Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bruce Jay Friedman, Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield on Charlie Rose

Tonight, at the Rubin in New York City, Bruce Jay Friedman introduced his film Stir Crazy (with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder) (other Friedman films and adaptations include Steve Martin's The Lonely Guy, based on the Friedman novel, The Heartbreak Kid, based upon a short story, and Splash! (for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, among others) and unofficially launched our Three Balconies, set for release on Monday, September 15th. Three Balconies is his first collection of short fiction in near twenty years, but is a return to form for a writer viewed by many as a modern American master. The LA TIMES has said "Friedman has earned a permanent place on the shelf on contemporary American letters. " While searching the internet I found an interview with Heidi Julavitz who claims Friedman as one of the trendsetters of American literature, out-Rothing Roth many years before the latter became famous. But also one of the forgotten writers, at least insofar as a younger generation goes. Here's a bit from the interview:

Dave: Part of The Believer's agenda as you've expressed it is to turn readers on to books and authors they don't know. So what has editing the magazine turned you on to?

Julavits: A lot of stuff. That's what fabulous about this. For example, Bruce Jay Friedman. Do you know him?

Dave: No.

Julavits: It's funny because no one our age has heard of him. Well, Ben has because he's actually a fifty-year-old in a thirty-five-year-old's body. But I gave a reading in what is known here as the "other" Portland: Portland, Maine. Someone asked me a question like this and I mentioned Bruce Jay Friedman. Everybody there because, of course, it was all my parents' friends they'd all heard of him, they'd all read him. It was crazy.

He's from Brooklyn. He wrote a book called The Dick. I think what happened to him and this is according to the essay, which I'm currently editing the character was very racist. Then the question is, Is the author racist? Conflating the ideas in the book with the person who created it. Anatole Boyard, I guess, reviewed it for the Times and just buried him forever and ever. Rest in peace. One of those reviews you don't come back from. But Friedman is someone who has really influenced a lot of people. I guess Woody Allen has put him in his movies, given him cameos. He actually wrote a book that's very much like Portnoy's Complaint, but he did it about five years beforehand. I kind of agree with the thesis that this writer is working on, which is that sometimes when the first person does it, it opens a door, but it's the next person who gets all the credit. Bruce Jay Friedman was a trendsetter in all these ways, but whoever walked those paths next, they're the ones we think of culturally as being the instigators of these things. So he's one.

As it happens, the October issue of the Believer will have a long interview with Bruce. And we've managed to line up a lot more coverage that should break shortly. We'll keep you posted.

For now, here's an interview with Friedman, Vonnegut and Wakefield on Charlie Rose. An oldie, but a good one.


Even better, a podcast by Friedman, as part of a Key West Literary Seminar, entitled "I Lost it At the movies," where he recounts the making of The Heartbreak Kid (the original, not the recent re-adaptation by Ben Stiller) and reads the entire story.

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