(a) There's an article in this week's East Bay Express about me, King Dork, books about rock and roll, songs about girls, and my book release thing at Cato's. (The caricature by Norman Dog is almost unique among caricatures, I believe, in that it looks quite a bit better than its actual subject. Wish I could trade places with it...)
(b) So far the advance reviews for King Dork have been positive, with one exception. That exception is from VOYA ("Voice of Youth Advocates" - with that name, it totally sounds like it should be putting out straight-edge records rather than reviewing books, but in fact VOYA is a trade journal for youth lit.) They have a complicated rating system where you get a Q # (for quality) and a P # (for "popularity") on a 1 - 5 scale, and I'm afraid my book didn't do too well in either.
No one likes unfavorable reviews, of course, but there is often a silver lining, and for me the silver lining in VOYA's dark cloud is this awesome sentence:
The sarcastic humor will appeal only to mature teens with an interest in 1960s novels, heavy metal music, oral sex, and random beatings.Well, I think that should cover just about 100%. Result!
I don't think this review is on-line yet, but anyone who is planning to read the book should be aware that the review contains major spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
(c) On the other hand, there's a "starred" review in the School Library Journal, which can be read on the Barnes & Noble King Dork page - it is extremely kind, but also, I think the reviewer really "got" it, if you know what I mean.
(d) Thanks to everyone who sent in fliers for my show. It's a big help. I'm going to post them up here when I have a free moment and even try to put some up around town, just like in the old days, taping my fliers to the telephone pole, etc.
They played it on WFMU's Greasy Kid Stuff last week. Click that link to listen to the show. The Lane Smith stuff begins around thirty minutes in.
Nikki Sudden, I mean.
On the night of Epic Soundtracks' death, my band happened to be playing a show at London's Garage, and I dedicated the set to him. (I doubt there were many in the crowd who had any idea what I was talking about.) My plan for today involves drinking the rest of this coffee, answering some of my backed-up email, and trying to wring out another 1000 words of novel from my dishrag-like mind. It ain't much, I know, but for what it's worth, this one's for Nikki.
UPDATE: Jeez, him, too.
I left out a word in the Nikki Sudden post, and somehow adding it resulted in a whole other post, which I cannot delete. I'm replacing it with this text so the front page will look just a little less retarded.
Found today (24 March, 2006) in north Oakland:
Hey, anyone out there who has some time on his or her hands and is good (and fast) at making fliers, would you want to help me out with a flier for my book release show thing at Cato's? Details are here. I haven't done that sort of thing in a long, long time and I have just realized that my best flier-making years are behind me (and they weren't all that great either.) It should be pdf-able and easily xerox-able I'd guess.
"I am deeply sorry about the remark," he said. "[It] was meant as a joke, but was taken seriously."
Ha ha. Take it easy. Can't you take a joke, fellows?
(via Harry's Place.)
Well I re-read Holden Caufield in preparation for KING DORK and uhhh, well I don't see why everyone wants to be like this kid so much. Just seems kind of sad to me. He's pretty hateful towards just about everybody. Just some kid having a hard time dealing with his brother's death. He never comes across as being especially bright to me either. I mean practically the whole book is just him describing what he dislikes about various things and people. Don't get me wrong, I like the book, I even like him, I just don't see why anyone would want to be like him. He's depressed, lonely, paranoid, and a little snobby too. Awesome. No wonder I never finished it in high school. I was probably like "screw you mrs frankel, why the hell do you like this kid so much? Who gives a shit about his red hunting cap? what the hell are "falsies"? Why did we read this in 10th grade and I am the Cheese in 5th grade? I'd rather be like the kid in I am the Cheese, I mean, at least he had that cool bike."
(via Andrew Sullivan.)
If you were going to do a study following a cohort of children through life, with an eye to reaching general conclusions about the relationship between child personality and behavior and cultural-political identity in adulthood, would you decide to do it in Berkeley? And would you be surprised to learn that this group's well-adjusted "good kids" turned out to be "liberals"? And that the Holden Caulfields of the class ended up as "conservatives"? Who would have thought?
A previous owner of this copy of a 1950 paperback edition of Thoreau's Walden and Civil Disobedience sketched a front view, side view, and what looks like the beginnings of a view from above of a car on the title page:
On the last page, there are sketches of two boats:
The notes near the top of the title page are pairs of cities written like fractions: Milw/Pitts; Brooklyn/St. L.; the "denominator" of the third one is "NY," but I can't make out its "numerator": it looks like "Culs," to me.
On the spine, between "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience," he has written a dash followed by the words "my name":
On the blank page facing the first page of Civil Disobedience, there is this sketch of a jet plane (or perhaps a rocket car):
There are some scribbled notes on the top left, but they are, sadly, too faint to read.
And here is what is inscribed at the top of the initial page of "Civil Disobedience:
If you feel your day would be brightened by an Andrea Dworkin insertion joke, this is probably the place to go.
If perchance you are interested in the Publisher's Weekly review of King Dork, here it is, at the bottom of this page.
So there's this kind of book release party thing for my book on the "street date": Tuesday, April 11. It's going to be at Cato's Ale House, 3891 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, from 7pm to 9pm. All ages. Free.
I'll play some songs. My friend, the lovely and talented Beth Lisick is going to "host" it and read from the book, and my other friend Chuck Prophet is going to read something as well. (That should be fun: they are both great talkers and readers.) And if all goes according to plan, you'll be able to buy the book there, too. Or just hang out and chat.
Cato's is pretty much my home away from home these days. I'm a regular there (though I think they mostly know me as "Trumer Guy" because of what I usually order.) I wrote a lot of the book there, in fact, so it's fitting.
Please stop by if you can, and tell your friends and so forth, because it'll be hell of embarrassing if no one shows up.
I'm working, in my own retarded way, on other stuff, but so far what we got is:
As you may have noticed, my book is being published under the name "Frank Portman," which is my actual real name. There was some discussion over whether to use the more familiar "Dr. Frank" on the book cover, but the thinking was that people outside of my bizarre little world might be confused by it: "who is this guy?" we imagined them saying. "Some kind of weird doctor or something?" And maybe a few of them might have added something like, "well, I'll tell you this: there's no way in hell I'm buying a book by a weird doctor like that. I have my standards." It didn't seem worth the risk in the end.
Still, most people know me as "Dr. Frank," including me. I mean, I have used Dr. Frank way more than Frank Portman in my so-called adult life. I see the name "Frank Portman" and I have to remind myself: dude, that's you. Whereas anytime I hear anyone say "doctor" or "doc" I'll turn suddenly and say something like "hey, over here!" (Or I'll duck behind a hedge or into a closet, depending on my mood and who's saying it, and whether or not there happens to be a hedge or a closet handy.) Visiting a hospital can be kind of exhausting.
Why I have shied away from my real name with such determination is a matter for the psychologists, I guess. I am named after my father, who was named after his father, who was also named after his father. The name of the first in that train of fathers was actually Franz Portmann, but he Anglicized it during World War I, like many immigrants with German surnames. (He was Swiss-German, by the way.) Lots of things would have been different in this world of ours if the United States had never entered World War I, among them the fact that my actual real name would have probably ended up being Franz Portmann IV. Which would have looked pretty impressive on a book jacket, now that I think about it.
Did I feel that my name had been spread a little thin by the time I came by it, that it wasn't truly mine? I'm nowhere near in touch with my feelings enough to be able answer that one. But I have always avoided it when I could, opting for the goofier, less sensible stage name in even the most inappropriate situations. (And lying about it when asked: for awhile there I engaged in a campaign of disinformation, giving out fake last names when I was asked in interviews, hoping to deflect attention from the real one: O'Hara, Rodriguez, Lebechevsky, Lego, Bucket, Window, Cup, Shoelace - you name it, I've claimed it as a surname. Sorry about that.) If I have the family folklore right, my parents originally named me Christian in a tentative stab at defiance of the family tradition; then changed me back to Frank when they chickened out. So here I am.
This is a roundabout way of mentioning my website, which I haven't really told too many people about till now: frankportman.com. Because, you know, in for a penny, in for a pound. I'll have to get used to it some time.
There's not a whole lot of content yet (and if you can think of anything that would be cool to put up there let me know.) At this point, the most interesting bit is on the index page after the "enter" page: if you click the appropriate link, you'll get a pop-up window with a random entry from the King Dork glossary. (This is an appendix that defines terms used in the book in the "voice" of Tom Henderson the narrator.) A lot of them are pretty funny, or so I have been told.
This bizarre and potentially disturbing stream-of-consciousness to do list was found near Piedmont Avenue in Oakland:
Much of it is hard to construe, but here is my best attempt at a transcript:
glue traps - Indian meal moth traps -
bring in closed files
file that by self
Roe anal - 10 x undead
lax repeat? - used up lots -
Brenda/Kim/Mothra bun -
email - 555 5555555
- called 911
go to toilet
I imagine I'll play some old chestnuts and maybe some of the book songs, and I also imagine I'll do a good bit of talking, too.
Those who know me well probably won't be too surprised to learn that I don't really have anything planned, and in fact I don't have any earthly idea what I'm going to do, so as always, I welcome suggestions, if you've got any.
Kendra's hosting the show. If I get drunk enough or desperate enough for material, she may be able to talk me into doing "Cingular Wireless, Worse than Hitler," a song I wrote while I was in the middle of a dispute about my cell phone bill a ways back. This song has only been performed once before, when I sang it into the receiver while on the phone with a customer service representative, who ended up hanging up on me during the bridge. So this would effectively be the World Premiere of this song, for what that's worth. We'll see what happens.
The metal band Saxon has been denied permission to play at Dubai's Desert Rock festival because of the lyrics to the song "Crusader." This is allegedly a translation of part of an editorial from a local paper:
The question here for the band and the organisers is what will SAXON do in Dubai's land and on Arabian sands? Are they going to make us, the Saracen heathens, taste their music just as if their guitars were swords made of steel?
Found at University and Milvia, Berkeley.
Kirkus is an important book review journal that is notorious for its anonymous, often quite snarky reviews. Almost since the beginning of the recent launch of my so-called literary career people have been warning me to brace myself for a possible Kirkus bloodbath, some even going so far as to console me in advance for the inevitable eviscerating review: don't worry, reviews don't matter that much, they'd say. It's word of mouth that sells books. You know who else got a bad review? Beethoven, that's who. Look it up.
So I was greatly relieved to discover that the Kirkus review of King Dork was favorable. Who knew? They even put a little star by it. So I felt like throwing a big party for myself, which I in fact did last night. It was great. You should have been there.
You have to be a subscriber to read the entire review on-line. I'm including the link to the review page here just to prove I'm not lying about the whole thing, but be warned (and I'm mainly talking to you, Manda) that the first line displayed on this page contains a minor spoiler. Here's the review, with the spoiler edited out:
A biting and witty high-school satire explores cross-generation mysteries and music. Tom Henderson is used to being a nobody, and entertains himself by designing band names: Baby Batter, Oxford English, Tennis with Guitars. Every year Tomís teachers force him to read CATCHER IN THE RYE, the book that changed their lives. Though Tom scoffs at what he calls ďthe CATCHER cult,Ē the book is about to change *his* life, too, if not in Mr. Schtuppe-approved ways. Tom finds his dead fatherís copy of CATCHER in a box of old books, chock-full of margin notes and mysterious scribbles. Further investigation reveals murder, suicide and illicit sex comprising both current and 40-year-old mysteries. Tom investigates his fatherís past while forming a real (terrible) band, discovering blow jobs and surviving a skull fracture. He gains personal revelations that both reject and embrace his parentsí generation and its Holden Caulfields, in a story richly flavored with 1960s cult novels and 1970s rock-and-roll. The open-ended conclusion is unexpectedly satisfying.Not bad. Saved me 350 bucks, too.
Have you ever read an unfavorable book review that unintentionally made the book sound totally awesome?
I guess I'll always feel a vague connection to Naomi Wolf, simply because I once wrote a song about her.
Here she writes about that sector of YA lit that includes the Clique, Gossip Girl and A-List series. I haven't read any of these books (and I kind of doubt I ever will) but Naomi has and she is not amused. (The NYT "forum" commenters argue about how closely or distantly Gossip Girl resembles Pride and Prejudice here.)
(via E. Lockhart.)
The Stephens Island Wren may have been the only passerine bird entirely incapable of flight. In any case, its flightlessness evolved during its long residence on the island, where there were not enough threats to make the ability to fly worth retaining. Once people settled the island to the extent of building a lighthouse there, the species was both discovered and exterminated by the lighthouse keeper's cat, Tibbles, whose kills supplied the specimens that are found today in several collections around the world.--Murray Gell-mann, from the afterword to Fred Bodsworth's Last of the Curlews.
Bill Moon forwarded me this piece on the new TVPs album. I haven't heard it yet, but I'm excited about it. According to the article, the line-up on the album includes Ed Ball, which I hadn't known.
"My Dark Places" is the band's saddest, most chaotic album. Much of it was improvised in the studio; at times, it recalls Mr. Barrett's edge-of-madness songs. Mr. Treacy's wobbly, desperate vocals suggest that he's on the verge of collapsing into sobs. In fact, he said, he did break down a few times during the recording, overwhelmed by making music for the first time in 11 years. "It's the way I like to work," he added. "I like to hurt when I'm working."God love 'im.
Of course, the main reason for forwarding the article to me was that it mentions my song "I Don't Know Where Dan Treacy Lives." I believe that this is the first and only time anything I've been involved with has ever been noted by the New York Times, and I know it ain't much but it's all I got, even if it's basically more or less the exception that proves the rule...
For some reason that last post was posted twice and it somehow refuses to be deleted. So the only thing I can think of to do is replace the text of one of the items with other text, as I am doing now. Though, as I have pretty much nothing to say, it's an exercise in futility anyway and I probably could have left it as is. All I'm doing now is underscoring the pointlessness of the whole endeavor. Which sounds about right, come to think of it.
Here's another review of King Dork, from Cherry Bleeds.
I've never read the other book he mentions, What We Do Is Secret, which, as the title suggests, is set in the LA punk scene, c. 1981, i.e. the court of Darby Crash. So it's no criticism of that book when I say that, like, Larry, I don't have much patience with the "street poetry" approach to fiction. I used to think it was because I was not mature enough, or that I had not taken enough drugs yet, to enter in to the spirit of the thing. Maybe that's true enough. But anything that makes you have to work that hard to figure out what is going on (or even to figure out where the sentences end or begin) had better deliver something pretty spectacular in the way of insight or effect to make up for its demands. In my experience they rarely do, but that could be just because I'm really a pretty close-minded sort of person. Anyway, if you've read one drug trip anti-narrative you've pretty much read them all. I spent too many years pretending that I enjoyed and understood and could make heads or tales of The Soft Machine. I mean, I've paid my dues, you know?
The narrator of King Dork, Tom Henderson, tries to read what is in some respects the foundational "novel" of that scattershot, hip style, Kenneth Patchen's The Journal of Albion Moonlight. He gives up after a few pages, saying, "it's like this thing was written by a crazy person." And that's the difference between Tom and me, because when I was a teenager I slogged through books like that and went around claiming that I thought they were great and deep. And I even maybe convinced myself that I did think that. Seriously, though, the way I look at things now, you're much better off reading Treasure Island or something. More bang for your brain cells.
Anyway, Larry quotes this bit from the Darby Crash guy:
Why am I a punk? Because I wasn't anything before, except different. And now it's like I'm different, but with a vengeance.Tom would never call himself a punk, but he could easily have said something like that, except I think that he would have said "I'm indifferent with a vengeance." And then he would have said something like: do you see the irony - I mean do you really? He's kind of a weird guy.
There's an interview with yours truly in the librarian/pop culture blog Pop Goes the Library. (The Q's are from this swell gal named Sophie; the A's are from me - that's what I meant by "yours truly" in case it wasn't clear.)
Wow, they're really pulling out all the stops on the promo campaign for Lane Smith's John, Paul, George & Ben:
I'm pretty sure most picture books don't get a billboard at Times Square. There's apparently one in LA, too.
Anyway, remember the story of how I recorded a couple of tunes for this book? And how one of them was my own song, and one of them was me strumming the guitar and singing a warped version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy?" And how The Mouse went with the "Yankee Doodle" one?
Even when you know that the "MTX" in the MTX Youth High School Ministry stands for "Mountain Top Experience" rather than the (to us) more familiar term, it's still pretty fun to browse the youth ministry site of the Lake Gregory Community Church.
(I particularly like the "MTX Verse of the Day." And The Ten Commandments Written by MTX Kids isn't bad either.)
LUCKY for little Ursinus College that Mark David Chapman is securely locked away, or the J.D. Salinger-obsessed John Lennon slayer might be applying for the liberal arts college's new scholarship award. The Collegeville, Penn., school - where Salinger spent his fall 1938 semester - is offering the "Catcher in the Rye" scribe's old dorm room (nestled in a fieldstone residence hall overlooking 165 wooded acres) - and $25,000 to a senior high school student. Ursinus English profs want high school teachers and guidance counselors to nominate a creative writing student who fits the bill as a "quirky kid with unique vision."
Like many San Franciscans, Chronicle columnist Joan Ryan rather overestimates how charming it is to go around telling everyone how much better you are than everyone else.
speaking of Margaret, it makes me a little sad to think that girls (and boys) who get to know her now don't know that she had to pick the color of her belt and learn how to operate it. It seems to me as fundamental a part of the book as the suburban house in which she grew up, the Mice Men record album she got from the Pre-Teen Sensations for her birthday, and the big curlers her mother used to set her hair the night before Norman Fishbein's dinner party for the whole class. Go back and read Margaret again. Admire the cultural stereotyping of the Fishbein house, the fashion choices of poor, sweet early ripener Laura Danker and lawn-mowing hottie Moose Freed. See if you don't feel the late '60s vibrating psychedelically from every sentence, even in the newer editions.Come on, Rebecca, get with the times!
Here's another comment recently left on a post from long, long ago. The post was about those Bush = Hitler commercials from the moveon.org contest back in January of 2004. Brooke writes:
The truth about gossip which all Mr Frank is, is that is talking about himself, No President Bush who hasn't the slighest thing in common with being a sociopath or likness to Hitler. But on the other hand Mr. Frank does.
A gossip is always talking about him or herself, not someone else. So cure uourself mr. Frank.
If you had every dealth with a real sociopath, you would not be so grandoise and glibe in your frivous and false remarks. One thing that is keeping sociopaths like your getting their jollies is people like you Mr, Frank. I suggest uou get a life and start being honest--that would be a life change for you.
It's been awhile since I've held a Google-ympics, so, well, I here I go.
These are google searches that have brought people to this site recently, divided into categories. The winner is at the end.
(a) simple questions:
yiddish word for football
was nostradamus a midget
what's there to see in london. England.
how do i find a free site to get an obituary dated april 2005?
does justin have a girlfriend
(b) hard questions:
what's plutonic mean
slang meaning of fuck you up
why the beatles sucked
correcting wrinkled hands
what happens when you shoot a gun
what's the good and bad facts for kids watching movies
what to do when a man is insecure
what's the reason for hard nipples
(c) Computer, can you please show me some:
girls in ss uniforms
bipolar people that manipulate and are hateful to family
disadvantages of being stupid
pathological lying and manipulation lack of emotion in teenager
twins having sex in the mud
(d) typing in to the void, when no one else will listen:
am i a sociopath
former president nixon was big republican crook in america
teach me what to do
i am so screwed
would you please just fucking shut up for just one minutes please
why would someone do that
mustaches are gay
(e) asking the computer a riddle:
why was the math book sick
And the winner is:
The Rolling Stones Straussians