Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This American Life, etc.

My friend Ryan, back in the days when people wrote letters, noticed that every letter always began with "Sorry it's been such a long time since I wrote..." and he decided to save everyone some time and replace the entire sentiment with a single symbol: *

And so: *

A number of things have happened since I last posted that are not only newsworthy but explain why I've been busy, not the least of which is this: in the middle of trying to write my book proposal for How to Love God And Not Be a Jerk, I was contacted via e-mail by Lisa Pollak from This American Life (if you were on my team at the MIT Mystery Hunt, that was her, following us around). They liked a SECOND pitch I'd made, for an upcoming show on "The Ten Commandments." My idea: to talk about adultery using the fundamentalist concept of "committing adultery in your heart" (i.e., having lustful thoughts) and talk about how it nearly killed me. This time, I'm "contributor David Dickerson" and they're paying me as a writer. I can't tell you how excited I've been. So just a few days ago I was actually in a read-through with Lisa, senior producer Julie Snyder, a director named Jane, and Ira Gla--fucking--ss, reading through my story and trying to find the best pace for it, the best beats, etc.

I've never been so well edited in my life. It verged on maddening at times, because I think the quality of a really good editor is to obsess about details that not even the writer is particularly motivated about (which is why most great writers come out of great writer-editor partnerships). Then yesterday I actually taped the script we finally came up with, and I learned what makes Jane so great. Reading is easy until you notice every goddamn thing you're doing. Then it helps to have a professional nearby. "Breathe more in between your lines," she'd say, or "That sounds like you're reading it off a page. Pretend you're talking to a friend." I raised my chin. I tried not to turn my head. I spoke at an angle to the mike. I tried it again only this time more flat. I tried it again without dropping off tonally. I tried it again for reasons I can only dimly remember. Being a director is probably really good training for being a dominatrix.

Anyway, the show will run on the 4th, and it's available on iTunes and at their website. The show has ten segments. I'm somewhere around number seven. (It didn't occur to me to ask which version of the Decalogue they're going by. I assume the Judge Roy Moore version. [correction: ex-judge.])

In other news, I bought an exercise bike (Thanks, Andy, for the moving help!) which actually fits in my tiny-ass room, and which is actually so whisper-quiet I never need fear getting beat up by the neighbors. I swear to god, if you live in a Manhattan apartment, you couldn't ask for a better machine. A Schwinn 105p. I feel lighter already.

And yesterday, in my How To Love God research, I bought Christopher Hitchen's new book, God Isn't Great. I actually didn't have many hopes for it, because while Hitchens is a master of elegant vitriol, he certainly has irritating opinions (he wrote a piece in Vanity Fair about "Why Women Aren't Funny" that was so smug I just want to slap him), and sometimes you get tired of all the hectoring. But this is a worthy addition to the sort of modern atheist trilogy (which includes Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion and Sam Harris's The End of Faith---with his follow-up book, Letter to a Christian Nation considered as an appendix to the latter). And, I'm happy to say for my sake, that none of them obviates (so far) the points I am hoping to make with my book: that the atheists who have written these books don't actually understand religious people; that if atheism is ever going to become popular, it needs to look unflinchingly at why people might find it unpleasant; and that before we talk about getting rid of religion, we need to first distinguish between what good and bad religion actually is. With any luck, I'll have this proposal completed by next weekend. You know, when I'm not exercycling.

In other news, Ryan Wyatt, my best friend in town, just left Manhattan to take a really exciting job at a Science Center in San Francisco. Among other advantages, the Center is apparently going to be the largest green building in the ... um, United States? World? I keep forgetting. Probably world, because Ryan seemed very excited. When he got there, they actually had a press conference, which I'm hoping will show up in the boondock areas of YouTube.

That should do it. I should write a bit more now that I'm not constantly fiddling with an actual script that I'm actually getting paid for. But boy, do I feel smart for having moved here!

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10 Comments:

Blogger Jas P. said...

Bravo, Dave!

When will we hear (see? will you be on Showtime?) your piece?

5/02/2007 2:08 PM  
Blogger Brian Reeves said...

Sorry I haven't... oh yeah...

*

Anyway, Dave, that rocks! I can't wait to hear your segment. Congratulations, and I hope it leads to further opportunities.

By the way, I saw the documentary "Jesus Camp" a couple days ago. Disturbing! Did you ever see it? If not, I recommend it.

-Brian

5/04/2007 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer Ayres said...

I enjoyed your piece very much, which I heard this morning on the XM version of NPR. Can't wait for the book! I am teaching a course for the Youth Theological Initiative here at Emory University, and it sounds like a perfect read for young Christians in the American context.

5/05/2007 2:36 PM  
Blogger Miller's pics said...

I heard your segment on This American Life and did what most people did after hearing it; I googled you. Yeah, what were we thinking trying to fight it man. I mean, embrace that shit, well, not in a sick way, but you know what I mean.

I love the idea for your book and just wanted to see how the progress was coming because, well, because I love God, but dislike being a jerk.

Brad

5/08/2007 7:36 PM  
Blogger Red7Eric said...

I absolutely LOVED your piece on "This American Life" and blogged about it last week, not knowing that you define yourself as an "ex-evangelical" ... anyway, just loved the piece. Congrats.

http://red7eric.blogspot.com/2007/05/so-evangelical-christian-walks-into-bar.html

5/13/2007 10:22 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Well, a belated response to the bit about me moving across the country.

The largest green building in the world, of course! Um, open to the public. (Always have to get one’s qualifications right.)

I have links to some articles about the new Academy… And me.

And I, too, have seen Jesus Camp. Yikes!

6/26/2007 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Mike Wood said...

David,

I'd like to put in a vote for the opposition, and I was reminded to do so by two paragraphs in today's New York Times:

At least some men convicted of sexual abuse say that child pornography from the Internet fueled their urges. In a recent interview, one convicted pedophile serving a 14-year sentence in a Canadian federal prison said that looking at images online certainly gave him no release from his desires—exactly the opposite.

“Because there is no way I can look at a picture of a child on a video screen and not get turned on by that and want to do something about it,” he said. “I knew that in my mind. I knew that in my heart. I didn’t want it to happen, but it was going to happen.”


Empirically, here's someone contradicting you, yes, but then we're even, right? His authority is equal to yours (though some would say lesser and some greater because he's serving time in federal prison for pedophilia).

So to what higher authority shall we appeal to say whether or not you were right to give up the fight which I still fight every day?

If there is none, let that pedophile go to prison and let you buy your lad mags. Let's eat, drink, and masturbate, for tomorrow we die.

If the Bible is true, if God made the world, then to God's authority we must appeal. Jesus could not be more clear in his Sermon on the Mount that your sin—and mine, too, David—is great. To look on a woman with lust in your heart is to break that commandment you were lampooning. I have repented from that sin. You still can, I believe.

But let me relate just one more thing. I once spoke to a young ex-Southern Baptist who said that he no longer believes in God because God was against his experiencing pleasure: he wanted sex and he wanted it outside of marriage. I wasn't wise enough at that point to give him the right answer to his challenge. But now I know that God's design will bring greater pleasure both in this life and in the life to come. I am laying up treasures in heaven by continuing my fight against sin.

I risk sounding maudlin, David, but I appeal to you: Come to Jesus. He's the only one who has power over our desires.

mlwj
mikelwood AT allmail.net

7/19/2007 4:38 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hey. I just heard your piece on TAL and was quite intrigued. I find it interesting that you did the "lust" segment too. I've actually recounted that story to a friend or two which has met with some interesting reactions, especially since Josh Harris is the pastor of the church I attended until recently. Anyhow, I'm eager to read your How to Love God & Not Be A Jerk Book. Keep us updated.

9/13/2007 5:45 PM  
Blogger Ron Carter said...

Dave,

Listened to your part in "The Devil in Me" on TAL. Interesting stuff I would say. And might I also add that you and I are somewhat similar in (I believe) our families and logical thinking.

Now might I ask if you have read any (of the two) books by Rob Bell? I think you'd be taken back a bit with how well his books are written. And I was also curious on your take of CS Lewis.

Keep up the good work!
Ron

9/25/2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hey Dave, Any chance you might sell me your schwinn 105p? I'd pay you waaay more than you paid for it...or trade you an equally compact brand new one for it. or pretty much anything you'd like (it's the only thing that helps my injured knee because of the short pedals!!)...if you have any interest, please lemme know at bassinir@wharton.upenn.edu...thanks!!!

4/07/2009 11:03 PM  

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