Category Archives: Publishing Industry

The Art of Fielding

As much as I try to avoid the big hype books (until the hype is long dead, at least), I’ve made an exception for the current literary darling.

I first heard of THE ART OF FIELDING when, late on a Friday night, AmyG directed me to an article in the latest Vanity Fair she called “writer porn.”  And jesus people, who among us can pass up writer porn?

AmyG was right.  If you haven’t read this long and detailed piece about how THE ART OF FIELDING came to be, stop reading this post and get ye straight to the magazine and read Keith Gessen’s phenomenal essay.  (in the print magazine only, sorry)  I’ve never read a better, more detailed and intriguing drama about how a book was written, re-written, discovered, agented, edited, negotiated, sold, marketed and, finally, set out into the world.

The writer, Chad Harbach, is also a co-founder and editor of N+1, one of my favorite lit mags.  Here’s an 8 minute review on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Chad wrote this book long-hand; he says he finds writing on the screen paralyzing.  There’s a thought.  He’s got me thinking, this Chad Harbach character, thinking about baseball and expectations and writing and success and MOBY-DICK and tragedy and secrets and long sagas and the art of great story telling.

Who wants to read this with me?  

March Madness Begins

1.  Isn’t this the sweetest little house?  It looks like a place where Atticus, Jem and Scout could live, where you could run a stick along the picket fence, or sit on the front porch and wait for Truman Capote — I mean Dill — to come over.

2.  Finally finished LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN.  I came across one paragraph (on page 248) which, in my humble view, encapsulates what it’s all about:  “[Judge] Soderberg wasn’t one to sit around and decry what used to be.  The city was bigger than its buildings, bigger than its inhabitants too.  It had its own nuances.  It accepted whatever came its way, the crime and the violence and the little shocks of good that crawled out from underneath the everyday.”

3.  Don’t listen to me, though.  I’m not big on stories about New York, the center of the universe.  A silly hang up, I know, but there it is.  But Colum McCann, you are a brilliant writer, you are, lyrical and passionate, and I will give your next book a try if it’s set somewhere else.

4.  I strolled into our soon-to-be-closing-Borders to rape and pillage the place, but there were so many red and yellow 20% and 40% off signs you could hardly see anything else.  It was dead in there.  Maddening.  So maddening I didn’t even buy a book.  Not one.  How sad is that?

5.  One of the most heartbreaking scenes in a movie is the final montage in PHILADELPHIA.  Black and white film / Andrew Beckett as an innocent, sweet, little boy, standing there with his baseball mitt, squinting at the sun / that Neil Young song.  My god, the song.  I bawl like a baby every time I hear it.

6.  One of the most joyful scenes in a movie is the final montage in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL.  Tell me, who didn’t jump up and down when the nutty, endearing sister donned cowgirl boots and married her big Texan?

7.  Texas?

8.  The George Bush memoir — my free (emphasis on ‘free’) autographed copy — has been retired to its permanent place on the Carter Library shelves, right next to his wife’s.  Between the two, there might just be too much massaging of the details, the Washington DC ones and the Texas ones, too.  Oh those damned, dickety details.

9.  After I took my fat ass (yes, it’s still fat from last year’s writing lollapalooza) to the trail for my 3 mile slog in the rain — don’t we get extra credit for slogging in the rain? — I needed a hot bath.  While the water was running I spotted Valerie Plame Wilson’s FAIR GAME and slipped it off the shelf.  I’m only on page 22, but I want to be her.  She’s that cool, like Nancy Drew for grown ups.  Even with all the blacked out CIA-sensitive info, her story is intense.  Check out this Vanity Fair article about this woman who is “good with an AK47.” And I don’t even like guns.

10.  This house is just down the street from the house at #1 above.  I walk by it everyday, and I swear Boo Radley lives here.  Doesn’t he?

Bye Bye Borders

In our town, the BORDERS store is a shining star, housed not in a strip mall but in a building constructed in 1923 as part of the grammar school.  One of our town’s beautiful anchors.

It is now one of the 200 stores nationwide targeted to close.

The liquidators are not wasting any time.  According to the store’s manager, they showed up over the weekend and started marking down the inventory.  Loyal customers have been streaming in to buy books, but also to hug the employees, and each other, and to say goodbye.  There are tears.

When we bought our house, its biggest draw was (is) the neighborhood and sense of community.  We wanted a place where we could walk everywhere — where we could go entire weeks or weekends without ever getting in the car — and we found it, our little paradise nestled into the base of a mountain.  People you don’t know wave from their front porches and stop to talk.  It’s that kind of place.  I set foot in our BORDERS store at least twice a week, and I buy books there.  Sure, I order books on-line, and I love the used bookstore (a 15 minute drive away), but I’ve cherished this local BORDERS as a place that feels like part of my home:  I might take Lea the lab for a morning walk and stop in for a cup of coffee and a browse; I could buy a book and step outside onto the adjacent patio to sit under the giant trees; or I might ride my bike there to snag a book that I must have today, this instant.

I could cry.  I know I will cry the first time I walk my dog or ride my bike by that soon-to-be empty space.  I know this is small potatoes compared to all the other stuff going on in the world.  I read the papers.  And I was just reading a blog post by one of my old professors who’s in India on Fulbright Fellowship, describing one truly bizarre and dangerous day.  So I have perspective.  I really do.  But the sight of that empty bookstore is still going to break my heart.

Our shining star will lock its doors next month.

Sifting through Borders

Even with all the chatter about the decline of the (paper) publishing industry, I try to keep my focus on my work and my energy on the positive-thinking side of the game.  But, of course, the hits just keep on coming.  Check out the latest on the Dystel & Goderich blog.  Here’s an article about it.

Y’all know I’m more a fan of the Used Book Store, but I also spend my fair share of minutes wandering about the local Borders.  It’s right down the street.  I can ride my bike there, or walk my dog and leave her at the bike rack, while I grab a $3 latte and meander around the shelves of new books.  Ahhhhh, the fresh smell of new paper.  I would miss them if they went away.