07 December 2014

Progress Report 23: Realities

This is no dream! This is really happening!
The physical, book-shaped object,
photographed by Jeffrey Kahn.

Just in time for Christmas shopping, it’s — a Mothers Day gift! Though Madeline Kahn: Being the Music • A Life won’t be released until May, the book is now listed in the catalogue for the University Press of Mississippi, which I hope all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores will scrutinize closely. Being the Music is also available now for pre-order (at a highly attractive discount price) on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites. To my gratified surprise, the first week on Amazon we ranked among the Top Five theater biographies, presumably alongside such august tomes as John Lahr’s new biography of Tennessee Williams. I promise not to take it personally if you decide to wait a bit to pre-order, to drive up the ranking when we’re closer to the release date.

Being the Music in the University Press
of Mississippi catalogue.

Given Madeline’s often difficult relationship with her mother, I advise you to reflect a bit before you offer Being the Music as a gift to your own mother. Is she likely to read into the book some unintended messages about your relationship? Will she identify more closely with parent or with child in this story? Is she a Madeline Kahn fan to begin with? Does she have a crush on Gene Wilder, or is she more the type who fancies Kevin Kline? These are serious questions.

Write out your answers on a slip of paper and contemplate them, weighing the pros and cons. Then go ahead and buy the book. Thank you. (And seriously, it’s at the top of my mom’s wish list. So, really, you can’t go wrong.)

Being the Music has now been typeset, and a few select individuals received copies of the bound galley proofs. This means that the book is now a tangible physical object that casts shadows. To make the moment even sweeter, I can’t help noticing that it is also book-shaped. Somehow I always believed that this day would come, and yet now, after six and a half years, I want to pinch myself. After all, I didn’t get my own copy of the bound proofs. But Madeline’s brother — her de facto archivist — did, and he sent me the picture that’s posted here. He’s a very honest fellow. So it must be real.

Barnes & Noble’s page for Being the Music.

The curious thing is that, now that I’ve proofread the typeset pages, I’ll never again change a word of this book. I’ve lived in dread that new information would come in at the last minute — and of course it has, because why would the final phases of the process be any different from all the phases that came before? But from this point forward, I’ll have to report my findings here, and not between the covers of Being the Music.

Madeline died 15 years ago December 3. She worked with everybody from Leonard Bernstein to the Muppets, and she touched many lives, very much including my own. I tried not to make a big deal about the anniversary — didn’t mention it on The Authorized Biography of Madeline Kahn page on Facebook, for example — because for the most part, my purpose is to celebrate her life, not her death.

For the most part. But not entirely.

Amazon’s page for Being the Music.

Because I do have another purpose. Especially after writing this book, I’m angry that I never got the chance to meet Madeline. Angry that she never got the chance to know how many people loved her, though she’d never met them. Angry that we’ll never get the chance to see what she’d have been doing when she was 72 years old. Angry that the disease that killed her is still taking its toll, and that there’s still so little we can do.

That’s why it’s important to do what we can do, and to support the organization that Madeline herself endorsed, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. If you’ve got the inclination and the budget, in this season of giving, then I hope you’ll remember the OCRF.

The book is real at last. But the cause is more important.

A copy of the program from Madeline’s memorial.


Ashley said...

I've already pre-ordered a copy but I plan to go into Barnes & Noble to get a couple more because there is something about going on release day and getting the book in my hands. I hope many follow suit and I believe they will.

William V. Madison said...

I don't know yet how widely Barnes & Noble will stock the book in its stores. I'm hopeful that the B&N bookstores at Madeline's alma mater, Hofstra, and my grad-school alma mater, Columbia, may be persuaded, but if your local B&N seems disinclined to stock it, maybe you and a few friends can plead with them until they bend to popular demand!