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Authors: Christopher Buckley

Wry Martinis

BOOK: Wry Martinis
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Also by Chrístopher Buckley

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Copyright © 1997 by Christopher Taylor Buckley
Illustrations copyright © 1997 by Michael Witte

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Stephanie Mansfield for permission to reprint
“Fax Fire: Tom Clancy Takes on Buckley over Pan of Book” originally published in
The Washington Post
, October 6, 1994.

Most of the essays in this work have been previously published in the following periodicals:
American Health, Architectural Digest, At Random, Chicago Tribune, Condé Nast Traveler, Esquire, Forbes, House and Garden, Key West Restaurant, Los Angeles Times, Museum and Arts Washington, My Harvard, My Yale, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Portsmouth Abbey Alumni Magazine, Regardie’s, USA Weekend, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post
, and
The Washington Post Book World.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Buckley, Christopher, 1952-
Wry martinis/Christopher Buckley.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-307-79987-6
1. American wit and humor. I. Title.
PN6162.B798 1997
814′.54—dc20 96-8336

Random House website address:
http://www.randomhouse.com/

v3.1

For Mum and Pup

 

No animals were harmed in the making of this book.

Contents

My Title Problem

This is my sixth book, and I’ve had a hard time coming up with titles for all of them. I thought it would get easier, but it hasn’t. I should be better at it, since I’m also a magazine editor and coming up with titles is a big part of that job. When I was a junior editor at
Esquire
in the ’70s, I would break out in a sweat trying to come up with clever titles.
Esquire
was famous for them: “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” “Las Vegas (What?). Las Vegas (Can’t Hear You! Too Noisy!).
Las Vegas!!!!
” “Hell Sucks.”

One time I spent three days on one headline. I’m not going to tell you what I came up with, because you’d only say,
You spent three days on—that?

This is mostly a collection of my magazine stuff. Random House doesn’t want you to know that. Publishers flaunt the word “collection” on a book cover the way canned soup makers do the words “Tastes best if eaten before the year
A.D.
2010.”

I wanted to call it
Oeuvre to You. Oeuvre
is a classy French word. No one knows how to pronounce it, but if you make a sound similar to the one you’d make right before throwing up a plateful of
choucroute garni
, you’ve pretty much got it. I faxed the title to my father, to whom this book is dedicated, along with my mother. He faxed back “NO!!!” which I took to mean NO!!!

Then I came up with
Ruined Weekends
, which sounded stately and grand. For some reason, most of the pieces in here were due on Monday. I tried it out on my editor, Jonathan Karp. With the sensitivity that is his trademark, Jon agreed that it was stately, even grand, but said it was “a kind of a downer.” Some people, he said, might have a hard time getting past the word “Ruined.”

No comparisons intended, but you wonder if Gibbon today would be able to sell a publisher on
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
They would probably call it
How Kinky Sex, Greed and Lead Goblets Caused the Collapse of the Roman Empire—And How It Can Rise Again!?
Or
Barbarians at the Gate.

I came back at Karp with
Want to Buy a Dead Dictator?
It’s a reference to a hoax we undertook in the pages of the magazine I edit,
Forbes FYI.
We announced with a straight face that the Russians were so strapped for hard currency that they were preparing to auction off the corpse of Lenin. Peter Jennings of ABC’s
World News Tonight
went with the story and the Russians went intercontinentally ballistic. It became a big international story. Karp’s reaction to my brainstorm was, “We can’t have the words ‘dead’ and ‘dictator’ in the title. No one will buy it.”

The book biz is littered with might-have-been titles. Andre Bernard wrote a fun book a few years ago called
Now All We Need Is a Title
, recounting some of the more resplendent clunkers.
The Great Gatsby
came close to being called
Trimalchio in East Egg
(Trimalchio being the rich patron in Petronius’s
Satyricon
). Waugh wanted to call
Brideshead Revisited, The House of the Faith.
On the other hand we might now be saying with equal incredulity, “Can you believe Woodward and Bernstein almost called
At This Point in Time, All the President’s Men?

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