Cautionary tales always become manuals. And win free e-books!
April 17, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
I just read an article titled “Ten Things Idiocracy Predicted Would Happen, and Sadly Already Have.” Though I haven’t seen Idiocracy, I’m not surprised. Cautionary tales always become manuals. This phenomenon is not new.
And win free e-books by answering a question! I’ll tell you how later.
In 1941 Budd Schulberg published a novel titled What Makes Sammy Run? It’s about Sammy Glick, a kid from the ghetto who becomes a Hollywood producer by lying, cheating, and backstabbing. It’s considered one of the most unsparing attacks on the film industry, similar to producer Julia Phillips’s nonfiction classic You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again.
Late in his life, Schulberg was appalled that young up-and-comers regularly thanked him for the terrific book on how to make it in Hollywood.
My own storytelling isn’t to try and warn or instruct. Yes, Ghosts and Ballyhoo is a cautionary tale, but the main reasons I wrote it were to banish and entertain. It’s not really possible to tell most people anything. I learned that lesson in 2013. There was absolutely nothing I could say to my parents that would convince them to change their behavior. I see it all around me, every day.
The neighbors across the street have all put on so much weight that when they come outside together, they look like the solar system.
I could tie them down, tape their eyelids open, and show them films of open-heart surgery and angioplasties for a week straight, and as soon as I released them, they’d rush off to McDonald’s. When they have their horrendous health crises, they’ll say what everybody always says after years and years and years of self-abuse.
“How’d it happen?”
Did you know that whenever a batch of heroin kills a bunch of junkies because it’s so strong, the druggies all go looking for that particular brand? Remember when everyone was talking about bath salts making people eat other people’s faces? That made the use of bath salts go through the roof.
There’s a drug called “krokodil” that actually, literally makes your flesh fall off your bones. If you want to see the most gruesome sights of your life, go to Google Images and type in “krokodil effects.” Don’t do it on a full stomach. These are people who’ve become half-rotted corpses, but they’re still alive.
The main reason you can’t tell anyone anything is because our culture is now allergic to “elitism.” Being hugely fat, coarse, loud, ignorant, and destructive is considered more authentic, which is funny because that lifestyle choice is just as much a contrived pose as this.
I’ve known several extremely intelligent people who came from upper-middle-class backgrounds and who transformed themselves into cussin’, fartin’, smokin’, authentic slobs. They’re no longer the same people. We have absolutely nothing in common anymore. That’s not my fault.
My best friend was a blue-collar guy. We had some of the best conversations of my life. Aside from my brothers Tim and Eric, he was also the person most accepting of me. He wasn’t class conscious. Though he died in 2001, I think of him almost every day. He was a very angry, very unhappy quadriplegic, but we became extremely close. Our friendship proved that class differences don’t have to divide people. My friend Nick didn’t think of himself as better or worse than anybody else. He never sneered at me as a “college boy.”
I was once in a Seven-Eleven. A heavily tattooed Latina in her early twenties came in and spoke to the clerk.
“‘Ey, Tony, wassup, main? You gonna gimmie mo’ fuckin’ shit, main?”
They had a bantering conversation, and then she bought one of those giant blue drinks with the crushed ice, a gallon of sugar-water and food dye. After she left, he shook his head at me.
“I’ll never understand what happened to her,” he said. “She has four sisters, and they all got pregnant when they were in their teens, and they all joined gangs, and they all have horrible lives. She was a straight-A student who spoke standard English, and she’d always say, ‘That’s not going to happen to me, Tony.’ And then she got pregnant, dropped out of school, joined a gang, and went to jail. Now her life is over, and she’s only twenty-four.”
Well, she used the cautionary tale of her sisters as a manual. The siren song of garbage was too strong for her to resist. She wasn’t able to say, “NO!”
I say “NO!” a hundred times a day. But I don’t try to influence others. It’s not my place. My place is…to give away books!
How to win free e-books
Answer a simple question: What was my mother’s favorite song?
You can find the answer by searching the “News” page. Just put in “mother’s favorite song” and you’ll get the post that reveals it.
After you have the answer, send it to me via the contact form or by PRIVATE MESSAGE on Facebook. Include the title of the song and your e-mail address. With your e-mail address I can send you a Kindle version of either book. Specify which title you prefer.
Chasing the Last Whale is a fictionalized black comedy about love and suicide in contemporary wartime America, and Hallucinabulia is a record of my state of mind during the loss of the Cardinal Ghost, the loss of my career in music journalism, and the loss of my father. Mom was still alive when I finished it. They’re both actually very funny and entirely lacking in self-pity.
What I need now are Amazon reviews. If you’ve read any of my books, please review them on Amazon.
I won’t see Idiocracy. That kind of entertainment isn’t entertaining to me. If I were surrounded by rotting krokodil users day and night, I wouldn’t go to movies about krokodil users. There’s nothing funny about people choosing to live in degradation. And there’s no point in sounding the alarm. Nobody will listen.
Instead, tonight I’ll watch one of my favorite movies, A Very Long Engagement.
It’s one the best romantic films ever made, one the best war films, one of the best revenge films, one of the best comedies, and one of the best tragedies. Others can watch movies about shouting, obese women with diarrhea.
Tonight I have a date with beauty.
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