Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rourke, and . . . Me?

January 21st, 2009

Zee French, Zay ‘Ave Good Taste, Non?

So I got a royalty check recently.  That alone is big news: I haven’t gotten a lot of royalties in my eight-year career.  Some.  Not a lot.  Royalties are much cooler than advances, by the way, because a) they mean the book is actually selling and b) they’re “free” money–you can’t count on them and you don’t know how much they’ll be, so anything you get feels like a bonus.

ANYWAY, as I was saying, a royalty check in and of itself would make me smile.  But this royalty check made me smile more than most because it was for the French book club edition of my book.   (If you want to see what the cover of this one looks like, check out my previous post about covers.  It’s very funny and silly.)

Now, my first novel (Same as It Never Was) wasn’t what you’d call a huge seller in America.  (It does say “national bestseller” on the cover of the paperback, but I’ll let you in on a trade secret: if you just make any local bestselling list ONCE, you get to say that.  I had a big party, sold a lot of copies to my generous good friends and just managed to drag the book up onto the bottom of the LA Times bestseller list for that one week–and, bingo, the book is a “national bestseller.”  I’m not sure I ever sold ANOTHER copy after that.  Now, “New York Times bestseller”–that’s another story.  That’s what you want.  And I’ll never have.)  So it’s kind of wild and weird and fun that it’s sold enough copies in France for me to earn almost as much as I earned when I first sold the book.   Which isn’t much at all.  Remember, we’re talking book money here which is to real money what gluten-free bread is to a baguette from the La Brea bakery–eating it only makes you wonder what having the real thing would be like.

Man, that was a weird metaphor.  I’m losing it.

Anyway, the fact that my book appears to have sold way more copies in French leads me to believe that either the translator vastly improved on the original or my sense of humor just appeals more to the French. 

I can’t tell about the translation.  I’ve tried reading it–and it does crack me up to decipher my own writing through the veil of foreign phrases and punctuation–but my high school French isn’t quite up to doing more than a line or two.   I’m going to assume, though, that the translator translated and didn’t improvise.  It seems like the same book, more or less.

Which leaves me facing the painful truth: I am the literary Jerry Lewis, the crazy–or should I say kooky?–comedian whom I find unbearable to watch but who the French hail as an unappreciated comic genius.  I guess I should be grateful.  But I don’t want to be in bed with Jerry Lewis.

Mickey Rourke is another guy whom the French claim the Americans don’t appreciate, although “The Wrestler” just turned things around here for Mickey.  (Side note: I loved “The Wrestler.”  That was a good movie.)  But up until this year’s renaissance, it was the French who still considered Rourke a star, not the Americans.  He seemed kind of scary-crazy, a guy who made a couple of great movies, then a bunch of bad ones, and then became a boxer and had his face pummeled to pieces.  

I guess I could bear being the literary Mickey Rourke, except for the face being pummeled to pieces part.  He is genuinely talented, if a little, um, kooky.  

Maybe kooky’s the linking trait?  Maybe I’m kooky, too!  Which is okay if I can be Goldie Hawn circa 1972 kooky and not . . . Jerry Lewis kooky.  My friends would tell me if I were that, right?

RIGHT?????

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