Tuesday, November 25, 2008

G&G Review 'The Little Dog Laughed' at the Kirk Douglas

Who knew there were handsome leading men in Hollywood who pretend to be heterosexual for the sake of their box office draw? Perhaps the central question is, how do you feel about a Hollywood superagent's pushing that cause? Even fighting for it? She'll stop at nothing to promote her pretty-boy client and his boy-next-door image in this send-up farce by wickedly funny playwright Douglas Carter Beane.

Put another way, behind the scenes, the business of managing the box office takes exactly the opposite view on Prop 8 from what you'd expect from the public posturing of moguls and their favorite stars.

Read our review of opening night here. In a theater literally a stone's throw from the Sony lot in Culver City, it was all about an industry audience laughing at their own skewering onstage.

Holy hypocrites, Batman!

(Photo by Craig Schwartz courtesy Center Theatre Group)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

G&G Opera Review: Carmen, You Shameless Hottie

We had lots to say about sexual politics, then (1875) and now in our review of the opening night of LA Opera's revival of Bizet's Carmen. Women will do anything to survive, and men will do anything to possess women. Click here to read our review on LA Splash.com.

(Photo by Robert Millar courtesy LA Opera)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Catch Episode 2 of 'Couch Cases'

Post-WGA strike, the showbiz world has reinvented itself once again. At the end of the previous strike, the "spec script" was suddenly the new way to break in. This time, with high-quality digital production tools so inexpensive, the spec-produced webisode is the new calling card.

My friend and colleague Patrick Ortman offers the second episode of Couch Cases tonight. May the powers that be, be watching!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading 'My Inflatable Friend' at the Grove

In this excerpt, Rollo is called to account by the vindictive hotel manager, Hugo Farnsworth.

Listen here (MP3, 6min):

Gerald reads at Barnes & Noble at the Grove, Los Angeles, Sunday, November 9, 2008 for the Publishers Association of Los Angeles.

Monday, November 10, 2008

G&G Review the L.A. Master Chorale

New Asian-American works by Lou Harrison and Chinary Ung performed Sunday, November 9 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Read our LASplash.com review here.

(Photo courtesy Los Angeles Master Chorale)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Venice Beach Webisode Series

My friend and colleague Mary Feuer has launched a new webisode series, With the Angels, which is hosted on Strike.TV. She describes it as a "fish-out-of-water story of a small town Arkansas girl swimming in the freak-infested waters of Venice Beach, California."

They're up to Episode 7 already, so you've got some enjoyable catching up to do! The episodes are just bus-stop-wait long, less than 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thank you, America

(Photo by Brett L on Flickr)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ms. Oprah Obama Kindle

$50 off Kindle! Enter OPRAHWINFREY as coupon code on checkout (until Nov. 1).

She's endorsed the candidate, now the Amazon e-book platform (link to article in Information Week).

And just in time for the holiday shopping season. Yeah, everybody is saying that the device is pricey, but so is iPhone. If you figure the per-copy cost savings on books is around $15, the Kindle will have paid for itself when you've bought 20 books.

I'm not objective on this, of course, because both of Rollo's misadventures are available on Kindle.

Speaking of the commercial silly season, recent developments in the global financial community bear out the wisdom of Rollo's quip, "Paranoia is just a heightened state of awareness."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Am So Not This Guy Either!

Jerry Jones owns the Dallas Cowboys. Now, despite the fact that I answered obediently to "Jerry!" throughout my boyhood and considerably afterward, it's Gerald Everett Jones who created Rollo Hemphill and coined boychik lit as an alternative to Warren St. John's unfortunate term fratire.

Please update your files accordingly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

G&G Hang with 'Desperate Writers'

The Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica is running a new screwball-comedy play about a pair of screenwriters who resort to desperate measures to get a meeting. All in good fun, but please don't try this at home. Read our review here.

Okay, and here's the sexual political angle: The writer pair in the story think they need to sell their "baby" script before they can afford to get pregnant for real. They pester a producer pair, a power couple who are now estranged but still sniping at each other. In reality, the producer pair is the writer pair that wrote the play (cringing in the photo).

(Photo by Michael Lamont)

Friday, October 17, 2008

G&G Eat Asian Fusion

Relentlessly pounding our beat for LA Splash.com in search of la nouvelle experience, we stopped into the new Wokcano Santa Monica. And lest you think washing down sushi with a couple of Martinis has nothing to do with sexual politics, head over there after work for happy hour with your posse and join the debate! (Restaurant review here.)

(Photo courtesy Wokcano Cafe)

Monday, October 13, 2008

G&G Review 'Women with Dogs'

We've expanded our LA Splash critic's beat to include theater as well as opera. No sooner did we venture out than we ran smack up against another opportunity to debate sexual politics. Rick Pagano's new play running at the Lex Theater in Hollywood is a two-character rollercoaster ride, madly bumping along with the ups and downs of a new intimate relationship.

And from the sparkling, spot-on dialogue, Georja and I suspect Rick found some way to bug our house! Click here to read our review.

(Photo courtesy Girlvision)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Once More with Paula B!

The boychik and Paula B had great fun talking about George Costanza and paranoia as an engine of comedy in the Rollo Hemphill stories. But the discussion went on longer than your typical podcast bus-ride, so we're offering a shorter, sweeter version of it here (free MP3, about 10 minutes).

You won't find this podcast on my new Ourmedia / SpinExpress profile, cuz when Paula says she'll host you, she means it! Enjoy our yakfest, post your comments about male-centered comic fiction, and while you're at it drop by The Writing Show to check out their cures for frustrated scribblers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

G&G Swat 'Butterfly'

No, that's not Georja and Gerald dressed for a costume ball. It's soprano Liping Zhang and tenor Franco Farina singing their hearts out in LA Opera's current production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. We took some playful swings at Robert Wilson's austere staging in our review for LA Splash but ended up following the Hyper Critics oath and ultimately did no harm. Click here to read what we said about our experience on opening night.

And lest you think this is far afield from boychik lit, go see it and then tell me its not all about sexual politics (albeit in 1904).

Mixing metaphors for fun and philosophy: If Wilson's concept for set and costumes remind you of Star Trek, who are the Klingons? (Hint: They sail in on the gunboat U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.)

Navy Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton sings in Act I (very loose translation from the Italian), "We Americans go all over the globe, screw the locals, take our profit, and never mind the risk. In fact, wherever there's a risk, that's where we drop anchor."

(Photo by Robert Millard courtesy LA Opera)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Find the Boychik's Podcasts on SpinExpress

Most of my radio/podcast interviews and recorded book readings from My Inflatable Friend and Rubber Babes can now be found on Ourmedia, which you can access easily through SpinExpress. These are all free MP3 downloads. Click here to choose a podcast.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

G&G Hit the Prima Notte

In our continuing effort to root out delightful cultural experiences like so many truffles, Georja and I covered the opening night of the 7th Annual Precious Cheese Feast of San Gennaro in Hollywood for our new friends at LASplash.com.

Gerald had no trouble disposing of his quota of food tickets.

And Georja looked stunning as usual working the crowd.

Click thru to see lots more photos along with our he-said/she-said take on it all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

See You at the WEHO Book Fair

This Sunday (Sept. 28) I'll be in IWOSC Booth F9 (see map) at the7th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair from Noon to 2 p.m., then reading from Rubber Babes on the Robertson Coffeehouse Stage around 3. Drop by the booth and let's talk about boychik lit and the future of subprime lending.

[Click the map for a better view. Turn right at the main entrance and the IWOSC booth will be just past the Writers Pavilion.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Listen to Gerald on "Dresser After Dark"

Talk show host Michael Dresser and Gary Young of IWOSC interview the boychik about Rubber Babes and the idiosyncrasies of male-centered comic fiction.

Click the Play button to listen to the streaming MP3 podcast (about 10 minutes):

Broadcast on-air live on September 23, 2008 at 11:30 p.m. Central Time. Reposted by permission.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

G&G Go to the Opera

With Georja Umano, I'm now reviewing opera for LA Splash.com. Our first two reviews were posted this weekend.

Il Trittico, three Puccini one-acts, is the LA Opera season opener. There are a few more performances, and count yourself blessed if you can get tickets. (LA Opera photos by Robert Millard.)

The Fly is the Los Angeles premiere of a new work by Howard Shore and David Henry Hwang. As Billy Wilder supposedly said on seeing Lloyd-Weber's Sunset Boulevard, "It would make a good movie."

Georja and I have this he-said/she-said thing going in the reviews, so it may be high-toned culture but it's still all about boychik sexual politics.

Hope you follow our reviews throughout the 2008-09 LA Opera season.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Be Afraid of These Pod People

All they want is your ears (a little nibble would be nice). Listen as the boychik joins Paula B on The Writing Show (Sept 7) to discuss male-centered comic fiction, George Costanza and the engines of comedy, and whether paranoia is truly a state of heightened awareness. All of which just happens to concern the problems of dating Rubber Babes.

Click here to listen...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ms. Cherry Tops DIY as Gerald Wrestles with the Devil

Great good congrats to Brit author Rowena Cherry for winning the top award in the DIY 2008 competition for Romance Fiction. The book is Insufficient Mating Material. I haven't read it yet, but I'm told it has something to do with sex with galactic commanders and space aliens?!

Rowena's photo on the GoodReads site shows her in her trademark hat, and I bet she has more than one.

Seeing that pert hat made me think of a photo of me in a hat, as I was being inconvenienced by one of my harsher critics.

And seeing this cartoon again made me think of Rubber Babes. In Chapter 1, Rollo denies the existence of Satan, and in Chapter 2 a stereotypical Dr. Strangelove character--Dr. Dieter Zittpopper--shows up to dog his steps. Now I'm not getting all metaphysical here, but the notion there's a part of ourselves that seeks our own destruction is a concept worth respecting. It might not sound all that funny, but watching Rollo go splat does have its lighter moments.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gotta Yen for Dolls, Bud?

My longtime friend and colleague Gary Palmatier, the world-class book designer, got a bad case of fascination with my Rubber Babes book and started trolling the net for anything he could find on the topic (intellectual curiosity, I'm sure). Anyhow, he sent a link to this video. Apparently some guy in Japan is shacked up with a hundred or so life-sized dolls. Until now, I thought these things were a recent Hollywood special-effects-technology invention, but apparently the clever folks on the other side of the Pacific Rim have been refining their designs for decades. And, as if the concept itself isn't unreal enough, check out the models with Anime faces. Now you can really step into that Virtual Reality and get up close and personal with your favorite action heroines!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I am *not* this guy!

If you're into self-empowerment, leadership, human diversity, and team building, click here because he's probably the one you want.

If instead you're a fan of Tucker Max or Chuck Palahniuk, you're not exactly home but you're in the neighborhood (a classier part, I'd say, but let's not diss commercial success).

For example, I suppose James Earl Jones made the same decision I did - to always use my middle name Everett in an effort to set myself apart (and "build my brand," as the other GJ might suggest) from the myriad Google hits you'll get on Gerald Jones, including an Australian who owns auto body shops, a scholar of Mormon history, and an authority on comic books (dangerously close to comic novels, but if you know the difference, that's another sign you're in the right place).

BTW Gerald means spear shaker, which is another tantalizing clue that "Shakespeare" was the pen name of Gerald Francis Bacon. And every male knows that shaking your spear might or might not be impressive, but be warned it will almost always get you into trouble.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Review: "A Fragment of Fear" by John Bingham

I needed some diversion from the chores of book promotion for Rubber Babes. Frankly, I'd much rather be reading or writing than talking about doing either. Anyhow, I've always been partial to spy thrillers, even though I've never written one, and I was intrigued to learn that John Le Carré had recommended Bingham as an underrated craftsman of the genre. I had no other reason for picking up this vintage 1965 book, but, as it happens, its similarities to some themes in Rubber Babes are remarkable.

A thinly disguised version of the author is the book's main character and first-person narrator. James Compton is what some Brits call a "total shit." Oh, it's not that he's unscrupulous or dastardly. He's just cold, aloof, obstinate, egocentric, and vain. And, in his profession as writer of true-crime stories, he's both inordinately curious and tenacious. In this book, he obsesses on finding the motive behind the murder of a woman he barely knows--until he has literally made it all about him, to the point of mortal danger.

In repeated fits of paranoia, Compton develops complex theories about the forces of evil he fears are converging on him. Although most of his conclusions turn out to be wrong, his basic fears prove to be more than justified. The bad guys really are out to get him. He's just wrong about who they are and why they want him dead.

"Paranoia is just a heightened state of awareness," quips Rollo Hemphill bravely in Rubber Babes. Like Compton, the bad-boy genius overthinks everything, including that government operatives are after him, with similarly miscalculated results.

The essential difference is that Bingham hopes to bring a chill to your spine, whereas I just want see beer spew out of your nose.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"Rubber Babes" Is / Are Here!

The first book of Rollo Hemphill's confessional saga, My Inflatable Friend, has one of those multifunctional titles. It could and does refer to 1) the main character's swelling ego, 2) a rubber doll he uses in a lame ruse to make his girlfriend jealous, and 3) other body parts that swell on stimulation.

Rubber Babes as a title likewise has its multipurposes. Marking the second installment of Rollo's misadventures, the title could equally mean 1) real, fleshy women as sex partners for whom use of a prophylactic is mandatory, 2) synthetic women, or sex dolls, employed for various purposes the most significant of which is conversational, and 3) the surprising resilience of the feminine personality.

The chapters are short, but the effect is enduring. Go ahead, take a look.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review: The Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor

Musician Michael Bolger recommended this book to me, and I can see why. It's as much about the inner musings of jazz musicians as Vikram Seth's An Equal Music gets inside the heads of classical chamber players. Jeez, I thought I'd graduated from the college of musical knowledge, but most of this stuff was way out, man. Fascinating, uh, I guess. When Zabor's main character--who just happens to be a bear (in literal form, as well as in mood)--flips into one of his head trips as he's playing his alto sax, I can dig that he's doing an homage to Sonny Rollins, but I get lost in the details of the arpeggios, riffs, and modulations. The Bear apparently is on a metaphysical quest, wondering what it is to be human and then, as if that's not challenging enough for a furry quadruped, how to grasp the transcendent, in love and in music.

Boychik lit this isn't, but it's close. I'd say it's more like bugbear lit, which kind of sums up the Bear's dilemma. One definition of bugbear is "a thing that causes excessive anxiety." And the Bear is certainly anxious--anxious about the quality of his playing, about being incarcerated for impersonating a human, about his late royalty checks (been there!), about being a friend, and about being a caring lover (and not of other furry beasts--don't read if you're squeamish about the details, which are more than vivid).

Mentor to the screenwriting stars Lew Hunter advises never to read anything in the same genre you happen to be writing at the time. I broke that rule with this, it being a philosophical comic novel, as I was finishing up the manuscript on Rubber Babes, the sequel to My Inflatable Friend and the second installment of Rollo Hemphill's misadventures. I don't think much of it percolated through. Zabor's style is more Thomas Pynchon or Tom Robbins, ambling and meandering around like a big old bear, and going off into baroque disgressions much like a jazz artist. I guess I'm more straight-ahead. Anyhow, I did develop a sympathy for the author's task in just plotting this beastly sized book. The thing is huge. I'm a fast reader and it took me for-ever! I read on Wikipedia that Zabor started it in 1979, had the first few chapters serialized in Musician magazine, abandoned the work for fourteen years, wrote assiduously for another four, and finally took his dump in 1997. Wow, let it go, dude! As a selfish reader, I could have wished for it to be a series of novels, which might have been more easily digestible.

Another affinity, I suppose, is that Rubber Babes is about paranoia--that dark, musty cave whence anxiety emanates. (It's just a heightened state of awareness, you know.)

Well, this furry, fuzzy, jazzy story won the PEN/Faulkner Award. So if music be the food of love and rent checks, play on, Bear.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

That's 'snuff, Chuck!

I'm not really sure whether I'd classify Chuck Palahnuik's novels (Fight Club, Snuff) as boychik lit. From my point of view, the boychik protagonist is geekier and more pitiable than his brawlers. But that's for you to decide, not me.

But now Carolyn Kellogg reports in her book blog in the L.A. Times that Chuck is giving away inflatable dolls at his book signings.

Did one of you guys let him in here when we weren't looking? What's up with this doll mania? First Jerry (Boston Legal), then Lars, and now this?

The niche is getting downright tight, if you ask me!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Your friend, Gerald Jones , has sent you a link to this story: "Don't Ballplayers Deserve a Little Privacy?"

The Dollgate controversy is being overblown, says Kevin Hench. In fact, he says it's time to give the locker room back to the players.

Dollgate Story

(Thanks for using FOXSports.com)

Further commentary on this breaking story can be found in the thread emanating from a post by my colleague Al Martinez A Brief History of Nudity.

For the newbie in this area, we recommend the following primer on the topic of overblown partners:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Any Piggies Going to the Fair?

This weekend (April 26 and 27) is that enormous annual tent show, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which takes place on the UCLA campus in Brentwood.

I will be working the IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) booth 428D -Dickson Plaza Midi (near Royce Hall) from 10 am to 2 pm on both days. Drop by and let's talk about Rubber Babes (the forthcoming sequel to My Inflatable Friend), boychik lit, and a group of 500-plus writers committed to preventing the further dumbing down of America.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Book Review: The Hephaestus Plague

My Boychik Lit blog is supposed to be primarily about male-centered comic fiction. However, my own reading tastes are much more eclectic. And besides, I'm hard at work finishing the manuscript of Rubber Babes, and it's not a good idea for a writer to be doing his recreational reading in the same genre.

Then, too, the friends and acquaintances I've made in the community of authors hail from every corner of the literary map. Since I'm often eager to interest them in my work by exchanging reviews, I end up reading all kinds of stuff.

Having cleared my throat (as judicious editors tell you never to do at the top of an article), I can now boldly assert that I intend to comment on The Hephaestus Plague from the boychik's perspective. This will be an unusual direction from which to survey a sci-fi novel. I want to look at this book's sexual politics (as I did recently in my review of Mistress of the Revolution) and its take on the human comedy.

Written in 1974 by my friend and colleague Thomas Page and just reissued by alternative press Trashface, The Hephaestus Plague is an incredibly ingenious, complex, and technically rich sci-fi thriller. That's because Tom has always been fascinated by entymology--he's a bug freak. If it crawls or slithers or hisses or stings or bites, he wants to study it. So, right off, it's a guy thing. The stereotypical female won't be in the same room with a spider, much less be delighted if one scampered over her body. Tom, on the other hand, has been seen at book signings posing with a friendly tarantula on his arm.

The "bug science" in this book is impressive. And that's an understatement. Tom gets inside the head of researcher James Parmiter, who becomes so engrossed with finding the causes of a hellish invasion of fire-starting bugs that he fills his house with the critters, unplugs the phone, and locks the doors. Then he proceeds to foster-parent them like so many wayward children--to the point of communicating with this alien species in a way no human has ever achieved.

But let's get back to the sex. This story is not just a guy thing--it's an all-guy thing. There are no significant female characters in this book. In the jargon of the movie business, there are a few "walk-ons." The two notable ones are a farm wife and a suburban housewife. Both live in their kitchens and make things for their dominant males to eat. And, of course, they complain bitterly about the bugs, demanding that their protective men get out there and do something. Were this book written today, in the post-feminist era, Parmiter's lab assistant Metbaum would have probably been female (assuming Parmiter himself weren't transformed into a buggy babe). This choice not only would have contributed to gender balance but also would have added an element of sexual tension not unheard-of in the postmodern workplace. A sweaty Metbaum with a swollen chest in a wet tee shirt would certainly change the story dynamics. But Parmiter is such a geek and so intensely focused on the biology under his microscope that he wouldn't notice.

The more significant implication of the book as written is that science, investigation, risk-taking, and intellectual curiosity are essentially male traits. Mind you, I'm not saying that--the book is.
And although female human characters don't figure strongly into the plot of The Hephaestus Plague, the female role in biology is central to its theme. In fact, a female insect (fondly named Madilene by Parmiter) is a star of the second half of the book. She gives birth to an egg case containing a second-generation hybrid strain of bugs that are--and I'm not exaggerating here--capable of replacing humans as the rulers of the planet. (The allusion to Mary Magdalene is apt. Much of the story is set in the rural South, and its fundamentalist Christian overtones figure strongly in the apocalyptic tone of the story. When Parmiter wonders whether God will give up on humans, Metbaum quips that one of the super-intelligent bugs might just be the "next Jesus.")

From the standpoint of evolutionary science and human ethics, the traditional female role of caring for and nurturing the young is pivotal to the plot. Simply put, the bugs seem to be better at it than humans are. Set at the end of the Vietnam era, The Hephaestus Plague is even more lacking in human child actors than in women. The one young boy in the story is mentally retarded. Parmiter is haunted by the historical fact that both Rome and Sparta practiced infanticide in the late stages of their civilizations. As for the bugs, caring for their egg cases is a paramount concern. Ironically, but in keeping with the male-centeredness of the story, it's a male bug that ultimately takes responsibility for the care of Madilene's eggs, and he pays for the decision with his life.

Enough of sex. What about comedy? Well, there is none. Except to say that a scorched-earth sci-fi apocalypse is bound to be campy in the way of the best-worst 1950s B-movies. (It will come as no surprise that one such popcorn flick, BUG, was adapted from this book.)

No, I take that back. God is probably having a good laugh. It's all about adaptation and survival. It's incredibly arrogant for humans to imagine that they are the masters of the Earth. Tom Page reminds us that Nature is always experimenting with what comes next. But we might not be included in those plans. Death is essential and inevitable.

And, you guys will be pleased to learn, so is sex!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I Blame Ernest Hemingway

Every male writer with an ounce of testosterone owes a big debt to Papa. For example, without his example, how would James Jones, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, or John Milius have known to pose for their publicity photos wearing safari jackets? Why, I bet they'd have showed up in some kind of wussy Tom Wolfe ice-cream suit! With a pocket handkerchief! Full article on Ezinearticles.com.

As Featured On Ezine Articles

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book Review: "Mistress of the Revolution"

Mistress of the Revolution is not the first female-centered novel I've reviewed on my Boychik Lit blog. My intention in picking up this book was to have fun dissecting a steamy chick-lit novel, a basis for comparison and contrast with male-centered fiction. The historical setting amid the turmoil of the French Revolution also promised political intrigue with gobs of gore. Now that I've read and reflected on this first novel from Catherine Delors, I regret to admit that I won't have the fun of teasing or ridiculing her effort. It is, sadly for the purposes of a fratirist with a warped sense of humor, nothing to laugh about.

Mistress of the Revolution is a masterful (mistressful?), serious literary work about the widely ignored--and unlearned--lessons of history. As the very best historical novels do, it reflects and highlights the political and social dramas of the present day. At its core, it's a story of class struggle and sexual politics.

So, let's talk about the sex, shall we? (Warning: spoilers follow!)

Main character and first-person narrator Gabrielle de Montserrat is a gorgeous young aristocrat who lacks a respectable dowry. She is high-born but from a family that has seen its wealth dissipate. If she wishes to realize the great expectations of her rank, she must therefore find some rich aristocrat to marry her. Her other socially acceptable choices are to live as a spinster with her family (if they will have her) or to become a nun. Her plight is the recurring dilemma of sexual politics: If she wants the good life, she must be willing to market her body and her charms. In this central element of its plot, the book is not much different in theme from the works of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, nor of chick-lit stories like Bridget Jones's Diary. The main character's all-important goal--which she must achieve or everything else in her life will suffer--is to become half of a power couple.

Throughout the book, which covers Gabrielle's story from ages fifteen to forty-six, she is dominated by men in a series of fundamentally monogamous relationships. And here's where Mistress of the Revolution departs from its traditional sisters: Not one of those men, including her primary love interest, is what you'd call sympathetic in the modern sense. All of them (and there's quite a collection) are cruel, vindictive batterers. They differ mainly in the degrees to which they bestow the occasional kindness or largesse on Gabrielle.

Before her arrogant older brother (and father substitute) can make a marriage bargain for her, teenage Gabrielle falls for a tall, dark commoner, Pierre-André Coffinhal. He's a promising young man trained as a physician, who will later study the law and become a judge in the revolutionary tribunal. In a contemporary story, her quest could end there. He's just the kind of young tyro our society applauds--the ambitious, self-made man. But back then, before the Revolution presumed to abolish social rank, his low birth makes the match unthinkable. Gabrielle ultimately agrees to follow her brother's direction and marry the corpulent, disgusting Baron de Peyre to spare Coffinhal from her brother's death threat.

As to sex, a contemporary diagnosis of Gabrielle's psyche doesn't require a medical degree--she's a rape victim. She is numb to pleasure, and will pretty much remain so throughout the book--except for some notably rare experiences. In this, she does not seem disappointed. Rather, as with her overall physical treatment at the hands of her male controllers, most of the time she seems to feel she gets no more nor less than she deserves.

Not long after fathering their daughter, Aimée, the Baron very conveniently dies. At that point in a modern story, Gabrielle would immediately seek out Pierre-André. In this story, she is too ashamed of her betrayal of him to even make the effort. Instead, through assiduous social climbing and good connections, Gabrielle becomes the high-class kept woman of the Count de Villers, who introduces her to the court at Versailles. Her reputation soars after her beauty and wit stir the jealousy of the Queen, the infamous Marie-Anoinette.

In the years she's involved with Villers, the Revolution erupts in Paris. (It is longer, bloodier, and more viciously irrational than I remembered from my meagre studies.) Although Villers in many ways is the most tender lover that Gabrielle will ever have, in his financial and emotional dealings with her he is an arrogant bully.

Rather late in the story, as the Patriots take over the city, the aristos, including Villers, are hunted down, subjected to mock trials, and slaughtered. Having passed up opportunities to emigrate, Gabrielle must disguise herself as a commoner and work as a seamstress to avoid the gallows. Coffinhal, now a judge and a close ally of the charismatic leader Robespierre, is working overtime sentencing scores of aristos to cruel and bloody deaths daily.

It's at this point--when Gabrielle's circumstances are the meannest and she's in and out of jail--that she and Coffinhal reconcile. Through his protection, she survives, although just barely.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this story is Coffinhal's unashamed brutality toward Gabrielle. Although well educated and exhibiting a sensitive nature at times, he's given to fits of righteous anger and physical violence--often directed at her. In this, the book bears no similarity at all to the bodice-ripper romance. When Gabrielle's relationship with Coffinhal is not a dream come true, it's a wicked nightmare.

And she puts up with it. Indeed, as she does throughout the book, she dismisses the abuse as expected, understandable, even deserved.

It's obvious from the book's meticulous detailing that it is incredibly well researched and authentic. But, according to Delors, the Gabrielle character is entirely fictional. The thing that I find fascinating is the author's boldness at not offering up the expected romantic arc, giving us a chilling portrait of female sensibility as it calculates what it must do to survive. There is not a single male star in Hollywood, now or ever, who would risk the ire of his fan base to behave on the screen as Coffinhal does at his worst toward this woman. I'm not enough of a scholar of history to know for sure, but I'm guessing that Gabrielle's resolution to her plight and the meanness of her existence, even at the height of society, are true to that time and place.

It does make me wonder, though, how much if anything has changed. Love, money, property--these are as intertwined and interdependent in today's world as ever.

Also remarkable, from a writer's technical viewpoint, is the impeccable prose style of this book. Delors is a native French speaker, and English is her second language. The book is written from Gabrielle's point of view in 1815, while exiled in England. Like Delors, Gabrielle writes in her adopted English. In the historical note in the book's endpapers, the author admits, "I strove to write this novel in the British English Gabrielle would have used in 1815." I find that it reads a lot like Balzac in translation, and I'm reminded of his A Harlot High and Low (Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes), written in the 1830s, and treating, as Delors' book does so well, the dynamics of sexual politics trapped in the web of human history.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book Review: "Lucky Man" by Ben Tanzer

To the extent that Lucky Man is a first-person narrative about young men coming of age, you could say it's fratire. But this is damned serious stuff, making the book much more ambitious, I think, than some of the other puke-on-my-own-shoes books in that genre.

More ambitious still--there's not one narrator here but four, each taking turns commenting on experiences they share, in interleaved chapters. Sammy, Jake, Louie, and Gabe are confreres passing from high school to college while they get stoned in every way imaginable and have encounters and even a few relationships with women. Note that they're not so much chasing girls as hitting on them (and getting hit on) like bumper cars.

In fact, that's the dynamic of their lives--drifting, smashing, and moving on. The author may have ambition, but these guys rarely make a meal more complicated than a bowl of cereal. None of them finds much direction or purpose at all (one tries religion, briefly). Perhaps they would get motivated if they could only channel their anger, which mostly stems from life's random punishments. But they turn most of their angst in on themselves as they get wasted daily, punctuated by an occasional fistfight arising from little or no provocation.

First-person narration is a bold choice because the main character can't report on events that affect him but he can't see, or might not even hear about. This challenge is partially overcome in this book by Tanzer's telling the story from multiple points of view. Then, it's a challenge to give each of the voices a distinctive character. While these boys each has his quirks, their attitudes, outlooks, and prospects are much more alike than they are different. Maybe it's a generational thing--they've all given up, bowing to the great god of Pointlessness.

This is, as the reader will guess soon enough, a last-man-standing story. In the end, the question is, "What's it all mean?" Tanzer gives no clue, but I do give him a great deal of credit for at least raising the question.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Photo courtesy Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC).

The first person who posts a comment below with the obvious answer will receive a complimentary copy of My Inflatable Friend.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Local (French) author makes good!

Meilleures felicitations to Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution, for her premiere book signing at Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore, here in the Wild West. Madame Delors is a Parisian who survived a successful geographic transplant, swapping her noble Gallic heart for a model newly minted in the City of Angels.

Watch this space for a review of this steamy historical novel, and when this one gets sold to Hollywood--remember you read it here first!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Rubber Babes" Sneak Preview

The renowned fratirist and author of My Inflatable Friend reads from the second whimsical book in the series of Rollo Hemphill's misadventures.

The event was at Barnes & Noble last Sunday on the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade. Also reading that day were IWOSC colleagues Regina Apigo, Bob Birchard, Dr. Diane DeLaVega, Ron Vazzano, Telly Davidson, David Groves, Stephen R. Wolcott, Flo Selfman, Dale Henderson, Gail Wichert, Christine Candland, and Marvin Wolf.

Why Talk to a Shrink? (in movies/TV)

Tony Soprano spills his guts. Fortunately, it's just talk (this time). Talking to a shrink has been a narrative device in books and movies ever since there have been shrinks. In traditional movie dialogue, you have the main character talk to his best friend to find out what he's thinking, planning, cares about. But in this postmodern age, people are more alienated, less free with their feelings. And in the action stories, the characters are all so dumb they can't form a compound sentence.

So dialogue with the shrink is a way to reveal inner thoughts, motivations that the character can't or won't share with others but the audience needs to know. Another technique used for this purpose is voice-over narration. Writing coaches used to warn novices away from it, because they would use it to explain mundane plot points instead of using engaging dialogue (e.g., argument) with other characters. But again with so much alienation and isolation, today's main character often *has no friends* and that's the core of the story. So the rule for VO now is you can use it if the character is expressing emotions and innermost thoughts that can't be said to someone else.

You don't have this problem in a novel. The omniscient narrator can get into anyone's head. That's one of the reasons why first-person narratives are so challenging.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rollo Bugs the Hellraiser

I'll be reading from the *sequel* to My Inflatable Friend on Sunday, March 9, at 2 pm at Barnes & Noble on the Santa Monica Promenade. And speaking of book events...

Authors complain that their publishers and agents won't return their calls. So the recent experience of my friend Tom Page is a delight to behold. UK publisher Trashface was so obsessed with reissuing Tom's fantastique thriller The Hephaestus Plague that they literally tracked him down. Apparently unable to locate him via conventional means, the dauntless publisher ran a genealogy on him, which not only succeeded in finding the target but also links his bloodlines to King Edward III!

I caught up with Tom last Saturday at Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank, where he was signing copies of the book, a creepy tale of fire-spewing bugs that threaten all we hold dear. (The story was made into the cult-movie Bug, produced by William Castle and directed by Jeannot Szwarc.)

Gerald (hatted) visits Tom Page at Dark Delicacies

Hanging out with Tom that day was another cult phenom, Peter Atkins, one of the geniuses behind the Hellraiser movies, based on the books of Clive Barker. (Peter pleads not to be confused with the Oxford professor of the same name, although that guy's popular books on the physical sciences are selling well, and a confusion about where to send royalty checks might help temporary cashflow!)

Tom Page (the Bug guy, left) and Peter Atkins (Morningstar, Wishmaster) take a break from defacing brand new books with their scrawls.

Gerald Everett Jones is the author of My Inflatable Friend: The Confessions of Rollo Hemphill. He blogs on comic fiction at Boychik Lit.

Book Review: Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies

I will say at the outset that, if you are serious about screenwriting, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies (STC! 2) is a must-have book. Mind you, it's not the only one, but if you were an economist you wouldn't have just one book on math, right? In fact, I think that this second book in the STC! series is actually more of a must-buy than the first one--because of its unique approach. The original Save the Cat! is basic screenwriting theory. Chief among these is Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing, written decades ago, a rediscovery of the dramatic principles of Aristotle's Poetics. You might say that Egri was the founder of modern-day structuralism (although his book was about playwriting and many movies before him were highly structured). Among the latter-day authorities are Syd Field and Vicki King, whom Blake Synder acknowledges as his early mentors. Others include Robert McKee, Lew Hunter, Richard Walter, John Truby, and Linda Seger. And there are many, many, many more.

But STC! 2 stands out among this group because it comes at the subject from a unique direction. Rather than stating theory and then citing examples, this second how-to book of Snyder's rationalizes examples of successful genre movies to make some generalizations about what works in terms of capturing and holding an audience. The book is mostly examples rather than rules, not the other way around. Many readers will find this format more approachable, user-friendly, and easier to apply than the theory books.

The key concepts he derives, which are the same as in STC! 1 are genre, structure, and beats. Be cautioned that he redefines genre. Synder's take on genre is more like "theme," "predicament," or even "story engine." It's the dilemma that drives the story, but it is, in structural terms, a situation and not a story. For example, "a fish out of water" is a situation--"a fish out of water grows legs and survives" is a story. As to structure, he pretty much follows accepted practice, but he goes a step further by reducing the essential, compelling structure to just 15 beats, or plot points. That's powerful stuff.

So you won't find the traditional genres "action-adventure" or "romantic comedy" here. Synder swaps those for genre-predicaments like "Monster in the House" and "Dude with a Problem." He identifies ten of them as the engines of all hits. He then decomposes the plots of several blockbusters in each genre to show how that engine operates. His insights are fascinating because, without the distinction of genre as he defines it, you might assume that "Three Days of the Condor" and "Sleeping with the Enemy" are fundamentally different. By traditional definitions, one is a spy thriller and the other is a woman-jeopardy thriller. But in the gospel according to Blake, those two movies are twins. Knowing why will not only make you a better screenwriter but will also give you a better appreciation of the high art of crafting the blockbusters that almost never win the snob awards.

Taking Synder's distinction one step further, it should be possible to do a "Monster in the House" story in any of the traditional genres--action-adventure, horror, or even romantic comedy! Getting this basic idea will help you understand why "King Kong" owes so much to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (not one of Snyder's examples, but one I'm sure he'd acknowledge).

Do get this book if you are writing spec scripts. But if you are writing indies, proceed with caution--with any book of rules. Certainly the gurus will preach that the rules of structure can strengthen any story and that, at the very least, you should master the rules before you break them. True enough.

But you don't want to get so locked into a box of rules that you can't think outside of it. The goal in indies, in my humble opinion, should not be to make blockbusters on the cheap but to take risks and evolve the cinematic form in ways the studios won't.

I should disclose that I've met Blake Snyder, and he is as charming in person as he is engaging on the page. More important, he assured me that no cats were harmed in the making of his books!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Making Your Own Opportunities in Writing

I will be moderating a panel discussion on this topic, hosted by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) on Monday, February 25 in Culver City, CA. Here are the details:

DATE: Monday, February 25

TIME: 7:30 p.m. SHARP to 9 p.m. (networking follows the program)

LOCATION: Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Avenue (corner Culver Boulevard - parking entrance on Culver), Culver City. Parking free.

COST: IWOSC members -- Free; non-members -- $15.

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED: Deadline (if space is still available) is noon, Monday, Feb.25. Call (877) 799-7483 or e-mail info@iwosc.org. NOTE: If you reserve and can not attend, please e-mail the IWOSC office at info@iwosc.org. and let us know.

PROGRAM: Writing is a business. Yet, if you can keep your mind open to creative possibilities, you can make the business work for you. Keeping flexible to various options can be the key to discovering alternative ways to enjoy success.

This eclectic panel has used a combination of talent, tenacity and tricks to earn their writing success. They'll share how they did it, how they figured it out, where they found it, and what’s next. New and stimulating ideas are out there, waiting to be tapped. Unchain yourself from your computer and take a few hours to discover what may be holding you back from getting to the next level in your writing career.

The Panelists: Gina Nahai, Colleen Dunn Bates, Blake Snyder, Tom Sawyer, and Maggie Anton.

Moderator: Gerald Everett Jones, author of My Inflatable Friend: The Confessions of Rollo Hemphill and How to Lie with Charts.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine Blast from the Past

The Boychik Lit blog had barely gotten started last year at this time, and here's one of the early posts, which holds some sage advice for today!

Have a joyous day (and night), but let's all be safe. Please don't fire your weapon into the air.

Helpful Hint: Today millions of men will be subjected to the time-honored Mind Reading Test. Remember that it's strictly Pass / Fail, and you get only one guess. So take the advice I got from old Uncle Bob -- if it doesn't sparkle or smell, YOU GUESSED WRONG!

Here's hoping your Valentine is a live one!

the boychik

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steve Jobs Disappoints Me

I had assumed that Apple was just holding back from entering the e-book market. Its competitor Sony, after all, has been taking the cautious road by marketing its Reader device in a grass-roots campaign that seems to be aimed at librarians and academics. Then along comes Amazon with Kindle, which perhaps rightly emphasizes convenience and instant gratification via wireless distribution.

And of course I'm pleased that My Inflatable Friend is available not only in softcover, but also in Kindle e-format.

But if Steve Jobs is to be believed, he just doesn't want to play the game. At all. There will be no iPod for books (unless you credit the little-publicized ability of the iPhone to display PDFs). Here's what he said recently in the NY Times.

Perhaps he should pop over to Goodreads, where librarians and other book junkies flock to await the End of Print As We Know It!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Boychik on the Radio - Two Podcasts!

John Seeley (guy with the grin) hosts the "Write On!" show on BigMediaUSA. In Episode 10 Segment 2, taped on January 24, he and Gerald discuss My Inflatable Friend as an example of the boychik lit genre. (Click Segment 2 and you have your choice whether to listen streaming MP3 right now or right click to download to your player.)

Gig number two on January 30 was on the Michael Dresser Show (the intense dude below). You'll find his interview with Gerald, co-hosted with Gary Young, by clicking here. This is the last few minutes of a one-hour segment, and the boychik stuff starts at 35:50 (about two-thirds of the way along the streaming progress bar). What does a boychik have to do with a painted bird?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who *Are* Those Guys?

Here I am with co-host Helen Jupiter after our blogging seminar, sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) .

Notice she also did a nice job on my hair!

Cheers, Gerald "the boychik"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Moochas Smoochas...

... to everyone who helped make yesterday's IWOSC blogging seminar such a stimulating event. (I'm still buzzing--what is that?)

Big smack to my co-host Helen Jupiter, who blogs, among other places, at Metroblogging Los Angeles, Jewcy, The Jew & the Carrot, Gridskipper, and occasionally has time to drop by her own personal blog. Helen, you're a pro and a delight!

And then there's the rabble in the pit. A talented and good-looking lot. Now officially added to Rollo's fan base are Judy B. David (freelance copywriter and functional literate), Debra Eckerling (writer calling herself the "Coast Bunny"), LouAnn Savage (who told us about Toksee--heads up!), Congressional candidate Steve Blount (46th District, California), caregiver/counselor Michele A. Nuzzo (MidLife Menu), Matt Emmer, and podcaster professionelle Tracy Pattin (Tracilu Productions). Also familiar faces Robin Quinn, Les Boston, John Seeley, Roberta Edgar, Les Boston, Michael Dwyer, and local celebrity and political rabblerouser Georja Umano.

If I left you out, you are posting as Anonymous!

This event was organized by IWOSC Director of Professional Development (and playwright) Gary Young and moderated by the organization's President (and Hollywood publicist) Flo Selfman.

Hey, let's do this again! (Download handouts from the Hot Links menu above. Slideshow highlights running in the right sidebar.)