Perfect progress, perfect destruction 

Some updates on MY BOOK if you care.

Hey hello hi. As I’ve mentioned, sometimes this newsletter is about music stuff and sometimes it might be updates about the progress of MY BOOK, which is also about music. So I guess it’s always about music in a way. Aaaanyway, today I’m writing a bit about MY PROCESS as a means of holding myself accountable at year’s end. So if you don’t wanna read about that I’d say just skip this one. No worries!

The question I’m most frequently asked by friends is “Why are you like this?”

The question I’m second most frequently asked by friends is “How is the book coming along?”

Whenever I talk to my mom on the phone, she poses the question with a little more Italian mother bluntness: “Are you done with the book yet or what?” And then when I say I still have a lot of work to do she will offer this sage piece of advice: “Well, hurry up then.”

At this point I’ve been working on this book for several months and I’ve not written many words, which is scary because my publisher has informed me that in order to sell the book to customers there needs to be words in it. The book should be many words long, they’ve told me. 130,000 words long, to be exact.

So, why so far from finished? Well, there’s a lot of research and interviews required for it. I often explain it like this: Say you’re painting a giant mural. You probably want to do a lot of prep work beforehand, right? Sketching it out and priming the wall and getting all of the colors you need and such. Sure, you could just start painting with what you’ve got, but if you’re lacking some of the colors, it’s going to be very spotty and you won’t be able get the full picture of the dogs playing poker or whatever and you’ll just be making more work for yourself in the future to fix it. That said, I don’t have all of my colors yet. I have some colors that I’ve gone through great lengths to collect. But some of the colors I still need are very famous and are taking more time and effort to track down. Some colors live on the other side of the world. Some colors are hesitant about being collected. One color told me to go fuck myself.

By my estimation, I need to do about 150 to 200 interviews for this book. Thus far I have done 50. If you’re a “math person,” you may have noticed that 50 is a much smaller number than 200. Welcome to my anxiety.

The 50 were hard earned, though. Each interview itself was over an hour. Plus the many hours I spent preparing. Plus the coordinating and traveling to each one. Plus the transcribing. Other writers have suggested using a transcription service to save time but I don’t believe in it. Maybe, as the grandson of Depression era immigrants, it’s my stingy refusal to pay someone to do something I could do my damn self. 

But deeper than that, I’ve come around on transcribing. It is a penance of sorts. I always see writers griping about transcribing because they hate the sound of their own voice, but I think that’s a copout. Sure, I do hate the sound of my own voice, but what annoys me most when listening back to interviews I’ve done is when I fumble a question—either I tip-toed around a topic or asked something in too indirect a manner. Or worse, I hate when I am listening back to a conversation and I can hear the question that should be asked and I’m not asking it. I’m listening back to myself and I’m watching a tremendous softball getting lobbed over the plate and I’m not swinging at it and I’m screaming at my past self swing goddamn you SWING! Usually that stems from a lack of preparation or inattentive listening or both. But each transcription helps me learn from it and try not to repeat the mistake.

It is mortifying to write about how far behind I feel on this book, but I’m putting it here in this very prestigious email newsletter to hold myself accountable. I should be interviewing at least one person a day but sometimes many days go by in which I don’t talk to anyone. Not just for my book; I mean I don’t communicate with anyone from the outside world and just lock myself in my apartment with a five-day supply of microwaveable burritos and Milano cookies. 

Maybe I should use this newsletter as some sort of accountability system. If I don’t conduct at least three interviews per week, for example, I will force myself to mail five LPs from my record collection to five randomly selected readers. It would be the only email newsletter that I know of that would let readers publicly shame the author while simultaneously winning prizes.

Every afternoon when I sit at my desk and chip away at the book I look out my window and I can see the hills in the distance as the sun sets on them. Sometimes when it’s cold there is snow on the tops of them. They are full of greens and browns and once in a while the blue sky turns auburn and it’s so beautiful that it looks like someone painted it all there that way. I’m going to finish this book, goddammit. 

Even More Rambling About Books

As much as this book is very clearly melting my brain in an exciting and sort of cute way, sometimes it’s fun to look back at the last book to motivate myself to reach goalposts and remind myself that hey yeah finishing a book is totally possible and one day I’ll be done and will look back and say ha ha I really wasted my poor readers’ time blabbing about how overwhelmed I was. That said, Laura told me the other day that she signed off on a Spanish translation of TR*NNY. Unless I’m mistaken, that’ll make it available in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, uh possibly Dutch?, and maybe some other languages that neither of us could remember. German? Here’s a photo of her Finnish copy, which I hope she had a chance to……...finnish. (Sorry!)

Hey how about some books that don’t have my dumb name on them, huh? This is my book pile I went through in December (and in some cases am still working through):


Oh! And if you’re into astrology, listen to my friend Jess’ podcast that she does with Chris Farren called Astroblasting. I was on today’s episode despite knowing nothing about astrology and it kind of freaking me out to be honest. But she asked me a bunch of questions to determine uhhh my chart(?) or some such stuff and when she wanted to know my aspirational figure I instinctively chose Fry from Futurama because I am a simpleton. So listen to that if you’d like to hear a grown man who is very uneasy about hearing talk of Scorpio rising or whatever.

Some More Things I Liked and Did Not Like from 2019

In the last edition of REPLY ALT I ran through some things I liked and didn’t like watching this year and said I’d probably forgotten some things and whoops I did. So here’s one of each I forgot last time…

Like: Craig Fixada America

This is a perfect sendup of those Pod Save America doofi who sell Resistance snakeoil to well-off white people. Comedian Craig Healy so astutely captures their shameless liberal pandering, low-hanging fruit humor, and panel discussion circle jerks. You can watch it on Vioobu, which is an elaborate fake streaming service he created. It sort of makes sense when you watch his last show Cuplicated, which is a take on all those serious drama shows about male comedians (Louie, Maron, that Pete Holmes show I don’t know the name of. Couchsurfing or whatever the fuck).

Not Like: Booksmart

Fucking abysmal. Like someone grinded every teen graduation movie into a paste and siphoned out all jokes, likable characters, and interesting premises. Oh, but in the genre of awkward-misfit-teen-girls-navigating-school, I thought PEN15 was good and the thong episode should probably win an award. Watch that instead.

Alright you lil freeks, let’s all just survive one more day and then we are 2020’s problem. Happy new year and have fun singing one of the three designated cliché new years songs. You can only pick from these three, I’m sorry. The early aughts gods deemed it so and we must forever abide.

The only exception is that you can listen to Murder By Death covering “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight.

Oh and if you want a non-NYE music rec, I’ve been into this lately. What can I say, I’m a sucker for an accent.

Lol sorry I know I said I was wrapping up but I keep thinking of one more thing. Being “a sucker for an accent” just randomly reminded me of this tweet which always makes me laugh uncontrollably: