Books: What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? by Jack Douglas

When I was 14 or 15, I developed an interest in Thoreau and Walden Pond, most likely due to organized attempts to save Walden from greedy builders who wanted to make it a resort or apartments or something. Around that same time I also frequented a used-book store. And it was there that I found this old hardback. That I mistakenly thought might actually have something to do with Walden Pond.

Jack Douglas was evidently a comedy writer, and it seems he put out a number of books, though this is the only one I’ve ever found at a used-book store, or any bookstore. He’s kind of like an earlier model of Dave Barry? A lot of the “jokes” here are products of the times (this book came out in 1971), meaning today’s PC crowd would not be pleased. I have somewhat tougher skin, but I still winced once or twice. And a lot of the humor requires, er, timely knowledge of persons in the Hollywood system that I’ve never heard of. I can get the gist of the jokes, but they don’t land quite as on target due to my not having been alive at the time.

Douglas writes about how he and his family had lived in a remote cabin in Canada, but he was called up by Hollywood to come out and write a movie for a comedian. Hilarity ensues. Kind of. He moves his family to California and struggles to get this movie written, and the book is really just anecdotes about story meetings and cocktail parties and trying to find a place to live. It’s not an unpleasant read (though I may be giving him more slack since I’ve also worked in “the biz”), but not what I find all that funny. And I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be? Maybe “mildly humorous” is what Douglas was going for all along? Maybe he was saving the good stuff for Jack Parr.

I did tear up when he wrote about all his beloved animals, though. Because I feel the same way about all the pets I’ve had in my life.

I read this book when I was 14 or 15 and have had it ever since. Now, while unpacking after moving and desperate for something to read, I picked it up again. It’s been good poolside fare, and I’d honestly read other of his books… if I ever found any… Guess it’s time for a visit to the used-book store.