Friday, November 30, 2007

because Google searches continue to be funny

Based on data collected from my sitemeter

-I am the second (of two) hits under "my mom is a tyrant"

-thanks to Church Lady's question about the difference between an Editorial Assistant and an Assistant Editor (and thanks to my perhaps poor word choice in my response), I am now the #2 google hit under "kinds of asses"

-and now, for winning referral of the day (I was in the top 10 hits for this!! If you can figure out why, you get a prize!)

"I broke my hyphen but I'm still a virgin"

That's right, folks.

some random end-of-day postage

9 Badass Bible Verses, via The Swivet. These are pretty bush-burningly awesome.

Cosmo is turning their newest employee (a Smith College graduate and probably a recovering feminist and interesting person) into a CosmoGirl!! And she's blogging about it here!!! How does everyone else feel about this? [Here's Gawker's take.]

Did anyone else hate the movie ENCHANTED as much as I did? Because a couple of people have told me I'm totally crazy. Just wanted to hear other people's thoughts. Someone told me I'm beginning to have a feminazism problem. I'm not at all a bra-burner or a man-cutter but I know where I stand on ENCHANTED and I feel like the glass ceiling got about three inches thicker with that movie.

Also, did anyone see this weird story about the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide when her online boyfriend broke up with her? Only her supposedly 16-year-old "boyfriend" turned out to be the 47-year-old mother of one of her former best friends, whom the dead girl had friend-dumped. The mother took revenge by dumping her back. Anyway. Interesting NYT article about the nature of modern parenting and how involved in your kids' lives it's ok to be.

I hate my designer so much right now.

[all this happened over a phone conversation in the last 15 minutes]

[Book in question: my lead title for the Winter, a novel that should (fingers crossed) really take off. My baby, as it was my first serious acquisition here. Final pass page proofs are releasing to the printer today.]

My Designer: Did you get your final corrections for the XXXX pages?

Yours Truly: Yes, thanks. [I don't feel like bringing up with him the fact that the hyphens I asked him to add (there were about 5 missing hyphens throughout) were too long; they looked like em-dashes (--)]

MD: Well, you know, you wanted all those hyphens added, so I made sure I followed your instructions for each hyphen.

YT: Yes, thanks.

MD: So I hope you're not going to be sending it back to me with any corrections.

YT: Nope, we're all done. [I had the production manager change the hyphens to appropriate hyphen size so I didn't have to involve him again because he's such a mistake-riddled pain in my ass sometimes.]

MD: Good, good. [Gleeful laughing.]

YT: What's so funny?

MD: Has the production manager sent the text off to the printer yet?

YT: Not sure; it's possible.

MD: Well, before she does, maybe she wants to check the hyphens I put in. I made them nice long dashes instead of hyphens, to keep you on your toes.

YT: Yeah, I know...wait. You did that on purpose?

MD: I was teaching you a lesson about being a careful editor.

[&*(@^#*&%$@(^&!!!!]

[Lucky I AM a careful editor. For ####ssake.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why I Love My Job #6987648

I am editing what may actually be the funniest novel in the world. I have literally had to get up and go to the bathroom to wipe my eyes twice today because I'm laughing so hard.

That's a good day at work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Congratulations, Aprilynne!!

4 books to HC--and no one deserves it more! I'm so, so excited for you, and can't wait to hold the first one in my hot little mits (I trust you're going to keep us updated on all the news!).

Daniel, my fellow editor, hypothesizes that I always have so much work because I'm too much of a perfectionist.

"It's a one-hour job," he says. "Give it to Moonrat; she'll be able to do it in two hours."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

swamped with catch-up.

Boo.

I'll be back in a couple of days when things are sorted out.

xxxxx

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Italian funerals, etc

My Uncle Lou died on Thanksgiving at around 1 in the morning (we were at the hospital until about 8:30, when he was already asleep). I didn't want to post about this originally because I didn't want to come across as a sympathy troll--it's sad that he died, particularly for his wife of 56 years, his sister (The Aunda), and my mother, his goddaughter. But he was 78, had lived a full and happy life, had one of the most adorable and functional marriages I've ever seen, and was surrounded by people who loved him (we stayed at the hospital until about 9 on Thursday night). Furthermore, he chose it for himself, in a way--he had advanced kidney failure and told his wife he was tired of the dialysis. I'm tired, Dolly, he said. As his eulogy, which my aunt dictated and I just typed out, says, he passed into the good Lord's hands peacefully and willingly. The rally monkey pointed out most of us should be so lucky to live such a full life and then be able to choose our death (at least, to a degree).

My biggest sorrow is for my Aunt Doll, who will have to learn a whole different kind of lifestyle after literally a lifetime of having him as her partner. I got to watch this process over the last two years for The Aunda, who lost our late, great, feisty pseudo-grandfather (The Ongolo) in similar (although less willing and peaceful) circumstances. I think it's a wretched, wretched arrangement that when a partner dies you have to negotiate your grief AND re-establish your entire lifestyle all in one go. But I haven't worked out another system yet. Oh, it also really, really irritates me that an oh-so-recently bereaved widow has to deal with the vulgar (and often crippling) finances of a funeral service. It makes me REALLY MAD. But again, I haven't worked out a system for that one yet, either.

She describes him as "the only man in her life"--they "met" when she was 17, during the Korean War, when he was stationed abroad and she sent him clippings of comic strips at the behest of a mutual acquaintance. When he returned to the Italian ghetto in Hartford (at age 20), he urged her to be his lady, to introduce him to her parents, etc, in all the established traditional accepted patterns like a good gentleman. But her parents were super-strict, and she knew if she had even a hint of a boyfriend there would be major trouble. So she rejected him. He got on his bicycle and rode across three towns--about 20 miles--to her cousin's house, where she was babysitting her nieces, to argue with her about it. Naturally one of her nieces squealed "DOLLY'S got a BOY-friend!! DOLLY's got a BOY-friend!!" and all heck broke loose and then, you know, she DID have a boyfriend, because her niece said so. Then they got married. Classic.

We've been preparing for the wake and funeral this weekend. I hope it doesn't seem irreverent in light of this circumstance to take this opportunity to commemorate the Italian family unit. The first (well, actually, more like the 12th...) thing to happen is the daughter-in-law who failed to make it down from New York to visit Uncle Lou in the 6 weeks he was sick (she had a cold, apparently) shows up to "help" (read: take over everything), to the noisy chagrin of the other daughter-in-law who's been present the whole time. Then there is major drama over who gets to read the eulogy--Momrat gets the honor, since people think of her as the public speaker; however, a daughter-in-law WROTE the eulogy. Momrat feels that the eulogy doesn't fully capture Uncle Lou's life, and further that it's boring, but "gentle" suggestions about content changes are met with tears and he-said she-saids (naturally, the various husbands have had to step in to mediate). Etc.

Then, The Aunda got into a car accident with her cousin Antoinette on their way over to visit Aunt Doll with the 5 trays of funeral cookies on Saturday. It was a full-on collision, but luckily Antoinette was driving like an old lady, so although the car was totaled no one was seriously injured in either car. (Although when the police were asking insurance questions and inquired as to whether The Aunda experienced any pain, she did say, "Well, just a little, in my neck." Then she jabbed him in the chest and said, "Write that down, now.")

The Aunda, who had been on the way over to Aunt Doll's house, anyway, had the policemen to call Aunt Doll and have her pick them up. So poor Aunt Doll has to leave her house to pick up The Aunda! When Aunt Doll gets to the scene, The Aunda tells her, "Oh, Dolly, you almost came to the funeral for all three cousins tomorrow instead of just Luigi!" Classy.

No way, says Momrat. Can you imagine? she says. Poor Lou just shuffled off his mortal coil and is finally peaceful in heaven and only TWO DAYS later there shows up The Aunda to nag him again? (He kicked her out of the hospital room 4 times in his last two days--she was driving him nuts.)

So Aunt Doll arrives and the police try to escort The Aunda to her car. "No, no!!" she protests. "The trunk!! The trunk!!" Afraid of finding a live baby or something, the police lead her back to the smoking abandoned vehicle and bust the trunk open. After all, she needs to save her...5 trays of cookies, duh.

The police asked how old she was for the insurance form, but then thought she must be mildly demented because they couldn't believe she was actually 86. (Bena thic, as we say... benedici, I think it is in real Italian.)

So I ended up taking a 5-day Thanksgiving instead of the 2-day affair I originally planned on, and I "get" to miss work on Monday. You can imagine how traumatizing this is for me. I spent all afternoon editing yesterday, and I got through a good chunk of a manuscript, but something really important is happening at work on Wednesday and I'm stressing out a little bit about it. Robert the Publisher, who is kind of like a dad figure, never ever puts pressure on us in these kinds of situations and tells us to take the time we need (not like a previous boss who would be like "you realize if you miss ed meeting on Thursday you're going to lose that whole project"). So bless Robert. But I'm still a little bit stressy.

Anyway, I better go get cleaned up now. Not sure how to sign off; sorry about the random thought dump.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Momrat has purchased a home karaoke machine.

FYI.

NYT Notable Books of 2007

The list is out. 100 books, and I've read...2. And one of them was DEATHLY HALLOWS.

Although YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION rocked, officially. Wow, great book. I actually dragged my dad (Dadrat, who, by the way, was very pleased with everyone's comments) to Borders today, Black Friday, to try to find a copy (Black Friday shopping is against my dad's religion).

Also, a couple of the books are on my to-read list, including CLEOPATRA'S NOSE, which has gotten some awesome write-ups (also my friend has already lent me her copy). I also heard great things about THE REST IS NOISE (I wish there was more musical history available... I'd love to see some smart proposals on musical topics...).

Darnit. In the process of writing this post I've just ordered 3 things on Amazon and reserved a couple others.

Any thoughts? Should I trouble with any of the others in particular?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

In honor of Thanksgiving, pumpkins, and other wonderful things, Cakespy posted this awesome write-up about the history of pumpkin pie, complete with a step-by-step recipe for your own pie and crust.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (at least, at the moment), because in many ways I believe it's the purest holiday Americans celebrate--it's about eating ourselves silly, with no religious pretexts. You know how I feel about food, so I'm planning on incapacitating myself tomorrow and probably won't make it back to the computer until Friday or so. Happy Thanksgiving!!

holiday gifts

[Since all the crazy people, and probably me too, are going shopping this weekend.]

Angelle told me that she's making a rule this year--everybody's getting a book. That's both simple AND thoughtful, she said.

I got all excited, of course, and congratulated her for supporting the publishing industry. Naturally everyone who makes a promise like that is not only promoting literacy but making it ever-so-slightly more likely that I'll have a job in 5 years.

So I don't know why this didn't occur to me before (oh geez, you know I probably do this every year and just don't remember), but I think I'm going to jump on the wagon. Everyone gets a book!!

If you think you, too, want to jump on the wagon, I have some fun ideas for shopping. And by "fun" I mean "things that support debut authors, indie presses, and indie stores while potentially saving you some dough." Feel free to ignore these, though, and just buy books--you're still promoting literacy.

-It's easy to head for the classics, but if you're in the mood for a book hunt, try sticking to living authors. That way, you're giving a double holiday present--the book to the person you're giving the book to, and the royalties to the author. Everyone's happy.

-Keep your eyes on the spine (or more specifically, on the imprint icon at the bottom!) and see if you can't support indie presses. The other day, I discovered Soho Press via GOD OF LUCK, a book I saw listed on Booksense and decided to read. In internet searching for a cover image for thebookbook, I stubled on the Soho Press Web site. Not only do they have lots of interesting books, they tend to have low-priced (ie affordable) hardcovers--the average appears to be $22.00.

-Here's my general conscientious book-buying guidelines from a couple of months ago, if you're bored.

-If you're buying in paperback and happen to have an independent bookstore nearby, go there. The cover price on paperbacks is the same at independents as at the big chains, and even Amazon can't reduce the price enough to make up for the shipping costs.

-If you're buying in hardcover, Amazon is by far going to be your cheapest option (plus they'll wrap and deliver for you). If you are buying in hardcover, why not pick your favorite debut novelist and be their hero by sending everyone a copy? That's what I did for SPANISH BOW. I'm not sure I'm Andromeda Romano-Lax's hero, but I did buy copies for my friend Rachel, my friend Kate, my friend Angela, my editorial assistant, and my mother.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

apparently you only need to be in junior high to enjoy my blog.



Thanks, Kaytie M. I feel GOOD about myself now ;)

different kinds of Asses and Editors

Church Lady asked the good question--what's the difference between an Associate Editor and an Editorial Assistant? Here's the hierarchy, with some self-indulgent annotation.

Editorial Assistant: this is the entry-level position, although you probably won't get it without significant experience elsewhere. I, for example, was an unpaid intern at a literary agency for a year first. An Ed Ass is a total flunky. Chief duties include transmittals (that is, preparing edited manuscripts for production, including their horrible illustration programs) and all administrative work for their boss(es) who is/are editors, senior editors, publishers, etc. They also keep their boss's submissions log and often are the chief/sole vetter of any or all proposals that come in to their editors--they read, write reader's reports, and advise their bosses on how to act. They open the mail, take the phone calls, placate the authors when they're angry, deal with all the data that needs to be kept track of (like the specs in the catalog copy, the permissions available on published books, the authors' payment schedules, the processing of contracts) and generally run everything, ever. They are generally not allowed to edit or acquire books, but are responsible for all other details of publication. If you ever get a book deal, try to make nice with your editor's Ass, because if the Ass likes you you'll get the hinges greased to the best of his/her ability. It's an invisible position and just a little appreciation is so very appreciated.

[some companies have one or even two "in-place promotions" here, such as Senior Editorial Assistant or Editorial Assistant Coordinator or the like.]

Assistant Editor: At some companies, this is an assistant who is allowed to take on some editorial responsibilities, but in most companies, this is an editor who is still trying to shed the last vestiges of an assistant. Ass Eds usually don't have assistants themselves, and are usually responsible for training up the Ed Ass who replaces them, but they do shed the administrative duties (the mail, the note taking, etc) and are usually encouraged to acquire modestly (usually one or two titles a year) and to edit. Frequently, more senior editors will pass down projects they have acquired so the Ass Ed can cut his/her teeth on them editorially, with some supervision. Most people aren't Assistant Editors for very long--if you've made it this far, no one's going to stop you, and you'll start generating so much business that they'll promote you pretty steadily from here. Although of course this too varies from company to company.

[nb I skipped that whole position, which is why I'm such a seat-of-the-pants editor. Sigh.]

Associate Editor: this next step up is an editor who is too junior for full status. There are no assistant/administrative duties anymore (thank god) and usually an associate editor has an assistant of their own that they share with others. Associate editors are usually expected to acquire, edit, and manage their own list of titles, so it's a position where there are usually performance incentives (or at the very least, requirements).

Editor: I guess this is what you think of when you say "editor"?

Senior editor: the next promotion track after editor (usually you have to have been somewhere a certain amount of time, and need to be generating a certain amount of revenue for the company).

Executive editor: some companies have this title as further in-place promotion. (My company doesn't.) Some companies also have a "deputy publisher" position to imply that this is the editor who's second-in-command after the publisher. A deputy publisher, however (and this is often true for an executive editor), has to deal with practical/fiscal matters--budget planning etc--that editors don't have to deal with ordinarily.

Publisher: when you get to this level, you're starting to abandon your hard-won editorial privileges in favor of budget management, project flow, and big-time business. These are good and useful skills to have but unfortunately just not as much fun as editing.

Does that clear it up a little bit?

Umberto Eco on Beauty

Last Thursday, I was lucky/sneaky enough to get tickets to the New York Public Library's "LIVE" series interview with Umberto Eco. Actually, how the tickets worked out were like this: Robert the Publisher is a donating sponsor, so when his daughter calls for tickets, they get her as many as she wants and we get to sit up in the nice front reserved section. Rockin'.

I was pretty excited about going to see him. My relationship with Eco has been like this thus far: I read and LOVED The Name of the Rose. I loved loved loved loved it. Then I tried to read Foucault's Pendulum. I got through page 29 and realized not only was I not enjoying it at all but I really had no idea what was going on, and there were probably other ways I could be spending my time without making myself feel stupid. Then I bought a remaindered hardcover copy of Baudolino at The Strand for like 4 bucks or something. I was charmed by the opening sequence (the virgin who catches the unicorn) but then gave up after 400 pages (which I rarely, rarely do, because if I don't finish it I don't let myself write it in The Book Book) because it was just boring. So I don't know. You take a literary average there.

I have heard that Foucault's Pendulum is amazing, and one just has to work beyond the unusually obtuse first 30 pages. So I may give it another shot someday. Who knows.

At any rate, I loved The Name of the Rose so much that I was happy to forgive this professor of semiotics (yeah, I'll admit it... I only bothered to figure out what "semiotics" was relatively recently...like, more specifically, last week) for his intellectual density (ok, I'm going to go ahead and say it--I think it's snobby to deliberately write so densely that even the elitely educated among your fans might not enjoy what they're reading. I'm just going to go ahead and put that out there.). I thought that surely I would learn something from the discussion, even if he was way, way over my head.

And I think I did, actually--the discussion was on the natures of Beauty and Ugliness (based on his two recent books on those topics). He drew some interesting lines for me to connect subjects--stuff I'm sure if tripe for students of semiotics but for me was pretty interesting because I'd never thought about it.

For example, the concept of beauty changes a lot--he put up visual representations of Venus from the archaic period, when she was a clay lump with giant breasts and no other distinguishing features, to medieval portrayals, when she was decidedly plump with rolls of fat at her knees, to a nineteenth century painting that had her sylph-like and gauzy. Beauty has no constant; the only thing that is constant is ugliness, which is simply the opposite of beauty. Aha.

He also talked about the difference between Beauty and Kitsch--apparently, kitsch is anything that inspires desire. A viewer looks upon beauty and appreciates it strictly as an aesthetic experience. Anything that inspires desire, however, is pornographic. This made me mad to hear, because everything inspires desire (for me, at least)--I can look at a landscape painting and feel desire. I would say if something DOESN'T inspire desire in me it is boring. Does that mean I find anything beautiful boring? Or anything unpornographic?

The worst part about the discussion for me was when the interviewer (who was really good, by the way) read a passage from Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre talks about how when he was younger he knew that he loved to look at his beautiful mother and to "kiss her sweet smelling cheek" but that he derived a greater satisfaction from the company of middle-aged highbrow men, from sitting around a table and talking with them about this and that, which he perceived as a much higher and more honorable joy. He said they were ugly and fat and the idea of having to embrace them made him feel vague distaste, but that the distaste was part of what made their company desirable. He mistook disgust for beauty, he said. In other words, "I was pretentious."

I started to think about how pretentious the whole thing was then--sitting around at this wine reception in the New York Public Library, listening to a cello quartet and rubbing elbows with the other people who could afford to be donating sponsors of the author readings program. Real Eco fans couldn't even have gotten those tickets--they were so elite and sold out so far in advance. And there we were listening to this celebrated author who purposefully makes his own material too difficult to enjoy while he talks about the nature of higher art.

That's not to say I blame Eco for being involved; I don't. That's just who he is, what he writes, what he knows, the life he has worked hard to make for himself. It's just that I felt really guilty for being involved.

Now there's a slightly too-long public confession that most people won't have been able to make it through the end of (I probably wouldn't have made it through to the end if this weren't my own blog). I just wanted to get it out there.

YT is sick.

Boo.

I am clearly being punished for the vast quantities of pastry I ate on Saturday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

&*^&^%#^&%^(&$@

Now I have joined Netflix. Grrrr.

emotionally taxing weekend

There were three (3) extremely emotionally taxing episodes this weekend. Suffice it to say it is inadvisable to eat large quantities of pastry with a psychotherapist.

So instead I will leave you with this picture/dialogue.

[picture removed 07/09/08 at Momrat's request]

[Pictured: Dadrat, Momrat, and lots of The Aunda's homemade pasta. Not pictured but vociferously present in voice-over: The Aunda.]

The Aunda: Mike! Itsa too crowd over here! Go a-sit at la otra side of da table!

Dadrat: But I want to sit here.

The Aunda: Why?!

Dadrat: I love my wife!

The Aunda: Bulla-sheet!

[today's dialogue brought to you by IAA, Italian Americans Anonymous.]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

writing McNovel

Paperback Writer posted this awesome set of pointers on figuring out if you're writing a McNovel. I laughed really hard. Then I got a little sad.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

catalog of nice things I ate today

Venue: Olive's sandwich shop, Prince btw Wooster and Greene
-dark chocolate "ringding" (modeled after the Hostess, only 8 bajillion times nicer, with dark chocolate brownie cake, squishy white frosting filling, and dark chocolate candy coating) (actually, I received this as a gift and ate it for breakfast on the train downtown this morning, since I found it sitting in my purse. But yeah, go to Olive's and buy some baked goods.)

Venue: Saigon Grill, 90th & Amsterdam
-barley tea
-chicken crystal dumplings
-cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls)
-shrimp summer rolls with noc cham and plum peanut sauce
-deep fried shrimp in egg roll wrappers
-papaya salad with shredded beef and peanuts
-taro chips
-chicken and beef satay
-pho bo (rice noodle soup with thinly sliced beef
-thai iced tea

Venue: Hungarian Pastry Shop, 111th and Amsterdam
-coffee (4)
-flaky custard pie
-blueberry graham cracker layer cake
-cherry cream cheese strudel
-strawberry almond tart

Venue: Swish Caffe, 115th and Broadway
-mango lobster fish roe roll with sweet mango sauce
-philadelphia roll
-edamame
-pickled ginger

I'm feeling a little... what's the word... Oh yeah. Obese.

Time for dinner.

Friday, November 16, 2007

[heart]

I love my job.

It's 6:07 on a Friday night and I have a total RUSH because I just finished up a transmittal for a project with a complicated art program. I don't know WHY but it feels so good to be rushing around and working late and finishing a huge project.

I don't know why I do this on Friday nights, either. That's the way things tended to go at my last company, with the Asses all running around like crazy late into Friday nights to make sure the packet was with Production by 9 am Monday. But here, there's no one pressuring me but me. But this is not the first time I've found myself getting a huge rush out of kick-starting my weekend like this.

Yesterday, I had wrote a rather grueling ed memo for one of my special books. I love it and it will be fabulously successful (cross fingers!) when it's ready, but the first draft I saw from the author needed some real work. The author and I had a chat about it and I think we're on the same page.

At the end of the phone call, I asked, "How are you, though? Are you ok?"

"I'm ok," she answered.

"Are you... daunted?" I asked.

"A little," she said. "But have to say I still think you're a wunderkind."

Luckily this whole call was over the phone so she couldn't see how red I got. "I'm still fooling you, then," I said.

"I guess you must be," she said.

I do I do I do love my job, I do. I'm so galvanized I might go have another tussle with my designer now!!

Have an awesome Friday night!

I'm the #5 Google hit

under "Sushi karaoke publishing"

ONLY #5?!?!?!

further adventures with my designer

[phone call, 1:09 pm, Friday, November 16th]

Moonrat: Hi there. Thanks for sending up the two jackets you owed me.

Designer: Yeeees.

Moonrat: Just one thing, though. It looks like you used the catalog copy instead of the jacket copy I sent to you. [nb I sent these along more than 2 weeks ago]

Designer: Oh. Did I? Sorry.

Moonrat: Yeah, so, since I have to send up the author photos anyway, I'll just hold off on my other comments until you get a chance to drop the new copy in. [nb both books are now a week late]

Designer: I guess I can do that. But first send me the back cover copy.

Moonrat: I already did. All the jacket copy is together, in the files I sent you on those disks.

Designer: I know.

Moonrat: You know?

Designer: Yeah, truth be told, I knew you sent me the jacket copy, but I didn't feel like using it, so I just ignored it and used the catalog copy instead.

Moonrat: ...Right. I'm...going to go now.

Designer: Byeee!

democracy fails!!!

That is what our experiment with new templates has revealed.

Reversion!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Editorial Ass's Top 3 Novels in Translation

This Top 3 was special-requested by Froog. I'm actually limiting myself to 3 here, this once. I promise. At least, I'm going to try really hard.

Please leave all your suggestions.

1) THE DEATH OF ARTEMIO CRUZ, by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam
A dying Mexican patriarch, filthy rich and despised by his own family, looks back on his life--the women he hurt, the lives he ruined... Or maybe he's looking at the wars that ruined his life, the women who hurt him, the way he quielty suffered slavery, war, racism, the death of his own children, the distortion of his own legacy. Artemio Cruz (the character) is a really heart-rending depiction of Mexico.

Make sure you get this translation, though. The other one is really clumsy.

2) INVISIBLE CITIES, by Italo Calvino (my copy's in storage and I can't for the life of me find a translator listed on Amazon--anyone want to fill in the blank? It's such a great translation)
Marco Polo entertains Kublai Khan with stories of all the other fantastic cities of the world. These cities are literally fantastic--the whole book is magical and thoughtful and wonderfully quick.

3) THE OXFORD BOOK OF JAPANESE SHORT STORIES, collected and partially translated by Theodore Goossen.
Don't mind the hideously boring cover.

See? I restrained myself and only put in one selection that was originally in Japanese. This is in part because Japanese translates into English (and, I gather, most other languages) really lousily. But in my inexpert opinion, the short story flourishes in Japanese the way the novel never will. Japanese is a language that is conducive of brief, vague but precise writing that is heavy in implication--everything we look for in a prize English-language short story. This was another book I received as a gift and planned to politely taste so I could honestly thank the giver, but instead ended up reading from cover to cover and then feeling sad about when I was done.

This collection is fantastic--you'll recognize a bunch of the contributors' names, even if you're not keen on Japanesey things, but you most likely won't recognize any of the selections, even if you're an avid Japanesey reader. The stories capture moments from across modern Japanese history, and the assortment of writers is diverse and comprehensive. Since I'm obsessed with World War II, the story that sticks out for me is a very short memory of a young soldier who fought in China, but because of the wide range of topics and authors there's something in here for everybody.

quote of the day

One agent on the National Book Awards:

"The NBAs are like the Oscars, only the acceptance speeches are longer and no one is attractive."

this is hideous

An article Angelle forwarded me.

our book lists are SO much better than Washington Post's SHORT STACK choices

Here's their list of 6 best travel books, which they put up today. I love how the most recent book on the list is from 1986 (since, after all, ethnographic and political climates never change from year to year!!) and also by how many intrepid female writers they chose (zero!).

Feel free to

a) list your superior choices of favorite travel narratives here (I haven't actually read very many myself, so this is a shameless plot to get recommendations)
b) visit the Short Stack blog and heckle their choices--they claim that they welcome hecklers, so I'd like to test their merits.

Oh, I have one favorite travel narrative that I've already talked about elsewhere and was saving for a different Top 3 post, but what the heck. FOREIGN BABES IN BEIJING, by Rachel DeWoskin. Seriously, you will fall on the floor laughing at least 15 times.

Judith Regan, sigh

Judith Regan, erstwhile publisher of her eponymous imprint at HarperCollins, sigh. Last year about this time it was OJ (classy, classy) and now it's that she's suing HarperCollins for $100 mil in cold cash for her emotional trauma and defamation etc. Poor thing.

I have close industry acquaintances who did time at Regan Books (none lasted longer than 4 months--fancy that) and words they have commonly used to describe her are "sociopathic" and "bipolar" and "just plain mean" and "really kind of incredibly delusional" (which always begs the question, how did she make it to the top?! HOW? Do nice girls really always have to finish last? But Jane Friedman is a nice girl, and she's Harper CEO. On the other hand, Harper has had a dreadful first half of the year and poor Jane is getting all the flack. Anyway, these are all asides.). But if you're interested in what it would have been like to work for Judith Regan, I'll put in another plug for Bridie Clark's oh-so-very-thinly-veiled roman a clef, BECAUSE SHE CAN. Which is pretty well written for chick lit, since we recovering Ed Asses have to be able to write a little to get by.

But Judith, even when we thought she was down for the count, comes back and back again, our Immortal Beloved. One of the first posts I ever made on this blog, now almost a year ago, was also about Judith. She is a real character. Sammy, who is a car mechanic, knows her by name--it always amazes me when an industry celebrity's celebrity transcends the industry, because my assumption is always no one but book people care about book people, but when I said something along the lines of "there's this woman named Judith Regan" he said, "Yeah, I know her--she's Howard Stern's publisher!" So Judith gets another gold star for that.

If anyone still cares about Judith (and come on, how can you help it?):

Here's a chronology of her recent shenanigans stolen from Ron at GalleyCat. As you'll notice, she cleverly timed her exploits so that news about her would completely eclipse any news about the National Book Award winner for two consecutive years. Here's a Gawker blow-by-blow, with some colorful commentary.

My favorite line is from the Gawker "document": Judith is a hard-working, self-made, single mother who has been supporting herself since she was 14... That's the sad part. I really, really want to admire her, but from every single account in the world, including people I know, trust, and respect, she is just a terrible excuse for a human being. Just absolutely awful.

Update: just after I posted this, Lori Perkins posted her smart commentary here.

changed template (in case you, um, didn't notice)

This one is called Mr. Moto, which just appealed to me on so many stupid levels.

Is this easier on the eyes?

gee, thanks, everybody...

For all the feedback and, especially, warm fuzzies yesterday... It seriously made my day (and also inspired me to start looking into silk screening vendors).

I got in early this morning (7:15!!!) so I could get some posts up before the beginning of a crazy day. Just wanted to stop and say [Heart].

<3

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick Reader Poll

My readership has abruptly taken a dip in the last two weeks. Which is worrisome in that one feels one's friends have gone invisibly missing. After all, my virtual friendships here have kind of distracted me from the fact that I don't really have many real-life friendships because I work too much. I'm not sure if it's because I've let you down because I've been too busy editing, or if this is a natural blog cycle readership thing (you guys ever notice how some people read your blog avidly for a month or two, then disappear?), or if perhaps everyone has simultaneously moved to Kalamazoo, where the internet conenction is temporarily down.

Humor me and help me appeal to YOU more directly.

1) I come here more for
a) entertainment
b) advice

2) Moonrat posts
a) not enough
b) too much
c) just about ok

3) If I knew who Moonrat was, I would send her a postcard/query letter/Amazon bill
a) yes
b) no
c) I already know who she is, and I'm taking her out for sushi and karaoke this weekend

4) If the prize of a contest on this blog were an "I [Heart] Robert the Publisher" t-shirt in my choice of color and size, I would enter the contest regardless of what was required of me
a) true
b) false

5) I wish Moonrat told us more about
a) publishing
b) books
c) delicious places to eat
d) her embarrassing personal life
e) Robert the Publisher

6) Feel free to make up a question here and answer it yourself, if you choose (if this were a hard copy form, this would be the bunch of black lines at the bottom labeled "additional comments" or some such nonsense)

how can it POSSIBLY be

that every single one of my exes is either married or getting married in the next month?!? [Well, except one, but he turned out to be a womanizing dipwad, so he can hardly be counted.]

What is it, like, when they recover from Moonrat they're suddenly struck by bouts of monogamy?!

This is not to say like I'm belatedly feeling like *I* should have married any of these people. But still.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

[actually, I have to admit I'm not sure Robert actually said this--Jesse, one of my fellow editors, was recounting this conversation with Robert that they had shortly after the time of my being hired]

Robert: I'm going to hire a third editor and you and Daniel can give her all your crap. It'll be great.

Jesse & Daniel: That sounds awesome.

[two days later]

Robert: I hired this new girl, and I think she's going to be great. Now I don't want any of you trying to pass off any of your crap on her.

Jesse: But when I started, you passed ME a bunch of crap!

Robert: Shut up, Jesse. Don't you have a bunch of crap to be working on?!

[heart]

re: my font size struggles with my designer

We have discovered the fax machine has an automatic "reduce by 33%" function turned on.

Each of us just thought the other was taking a lot of drugs.

Not that this makes me less right.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Editorial Ass's Top 3 Books about New York

1) A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, by Betty Smith
Francie Nolan is a quiet, nerdy, impoverished daughter of an alcoholic club singer father and a hard-as-nails mother in World War I era Brooklyn.

Sorry, guys, was this a cop-out? I LOVE this book. It's one of the few books I read again and again and never feel guilty about.

2) THIS SIDE OF BRIGHTNESS, by Colum McCann
The side-by-side stories of Treefrog, a contemporary "mole" living in the subway tunnels under Manhattan, and Nathan Walker, a tunnel digger who, almost a century earlier, lost his best friend during the creation of those same tunnels.

This is one of those books that I read a bunch of years ago and felt lukewarm about at the time, but which has really affected me in the longterm--I still have very vivid images from the book periodically, especially when I'm riding the subway. McCann makes you think about race, class, what goes into building our city, and what people have given up so we can run.

3) INVISIBLE MAN, by Ralph Ellison
A Southern black man makes his way north through a series of oppressive obstacles. He ends up in New York, the city where everyone's invisible (although that's not the point of the book, exactly). This only makes it to #3 because only part of the book takes place in New York. However, I can't think of another novel that depicts early 20th century Harlem as powerfully.

Runner-up: WINTER'S TALE, by Mark Helprin
Peter Lake, a street roughian who fell in love with a newspaper owner's tubercular daughter at the turn of the 20th century, is pursued into the mist by gangsters. He and the white horse he is riding emerge almost one hundred years later, in Helprin's imagined turn of the millennium (the book was published in 1983). An urban fantasy epic. It has only lost a little power for having dated itself.

[Look at how I limited myself to 3!!!]

Friday, November 09, 2007

8:44 on a Friday night--do you know where your children are?

My Mommy's child is at work, finishing her second to last galley package.

Humm.

I think I have some kind of problem.

I have receieved (count 'em!!) SIX BOOKS from Amazon used book vendors today, each in separate packages.

Has anyone noticed that I read (on average) a book and a half a week, but buy (on average) SIX BOOKS A DAY?!?!

Boo, one-click shopping. Boo.

a "keep plugging" serenity prayer for a crappyass Friday afternoon

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
The Chambered Nautilus

Agents v. Editors

Galleycat posted this a few days ago--it's a polite and balanced response to various editorial tirades about evil agents and how much editors cringe at the thought of dealing with them.

Originally, I read this agent's response and thought, wow! That poor agent is totally right! Agents rock, and most of them are so smart and good to work with and really passionate about books! And I felt bad for him/her and was planning on posting sympathetically.

But.

Suffice it to say that an episode this morning has me CRINGING and absolutely fed up with certain specimines of that partifular profession. Don't get me wrong, here--I can name off the top of my head at least 15 agents I would want to invite to my wedding (in the unlikely event I were having one), never mind the ones I think are smart, entertaining, well-motivated, and super-admirable author advocates. But I HAVE TO SAY right now that there are certain behaviors of other agents I've had to deal with that I will NEVER understand. They include:

1) bullying, harrassing, or belittling an editor who has politely rejected a proposal. Not only is this awkward, uncomfortable, and bad feeling-generating for all parties, I just don't understand why an agent would push a house that is unenthusiastic about your project. What's the best-case scenario (from the agent's point of view)? The publishing company, feeling stressed out and maligned, capitulates, buys the book, and treats it as a lower mid-list title that they don't have any faith in? (By the way, I can't imagine this happening--after all, no matter how bad you make an editor feel, he or she is protected and back up by an institution of checks and balances, even in the unlikely event that this agent does anything other than piss this editor off.)

2) approaching a publisher or even higher-up person at a company (if one exists) if an editor rejects a proposal. Again, seriously? You REALLY want to work with an editor with whom you've now generated bad blood, but who DIDN'T ORIGINALLY LIKE YOUR PROJECT? Does that REALLY protect your client? Even in the extremely unlikely even that this works out for you--most publishers, I would venture to say, protect their own employees instead of outside free agents--you're doing your client a total disservice by foisting them upon an editor who is going to work with them only begrudgingly. So again, I just don't understand why you would create these uncomfortable situations for yourself.

3) collect an advance and then make yourself scarce for the duration of the life of the book. Because honestly, that makes your day-to-day life a scramble, since it means you'll always have to be selling new projects just to make your bread. By refusing to do a little work to participate in the active life of your book, you're ignoring the potential backlist royalties and rights sales you COULD be encouraging--and the backlist is what can support you in your retirement. But whatever. When you're out of the picture because you're too lazy, then at least I don't have to deal with your carelessness on a day-to-day basis. I just feel bad for your client.

4) cash royalty checks and disappear without paying your client, my author. If the author tries to contact you, say that he hasn't earned out his advance yet. Yeah, this happened to one of my authors (we just discovered this week). That's effin' classy, right there.

I'm sure I could think of more. These are just reasons of which I was recalled THIS WEEK for why I sometimes dread dealing with agents.

I'll do a good agent post soon, though. Because there really are so very many good agents.

Sigh.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

powerful advertising

Courtesy our resident guru, Angelle.

effective ad

another Ed Ass waxes poetic re: bitter old editors who make her sad because they don't embody the spirit of their profession

Galleycat posted this response to an anonymous editor's rant that no one under 40 reads anymore, and that's what's wrong with culture.

The editorial assistant who replied said a bunch of things that are and have been true in my experience:

1) she's under 40 and reads all the time
2) she reads less now than the 3-5 books a week she used to manage before she started working in publishing, but it's still what she does for fun
3) a lot of young people she knows read--she says 90%. I would say that of people under 40 I know, 90% WOULD read in theory, 80% do read, and at least 50% are pretty well-read (including a fair number of really voracious readers). (Granted, I'm a book person, and most of the people I know are book people. But I know a heck of a lot of book people.)

What she doesn't say but is also true (at least, from my perspective) is that the ruling roost of acquisitions editors--the famous cream--are over 40 and tend to acquire and market things that they are interested in. That's why it's a little (and a bit) upsetting to read that someone who in theory exercises a lot of power in determining which books make a splash is convinced that half the population are illiterate uncultured miscreants.

There are also a frighteningly large number of editors who never, ever read for pleasure. But that's neither here nor there.

On a different note, I think the best fiction appeals to people of any age. So maybe this whole discussion is unnecessary. But my pride was hurt a little.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

author tours

The Writers' Group posted on author tours awhile back and I meant to put in my two cents a long time ago. I was reminded of my intentions today at my lunch with my author, who on every single count fits the dream author profile. Like, she's unrealistically dreamy--great writer, huge platform, level head, well spoken, tons of media experience, extremely hard-working on the publicity end.

But anyway, back to the subject at hand. Which was supposed to be author tours.

First, please read everything they've said at Writers' Group--it's really smart and shows you the many facets of something that I think seems a heck of a lot more glamorous than it is.

My press is rather old-fashioned in that we still like to do author tours whenever we can. Usually, it makes the author happy to know it's in our plans. A lot of authors feel like if a publishing company is putting money behind them for a tour, that means they are more important and taken more seriously.

Alas, the actual tour doesn't always put authors in a great mood at all. Tours have become horribly daunting and competitive. I've been to some really huge author events that drew really substantial crowds and sold a lot of copies--Jasper Fforde, Diana Gabaldon, and Orhan Pamuk spring immediately to mind, and all three are huge names with already existing fan contingents.

Tours for new authors or even known authors of a slightly lower profile, however, are not easy at all. They really are a different animal. One of our frontlist authors has very negative feelings toward our publicity department because he feels that we embarrassed him during his tour, which had hideously tiny turnouts and sold only a handful of books. The problem is that you can't generate fans, and the numbers of people who are wandering through a given bookstore and happen into an event they didn't know about before but are willing to sit through despite the fact that they had never heard of the author? Actually a lot lower than you might be inclined to guess. There are of course elements that contribute to better or worse turnout, but some authors feel mortified or self-conscious if turnout is too low, and when things aren't everything you've hoped they'll be not only does the publishing company lose any money they spent booking the venue and getting stock there (never mind travel, accommodation, food, etc), but sometimes angst is generated among parties. So no matter how good OUR publicity is, bookstore tours can be tricky affairs.

Some bookstores do what they can to prevent these embarrassments by requesting invite lists from authors. The fact is, most of the people who show up at a book tour for recently published John/Jane Smith (as opposed to Jasper Fforde, who is now in his 86th book or something) are going to be John/Jane's friends, relatives, media contacts, acquaintances. You know, people who think it's cool that John/Jane has gotten published and who want to show their support.

So you can help your publicist book events and draw a crowd by working on your personal invite list. Publishing companies are weak animals in that we don't have fans (not really, anyway). Authors, however, have fans. Anyone who's reading this is a step ahead of a lot of authors because you all are already working on your online presence, which helps generate fanship in a huge way. For example, if any of my frequent reader/commenters were to have an event in my area, I would totally put a bag over my head and go and buy a book (well, maybe I'd just make up a fake name). But one of my authors in particular has what is by any measure of the term a midlist series of books, and yet she gets really fantastic turnout at signings because of her Web presence and loyal blog traffickers.

The author I met with today offered a different approach. She's very realistic about her potential outreach and she likes to tour her book via "touring" an issue on which she is a recognized expert. Let's say she's an expert in flaxseed, for the sake of anonymity. She and the publicist are working together to target dietary/nutrition conventions, health related media spots, etc--that way, she appears much less self-serving and is more likely to get neutral booking, since she has something to offer even people who haven't read her book. The book pretends to come in as an afterthought.

Anyway, I wanted to thank the ladies at Writers' Group for posing the other side of the coin, and say that not all publishers are against author tours. We just like them a lot better when they work. So some things to ponder as you build your platform and work on connections and networking.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

9:32 report

Angelle is frustrated because her characters aren't doing exactly what she wants them to right now. I'm frustrated because my eyes are burning and I only JUST finished the more mundane tasks I HAD to do and am ready to start the editing I was SUPPOSED to have done all day.

Luckily there was a break for some magically MSG-free Chinese food.

All my coworkers are here late tonight. So I guess I'm glad I have all this work to do; if everyone else were staying while I went home, I'd feel guilty.

plans for tonight

Angelle's coming by and we're going to work in my office library for awhile. She's going to write and I'm going to edit. We'll probably order a pizza or maybe get take-out Chinese. Also, there's the ever-ready coffee machine.

Before I "sign off" though (fat chance--remember how I wasn't going to post at all today?!) I have to leave you with this poop-hurling monkey cake, courtesy of The Swivet. The rally monkey was pleased as punch to see someone had commemorated in sugar his favorite pasttime.

is it bad

that I'm burning the midnight oil, and it's only 5:50?

note to authors: shorter sentences sell more books

Just a reminder. Don't feel the need to outdo yourself. One of the particular battles I'm fighting this afternoon.

ok, ok, just one more last quick note to say


Belated happy birthday to my one true love (besides Enrique)--Ryan Adams.

Ryan, I know you and I parted ways at the end of 2005 on slightly unfriendly terms (you and those dumb Cardinals!) but I'll always remember us like we were in 2003, when I would lie on my bed with only the Christmas lights on and play Heartbreaker on endless loop.

Because I still consider us friends, I have to tell you I just can't approve of the tarantula tattoo. I'm dearly hoping it's a recurring decal.

To celebrate, I'll name my 3 favorite Ryan Adams songs.

Oh My Sweet Carolina
Sweet Illusions
La Cienega (Just Smiled)
Dear Chicago
New York, New York
When the Stars Go Blue (this is not a Tim McGraw song, American Idol. gosh that made me mad.)
Come Pick Me Up


Like Emma's friend Miss Bates, I find my greatest difficulty is limiting myself to only 3 (as you've no doubt noticed from my series of failed "top 3" lists).

goals for today

-finish editing the partial (and get it to typesetter)
-send partial to author with ed memo
-get model book for nf book L
-write marketing letter for novel B
-do my expense report, because Robert owes me a chunka change
-proof galley pages for novel T
-get galley cover image and copy to designer for novel T
-prep ed meeting minutes
-try to get through a good chunk of edits for novel R

I MUST MUST MUST get through to the second to last one today. MUST. No idle goals.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Editorial Ass's Top 3 Books about World War II in the Pacific Theater

1) WAR WITHOUT MERCY, by John Dower
In simplest terms, this book is an exploration of how the war was fought in Asia; in fact, it is a study of modern warfare as it came into adolescence in the 1930s and 1940s through the lens of the American war against Japan and the Japanese colonial movement in Asia. Dower shows how in an age of industrial killing and weapons of such unimaginable destructive power, it is necessary for governments to actively dehumanize an enemy in order to convince its own soldiers to be willing to use these weapons. Dower draws on propaganda, army training materials and techniques used both in Japan and the States, racial political rhetoric and policies from both sides of the Pacific, and accounts of battles and war atrocities committed by both sides (both against the other and against other groups of people).

Read this book. You must. Even if you're not interested in World War II or in Asia at all. It has so many important things to say about modern warfare, warfare politics, and modern incarnations of racism that it will actually make you a smarter, better spoken, and an instinctively more politically correct person. It will light up your understanding of "the War on Terror" and modern racial rhetoric both in the United States and abroad. It actually changed my life and the way I understand the world.

In good faith, though, I have to leave a warning: not for the faint of heart or stomach. But the fact that things happened (and continue to happen) is so disturbing that we must try to make ourselves understand it.

2) A GESTURE LIFE, by Chang-Rae Lee
The story of Japanese-born ethnically Korean man moves to suburban America, where he opens a shop and adopts a Korean daughter. Gradually, he confesses his past as he is forced to confront his troubled relationship with his daughter. He carries the scars of active medical duty during the war, when he fought for the Japanese army in Burma, almost (but always just failing at) blending in with the race that persecuted his people. His deepest scar links to the arrival at his war camp of five Korean "volunteers"--comfort women kidnapped from Korea and brought to the camp for the use of the Japanese soldiers. A masterpiece of war fiction as well as a compelling quest for redemption.

3) THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE, by Amy Tan
A Chinese mother confesses the story of her life in China before escaping at the height of the Sino-Japanese conflict (or, more accurately, the Japanese invasion). The best by far of Amy Tan's books. The one time Amy doesn't let her profound readability compromise the quality of her story. She does a good reconstruction of China before and during the war. A good, fast, rewarding read.

Runner-up: WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS, by Kazuo Ishiguro
An English expat who was brought up in China reflects on his childhood and the war. Classic Ishiguro--careful, malingering, utterly delusional first-person narrator; invisible and subtle plot. Also an awesome book. I wouldn't say a feel-good book, precisely, but definitely worth a read. Shows you a small slice of the war in the recounting of the capture of Shanghai.

Second runner-up: EMBRACING DEFEAT, by John Dower
This is the book Dower actually won the Pulitzer for, but it only makes second runner-up because it's actually about the American occupation of Japan, not about the war itself. It's a long beast, but if you're into this sort of thing, it won the Pulitzer for a reason.

Third runner-up: THE RAPE OF NANKING, by Iris Chang
A good, careful history of the eponymous event. This book opened a lot of doors for discussion when it was first published and Iris Chang is credited with reviving dialog about the forgotten war in Asia. I don't think I'll ever be able to dip back into this book, though, because of the circumstances of the author's death. According to a friend, her research left Iris physically weak. I can't imagine being immersed in this level of tragedy and not being driven into depression.

I'd like a shot of whisky, please.

Or perhaps a whole bottle.

All I want is 12 point font.

My designer says I can't have it.

Why do you want it, he asks.

Because 11.5 is too small, I say.

No it's not, he says.

Yes it is, I say.

It will look stupid, he says.

I need to be able to read it, I say.

You need to get your eyes checked, he says.

My vision is bad, I say, but a lot of other people have bad vision too, and most books for this audience are set in 12 or even larger.

Who else can't read this? he says. Only you.

This isn't a democracy, I say. I'm the editor and therefore you should do it just because I told you to. But even if it WERE a democracy everyone else agrees with me that the font is too small right now!

Then you're all a bunch of morons, he says. I've made the font even larger than it was in the original 5 x 8.

Well then I need it even larger, I say, because I need it to STILL be readable when we reduce it to 5 x 8 for the paperback edition next year.

It's going to look like a juvy, he says.

I'm the editor, I say. I just need 12 point.

You can't have it, he says.

I NEED it, I say.

I can't do it, he says.

I don't understand, I say. You get paid by the page--if the book is longer, you get paid more. So just make it bigger.

You're wrong, he says. I can't do it, and I won't.

I NEED 12 POINT FONT!!! I say.

You're going to be sorry, he says.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Editorial Ass's Top 3 King Arthur Novels

I had an Arthur obsession for while (erm, still might) so please comment with ANY books you've read on the topic, good, bad, fiction, nonfiction, etc.

1) MISTS OF AVALON, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The epic retelling of the women in Arthur's life--his mother, Ygraine; his sister Morgaine; his wife, Gwenhwyfar. The appeal is admittedly a little more female, but the retelling is so smart, nuanced, unsympathetic, and somehow simultaneously speculative and historical that it is worth a read. Marion Zimmer Bradley infuses the backbones of the Romantic tradition with Celtic mysticism, goddess worship, religious and racial tensions, and as much history as we can know. If you've seen the mini-series but haven't gotten around to reading the book yet, you're doing yourself a disservice.

2) THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, by T.H. White
This is possibly the best book ever written, but it's not the best book on King Arthur, which is why it only gets #2. It is a retelling of the legend in the French Romantic tradition--that is, out of history (it takes place, inexplicably, in the 800s) and with all the story elements created by medieval courtiers, as opposed to revisionist/fantasy approaches that try to instill the Celtic and history themes. But just a fantastic book. TH White changed my approach to life with Guinevere's 7 senses. Anyway. Please read this, boys and girls.

3) THE WINTER KING, by Bernard Cornwell
Cornwell gets slot 3 because he recreates Arthur magic-free. This novel reduces Arthur to what we know is "true" (or what of the tradition that has been passed down most likely would be true if anything is true at all) and then fleshes out the rest of the story with a thoroughly realistic account of a warrior king, the people who support his rise to power, and the challenges he faces along the way. People looking for heart-thumping romance and maybe a little spell-casting will be disappointed, but armchair historians will like it and I admire Cornwell for the project.

Runner-Up: CHILD QUEEN, by Nancy McKenzie (and the follow-up, HIGH QUEEN)
Guinevere's story, classically, sympathetically, and pleasingly told in accordance with the French Romantic tradition. Back when this was in print, it was sometimes shelved in Fantasy, sometimes in Romance, but either way, if you're going in with genre expectations you'll be at least slightly pleasantly surprised (although don't expect anything gritty or ground-breaking). A fast and extremely entertaining read.

Second Runner-Up: THE CRYSTAL CAVE, by Mary Stewart (and three follow-up books)
A real classic of the genre, first published in 1970 (the author is now 91 and still editing/publishing formidably). The legend told from Merlin's point of view. Mary Stewart really laid the tracks for other writers who would smarten up the myth and look beyond the purely Dark Age traditions, and the only reason this didn't fit in the Top 3 is because the number of pages of the whole thing is a little exhausting, and I eventually found the female perspective of MISTS OF AVALON a bit more compelling (in part, at least, because MISTS is not an apology in any way--many of the main characters are utterly unsympathetic and even unlikable, while CRYSTAL CAVE is a smoother, less challenging read).

Books that pointedly didn't make the list:
A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, by Mark Twain
THE FOREVER KING, by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy

Saturday, November 03, 2007

you know what this whole Top 3 thing entails?

I have to go through my entire Book Book (which I've been keeping since 1999) and try to categorize everything I've ever read into Best Evers. This is much more challenging and addictive than I originally imagined. Nyuk nyuk.

truncated ode to getting scooped

Two houses, not quite alike in dignity
In squalid, back-stabbing Manhattan, where we lay our scene
From "borrowed" intellectual and creative capital break forth to new new mutiny
When agents' tricks leave editorial hands unclean

From forth the inky bowels of these two foes
A pair of similarly-subjected books simultaneously spring to life
But mine's the better one. So please don't buy the other one.

Thanks,

Moonie

Friday, November 02, 2007

I know I've whined about my designer before

and now I am deeply repentent, for he has given me sample pages of my lead summer title and they are GORGEOUS. This is going to be THE most beautiful novel EVER designed, ever.

I love him. He is absolutely my hero.

DAMN YOU, AMAZON ONE-CLICK SHOPPING!!!!

That is all.

real time

I was talking to Bluenana and pointing out that it can't be November already, because that means 2007 is almost over whereas in my head is still in 2005 personal-wise and is in (late) 2008 editorially.

Blue was like, yeah, I was in Borders the other day checking out their calendar section and I found the HEROES calendar which I really really needed, but I thought to myself, that's funny. It's for 2008! Why do they still have 2008 calendars out?

Which is EXACTLY how I feel. We've already catalogued 2008 and are acquiring for 2009. Meanwhile 2007 is over even though I haven't even started it yet.

Please, someone straighten me out. I feel like I'm in the twilight zone.

why do Chinese language spammers keep commenting on my blog?

Check out this post, for example. 4 totally random Chinese language spam comments. (I think.)

Any clues, anyone?