Category Archives: writing

Robert Olen Butler: Professed Book-Sniffer (and literary chameleon, controversial artist, et al.)

We took in the Decatur Book Festival a few Saturdays ago. It was smoking Atlanta hot, and therefore pretty much misery-inducing, ‘specially when you factor in that we were ferrying around 3 kids under 8. But the day started off nice enough (before the heat). Somehow we’ve lucked out, found a way to live on a beautiful shade-covered street just outside the ATLanta city limits, but still only a minutes-walk away from public transportation and all that lies on the other side of a $2 bus fare.










By the time we arrived at the Downtown Decatur location, the kids were already pissy, what with it being smoking hot and whatnot. It was too hot for anything other than icecream and maybe swimming, neither of which was at our immediate disposal. But I had my copy of Severance, and was determined to follow through on my hours-old dream of having it signed by the singular talent that is Robert Olen Butler.

So we got to the high school where he was reading, and I went in to the auditorium where Butler was already reading. Kara hung back in the hall, bless her heart, so that the aforementioned 3 under-8 kids could be attended to without disrupting Mr. Butler. He was reading from his latest novel. It was way, way different from Severance. I was kind of lost. But the prose seemed good, for what that’s worth. And, as I do anytime I find myself in the presence of other writers, I began to compare myself to him. And, of course, found myself lacking in most every way. Especially when he finished reading and it was time for the Q & A. He was so self-assured, so convinced of his very RIGHT to be on that stage, admired by the 1 or 2 hundred people in fawning attendance. And he actually mentioned how, just as it says on his wikipedia page, he considers himself a “literary chameleon”, who never wants to write the same sort of book twice. But surely he hadn’t been responsible for writing his own Wiki page, right? I mean, Big Time authors (or Big Time Anythings, for that matter) don’t have to spend time on such banal things as Wikipedia entries. They have biographers and rabid fans to do that for them, no?










Well, screw it, I thought afterward, while we waited in line for ROB to sign my copy of his book about 60+ people who have been decapitated and what must have been going through each of these severed heads as its last moments of consciousness slipped away. For every Spielberg there’s an Ed Wood or maybe, if we’re being slightly more generous, McG. Hell, even millionaire, omni-present author Steven King has gone on record calling himself something like “The burger and fries of American literature.” But I can’t be that either as long as I’m writing about truly fucked up family shit and not killer clowns terrorizing generations of children. So here I am, these few years into my pro writing life, still not knowing where I fit in. But I do know this, dear readers: both Robert Olen Butler and myself like the smell of ink on paper, of musty books found in the back of old book shops (imagine that–an old book shop–a relic of pre-internet times, endangered as hell if anything ever was). He even wrote as much for me in the front of Severance. And while that won’t do shit for my as-yet non-existent Wikipedia page, at least I can go to sleep a little easier knowing that both the great Robert Olen Butler and myself both like taking a good whiff of a book every now and then. (Immortality, here we come!)


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The False and the Furious

I have not written a proper blog post in what…2+ years? But I’m back now for two reasons: I have a new book to promote (more on that in future posts) and I just couldn’t stand the nauseating proliferation of hack writers out there claiming to be everything they ain’t. I can’t go to Huffington Post’s book section without seeing at least one article either by or about some hack motherfucker who should be washing dishes for a living or at the very least have the common decency to live off his daddy’s trust fund and leave all of us real writers and readers to the stuff of actual life as it is lived by REAL PEOPLE. Yes, I’m looking at you James Frey, you hack fuck. I mean, when I stepped away from my Writer’s Desk in 2009, he’d been eviscerated by Oprah and all but declared legally dead by everyone that matters to any writer or artist trying to make his voice heard above the multitude of chattering wannabe professional masses. But then I flip open my brand new $200 laptop (Jesus, I have been in a cave) and the guy has a new book out that he has exclusively published with some art gallery and is now flogging THAT shit on a two-part Oprah where she’s proclaiming him her life-long friend?? And this prick is America’s “literary badboy”? Kerouac and Miller are spinning in their graves. There is absolutely nothing dangerous or authentic AT ALL about this fuckin guy. And he isn’t the only one. He’s just the one who has made the biggest ass of himself in service of the Almighty Dollar. I mean look at this picture (courtesy of The Guardian UK):

What a fucking prick.

I’m not saying the guy hasn’t had his share of struggle because, hell, being human is in and of itself a perpetual struggle for our own souls among the detritus of a black, empty universe, right?

But I personally have never understood how it is that somebody can basically whore himself just so he can have the nicer house or the faster, shinier car. I have more respect for a jackasshole like Ryan Dunn, who, while displaying no discernible talent, endeared himself to tens or hundreds of thousands of people worldwide simply by doing drunk tricycle stunts with Steve-O, and through such endeavors was able to buy a Porsche just as bangin’ as James Frey’s. That he bought the proverbial farm in said car while drunk and going 130 at 2 a.m. in bumfuck Pennsylvania only substantiates his authenticity.

But what’s the point then, if all the guy was going to do was waste whatever good will he had by literally crashing and burning? The point is that he was REAL and maybe lived just a little TOO close to the goddamned edge for his own good. Now, in the words of our great Animal Mother in Full Metal Jacket, “Doc J and 8-Ball are wasted.” And we’re left holding our dicks in our hands, wondering where everybody went….

So let’s look back for a moment at James Frey and his literary legacy (so far). He burst onto the scene in 2003 by giving a name-dropping one-man shit-fest interview to the salmon-colored New York Observer (remember when a brand could be differentiated merely by having a differently-colored background?—I still have the purple Raekwon Cuban Linx cassette tape). In this interview, handsomely summed up by (no salmon color paper—or any paper at all—for them!), Frey slams Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace and presumably all the other Daves He Knows.

Upon later reflection (post-Oprah enrichment, of course), he said that he was past that or only saying it for the shock-value or what-the-fuck ever. I leave it to you to research the veracity of this yourself, as I’m done looking up James Frey links, as I have recently (in the past 20+ minutes I’ve spent spewing this blog on all of your eager/bored/accidentally stumbled-upon eyes) grown re-disgusted with everything he represents.
You remember how

and his cronies all went on Fox News during the waning days of that horrid presidential “administration” and performed their pathetic excuse for damage control by saying that history would prove that the unilateral bullshit wars they’d shat upon the world were both just and necessary for all of us to move forward into our Brave New World? Yeah, that’s the kind of bullshit that powerful people, people with money, do when they see that everything they’ve done in order to line their own pockets is total shit. But far from it being some kind of introspective wake-up call, it’s more about them discovering that the great majority of the populace is FINALLY on to their game. So they take to the airwaves and proclaim future righteousness, the Copout Pricks. As though they could give two fucks about whether or not the future will be their “final judge.” What they care about is that they and their children and their grandchildren, etc will never have to worry about putting food into their mouths or keeping gold-and-diamond encrusted roofs over their heads. This is the mentality that has infiltrated EVERYTHING we see in our daily lives. And it has never been more clear than it is now. The economic disparity has never been wider in this, our magnificent First World Beacon Of Democracy and Equality. And because of that disparity a great many of us have decided that we are going to do whatever it is that we have to do to keep up with the Big Dogs—the James Freys of the world, who already had everything they needed and decided to fake some shit so that they could have even more. It’s people like James Frey and J.A. Konrath (I’ll dig MUCH deeper into that hypocritical fuck soon) who have bastardized The Authentic and sold us a false bill of sale.
But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like that. I’m here to tell you that there are people JUST LIKE YOU out here who are fighting the good fight, who are living True, Authentic lives and aren’t selling themselves out for a buck or two here and there. That still exists. I am living proof of this reality. YOU are that proof. We are ALL fucked up. But that doesn’t mean we have to resort to the games of charlatans and poseurs. We can scrape by and keep our wits about us and still strive to make our lives better via sweating and tearing and bleeding. That is our legacy. We are made in the fucking stars. And I am going to prove it to you.



Filed under staying true, we are all fucked up, writing