Friday, September 03, 2010

What's your favorite complaint in fiction?

I'm a proud member of the culture of complaining, and that can be a lonely place these days. That's why I was thrilled to find the following in the eighth collection of Brian K. Vaughan's comic-book series Ex Machina, about an accidental superhero who becomes mayor of New York City (It's high-concept, but it works):
Times Square tour-bus guide: "Hello, my name is Monica, and I'll be your guide as we travel through the former greatest city on Earth.

"Once a wonderland of nonstop excitement and infinite possibility, this ex-metropolis is now the dumping ground for such societal triumphs as the ESPN Zone family restaurant ... "

Tourist: "We see Soup Nazi, yes?"

Tourist's smiling wife: "We come all way from Lisbon to taste him."

Guide: "Hey, delightful. What's Portuguese for `I quit'?"
Anyone that craps on ESPN, theme restaurants and Seinfeld is all right by me.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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29 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

And all in a couple of short paragraphs, too!

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anyone could have complained about Fox News or reality shows; they're easy targets. But ESPN was once considered cool, and Seinfeld? Well, now, that borders on heresy.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

The only time I see ESPN is at the gym, because it is on the all the TV's. The one good thing is, the sound is off on all of them, so I don't have to listen to the idiodic hosts and studio anchors.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

ESPN -- it's not just a network, it's an effing brand.

In retrospect, its decline probably began when it started referring to ESPN2 as "the Deuce," which always seemed to me like a sickening bit of self-conferred cool.

Or maybe it goes back to the time when the delivery-room doc was about to slap Chris Berman on the ass, and he wailed in a grating staccato, "No! Whack me on my back-back-back-back-back."

September 04, 2010  
Blogger excellent cadaver said...

I always liked how Chandller's sometimes cranky Marlowe complained about the smog and traffic in Hollywood. If he could see "Chandler Square" now he'd have so much more to add to that. Maybe he'd like the Sunday's farmer market (maybe). I love how Montalbano goes beyond complaining about how stupid the state bureaucracy and his superiors are and plays those little dialogue games.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's a good point about Montalbano. He goes beyond complaint into withering sarcasm and disdain --always pointed and often very funny. Thanks.

September 04, 2010  
Anonymous adrian said...

Peter

When they let Peter Gammons leave but kept John Kruk as a baseball "analyst"...

Seinfeld however I totally disagree with. Seinfeld is a force for a good in a world dominated by reruns of Friends and Two and a Half Men. They never showed Seinfeld in the UK in a regular time slot which is why Brits still think of Americans as "ironically challenged". If a Portuguese tourist had that kind of attitude he probably wouldnt be a Seinfeld fan - he'd be demanding to see Central Perk instead.

I'm suspicious of people who dislike or dont get Seinfeld.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Of course, the characters who delivers that rant turns out to be-- well, you'll have to read the story yourself.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, to be fair to Brian Vaughan, Ex Machina's writer, his targets are more Seinfeld cultists -- the sort of people who would travel across the ocean to look for the Soup Nazi -- and homogenizing and commercializing of the city than the show itself. Didn't you once write something about the similar effect of the cleanup of Amsterdam Avenue?

And I confess that in Los Angeles in 1978, I drank a glass of watermelon juice at the health-food restaurant where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton ate in Annie Hall.

September 04, 2010  
Anonymous adrian said...

Peter

I think it was just last month that the Soup Nazi(Al Yeganeh)'s original restaurant on W 55 reopened.

Yes I'll admit that I was shocked when the first Starbucks opened on W 125th Street. I didnt understand how in the middle of Harlem it was full of same preppie looking white people as everywhere else (were they parachuted in? I remember thinking).

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think those white people are extruded at factory in China (one that adheres strictly to Starbucks' fair-trade practices, of course).

Geez, is the new Soup Nazi's going to sell T-shirts? Will it peddle the Soup Nazi experience?

September 04, 2010  
Anonymous adrian said...

No apparently he hates being called The Soup Nazi and wont even speak about Seinfeld in interviews. He threw Seinfeld and Spike Ferenstein (who wrote the Soup Nazi episode) out of his place after that showed aired.

Thats on the one hand but of course he'll take the publicity wont he?

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Very nice, that he threw them out. That just adds to the legend, the glamor, the experience.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I like Seinfeld and I get Seinfeld, but I never really got bowled over by Seinfeld like so many of my friends did.

However, one of my friends runs a small bookstore in town that keeps alive by selling textbooks for university courses, and back when Seinfeld was still up and running, word went around that students called him the Book Nazi. I don't know that he was gratified, but I would have been.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This almost makes one want to invent a shady dealer in military World War II memorabilia with unsavoury conotations so one cal call him the Nazi Nazi.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Or what about the collector/vendor of adorable stuffed toys, the Beanie Baby Nazi?

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or the Harry Potter Nazi, which would not be a big stretch considering the secrecy and confidentiality agreements that surrounded some of the books.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

The Harry Potter Nazi isn't even that far from the truth, in my experience. Though that's no reflection on Rowling herself, just her publishers.

September 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Weren't librarians made to sign all sorts of agreements that they would reveal nothing about the book? See, that's why Harry Potter would have been just as good a target of complaints as Seinfeld, though complaints about wizards in a science-fiction-tinged comic might have struck some as odd.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I don't know about librarians. What I do know is that someone at the Borders down the street from us was persuaded to open a box for local reporters before midnight on the fated day of one of the releases. Not to give them the book, not to steal anything, just to let them photograph the cover. Perhaps they were bribed, I have no idea. However, word got out and that person lost their job.

Of course as someone who works at an indie I suppose I should have cheered, but I just found this appalling. Even if they accepted a bribe, it's still appalling that a circumstance would be created where someone would lose their job over revealing cover art. Seriously?

Hype is bad enough, but intimidation over hype is monstrous. Nazish, in fact.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It is appalling, yes. Whenever too much power is concentrated in too few hands, whether those hands belong to Amazon or to Rowling's publishers, ominous things happen. It would not surprise me if Borders, in its turn, had been bullied into signing an agreement that it would fire anyone engaging in such acts as that employee did.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Oh, I'm sure. We had all kinds of proscriptions against our "ruining things" as well. But the point is, don't put your employees in that position if it's so dire that nothing leaks. It did seem totally against the spirit of this supposedly happy kids' event.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Don't put your employees in that position and, what, J.K. Rowling's publisher refuses to ship any books to your store? That's what I meant about that danger of too much power accruing in too few hands. With the book business in the state its in -- so few titles accounting for so disproportionately large a share of sales -- publishers acquire too much power over retailers.

I remember thinking, as you did, that the secrecy and deadlines seemed very much out of step with the joy that children's books are supposed to represent.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

As I recall, the power didn't lie in what they could do about the current book, it was about what they could do about the next one. You wouldn't have any on the day. Which of course is ridiculous, you'd get it from the distributor anyway, but you wouldn't be able to have the all important "Midnight Release" party. People, including booksellers, get caught up in this hype rather easily.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That makes sense. I suppose it would be legally questionable, not to mention expensive, for a publisher's private police force to confiscate stock of any store that offered a glimpse of a Harry Potter cover before the authorized date.

September 05, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Slightly derailing the topic, I see that Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games Trilogy" is published by Scholastic, just as Rowling's Potter books are. It hasn't reached Potter-style mania, but I gather it's quite the hit.

I wonder if Scholastic is just more willing to take a chance than some of the big guys, particularly since they hit the last big YA book they had out of the park.

September 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd forgotten that Scholastic published the Harry Potter books. The company has come a long way -- if it's the same company -- from the days when I ordered books from it as a child.

It would be nice to think that the Potter books would encourage Scholatic to take chances. One normally things of success as leading the opposite way -- to a more conservative attitude.

September 06, 2010  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

From now on my secret fantasy will be that I can get pissed off at a store and my publisher will refuse to ship my new book to them.

September 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

May there long be enough stores for that to be a practical fantasy.

September 07, 2010  

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