S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 May 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Hit & Run CLXXVIII

 

 

[]

There's not much reward in

acting as the tribune for a

spiteful and vindictive era. You

get left off of all the fancy

lists; old friends have nothing

nice to say about you. Everybody

else wishes you'd either die or

just go away. Through our own

low, dishonest half-decade,

though, Suck has had one

steadfast supporter in the person

of Kurt Andersen, high-concept

co-founder of Spy magazine,

columnist for The New Yorker,

and now author of Turn of the

Century, a novel we would have

liked even if we weren't

favorably predisposed.

Andersen's own thumbnail

description - "a satire with

heart that creates characters

You the Reader can care about" -

is exactly how we've been trying

to get critics to refer to Suck

all these years, and with that

in mind, we grabbed the first

opportunity to do some Q&A

logrolling with our sometime

spiritual mentor:

 

 

Every review of Turn of the

Century seems to be comparing

you to Tom Wolfe. Does your book

have a "thing with the cup"?

 

I probably have some serious

invention I'm not aware of,

which I'll allow somebody to

find and write about. I think

that's scheduled for early June.

An earlier interviewer pointed

out to me that the opening of

the book is an homage to Tom

Wolfe, and although that, too, I

wasn't aware of, I'm happy to

certify that that was my

intention. I appreciate that

anybody read the book that

closely.

 

The book is set in 2000 and

2001. Why doesn't anybody have a

jet pack or a helicab?

 

Because I think they'll be

outmoded by then. I had a moving

sidewalk for a while, but now

they're putting one in on 42nd

Street. It was tricky to try to

extrapolate just enough into the

future. At one point I had an

epilog that was genuine

science fiction, set 100

years from now.

 

Really?

 

Yeah, it was set on New Year's

Eve 2100, with the littlest kids

in the book looking back on the

21st century. But my editor

thought it was too science-fictional.

 

How many reader reviews do you

imagine were posted at Amazon

before some schmuck criticized

you for being on the wrong side

of the dispute over whether

2000 or 2001 is actually the

turn of the century?

 

Apparently that person hasn't

read the book, because I make

hay out of that very issue

several times, fairly early in

the book. That's a very webhead

kind of cavil, which momentarily

exasperated me but pleased me

afterward. If I had done the

book without addressing that

momentous issue, I might have

been more stung - if one can be

stung by Amazon reader reviews.

 

The book features a

reality-based TV show called

NARCS, in which actor cops get

to make real drug busts. Has

anybody tried to option the

rights to that show from you?

 

There are some highly

exploitable ideas in the book.

In fact, friends of mine said

"You shouldn't put these ideas

in a novel; you should go pitch

these things." But I've staked

the claim as the guy who

invented them before somebody

actually makes Real Time or

NARCS. I'm happy to have the

theoretical credit, if not the

$100 million backend. There were

other life-imitating-art things.

The New York Post reported on

the section of the book that

deals with the New York Post,

and in the article the [writer]

misspelled the main character's

name in the same way that I had

the Post misspell his name in

the book, apparently without

being aware of it.

 

Enough about you; let's talk

about Suck. We still have a

substantial readership, but

let's face it: We have no buzz

at all anymore. How do we get

media big shots talking about

us again?

 

You simply have to obsess about

media big shots. I'd recommend

you give up on the more

expansive essays on modern life

and just focus on those few

individuals, who in turn will

suddenly realize that you're

very hot! A good chunk of media

heat comes from the same

thousand people reading about

themselves, and that's probably

the only shot you have.

 

At what point are you too old to

be an enfant terrible?

 

I'm not sure of the exact year,

but I've certainly experienced

that. Whatever success I have

with the book, it won't be a

precocious success. At this

point I don't think of myself as

an enfant or particularly

terrible. Whatever the

parameters are, I've passed

them. And I'd imagine Suck has,

too, given the whole Web

years/cat years thing.

 

Yeah, we're absolutely

yesterday's news. But you know,

we did try to generate heat by

dissing you for your Digital

Bubble columns and the blurb on

Michael Wolff's Burn Rate. How

did it feel being insulted by

people who basically ripped off

your whole act?

 

Well that led to my budding,

beautiful friendship with Joey

Anuff, so you never know what

the silver linings will be. Of

course, I'm on friendly terms

with Michael Wolff, which I

realize, in the digital

world, is the same as admitting

you're a communist.

 

Well unfortunately, it appears

Wolff will survive whatever

witch hunts the digital world

can do to him.

 

And what did not destroy him

made him stronger.

 

Would you mind if we stole some

more Spy material? I've always

wanted to bring back Walter

Mondheit (Spy's all-Oscar! movie

reviewer), but now I'm thinking

we could just quote liberally

from Harry Knowles of Ain't

It Cool News.

 

Exactly, although Walter was

actually a little more

consistent and more readable

than Harry. But as I've said in

interviews more than once, Suck

has enough of Spy's genetic

material [to make me] happy

about it. If it were even more

explicit, I'd be even more proud.

 

How many instances of the 80/20

rule can you name offhand?

 

What is the 80/20 rule?

 

Eighty percent of the money goes

to 20 percent of the investors;

20 percent of the people do 80

percent of the work - that kind

of thing. You can apply it to

anything.

 

The one that I've been hearing

and saying a lot lately is,

"underpromise and overdeliver,"

which is kind of the same type

of stupid business trope.

 

How does Turn of the Century

fit into that trope?

 

Well, it's really long, so that

takes care of the overdelivery

part. [And] you can't really

expect somebody who's spent 20

years writing and editing

nonfiction to write decent

fiction, so that's an

underpromise. On the other hand,

calling it Turn of the Century

may be on the overpromise side

of the equation.

 

You could have called it

Turn of the Millennium.

 

That would have been an

overpromise. But I don't connect

with the millennium idea. I

connect with the century. The

millennium seems like an

abstraction to me. Like New

Year's Eve itself. I don't get

New Year's Eve either, and New

Year's Eve always overpromises

and underdelivers.

 

So should we refer to the book

as "a searing nonstop roller

coaster ride by the acknowledged

master of the genre"; "a

heartfelt billet-doux that will

make you laugh, cry and

remember"; or "a riveting

Balzacian tour de force as big

and lusty and brawling as the

nation it sings"?

 

Any of those by themselves will

do, or you can put them all

together in a flurry of fulsome

praise.

 

[]

The Internet is buzzing over a

scientific technology so hot its

creators had to resort to badly

written, unsolicited commercial

email to publicize it. Mixed in

with the usual spams from

StockProfits900pc, TheSpyGuy,

and sexy_lesbians@hotmail.com

came the breathtaking news.

"Dear," the Japanese optics

company's pitch begins. "Are you

looking for anything

interesting?" The spam points to

a Web site hawking "See-Through

Filter PF," but a high-minded

sense of scientific purpose

prompted a red-lettered warning

about its potential misuses for

indecent action - namely,

looking through people's

clothing. (And "It is also

possible to see through a

woman's made-up face as if no

lipstick and foundation had been

put on the face.") The company's

concern would be more convincing

if the site's title page didn't

bark "See Through! You can See

Through like Superman too!" But

the technology also appears to

have many practical applications.

"Let's imagine that a suspected

murderer is walking on a street.

Yet he is wearing a pair of dark

glasses. We can't see his eyes...."

Modern technology like this

couldn't help but intrigue us,

but unfortunately, we can't

access the site's order form. So

we moved back to the e-mail from

TheSpyGuy that arrived on

Mother's Day, offering "640

megabytes of nude celebrities on

one disc." These included

Bernadette Peters, Fran

Drescher, Molly Ringwald, AND

Ali McGraw - along with women

named "Linda Rhonstat," "Cybill

Sheppard," and voice-over artist

"Yelderly Smith." And Dana

Plato, the late lamented Diff'rent

Strokes starlet who, one promotional

page still assures us, is

"making the biggest comeback

since Drew Barrymore...."

 

[Bob Crane Gallery Exotica coming soon]

If George Lucas can keep the

world in cryogenic suspense

while he crafts what

increasingly looks like a

less-fun remake of his own

movie, why can't America Online

get some microbuzz going for a

remake of somebody else's

product? On Tuesday, AOL

re-announced its vaporware

television product, AOLTV, which

is now slated to appear next

year, just as jet packs are

going out of style. The 2000

release target supersedes

previous launch dates 1997,

1998, and 1999. And as with

Lucasfilm, the hubbub isn't the

product so much as the tie-ins:

In this case, there are a

platoon of relationship partners

who will do the actual work,

including DirecTV, Network

Computer, Hughes Electronics,

National Semiconductor, and

Spacely Sprockets. Given the

Homeric time frame of AOLTV's

development, it's a relief that

Barry Schuler, the company's

Faustian president of

interactive service, now

concedes that they are

essentially reinventing WebTV

Plus, a product Schuler

heretofore has never lost a

chance to disparage. The Rube

Goldberg patterns that led to

the current AOLTV rev -

including hilarious attempts to

absorb a start-up called

NetChannel and other Spirit of

'97 follies - may have led to

Schuler's prickliness, but the

real secret is that WebTV is

actually a good product. Better

still, WebTV is stuck at fewer

than 1 million users, while AOL

has 17 million ad-happy minions,

ready to be cajoled into buying

the new set-top clone. That

means once again, an ass-first

AOL business plan may end up

looking like a strategic

masterstroke. In TV, if you

haven't seen it before, it's new to you!

 
courtesy of the Sucksters
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 





[Purchase the Suck Book here]