Friday, January 30, 2004

One more for the road 

Thanks to Mademoiselle Haggen for the inspiration:

"Call me TMFTML. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me at work, I thought I would mess about a little and skewer the media and journalism part of the world. It is a way I have of venting my spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before the New York Times Sunday Style section, and bringing up the uselessness of New York Magazine to everyone I meet; and especially whenever my hangovers get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately ordering another round, and methodically forget all about sobriety -- then, I account it high time to get blogging as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the Internet. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards New York media with me".

Score another for the Hype Monster 

As Joseph Finder's PARANOIA squeaks its way onto the New York Times Bestseller List (Feb 8 edition) in its first week at #16, tied with Elisabeth Robinson's debut Hollywood novel. Massive marketing campaigns and endless hype can't be wrong. What remains to be seen is if it will hang around for several weeks or be more like last year's early Hypemonster (TM) hit, James Siegel's DERAILED, which also debuted right at the bottom of the main list in late February of 2003.

Knowing the rest of the story 

When my short story "The Heckler" was first up at Pindeldyboz, I mentioned that it was based on a true story related to me by my father. That story's now up at Joe Wallace's baseball blog, and frankly, truth is wackier than fiction.

Further notes on a New York trip 

So several people have asked what it was like to have lunch with Terry Teachout. I'm tempted to dig out an old Cole Porter chestnut as it was Delightful (the conversation) Delicious (the food) and De-Lovely (the man himself.) Somehow we crammed a lot of conversation in a mere hour, naturally much of it centering on the world of blogging. One thing we seemed to agree on was that 2004 would be the year that blogging gained an even stronger legitimacy, that more people would embrace the medium in a variety of subjects. There's a lot of untapped potential and fortunately, there's room for a variety of different, and quality, voices.

Earlier that morning, I'd killed time in one of my usual hangouts when I lived on the West Side--the 82nd Street B&N. I used to have a ritual on Friday afternoons where I'd sit in the cafe, drink a tall Americano (because it was marginally better than the coffee) and go through my "daily trash"--People, Entertainment Weekly, and US Weekly (hated In Touch because it made my head explode with the PR fluff.) Oh, and I'd watch the weird people that wandered in and out of the store and the cafe. Or listened to high-powered people (or so it seemed) talking about business deals and how much publishing sucks. This time, since it was a Wednesday, I was looking through the book stacks and the new fiction when I caught wind of a rather odd exchange. A man, probably mid to late twenties, suffering from perhaps the worst case of acne I'd ever seen calmly approached a blonde woman who was looking up at the hardcovers (A-D) when out of the blue, he asked:

"Will you go out with me?"

Her calm, matter of fact answer: "no thank you."

He ran away, up the escalator and disappeared into the second floor.

I tried not to laugh from where I was standing behind them. Had there been any earlier conversation? Didn't seem to be. Did they know each other before? Nope. As pickup lines go, it went rather dreadfully, but perhaps you can't blame a guy for trying.

Once I'd calmed down the giggles I looked through the new trade paperbacks and found, much to my delight, a copy of SHEILA LEVINE IS DEAD AND LIVING IN NEW YORK, which had been so highly recommended by Jennifer Weiner. I read fast (case in point: 4 books on the train in, 4 books on the train out. Now I won't read for days to get over the hangover, but that's a side issue) and as Gail Parent's book isn't very long I was finished in quick time. It lived up to the recommendation, but then, I love books that capture the New York of an earlier time, when rents were "expensive" (250 a month!) and the Upper West Side was the wrong side of town. The book is dated but in many ways, not so much. Women are still moving to the city to get married--certainly Jewish women are, even if they aren't admitting it. When I lived on the West Side it was a bloody meat market of single girls doing the Metrodox Tour of synagogues, shabbos dinners and set-ups. It baffled me, but then, large crowds often do and I was more of an opting-out kind of girl. But ultimately, SHEILA LEVINE struck a chord, and made me laugh--two things that are definite plusses in my reading experiences.

Noir Originals 

The newest issue of the UK-based pulp zine is now up, and its focus is on James McKimmey, who wrote many novels for the Dell Gold Medal Paperback imprint back in the 50s and 60s. Allan Guthrie became a huge fan of McKimmey's work a couple of years back, and has reissued one such paperback, SQUEEZE PLAY, over at Pulp Originals.

Friday roundup 

It'll still be brief and mostly crime-fiction related, as I have much catching up to do...

Janet, Janet, Janet. If you're going to read trash and airport books, at least read good ones. Sometimes you just have to yell at your editor or something to make things right.

And for those looking for an alternative magazine that reviews overlooked and other obscure gems, look no further than Slightly Foxed Quarterly, which will launch on 11 March.

The Independent interviews Janette Turner Hospital about subjects that informed her latest book, DUE PREPARATIONS FOR THE PLAGUE--faith, God, and September 11.

Lawrence Block will be the latest recipient of the CWA's Diamond Dagger Award, which will be given to him in London on May 12 after he winds up a massively long book tour for his next novel, THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL. I know I'm not the only one who thinks it's great news, so congratulations on the honor, Larry.

Massive catch-up on Oline Cogdill's mystery columns: coming up is her review of Walter Mosley's THE MAN IN MY BASEMENT, which she finds wanting compared to his earlier crime novels. Earlier reviews include the latest by PJ Parrish and Jeffery Deaver, as well as books by Dean Koontz, Jerrilyn Farmer and GH Ephron.

Asking Steven Bochco, recently the author of DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD, about sex seems like an odd fit, but somehow, the Sydney Morning Herald deemed it necessary. (link from Ed, who's doing the roundup thing this morning much better than I am.)

Friend and regular commenter James R. Winter will be among the published: he just inked a three year deal with Quiet Storm Publishing for his Nick Kepler PI series. Congratulations, Jim! Sorry to get to the news so late.

And finally, congratulations to Otto Penzler, who we understand has set a date for his wedding, which will take place in early May.

Home again 

After enduring a 10 hour train ride sitting amongst cheery college kids heading to a debate tournament (with penchant for making comments like "let's take pictures of the customs agents at the border. That would be so cool!") followed by a bus ride where the driver forgot how to drive on the highway, I'm back in the bitterly cold, somewhat snowy wilds of my dear hometown.

Frankly, I'm too knackered now to say anything much of coherence except that it saddened me just a bit to read this. Though Lizzie makes many a swell point, let's just get to the bottom line here: it doesn't matter. Sometimes a secret--even a relatively open one--is best kept that way. After all, was Moonlighting a better show once Maddie and David slept together after years of "will they or won't they"? Or Remington Steele or any other show that used that device? Was "Primary Colors" a better reading experience for knowing that Joe Klein was the author? Is "Beowulf" a crap poem because no one really knows who the author is? Or, for that matter, Shakespeare's plays, if you aren't convinced he was a real person? Not all mysteries need to be solved, and not all tension must have resolution. Truth isn't necessarily more important than a construct, and an authorial voice doesn't have to have a name attached to make it more credible or worthwhile.

But if you must know....TMFTML has more hair than Bruce Willis but less than Pierce Brosnan. Sorry, man, but it had to come out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Let it snow 

Although honestly, I don't see what the fuss is about. Then again, 10 inches (or whatever) isn't all that...at least when you're talking weather.

Adminstrative crap over, I'm well and truly finished. My friend's husband asked me what I wanted to do now when I'm grown up. I replied something like "a zillion things and I want to do all of them."

"Oh, so you still haven't decided."

Yeah. Pretty much.

As for an account of what transpired last night, I turn you over to the fiendishly evil mind that is Eurotrash. Could someone get her a book deal already?

Monday, January 26, 2004

Live from New York 

And frankly, I'm exhausted. Who'd have thought getting a couple of signatures would be so harrowing?!

For those who care, and mostly, for those who do not: my primary purpose for the trip was to do all of the stupid administrative crap that's necessary to graduate. The good news is, all of my committee members have signed off on the thesis, including my supervisor in England (though even that was fraught with tension: luckily, a couple of extra lines sucking up, er, acknowledging how vital her contributions were in the project seemed to do the trick.) They marvelled at what a nice job I did considering the short time I had to actually work on the project (less than 4 months) and how spiffy it looked (Thank you, MS Word Thesis template with a few adjustments.) So far, so good.

But have I graduated yet? Um, not exactly. The Dean of Graduate Studies has to sign off and contrary to what I'd been led to believe, he takes it home to read it and doesn't just sign the approval page because I told him to. Damn. Then there's the process of getting 2 copies of the thesis deposited into the library, which is a boringly tedious exercise that thankfully, I don't have to do myself as the Dean's Office has taken that responsibility upon them.

So in short, I won't let a couple of administrative quibbles hinder me: I'm DONE!

Now it's time to make merry. Tonight: Ken Bruen's signing at the store . So for those in the New York area who want to hear a fantastic Irish author tell stories in public, please show up. Or if you can't, you can always go to Rocky Sullivan's two nights later. Besides, CBS Sunday morning will be filming, so for those TV whores out there, here's your chance.

And finally, I love the train. The longer the trip, the better, because I can get so many books read. And luckily, I brought along the right books to read: John O'Hara's APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA, Tom Franklin's HELL AT THE BREECH (which would make my top 10 books of 2003, it is a fantastic and moving historical novel) an ARC of a book due out in June, and Jonathan Carroll's WHITE APPLES. The last book was especially amazing, because I wasn't sure I would like it as much as Carroll's earlier books, which I've enthused about here. I needn't have worried. It's a tour de force about love, death, the meaning of life and the afterlife, God, and has a hefty dose of Carroll's special brand of magical realism. When I closed the book I felt uplifted, like my heart had been pried open painfully to allow in a wide spectrum of feeling. Suddenly, at least at that moment, everything was going to be all right. And so I'll keep believing.

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