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Warren Oates, Jack Pendarvis, Bill Kauffman, &Me

I'd mentioned in a recent facebook status line that I am fond of authors who are Warren Oates fans. The authors, as you might guess from the title, are Bill Kauffman and Jack Pendarvis. (The "&me" was a cutesy affectation I couldn't resist after typing the long list of names.)

I actually discovered Jack Pendarvis because of my interest in Warren Oates. I had recently received a box set of Sam Peckinpah westerns on DVD as a birthday gift, and Warren Oates was in a couple of them. He was one of Peckinpah's favorite actors. This led me to googling Warren Oates, which led me to this essay by Jack Pendarvis. It was one of the best essays on film  and one of the best analyses of the current state of pop culture I've ever read.

So I looked up Jack Pendarvis on google (boy, that internet is something!).  There were lots of hits from  Amazon, one of them a page for a  book called The Mysterious Secret Of The Valuable Treasure.

Mysterious secrets. Valuable treasure. All written about by a keen analyst of pop culture. How could I not put it on my wish list? As mentioned in a previous entry, Elle got it for me, and it was one of the best books anyone has ever gotten for me. (It also did a good job of cleansing the palate after I read the Pol Pot biography she got me).

Before I analyze it to death, I should point out that it was absolutely hilarious. The reviewers on Amazon who caution against reading it in public have a point. It made me laugh out loud many times. The only other author who has done that as much as Pendarvis is PG Wodehouse.

(WARNING: fun-killing analysis ahead!).Although there are many differences between Wodehouse and Pendarvis, I notice they share an ability to intelligently write from the POV of a really dumb person. With Wodehouse it's spoiled lazy aristocrats and with Pendarvis it's wannabe writers. But the effect is the same. It doesn't look intelligent when you read it. That's what makes it intelligent. And hilarious.

Ironically* , Pendarvis seems to have a lot in common  with Andy Kaufman, whom he slammed in the Warren Oates essay and blamed for the sad state of pop culture. The bad writers who narrate the title piece and "So This Is Writing!" parts I and II are almost the literary equivalents of Kaufman's little foreign man. I guess Pendarvis came to terms with living in a cultural world that Andy Kaufman created and just decided to make the best of it.

Which is OK, because the result entertained me and made me laugh out loud. That's what's important.

 Pendarvis is not a  one-trick pony. The long story "The Pipe" is told in the third person and doesn't use the dumb narrator device. While humorous, it has an underlying theme about loneliness and alienation that has to be taken seriously. It's about a security guard and a paramedic who are guarding a local DJ who has agreed to be buried underground for forty-six days. While comical, these are very real people. So real they could easily be played by Warren Oates if he were still alive.

The dialog is great. In fact, The Pipe contains the most well written and authentic line of dialog I have ever seen. It's spoken by the paramedic:

"Well, we got a law in this country called freedom of speech. Maybe they didn't teach you about that in security guard school."

I've known people who could have said that.

Bill Kauffman is a non-fiction writer whose Forgotten Founder,Drunken Prophet I read earlier this year. FFDP is a biography of anti-federalist
Luther Martin. It's a lively read and an excellent defense of the anti-federalist (or states rights) political philosophy. My path to Kauffman was a little different from the one to Pendarvis. I learned about him from other sources first (either Dan Flynn's blog or a suggestion on Amazon...I forget which came first), and only later learned of the Warren Oates nexus. On page 111 of Forgotten Founder Kauffman writes:

My favorite actor of recent years, Warren Oates, used to call himself a "constitutional anarchist". Maybe that's what Luther Martin was.

I've looked around for other things Kauffman has written about Warren Oates and found this tribute in American Conservative.

After reading the above passage in Kauffman's book, I did wonder if there is something special about writers who like Warren Oates. If I find a third data point, I will be convinced there is a correlation between Warren Oates fandom and literary greatness. (DISCLAIMER: I have never formally studied data mining).

Here's a clip of Warren Oates, the man without whom this entry would not have been possible. It's from Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. In this scene, Warren Oates is acting cool and tough. That's all the setup you need.

*is there any other way to have something in common with Andy Kaufman?
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