Phillips gets writer’s block and ends up sucked into a chain of bad but lucrative businesses as he tries to figure out what to do with his life.
TV scripter Phillips had scads of talent, it seems, but little idea of how to apply it. The shambolic manner in which he tried to figure that out provides the grist for his memoir. Fresh out of the bucolic and positive-vibe-emitting environs of Marin County, Phillips published a roundly acclaimed novel (Tuscaloosa, 1994) at the ripe young age of 24. The expectations of further great work hamstrung his writing, and four years later he found himself depressed and on meds in Austin, struggling with “a doomed second novel.” Through a series of fortuitous personal connections leading via several degrees of separation to nascent South Park cartoonists Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Phillips wound up in California with a couple of friends, putting together a series of random cultural business ventures. They formed Certified Renegade American Product (CRAP) as an umbrella company to start ultra-indie film festivals that acted like self-proclaimed “barnacles” on the outskirts of Cannes and Sundance. They started a consulting business called Quiddity, a particularly ’90s entity that gave the spectacularly non-business-savvy Phillips and his coworkers the chance to be paid ridiculous amounts of money to formulate new names for companies or products. Not much came to fruition. The film festivals were just parties, and the businesses had little reason to exist; the author’s cynicism ballooned through the years of the Internet bubble. Phillips took a shot at acting in a porn film and made a short involving his penis. A feature idea that tried to merge Blair Witch–style POV filmmaking with Thomas Harris–like serial-killer profundity and millennial anxiety ultimately proved to be an exercise in sadism and colossal ego.
A mundane account of a pampered kid trying to find himself that offers nothing particularly illuminating, artful or self-reflective.