Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maybe You SHOULD Have Talked to Barbara

Barbara: I hate this. Just- can you give me the basics?
Adam: Well, this book isn't arranged that way. What do you wanna know?
Barbara: Well, why did you disappear when you stepped off the porch? Are we halfway to heaven? Are we halfway to hell? And... how long is this gonna last?
Adam: I don't see anything about heaven OR hell. This book reads like stereo instructions. Listen to this: "Geographical and temporal perimeters. Functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation. [Snaps book shut] Oh, this is gonna take some time, honey.

I had no expectations when I saw “The Original Handbook for the Recently Deceased” at the thrift store a few weekends ago that it had anything to do with 1988’s Beetlejuice. And I was right.

There is no intermediate chapter on haunting.

There is no bureaucratic slamming, i.e., “He does not work well with others.”

There is nothing about freelance bioexorcism.

There is this:

“By far the best method of bio-exorcism is preventive medicine. This can be practiced only when alive. After all, when you are dead it is not preventative, it is postventative or maybe simulaventative.” (That’s the closest Needham gets to stereo instructions, I applaud him for that.)

There is a “Class Five Intercession Form,” but no mention of a class-one D-90 intercession (help voucher). Which is probably smart, since author Claude Needham likely didn’t have any permission whatsoever to write a book with any connection to the film.

Which is a pity, and a missed opportunity.

As it is, “Beetlejuice” is a film classic. And “The Original Handbook for the Recently Deceased”? A missed opportunity that should have been written by someone with an actual sense of humor and who had permission to tie the book in with the film. It would sell by the boatloads.

First task would be to pick up what few cues there are of the book in the film. Then, let the imagination go wild, pairing a good technical writer (for the boring stereo instructional portion) with the bizarre, for the humor and the metaphysical nonsense the book calls for. (Same thing could be said for the Ghostbusters' Tobin Spirit Guide or Space Catalog. Both could be written and sell by the boatload, if written correctly.)

Even without a movie tie-in (and why would you NOT want a movie tie-in?) Needham could have tried harder. The book is a curiosity, but dull from cover to cover. Some of the sample witticisms include:

Fun Things to Do at the Wake:
  1. Count the number of potato salad dishes and jello molds.
  2. Get somebody, anybody, to say "Let's stuff him and keep the party going."
There’s trite list of parlor games to play to while away the dead hours. There’s this little bit, from the whatever title “How to Put Up With Eternity:

Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that on occasion you find yourself in the midst of an experience that is just a little bit too eternal. And, it is possible that in addition to the experience being a little too eternal it is a little bit too weird, too groady, too scary, or simply too too.
  1. This too shall pass.
  2. If it was not happening before, and it is happening now, you can bet that sooner or later it won't be happening again.
 Ugh. Deliver me from L.L. Bean.

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