A big-shot agent reached out to me not long ago. He said he had read one of my stories recently, and was interested in checking out some other of my work. I sent him some of the novel I’ve been working on. He passed and pointed out some significant flaws in the plot, adding that the story had echoes of a book that came out last year, a book I hadn’t read. However, he did say that he has faith in my talent, and wants to keep hearing from me.
So through the magic of Kindle, I read the book he mentioned last night. Turns out “echoes” was far too delicate a word. The protagonist, femme fatale, and principal plot arc were distressingly similar. Motivations, character histories — too close for comfort. Honestly, had I read my work after this one, I would have thought “This is a dumbed-down ripoff of that.” I know it wasn’t, of course — my work was inspired by something from my own life — but all the same, the works were far too close. And meanwhile, the other book was much better than the one I was writing.
While I don’t believe in writing for the trunk, I may have to make an exception for this one.
So. I wonder what my cowboy character Graham is up to these days? Maybe I’ll try to look in on him once I rebuild a bit of confidence.
The new semester started this week. I’m teaching my usual two sections of comp, an Age of Shakespeare course, and taking my turn in the Senior Capstone class — which has turned out to have exactly one student. So he and I may be doing that one as a conference course. All the same, it’s nice to be getting into the rhythms of the semester once again.
The Spawn applied for housing at Flagship last week. Because of her food allergies (which we recently discovered include tree nuts as well as peanuts), she needs a roommate or roommates who would be willing to keep their space nut-free. We’ve filed the appropriate papers, and Flagship has responded very quickly and pleasantly to her request. Indeed, if anything, their suggestions went beyond ours, but we said we’d be happy with our more modest ideas. Meanwhile, the situation may be working itself out — a classmate of the Spawn has extended feelers about rooming together this fall, and has already assured her that the nut thing will not be an issue. Potential roomie is very academically oriented, and she and the Spawn already have a friendship that goes back a bit. The surprise is that the potential roommate has selected Flagship — we had thought she might go out of state. This seems like it may be a win-win. Ah, Providence.
I’ve mentioned one of rock and roll’s more colorful Coyote/Trickster figures, Kim Fowley, in this blog before. Mr. Fowley died of cancer a couple of days ago, and although he will be remembered by many as a sort of snake-oiler and fringe figure who crossed the line into self-parody long ago, other folks who knew him said he was an extraordinarily sweet guy once you got past the schtick. Of course, as Lawrence Block has noted, if you wear a mask long enough, your face can grow to fit it, but I think it’s revealing that in his final months, he stayed with, and was cared for by, Cherie Currie — a woman he was accused of exploiting ruthlessly during his tenure as Svengali for the Runaways:
Last year Foley moved from the hospital to the Los Angeles home of Runaways founding member Cherie Currie, who told Billboard in September that after consulting with [Fowley’s widow Kara] Wright about his health, “We agreed a change of environment was what he needed. It’s draining, yes, but I’ll always step up. It’s who I am.”
“I love Kim. I really do,” she said at that time. “After everything I went through as a kid with him, I ended up becoming a mom and realized it was difficult for a man in his 30s to deal with five teenage girls. He’s a friend I admire who needed help, and I could be there for him.”
So long, Mr. Fowley — thanks for the songs and stories.
It seems appropriate that we close with a bit of Fowley’s work today. Around 1962, Fowley secured the rights to the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” section of Tchaikowsky’s Nutcracker. He handed it off to an instrumental group he produced, “B. Bumble and the Stingers” (a group of studio players, including drummer Earl Palmer and Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco), and the resulting “Nut Rocker” was a hit, going to #23 in the US and topping the charts in Britain. That version of the song was the outro music for Fowley’s weekly show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel, but I’m going to go with the version I first encountered as a kid in the early 70s, by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. I don’t think I can call it a better version, but it’s the one I want to hear today.
Hope your weekend goes well!