Reading: Not Everything Can Be A Musical (dammit)

Extraordinary Adventures, Daniel Wallace, Hardcover, 336pp, May 2017, St. Martin’s Press

I was hanging in my local indie, The Curious Iguana, a gift card SCREAMING at me from my wallet to buy something but there weren’t any books I was dying to have or had been alerted to by my vast Twitter network of word and book lovers. So  consulted my friendly bookseller and, voila! All I needed was to be told the writer of Big Fish had a new release, Extraordinary Adventures, and I was in.

Okay, true confessions (why do so many of my book write-ups involve confessions?): I never actually read Big Fish. And surely you don’t think me one of those cretins who believes movie content has much of anything to do with the book that inspired it. Ha! Of course not. It was the *MUSICAL version of Big Fish had its way with my heart, memory of which experience prompted me to buy this book.

The blurbs called it quirky and funny and hilarious and witty, and I suppose that’s a decision made by the marketing people, but wow, while I found much to admire in it and was touched by its humanity and tenderness, I did not find it funny.

I asked myself why?

And, alarmingly, the only answer with which I could come up was that, perhaps, maybe, it could be, oh dear, I’m too much like the main character, Edsel Bronfman. He is a reasonably intelligent man, reasonably capable, reasonably kind and good, who has allowed his life to live him rather than he living his life. He waited, he hoped, he wished, but he didn’t do much to make any of his hopes or wishes come to fruition. He did not — maybe — believe he was worthy of the lives he saw others living, the hopes fulfilled, and the wishes come true.

Edsel makes an effort to remedy these things through the course of the narrative (he’s MUCH younger than I am, so, good on him for trying to change) and interacts with a number of extraordinary women, discovers some of his mother’s secrets, develops a fondness for the drug dealer next door who robs his apartment and almost gets him killed, and trips, trudges, and travels through a series of — well, okay — quirky adventures leading up to a resolution — of sorts.

The novel sometimes feels as if it’s trying just a little too hard to be a Bill Murray vehicle. You know, one of those darkish meta-noirs posing as comedies directed by a pair of brothers, the kind a comedic actor signs up for in an effort to gain an auteur-hip patina and an Oscar nomination; the kind of film (definitely NOT a movie) the cognoscenti group-think agree to crow over despite the fact very few of them actually sat through the whole thing.

Which makes it sound as if I didn’t like this book, which is not the case. I didn’t not like it. I just, well, look, I’m having a rough life and I’m a hard sell on believing that your average schlub is going to stumble out of schmo-dom into a happy end.

After my tenth biopsy in four weeks, with insurance the congress is about to strip me of, in a country being run by a misogynist racist mentally unstable foreign plant, well, I’m just not buying it.

And there it is. And here I am, going.

*I saw the final performance of Big Fish: The Musical, to which I was taken as a gift by a dear, dear friend of mine. I had recently lost some people, my life was in what can politely be called chaos, one of the stars of the show — Bobby Steggert — is from Frederick, Maryland, where I live, and I had seen him in shows when he was a youngster, and, I am a sucker for almost every musical ever. Kate Baldwin played the love interest in the show, and during the course of it, as the leading character is dying, she sits downstage center, holds his head in her lap, and sings a song called I Don’t Need A Roof — listen:

During the course of this song I sobbed (you’d have to be an ice cube not to do so) with such vigor and volume not only did my dear friend on my right put his arm around me to comfort me, the stranger on my left grabbed my hand and comforted me as well, sobbing along. So, yeah, that kind of magic? I’m of course going to buy Extraordinary Adventures.

Saturday Night

Colby Keller never called. Oh well. I got to see my Cody. And, Her Grace checked on me. Those things are beautiful. I am grateful for the ways I am loved. But, oh dear, I’m exhausted, my Lights and Loves. I am truly, truly exhausted.

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I need to laugh more often. I believe that lack of laughter is why I am so tired. Saturday night.

 

 

 

I OBJECT(ify)! WTF FRIDAY?

The Arts, capital A, are dead.

The weekend started badly late last night when I got on Twitter and saw the news that Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County was closing on Broadway May 18. I find this incredibly disturbing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that after the success of its live broadcast of The Sound of Music, NBC has announced another “live musical broadcast”, this time, another Mary Martin vehicle, Peter Pan. Not to be outdone, and not to risk being anywhere near as tasteful, FOX has announced plans for a live production of Grease. Now, far be it from me to cavil and complain about this trend — at least musicals are being done and anything that brought singing Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti to television, good thing — but why can’t one of the twelve kabillio-jillion networks produce versions of NEW MUSICALS? Maybe, just maybe, if the networks were made to take seriously their charge to use the airwaves for some service, some good, rather than everything in the entire fucking world being about how one can monetize and maximize profits, we’d live in a world where things that can’t be reduced to a slogan on a T-shirt that can catch the eye on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, would thrive. Or, at least, exist. That the two most considered, constructed, beautifully scored, sung and performed musicals of the year, Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish and Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County , closed after such short runs is a tragic and sorry commentary — NOT on the state of musical theatre, but, rather, on the lack of educated audience enough existing to support such non-blockbuster, insightful, moving works of Art. Yes, ART. LISTEN:

Stories told with such glorious music, must MUST exist. I can’t imagine a world in which all we have to pass on to the next generation are songs like those from Grease and Disney musicals — NOT that those don’t have a place, they DO, but they CANNOT be the only place. CALLING MR WILLIAMS!

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And as if that weren’t enough to ruin my weekend, an article by Will Self in The Guardian called The Novel is Dead (this time it’s for real) [CLICK HERE TO READ] is all over the place, being Tweeted and copied and posted and generally showing up everywhere to beat me about the head and heart with its pronouncement of the death of literary fiction and Art — YES DAMMIT, CAPITAL A — in general. Oh lord. Listen to Mr. Self:

The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Let me refine my terms: I do not mean narrative prose fiction tout court is dying – the kidult boywizardsroman and the soft sadomasochistic porn fantasy are clearly in rude good health. And nor do I mean that serious novels will either cease to be written or read. But what is already no longer the case is the situation that obtained when I was a young man. In the early 1980s, and I would argue throughout the second half of the last century, the literary novel was perceived to be the prince of art forms, the cultural capstone and the apogee of creative endeavour. The capability words have when arranged sequentially to both mimic the free flow of human thought and investigate the physical expressions and interactions of thinking subjects; the way they may be shaped into a believable simulacrum of either the commonsensical world, or any number of invented ones; and the capability of the extended prose form itself, which, unlike any other art form, is able to enact self-analysis, to describe other aesthetic modes and even mimic them. All this led to a general acknowledgment: the novel was the true Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk.

Now, first of all, you don’t get writing like that every day — AND THAT’S MY FUCKING POINT! I sent it to a few people — his link — and one replied that his sentences were too complex to really read right now. OH HOLY MOTHER OF GUTENBERG. That reply told me all I needed to know about the death of intellect. I mean, honestly?

I, myself, pander to the lowest common denominator by peppering my posts with “fucks” and including naked men. I NEVER get more hits than when I am tagged “big dick” — and not in the way it has been used throughout my life to refer to me, which, I assure you, has NOTHING to do with the size of my genitalia, but, rather, the length of my curmudgeonly attitude. I know those hits mean NOTHING, that those who hit on me because of my “big dick” are not reading me, don’t get me, know nothing about me, but STILL — I, too, have fallen for the zeitgeistian measure of what makes me matter.

I MUST BE A BIG BLOGGER. I was assured it was my SOLE path to being published. But, I write literary fiction. So, even if I managed to get published – WHO THE FUCK WOULD READ MY BIG DICKED PROSE? (Search that, baby.)

But, when it reigns — and by “IT” I mean cultural illiteracy, it pours. New York Magazine posted an item about the rumored (and, it seems, still to happen) Amtrak residencies for writers [CLICK HERE TO READ] with this sentence near its opening:

The Amtrak Writers’ Residency was a comic marketing proposition from the start — one ancillary, antiquated business (rail service) teaming up with another (books) full of people so needful of acknowledgment and peace of mind that they’d consider a week in a four-by-seven sleeper room a “residency.”

A sentence managing to announce the desperate state of literature as Art form while also heralding the death of train travel. Oh please. Please. KILL ME. Or, don’t, because apparently now after killing someone, you sue their family for relief from the pain and suffering killing them caused YOU! Yes, a woman is suing the family of a boy she fatally struck with her SUV while speeding. No shit. Read it here at VICE.COM

Talk about your big dick. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

I canNOT. Just CAN NOT. And this whole “the owner of the Clippers is a racist” — uhm, yeah. Well, how is this a surprise? And the fact that a sports team is worth a billion dollars, and that college sports tournaments sell more tickets at higher prices than a Broadway musical, that JUST IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS a high school athlete can call someone a “faggot” and harass and abuse and NOT get called on it so he WON’T LOSE HIS SCHOLARSHIP — I mean, the world is a mess. THE WORLD IS A MESS AND I CAN JUST BARELY LEAVE MY ROOM.

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In fact, I am going away. I am house/pet sitting beginning tomorrow (after seeing Megan Hilty tonight, yes, that’s right — CAPITAL A, ART!) and I will not be back until Tuesday and I am taking with me only my books. I may not even shower. Definitely not shaving. Just holing up, cuddling with dogs, turning off the BIG DICK-ed whole entire FUCKING world. (Hit that) And here are the pics for those of you who only came here for … you know …

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I OBJECT(ify): Tony Award Nominations and other WTF?’s

Someone recently suggested that I was opinionated and judgmental. Actually, it wasn’t a suggestion, but, rather, an unabashed and full on declaration, although, to be fair, it was in response to my having first made the exact same accusation about her. She, however, used this blog as evidence that I was judgmental.

Hmph. Now hear this, I do have rather strong opinions about things and I do work on the foundational assumption that my opinions are more right than wrong, so, it NATURALLY follows that those with whom I agree are smarter and better informed and in all ways superior to those who disagree with me. However, that doesn’t mean I’m judging you ignorami who don’t understand that I know best.

I think we can all agree that that settles that. And if you don’t agree, well, not to judge, but you are WRONG!

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Zachary Quinto’s latest Instagram. He has quite an admirable body of work.

Speaking of wrong, the Tony Award nominations [see them HERE at Broadway.com] were announced this morning and some very deserving work was, in the words of Julie Andrews, “egregiously overlooked.” For example, the brilliant revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie  was deservedly nominated in Best Revival of a Play, Best Director, and earned nods for three of its four actors; Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan Bolger, and Brian J. Smith, but neglected, EGREGIOUSLY, was its lead actor, Zachary Quinto. I am horrified. He was quite simply, BRILLIANT in the role, called by those who knew Mr. Williams the very best Tom ever, closest to the vision Mr. Williams dreamed and, quite rightly, closest to the energy of Mr. Williams himself who wrote the role as autobiography. WTF? Well, thank goodness I’ve Mr. Quinto’s body of work on American Horror Story to watch again and again, and his body — period — from his latest Instagram to … uhm … watch. Yeah. That. Again and again.

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Jeremy Jordan. Because.

And that’s not the ONLY ridiculous — NOT THAT I’M BEING JUDGMENTAL — oversight. The delightful, moving, magical, fantastical, tuneful musical, Big Fish, garnered not one single nomination. Who do you have to fuck in New York to get a Tony? And by that I do not refer to the rumors about Arthur Laurents and his Brian Singer-ing of Matt Cavenaugh and Jeremy Jordan that they might get the lead male ingenue role in the West Side Story revival. Honestly, Big Fish was one of my favorite musicals since Grey Gardens and the score by Mr. Andrew Lippa has everything a Broadway musical ought to including the glorious I Don’t Need a Roof, the YouTube of which I post about once a week. Speaking of, how did Kate Baldwin not get nominated as Best Leading Actress in a Musical? And Norbert Leo Butz not nominated for Leading Actor? WHAT? SO FRUSTRATING!

And so, bad enough Big Fish didn’t get a nomination, but, come on people, The Bridges of Madison County didn’t get a Best Musical nomination either? Why? I’ve just rapturized about this show yesterday in this blog [CLICK HERE FOR THAT ENTRY]. At least Jason Robert Brown was nominated for Best Score. But, Bartlett Sher was robbed not being nominated for Best Direction. That direction was flawless.

And why, praytell, was Bobby Steggert not nominated for Big Fish and/or Mothers and Sons? He is from Frederick. My town. He should be nominated EVERY YEAR.

Oh well, just my opinion, I’m not judging the assholes who made these mistakes.

Enough about the Tony Award noms. EXCEPT, I quit smoking last year on the day of the Tony Awards so I would always remember the date. Now, what with all the ridiculous omissions in this year’s noms, I might be forced to take up nicotine again. I feel — somehow — personally affronted.

KYstoreSpeaking of affronted, Joe.My.God. blog [CLICK HERE] posted this story this morning about a Kentucky store that has posted signage saying it welcomes Christians and gun-carriers but NOT people who swear or are gay. Honestly, they’ve a slash through the rainbow. Have you ever? What a world.

Herald Embroidery [CLICK TO SEE THEIR SITE AND WRITE THEM] has since posted a clarification stating:

“While we will serve all customers who treat our place of business with respect, we reserve the right to refuse to produce promotional products that promote ideas that are not in keeping with our consciences. This includes, but is not limited to content promoting homosexuality, freemasonry, the use of foul language, and imagery which promotes immodesty.”

Well, not to judge — because, you know, “judge not that ye shall not be called an asshole” and all that sort of rot, but, really? I sent them the following message:

You are despicable. Judge not. This selective reading and application of the bible to justify hatred and discrimination is the greatest sin of all.

Not judging. Just saying, my opinion. Speaking of not judging and opinion, and judging and being opinionated, Frank Bruni wrote a gorgeous OpEd piece in the New York Times about the judging and opinionated and iconic Mr. Larry Kramer. CLICK HERE TO READ IT. We gays, we owe Mr. Kramer a huge debt of gratitude and while some have judged him harshly for his combative and confrontational manner, I think history will more harshly judge those who sat in silence while hundreds of thousands of us died, were bullied and discriminated against, and told we couldn’t order a t-shirt that promoted our homosexuality. And so, for Mr. Kramer, I eschew politeness in this moment and say, “FUCK YOU HERALD EMBROIDERY IN KENTUCKY!”

No gays. But bring guns. Oh my. Reminds me of this recent quote from Bill Maher “Remember, for every liberal with a cause who makes you go, “Oh, just shoot me!”, there’s a conservative with a gun who will.” Bang. Bang.

Silence equals death. And the following promotes my homosexuality and my taste in men, proving, once again, that I am equally adept at objecting and objectifying.

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