Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way from the Forums.

I allude, of course, to the 1962 Broadway masterpiece. The book is credited to Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove, but for my money, the show wouldn't have gotten off the ground without Stephen Sondheim's score and lyrics.

As sung by Zero Mostel.

Once called "nothing but a belch of a man" by my ever-derisive drama teacher, Zero took the role of Pseudolus, turned down by Phil Silvers and Milton Berle, and worked his big, fat, sweaty magic with it. He's occasionally out of tune, his dynamics lack any sense of subtlety and he's frequently out of breath. It's incredible. If you ever come across the soundtrack, give it a chance. But steer clear of the '66 film version, which did away with half the songs and fell all over itself trying to look like an episode of "The Monkees."

But I digress.

Just when I thought I was ready to forge ahead with my query, rejection after rejection proved me wrong. Having exhausted my friends, family and writers' group, I did what any writer would do under the circumstances: I turned to complete strangers. I used an assortment of forums and posted the current version of my query there and invited feedback. The comments came fast and furious. Over a week or two, I re-shaped it into something meeting with most people's approval--and keep in mind, these are, for the most part, people like me, not authors with dozens of novels to their name or veteran literary agents. But they can step back and be objective about it where I can't.

It’s hard enough being Michelangelo’s son. But find out you’re Michelangelo’s adopted son and you might as well chuck the chisel—genetically, you’re hosed. That’s how Dorsey Duquesne feels, slogging away on a guitar in the shadow of his saxophone legend father. He discovers why his tunes consistently blow when his emotionally distant mother breaks a marriage-long pact on the eve of her husband’s funeral and reveals Dorsey was “acquired” as an infant. His known world yanked out from under him, Dorsey becomes obsessed with the life he was denied.

Clinging to an anonymous letter and a shoebox of his father’s old demo tapes, he chips away at the secrets surrounding his so-called adoption. Answers arrive in the form of a strudel-baking redhead claiming to be his real mother. She sweet-talks her way into Dorsey's heart, family and wallet, but her charm masks a darker agenda. With the help of a one-eyed detective and a disabled medieval warfare fanatic, Dorsey overcomes his identity crisis while his new "mom" schemes to put him in the poor house—and in the ground.

With their help, I sent out this new, improved query and have already received a request for three chaps and another for the full MS. I drink to you, my faceless brethren.

And I link to you, too--see right.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Stop the Insanity.

What is insanity? According to Albert Einstein, it's defined as repeating the same action over and over again, while expecting a different result. What are we to expect by electing John McCain, a man who, in his own words, plans to continue the policies of the least popular president of my lifetime? Something different? I invite you to explain to me how.

All my life, I've avoided politics, finding it an alternately repugnant and boring universe. But when I saw the Republicans of the Corn last night drooling over Sarah Palin, I had to say something. To quote someone else who saw us through some hard times, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." If we let fear motivate who leads the country, we're no better than the residents of places who "vote" with guns to their heads. The way I see it, there are only two reasons to rally behind McCain and put him in office: fear or ignorance. I would say "stupidity," but ignorance allows for those who are simply unaware of the bigger picture. Fear, I've already touched on: these are the people who believe that because of McCain's military experience, he will make our country safer. Bush, of course, has no military experience, but he's "credited" with protecting us from a 9/11-type disaster.

The ignorant are those who must think the country's still in great shape. Those 30% (can it be that few? It looked like a lot more on TV last night) who think Bush's policies are the way to go for another 4-8 years. They must be ignorant, because informed or aware people couldn't look the
facts of our current situation in the face and claim they're anything but bleak. Gas prices, the economy in general, housing, inflation, unemployment, the national debt, the environment, our international reputation: in the toilet across the board. The war is another matter altogether. Whether you supported it, were against it, believe in "the surge" or not, how has it helped you and your family? How has it helped our country? Oil prices are at record highs, the bill for the war has crippled our military and budget and while terrorists have been driven from Iraq, they've merely taken refuge in the bordering countries, including the one that attacked us in the first place--remember Afghanistan? Do you really think Iraq can exist as an independent, democratic nation, surrounded by tribal dictatorships? Really?

Lastly, may I say that it is possible to look beyond your party for the candidate who represents the greatest potential for your future? Ignore the fact that your party "has always been" the one that's stood for religion, gun control and the right to life. That's the fear creeping up again. What I saw last night was unity, all right, but unity based in fear. Unity against the strange and unknown. Not unity towards a common goal, which shoudl be improving this country and restoring our prosperity and dignity. As recently as last month, George Bush said "America has no problems." McCain agrees. Do you?

This country was founded by brilliant, open-minded people who realized the policies of those who came before them were destructive and oppressive. Our country has gone on to be the envy of the world and our democratic system, while cribbed from a 2000-year-old model, has stood the test of time. When you think about it, we have a pretty good track record.

Let's not be the country the rest of the world thinks we are. We can do better.