[S]: It took a while to finally meet. I’d begun to think you were a figment of my imagination or the product of one too many tequila shots.
[B]: I think we can reveal a little bit more about our rendezvous without blowing my cover. As Chaste Manhattan, the second book in The Scene Memoirs, will reveal, I lived for some time in NYC, but I moved away over a decade ago. New York constantly changes, bars and restaurants come and go…since I left there is a Second Avenue subway line and that West Side path over the old railway track that I can never recall the name of. The Highline, I think?
[S]: What was the place called where we met? I hadn’t seen that much partying since the victory bash in Moscow after Trump’s election.
[B]: The place I picked to meet is called Bar Nine, which at one time was just a big, quiet lounge. Unbeknownst to me, it subsequently repurposed itself as a music venue. When we met, there was a cover band playing, and the set list consisted of songs I both love and am ashamed of loving. “Brown-Eyed Girl,” for example. “Jessie’s Girl.” And quite a few Billy Joel songs. And the band was popular, so the place was packed with people of a certain age, which is to say my age, lots of mothers of middle school kids blowing off steam. Very loud. Not ideal for an intimate conversation. So let me first apologize up front, Shelby, for asking you to what I can safely claim is The Least Cool Bar in New York City.
[S] Oh, I don’t know. I rather liked the retro vibe, but if they started blasting out the Back Street Boys, I was going to leave. But let’s get to it. Why all the mystery surrounding your debut series? You know I’ve snuck a peek, and to say I’m intrigued is an understatement. Which begs the question, why “Barrymore”?
[B]: Why the pen name? Sure. I mean, some suggest that it’s dishonest to use a pen name, but the opposite is true. The pseudonym allows me to be brutally honest, because I don’t have to worry about offending any of my friends. Have you ever had someone stop talking to you because of how they were portrayed in a novel? Yeah, it’s not a nice feeling. And I certainly don’t want to “make” the lovely person I once bound with an extension cord.
[S]: Yes, well, moving right along…
[B]: Also, there’s a long tradition in literary erotica of using pen names. In fact, one of the subplots of Foggy Bottom is the main character’s search for a pseudonymous author of an erotic short story he loves. A real short story, by the way, published in The New Olympia Reader, also quite real. The Story of O was published anonymously, and that is, IMHO, the greatest erotic work we have, the Mount Everest of the genre, in the same way that 50 Shades of Grey is the Mariana Trench. All novels contain stuff that really happened, and all memoirs contain stuff that did not. For artistic reasons, generally. But both, if done well, are honest.
[S]: And that was it. Fini. Like a phantom in a dream, he disappeared into the crowd and I was left alone to nurse the remainder of a watered-down Cosmo and wonder where I went wrong. No good-night kiss, no au revoir, and then I saw it, a copy of his book left just for me. Smoothing the cover with my fingertips, I opened it, saw the inscription and smiled.
[B]: That part I won’t reveal, because I’m a gentleman. Or, at least, I play one on TV.
Naughty nineties nostalgia: The memoirist known as Barrymore recalls the formative months of his erotic history, which took place in the hot and steamy DC summer of 1994, when he was just out of college.
Release date: 3/13/18 available for pre-order now!