“God grants you an interview. Go to 600 Madison Ave., room 3700, Monday, at 11 a.m.” When a struggling writer receives this typed note in the mail one morning, curiosity wins out and he finds himself keeping this mysterious appointment. Soon he’s in an ordinary conference room with an intercom on the floor, furiously scribbling shorthand notes as he interviews God, a deity who badly wants to improve His public profile. Sometimes God speaks through the intercom, other times He communicates as a hot dog vendor on the corner. But however God appears, He’s giving this anointed journalist the story of a lifetime—and all he has to do is sell the story to the public. Adapted as the classic film starring George Burns, Oh, God! is a warm and witty satire about life, the Lord, the media, and the need for some good publicity. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Avery Corman, including rare images from the author’s personal collection.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Avery Corman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1971 Avery Corman
All rights reserved.
I have to tell you right off that I don't love first-person narratives. I always figure the writer is trying to save himself work if he has his main character tell the story. I love it even less if the work is autobiographical and he uses first person, because then you have to sit through all those I's. So that's the way I feel. A writer who can't use a metaphor to tell his story is lazy and I thought I'd get that out of the way in the very first paragraph, even though I'm going to tell this in the first person myself.
I have no choice, really. I couldn't make believe this was about somebody else and still have it stand as The Official Version of what happened. Also, to be completely open about it, I need to do this. The telling of this is about the only thing I'm qualified to do right now. Maybe when this book is out I can make a little career out of discussing it, but with the way I've overstayed my welcome with the media, I kind of doubt it.
How I ever qualified to get involved in the first place is up for speculation. I'd like to think it was because I had demonstrated a writing and reporting talent and was not yet tainted by success. Not yet tainted by success!—the refuge of every struggling writer. But I suppose I was Everyman. Or more specifically, Everywriterman. I almost didn't get that far. From time to time I considered giving up writing for a living and becoming ... I didn't know what. I found myself actually reading vocational guidance posters in subways and buses.
"Could You Be Earning More Money $$$$ If You Went to a Technical School?" I was sure I could. "Be a Transit Authority Policeman." I was too old. "Join the Peace Corps." For that, my wife, Judy, would have had to leave her job, something she wasn't quite ready to do, and for which she earned $12,000 last year, compared to my $5,500 free-lancing, and that in itself could make a person wonder—could you be earning more money $$$$ if you went to a technical school?
With all this about money, I must point out that I was at heart a creative artist, a playwright with two full-length plays written, but unfortunately no producer or director had shown enough interest in them, and my play agent, a lady whom I could never reach on the phone, had said, "Don't worry—that kind of play will come back," whatever that meant.
Meantime, I found I could pick up rent money doing interviews with show-business personalities and selling them to places like the Sunday Times or the Ladies Home Journal. Then I did a piece about a Rolling Stones press conference. It was the kind of typical scene that rock superstars generate—lights, cameras, fans, the press climbing all over each other, silly questions and cute answers. The Stones, performers that they are, went through a performance. So I reviewed the performance. It was printed in the Times, and even though I felt it was just a straight job of reporting, people started talking about it as "the definitive capsulization of the rock music scene" and words to that effect. It made a big splash, and suddenly I was known as the guy who did the piece on The Stones' press conference.
Because of the article, I found myself on all kinds of mailing lists I didn't want to be on, and there were endless invitations arriving at the house—press parties for singing groups, cocktail parties for celebrities, luncheons for authors, and these, combined with letters for Judy, department store announcements, and our regular monthly bills—you had to be a copy editor just to do the mail.
This particular morning, Judy had dropped a bundle of mail on me in bed, where I still was, a point of contention in our house where the executive wife goes off to work while the husband stays at home, but I had to sleep late that morning—I was up for hours during the night, lying there recalling large passages from memory of my "Collected Works." What had triggered this was seeing a college girl on the subway the day before underlining sections of a book she was studying with a red pen, and thinking, Now that's class; will I ever in my life write anything a person would actually underline?
I started to go through the mail and in among the junk was an envelope addressed to me with no return address. Inside was a sheet of plain white bond paper and typed on an electric typewriter it said:
God grants you an interview. Go to 600 Madison Awenue, room 3700, Monday, at 11 a.m.
My first thought was that it was a press agent's stunt. Or maybe it was a teaser mailing. Or a prank. It couldn't be God. God was God! Also I was brought up on something called Bible Comics, true-to-life adventures of biblical heroes, and there were wonderful things like David and Goliath, and God and Moses, and God was always pretty impressive, talking from the heavens or booming down His voice from mountaintops, all of which made an early impression on me—so the idea of a typed letter from an Executive God didn't make much sense. There was even a typo in the "v" in Avenue. Just a little mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, only I couldn't begin to deal with the possible metaphysical implications of that.
But what was it? It was a gimmick—a Florida land scheme and they get you up there and show you a movie of condominiums in "paradise." It was a nut—he gets you up there and undresses.
I called Judy for an opinion, but she was out of the office somewhere. So it was up to me. "God" was granting me an interview at 11 A.M. and it was already 10. I just didn't know what to make of it. There was something peculiar about it. No press agent or businessman would send out an invitation like that with such little information in it. Only somebody very crazy or very dumb—or very sure of himself. Could it possibly be God? It couldn't. But if it were God, it could have been God. God can do anything. A line that John Updike once wrote flashed across my mind, about Ted Williams not acknowledging the Boston fans in his last game. He wrote, "Gods do not answer letters." But I couldn't remember anybody ever saying anything about their sending them.
Well, whoever it was had done a job on me. I was curious. No, that's too casual. Deep down I must have hoped, it is God. It's this incredible miracle and I'm in on it.
And what if it were this incredible thing? What if God had chosen me? How would I deal with it? What could I possibly say to Him? Like most people, I had wondered about God and the Universe and The Nature of Things. But I wasn't a theological scholar. Apart from those Bible Comics and Hebrew School, which I almost flunked, the deepest I ever went on God was in late-night discussions with girls I was trying to seduce after seeing Ingmar Bergman movies.
I didn't know what to do. Miracles don't happen—except when they happen—if they happen. I went through a truly baroque reasoning process and finally came up with—Go. If it's a stunt maybe you'll get a story out of it, and if it's real, try not to think about it. It's called confronting a dilemma sideways.
On the bus uptown, I began feeling alternately foolish about going and apprehensive about what I was getting into. By the time I reached 600 Madison, I was in a totally confused state, deterred momentarily by the sight of a U.S. mail truck with a poster on the side, "Join the Modern Coast Guard," and thinking maybe I should have.
I took the elevator to the 37th floor and followed an arrow which pointed to room 3700. There was no name on the door, just the numerals "3700." I knocked, waited, and then tried the door. It was open and I went in. The office was empty except for a chair and an intercom machine on the floor.
Then from the intercom there came this voice. It was His voice! Yes, Himself Himself. The voice wasn't booming and spectacular. It was just a voice, a little weary, a little whiny actually—and God's first words to me were:
"Listen, I like the piece you did on The Rolling Stones."
"Who are you? What is this?"
"This is crazy."
"Be nice," He said.
It couldn't be, I thought.
"It is," He said.
"How can you be God? You're a voice on an intercom."
"Well, you're not allowed to see me."
"It's just not possible."
"Prove it. Prove you're God."
"I don't do proof," He said.
"I'm getting out of here."
"Wait. Where are you?"
"Room 3700, 600 Madison Avenue."
"So you know what? In this building, there is no room 3700."
I got out of there. A person can take just so much weirdness. I took the elevator down to the lobby and looked around. The sign over the elevator said "12—26." The other one said "2—11." I was sure I had seen something when I first came in that said "12—37." I asked the elevator starter how did I get to 3700 and he said there is no 3700 and I almost fainted.
I was tempted to leave then and there, but I couldn't. I went back in the elevator, pressed the button for 26, and when the elevator stopped, I was facing a sign that said "37th floor." I walked down the hall, opened the door to 3700 and the voice said:
"So stop with this riding up and down."
I want to tell you I was pretty scared.
"Don't be scared," He said. "I went to a lot of trouble so you wouldn't be."
"What is this?"
"What this is—is an interview. I am God and you are you, and I'm giving you an exclusive."
"You can't be God."
"You know this for a fact?"
"God wouldn't do this. He wouldn't invite someone to a strange room like this."
"You know what your trouble is?"
"I'm hallucinating—that's my trouble."
"You've read too many Bible Comics."
"If you're God"—imagine saying that to God—"if you're God, then why all this? Why didn't you just appear over my bed?"
"Because you'd get too frightened. You'd probably jump out the window."
"If you're God, how come you've got such a thin little voice? If you're God, how come you talk a little whiny, a little like my Uncle Simon?"
"Empathy," He said.
"What I'm doing. I'm talking to you in a way you can accept. I'm relating."
"Well, I don't want to brag, but if I appeared to you just as God, your mind couldn't grasp it."
My mind wasn't doing such a good job as it was.
"And the letter and this meeting ..."
"To bring you along gradually. So you can cope."
"Well, I don't believe any of this."
"That's the whole problem. That's why I decided to show up. Too many nonbelievers."
I was bewildered.
"Come on. Be a good reporter. This is the biggest story of your life."
"I think you should talk to James Reston."
"No. You're the fella. That piece on The Stones. I liked it a lot. Peppy. Today you need peppy in order to communicate—and I want to communicate."
What I said next was—"Why?" I guess what was working on me was some residual belief that there is a God and it could be God—and if it is God, you go along with Him, don't you? He's God! So I asked, "Why?" and right there, I was into it. God had finessed me into an interview.CHAPTER 2
"I'll tell you why I'm doing this," He said. "They've been going around saying I'm dead or worse."
"That I never was, or what I was was gas or shmutz."
"You know, particles. With the big bang theories and the little bang theories. When you're God, it's insulting."
He was confiding in me!
"Let's stop right here. I really think you should be talking to somebody higher up. The Pope maybe."
"No, I looked into this. And you're my fella."
I'm His fella! What if I don't ask the right questions? What if I misquote Him? A misquote here has cosmic significance.
"Excuse me. What do I call you?"
"Call me God."
"God, I think I should have a tape recorder."
"Forget it. It wouldn't work."
"My voice—it wouldn't come out on the tape."
"I don't understand."
"I can't go into it. It's very complex. It's like ... what would you understand? Ghosts. You know how they used to say a ghost was not supposed to cast a shadow? Well, it's like that. You can't record God's voice."
"I really don't understand."
"Oy-oy-oy," He said. "Because it's not my real voice. I'm just making this up for you, so you can hear it. I mean, I'm God over everybody, but I'm not speaking Chinese, am I?"
"Actually you sound a little Jewish."
"What then? You're a little Jewish, aren't you?"
"So like I'm telling you, I'm doing this for you. By the way, I was at your Bar Mitzvah. It didn't knock me out."
"You were there?"
"I'm there for everything—prayers, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals, baptisms—you name it. 'The Pledge of Allegiance' to the flag with that under God thing in it—I'm there. A fella stubs his toe and says 'goddammit'—I'm there. Kate Smith sings 'God Bless America'—I'm there."
"For everything? Everywhere on earth, any time anyone invokes the name of God ...?"
"I'm there. I got to cover a lot of territory in my work."
"That's an incredible concept. That's something Man has wanted to know for centuries. Are prayers heard? Does God listen?"
"Who says I listen? I only said I'm there. After a while, who can listen?"
"Then God doesn't care."
"I care. I care plenty. But what can I do?"
"But you're God!"
"Only for The Big Picture."
"I don't get into details."
"It's better that I shouldn't meddle. What am I going to do—get into favorites? So I come up with the concepts, the big ideas—the details can take care of themselves."
"Then the way things happen on earth ..."
"They happen. Don't look at me."
"And there's no plan, no scheme that controls our destinies?"
"A lot of it is luck. Luck and who you know."
I was staggered. He just went zipping along.
"Looking back, of course I made a few mistakes. Giraffes. It was a good thought, but it really didn't work out. Avocados—on that I made the pit too big. Then there are things that worked pretty good. Photosynthesis is a big favorite of mine. Spring is nice. Tomatoes are cute. Also raccoons."
"But what about Man?" I was trying to rise to the responsibility. "What about his future? The future of the planet?"
"It's a good question."
"I couldn't tell you."
"Don't you know?"
"Well, like I say, I don't get into that. Of course I hope you make it. I mean, I'm a real fan. But it's like in a ball game. If you're in the stands, you can root, but that's about all."
"You're God. You can protect our future, alleviate suffering, work miracles!"
"I don't do miracles. They're too flashy and they upset the natural balance. Oh, maybe I'll do a miracle now and then, just for fun—if it's not too important. The last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets and before that the 1914 Boston Braves and before that I think you have to go back to the Red Sea."
"But, as God, you have the power to intervene, to help us in emergencies."
"So where do I draw the line? Say a fella is going to eat a hamburger that's not 100 percent beef. What do I do, knock it out of his hand? How would you like to live with Divine Hands popping out of the sky all the time? It would make people crazy."
"But I'm talking about wars and poverty and health. That's not on the level of hamburgers."
"That depends on where you sit."
"So you've decided to just let us stumble along, and never do a thing to help?"
"You got to understand, I went through my manipulative, controlling stage. You know what I mean from manipulative? It was back in the Ten Commandments days. Now I had it in mind there should be about five thousand commandments, to cover every eventuality. Things like: Thou Shalt Pick Up the Trash from the Picnic Areas. Thou Shalt Help Old Ladies to Cross the Road, Unless You're an Old Lady, in Which Case You Should Watch Good. Like that. Then I changed my mind and did a rewrite. I got it down to about eight hundred commandments. But even that was a little cumbersome. So I rewrote again and got it down to a hundred. Then all the way down to fifteen. Only Moses told me, 'They'll never sit still for fifteen commandments, make it eight.' And I said twelve. And he said nine. And I said ten. And he said sold. But he was wrong anyway. They don't even sit still for ten."
"Well, you may think we've disappointed you, but you've disappointed us." Imagine me coming on to Him that way, but somehow I found the nerve and I had to say it. "How can you permit the suffering that goes on in the world?"
Excerpted from Oh, God! by Avery Corman. Copyright © 1971 Avery Corman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.