Posts tagged ‘writers’

June 10, 2012

R.I.P. Rocket Man, Ray Bradbury

While the news isn’t new, I couldn’t not post something about the passing of visionary, Ray Bradbury. When I read the news that he had died on Tuesday, I was in Dallas on a layover. Although I always suspected his time wasn’t far off as he was getting up there in years, the news made me swell up with grief .

I discovered Bradbury when my 9th grade English teacher handed out copies of Fahrenheit 451. From then on, I was hooked. I tried  out some other science fiction after discovering Bradbury but nothing could match his dark, lyrical genius. He surpassed any genre. His stories were more about human beings than outer space or robots.

Three random things of note (to me, anyway):

1) I remember almost meeting him once about 12 years ago. There was a writing conference here in Tucson that he was supposed to attend. I raced over to discover he had to stay home due to a small stroke.

2) I bought The Bradbury Chronicles about three weeks ago and it’s on my bedside table.

3) How apropos that he left this world on the day of the the Venusian eclipse.

In honor of Mr. Bradbury’s passing, here is a scene that has stuck with me for years. It’s a short story called “Kaleidoscope” from The Illustrated Man. This is the very end of the story when Hollis, an astronaut whose rocket has blown up, is racing toward earth and toward his death:

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about. When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor. “I wonder” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”  The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois. “Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

May 26, 2012

Jennifer Egan Using Twitter to Pen “Black Box”

Jennifer Egan is mixing it up in the literary world by tweeting a short story on Twitter. The story, Black Box, is a thriller set in the future. Egan is tweeting the short story in ten nightly installments from 8 to 9 P.M. E.T. via the New Yorker’s Fiction Twitter account – @NYerFiction. About her decision to tweet a story, Egan told the New Yorker:

“I’d also been wondering about how to write fiction whose structure would lend itself to serialization on Twitter. This is not a new idea, of course, but it’s a rich one-because of the intimacy of reaching people through their phones, and because of the odd poetry that can happen in a hundred and forty characters. I found myself imagining a series of terse mental dispatches from a female spy of the future, working undercover by the Mediterranean Sea.” 

Egan isn’t the first to delve into this sort of experiment. Neil Gaiman and Melvin Burgess have also written fiction on Twitter in the past. The idea is reminiscent of serialized radio shows before there was TV. Reading a story on Twitter must be like having a TV show to read on your phone. It’s definitely an intriguing idea and I imagine could become a trend in the future. I’m not sure exactly how it will feel to read anything in real time on my phone. I guess I’d better finally open a damned Twitter account to find out.

If you’ve missed Egan’s tweets and want to catch up on the story or you’re just not a tweeter, you can read what she’s penned so far here.

Jennifer Egan is all atwitter

May 15, 2012

Henry Shukman’s Lost City

I recently finished The Lost City by Henry Shukman. Shukman is a British literary gem who writes poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. His writing is on par with big names in the living literati like Eugenides, Murakami, and Franzen and I’m surprised I don’t see his name more. Before reading The Lost City, I read a book he wrote called Savage Pilgrams: On the Road to Santa Fe, a non-fiction account of his love affair with New Mexico where he now lives.  (I lost the book when I was almost to the end and thus couldn’t finish. I’m determined to find it or at least buy it again one of these days!)

The Lost City is a novel about a young British expat named Jackson Small who suffers PTSD and has recently been discharged from the British military. More importantly, he is haunted by a “lost city” in Peru called “La Joya” that his deceased best friend Connelly was obsessed with. Small sets out to Peru in search of the city to honor the memory of Connelly. During his quest, Small meets numerous obstacles and characters integral to his transformation.

The story is a little bit adventure, a little bit travelogue, and flavored with a dose of romance. Unfortunately his love interest, an American named Sarah, is not a fully realized character in my mind. I never connected with her because I never felt like I knew who she really was. Apart from Sarah, the other characters in the book are fully realized. They include a ruthless drug lord, a priest who runs an orphanage, a hippy with two wives, a burned out British consulate, and a tenacious orphan named Ignacio who accompanies Small on most of his adventure.

Most of all, Shukman nails the sense of place in this book like he does in Savage Pilgrims. I’ve been to Peru several times and when I read the book, I marveled at how well Shukman brings the place alive on the page. You can see, hear, smell, and feel the dirty, complicated, and beautiful heart of Peru. He’s obviously traveled there quite a bit. There’s a part in The Lost City that involves Small lost in a place called “The Cloud Forest” that will live with me for the rest of my life. Shukman does natures like few others I’ve read.

This book begs to be made into a film. Frankly, I’m surprised no Hollywood big wigs have picked it up yet I’m glad they haven’t. I don’t think anyone could bring “The Cloud Forest” to life the way Shukman does.

March 4, 2012

Breakfast at Capote’s For $12 Million

Truman Capote’s former house at 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights has sold for $12 million. The author penned Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the massive yellow house, built in 1839, that includes 11 bedrooms, a 2,500-square-foot garden, and a massive wine cellar.

Sotheby’s published some beautiful photos of the house. Check them out here.



February 24, 2012

Consider the Legacy of David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace would have been 50 years old on Tuesday, had he not taken his life in 2008. The esteemed writer penned three novels and three short story collections in his short lifetime, Infinite Jest, being the most famous. He was a MacArthur Fellow and won a boatload of prizes including Time Magazines’ Best Book of the Year and the O. Henry Prize.

Jonathan Lethem said of his friend and colleague (they both taught at Panoma College): “His footprint as a colleague, the extraordinary impression he left on the whole series of English majors who’ve now floated out into the world. … The idea that I might be part of the moving-on seemed very like an honor.”

Wallace was an alumni of the MFA program at the University of Arizona, where I earned the same degree, While I’ve never been nearly as successful as Wallace  (or even successful at all as a writer), I’ve always felt an affinity to him for that reason.

McSweeney’s reprinted an old interview with him while he had a teaching fellowship at the U of A.  In the piece, he gives the undergraduate class he’s teaching a memorable piece of advice:

When you write fiction, you are telling a lie. It’s a game, but you must get the facts straight. The reader doesn’t want to reminded that it’s a lie. It must be convincing, or the story will never take off in the reader’s mind.

He obviously took his own advice considering his stories have taken off in readers’ minds all over the world.

February 22, 2012

The Enigma of a Best Seller

What makes a book a best seller? The answer still alludes literary agents and publishing houses alike. An article in The New York Times, titled The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller, looks at what makes a book a best seller. In the end, the experts are still scratching their heads.

According to the article, many times a book is predicted to be a big hit and goes to auction, it falls flat; and many times a book is predicted to have low sales, it rises to best seller status. Literary agent, Brian DeFiore asks: “Is it the cover? The title? The buzz wasn’t there? Timing? It wasn’t that good?”

William Strachen, editor in chief at Carrol & Graff Publishers says: “It’s an accidental profession, most of the time. . . If you had the key, you’d be very wealthy. Nobody has the key.

Once a book is picked up by a publisher, it generally gets a marketing makeover, but before a book is picked up, much of the time, publishers rely on their gut feeling about how a book will sell. The article points to the fact that, unlike other industries such as gaming and television, publishers don’t have enough contact with their customers to know what they buy and what they want to see more of.

Susan Rabiner, agent and former editorial director says: “Before Amazon, we didn’t even know what people thought of the books.

Okay, get it together publishing people. What’s wrong with a little marketing research?

February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens would have turned 200 years old today if he were alive. The cherished writer was a legend in his time and continues to influence the literary world today.

NPR has a great peice on Dickens’s life, his writing process, and information on the Dickens bicentennial celebration at the Morgan Library in New York, which has the world’s largest collection (outside of England) of Dickens’s documents, letters, illustrations and artifacts. You can read it here.

As an added bonus, I’m going to plug my Etsy jewelry. My Dickens necklace was featured in a lovely little treasury posted in honor of Mr. Dickens today. Thanks, Chuck!

February 6, 2012

F. Scott Fitz is Still all the Rage

Robert McCrumb over at The Guardian has written a fabulous piece on F. Scott Fitzgerald reflecting on his tenacity in our culture. Taking into account all the recent Fitzgerald-inspired works, including the play Gatz, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and the upcoming film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Leo DeCaprio, it’s proof that Fitzgerald is still on our minds.

He was on my mind a couple weeks ago when I was reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  Fitzgerald was featured a lot, driving around with Hemingway, and being a general pain in the ass.  I had no idea just how unstable Fitzgerald was. Of course, this could have been Hemingway’s interpretation of him.  I haven’t read up much on what Fitzgerald was like otherwise, but if Hemingway’s descriptions of him were any indication, bless Hemingway for putting up with him. Of course, I’ve heard some not-so-nice stuff about Hemingway as well. It’s all relative, I suppose.

But don’t get me wrong, I love Fitzgerald and think his stories are a work of art. He’s my mother’s favorite author so I’ve always had a soft spot for him. She and I even visited his gravesite together (see below). I am, however, very interested in knowing more about him and Zelda and the whole shebang now that Hemingway has whetted my appetite.

January 25, 2012

Jennifer Egan Gets Shout Out on Gossip Girl

Last night on Gossip Girl (yes, I watch Gossip Girl), Jennifer Egan got a shout-out. For those who don’t know, Jennifer Egan is a  fiction writer whose novel A Visit From the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. She’s also a former student of the Writer’s Studio where I take classes.

The scene went like this: Dan Humphry, the young literary virtuoso whose novel just came out as a smashing success, is walking down the street with his agent. She’s telling him to break off his relationship with Serena whose blog isn’t literary enough for him to be associated with. She says, “Publishers see you as Jennifer Egan or Chad Harbach.”

Ten points for Gossip Girl.

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