"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cultivating Vonnegut

Somehow, I thought he had that hair his whole life. Like Einstein.

"As the publication date drew near for Slaughterhouse-Five, on which Vonnegut had worked, fitfully, for 20 years, he brooded over his author photo. He was clean-cut, clean-shaven, a bit paunchy—in 1969, an unlikely candidate for cultural eminence. He decided “to cultivate the style of an author who was in.” “To meet the expectations of his audience was key,” Mr. Shields writes. “He lost weight, allowed his close-cropped hair to become curly and tousled, and grew a moustache. … He looked like an avant-garde artist and social critic now, not rumpled Dad-in-a-cardigan.” His upper lip would never reappear. Slaughterhouse-Five became a number-one New York Times best-seller, and its tousled (not rumpled) author became an icon of the counterculture."

New bio out, story at NY Observer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neil Gaiman on the Simpsons = Awesome

The episode is free on hulu for a few more days. I've linked it from the Huffington Post. The Book Job. I love the way they drew him, and the episode is awesome -- from the keeled over lit majors to the tuna salad and beyond.

Interview with Neil.

“Truthfully, the real-life me almost never hangs around in Barnes & Noble-like bookstores waiting to find a group of local townsfolk who have decided to write a pseudonymous young-adult fantasy series, offering my services — and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t be doing the catering!”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stephen King and home heating oil - Do they mix?

Apparently. Salon (and others) reports that his charitable foundation is donating $70,000 to help Maine residents pay for heating oil now that state aid is being cut. The foundation will match individual donations to that level.

Zen of Writing is happy to note that 11/22/63, King's latest book, is on our reading list. 11/22/63 has made the year's top books' lists at the New York Times and the Globe and Mail, and no doubt many other best-of lists as well.

Support Independent Bookstores! And Small Presses!

From Salon:

"An independent bookstore brings a lot to a city or a town: a showroom for the latest literary releases, an auditorium where authors share their work and meet their fans, a bookish environment in which to sip coffee and a fun place to browse in the 20 minutes before the movie starts. But what’s less immediately visible is your local bookseller’s expertise and influence when it comes to introducing great books to your community and, ultimately, to the world."

And, I'd like to add, consider books from smaller presses as well as those from big publishers. Lots of fascinating, hard-to-categorize books fall through the cracks because books often need to conform to genre categories or big publishers won't touch them. Smaller presses do a great job of keeping these books alive.

Poets and Writers magazine has a convenient database of small presses.

Books that have come from small presses include:

The Wind-Up Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books). I loved this book, set in a sodden, futuristic Bangkok.
Tinkers, by Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize winner (Bellevue Literary Press).
The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa Editions).
Out Stealing Horses (Graywolf Press).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pasta and Murakami's Tokyo

My theory is that Haruki Murakami loves pasta. First, there's all the spaghetti getting boiled in his books. Now, in 1Q84, Tengo orders seafood linguine at the Nakamuraya cafe with Fuka-Eri, whose book he is going to rewrite.

Unless you are familiar with Japanese cafes, or perhaps with Beard Papa's, the cream puff franchise, you might not picture the cafe correctly. Very bright, bright lights, bright colors, more fast food-looking than a place to eat linguine. That's the coffee shop, anyway, above. There are apparently several eateries under the same roof. Shinjuku Nakamuraya.

I'm a Murakami fan, so I enjoyed the pics at the NY Times. Murakami's Tokyo.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arsenic and Jane Austen

Interesting theory that the novelist was either murdered with arsenic or, more likely, poisoned accidentally. Arsenic was prescribed for various ailments at the time.

It's a debilitating poison that does not kill that quickly. I remember meeting someone whose spouse tried to kill him that way, but his doctor figured it out in time. Unfortunately, it ruined his health, anyway. Amazing that it was once prescribed as a medicine.

Novelist Ann Patchett Opens Bookstore

Because she really did not want her hometown, Nashville, to be without one. The Nashville metro area has 1.5 million people and would have had only specialty, used and religious bookstores, along with two Barnes and Noble branches in the suburbs and one Barnes and Noble college bookstore. That's a lot of people to be without an independent bookstore.

Advice to small bookstores:
Put the children’s section as far away from the front door as possible. Hang signs from the ceiling, and customers will buy whatever is advertised on them. And make your store comforting and inclusive, smart but not snobby.

NY Times article.