* Take-down: A term used in wrestling, wherein one combatant executes a maneuver which results in their opponent’s falling, dropping or being slammed down hard onto the mat.
I was attending this program at UCLA, sponsored by some book publishers. I was there because I read in the paper that my favorite short story writer of all time, Bruce Jay Friedman, would appear on a panel and be interviewed. I have mentioned Bruce J. before. His M.O. is surrealistic comic absurdity that always makes a point.
In one story entitled “A Foot In The Door”, a crackerjack salesman guarantees an aspirant of upward mobility currently living in Short Hills a home in the more prestigious Tall Hills. But there’s a price: In exchange for the residential upgrade, the aspirant of upward mobility’s next child will be born with a bent nose.
The story is about, “How much will you pay to get the things that you want?” It successfully makes its point and, if you happen to be reading it on the bus, there’s a very good chance that you’ll miss your stop.
Okay, so I’m at this event, and this moderator is onstage, interviewing two writers: Bruce Jay Friedman, in his early seventies, but wiry, coiled and somehow electric, and a preppily attired, thirty-five-ish or so sniveling mollusk, also a writer, I think successful, but I can’t remember what he wrote.
The questioning comes around to the writers’ upbringing, and what affect or influence it had had on their choice of careers. The sniveling mollusk goes first.
He bemoans the fact that, though he grew up in Beverly Hills, it was the wrong side of Beverly Hills, the side south of Wilshire Boulevard, unflatteringly labeled “Beverly Hills Adjacent.”
The mollusk goes on at considerable length about the abuse he received from his snootier schoolmates as a consequence of his déclassé address. This childhood trauma had deeply scarred his psyche, and had directed him into a career in writing.
It is now Bruce Jay Friedman’s turn to hold forth on the same subject. He dives right in.
“For our first six years growing up, my sister slept in a drawer. And I slept in a broom closet.”
The audience goes nuts.
And the sniveling mollusk is heavily “taken down.”
We can only hope the experience made him a better writer.