Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour for Brian Paul Bach’s second installation in the Forward to Glory Quartet: Exposition. And as a little icing on the cake I am delighted to showcase not one, but two, excerpts from this epic-noir-satire. I hope you enjoy the excerpts as much as I enjoyed the book, as this baby is a treasure trove of intertextuality for literature and cinema lovers alike.
Butterbugs is becoming somebody. He has come to Hollywood to act, and as an aspiring performer, so far, he is a survivor. His dream persists… though barely. But something’s coming.
He has had to endure nearly crushing challenges with a tenacity deserving its own kind of award. Perhaps simple luck is all that’s needed. It soon appears, from unexpected quarters. And starting there, his ascent begins.
Butterbugs is about to be exposed – as actor, as talent, as star. A splash like no other will soon inundate Hollywood.
In FORWARD TO GLORY’s guise as a four-part epic-noir-satire, EXPOSITION continues the grand procession commenced in TEMPERING. Proudly episodic, unabashedly sensational, it is a saga geared to a seasoned readership eager to embrace a daring narrative with determination and relish.
As he advances, Butterbugs is gifted with the assistance of many: Vonda – the superstar, who literally picks him off the street; The Angry Black Priest – the super-artist, who, out of tragedy, teaches him wisdom; Sonny Projector – the super-agent, who sees something exceptional in this intriguing unknown; Old Atrocity – the super-technician, whose cinematic expertise perfectly compliments the actor’s unique persona; Cody, Saskia and Justy – women to love, who love him; Pepper and Prairie – whose very existence may be nothing more than shadows on a screen but whose power is projected upon him; and Heatherette – whose reappearance saves his life.
The FORWARD TO GLORY Quartet
- Tempering – the Actor’s struggles
- Exposition – the Actor’s rise
- Apotheosis – the Actor’s climax
- Beyond Fin – the Actor’s legend
Today I’m going to leave the review itself a little bit on the shorter side because I don’t like having posts that are too long, and I really didn’t want to have to choose between the two excerpts provided! So, I’ll let the excerpts do most of the talking and keep my opinions to a (relative) minimum.
I’ll start off in saying that the book description wasn’t kidding when it stated that the series is intended for seasoned readers, but if you’re willing to engage you’re intertextual brain this book won’t disappoint. I loved the frequent allusions to literary giants like Johnathan Swift, pop culture icons like Beyonce and Brad Pitt, and iconic architecture. And that’s not even touching on the mile a minute references to countless films spanning from Hollywood’s golden era to present day.
I really appreciated the consistent and complete referencing throughout – it’s been a while since I encountered parenthetical in-text citations in my pleasure reading, but I liked it! The academic in me wants the references at the end of each book instead of having to wait for the fourth instalment to cone out, but the reality is that I am jus thrilled to see each and every source cited. I was struck too, by the claim that too few of todays stars lack even a fundamental literacy in cinema and the industry that shaped it. I’m not sure if this statement was meant to be applied to just theatre and cinema, but it certainly resonates.
I’m not going to lie, Exposition can be bit heady, but if you read the satire and not the surface it’s a humorous take on some deep seated issues with a simultaneous walk through cinematic history. Some of the heavy hitting issues include drug use, addiction (even today’s opiod crises), societal and industry pressures, homelessness, sex work, the current American presidency, international relations, racial inequality and even police brutality. Of all Butterbug’s helpers TABP was by far my favourite as he not only speaks with eloquence but he doesn’t pull any punches.
Would I recommend this book? Sure. It’s most definitely an intellectual, if not academic, read but it has a ton to offer. I definitely enjoyed the political commentary more than I connected with Butterbug’s, but that’s mostly because the topics were so broad ranging. Deep, insightful, and undeniably critical this one will make you put your thinking pants on.
Butterbugs, the chief protagonist in this four-part saga – of which TEMPERING is the first, and EXHIBITION the second – is a nobody from nowhere, who came to Hollywood to try his chances at acting in films. His initial experiences were dispiriting. But his persistence starts to pay off. Chance encounters provide upward mobility, and soon he is discovered, and the roles begin to come.
In chapter 33, ‘I Vomited Violently’, Butterbugs is on the verge of stardom. However, stresses have pushed him into a crisis with drugs. He is rescued by his girlfriend Cody, who sends him to an eminent doctor in New York for treatment.
NYC: high-rise at 500 Fifth Ave. An upper floor, with great views from a suite that allowed onto both the East and Hudson Rivers in chamfered aspect. It happened to be the office of a doctor of Orthogonal Psychiatry and Tensagenic Medicine (OPTM), who was world-renowned: Dr. Pixie Jasperberry Huapphuapp (BTh, Oxon, PhD UC Berkeley, MD Cantab).
After his third week in super-sized treatment and analysis, the ‘cast’, so to speak, that had protected Butterbugs’ mind and body while healing, was ready to come off.
It was a beautiful, season-less day over Gotham. The atmosphere was savory, the cityscape bright. Like a daystar, a ray of sun caught on a panel of the lantern atop the distant Cities Service Building and shot into the doctor’s office like a laser beam. It lasted for a second only, then was gone. The door upon which it hit, as chance would have it, then opened, and Dr. Huapphuapp came through.
‘Good day, Butterbugs. And a fine day it is! You are clearly rested and ready for us to wrap up our sequence of treatment. All procedures are now complete. I realize that, in its course, we haven’t dealt with some basic topics; sort of ‘background-type things’, you might say. I thought we could just have a pleasant wind-down session as a finale. We can talk about anything. Anything at all. Your questions?’
‘Your name. I’ve never heard one like it before, but I suppose it’s all right.’
‘You’ve a right to ask, as it is unusual. Like ‘Butterbugs’, really. I married Seltzer-Mendel Huapphuapp, of judiciary fame, five years ago, but we are estranged. Intact, I am an O’Kenna, the descendent of Celtic princesses.’
Her words were without guile.
‘Now there’s a thing!’ commented Butterbugs, lacking a similar statement of his own to make. He wasn’t even sure which hemisphere his ancestors hailed from, north, south, east, west, northeast, south-southwest… That is, if he even had any ancestors at all. Perhaps he could claim some Alexandrine conundrum of origins leading back to Hunza, or somewhere. And there was always the planet Saturn to consider… But never mind.
He was struck by her sudden physicality.
‘And you and Cody?’
Here was the opportunity to find out why his case was actually taken up by the really quite amazing Dr. Huapphuapp in particular, and not some other specialist.
‘We roomed together at Smith,’ she added.
Everything made sense now. Now he could truly relax. Now he could be truly emotional.
‘Cody! She saved me! You both did! Me from myself, and the forces swirling about me in such confounding whirligigs! The only way I can possibly thank you is to – well, humbly and quietly say… Thank you.’
‘You’re very welcome, Butterbugs. I like success stories.’
‘Cody’s really something.’
‘She is for a fact. I knew she’d make an important contribution somewhere. And I’m not just talking about saving you!’ Her eyes smiled more than her mouth.
‘Looks like you both did. Important contributions, I mean. Not just saving me, of course.’
‘Indeed,’ she sighed. ‘But on opposite coasts. We rarely get together these days. In fact, why didn’t she fly out with you? It would have been heaven, seeing her again.’
‘She’s got some big stuff at the studio. And her kids…’
‘Are you, um, still dating? Oh, pardon, excuse my bluntness… This isn’t an ‘official’ session, you know… And we’re not in my professional examining rooms, either…’
Butterbugs was somewhat pleased that the doctor now had her own questions, for him. Er, he.
‘Cody and I? Er, Cody and me?’
‘Uh-huh. Yes, that’s right.’
‘Doctor, after what we’ve been through, you can ask anything you want. Why, you and I are practically –’
One of her coppery eyebrows rose.
‘Cody and me, that is; I mean, I love Cody. And Cody loves me. We decided – We’re friends. Friends forever.’
‘I get the picture. I just wanted to know. If you, ah, had a support system and all. Waiting for you, on the Coast.’
‘Oh, yeah. I know now that I can rely on Cody for all the support I’d ever need. And hopefully, I can give some back. She’s so cool. She’s been just… awesomely great. We’re both really busy, you know. Or, she’s really busy. I’m not sure about me, right now.’
‘That’s one of the reasons I asked, Butterbugs.’
‘To make sure I don’t go… wobbly again?’
The doctor obviously had a bit of fun saying that word. Not so ‘officially’ sober today.
‘I’m touched by your caring, my Doctor. No, I think that, with you on one coast, and Cody on the other, you two roommates have me covered. Relapse? Impossible. This I know.’
‘In your actor’s soul?’
‘And past it, Dr. Huapphuapp. In my real soul, too!’
‘All the way down?’
‘Abbb-solutely!’ he mimicked, cheerfully, flatteringly, sincerely.
She knew he spoke absolute truth.
‘It’s as if – All that time, that time before I knew of my condition, that I was sort of, I don’t know, vomiting violently. Inside. A violence of some kind, you know? I didn’t even have any kind of overview. Now I do.’
Dr. Huapphuapp smiled.
‘I’m glad I didn’t disappoint you.’
‘You really helped me.’
‘It was my pleasure, Butterbugs.’
‘Perhaps prevented me. From…’
He drew closer, regarding her. She did the same. Suddenly, breathing grew short. Things changed.
Now an established star with a huge following, Butterbugs experiences one triumph after another. In Chapter 62: ‘My Way’, between filming assignments, he is offered a temporary post as COO of a corporation (actually a trophy distraction, while the corrupt owners reorganize). Naive in business matters and unaware of the deception therein, he agrees. The corporate headquarters happen to be in an inverted skyscraper, extending deep into the ground. An earthquake strikes. Having been seduced by the lavish lifestyle, he is jolted back to his true self as an actor. Butterbugs and Dr. Plerrie, a geologist, make an epic climb out of the wreckage.
The two trekked upwards. They felt a growing confidence that they were actually clearing the danger zone, and already formulating statements for the media, whom they knew lay awaiting. And between them, a bonding friendship automatically grew. Future fireside chats reviewing their adventure, and lectures in seismic breakthroughs were already in the planning stage, first at Butterbugs’ place, then at College’s. For the actor now wanted to immerse himself in the Dry Sciences, and looked forward to the PhD’s diffusion of his earth knowledge. Similar to his companion’s professional approach to today’s event’s outcome, the actor’s mind was awash with new ideas about a return to acting. He was even pondering a College Plerrie biopic, structured via flashbacks punctuated throughout the expository scenes, such as the very disaster they climbed and strived through at this very moment. Needless to say, Butterbugs himself would play ‘That Really Stupid Guy’.
Near the top (and certain relief), College Plerrie mis-stepped on a pile of Private Sex Gym bathmats that had been thrust up in the mad exhale of the crustscraper’s expiration. They covered the moody heights like mediæval shingles on a Prague tower’s turret, and looked solid enough.
‘Well now, oops…!’ the PhD ejaculated, and prepared to correct his ankle-twister with a deft choreographic step sideways.
It was indeed a fateful choice, as, Matterhorn-like, any climbable surface chanced to trick and subvert the untrained alpinist, so that even a Dougal Haston might be confounded into End Times, due to faintedness and sheer disbelief. It was no more than a matter of several millimeters, one way or another. The fact was, the move was not so much a mis-step as it was a hurried decision. But alas, it was on the wrong side.
The mat therefore became a teeter-totter, and the slant being what it was, it served to slough off the weight that was now borne upon it, dispensing the geologist in the undesirable direction of down, down, down.
‘So stupid. Really, so stupid…’ were the words of Plerrie’s analytical reaction to his latest gesture. Scientist that he was, the statement remained intact until it was properly delivered, regardless of the radical direction their speaker had taken.
‘I’m falling,’ was the speaker’s next pronouncement. ‘Yes, I’m falling now.’
Butterbugs looked down, aghast.
‘Oh, my holy, fucking…’
Though the geologist had some of the physique of the great mountaineer Reinhold Meisner, he lacked the skill to do the kind of key somersault necessary to land properly on a three-inch-deep ledge. Unlike Meisner, who’d pulled it off, all was lost, and he fell in ugly sequences on down to the remaining sheets of the Solarium roof.
Down. Way down.
It was over half an hour before Butterbugs was able to arrive at that accursed spot, and he made his way across the static plain to aid and comfort his unfortunate friend.
Indeed, the friend breathed yet! Except for a hideously gashed head, there was no overt sign of injury, but there was no movement either, except for eyelids that opened under pools of tears and lips that chanced to make words.
‘Here I lie! Here it ends as I thought it never would,’ College said in a strained croak. ‘In my quest for work, I answered the call in this morn’s light with sincerity and cheerfulness, and now I add my number to this sad, needless incident’s list of innocents!’
‘My dear fellow…!’ was all Butterbugs could say in reply.
‘Ah… I forgive you, Butterbugs! Oh yes, I do. As surely as my body has been broken by the bars of these here stricken remains, I care not to proceed with any sort of litigation holding you as liable for what has happened to me this day!’
‘College! College! Oh! Oh!’
‘Indeed, in our victory, I was going to, to… on – on bended knee, if you can believe it – humbly and apologetically thank you for the opportunities of this event on this… occasion. This – this – event! To be here, in unimaginable actuality! The flowering of my science! It was you, you, you! However horrendous, my dream was to make something instructive, something remonstrative – a great Precautionary Work to give to the world. As a warning… Oh! Help me! Hold me! I am slipping deeper…!’
Butterbugs’ star continues to rise, further and further – higher than any star ever. The climax is told in FORWARD TO GLORY’s third Act: APOTHEOSIS.
Thus, the themes for each of FORWARD TO GLORY’s four Acts: I. TEMPERING [the Actor’s struggles], followed by II. EXPOSITION [the Actor’s rise], III. APOTHEOSIS [the Actor’s climax], and concluding with IV. BEYOND FIN [the Actor’s legend].
About the author: Brian Paul Bach is a writer, artist, filmmaker and photographer; he has worked across the entertainment business, in theatre, music and as an academic. He now lives in central Washington State with his wife, Sandra. His previous works include The Grand Trunk Road From the Front Seat, Calcutta’s Edifice: The Buildings of a Great City, and Busted Boom: The Bummer of Being a Boomer. He writes a regular column for Kolkata On Wheels magazine. The first book in the Forward to Glory quartet, Tempering, was released in March 2017.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ftgquartet/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/brianpaulbach/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/hooghlyside/
Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for organizing this tour, and to Authoright UK and Brian Paul Bach for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.