The Lani Sarem “Sorry Not Sorry” tour has rolled right on into Vulture. Now, after the attack on readers and authors of color in YA that Vulture published earlier this year, I could give less than half a fart what they have to say about anything. But a lot of people who knew this story was being written promised it would be a good one. Writer Lila Shapiro doesn’t disappoint. Because the recap chapter this week is so short, allow me to pick out some choice quotes for you (although many of you have already skewered it in the comments on the last recap).
Her father died when she was a baby. She and her mother moved often, ten different states in Sarem’s first 19 years. Wherever they went, Sarem tried out for local theater productions and TV commercials, but all the best roles went to other girls. She realized that if she wanted to be a star, she’d have to write the script herself.
This explains so much, not just about the self-insert character she plans to play in the movie, but about her attitude toward other women who are performers. Women like Sofia prevented her from attaining the stardom she wanted, so they are obviously evil (as outlined in today’s chapter).
For about a decade, Sarem paid the bills by taking on entertainment gigs in Vegas and on the road. She worked at David Copperfield’s theater for a while.
So, for all those who’ve wondered in the comments, yes, she had practical experience working at a theater for a real live magic show. And somehow, none of that practical experience made it into her book.
“When I started writing, I really wanted all the things that I couldn’t have at that moment,” she said. “I wanted somebody’s love story to work out. I wanted this character to have all the things I was lacking, and then live vicariously through her.”
I suppose it’s refreshing to have someone admit that their character is 100% self-insert, rather than insisting everyone is reading too much into and they’re like, oh my gosh, so different. But this is more or less the same reason everyone writes fiction; they want to see something happen that didn’t happen, whether it’s a bullied high school girl using telekinesis to kill her classmates at the prom or a single-minded sea captain steering his whaling ship and crew to their doom. So, it’s not so much she wanted this stuff to happen to the character and she would live vicariously through the character. It’s that she wrote a wishful-thinking autobiography.
Thomas Ian Nicholas was also interviewed for this story:
Later, I spoke to Nicholas as well and asked what drew him to the script. He mostly spoke about himself, saying he was from Vegas and that his great-uncle was John Scarne, a Vegas magician who served as Paul Newman’s hand double in The Sting.
This more or less confirms, in my mind, that what we’re dealing with at the heart of this con job are two people who’ve lived in proximity to fame but never actually breached the barrier to it, thinking they have far more potential and cachet than they actually do.
The entire article is a gem and provides some dismayed chuckles from second-hand embarrassment as Sarem and Nicholas claim to have sold an impossible number of books at comic conventions, compare their scam to women’s suffrage (yes, really), state that three different editors worked on the manuscript, and insist that Nicholas’s star power has been the driving force behind the book’s overwhelming and totally valid success. But it all ends on a sour note; Wizard World has invited Sarem and Nicholas to all seventeen of their conventions in the coming year. Though they may have become infamous rather than famous, they’re still profiting, while legitimate authors couldn’t buy the type of welcome that’s being rolled out for them.
Unlike other chapters, we begin this one with the little triple moon symbol and italics that are ultimately meaningless. It opens at a bar off the strip where the cast and crew of the show are regulars. They’re there to celebrate the birthday of one of the crew members.
This usually happened if there was a birthday or any other celebratory event–as well as on the show’s “Friday” (which for the show has always been Tuesday night, since the show is dark on Wednesday and Thursday). I had learned that most shows don’t take their days off on the weekend because that’s when they sell the most tickes to shows and when Las Vegas, itself, is the busiest. So each show’s “dark days” are not usually Saturday and Sunday, and each show in town takes a different “weekend,” so no tourist will ever come to Vegas and find no one is doing a show.
Did you catch that? The shows don’t take the actual weekend off, so most of the shows don’t get Saturday and Sunday off. I’m glad she cleared that up for me, because when she said, “weekend,” I was like, “What part of the week is that? I’ve been in a coma since before man began to record time.” And please note, the “I.” This section set apart in italics begins in Lani’s first person POV.
McMullan’s is really where most of the cast and crew for all the major shows on the Strip go after work, because although it’s not on the Strip it’s easy to get to.
Again, I’m glad she reiterated that McMullan’s is the bar where everyone goes since in the opening paragraph of the chapter it’s described as “the spot frequented by everyone.”
They give drink specials after midnight just for those of us awesome enough to work in this so- called “entertainment business.”
Wow. You think super highly of your job there, Lanzi. I’m not sure if she phrased it that way because she genuinely doesn’t know what “so-called” implies or because she doesn’t find the show she’s in, or any of the shows on the Strip, entertaining.
Drew from the audio department for the show is a pretty good audio tech. He’s nice and sometimes awkward but still generally liked, so most everyone showed up to hang out. Mac was sitting at a small table by himself with an almost empty beer. He looked particularly tired and worn out from the long day. The conversation he had had the night before with Zade was still tossing around in his head.
This is a pretty damn impressive POV skew, if I do say so myself. We jump from first person to third person in the same paragraph. Also, here’s a writing tip: sometimes “had had” is unavoidable, and all writers everywhere hate it. However, this “had had” was avoidable, by making it “he’d had.” Whenever possible, avoid “had had,” if you can.
I don’t understand the point of these italicized sections. No, wait. I do get the point of them. Lani Sarem doesn’t get the point of them. If you’re going to set a different POV apart from the others with italics or little page ornaments, you can’t randomly make those sections share the main POV.
Sofia walked up with two glasses and slid one of the new beers in front of Mac right as he finished the last of the beer he had. She then placed her beer on the table directly in front of the empty chair next to Mac and, without asking if he minded, sat down next to him.
Keeping in mind that if Mac had the conversation with Sofia the night before, that means that a day after falling fifty feet and apparently going into cardiac arrest, Sofia is already coming to steal your man. Not even death can stop her vaginal hunger.
“Looked like you could use another one,” Sofia purred as she smiled sweetly and leaned in to him.
If you’d like to start ticking off boxes on your “slutty mean girl” bingo card, we’ve got “purring”.
“The bartender said it’s your favorite. One more won’t hurt, will it?” She batted her llong eyelashes and puckered her lips.
“Guess not? Glad to see you are better already. That ws quite the spill you took last night. […]”
Quite the spill? She fell fifty-feet and stopped breathing.
He took a sip of the beer and tried to edge away from sitting too close to Sofia without being obvious that was what he was doing.
Fear not, gentle reader! Our virtuous hero would never think of touching such a foul creature as the slatternly bar wench thrusting her devious bosom near to his person!
He truly wanted to give her a really hard time about not wearing the harness–and how dangerous it was and how she truly almost died–but he knew she wouldn’t listen anyway, so why bother?
First of all, thank you, anyfuckingbody, for noting that she could have had a fatal accident. Second, Mac prides himself on the job he does keeping everybody on the show safe, but he doesn’t feel like it’s worth his time to keep Sofia safe? Granted, it would make Zadi’s life a lot easier if the mean bitch who dared trespass into her story would just up and fucking die already, but you can’t exactly write a character who’s Mr. Safety and have him just shrug and go, “meh,” when it comes to one particular performer. Especially when we’ve never seen him have any beef with Sofia to the extent that he wouldn’t care if she died.
I mean, how much do you have to hate a person to not mind filling out their death paperwork? Or have your career forever followed by the specter of a performer dying on your watch?
Sofia tells him:
“I’m a quick healer and I have good genes. . . […]”
Not to completely distract from the recap, but has anyone else ever noticed how much the theme from the ’90s X-Men cartoon sounds like, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston?
Mac can’t figure out what Sofia is doing talking to him, so he asks her where Charles is. She tells him that Charles doesn’t like just hanging out, and Mac says he understands why. He says that what keeps Charles away from social gatherings is that he doesn’t know what to do with genuine human interaction, even though he’s really good at being in front of the press or performing.
His mind had drifted off to his own issues about genuine interaction with people and how much he couldn’t stop thinking about his conversation with Zade. He couldn’t remember the last time he had enjoyed being around anyone (male or female) in such a long time and that was scary to him.
So, now that we’ve established that Mac doesn’t like being around people…why is he at the bar? Also, what kind of sad, misanthropic life does this guy lead if the best time he’s had in a while is sitting on a loading dock, talking about Aimee Mann in the wake of a near-fatal work incident?
Sofia isn’t interested in anything Mac actually has to say because she is a succubus.
She then placed her hand over his hand lightly and began to rub it. The physical contact from Sofia jolted Mac out of his mental contemplation about Zade. He started to think that perhaps he was wrong; she didn’t seem to want a favor.
Who? Zade? Because that’s the last character with female pronouns mentioned in this paragraph.
Obviously, though, he means Sofia:
She seemed to be hitting on him and–if that were the case–well, he’d rather she had needed a favor. He decided he would still hold out hope that maybe she was trying to butter him up for whatever favor she needed. The other option was that she was hitting on him–and he felt very uneasy about that being a possibility.
She seemed to be hitting on him, but maybe she needed a favor, but the other option was that she was hitting on him. But maybe it’s a favor. But she could be hitting on him. But maybe it’s a favor. If she’s not hitting on him. She might just be asking a favor.
By the way, I actually skipped a huge paragraph that repeated all of this same “maybe she needs a favor” shit earlier in the scene. If you repeat the same concepts enough, you end up having a really nicely padded word count.
Mac thinks about how much trouble Sofia could make for him if he pisses her off by not responding the right way to her advances.
Sofia scooted her chair closer to Mac’s and looked longingly into his eyes. She started to play with his collar. “I bet you understand a lot of things,” she offered, breathing in deeply in the way a girl does to purposely draw attention to her cleavage.
What does that mean, “she offered“? What is she offering him in that sentence? Is she offering him the knowledge that he understands stuff?
Mac was finally sure that Sofia was hitting on him, and there appeared to be no favor she was trying to ask.
Glad we got that cleared up. Welcome to where the rest of us have been this entire time, Mac.
“Sofie, don’t hit on me. I don’t know if you are just flirting, or if you’re being serious–or a little bit of both–but it makes me uncomfortable,” he scolded.
We need to figure out this Sofie/a thing. When characters say her name out loud, they say “Sofie.” But in the narrative, it’s “Sofia.” Is “Sofie” her nickname? If so, why? It’s not any shorter or easier to say than “Sofia”. Plus, everyone on the cast and crew have these nicknames that are three or four letters long, specifically because they like to use shorter names. So why not “Sof” instead?
Mac reminds Sofia that she’s dating his boss (and in that dialogue, he calls her “Sofia,” so even that isn’t consistent).
“Would it make a difference if I was single?” she coaxed.
Are you? Did David Copperfield break up with you? Because that’s the only reason I can think of to hit on Mac when you’ve got billions of dollars waiting at home. Unless, of course, she’s hitting on Mac because she’s seen this undeniable chemistry just roiling between Zade and Mac and she wants to get back at Zade. Even then, that’s pretty flimsy motivation to endanger your job and your potentially lucrative banging of a rich and famous magician.
“No, it wouldn’t. It would only make a difference in how long I would allow you to flirt. And before you ask whether it woudl make a difference if we didn’t work together–again, you’re beautiful, and many guys would kill to be with you, but we lead very different lives. You wouldn’t be happy with a guy like me, and deep down you know that.”
Deep down, all of us know that. Sofia has been set up as this spoiled brat who gets to be in the show because she’s riding that magic D to fame town. Cheating on C.S. means she not only loses the prestige (see what I did there, magic fans?) of being the girlfriend of a star, she loses her job, too, and her connections. There’s no motivation here for her to want to climb on Mac, other than to show us how evil she is, stealing a man’s focus away from Zade for a few minutes.
It almost seemed like it had been planned that, at that exact moment, Mel, another girl Mel, who worked for the show, walked around the corner with a large cake lit with candles.
I feel like if they had a cake and candles, yeah, they probably did plan it. That kind of thing takes some forethought. And thanks for letting us know that it’s “another girl Mel.” I was getting her confused with all the other girl Mels previously mentioned in this book, and then I was getting them confused with all the guy Mels.
(We have never met a character named Mel until now.)
Then everyone sings “Happy Birthday” and we move on with another of those triple goddess page ornaments.
I had been rehearsing my spot in the show where I get to show off that I can dive from sixty feet in the air into a small area of water.
Isn’t that your entire “illusion”? How many times per show are you jumping into the water? It’s such a lucky coincidence that there just happens to be a pool of water already built into the theater for you to impressively dive into and/or near.
I had just hurled myself off the platform and used my hands to break the water before allowing my body to fall into the pool.
Thank you for describing that, as nobody reading the book knows what a dive is. Of course, this wouldn’t give anyone much of an idea if they really didn’t know, because divers don’t just “hurl” themselves and you don’t really “allow” your body to “fall” into the pool. You don’t really have much of a choice about your body going into the water if you’ve just dived from sixty feet up.
The dive is actually my favorite part in the show for several reasons but mostly because I love diving and the water in general–especially in a theater where it is always a warm ninety degrees.
Is the theater always ninety degrees? Is the air conditioner broken? And if you’re talking about the pool, it’s actually dangerous to do strenuous exercise (like diving) in water that hot. In any case, we can tell that you love diving because it’s pretty much the only thing we ever see you do.
She gets out of the water because it’s time to go get ready for the show.
As I stood up and shook my hair lightly and watched the water droplets from my hair fall to the ground, I realized Mac was standing there, like aways, with his clipboard.
If he’s always there, why did you have to “realize” he was there? Wouldn’t it just be a given? Oh, wait, you meant “with his clipboard, like aways.”
Ever since the Sofia incident he had had stopped being mean to me. It went even beyond that: not only was he not mean, he had started being nice. It hadn’t been an overnight thing but over the past few weeks he seemed to have slowly become sweeter to me–it was almost as if we were friends. He didn’t seem to dread to see or talk to me anymore, and wasn’t always bolting in the opposite direction when I was headed his way. I wasn’t trying to avoid him, either, and was getting to the point where I just about looked forward to seeing him.
She goes on to describe how she gave him a package of Red Vines and how much she liked how happy it made him.
Along the way, he had stopped bringing up the need to know about my illusion, which was great too, because he just couldn’t know.
In case you forgot, Lazdi has a big secret. But she does want to tell him. Kind of. But she can’t because reasons.
If she doesn’t tell him in the next chapter, I’ll be shocked.
Mac asks her if she likes the water, but she’s too “lost in his hazel eyes” to understand the question. He asks if she’s ever been scuba diving, and after a brief interruption by Tad, Mac tells Zani that the crew sometimes goes camping at Lake Mead to scuba dive on dark days.
“[…]It’s fun. You’ll have to come out with us sometime. . . eh. . . if you want.”
Whoa, slow down there, Mac. You’re way too enthusiastic.
I loved the term loved the term dark days as the way to talk about days off for shows.
Wanna know how I know this book didn’t have three editors?
As much as Lani loves having a new vocabulary since joining the show, she’s kind of stuck on whether or not Mac is asking her out, or asking her to go on a group outing. I guess this would be a perfectly acceptable thing to wonder if he hadn’t specifically framed the invite as an invitation to a group activity.
With both of them basically staring at me, I said the first thing I could think of. “Sure. Sounds like fun. What’s the depth of the lake like?” In retrospect, it was kind of a dumb question but I had been scrambling to say anything at that point. I had also never been out to the lake and truly was curious how good the diving was.
I’m truly curious how you learned to scuba dive in your one-horse-and-Sally-Beauty-Supply town. Then again, if you really did know how to scuba dive, you wouldn’t think, “how deep is it?” was a stupid question.
“A hundred feet, at least. Some places are even more than that.”
Like, say, five-hundred feet, which is how deep Lake Mead gets. Mac is super bad at estimation. This is like spilling a box of a hundred toothpicks on the ground and going, “Holy crap, there are at least three toothpicks on the ground!”
“Of course, I’m always willing to go deeper,” Mac said innocently. I blushed right away.
“Oh! Really?” I giggled and tried to hide my face, pretending to go back to drying my hair. I don’t think he meant it the way it could have been taken but, either way, it’s where my mind immediately went and what I thought when he said it. I couldn’t help but turn bright red.
She blushed because her mind went there and that’s what she thought when her mind went there and she blushed oh my god could the writing get a little more repetitive, please?
I think Mac realized the other way his words could have been taken as well and must have noticed how red I turned. He too now looked embarrassed and started to blush, too.
That’s better, thank you. Anyway, she obviously ends up saying that she’ll go scuba diving with them, although if we follow the pattern already set in this book, we’ll probably never actually see any scuba diving. The diving isn’t what’s important, it’s the poorly manufactured tension that we’re supposed to be focused on here.
Another triple goddess thing and we’re back into…well, someone’s POV. It doesn’t really matter whose because once you’re in italics, all bets are off. This is the wild west, baby! Tad chides Mac for his accidental double entendre and teases him for liking Zade.
“Look. She’s okay, I guess. I’ll give it to you that she’s very attractive, but I don’t date performers, and she and I wouldn’t happen–even if she wasn’t a performer.”
“Rules are made to be broken,” Tad replied. “And why wouldn’t you date her if she wasn’t a performer?”
“As stubborn as you are?” Tad finished.
“She’s not my type.”
“What is your type? ‘Cause if she ain’t it, then I don’t know what is.” Tad’s lighthearted jabs had turned to confusion.
We’ve seen this conversation already, haven’t we? When they peeped on her in the dressing room? Or something? I mean, I’m almost positive we’ll see another iteration of this conversation again, but didn’t we just? Or is this ebook emitting fumes that confuse me?
Tad says he asked Lani if she’s single and says it’s a matter of time before she and Mac hook up.
Tad looked at Mac and scoffed, “I’ll bet you $100 you end up making out with her before the end of the year.” Tad put his hand out to shake Mac’s.
I bet they make out before the end of the next chapter. I just have a difficult time believing that a grown man would say “make out” instead of “bang” or something similar. Shouldn’t this be the part where Tad stands on a chair and vows that he and all of his friends are going to lose their virginities before they go to college or something?
Tad changes his mind and says that if they did go through with the bet, Mac would resist Landi’s assorted charms just to win, and that’s where this (very short) chapter ends.
I should note that this is the only chapter so far where the chapter heading really makes sense, since The Emperor and Mac are both all about strictly following procedure and such.