In 1968, when I was a wee lad, Mickey Mantle decided not to play baseball anymore. Since I was indeed a wee lad, and Mantle was my idol of the moment, this was a huge thing.
Less than two years later, it was announced that the Beatles were disbanding, and would no longer record or perform as a group. And if you thought the Mantle thing was big, this was universe-sized. We were stunned. No Beatles? How was that even possible?
Immediately, in both cases, the speculation began: Who would be the next Mickey Mantle? Who would be the next Beatles? I recall reading an interview with Ringo Starr in Rolling Stone (back when you could trust what they said) where he was asked the question: Who's going to be the next Beatles?
Ringo was diplomatic about it, as ever, and even suggested a few people (I think Elton John was among the names mentioned), but he knew the truth, and pretty much said so:
There is no Next Beatles. There is no Next Mantle.
What there will be is someone who is who they are. Is that too oblique? There's no point in trying to duplicate something that moves you. It can't happen the same way twice.
There never was a Casablanca II but there was Star Wars. There never was Back With the Wind but there was To Kill a Mockingbird. No new Peanuts but Doonesbury and Calvin and Hobbes. Nobody ever managed to recreate I Love Lucy, but instead we got The Dick Van Dyke Show. Which, I'm sorry, was better.
So when writers try to emulate or piggyback on the enormous success of some phenomenon, when they try to be the next Harry Potter or the next James Patterson or the next Gone Girl, they're asking for trouble. Is is possible to achieve some popular success based on something that has been immensely lucrative before? Certainly. Remember that 50 Shades of Grey allegedly began as Twilight fan fiction.
But can a writer really take something that preceded his/her work and create a new phenomenon? Particularly, one that has the same emotional and societal impact as what came before? It's unlikely, because writing something that isn't what you chose to write, what moved you enough to sit in that chair and type all those words, is a losing proposition.
Instead of a new Mantle, there came (only 30 years later) Derek Jeter. A totally different type of player, but a wonderful one in his own way.
Instead of the Next Beatles, we got Elton John and Michael Jackson and Carole King and Fleetwood Mac and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Adele. Depending on your taste, you got NWO or Eminem or Wu Tang Clan or Josh Groban or Justin Bieber, if he's your thing. There is no Next Beatles, but there are people expressing themselves whose work you might take to your heart.
If you're writing, write for yourself first but keep an audience in mind. Don't write something because that's what publishers are looking for now or because some great big huge phenomenon just hit and you think you can change a few details around and make it something new. Write what you would write even if nobody was going to read it. ESPECIALLY write what you'd write if nobody was going to read it.
Writing is an art form, a craft and a job. But before anything else, it's a form of expression. What's the point of expressing someone else's thought, particularly when they've done that already?
There is no Next Beatles. Be you.
WADE MILLER – Calamity Fair. Farrar Straus & Co., hardcover, 1950. Signet #843, paperback, January 1951; Signet #1270; 2nd printing 1956. Harper Perennial, trade paperback, 1993.
I was prepared to like this one more than I did, even in spite of Chapter One which is essentially a prologue, and as such essentially unnecessary. Sometimes they work, more often they don’t, and this is one in the latter category.
The PI in this book is Max Thursday, the fourth of six recorded adventures. The scene is San Diego, which is described in enough detail to make the reader (me) feel at home there. The crime: an organized gang of blackmailers. Thursday’s client: Irene Whitney, she says, meeting him in a house which is not hers, and what she wants him to do is get back a stack of gambling IOU’s before her husband finds out.
And once on the case, that is Thursday’s only concern. Very little of his personal life is brought up. In fact, he may as well have none. He is on the go from page one and does not stop until page 160 of the Signet paperback edition.
Problems, as I saw them: In the course of events Thursday meets a lot of people, some of them women and most of those are very seductive. Some more than others. Combined with the intense pace throughout the book, it is often difficult to keep them straight, as many of them, those who aren’t killed early on, pop up again later, sometimes quite unexpectedly.
But what bothered me more is the tenuous way that the primary villain, as he (or she) turns out to be, is brought into the case. Very strange, I thought at the time, and as I finished the book, I thought, even stranger. But how else could he (or she) have been brought into it? I have no answer for that.
Although he makes a point of not carrying a gun, at least in this book, Max Thursday is a tough guy through and through, tough and tenacious. He’s also rather smart at putting two and two together, too, though when I got four, Thursday sometimes got five. Or in other words, he was slightly ahead of me for much of the way.
All in all, though, I’d rather a book read that way than the other way around. Not quite as good as I expected, but still good.
No one had requested Colorado College's copy of the first edition of The Book of Mormon in at least fifteen years, but that all changed last month. First one request, then another, and then eighty Mormon visitors in one day, broken up into four groups in order not to overcrowd the reading room.
The Book of Mormon, the foundational text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was first published in Palmyra, NY in 1830. 5000 copies were printed, of which at least 144 are currently in libraries. Joseph Smith’s text has been reprinted hundreds of times and translated into many languages and alphabets, including Brigham Young’s Deseret alphabet (one of several alphabets developed to simplify spelling in the 19th century, including one invented by Melvil Dewey, yes, he of the card catalog system).
Book values change with the times, and the monetary value of this book has increased exponentially. According to library records, Colorado College purchased our copy for $250 in 1962. It was one of the first purchases made using the Hulbert Fund, honoring Archer Butler Hulbert, CC professor and scholar of the American West. The book is now worth approximately $100,000. Our copy, however, is not for sale.
Now something to entertain
My Darling Is Deadpan
A practical jokers invitation to murder
But when he's the corpse
One dame could die laughing
Written by Alan G Yates (1923-1985)
Horwitz Publications, Inc
Numbered Series #15 (1956)
Reprint By Demand Series #3 (1958)
SHERLOCK, JR. Buster Keaton Productions, 1924, 45 minutes. Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, Erwin Connelly, Ward Crane. Writers: Clyde Bruckman, Jean C. Havez, Joe Mitchell. Director: Buster Keaton.
For silent film aficionados Charlie Chaplin is the ne plus ultra of comedians. Certainly Chaplin had a wide emotional range which he was able to exploit at every turn; with him, slapstick humor and pathos — if not bathos — could be only a few frames apart. There is no denying Charlie Chaplin’s talent.
For this silent film enthusiast, however, Buster Keaton is still my favorite comedian of the era. No knock against Chaplin, but there is something irreducibly American about Keaton, especially in his boundless enthusiasm and unquenchable energy in accomplishing his goals. If a situation seemed hopeless, Keaton would simply redouble his efforts and win out in the end — no defeatism for Buster. For him, the most intractable problems would always involve women in some way — and thus has it ever been with men.
Buster Keaton didn’t have that wide emotional range that Chaplin possessed, but he didn’t really need it. In fact, he eschewed facial emotions, leading to his nickname “The Great Stone Face.” Keeping a dead pan regardless of the situation, Buster was still able to convey exactly what he should be feeling at any given moment. Now that’s talent!
Sherlock, Jr. is one of Keaton’s best efforts. In it he plays a film projector operator whose dreams mirror his real-life anxieties, so you shouldn’t think that the movie is simply a shallow comedy. As Dan Callahan writes:
It is within this framework of fantasy that Buster acts out some of his most inventive visual gags — falling in and out of the dream world of the film-within-a-film, pretending to be the suave supersleuth (more like James Bond, in fact) who nearly gets it from an explosive billiard ball, diving through a window in a tuxedo and coming up from the ground inside a woman’s dress, diving headfirst yet again through — yes, through — another human being, an exquisitely-timed descent hanging from a railroad crossing gate into a moving car (if you can, run that sequence in slow motion), a gag involving Buster all alone on a bicycle’s handle bars approaching a train that’s just about to pass a trestle, and another stunt in which he falls from a moving train (and during which, he learned years later, he actually broke his neck). It seems that one of Buster’s favorite gag props was trains; he also used them to good effect in The General.
No two ways about it: Buster Keaton was a comic film genius.
Titles: Dictators Die Hard / Evil is the Night
Authors: Robert A. Levey / John Creighton
Cover artists: Uncredited / Uncredited
Estimated value: $25-30
- Dictators Die Hard—Stenographers Spank Harder!
- Dictators Die Hard—You're Looking At My Chest, Aren't You?
- I love the composition of this cover. Logically, this must depict two different scenes, but I like the idea of her staring down the gunman. "Oh, am I distracting you?" "I hope you're man enough to make the shot." "You *better* not be pointing that thing at me." "Hurry up so we can go riding, you tiresome lout!"
- She borrowed her ascot from a foppish squirrel.
- I hate to think where that thing's been.
- "I'm thinking of calling my book 'Tender is the Night'" "That title's taken." "Hmmm…."
I stared at McMahon, and Hibbs scowled at me. Nobody said anything. It was an uncomfortable moment.
This took 9th place in Yakima County's "Write Like Raymond Carver Day" competition.
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