Stoneybrookite

the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Peter Lerangis

Most readers of this blog already know that Peter Lerangis wrote movie novelizations, including the one for the BSC movie, under the pseudonym A. L. Singer. “A. L. Singer,” of course, is an anagram for “Lerangis.”

What I’m about to say may shock you, but it’s perfectly logical. Take the “s” in “Singer” and move it to the front, and what do you get? “S. A. L. Inger.”

Clearly, “Peter L.” has been hiding something from us all along. Lerangis is no Greek last name. It’s a clever anagram for Jerome David’s Peter’s true identity.

J. D. Salinger stopped publishing after Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters/Seymour: An Introduction. But we know that he never stopped writing. Most assume that the work he did after withdrawing from the publishing world is kept in a safe somewhere, probably on his property in New Hampshire. But what if he did publish, perhaps stories about the Glass family with names and identifying details changed, and we just didn’t notice? What if he gave them titles like Jessi’s Big Break, about Franny’s brief time in a ballet company, or Logan Bruno, Boy Baby-Sitter, about Zooey dealing with bullies in Hollywood who want him to sell out?

You may scoff and say, “Salinger is dead; Lerangis is still alive. He tweets all the time and goes on book tours.” I don’t need 39 clues to tell me that Salinger was extremely interested in longevity and could easily fake his death and pay someone to act as “Peter Lerangis” and go on book tours.

For a writer who just wants to practice his craft and have people read his work without having to deal with angsty teenage fans and grad students who come to Cornish, NH to catch a glimpse of him, middle-grade series novelist is the perfect cover. No one would ever think to make the connection. Plus, both men were interested in theater in their youth. Clearly that’s a sign that the anagram is no coincidence and that they are, in fact, the same person.

Besides, Thomas Pynchon is still alive.

Not long ago, there was a post on the BSC Snark livejournal comparing the TV actresses to the movie ones. Veteran BSC snarker 3-foot-6 mentioned that she felt that the tv show did a better job capturing the feelings of the books because the books were really more of a late 80s/mid 90s thing, whereas the movies came out in 1995. She says,

I recently decided the reason the movie sucks is that it was just made too late. The whole movie is so quintessentially 1995 – baby doll dresses! Girl power soundtrack! – and the books are so rooted in the late 80s and early 90s. The whole fashion/slang/culture aesthetic is off just enough that it doesn’t feel familiar to fans. Whereas the TV show is right there in the horrible fashion and shitty dialogue wheelhouse of the books.

This is an interesting point, because, as someone who started reading in 1993, the books that I read when they were new, which probably began around the 70s or so, are the ones that feel the most BSC to me. I understand that this is a blasphemy for many in the BSC fandom, since by this time, the quality had dropped down considerably and Ann was only writing outlines by this point. But like I have said before, BSC has never been something that I’ve read for the quality in the first place; it’s something I’ve always read for a feeling, for a fantasy. The books that came out in the mid-90s and later are the ones that conicide with my own childhood. They are the ones that didn’t already seem kind of outdated when I read them the first time around. Kristy’s Great Idea already felt a little old when I read it the first time at the end of first grade.

I’m not sure, actually, why so many people consider the BSC to be an 80s series in the first place. Yes, it started in 1986, but sales-wise, the series peaked in around 1992. Mary Anne and Dawn’s parents hadn’t even gotten married yet by the end of the 1980s. Only 29 regular series books, three Super Specials, and six Little Sister books had come out by December 1989. Going by numbers, the BSC is really more of a 90s phenomenon, in my opinion.

Perhaps I feel this way because I only became aware of the BSC series when I started school, and barely remember the late 80s. To me, the BSC is rooted in my childhood, which 1995 would probably be considered the apex of, and long-time readers of this blog or people who have interacted with me on various fora know that I make no bones about much preferring the ghostwritten books, ones that focus more on interesting topics such as boy drama and malling-used-as-a-verb.

I do realize that this is an unpopular opinion, though. Agree? Disagree? Should we do a final four bracket of the various BSC ghostwriters and Ann, ending in a Peter Lerangis vs Ann M. Martin smackdown? OMG I might actually do this.

Last week I watched the movie Young Adult, which stars Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt and was made by the people behind Juno, which I’ve never seen. Besides feeling lots and lots of secondhand embarrassment for Charlize Theron’s character, Patton Oswalt’s excellent turn at dramatic acting, and this song from Teenage Fanclub, the movie has one very important thing going for it. In the movie, Charlize Theron’s character’s profession is… wait for it… YA series ghostwriter!!!

Now we can imagine how Nola Thacker looked while working on the BSC, amirite?

So Mavis, Theron’s character, is a ghostwriter for a YA series called Waverly Prep, which I imagine to be more in the Gossip Girl vein than the BSC or SVH, but whatever. The thing that stuck with me, besides the realization that ghostwriter for a YA/middle grade reader series is kind of a dream job for me, is that the fact that the series has just been CANCELLED is a plot point that’s kind of floating in the background the whole time, and, in my opinion, the thing that really sets off Mavis’s mid-30s crisis, even more than the fact that her long-ago boyfriend had a baby and is apparently happy.

This, of course, brought to mind the BSC and its end in 2000. The end of the BSC has always been spun as, “Ann decided it was time for the thing to end,” but it’s always struck me as more PR than truth. Let’s look at the facts:

  • Before the introduction of Friends Forever, they redesigned the Mystery series, only to use the new covers for, oh, three books. Now, it’s possible that the art department and the editorial department just didn’t communicate that well, but it says to me that Friends Forever was something that was moved along quickly and was somewhat of a surprise to those who worked on the series.
  • California Diaries and Little Sister ended without a satisfying, wrap-everything-up ending, whereas Friends Forever had Graduation Day. The Claudia/Alan, and yes I am just going to go with this fantasy of mine here, Mary Anne/Cary (or at least Mary Anne-on-her-own) plotlines were not resolved. Stacey/Ethan also didn’t really get a satisfying conclusion.

    It seems to me that the ending of the BSC, and perhaps even the transition to Friends Forever, was more sudden than Ann & Co. let on. It would have been fairly easy to put together Graduation Day, because it’s the obvious conclusion to the series. It would have been harder to decide a proper sendoff for Ducky and Karen. Perhaps the California Diaries team and the Little Sister team didn’t even know they were being axed alongside the BSC and figured that rumors about the end of the BSC wouldn’t affect them–maybe Little Sister had better sales than its big sister series, much like how the Full House “Michelle” books were being published long after ABC cancelled the show. I’m not sure how good California Diaries sales were, but I can see them attracting the audience that felt embarrassed to be buying the BSC, but still wanting to feel some connection to the characters.

    It’s entirely possible that only the FF editorial team was given enough notice to properly finish out the series. Maybe the LS and CD people had a whole bunch of books outlined that they never got to finish. I’d ask @PeterLerangis, but I’m sure Scholastic made him sign a blood oath to never tell the true story.

    One of the things that struck me about the plotline in the film is that they did in fact use the word “cancelled,” exactly as you would for a television series. I guess it makes sense for a book series as well; I had just never thought of that way. I had always seen the end of a book series as more as an agreement between the author and publisher, not the publisher deciding to no longer publish the books. Looking back on it, I think this is probably a naive attitude to have about how the publishing world works. Just like how many cancelled series have episodes in the can that will never air, I am sure that many book series had more plots outlined and new characters in the wings that never ended up on bookshelves.

  • Sweet Valley Confidential, the long-awaited “reunion” book for the Sweet Valley High universe, came out this week, a cause for much excitement for twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with Liz and Jess.

    Shockingly to some, Sweet Valley was never my thing. I started with BSC at age six, and I think my mom felt that I was too young for Sweet Valley High, too advanced a reader for Kids, and dear god just look at all the spinny racks of Francine Pascal; I AM ALREADY LINING ANN M. MARTIN’S COFFERS EVERY MONTH. CHOOSE ONE. So I think the number of SV books I ended up reading adds up to less than ten.

    I bought Sweet Valley Confidential anyway, because I needed some light reading on my Kindle, I’m running out of trashy celebrity tell-alls, and Meg Cabot’s new book isn’t out until the middle of the month. (SO excited for Abandon!) I actually haven’t finished reading it yet, because having never really been a fan, it’s just not as much as a page-turner for me as it for those who grew up wanting to be size six blonde beauties with eyes the color of the California ocean. Or alternatively, Lila Fuckin’ Fowler. Anyway, I am only like a third or so of the way through, which is unusual for me because in third grade my teacher called me a liar because I read faster than she did.

    The question that SVC brings up for me, of course, is whether such a book would work for the BSC. We already have the The Summer Before, which I think works okay as a prequel, even though I don’t like how it messed with canon a bit. Ann has pretty much categorically denied that there will ever be a book featuring the Sitters after eighth grade graduation, but she also had, in the past, said that there won’t be ANY new books featuring the girls, and we got The Summer Before, so let’s examine the possbilities and the logistics.

    A book like Confidential, with the girls aged ten years or so? I honestly have a hard time seeing it work, and wouldn’t even really want it. I like that we can explore our own ideas for the girls’ futures in fan fiction, and it’s not set in stone that so and so got married/divorced/had babies/came out/became an executive/became a ne’er do well who never moved out of his parents’ basement (Hi, Logan!). Also, frankly, I don’t really see Ann has an adult/chick lit writer, or even a writer for an older YA audience. I don’t think she’s really a writer who wants to deal with sex, drugs, alcohol, and more adult topics. I think she handled more “adult” storylines deftly in Main Street, but in a PG fashion. I just don’t see her wanting to introduce adulthood to the BSC.

    I can see a Confidential-type book working, however, for California Diaries. It would be THE BEST THING EVER. Bring in Peter Lerangis to write it! The CD books were always more adult than BSC, and touched on issues in a way that would shock the shit out of Stoneybrook. So yes, bring on Palo City Confidential!

    I do think that a BSC-in-High School book or miniseries would work. Maybe bring Stoneybrook up to Palo City-levels of issues beyond “Wow, why do all of the parents in Stoneybrook suck?” Bring in a little bit of sex and controversy, just not as much as in the adult lives as our Sweet Valley friends. This is, I think, the most likely scenario for any kind of BSC reunion book.

    Ann has said that she has no plans to write a reunion book, and prefers that readers are able to imagine the girls’ future themselves. But she had also said that she would never write a new BSC book of any kind, and we ended up with The Summer Before anyway. Sweet Valley Confidential seems to be doing pretty well, if the excitement across the non-fandom blogosphere is any indication. Scholastic might take note of the possible very large dollar signs. The problem with The Summer Before is that it is very much a book aimed at middle grade readers. Parents who were fans as children might want to buy it for their kids, kids might be interested in it, and super diehard nostalgists might want it, but it’s not something that most adults would buy for themselves. Whereas Sweet Valley Confidential appeals to both teenage readers who weren’t around for SVH the first time around AND to readers who are now adults, who are ok with reading a trashy novel about people in their own age group. While a book about high schoolers isn’t quite the same thing, I can see people wanting to know what happened to the girls once they finally graduated from eighth grade, after a sisyphean thirteen-year run.

    What do you think of the BSC’s reunion book possibilities?

    Thanks to super sleuth BooBooBrewer, here is a link to a cracked-out video by Peter Lerangis, where he spends most of the video talking in a Russian accent, pretending to be some guy named Ivan Kulik. Honestly, Peter Lerangis sounds and acts exactly like you’d expect Peter Lerangis to sound and act.

    Peter Lerangis is kind of a controversial topic among BSC fans, I think. It is generally pretty obvious when he is the ghostwriter. He is found of sound effects, and puns, and you usually feel like the sitter missed her dose of ritalin that day. I happen to enjoy Peter, and I think he does Claudia and Kristy’s voices especially well–his sense of humor meshes well with their characters. But some people just find him irritating, or think that his style is too obvious and distracting. What do you think of PL?

    Yahoo! Answers is basically a repository of FAIL. The following question is proof positive of this fact:

    peterlerangis.jpg

    Let’s dissect the many layers of FAIL in this question. Wanting to know how to best contact Peter Lerangis isn’t FAIL, because how do you think I found this question? I was googling that shit. No, the issue here is that the asker wants to know 1) Where Peter Lerangis lives 2) because they want to write him an email 3) and how many stamps it would require.

    OK, first of all, you don’t need to know where someone lives to write them an EMAIL. You need their EMAIL ADDRESS. You also don’t need STAMPS to write an email. Emails are FREE. And even if the asker were writing a letter, presuming they live in the United States, he/she should know that a normal letter can be mailed using ONE STAMP.

    Has your head exploded yet? Mine has.

    There are several character-memes in the BSC fandom, and one of them is “Stacey is a ho.” I.e., you will find Stacey underneath the bleachers sucking off the basketball team LOL. I have always found these meme to be unfair and distasteful. Yes, as we saw in Stacey and the Boyfriend Trap, Stacey sure has had a lot of boyfriends for an eighth grader. But to be fair, Stace was in eighth grade for a very long time. (Oooh, another fandom meme!) Really, is it so hard to believe that someone who is smart, attractive, and pretty damn nice would be attractive to the opposite sex? And wouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend (or seven)?

    SOmeone on the BSC boards, however, pointed out that they didn’t really like the message that it sent that Stacey moved right on from one serious relationship (Robert Brewster) to another (Ethan Carroll). This criticism kind of threw me for a loop, because I’ve done the same thing. I am what a women’s magazine would call a serial monogamist. I don’t have one night stands. I date people for about two years, and enter into a relationship state known as being Brooklyn-married. The longest time since I’ve been seriously dating that I’ve gone without some sort of romantic attachment: two weeks. Shortest: twelve hours. So as you can see, for me Stacey’s serial monogamy that occurs later in the series doesn’t strike me as odd at all, and I never even thought to fret about the messages that Stacey’s boy-attachment sends to young, impressionable readers.

    Then, like in Beavis and Butt-head when their very small and ineffectual brains begin working, a dim, small lightbulb appeared above my head. Out of all the BSC members, Stacey is the one whose family situation most resembles my own. My dad has always worked a lot, my parents got divorced, and he found his own Samantha Young while my mother is still single. I can say, easily, that things that are easy for my friends with parents in loving stable relationships (getting over things, breaking up with someone), are very difficult or near impossible for me. I then began to think about some of the other members of the BSC, and their attitudes toward men and relationship.

    Mary Anne, Jessi, and Claudia are probably the healthiest. Jessi’s parents seem to have a really great relationship, and Squirt is still a toddler so you know their marriage is still Hot. Jessi is usually pretty level-headed, and she tells Quint where to go when he wants to take their relationship further and more serious than she is comfortable with at age eleven.

    As far as Mary Anne goes, well, my hatred for Logan is still strong. Despite her meekness, Mary Anne is able to stand up for herself and dump the dead weight and bossiness to rival Kristy Thomas that is Logan Bruno. Yeah, she takes him back a few books later, after he promises to smother her less, but she finally realizes that Logan is not the guy for her in Mary Anne’s Big Breakup. She knows that she needs to be her own person, and having Logan Bruno around will hinder that. It is easy to criticize Richard Spier for being nerdy and over-protective, but I think that Richard, especially later Richard, is one of the BSC parents who is actually the most tuned-in and active in their kid’s life. It was Richard’s help, after all, that Mary Anne recognized that she needed to dump Logan–for good this time. Even her friends in the BSC blew her off, but Richard recognized that the relationship wasn’t really working for Mary Anne anymore.

    Claudia is someone who should be on the same boy-attractiveness plain as Stacey, but she doesn’t even have a boyfriend who’s not a Vacation Boyfriend until Mark Jaffe. Janine dumps her Hottie Boyfriend Jerry and have her pine after her for the rest of the series. Go Janine! The Kishis, like the Ramseys, have a really strong marriage.

    On the divorce side, we also have Kristy and Dawn. While many pin Kristy as a lesbian, I don’t think that not caring about clothes and a love for sports automatically defines someone as a lesbian. Kristy manages to keep Bart as her sort-of boyfriend until Kristy + Bart = ?. Bart gets fresh (Peter Lerangis’s memorable makeout scene!), Kristy freaks out. Kristy realizes that she is not ready for that kind of action yet. Some people read this as Kristy will NEVER be ready for this kind of action if a penis is attached, but I think that might not be necessarily true. I think it has far more to do with the fact that her father abandoned her. Kristy: probably should go to therapy now that she has a millionaire stepdad who can afford it.

    Finally, we have Dawn. Dawn is one of the more contradictory characters in the BSC, and perhaps in children’s literature as a whole. We are told over and over that Dawn is such an individual, but yet she often changes her California Casual self to satisfy what she perceives as what other people would like. The two most glaring examples of this involve boys: Travis and Lewis. Dawn did everything Travis told her, because she thought that Travis liked her and if she cut her hair and pierced her ears again that he would like her even more. And then she made that kind of psychotic-sounding phone call–”I was already a beauty!” And for Lewis, Dawn did that weird makeover/personality transplant, and then immediately went back to Old Dawn when he revealed that he liked Old Dawn more. Insecurity stemming from the fact that her parents, who for most of her life seemed to be happy and loving, very suddenly got divorced and her family was ripped in half? It’s the only explanation I can come up with that makes sense.

    I am sure that there are people with divorced parents who are OK with relationships, and people with happily-married parents who are messed up about them, for various life factors. But it sure does seem to be an explanation for a lot of what goes in BSC lovelife land.

    First, some referrals.

    “stacey+bret+michaels”–while i agree that they have a lot of in common–blond, type I diabetes, tight pants, and willing to make out with a lot of people–I’m not sure why you’d google it. Perhaps there is some fanfiction in the works?

    “bsc+blog+greer” omg I have real fan/stalker. Awesome.

    “biography+ellen+miles”

    Who is that interested in Ellen Miles? Peter Lerangis, now that I can understand. I want to know more about him. I know that he visited Russia with Laura Bush and is writing a new series entitled DRAMA CLUB, but little more. I want to know more about my favorite ghostwriter, with his beat-you-over-the-head-with-stupid-puns wit. His writing style reminds me of Carrie Bradshaw’s narration. If you read his BSC books, especially the Stacey ones, hearing it in your mind with Sarah Jessica Parker’s voice, it sounds so right, it’s wrong. I also am convinced he is a homosexual, which makes his descriptions of how attractive the BSC girls less creepy.

    I would really like to read “Drama Club,” even though I think theater people are really annoying. I would like to see if Pete’s wit, and fondness for naming minor characters after himself is endemic to all of his work or just BSC, and I can’t bring myself to read his juvenile “thriller” books.


    Question: Does anyone who reads this blog like baby-sitting? I personally would prefer a visit to the dentist or taking a math test or waiting in line at airport security to baby-sitting. I thought it was weird that Dawn liked baby-sitting but was not so interested in having kids of her own, because I find that most people hate all kids but their own–although Dawn’s lifestyle choices are totally valid and everything. Perhaps Ann was addressing a question that must have come up, and came to my mind while I was reading the books as a kid–how could someone who was such a baby-sitting expert not ever have kids of her own? Speaking of Ann, there is a new “Letter From Ann” at her site where she talks about how she drove to Michigan instead of flying so she could travel with her dog. She has moved on from being a Cat Lady to a Dog Person. There is a weird clip of her playing with Sadie here.

    Opinions? Questions? Comments? Do you also think Peter Lerangis is gay?


    UPDATE: Sharp-eyed reader Myu pointed me to a Scholasitc bio which states that Peter is married (to a woman) and has two children. But c’mon, “working as a singing waiter in Nantucket”? It is easy to see how I made this mistake.