Monday, August 24, 2015

We've Got a Trailer, We've Got Blurbs, We're Taking Preorders


As you may recall, I wrote a book a while back for The Critical Press called Richard Pryor: American Id. (I even wrote about writing it, on this very blog.) And then I sent away to my publisher, where my editors and I worked and reworked it and then they ran it through magical softwares that turned it from Microsoft Word documents into an honest-to-goodness book, which you will be able to read on either processed wood pulp or a small screen, whichever way you swing.


And while all that was happening, I reached out to the author of the best Richard Pryor biography, in addition to some of the writers I admire most in the fields of film and comedy. And lucky for me, they liked the book, and were even willing to admit it in writing.


So please enjoy some blurbs that make me very proud:



“Richard Pryor has become so revered that it’s easy to forget what an unusual and enigmatic man he really was. So we should be grateful to Jason Bailey for this fascinating, surprising and terrifically entertaining book that is as eccentric and sharp as its subject. Blending incisive critical analysis, including illuminating close reads of his legendary stand-up, and a newshound’s instinct for the revealing detail, he cuts through the legend to explain his titanic legacy in elegant prose that will make you see Pryor in a new light.”
—Jason Zinoman, comedy critic, The New York Times 


“Ingeniously organizing Richard Pryor’s groundbreaking career and epic life by theme, Jason Bailey gives movies and records equal weight to relative ephemera like interviews and talk show appearances, resulting in a fascinating analysis of the push-pull between an often seemingly reckless persona and the confession and craft behind Pryor’s art.”
—Karina Longworth, host, You Must Remember This 


“Powerful and compassionate. Jason Bailey understands not just Pryor’s historical significance, but the evolution of his art.” 
—Matt Zoller Seitz, author, The Wes Anderson Collection 


“Jason Bailey’s Richard Pryor is a sharp-eyed, quick-witted portrait of the comedian. Focused on telling moments when Pryor seemed to rewrite the rulebook of American culture, it refreshes our sense of what made Pryor so hilarious, so spell-binding, and so psycho- logically complex.”
—Scott Saul, author, Becoming Richard Pryor 

And not long after that, my good friend Mike Hull of Fifth Column Films was kind enough to shoot a trailer for the book, which came out amazing, which I can say without bragging because it's amazing-ness is entirely due to Mike being a terrific shooter and cutter. For the trailer, we decided to turn the prologue (shortened a bit, but still) into a documentary short. Here's what we came up with:




So if any of those blurbs or the trailer did the job they're supposed to do, you should currently be in a state of panic--I must read this book, how can I do that?!?! To which I first say calm down, and then I mention that it will be out in the fall (the official publication date is November 3, but that somehow means it'll be available, I dunno, I don't understand publishing).

BUT! You can pre-order it now, to be extra-super-certain that you'll get it as soon as possible. First off, you can pre-order the paperback directly from The Critical Press here. It's $15--A BARGAIN (and they've got it on sale for 35% off today only). Now, if you're more of an Amazon person and would rather have it show up in a box with your case of coffee or diapers or whatever, here's the link to buy the paperback from them. And finally, if you're an e-reader, you can pre-order the Kindle version from Amazon, which means the moment it's available, it'll show up on your Kindler or tablet or iPhone or however the hell you kids read the books nowadays.

So there's your big update on the book. Have I mentioned how proud I am of it? I'm very proud of it. I hope you'll buy a copy, and I hope you enjoy it, and thus concludes this commercial announcement.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some Reasonably Good Things I Wrote This Summer


If you've ever wondered exactly how terrible Blogger is, look at the image above. That's a pop-up button that is now part of the page where you compose a new blog entry--in fact, it covers over the bottom corner of the window, which is one more thing to complain to Blogger about.

POINT IS, that's why I haven't had new links up for a while; this back-end that I have unfortunately hitched my domain name to is a nightmare of mis-matched fonts, ugly links, and utterly nonsensical garbage-filled HTML. It is, I should mention, a free service. You certainly get what you paid for.

Anyway, I've written a few new things that I sort of like.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

ICYMI: Orson Welles, "Female Movies," and More Catch-Up


As you may have noticed (but, who’re we kidding, probably not), I haven’t updated my eponymous blog here for quite some time. The reason is simple: Blogger, in spite of my multi-year use of it, is actually a terrible interface, and the easies thing about it when making my weekly-to-biweekly ICMYI posts was that I could just drag and drop links, and not have to highlight and plug in URLs and the whole nine yards. So, of course, they changed something and did away with that functionality.

So it took me a while to work up the energy to put a post together, but I did it, BECAUSE I CARE, DAMNIT. Here are a few of the better things I’ve written over the last month and a half (links to all of my recent work here.)

·      I did a long-form piece on the very strange world of Twitter’s “celebrity parody” accounts.
·      Orson Welles would have turned 100 this month! I did a deep dive into his adaptation of Heart of Darkness, which was to have been his debut feature before it fell apart and he went to his back-up, that Citizen Kane thing.
·      My monthly “So Bad It’s Good” feature continues: this month I looked at the martial arts/gymnastics epic Gymkata, while last month I dug in to the recently re-rereleased bonkers wild cat movie Roar.
·      Of leaked emails and “female movies.”
·      My earnest plea to please, please stop calling everything a reboot.
·      Oh hey, I was on the teevee again!
·      I went to Tribeca! My capsule review of the narrative and documentary films there; coverage of the many Monty Python events; premiere report on Schwarzenegger’s Maggie; and a kind of annoying conversation with George Lucas.
·      Making movies the Adam Sandler way: with Mad-Libs.
·      On cynicism about journalism, and in movies about journalists.
·      I went to a Gremlins reunion, and it was fun.
·      Mad Men is comfort food. Here’s why.
·      For Pretty Woman’s 25th anniversary, a look at the much darker movie it could have been.
·      And finally, some thoughts on why I (and, it seems, many other people) love true crime documentaries.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

ICYMI: #SXSW, Plus a Bunch of Other Stuff


SXSW

The Best and Worst of the 2015 SXSW Film Festival

 

How SXSW Became a Haven for Mainstream Studio Comedies

 

SXSW 2015: Alex Gibney Takes on the Cult of Mac in ‘Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine’

 

“It’s Not Anything But a Big Room in LA”: ‘Selma’ Director Ava DuVernay on the Oscars, the LBJ Controversy, and What’s Next

 

“People Don’t Know What the Word ‘Feminism’ Means”: Amy Schumer on Internet Trolls, Her Comic Persona, and ‘Trainwreck’

 

Why Did Gamergate Happen? SXSW Doc ‘GTFO’ Explores the Long, Depressing History of Misogyny in Gaming

 

“As Weird as You Always Wanted Them to Be”: Dan Harmon and ‘Community’s’ Cast on What to Expect in Season 6

 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus on ‘Veep’ Season 4 and Whether Elaine and Jerry Could Have Lived Happily Ever After


How Three Kids Remade ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ One Summer at a Time

 

10 SXSW 2015 Movies We Can’t Wait to See


A BUNCH OF OTHER STUFF

Blame Tim Burton: ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Dumbo,’ and How Disney Caught Remake Fever




So Bad, It’s Good: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Jennifer Aniston’s Secret Shame, ‘Leprechaun’




Cinema’s Most Stereotypical Irish Characters, Ranked by Offensiveness



Vince Vaughn Is in Desperate Need of a Reinvention



Flavorwire’s Guide to Indie Flicks to See in March



The 5 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Top Five,’ ‘Ever After’

 

 

The 5 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Mockingjay,’ ‘Listen Up Philip’


Saturday, March 7, 2015

RICHARD PRYOR: AMERICAN ID (Day 8)


Done. Done done done. Done diggy done diggy done done done.

The first draft is done.

I headed out around 10:00 this morning; in need of a change of my change of scenery, I ended up at the Riverside Branch Library, and about two hours after powering up my computer, I wrote the last words of the last essay of Richard Pryor: American Id.

From what I understand, they discourage loud whooping in public libraries, so I refrained. But hitting that save button for the last time (and then closing and compressing and emailing everything to myself, because I’m no dummy) was one of the most satisfying moments of my life as a writer thus far—not just because I got it done, not just because I challenged myself and proved that it can be done, but because I’m so wildly, blissfully happy with where this book is at. Again, work will need to be done; I’m already finding passages that are poorly worded and quotes that don’t work as well as I thought they would, and so on. But I think the book is on its way to being dynamite, without question the best thing I’ve written. So, yes. Hurray.

After that, I closed up shop, walked a couple of blocks to a favorite pizza joint, ate a couple slices of pepperoni, and then went to the also-very-close Performing Arts branch of the library. There, I took another pass at the last essay (still not bad!), and then did a job so dopey and mindless and arduous that I figured I should do it while I was still in a good mood from finishing: plugging in my full references, as they’ll end up in the notes at the back of the book, into the sometimes slapdash footnotes I threw into the Word doc. It’s nearly as fun as it sounds, and way time-consuming. But it was bothering me that it wasn’t getting done—and I also realized (since I’m using footnotes for the first time in a book doc; my Voyageur books just used a blanket bibliography at the end) that the footnotes are included in the word count, duh, so I actually wasn’t running as long as I thought on some of these. Anyway, with footnotes, the final word count is 25,285 (plus 654 so far on the bibliography, which I went ahead and pasted up in the process, since it’s so many of the same citations). That will need to shave down some, presumably; I’ll be reaching out to my editor to find out how much.

From here, well, I’m gonna go home and have a nice celebratory dinner with the wife and little one. And then tomorrow afternoon, I’ll sit down and just read it straight though, doing only the quickest of fixes, to get a sense of how it reads and make sure I’m not repeating myself. This week, I’ll break off a couple of essays per night for more in-depth editing. By the end of the week, I’ll have a second draft, which I’ll then print out for my A Number 1 Editor, my wife, and also zip up and send out to a cabal of friends for feedback. They’ll read it while I’m in Austin at SXSW; I will not look at the book while I’m there, or hopefully even think about it. That space and time away from it will be vital to looking at it fresh when I get back, working in their notes and giving it however many passes it needs to be as good as possible when I send it to my editor at the end of the month.


So, that’s that. If you read along with me this week, I thank you for your indulgence, and for coming along on this little journey; hopefully you’ll pick up the book in the fall, and not think, “Yep, totally reads like he wrote it in a week.”

Friday, March 6, 2015

RICHARD PRYOR: AMERICAN ID (Day 7)


So close… and yet… so far.

For the first time this week, I didn’t finish the essay I started today. Well, let’s back up a sec. If you were to look at what I wrote today, you’d certainly think it could be a finished essay—it’s certainly effing long enough to be—and to some extent, it is. The initial plan for today was just to write the essay about Pryor’s decline in the ‘80s, specifically by comparing Blue Collar, a ‘70s movie about poor people, to The Toy, Superman III, and Brewster’s Millions, ‘80s movies about rich people (made when, ya know, Pryor had become a very rich man). Then we did the big reshuffle yesterday, and determined that the last essay was getting the boot… which means that the “oh by the way, end of the book time!” stuff that would end it would now go on the end of this one (where, as I mentioned, it’s a bit more of a natural fit).

So, yeah, I didn’t write that stuff just yet. I made it right up to it, and then my time had run out, and my computer’s battery had run out, and the jerkwad security guard for the one nice reading room at the NYPL who makes everyone unplug their power cords (even though all the other guards let you and you can charge them in several other rooms in the building, we had words today, don’t get me started) was there, so I figured to hell with it, I’m at a stopping point, let’s go home. So I did.

Which means that tomorrow is a little bit of a change-up, a day when I’ll try to pick something up and finish it rather than work all the way through. And I’ll also spend quite a bit of time reworking the stuff I wrote today, which I usually take at least one pass at, at the end of the day, but didn’t, for reasons previously explained.


Anyway, I’m somewhat OCD and being this close to finished without being finished is KIND OF MAKING ME INSANE, but we’ll deal with it. We will! And tomorrow, y’know, hopefully, first draft.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

RICHARD PRYOR: AMERICAN ID (Day 6)


Let it be known, here and all across the land, that today, Thursday, March 25, in the Year of Our Lord 2015, was the day that Richard Pryor: American Id became a seven-essay book, rather than a eight-er. (Is that a thing? Eight-er?)

We've been through this enough this week that I probably don't have to walk through it again, but here goes: after a fine morning of editing and outlining, I arrived at the good ol' NYPL in the midst of a real humdinger of a snow storm, sat down in the ornate reading room, and started writing today's essay. The topic was drugs, and specifically what Pryor's playing of five "junkie" characters (two on stage, two on film, one on television) tell us about his own struggles with addiction. A rich topic, as you can imagine, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise--considering both the enormity of the subject and the writing habits that we've been reminded of this week--that when I came up for air a few hours later, the essay was 4036 words.


It was time to do some math. With two essays remaining in a book with a target length of 2000 words, I had written... 1900. Look, things go when you're editing, but that much wasn't gonna go, so I pulled the fire alarm. Earlier this week, I mentioned that I did have the option of dropping one of the essays--the last one in the book, which (for purposes of chronology, but perhaps accidentally savvily) I scheduled myself to write last. I think it has potential, but it's certainly the one (at this point, anwyay) with the least to say, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the book-wrap-up stuff made more sense within the penultimate essay (which I'm writing tomorrow). So I texted my wife, I texted my buddy Mike (who's kinda been my sounding board on this project), and I emailed my editor. All agreed that this is probably a good idea.

I can't tell you what a lift it was to make that call. The book is still gonna go over, to be sure--this last piece ain't gonna be 1000 words, I can tell you that much for certain--but not drastically. And with that settled, I was able to focus on the thing that's more interesting about today's essay than its length: its quality. I have to tell you, there's about a page of this thing, where I write about "Wino & Junkie" from That Nigger's Crazy, which is one of the best things I've ever written. There's a chunk of Monday's piece, about the "Bicentennial Nigger" monologue, which is also, I think, pretty fucking great. And a lot of the rest of it is, even at this first draft stage, pretty-pretty-pretty good. (Just so it doesn't sound like I'm waxing my own car here, there's also a lot of it that needs some serious goddamn work.)

So, that's where we're at. After I finished the draft of today's essay and took another pass at it, I returned to yesterday's again (still pretty happy with it), worked on the notes and bibliography a bit, and called it a day.

Tomorrow could be my last full day of writing, though I've got a feeling the combination of tomorrow's essay and the book wrap stuff that'll need to go on the end of it might carry it over into the weekend. We'll see. Point is, the book has been reconfigured, and for the better. Can't complain about that.