he fakes his death, emerges years later as a street artist, his street art and movie are famous for basically fucking with people’s heads (is it art? is it comedy?) … he does his first ever NYC residency, which just happened to end when the Andy Kaufman awards started. he was totally going to reveal himself. he must have changed his mind for some reason.. it all makes total sense
Would You Read This Book? (originally published on www.mrjoeyoga.com)
From April 1999 to December 14, 2001 (I know, the dates are on the bottom of the last page!) I wrote a novel called Last Call. 431 manuscript pages. Last time I had an electronic copy of it to check, it was 126,000 words. That seems unreal to me. Looking back on it now I can barely remember writing it. I mean sure, I remember living with the idea, dreaming it up, thinking about it, sketching outlines in my journals, walking down the street and having epiphanies about plot points… but the actual writing of it is a blur. I would sit down and write for three hours a day. I don’t know where they have gone. I hold the physical manuscript in my hands and I’m awestruck. How did I do something like this? Twice? The concept of it seems so foreign to me, twelve years later, at 38. Sometimes these days I barely have the attention span to watch a 30 minute youtube video. How I sculpted a brick of thousands of words over the course of two years with a whole world of plot and characters inside it, doesn’t impress me as much as it makes me afraid that my mind’s best years are long gone.
I have no idea if it’s any good. I haven’t read it since I finished working on it. It went through three drafts, mostly structural in nature. Meaning I wasn’t really trying to clean up awkward sentences, I was mostly trying to make the plot coherent and character’s motivations clear. The writing was strong enough (I thought). What’s it about? Well, it’s about a few things. It’s about Albany, for one. I came up with the idea when I lived there and I had the perfect setting for it. It’s about art; all the characters are artists in some way or another. One of the characters is trying to use art as a vehicle to change things about himself he doesn’t like, and the other main character is trying to bend art to his worldview. And it’s about what happens to them when they aggressively decide to commit to these things. When they go “all in” so to speak. And they intersect over a woman and a (possible?) murder mystery. It blows up at the end with a resolution that I thought was pretty satisfying. It’s too long but I was really happy with it.
Around ten people in the world have read it. One of them was the editor for Ludlow Press (still around, apparently, though still with their 1999 website) who liked it and didn’t want to hack it up like I did, but they decided to go with another book. Being a small publisher they only did one, maybe two a year. I’d gone through this before with an earlier novel but had never actually gotten that one in someone’s hands who liked it and had the power to publish it. When they turned it down, I was crushed. I saw the next year ahead of me: a whole new round of query letters and phone calls. Reading the damn thing again. More money for manuscript copies. I was already working on a third novel. A bigger one about union workers in NYC called War’s End. I saw another three years writing, going through all this shit again, more editors, more publishers, more rejections. I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. So I quit. I turned my attention to my blossoming love affair with songwriting. I stopped writing the new novel 50 pages in. I put that and the Last Call manuscript in my archives and didn’t even look at either one of them for five years.
So why am I posting about it now? Well, through the miracle of modern technology I now, once again, and for the first time in 12 years, have an editable electronic copy of it. I’ve decided to give it one last overhaul and try and publish it. And I’m going to do it in public, on the internet. Along the way I’ll give my thoughts and impressions about it, art, the novel format, and anything else that pops in my head as I’m working on it. I’m going to set up a proper blog for it but for now I’ll do it here.
One of the things I’ve come to understand about art and performance is the importance of grabbing the audience immediately, how important it is to give them something to care about right away, if your art will allow for it. I don’t think this is as important for novels. How many great books have you read because someone said “give it 50 pages”? But when I picked it up again for this project, I was curious about what the first paragraph was. How did I set the whole thing up?
Through the exaggerated tint of the windows on the Greyhound, the falling snow appeared to Dawn Becker to be colored a deep, smooth auburn. The patterns created were dense and layered, their descent from the sky, frantic. Dawn, having been lucky enough to secure her own two-seat spot towards the front in New York City, would alternate between leaning her head against the window and peeking it out into the aisle to see the driver’s view of the snow. She liked to watch the snow charging maniacally towards the bus and then getting whisked off to the side, helpless even against the pathetic aerodynamics of the bread-shaped bus. She would smile, letting her eyes uncross to the rhythmic squeaking of the wiper blades.
Through the exaggerated tint of the windows on the Greyhound, the falling snow appeared to Dawn to be colored a deep, smooth auburn. The patterns created were dense and layered; its descent from the sky, frantic. She would alternate between leaning her head against the window and peeking it out into the aisle to see the driver’s view of the snow. Having secured her own two-seat spot up front after half the passengers got off in New York City, she could relax. She let her eyes uncross to the rhythmic squeaking of the wiper blades as giant wet snowflakes flew maniacally towards the long windshield and were pushed off.
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