Foreward to the German edition of “Never Mind Nirvana”
Mark Lindquist never makes anything up except names. He writes down his life. Not to know his other books and to start with “Never Mind Nirvana” is a little bit like opening a biography somewhere in the middle and starting to read there.
What I would like to say to you now is to put aside “Never Mind Nirvana” and read “Sad Movies” first, and then “Carnival Desires,” and only after that you should read “Never Mind Nirvana” and then you can look forward to his next novel that will come out soon because in that one you’ll find out how Pete Tyler, the hero of “Never Mind Nirvana,” is doing today. But unfortunately, “Sad Movies” and “Carnival Desires” are difficult to find (though “Sad Movies” may be published in Germany soon). And I certainly never lend my copies to anyone, not even to my closest friends (I had to buy “Sad Movies” about five times because nobody ever returned it). So when I was asked to write this foreword, I thought it would be a good idea to write down What Happened So Far. A kind of prologue for all those readers who didn’t have the pleasure like I did to have been there from the beginning.
Some sunny afternoon in the late Eighties, I pulled a paperback out of a shelf in my favorite bookstore in San Francisco because I liked the title. When I don’t know an author, I often only read the first sentence in order to decide whether I want to have the book or not. Mark’s first sentence in his first novel was:
I wonder why I don’t kill myself?
I wonder why I’m wondering, then tell myself not to think like this and light a cigarette instead.
It’s about three A.M.
This is how “Sad Movies” begins, the story of a young guy living in Venice, California, who works for Big Gun Films and writes copy for softpornos about Las Vegas Showgirls with machine guns. The T Team – this is one job they can’t blow.” He decides his life would be more useful if put to an end, so his girlfriend will cash in on his life insurance, and then an old friend comes into town and talks him out of it. When he finally tells his girlfriend about his failed plan, she gets angry with him. He tries to calm her down. I was going to leave you a note absolving you.
Becky looks incredulous. What the fuck kind of note would have absolved me, she asks. You think you’re that good a writer?
In the end, they rescue a dog, and the hero survives, but then the story ends much too soon, you finish it much too quickly. And on the last page it says: Mark Lindquist lives in Venice, California. This is his first novel. I can’t remember how many times I reread “Sad Movies” back then, but I do remember why it put a spell on me. In all of its morbid melancholy it was so wickedly hopeful, dark in its humor, yet full of love for life, and deeply personal. Bret Easton Ellis hailed it as hilarious and affirmative – and I was dead sure Lindquist would publish another novel in no time.
But it took three years, and while I was anxiously waiting I kept hoping he wouldn’t change his mind and kill himself after all. In 1990 he finally published “Carnival Desires,” his second novel and my favorite one of his books, which I almost missed because there was only one hardcover edition. “Carnival Desires” kept every promise “Sad Movies” had made, and more. It was mature and beautiful and breathtakingly straight from the heart.
Classic rock, 97.1 KLSX. Now, new from U2 – Libby turns off the radio as she drives into the cemetary.
“Carnival Desires” begins with a funeral, a young man has taken his life. It is the story of a group of friends trying to survive in Hollywood. A desperate round dance on the edge of an emotional abyss, full of music, humor and tragedy, and the hero is a screenwriter named Bick who falls in love with an actress and he rewrites a script only for her and he still doesn’t get her in the end.
Of course we’re using each other, one of Bick’s friends tells him. But at least we like each other. Bick doesn’t want to die, but he does want another life, he wants to retire from screenwriting, turn his back on Hollywood, and he just doesn’t know how to do it. In the end, another friend is dead, and Bick, while trying to leave his driveway to leave town, has an accident and so he ends up staying and becomes Best Man at somebody else’s wedding.
And on the back of the book it said: Mark Lindquist lives on a boat in Venice, California. He has written screenplays for several movies.
At some point I heard that he had been dating Molly Ringwald, but that they had broken up. After that, nothing. For years I waited in vain for his third novel, and eventually I was convinced that he was burnt out, a drug addict – or dead. I left the States and for a few more years, I still looked for him in German bookstores, but finally I gave up.
Eleven years after its first publication, I read “Carnival Desires” again, I had almost forgotten how good it was, and I decided to search for Lindquist one last time. I was afraid to find an obituary somewhere in the internet. Instead I found his name on People Magazine’s Top 100 List of The Most Eligible Bachelors in the US, a very lively website – and finally an explanation for the years of silence. In the early Nineties, shortly after “Carnival Desires” got published, he had left L.A. to go back to his rainy hometown of Seattle, to go to law school and become a lawyer.
He began another life and what that one is like, you can find out in this book.
“Never Mind Nirvana” had only been published the year before I found out about it, and I read the book and wrote a torrid fan letter to the marklindquist.net website. Mark wrote me back. A year later I invited him to my premiere at the filmfestival in Seattle, and he was going to go to LA that weekend, but changed his mind because he was in the middle of a murder trial, so he showed up at the screening that night, and that’s how we met. Fifteen years after I had paid a couple of bucks for a paperback, shortly before the lights went down in the third row of a downtown multiplex theatre, Lindquist and I shook hands and said hello.
We’ve become friends since then, and that’s how I know that he never makes anything up. He recently said to me the truth is the best we can do. He’s right. And that’s exactly what he does in his writing.
He tells the truth about himself.
Mark’s life goes on and he is still writing it down. I deeply admire him for the courage to follow his calling. To find out more about that, you will have to wait for his next novel. But I’m sure I’m allowed to tell you this much: the new hero seems awfully familiar – and he lives on a boat.
And when I call him, Nirvana is still playing.
Sandra Nettelbeck, Berlin, 2002
Sandra Nettelbeck is the director of the German film “Mostly Martha,” which was adapted into the USA movie “No Reservations,” starring Aaron Eckhart and Catherine Zeta-Jones.