Until Further Notice...

I don't post here anymore. I may again one day, but for now all of my online musings may be found at either kevin_avery, where I'll continue to blog about my book, Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, or on my Facebook page.

About my book: it will be published by Feral House in the fall of 2010 and will feature a beautiful foreword by the incomparable and uncompromising Nick Tosches.

You're also welcome to become a fan of my company, Mere Words Media Relations, at its Facebook fan page. If you don't belong to Facebook and don't want to join, you can check out what we have to offer at http://www.merewordsmedia.com.

Stay well.


Unsung No More

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of being interviewed on The Publicity Show. A weekly radio program that's broadcast out of Atlanta, Georgia, it's devoted to those "unsung professionals who usually spend their time in the background helping their clients get on the air."

Not only did the hosts, Elizabeth Gordon and Lee Kantor, want to know all about what Mere Words Media Relations has to offer, they were kind enough to let me talk about my book, Everything Is an Afterthought.

Feel free to listen in by clicking on the radio to the left. It may take a few seconds to load, but, hey, what d'ya want? It's an old-time radio.

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    M*A*S*H (the one about the sniper)
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Willy Vlautin

One should never meet an artist whose work one admires; the artist is always so much less than the work.

Last evening at WORD, a splendid little bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Deb and I attended a reading by Willy Vlautin, whose first two novels, The Motel Life and Northline, are two of the best books I've read in years. In a blurb advertising the event, Time Out New York called Northline a "bleak novel... about a pregnant woman who, in moments of deep trauma, speaks with her idol, Paul Newman." Reducing the book to these two plot points is as wrongheaded as describing John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath as a "road movie about a family that can't get work."

In between playing a couple of songs on his guitar (he's also the lead singer of Richmond Fontaine, a fine band that's been around since '94 and have ten or so CDs to their name), Vlautin read a passage from Northline, introducing it as a "story about weakness, about the bad things you do when you're feeling weak, the sideways moves you do. You get out of one bad situation and you feel good that you've made a brave step. But then you're so worn out that you end up making the same exact mistake."

Both of Vlautin's books are in the literary tradition of Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski. His spartan prose perfectly reflects the people about whom he writes: spare on the surface but ultimately strong enough to bear up under the lives they have made for themselves. Readers, like Vlautin's own characters, may be surprised to discover just how strong.

After the reading, we had an opportunity to meet Vlautin and have him sign our copies of his books. He and I both spent a chunk of our lives working in trucking out West (we were employed by competing companies), and we spent a few minutes talking about Reno and Portland and Salt Lake, about the Nugget Casino, and a legendary hamburger called the "Awful Awful." Deb and I left the bookstore with the feeling that—Toulouse-Lautrec be damned—Vlautin in person appeared to be as genuine and wryly funny as Vlautin the writer. It was a good night.

Willy Vlautin reads from Northline.
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    "Capsized" by Richmond Fontaine
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Delirious Revisited

Last August, Deb and I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of director Tom DiCillo's Delirious. I wrote about the film the next day (which, if you check out the comments, generated a response from DiCillo himself). In subsequent weeks, due to lousy distribution (think Katrina-relief-effort lousy) and despite a rave review from Roger Ebert, Delirious came and went, lasting only a month in New York, a week in Los Angeles, and appearing on less than two-dozen screens in the entire U.S.


Last week Delirious was released on DVD. I encourage you to run out and buy, rent, or steal a copy immediately. You won't be disappointed (especially if you're a fan of the great character-study films of the Seventies). Rewatching the film today, I was once again blown away. Not only does it boast fantastic performances (by Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Gina Gershon, to name the obvious few), it's also a stunning piece of cinema.

Fortunately, the DVD transfer captures the movie's rich colors; scenes like the one where the Pitt character, walking through the streets of New York and realizing he's in love, are nothing short of visual poetry. Plus, there's a great commentary track by DiCillo, who has crafted a film, despite all third-party efforts to the contrary, worth remembering.

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A Night on the Town

Okay, this is ridiculously lame, I know, but I post so seldom these days that I'm compelled to point out that I did pen a fairly lengthy post to my Everything Is an Afterthought blog about my meeting with Rod Stewart Thursday evening. You can read all about it by clicking on the image below:

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    Bride of Frankenstein
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Live from New York . . .

The opening skit of last night's Saturday Night Live was a takeoff on a C-SPAN Senate Foreign Relations Hearing broadcast. The show managed to capture that C-SPAN "ambience" perfectly.

More importantly, do you see that guy sitting directly behind the comedian playing General Petraeus--on the right-hand side of the screen? That's my talented brother-in-law Bobby Allen. Not only did he accumulate tons of face time on NBC, they even gave him a line to speak. True, it's no "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" but he did a damn fine job nonetheless.

We're proud of you, Bobby!

What the Hell?

This morning, in The New York Sun, there's an article about how Manhattan's Anthology Film Archives (according to its website, "the first museum devoted to film as an art form") is reviving the early movies of Albert Brooks; specifically, his first two features, the wonderful and exquisite Real Life and Modern Love (the former, made in 1979, an extremely prescient commentary on reality television, the latter taking neurotic romanticism to heights even Woody Allen never dreamed possible).

Regarding Brooks's third movie, Lost in America, the article mentions that "'there's no print of it anywhere.' An apparent victim of indifference on the part of Warner Bros., which owns the film, Lost in America has fallen through the distribution cracks."

No print of it anywhere?! It's not unusual in this day of film restoration awareness (thanks to the efforts of directors like Martin Scorsese) to hear how 90 percent of American silent movies have been lost, as well as half of all the films made in the U.S. before 1950. But we're talking about a movie that was made in 1985, for Chrissake! As well, Lost in America took in more at the box office than Brooks's first two films combined. And nobody thought to preserve a single print?

I don't know about you, but that really grinds my gears.

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    Paul Nelson interviewing Greg Copeland
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Imagining the Sale

In upper management in Corporate America, it was constantly instilled in us, so that we could constantly instill it in those with whom we worked, that everybody's job--whether we resided in accounting or payroll or rates or worked on the dock--that whatever one's title happened to be, we were all in sales.

Yes, we had a designated sales team whose responsibility it was to go out and deal directly with, and generate revenue from, our customers; but we also knew that any contact the rest of us might have with these customers, either on the phone or by mail or via the Internet, also impacted their perception of doing business with our company. Call it politeness, call it common decency, call it do-unto-others, what it truly came down to was: we were all in sales.

The irony is, though sales and I clashed often through the years (since my department was in the position of establishing the pricing levels that sales would in turn have to sell to the customers, we were automatically diametrically opposed: our making sure the company made a profit versus their desire to present something economically attractive to the customer), what I learned from sales has better equipped me for my "new life" (i.e., self-employed) than any other skill I took away with me from C.A.

Until this morning, it hadn't occurred to me that this wisdom applies to writing, as well. This "miniphany" came to me in the midst of a four-and-a-half hour power outage that enabled me to catch up on my reading. According to Richard Ford's existential realtor Frank Bascombe in Independence Day :

The art of the sale first demands imagining the sale.

It suddenly dawned on me that, as writers, if we're doing our jobs correctly, we're selling our readers that, fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or science fiction, self-help book or expansive volume on the sex life of the tsetse fly, every word we've written is true. That what we say happened really happened. As writers, we're telling our readers that, if they trust us, we'll deliver.

But we can't do that unless we ourselves also believe what we're saying. And in order to do that, we have to imagine the sale.

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    Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
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Dave Stevens, 1955-2008

Dave Stevens, the illustrator and comics artist responsible for creating The Rocketeer, died the day before yesterday following a long battle with leukemia.

Stevens, whose highly idealized images of women made him heir apparent to Frank Frazetta's throne, was also singlehandedly responsible for spawning the revival that propelled pin-up model Bettie Page back to the forefront of popular culture. Just as his talent enabled him to make modern that which was not (his Rocketeer looked at once retro and futuristic), he managed to make Page, the fetish and bondage queen of the Fifties, respectable.

He was 52.

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Michael Clayton

Having never seen a single episode of E.R., I came late to the George Clooney Appreciation Society. But ever since his amazing line reading of "Goddamn, that was intense!" in 1996's From Dusk Till Dawn, I've been a fan. And not just of his acting. For a star of his magnitude, his willingness to get behind--and within--risky, noncommercial projects (especially as producer/director of HBO's under-appreciated, oft-maligned miniseries Unscripted) is equally impressive.

Which brings us to Michael Clayton, an intelligent thriller that manages to be mainstream without ever condescending to its audience. Clooney is great as the lawyer who once had everything going for him (good looks, intelligence, career) but is painfully aware that he's already pissed most of it away. Writer/director Tony Gilroy handles it all expertly--right up to and through the brilliant two-minute-plus shot of Clooney that ends the film, wherein we watch as Michael Clayton not only looks back on what's happened but, we hope, looks ahead.

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    Sorry, Wrong Number
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