Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for October 2008

Steve Martin, on comedy, loneliness and women

I read his biography first, so I guess that makes it okay.

Steve Martin’s autobiography, “Born Standing Up” is a must-read for anybody who wants to perform, containing lessons that every artist should expose themselves to, even if they don’t entirely sink in.

Steve’s jokes aren’t funny anymore, and that makes it work better. You feel what a terrible uphill climb it was, to be recognized for his comedy, to refine his act in a thousand brutal nightclubs.

Steve can teach you about courage and persistence. You get the impression that Steve was not meant to be funny. He was born to be insanely quirky smart, and comedy was the only outlet he could think of.

I don’t think Steve Martin was born to be funny. I think Steve Martin was born to write books, and that comedy was a 40-year tangent. He was born to write books like “Shopgirl” — a tender, neatly-constructed novella that reads like a love letter to every young woman in the world.

I’ve never been a young girl, and neither has Steve Martin, but his portrayal of a lonely young woman named Mirabelle has a wonderful poignancy and ring of truth to it. I’ll confess that although I’ve written extensively on the topic of male loneliness, I don’t know much about the female equivalent.

Female loneliness feels different, the way he writes it. Softer somehow. While men tend to burn out, lash out and melt down, women just kind of…suffer. Quietly, delicately, until loneliness makes them do something stupid. Usually that “something stupid” is a man.

I’ve barely cracked the cover on this book, barely stepped in to Mirabelle’s world, but Martin has already defied my expectations and taught me something. We all know that young women who enter into relationships with older men are signing up for a kind of devil’s bargain, but Martin reveals that entering into a relationship with a young man is a devil’s bargain, too.

Each case involves giving up something, risking and sacrificing in hopes that emotional needs get met, praying that boys can put aside their natural selfishness and blindness, just long enough to be real and human, if only for a couple hours at a time.

“Shopgirl” is a wonderful book — using intelligence and insight to tell us about ourselves and explore the fundamental nature of romance and compromise. It’s a mature book, looking back on youth with adult eyes, analyzing things that most people just live.

Maybe some people would be happier not analyzing the mechanics of loneliness and youth, but so far, it’s been worth the trip.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 8, 2008 at 06:18

Posted in Books

Diablo Cody is better than you

I’m so late to this party I had to help them clean up, but I can’t resist this post from Diablo Cody.

Here’s a quick summary for people who aren’t celebrity-obsessed 12-year-olds.

1. Diablo Cody has a blog.

2. Diablo Cody sells a script.

3. Important Movie People make Juno.

4. Juno explodes all over pop culture, bringing new slang and a newfound respect for reproductive rights to college campuses and junior high schools across the country.

5. Everyone on the Internet loves Diablo Cody for ten minutes.

6. Ten minutes expire, and the entire Internet turns on Diablo Cody like mama wolf consuming a diseased cub.

7. Hating Diablo Cody becomes the Next Great Internet Bloodsport, allowing the “Leave Britney Alone” guy to finally relax and put his phone back on the hook.

8. Diablo Cody proves she’s better than you by LEAVING THE INTERNET for a few months.

9. Diablo comes out of exile and returns to face a mob of jealous fanboys who hate her guts.

10. Diablo executes a flawless Mortal Kombat fatality move that spontaneously decapitates everyone who ever posted anything mean about her. Her rebuttal is so magnificient (and so obscene) that I can only post a little bit of it here:

I may have won 19 awards that you don’t feel I earned, but it’s neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you’re not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved Arrested Development! Aren’t we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks?

I’m a 30-year-old woman with a dwindling interest in blog culture, and I don’t have time to address this ******** every time one of my projects comes out. I’m in love, I just bought a house, and my boss made E.T. I kind of have to focus on reality.

I almost jumped on the “Diablo Cody is lame” bandwagon a month ago, but I’m kind of in love with her now. I have a thing for angry, eloquent women who have just made millions and millions of dollars.


Don’t look at me like that.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 2, 2008 at 17:22

Posted in Movies

Why I like Keith Gessen

You remember how things ended during every 80’s sitcom? When Dad and the kids would sit around at the end of the show and recap what they’ve learned?

It’s time for one of those.

Yesterday I tried to make a lame inside joke in Keith Gessen’s blog, referencing Alex Balk and Choire Sicha. Alex, Keith and Choire are three of my favorite writers, and I love them all for different reasons.

Choire is an outstanding journalist, in the big-J sense of that word: get the story, nail down quotes and throw in some snark to make it 2.0.

Keith writes an utterly sincere literary mag called N+1. Keith is a Writer, in the big-W sense of that word — devoted to digging up intensely personal, emotional material and wrapping it up in a bow of universal truth.

Balk is a Blogger, dishing out everything in quick bites, serving up sharp, funny bits of gossip in micro-paragraph chunks.

I expect credit for these labels, by the way, when somebody finally makes a tarot deck based on Internet celebs.

I made a joke in Keith’s blog yesterday, based on the assumption that these three men were friends, recently reconciled after a series of blog feuds. Turns out the term “reconciled” was a bit optimistic.

I’m not particularly interested in the details of that feud. VGI sums it up here, if you care.

A lot of people in the blogosphere hate Keith because he doesn’t play by the same rules that everyone else is using. I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for him because I know exactly what he’s doing wrong and exactly where it’s coming from.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 2, 2008 at 13:59

Posted in Culture, Gawker