Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Soup and Salad: Dzanc Day, The Great American Novel, Book Signings From Hell, Birthday Bestsellers, Breece's Bones, The Afterlife of David Foster Wallace, Anthony Doerr on Loving Books, Hustling Readers

On today's menu:

1.  Dzanc Books has announced the date for its second annual nationwide workshop.  Dzanc Day will be held on Saturday, April 9.  The creative writing workshops led by renowned authors in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry start at just $30 for two hours.  You can't find a better deal than that at the Dollar Store, ladies and gentlemen.  And it all goes to a good cause.  From the publisher's website:
In addition to being a great way for participants to receive instruction, get inspired, and meet other local writers, Dzanc Day also helps to partially fund our many charitable endeavors, including the Dzanc Prize, which recognizes one writer annually for both literary excellence and service to his or her community, and our Writer in Residence Program, which places professional writers into classrooms to provide creative writing instructions to public school students who could not otherwise afford the opportunity.
So, all you budding Melvilles and Micheners out there, check out the map and find the nearest city (if you don't see one in your state, keep checking back--new workshops are being added all the time).  And if you're an author with a free Saturday to spare in April, why not consider volunteering to host a workshop?  See the website for more details on how to contact Dzanc.

2.  Speaking of writing The Great American Novel (unsubtle hint at the possible benefits of attending a Dzanc Day workshop), ever wonder about the origins of the term?  Turns out it was a fellow named John William de Forest back in 1868.  The American Literary Blog has the details, including a link to de Forest's essay in The Nation.

3.  Once you write that GAN, you can only hope to be one-tenth as funny and self-deprecating as A. L. Kennedy (who, I imagine, is still striving for title of Great Scottish Novelist, which is another thing altogether and involves multiple ejaculations of the phrase, "Great Scot!").  She wrote a column for The Guardian about book signings which is snort-milk-through-your-nose funny--especially if you're a writer who has ever had to endure the loneliness of the autograph table in Barnes and Noble on a Saturday afternoon in July.  Which I have not and can only dream of one day "enduring" (Oh, make it so, I pray to the publishing gods every morning).  Anyhoo....Kennedy recounts her experience at a joint book signing with Martin Amis and Richard Ford:
       More hopeful are the signings that take place after readings--unless you're reading with someone ridiculously successful, as a kind of warm-up act for them...How clearly I recall that evening when I was on the bill with Martin Amis and Richard Ford.  Dear God.  Average Ford and Amis queue-dweller: "We've been waiting for three months outside the building--so glad we got in.  This is little Martina--she was conceived in the queue.  And Richard--he's two now... We love you.  Can we touch your hair?  Sorry for talking for so long--we know you still have 3,000 other people to deal with..."  First person in ALK queue: "Hi.  We met when we were both on holiday in Jordan.  Um...I thought I'd turn up.  So...You write books, then?"  Second person in ALK queue: "I work here.  You might as well sign this...keep you busy."  And that was my queue.  And Mr Ford got me to sign a book for him, because he is a kind man.  Not that Mr Amis isn't--he was just being borne shoulder-high across the foyer by admirers and didn't have his hands free.
       Size matters, people.  And you can't just walk away when you're done.  Nobody leaves until the last book is Sharpied...if that means you have to engage your tiny clutch of people in deep conversation, sing songs from shows, or open your wrists to pass the time, then so be it.  This is literature, baby--nobody said it would be easy.
You can read the rest of the article by clicking HERE.

4.  I was all excited to come here and tell you about a cool website where you can look up bestsellers for the week you were born (back when #1 and #2 had entirely different meanings for you).  But then I saw that Lisa Peet at Like Fire had already beaten me to the punch.  Read her post "Hitsville" and you'll have the same take on the list as you'd get from me.  No, I mean that literally.  Lisa and I share the same birth week.

5.  Over at HTMLGiant, Giancarlo DiTrapano talks about the trip he took with Scott McClanahan to visit Breece D'J Pancake's gravesite.  I'm still sad and angry he killed himself.  Breece, that is; not Giancarlo.
We filled the car with gas, got a six-pack of cheap beer because Breece would want it that way, and we drove.  We had the name of the graveyard and location logged into my iPhone.  (There had been clouds but they broke on us and the sun shone for the drive.)  We were the blue emanating blip going down that line from green dot to red dot.  But when we got to the red dot, there was just a neighborhood where there were two college girls walking down the street.  We stopped to ask them about the cemetery.  They had no idea where it was. We drove off, giddy with finding Breece, and joked about how lucky those girls were that they didn’t end up in the trunk of this fucking rental car for not being able to assist us.  Stopping by the local library, we found inside a whole display case of Pancake’s shit: portraits, books, a VHS tape (which we should have watched), and a stack of slips with directions from the library right to his grave up the hill.

6.  Speaking of reputations beyond the grave, "The Afterlife of David Foster Wallace" not only gets our blood pumping harder in anticipation of April 15, but it also details the rising academic appreciation for the author who, like Pancake, took his own life before he was finished writing all the books still inside his head.
Readers outside academe caught on to Wallace before scholars did.  When he died, academic interest in him had only begun to show real signs of life, with scholars starting to look closely at the ways in which Wallace responded to and reshaped for a new generation the postmodernism practiced by writers like Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon.  Two years later, spurred in part by his death but even more by a rising generation of young scholars, the impending publication of a posthumous novel, and the opening of a major archive of the writer's papers, David Foster Wallace studies is on its way to becoming a robust scholarly enterprise.

7.  There is so much to love about this essay by Anthony Doerr (Memory Wall) that I'm tempted to quote the whole thing, but I'll just share the first few paragraphs.  Click HERE to read the rest.
       Whenever we buy a book, we say we buy a “copy” of it.  We buy a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow, say, and we carry our copy home.  We open it; we fall into it.  And it is here that the word “copy” fails.
       Because what I experience when I read Gravity’s Rainbow, or Beloved, or The Moviegoer, is not at all a “copy” of what you experience when you read the same novel.  Now that the books are in our hands, in our homes, in our heads, the copies have become something much more idiosyncratic and alive.  They’ve become individual experiences.  They’ve become memories.
       Last year I bought Daniyal Mueenuddin’s story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland. I read two-thirds of it, wrote all over it, flew to Boise, drove home, and realized I’d left the book on the airplane.
       “It’s okay,” my wife said, when she saw my disappointment.  “You can buy another copy.”  But I couldn’t, not really.  That was my copy.  My experience of the book.  And once I finished it, I planned to stow it on a shelf in a particular spot in my office and there it would sit, with my notes scribbled in it, waiting to be called back up, in the way I imagine individual memories wait to be called back up inside our brains.
       It is the weather in which one reads a book that interpenetrates the paper.  It is the mood one is in, the mindset one carries, the hunger in one’s gut, the quality of the sunlight falling across the page.  It is the little coffee stain on page 29, the twelve bright stars scratched ecstatically across page 302.

8.  Demolition of the Ivory Tower Alert:  It's no longer good enough to just cloister yourself away and write books.  Now, it's all hustle and promo and Tweets.  The Wall Street Journal explains.
       According to Penny Sansevieri, an adjunct professor at New York University and CEO of Author Marketing, a publicity firm, there are 1,500 books published daily in the U.S., including self-published titles.  "To get noticed," she said, "you have to throw more at people than just your book."
       Sometimes, you have to throw sex toys.

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