December 17, 2007

Steve Martin

steve martin

Got and read this book this past weekend, an early Christmas gift. Made me regret a post I wrote earlier. I’m still in the top ten for the search “Gern Blanston,” so people will read that little anecdote I wrote about him. In the acknowledgements he thanks “The Internet,” so I have the supreme delusion that he read my blog post, saw how some were appreciating his earlier work and decided to reevaluate it. Yep, I feed on delusions such as that. The book does make it seem like he hasn’t even thought about those early routines in 30 years. He writes about them as if remembering them again, though someone like me has a lot of that stuff memorized.

I don’t know why Steve Martin’s early humor hits me the way it does, more than any other comic, but the memoir proves that he isn’t just a major talent, but a major brain as well. I haven’t really dug his New Yorker stuff, seeing it as him trying to be sophisticated, trying to be Woody Allen, who went from “earlier, funnier movies” (from Stardust Memories) to more thoughtful, less spastic stuff. But it’s less natural, more like he was negating who he really was, trying to disown it. Which is true, to a point, but this memoir shows that he was an intellectual all along, and the reason he’s so good is because he took it seriously. He’s a real writer at work, but also a musician, using his own weird cadence—I’m not talking about the banjo, but the way he speaks. Makes sense, though, that he’s also a musician, as is Woody Allen. Comedy’s all about……………………………………timing. It’ll be interesting to see if his movies get more funny, now that he seems to not be disowning who he was when he was at his funniest.

I devoured the book in a night. Sucks when I do that because these days books are few and far between. I realize I still want to write fiction, but I just can’t read it right now. I took back to the library “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan,” a look at literary life in Los Angeles by Aldous Huxley, which should interest the hell out of me, but I couldn’t get into it. There’s a distance in fiction I can’t seem to get around. People show a different honesty when writing about their real lives (when they do it well). Even when they’re embellishing themselves, it’s how they want to appear personally, not how they want to appear artistically: different. So I’ve set aside a pile of journals, autobiographies, and letters collections to get me reading again.

After reading the Steve Martin book, I also dusted off the typewriter. My wife bought it for me a few years ago, $10 at a Goodwill. I thanked her, poked at it, but never really had the urge. One of my least favorite chores in life is to plug in barely-readable long-hand into the computer. I can’t bear typing straight to a screen. So I’m getting into typewriting, something I’ve never really done. I’m a much better typist now than I used to be. I calculated recently that I’ve been writing 60,000+ words a month for non-fiction related work, that’s a novel a month. I can type better now, and it’s created a certain work ethic for writing.

On that typewriter, I started getting down my own autobiography, which could be presumptuous, but I’m wondering how much my life story has a real narrative to tell. When reading a famous, successful person’s memoir, it all appears to be leading to some point. I’m not there yet, but if I ever do become successful as I’d like, there’s a lot in there that makes sense: Hollywood high school, parents working in the industry, being a musician, etc. I’ve always felt that I had a shit-poor memory for my life, which is why I make up mostly-outlandish stories in fiction. I found though in the four pages I wrote, before the ribbon gave out, I remember more than I’ve let on. Thankfully, you can buy any typewriter ribbon that’s ever been made. I don’t know why exactly, who uses a typewriter?

That’s my Ash Tree-style review of Steve Martin’s comedy memoir. If you love those years of Steve Martin, read it. It’s also a good portrait of the sixties and seventies. Really, it’s the portrait of a writer who became a rockstar.


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