So my custom Dr. Frank guitar was built mostly to the specs of the Martin OM/OO, but is considerably deeper than the standard. This made finding a case for it challenging (I actually had to have one of those custom made as well in the end) and in a unique sound that I've really heard nowhere else. And it is much, much louder than you'd expect from such a small bodied guitar, which is really a help playing unamplified in school cafeterias and places like that.
Now Jason Ingrodi, the guy who made it, is making a copy of it (with koa back and sides) for a local guy who was impressed with the sound of the orginal, and he's calling it the OO-DF, the "DF" standing for "Dr. Frank." Which is quite cool. I'd really like to hear what that will sound like, though it isn't likely I never will unless I get rich and order up a koa one myself. He's also doing a cherry one, if my facts are right. Hm, cherry... This could get
So I went to see Judas Priest in San Jose a ways back. I love Judas Priest. The last time I saw them was some time in the early 90s I believe, and before that in the mid 80s.
The show was great, maybe even the best one yet (even though the opening act was Steel Panther.) I certainly felt the absence of KK Downing conceptually, as it were, but it didn't impact the power of the set itself, which was damn powerful. Tipton is still a wonder to behold, standing stock still, nothing moving at all besides his fingers, which were all a delicate blur as much as they've ever been. I love the new album and "Halls of Valhalla" sounded great. As did Rob Halford. He's a man of many jackets. And he's still got his shriek.
But things have changed as well. Judas Priest, and Halford in particular, seem a lot more -- for want of a better word -- "evil" these days. In previous shows I've seen, his stage act was enthusiastic, energetic, and honestly, quite goofy. A lot of jogging in place, like a leather-clad aerobics instructor; melodramatic, flailing operatic gestures (to match the impossibly operatic high notes I suppose); and an eager-to-please demeanor of rock and roll showmanship (the occasional serious mic break about how they're all just working stiffs like us giving it all they got notwithstanding.) His continual pointing at the audience, front, back, and sides seemed to reflect an exuberant spirit of inclusion, at least to me at the time. We're all in this together, loaded, screaming for vengeance, united, united, united we stand. And that means you, buddy.
Now, however, the backdrop video show is all flames and altars and symbols that fall just short of pentagrammatical. Halford is a menacing presence in his floor length, druidical leather coats, bald head, and flamboyant whiskers, stalking the stage with measured deliberation, giving the audience meaningful looks if not the stink-eye, lifting one arm skyward in a grim salute, or sometimes raising both as if invoking the nameless, unspeakably ancient gods to which his backdrop's altar of blood and fire appears to be dedicated. And when he points, it feels like a curse.
Well, maybe I'm projecting backwards there. In the event I was having a great time, wallowing in the metal and general Judas Priest-iness of it all. This new aesthetic style, as I perceived it, is in many ways an improvement, even an achievement. It is a comprehensive, integrated work of art, greater than the sum of its parts, or at least greater than the relatively conventional plain old rock and roll stadium shows I'd seen before, wonderful as they were.
But my girlfriend, new to Judas Priest, new to metal, and definitely new to San Jose, said: "wow they're so serious." And of Rob Halford: "man, I hope he doesn't point at me."
And I could see what she was saying. We joked of the Curse of Halford, even then, knowing nothing of what was to come. Marion don't look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don't look at it no matter what happens. (We have fun.) But as we were riffing like this, Rob Halford was dedicating himself to pointing meaningfully at a whole lot of people. And as it happens, I was one of them.
As the show went on, my right eye began to itch and twitch and swell up. Tears started to run down my face. It began to feel like there was a small object lodged in there somewhere, a grain of sand or a hair; or, eventually, a piece of razor edged wire. This wire seemed to wrap itself around my eyeball, constricting it, lacerating it, wringing the moisture out of it, more painful than almost anything I could imagine.
"Is my eye bleeding?" I kept asking. Because it felt like it was bleeding, all down my face, soaking my shirt. It wasn't. But it was hard to believe something could hurt that bad without bleeding, that was my point.
We made it to the end of the show and back home, an agonizing ride. I tried flushing out my eye, which only seemed to make it worse. That invisible razored wire was in there, in there for good. This is how I live now, I began to think, and it didn't seem like it -- living -- could possibly be worth it. It hurt so much to blink that I found myself using my fingers to hold my eye open, and wishing I had access to some of those Clockwork Orange eye-opening devices.
Soon I was at the Kaiser Permanente emergency room, waiting for the on call all night ophthalmologist to reach in with his forceps and remove the wire. I could only hope he would manage to do this without pulling out a good chunk of my eye with it, but I wasn't optimistic. That thing was really in there.
I've recounted this exchange elsewhere, but here it is again.
"May I ask," said the on call late night ophthalmologist, "what you do for a living, sir?"
"I'm a writer," I said.
"So, not a welder?"
"Have you operated a wood chipper or combine harvester in the last 24-36 hours?"
"No, sir," I said. "Pretty much just the writing."
The doctor frowned. "So no wood chipping or..." He made a note. "...welding."
"No harvesting either," I added, helpful even while in agony.
Well, it turned out there was no wire in there, nor any other object. My eye had become spontaneously infected. The doctor's best guess was that an airborne allergen or other infectant had alighted on my eyeball during the night and found its way in via some superficial corneal scratches that are apparently fairly normal in contact lens wearers. An airborne infectant, alighting during the night...
I looked at my girlfriend.
"Halford," we said simultaneously to each other.
The Curse of Halford cost me a great deal of misery and $540 for the emergency room visit, curses of Halford not being covered, evidently, in the standard Kaiser Plan in Obama's America. Was it worth it? Could be. It was a great show and nobody can take that away from me. My eye is better at the moment though it still flares up on occasion. And my love for Judas Priest is undiminished. I still love Rob Halford, too, though I do feel he should perhaps be used sparingly and with all due caution. Wear protective goggles. Perform a banishing ritual. Carry a raw turnip, or whatever folk remedy your people favor. And maybe set some money aside for the treatment that may be needed if you happen to get pointed at. You gotta do metal smart these days.
Was asked last night whether I'd ever consider writing "adult" books. My inclination, as usual, is to dispute the premise of the question, as I don't see the same unbridgeable chasm between "adult" and "teen" fiction that others seem so committed to. I'd approach and execute a novel narrated by a 40 year old exactly the same way I'd a. and e. one narrated by a 15 year old, mutatis mutandis. A demographcially-tailored "feature set" in a novel seems to me a terrible idea when you're trying to present an authentic character from the inside, whatever his or her age might be.
But it does occur to me that if I keep writing about these guys and I do it for awhile, as I plan to do, they're going to reach adult-hood (or as close to it as any of get in our society) fairly quickly. In fact, Sam Hellerman is already twenty-one when he pops briefly into Andromeda Klein, and both Tom and Sam would be in their early thirties at the current date if I'm doing the math right. So, there's your "adult novel" right there. All it has to do is get itself written.
As for how an adult novel might differ from a teen novel, I'd guess that an adult novel might be less dark, less cynical, less morally ambiguous and complex, less "meta", with a more conventional, traditional narration and plotline, a simpler vocabulary, and would be far more likely to resolve cleanly and tritely with an edifying lesson that makes the reader feel good about him or herself and his or her assumptions about how good people ought to think and feel. That's just a guess though. Stay tuned.
There is only one other point, on which I would desire to offer a remark. If Nicholas be not always found to be blameless or agreeable, he is not always intended to appear so. He is a young man of an impetuous temper and little or no experience; and I saw no reason why such a hero should be lifted out of nature.It is really quite something that this is still a thing you find yourself having to say in the 21st century. Or perhaps it's not so surprising, given our slow and steady transmogrification into pseudo-meta-neo-Victorians (or whatever the hell we are these days.) It's NOT OKAY!
-- Check out Nathan Pensky's review of King Dork Approximately over at the AV Club. (It got an A!)
-- Alex Scordelis interviewed me for Vice/Noisey and this cool piece was the result.
-- I did two songs on the Chris Gethard Show last week, and you can watch the show here:
And, well... a whole lot has happened in the last week, probably too much to aggregate here at the moment. If you're interested, you can scroll back to the beginning (Sun. Dec 7 in Oakland) through the middle (12/9 in NYC) to the cliffhanger ending (Seattle) on the facebook, twitter, tumblr, and instagram. That's way more rock and roll than I usually cram into a week, I can tell you that. But there's more to come if things work out like they're supposed to...
In the meantime, come see me at Book Passage tonight (Mon. 12/15, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, 6PM.)
Hey, so I made the Reason Holiday Book Guide. Or, my book did, rather.
...The narrator, Tom Henderson, is simply one of the greatest voices of adolescent angst ever. I was turned on to King Dork by my then-teenaged son, who devoured the new book like a starving man devours his first meal in weeks. Whether you're male or female, old or young, these two books will put into words feelings that you've always struggled first to express and then to repress...
Now, that's a blurb!
Got a box of the KDA audiobooks yesterday. The reader is Lincoln Hoppe, who did such a great job on the first book. I'm still working my way up to listening to it myself, though, because hearing someone else "perform" your words like that can be quite unsettling, even when you're grateful that they're out there doing it (as of course I am.)
Pre-ordering it will make the Listening Library people, and me, a bit happier today, which is, I trust, quite high on your list of priorities.
Here are things that happened:
-- I feel like I've been listening to KQED's Cy Musiker and Dave Wiegand talk about where to go and what to do for years and years but this is, I'm pretty sure, the first time they've ever mentioned me. "T. B. A.'s L. A. P. B." Sounds about right...
-- Also under the auspices of KQED, if auspices means what I think it does, here's a very nice piece about me and stuff from former bandmate Gabel Meline.
-- Here's Tony DuShane's profile of me and my book in the SF Chronicle.
-- East Bay Express previews the 1234Go 12/7 book launch and my guitar, named for my alter ego.
-- John Corey Whaley (author of the Printz winning novel Where Things Come Back and this year's NogginNoggin generously includes King Dork on his list of top ten coming of age stories Nogginin the Guardian.
(Come see him play etc at the KDA book release show, 1234 Go! Records, 420 40th St, Oakland, Sunday 12/7, 7PM, free.)
Here are some links to consider when working on your Christmas list. Suggestion: keep it simple. KDA for everybody.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser wrote this piece about me and my bloodshot eye for SF Weekly.
-- Posh Deluxe of Forever YA reunites with Tom Henderson under the aegis of Kirkus. It could only happen on the internet.
-- King Dork gets a shout-out (if "shout-out" means what I think it does) from the romance fiction site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Much appreciated, ladies.
-- Bustle.com recommends buying King Dork Approximately for everyone on your Christmas list. And who am I to argue with bustle.com?
-- Yet another Christmas list recommendation from Emma Silvers at SF Weekly.
-- The Scottish Book Trust sounds important (or possibly like a slang term for some sort of con game involving posing as a Scotsman selling some rare book other -- not sure how it works, and if anyone knows please tell me.) In any case, King Dork rates a mention in this list of eight novels about adolescence for adults from the musician-novelist Lewis Gordon.
-- Entering the King Dork Approximately Contest the Daily Fig (from figment.com) entails writing a 250 word story based on your favorite song to listen to while writing. Ten winners will receive a "prize package of Figment swag" and get their stories featured in their newsletter. You have till Dec. 19 to get in on this.
-- Some complex thoughts and feelings on King Dork Approximately.
-- I am interviewed Publishers Weekly.
--Graphic novelist Mariko Tamaki credits King Dork as the book that made her comfortable with her place in YA literature. Sometimes all it takes is a really gritty book. Thanks for the plug, Mariko!
So the theme song to the new book "King Dork Approximately" is now out as a digital thing and the song and video are being hosted by the AV Club today. You can get it on iTunes, too, and on pretty much all the other places where people get things like that.
The forthcoming cassingle from Mooster Records can be pre-ordered here.
More as this story develops.