THE SOUND OF GOD-KNOWS-WHAT By Peter Filichia
So what does this sentence remind you of?
“She spread out her arms and spun in circle after circle, her face toward the sun, her short hair ruffling in the light breeze, a radiant smile plastered on her face.”
Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, right?
Yes – but these specific words come from Alan Goldsher’s 2012 novel MY FAVORITE FANGS.
I was in Niantic, Connecticut in Book Barn when the cover caught my eye and wouldn’t let it go. There was the familiar logo of the Oscar-winning film, but this Maria von Trapp looked pale and drawn.
When we first meet her, she’s a bat until she lands on earth. Then she turns into Maria, who became a vampire after having been bitten by a bat. As Maria explains her occasional flight of fancy, “I take to the skies when my heart is lonely. My heart wants to scream every song it hears.”
Then Maria is off to the abbey, described as an “eyesore in the most rancid part of Salzburg” where The Sisters of the Undead reside. One nun was killed after she fell off a doe named Golden Sun.
The convent has a “wine” cellar, and, yes, Golsher puts his own quotation marks around the word. (You can easily guess why.)
In case you don’t know the meaning of “flibbertygibbet,” the nuns will oblige: a promiscuous girl. And believe me: I’m putting it much more elegantly than Goldsher does. His nuns believe that “a day without disgustingness is like a day without a moonbeam in your hand.”
Maria again reminds Mother Zombie that she likes to sing “songs with nice melodies and interesting chord changes but corny lyrics.” We see that Goldsher admires Rodgers much more than Hammerstein.
(More on that later.)
Mother Zombie asks Maria “Would you like to sing one right now?” to which Maria admits “I’d like to, but there might be an issue with royalties.”
Besides, Mother Zombie has a chore for Maria – to care for “seven mortal children. How do you feel about kids?” And with the spirit worthy of burlesque top bananas, Maria replies “They have stringy necks, but they generally taste sweeter than adults.”
So she gets the job as governess, packs her suitcase as well as a musical instrument. Not a guitar, mind you, but a tenor saxophone.
Before Maria leaves, Mother Zombie imparts some words of wisdom: “When the Devil closes a door, he opens a window and shoves someone right out of it.”
Goldsher shows us he’s into grammar, for he has John Coltrane correct the last word of Maria’s credo “I Have Confidence in Me” – that it should be “I Have Confidence in Myself.”
Maria’s response? “Tell that to Hammerstein.”
And there’s Goldsher’s first mistake. Original SOUND OF MUSIC lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II had been dead for more than a thousand days before this song was created – some say by Richard Rodgers himself, some say by Saul Chaplin, some say by both.
Are you still stuck on seeing the name John Coltrane? There was a famous mid-twentieth century jazz musician by that name – and that’s precisely the person that Goldsher means. Our author brought him into the story because in 1961, Coltrane recorded an album called MY FAVORITE THINGS; it showcased a thirteen-minute version of the song.
Goldsher has a new take on the famous scene where Maria makes the kids’ play clothes from the discarded drapes. Instead, she tells the housekeeper that she’ll wear them because “they’ll make me pretty and witty and gay. I pity any girl who isn’t me today.”
Goldsher then writes “From outside came a scream: ‘Wrong musical!’”
As for the children, Friedrich is one lusty lad who has his eye (and more) on Maria. Liesl immediately guesses her new governess hails from vampire-land, and, bored teen that she is, feels that she’d get more excitement if she could become one, too. Maria obliges by using her fangs to take a big juicy bite.
Soon Maria is on her knees in prayer: “Dear Lucifer, now I know why you sent me here.”
When the Captain announces he’ll be leaving for Vienna, Goldsher writes that the children “broke into heartfelt applause.” This does make life easier for Liesl to have a clandestine meeting with Rolf.
In the original, Liesl admits to her beau “I know that I’m naive.” In contrast, here she says “I know things about bachelor dandies and drinkers of brandies that you wouldn’t believe. Touch me, you hot piece of Aryan beef.”
Rolf probably would in ordinary circumstances, but he’s seen through her: “When did you become a vampire?” That starts a terrible ever-escalating fight between them that results in her killing him.
When she enters Maria’s bedroom, she’s naked. “You won’t tell father, will you?”
That’s as far as I’ve read – and I’m not at all sure I’ll continue. My guess is that this is the first you’ve heard of MY FAVORITE FANGS, and it may well be the last, for this book I bought for less money than a Starbucks latte.
And yet, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which began its life in nearby New Haven nearly sixty years ago, is still with us. Safe to say that it, unlike MY FAVORITE FANGS, will be around as long as there are raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Peter Filichia also writes a column each Monday at www.broadwayselect.com and each Friday at www.mtishows.com. He can be heard most weeks of the year on www.broadwayradio.com.