MacMillan (including Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, St. Martin’s Press, and Henry Holt) is going head-to-head with Amazon over pricing, with the result that Apple’s sudden appearance with a more flexible price structure has tipped the scale. Although the “news” is that Amazon has pulled MacMillan books from its store, I’m guessing the actual scenario was more like MacMillan saying, “If you won’t play ball, Apple will,” and Amazon saying, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on your way out.” Bluff and counter-bluff, except MacMillan (so long as they’ve got Apple) can live without Amazon, and Amazon can’t live without MacMillan.
I feel for you, Jeff, but you lost this whole stand-off the minute Steve refused to back you up on it. And he’s your competition—he doesn’t have any reason to back you up. Even if you pretend it was always intended as just a “gesture,” you shouldn’t have tried to play it tough. You’re acting like a mob goon at a diplomat’s poker game. And the other players are all eyes wide-open.
On the other hand, Wired magazine has written an incredibly in-depth analysis of how Apple altered the landscape with the iPhone, which industry pundits are saying is what they’re doing now with the iPad—it’s just that they’re not marketing to the average user what’s truly important about it. Which is a polite way of saying, “They think you’re too dumb to understand.”
(What they really mean is these extremely important negotiations are going on behind closed doors, and Jobs is not about to get the buying public involved in them. It’s hard to bluff your opponent when the cards are jumping out of your hand shrieking, “This is what I’M going to do!” It doesn’t matter if your opponent can see more of your master-plan than your cards can. You’re risking a lot on your opponent agreeing with you that your cards don’t know the true score, particularly when it’s not in their best interests to do so, particularly when your cards might very well find out more than you expect and take offense at the insult to their intelligence. Again. I really don’t think Apple should be treating potential customers like they’re stupid enough to pony up $800 for a desktop—but then again, Jobs is a pretty darn successful marketer, and maybe what he knows that I don’t is that the bulk of them are.)
Hey, remember our conversation about workspaces? Well, get this. What do you suppose happens to it in an earthquake? Does it float in a tsunami? Would it become a snowball in an avalanche? Could you get one disguised as a giant peach?
And this is perhaps the most amazing news of all: did you know the Internet is made of cats? Wow, does that explain why mine are so tired they have to sleep all the time.
UPDATE: I have long suspected that everyone out there reads my blog before they come up with their own opinions, but now I know for sure:
John Scalzi (via my sys admin via Tim O’Reilly on Twitter).
John Scalzi again, with hot sauce.
And someone’s recommended the Book Depository to replace Amazon, which we will add to our list of bookstores, except virtual.
Oh, look! Something shiny!
That’s my first reaction to the official Apple description of the iPad.
My sys admin sent me links to about six in-depth computer industry articles on the much-touted Apple e-reader yesterday, which—since I am just a tiny bit OCD—I read all of. By the time I was done, you bet I’d convinced myself it was the only e-reader out there. I couldn’t remember anything about the others, even their names.
But then I went back to the official Apple page and re-read it with a more jaundiced eye. And you know what I discovered? No matter what the thing actually does, what they have chosen to peddle in their marketing spiel is less than. . .what word am I searching for?. . .intelligent.
The VERY FIRST feature they laud is that it’s LIMITED. Huh? Yes. It is apparently now a virtue to only see one thing at a time. Which is odd, because that’s what I do anyway. But this is a big deal to Apple—they claim this is how web pages “were meant” to be seen. Fascinating. I didn’t know they invented the web page. Much less that all other similar gadgets force you to look at more than one even when you don’t want to. I’ve learned something from them already!
The SECOND thing they announce is that I can now “see and touch” my emails “in ways you never could before.” Good god. So that’s completely scared me off that feature.
The THIRD feature is that this thing can show me my photos the same way my digital camera can. Okay. Well, my laptop can, too, except for this exciting new business about displaying photos “in a stack.” Oh, wait. . .I get it. What they mean is they’ve fixed it so little bits of the bottom photos stick out around the top photo, giving it a kind of real-world look. Which, again, is what I get from my real photos in, well, the real world. Except better. Also, I’m OCD, so I keep my photo stacks tidy without edges sticking out. So they all look like the top photo, except really thick. If you’re listening, Apple.
Also, I love the photo they chose for marketing the large photo display: adolescent, bright blonde, blue eyes, very white teeth, pink shirt to show it’s a female, because of course everyone would rather look at a female. Particularly a female adolescent. I wonder if they could have tried any harder to represent the Aryan Uber-Race.
Is this supposed to appeal to the 30% Asian population of Silicon Valley? the 30% Hispanic? The 15% “other”? They’re obviously not even wasting their time with blacks, much less the middle-aged, who make up the vast majority of their highest-educated, most-experienced, professional target market. Oh—well, of course. I’m being myopic. This is supposed to appeal to a much greater target market than just Silicon Valley. Like the entire world, which. . .uh. . .includes China, with its single largest ethnic majority on the planet. . .oh, yes. And which includes that 25% black.
This is also looking stranger and stranger, considering that by now I’m getting it their main marketing thrust is toward BIG. And EASY TO READ. Guess who needs stuff to be EASY TO READ? That’s right. Retirement-age Boomers. Who are a vast target market. Represented not at all by that photo.
So, the FOURTH & FIFTH features are all about video. Again, what’s the selling point? LIMITATION. No pesky buttons! You see what they tell you to see. And, according to them, you love it! “You feel totally immersed.” Except I don’t, because this object is about as big as a lunch plate, and I am much bigger than a lunch plate. For anything even close to total immersion, I still have to go to a theater. Welcome to the Monkey-House, Mr. Jobs.
Now, the next four features are total gimmes: you can use Apple stuff! Oh, boy! iPod, iTunes, iBooks, the App Store. . .I am SO going to buy this gadget because it “allows” me to buy exclusively from the people who sold it to me! I also buy magazines just because they come with those cool subscription inserts.
They also offer maps. Not exactly a GPS, but GPS gets a bad rap in a lot of quarters, what with its inability to distinguish a good neighborhood from a bad one. Is this GoogleEarth they’re using here? I have no idea. It says nothing about where Apple gets their satellite photos, just that by looking at them I can “see more of the world.”
Okay. . .that was tea spurting out my nose. Hang on a second—
Okay, I’m back. Now there are three more features offering 1) a calendar, 2) contacts (sounding dangerously close to offering me friends there, guys), and 3) a device-wide search. All of which I have on my laptop. Oh, yeah. And which I also have on paper, especially that thing hanging on my kitchen hutch, which my son and I always make a big deal about going to our local indie bookstore and picking out every year. (He got to choose cats this year, a win with all of us. I am currently in disgrace because last year I chose out-houses.)
Actually, I also keep my contacts list in my purse. It’s really tiny, covered in strikingly-dated stylized leaves from the 1990s, and full of erasures. I call it my address book. And it is a heck of a huge improvement over the gazillions of scraps of paper on which I used to carry phone numbers and addresses in my pockets when I was a teenager, which my mother cured me of by throwing them all away one time when she did the laundry.
I realize I’m skipping one of these types of features. I’m saving that one for last.
ALSO—and I know you’re waiting for this feature on the edge of your seats—along with all these utterly amazing other features, I could even get A HOME SCREEN. That’s right, people. It “features” a desktop. For those of you out there languishing and pining for one of your very own. Gazing over the shoulders of strangers in public. Weeping into your pillow at night. Apple has heard your cries.
Now, we’re all writers here, right? A lot of us make a living or at least part of a living writing ad copy. We all know how valuable every single word is, what a high premium each little area on the page goes for, the huge selling potential of white space. But read this copy here. It’s all about one thing. Repeatedly. And not even a very important thing.
These feature introductions consist almost entirely of pointing out that this is a touch pad. “Touch the screen!” it says. Over and over again. Nothing about the actual touching is revolutionary—it’s all the same stuff I do with my laptop mouse. Once for this, twice for that.
Only Apple will let me touch THE SCREEN.
But I don’t want anyone touching my screen. I don’t even own screen-cleaner. Spit and the corner of my shirt, that does it in an emergency, the same Mommy Solution I use on everything else. What my life really needs is fewer such opportunities. If you could work on that one, Steve, I would be truly grateful.
And the final feature? The real kicker? The one that’s sold me on this $500-$830 ($830! During a Depression!) gadget hook, line, & sinker, no questions asked?
It comes with a notepad!
You read that right. A real, live, (well, not-live) imitation, yellow lined-legal pad just almost exactly like the stack I get for $29.99 at the local stationery store every six months and keep under my desk. Except this one’s shorter, necessitating twice as many page shuffles. And it takes it upon itself to circle things without my permission. And I can’t fold it in half and stick it in the back of my belt or my purse or a shopping bag when I go someplace where all I intend to do is write. And I can’t use just any old pen or pencil I find lying around on it, feeling—along with A.A. Milne—that smooth, gentle, gliding motion under my fingers, triggering the creative part of my brain, starting things trickling out of the dark recesses of my subconscious down my nerves, into my fingers, out into the light of day, where I can thrill to them, mull over them, share them, alter them, wallow in them. . .write them, write them, write them, write them down. . .
Huh. Maybe when they say the price is “unbelievable” they’re really just having a nice chuckle with us all. Ha, ha, Steve! I get it! What a great little kidder you are.
(And for those of you who still haven’t had enough of the subject, check out Scott Adams’
opinion. UPDATE 3/3/11: This link has been removed because it turns out Scott Adams is a jerk.)
J.D. Salinger has died at the age of 91.
I’ve always admired Salinger for his unshakable dedication to craft rather than publication. I love the line quoted in this article: “There’s. . .peace in not publishing.” Read that full quote. Read it and understand it. Read it and apply it to your allegiance to your own life. Read it and make your peace.
Salinger was a craftsperson. He created living, breathing, three-dimensional characters moving and speaking in a real world not because he thought those were the characters that would sell, but because that’s what made him happy. He wrote because he loved to write. And he certainly lived to regret the publicity that came with accidentally striking a nerve with his readership.
I have a theory about Salinger’s work and his desperate determination to guard his privacy. I think Salinger loved a man once, a brother-type (he had no brothers), someone he looked up to who taught him a little about philosophy and life and meaning. Someone who died young.
I think he wrote his books as an expression of his love for that man. And I think he guarded his privacy to prevent the media from discovering who it was and defacing that man’s memory.
Salinger gave every indication that he continued to write long after he stopped publishing and even granted his heirs permission to publish what he was writing—earn whatever they wanted from it—so long as they waited until he was gone.
We can be pretty certain the next few years will not only see a goldmine of Salinger stories hitting the market, but I believe we’ll also learn who the model for Seymour Glass really was, how Salinger knew him, and where he died.
My opinion? I have no doubt this all happened in France, a very long time ago.
Well, the New York Times has an opinion on the Apple announcement of its e-reader, as well as a lament for the good, old-fashioned book in the Opinionator (you read mine here first!). He makes lots of good points and even singles out two of the indie bookstores we’ve been talking about: the Tattered Cover of Denver and Powell’s of Portland, Oregon. But I wish he’d come up with more of a solution that just, “Hey, readers, carry the torch.” Like if the New York Times didn’t tell us to, maybe we wouldn’t.
Even better, my sys admin has been blogging about netbooks from the perspective of both a writer and an engineer in Device Churn and Geekware of Choice. He knows heck of more about the business end of this than I EVER will. Very smart guy.
And Scott Berkun (who—if you’ve been reading the comments—you’ll remember has written a book called Confessions of a Public Speaker, spawning a webinar my sys admin and I watched the other night, excellent stuff) has a piece revealing the amazing, top-secret, classic, one-step answer to How to Write a Book. Spoiler alert: I tell you guys this all the time. But it’s always good to hear it again, so you know I’m not just making it up for the fun of watching y’all dangle.
Meanwhile, the Harvard Lampoon has written their first novel parody since Bored of the Rings: Nightlight, to go on sale tomorrow. Guess what they’re parodying? Go on—guess!
So today Apple announced its new e-reader that it’s been priming the press on. I love that they think it’s news they’re opening a new e-book store to go along with it. “Really? And can I get fries with that?” But my favorite part of Steve Jobs’ talk is him “[taking] a jab at netbooks, which, according to Apple, aren’t really good at doing anything,” unlike an iPod (which we, frankly, got as a gift from my husband’s work and are still keeping in the kitchen hutch until we decide we actually need it, you know, to screen out all those pesky real sounds out there in the real living world).
Digital Book World opened today, unleashing a whole plethora of talks about e-books on the interested masses. That’s all reported in the Publishers Lunch email I get from Publishers Marketplace.
Here are some interesting notes taken on talks by four different small publishers on the future of e-books.
Hey, did you know Kindle’s definition of “best-seller” now includes the category most-often-accepted-as-a-freebie? Funny. In my dictionary it says if you give something away for free, technically, you didn’t sell it. They’re going to have to change that to Kindle’s “top-giveaway,” which I’m afraid doesn’t sound nearly as complimentary to the writer.
But, lest we get too cocky about freebies, try these confessions of a book pirate on for size. Piracy: it’s not just for e-books anymore. Maybe this guy’s never heard of second-hand bookstores.
And, on the writer’s side of the picture, someone has written a pretty interesting analysis of using sci fi as a tool for human survival. Are you writing speculative sci fi? Maybe you should be.
Me, I’m going to keep waiting for the retro backlash, when someone says, “You know what I really want? Something small, flexible, and indestructible enough to tuck in the back of my belt when I go for a walk; something that allows me to see multiple pages simultaneously in real-time; something that acts on my brain to build links between perception and understanding without by-passing essential cognitive functions for intelligence; something made of recyclable materials that don’t give Third World children cancer from digging through dumps looking for scrap to sell for food; something that doesn’t off-gas toxins but, in fact, when it gets old smells good in its own distinctive little way; something I can drop, even in the tub, without destroying or even damaging that badly; and something people tend to re-sell constantly, making it cheaper than a Big Mac for us poor folks, so if I do accidentally destroy it or loan it out and never get it back or leave it on a park bench because I’m so blown away by what I just read. . . I can just replace it. Man, I wish someone would invent something like that. They’d totally take over the market!”
Carolyn & Neal, 1947
In July of 2009, I posted Part 1 of my interview with writer and literary figure, Carolyn Cassady. I’m very pleased now to be posting Gobsmacked! Part 2.
Carolyn, according to popular legend Jack Kerouac taped a bunch of sheets of paper together (in some versions it’s a roll of paper) and stuck them in his typewriter and sat down and typed out On the Road. However, in your book you mention him having found the paper already taped together (in Bill Cannastra’s apartment?). You also remember him discussing how to end On the Road after that particular manuscript was done, working on scenes for On the Road in your and Neal’s attic in San Francisco, and then spending weeks editing the manuscript with his Viking Press editor Malcolm Cowley. And you’ve read the transcribed version of the ’scroll’ manuscript. How much of On the Road really was written on that single scroll, and how much did Jack work over that original material before he got the final manuscript?
I didn’t know anything about the paper taped together, since Jack did that when he returned to New York. (There is definite identification of the kind of paper—I can’t tell you, ’cause I don’t care. I have seen that scroll three times.) The published version probably tells the true type. Do you want me to look it up? The editor sent me two copies; he was my editor, too.
When Jack was writing it at our house, he just used ordinary typing paper—hence his decision later to paste pages together. I really knew only what Jack wrote in his letters to us, and I wasn’t that into it. There are myriad changes in the published book from what he wrote in the scroll.
You were educated in drama and the art of costume and once went to Hollywood for a job that you eventually turned down because you had Cathy. And then there you were in Hollywood years later, when you were involved in Heart Beat, the movie version of a published excerpt from your book. Your son John has said that he fell in love with Sissy Spacek, who tried her best to salvage that movie. Can you tell us stories about that time?
Ah, the film Heart Beat.
When I lived in Los Gatos, there was a monthly PBS television show called TVTV. It was just an hour, but they were the most wonderful shows I’ve ever seen. So this guy came to see me, saying he was a member of that bunch. I don’t know how he learned I was such a fan. I learned later he’d only been a technician for them. Being ignorant, I was sure they’d do a good job. I learned afterward that this guy’s whole purpose was to “get into the majors,” and he used me to do it. I was ripped off over and over—the lawyer they paid—so many big contracts and all broken, since they knew I wasn’t able to sue Warner Brothers. Actually, it was Orion’s very first film.
And I read in Newsweek a year later that TVTV had disbanded a year before, so in spite of the contract, stationery, sign over the office door, there was no such company.
I had seen Sissy Spacek only once in a PBS series of one-hour dramas. I was so impressed with her, I looked at the credits to find her name. Sissy had read my entire 1143-page manuscript, as it was then. Her husband said she’d cry and want to call me, she loved it so much. So when she asked them to let her play the part, they asked me what I thought of her. I told them I’d love it if she would.
Well, to skip a bit. They hired this guy, John Byrum, to write the script and later to direct, even though he never had before and Lazlo Kovacs did most of it. The script was absolutely horrible and the opposite of how we were or did. Byrum had just seen Jules and Jim and was going to do his own. (They even considered making T-shirts with “Jules and Jim go to Northbeach,” but didn’t. Big joke.) But to the producer here was Byrum, a guy with a “foot in the door” of the majors, and he could ride on him. So he did. He produced later, thanks to me, A Fish Called Wanda, and I don’t know what else. His name was Michael Shamberg.
I met John Byrum, and he was so charming and funny—he snowed everyone he met, including Orion. He had produced a number of films with top actors, all of which were always voted the worst of the year. This he’d tell us as a funny joke. Don’t ask me to explain Hollywood.
As I say, the script was infantile. I wrote poison pen letters all summer trying to get changes, without success. I told them Allen would hate it; they said he’d love it. He told them to erase his name and every mention of him, the script was so terrible. They wanted LuAnne’s address, but she was written as just meat, so I refused. The actress who played her even said she wouldn’t have said some of the lines written for the part.
This was Orion’s first film, and Byrum snowed them, too. They were going to open it at Christmas with the publicity they gave Superman, and Sissy would win the Academy Award, for sure.
Okay, so I failed to get any changes made. So I said, “Well, now that you’ve ruined my life, the least you can do is let me follow you around—I’ll tape my mouth shut—and watch a movie being made.” They agreed, and that’s how I got to know Sissy so well. We were together for six weeks, as well as Annie Liebovitz, who was also onboard. Annie even spent the afternoon and night with my family in Los Gatos while shooting me. She had already done that for an article in the Rolling Stone years before. She has tons of photos of me, but she’s never shown any. Boof. I’m not that famous. We all loved her dearly, however.
When Sissy read the script, she, too, was horrified and did her best, as did Jack Fisk, her husband and production designer. He filmed every inch of my home, thinking it would be shot there. No. But he did his damndest to reproduce it for the film.
In the script we only had one child. I told Byrum everyone knew we had three. He said, “Oh, but the cost!” I said, “You don’t have to show them all!” Well, Sissy was having none of it. She interviewed over 200 kids and chose two little girls who looked almost exactly like my two at those ages. And they got a baby for John.
Annie had told me that everyone on the set (they shot some in Hollywood before I joined them) and all the crew were so excited to do this film. Ha. Not the one they had to do in the end—but it was a super crew. Lazlo the cinematographer, Jack Nietzche did the score, and we had the best of others. Alas.
Anyway, I had a great time traveling from San Jose to Hollywood to San Francisco all those weeks, staying in the best hotels. (I sneaked [my daughter] Jami into the Japanese one in San Francisco [with a Japanese bath]—the only way to bathe.) The last two weeks in Hollywood they let the kids come for a couple of weeks and entertained them, too. I lived in an apartment in a building that young actors used just above Hollywood Boulevard and even drove to Culver City every day—avoiding the freeways. We all did Halloween on Hollywood Boulevard. Fantastic.
Nick Nolte played Neal, and he came right to me when we met, saying he knew he wasn’t as light on his feet or as speedy as Neal, but he’d try to convey that energy otherwise. He was born on Neal’s birthday, and they had much in common—very kind and compassionate. He had already researched Neal some for his role in Who’ll Stop the Rain/Dog Soldiers which has a character based partly on Neal. He helped John Heard [who played Jack Kerouac], a New York actor who felt awkward in Los Angeles and avoided me for two weeks until Nick convinced him I wouldn’t bite. Then we got along fine. He was a lot more like Jack in real life than on the screen. Another story.
I did have a good time. One time, though, only Sissy and I were at a location in Golden Gate Park (where the three of us had never gone together). She had just done a scene in which she and Jack are kanoodling on a bench and Neal is playing with the children. When she got in the station wagon, I said, “Sissy, I know I promised not to say anything, but that scene was really hard for me to watch. You see, Jack and I both loved Neal and never would we have behaved like that in front of him.” She said, “Oh, my God!” and burst into tears. Then we went to another location, and she had to do it all over again.
I think Sissy had the only temper tantrums in her career on that movie, and they were doozies. On the evening they were to film the publication party of On the Road, they had two long library tables in the hallway outside the party with two rows on each of champagne glasses—filled. Sissy threw over both of them. They set them up again, and she did it again. Next morning she said she had to give up; it was hopeless.
Okay, I think that’s the high spots. After the wrap party (Sissy and Jack only stayed a few minutes), she invited me and the kids to their mountain-top home for brunch the next day, which we did. (I have a plastic mold of her face I want to get cast but don’t know how.)
While Sissy was making this film, she was approached to do Coal Miner’s Daughter. She hesitated, because it would mean her playing the fifth live woman in a row. Still, we know she accepted.
The premier of Heart Beat was shown in Denver, and I stayed at the same hotel where I met Neal. After the show, the Orion guys drove me there in their limo. It was like a hearse. One of them asked me if I liked it. I said, “Do I have to answer that?” So they, too, had been snowed by Byrum. They pulled all the publicity, postponed the opening until 1980, the next year, and it opened in a few obscure towns.
Coal Miner’s Daughter was done as mine should have been. Sissy did win the Academy Award for that. I guess Loretta had more clout than I. We had the same lawyer, although I never met her. But Sissy would call me up from Nashville, knowing I’d lived there, and ask me about my time there. Then she’d call and say, “Loretta an’ I were jus’ talkin’ bout you.” because we all believed in astrology and such like. She was such a sweetie. Invited me to their ranch in West Virginia, but I never made it.
I met Byrum years later in New York and asked how he was doing. He said, “Well, I did three TV pilots, all of which flopped, but Paramount has just given me two million and a studio.”
Can anyone understand H’wood? Don’t know what he’s done since. Hopeless.
What a story, Carolyn! Good grief. No wonder you eventually left California. You gave up the house in Monte Sereno, where you had lived first with Neal and Jack and later without either of them for many years, and moved to England in the early 1980s. Why England?
London is the greatest city in the world for K.U.L.T.C.H.U.R.—of which California is devoid now. Europe so close. In my sixties and seventies I traveled all over—Spain a lot, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden many times, Russia four times. Now, alas, the body has let me down.
How I envy you for building your house—one of my lifelong frustrated dreams. Ah, yes. Although I know northern California a bit—I lived in and then near San Francisco from 1947 to 1983—I ran away from home when I was sixty.
What is it about travel that draws you?
I had read so much and had geography and European history in school, so I was always interested in Europe and England.
Jack and Neal traveled only on this continent, becoming icons of American rather than international travel. Were they drawn to travel for the same reasons that you are?
Neal wasn’t interested in travel—just driving.
Did you ever accompany them on their road trips?
The only trip I accompanied them on was the one when we went to Tennessee and dropped Jack off in Nogales. I had kids, y’know. So I didn’t get to do any until they were grown. I had lived all over the USA, though. When I was 11-12 my Dad took me, Mom, and my sisters on a tour of the US, going the southern route and returning on the northern. Boy, how different things were then, and I’ll always be grateful.
Let’s talk about what you know about dealing with tragedy. Your life in the limelight has, in large parts, been tragic. As a young woman, you lived through WWII. The two men you loved most when you were young died in their forties.
The worst time of my life was during the war when I was an Occupational Therapist at an Army hospital in Palm Springs. I became a victim/slave to a psychotic officer who ran the place. No one would believe me when I tried to tell them about him. I even wrote it all up as fiction, but anyone who read it didn’t believe it, either. My parents visited me, and he charmed them so much my Mom didn’t believe what I tried to tell her, and they wouldn’t save me. Later when he came home with me after the war they learned he was nuts. I could have been killed then, and they knew it, but I escaped. So Dad felt bad and let me stay home the next year to recover. Also my partner gal in OT was in love with me and tried to kill me one night.
So to me that was real tragedy. Nothing that bad at all with Neal.
What do you know, as a human who’s lived through the things you have, about life and tragedy that might help others?
When Ginsberg decided to resent me the last 10 years of his life, it made me sad, because he had been so kind for so long, but I figured it was his problem, and I refused to take it on. (One of his last poems is, “Why do I still resent Carolyn?” I wish he’d thought of that earlier. But that was that.)
Tragedy is how you look at things. I believed the metaphysics we studied, so nothing was ‘tragic’ after that. Karma. I must say I wish some psychic could tell me why I went through that and what for! We are here to learn from our mistakes, and we never get any more than we can handle. But one needs to believe that and know how to combat it.
It took me a long time, but I’m grateful I learned from Neal that no one and nothing can hurt you if you don’t accept it. It is our response that hurts us, and we always have a choice as to that.
That was the most valuable thing I learned then.
Carolyn Cassady is the widow of Neal Cassady, Dean Moriarty, and Cody Pomeroy, and author of Off the Road: Twenty Years with Kerouac, Cassady, and Ginsberg, The Overlook Press, USA, 2008; Black Springs Press Ltd., UK, 2007. She can be reached through her website.
Susan Johnson of The Urban Muse has done a really nice piece today on creativity, or What I Learned About Being a Fiction Writer from Musical Theater. And I’m not just saying this because I live with a musical theater buff who can sing all of The Pirates of Penzance at the drop of a hat—including impromptu lyrics (and frequently does).
Also, Mystery Man on Film kicks off his new series of appearances on the Story Department with a classic discussion of exposition. Take note, especially, of #2 under Other Considerations way down at the bottom. This is, in a nutshell, the logic behind saving backstory for Chapter 2 or 3.
And Laura at Combreviations posted a clip last November (which I am just getting around to pointing out) of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner doing “The 2,000 Year Old Man,” which lead me to reading the interview she linked to, which lead me to Mel Brooks’ wonderful ad-libbed description of Jesus: “Always came into the store, never bought anything. Always asked for water.”
Apparently Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, now in their eighties, are best friends and spend most evenings together having dinner and watching movies. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall—I love Mel Brooks’ delivery. That guy could read a shopping list and make me laugh. “ONIONS!”
And he had also the incredible good sense to be married to Anne Bancroft for 41 years. Way to go, Mel!
Well, Amazon is coming out of the chute swinging this week. The good news is that they’re acknowledging the competition by fighting for independently-publishing authors with their 70%-royalty offer for Kindle books. For the record, 70% is a seriously high royalty rate.
Just a year ago, Publishing Frontier ran an article discussing Amazon’s position in the industry and predicting their future. It’s an interesting analysis.
Andrew Savikas has a good post on the O’Reilly site on “why the Apple-talking-to-publishers news isn’t really news.”
And this week Lulu announced they’re going public. This may or may not make a lot of difference for Lulu authors, but it will matter to anyone with money who’s banking on Lulu’s business success. Which looks pretty rosy.
Meanwhile, Daemon News reports that some geeks turned a Barnes and Nobles Nook into a web tablet. Voided their warranty, but hey, now they’ve got a computer! Oh, and by the way—I don’t recommend going for the marketing game that says the Nook isn’t capitalized. That’s trying to play on the grammatical convention that brand names are capitalized, while normal vocabulary words in a language are not. I’m sorry, Barnes and Noble: I don’t think so.
The name of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s parent company, EMPG, is being bandied about, as Barry O’Callaghan’s three-card monte attitude toward stockholders is revealed in this week’s financial avalanche.
Also, Borders continues to tank. Publishers Marketplace reports that Borders is in trouble now for delaying payment to small publishers, although they seem to be keeping the big publishers happy enough (thanks, guys, for your support of independent business owners in these troubled times.) They are also apparently playing around with reporting periods in order to make their numbers look better, but honestly? Beethoven’s Fifth.
On the hurrah side of the ledger:
Santa Cruz’s Logos Books and Records has survived Borders’ attempt to wrest their business away from them. When we rented our little house in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the then-new manager of the then-new Borders in downtown in 2000, the random public out-cry against franchise domination actually crossed the line into personal violence, scaring the wits out of a perfectly nice young woman. She moved to Hawaii. We sold the house. Fortunately, Logos just kept right on doing what Logos does, which is sell great books to people who love them, and they, like Modern Times Bookstore of San Francisco and Powell’s Books of Portland, Oregon, are still alive and thriving.
Hey, what great bookstores do you guys frequent? Can we compile an esoteric list of faves, so when we travel to each other’s parts of the world we’ll know where to check in when we arrive?
“Show, don’t tell.” If the world of fiction has a motto, that’s it.
But of course you already know you can’t show everything.
Remember Ramona the Pest? Beverly Cleary’s masterpiece? As it happens, we used to have a couple of neighbor kids who were just like Ramona and Beezus, right down to the blunt-cut hair on the Ramona girl’s beetly little brow. And every time that child came over to play, I thought of the day Ramona’s teacher read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel to her class, and Ramona was the only one who asked the obvious question about Mike settling down in the basement at the end: “How did he go to the bathroom?”
Yeah. Lots of your characters’ daily lives you’re going to skip right over without even mentioning. Even Mike Mulligan’s. In spite of Ramona.
But what if something simply has to happen—it’s essential to the plot (remember the time we put a couple of losers in a car from New Jersey to New York City to pull a heist?), it can’t be implied—but it detracts from the focus to take a detour and show it in full?
Sometimes you need exposition. . .
Read the full essay on The Art & Craft of Fiction.
MILLLICENT G. DILLON, the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles, has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb.
BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers.
LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth.
SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Scott regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway.
STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited his second novel, Memory of Water and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water.
ANIA VESENNY is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights.
TERISA GREEN is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with her to develop a new speculative fiction series.
CHRIS RYAN drew acclaim from the New Yorker for the hook to his novel Heliophobia. He is the author of poetry collection The Bible of Animal Feet from Farfalla Press. I edited Ryan’s debut novel The Ishmael Blade and worked with him to develop Heliophobia and his WIP Pogue.
JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with her to develop and edit her memoir of reconciling her liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland.
In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.