Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

After a night in a Travelodge hotel, a surprising number of people leave a book behind.  In the last 12 months, 22,648 books were found after the guests had gone.

Reasons cited were “finished reading it and left it for others,” “genuinely lost or forgot it” or “got bored.”

The top five forgotten or discarded books were: Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James, Bared to You by Sylvia Day, The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

The above are in good company. Liz Bury in The Guardian, ended her article with: “Surprise entry F. Scott Fitzgerald scrapes in at number 20 with his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby.”

NEW WORD: To twerk or not to twerk? There’s been so much of it going on that Oxford has added the word to the dictionary. In case you haven’t seen formerly-sweet-Disney-star Miley Cyrus thrusting her pelvis and derriere about in multiple directions on TV, to twerk means to dance “in a sexually provocative manner.”

SHARING: Norman Rush, 80, has spent eight years on Subtle Bodies, a novel due out this month. The New York Times Sunday Magazine of Sept.1 published a major article by Wyatt Mason about Rush and his wife of 56 years, Elsa.

She has been first reader of his long, thoughtful novels, starting with Mating (1991), which won the National Book Award.  Mason’s article was devoted mostly to Rush giving his wife credit for her help.

She modestly demurred but said, “I have always thought that people enjoy reading things that move right along and things happen. People sitting around thinking can be too much.”

Rush said, “I think she’s right. Obsessions with sweet, silent thought can go on too long.” The result of this “collaboration” should be as effective in the new novel as it was in Mating and Mortals (2003).

TOOLS: Julian Barnes’s new book is about how he has lived during the five years after the death of his wife, literary agent Pat Kavanaugh.  The title is Levels of Life.

He described the room where he writes for The New York Times and said,  “I use the computer for e-mail and shopping; the I.B.M. 196c—30 years old itself—for writing (or rather, second drafting: nowadays I generally first draft by hand). . . . I shall use the machine until it drops. It hums quietly, as if urging me on—whereas the computer is inert, silent, indifferent.”

FICTIONAL BIOS: Sam Toperoff is the author of Queen of Desire (about Marilyn Monroe) and Jimmy Dean Prepares.  His new fictional biography is Lillian and Dash, about Hellman and Hammett.

In a note at the end of this book, Toperoff wrote: “The who, what, when and where of their lives were all pretty well established by the biographies and autobiographies. The mysterious why—the mystery, the fiction writer’s domain—was not. So I embarked.”

Moira Hodgson, author of It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, reviewed the book in The Wall Street Journal and commented that it “was a sweet novel about two people who weren’t particularly sweet.”

DON’T ASK: Mark Slouka is the author of six books. His latest YA novel is Brewster, the name of the New York State town where he lives.

He wrote in a The New York Times essay: “Want to lose a friend who’s a writer? Ask her, a month in, how it’s going. Better still, ask her to describe what she’s working on. She’ll try, because she has to (‘Well, it’s about this friendship between these two, um, friends . . .’) all the while listening to the magic leaking out of the balloon, and she’ll hate you for it.”

Slouka ended his essay with: “Shut up and write.”

On the Internet, Slouka said he collects misspellings of his name and has 28 on the refrigerator. His favorite is Olark Stouka.

(I used to collect envelopes delivered to a misspelled me. My favorite was addressed to Camel Gasoline, but I admire another—C. G. Slin. I plan to use it some day as a pen name.)

LAST NOVEL: Peter Leonard, a son of the late Elmore Leonard, hopes to complete the novel his father was working on when he died. The son is a published author.  This last book by his father has a working title, Blue Dreams, and features Raylan Givens, a fictional federal marshal from earlier Leonard novels.

BUSY PEN: “Prolific Author Under Any Name” was the PW headline on an article about James Paul Czajkowski. His ninth book under his pen name James Rollins is The Eye of God. It is a bestseller in a series of spy-thrillers.

Czajkowsi has also written several adventure novels under the Rollins pseudonym. And as Rollins, he has co-authored a series, “Order of the Sanguines”, with Rebecca Cantrell.  A “Tucker Wayne” series, co-authored by Rollins with Grant Blackwood, is due out in 2014.

As James Clemens, Czajkowski has written two fantasy series: “The Banned and the Banished” and “The Godslayer”.

ABOUT SCI-FI: Tom Shippey is the author of J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. He writes about science fiction for The Wall Street Journal.  He made the observation: “Sci-fi plotting is like drug addiction. You have to keep upping the dosage to produce the same effect.”

NO SEX:  Sophie Fontanel, a French magazine editor, has gotten a lot of press because of her book, published in the U.S. with the title The Art of Sleeping Alone. It was a bestseller in France in 2011 under the title L’Envie.

The book describes the more than a decade, starting when she was 27, when Fontanel avoided sex.

In an interview, the author said, “All the French women I know, if you listen to them, they are the queens of sexual activity.” The Wall Street Journal said Fontanel laughed and added:  “But I’m sure French women are very big liars.”

NEW VIEW: Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, has a new novel, Dissident Gardens, about to spring forth.  He has traded Brooklyn for California where he teaches at Pomona College.

In an interview for The New York Times Book Review of Sept.1, he was asked about his favorite California books.  He said he had read Raymond Chandler long before he’d ever seen California.

Lethem explained: “I breathed in the atmosphere of those books before I even understood Chandler was writing about real places rather than conjuring a zone where his story could be enacted. Now that I’m here, I see his books—and Ross Macdonald’s—as making a deep stratological survey of the place, in the manner of John McPhee.”

KEEP GOING: A Norwegian proverb said, “Heroism consists of hanging on one minute longer.” The most memorable metaphors consist of hanging on one minute longer too.

 

DEATHS:

Seamus Heaney, 72, died August 30 in Dublin, Ireland. The winner of the 1995 Nobel in Literature was a poet who, as The New York Times’s obit headline put it, “Wove Irish Strife and Soil Into Silken Verse.”  His collected poems appeared in Death of a Naturalist (1966), Door Into the Dark (1969), Withering Out (1972), Human Chain (2010) and other volumes. In a 1991 interview with The Economist, Heaney said, “The poet is on the side of undeceiving the world . . . But you can go further still and say that poetry tries to help you to be a truer, purer, wholer being.”

Leslie Land, 66, died August 10 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. A food writer, she was the author of Yankee New England Cookbook: More Than 160 Recipes for Every Season, and The 3000-Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters on Gardening with co-author Roger Phillips, whose garden was in London. Land also wrote more than 500 articles, many for The New York Times. She was quoted in the Times’ obit: “What’s great about gardening and food is that you never come to the end of it.”

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