m with Uche about the comments being off for this piece somehow feeling like the pitch perfect conclusion of reading such a demented masterpiece. You’ve found a method to unlock something really extraordinary here in you and the material. I read it first thing in the morning and “Jennifer Bombs in Hollywood” woke up my wife beside me. I’m such a sucker to laugh but I have never written “lol” ever in my life or referred to any book as “hilarious”, because I seldom laugh reading anything (and seldom overhear others laughing at what they read) and Gogol is about the funniest writer I’ve read and I’ll snicker with him. I laughed at yours to the extent the wife woke up. She was pissed off. I told her a few of the thread lines of your piece, the dragon slayed, she smiled and dozed back off.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      But did she ever read the piece herself? Did she? Goddamnit, she’d better have read it, after you went and woke her.

      You know, Jennifer was the weakest story in the bunch, and I rewrote it considerably before posting yesterday morning, at which point I personally found it maybe the funniest. There’s just something about the maniacs taking the time to write Jennifer letters to explain why they don’t want to kill her anymore. And the shaving cream — that really gets me for some reason.

      Am I now behaving like a comedian who laughs at his own jokes? Oh, very well. I’ll have to stop. And thank you for comparing me to Gogol, even though you didn’t, really. But I’m going to tell people you did. You don’t have any problem with that, right?

  28. Dana says:

    I laughed out loud at least three times Duke. These are golden! Little Golden books for hipsters?
    They’d make great gifts… Definitely should be in hardcover format, with lots of illustrations and big print. Perhaps even a pop up element?

    I want 4 sets please.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ll have the elves get right on it. I hope they don’t make me whip them. Elves bleed a lot, and they bruise easily.

      Wait a minute. I was having an acid flashback that caused me to think I was…oh, right, I know who I am now. Yes. Thank you for your comment, Dana.

      Oh, and I think if hipsters read anything in print, it’s probably something along the lines of Little Golden Books. It would have to be at that reading level. For all their smugness and arty pretensions, hipsters aren’t very bright. So my field research indicates.

  29. Werner Gurzog says:

    The Failed Artist™ angst… Fictionalized literature (or is it?) written with clarity, intent and dutiful frustration. I find great pleasure in the writing of Mr. D.R. Haney.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’m too bitter to take any pleasure in your comment, Werner, being a failed artist and all, but I’m responding with dutiful frustration. Do you think we could arrange product placement for the Failed Artist™ books in a Hollywood production of some sort? That might help to ease my dutiful frustration, if only a little.

      • Werner Gurzog says:

        It’s terrible that such pearls of short form fiction come from such challenging moments in life. Yet, with life’s trials you’re still able to skillfully navigate your prose with a uniquely infectious voice. It really is a delight to read anything D.R. Haney.

        Oh, and yes to your question. The Failed Artist™ book series for children would be a perfect fit for any Hollywood production and a wonderful stocking stuffer this holiday season. You should give serious consideration to pioneering this book series. I sincerely believe it would move like hot butter on breakfast toast.

        Signed, Werner

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It really is a delight, Herr Gurzog, to read such phrases as “it would move like hot butter on breakfast toast,” and you’re certainly on target when you mention the trials of life. I’m relieved to know that Failed Artist™ series would be a perfect fit for any Hollywood production, but, alas, due to said trials, I don’t see how I can manufacture it on my own. Of course it would be wonderful if some publisher happened to come along and say, “Wow, I would love to bankroll the Failed Artist™ series, which would make a wonderful stocking stuffer this holiday season,” but that kind of thing only happens in fairy tales, and you can probably guess how I would conclude such a tale. All sorts of gruesomeness would be inflicted on the creative entity behind the Failed Artist™ series, and since that entity is me, it’s a scenario best left to the imagination. Not that I’m trying to scare off any publishers! Oh, no. I would welcome the chance to talk about how the Failed Artist™ series would make a wonderful stocking stuffer this holiday season. The lines are open.

  30. Gloria says:

    Good god damn that was all dark and freaky, Duke. I didn’t laugh – not even one time. But, you know, I also get the deep-seated cynicism underneath it all. Also, I think it’s brilliant. Way to go with the dark and creepy, man!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Why ever would you laugh, Gloria? I’d have been upset if you laughed. I wrote about some very tragic people/animals. There’s nothing funny about what happened to them, and I would seriously wonder about anyone who’d find their plights amusing.

      But did you call me a creepy man? It’s okay. You wouldn’t be the first, and you certainly won’t be the last.

      • Gloria says:

        Humor is one of those strange quirky things. Very much a “to each his own” thing – and mine changes all the time. There was a time that I couldn’t stand Ren and Stimpy. Then, years later, I saw it again and laughed until I very nearly pissed myself. Same thing happened with Spongebob. Macabre or violent humor has never set well with me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I one day woke up and suddenly found it brilliant. Humor is weird. As are you, creepy man.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I just told Gloria a minute ago that she wouldn’t be the last to call me a creepy man, and you see what happened?

          Oh, wait. You are Gloria. Okay. But you still won’t be the last.

          Teenagers laugh at what adults don’t, and vice-versa, but I’m afraid I’m still stuck with a teen’s sense of humor. I can’t ever see myself making dad-type jokes. Or maybe I just did with my joke about you being Gloria. Anyway, obviously, there’s evolution in humor, as with everything else, and while I did, perhaps predictably, immediately find Ren and Stimpy funny, I might not find it funny now, though maybe that’s because I read somewhere that its creator is kind of bitter. But I‘m bitter, so I’m probably still down with Ren and Stimpy, which of course features animals. I’m very partial to animal humor.

        • Gloria says:

          That was totally a dad joke. Promise me that if we ever meet, you’ll pull a quarter out from behind my ear?

          I’ve given up any delusions about ever making a cent writing the stuff I like, and I don’t want a gig writing shit I can’t get behind. It’s like porn. I love having sex, but I couldn’t ever convincingly perform a role with people I don’t like doing shit that I don’t find interesting. If I could do that, I would’ve stayed married. (See? I can have a dark sense of humor, too. Bonus points?)

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, very well. I’ll give you bonus points, even though you just told me I made a dad joke.

          It’s true that it’s no fun at all to write stuff you can’t behind. It can be pretty horrible, in fact. The funny thing is, you can find yourself becoming strangely attached to work done on assignment. I suppose it’s a little like Stockholm Syndrome. Meanwhile I have made a cent writing stuff I like, though it was never much — certainly nowhere near a living wage.

          I just reached behind the ear of your gravatar and guess what I found? It wasn’t a quarter; it was some strange sort of radioactive type of material, possibly to do with the lightsaber, and the minute I touched it, what looks like a tumor appeared on my hand. I’m completely freaked out.

        • Gloria says:

          It’s not a tumor, Duke. It’s my alien tracking device (remember, I was born and bred in Roswell, NM) and now I can plot your every move. Furthermore, it’s now possible for me to control what your hand does and you will now write vitriolic feminist manifestos that overuse the words “vagina” and “menstruation.” You are now to me as John Malkovich is to John Cusack in Being John Malkovich.

          MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, I don’t at all mind overusing the word “vagina,” and particularly other, less formal words with the same meaning. And I don’t think I would mind writing vitriolic feminist manifestos, being a fan of vitriol in many of its forms. Unfortunately, most of what passes for “vitriolic feminist manifestos” these days is stuff about how there aren’t enough female managers in fast-food commercials, or I don’t like the way Mrs. Soprano is being portrayed, or it’s so upsetting that X actress has to pander to sexist tastes by showing so much cleavage in her cover shot on Y magazine, and so on. It would seem that American “feminists” do little except watch TV and scribble notes about this media presentation and that one and then pitch fits in blogs that preach to the choir. Let’s have some real vitriol, huh? And let’s stop being so goddamned petty.

          I’m afraid your tracking device has resulted in a slight detour. But it’s kind of working.

        • Gloria says:

          Oh, no, no. These promulgations will be of the batshit crazy variety, à la Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. Manifesto. No celebrity shootings though.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          One day, when I’m not completely wiped out, as I am now, I’ll have to relate the story of my late friend Sully’s encounter with Valerie Solanas. Of course he met nearly everyone who was anyone in NYC way back when. He once tripped — very embarrassingly so — while rushing over to Marilyn Monroe to ask if she wanted to do a scene with him at the Actors Studio. (They were both Studio members.) The Solanas story would take a little more time to tell, however, and I’d probably fuck it up. It was funny when Sully told it, however.

          Batshit-crazy feminist rants in the works, master.

          • Gloria says:

            I knew – knew – that you would have a Solanas story. You never disappoint me, Duke.

            (Sorry you’re wiped out. Perhaps you should take Richard up on his advice to sit a spell?)

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I’m shitting even now.

          Fuck. See how wiped I am?

          This is getting worse by the second.

          Thanks for saying I never disappoint you. Alas, the day is young.

  31. Brad Listi says:

    You’re at your best when you’re angry, Duke.

    As a writer, I mean.

    Or I should say: You’re at your funniest.

    Alchemy!

  32. Scott W. says:

    Duke, You have to fight to get these published!!! Brilliant. Totally a market for them. Ironically, I could see them selling like hot-cakes at “hipster pussy” stores like Urban Outfitters.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Do you think I was too harsh with that “hipster pussy” line? This from a guy who has his characters cut in half by trains and starving to death and squashing their fallen noses!

      If only I had the means to publish the books, I would, Scott, though, you know, when people say something will sell, the pessimist in me thinks all that optimism is bound to backfire.

      I’ve only once been in an Urban Outfitters outlet, and it was for a party thrown for Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, who was relaunching her fashion line, which UO carried. She’d also curated a selection of books for sale, and I thought, “If only I could sneak copies of Banned for Life onto that table!” Not that anyone at the party was buying books anyway — not that I saw. Those hipster pussies.

  33. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I echo everyone who encouraged you to go forward with these!

    I laughed, and I cringed. So many favorite lines and passages, but this one: “He deserved to be hated because he was unusual, and one of the unusual things he did was read a book.”

    Although I’m not an optimist by nature, I do believe the adage, “You never know until you try.” These stories speak to the human condition–the fear of risk, the torment of anxiety, the consequence of failure. That they’re funny takes out some of the sting without undermining the emotion underneath. A rare person can strike that balance, Duke, and you did. So who knows where this piece will lead…

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ve been trying to address your comment since this afternoon, Ronlyn, but I kept having problems with my provider. Let’s hope I don’t lose my connection again.

      As it happens, I’ve lately been pondering the ole “You never know until” — or “unless,” as I’ve been phrasing it to myself — “you try.” That’s what I used to say when I was about to embark on what I knew was a difficult course, and now I’ve experienced the course, and I’m sure I’d do it again if the option were placed before me. I’d certainly try to correct the mistakes I’ve made, but I don’t think there’s anything that could’ve deterred me from writing and my various other creative endeavors, including these books, if they’d existed.

      I’m glad you think I struck a balance. I was sure some people were going to find this post horrifying, as is probably the case. Meantime, a compliment from you goes a long way, seeing that you’re such a good writer. It feel trite to say thanks, but allow me to do so anyway.

      The blue light on my router is blinking, which means there’s a good chance my connection hasn’t disappeared. Here’s hoping.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        The thing is, we writers don’t know what we don’t know. I look back at the publication of my first novel and wish I’d done some things differently. I teeter on regret with a couple of choices. I’ll apply what I learned with Novel #2, but no doubt I’ll have some gaps when I get that one published. I keep going–and I’m glad you are, too.

        The post is horrifying—and smart, insightful, and funny! You’re welcome, and I’m touched, especially because I so appreciate comments from you.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Just as I appreciate comments from you. I’m only sorry that it took so long to get acquainted. The fault is all mine; you arrived at a moment at TNB when I felt I’d been brushed off by one new contributor too many, so I’d adopted a policy of taking my time to meet the neighbors, as it were. Ridiculous — especially since I remembered how much I appreciated being welcomed when I arrived a few months ahead of you.

          Novels are often likened to children, so to play that tired tune again: parents tell themselves they made mistakes with their firstborn that they’ll rectify with the second child, and so on, only to see that the same lessons don’t apply and mistakes of a very different kind have been made.

          Now, that’s very optimistic, huh? But the point is — or was intended to be — that, yes, we go on. Meanwhile, I hope that novel #2 is speedily progressing to your satisfaction.

  34. Irene Zion says:

    Duke?

    Are you really going to write and illustrate these?
    I think that is fabulous!
    Good for you!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Well, I did write three, but I don’t think it will go any further than that, though people have been encouraging me to go further. But as with most things, it comes down to a matter of money.

  35. Laughed? Thought I’d die.

    During the height of Grunge (90s) I came up with the idea for “Generation X Fortune Cookies”. The fortunes would all say things like: “You’re a loser. Just give it up.” , “Eat your gun barrel for desert.”, etc. Then Curt did the Cobang and the same people who used to think it was a great idea were turned off.

    Oh well. I missed the window.

    You don’t have to. Write these and publish them forthwith.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I think there’s possibly still a market for your fortune cookies, Joe, though without the suicide angle or anything pertaining to grunge. There’s something inherently funny about cracking open a fortune cookie and being told that your life is shit — but of course that’s something I would think. I mean, hell, it never occurred to me (well, it did momentarily, only to be quickly banished) that people might be put off by a picture of me beaten up on the cover of my book, which has apparently been true for some. What can I say? I’m perverse.

      Anyway, maybe we can do the books and the fortune cookies as a joint venture. Too depressing? Get out of here!

  36. Slade Ham says:

    Reading pieces like this makes me disappointed that you don’t do them more often. Your sense of humor doesn’t get showcased as often as it should. I somehow envision you being quite amused with yourself as you wrote it, yes? Maybe even a few out loud laughs to yourself?

    I would have, had this been mine.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      The more I progressed with it, the more I laughed, yeah. I mean, at the beginning, I was just trying to get it to work, and once I had something that I thought basically worked, I got into the details — as in, the devil is in the details — and that’s when, for me, it started to get funny. I convened with Ben Loory last night, and I unfortunately recited for him my own favorite bits, such as the one about the maniacs in prison writing letters to Jennifer to explain why they don’t want to kill her anymore. I just like that they’re so considerate as to provide explanations.

      Shit. I’m doing it again. Reciting favorite bits. That’s the worst.

      Anyway, it’s a great compliment to be told by Slade Ham that I don’t showcase my humor more often. It’s tricky, because I need the right context for my humor to work. I mean, I could never write an opinion piece and insert a few clever lines and have people in stitches. My humor is much more deranged than that.

      • Slade Ham says:

        I somehow never replied back to this. Not sure how I missed it, but anyway… This piece by itself is a testament to your style of humor. It works, the way I like comedy to work. I mean, it’s supposed to be funny obviously, but it is so laced with truths and reality that it is only comedy because we expect it to be.

        I don’t know that that made sense. Regardless… that’s the only stuff I do find funny anymore. The set up/punch stuff (which I use constantly still) bores me as a spectator. It seems formulaic and predictable. You drop little tidbits of the dry and unexpected throughout things and I enjoy it immensely. Maybe you should do it more often. Maybe you should just loft out a big, fat, brilliant, haymaker like this just often enough to remind us that you can.

        This is the kind of honest funny that sells.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Hmmmm.

          I was talking to someone recently who’d followed the reaction to the piece at TNB, and this person’s take was that it hadn’t gone over as well as it could’ve, since people were reading into what it said about me: that I’m depressed and bitter; consider myself a failed artist, etc. I did notice some consolation in the commentary, but I was hoping people would skip any perceived context and just enjoy the damned thing.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I didn’t read it that way at all. If at any point you’d really considered yourself a failure, you’d be working at some truck stop or restaurant in middle America talking about the good old days and how you used to write or act or whatever the people that have given up the ghost talk about.

          Nah. I read it for what it was.

  37. jonathan evison says:

    . . .classic!

  38. Tom Hansen says:

    Haha Duke, you rock man. Excellent. These books remind me a bit of my “International Tom Lifetime Arts Grant” which details the steps to getting some money to write, which were 1.Chop your leg off. And that’s it. Collect a disability check live in a craphole and write (which tragically -or not- is basically what I did.) Haha

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’m going to try to answer quickly, before my Internet service dies, as it’s been dying again and again all day, taking my comments with it.

      I remember the piece about your leg, and I wondered what prompted it, but that was before I’d read your book. Now I know. Bloody hell, man. Thank God you only included the medical charts. Photos might possibly have damaged me for life.

  39. Jude says:

    So very late to comment Duke – I’m sorry. Been so busy as of late, have had no time to compose a creative comment…

    “How can a seasoned artist make a buck in such a climate?” I’m right with you on this question you pose. Some of the students whom I used to teach and who fancied being a ‘graphic designer’ because it sounded so ‘creative’, didn’t have a creative bone in their body. Ah the frustration I felt as their tutor; the gritted teeth; the lies I had to tell. ‘Yes Johnny, that’s excellent. You will go a long way…” (To Nowhereville most likely!)
    But the ironic thing, that I saw time and time again, was the ones that had no talent whatsoever were the ones who got the jobs; whereas the ones who had real talent were the ones that were left in the background hoping someone would notice them. And no one ever did – and you know why…? Because I reckon the majority of people on Planet Earth have got no bloody taste! Led along by mass consumerism – crap, crap and more bloody crap – they don’t know talent when it leaps up and bites them on their arse!
    As I’ve said before Duke, there is no doubting your talent (as agreed upon by everyone else on your comment board), but being an artist these days is not an easy road. You keep writing though – there are so many people who love your work and I count myself as one of your biggest fans. You may not be rich in material ways, but your soul has an abundance of riches; stories that want to be told, stories that must be told. And I will always be an eager reader of the stories you bring forth.

    And by the way, I do love your fables for kids (or perhaps they are more for adults), but nevertheless, they are fucking funny!

    • Tom Hansen says:

      So true about the crap. I have ranted often about how our value system is slanted way too far in that direction. What we need is a little, not a lot, but a little more demand for quality. But with idiots everywhere, good luck with that, as they say

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I agree that it’s a question of a little more, Tom. That’s my response to people who object to my objections about CGI fantasy flicks, including those about superheroes. Blockbusters have always existed, and they always reinforced popular dreams and prejudices, as ours do now, but there used to be more in the way of alternatives. “It’s television,” people say. “TV’s where the good stuff is.” But I’ve never been one for open-ended serials.

        What I say about movies could be applied to culture at large. There’s a Clear Channel mentality across the board in the States, it seems to me, and a demand for alternatives would provide them. But there is no demand for alternatives, or, if so, it’s so small as to make no difference. What we have is what we obviously want.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Jude, there’s no reason to apologize. The piece won’t be disappearing — I hope! — any time soon; it’ll be in my archive, where it can always be read and receive comments. I joked in my response to Zara about wanting as many comments as possible, and, yes, there’s many a word said in jest, but I’d like to think I’ve stopped caring as much as I used to care. I believe that’s true for most of the people who’ve broken comment records at TNB — including Zara. It’s pleasing to have done it once, but it doesn’t have to be done again and again and again.

          It’s funny to hear about your gritted teeth and so on. I never taught per se, but I’ve coached people here and there, and I experienced my share of gritted teeth, too. Unfortunately, you’re right about the untalented all too often faring better than the gifted. I think partly it’s because the untalented aren’t threatening. It requires a lack of ego for a managerial types, who may have had aspirations of their own at some point, to opt for their betters, just as audiences have to set aside their egos to applaud those who can do what they can’t. Also, the talented are sometimes set to a wavelength that can only be heard in retrospect, and sometimes they’re frankly lazy, assuming their gifts alone will bring recognition, while the untalented know, perhaps innately, that they have to work harder to compensate for their deficits.

          At the same time, I notice that charisma–which you’d think could be recognized by anyone–often goes undetected. It’s the strangest thing. I’ve met a few people who fairly glowed with charisma, but they attracted practically no interest at all. Was I wrong in thinking they were charismatic? But I couldn’t have been. It was glaringly obvious, but very few seemed to see it. And if the same applies to artistic talent–and I think it does–it must mean that a special eye is required. This is why we have so many dull celebrities: they’re chosen by dull people who wouldn’t know charisma if it came in a box stamped CHARISMA, and even they’d probably say, “Well, I don’t see anything special there,” and chase down dullness.

          Thanks for what you say about my work. It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, but I’m certainly far from the only one who’s struggling. Oh, and yes, I guess these fables ended up being more for adults than kids, though originally I’d wanted something that would be acceptable for children to read while making the adults laugh at things that went over the kids’ heads. But I guess I’m finally too sick to pull off something like that.

  40. Tom Hansen says:

    OMG! Duke, you don’t like CGI fantasy movies!??!! I thought I was alone……But seriously, I haven’t quite formulated exactly why to where I can coherently argue the point, but this movement towards fantasy and away from reality is troubling to me somehow. Which is probably why I insist on writing ‘good guys’ who also do things like kill people (they deserved it tho. Really) for the hell of it, and ‘bad guys’ capable of tenderness.

    But the fantasy does something, it reinforces something, as you said, a kind of unreality that I’m just not sure about. It’s just too simple. I’ve moaned often “Can we have just a little more reality please?”

    Who knows, maybe I’m just an old crank. On a obscure musical note, have you ever heard the album Expensive Sound by a band called Empire? It was made up of Bob Andrews, one of the most amazing guitarists this world ever produced, and Mark Laff, the drummer from Generation X after they got tired of Billy Idol. Excellent. Another obscure classic is Sea of Unrest by Toiling Midgets. I think Exp Sound came out in 1981 and Unrest in 83. Both of these are damned near impossible to find (I have the cd of the Midgets album) and as far as I know there isn’t even a cd of the Empire album. Both classics. And the Empire album is actually a microcosm of what we’ve been talking about. It was a brilliant album, and it gets forgotten by time while Billy Idol goes on to a huge career as a professional idiot.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      After my last post about actors, you’ll remember that you and I had an off-the-board exchange in which we batted the titles of films back and forth, and I told a mutual friend afterward, “Tom Hansen has great taste in movies!” I don’t say that often, for what it’s worth.

      I’ve just returned from a cross-town trip on the bus — I don’t have a car at the moment — and I noted, as I always do these days, that every — and I mean every — person on the bus under the age of thirty, no matter how apparently poor, had his or her ears plugged while listening to music. Now, I love music. I’ve devoted an enormous amount of time to music — much more time, I daresay, than any of those people on the bus, and even collectively — but, for me, living continually in a bubble of customized sound is tantamount to wearing glasses that cause every passerby to resemble a model, every pigeon a peacock, every stone a diamond. And I wouldn’t be surprised if such glasses one day exist. Such is our insatiable need for fantasy, and I don’t give a fuck if I sound like an old crank or not.

      At the same time, just because I’ve devoted myself to music doesn’t mean I’ve heard of Toiling Midgets or Empire, though I did have the misfortune of seeing Sigue Sigue Sputnik in London, and that’s one post-Generation X band that deserves to be forgotten.

      I haven’t yet Googled to see if Toiling Midgets or Empire can be heard online, as I have a feeling it can’t be. But I’ll take a look in a moment.

  41. Richard Cox says:

    I just finished reading Imperial Bedrooms, so I immediately drew parallels between that novel and the first part of your post. Except the novel was far darker. And I listened to David Cross’ album Shut Up You Fucking Baby, and there’s a whole bit in there about making it in Hollywood, which is also similar. I dunno why but I kept thinking about those as I read this. And I wondered if Wally ever auditioned a one-armed drummer. Ha.

    The third section speaks to all of us here, I suppose. Funny stuff, man.

    Nice to see you back around here, Mr. Haney. Sit a spell. Take your shoes off!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I will if y’all come back now, ya hear?

      But you don’t really think the third story speaks to us all here, do you? Jesus, I hope not.

      Next up: a sequel to Wally entitled The Devil Went Down to Yellowstone.

  42. Becky Palapala says:

    I’m so late to this, Duke. Apologies for that.

    “Then they danced for joy and went home and watched TV, as God intended.”

    This made me laugh. Like make an out-loud laugh noise. I almost never do that. At least not in response to writing.

    As far as I’m concerned, this makes you a genius.

    So when does the series go to press?

    I bet writers and artists would buy them. 🙂

    Then the irony would make us all dance for joy, we being writers and all.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Oh, no apologies necessary. At one time, in my first few months at TNB, I probably did sit by the computer with a stopwatch — “Where is everybody?” — but I like to think I’ve matured since then. Besides, I’ve been a truant of late. I took a break from TNB to work a data-entry job that left me wanting — no, needing — to avoid computers in my downtime. I assume everyone needs a break every now and then. Also, of course, TNB this week has been a regular roller derby.

      Uche mentioned somewhere above that artists are the best patrons of artists, which is true and something I hadn’t altogether considered when I wrote the introduction. In fact, on Facebook, non-TNB friends have been posting links to this piece — that’s definitely not the norm — and every one of them is an artist of kind or another. One in particular is seriously pushing me to get the series published, but, as with so many things (if not most), it’s a matter of funds.

      Now to have your compliment notarized and archived in a guarded vault.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I have henchmen that come and steal framed compliments when the recipient offends me, so don’t get too gay about it.

        (Do I have to offer the disclaimer here that “getting gay” as used here is a figure of speech hearkening back to the older meaning of the word? “Gleeful, celebratory.” Best to be safe.)

        I would give these books as cynical gifts to all my artist friends. And they would be cherished, I’m absolutely sure.

        Particularly among my death metal musician friends and some of my more brooding poet friends. In those cases, if they were slightly more graphic, all the better.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, if I ever got serious about the series, I might well take a more graphic turn. I was trying to think of other artistic paths for future titles, and one, I thought, could be a really gruesome variation on The Red Shoes, though I never got specific about the gruesomeness. But I don’t think a variation on The Red Shoes would work too well on death-metal types.

          I once read an op-ed piece (it was in Newsweek) about the need to reclaim the word “gay,” since there’s no other word with quite the same meaning. “Gleeful” lacks some of the giddy bliss of “gay,” yes? But don’t be afraid to say no. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard “gay” used as it was originally used, so I may be unfamiliar with its shadings. Anyway, I’ll adopt a more sober tone, lest I receive a visit from your henchman. Is it a Ninja?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          It’s a figure of speech my dad has always used (he’s from Connecticut) and that he says he picked up from his dad.

          “Don’t get too gay about it” is “don’t get your hopes up” in my family.

          You’ve NEVER heard “gay” in the older sense? Ever? “Gay old time?”

          I mean, you don’t have to go far back. Only, like, 50 years. It’s not Shakespeare stuff.

          “Gay” only took on its sensitive, sex-orientation meaning after the sexual revolution, I think. That’s my perception.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, yeah. I definitely I heard it on The Flintstones, and I’ve heard it in movies from the thirties and forties. I’m just not sure that I ever heard anyone in life use it. I’m not saying I never did, but I don’t have specific memories of it.

          Speaking of movies from the thirties and forties, there’s this famous moment from Bringing Up Baby, which suggests that the modern usage of “gay” possibly began before the sexual revolution, depending on when you date the beginning of the sexual revolution. (I know most say the sixties, or thereabouts, but I’ve seen it dated earlier.) Anyway:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A8U6aUPW48

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, sure. The inspiration (or part of it) for the hippie movement came from the Beats, right? I mean, that was at least 15 years earlier.

          I’m talking about widespread, commonplace usage. The place where it was assumed to mean the newer definition and not the older.

          Pretty sure that was later. You can still find “gay” as in “happy” in the 50s.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yeah, come to think of it, I’ve heard it said on I Love Lucy.

          I remember being surprised when I read an article on the sexual revolution that had it beginning around the time of WWI. But I suppose the early twentieth century–with flappers and so on–might amount to the proto-sexual revolution. I’ve just consulted Wikipedia, that oracle, which seems to support this notion.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’m sure it started as a euphemism. Slang.

          Most do.

          What’s interesting about gay is that while other (most) euphemisms for homosexuality have been deemed unacceptable, insulting, derogatory, etc., that one wasn’t. In fact, it became preferred, even over “homosexual.”

          I wonder why? Is there any way to know?

        • D.R. Haney says:

          That’s an interesting question. I did a quick Google search, which produced this brief bit:

          http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=gay

          It seems “gay” used to refer to houses of ill repute, as well as transients, and at one time it meant “showy.”

          But the real question, of course, is why it was ultimately preferred to “homosexual,” when it apparently was derogatory. I mean, “fairy” was another derogatory expression of yore, but it never went respectable. And then there’s “queer,” which was “taken back” in the late 80s or so, but I have a feeling that “gay” was never “taken back.”

          Look at me, with all these quotation marks. I’ve morphed into Tao Lin.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          The online etymology dictionary is one of my favorite websites ever. I go there many times a week.

          “gay,” “queer,” and “fag” all appear to have their modern usage origins in the 20s.

          “Fairy” is the gray duck, with its origins in the mid-19th century.

          w/r/t why “gay” is preferred to “homosexual,” the reason I was given in my Women/Gender/Sexuality Studies courses was that “homosexual” is a dry, technical term that near-pathologizes homosexuality. Like, where some euphemisms may be too loaded with implications, “homosexual” is too void of them, to the point of dehumanizing gay people.

          As far as why one euphemism is preferred and another uber-verboten, it’s tough to say. The etymologies of all those euphemisms are less-than flattering. Both “gay” and “faggot,” for example, carry what the dictionary calls “catamite implications,” but the latter, long before it referred to gay people (500 years before), was always kind of a nasty word, though it used to refer to women. Regardless of definition, it is simply understood, in some weird cultural/linguistic mass-consciousness kind of way, that this is the more contemptuous of the two, and I suppose that’s as close as we can get to an answer.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I hadn’t heard that it applied to women. That’s interesting. I was told once that the origin of the word had to do with burnings at the stake, so persecution, and an implied threat, was implicit in the term. But this didn’t ring true to me, and Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, says: “This is unlikely to be the case, and there is no tradition of burning at the stake being used as a punishment for homosexuality in Britain, although supposed witches and heretics were burnt to death in other parts of Europe, and were often accused of deviant sexual behavior.”

        • Becky Palapala says:

          The etymology dictionary says the burning at the stake origin is apocryphal as well, and gives the rather bleak rationale that it would have made no sense, since the preferred method of execution for homosexuals was hanging.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I know for sure that occurred at sea: “sodomites” were hung from the rafters.

          It’s a jump in subject matter, but I’m suddenly reminded of a story I was told by an elderly actor, someone who had a brief movie career and ended up doing a lot of episodic television. In the early sixties, I think it was, he did a movie in South Africa, and the day he arrived with a number of other members of the cast and crew, they were gathered in a room at the airport and given a speech by a South African official.

          “Miscegeny,” the official said, “is a crime, and anyone found guilty of miscegeny will receive twenty lashes with a whip.”

          One of the actors then raised his hand and said, “I may as well get my lashes now.”

          A tangent, as I warned.

  43. Tom Hansen says:

    TNB doesn’t need a haiku contest. It might need an episode of “Dueling Ranters” starring Duke and Tom, where we moan back and forth about all the disgusting and idiotic aspects of modern life

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Here’s an idea, Tom: why don’t we have a rant contest? Zara is already going to write and publish a book entitled Z in the next day or so, which, signed, could be our prize, and if no one wants to participate, it’ll just be you and me, and we’ll have our episode.

  44. Kymberlee says:

    This piece proves you are not a failed artist, D. Financial solvency is measure of one kind of success.

    Here’s one of my favorite definitions of success:

    “The definition of success–To laugh much; to win respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived–this is to have succeeded.” ~Emerson

    By your existence in this world–living loving and creating–you make it a better place.

    I feel such deep sorrow when I read these words and that’s good. We need to remember sorrow so we can hold it.

    Thank you for bravely taking another deep breath and continuing on and thank you for sharing yourself here.

    With love and respect,

    K

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Ah, thanks, Kimberlee. And thanks for sharing that bit of Emerson; I’d never read that.

      You’ve got love ole Ralph Waldo. I was having dinner one night with a film director for whom I was writing a script, and the project wasn’t going well and I was bummed, and the director said, “Here, read this out loud.” It was a bit from “Self-Reliance.” I was like, “What, are you crazy?”

      “No, go ahead. Read it out loud.”

      So I did, and, man, I was swept away. It was like being in a movie where someone turns into monster, except this was a transformation of inspiration, and if I’d read those words silently and alone, I don’t know that it would’ve had the same effect. Curious.

      I think every emotion needs to be remembered and held, since we do have a terrible habit of forgetting. Hence history. Hence art.

      And on that portentous note, I’ll sign myself with love and respect of my own —

      Duke

      • Kymberlee says:

        I love that story. I also love that you said you were “swept away”. So few people will say that or even let themselves feel it. Just lovely.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Do you really think that’s true of people? I tend to think they limit their stimuli based on what’s “acceptable” — a game or a popular TV show or a movie known to all — and, under those circumstances, they’ll let themselves go. At the same time, I do think they narrow their range of feeling, without usually knowing it. It’s like that old thing about only ninety percent of the brain’s potential being used. That’s certainly true where emotion is concerned, I think.

        • Kymberlee says:

          I do think it’s true. I see many numb and distracted people in the world. I see people who do not allow themselves to feel much of anything, let alone be swept away.

          Maybe it’s that I am exceptionally feeling by comparison. It’s hard for me to gauge that. I am swept away quite easily and feel things incredibly deeply. In particular, I am swept away by beauty and often feel gratitude to the point of tears. It makes me feel like a freak sometimes but wouldn’t have it any other way.

          Much of what drives me to myriad forms of expression is my desire/need to express the depth of experience that I feel. Acting, in particular, is a gift in this way.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, I was certainly a very emotional kid — I was always getting upset and throwing fits and brooding over some slight or the other, some of them no doubt the product of my imagination — and I’m sure it’s what led me to get into acting. Then, too, I think I was looking for approbation, which is common among actors. They look for the world to tell them what their families and peers don’t. Of course, this isn’t true for all actors, and no two paths are identical anyway, in acting or otherwise.

          I’ve often commented in my writing about the numbness I see in so many people around me, but I sometimes think that’s a bias — something I want to see, rather than something that’s true — so I try to challenge my own perceptions. As you say, it’s hard to gauge what others feel and don’t. So much remains hidden.

          By the way, I noticed on FB the other day that you kept one of your daughters home from school as a mental-health holiday. I forget your phrasing, but I must say, I loved the idea. It would never have occurred to my parents to do something like that, so I used to treat myself to my own mental-health holidays, which, predictably, often resulted in trouble.

  45. Kymberlee says:

    Yes, you have the stormy eyes of a brooder, don’t you? I wasn’t a brooder or fit thrower. I am just super sensitive like a huge nerve ending. It’s a blessing and a curse.

    It’s my believe that everyone seeks approbation. It’s expressed differently but it’s there.

    I challenge my own perceptions too but I still think it’s true. So many people use drugs (Rx or otherwise) to kill the pain and kill the joy in the process. I believe if more people were emotionally intelligent, the world would be more peaceful. If we allowed ourselves to feel, we wouldn’t deny pain suffering we see around as much and would be more inclined to act. I know, I’m an idealist…

    As for mental health holidays, me too! I used to feign illness as a child and later when I worked in the corporate world. I have since learned what my energy system needs to thrive and I teach my children to tune into that as well. I would rather they knew how to ask for what they need and openly ask for it and expect to get it than feel they have to lie or cheat to get their needs met.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I agree that everyone seeks approbation. Actors just tend to seek it more, from the world at large, as does anyone seeking to be a public figure. But nowadays that’s so many, yes?

      How much would you say emotional intelligence has to do with communication? I don’t think every problem can be resolved through communication, but I certainly think a large percentage of problems can be — or could be, since, unfortunately, a great many problems become bigger problems, and bigger yet, until they reach the point of no return. So much isn’t said, or it isn’t said well, or it’s perceived poorly when it is said well. This is the story of many a romantic relationship, I’m afraid.

      I malingered quite a bit as a child. I remember once feigning a fever to get out of class, and I was given a thermometer in the infirmary, only to have the nurse walk in and find me leaning over a heater as I tried to bump up my temperature. As I got older, I didn’t even bother to feign sickness; I’d simply leave in the morning, as if for school, and spend the day doing–whatever. I always had the sense, while in class, that the world was going on without me–I’d look out the window and watch cars zoom past and envy the drivers’ freedom, or what I thought of as freedom–so simply to visit a few stores or go to a movie in the middle of a school day felt like something of an adventure. I wonder if kids have ever thought the same of me as I walked or drove past their school.

  46. Marni Grossman says:

    If only I could order these. My sister is- G-d willing- having a baby and I’d love to be able to dash the child’s hopes and dreams as early as humanly possible. If someone had done that for me, I wouldn’t be a failed writer. I’d be a successful accountant.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Yes, an accounting degree almost always goes to good use. I wish I had one myself, though I’m terrible with numbers.

      It’s a wonderful surprise to hear from you, Marni, especially on a piece now sleeping the sleep of the ages in the archives.

  47. Kerry says:

    Duke! First off, my sincere apologies because I just read this post TODAY. I am MONTHS behind the times!

    Second, this is so completely, brilliantly funny, and spot on and sad and I too wish they were real books. Especially I Am a Book. That one is my favorite.

    So, yep. That’s it. Love the post. Sorry I’m just reading it now. Think I’m going to go link to it all over the place now. Cool, thanks, bye.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Oh, there’s no need to apologize, Kerry. On the contrary, I like receiving comments on archive pieces; they help me feel that the archive isn’t quite the graveyard that it often seems to be.

      Every so often, friends will mention the Failed Artist books to me, saying I’m an idiot not to pursue publishing them in earnest, that they’re surefire moneymakers and so on, but I don’t have the time. So here they remain, slumbering like the book in I Am a Book, though hopefully they’re not quite as mean-spirited when woken.

  48. […] D.R. Haney’s sardonic primer on how (or at least why) to fuck writing and get into retail. […]

  49. […] good writing all in the same volume. Secondly, D.R. Haney’s gloriously depressing humor piece Failed Artist ™ line of children’s books. The third in the series is a cautionary tale, I Am A Book, wherein a boy sells his soul to the […]

  50. Anonymouse says:

    These are hilarious. That is all.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thanks, An0nymouse. I would’ve responded earlier, but I’m no longer being notified by email of comments on my posts here, and it was only by luck that I noticed yours.

  51. pixy says:

    how the heck did i miss this?
    i mourn jenny’s nose.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      One of my favorite books, now out of print, is “Shadows of the Sun” (http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Sun-Diaries-Harry-Crosby/dp/0876853041), the diary of the obscure Lost Generation poet Harry Crosby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Crosby), in which he recounts a meeting with Edith Wharton, and when he asked her about Ethan Frome, she said, simply, “Poor Ethan.”

      Similarly, all I can think to say at this late hour about Jennifer Bombs in Hollywood is: “Poor Jennifer.”

      • pixy says:

        i’m fairly certain that i will think of jennifer’s nose everytime i accidentally step on a slug this winter.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Weirdly, your comment causes me to miss slugs. They were everywhere in Virginia, where I grew up, but we don’t have them in California, where the climate is presumably too dry for them.

          Did you ever, as a child, pour salt on a slug? I did, having been told it would cause the slug to instantly wither, almost to the point of disappearance, and die. My victim definitely died, but it failed to wither to my satisfaction.

          Of course now I feel horrible for having deliberately killed that slug.

          • pixy says:

            despite spending half my formative years in alabama, the first slug i saw was a HUGE, bright yellow banana slug somewhere in the santa cruz forest a few years ago. the soil in alabama was too clay-y for the slugs to like it and there weren’t enough trees around the peanut farm for them to live in.

            i had heard of pouring salt on a slug and how they’re supposed to shrink, but i never participated. what my grandmama would do though is pour lye on dead animals that showed up with maggots eating away and watching them writhe in maggot agony was… interesting.

            the slugs here in portland are big and weird and, while i’ve managed to avoid them thus far, i’ve seen the carcasses and they seem to have weird white little slug nuggets inside of them. and, apparently, the slug goo is impossible to get off your shoes.

            • D.R. Haney says:

              But it’s kind of sparkly, which you, as a pixy, are surely bound to appreciate.

              Some of the soil in Virginia, where I grew up, is clay also — red clay — but that’s only one type of soil there. In fact, I’d never thought much, until this moment, about the diversity of soil in Virginia, so thanks for that. Meanwhile, I didn’t know until I read your comment that you’re from Alabama. And you grew up on a peanut farm? That would have put you on the short list for a possible presidential appointment during the Carter era.

              • pixy says:

                yes, yes i do enjoy sparkly things. i even like gooey sparkly things. and i’m sure that, given the right environment in which to investigate the slugs, i would appreciate their innards a lot more. but, in gross cold nastypants rain, i don’t really want to curl up on the ground and poke ’em.

                in alabama we had the red soil too. i’m sure there were other varieties, but all i could see for miles and miles around, even in the forest, is that burnt red-orange soil. it was crumbly and impossible to sift through buckets or old tractor parts so it wasn’t that fun.
                as for the presidential appointment, i only get half cred because i spent half the year in california. essentially, when my parents got tired of me hanging around in san diego, they’d send me to alabama to shell peas and eat collard greens. i lasted about 6 months at a time in each place. talk about a way to fuck a kid up. 🙂

                • D.R. Haney says:

                  Ah, so the San Diego connection may partly explain your membership in the Poltz family.

                  As a little kid on my grandparents’ farm in Virginia, I did my share of shelling peas, as well as snapping green beans (which we called snaps, of course). Also, I picked blackberries (and got stung repeatedly by yellow jackets in the process), and bailed hay and straw, and slopped hogs, and milked cows, though only by hand when the milk was being tested for lumps. But I’m very happy to have done every bit of that. Everyone should spend time on a farm, I think, particularly when they’re very young.

  52. pixy says:

    i liked being there for the most part, i just didn’t like being shipped there unceremoniously. i picked a lot of peanuts. and fed the catfish and slogged the lake they were in. i learned to drive at 9 there because they let me mow the fields with the riding mower. sweet tea never tastes as good as when you’re sitting on the riding mower in the middle of the summer.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Yeah, we had a riding mower, too, but I was never allowed to use it. One time a horseshoe flew out from under the blades and hit my Aunt Sylvia on the leg, leaving her with a permanent scar — which wasn’t, by the way, in the shape of a horseshoe. Oh, and of course we had sweet tea, too, which my grandmother would serve in Mason jars, with long-stemmed, plastic tea spoons. I was obsessed with those spoons when I was very young, maybe because they came in primary colors. Also, they seemed somehow exotic. And there were (and are) two ponds on my grandfather’s farm, but no catfish in the ponds, only bass and perch and frogs and snapping turtles — but I only ever saw the heads, never the bodies, of the snapping turtles on the surface of the water, only to watch them quickly disappear.

      • pixy says:

        cheese and rice, all of this is making me yearn for the south. and chicken dumplings. and butter nut cake. and monkey bread. and fried corn bread. and fried okra. and catfish.
        stupid, sexy south.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yeah, cornbread is something, but we had bass (of course!) instead of catfish, and okra only occasionally, and pound cake more often than butternut cake. My grandmother could bake a mean pound cake, and her fried chicken should’ve been world famous.

          • pixy says:

            we would have 4th of july catfish frys and miss vivia (the most beatuiful woman in the world to little kid me – she was like a fairy princess and taught sunday school when i was there because i was the only kid to teach sunday school to) made the fried chicken. i had to be rolled out of those get togethers.

            • D.R. Haney says:

              For now, this will have to be my last comment before I race out the door, but unfortunately, as much as I loved my grandmother, when I was a child I considered Sharon Tate the most beautiful woman in the world, and, being dead, she was unable to prepare fried chicken for me. I mean, not that she would’ve done it anyway.

              I apologize, O Ghost of Sharon Tate, for making a joke about your earthly self! You were truly hypnotic, and you didn’t need crazy coke eyes to pull it off!

              • pixy says:

                i bet she definitely would have made you fried chicken. but it wouldn’t have been as good as your grandmas.
                miss vivia had this light cloud of curly hair and was so delicate and wore red all the time. in other words, the total opposite of me and anyone in my family.

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