The Last Supper: Being eventually a PROPOSAL for a column called DINING LATE WITH CLAUDE LA BADARIAN, By Claude La Badarian

| 11 Nov 2014 | 10:58

    Being eventually a PROPOSAL for a column called DINING LATE WITH CLAUDE LA BADARIAN, By Claude La Badarian


    Dear Henry, Thank you for your great decency to me at lunch and for your invitation to "pitch some ideas." You know that I have been feeling quite marginal these days, and to feel still wanted is a great blessing even if nothing comes of it and one is not, in fact, wanted at all. I have been feeling unsocialized lately. I spit a bit when I talk, I am deaf in restaurants, unable to distinguish between voices and the clatter of cutlery, and since I refused to stop smoking after my wisdom teeth were pulled (things were very tense at home) I now have at least one case of "dry socket" which gives me breath like something emitted from a gangrenous wound.

    Please don’t say that I do not have bad breath: I saw you recoil. Several times. Also, I’ve gotten, as you noticed, hugely, hugely, overweight during my "exile" from New York City–an exile I used to classify as Petrarchan, Machiavellian even, as if I had fallen afoul of a faction. Now is not the time, as we have before, to discuss your concept of "paranoia" versus my concept of "hyperconsciousness" (in Vendler’s sense) as the thing that makes us writers: I will accept your suggestion that I am, or have been, slightly "paranoid," insofar as that term applies to Geniuses who are actually hyperconscious as well as, rounding to the point, quite broke.

    I suggested at lunch, laughing halitotically, that I would be spending the summer "barging in France." This is not the case. Today it turned out that SECOND NOVEL, which, as you know, was extremely well reviewed, has presented the worst balance sheet since the entire first edition of At Swim Two-Birds was destroyed by the Luftwaffe. This is no time to go into what excrement my publishers happen to be–the cover which would scare a cat off a fishwagon, the misapprehension that the book was a space-opera, the publicist who was sending out her resume as we "launched," etc.–I must deal, and deal frankly, with the fact that unless I have a job "soonest," as the agents say, at the bottoms of their communiques (also thanking you in advance for something you’re not going to do, and which they have no power to make you do), I am very likely going to lose my wife, to whom I had suggested for six months (possibly disingenuously: I am not fucking perfect: we must take domestic tranquillity where we can, especially in the La Badarian house) that we’d be seeing at least $57,000 in the first royalty period.

    Despite despair and body-image problems I find that I must spring into action and prostitute myself instantly, or, as an agent would say, instanter, and I have to tell you frankly, Henry, that a vaporous promise of freelance work is not going to save the La Badarian marriage at this particular juncture, especially considering the bills that I have run up while expecting $57,000–only to find myself in the hole for $34,296.23. My wife is a very innocent woman with no time for Art, having very little understanding of it, nor its occasional difficulties, and you could show her genius-class reviews all day and she would still think that you were, say, a common, flatulent drunkard who was destroying your family.

    Things are not going well. I am poor, obese, quite shitfaced most of the time, my doctor has stopped my Valium on the ridiculous excuse that I was "abusing" them rather than constantly knocking them down the drain and needing refills, and despite my early sexual career, with its Errol Flynn proportions (have I showed you my college ID? I used to do that to show people that there was still a human being in this flagrant deathsuit of obscene flesh), my libido, so central to my sense of well-being and thus the Creative Process (I am like Picasso in this), has flagged disastrously. When able to sleep in the same bed with a naked woman on birth control pills (none of these things are happening these days, Henry) I am open to gusts of opportunity, but I am incapable of arranging sex (much less getting on a condom before I think of money again) and thus have had no sex at all. Mei-Mei’s ex-husband, a dry-cleaner, has been circling around making displays of solvency. Things are desperate here.

    I know I told you the other day that I would be barging in France (probably without the barge, you thought, as I crammed the cheesecake into my face at Pastis) and was likely to be unavailable for so much as a book review until September, and though I know you weren’t even serious about the book review, the La Badarian stock being as low as it is these days, I am pleading to you, before God, to give me a contributing editorship before sundown. I’ll do anything. I’ll give you half the money back, under the table. This must happen in the industry. If it doesn’t, it’s almost our job to bring corruption to the surface where it belongs. I’ll do anything, Henry. I’ll work in the office, I’ll work out of the office, I’ll do heds and deks as fucking piecework, but I need a contract by today and a business card by Monday or I’m a dead man.

    Not least among my concerns is that I certainly can’t find myself without a wife (even this one) just before Luther publishes his memoir, not only revealing that I was once as gay as French springtime, but undoubtedly featuring the scene in which I crawled on the floor begging him to not let me die alone. You see my concerns. Call these concerns "paranoid" if you will. There comes a time in every writer’s life when he realizes that he has a biography rather than a life. Some of us can delay this disastrous cognition until the Pulitzer, or the Lethe of senility; but I’ve been worried since the age of sixteen about unborn people wondering about what "lay behind" my poems, and where I was living, and whose purse I was taking pills out of, and so forth. Paranoids, Henry, have real biographers–especially when, like me, Claude La Badarian, they’re massive polymathic geniuses.

    You have to understand, as you probably do, that despite my two Ivy degrees, the reading-glasses I wear on a chain in tasteful acceptance of middle age, and my accent, which, like yours, shapes its course toward the Mid-Atlantic when I’m loaded, that I come from a respectable family. There were no drunkards falling off sailboats in the La Badarian genepool, Henry, nor anybody writing novels. Olives and autonomy are hard for me, Henry: the minute I washed up on the seacoast of Bohemia and realized that people were looking at me, I wished I was a small-town lawyer, or dead: I get hives when I’m in the paper for any reason and I had, rather famously, a complete breakdown when the publisher of SECOND NOVEL (still the best debut-novel title I’ve ever heard of) asked me to write a thing called "In His Own Words" for the publicity packet. Writing about myself without saying "genius" was like having fifteen minutes to appeal my own death penalty without using vowels. I couldn’t do it. I ended up in the hospital.

    Let us turn to practicals. I am well aware that our lunch was a "mercy lunch"–in better days I gave them myself–but we did have a lunch and we did pretend that you had money and were going to give it to me…so let us continue our pretense. Let us pretend that your Question What could you do for the magazine? was serious. Well, I will tell you what I could do for the magazine. That is, apart from making it fucking readable. What you need at the magazine–what you need–from my position as the shrewd, consummate magazine professional I have been, as you know, in my spare time–is a dining column. I don’t know how to "pitch" it except as a dining column written by me. Me, Claude La Badarian, with my special insights, waspish yet fair, into the human heart. I will go to a restaurant, Henry, and sitting there, across from me, will be a Famous Person, up close and personal, tete a tete… DINING LATE WITH CLAUDE LA BADARIAN. That’s all we need: that and (as you are perhaps, Henry, beginning to realize) a tremendously large expense account: Talent takes care of the rest–as I once tried to tell you while slamming your head into a curbstone outside the Royalton that night, early in your rise to power, when you bought all that bad coke from your usual dealer and were impotent with a transsexual prostitute. Strangely enough, Henry, "LaDonna"’s beeper number is still active after two years, and her career has not been prospering, possibly owing to open sores which would look fantastic on the cover of the Post. She is completely psychotic and still looking for a break as an actress.

    Dining Late with Claude La Badarian. Imagine it, Henry: I’ll have a dinner with famous actresses and describe the oceanic sexual tensions after I show them my old college ID… We will have film stars, world leaders, the movers and shakers, with food on their faces saying stupid shit after a number of cocktails. Newsbreaks? Rely on them. That’s what alcohol is for, as you know better than anyone. What people want to know about celebrities are the normal things, the things that humanize them. How they eat, what they eat, what they say while they are eating…that’s what The Reader wants. And what The Reader wants more than anything, insofar as we, at this point, give a fuck what the reader wants, are my special insights into the human character, insights made while breaking bread, and written out (among my books, after my return to Saugerties with a paycheck) with that Renaissance exuberance which I have so famously, yet so unrequitedly, brought to 21st Century Prose… You know that Coleridge isn’t the last man to have read everything. I am. It doesn’t cut much ice at home these days, I have to tell you. Whatever possessed me to marry an illiterate with "security issues" even well beyond the first-generation Cantonese norm I have no idea, but I did, and now it’s all this.

    If you can’t help me out, Henry, the next time you break bread–do it in memory of me, for I will be gone. Remember, though, that before I go, before I accept martyrdom’s exquisite crown and have my wife throwing the rest of my shit at me in a grand finale transacted in full view of the neighbors in the trailerpark, I’ll tell everybody in the fucking world that it was you that shopped out the boss of your magazine group to Newsweek as a "downmarket whore" while she was still on the "editorial side," as we say, "helming" British Essentia.

    This is hardball, I know, and the mercy lunch was supposed to fix me, like a parking ticket. But I have four children, only one of them mine (if that), I have nowhere else to go, and two weeks ago the wife’s ex pulled up in a new Lexus (leased, but you can do such things if you have a job) to take his daughters to the fucking Vineyard at the same time as I was clumsily concealing a delinquent telephone bill. If you were man you would have job! Why I sleep with you if you have no money? Oh big famous man all you are is fat pig. I should sleep with garbageman. And so forth. I came in from the bar two nights ago to find my clothes neatly packed in trash bags, after having been thoughtfully cut into strips. I slept in a small shed outside the house and in the early hours, wandering out to take a piss, was sprayed by a skunk, a member–as I am, very nearly–of the animal kingdom. When I banged piteously on the door my wife threw chili sauce into my eyes. I spent last night under an overturned toddler pool, without cigarettes. Tonight I am back at home, but only because I came through a window, terrifying the babysitter, after the wife went to Bingo with her ex.

    There is a less-than-relaxing piece by Dowland on the NPR station; the moon rides high over the Catskills, where I have lived, Henry, in an aluminum hut set on cinder blocks; I have just tapped myself a refreshing glass of boxed Chablis; it’s just past two in the morning, one of the babies is screaming, possibly from meningitis for all I fucking know; you have child porn on your hard drive; I want a company card, a contributing editorship, a column called DINING LATE WITH CLAUDE LA BADARIAN, a Town Car to run me into Manhattan for my appointments with the Great, and an advance of $25,000 against a salary which should not be less than $175,000; you will send a bouquet to my wife with a card on it saying "Congratulations on your husband’s new job"; you will explain to the press that you were very lucky to get me before The New Yorker did; and you have until the close of fucking business tomorrow. "Editor at Large" would be nice, but I can accept no duties that would interfere with my attempt to reconstitute my ongoing novel from the shreds which I found blowing around the neighborhood the other day.

    With congratulations on your assumption of the "helm" at The Aristocrat, and expecting to hear from you soonest,

    Yours, Claude La Badarian Future Restaurant Critic The Aristocrat Magazine