LX Chapter Commentary #2: Tight Tee Shirt

Chapter 1 of L Extreme ends the dreamy non-dream with “and then I fell asleep,” so we naturally kick off the main action with Benji waking up.

After making the switch to fiction, my original concept for the book was a set of loosely connected short stories. Take the same characters and settings and let them roll through the setlist episodically regardless of whether or not it made sense plot-wise. But I wrote the first few out of order (on shuffle?), so by the time I got around to “Tight Tee Shirt” I’d already abandoned that idea in favor of a proper narrative. The first half of “You Stood Me Up” was already written, so the main goal here was to connect the dots from the dream to the flashback.

It also needed to establish the general ground rules. Benji & C as relatively new roommates in a small apartment on an okay side of town. Rapid fire banter somewhere between vaudevillian slapstick and an SNL sketch. Third person omniscient narration juxtaposed against the first person dreamy segments. Teasing L as the main love interest but not quite getting to the point. A plot grounded in one song, but taking cues from others. And in this particular instance, staying tightly aligned to the lyrical (and musical) plot of the chapter’s core track while knowing I’d deviate from that script elsewhere.

Like “I Am You…”, this chapter also made its way off the album, into my ears, out of my head and onto the page mostly formed structure-wise. I messed around with some potential larger rewrites a few times, but always gravitated back to this original/final setup.

Other tidbits:

  • Yes, in the previous commentary (and the above intro) I referred to Chapter 1 a “non-dream” but Benji & C call it a dream here…
  • I’ve always loved narrators who break the fourth wall and acknowledge the audience. This narrator has that tendency, starting off subtle but becoming more intrusive as the book progresses. Deleted scenes include a whole lot of narrator soliloquies as I experimented to find the right voice and the balance. (The eventual answer was obvious, but I’ll get to that later…)
  • C’s hazy dream (or is it?) comes back in full clarity towards the end.
  • The chase/tackle/wrestling bit was inspired by imagining action to match the unexpectedly rocking guitar outro to the namesake song.
  • “I’m a musician and I’m also a painter” is accurate biography. Ditto on “You write advertising jingles and paint houses.”
  • Re-reading my cache of Benji Hughes interviews from from when I thought I was researching a 33 1/3 book, I recall this 2009 IndyWeek article by Chris Parker nudging me towards fiction—especially the way he so nonchalantly describes the plot of the song: “The provocatively clothed girl in question is a former paralegal who’s vacillating between becoming doctor or horse trainer, while serving cotton candy at the circus. She packs heat for when the boys get fresh, and ‘if she isn’t edible, she’s as close as you can be.'”
  • Why is C’s subconscious processing Benji’s love life? Excellent question…
  • Sometimes the exercise was about squeezing as much referential inspiration from the songs as possible, but other times omitted references are intentional. Those familiar with the song might ask “What about the pistol in her purse or her job at the circus?” Consider it wordless foreshadowing. Stay tuned…

Check out L Extreme

LX Chapter Commentary #1: I Am You, You Are Me, We Are One

As referenced previously, the first chapter I wrote for L Extreme was about the song “The Mummy” starring Benji, Count & Frank and referencing additional Benji Hughes songs from other albums. I did a few of those in random order and had a rough idea of how to loosely segue my way through the first side of the vinyl.

When NaNoWriMo came around I decided to take it from the top with the very first track. I sat at my desk as the clock struck midnight (a Nano tradition to hit the ground running as soon as Nov 1 literally hits), played the album for inspiration—and laughed out loud.

The first song is an instrumental. It’s also a cover.

Deep down I obviously knew this, but in my excitement hadn’t really planned for it in the moment. The idea that the five instrumental tracks would be dreams was already in my head, as was the original idea to do a 33 1/3 style non-fiction take on the album. I knew from reading interviews the title A Love Extreme was a play on A Love Supreme by John Coltrane—but the extreme version was a cover by Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin on their Love Devotion Surrender album.

Two men. Both wear white suits. The one on the right looks like he’s trying not to laugh.

Undeterred, I fired up that album instead (I’d randomly been turned onto it a few months prior to discovering Benji by my sister’s boyfriend). I stared at the cover depicting the two white-suited guitar legends and started writing about what I saw filtered through Benji’s eyes.

It got polished a bit over the years, but the general structure of the trippy, nondescript white room filled with celebrities flowed out pretty much intact all at once.

Some tidbits:

  • As the story goes, Santana & McLaughlin were dreaming about each other in the lead up to collaborating. The dreamy nature of this song and that fun fact influenced my decision to make all of the instrumentals dreams.
  • “A white suit makes you look like a doofus” was inspired by something Jim Bob from Carter USM (my other favorite musical act) said on a live album—though his version is “a white suit makes you look like a dickhead.” Same difference 🙂
  • Miami Vice is both a reference to the popularization of white suits and the song “Miami Nights” by Dirt Nasty & Ke$sha that Benji Hughes sings the chorus to.
  • “You’ve got heart, man” has more meaning on a second read.

    Fred Karlin: “A hip looking cat with some crazy chops—both with the music and the facial hair. He has the inverse of a goatee.”

  • “I Am You…” is actually an instrumental sampled from the soundtrack to the film Lovers and Other Strangers composed by Fred Karlin. The cat with the sideburns playing an organ and conducting the orchestra is a fictionalized version of Fred as a tribute to the original.
  • The thing that changed the most as this chapter got rewritten were the actual white-suited celebrities. In the final version they are (mostly) a list of Benji Hughes’s influences, favorites or offhand conversational mentions.
  • Sri Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual leader followed by Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin. His teachings inspired them to make Love Devotion Surrender. Sri really did have this special platform he’d use to lift celebrities, animals and objects. It was such a wild story I couldn’t resist including it here.
  • “Up Where We Belong” references an epic duet cover version Benji did with Jenny Lewis at Largo in LA.
  • I really liked the idea of unifying the instrumental songs on A Love Extreme into the dream sequences, but I also knew that dreams in novels—especially as opening scenes—were frowned upon as overused tropes. Eventually that led me to think “What if they aren’t dreams?” Hence the final line of the trippy dream-like chapter became: “And then I woke up.”

Check out L Extreme

LX: Origin Story, Part I

Before I dive into chapter by chapter, song by song commentary for L Extreme I wanted to provide a little background on how this came to be.

The Believer Issue 64, July/Aug 2009

Where it all began. (Note the illustrated Benji on the far right.)

Let’s start at the beginning…

July 2009: I purchased the special music issue of The Believer magazine at Skylight Books in LA. It was a total impulse purchase based on the theme, the cover, knowledge of Dave Eggers’s involvement and the fact that it came with a CD ala the old British music mags I was obsessed with as a teenager. It would be a couple months before I got around to reading it, but i find it fascinating that I can trace this book back to this exact moment.

When I finally dug into the magazine was a red-letter date. On 9/7/09 I purchased A Love Extreme and added it to my iTunes library. Followed under a week later by The Ballad of Hope Nicholls by Benji’s 90s band Muscadine, a clear signal that an obsession was brewing.

My Last.fm profile shows just how much airplay that album got at home — quickly topping my personal charts and assuming the “favorite record of all time” title in a post on this blog dated 8/22/10.

Flash-forward some unknown period of time, once again at Skylight Books. I had forgotten this, but my wife vividly remembers watching me browse the spinning metal rack of 33 1/3 music criticism books and saying: “Somebody should write one of these about A Love Extreme. No–I should write one of these about A Love Extreme.”

That explains my archive of 37 articles / interviews with Benji found online spanning 2006-2018. But when did I switch the concept from non-fiction to fiction(ish)? I honestly don’t remember, but I have some vague flashes of forces pushing me in this direction from both the research and the music:

“Oh definitely. There is a theme there. I don’t want to say anything about it. Maybe it’s love. There is something that the whole thing’s all about.” — Artist Direct Interview, 2008

“There’s not gonna be a 2019 “A Love Extreme” re-release with bonus tracks we didn’t put on there.” — Seeds Entertainment, 2010

“I want to be in your book–the front page of your life.” — lyric from A Love Extreme track “So Well” 

“Don’t forget to write me when you’re famous.” — lyric from unreleased song played during Largo residency, 2010

Something I do remember is sitting on the couch listening to A Love Extreme for the umpteenth time and telling my wife “I bet I could write a novel based on this whole album.” She definitely rolled her eyes, and probably went to bed.

I found a file on my hard drive dated 2/18/13 (President’s Day! And possibly the same day as the above memory) titled “A Love Extreme Notes” that contains very brief bulleted sketches of the first thirteen songs plus “I Went With Some Friends to See the Flaming Lips.” Aside from noting the instrumentals should be dreams it doesn’t really mirror the plot of the novel at all, but shows some spark of inspiration. The text file was never edited after its creation. (I didn’t even open it during the later writing stages since I forgot it existed.) Maybe I got distracted, or didn’t think anyone cared. More likely I didn’t think I could pull a storyline off solely based on one album’s worth of songs.

Next is a part I do remember. Another text file, this one dated 9/21/14, 11:20pm Pacific time. A short story based on “The Mummy.” For years I’d written little fiction pieces about songs to amuse myself or my wife or my friends. Usually they go unfinished. A script for a made-for-TV movie based on “Taxi” by Harry Chapin. A short about a car breaking down on the side of the road based on “My Name is Jonas” by Weezer. A Twilight Zone style anthology series with the pilot episode adapting the Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch version of “Wildside” (with apologies to Lou Reed).

This Mummy story wasn’t very good, but it still amuses me to no end. Most importantly, it sets up a framework for what followed. As best I can recall, my brainstorm went something like this:

I’m into Pavement it’s my favorite band I’ve got their DVD I watch it 50 times…

Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy are roommates in a band with a Monkees type living situation. They’re watching the Slow Century documentary about Pavement in their small apartment on an okay side of town and arguing about who gets to perform at the prom.

But monsters are too obvious. I’ll call Dracula “Count” and make him speak in numbers, sort of like an adult version of the Sesame Street character. Frankenstein is just a big guy named Frank who may or may not be a monster. Who’s the mummy? A reincarnated Egyptian pharaoh? Somebody’s mom?

That was enough to get me off the couch and over to the computer. During the very short jaunt down the hallway I scrapped the mummy character in favor of a fictionalized version of the actual Benji Hughes for reasons completely lost on me. I wrote:

Benji and Count were watching “Slow Century” for the fiftieth time while they waited for Frank to show up. They knew it was the fiftieth time because that’s what Count did — he counted.

989 words later I had a dumb little ditty that started with those three characters living the lyrics of “The Mummy” and ended with a riff on the lyrics from “Everybody Falls In Love“—a different Benji song recently released on XXOXOXX (later re-issued as Another Extreme)—part of a 4 (!!!) CD set of new albums we got pre-release copies of when my wife mentioned her plan to surprise me with a trip to NC to see a Benji Hughes show to a co-worker who responded: “I didn’t realize you liked him—I kinda know him…” That album was added to our library on 8/26/14, less than a month before I wrote the Mummy short. It was the missing piece of creative connective tissue I needed. Don’t only write about A Love Extreme; write about ALL THE SONGS!

Inspired, I ran with the idea as my 2014 NaNoWriMo project, writing just shy of 17K words about Benji, Count, Frank and Benji’s mysterious ex-girlfriend L that November. And the next November. And the one after that. 2014-2018, every November spent chipping away with another 10-18K words song by song, chapter by chapter. A lot of it got scrapped—there’s 30K words of outtakes in what became an 87K word book—but a lot of it worked far better than it had any business doing under the circumstances.

Of course, there was this looming moral/copyright/intellectual property gray area issue to resolve. I figured I’d toss the hail mary of a pitch to Benji down the road if/when it was ready, and most likely rework the whole thing to scrape off the serial numbers and remove the references when I got either a no or a no response. But I was having so much fun it was the least of my worries at the time…

Stay tuned for Part II of how this zany project got off the ground—probably after a few chapter commentary posts…

Check out L Extreme: A Novel Based on the Songs of Benji Hughes

New Novel: L Extreme

It’s been awhile but we’re back with style…

Announcing the new novel by JL Civi: L Extreme!

L Extreme Book CoverReaders of this blog know I’ve been a huge fan of Benji Hughes for years. Somewhere along the line I decided to write a novel based on his album A Love Extreme. For a reason I can’t fully recall or explain I decided to make a fictionalized version of Benji the protagonist. And somewhere much later down the line he gave me permission to release it, did the cover art, and wrote an afterword!

I call the book a cross between Yellow Submarine and Being John Malkovich with a sprinkling of 33 1/3 style fun facts scattered throughout. It’s a zany, cross-genre story grounded in the song by song world of the album but ultimately its own separate thing. If you dig it, the credit goes to Benji as the muse. If you hate it, blame me and I apologize for tainting the album. Personally I think they go well together regardless of whether you view it as a novelization of a record or a soundtrack to a book. But of course I’m biased :).

I’ll kick off a similar chapter by chapter commentary series of blog posts like I did for Timely Persuasion in the near future. For now, check out the ebook at your favorite store.

More soon…

Of The Year — 2020

In a strange and challenging year, we needed music to keep us sane more than ever. Somehow it came through in spades with a slew of stellar new releases and live(stream) shows in the new normal.

ALBUMS

1. Nobody Lives Here Anymore — Cut Worms
Cut Worms wasn’t on my radar until Spencer Tweedy covered “Last Words to a Refugee” on an episode of the Tweedy Show in November. That indirect recommendation rocketed to the top of this year’s chart. (The title is also somehow perfect for 2020 even though it doesn’t quite make sense in that context…)

2. The Neon Skyline — Andy Shauf
A Paul Simon-esque concept album about a night out at the local watering hole (remember those days?) that plays out like a short story. A unique yet timeless sound that I really dig. (The fact that there’s a recurring character named Judy–which is also my dog’s name–doesn’t hurt.)

3. Devotion — Margaret Glaspy
I really dug Margaret Glaspy’s first album. This sounds nothing like it. Alternatingly poppy and dancy and sweet and vicious, I dig this one for all those reasons and then some. 

4. Sam Doores — Sam Doores
Once the fiddle player in Hurray for the Riff Raff, this eponymous solo debut has a nice New Orleans folk vibe to it. Released pre-pandemic, it became a go to for soothing casual kick-back listening as the year wore on.

5. Lamentations — American Aquarium
Sad songs make us happy. Top-notch songwriting from the most genuinely authentic voice in Americana. Also the inspiration for the Musical Heroes of the Pandemic section below.

6. Spirit Guide — Benji Hughes
When your favorite solo artist releases their first new to you album in ~6 years, anticipation abounds. Benji came through with a 47-minute single that hides 14 tracks of a concept album loosely themed around spirits and ghosts. And that’s not all Benji had up his sleeve this year…

7. Pop Up Jim Bob — Jim Bob
When the singer of your favorite band releases their first new to you album in 6+ years, anticipation abounds. Jim Bob came through with his most Carter sounding solo album–including an eerily prescient 30 second single (recorded and released pre-pandemic) titled “2020 WTF!”

8. Father of All… — Green Day
The best Green Day record since Dookie, not counting their semi-secret Foxboro Hot Tubs side project that this is reminiscent of. The fact that it both is Green Day and sounds nothing like Green Day blew my mind and made me smile more with each listen.

9. Serpentine Prison — Matt Berninger
This may have been my most anticipated album of the year, and it sounded more or less exactly as I imagined. More EL VY than National, and that’s fine by me.

10. Painted Shield — Painted Shield
I tend to be on top of upcoming music releasees, but somehow (2020 WTF?) this one eluded me until I heard Mason Jennings casually mention on a livestream that his new band with Stone Gossard was dropping their debut record that same week (!!!!!). It’s strange and glammy and wonderful. You had me at Mason & Stone, and won me with a song called “Time Machine.” But why isn’t the band called Stonemasons? Biggest missed naming opportunity since Petty Cash.

REISSUES

1. A Lovers Extreme / Another Extreme — Benji Hughes
Back in 2014, these two records were in a 3-way tie for second place on my year-end list. Originally released as OXOXOXOX & XXOXOXX via Benji’s website, they’re back with new titles, new artwork, and a wider release as thematic sequels to A Love Extreme.

2. summerteeth (Deluxe)Wilco
One of Wilco’s classics gets the super deluxe demos and outtakes treatment, with a fascinating blend of early takes, different lyrics and live sessions. Plus “Viking Dan” might be my favorite new old song of the year. So weird, so awesome.

3. Wildflowers & All The Rest — Tom Petty
Another super deluxe, but at the core it’s really setting right what once went wrong by restoring Wildflowers to the double-album Petty originally intended. If only the label left Tom (and Virginia) alone back then.

4. Lockdown Sessions — David Ford
David Ford did a marvelous job of releasing & reorganizing older (and newer) tracks from his vaults via Bandcamp as companion pieces to his fortnightly livestream shows. My 2 favorite archival releases were The Ones That Got Away (essentially a best of the EP/B-Sides compilation) and The Lockdown Archive: Songs for the Road which celebrated his under-appreciated second album. (Additional bonus points for “The Bar is Open” — my favorite new song about COVID.)

SHOWS

This is usually my favorite section of this annual post, reminiscing on a year of live shows and highlights. This year was different for obvious reasons — but live music was still ever-present in new and unique ways. So I’ll break this out a little differently:

Pre-COVID Shows:

Supergrass @ Casino de Paris — 2/4/20
Back in 2014, we took a vacation to Paris & London to see the last ever Carter USM show. On the way home my wife asked when we could go to Paris again. “When Supergrass reunites,” was my off the cuff reply. I kept my promise — and I’m so glad I did with what transpired after. I consider this band to be the underrated champion of the 90s britpop era. (Blur vs Oasis? My answer is Supergrass.) The ‘Grass were back, and it felt like they never left.

Glorietta @ Antone’s — 2/13/20
2018’s album of the year was supposed to be a one and done collaboration and supergroup tour between solo projects. But as David Ramirez said when Glorietta took the stage as a surprise headliner for Luck Reunion’s annual Lucky Draw, “McRib is back!” It was a delightfully ramshackle performance that left me on a high around why I love live music so much–ironically making it a fitting final live and in person show to witness before the world turned and left us here…

Heroes of the Pandemic:

A silver lining of last year is the fact that it happened in the future. Twenty or even ten years ago the technology may not have been ready to shift the bulk of working and socialization online, but in 2020 it did a pretty solid job of making lemonade out of lemons where it could. I know it’s not the same, but below are some of the performances that kept us sane.

The Tweedy Show — Jeff Tweedy & Family
Jeff Tweedy sitting in his living room, playing songs from his back catalogue plus a lot of random covers with his sons Spencer & Sammy. It’s charming, laid back and real–and easy to imagine this is what a normal evening in the Tweedy household might be like. Originally airing EVERY NIGHT (!!!), it’s since scaled back to 3-5 days a week. But with 141 episodes and counting, I can’t overstate how awesome and caring and cool it is that a musician would connect with their fans in this way for free during trying times.

Alone Together Tuesdays — Hayes Carll
Episode count isn’t the way to evaluate these sort of things, but there’s comfort in routine so I’ve really come to appreciate some regularly scheduled programming. Hayes Carll has broadcast live on YouTube across 35 Tuesdays in a virtual reboot of his old Enough Rope with Hayes Carll series he once broadcast monthly from the Saxon Pub in Austin. Stories and songs for times like these with a true genuineness behind the whole production.

Lockdown Sessions / Milk & Cookies — David Ford
An alternating themed performance and benefit concert for Reverse Rett, David Ford shared his “whiny little English boy playing the blues” stage persona with a great mix of originals, covers, stories and surprises. My single favorite livestream of the year was the episode where he played a 40 minute medley of songs without stopping or speaking at all. Drop the mic, that ruled.

The Sad Song Revival — BJ Barham
In the earliest days of lockdown, when we were still adjusting to what was starting to be called “the new normal” and before it simply became “normal,” BJ Barham of American Aquarium was the trailblazer of what this new musical world could look like. He played free shows on Instagram and Facebook. He played ticketed full-album acoustic shows on StageIt. He played full-band, full production value full-album shows for a higher ticket price. He took requests, he told stories, he logged in early to interact with commenters before the show. These actions and the pureness of his intentions moved me from a casual fan to a big loyal one. He made us smile more in these instants than any sad song ever written.

Private Zoom Concerts — Smooth Hound Smith
While many artists experimented with the busking-style live show with virtual tip jar format, Smooth Hound added the ability to book a private show on their website. We did four of them over the course of the year (starting with each of our birthdays, and then “hey, why not?”) and had a terrific time chatting with the band, collaborating on setlists, and sharing a more personalized type of concert experience.

One highlight: After a scheduling snafu caused the band to inadvertently stand us up for show number 4, as an apologetic make good they offered to learn and cover any song we chose. (“Any song…?” I asked.) We picked “O Lonely Soul, It’s a Hard Road” by Mary’s Danish (or by Local Boy from Timely Persuasion, depending on your point of view). They nailed it, leaving us speechless that a band could bust out this obscure song we had no expectation of ever hearing live, giving it a new life and seemingly having a genuine great time doing so.

Private Computer Shows — Benji Hughes
I booked Benji Hughes to play my work holiday party via Zoom. He had a karaoke machine! And an extreme time was had by all. In a normal year, that would be enough to drop the metaphorical ball on this blog post and call it a year in review. But wait, there’s more…

Remember that scheduling snafu with Smooth Hound Smith that begot a cover of “O Lonely Soul…” referenced above? We had ten people in various remote locations waiting on a band that (explainably in hindsight and with no ill intentions) stood us up. What to do? I booked another band. Enter Benji on short notice, playing a Zoom show that left everyone floored. Piano, guitar, originals, covers — and yes, more karaoke. Another extreme time was had by all.

Really dropping the mic for now. Happy new year. 2021 FTW!

-JLC

2020 Hindsight Commentary: 25 Minutes To Go, Across Twenty-Six Winters, Prologue (Reprise)

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Shel SilversteinPhoenix Mourning, and Katy Keene.

25 Minutes to Go

My recollection is the switch to present tense in the second paragraph was intentional, but feels misguided here. (Much like the other time I noticed it…) Starting present tense and keeping it until the transition to the lottery numbers is how I’d redo it today. (I’d also start with the red liquid image.)

That list is all manifestations of time travel, not building blocks. (It’s also true…)

Across Twenty-Six Winters

The “was it all a dream?” fakeout would work better if it was less overt.

If there’s a better illustration of subliminal mental time travel than Jeff Tweedy using so much post-September 11th imagery when writing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in a pre-September 11th world, please let me know.

The above line ties together the 9/11 theme with the aborted inspiration for the Local Boy section. It also has me picturing the doctor at the hospital as the 2020 equivalent of Jeff Tweedy. I’m wondering if he ever looked different to my younger mind’s eye.

“You won’t be hearing Won One on twofer Tuesday” is cool, but feels like a missed opportunity for a “One Hit Wonder Won One” bit of wordplay.

Drifting into second person is a great change of pace for the conclusion given the circumstances, but I wish younger me stuck with it throughout this chapter vs bouncing around.

I completely forgot about him seeing Nelson and the redheaded girl together! Another bit of sequel bait…

The one line M. Ward blink was definitely sequel bait.

Full disclosure: Nowadays I’m not a fan of the “and that’s how this book you’re reading was written” endings to novels, but it worked better here than I was anticipating from memory as an explanation for the endless namelessness.

“Hate needs a name” is one of my favorite lines from this book. And according to Google, I’m the only one to have ever used it.

Prologue (Reprise)

The most logical reason for my past self to have decided against the “Is she really going out with him?” opening line would be how it eliminates this bookend.

Exactly who is looking out for the sister as the last line infers? Not necessarily who you think…

In the original commentary, I cryptically wrote: “Without giving too much of my intent away I’ll just say this: I definitely know how the story ends, but I don’t know if this is actually the end of the story or not since there might be a sequel.”

Since I’ve mentioned “if there’s a sequel” so much in this new commentary — and 12 years later there still isn’t one — I might as well wrap things up with an overview.

At the end of the saga the sister marries Nelson. If there is never a sequel, Nelson is the husband here. The narrator stopped hating him / stopped meddling, and they lived happily ever after.

If there is a sequel, the loose plan was:

-She has a different husband in this epilogue. Book 2 starts with “Prologue (Reprise)” verbatim.

-The first proper chapter (Let’s call it 27 Jennifers…) has the old man show up and give a variant of the Doc Brown “something has to be done about her kids!” speech, kicking off another time travel adventure.

-Remember how Nelson used to be an alcoholic? Remember how alcohol makes it easier for a mental time traveler to take over their past body? Remember how Nelson is “trapped” in the past? Add it up 🙂

At least that’s the way I’ve thought the sequel should go. But I don’t know if I’ll ever write it.

That said, I mentioned at the end of 24 Hour Party People that this 2020 hindsight exercise inspired me to think up a companion piece that’s not quite a sequel but could be fun. I plan on taking a run at it during NaNoWriMo this year.

Until I figure out how this plays out, I’ll be coy like my 2008 self was. Here’s a hint:

Also by the same author: Volume One

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

25 Minutes To Go  |  Across 26 Winters  |  Prologue (Reprise)

2020 Hindsight Commentary: 22 Days, 23:59 End of the World, 24 Hour Party People

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by 22-20s, Carter USM, and Happy Mondays.

22 Days

I alternate between thinking the split “For What It’s Worth” quote is super forced or conversationally clever.

It seems the old man figures out the “rules” of paradox prevention a little too fast, but that might be because he already knew the answer.

The Hate vs Love monologue always reminds me of the song “Love, Hate, Love” by Alice In Chains. But it’s really me conflating that song title over the lyrics to the song “Confusion” from the same album.

I have no idea what “That’s probably how you blinked out of the hospital the first time” means. I think he’s saying he lost the ability to time travel previously but got it back — though that’s unnecessarily convoluted.

Involving the Dad in the final jailbreak is the right move, though the manner of the recruitment feels a little too convenient.

23:59 End of the World

My third favorite chapter title (behind Wounded Kite at :17 and Won One)

“The plan itself was actually quite good” was not my best work for the opening line of a chapter.

“Winging it isn’t really the right word”—because winging it is a phrase…

Trapping Nelson I the past works plot-wise, but the setup and aftermath are pretty lame. I mentioned in the original commentary that I decided to stash Nelson away in case there is ever a sequel. Whether or not that happens is still a big question mark, but if there is a major arc would involve the narrator and Nelson teaming up on a time travel mission.

Can we trust what we learn about the Dad’s mindset when the old man is the go-between messenger?

Though a bit of a sneaky trick, the cliffhanger does pump some much needed intrigue into a sagging narrative.

24 Hour Party People

The explanation of the many little deaths is super confusing, but after a few rereads I think it does work.

“Repeating trips to narrow events down to a single cause and effect pair would ensure that positive changes are allowed to repeat universally rather than risking they’ll come undone accidentally” more or less sums up how time travel works in the 2017 novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland.

“Timely persuasion as a means to infinite perfection.” 🙂

On the other hand, I don’t think “if our timing wasn’t right…one of us would be dead from the other’s point of view” makes any sense at all.

I’ve always been wish washy on if I’d ever do a sequel, including in this series of 2020 hindsight posts. But in the midst of rereading this chapter I got an idea for a short story companion piece type thing and spent an hour loosely outlining it…

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

22 Days  |  23:59 End of the World  |  24 Hour Party People

2020 Hindsight Commentary: 19-2000, 20ft Halo, Now We Are Twenty-One

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Gorillaz, Supergrass, and The Mr. T Experience.

19-2000

The phone call would work better with a glimmer of false hope it was the redheaded girl looking to reconcile.

“Writing off” any concern about the tan van wasn’t really a mistake…

Why the heck would he give an LBDG acronym answer to a question about the logo without the LBDG on it? The explanation is pretty weak.

Why are there 2 doctors? And why isn’t one of them the same one from the other hospital blinks?

The AMs should be A.M. like chapter 10. (And like the Wilco album.)

Someone recently asked me how he didn’t notice the phantom card while playing all of those games. My explanation was “it’s on the bottom for a reason.” Rereading I think that logic holds up — though why it took him so long to notice the duplicate is a less explainable problem.

Aside from the very end section, not much happens in this chapter. The three big pieces are right (accepted to the study, they know about LBDG, someone left him a time-displaced playing card), but could’ve been folded into the next chapter more effectively.

20ft Halo

I guess there are at least 3 doctors, since the “first” one is different from the other two?

In hindsight, the scene revealing it to be the same hospital should have come sooner. Get accepted to the study, picked up by the van, drugged, wake up in the same hospital, a few tests, blink, LBDG, more tests, cards, older self finds him.

“Hadn’t yet happened to live that long” is now the frontrunner for most awkwardly forced lyrical reference that nobody will get but me.

The card technically should have gone through the bandage and hit his cheek based on the established time travel rules applied to displaced objects.

I forgot the redheaded girl was his first wife! (Funny how you can surprise yourself with your past self’s writing sometimes…)

Now We Are Twenty-One

And we’ve come to the backstory chapter! Yes, it’s a trope. But man, it’s a fun trope.

“Years from now and years ago…” is a great chapter opener, and would be an even better overall opening line to a story.

If time travel does exist, this “your conscience is your future self” explanation still makes a ton of sense to me.

Title alert: “Not just timely persuasions as they had come to be called…” (I can’t remember if this line begot the title or if I had the title and worked it in.)

Sometimes I think the microscopic injectable self-replicating nano time machines may have been an unnecessary and outlandish detail, but maybe not

All in all, this has been my favorite chapter to reread years later. I got so absorbed I barely stopped to nitpick as I’ve done previously. Yes, it blazes through a series of “tell don’t show” revelations, but the pace is crisp without feeling rushed and the reveals fill in a lot of blanks without feeling like infodumps. Author bias is certainly in play, but I’m sending my younger self a subliminal pat on the back for this one.

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

19-2000  |  20ft Halo  |  Now We Are Twenty-One

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Wounded Kite at :17, 18 and Life

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Pavement and Skid Row.

Wounded Kite at :17

Still my favorite chapter title!

A few too many “from the pains”

Technically it’s not a frozen thing anymore after it comes out of the microwave.

He jumps into the time travel sex ed theory a little too fast. (Everything in this chapter seems to happen a little too fast.)

The Local Boy version is called “Don’t Know When,” but I suppose the narrator would use the proper song title.

When the dad realizes who he is it should have gone: “Dad sat on the couch. A smile seemed to come to him slowly. It was a sad smile just the same.”

If past me claimed that GnR never released another good original song post Izzy Stradlin, that would arguably still be true today.

Wrong “acknowledgements” again. (And I’m not exactly sure how he was going to “discretely thank the original artists” in said misspelled acknowledgments.)

Doesn’t make sense for the dad to reference the “nagging doubts come to you” Carter lyric unless he learned that song — which he shouldn’t have by the 1 per artist rule. (That said, “The Only Looney Left in Town” would have been a great Local Boy song…)

The ending bit and cliffhanger save the chapter.

Despite the nitpicks of being over-explainy and rushed, story wise this is one of my favorite chapters.

18 And Life

…and then I negate the impact of the cliffhanger immediately after the chapter title. The first three paragraphs of connective tissue don’t really serve a purpose. “Over the next several weeks…” would have we a better starting point.

The Local Boy artifacts in the basement most logically belong to the narrator, but I don’t recall why he tries to pass them off as belonging to the mom. (His subconscious would encourage him to collect them even if he didn’t want to.)

“I’ll do some damage one fine day” is an example of a shoehorned lyrical reference that tries too hard.

Memory gap section would have been a perfect place for “What am I doing in this dive bar?” I’m trying to remember when past me discovered that song.

I wonder if the phone number ending in 5234 (LBDG) made readers think it wasn’t real and couldn’t be dialed. (It’s still live, and directs callers to study.lb-dg.com to download a shorter version of the questionnaire. That was a really fun side project.)

“…in a latent show of our impending separation” isn’t exactly how “show, don’t tell” is supposed to work.

Similar to the last chapter I still like the plot points here, but things seem to move a touch too fast.

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Wounded Kite at :17  |  18 and Life

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Prophet 15, Christine Sixteen

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Supergrass and Kiss.

Prophet 15

“Revelations of her revolution” is still a great line…and still a Googlewhack. (Or it used to be before Google stopped crawling the online version because I didn’t have time to make it mobile friendly.)

“Won One” is a real song my friend Chris Evjy wrote in college. I haven’t heard it in over twenty years, but in my memory it’s still one of my favorite songs of all time. (Yes, I know that’s a little extreme.) A handful of old mixtapes exist somewhere with a live version recorded on my radio show, but after countless hours trying to track one down in the attic of my childhood home I gave up. Mainly at this point I want to hear it again to see if it’s really as great as I remember.

Why is the Local Boy open mike debut on Halloween? My past self could have at least had a throwaway joke about a costume.

The list of Local Boy songs contain an easter egg very few people have discovered. The first letter of each song points you to a website. (In hindsight, putting Dash 7 by Wilco in the middle of the list might have helped.)

I wish there was a little more agonizing over the song stealing implications between the 2 set lists. I mean, 1 paragraph? Really?

“Debonair” & “Start Choppin'” are awesome, but not exactly “a barrage of hits…”

“One more chord to play” is a reference to a different Chris Evjy song.

“Use the gifts you gave yourself” is my favorite nugget of writing advice. Re-reading the original commentary for this chapter reminded me the whole Local Boy subplot is a classic example of that.

Christine Sixteen

The narrator could have shown more concern around the fact that his grandparents house that he knew in the future was gone before its time. (And by “more concern” I mean “any concern at all.”)

Another batch of still, still, still.

I wish the Local Boy name was foreshadowed at the coffee house open mike show or elsewhere before popping up out of nowhere here.

“Author of the hit singles” makes no sense. “See Local Boy perform his hit singles…” 

On the other hand, a musician performing “in his own backyard!” might have been my current COVID-era self sending a message to my past self.

Quite a lot of smoke in the trailer after being inside for “less than a minute.”

The “Let me clear my throat” reference is pretty bad.

I had to double check the popularity of double albums in 1970 when writing this commentary, which means I probably should have done so directly in the text too.

The last paragraph of this chapter reminds me of the song Bill & Annie by Chuck Brodsky, but I didn’t discover that song until several years later. (It would even tie back to the tomato on the plane!)

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Prophet 15  |  Christine Sixteen