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The Fiction Issue 2012

Make the Book Cook

I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. That’s the way you really rise to the top.

Photos by Janicza Bravo

Shit, I almost forgot! I got a meeting! A huge meeting! And you know when I say huge meeting, I really mean a huge meeting. I don’t say stuff I don’t mean. That’s the thing about me. It’s what sets me apart from a lot of the charlatans here. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. That’s the way you really rise to the top. Because if people know that you mean what you say, that means you’re not afraid. And if you’re not afraid, you’re already ahead of the game.


Let me tell you something, people: You can count on your left hand how many people in this business aren’t scared out of their goddamn minds. We’re all like Jonah in the belly of the whale; however, the difference between this Jonah right here and the other Jonahs is that this Jonah right here and the whale have an understanding. The whale promises to send all the choice fish my way after he swallows them, and in return, I won’t build a bonfire in his fucking belly. I love this town, but don’t doubt for a second that I’d burn it all down if I had to.

But this meeting will hopefully be a breath of fresh air. Not to brag, but it’s with Yvonne Georgina! That’s right! That Yvonne Georgina. Novelist! Philosopher-artist! Writer! My personal favorite. I’ve read Love in the Time of Wanting More Love about 17 times. And every time it makes my eyes shvitz. She’s got this new one, though. Hot off the presses, just simmering on the shelves. A Degree of Anger Is Equal to Nothing. I curled up on my pool chair with a glass of Manischewitz and a box of Girl Scout cookies and read the entire 400-page beauty faster than a housefly farts. And I’ve never felt about a book like I did about this one. I never read a book and thought “MOVIE” so big, bright, and clear.

Yvonne’s books aren’t for sale, though. Anybody even offers, and she gets all J.D. Salinger without skipping a beat. Which is extra-annoying, because SHE LIVES IN HOLLYWOOD! Why would you live here and not sell your books for movies? It’s like some weird meshuga game she’s playing with herself. But I went to one of her readings once, and she liked my questions. (Of course she did. I ask great questions.) And she agreed to take a meeting with me. Maybe she’s got a thing for the Tribe. Most shiksas here do.


When I get to her place, she’s sitting in her yard, and she’s reading. Nothing like a beautiful woman reading. Really curls my back hair. Before she even says shalom, I start in with my magic like I’m reading my Torah portion.

“Yvonne, sugar. Sweet sugar Yvonne. Sweeter than sugar. What’s sweeter than sugar? Yvonne. You sugar! You got the sweet and none of the sour. You leave that sour to your sweet three-dimensional characters. Listen here, darling. I’ve read A Degree of Anger Is Equal to Nothing more times than I’ve called my mother in the past five years. And I call my mother a lot. I’m a Jew. That’s what I do. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. You know other cultures. You know them like they’re your own, and then you use your own words and make them ours. I can’t get the book out of my head, sweetie. Please, oh please, oh pretty please, do me the honor of doing your book the honor of making your honorable book into a slam-bangin’ groovy movie!”

“I hate movies. They’re empty.”

“Hey, you don’t have to tell me, sweetie. I hate movies too. They’re the worst. The best of them are worthless, and the rest of them are less than that. I wake up every morning, and I can’t believe I’m in this horrible business, committed to nothing but making these pieces of dreck that go up on a stupid wall. I hate that. That’s why I’m trying to make movies into something more than just movies. To me, movies should be… VISUAL BOOKS! I’ll take your book, and I’ll make it cook. I’ll make that book cook, baby! I’ll take that book to cook and make that book cook!”


“Shut up!”


“Shut up already!”

See that? See how I did that? You probably think she’s telling me to shut up to send me on my exodus. Wrong. Here’s a lesson: You get a “Shut up!” like that, you better have that contract ready. Because someone’s ready to sign. And she signs. She signs that line. And I feel oh so fancy fine!

I’m the best!

This is the second chapter of Combover, Brett Gelman’s new novel about Hollywood, the beauty of the Jewish tradition, baldness, and murder. We will be serializing it throughout the rest of the year. Read "Smart as a Rabbi," the previous installment.