I knew young Bob Pynchon when I was a kid. We called him Bob
because it was short for Tom. We didn’t know any better. It was just after he published his story Entropy. Everybody
thought he knew what he was talking about but it was all in the title, the “what”
that he knew that others thought he knew was a lot but was nothing. Or
Clint on the other hand had been no youngster when he first came across the octopus that glowed in the presence of a missile strike. He thought it was cool. Plenty of time to duck ‘n cover. BBQ’d, he thought it gave him the same powers. He played misty on the ukelele after sucking it off the stick. It was his inspiration. Screw all that Rawhide shit, let’s get into the movies before it’s too late. So when he heard I’d met Bob, he noted it down, filed it in his sock drawer and fifty years later gave me a call growling, “Get that son of a bitch, we gonna make a movie.”
He decided to make it in Japanese because hey, nobody would know the difference. There was always something Anime about Bob. Just take a few glimpses. A monster streaks across the sky and the sub-clauses pile on as it reeks its message of curling smoke making those names that sell the toothpaste, cue for a jingle of the tingle tongue taste fresh as mountain stream after a case of never alone with a strand, though woodbine was most likely preferred. Those were the days when “Hello Kitty,” meant Sherrif Dillon wanted a blow job. And Bob was a sailor, so one thought, though in reality Bob was a mechanic in a hot rod speedshop, all crewcut and red neck, an oily rag and a college football shirt giving one for the old gipper.
I met him when he was twelve with a superman comic in his pants running around with a cape and making his magic creature call that seemed to sound like the leader of a north Korean communist dynasty. His jokes were always with himself. There was no pushing it out, tongue in the cheek, how’s your pussy missus, like a cheep vaudeville clown off the slummy back streets of thirties London. Which is just as well as Clint, like Margaret Dumont with the naked Marx boys, would never have got that. Though apparently they gang banged her in a train. “I’ve never been so insulted in my life!” “Well, just stick around some more!” What Bob did get was the mystery, the man with no face, riding into to town with mad cap bag full of rantings and raving calling down doom gloom and the apocalypse: an Elmer Gantry with Eng. Lit. in his GI Bill knapsack. It was all hysteria. Roofs fell in. Missiles zoomed across the universe, OM! Nothing will change his world but a quick hunt for nothing, no motive, only motivation, robotic, pre-programmed. That was the essence of Bob, or Trebor as his permanent pack of mints to disguise the alcohol stench from his parents would have it. Trebor became Tobor, the first cinematic Robot with a heart of gold. Hence Rob, Bob, not Tom. Tobor was a great Saturday morning picture house favourite among the Batman serials where the guy always jumped out of the car you saw falling over the cliff the previous week. Trebor walking backwards for longevity calibrating the frequency German submarines communicated at, was never fooled. He noted it down and phoned it through to Mr V-V-Vonnegut.
So did Clint and now he had the money, he wanted in. What a wheeze to film the unfilmable, to create the events that slide by with each sentence, a film stunt in itself. He would use a big close up on the pen as it was all written long hand in a cold water apartment on the East Side somewhere because it is always the East Side and it is always some dingy little apartment somewhere where the artist is supposed to discover themselves and then be miraculously found. The truth of course is that he stank of money and paid the unpublishing house to take him off their list and let the New York socialites promote him and bribe all the academics of UCLA to write PhD thesis on the deathwish mechanoids of Manchuria, all made of Bakelite.
Clint loves Bakelite as well. He would use no other telephone but the Bakelite bone if he could, cheroot in mouth, chewing the backy and swallowing instead of spitting. Which of course means there is gonna be one hell of a bit of day making trouble. You don’t get no tougher. All an act of course. He watched it backwards in the editing room and saw everything reversed. Mincing around in his frock and his long curly haired Shirley Temple wig, “Call me the love that knows no name.” If only the world knew, but they would not want to, because icons are icons and it takes more than an ugly wife to blot the horizon. But that was the appeal of Bob for Clint, the sense that somewhere over the rainbow there was a silo just for you and the walls would come tumbling down, as the song goes: Off comes the roof, down comes the ceiling, out goes the door, in comes the windows, it’s all out of control! Good old William Slothrop, centuries forgotten, and out of print!
Holy Cephalopods, the plot is impenetrable, but then that is not necessary for the list, the word horde, the guarantors of immortality for they circulate words forever until of course they do not. That was the trouble, this writing for posterity, it always assumed that it mattered when it never did. It would all come tumbling down, turn to dust, and no-body would be able to find the old programmes that could read the code anymore. Which is why Clint wanted to update it all because no-one reads this stuff anymore, they just watch it, in three minute chunks if possible.
So I called Bob. He was drunk. In fact he was always drunk. He wrote what he knew: the sailors in the dance halls, the life on mars, the whole seventies modus operandi. Cut Ups, inner worlds, the consciousness unconscious, the drug fuelled Lawrence Ferhlingetti of it all and if you could just do it at such great length you were literature and if Clint could do it at such great length, three part, four part, five hour long versions for the Blu-Ray aficionados, and do it quick, cheap, hand held, no fuss no muss with all the interns who would all be glad of the opportunity, then there would be light. Or at least a Kazoo! “Who dat man!” “Why, dat is Gabriel!” And all God’s chillun got bombs! Anyway, that’s how I put it to Bob. He was easy to find. Like I said, you just gotta know the right , a-huh, bar.
Open a door at random and yell “Bob”, you’ll find someone.
“Hi Bob, fancy meeting Clint?”
“Sure. What the fuck.”
And then you bring the man in, in his hat. He always wears a hat. His head is cold. And you can’t see his eye. He has only the one, the one staring eye above the beak. It is a little known fact that Clint has eight arms. It makes him a multi-tasker of enormous capabilities. You can see that for Bob is was love at first sight. He rolled up his sleave, unzipped the latex and hit the love function. It was a mess. There was Ink everywhere. It was as if Anaiis Nin had met a football team and squirmed like a squid sandwiched between them all. It was a great spectator event, college football at it’s all American best meets monster truck rally, with the great bar strung out bar after bar of infinite regression, sailors, salesmen, gunslingers and gangsters, tier upon tier, four dimensions, five dimension, a pyramid of cheer leaders without their pants twirling on well greased baseball bats. It has to be seen, to be believed, this land of red-haired, green-eyed baboons, white skin with a few freckles, kissing thin brunette girls in slacks.
“I guess it does said Bob,” listening as Clint explained his
“I guess it does said Bob,” listening as Clint explained his beatnik mission.
“A man has to know his limitations though,” Clint said giving the “but” to the pitch. “Unless of course you can supply some of the funding.”
“And er, if not?”
“It’ll look like shit.”
“That’s the way I like it.”
“That’s why it’ll be then.”
And so the real work began because the writing is nothing, just a deal breaker, just a slab of words for the money men to rest their cigars on. The writer disappears and the re-writers re-write and they too disappear and in the end, the houses fall, the exits are blocked, the screams cancel each other out as white terror turns to white noise. Rock n’ Roll wrecks the seats. Multi-plexes as tight as refrigerators, replace the People’s Palace, the walls tumble and here we are with the screen a dim page spread before us, white and silent. The film has broken, or a projector bulb has burned out. Everything, not just the movies, has got smaller. Fin.