When I Fell in Love – Greg Olear

I “fell in love” in the same manner that Mike Campbell, Hemingway’s drunken wastrel, went bankrupt: gradually, and then all at once. Here is a timeline of my formative years, with the year read in parentheses:

(Note: I’m skipping the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, Charles Wallace, Boo Radley, the Tripods, the Chicken Man, various two-dimensional pilgrims to the Boulder Free Zone, and other childhood crushes for whom my ardor has not stood the test of time.)

1984 (1984)

The first grown-up book I ever read, at age eleven, impacted me almost as much as the video for Macintosh that ran during the Super Bowl that January. Not only do George Orwell and I share initials, his (pen) name is almost an anagram of “Greg Olear.” If I squint, it looks like I’m the author.

Lord of the Flies (1986)

The first and only time I finished the entire book when only the first three chapters were required.

Welcome to the Monkeyhouse (1987)

In which we are invited to identify with Billy the Poet, intercourse apologist and deflowerer of damsels in distress. Wow did I want to boink a Suicide Hostess.

The Sun Also Rises (1989)

Continuing the trend of crushing on novels that had absolutely no relevance to my dorkwad existence, I picked this for a book report because my mother had a copy, and it was short, and it was featured on an episode of Cheers, in which Sam Malone, upon discovering that Jake Barnes had gotten his you-know-what shot off in the war, drops Diane’s coveted first edition into the bathtub. I’ve read this seven or eight times. I’m still in love with Brett Ashley—of whom Totally Killer‘s Taylor Schmidt is, perhaps, a kickass Gen X reincarnation.

Ulysses (1993)

Semester at NYU. Class on Joyce. Three months reading Bloomsday. Day he met Nora Barnacle. Name makes her sound clingy. Paddy Dignam and Simon Dedalus. Old professor. Irish of course. Name escapes me. O’Connell, O’Donnell. Long discussion on a single paragraph. Epiphany: dog spelled backward is God. Or is it God spelled. Profound anyway. Deep as a. Over my head, most of it. Understand it, no. Read it. Eyeballs scanned every word. Yes yes yes yes YES.

Paradise Lost (1994)

I did everything short of selling a kidney to get out of the “major author” prerequisite necessary to graduate from Georgetown with a bachelor’s in English literature, but after suffering through Shakespeare, I had no choice but to submit to a dourer DWEM. Lucky thing, because Milton turned out to be the best class I took in college, and Paradise Lost superior, in my view, to anything composed by the more-celebrated Stratford-upon-Avon Bard. (Sidenote: the professor who annotated my text, who also wrote the Cliff’s Notes, makes dubious claims such as, “Paradise Lost is not about politics,” when that is, in my reading, the epic poem’s main concern.) Milton is also the author of my favorite poem of all time.

From there I moved to Dolores Haze and John Shade, Pierce Inverarity and Bucky Wunderlick, Teresa Durbeyfield and Libbets Casey, Michael Valentine Smith and Andrew Wiggin, Maximilien Aue and Major Major, Vince Camden and Matt Prior, Jason Maddox and Wayne Fencer and Will the Thrill, and Paul Theroux in any of his various forms.

Literary love, it seems, is not monogamous.

[Author’s note: In honor of Jonathan Evison, I wore sweatpants when I wrote this].

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3G1B is the collaboration of four friends and colleagues in the book business. Together, they review books and stories, interview authors, and maintain an ongoing conversation about publishing, bookselling, writing, pr, and nearly anything else.

JONATHAN EVISON is the author of All About Lulu and West of Here and TNB's Executive Editor. He likes rabbits. He also likes being the ambiguous fourth guy in the “Three Guys” triumvirate. He is the founder of the secret society, The Fiction Files (if he told, he’d have to kill you). He has a website, but it’s old. Just google him.

DENNIS HARITOU has bought books for Barnes and Noble for seven years, for warehouse clubs for five, and has led a book club. He is currently Director of Merchandise at Bookazine.

JASON CHAMBERS has been in the book business for over fifteen years, including tenures as General Manager/Buyer at Book Peddlers in Athens, GA, and seven years as a Buyer and Merchandise Manager at Bookazine. He now works as an bookstore consultant and occasional web designer.

JASON RICE has worked in the book business for ten years at Random House in sales and marketing and Barnes & Noble as a community relations manager. Currently he is an Assistant Sales Manager and Buyer at Bookazine. His fiction has appeared in several literary magazines online and in print. He was once the pseudonymous book reviewer Frank Bascombe for Ain’t It Cool News. He’s taught photography to American students in the South of France, worked as a bicycle messenger in New York City, and for a long time worked very hard in the film & television business in NYC. Production experience includes the television shows Pete & Pete, Can We Shop ( Joan Rivers' old shopping show), and the films The Pallbearer, Flirting With Disaster, and countless commercials---even a Christina Applegate movie that went straight to video.

43 responses to “When We Fell In Love – Greg Olear”

  1. I didn’t know that The Sun Also Rises was on Cheers.

    • Greg Olear says:

      It’s a problematic episode…Sam is reading the book in the tub and comes to the part where he realizes Jake has had his dick blown off in the war. Sam, a sex addict, is horrified by this, and drops the book into the tub. But there is no “gotcha” moment in the book where this is revealed…it’s very subtle.

      • Ogden Robanovich says:

        My cock was still prepubescent when I read the book, but I still recall feeling a great deal of shock and empathy when I finally figured out what the hell Hemingway was getting at there….

        • Greg Olear says:

          So weird that you commented just now, “Ogden.” I was thinking about you when I typed the FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD comment below…you chanting it in your “Sir Loin of Meat” voice.

          You’re a big Hemingway guy, too, though, if memory serves, right?

        • Ogden Robanovich says:

          My quest is to cross the bridge!

          I prefer Orwell now…..When I was unemployed in October 1996 and living in a Midwest version of skid row, I would laze around all day reading Down and Out in Paris and London, until my ex would stop by for a 4pm frolic and a romantic dinner at McDonalds. It was the perfect thing to read at the time…

          I think this gal read your old assessments of Billy Joel as “trying to hard to be cool” and “anger and bitter”, and agreed with you….

  2. D.R. Haney says:

    To repeat what was said elsewhere: Jason Maddox appreciates his inclusion. Which gives me an opportunity to show you this bit of weirdness:


  3. D.R. Haney says:

    Taylor Schmidt a Gen X Brett Ashley? Ha. I can see it. I wonder if something similar could be said of Irina?

    Oh, and how do you think Todd would fare with Jason and Wayne Fencer, to resume here the discussion that we started at the 3G site?

    • Greg Olear says:

      I didn’t think about it until I wrote this, but yes, Taylor is surely a Gen X Brett Ashley: both are gorgeous, promiscuous, ahead-of-their-time lushes with whom men fall desperately in love.

      Jason is way cooler than Todd. Wayne is cooler than Todd, too, but in a different way. I think Jason might have dug Asher, though, in the same way he dug the Upper East Side lawyer types. Also, Wayne did not fare well in New York City, getting socked in the jaw when he went to a bar there. (I’ve been told that this is pure invention, incidentally, and one of the late additions to the ADD MS). Taylor would have made Jason forget all about Irina…but if they all moved in the same circles, Asher would have whisked Irina away on a jet, no question.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Oh, man, you’re completely right about Asher and Irina. The sonofabitch! She’s my girl!

        This is a lot of fun, imagining your characters interacting with mine.

        • I think Peewee and Taylor would have saved each other.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Really?! How so?! I tend to think they’d be mongoose and cobra.

        • They were/are both strong minded, stubborn, smart and young. I feel like they would have brought out the best in each other – eventually. Sometimes that can be the right combo.

          Taylor was misguided, not as evil and sick as Todd. Peewee needed a good lady.

          I just imagine them saving each other in this alternate 1991 BFL-TK/Happy Days – Laverne & Shirley universe.

        • alsooooo – thinking more about it….
          Peewee would have made Taylor drop the whole publishing dream – she would have become a writer instead. And this would have happened because he would have introduced to her to the transcendently inspiring music of Rule of Thumb!

        • Greg Olear says:

          In the Laverne & Shirley universe, Peewee was Squiggy.

          Taylor did like her hair metal. She liked loud music. Yeah, that could have worked.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          But wouldn’t Taylor have initially rejected Peewee for being a shrimp and “weird”?

          I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of matchmaking, and it’s hilarious to think of Peewee and Taylor together. He couldn’t even get it going with a hipster chick like Laura!

          Wait a minute. Betsy — the girl in the VW when the accident occurred? — she wasn’t that unlike Taylor, and she dug Peewee.

        • Taylor would have been tired of these bo-hunk guys who dicked her around.
          I’m sorry – but Peewee had substance, agreed? He was the man to do it.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, yeah. But she would’ve had to gotten past her superficiality to see his substance. It was one of the great tragedies of his life that so few girls did. But things did improve for him.

        • I think she would have. I think her superficiality is what killed her.
          And he, somehow, in this star studded romance that I have created,
          would have helped show her the way because of his incredible brain, passion and spirit.
          And would have saved her. And she him, well, because they wouldn’t have been in that car – I don’t know. And Taylor is a bit small too – like 5 feet 3, I think, so he wouldn’t have seemed that small to her. And keep in mind that women are much less forgiving than men when it comes to mens looks.

          Oh, I don’t know. I just like to think they could have been a great couple – one for the books.

          My argument is fading, I guess.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Alas, if we’re to look at this in chronological terms, his time didn’t perfectly coincide with hers. But we can always dream, yes? And the dude was a catch, in my opinion. For all his faults, I regard him as an angel.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Maybe they hooked up at a Superego show in Missouri. She didn’t like frat boys, but she liked just about everybody else.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, man. If Taylor had seen Superego in Missouri, I’m afraid something real bad would’ve happened, had she hung out with the band(s) after the show. Do you remember Jason’s mention of an “orgy” to Irina? Girls getting passed around? Yeah, that.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Taylor wouldn’t get passed around; she’d do the passing around.

          Although Todd never mentioned the Superego orgy in her diary…

        • Mrs. TK says:

          Yeah, not really worried about Taylor.
          Although – it’s really just Todd’s recanting of her diary –
          we don’t even really know if her list of lovers was real.
          He could have made it all up – right???


        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yes, Greg, but even as a teenager? I mean, was she born a man-eater? If, as the lovely Mrs. TK points out, Todd even reported her ways and appetites accurately.

        • Greg Olear says:

          She’s Hall & Oates for sure. She was 15, I think, when she lost her virginity, and she never looked back.

  4. Becky says:

    Orwell was my first “Grown Up Book” love, too. I did a report on “Animal Farm” in 6th grade. Then again in 8th grade. Perhaps this colored my socio-political-philosophical bent as I matured? Or did I love the book so much because my bent was somehow native?

    A question for the fates.

    My first beloved “grown-up” poem was Beowulf. 8th grade again. I remember being often confused, but fascinated, and feeling really, really determined to understand what was going on, sometimes lingering on the same 3 pages for days, reading over and over until I managed to piece together what was happening.

    • Greg Olear says:

      They had this little “how to write” book that they gave everyone at my (public) high school freshman year, that talked about outlining and all that. The example was Beowulf. “Beowulf’s courage” was a big deal, apparently. That’s all I know about it, though. But I can see how you would keep coming back to it.

      I love Animal Farm, too.



      Happy birthday.

      • Becky says:

        Thanks, Greg. Again. Oddly (or maybe not?), I’m very Piscean today. Ask around. I’m SMOOSHy.

        I haven’t read Beowulf since 8th grade. I chose it, incidentally. They don’t go around assigning Beowulf to 14 year-olds. My sister was a 12-years-older English lit major and had talked about it. Always one who felt more grown-up than I was, I decided it was the book report for me.

        So I was 14 trying to compete with my sister who was in grad school. I may have been in over my head.

        But I know I liked it. And I liked the movie that came out recently. I haven’t read it since then because, I think, I’m afraid with all my fancy schoolin’, my romantic memories about that experience will be spoiled. Should I read it again? I’ve made the mistake of looking at pictures of some of my middle school “boyfriends,” and it’s a sobering experience. I don’t want that to happen to my poetry.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Well, it’s Sun conjunct Sun, so that makes sense.

          I haven’t re-read Lord of the Flies for the same reason. I don’t want to like it less. Although I did re-read 1984, and it’s still awesome. Personally, I think you’re better off with Paradise Lost than Beowulf. But then, I said that already, up there.

        • Becky says:

          I’m going to avoid talking too much about my first experience with Jack Kerouac. I will only gush. But, I mean, if you want to talk about literary love. He’s my Mr. Right.

          I was lucky to meet him when I was young. 16. _Dharma Bums_. It cemented my commitment to English Literature as an academic discipline. For better or worse.

          It is his birthday tomorrow.

          Paradise Lost is beautiful. Beowulf is older. The oldest complete text in English. Or maybe not exactly that, but something like that.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I never got into Kerouac, probably because I read him at the wrong time, far too late to be of impact.

          Love the new Gravatar. You’re on my team!

        • Becky says:

          HA. I just noticed yours.

          I don’t know if it’s an age thing. Kerouac isn’t for everybody. Though I think he does get pigeon-holed, to a degree, as somewhat immature…or a teen or young adult author…for a handful of books, when the reality is that he was VERY prolific and his work spanned the gamut from traditional novel (Town and City) to the REALLY out there (The Subterraneans was written in 3 days and nights and you have to learn how to read it as you go, since it has nothing like “normal” punctuation).

          But it’s true. Some people just can’t get into him. He relays narrative in a way that is inherently poetic…not just in the sense that it’s pretty but it reads as metered, rhythmic, etc. so maybe that’s the appeal for me.

          You know, add reader, writer, shake vigorously. If nothing happens, try a different mixture.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Love love love Orwell.
    Great initials G.O.

  6. Richard Cox says:

    How do I always miss these posts? I guess my pea brain can only look at the left hand column or the comments, unless there is a light saber involved.

    This is a great list. Three of them are on my list of all-time favorites: 1984, Lord of the Flies, and Paradise Lost. Although the last one I only read once, as a high school freshman, so I should probably go back and read it again.

    BTW, am I the only person on earth who preferred Diane to Rachel on “Cheers?”

    • Greg Olear says:

      They don’t show up in the main feed, is the short answer, and if they aren’t plugged in the “news” area, they live on the bottom of the Fiction page.

      I’m not surprised by the Orwell and the Golding, but I always think I’m the only person on earth who likes Milton. It’s good to hear he’s got his fans. Although I spoke at SUNY last week, and I’m reliably informed that he is alive and well on college campuses, thank heaven.

      I think more people prefer Diane, but Kirstie Alley, back in the day? Game set match. But then, I was late to the show, and also liked Woody better than Coach.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Thank you for not correcting me. I had the first letter correct, at least. I didn’t have a chance to look it up, and whenever you’re lazy you always pay. Sorry, Rebecca.

        Yes, Milton impressed me. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. But I should definitely pay him another visit.

        Did you ever read Alas, Babylon? Not on par with the above mentioned, but it was another high school read I’d like to revisit, and I’ve got a vaguely-similar novel idea in the works. I’d also like to read On the Beach. If anyone here has read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

        • Greg Olear says:

          It actually took me awhile to figure out that Rachel wasn’t right. It’s not like it was on the tip of my tongue or anything.

          Never read either of the other titles. Will investigate.

          Don’t write this down, but I find Milton as boring as you find Milton. His wife found him boring, too. He’s long-winded, he doesn’t translate well into our society, and his jokes are horrible. But that doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility for the material. I’m waiting for reports from some of you. I’m not joking — this is my job.

        • Ben Loory says:

          alas, babylon and on the beach might as well be same book, rich. though the first is slightly less depressing. not sure why anyone would want to read either, to be honest. although i read them both, and many more of their ilk(!), so who am i to say. earth abides was another one i read at that time, which actually had a really great ending. 400 pages of wrist-slitting boredom leading up to it though, but hey.

          pkd’s dr. bloodmoney, on the other hand… now there’s a great post-apocalyptic book!

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