Sinclair Lewis arrived at Harvard - drunk, as
usual - to talk about his craft.
"Hands up, all those who want to be writers!" he
yelled. Everyone's hand went up.
"Then why the hell aren't you at home writing?"
he asked, and staggered off the platform.
A so-called 'friend' lovingly, diabolically
transcribed the CD track below from "The Monty
Python Instant Record Collection."
WIDE WORLD OF NOVEL WRITING:
<generic radio theme music>
Studio Anchor: And now it's time for "Novel
Writing," which today comes from the West
Country, from Dorset.
Field Announcer: Hello, and welcome to
Dorchester, where a very good crowd has turned
out to watch local boy Thomas Hardy write his new
novel - "The Return of The Native" - on this very
pleasant July morning. This will be his eleventh
novel, and the fifth of the very popular Wessex
novels... and here he comes! Here comes Hardy,
walking out toward his desk. He looks confident,
he looks relaxed, very much the man in form, as
he acknowledges this very good-natured bank
holiday crowd. And the crowd goes quiet now, as
Hardy settles himself down at the desk, body
straight, shoulders relaxed, pen held lightly but
firmly in the right hand. He dips the pen in the
ink... and he's off! It's the first word... but
it's not a word... oh, no! It's a doodle, way up
on the top of the left-hand margin. It's a piece
of meaningless scribble... and he's signed his
name underneath it! Oh, dear, what a
disappointing start! But he's off again, and here
he goes, the first word of Thomas Hardy's new
novel, at 10:35 on this very lovely morning. It's
three letters, it's the definite article, and
it's "The". Dennis?
Dennis: Well, this is true to form. No surprises
there. He started five of his eleven novels to
date with a definite article. We've had two of
them with "It", there's been one "But", two
"At"s, one "On", and a "Delores". Well that, of
course, was never published.
Announcer: I'm sorry to interrupt you there,
Dennis, but he's crossed it out! Thomas Hardy,
here on the first day of his new novel, has
crossed out the only word he's written so far,
and he's gazing off into space. Oh... oh, dear,
he's signed his name again.
Dennis: It looks like "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"
all over again...
Announcer: But he's... no, he's down again, and
writing, Dennis! He's written "The" again... he's
crossed it out again, and he's written "A"! And
there's a second word coming up straightaway, and
it's "Sat". "A Sat" - doesn't make sense. "A
Satur"... "A SaturDAY"! It's "A Saturday", and
the crowd are loving it! They're really enjoying
this novel. And it's "afternoon", "A Saturday
afternoon" - it's a competent beginning. And he's
straight on to the next word... it's "in"... "A
Saturday afternoon in"... "in"... "in"... "No"...
"NoVEMBER"... "November"'s spelt wrong - he's
left out the second "e". But he's not going back!
It looks as though he's going for the sentence!
And it's the first verb coming up, it's the first
verb of the novel... and it's "was"! And the
crowd are going wild!! "A Saturday afternoon in
November was"... and a long word here...
"appro"... "appro"... is it "approval"? No, it's
"approaching"... "approaching"... "A Saturday
afternoon in November was approaching"... and
he's done the definite article "the" again. And
he's writing fluently, easily, with flowing
strokes of the pen, as he comes up to the middle
of this first sentence. And with this eleventh
novel well under way, and the prospects of a good
day's writing ahead, back to the studio.
INTERVIEWER: Why don't you write like you talk?
GERTRUDE STEIN: Why don't you read like I write?
Author John Steinbeck (The Grapes Of Wrath) was
once told by his editor, "John, this isn't a
word." The novelist looked over his shoulder at
the manuscript in question, and replied, "It is
Quote from Julia Phillips (Oscar-winning producer
of The Sting and Close Encounters), concerning a
bit of advice which she received from her mom:
"Some day your prince will come. Don't swallow."
Two male babies are born in the same hospital, at
exactly the same time, and are placed in
adjoining bassinets in the nursery. Their heads
turn to face each other, and their eyes meet,
just for a moment.
Then they're taken away, and never see each other
Until... 96 years later. By an extraordinary
coincidence, the same two guys are simultaneously
brought to the same hospital, and wind up in the
same room. Both of 'em are well aware that
they're on their deathbeds. Their heads turn to
face each other, and their eyes meet, just for a
One says to the other, "So... what'd ya think?"
Bob Hill, and his new wife, Betty, are
vacationing in Transylvania, and they're driving
a rental car along a rather deserted road. It's
late at night, and rain is pelting down; Bob can
see barely ten feet in front of his windshield.
Suddenly, the car skids out of control, smashing
into a tree and knocking Bob unconscious.
When he comes to, his new wife is lying in a pool
of her own blood... so he carefully picks her up
and begins trudging down the road. Pretty soon,
he sees a light shining out of a huge, Gothic
castle. After several minutes of frantic
knocking, an ugly hunchback opens the door. Bob
immediately blurts, "My name is Bob Hill, and
this is my wife, Betty. We've been in a terrible
accident, and she's been seriously hurt. Can I
please use your phone?"
"I'm sorry," replies the hunchback. "We don't
have a phone, but my master is a doctor. Come in,
and I will get him."
A few minutes later, an elegant, intense man with
burning eyes effortlessly floats down the stairs.
"I'm afraid my assistant may have misled you. I'm
not a medical doctor; I am a scientist. However,
it is many kilometers to the nearest clinic, and
I have had basic medical training, so I will see
what I can do. Igor, bring them down to the
So Igor picks up Betty, and carries her
downstairs, with Bob limping close behind. After
Igor arranges Betty on a lab table, Bob collapses
from exhaustion and his own injuries, so Igor
places him on the adjoining table.
During a brief examination, the intense scientist
looks worried. "Things are very serious. Prepare
the mechanism." However, even though Igor and his
master work feverishly, it's too late. Bob and
Betty Hill have slipped away.
The deaths are quite upsetting to the scientist,
and he climbs the steps to his conservatory,
where he finds solace by playing the huge pipe
organ. Dramatic, haunting melodies fill the
Meanwhile, Igor is still tidying up, downstairs
in the laboratory. As the strain of a mournful
tune wafts through the lab, Igor notices that
Betty Hill's fingers are twitching. And there,
Bob's arm is beginning to rise. Amazingly, Betty
sits straight up! Unable to contain himself, Igor
dashes up to the conservatory. He bursts in, and
"Master, Master! The Hills are alive, with the
sound of music!"
DYSLEXICS OF THE WORLD, UNTIE!
Quote from producer Robert Evans (Chinatown,
"A movie is like a parachute; if it doesn't open,
Satan visits a film producer and offers her a
deal: "I'll insure that your next film is a
blockbuster hit. All I require in return is that
your husband's soul, your children's souls, and
THEIR children's souls must rot in Hell for
The producer thinks for a moment and says,
"What's the catch?"
A certain notorious White House intern is driving
through Washington, when a dashboard warning
light appears. After getting out and observing a
small pool of oil underneath the motor, she pulls
into the first gas station. While waiting for a
repair estimate, she visits the zoo across the
street, buys an ice cream, and watches the
animals, while licking absentmindedly at her
vanilla cone. Unfortunately, she doesn't see the
large puddle of ice cream which drips onto the
front of her dress.
She finishes off her cone, returns to the gas
station, and asks the mechanic if he's found any
serious problems. He glances up from the motor
and says, "It looks like you blew a seal."
Glancing down at her dress, she replies, "No, no,
it's just ice cream."
A behavioral scientist is investigating whether
dogs take on the personalities of their owners,
so she puts an architect's dog, a mathematician's
dog, and an actor's dog into a room with a pile
of bones. Observing from another room a few
minutes later, she notices that the architect's
dog has built a tower with his bones. The
mathematician's dog has arranged his bones in
geometric shapes. When the actor's dog finally
notices these things, he eats all the bones,
humps the other two dogs, and starts whining to
go home early.
to schmooze = befriend scum
to pitch = grovel shamelessly
to brainstorm = feign preparedness
to research = procrastinate indefinitely
to network = spread disinformation
to collaborate = argue incessantly
to freelance = collect unemployment
agent = frustrated lawyer
lawyer = frustrated producer
producer = frustrated writer
writer = frustrated director
director = frustrated actor
actor = frustrated human being
high concept = lowbrow
production value = gore
entry level = pays nothing
highly qualified = knows the producer
network approved = has made money for them
net = something that apparently doesn't exist
gross = Michael Eisner's salary
back-end = you, if you think you'll ever see it
residuals = braces for the kids
deferral = don't hold your breath
points = see "net" or "back-end"
You can trust me = You must be new
It needs some polishing = Change everything
It shows promise = It stinks rotten
It needs some fine tuning = Change everything
I'd like some input = I want total control
It needs some honing = Change everything
Call me back next week = Stay out of my life
It needs some tightening = Change everything
Try and punch it up = I have no idea what I want
It needs some streamlining = Change everything
You'll never work in this town again =
I have no power whatsoever
We've been told that this is the actual name of a
movie stunt company, run by women: "Cunning
This feghoot recently surfaced on a listserv, and
it's too... something... to pass up:
Many years ago, Ari Onassis and his new bride,
Jackie Kennedy, were photographed on the
French Riviera as they viewed Buster Keaton's
old digs. The tag line on the picture read:
"Aristotle Contemplating The Home Of Buster."
After the beverage which I had been drinking
exited through my nose, I was seized by an
overwhelming compulsion to dig up the best
example I could remember, and in the process of
searching, discovered this URL:
"Tarzan's Tripes Forever, and Other Feghoots -
The Web's First Shaggy Dog Story Archive"
They maintain a comprehensive site which
contained the story I was looking for, but it had
been sadly bastardized. Fortunately, someone else
seems to have appreciated Asimov's twisted genius
as much as I did, and lovingly typed it out,
Death of a Foy
by Isaac Asimov
It was extremely unusual for a Foy to be dying on
Earth. They were the highest social class on
their planet (with a name which was pronounced --
as nearly as Earthly throats could make the
sounds -- Sortibackenstrete) and were virtually
Every Foy, of course, came to voluntary death
eventually, and this one had given up because of
an ill-starred love affair, if you can call it a
love affair where five individuals, in order to
reproduce, must indulge in a year-long mental
contact. Apparently, he himself had not fit into
the contact after several months of trying, and
it had broken his heart -- or hearts, for he had
All Foys had five large hearts and there was
speculation that it was this that made them
Maude Briscoe, Earth's most renowned surgeon,
wanted those hearts. "It can't be just their
number and size, Dwayne," she said to her chief
assistant. "It has to be something physiological
or biochemical. I must have them."
"I don't know if we can manage that," said Dwayne
Johnson. "I've been speaking to him earnestly,
trying to overcome the Foy taboo against
dismemberment after death. I've had to play on
the feeling of tragedy any Foy would have over
death away from home. And I've had to lie to him,
"I told him that after death, there would be a
dirge sung for him by the world-famous choir led
by Harold J. Gassenbaum. I told him that by
Earthly belief this would mean that his astral
essence would be instantaneously wafted back,
through hyperspace, to his home planet of
Sortib-what's its name -- provided he would sign
a release allowing you, Maude, to have his hearts
for scientific investigation."
"Don't tell me he believed that horse excrement!"
"Well, you know this modern attitude about
accepting the myths and beliefs of intelligent
aliens. It wouldn't have been polite for him not
to believe me. Besides, the Foys have a profound
admiration for terrestrial science and I think
this one is a little flattered that we should
want his hearts. He promised to consider the
suggestion, and I hope he decides soon, because
he can't live more than another day or so, and we
must have his permission by interstellar law, and
the hearts must be fresh and -- Ah, his signal."
Dwayne Johnson moved in with smooth and noiseless
"Yes?" he whispered, unobtrusively turning on the
holographic recording device, in case the Foy
wished to grant permission.
The Foy's large, gnarled, rather tree-like body
lay motionless on the bed. The bulging eyes
palpitated (all five of them) as they rose, each
on its stalk, and turned toward Dwayne. The Foy's
voice had a strange tone and the lipless edges of
his open, round mouth did not move, but the words
formed perfectly. His eyes were making the Foyan
gesture of assent as he said:
"Give my big hearts to Maude, Dwayne. Dismember
me for Harold's choir. Tell all the Foys on
Sortibackenstrete that I will soon be there --"
It's always difficult to be the bearer of sad
news, but you'll probably want to know about the
great loss today in the entertainment world. The
man who wrote the song "Hokey Pokey" has died.
The horrible part is that they had trouble
keeping his body in the casket. They'd put his
right foot in, and... well, you know the rest.
WHY WE'RE SO TIRED: for a couple of years, I've
been blaming it on iron-deficient blood, lack of
vitamins, dieting, and a dozen other maladies.
But now, I've found out the real reason - I'm
tired because I'm overworked.
The population of this country is 237 million.
104 million are retired. That leaves 133 million
to do the work. There are 85 million in school,
which leaves 48 million to do the work. Of these,
there are 29 million employed by the federal
government. This leaves 19 million to do the
work. Four million are in the armed forces, which
leaves 15 million to do the work. Take from that
total the 14,800,000 people who work for state
and city governments, and that leaves 200,000 to
do the work. There are 188,000 ill and in
hospitals, so that leaves 12,000 to do the work.
Finally, there are 11,998 people in prison.
That leaves only two people to do the work.
It's just you and me, bub, and you're sitting
there, scr*wing around on the Internet...
The trades are reporting that Michael Jackson
became very disappointed when he learned that
BOYS II MEN was *not* a delivery service.
For $500,000, the hot young movie producer buys
himself a brand-new 1999 Ferrari GTO. It's the
most expensive car in the world, and he wants to
show it off, so he takes it out for a spin. At
the first light, an ancient Moped pulls up next
to him. The elderly cyclist stares at the sleek,
shiny surface of the automobile and asks, "What
kinda wheels ya got there, sonny?"
The young man replies, "A Ferrari. They go for
about a half-million bucks."
The old guy is shocked: "That's a lot of moolah.
Why do they cost so much?"
The cool young dude says proudly, "Because these
babies can do 320 miles an hour!"
The gent on the Moped asks, "Can I take a look
"Sure," responds the owner. So the old man pokes
his head in the window, and peers around.
Leaning back on his Moped, the old guy says,
"That's a pretty nice car!"
Just then, the red light turns green, so the
young producer decides to floor it. Within 30
seconds, the speedometer reads 320. Suddenly, he
notices a dot in his rear-view mirror, which
seems to be getting closer. He slows down to see
what it might be, and whoooooosh! Something whips
by him, at an incredible velocity.
The young guy is nonplussed: "What on earth could
be faster than my car?!" Then, ahead of him, he
sees the same dot, coming back. Whoooooosh! It
goes by again, heading in the opposite direction.
It almost looks like the old man on the Moped.
"Couldn't be," mumbles the producer to himself.
"How could a Moped outrun my Ferrari?!" Again,
the blasted dot appears in his mirror.
Whoooooosh! Ka-boooom! It plows into the back of
his car, demolishing the rear end. The young guy
jumps out, and it IS the old fellow!
Of course, the Moped and its driver are hurtin'
bad, so the Hollywood producer kneels down by him
and says, "You're seriously injured - is there
anything I can do for you?"
The old guy moans, "Yes... unhook my suspenders
from your side-view mirror."
A low-budget producer visits the bank to obtain
some financing for a new film, and the bank
manager asks, "Do you have a director?"
"Yes," replies the producer, "Spielberg."
"No," says the producer. "Morty Spielberg from
"Do you have a leading lady?" asks the banker.
"Streisand," the producer responds confidently.
"Well... er, no," the producer admits. "Loretta
Streisand from Kentucky."
"Okay, do you have a leading man?" inquires the
"Chamberlain," replies the producer.
"Richard Chamberlain?" asks the banker.
Alan C. Baird · return to