Tuesday, June 29, 2004

My Michael Moore Story

At the outset, I must warn the reader that my Michael Moore story does not feature any appearance by Michael Moore, though I will note that fellow blogger Jason over at Subversive Puppet Show did work for the man. Nor does the story contain any review of Fahrenheit 9/11, though such reviews can be found at Scarlett's , and the Mystical Forest, among others.

Instead, the story is about how books get made. Its a good time to tell the story because of Mr. Moore's current amazing and well-deserved success, and because tomorrow Spider-Man opens and all the film critics who are jittery about an opinionated movie (and who have just calmed down over The Passion of the Christ) have something safer to talk about.

I have this friend in New York who is in the publishing industry, with an emphasis on industry. Long-time friends know who I'm talking about, and while he will never likely read this entry (he, like a good chunk of New York publishing, is suspicious about any medium that doesn't rely on carbon paper), I don't think he'll mind my comments. He is involved in books as a medium of trade as opposed to a medium of art, and he is fairly successful in his vocation. He's given a lot of friends of mine good breaks to go in new directions - one ended up doing a King Arthur trilogy that put him on the map in a new area, while another broke out into alternate world thrillers thanks to his guidance. He views books a product, and while that attitude often offends those who see books as art, he has managed to serve both the muses and Mammon more often than not. In a highly competitive market he is always looking for an edge for his product - the new hot trend, a reduced price tag, a character in public domain, whatever. Something to sell the book in. And he's very good at what he does.

And we talk (sorry, in New York terms, we TAWK) every week or so. And occaisionally he suggests an idea (sorry, IDEAR) he's working on. A book that he'd like to see done, one that would be interesting and, more importantly, one he thinks he could sell in at a major house. We kick it around for a while. Sometimes the idea better suited for someone else. Sometimes we disagree on execution. And sometimes its just something I'm not interested in.

Case in point. About six months back, when I was just settling in on the new job, he called with a brainstorm. No one, he noted, has done a book on Michael Moore, linking the man's personal history to his cinematic style and politics. Sure, Moore has written his own books, and there's been a small forest felled for commentary on him, but no real popular biographies. My friend felt he could sell in such a bio of Michael Moore with a major house. I mean, Moore's got a movie coming out soon, right? And if I was interested, I could go to the library, dig up the Moore entry in Modern Biographies and hammer together an outline. Examine his youth. His exposure to cinema. The effects of Canadian Bacon on his career as a documentarian. Nothing too deep, but rather an accessable, quickly researched, straightforward book.

I wasn't sure - I had not read any of Moore's books, nor seen his movies, nor even found myself comfortable with his interviewing style (Though I must admire his Columbo-like approach to the interview - the VIPs he interviews often have that smug sense that they can get the better of him. Of course, he usually has final edit). I like his determination, and, yes, I will admit that he's an angry fat white guy, so there's some identity issues going on here. But the fact of the matter is that I took two weeks and never got over to the public library to check out the Modern Biographies entries, and when I realized my heart wasn't in the project, so I called up my New York Friend and passed on the idea.

And of course the movie came out and rocked the country for a week (mind you, it was up against White Chicks, though the Drudge Report had early reports that the Wayans brothers were going to take the weekend (and how pitiful is THAT for trying to spin)). It set new records for a documentary. Huge turnout, even in So-Called Red America (SCRA?). Very positive feedback. Dale Everett is telling his pit crew to go see it. So it was a missed opportunity. A big missed opportunity.

And so it was, for me. But my friend doesn't give up on a good idea, and there WILL be a popular biography on Michael Moore in the near future, but a film historian who my friend knows will write it (which makes a lot more sense). The only thing is the book was planned for when they thought it would be released, in November, so now there's a bit of rush on the project.

And that's my Michael Moore story. I had to tell it now because Spider-Man opens tomorrow and the world will spin onto its next new hot thing. But I felt it needed to be told. Mr. Moore would have wanted it that way.

More later,