FIVE READS: Saving Bill Murray

Joshua Lorenzo Newett’s latest novel is titled Saving Bill Murray. The book centers around several characters including Mr. Bronze, who is a self-loathing agoraphobic who writes for the seniors' magazine AARP Goldcoasters. And Jonathan Rosenberg who is heir to his grandfather's paper plate fortune. And they there is Ryan, who is an Evangelical Christian who believes God has called him to save the soul of Bill Murray. Yep, you heard me right. It appears that God believes that Bill Murray’s soul needs saving.

It's a novel about post-modernism, religious zealotry, existentialism, and the absurd. It's about coming to the edge of the abyss and peering in. It's about regeneration through destruction.

Joshua, who writes regularly for FIVE THOT, has given us (you and me) access to the prologue and Chapter One of Saving Bill Murray. Here’s the Prologue, and here’s Chapter One. And here’s how you can buy the book now that we’ve whet your appetite.

Prologue: The Juliet Motel

Mr. Bronze was hit with low-proof déjà vu as he peered out through the curtains at the humming neon sign of the Juliet Motel. He sketched the Korean letters in his Moleskine,‘Why does it seem so hauntingly familiar?’. There was a book in which the protagonist repeatedly saw the neon sign of a Chinese restaurant, The Moon Palace, through the window of his apartment. The strangest thing was that he couldn’t put a time on it. He couldn’t remember how long ago he had read it. Was it three days, months, or years ago? He wondered if the book could have been written about him, but then abruptly tried to flush the illogical thought from his mind before it got stuck and started cycling.

He tried to imagine cold, pure, flowing water. “Tachycardia,” he whispered three times quickly. The gears whirred in his head, something clicked into place, and he remembered peering through other curtains under much different circumstances, circumstances he didn’t at all like remembering but was trying hard to come to terms with.

He had to remember he was safe, that he alone controlled his thoughts. If it happened again, he supposed the Juliet would be a nice enough place to leap from. He was sure the eight-story drop would leave nothing to chance. He pictured his shattered body bathed in blue neon light, the mercurial reflection dancing off the thick red blood as it slowly inched its way from his body into the brisk night air and ran diagonally into the cracks along the asphalt and into the gutter. He could hear the tap tap tap of the blood dripping from the grate of the gutter adding splashes of color to the dried leaves below. ‘Would the blood steam?’ he wondered. ‘If so, for how long?’

“Ok, Ok! I’m in control of my mind!” he reasoned with the moon, but he slipped back into the days that turned his stomach and made him feel a stranger to himself. He picked up a Moleskine and began scribbling furiously.

The air was stifling and smelled of sweat, mildewed magazines, and dusty carpets. I was peering outside through the curtains as usual. Dark and bright. Noisy and calm. Empty and crowded. I was scared of those things. At the time, I preferred death to life, slightly rancid cheesecake to fresh. I would rather stay in the smelly darkness with my thirty-seven year old carpet than be in the park in the morning. Oh, that shag carpet I hated to love. It destroyed my sanity daily, but it also somehow kept me alive. I felt the vague possibility it was tied into the very fabric of the universe, or at least I was terrified of the idea that it was possible for me to believe that it was somehow tied into the very fabric of the universe. I was frightened by possibilities in those days.

I was afraid of buses and shoes and my hand touching things outside accidentally—of talking to people and remembering it unconsciously. Those were all my enemies, and I was fighting them to survive. I repeatedly told the flies and dust mites it was the only way I could be happy. I knew the fake world would attack me someday, that insanity would sweep over my mind. There were two things I was connected to, two things I hated but had to accept to survive. One of them was my work, writing articles for a magazine. I was always typing them, banging away on the keyboard of my Apple IIe. They were all very human stories, reworked cheesy harlequin romances, ripped off adventure tales, or cat-shit detective stories. They were all trash.

I typed stupid stories for the elderly in one of those dismal magazines geared toward senior citizens, the kind they read before they die. I never understood why they wanted to spend their money on such gloomy magazines about other seniors when death lurked so near. Maybe it was something to fill the void that was their lives. Maybe it made them feel important that a whole magazine was put out just for them, even though they were rotting away in some home, someone still cared. It still makes me sick to imagine a grey, wrinkly, recliner-bound blue-hair spending their last days reading the depressing drivel that filled the pages of AARP Gold Coasters. The horrible diner reviews, the bleak write-ups on seniors resorts, and my monthly fictional serving of slop, all peppered with ads for the latest Bluebird mobility scooters, time shares, and text magnifiers. Old age was big money, and I was at the feeding trough.

In those days, I constantly laughed at the shame of the human race, and when I did, a surge of sappy hatred oozed out of some long forgotten, now useless reptilian gland deep inside my brain. As my deadline approached I would grow more aggravated and often screamed things like “I know I’m faking, lying to myself, I’m tortured, tortured, fucking tortured. Shameful days and shameful fucking nights, and you’re all fucked, and you don’t even know it yet, you pathetic morons.” I would bang away at the keyboard of my Apple IIe until I began to perspire heavily. It came to that every month; it was the only way I could finish those piece-of-cat-shit articles. I was scared of falling asleep, scared that I would wake up and not know who or where I was. Scared that I would think I was in another dimension, or scared by the possibility I could wake up thinking I was in another dimension. I was scared by possibilities a lot back then. Every night, after I turned out the lights, I would remember some variety of horror, some torturous scenario that, while not probable, was possible, like an alien invasion, the sun suddenly sputtering out, or my heart stopping in my sleep. My reptilian gland would begin to pump, then the pains came along in the darkness, rising from my legs like a slow electric current into my stomach. Many times I became paralyzed by fear, or at least semi-paralyzed by the possibility I could become paralyzed by fear. When it got too bad, I forced my body up and drew lines on the wall. Thick and thin, soft and hard. I always used a purple crayon. I was obsessed with the color. It was like a warm winter, like a girl in men’s underwear, or a flower in the sea.

He shut the Moleskine and closed his eyes tightly in shame and remorse, wondering how he could ever have let himself deteriorate to such a state. He had loathed humanity in those days; just thinking about it now sent him on a downward trajectory like that which had often caused him to spiral out of control.


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