Well, my Christmas shopping is done. Here you see 24 copies of the book, ready to be sent out in time for the holidays. They are all spoken for, so don’t ask. By my contract I’m supposed to get another 15 sent to me (for a grand total of 40, counting the first one), but this will do for now.
One of the highest compliments you can pay a songwriter or performer in this era of music is that they write or perform “perfect three minute pop songs.” Which leads one to wonder: What songs do you have in your collection that are exactly three minutes long, and are they perfect pop songs? Let’s go to the iTunes and find out!
Be Kind to My Mistakes by Kate Bush. A B-side from one of her singles. Not bad, but certainly not perfect (Bush’s perfect pop song in my opinion: “The Big Sky”) So, no.
Top of the World by The Carpenters. Insanely uncool — the sort of track you immediately jab “fast forward” on if there is anyone else around — but when no one’s looking, you sing along. Yes.
When Will I See You Again by Erasure. Techno interpretation of the plaintive disco classic ballad in which a disco queen pines up for the coked-up, lame-wearing guy with whom she engaged in heavy frottage in a bathroom stall the night before. I like it (and having Andy Bell sing it, of course, just adds another level of fabulousness), but is it perfect pop? No.
The Fool on the Hill by The Beatles. Oh, come on. Yes.
The Kids Aren’t Alright by Offspring. Sprightly tune about a bunch of screwed up suburbanites. A little, you know, dark for perfect pop. No.
Bright Sunny South by Alison Krauss. Decent bluegrass but nothing special. No.
Amanda by Waylon Jennings. Waylon discovers he’s old and apologizes to his wife for it. Eegh. No.
Saturday by David Boyles. Indie white man funk. Not bad. Not even close to perfect, though. No.
The Distance by Cake. Too arch. No.
She’s Got a Way by Billy Joel. Actually one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. It’s a perfect song to have handy when you really, really need to apologize for some thoughtlessly stupid thing that causes your woman to question whether she shouldn’t just kick your ass to the curb, but that’s not exactly the same as perfect pop. No.
Semblance by Keith Jarrett. Somewhat like if you took the Charlie Brown theme, hacked it into 17 uneven pieces, and reassembled them at random. No.
Rock & Roll Band by Boston. The worst song on the first Boston album, in which the band congratulates itself for you, know, doing that rock and roll thing. The Hootie & The Blowfish of the 70s. No.
If it Were Up to Me by Rooney. What happens when your songwriting recipe includes the Beatles, the Kinks, ELO and the Replacements, but then you set the oven 10 degrees too low. It’s a nice try, though. No.
Joker by Five A.M. For when you can’t find that Matchbox 20 CD. No.
The Golden Boat (Turntable Mix) by John Zorn. Jazz freakster John Zorn couldn’t write a perfect pop song if you put a gun to the head of his pet ferret and spotted him the entire Abbey Road album. No.
Time is on My Side by The Rolling Stones. Great song about abusive relationships. Gets creepier every time you listen to it. No.
One is Never Too Old to Swing by Girls From Mars. Sweet but generic swing. No.
She’s Got You by Patsy Cline. If by crying in your beer after your ass is dropped is a popular activity — and apparently it is — then yes.
Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley. Make me an argument that this isn’t perfect pop. You’re wrong. Yes.
Honkey Tonk Woman by Waylon Jennings. Yes, the Rolling Stones song. When they do it, it’s perfect pop. When Waylon gets to it, it wriggles like a wounded snake. No.
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce. Croce is waaay overrated by the people who still remember who he is, but this song does it all, baby. Yes.
Share the three minute songs in your collection (in the comments or if you have your own place, over there). Are they perfect pop?
The Publishers Weekly review of OMW has been put on the book’s Amazon page, so if you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s here. Thanks, Sue, for bringing it to my attention.
Friends who have had PW reviews before (including those with starred reviews) tell me the true value of the PW review is not how many units it shifts on Amazon but that it raises the profile of the work in the bookseller’s industry and among general reviewers, which makes sense to me. Let’s hope it works. But it’s also worth noting that the book of mine that has sold the best so far — Book of the Dumb — has received absolutely no critical attention whatsoever; it’s moved about 50,000 copies primarily through the publisher’s ability to pile up a big stack of them in the middle of a Sam’s Club traffic pattern. And God bless them for that. Knowing this datum keeps one’s perspective on reviews, shall we say, firmly grounded.
Folks have expressed an interest in seeing some of the other writing I did for the Reading Is Fundamental holiday fundraiser I did last year, and so without further ado I present to you an actual short story, entitled “Sarah’s Sister,” which you may find here. It’s about 5,800 words, so make sure you have a little time to commit to it.
This is emphatically not another snarkfest like The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time, by the way. Indeed, it is so completely the opposite of a snarkfest that after this particular story, my license to snark may be permanently revoked, and all the urbane sophisticates will laugh and point at me when they see me on the street.
But what can I say. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I wanted to write a heart-tugging Christmas story. You’ll have to tell me if I succeeded.
Reminder again this piece was originally written for my RIF fundraiser last year, so if after this story you’re so moved you want to send me money, send it to Reading Is Fundamental instead. Literacy is a gift; give it to someone who needs it.