Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Columbo and the Costumed Editor

In posting my review for rearview, I realized that it has not only been a while since I posted anything, it’s been much longer since I actually posted something other than reviews. As I mentioned in my first post, I feel a little silly keeping this blog, like I’m a victim of unwarranted arrogance. But it is also nice to be flinging these bits of me out there. There’s no telling where they might land….

Anyway, a lot has happened since I last spoke of myself. Most importantly, I finished my novel. I want to read through it a couple of times before I start fishing for an agent but, aside from a few little rewrites, it’s done. It took me just over ten months.

Bush was re-elected. I promised myself that I wouldn’t make this a political blog though I have some very strong feelings about this matter. So, I’ll just say that it happened and it is obviously an event of significance.

This next bit of news is perhaps more interesting. I need to tell a little story to tell it. First I need to mention Vicky. She works with me here at Spartech Plastics and is, perhaps, the most enthusiastic person in my life regarding my book. She has also read more of it than anyone else. I have tried repeatedly to get Celeste to read it but she is just not interested. She says it’s good but… Anyway, Vicky loves to be involved in things. It really doesn’t matter what, just whatever is going on, you’re sure to find Vicky elbowing her way to the center of it. So, given this and her enthusiasm about my writing, you can bet that she is all about trying to find ways for me to get published or further my writing career. Most of what she suggests misses the mark as she knows less than I about the business of books and I know nothing. But in this case, I think that she did me a great service. You see, Vicky does not live in Cape Girardeau. Her address is Uniontown, Missouri. It is a tiny berg north of here with a population numbered somewhere in the hundreds. Her community life is centered in a slightly larger town, Perryville. Perryville is still a pretty small town – smaller than Cape. But it has a newspaper and Vicky knows the de facto editor quite well. See where this is going? So, Vicky throws an annual Halloween party with costumes, a bonfire, etc. She invited Celeste and I this year and told the editor, who always comes, about me. That it was a costume party was a great source of conversation and debate in our house. Celeste and I are not participants. We would both rather observe. But I knew that Vicky was selling me to the editor and I knew that she was a willing participant in the costumed silliness. I didn’t want to make a poor impression by showing up in my street clothes. So, I thought, I’ll buy one of those headpieces that make it look like you’ve been pierced by an arrow. After going to four stores and not finding one, I finally located one at Spencers for $17! I bought it. Then as I was leaving, looking at the thing and anticipating the headache it would cause, it occurred to me that for the same amount I could go to Goodwill and throw together a pretty good Columbo outfit. Plus this would give me an excuse to buy and smoke cigars all night long. That’s what I call a win-win situation. Celeste had her sons BDUs – that’s army clothes for those of you like me that have no idea what BDU might mean – so she went as a soldier. I returned the arrow. So, we showed up and got introduced to a bunch of people. Vicky didn’t let on who the editor was and nobody said, “Well, you’re Bryce, come over here and lets talk.” It was a couple of hours before she finally approached me and we started to talk. She asked about my book. I think that she thought it sounded kind of silly. Then she started asking about what else I’ve written. I told her that most of the rest of it was navel-gazing kind of stuff except for the reviews for blogcritics. She told me that she’s not interested in reviews. What she wanted was serialized fiction for adults. They had run a series for children that was a big hit and now she was looking for something for adults. She wondered if I might have a short story that could work. I knew that I didn’t but I promised her that I would look. We left it at that but I definitely had the feeling that she had hired me right there. I’m planning on starting a piece soon about a senior couple that decides to rob banks. That should be interesting and appealing to the audience of this small town paper and it should provide plenty of cliffhanger type spots.

Finally, my last bit of news, on Sunday the guy that runs blogcritics, Eric Olsen, said that he needed an editor for the site. I volunteered so now I’ll be an Book Review Editor for blogcritics.org.

All in all, things seem to be coming together for my writing career. It might still be a year or longer before I can leave the corporate world, but I’m making progress.

Music Review: rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) - Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam fans rejoice! After more than ten years, Eddie and the boys are releasing a greatest hits collection. While there are no new songs here, this is an important anthology chronicling the band’s eleven years following their first major album, Ten.
The songs are divided into two disks. The order of this collection is interesting. Disk one starts with “Once” from Ten and ends with “Save You” from Riot Act, their most recently released studio album, and follows the chronology implied. Then the second disk opens with “Black,” from Ten and more or less repeats the same sequential order. So, what was the criteria for this arrangement? If pressed one could call disk one the angry anthems and disk two the introspective songs. But, like everything with this band, it is really too hard to nail down and label.
Since the disks are individually chronological, one is treated to two fascinating studies of the band’s growth from the early, heady days when they helped carve a place for grunge to today. Presented this way, the listener is struck by the untraveled roads this band still takes that keeps it an interesting and relevant band when so many of its early contemporaries have fallen away. But that is not to say that this is a disjointed or jarring collection to listen to. Quite the contrary. Where many artist’s or band’s hits collected over a similar time period would produce an album with a dissembling sound, Pearl Jam has a consistency, even a constancy, that makes each recording uniquely theirs though they may experiment with greatly varied sounds and structures.
Finally, this collection presents their evolution from the burgeoning rock stars that led the charge of alternative and grunge music in the early nineties to the mature, more thoughtful, and yet no less experimental Pearl Jam of today. Where they stunned with their rebellion then, they mesmerize with their complexity and depth now.
While the hard core fan of this band may question this list of “greatest” hits, it would be hard to deny that this collection includes many of their best tunes. Fans, here’s another jewel for your collection. Casual admirers, this would be a perfect acquisition if you have considered adding a taste of Pearl Jam to your library.