The Foundation Trilogy (Bob Vila Series)

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The Foundation Trilogy (ISBN, Chicago, Illinois, 60601) (not to be confused with the generations-spanning saga created by Isaac Asimov) is a home-improvment omnibus and journey of discovery penned by home-improvement legend Bob Vila. In it, he details his journey from cabaret dancer with a crumbling home foundation to do-it-yourself legend worshipped by millions.

The omnibus edition of the book (pictured) is the most famous and well-known of the books, and contains the three books, which were released between 1975 and 1983, and which led to his breakthrough PBS series This Old Host, followed by its sequel This Old Host, Too, both shows of which has passed on to less dementia-affected hosts, most of whom have beards or are growing them now.

edit The Books In The Series


You can judge this book by its cover, yo.

edit Foundation

The book Foundation, first released in 1975, introduces us to Bob Vila who, in his evening persona as Elvis Costello, was a lounge and cabaret singer who loved his work but just wasn't very popular.

One day, before leaving for an evening's gig, he noticed that, at several key places, the foundation of his house was in dangerous decay. Pausing to hit the Yellow Pages, he turns up what seems to be a well-regarded local contractor, Hairy Seldom (Lic. Bond, CCB# G-H45-H2SO4) with whom he schedules an appointment.

After inspecting the foundation, the bushy-maned, bearded Seldom recommends a course of action involving replacement of the dangerously-compromised foundation work. After checking several references and Angie's List, Vila decides to go with the plan as presented. Sadly, however, the fact that Seldom requested all his fees in advance raised no red-flags with the home-improvement virgin. After removing the entire foundation and balancing the house on jacks, Hairy Seldom disappears and is never seen again, thus leaving Bob as well as his house in a precarious position as well as living up to both halves of his name.

Distraught, Bob's career as a cabaret singer came to a halt as he dealt with this, the first of the Seldom Crises (which, despite the name, happened fairly frequently with Bob), the name the author uses for the string of travails borne from ever having anything to do with Hairy Seldom. In this time of stress and darkness, nearly broke and unable to hire another contractor to complete the job, Bob discovers the do-it-yourself section of his local public library, and begins to haunt the Better Homes and Gardens section. There, between the books on zonal geraniums and how to build a nuclear reactor, Bob discovers the books that will be his salvation: home improvement books, particularly those on home repair.

Learning his lessons and studying hard, Bob finds the knowledge he needs, and in short order, his house has a new foundation. But in his haste, he forgets one thing … which forms the basis of the second book.

edit Foundation and Mortar

After getting the new works under his house he notices something a bit strange. Guests compliment him on his acumen as they examine the exquisite brickwork, but still the house seems on shaky ground. A friend of Bob's who was skilled in beard-growing and contracting, Del Ross, takes a look at Bob's work and sees the flaw immediately:

Bob's created an immaculately-realized foundation, with just one problem: he's left out all the mortar.

"So that's why all the blocks fit together so precisely!" wonders a bemused Bob.
"You might try growing a beard", replies Del, noting that all the great contractors have them and it helps them all somehow.

Unsure of where to go now, Bob dithers until the autumn, distracted by The Mole, a mole-like mole who serves as comic relief mostly and tries to further undermine Bob's house for no discernable reason. Eventually the autumn storm season sets in and, nudged by a a particularly fierce plot complication fall storm, Bob's house is pushed off its foundation and is utterly ruined.

The book closes with Bob's dejected and depressed retreat to a Motel 6 while he figures out what he's going to do next and wait for the insurance money to come in. This sets not only the scene for his personal and commercial rebirth but also, as the author was thankful for, the third volume in the series.

edit Second Foundation

The last volume opens just as the previous one closes, a convenience intended for those who don't want to be bothered with reading two books simultaneously.

Bob ross

Bob Vila (or perhaps some other Bob) at work. The beard makes all the difference. You can do anything with that beard.

It develops that Bob's insurance company is slow in paying out, and it becomes necessary for Bob to find work, his savings depleted and his career in cabaret singing in irretrievable shambles. It's at this point that Bob realizes his Motel 6 is just across the road from a Home Depot that happens to be hiring. Touched by his story, they hire the then-beardless Bob.

He has a slow start but eventually begins to catch on – bits of board, things that were sticking out, he was rather clumsy. Eventually a minor accident make it necessary for him to remain unshaven for a few days, and in the middle of the night, the beard imparts its contractor wisdom to him. Finally he sees, and quits being an Aqua Velva man, never to turn back.

The beard and its insights turn Bob into a force of nature, and in no time he's risen to managership of his Home Depot store as well as wrests the insurance money from his homeowners insurance. By now, Bob has become a local celebrity, and the whole town turns out to see him single-handedly rebuild his foundation (this time with mortar) and re-erect his house.

The Mole again turns up to hector Bob, but Bob steps on him, thus ending the menace.

In the book's last scene, a PBS executive approaches him with an idea for a show he'd like him to host. The man wears a beard.

edit Critcal Reaction

Reception by the home-improvement and literary worlds were mixed, but along expected lines: the literary world thought it was remainder-ready, and the home-improvement world thought it was the recincarnated Bible.

Thomas Pynchon compared it to the works of J.D. Salinger, whereas Salinger compared it to Pynchon. Khalil Gibran found it hard to understand because it had no odd metaphysical pictures, as well as the fact that he'd died 1931. Chuck Palahniuk found it rough going in as much as it contained no thinly-veiled homoeroticism or, indeed, any violence; the only swearing occurred when Bob hit his Penis with a hammer.

However, God did buy up several print runs and give them out to Baha'is, and the book is inexplicably popular amongst unicorns.

edit Other Works By Bob Vila

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