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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Exhaustive Self-Revelation

Joe Eszterhas' profoundly confessional Hollywood Animal is one of the most compelling books I have ever read.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Meaning of Friendship

From Hollywood Animal, p. 594:

"We live in a town," [an agent] said to me, "where you don't root for your friends to fail. You root for your friends to die."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Playing With Words

Another excerpt from Eszterhas' gripping astounding Hollywood Animals, under the heading "Hollywood Lies":

"My answering service keeps screwing up my messages.
I was working on the script with Kubrick when he died.
I'll read your script tonight.
It's not about the money.
Steven almost committed to it.
I'll read your script tomorrow.
I wrote that movie but the Writers Guild screwed me out of the credit.
I love this ending but market research doesn't.
I'll read your script this weekend.
This isn't about ego, it's about getting it right.
The studio took it away from me and recut it.
You know I love you."

And at one point he mentions Jack Warner's definition of a screenwriter: "Some poor schmuck with an Underwood."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Carrot

For his first screenplay, a historical drama about a fictitious truckers' union titled F.I.S.T., a project for which he did years of research (I think he said three, including extensive research in the field), Eszterhaus was paid $80,000 in a step deal and wrote the screenplay in collaboration with Norman Jewison in six months. The film tanked. Years later he wrote Basic Instinct as a spec script in three weeks and sold it for $3,000,000, the film grossing $450 million worldwide. And that's why I'm working on screenplays. Because soon this is going to happen to me!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Smooth Operator

My good friend Joe is one of these guys who has these amazing experiences and never tells you about them. I discovered that he was a character in a Mickey Spillane novel some weeks ago and he had never said a word to me about it. Now I find out he's in J. Eszterhas spell-binding memoir Hollywood Animal:

Page 214: "He [film producer] picked the phone up, said, 'Get in here right away,' and within moments a very pale [subordinate] was standing there as [the producer] said to him, 'I'm making a deal with Joe. If you fuck with Joe . . . if you get in Joe's way in any way, if you get near this project in any way, I'm gonna throw you out this fucking window."

You see the kind of respect he gets? It's amazing. I wish I got that kind of respect. And he keeps me in the dark about all this stuff.

Why Screenwriting Is Bad for You

An excerpt from mega-screenwriter, journalist and author Joe Eszterhas' astonishing can't put it down tell all exposé memoir Hollywood Animal (New York: Knopf, 2004), p. 45:

"Bill Faulkner, screenwriter, woke up one morning at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood screaming: 'Oh, Lordy! Oh, Jesus! They're coming at me! Help me! Don't let them! They're coming at me! No! No!' He had himself taken to a sanitarium and dried out."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

About Those Credit Card Bills

Baudelaire writes:

"In answer to every letter from a creditor, write fifty lines on an extra-terrestrial subject and you will be saved."

My Heart Laid Bare, tr. N. Cameron, ed. P. Quennell (London: G. Weidenfeld, 1950), p. 162.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Goodbye Bronk

I gave William Bronk one last try and after reading for fifteen or twenty minutes tossed the book into midair and listened to it hit the carpet. Back to work on the screenplay. I'm content to be a writer of B movies. That may be all I have in me. I glanced through an issue of Poetry yesterday and read a long review of a new collection of poems by a poet marked by melancholia, and it made me feel glad I'm not committed to that world. And we saw There Will Be Blood which is good but for the revolting horrible culture of death ending; it's two and a half hours of closeups of Daniel Day-Lewis as the stereotypical "ruthless businessman," a feast of a 12-foot tall face that is deeply hypnotizing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blind Alley

The gambling research led me down a blind alley . . . haunted by Yeats' warning about "the will trying to do the imagination's work." All the books are going back to the library.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Three Books Sampled

I noticed a new novel by Th. Bernhard in a bookstore in the Square on Friday, Frost, and read the first page, the typical grisly humor as a medical intern is sawing the feet off cadavers and tossing them over his shoulder into an enamelled pail; and noticed a cardboard box of paperbacks on the sidewalk coming home from the grocery store yesterday and squatting down saw that many of them were by Dean Coontz or Koontz, a name I've seen in advertisements, so I picked up one titled Intensity that the cover said was a New York Times No. 1 bestseller and brought it home for the hell of it and the little I read was shocking, reptilian, scaly, horrifying, sordid, a excellent example of what Sorrentino calls "cash trash"; and I thought I'd mention that I bought a copy of Ted Hughes Collected Poems some months ago and it's been a total disappointment.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: For dinner Chinese takeout with an assortment of chips and dips beforehand, particularly liked the garlic-flavored hummus on wheat thins, though the salsa was good as well, dipping with Red Hot Blues and Kettle vinegar and sea salt chips.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


The research books are turning to sand in my hands.

Companionship With the Sun

Read more of the scholarly work on gambling but tonight it seemed like a pain in the ass, notwithstanding its elegance and penetration.

An untitled poem by David Ignatow:

I have lived to find out
the sun also will die,
I will die first
and in time
I will have a companion.

Shadowing the Ground (Hanover [NH]: Univ. Press of New England, 1991), p. 66.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gambling and "Bad Beats"

Started reading an exhaustively researched, intensely reasoned and gracefully written academic work on compulsive gambling, though I must admit I find it disconcerting when he analyzes characters from literature and movies as part of his analytic, I mean I turn to academia for facts and theory and logical argumentation, not literary and film critiques, that's supposed to be my field; he even has things to say about Tykwer's (sp?) meta-flick Run Lola Run and Mason & Dixon, the latter a work I'll never read, I paid my Pynchon dues with Gravity's Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland, don't need any more work assignments from him. A punter's adage: "In gambling, the second best thing to winning is losing," a common symptom of pathological gamblers being that they speak with greater emotion of "bad beats" (excessively unlikely losses) than they do of winning. Another adage: "Show me a gambler with a good excuse for losing and I'll show you a loser."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Deviation From Research Plan

I finished the autobiography of the compulsive gambler and, skimming a good deal because much of it comprised stories relating to his twenty years spent in prison, finished a second, amazed at the brutality and psychological suffering the man endured, the work mentioning that long sentences for property-only crimes are counterproductive because they harden the criminal and lead him to hate the society that sentenced him, leading him, or her, to strike back at society when their incarceration ends by committing more crime(s), and also that the US imposes the longest sentences on criminals of any nation in the Western world (and has, I read somewhere, the highest percentage of its population in jail of any nation in the Western world--so much for the efficacy of harsh sentencing). I read a couple of poems by William Bronk (to whom I gravitate because I lived in the Bronx for nine years) on a Sorrentino recommendation but they were fizzles; hoped to find something I could quote here but no soap.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

At the Track

The autobiography of the compulsive gamler is gripping; he worked in New York, in the 1950s, a block away from where I worked in the Chrysler Building in the 1970s; tells the joke of the horseplayer who said he felt lucky to break even, because he needed the money. And I had to laugh when he wrote about betting on horses that "owed him," i.e., horses on whom he had bet and lost in the past, on which he would bet again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Farewell Higgins, Hello OCD Gambling

Finished reading Defending Billy Ryan, which was enjoyable and had an authentic feel but represented a deviation from one's research plan, and started on an autobiography by a compulsive gambler. Oh and by the way The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (1973) contains so much intellectual chaos and sheer mental garbage that it's almost unbelievable.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Knowing One's State as Fiction

My research for the screenplay is taking me far afield, I'm off course, reading a second Higgins novel that has nothing to do with gambling but which I am enjoying because the settings are towns in this state I've never gotten to know because we've never had any reason to visit them in person, so one feels surrounded by hordes of absolute strangers, so I'm finally getting to know what some of these towns are like, as fiction, but that suits me, it's better than nothing, the other rewarding aspect of the novel, Defending Billy Ryan, being the likeable attitude of the narrator, a criminal trial lawyer who says of himself, 'To this day I have no idea how I passed the bar exam.' I mean if you're reading Joyce and Proust and Beckett, why do you need to go to Framingham? I need to go back to the library and do a "gambling addiction" key word search instead of just "gambling." I tried Jack Spicer's Magazine Verses as the result of a Sorrentino recommendation in Something Said, but it was a waste of time; also glanced at poems by Zukofsky and Tate in a paperback anthology I found next to the door to a squash court years ago and this also proved to be a waste of effort.

Idiocy and Humor

In the critical work Something Said (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984, p. 265) Sorrentino approvingly quotes Wallace Stevens saying: "In the long run the truth does not matter." Quelle foutaise! "Post-avant" writers, with their endless theorizing and their idol-worship of form, can make such total fools of themselves. I could never stand Stevens. But the Sorrentino work ends at a high point:

"The second is the joke about the Irishman who comes home to his wife drunk every night. A priest tells her that she should throw a good scare into her husband to cure him, and that night, when he arrives at the door, his wife appears in a sheet, and screams at him: "I am the Devil, come to take you to hell!" The drunk looks at this figure, and after a moment, says, "I'm pleased to meet you . . . I married your sister!"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dialect vs. Dialogue

I finished reading George V. Higgins At End of Day and must say I enjoyed his technique of having one character after another, from beginning to end, speak in longish monologues of gangster talk, as in, to create an example from my notes:

You shouldn't've killed him inna street like that. All we'd hafta do'd be tah say he was a rat. The cops're lookin' for 'im. More'n enough noses'll be put outa joint by this. The hell you're talkin' about? Wancher cake 'n' eat it too? 'm I right? Whyncha listen to me? I'm trynah help you. 're you nuts? Whatcho sayin' that for? They couldah sneaked in. Anna cops wouldn't've known nothin'. Things've calmed down for the moment, no thanks tah that pieceah crap.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Hafta Tell Youz

Today's research comprised reading more of the non-fiction gambling book--turns out the author's wife is an aspiring screenwriter--and half of George Higgins gangsta novel At End of Day, which features remarkably authentic underworld dialogue, including roughshod syntax, much more effective than that of the other crime novel I was reading, The Last Coyote by one Michael Connelly.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Circles Within Circles

To do research for the new screenplay I purchased a $125.00 special borrower's library card yesterday from the kind magnanimous college I was graduated from and the first of the five books I take out, a work on gambling, turns out to have been written by a failed screenwriter who was graduated from the same institution.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Balanced Journalism

To counterbalance all the gushing optimism of the presidential candidates, a line from A. Camus that I came across tonight in Sorrentino's book of criticism, Something Said:

"Man dies, and he is unhappy."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pretty To Think So et al.

The inventory continues: "A Dish of Irish Setters by Rock Wagram; King Stink by Campo Dawes; Oblique Qualities in the A Priori Thought of Carl Jung by Lewis Fielding; . . . A Delerium of Garters by Joanne Popsi; The Smiling Medico by Solway Garr, M.D; Norman Mailer's Greatest Fights by Patsy Tanker; Alger Hiss and the Meaning of Patriotism by Bjorn Ayer; Favorite Songs of the American Legion by Horst Wessel; So You Want to Dance, Act, and Play the Clarinet! by Priscilla Peck; Bitter and Vicious: A Study of Later Writings of Gilles de Sorentain by H. Poloie; The Vacant Mind by Sue Sunday; Meet Ms. Missy Massy by Ms. Madeline Munck; Repairing Your Tree's Crotch by Henry Thoreau; . . . Thighs and Groans by Frank Newman; New York is Really Swell! by Ronald Paloma; The Cedar Tavern Book by Guy Wadson; Lieder and Its Influence on Mick Jagger by Aaron Alwitz; My Most Memorable Lunches by E.D. Martini; Of Course, Dear: The Married Couple's Guide to Sexual Perversion by Davis Rube, M.D.; The Layman's Missal by Buck Mulligan; Masturbate Those Pounds Away by Weary Reilly; Painters and French Wines by Orlick Trellis; The Marxist Orientation of Nabokov's 'Pale Fire' by Richard Schiller; Pretty To Think So by Jacob Barnes; Studies in Alum Theory by Richard Blister; Lesbianism in Western Ireland, 1886-1891 by Olive d'Oyly and Winnie Carr; Plagiarism in Gilberto D. Ricardo's 'Tinta Fabricada' by Laszlo Syntax, Ph.D.; A Priest Looks at Group Sex by Pedro Nanismo, D. Th.; . . . The Delights of Pork by Jorge Chicharrón; Fly by Night by Holden Talon; Phallus Worship in Queens by Aubrey Hawtree Ceek; The Early Films of Chico Zeek by Daniel Deever; Best Cartoons from The Voelkischer Neobachter, Kurt Bunde, ed.; Stars! The Story of My Orgasm by David Bromide; . . . Carrots in Siberia: Soviet Literature Before the Thaw by Igor Pantzoff; Directing Plays for the YMCA by Giovanni Simone; Cocktails and Turtle Soup by R.T. McCoy; A Skeleton Key to 'Rabbit, Run' by O. Christ; A Layman's Guide to the Flies of North America by Rex Mattachine; Those Happy, Laughing Sicilians by Ruggiero Lupara; A Dream of Tureens by Ignatz Geezel; The Velvet Trench by Joy Cumming; The Foundations of the Bulgarian Diplomatic Corps, 1945-1949 by Olga Warner; Low Comedy in the American Private School by Orson Cicere; Kreplach in the Congo by Reb Yellen; The Blazon of Colours by Montgomery Crisco; Son in Caïna by Court Royal; Cold Porter by Lisa O'Deavis; Emergency Clergyman by King Billy; . . . A Bridal Idyll by A. Bandonado; 1,001 Ways to Stuff a Watermelon by Etta Peeche . . . ."

Yes there have been some "silent" deletions because though one appreciates low humor, one does not appreciate disgusting humor.

G. Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew, p. 33.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Dead End, More Books

Next to no progress on the screenplay tonight; I've only just begun and I feel I'm at a dead end; once again, out of desperation, considering trying to write up a scenario, though that really goes against my grain . . . but think of all the plot outlines Dostoievski wrote for The Idiot! I could at least try it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The inventory continues: " . . . From Burgers to Billions: The Saga of MacDonald's by E. Coli; Covering Your Lawn With Sheet Metal by Leo Kaufman; Fire Pail by Vladimir Papilion; Studies in the Egg Cream by Jem Spaa; I Miss the Hangers by Jonah Jonah; Say Yes to Love by Molly Bloom; I Married a Socialist Worker by Linda Lovely; Throw Away Your Truss by Charles Atlas; Victor Mature: Man of Two Faces by Jacques Auteur; Baudelaire: Bourgeois Swine by Jean-Paul Roi; Things to Do in Mechanicville by Ole Moses; Jesus Christ!--A History of Ford Hood by Bert Sonnertino; Regular Guy: The Life of Nelson Rockefeller by Barry Grovel; My Life With the Seattle Pilots by Joe L. Tremont; Playboys in Heels by I. Miller; How Do Accidents Occur? by B.G. Conondrom; Sheila Sleeping by Louis Henry; Getting Rid of Unwanted Sweat Glands by Mr. Tod; I Am Jesus by Biba Papa; How to Eat a Lobster by K.C. Max; Bridges: Poets Express Their Love, Horace Rosettes, Ed.; Reet Wilson--Jazz Genius by Booker Fusto; What's New? by Richard Detective; In My Own Bag by Louis Vuitton; So You Want to Sell Your Lot! by Joseph Matines; Imaginary Jollities on Factual Wings by Gilberto Soterroni; The Lady or the Tiger?: A Study of Sexist Repression in American Popular Fiction by Medusa Queynte; Omar Bulbul, The Persian Nightingale by P. MacCruiskeen; Fun With Your Foundation by B. Jolie . . . . "

G. Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew, p. 32.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Writers Strike & The World of Books

A TV commentator reporting on the WGA writers strike quoted one writer as saying: "Writing is simple. You just sit at your computer and let beads of blood form on your brow." Too terribly true! Unusually bad night at the desk tonight. I felt like the little boy who knew the meaning of Christmas but didn't know how to use it in a sentence. [a steal from Joe Owens]

. . . . . . . . .

The inventory continues: " . . . Whores: Are They Human? by M.C. Puerco; Years of Grease by Meg Barn; A History of the Latvian Theater by Juan Simón; Jesus in My Glove by Mac "Octopus" Vouty; Cellophane Soldier by George Pompson; Counter-Revolutionary Crimes of Fried-Egg Vendors by Fidel Sofá; Death in Venice and the Comic Spirit by Sol Mallow; Some Uses of Vaseline by D.A.F. Sodd; Fun in Newark by Rosario Oglio; No More Unsightly Bulges by Maria Sangre; Napalm and Its Role in World Peace by Maxwell Champagne, Lt. Gen., USAF (Ret.); Blue Day by Raymond Blue; . . . Having That Affair by B. Boylan; Vaginal Imagery in the Later Poems of Trumbull Stickney by Lillie Bullero; Waco! Wedge of Paradise by Tex Mex; Golf Your Way to Sexual Fulfilllment by Franz Godemiche; Lad With a Dream: The Story of Herman Con by Pablo Petard; William Carlos Williams and the Sioux Nation by Fred Engels; Call me Gay, Call Me Fey by Biggs Richard; Blood and Bills: My Life as a Successful Surgeon by Kirk Benway, M..D.; Stick It Under My Oxter by Finn MacCool; Fall, Denby, and Daugherty: Genius in Action by Warren G. Harding; Physics for Foreigners by Nicolas Chauvin; On a Chinese Honeymoon by Mao Tse Tung; My Favorite Christmas Tales by Reinhard Heydrich; Gon' Git Down On Some Sweet Wine by John 'Shots' LeKing . . . . "

G. Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew, p. 32.