Book with a Hook, by Pamela Polston
Book with a Hook, by Pamela Polston
You'd expect someone with a name like Mike Gordon to be a regular,
all-American Joe; someone who went to public school, made the basketball
team and worked as a lifeguard in the summer. But, as all Phish-heads
know, this Mike Gordon was an "odd child" -- and claims to be one still.
He studied electrical engineering in college, before his right brain forced
him to major in communications and video/film production, and before he
knew it he was the bassist for one of the most popular live bands in
This month, Gordon launches a parallel career -- or at least indulges a
long-held pastime -- with the publication of this first book, _Mike's
Corner_. The slim, nearly square book -- "I wanted it to be puttable in
the pocket," Gordon says -- bears the same name as its author's column in
the Phish newsletter, _Doniac Schvice_. About 80 percent of its 55 very
short, very quirky stories appeared in the column over the past 10 years.
"The other 20 percent were random stories from my life," says Gordon, who's
been writing these snippets since high school -- mostly as a way to
procrastinate, he confesses.
The abbreviated stories bear some resemblance, at least in spirit, to the
writings of John Lennon, whose 1960s books, _In His Own Write_ and _A
Spaniard in the Works_, were twin peaks of silliness. Gordon's sense of
humor -- which occasionally leans toward the potty -- and style are all his
own, however. The pieces are mostly elaborate non sequiturs, linear
progressions which have more in common with streams of consciousness than
with the rules of Short Story Writing 101. Never mind plot or character
development, there's no time for that. The "stories" take up from one to
four pages each, not counting the ample graphics -- a highly creative mix
of photography, colorful illustrations and collage designed by Gordon's
live-in girlfriend, Priscilla Foster.
Though he scrupulously avoids adverbs (notable exception:
_melancholifully_), Gordon clearly loves taking liberties with parts of
speech and punctuation, and has a knack for using language as a joke unto
itself. He gives his characters names like Shempy and Hongo, Elmwind and
Burtwer. He makes up words like condoilery and scroope and confudes, and
occasionally uses a real word that hardly anybody knows, like meniscus.
(Its the top layer of liquid, as in a glass of water -- or maybe the part
where it curves up at the edges, he tries to explain.)
"Some of the inspiration was being in college and taking political science
and philosophy," Gordon explains. "I got in this mode of rebellion and
wanted to make fun of the English language."
But if Gordon turns words inside out, he mangles meaning. Take as an
example the first paragraph of the chapterlet, "Courthouse Desire":
"Make yourself into a marketable android," he said as I was leaving his
office. What was I to do with this? How was I to interpret this faction
of peculiar indoctrination? Perhaps, I thought, he is just a mindless,
clueless, gullible shoobie."
In the process of being copy-edited, Gordon reports, he became fascinated
with the subtleties of language and its constructions, and poured over the
1200 errors his editor noted in the original text. "Grammar, puncuation,
it was kind of like a mathematical puzzle to see how punctuation would
change the flow, just like musical notes," he says. "My contract gave me
complete creative control, but I wanted to learn about proper English
In typical Mike Gordon fashion, he made a game of it and went through all
1200 markings while on tour. "I spent eight hours in a hotel room going
through it," he recalls. "I ended up writing another story about trying to
edit a comma -- I sent that story to the copy editor for comic relief."
And what Gordon learned about language made him receptive to that
all-American thingy: the sequel.
Andy Phish Page