Friday, October 19, 2012

Frivolous Friday: Stay Loose and Due to Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Canceled

If you'd told me a week ago I would read Bud Nye's baseball novel, Stay Loose, I would have said you were delusional.  I had other plans.  I hide in the bedroom while the World Series is on.  I tune out baseball on the radio when I ride in the car with a fan.  Are you for the Yankees or the Tigers?  Who knows? I am too busy squirting boxelder bugs with a  formula of laundry detergent and water.  I am not winning the baseball pool this year because I am fighting a battle with the bugs.

I didn't know Bud Nye's Stay Loose was about baseball until I bought it for 50 cents.  The cover reminded me of old humor books, i.e., silly novels by Max Shulman like The Lives and Loves of Dobie Gillis. I  spend a couple of days a week on pop culture--flip on the The Talk,  read O at the store, or peruse out-of-print novels that evoke bygone times--for "scientific" reasons.  (No reason really.)

The plot centers on a corporation's purchase of a baseball team.  Then a wacky personnel psychologist tinkers with building the perfect team via computer data.  

Bud Nye
The narrator, Ferriss Bracken, is the editor-in-chief of the Chats, the "house organ" for Dick-a-Magic, Inc.   Have you ever had to write about the manufacture of refrigerators and household appliances?  Ferris has it down.  He writes profiles of C. K. Dick, the industrialist owner, of the obsequious vice-president who dates C. K.'s daughter, and of an apparently Aspergers blond psychologist with an odd personnel system.   

I enjoy the funny reporting stuff.  After getting drunk at the Christmas party, fighting with the VP, and taking the boss's daughter home, Ferriss has to go to work and write an article for Chats

"I turned to my typewriter, lighted a cigarette, smoked it, lighted another, and tried to think up a lead for the Christmas party story.  It isn't awfully easy to write up a Christmas party for the Dick-a-Magic Chats. This event, and the annual sales meeting, are regarded by management as only slightly less stirring than the Ascension."

Oh, I love Bud Nye!  I can't help myself. His hero reminds me of one of those cynical journalists (too cynical, really) who turn to PR for the money.  I can't find out much about Nye online, but he worked in TV and advertising.  He wrote for Dobie Gillis and My Favorite Martian.

In Chapter 9 Nye finally gets to the plot.  Up till then, it's all been background about the refrigerator plant and employees.  Now, everything becomes topsy-turvy when C. K. Dick buys a major league baseball team and allows  Dr. Leirfallom, the brainy psychologist, to study the players and come up with the ideal player.  She decides that the perfect baseball players are living in on Nukiti, one of the islands in the Macronesian Archipelago.  Ferris must attend the spring training in Florida, while his reporter,Homer, attends Dr. Leirfallon's unconventional spring training camp on Nukiti.

Don't rush out and buy this unless you want to experience the wacky humor of 1959.  It is not a good book, but it is enjoyable.  Not for everybody, though.  I'm going to give this a "B" for an enjoyable dated humorous novel.

Irene Kampen's Due to Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Canceled is another dated but entertaining novel.  It is not particularly well-written, and she gets almost everything about the '60s wrong.

That said...
Published in 1969, this novel satirizes the culture of colleges in the '60s.  Irene Kampen returns to the University of Wisconsin at 45 only to find that everybody is protesting.  She needs six or seven more credits (nobody knows for sure),  a note from her mother to get her out of living in a dorm, and must figure out whether Bellow wrote Herzog or Herzog wrote Bellow.

Her roommate, Franny, says, "I think it's terribly brave of someone your age to come back to college, Mrs. Kampen....You must feel like a person risen from the dead or someone. "

Mrs. Kampen meets several of Franny's friends.  Sleepy Morris Edelman greets her with "Love!  Peace!  Love and peace, love and peace."  Sometimes he prefers to say, "Good love everywhere." 

I never met anyone like that on campus. I knew enough "freaks," as hip types called themselves, to notice that they talked like ordinary people.  Occasionally someone would say "into," as in "I'm into carrots," or "Far out."  But this was a campus,and many were articulate.  

Kampen's diction and sentence rhythms are reminiscent of  Nye's.  Like Nye, Kampen knew the ins and outs of newspapers:  she was a  journalist.  Mr. Beeman, director of the journalism lab, pretends to be the editor-in-chief of a nonexistent paper, and Mrs. Kampen is always getting "pretend"-fired for various slips.

Beeman says things like, "Speed it up, Bjornson.  We hit the street in exactly one hour.  We're not playing paper dolls, boy--This is a newspaper shop."

Get the idea?

I couldn't say what this amorphous novel is about.  Protests, love between a frat boy and a protester, parties, bureaucracy, and baseball.  Ah, yes, baseball becomes an issue in the last pages.

Why did I read to the end?

It's so absurd it's funny.   

Irene Kampen studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, worked on newspapers in Connecticut, and then began to write stories and novels.  The Lucy Show was based on Kampen's novel, Life without George.  

No comments: