First, a special "thanks" to Powell's, and also to everyone reading this blog this week. It's been great fun. I've resolved to make this summer my 'summer of fun'. I typically tend to take on too many projects ? I still work full-time in advertising, write books and columns, and own a goat farm
. The last few years have been a blur, and I'm determined to get into a better balance this summer. Don't ask me how. Perhaps if I put a million goats in a room with typewriters...
Candy Everybody Wants was fun to write. And I wrote it to be a fun summer read. I purposely set out to write what I would consider the perfect beach book ? fast-paced, funny, and unpredictable. Harper Perennial even clad it in a reflective cover, so if you don't like the insides you can just flip it over and use it as a tanning reflector.
But, like all writers, I was using the book to comment on something bigger as well. Or at least trying to. Candy Everybody Wants is chockablock full of Eighties celebrity references. The main character, a teenager named Jayson, goes to extreme lengths to become a celebrity himself ? with mixed results.
The first chapter of the book is fairly autobiographical. I was a teen in the Eighties who spent my afternoons in front of a black and white television set in my room. I truly believe that celebrity became our official national pastime in the 1980s. Once we elected an actor to play the role of president, we began heading down the path towards this year's American Presidential Primary Idol.
In addition to our jelly bean-sponsored Presidency, the 1980s gave us Entertainment Tonight, which turned America's celebrities into nightly "news." Then Gopher [from The Love Boat], Miss Hathaway [Beverly Hillbillies], and Sonny [minus Cher] were quickly added to the nation's congressional cast. People magazine (which had previously focused more on non-celeb profiles) began publishing in glossy full color and spawned a stack of similar tabloid magazines. MTV soon began showing us The Real World, which turned us into a nation of insatiable peeping toms, ignoring our own real worlds in favor of someone else's. Anyone else's. Are people really more interested in Bruce Jenner's sons' lives than their own?
It seems so. This is the new national reality we've created ? where everyone's proverbial fifteen minutes has been extended to 24/7 behind-the-scenes, Me-Tube, bloggery.
I don't pretend to pass judgment on this phenomenon. Hell, I'm blogging as I type. But I do think it's important for all of us to be cognizant of how the world works ? and doesn't work ? today. Especially as we head into a season of national and global turmoil.
Wearing an Obamabot or a HillBlazer T-shirt is fine, as long as we realize that after we all text our votes in, Paula is not going to hug us and tell us that she loves us and it doesn't matter that our house is about to be foreclosed upon. Spending sixteen hours putting together a YouTube video about how sexy John McCain might be is not going to bring down gas prices no matter how many hits it gets.
Now that everyone in the country can have their own podium, have we become a nation of self-appointed pundits without anyone left in the audience? Is anyone left to listen to our preaching? More importantly: is anyone left to be rallied into action?
So I'm going to spend this summer trying to have more fun with the reality of doing, rather than talking. My summer vacation will be a field trip to reality. Real reality. Not how-many-things-can-I-blog-about? reality. Sounds easier than it really is. New York City is the world's capitol of appearances. (Okay, maybe it's in a tie with Hollywood) But buying our goat farm upstate was a great reminder to me about what is real, and what isn't. Waiting until August for tomatoes instead of buying them anytime of the year from South America is reality. Going to the county carnival instead of watching another cheesy dance competition circus on TV is reality. Watching a baby kid be born with absolutely zero fanfare truly helps ground me in the here and now, not the "what should I do next." (And yes, sigh, you can watch one of our goats being born on YouTube.)
Then again, I'm kicking off my summer reality tour with a meeting next week with a television producer about ? you guessed it ? a reality show about our farm life.
If it ever makes it to the airwaves, do me a favor and don't watch it.