Saturday, June 19, 2010
Blog vs. Blog
What makes publishing folks want to turn a blog into a book? Julie Powell decides to record her experience of making every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the course of a year. The Julie / Julia Project becomes Julie & Julia. Julie Powell launches her writing career, and eventually the story inspires a movie which gives Meryl Streep the excuse to embody Julia Child.
Powell was so successful that it made other authors get gimmicky. The Year of Yes. Yes Man. A.J. Jacob's began with reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in Know-It-All, progressed to following every (EVERY, not just the Big Ten) rule in the Bible in The Year of Living Biblically, and moved on to a variety life experiments in The Guinea Pig Diaries. But as good as these books are, they're off-topic. None began life as blogs.
Being an asshole is another way of getting a book deal. Not just any asshole; you need to be an asshole on a scale so grand that you could smuggle illegals over the border in your rectum and they would thank you for the experience and remark on the luxuriousness of the accommodations. I’m speaking of Maddox, techo-geek-craptastic-testosteroney-self-aggrandizer behind The Best Page in the Universe and eventually, The Alphabet of Manliness.
More recently, I’m speaking of Tucker Max, whose online recounting of partying and fucking became the bestselling I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. I don’t know what happened with the movie, but when I saw they chose a cozy-looking actor who is actually less good-looking than the author, I decided to take a pass. I’m going to judge the movie sight unseen and say it tanked because they tried to soften the prick’s personality by going with an affable guy. Who’s interested in a soft prick?
Really, the most successful way to get your online baby reborn in print is by using a business axiom you’ve heard before: Do One Thing; Do It Well.
Think of high-concept fare like Hot Chicks with Douchebags (yes, I'm using high-concept correctly; not to be confused with highbrow, high concept is all about the idea). HCwD posts pictures of sexy women next to guys who make you wonder how the coupling came about, then he ridicules the guy and drools over the woman. That’s it. But it’s huge.
Do One Thing, Do It Well. Justin Halpern’s dad is good at dispensing off-color wisdom. Justin is genius at boiling these bits of advice into hilarious Twitter updates. Not a blog, but Sh*t My Dad Says still emphasizes my point.
Do One Thing, Do It Well, and why not put other people to work while you’re at it? Send me pictures of crazy things people will stick in their faces and call food. Send me passive-aggressive notes. Send me odd portraits of your family. Send me embarrassing text messages. Send me pictures of hipsters. Send me pictures of cute animals. No, I mean really cute animals. The list goes on and on.
I'll publish a book one day, but Sweet with Fall and Fish will never be a book because I write about what I feel like when I feel like writing about it. I could have compartmentalized. I could have called it My Sudden Single Life, written exclusively and obsessively about the break-up of my marriage, then dated my way through Miami and shared all about it.
I could have called it Racial Profiling, asked for photos of cigar store Indians, black-face salt and pepper shakers, Mexican caricatures on cable TV shows, then categorized by race and type.
I could have called it Cooks with Books, written about the process of choosing a new cookbook each month Bottega Challenge-style, coordinating chefs and a menu, and inviting folks to the Biltmore to eat a fabulous meal.
I could record my attempts to be a published author. I could anonymously trash retail, or bookstore customers, or the book business (I actually did this once after a particularly harsh day; I wrote one or two posts, couldn’t remember my password, and decided the site was too bitter to continue anyway). Instead, I’m just me, writing about stuff.
At least I’m good at being myself.