Friday, June 5, 2009

Bad habits.

The problem with being a writer (1) is that it becomes very easy to excuse one's own bad habits in the name of research.

Augusten Burroughs built a fantastic career (2) on being an alcoholic (3).

Diana Joseph was apparently a big slut (4).

James Frey was, you know, a liar.

For my part, I have a habit of eavesdropping in public spaces. This is not the worst vice ever and it generally goes unnoticed.

Until I start laughing as I did last night.

I was sitting having a drink, killing time before heading over to review a show, when a mother and her adult son came in and sat next to me. I was mostly minding my own business until they began discussing an upcoming trip abroad where they will be visiting a cemetary where some number of relatives were buried (5):

Mom: They're all there...lined up one next to the other.

Son: That's where I'm putting you.

Mom: No you're not. I'm being cremated. And then you're going to throw me into the hispanic.

No, I thought, he'll throw you into the latino (6).

1. Obscure or otherwise.
2. Actually, the argument could be made that he built two...one during and one after.
3. And being a good writer.
4. And if this is not true she might want to talk to the editor who titled her book...'cause that's really what jumps out.
5. I might have misheard this. But it's better my way.
6. Yeah. Pretty sure I misheard this.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dang. Maybe the title was right.

OK, so David Eggers might not be an actual genius but he's close enough for me to give him a pass.

Sure...he didn't realize that by giving his e-mail address out to an entire audience of New Yorkers and offering a personal "buck up" message about the future of print to anyone that needed it was perhaps not the most well considered idea ever (1).

"If you ever have any doubt, email me, and I will buck you up and prove to you that you're wrong."

Kind, yes. Sweet, absolutely.

Genius? Eh. Um. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

But then I read this (again in the Guardian article):

"At his publishing company McSweeney's, meanwhile, things are stable, and he believes they'll stay that way – it's only when publishing gets too ambitious that the wheels begin to fall off.

'We're a hand-to-mouth operation to be sure... Publishing has, for most of its life, been a place of small but somewhat profit margins, and the people involved in publishing were happy to be doing what they loved. It's only recently, when large conglomerates bought so many publishing companies and newspapers, that demands for certain margins squeezed some of the joy out of the business.'

The new issue of McSweeney's, he adds, will be published in newspaper form, in an attempt to show that if the print model is changed, if it can offer 'a clear and different experience' from the internet, then it can thrive. 'We believe that if you use the hell out of the medium, if you give investigative journalism space, if you give photojournalists space, if you give graphic artists and cartoonists space – if you really truly give readers an experience that can't be duplicated on the web – then they will spend $1 for a copy. And that $1 per copy, plus the revenue from some (but not all that many) ads, will keep the enterprise afloat,' he writes."

Eggers you magnificent bastard.

1. Shockingly, it got out on the Web. And, of course, in the Guardian article where I read all this.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salinger to California: "Oh no you di'in't."

J.D. Salinger would like J.D. California (1) to keep his mitts the heck of Holden Caulfield.

California has written a sequel to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, where "Mr. C" escapes from the nursing home where he's living and "embarks on a curious journey through the streets of New York."

But better than any novel Mr. California has written might be the story that he's telling about how he decided to write Coming Through the Rye.

The purported son of a Swedish mother and American father, California claims to have found a copy of Salinger's classic in a cabin in rural Cambodia where it helped pull him through dire tropical illness.

No word on why this former triathlete and gravedigger was in Cambodia...but maybe California is saving that for his second book.

1. John David California...which some suspect to not be his real name.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

So that's what it takes.

While they were in New York President Obama and the First Lady took in a little theater.

And, according to an article in the New York Post, their attendance at Joe Turner's Come and Gone resulted in increased ticket sales.

"The number of advance tickets sold yesterday for Joe Turner's Come and Gone was triple that of the previous Sunday, according to a production source."

In case you don't want to take the Post's word for it, they offer a man-on-the-street quote:

"'We definitely came to the play because the Obamas saw it,' said Martin Jenkins, a tourist from Georgia."

Leopold and some others have asserted that I become a bit unreasonable when it comes to Obamania but, I can't help myself.

Really?

August Wilson wasn't enough for you? A brilliant writer? A beautifully crafted show? An arguably timeless consideration of race and class? The chance to see a classic on Broadway?

But no. President Obama sat here.

What I want to believe is that the experience will change folks like Martin Jenkins and, like that first time I sat in the balcony of the Baltimore Opera, they will be converted. They will fall in love with theater and Wilson and the excitement of watching a live performance that can never be duplicated...that exists in the world for just a few hours.

Hope, indeed.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

And liberty for all...

Well alert the media. A writer from Brown has gotten a book published.

Shocking.

To be fair though, Kevin Roose's book does sound pretty interesting. More than that, it looks like The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester At America's Holiest University is a stunt memoir that took the road not always taken.

He actually respects the folks that he went undercover to write about.

Roose took a semester off from Brown and took up a desk at Liberty University where the code of conduct disallows drinking, dancing, R-rated movies and hugs that last for longer than 3 seconds.

You know, exactly like Brown. Bizarro-world Brown.

And, from what he said during his interview with NPR (1), the folks at Liberty aren't so peeved with him about what he did because he gave them a fair shake. No "oh those crazy Christians" or "get a load of the Jesus freaks." Just a book about what it was like for someone with no religious background to speak of to find himself trying to live the life of an Evangelical Christian at conservative ground zero.

Now if only Roose could get himself into a real writing program (2).

1. A fine, fine news organization. Something I say NOT because Scoopgirl might have been right. It is entirely possible that that was not Nina Totenberg and Scott Simon circling my block the other night calling out that they had a tote bag for Artboy if he'd just come out and get it.
2. Yes...I am "jealous much."

Hard Candy

Kurt Anderson interviewed author Harlan Ellison on Studio 360 yesterday (1).

From the start it was clear that this was going to be one of those interviews that is highly entertaining for the audience and was either equally entertaining for Anderson or...well...not.

When Anderson opened the interview by noting that he had purposefully not referred to Ellison as a science fiction writer, Ellison immediately jumped back and said, "Which you just did, on purpose."
The not-sci-fi then went on to say that he was going to set Anderson straight on the genre thing. A statement he ended with "toots." As in, "Can I give you the scoop, toots?"

To which Anderson replied, "Please...[space for awkward pause]...honey."

When Anderson commented on Ellison's prolific body of work Ellison's response was, quite frankly, one of those statements you kind of want to cheer: "Well, 'cause I'm a writer kid, that's what I do. You know, if I was a plumber and you said how many toilets have you fixed and I said ten thousand you wouldn't say boy, what a prolific plumber."

My first thought was, wow. That's it. That' s what I think when someone asks me what I do and I say I'm a writer and the response I get is, "How fun."

Well, yeah, sometimes. And sometimes it's all I can do to make a deadline. And sometimes the fact that I don't have a book project going and can't get published is enough to make me want to scrawl "fraud" across my forehead.

And then I thought. Wow. Ten thousand. I think I might refer to that guy as a prolific plumber.

1. Or, more accurately, I listened to the interview yesterday...it was actually recorded in May 2008 and rebroadcast because a new documentary on Ellison is coming out. I know, it's not really important.