Author Reveals Imagined Pop Icons' Letters In 'Dear Luke'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The shark from "Jaws" frets over his anger management issues. Was "Gilligan's Island" a bungled CIA operation? Was Carly Simon's old boyfriend really so vain or, in fact, a truly sensitive man who was emotionally wounded to be portrayed so unsparingly in a popular song? John Moe reveals lost notes and imagined letters between a number of favorite pop-culture icons in his new book, "Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth," and other pop-culture correspondences. John Moe is a columnist for McSweeney's and host of the public radio show, which joins us from the studios of Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul. John, thanks so much for being with us.
JOHN MOE: Great to be here, Scott.
SIMON: Let's give people a good sampling of what's in here. The shark from "Jaws" apparently kept a diary. Could I ask you to read his June 23 entry to us?
MOE: Absolutely. (Reading) June 23. Guilt does funny things to a shark. When I feel guilty about something, like, oh, eating a woman, I start to hate myself. When I start to hate myself, I engage in self-destructive behavior. If I were a human like the one I ate, that might mean eating a bunch of ice cream or getting drunk, but I'm a shark. And I dragged a boy from shore and ate him up. He was smaller than my previous meal, but I don't know. It still doesn't feel like progress to me. It's like the only way I can feel good is to do bad.
SIMON: That is truly a troubled, cold-blooded soul, isn't it?
MOE: (Laughing) Yeah. Well, you know, I remember the shark from "Jaws." All it did was kill and then appear briefly, and we all were supposed to not think of it as a giant, mechanical puppet. So yeah, I wanted to flush them out a little bit, and give him a lot of remorse.
SIMON: Astonishing memoir you've unearthed from September 1964. A Special Agent Gilligan, who says all details appear to be in order for the mission to begin tomorrow. Could I ask you to read the last graph of that memo. It's a real eye-opener. This is page 15.
MOE: (Reading) Other agents in the field have conspired to bring our test subjects to the boat tomorrow for a three-hour tour. Unless I receive a cancellation signal by the time we sail, I'll assume the mission is a go. Thank you for all your hard work - Special Agent Gilligan.
SIMON: All these year later the mission goes on, doesn't it?
MOE: (Laughing) It keeps going on. Yeah, I - you know, with "Gilligan's Island," there are so many holes to exploit that I only briefly touch on the obvious one, which is if the professor can build a radio out of some coconuts, why can't he build a raft?
SIMON: I want to get you to - well, the title letter, if you please? Lord Vadar has abandoned drafts and drafts of letters to Luke, the man who doesn't know he's his son. So he tries to explain why he never contacted him, and it gets little awkward.
MOE: (Reading) Anyway, listen to me. I'm talking about myself and my work. How are you, son? Do you play any sports or anything stupid like that?
SIMON: (Laughing) Yeah, I like to go fencing with lightsabers. Is that what...
MOE: (Laughing) Yeah, I don't think bulls eyeing womp rats really counts as a sport so much. But you know, Darth Vader is - in those movies, he was either, like, a fairly good guy or completely evil guy, but what if it's an evil guy trying and failing to be a good guy? I thought that was pretty promising for a humor premise.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE VI")
JAMES EARL JONES: (As Darth Vader) Give yourself to the dark side. It is the only way you can save your friends.
SIMON: With your permission, I want to appropriate another one of my favorites to read.
MOE: Please do.
SIMON: OK. There's a dear Elvis note in here, and it's - it's not from Priscilla or Colonel Parker or even Ann-Margret. Let me - let me read a paragraph. (Reading) I admit it. I do cry all the time. I think a doctor would call it severe clinical depression if you ever took me to a doctor like responsible owners do. I wake up in the morning, and there's this massive cloud of despair hanging over me. I eat some dog food, lap up water, lick myself a bit, and it's still there. It never leaves me, Elvis. Wouldn't you cry all the time?
MOE: That's Elvis's hound dog. To me the crux of that song and why it's so problematic is you ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine. The whole notion of friendship hinges on catching rabbits, and that's no basis for friendship.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOUND DOG")
ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Well, you ain't never caught a rabbit. You ain't no friend of mine.
SIMON: You have a drink recipe in here from Don Draper. I think there's some reflection.
MOE: It wasn't easy entering the world of madmen, but I transported myself to that fictional universe, retrieved Don Draper's recipe note cards, and here's one of them. (Reading) Draper-tini - four ounces gin, one ounce vermouth, three olives, five tears that I never shed as a boy. Shake. Stir. Then pour down the sink because those days can never return.
SIMON: I am very moved.
MOE: Cocktails taste better with self-loathing, I think.
SIMON: (Laughing) Yes. John, since this is public radio...
SIMON: ...Let me try one more question and try and be serious, OK?
SIMON: Shouldn't you have been doing something serious instead of writing this funny book?
MOE: (Laughing) You know, there's so much serious that's out there and so many people working on serious things. I feel like it's well covered by other people. And if I can use this sort of unique quality and unique perspective, so much the better. Maybe I should have been doing something a little more serious, but, you know, I'm raising three kids. That's serious enough.
SIMON: Yeah. Boy, I'll say. John Moe, who hosts Wits from American Public Media. His new book "Dear Luke, we need to talk, Darth" and other pop-culture correspondences. Thanks so much for being with us.
MOE: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.