Phrenologisticals, Retrograffiticists, Cinemastes, lend me your eyes! I want to tell you of a very strange and different book. Yes, ‘tis true, and its title is Giraffes on Horseback Salad.
First, the boring part. I was in my car, foolishly without my iPod with which I listen only to interesting podcasts and books, so in its absence I’d punched in NPR. Here I heard a portion of a story (it’s always just a portion; I seem to have the bad fortune of tuning in when it’s time for one of their annoyingly frequent 17-minute-long “We’re sponsored by you, our listeners, and . . .” segments, almost without fail) and these four words blew out of my arrest-me-red Lamborghini Veneno’s multi-channel forty-four speaker 4,000-watt surround sound system. BOINGG! Grabbing my iPhone off its dash mount and, heedless of my speed (approximately 134.6 MPH) or the four lanes of rush-hour traffic coming toward me in my lane, I spoke these four words into the voice recorder. Otherwise, my friends, I assure you they would have been lost for all the rest of Time As We Know It.
Home (safely) in front of my iMac, I learned that this four-word thing was a book. Yes! Not an iBook, but a real book! I found, strewn across the iInternet, scattered references to it, but I had to see it myself (just as you ought to do) and so was off to Barnes & Noble. The UP escalator was, as usual, busted, but I finally reached the second floor, found the book and excitedly flipped pages. I knew at once that I had to own it, reveling in the knowledge that I’m a connoisseur of only the finest of graphic novels (first edition copy of Watchmen, never read, mint condition, ya-ha-ha) and yet confessing that I had a lifetime absence of interest in the Marx Brothers (oh yes, more coming on that.)
Well, unfortunately for B&N, they were selling Giraffes on Horseback Salad at its full list price of $30. So I thumbed it into my Amazon app, where I learned I could make it mine for just $17.54 – nearly half the price! And FREE SHIPPING! Sadly, I replaced it, a first edition, on the shelf, forcing myself to defer gratification for two endless days.
As I’m sure you know, life is teeming with unanticipated consequences, and mine is no exception. I opened Giraffe when it arrived (still a first edition, YAY!), once again enchanted by its cover art (and the words “The Strangest Movie Never Made!”) and set it on the kitchen table while I attended to my caffeine craving. When I turned back to pick it up, it was gone! My son had grabbed it and disappeared. It took me three days to find it on the floor of his, ahem, den, partially hidden under his bed and strewn with yesterday’s underwear.
So now, with Giraffe finally in my very own hands, I have begun my perusal. What I’ve learned is this: the script (sic) for the movie was conceived by Salvador Dali, the great Spanish surrealist painter. He was abetted by Harpo Marx, one of the four fabulous (and also rather surreal) Mark Brothers (“Duck Soup” anyone?). Harpo took Salvador to a meeting with his producer at MGM, Irving Thalberg who, upon reading Dali’s script – little more than random handwritten thoughts set to paper in practically undecipherable French – dropped dead. (OK, I made that last part up.)
Anyway, back to the book. I got wicked deep into the front matter, learning how this 1937 film production never got produced (you may be curious as to why; me too), and lots about the friendship that it inspired between Dali and Harpo. There were also a lot of really interesting mentions of other art and movies and books and stuff that got me off on a bunch of tangents of curiosity. This may in fact have resulted in my not get around to the graphic novel – you know, the meat of the story, so to speak – itself.
But I eventually got to page 42, having been enthralled reading about the harp Dali gave to Harpo (Harp. Harpo. Get it?) and glancing at the facing page (which reads, “The Opening Credits Roll . . .”) which when turned would obviously reveal the story – well, you could also call it a storyboard of what the film might have been, I guess, because, remember, the film didn’t ever get made and so these really sharp contemporary fanguys, Josh Frank and Tim Heidecker, kind of created it in this graphic-novel format with really great artistic rendering by this really cool Spanish lady named Manuela Pertega, and so even though I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, I think it’s great, I love it, and I’ll probably take to bed tonight.
If I write a Part II review I’ll be sure to tell you about just that, but by then I expect you’ll probably have bought a copy of the book for yourself. Fine, you just do that. Don’t forget, it’s almost half-price on ole rotten, greedy, king of booksellers Amazon.
But you don’t want to not see the trailer on YouTube which tells a bit of the story, except it’s kind of a documentary trailer if you know what I mean, but it isn’t very long so go ahead, watch it, there aren’t any spoilers in it.
All done for now.