Since last we spoke
My year in review, plus cat pix
Greetings, fellow traveler. Did you forget about me? I haven’t sent out a newsletter in a dog’s age and feel positively rotten about it. How could I deprive you like that? How could it be that I would become so lackadaisical about this vital project? And what am I to do with this backlog of cat pictures? Y’know what, before we go any further, let’s look at some of ‘em:
There, that’s better. Next: as you may have figured out, my book, True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee, did not come out on its planned release date of September 29. As it turned out, Covid screwed up the release schedules and printing capacities of the American book industry, and my tome was a victim of the shakeup. However! It is now slated for release on February 16 of this upcoming year. If you haven’t already preordered it, please do so now! And, if you preorder or have already preordered, you can download a full chapter of the book immediately by clicking this link! Thank you for your patience, everyone — I promise it’ll be worth the wait.
Anyhoo, three major life events have occurred for me this year. Bullet points:
In May, I got married! My beloved, S.I. Rosenbaum, proposed to me in April and, what with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the certainty of how we felt about each other, we decided to go ahead and get hitched. It happened on Zoom, with a dialed-in audience of our parents, our siblings, and a retired judge who legally bound us for good. We’re planning to have a big, fat, Jewish, in-person wedding at some point in the future, when Covid is less of a factor (whenever the hell that is, what with the incompetent vaccine rollout in this godforsaken country). Yay!
Also in May, I got another book deal! I am now under contract with Simon & Schuster’s Atria imprint to write a biography of professional-wrestling pharaoh Vince McMahon. It’s called Ringmaster: The Life and Times of Vince McMahon, and, like my Stan Lee bio, it will be written for a general audience — no prior knowledge of or enthusiasm for wrestling required. McMahon is a supremely fascinating figure: a man who grew up with few prospects for a notable life, discovered that he was the heir to a wrestling empire at age 12, eventually took over that empire, brutally destroyed all of his competitors, revolutionized the art of pro wrestling, plumbed the depths of the lowest common denominator, embarked on a number of spectacularly failed outside business ventures in a quest to be taken seriously, became a close confidant of Donald Trump, and now finds his dominion’s fate uncertain. I think you’ll dig it.
In August, we moved to Providence, Rhode Island! To a layperson, it may seem like a random choice, but oh, how wrong that layperson would be. My grandfather moved to Providence from the Boston area in 1946 and lived here until his death in 2004, meaning my dad was born and raised here and, thus, I have been to the city many times a year since I was an infant. S.I. lived here a while back for nearly a decade (she was a reporter at the then-still-formidable Providence Journal) and is from the Boston area, originally. As such, we both have lots of family in the Greater Boston-Providence Nexus and lots of affection for the place, itself. We bought a house and are very happy to be here, as are the cats. If you’re in the area, give us a shout!
Of course, this has all happened against the backdrop of the worst year in the history of the world at large, so there’s been a fair amount of dread and misery, too. But I’m extremely lucky and can’t complain too much about my own little world.
Now, on to the main course. Given that I was working on two books and experiencing major life upheavals, I didn’t publish all that many things this year, alas. But, given that I don’t have a real job anymore, I was able to pick my spots and only write things I was passionate about. Quality, not quantity, and all that. Here’s what I wrote:
An updated edition of my 2018 essay on the urgency of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, an underappreciated sci-fi masterwork that’s all about finding meaning before and after the apocalypse.
An essay about the upcoming release of the so-called “Snyder Cut” of the superhero movie Justice League and the dark future for the entertainment industry that it portends.
A long reported feature about the strange life and shockingly long afterlife of the failed 1966 Broadway musical It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman.
An essay about the moral and artistic bankruptcies of superhero fiction, as seen through the lenses of the hit TV show The Boys and the work of the reviled-but-prescient midcentury psychologist Fredric Wertham.
An interview with a man who went viral after making a bizarre video remix that recapitulated the ending of Avengers: Endgame with various public figures in the starring roles.
A mid-length reported feature about the Israeli TV series Valley of Tears (Sh’at Ne’ilah in Hebrew), a show that dares to depict the unspeakably traumatic 1973 war between Israel and some of its neighbors — and makes a few tragic mistakes of its own along the way.
A very long reported feature about Yehuda HaKohen, an enigmatic and divisive man who was born and raised a rich kid (and gang member) in NYC, then moved to the Holy Land, where he became a rabbi and moved to the occupied West Bank; he now presides over a growing network of young Jewish-American devotees who swear by his heterodox ideology of intense religio-ethnic fundamentalism and quasi-leftist advocacy for Palestinian liberation, among other tenets. (If you only read one article by me from 2020, make it this one.)
That’s it! That’s all I got. Well, I guess I can still provide one last kitty pic:
Ain’t they precious?
Well, folks, I wish you a happy new year and hope we’ll all have a chance to give each other hugs in 2021. Be well!