I just saw the following on The Onion:
This actually made me laugh. I needed to laugh. I guess the thing is, we’ve been really making headway with FUTUREPROOF over at Harper, to the point that we’ve finished all edits and have selected a brand new cover for this “wide” release (which you’ll see at the bottom of this post). But now we’re getting to the part where I have to appeal to other writers—established writers—big name writers, to see if they’ll endorse my book. This is a daunting as fuck experience, approaching writers I have idolized for years and asking them to take time out of their lives to read my book and hopefully give it a glowing 12-15 word review. It helps that I know a few very good writers who know a few other good writers and can therefore get my foot in the door with the writers I only know through a few degrees of separation in that way. I know that makes only semi-sense but it makes total sense to me…read: I’m fucking daunted and it feels like I’m holding my breath to see what these other established writers are going to have to say about FUTUREPROOF.
Anyway, the Onion DeLillo spoof reminded me of a parody I co-created long ago with my friend and mentor Brandon Stickney. We were both attending the Skidmore Writers Institute in Saratoga Springs, New York and met over a few rum and sprites. Then we drunkenly laughed at all kinds of funny shit (trust me, it would have been funny even if we weren’t drunk). Then after having gotten along so well, he told me that he was working on a project for Jay McInerney’s Fiction class. He asked me if I wanted to collaborate on the project with him. I mean, can you believe this motherfucker? He is in a class taught by BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY writer Jay McInerney and was asking me to help him write something that McInerney was going to read. The next day we got to work. The project was to take an acclaimed piece of fiction and write a spoof or parody of a section of that work. Brandon chose to spoof Don DeLillo’s WHITE NOISE. Following, the original text and our parody of it:
Murray asked about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove twenty-two miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. The were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras. Some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides—pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.
A long silence followed.
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.
“We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We only see what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be a part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensured.
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can’t answer these questions because we’ve read the signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can’t get outside the aura. We’re here, we’re now.”
He seemed immensely pleased by this.
Not bad. Some philosophizing, the typical “literary” writer’s forte. But then Brandon and I got ahold of it.
Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the SECOND MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We drove twenty-two miles into the country around Dylartown. There were meadows and apple orchards, silos and horse shit. White fences ran as fast as they could through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing.
THE SECOND MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA
While Murray kept track on his fingers and toes, we counted twenty signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along the cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing, buttressed by a small nearby tent for fucking. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides—pictures of the dilapidated barn taken from the elevated spot. Another booth sold condoms, vibrators, sensuous oils, edible underwear, whips and bondage gear. We stood near a grove of trees and urinated. Murray occasionally scrawled some remembered Muzak notes in a little book.
I asked Murray why he wanted to come here, rather than to the more trendy and fashionable Most Photographed Barn in America, just up the road.
“Because there is no such thing,” he said. “Oh, it’s there alright and people visit it but they don’t really see it. The first or best of anything is an unattainable ideal, a thing too big to be made, seen, touched, photographed.”
Enraptured in his thoughts, he continued, “The second of anything is always better because we, humans, you and I, and everyone can fully and completely grasp the second, the failure to be the best much better, and with more satisfaction, than with that which is Number One. For example, did you ever make love to the most beautiful blond in school, the one every boy drooled over, the one who dated the quarterback?”
“No,” I replied.
“Yes, you did,” he stressed. “You did for real or in your head but no matter what, you never really had sex or made love to her. You had sex with the idea of The Best, the most beautiful, the ‘number one,’ but you never actually had her because she never existed.
It is the girl you married, the one you hung on to and hung on to you, no matter what, whom you have and continue to make love to because she’s real. Every man you know knows that too, about her, and they want her too because she is so perfectly genuine. With experience, the intelligent man will always photograph the Second Most Photographed Barn in America. It’s obvious.”
He seemed immensely pleased by this.
“Plus,” I said, “I guess the Most Photographed Barn doesn’t have a fuck tent.”
While this was hysterical in its own rite to Brandon and I when we wrote it, we had no idea whether Jay McInerney would find it nearly as fun and hilarious.
But he did. He laughed his fucking ass off. We won the competition. That night I got to go out on the town with Brandon and Jay McInerney and his entourage (yes, SOME writers eventually get to have entourages, too). And because of that one 400-word parody, I had a permanent connection with Jay McInerney. He is now going to read and hopefully blurb FUTUREPROOF. Through a few other well-placed connections I’ve also gotten a few other lit heroes of mine to agree to read my book.
The work is just beginning. There is so much to do when it comes to hyping and getting FUTUREPROOF read. But I’m on the road and not looking back. Fuck Sarah Marshall. Oh, and that stuff about the Second Best being better? Bullshit, all of it. I always aim for top-tier. I’m let down often, yes, but think about the rush when something actually gets through. There’s nothing like it. Though I won’t be approaching Don DeLillo anytime soon for a blurb.