Two weeks ago, New York Times book flogger Michiko Kakutani pretended to be Brian the dog from Family Guy in order to review a biography of Marilyn Monroe’s dog, because apparently doing it like a normal person just does not do it for Kakutani anymore. Other people saw Kakutani writing poorly while pretending to be a dog, and this got the internet started on a conversation about failure. In particular: Failing at affecting some other thing’s/person’s style in order to review books from a different perspective.
Here is some of the badness:
Brian the dog here. You know, the talking dog from “Family Guy”: best-selling author, actor, television writer, movie director, song-and-dance ace, civil rights crusader and, yes, animal companion. Because of my sterling literary credentials, I’ve been asked to review this British pooch’s new memoir: “The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe,” ghosted by this novelist guy Andrew O’Hagan.
This pup scored some rave reviews in England, and no doubt about it, he has a fabulous story to tell. His owner was no ordinary family guy, but Marilyn Monroe — yes, that Marilyn Monroe, the doomed star of the silver screen, the blond bombshell and movie goddess, the woman Marx (Groucho, that is, not Karl) called “Mae West, Theda Bara and Bo-Peep all rolled into one.”
In Kakutani’s defense, the internet consensus was that all such attempts are normally embarrassing for everybody involved. There is an exception, however, and it was published right here at the Washington City Paper in April of 1998. That month, Eddie Dean impersonated punk legend and annoying activist Henry Rollins:
Hey fuckface, I’m author Henry Rollins. You may remember me from such kickass classics as Pissing in the Gene Pool, Black Coffee Blues, Art to Choke Hearts, and Solipsist. I wrote and published these books myself, and you can find them at your favorite record stores. Tower has a whole shelf of my books next to books by my hero Charles Bukowski. He was ugly as shit and he didn’t take care of his body, but he was a brilliant fucking writer. His books are about him. My books are all about me and things I think and the things I like to do, like drinking black coffee that burns my throat and makes me shit a lot. And playing music with my punk-metal band so I don’t want to kill people all the time. And lifting weights. And lifting weights while I listen to CDs by the Stooges. But mostly, my books are about things I fucking hate. Like people with fake smiles and brightly dressed college kids. I get so pissed off about stuff that I tear at my dark clothes and write about my fucked-up feelings. How it hurts a lot in my head and how most people make me fucking sick.
Now a New York publishing company is collecting my writing in one volume—selected chunks of raw Rollins in one big book. The cool thing is that for once I don’t have to publish it myself. The company is doing all that stuff. All I had to do was write an introduction. But I still feel a bit like a beat-up whore for selling my writing to some company. The way I justify it is I’m fucking glad that now my writing is gonna be sitting like some crazy ticking time bomb in some shitty library in some shitty suburb. And then some kid will read it and start lifting weights and using his fucking head.
I wanted to show you a raw, quivering chunk of writing from the new book. It kicks ass. You can love it or you can hate it. I don’t give a shit. I bet that cops probably hate it. They drink coffee and lift weights like me, but they’re pigs, and I hate their fat Dunkin Donut guts and sick-fuck looks of superiority. Let them crucify me. I will burn in the fire of their hatred, and we will be blood brothers in our mutual contempt.