Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, June 15, 2012


Sophomore Slumps:  Disasterous Second Movies, Albums, Singles, Books, and Other Stuff by Christopher Golden (1995)

Christopher Golden won a Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers of America for his first nonfiction book, Cut!:  Horror Writers on Horror Film (1992).  He went on to a very solid career with adult and YA dark fantasy, horror, and thrillers novels, media tie-ins, comics, anthologies, and further nonfiction.  By the time Sophomore Slumps came out, he had already published the first two books in the Peter Octavian/Shadows series as well as two solid YA thrillers.

     As the subtitle clearly indicates, the book focuses on sophomore efforts in a number of fields that either sucked or fell far short of expectations.  The book is divided into five parts:  Movie Stars, Film Directors, Musical Acts, TV Stars, and Authors.  It was released as an 8 1/2" by 5 1/2" paperback by Citadel Press.  From the back cover blurb:  "[T]he Sophomore Slump -- the follow up phenomenal successes with stupendous and often career-threatening flops...Filled with bad timing, bad judgment, bad movies, and more..."  How ironic that this book was Golden's Sophomore Slump.

     It was based on a cute idea should have worked but the idea was not developed.  The criteria for inclusion was sometimes vague and often erratic.  This "meticulously researched" book does detail sales figures and chart placements/ratings pretty well, but the book was poorly edited and poorly proofread at best.   The boners in facts should have been caught.  Sentences should have been strengthened to clarify Golden's meaning.  The whole book reads as a first draft.  And the abysmal book design did not help.

     Fully one-third of the book is taken up by movie stars -- twenty-five of them -- from (alphabetically) Jennifer Beals to Patrick Swayze.  (Beals went from Flashdance to The Bride; Swayze from Red Dawn to Grandview, U.S.A.)  Golden does not restrict himself to an actor's first movie; he starts from the actor's first big starring movie and then moves to a turkey or a poorly-performing flick.  He tries to ignore ensemble movies such as The Outsiders, which featured Swayze before he filmed Red Dawn.  Carrie Fisher did not technically have a Sophomore Slump because her second movie after Star Wars was The Empire Strikes Back; her "Sophomore Slump" involved moving from Princess Leia to Under the Rainbow

     Moving on to film directors, ten are covered, from Emile Ardolino to Steven Soderberg (Ardolino moved from Dirty Dancing to Chances Are -- a much better film, says Golden, but a flop -- and Soderberg went from sex, lies & videotape to Kafka).  Throughout the musical acts section, Golden ridicules the Starlight Vocal Band while covering twenty-four singers and groups from The Animals to Stevie Wonder.  The twenty-one TV stars considered includes Valerie Bertinelli, Redd Foxx, James Garner, Jim Nabors, and Adam West.  Only six authors are considered in the final short (seventeen pages) section:  William Peter Blatty, Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, Mario Puzo, and Anne Rice; it's as if Golden ran out of steam, or (perhaps) filled the page count his contract required.

     The book is filled with a lot of interesting and sometimes humorous facts, but the selection of people covered seems random.  It's interesting to look back from a seventeen-year viewpoint to see how people did or did not rebound.  The book remains a sort of time capsule from 1995, but when you open up a time capsule most of what you find inside is not very exciting.

     According to the acknowledgements, the idea for the book came from Golden's editor.  Golden himself is billed as senior editor of Flux magazine (which was a short-lived -- seven issues -- journal focusing on music and comic books; Golden covered the comic books) and the author of two novels (the Peter Octavian/Shadow books mentioned above); no mention made of the award-winning Cut!  Just as well.  There's no mention of this book in the bibliography on Golden's website.  As is the case of many Sophomore Slumps, it is best to just forget about it.


  1. I have this one. I remember being amused by it at the time I read it.

  2. I'll have to find a copy of this. Sounds like fun!

  3. And, of course, the question becomes what was so superb about the likes of RED DAWN or LESS THAN ZERO in the first place, aside from them becoming serious money-makers. CUT!, too, was pretty random and sloppy in certain aspects, certainly inconsistent. But I would probably enjoy going through this one, too.