Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Five favorite books?

Quick! If you had to name five must-read novels, what would they be? What comes to mind immediately?

One of my Gotham students asked me to name just five. Impossible! But I tried.

I said:

Underworld by Don DeLillo

Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow

Good Grief by Lolly Winston

Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

Then I said, Light on Snow by Anita Shreve comes before Good Grief

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Then I think I changed it to Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

And now I can think of dozens more that are favorites.

So, name the first five favorite books that come to mind.

Thus spoke Evashevski

Frey's agent goes on record in Publishers Weekly.com.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Astrology's take

I'm sorry--I just had to post this. My resolve wasn't that strong, I guess...

Here's an astrological take on the latest literary fiasco in Beliefnet.com.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Heart? Intuition? Fun?

Okay, so Blogger straightened some things out. My main headline is now black instead of hot pink. This is good. I don't like the brown headings, though, at the start of each post. Do you?

My friend Sara suggests I do my own blog and she says she'll show me how so I can just link it to my Web site and not be so reliant on Blogger. Did I tell you Sara is an angel? (Sara, if you check in here, post your blog URL under comments if you're okay with that so everyone can visit).

So it's Saturday morning and I read an email from an author friend whose book came out last year and has done respectably. He was working on another proposal that his agent thought would sell--sort of a sequel. He says he woke up, shaking in his PJs, afraid that it was the wrong thing to be working on, and told his agent he changed his mind and was going to go in another direction. His heart just wasn't in it, not like the first book which was straight from the heart.

I wrote back to him, said his email raised an important question: How do you know when what your agent has in mind for you is the right thing, or not? In this wooly world of publishing, whose advice do you take? It's hard even listening to your own heart, your own intuition amid the din of what's selling.

Does it come down to having fun? What do you enjoy working on? If you enjoy it, then that's what you should be working on, and if you don't, scrap it?

Let's hear your comments....

Friday, January 27, 2006

These heading colors are driving me nuts...

...and depending what browser you use, formatting is off. Frustrating! No matter which template I choose for this blog, the headings remain hot pink and brown. Ergh. I've written to Blogger. No reply. Anyone know how to fix this?

Regarding other things in the news (I said I wasn't going to write about you-know-who anymore), I liked what Michael Wolff said (I think it was him) on Larry King Live last night, that we'd stay focused on the current debacle until another one takes its place. That's how we are, isn't it? Gotta have drama in our lives, the bigger, the better.

Being one who so easily can see both sides of a situation, and who hates conflict, I say, Publishers: Learn from this. Writers: Learn from this. Readers: Learn from this.

And let's move on.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Something's funky here

Sorry--Blogger.com has made some changes and caused my blog to look tres funky! Don't blame me.....! Hopefully it will change back soon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Okay, one last post: Frey on Oprah tomorrow

From Publishers Weekly.com:

Frey Live on 'Oprah'
Our earlier report of James Frey's rumored appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show has been confirmed by a release from Harpo Productions. The author of A Million Little Pieces will break his post-Larry King silence to appear on a live hour-long show that will air tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 26). Other guests will include publisher Nan Talese and "some of the country's leading journalists"--to address the headlines and controversy surrounding his memoir. No word on whether the Smoking Gun's William Bastone will be among them.

I am so sick of Frey's name in the news

This is from Publishers Weekly.com:

Frey Headed to Oprah?
With James Frey continuing to be the subject of intense media scrutiny, the author of A Million Little Pieces is reportedly headed to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Two separate sources said that Frey will be in Winfrey's studio tomorrow (Thursday), though it was unclear if the appearance will be live or taped for a future date. No one at Random House/Doubleday was available for comment at press time.

.......

I want to say that after this post right here and now, I will not post anymore about Frey. (Some people are obsessed with Jessica Simpson; I seem to be obsessed with the Frey debacle.) If you want to read about him, you'll have to Google his name, sign up for a news alert, and every time his name hits the paper, you'll be notified. More and more I just see him as a creep, like my friend Amy said. Sorry--I liked him when he was no my show but the worm has turned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

A cat in dog's clothing


Does our cat think she's a dog ... or does she simply like to play fetch?

Rosie, our seven-month-old kitty, has a little white mouse toy she will bring to me or my son, drop, and wait for one of us to throw it. She'll fetch it, bring it back, drop it and do this a number of times before she tires. As we play, I say to Travis, "Does Rosie think she's a dog? Or does she just like fetch?"

Travis says, "I think she thinks she's a dog."

And when I call her in a high sort of voice, trilling, "Rosita!" she comes running.

A cat in dog's clothing?

I was telling this story to my friend Elle and we got into, What makes us what we are? Are we who we are because we believe that's who we are? Are we who've we been told we are? Or do we explode stereotypes, move beyond who we think we are, because something else calls?

Rosie doesn't know that cats don't play fetch or come when called. Our other cat doesn't play fetch, doesn't come when called. He might grace us with a glance in his ever so aloof way, but that's about it.

All of us have roles that take hold, that seem to be more important: how we make a living, our obligations to our partners and children and pets. But what about our obligation to ourselves, to keeping the spark of creativity alive? It may mean writing, drawing, baking, playing music, lo que sea. Whatever it is we are drawn to do, whatever it is we think about daily, shouldn't we be doing it?

We've all seen people in which the spark has gone out. Their eyes look dull, lifeless. The spark has been extinguished. They have forgotten about the need to blow on the spark to stir it into a blaze. Or they have decided to worship the money god or the god of beauty, and forgot about their precious creativity that isn't quantitative, isn't showy.

Rosie does remember she's a cat. She remembers to huddle when she eats her meals on the floor under the old porcelain and wood island that reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen, remembers to laze in the sun on her bed in the front window where she also watches the great outdoors. And she remembers to lie on Travis' chest in the morning to urge him up. But she also knows there are other things she enjoys that are beyond cat-dom.

Friday, January 20, 2006

More on Frey in the Chicago Tribune

If you're not sick of the Frey fiasco yet (and obviously I'm not), read this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Frey's publisher on Frey

Interesting. Glad Nan Talese put it back on Frey's shoulders.

In it, a quote by Tom Wolfe:

“Let me tell you something—George Orwell, probably back in the 1950’s, wrote that autobiography is the most outrageous form of fiction. It always has been, and probably always will be, and usually there’s no blogger to catch them,” said Mr. Wolfe. “It has nothing to do with the New Journalism.

“I mean, if it’s gonna be called ‘nonfiction,’ I don’t think there should be any doubt about it,” he added.

Here's the piece in The Observer.

More on typewriters

I think what I like most about this new (old) Hermes 2000 typewriter is that my son Loves It Loves It Loves It. He's never written so much. Because it's a gadget? I don't know--he's never written that much on the computer. Partly it's unusual and odd, I'm sure. And he, like me, loves the sound of the keys tapping away.

I wrote a little last night on it, and it was fun--and a little annoying. The apostrophe is not where it is on the computer; it shares the 8 key. And there's no "1" key; you have to use a lower case "L." Only time will tell if I'll get much writing done on it; it does Slowwwww things way down. But it's gorgeous and again, that sound: so much richer than the sound of tapping plastic iBook keys (much as I adore my laptop...).

Tools are so much a part of the writing experience. Liking--no, loving--our tools makes the experience of writing so much richer. I can move so much faster on my laptop. I type so fast my fingers keep up with my brain (thank you Mr. Ribble and Mrs. Fitzgerald, for those typing classes in high school).

I need to work on my fiction now, but can't decide: the typewriter or the computer? Maybe I'll just go check e-mail and some of my favorite blogs while I'm deciding. Ha!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My newest find: a Hermes 2000 typewriter





Isn't it lovely? I love it!!!

I did a piece on the Beat Hotel, in Desert Hot Springs (www.dhsbeathotel.com) where there's a manual typewriter in every room and I began salivating for a manual. It's been years.

I love the sound, the look, everything. Of course it's slower, it's rustic, but that could be a good thing.

When Shelby Foote said he used a dip pen because it slowed him down, that resonated with me. I love fountain pens, too.

And last night, on the Golden Globe Awards, thanks to Elle Brooks (I wasn't watching; she was), I learned that Larry McMurtry thanked his Hermes 3000 for 30 years of words. (McMurtry only uses typewriters.)

Travis also loves the typewriter and has been writing up a storm since I got it two days ago.

He says, "I like it more than a computer because ... I don't know... you press the keys harder than a computer. I really don't know why. It's just more fun."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Free audio downloads

Check out this site for audio books you can download for free.

A few million dollars or the respect of fellow writers?

Personally, I'd take the respect of fellow writers over the money. Then again, I've never been that driven by acquiring money--obviously--and what's money going to do for you when your writing community thinks you stink?

Okay, so he tried to sell it as fiction but the publisher said, Well, you say this is a memoir with a bit of embellishing? Let's make it a memoir, then--it'll sell better, so he does, he takes their advice, which is not always the best, admittedly, he gets sucked in, and then lookit.

At some point, you just have to stand your ground. Just say no, right?

But he's sold more books as a result of this fiasco, which I find repugnant. It figures. Our culture is currently so very celebrity-driven. Designer cars, designer clothes, designer books.

Eek!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Scathing piece in the L.A. Times

"...which makes him a dealer in the literary equivalent of laetrile." You're right, Amy .... ouch...!

Click here to read "Desire for fact lies in a million pieces" by Tim Rutten.

Yes, I'm interested. Isn't everyone?

Some anonymous someone wrote and said that he/her (said person didn't want to reveal who they were) found it interesting that I've spent the week writing about people I don't care about.

I found that really interesting--and odd.

Aren't all writers interested in matters of ethics in publishing? Aren't you interested in whether what Frey did was considered unethical by the folks in publishing? By readers and other writers? And aren't you interested and curious at the power that Oprah wields?

I am.

And so I write about it. I care about ethics in publishing and I care about how all this will shake down.

The other day I asked a friend--a well-published author, in fact--if she'd been following the Frey fiasco. She said she really hadn't been but from what she ascertained, The Smoking Gun was just trying to start trouble. This was her opinion after reading headlines.

Headlines. We read headlines and we skim.

I suppose I'll hear from that anonymous someone who will tell me again how curious they are that I'm still writing about this topic I care nothing about. I just hope he/her/it says who they are this time, so we can have a dialogue. This is part of the problem, you know--so many of us are afraid to say who we are, express our opinions.

It's easier to remain silent, to not make waves.

Okay, now I must retrieve the L.A. Times from the sidewalk. SFAmylou emailed and said there's an article about Frey. Talk to you later...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Oprah determines what you read?

I have never ever read a book because Oprah recommended it. Of course all authors want to be on Oprah, but do authors read what she recommends? I doubt it. Matter of fact, I was attracted to Franzen's The Corrections when he declined being an Oprah pick. That intrigued me, and I loved the book.

But what is that, reading a book because Oprah picked it for her book club? What happened to wandering the bookstore looking for a book, or reading reviews, or listening to your friends talking about their books? Now, if you have no friends that read, then you're going to need Oprah. Or if you don't read reviews or you don't wander the bookstore.

She says if a book resonates, that makes it true? Oh Dear. Now we have to define the word "true."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Publishers Weekly on Frey

Here's what Publishers Weekly and others have to say about Frey. (On Maud Newton's blog, scan down a bit. She has lots of links.

And please, somebody, tell me: Why does everyone care so very much what Oprah thinks and why does she have such influence over what people read? I mean, I know why authors love her, but the reading public, why???

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

And more about the memoir form and Frey

Edward Wyatt, in today's New York Times says, "Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence," said a statement issued by Doubleday and Anchor Books, the divisions of Random House Inc. that published the book in hardcover and paperback, respectively. "By definition, it is highly personal. In the case of Mr. Frey, we decided A Million Little Pieces was his story, told in his own way, and he represented to us that his version of events was true to his recollections. "Recent accusations against him notwithstanding, the power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story for millions of readers." As far as the charges, which were made by the Smoking Gun Web site, "This is not a matter that we deem necessary for us to investigate," said Alison Rich, a spokeswoman for Doubleday and Anchor Books.

***
Publisher's Lunch reports: "Consumers posting on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club message board indicate that Random House is providing refunds to buyers of A MILLION LITTLE PIECES who call their customer service line to complain in the wake of the unanswered charges made by The Smoking Gun earlier this week. One correspondent posts: 'Tell them you wanted fact not fiction.... They are very nice and will tell you how to return the book for a full refund...'

***
Frey's publisher has made more money on this book than perhaps any book ever. I wonder what their position would be if the book had been minor, had there been no Oprah involved. Any guesses? Or am I just being a tad cynical? And how will this effect the memoir form, writers are wondering.

And more....

Well, that rumor isn't true; Random House says they won't refund your money for the book. You should return it to your bookstore and they'll do it.

Still....

If you liked the book, why wouldn't you just keep it?

Did you see James on Larry King? Maybe he just got caught up. Kind of like a freewriting, when you do all one sentence, how the sentence starts carrying you along with it, picking up speed, and you're letting it rip, letting the words pour out and you don't even know where they came from.

Maybe that's what happened.

As he said to Larry, it's only a few pages--something like 20 out of 400-something--that are in question. Should those 20 pages serve to ream the guy? Would anyone want to ream him if his book were failing instead of wildly succeeding? Was he being whiny, talking out of the side of his mouth? Once a lying addict, always a lying addict??

I dunno....

Larry did seem to go pretty soft on the guy. Barbara Walters would have made him cry. (Does she even still do interviews?)

Here's a transcript of the show. Oprah called in. Scan to almost the end of the transcript.

You're all so quiet out there. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More on James Frey

Here's more in the The New York Times on James Frey.

And if you want to listen to my interview with James, click here.

Is memoir different from journalism? Do you get to make things up in memoir? These are the questions, among others, that I hear these days.

In memoir, it's agreed that you can make some things up: dialogue you didn't actually write down but sort of remember, or want to approximate. Summary--instead of listing event after event. In other words, if you've had five marriages you might sum them up instead of reeling out each one. Didn't Mary Karr in The Liar's Club embellish beyond the beyond? When I heard that, I didn't want to read her book even more. I want to know that a memoir is basically true. Embellishments are okay. Lies aren't. Fabrications aren't.

And if someone says, "Is this all true?" and you say yes, it had better be true. Otherwise, you say, "I embellished, for the sake of the writing." If someone says, "Were you in jail for such and such?" you had better have been in jail for such and such. And don't say you expunged records, for whatever reason.

If you have a thought on all this, let it rip.

Monday, January 09, 2006

James Frey

Oh, dear. Right now I'd hate to be in James Frey's shoes. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. The man is bright, though. When he was on my show, he was smart and witty and compassionate. He sounded honest. Wouldn't he figure that any lies would be uncovered at some point? I don't get it. Oy vey.

Monday, January 02, 2006

When the power goes out in Southern California....

....if you have a laptop, or a notebook, you can still write.

We're in the squall here, a few blocks from the beach in Orange County, and when the power went out, the laptop stayed on and I kept working. But then Travis got up and I heard sirens and decided I should shower and get dressed, just in case. In case of what, I don't know. So I did. Made some calls to find out info about the outage. There was none, except for across town Debra's power came back on. Waited some more. No power. So I went outside with a flat pillow on my head to prevent my hair from soaking (of course the umbrellas are in Bry's car and Travis' poncho went bye-bye long ago--no rain, who needs a poncho!). So I'm out there with a flat pillow designed in browns and oranges and blues, and yellow rubber gloves, and I'm moving wood that's still dry from our woodpile that's--where else?--in the rain to a place under the eaves that's not getting rained on, and I'm out there for 15 minutes, doing this, feeling like we'll at least have heat for a while if the power stays off. I come in, wash my hands, and a few minutes later the power comes back on. Of course!

Hope you're staying dry and safe, wherever you are.