October 04, 2006

Die Vegas

A couple of years ago, spending New Year's Eve in a tiny, spooky, slightly hobbit-y village in Norfolk, England, I happened to be talking to a lady who worked in the British publishing industry. When I mentioned that my first book was being published in America the following year, she asked what my favorite books were. (Publishing people invariably do this when they find out you're crashing their party - it always feels like an exam. People can most often size me up pretty accurately just by looking at the shoes, but publishing people seem to need more data.)

"Um," I mumbled. I'm not good at this question. "Code of the Woosters?" I said, hopefully. "The Long Goodbye?"

"What about Die Vegas?" she said.

Die Vegas? I had never heard of it. Sounded kind of edgy, and possibly German. A nihilistic prose poem relishing the future destruction of Nevada's greatest city? Something to do with birds?

I weighed my options: pretend that yes, Die Vegas is my favoritest book of all time that I had neglected to mention just because it was so obvious; or admit, in a breezy manner, "Die Vegas? No. Sounds edgy and possibly German. Is it any good?"

I was still trying to work this out when she said, "surely you've read Die Vegas. Being an American writer." Not German then. She said the word "writer" in such a way as to imply that the jury was definitely out on that one. I felt exactly like the sort of person who had never read, and probably never would read, Die Vegas.

"No," I said. "I haven't." Pause. "Sorry." There was another lengthy pause, after which she dematerialized imperiously.

"Is it any good?" I said, to the empty air. My lack of familiarity with Die Vegas had ruined New Year's Eve. I wondered if I'd ever live it down.

Two drinks and around forty minutes later, it hit me. I'm usually much better at scaling the British accent barrier.

"Dave Eggers!" I exclaimed, to the probable surprise of the pint-laden barmaid.

Speaking of which, I just received the schedule for the Litquake opening night on Friday:

Dan Hicks
Samantha Stollenwerck
Chuck Prophet
Jill Tracy
Mark Eitzel
Ray Manzarek

Dan Nakamura 
Penelope Houston
Dave Eggers and End of Suffering
Jay Farrar 
"Dr. Frank" Portman 
Lars Ulrich

It's at the Recency Center, 1290 Sutter at Van Ness in San Francisco. Tickets available here.

Posted by Dr. Frank at October 4, 2006 04:39 PM | TrackBack

how have you not written a song called "die vegas" yes?

Posted by: aaron at October 4, 2006 10:11 PM

"No, we brought you to Vegas yesterday."

Posted by: Wesley at October 5, 2006 12:46 AM

That's hilarious. It reminded me when I bought my first pack of Cinnaburst gum in the 5th grade.

"That stuff's addicting," I told my friend, of the gum.

"Addicting? What do you mean 'addicting'?", he asked with a furrowed brow.

"I don't know, it's just... addicting," I said, noticing he still looked confused.

A little while later, in class, he passed me a note: "What is a dick ding?"

Posted by: Matt R. at October 5, 2006 03:29 AM

Hi Frank,
Thanks for the laugh, I enjoyed the story. Hope all is well and I'm guessing it is. Hope to see you soon.

Posted by: John D at October 5, 2006 08:20 AM

Hilarious. I've got a story like that from a trip to West Virginia. I ordered ham at a grocery store deli counter and the woman there said to me:

Woman: We canned a ham.
Me: You canned a ham?
Woman: (annoyed) We. Canned. A. Ham.
Me: You? Canned? A? Ham?
(long period of silence as we looked at each other)
Me: Oh! Black Forrest.

What kind of ham? I hope I didn't offend her to much.

Posted by: josh at October 5, 2006 01:56 PM

There's a famous Charles Kuralt story where he is a town in Mexico called Oaxaca on some road trip and he and some friends stop in at a local restaurant. So Kuralt can't make heads nor tails of this town name and asks the waitress, "Can you say for me , very slowly, the name of this place? I'm having some trouble figuring it out." The waitress looks at him very strangely and says, "D...A..I..R...Y Q...U...E...E...N"

Posted by: m.m. at October 6, 2006 01:12 AM

In Toronto, a list of "Great Canadian Novels" once included Divorce by Timothy Findley.

There's no such book, but a Dutch bookseller in Toronto had read the list over the phone, and it included The Wars, by Timothy Findley, which she apparently pronounced "De Varrss."

Posted by: James at October 19, 2006 06:48 PM