January 12, 2006

Tim Carvell and Steve Martin

When I mentioned that the amusing parody of the literary scandals around James Frey and JT Leroy by Time Carvell reminded me of something, a reader responded:

An essay by Steve Martin, entitled "Preface to My Autobiography", appeared in the November 15th, 1999 issue of The New Yorker. It is definitely in the same spirit as Carvell's admission, including such phrases as "Other fictionalized accounts, related not to fool the reader but to illustrate various aspects of my character, include the single-handed asphalting of a two-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard, the shunning of the Nobel Prize for my work in gene therapy, and the impregnation of fertile housewives with the tacit approval of their grateful husbands" and "I wish to thank the Greek poet Homer, for without his Iliad I would have been at a loss to put into words certain of my exploits during Desert Storm." Is this, perhaps, what you had in mind?

By the way, although Frey's A Million Little Pieces is Steven D. "Freakonomics" Levitt's new favorite book, it's definitely not John Dolan's favorite. Here's his 2003 review from The eXile:

But then Frey is no expert observer, as he proves in one of the funniest scenes from his nature walks, when he meets a "fat otter": "There is an island among the rot, a large, round Pile with monstrous protrusions like the arms of a Witch. There is chatter beneath the pile and a fat brown otter with a flat, armored tail climbs atop and he stares at me."

Now, can anyone tell me what a "fat otter with a flat, armored tail" actually is? That's right: a beaver! Now, can anyone guess what the "large, round Pile with monstrous protrusions like the arms of a Witch" would be? Yes indeed: a beaver dam! [To be precise, Canadian experts inform me, a beaver lodge.]

Any kindergartner would know that, and anyone with a flicker of life would be delighted to see a beaver and its home. But for Frey, a very stupid and very vain man, the "fat otter" is nothing but another mirror in which to adore his Terrible Fate. He engages the beaver in the most dismal of adolescent rhetorical interrogations:

"Hey, Fat Otter.

He stares at me.

You want what I got?

He stares at me.

I'll give you everything.

Stares at me...."

And so on, for another half-page. You want to slap the sulking spoiled brat. The Fat Otter should've slapped him with its "flat, armored tail" and then chewed his leg off and used it to fortify its "Pile with monstrous protrusions."

Reading Levitt's praise of "A Million Little Pieces," I've finally figured out the secret to Levitt's success as a bestselling author. It's not that he understands the common mind (of the book buying public) as that he has the common mind.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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