Saturday, September 25, 2010

A good slice of review, please

A good review is like pie. I don’t know that it’s particularly good for me—I’d probably get more out of a more cutting look at the work—but it’s so tasty. I’m not one of those writers who wants to stretch and challenge and dare the readers to understand, let alone enjoy the novel. Oh no. I want people to connect with, and outright love, the story. So, this is nice. Not too flaky or fruity and I don’t have to worry it’s going to my hips.

Thank you to Ronald Hore, CM Magazine, published by the Manitoba Library Association.
CM Review

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Me on WECK

That title is funnier if you’re from Buffalo. While chicken wings are a lot more famous, I actually prefer Buffalo’s other culinary invention: the beef on weck. Weck, being short for kummelweck, which is a Kaiser roll encrusted in chunky salt and caraway seeds. Exquisite. Writing this makes my mouth juice up. WECK is also a local talk radio station, which served me up nicely this past Monday morning.

I’ve been on television before, but this was my fist radio interview. They are more intimate. The voice is the sole way in or out, so you become more attuned to your interviewers and your own elocution. With only sounds and words to express yourself it feels – it probably is – quite personal. Because of the headphones and the booth, your interviewers become the only people in the world.

Except it’s the opposite. A whole mess of people are listening as they pack lunches, sip coffee, drive someplace or, as happens to me on many a morning, all three at the same time. Scary.

Loraine O'Donnell and Nick Mendola were kind, enthusiastic and the best interviewers possible. Loraine has spent years in the theatre and Nick is a writer, so they had interesting questions for a novelist and about a novel. They asked about being edited (painful and rewarding) and collaborating creatively (impossible it if weren’t so indispensible) which I thought were really insightful inquiries. I tried really hard to curb my Western New York nasal tone and give answers that didn’t cut up anyone’s inner ear.

Not sure if succeeded. No recording of the interview survived. Not even a clear one in my head. I was so focused about my sound and my answers I have very little idea what else went on for the 15 minutes that felt like 15 seconds.

Still, I was glad they could sandwich me in.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why do you write?

Someone asked me this the other day. Short answer: Can’t not. And I’ve tried. But there was never a time when I wasn’t telling stories, framing stories, saving fodder for stories and or trying bits on the nearest susceptible subject. It is a compulsion. There’s nothing glamorous or laudable about it. Luckily there are enough good writers out there, past and present, to make it an acceptable compulsion. Otherwise, we’d have a show on Discovery. People would tune it every week to watch to the sad schmucks who can’t stop stringing words together. Poor, poor storytellers. It’s actually not a bad idea for a show, really. I mean, it’s got to be better than people with too many parakeets.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Parajunkee’s View

I love when writers / artists / actors say they don’t pay attention to reviews. I can understand not wanting to, but skipping them completely is like ignoring a mirror as you pass by. Don’t you want to know anything about yourself? Even if it’s just to make sure there’s no basil stuck in your teeth? I like to read reviews, of all kinds of books, but especially my own. Whether or not I agree with the review is superfluous. The meaning is in what the reviewer took away. What, of the thousands of possible traits, items and aspects in any novel, sat up and wagged its tail . . . or growled.

This review is interesting to me because one of things I set out to do in Cinco de Mayo was cram as many stories as possible into a regular sized book – no huge phonebook like thing. Accessibility was my first priority. This reviewer tells me I succeeded, though maybe too well. She’s a bit harsh on the cover. Other than that, I’m thrilled. Nothing in the teeth.

Cinco de Mayo review at Parajunkee

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Science Fiction Says: Park 51

My idea here is that well-crafted science fiction can sometimes be used to examine current events. Good literature – the really good stuff – illuminates the human condition and helps sew all of us together. Literature helps us understand how we work, in pairs, alone, as a group or as a thriving mass. A better understanding of us, people, gives things perspective. And because I hate to use words like “things” in some limp amorphous way, let’s pluck an item from the news and see if literature has anything to add.

One of the central pieces of George Orwell’s 1984 set is the grand, never ending war between Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania. This world has settled into just three meganations, in perpetual conflict – an ersatz perpetual conflict. It is a phony war, staged and stoked to keep citizens alert, united and afraid.

All of which puts me in the mind of the Park 51 project in Manhattan. That the dream of an Islamic community center, two blocks from Ground Zero, with a prayer room inside should garner international attention is as fake as the wars of 1984. And for the same reasons.

They’re aren’t too many Nazis around any more and the Communists seem to have lost their mojo. Besides, we can’t fight China. They’re covering a good part of our tab. Turning 1.5 billion people into enemies, based on the beliefs of the nastiest one percent is great way to create a fresh and fearsome threat. You get all of the awfulness of radical few, without the real world-shattering power 1.5 billion people strewn across the globe could really wield.

All you have to do is make things up. It’s Orwellian.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Wake

Book launch parties are wakes. Irish wakes. Lots of beer and wine and little sandwiches. At mine, last night, I greeted people, tried my best to chat with everyone, and thank them for showing up, which isn’t always easy for people, on a Thursday night, with kids in Karate class, and such. It’s great that nobody’s dead. Nobody’s getting married or baptized, either. The closest common model for the party is the wake.

Which kind of makes sense. The origin of the morose usage derives from wake, as in to be inactive, but alert. To keep watch. We stand guard as the soul leaves the body for a better place. The book is also leaving the author’s head, for presumably a better place. That the directions of the corporealness are opposite doesn’t matter. We keep watch, just the same. Although bringing something into existence is a lot more fun.

I want thank everyone who turned out last night, and to the Marcus Wise, from 464 Gallery for hosting the event. Parties like that are tough to appreciate in the present, in retrospect, I had a ball. The origin of that term . . . nope. Won't do it.