Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Myth of Staircases

Latigo Flint once wrote a novel titled The Myth of Staircases. It was very well received. It won a number of highly prestigious literary awards. Latigo Flint was invited to a great many New York dinner parties.

Of course the book had absolutely nothing to with staircases. Or myths for that matter. In fact, other than the cover and the title page, the word "staircase" didn't even appear. The word "myth" did show up once in chapter 24, but oddly enough as a typo of the word "moth".

It was a wonderful time for me. Many brilliant, young urban women were eager to sleep with me. They insisted on talking the entire time, but mostly about my book and how great they thought it was. And that actually happens to be more than tolerable.

I was the life of a hundred parlors, fell in love twice a day and literally bathed in cognac.

The Myth of Staircases is about two middle-aged brothers named Edgar and Dallas Naverson, and their chance encounter in a Denny's restaurant outside of Bakersfield, California. It's the first time they've seen each other in over twenty-five years. Edgar has spent the last two decades as a professional rodeo clown, recently retired. Dallas is a reformed pedophile.

Two thirds of the book is the brothers' real-time dialogue. The rest is flashback, narrated in the first person by their deceased childhood pet--a purebred Samoyed named Bentley Dog.

Rumor has it, the review of The Myth of Staircases by esteemed NY Times book critic, Michiko Kakutani, was rejected a total of eight times because she kept on slipping in the phrase "infuckingcredibility awesome!"

I was a darling. I had it all--for about a week or two. Then a twitchful unease crept over me and it began to show. I knew I needed a follow-up but had no idea what to do. I spent months working on a remake of Watership Down, setting it in the Amazon and replacing the rabbits with a plucky band of tarantulas. And that was going all right for a while until I turned it into a reader-participatory literary opera. (It seemed like a good idea at the time... then the peyote ran out.)

I began punching people in the face before they could speak to me. You can't ask how the next book is coming along if your mouth is broken.

Then one lonely December I shoved all my mental chips to the center of the table, locked myself in a motel room, and wrote When Brothers Happen to Meet. Which actually wasn't about brothers or chance encounters at all, but rather staircases, and the myths that surround them.

The story itself was two pages long. I padded out the subsequent five hundred pages by repeatedly smushing my face into the keyboard. The publisher accepted it. (They kind of had to--they'd already shelled out a significant advance, which I spent on booze, peyote and an adolescent tiger shark named Fesbach that I kept in a bathtub.) But they didn't publish it. All the senior editors met in the conference room late one Friday afternoon, smoked the entire manuscript, page by page and threw darts at my dust jacket portrait.

So now I'm an outsider again, and that's okay because being an outsider is dangerous and sexy. Is it preferable to being a literary darling? I don't know. Probably. It sure is tough to put a price on being dangerous and sexy.


At 8:43 PM, Blogger Ari said...

I resent that Dallas is a reformed pedophile. Wait, I mean, I don't resent the reformed part, just the pedophile part.

Why couldn't it have been L. Angeles Naverson, reformed pedophile? Then it would have been more ironic, see?

Being on the "sexy outside" now, I'm sure you don't care. Or maybe you care more than you would have when you were a darling. I don't know.

Still, this lukewarm, trumped-up resentment remains.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Blog ho said...

fuck sequels.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Ghost Dog said...

Yeah, Like Ho said. It isn't statistically probable that you would have ended up with an Empire Strikes Back or Wrath of Khan type of sequel, anyway.

How's that tiger shark?

At 9:10 AM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I read a book once. It was titled "Up the Down Staircase." It was about a guy the local Japanese called "Wong Way Ratigo Frint." Cousin of yours, I think. Way too short to be sexy, of course.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Cindy-Lou said...

You're still my darling. I'll still bathe you in cognac.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Monkeypotpie said...

A reformed pedophile and a retired rodeo clown... I don't have the qualifications to break this down, being a jungle animal, but this duality suggests a conflict in the author's sub-psyche. A decision made or a decision regretted?

Or a peyote trip?

Either way it's a great read, perfect for the bathtub.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger tabitha jane said...

sharks are scary. the way they look right at you with their eyes . . . fish don't do that.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

Tomorrow you will have to regale us with tales of staircases, and the myths that surround them. We have no time for heartwarming stories about sex offenders and rodeo clowns.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger katiedid said...

Are not tarantulas especially terrifying spiders? How could you, of all people, Latigo, even stand to linger on thoughts and words about spiders even briefly?? Or does peyote make one innoculated against a fear of spiders?

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

I should think an even more fitting sequel would have been a factual history of the Denny's chain in Bakersfield.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger ThePaula said...

As your sequel, you should have written about the dandelion seed that wanted to be an oak tree.

At the end of the book it would have rained, and the dandelion seed would have rotted, and never even become a dandelion.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I'm not surprised to learn you had a brush with literary fame. I hold your work in the highest esteem.

If you were a stock, I'd buy you.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger Greg said...

You know, I ordered your damned book from Amazon three years ago, and they keep sending me e-mails about how they'd like to ship it, but someone keeps showing up and punching them in the mouth. Damn it, I really want to read it. An insane Chilean hermaphrodite monk once told me it changed hir life.

At 1:21 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Ari, I'm sorry if your town shares a pedophile's name. But I'm telling true stories here--it wouldn't do to lie and lose credibility just so as not to offend.

It wasn't a sequel Ho... It was an ironic sophomore effort. Quite different you see.

Well Ghost Dog, as it were I ended up with a two-page novel and five hundred pages of forehead smashes... And not that I've seen them or anything, but wasn't Empire by far the best?! (By the way... Put crepe bows round the necks of public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

Fesbach the tiger shark was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever: But in Fesbach the tiger shark I was wrong.)

Of course, of course Old Hoss. Yet the resemblance remains.

And pull me out when the fumes overwhelm Cindy-Lou?

Conflicts in the sub-psyches of authors is dead sexy Monkey, dead sexy I say. I'm going to enthusiastically confirm your analysis.

A certain confidence comes, Tabitha Jane, with the knowledge you are able to rend limbs. Sharks are fuckin' stylin'-- like all Shaft and shit.

Perhaps you don't Trevor--but me... well, it's the only story I've ever wanted to hear. No one will tell it to me though.

You know my deepest fears too well Katiedid. Wait, not fears, I didn't mean to say that! Unease!!! You know my unease too well. Write what you know. Write the demons away. This is the only reason I ever speak of their fuzzy-legged wretchedness.

I am qualified to write that Dave. Of this there is no doubt.

That is beautiful and heartbreaking on so many levels Paula... well, okay, maybe just two... still, it sounds like a trail I'd probably tread.

Thank you LBB. These are very kind words. Personally I tend to buy high and sell low. But that's 'cause I don't give a damn, and I'm dangerous. (and when all is said and done, probably a little bit stupid.)

You know the great thing about the corporate chain of command Greg? If you do it right, all you really have to do is punch the top. (I hit Bezos so goddamn hard UPS drivers spat blood.)

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Wigwam Jones said...

I am not so sure that bathing in Cognac would be very much fun. I mean, it has a lot of alcohol in it. That burns delicate tissues. I spilled some whisky on my no-no once, and it hurt and turned bright red. It were an accident.


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