by Campbell Geeslin
“These things I learned by reading books aloud, into the pricked and critical ear of my son,” James Parker wrote.
Last Sunday was Fathers Day and Parker, an author of a biography, Turned On, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, wrote about the impact of fatherhood for The New York Times.
He said reading to his son led to the following rules: “Keep it crisp; tell a good story; don’t muck about; don’t be afraid to say the same things twice, if it’s important; respect the reader; have some loyalty to your characters; and when you feel the urge to get descriptive, sit on it. (Much of this comes under Elmore Leonard’s tenth rule of writing: ‘Try to leave out the part that the readers tend to skip.’)”
LIKE A ZOMBIE: Greg Iles, 54, is the author of 10 novels. He lives in Natchez, Miss. His current bestseller is Natchez Burning.
On his website, there is a video of him sitting beside a watering hole. He holds up a copy of his book, showing off the jacket. The background music is Iles playing his guitar.
He’s quoted, “I’m working like a madman to finish The Bone Tree, Volume 2 of the trilogy. . . .I feel like a zombie, and I don’t think zombies write very good novels!”
Actually, he’s been on a book tour, selling Natchez. Bone Tree is expected out next year.
SOURCE: Neil Gaiman will read his novella The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains at Carnegie Hall on June 27.
In an interview about his prolific output, he told The New York Times, “I have no idea of what parts of my brain I use to do what I do. Mostly, the creative process is really, really fast. And when it happens, I have a pretty good idea of what something is. I am much more like somebody driving in the dark. My headlights will illuminate a little bit ahead of me, and I know where I’m going. I’m not just driving randomly. I know if I keep down this road, I will get to New York. But what happens on the way, I will find out.”
SET TO MUSIC: Amy Reece is the author of a young-adult novel, Regarding Jeffrey. The author is a teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. Her book was inspired by a remark her daughter Lily made when they were listening to a classic rock station on the radio. Lily said, “It must have been fun growing up in the Sixties.”
Reece explained, “The songs of that period triggered the chapters. My husband collects 45s and he’s always playing them. A lot was triggered by the songs—the memories that flood back when you hear the music.”
Reece told the Vineyard Gazette that she doesn’t intricately plot her stories. She lets the characters lead the way. Reece said, “I’m continuously surprised.”
REMEMBERING: Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year is a memoir about working at an old-fashioned literary agency in New York. Laura Miller, reviewing it for The Guardian, called it “a deft portrait of a vanishing culture.”
Rakoff, describing herself and other young women just out of college, is quoted, “We wanted to be writers ourselves. This seemed the most acceptable way to go about doing so, though it was already becoming clear that this was not at all the way to go about doing so.”
FIRST NOVEL: Michael Hastings, an investigative reporter, died in a fiery car crash a year ago. His first novel, The Last Magazine, was published this week. The New York Times said the “book is a satire of his experiences as an intern at Newsweek in 2002-3 as the Iraq war approached.” A nonfiction piece Hastings wrote for Rolling Stone led to the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. He later reported critically about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s Army platoon.
After his death, friends at Newsweek found the manuscript of the novel and gave it to his wife, Elise Jordan. She decided to have it published. “I laughed when I read it," she said. "I thought it was his best book. I was totally shocked at the sex scenes, which I know he would have loved. He loved to shock me and pull me out of my comfort zone.”
ON THE NEWS: Almost every night last week, the news was headlined with a story about some psychotic person who had collected guns and then gone out and killed people.
Pondering the mystery of how such troubled people are formed, a reviewer in The Guardian reached for a quote from Stephen King’s 57th novel, Mr. Mercedes, to explain: “The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That’s all history is, after all. Scar tissue.”
AN EXPLORER: After college and law school, Emily Griffin worked as a lawyer in Manhattan. She went to London to write a novel, and then she and her husband moved to Atlanta. They have twin boys and a daughter, and Griffin has written several bestselling novels. Her new book, The One and Only, was No.1 last week on the fiction list.
Griffin posts a lot of quotes online. One sample: “Life is about the gray areas. Things are seldom black and white, even when we wish they were and think they should be, and I like exploring this nuanced terrain.”
Her existential preference for gray does not rule out color in her life: “I like to match what I wear to my book jacket—it’s a little bit cheesy, but it’s my thing.” The jacket on The One and Only is a cheerful blue-green. There are scores of photos of the author and, sure enough, in one she’s wearing a dress almost exactly the same shade as her book jacket.
Her books are described on the web as chick lit. Apparently a lot of book buyers haven’t gotten word that chick lit is dead.
JUST LUCKY: Stephen Hunter is the author of 18 novels. He won a 2003 Pulitzer as a film critic for The Washington Post. His new bestselling novel is Sniper’s Honor. His main fictional character is Bob Lee Swagger.
The book’s setting involves the Ukraine, which Hunter visited a couple of years ago. He told a Powerline interviewer: “I have to see places to write about them, so I believe my immersion into the actual landscapes . . . provoked my imagination in ways more powerful than mere reading can ever do.”
Hunter traveled with a translator and a historian, and he believes it was just luck that the setting for Sniper’s Honor is on the news.
NEW LAUREATE: Charles Wright, 78, and a retired professor at the University of Virginia, has been named U.S. poet laureate by the Library of Congress. He has won a Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He has published almost two-dozen poetry collections.
He told The New York Times, “I really don’t known what I’m supposed to do. But as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.”
He ended a 1981 poem about seeing discarded litter in a field at night with:
“We pick them up in the mornings, dewy pieces of paper and scraps of cloth.
Like us, they refract themselves. Like us,
They keep on saying the same thing, trying to get it right.”
BOOSTING SALES: Back on May 3, California independent booksellers held a California Bookstore Day. PW said that it was such a success that Chicago independent bookstores were declaring July 12 a special day.
The stores will offer special deals, free books, and refreshments all day. Stefan Moorehead of Chicago’s Unabridged Books told PW: “The Platonic ideal is that next year we’d have a Nationwide Independent Bookstore Day.”
SHORT & LONG: Dave Eggers new book is short on pages, 212 of them, but long on title: Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
RARE BOOKS: On Manhattan’s West 10th Street, just off Seventh Avenue is Bonnie Slotnick’s vintage cookbook shop. Rare and out-of-print cookbooks are sold and bought. If a customer is looking for a cookbook that she doesn’t have, Slotnick will find it.
The New York Times said the store’s 4,000 books are arranged by subject: bread, sauce, breakfast, etiquette. There are also food-related biographies and memoirs. Christine Muhlke executive editor of Bon Appetit said, “Whenever I go in on a research mission, I leave with presents for friends.” She says she never leaves empty handed. “In short, it is a dangerous place!”