Armagideon Time

Boy, you’ve got to prove

January 12th, 2016

I didn’t post the above 1985 ad to point out that a novelization of Desperately Seeking Susan exists.

Of course one did. It was a time when portable video was in its clunky, expensive infancy and current VHS hits ran for sixty non-adjusted bucks a pop. Novelizations were an integral part of the studios’ marketing and merch platform, and also provided a fallback source of income for farm league freelancers struggling between rejection notices. The $4.95 price tag was a bit steep, considering I bought my first Stephen King book (Different Seasons) around this time for just shy of three bucks, but I’m sure the difference was due to a multi-page photo-insert and the (optimistically) perceived value of the “brand.”

It was $4.95 because a phalanx of suits determined the exact point where maximum profit ended and diminishing returns began.

But that’s neither here nor there. I posted the image because it reminded me of a certain personality quirk I’ve struggled long and hard to suppress. My research exposes me to a lot of ancient pitches for retrologically totemic artifacts — oddball film novelizations, forgotten music compilations, doomed-from-the start toy lines, and so forth. When I stumble across a particularly choice item, my first impulse is to tab over to eBay or Amazon to purchase a copy for myself. Given my love of esoteric crap, the asking prices for these items tends to run on the extremely low end of the affordability spectrum. (For example, I got both MTV’s Amp compilations on CD for a penny plus shipping each.)

If it ended there, it wouldn’t be a problem. Yet the cheapness and sense of giddiness I get upon discovering a new trashcult vein to mine typically lead me to cast aside all restraint and chuck a dozen similar offerings into my virtual shopping cart. “Maybe I’ll make A PROJECT out of this,” I lie to myself as I wait for the goods to make their way from a geographically scattered constellation of sellers to my front porch.

Unfortunately, my interest fades fast after the arrival of the first package. Fascinating junk is still junk, and I’m no longer of an age where I’d subject myself to the turgid prose of a Murphy’s Romance novelization (based on a screenplay based on a 1980 novella) for the entertainment of a dwindling number of readers. If I was getting paid to do it, it would be another matter — one that would have the same outcome, but with an extra dash of resentment and stress thrown into the mix. (No worries, though, because I’m pretty sure I’ve alienated or insulted every venue willing to hire me on a freelance basis.)

Ditto for a serious academic overview. If I wanted to take that route, I wouldn’t have engineered my expulsion from grad school.

In the end, these hauls of hastily purchased garbage end up piled on the end of the coffee table or next to my side of the bed. There they join, and are in turned joined, by additional sedimentary layers of popcult detritus until Maura’s expression grows too frowny to ignore safely and they embark on a glacial migration to an attic corner already cluttered with Fighting Fantasy paperbacks, old issues of Creem, crated up Micronauts figures and too many longboxes of quarter bin comics. Over time, I forget I even bought them in the first place.

And when I die, it will be all picked over by some estate sale vultures or dragged out in bins to the curb on trash day.

Geez, that took a darker turn than intended. In any case, I did not immediately seek out a copy of the Desperately Seeking Susan novelization after stumbling across the above ad…and that was entirely due to some introspection about my habit and not because I discovered that TIME did a late 1960s series of paperback digests covering historically significant years oh gosh I can’t wait for 1968 and 1969 to arrive in the mail.

4 Responses to “Boy, you’ve got to prove”

  1. Chris Wuchte

    As someone with a wife who’s also not too keen on piles of pop cultural debris piling up in my computer room, I sympathize. I’m not sure why, but several years ago, something clicked in my brain and I found myself doing a complete reversal and deciding enough was enough, resulting in things either being sold on eBay/Amazon, or being chucked into the trash on a lazy Sunday to be picked up by either the garbage collector or the people who cruise along for the sole purpose of plucking items left curbside for themselves. I never thought my room would ever be described as “minimalist”, but it’s pretty close these days.

    In the ’90s, I was in charge of shelving movie novelizations at Borders (they fell under the Movie/TV section that I’d requested to be in charge of). They were already dying out by then – it only took up one shelf, yet they would consistently send 25-50 copies of “hot” titles that would usually end up in backstock. But the oddest things was when they would insist on keeping something in stock years after it was relevant. I specifically remember Schwarzenegger’s “Eraser” occupying a slot for the entire two years I worked there.

  2. SJB

    On the other hand,I’ll take the crated up Micronauts off your hands 😀

  3. Dave

    I’ve been checking in on your blog at least every week or so for a while now and just wanted to say that I really enjoy it and am grateful you take the time to put it out there. The end.

  4. Snark Shark

    “Micronauts figures”

    Those were soooooooooooo cool!

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