I've always wondered what it would be like to be a character in somebody's novel. Well, I don't have to wonder anymore. I am one now, and it sucks—especially when the character bearing your name is portrayed as a total turd.
Here's the back-story: Once upon a time, there was a local music magazine called SLAMM, which was the predecessor to CityBeat. For several years, Andrew Altschul was SLAMM's editor. He was my editor and, at one time, a friend.
In addition to being a fine editor, Altschul was a prolific and persistent writer, clearly on his way to doing something bigger. Since then, he has had his short fiction pieces and essays published in national periodicals (including Esquire and StoryQuarterly), has contributed frequently to The Huffington Post, won a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and, in April, released his debut novel on Harcourt, Lady Lazarus.
“It's about poetry, punk rock and suicide,” Altschul says. “It follows the life and career of Calliope Bird Morath, a young poet who is the daughter of a famous [San Diego] punk rocker who killed himself when she was very young.”
Lady Lazarus is a fun read. Not just because it's good, but also because it's set here in San Diego, with scenes at The Casbah, Spreckels Theater and the old Arizona Café and on the Coronado Bridge—not to mention inside the offices of a “fictitious” magazine called SLAM. Also, to give the reader the feeling of authenticity, he includes the actual names of local bands and members of the San Diego media; hence the inclusion of a character named Edwin Decker.
“The book has a lot to say about rock music, poetry and celebrity,” Altschul says. “It examines the toxic relationship between art and fame and our culture's pathological obsession with scandal, particularly the scandals of young women.”
As for my character, I am portrayed as a slovenly, obnoxious rival music journalist trying to steal his scoop on the female poet. Why would a friend portray me as an obtuse villain? The answer is simple: Andrew Altschul is a raving douchebag. He can't help himself. Also, one time I stole his Kid A CD out of the jewel case and replaced it with Toto, so this was payback, I think.—Edwin DeckerAndrew Altschul will read from his novel during Drunk Poet's Society, 6 p.m. on Monday, May 19, at Winston's in Ocean Beach. The show starts with an open-mic session, followed by a reading from turd-poet Edwin Decker.