Friday, September 10, 2010

Yet Another Zombie Mash-Up


Does anybody actually read those classics-trash fiction mash-ups?  I ask because I'm convinced that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the Pet Rock of its generation -- an idea so delightfully absurd that it made vast numbers of people impulsively buy it to give to somebody else.  I glanced at P&P&Z in a bookstore, read the first couple of pages, thought "Got it," and put it back.  The book, however, was so tremendously profitable that it spawned legions of imitators.  If there are readers for this sort of thing, we've just witnessed the birth of genre.  If not, then the publishing industry has just lost a lot of money.

This happens from time to time.

I've been musing over the phenomenon because I just saw Zombies of Lake Woebegotten in the bookstore, authored by one "Harrison Geillor."  Now, I"m not offended by the idea.  Probably, once he got over the momentary cognitive dissonance, Garrison Keillor felt mildly pleased that his work was deemed sufficiently famous to be parodied.  But whenever I see a book as strange as this one seems to be, I can't help wondering what writing it was like for the author.

The way I see it, there are two possibilities.  One is that the author is a hack writer who saw the opportunity to make a fast buck and pounded out ZoLW in a caffeine-fueled month.  The other is that he or she is a writer of some ambition who for whatever reason thought the mash-up would be a good idea. I can imagine myself thinking this when I was much, much younger.  And then writing the thing, constantly referring back to Keillor's collections and broadcasts for inspiration.  So that with every page I was brought face-to-face with the fact that Garrison Keillor was a writer who has a place in American literature alongside Mark Twain and James Thurber, while I -- the imaginary I who thought the book was a good idea -- was reduced to adulterating his oeuvre with zombies.

That's very close to my idea of Hell.

And it's why, when it comes to the identity of the anonymous author of this particular work, I'm rooting for the hack.

And in the mail today . . .

The City of Philadelphia has, in its wisdom, decided that I may sell tobacco products if I wish!  In fact, they're pretty sure that I already do.  "Philadelphia Department of Revenue records indicate that your business may sell tobacco and/or tobacco-relate products," they write.  And they want their cut.  In fact, if I don't file my Tobacco and Tobacco-Related Products Tax return by January 31, 2011, I'll be fined five thousand dollars.

Fortunately, I can apply for a Tobacco & Tobacco-Related Products Tax Exemption.  Unfortunately, if they don't receive it within three weeks, the Department of Revenue will open a Tobacco and Tobacco-Related Products Tax account for me.

My only question is:  Did Mayor Nutter have to fill out one of these forms?  Because so far as I can tell, there's no less reason to suspect him of selling tobacco and tobacco-related products than to suspect me.



Richard M. said...

I tried to add a comment a few days ago, but it doesn't seem to have worked. So I'll try again. This isn't the correct place to add this comment, but I haven't found an e-mail address for you. Therefore I am posting here.
Hope Mirrlees did in fact know that "Lud" came back into print in 1970, because I told her about it. She did receive royalties. She and I corresponded in 1970-72. Her letters are still in my possession, packed away in a box in my basement. I will find them soon and can then provide more details.

David Stone said...

Maybe you should make a unique or limited edition art-book written on the inside of the wrapper of a premium cigar. The owner can chose to either smoke the cigar (and destroy the story) or read the story (thereby compromising the quality of the cigar).

Michael Swanwick said...

Richard, there are several people who would be avid to see those letters and to hear any reminiscences you might have about Ms Mirrlees. Me, of course, but also Sandeep Parmar, who is working on a biography, and also an indeterminate number of ambitious graduate students.

The one thing in shortest supply and greatest demand in this enterprise is material in which Hope Mirrlees talks about her own work. So your letters would be of particular interest to us all, and potentially a great resource for scholars.

Please write me at miswanwick @ [but without the spaces, of course], so we can discuss this further.

And thank you for sharing this glad piece of information! You've made a good day even better.

Unknown said...

Of course you sell tobacco-related products - here

Tom Lawrence said...

One of my other author friends, Kathryn Hinds, began her review of P&P&Z with the following eloquence:
"In brief, I hate this book, from its hideous cover all the way through to page 62, where I gave up."

The rest of her review unpacked in vicious an unarguable detail "why", but that opening statement was enough for me to never pick up the text. I think you and Kathryn would get along well.

Michael Swanwick said...

I used to think one had to read all of a book before passing judgment, "in order to be fair." Then I picked up a copy of AMERICAN PSYCHO in the library and read three pages. It took me months to scrub those images from my mind.