10 – Part 2
Here’s my second set of five. Make of them what you will, but in no particular order:
Spartacus by Howard Fast is a great book and a great piece of literature. I read this about fifteen years ago and was blown away by how evocative it was and how many layers it carried on it’s scarred shoulders. I loved the movie Spartacus (I’m Spartacus! The watches on the Roman soldier’s wrists in the big battle. The crucifiction after the horrific fight between Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis who still sounds like he’s in Brooklyn) and only saw the novel while digging for gold at a used bookstore on 19th street near 5th avenue. I couldn’t put this down. As a piece of historical and political fiction (yes and swords and sandals action – though less than you’d think) it blew me away. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing historical fiction. Note I’ve also seen the first season of the TV show and had a hard time watching it as the violence was incredibly intense and the story so upsetting. But then when was slavery ever anything but? This is the only novel I’ve read by Fast and it’s a keeper.
The Stand by Stephen King is wonderful. I’ve read it twice, once when I was a teenager when it struck me as the ultimate teenage angsty end of the world story. I loved the characters, was terrified and caught up in the story, and completely satisfied with the ending. This is King at his best. Then I read it again some twenty years later when he reissued it with an additional 400 pages in the “uncut” version and I loved it even more. This had one of the most gripping opening 50 pages ever. I can still picture the guys at the gas station watching the car with the… and the guy waking up at the hospital…
Captail Blood by Rafael Sabatini surprised me when I read it. I had seen the Errol Flynn film of the book when I was a kid about a dozen times and knew it by heart. When I wrote my novel Open Wounds I used the movie and the book as key plot points. The first half of the book Captain Blood, is almost word for word the screenplay of the movie. But, and here’s the good part, the second half of the book takes Captain Peter Blood to the edge of madness and home again. You’ve missed out on a terrific read if you haven’t taken this step past what is already a great movie story. I’m a sucker for a good pirate story.
Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison is absolutely brutal. The movie Soylent Green (Soylent Green is people food! says Chuck Heston from his stretcher) was made from a small piece of this massive, thought-provoking, and yes, depressing and dark science fiction novel. I picked the book up because it said, “Movie based on…” and because I’d read and liked Harry Harrison (Bill the Galactic Hero is a favorite). This is a gritty and powerful and cautionary tale all wrapped up into a crowded, unable to breathe in, novel.
The Kingdom of Ass-holes
I know. I know. But tell me if you saw a book like this in the bookstore, that you wouldn’t pick it up to at least, you know, look.
I’ve been reading a book called, Ass-holes, A theory, by Aaron James and thoroughly enjoying it. James is a Harvard educated philosophy doc and takes a philosophical approach to looking at assholes and you either go with it or you don’t. I did. It reminded me of an extended, funny Monty Python sketch. He’s not going to tell you how to deal with assholes. He’s just going to examine them and identify them, and try to figure out why they appear in our world in such large numbers.
I can honestly say I have never seen the work asshole used in combination with so many other words so many different ways, all in one place, before. For example there is asshole management, are assholes shaped by enabling cultures, self-aggrandizing assholes, reckless assholes, delusional assholes, an asshole population, asshole CEOs, assholes within, corporate assholes, royal assholes, royal royal assholes, presidential assholes, asshole bosses, smug assholes, boorish assholes, borderline or half-assed assholes, the supreme court of assholedom, kingdoms of assholes, small assholes, full-sized assholes, individuals who have an inner asshole, moral assholes, have a proliferation of assholes, be a mere asshole, or be a part of asshole capitalism. And that’s just stuff from the first half of the book that caught my eye.
James sets up a hypothesis for what makes up an asshole as opposed to a psycho, tyrant, scumbag, or jerk. He likes to work from the middle of the spectrum of assholedom.
Why am I writing about assholes? It occurred to me while I was contemplating reading Ass-holes, that I should buy the iBook version and read it on my iPad – one less book to carry around while traveling. Then I realized once again – for I go back and forth on this over and over again – that if I continued this pattern I would not longer buy books from independent bookstores – which, if they no longer exist, would be the end of civilization as we know it.
Besides, I bought Ass-holes because I saw it in the window of Kramer Books on Dupont Circle in DC – a great bookstore, coffee shop and diner. They earned the purchase by their display, their wonderful sales help, allowing me to wander through their aisles for an hour, and their all around awesomeness.
So in a way, if I didn’t buy the hardcover I would have been an asshole without a cover.
It’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.
Indie Excellence Gone Bzrk
I’ve been away in my mind for the last two weeks. That’s what bloggers say when they’ve been away from their blog – at least that’s what this blogger says. Yes, I am a blogger. I’m surprised to see myself write this but it’s true.
So, I’ve been busy with my day job and putting words on paper for my new book – more day job than new book but I have clocked in my first 100 pages so I’m pleased.
I’m in Nashville right now, at a Starbucks Coffee mixing with the mall rats from across the street’s giant Greenhills Mall and just visited Parnassus Books (in a small mall on my side of the street) – an awesome indie with a saleswoman who was nice enough to take two copies of Open Wounds and put them on the shelf and consider stocking them – consider, I can ask no more.
It helped that my book has just been announced (no megaphone or loudspeaker, just a quiet facebook mention from my beloved publicist Julie Schoerke at JKSCommunications) as a finalist in the historical fiction category of the 2012 National Indie Excellence Book Awards. I’m very excited, especially since I’d completely forgotten that I’d entered my book in the contest. Julie had recommended that I do so and I’m glad I did.
So I was at Parnassus looking for Michael Grant’s Bzrk and they had the book (many indies have not, I’ve asked at five so far) but only at the warehouse. I couldn’t buy it because after the conference I’m presenting at is over tomorrow I’m heading home and the store is out of the way (two bus rides for this writer and an hours travel). But you can bet they’ll have it stocked on the floor tomorrow. My search for a non-Barnes and Noble purchase of Bzrk goes on…
Oh, but I did buy a book while there (I have to support the indies!). I bought the new Stephen King book in the Dark Tower Series – my favorite books from Mr. King.
Now it’s off to the bus stop and back to the Opryland convention center where workshops on LGBT Issues, Teambuilding, and Cultural Competence await me.
Doing the Rocky Dance
I was away last week at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I did no blog entries. I’ve been in Charlottesville Virginia, moving between the Omni, downtown, Emmit Road B&N, Allied Road Charlottesville Fencing Alliance and Allied Yoga. Oh, and the AMTRAK station.
I took a seven hour AMTRAK ride down and wrote some while my butt rode the rail. That made me smile.
Here’s the other thing that made me smile besides the beautiful town, the nice and friendly people, and the warm weather and flowers.
Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville carried my book there. There’s no other B&N in the country that carries my book. But in Charlottesville VA, they carry it. That’s cool.
It’s in two different places, the New Teen Fiction section and the table with all the books from the book festival authors – at least that’s where it will be until the end of today when the festival closes. This was the best series of events I’ve ever done. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to do this as an author, don’t hesitate, do it.
Panel I, Fiction: Conspiracies and Obsessions – I did with three very cool authors – Alma Katsu (The Taker), Amelia Gray (Threats), Virginia Moran (The Algebra of Snow) – and an even cooler moderator named Meredith Cole. Meredith knows how to moderate (not as easy as it would sound). She gave us a series of questions she would ask ahead of time, met us 30 minutes before the event to get to know us and help us settle in, and read all four of our books so that when she introduced us and asked us questions she knew what she was talking about. Meredith rocks. And, she’s a heck of a good mystery writer herself.
There were over 60 people at the even at the Barnes and Noble in town. They were standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor. That was a very cool thing to see. I don’t know who they were there to see and I don’t care. We all had a good audience to talk to and the panel kicked butt. Seriously. These women were funny and interesting and I added a touch or two myself, but watching the ladies work, I wanted to be in the audience myself. I had fun and… sold ten books, at least as far as I can remember. j
The Festival volunteers were helpful. The B&N staff were helpful. I probably had too much coffee because my hands shook. Or it could have been the influence of the Christianity section behind us. Or that might have been my nervousness showing. In any case it couldn’t have gone better.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the fencing. Oh yeah, and Panel II with Elizabeth Nunez.
The Nose Knows
The Circle Book Store – the only independent book store in the area.
I stopped in with Max and Karen, looked at the YA section – searched for Michael Grant’s Gone (it’s next on my list) and finally, when the register was clear, wandered over to say hello to the bookseller in charge.
I had brought a copy of my book and surreptitiously signed it. I was ready.
I chatted a bit about the book, gave her my pitch and all the usual accompanying information about availability at Ingrams and Baker & Taylor. She smiled at me and seemed interested then said, “It sounds good. I think I’ll read it first myself.”
My job was done.
I walked over to where Karen was looking at a book and gave her the thumbs up. She stopped for a second and looked at me. She stared at my face.
“What?” I said, leaning in close.
“What’s that big pen mark down the middle of your nose?”
“What pen mark?”
“You had that on when you talked to her, didn’t you?” she asked.
I nodded and wiped the mark off. “It’s off now?”
And so it goes…