S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 August 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hit & Run CXLIV

 

[HANDS OFF 
Hands off. I had a dream they took my hands off. 
Although you probably think that I'm soft boiled, 
I'm still in love with you. ]

Every high school English

student knows the truism that

the key to Hemingway is what he

doesn't say. This will

presumably be the rule of thumb

editor/son Patrick Hemingway

uses when he puts his red pencil

to the manuscript of True at

First Light, Papa's unpublished

"fictional memoir," which will

be in bookstores in time for the

author's 100th birthday. Why

Hemingway chose not to publish

this madeline while he was alive

we can't say, but having

experienced his equally

posthumous Garden of Eden, we're

guessing he had good reason.

Meanwhile, Raymond Carver, who

pared the Hemingway style down

to its logical

staring-at-the-wallpaper end, is

making even more news in his

10th year of dead authordom.

Celebrity editor Gordon Lish is

claiming that his rewritten

versions of the Kmart realist's

early stories represent the real

Carver style. Apparently, he's

telling the truth. But it's

worth noting that the early

Carver stories - the ones with

all the weighty silences and

portentous "Things kept

falling"-type final sentences -

are what now seem most dated and

self-parodic, while the last,

Lishless stories from Cathedral and

Where I'm Calling From, are the

ones that tend to get remembered

and anthologized. These nuances,

though, fooled everybody when

Carver was alive and his style

was generally considered sui

generis (one critic said the

writer's prose "carries his mark

everywhere"). In other words, a

story by the author and a story

completely rewritten by the

editor are equally good. Which

demonstrates exactly how

important a good editor is. In

honor of this discovery, we're

offering a quick course in

laconic tough-guy editing:

1) Print out this article.

2) Throw out the final page and end the
essay on the last sentence of
the previous page.

3) Eliminate every
other adjective.

4) Put a line through every third
sentence.

5) Cut 50 percent of
the paragraphs down to topic
sentence only.

 

Now you have editing experience.

Send résumé and

samples to:

Esquire, 250 W. 55th Street,

New York, NY 10019. No phone calls.

 

[Girlfriend, don't sit 'round waiting for the world to end. 
I'll keep my distance but I won't pretend 
I'm not in love with you. 
  ]

Not that authors need to be dead

to have their carcasses

plundered for new editorial

content. For those of us who

don't get Euro-length August

vacations, it's a little

disturbing to see American

publications taking a cue from

TV's rerun season, and filling

up the dog days with reduced,

reused, and rehashed articles you

never had the patience to read

in the first place. What new

bylines they're offering turn

out to be pretty fragrant

leftovers, too. Who would have

guessed at this late date that

Jon Krakauer could milk his

fateful climb for one more

Munchausen tale - or at least,

for the calculated

coal-stirring of a

record-straightening interview?

The Mount Everest tragedy that

made Krakauer an extremely

wealthy and troubled man

continues to be a staple of

online intercourse, based on

nothing more than the climbing

community's inability to

withdraw from a good

old-fashioned cock fight. But as

the warring factions in their

clashing Alpine caps continue

the stroke and counterstroke, we

kind of wish they'd

calm down and get back

down the mountain before we all

freeze to death. "Because it's

still there" has never been a

good excuse in publishing,

mountaineering, or masturbation,

and the delusion that everyone

else likes to watch is

undoubtedly a function of the

head's proximity to the clouds.

 

[And it's all your fault. You spiked my malt. You slipped a mickey in my heart. 
And I can't shake free, although I'm shaking like a tree. 
I should've never let it, I should've never let it start. ]

Whether you put your own life in

jeopardy to get the story, have

somebody else write it for you,

or wish you had never written it

at all, your chances of becoming

a celebrity author are equally

good. The Stephen Glass saga has

yielded yet another post-game

wrapup. This time it's a

Philadelphia magazine confession

depicting the lovable scoundrel

in his college days as, of all

things, a no-nonsense, J. J.

Jameson-type editor. Given that

Glass is said to be severely

depressed and on a self-imposed

suicide watch, he might want to

take this latest revision of his

career as a good omen, and look

for an exemplar in the Odyssean

survival skills of known

joke-stealer Mike Barnicle.

Having cemented his standing as

the single most unfireable man

in the history of the universe,

Barnicle is now more than just

fodder for his crosstown rivals

at the bird-cage lining Boston

Herald - he's a model for all of

us. Fooling all the people all

the time is what we've been

trying to do for a good three

years now, but when we see a

real pro in action, it gives us

the chills.

 

[  
Deep end. I guess I'm going off the deep end. 
It's only 'cause you've got a hand to lend 
I'm still in love with you. ]

Jerry Seinfeld steals only his

own jokes, but his resurrection

of an hour's worth of "live"

material (though the closeups

and reverse shots seem to have

been prerecorded on a soundstage

at Area 51) offered a glimpse

at the next decade's most

compelling drama: What will the

seemingly self-satisfied

multimillionaire do now that

he's abandoned the role of his

former self? The fact that he

seemed so doggedly willing to

show off old tricks to new fans

suggests the sort of deep-seated

insecurity that a life of

expensive hubcap appraisal won't

assuage - but a life of

stand-up, or at least the sort

of stand-up that has always been

Seinfeld's trademark, seems

equally hard to fathom. Because

it wasn't just that Seinfeld's

HBO material was old; it was

also hopelessly out of scale

with his current place in the

world. The light touch and glib

polish that made him the perfect

surrogate for our own chronic

pettiness back when he was just

another beer pitchman are part

of a persona Seinfeld outgrew

about 37 mint-condition

Porsches and 568

I'm-so-excited-to-meet-you! blow

jobs ago. Now when he goes on

and on about lone shower hairs,

tiny airplane bathrooms, and

supermarket zaniness, he just

sounds like a whiny, ungrateful,

impossible-to-please kvetch.

Which may be why most of Sunday

night's material sounded like

dry-run advertising copy. Only

in the Eden of a TV commercial

would we be willing to buy a

disquisition on milk carton

expiration dates from a man who

now gets his milk freshly

squeezed from pulchritudinous

Jewish virgins. Sure, a career

of shilling for Formula 409 and

Virgin Atlantic would be just

another kind of rerun, but at

least it's a safe alternative to

the standard next move for a

comedian at this point in his

career - a command performance

for the big critic in the sky.

In Jerry's case, that might take

the form of a high-speed

crack-up while trying to remove

stray bimbo lint from immaculate

Carrera passenger seat. Or would

it be an untimely shower-stall

skull fracture due to tragic

combination of bad milk

wooziness and a really adhesive

stranger hair? You read it here

first.

 

[Crap shoot. You've got the snake eyes and lizard boots. 
I like you better in your birthday suit, yeah 
I'm in love with you. 
  
And it's all your fault. You spiked my malt. You slipped a mickey in my heart. 
And I can't shake free, although I'm shaking like a tree. 
I should've never let it, I should've never let it start. 
  
(Repeat Chorus) ]

After all these fights for

authorial integrity, it's

probably telling that the

creative forces behind the

week's biggest event have chosen

to remain anonymous. Proving

that success has a thousand

parents, several folks -

including the heretofore unknown

Liberation Army of the Islamic

Sanctuaries and Egypt's

succinctly named Jihad - claimed

responsibility during the early

aftermath of the US embassy

bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

But the claims of these

terroristic plagiarists haven't

been given much credence, and as

it became apparent that the

overwhelming number of victims

were Africans rather than

Americans, credit-grabbers

stopped coming out of the

woodwork. Meanwhile, several

usual suspects distanced

themselves from the achievement.

In the court of international

(read "especially Canadian")

opinion, innocent non-American

victims are somehow more

innocent than innocent American

victims, and there are some

bombings no homicidal maniac

wants to get a medal for. The

even-dumber-than-usual event

autopsies run from "why do they

hate us" lamentations to

recitations of the greatest

hits of self-proclaimed criminal

mastermind Osama Bin-Ladin to

predictably abstruse conspiratorial

dipsy doodles, but as for the

bombers' self-imposed low

profile, we've already sleuthed

that one out. Authorial credit

is something you only claim for

work you're proud of, and as a

demonstration of how proud we

are to be entertaining you, our

readers, we offer the following

byline:




courtesy of the Sucksters