Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday morning indie rock moment

I am writing this from my office, at 11:14 am on Saturday, May 31st. I have been in my chair for an hour already. I'm working on a project I love that I want to refine further; however, I also have a healthily developed notion of martyrhood and would like everyone to shout things like "poor thing!" and "bust that popsicle stand! Let's go to Chinatown for dimsum!!" Hmm. Although now that I've said them I don't really need you to say them. Although dumplings sound good.

So today, we feature Ryan Adams doing a rare solo version of "Sweet Illusion," one of my favorite songs of his (ok, that doesn't mean anything). This recording is especially great because during his second chorus he forgets the words and starts making fun of the Beejees.

We feature Ryan Adams, our OTHER boyfriend (besides Michael Chabon), to further illustrate the injustice of life. This is the story. I have loved Ryan with the deepest and truest and most heartfelt of affections since my friend Dave brainwashed me into buying my first album (GOLD) in 2003. I, in turn, gradually brainwashed my brother and then my sister. My sister, in turn, moved to New York to bother me and walked through the East Village and went right up to a guy she met on the corner of 7th and A and put her hand on his arm (literally) and said, "Wow, did anyone ever tell you you look JUST like Ryan Adams?" That's right, folks. It was himself. He appeared to MY SISTER and NOT ME, despite my DEEP AND UNWAVERING LOVE.

Now, it's back to dumplings, erm, manuscript for me.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, May 30, 2008

apparently

Today was officially "take the day off from work and hang around outside" day. But I missed the memo. So. Vengeful blog post of random tidbits!!!

First, for fellow New Yorkers: Apparently today is one of the few days each year when the setting sun actually alligns with Manhattan's "west" (our north-south and east-west ley lines run according to Rennaisance Dutch sensibilities and the shape of the island as opposed to, you know, North and South). So today is the day to get your picnic basket and sit at a wider trancept (astronomical suggestions: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 57th Streets, inhospitable traffic thoroughfares though they may be) around 8:16 pm to stare toward Jersey and watch the sun set between buildings. Fun fun fun.

Second, in wake of the happy discussion on my Cindy Pon post, I have started a sidebar with success stories (you might have noticed already). I have called it The Editorial Mischief because, as Lisa pointed out, the fact that "mischief" is a counter for a group of rats is just too good to be true. You all can call yourselves whatever you like, but that is what I am going to call you. I would love to put up ALL success stories, but I need really specific directions (I do take instructions well). So if you have a success story you want to see up there, please leave me a comment with the date and what happened.

Third, I got a recent glut of industry attention here after GalleyCat linked to my manifesto last week. I got a whole bunch of interesting comments on that post, some of which I'll hope to react to either over the weekend (oh no, wait, I already committed to working all day tomorrow) or in the unforeseeable future. But if you're interested, check out some of the dialogue that's come up around the "Less Is More" issue. I won't claim I agree with everything that has been said, but I do think there are a lot of interesting opinions.

My favorite new comment from last week, though, is this one:

It could be that I've only just found this blog, and only just read the most recent post (of substance) and this FAQ, but I think I love you. Can I be your editorial ass? Can I stop abusing the italic tag? Who knows.

At any rate, I look forward to reading the archives. I feel they shall lift me up from the drudgery that is applying again and again to assistantships and hearing back from no one at all. cheers!


Dear commenter,

It has been said in the past that I am rather easy with my affections, but I think I love you, too. (Ok, all it takes is a little flattery. But at least I'm honest.) Unfortunately I already have a fabulous Ass, and don't need another one at the moment. (In the words of Julia Roberts from ERIN BROKOVITCH, as long as I have one Ass instead of two...) But let me assure you I've been through the gristmill that is trying to find a job in editorial and I'm rooting for you!! Don't give up. I originally started this blog hoping it could provide some solace for other Asses. Come here and ask questions and spread the love.

Now, back to work.

<3

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

SPIRIT BOUND by Cindy Pon, coming soon to a bookstore near you!!!

Our very own Cyn has accepted a three-book deal from Harper Collins's Greenwillow imprint for two YA novels and a picture book! Here's Cindy's announcement in her own words.

As Cindy already knows, I couldn't be happier for her. Go run off to her blog and congratulate her!!

One more score for Team Blog Circle. I think we should come up with a name for us. Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

promoting your published book...?

Everyone has probably seen Dennis Cass's hilarious video already, but if you haven't, please do watch it now.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! May you not be spending it in your office working on a manuscript (like some people).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

on second thought, having paid an initial visit to the laundromat

I think that "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" by Restless Heart is a more appropriate Saturday morning song choice.

However, I suggest that instead of singing along with THAT heartbreaking chorus, we can perhaps substitute these lyrics (this only takes a little cooperation from you):

A hamper the size of Texas
Is taunting me tonight
Like the stars that fill the midnight sky
Smelly socks fill my mind
(Where did I go wrong?)
Did I wait too long?
Or can I make them white?
(I wish I'd done a cold wash
'Cuz now my pants are tight)

Saturday Morning Indie Rock Moment

Ok, it's not exactly Indie Rock. But this week, we're celebrating Dire Straits, because that's where we are with our laundry at the moment.

I've chosen the video for "Why Worry" because normally that's how I feel about my laundry. However, we are, as I have suggested, in Dire Straits.

Readers with faith in higher beings, this might be a good time to pray for me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

by popular demand, I've syndicated my blog feed.

I had a bunch of excuses for not doing it before, but I think most of them are moot now. Yay!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Less Is More

I realize, as I finish writing this post, I've basically created a manifesto about book publishing here, and I really would like to hear everyone's feedback on many points. Sorry this post turned out so long; keep reading if you aren't bored to tears by it.

I had the opportunity today to sneak into a lecture given by Jonathan Karp, the publisher/editor of the Hachette imprint Twelve. Most of the themes I'm going to write about here are basically stolen from his lecture, but I feel ok about doing this because I've thought about all this a lot before and agree with him on almost every point.

(Brief aside re: why I was at this lecture: For those of you in the early stages of your publishing career, you should check out YPG, or "Young to Publishing Group," which coordinates monthly lectures as well as parties and sometimes free promotional materials like galleys that magically arrive on your desk. It's also a great way to get invited to events like this, or to make connections with other people who will, hopefully, be making their way up in the industry alongside you.)

Jonathan Karp has become a bit of a celebrity in and out of the industry, first for the books he got famous editing over his 16 years at Random House (some titles you might know include SEABISCUIT, THE ORCHID THIEF, SHADOW DIVERS, and THE DANTE CLUB), but more recently for the creation of Twelve, which functions on a simple principle: less is more.

Twelve publishes only twelve books a year. That means a given catalog has only four books in it, tops. This means more focus on quality, where only one book is getting an editor's complete attention at a time. It also means the slashing of arbitrary initiatives (many publishing companies incentivize their departments and employees by the number of acquisitions and books published, which makes sense in a quantitative way but in a qualitative way inadvertently encourages editors to acquire books they don't care about in order to scrape their margins together).

I was very interested to hear him speak, because (as anyone who reads this blog knows) I have some strong opinions about the future of publishing and the survival of books in a world where shelf space is being slashed, fewer people are buying books, books are becoming more expensive to make while prices are not rising equitably, and most people get most of their entertainment and information online.

I, for one, believe wholeheartedly in the theory behind Twelve (which, by the way, is absurdly successful--7 of their first 10 books have been NYT bestsellers). I wish I had the luxury of devoting all my energy to one book at a time. Instead, I have to multitask, and often I find the editorial work I wish I could be doing on one book that I love is cut into by the time I need to spend on another book that needs more of an overhaul. I always, always am left wondering--if I had had two, ten, or twenty more hours with that manuscript, would it have been two, ten, or twenty percent better? Would it have appealed to two, ten, or twenty percent more reviewers and consumers? Would it have been two, ten, or twenty percent more likely to make a bestseller list? Of course, there's absolutely no way to ever know this, and, as anyone who has ever worked on a book or any kind of art in their entire life knows, there is infinite room for improvement at all times. I will never be content that I've done everything I could for a book. But I hope that's what makes me a conscientious editor.

Besides my personal editorial attention, the time and attention of the publicist(s) is of immeasurable importance to the success of a book. As with editorial work, there are infinite publicity leads that could be followed up on...if only you had the time and energy. Jonathan has a team of two publicists who work full time on his one book each month. I have a team of two publicists at my company who work on X times as many titles a month. I won't quote the number here, but suffice it to say it is much higher. And most publishing companies function on metrics much closer to my end of the spectrum, not Jonathan's.

In his words, "You just can't go to the wall for every title." This is so very true. Besides, the more you pile on, the greater the gap that is going to occur between the titles you love and the titles you took on that you less than love. And yes, while every author wants to believe every editor loves their book best, it's not physically possible. Publishing fewer titles, in Jon's words, makes publishing a book more about an author--which is where it should be anyway. The author is the creator, the artist. Their book (hopefully) is unique, and therefore shouldn't get stuck getting cast as one of many.

There are many factors about the modern world that are tacitly pushing us toward his kind of publishing (that is, if we want to survive). Here are a few of them, with my highly interpretive annotations:

-Reduced shelf space in stores. Nb the recent corporate restructuring of Borders, which is moving toward a face-out book display technique. This means fewer titles, with more copies per title. In other words, reinforcement of the bestsellers, less room for anything else. Many books on this scheme will cease to be stocked in brick-and-mortars at all.

-Reduced print venues for publicity purposes. Fewer book reviews in printed papers and magazines, and fewer people reading them. Sure, there's online marketing, but as no one knows better than you and I, the internet is a whole other animal.

-Increased availability of stand-in entertainment and information online. Jon made the point about the decrease in number of biographies published--unless a writer is really fantastic, why not just read about their subject in Wikipedia?

All these factors are contributing to reduced book sales. Meanwhile--and this is something we on my end are keenly aware of, but which I don't think non-publishing peeps have to think about as much--the physical act of making a book becomes less and less profitable each year, because book prices do not rise in relation to inflation (compare a book that pubbed in 1990 to a book that pubbed this month and do some quick math--you'll see).

The fact is, I don't believe we are ever going to eradicate book readers. I believe in the brick-and-mortar, in the smell of fresh-cut pages, and in the pleasing sensation of running one's fingers over the ripple of neatly aligned spines on a bookshelf. And I think that despite all the doom-and-gloom about decreased reading rates and illiterate teenagers, the fact of people like me--and a heck of a lot of you reading this--will never let the Book go away completely. People have been bibliophiles for thousands of years at this point; nothing, not even the internet, is going to destroy that kind of addiction.

However, there is a lot being published every year for the wrong reasons, and there is a lot that is published when it is not quite ripe yet (again, for the wrong reasons). Don't blame publishers for this--it's not that we're stupid or lacking foresight--not that we can be completely excused from either of those sins--but we fight daily against forces and institutions that have been in place for a long time and that dictate a lot about how we function. There are a lot of jobs at stake, a lot of formalities and how we tie into corporate America, a lot of stock holders who aren't willing to take the risk, and a lot of pressure from agents to pay more, get it out faster, cut back on editorial changes, rush out an option project. In little ways, the fact of everyone doing their job perpetuates a system that is floundering.

What does this mean for you and me? Well, I'm still tied to my product incentives, unfortunately, so all I can do is write too-long e-essays on what I think you should do. But you are writers, and you are the ones who are going to change the world (and publishing) with the work you're doing. So here are some thing I hope you'll think about.

First, Jon calls himself a strong believer in the gestational process. He points out that most mistakes that cause a book to fail come from deadline pressure. He also says that the few authors he chooses (or "gets") to work with he likes to acquire years in advance, and collaborate with on many slow edits.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, quality. Second, trickle-down. If you work on editing a book for two years, by the time your sales team goes to sell it in, they may have actually read it! (Book salespeople are really wonderful and usually thoroughly read people--this is no slight on them, simply observation that with the volume of titles they are expected to sell during a season, there is no way they have read all their own books. And the more books we publish, the lesser the chances are that they've read any given book on the list.)

So don't rush out your masterpiece. I know it's tempting to want to get the ball rolling, and I don't mean to encourage cold feet. I do mean to encourage care and attention on your end. The reason for this is you never know, in the current climate, how much attention your book will get on the other end (I discovered during a phone conference with an author yesterday that his agent--who has been giving me a lot of editorial advice about how he thought the author saw the book--has never actually read the manuscript. I was a LITTLE disappointed, but I don't think cut corners like this are all as rare as we would wish.).

So join a crit group. Shop your project. Push yourself, and make sure what goes out is something you wouldn't mind everyone in America reading and associating with you. Don't let the publishing HR crisis become your artistic crisis, too. And make sure to push your editor.

Which brings me to point #2. Know your editor. Make sure you're not a last-minute acquisition for an editor who is so swamped that they are only going to have a week in the year to devote to your book. As we've discussed before, not all books get edited by their editors. Make sure your book isn't one of these (although, of course, you've taken the necessary precautions by making sure it's as clean as it can be before your agent submits it).

How can you make sure your editor is a good egg? We're all good eggs, so that's easy. We might not all be right to work on your book, though. So if you can, make sure you meet your editor, either face-to-face or during a telephone conversation, before you accept an offer from him or her. A simple conversation will hopefully help you (and your agent) pinpoint the editor's reason for acquisition--is it rapturous passion for the book? (That's ideal.) Is it because s/he sees commercial potential? (Less ideal--this sounds suspiciously like something that is going to be thrown to the wall to see if it sticks or not, but with no hearts broken if it doesn't make it.) Both? (Ok, that's a good answer.)

What you do not want is an editor who is buying your book to fill a quota, or--another thing that really happens--because your agent pressured him/her (there is good pressure and bad pressure, and some agents have it down perfectly while other agents are all about the sale). Do what you can to ascertain the potential editor's positive enthusiasm. Ask clever questions like, "What exactly in my book appealed to you the most?" or "Did you find any of the characters particularly relatable? Why?" (or less scripted questions you might think of that apply to your situation).

Also--here's a biggie--discuss the editing future of the manuscript with your editor. Make sure s/he has a plan TO edit. During a casual meet/call before book acquisition, an editor may be hesitant to confess all of their ideas (after all, if they don't end up with the book, they don't want to taint the editorial course you'll end up on with someone else. Nor do they want to give up their hard work for free.). Although you're an ideal author (I can just about vouch for you), you should still be suspect if an editor (or agent, for that matter) leads you to believe your book is perfect as is. Anyone who has ever worked on book development knows the value of more than one set of eyes.

So the short themes of this rather long essay (sorry):

-Yes, publishing is changing.
-No, books aren't going to disappear forever.
-Yes, too much is being published, and as a result a lot of it is crappy.
-Yes, when the bubble bursts, jobs will disappear and things will have to change. But.
-We, as industry professionals in our various roles, need to start paying closer attention to content--both its integrity and its quality. We have an incentive to return art and meaning to what we do and to rise above the bad trends that have come to dominate the industry. We need to focus on projects that we can go to the wall for, again and again and again.

I hope to hear your thoughts.

Monday, May 19, 2008

some quick Monday morning thoughts

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Mine was awesome but crazy, work events left and right. And now here I am back in the office. But this is what a rowing team coach would call "a good kind of pain."

Just to catch you up on important things that have been happening in my life (I know you're on the edge of your seat here). On Thursday night, I was at a work party with lots of fancy famous people. Everyone was drinking wine and I'm a bit of a lightweight (cough, cough--please, no need for friends to post any personal anecdotes here) so when an olive plate appeared in the middle of the party I thought it would be a good idea to stabilize my stomach with some tasties.

However, since there were all the fancy people and no one else was eating the olives, I became really self-conscious about the whole olive pit scenario. After popping about five olives in my mouth, I realized there was no tasteful and inconspicuous way to get rid of the pits, which I didn't want to spit out and put on the common plate (there were no napkins). So after about five minutes of sucking on them I swallowed them. No biggie.

Unfortunately, I also have a problem with looking at food that's sitting in front of me. In that I eat it. So by the end of the evening I had swallowed not 5 olive pits but probably closer to the tune of 40. It seemed like a fine idea at the time.

On Friday, I wasn't hungry at all. Or on Saturday, or Sunday. No appetite whatsoever. It was weird, because normally I eat everything all the time. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. UNTIL I REMEMBERED THE OLIVES. Once I thought of them, I could feel 40 distinct olive pits of various sizes in my duodenum. Just chillin'.

Clearly I am going to grow an olive tree out of my belly button. Sigh. This will greatly endanger my anonymity, because I'm not sure how many walking olive trees there are on New York editorial staffs.

In other news, yes, I'm still mourning the mouse. ::sob::

In other things that might be of interest:

Marie Mockett posted on writing about love, and she has some interesting thoughts about that. She brought up the Brontes, which regretfully spawned a tirade by YT in her comments section, but she's been very gracious about it. For the writers reading this, do you think you need to have experienced love (or a particular kind of love) in order to write about it? Or do you side with Toni Morrison about the power of imagination?

For fellow Bronte addicts and enthusiasts, Vulpes Libris posted this very interesting article awhile back called "A Monster Is Born." It's about Rochester, Charlotte Bronte's real-life love affairs/interests, and why a female writer might imagine a love-interest "hero" for herself who treats a character just like herself like crap. Oh, literary masochism, how I love thee.

For those Bronte enthusiasts (I know there are at least a few of you who read this blog, since we've posted/commented to this effect before), you should check out the Bronte Blog, which basically collects everything being e-published about the Brontes. I confess I subscribe to it.

Also (semi-related), Maud Newton posted this New Yorker link about why being a writer might kill you. Good to remember at all times. I mean, think of poor Emily Bronte--she died (you might say) of horrible reviews.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

happy weekend

Tumbleweed posted this video this morning. She rightfully bills it the "feel good video of the day."

Toni, Toni, Toni

Some further fangirlism inspired by a CNN article from last week. I have a dream of someday meeting Toni Morrison. I love her not just because of her writing--she's also an example of a [fantabulous and well respected] editor who managed to make a successful career as a [beloved and prizewinning] writer, too. Here's her wikibiography for those curious for more details.

Here's a link to a newspaper interview with Toni--10 reader questions answered. Certain topics are less interesting than others (eg the Bill Clinton conversation), but some of the highlights for me:

How did you discover your passion for writing? —Roderick Yang, Seattle
My deepest passion was reading. At some point—not early, I was 35 or 36—I realized there was a book that I wanted very much to read that really hadn't been written, and so I sort of played around with it in trying to construct the kind of book I wanted to read.

Do you think that young black females are dealing with the same self-acceptance issues today as your character was in The Bluest Eye? —Francesca Siad, Calgary, Alta.
No, not at all. When I wrote the book, the young women who read it liked it [but] were unhappy because I had sort of exposed an area of shame. Nowadays I find young African-American women much more complete. They seem to have a confidence that they take for granted.

My 15-year-old daughter lives to write. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? —Darren Wethers, St. Louis, Mo.
The work is in the work itself. If she writes a lot, that's good. If she revises a lot, that's even better. She should not only write about what she knows but about what she doesn't know. It extends the imagination.

Friday, May 16, 2008

YT had a little episode.

I've had a very, very exhausting week. I've either had work functions or good-bye parties or emergency karaoke episodes that have kept me out until midnight every night, plus, you know, work, and a rather exhaustive facebook-updating regimen. So, knowing I had another function tonight I had to go to and that I was exhausted and cranky, my sister (Space Alien) invited me to her house to take a nap. Unfortunately, she did not realize how soon I would be over. There was a little chore she meant to take care of before I got to her house, but I caught her on her way out the door.

The chore was this: one of her horrible roommates, who has now moved out and will never be spoken to again because she's so horrible, had a pet mouse for the last year that apparently she decided she couldn't be bothered to take with her when she moved away. My sister was left with the mouse, a very sweet overfed thing (it is approximately pear shaped) with black fur and little pink ears. Her plan had been to release it into the "wilds" of Tribeca, because no animal deserves to be caged and it could join its mouse brethren that run so happily free beneath the city, yadda yadda.

I like to think it was my exhaustion, or maybe it's that over the last few years I've come to identify with my ratvatar a little too closely? Because when I finally caught on to Spacey's plan I had a total meltdown. I begged her not to put it in a bush outside a restaurant, because it would immediately die. She rolled her eyes and opened the box and shook. The mouse clung to the sides and then the top of the box, because he clearly saw the certain death before him, poor fat thing.

This caused me to burst into tears. Spacey was like, "You're just pretending to cry, right? RIGHT? Oh my gosh. You are ridiculous." Spacey ran away, I chased her down, shouting "Nooo! You hypocrite!! How can you feel guilty about EATING animals but not about condemning an innocent pet to certain death?!" and passersby tried not to look at us. She refused to let me take the mouse home with me. "You hate mice," she said. "Someday, when you choose to get a pet of your own free will, I will support you in your choice. I'll even come and help you pick it out. But I'm not going to let a pet be forced on you by my dumb roommate." It got pretty ugly.

Finally, after much public emoting, she agreed to walk down and over the highway overpass to Battery Park City, where perhaps the mouse could dwell in relative yuppiness among the carefully manicured lawns of that extraordinarily clean place. Sapce Alien shook the mouse loose, after much protest on his part (which inspired much further protest on mine, and possibly what the neighborhood watch would deem a "public disturbance"), and he sat in the middle of the bed of woodchips, washing his little paws.

The rally monkey, who is always most helpful in situations like these, was retained on the cellphone as an adviser. He had such reassuring things as "You're making some hawk really happy. You might as well have stuck an apple in its mouth. Nicely done" to say.

I must now spend the rest of evening recovering from this intensely traumatic experience.

Space Alien has asked me not to blog about this (but I choose not to respect her wishes). "All your blog friends are going to think I'm a horrible bitch," she said. YOU BE THE JUDGE.

9:47 am

Thanks, Brian. This made my day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

good news :)

Hi kids. Sorry I've been neglectful. I'm TOTALLY swamped with some really exciting projects right now. I do have a lot to catch up on, though. Some quick news:

Conduit has locked himself down a very excellent agent. Further evidence that this friendly blogging community is disproportionately talented. Congratulations, again and again!

I'll check back in later. In the meantime, let's pause and reflect on who here has had a major literary milestone in the last, say, year of blogging... who's been able to finish their first novel, has made substantial edits with the help of blog friends, has found an agent, locked down a book deal, won a prize, landed on a "best of" list, etc.

:)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dadrat would like to set the record straight.

I'm home for Mother's Day and my father sat me down to talk about certain things.

"Your mother mentioned that you invited her to do a guest post on her blog," he said. Of course my mother has no idea how to find my blog, nor really what a blog is, specifically. "She said that you told her she had a 'fan following' there and wanted to see what people were saying about her."

Naturally, she couldn't find my blog on her own, so she enlisted Dad to help her google "Momrat" (which, according to Dadrat, brought them right here).

"I need you to know there are some major misrepresentations in your account," said Dadrat, who took the opportunity to read all the 'articles.' "I think maybe you weren't accessing sources from both sides of the story."

Most notably: in the locked car incident: "You really botched the facts here. Why would I lock MYSELF out of a car I was driving? What ACTUALLY happened is she wanted to put her purse in the back seat, but the door was iced. While I helpfully got out of the car to chip open the back door for her, she decided to assume that the back door was locked. So she opened the front door, hit the door lock, and closed the front door, all while my keys were still in the running engine. What here was my fault? NOTHING."

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I would like to temper Dadrat's judgment with one minor observation: it was, in fact, Dadrat who MARRIED Momrat. So you COULD in theory argue he is at least slightly at fault for anything that comes to him.

On the calling the police in the middle of the night episode: "Yeah, that was me who had to go down and talk to the policemen. The dogs were barking like crazy."

On my mother's condition: "Actually... That is pretty accurate."

My mother has some commentary, too. On the pecan pie episode: "Hmm. Yeah, that was pretty funny the way it came out, wasn't it?"

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

words [ <3 ]

One of the reasons I love to read, particularly certain authors, is because I love learning new, perfect words. English has so many words that we English speakers are blessed with almost limitless potential to say things in precise and interesting ways. Yay English.

So I just finished my boyfriend Michael Chabon's recent essay collection, MAPS & LEGENDS. Another reason I love him! Off the top of my head, I remember these awesome words that I learned:

Suppurating: oozing pus
Anagnorisis: moment of recognition

Thanks, Michael.

I also recently enjoyed Martha Moody's BEST FRIENDS, which taught me these two words, which I now incorporate into daily conversation as often as possible:

Cachexic: sickly
Onanist: one who masturbates

(Ten points to anyone who can get both into the same sentence. Twenty if you can get all four.)

You guys have any favorite words? Or wordsy authors to recommend?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ed Ass goes all fangirl

I have a sinking feeling I have rhapsodized to this effect before, but a very cursory inspection of my backlist has not immediately revealed the links, so.

As I might or might not have mentioned several times, I have a huge crush on Michael Chabon. I have spent certain some sleepless nights not being able to stop reading even though I was so tired I also failed to make any progress in the book. YIDDISH POLICEMEN, my first foray, literally restored my flagging hope in my industry (and perhaps the world in general). Although I was put off by KAVALIER & CLAY because of the length, when I finally did get around to reading it, I found myself actually reduced to tears about 40 pages from the end... because there were only 40 pages left. Even GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD, which, I think most people will agree, was pretty disappointing as a novel, was a darn pretty package to hold in my hand and gloat over.

Michael is special among modern novelists because, as he writes in his new essay collection, MAPS AND LEGENDS, (which I am now plowing through), he writes to entertain (and entertainment, he argues, should not be a dirty word). What is consistently most titillating for me is his language. From him I learn words like "exophthalmic" and am otherwise tickled by descriptions of common scenarios or places that are so shockingly on the nose you can't figure out why you haven't heard them before.

Momrat, who I did not expect to cotton onto Michael, put her thumb on his secret. I had bought my father YIDDISH POLICEMEN on CD for Christmas for him to listen to in the car, and my mother happened to be riding in the car with him when some random chapter like 19 was playing. "You know, I had no idea what was going on in the story," she told me. "But each sentence was like a little wonderful package of perfect words!" She has since bought the book and read it twice.

Anyway, the point is, tonight I TOUCHED Michael Chabon! Or perhaps I should say he touched me, since he offered me his hand. Yes, it was at a reading and I was in a queue of other star-struck nerds, but surely he remembered me among them! For example, how many of them babbled as incoherently as I did? How many others had a stack of books deep enough to give them carpal tunnel on their way up to the stage?

I am debating the whole thing about never washing my hand again. My psychological issue with it is germ-related, and alas, I'm a little neurotic. It's not that I would at ALL mind Michael's sweet germs, it's just that I can't possibly hold him accountable for the evil germs on any of the 314 hands he shook before mine.

Anyway. I will go off now to ponder my dilemma. Mmmmmmmmichael.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I finished this on the train into work this morning and spent the last 20 minutes of my journey sobbing. This book was amazing (despite all my initial doubts about it).

Everyone who reads this blog probably knows I'm obsessed with books about friendship. Here's the ultimate book about female friendship.

need your help!

All right, some of you have probably noticed and are just being too polite to say anything. My "All My Pretties" column to the right is WAY outdated. I noticed this morning that I have a very dear blog friend on whose blog I frequently comment and have done for the last, like, six months who wasn't on the list. I hope this person doesn't know who they are since I've fixed it now.

But if anyone else feels like they are in this camp, please either drop me an email or leave your reminder in the comments. If I've never heard of you before and you leave your name in the comments, I will, in all fairness, probably put you up too, as long as I don't visit your link and find out you eat puppies or something.

Thank you!

love,

your rattiness

Updated: Unrelated, but. Ohhh dear. Facebook addicts, click here.