Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Soup and Salad: Harlan Ellison's Haircut, Reading Women, Loving and Hating Jess Walter, Fair Warning on JKT and DFW Auction Lots, Novel Research, Edith Wharton's Curtains, Reading on the Way to Mars, Beautiful Fake Book Covers

On today's menu:

1.  If you're in L.A. this Saturday, you should stop by Sweeney Todd's Barber Shop (4639 Hollywood Blvd.) at 2 p.m.  That's where you'll be able to watch Harlan Ellison get a haircut from "coif king" Sween Lahman.  Using switchblade combs, Sween will cut Mr. Ellison's hair in a specially designed pompadour.  Afterward, leather-clad bodyguards will escort Ellison down Hollywood Boulevard to a benefit reading for Kicks Books, whose Red Hook warehouse was submerged in floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy last October.  In this rare personal appearance (with special guest Patton Oswalt), Ellison will read--for the first time in history--from his pseudonymous and scarce 1959 street fiction, collected now by Kicks Books in two "hip pocket paperbacks" titled Pulling A Train and Getting in the Wind.  Afterwards, Ellison will sign both Kicks Books which will be available for purchase along with commemorative perfumes called Sex Gang and Sin Time, created by Kicks Books' founder Miriam Linna.   I can't think of the last author reading event which began with a haircut and ended with perfume, can you?  File this one under "Not To Be Missed."

2.  Jason Rice, one of the founders of 3 Guys 1 Book, writes about how he emerged from a nearly all-male-writers diet to find that he was equally stimulated and enlightened by female authors:
Right around this time, someone forced Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children on me, and I couldn’t care less.  I was trying—and struggling—to read Richard Price’s latest.  Claire Messud poured cold water down the front of my pants.  This book was the gateway drug to female writers.  Messud made me realize that you only have one life, and you should read this story about this family.  The main characters are both exciting and compelling in a way that makes you want to find them and move into their house.
Rice goes on to read works by Zadie Smith, Jennifer Egan, Emily St. John Mandel, Eliot Holt and others.  And he is a better man for it.

3.  Ann K. Ryles had me at the first line of a recent interview at The Rumpus: "I didn’t want to like Jess Walter."  Having gotten to know Jess a little bit over the past year (we've done a couple of book festival panels together), I knew exactly what Ryles meant.  Jess Walter is super-talented AND he's a super-nice guy.  The bastard.  Don't you just hate a winning combo like that?   Read Ryles' interview and you might just want to go leave flaming bags of dog shit on Walter's front porch.  Either that or you'll be stalking him on the interwebs and promising to give him your first-born children if he'll just be your new BFF.  Or maybe that's just me.

4.  On the auction block: a photocopy of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces manuscript and a photo sell for $31,000.... Letters and manuscripts by David Foster Wallace go for $125,000.

5.  At her blog, Cathy Day (The Circus in Winter) offers a peek behind the writer's curtain, describing how in researching her new novel one thing leads to another:
      So, the other day, I was writing those scenes.  Linda in Chicago at this divorce trial.  March of 1902.
      I decided to have her stay at the famed Palmer House.  Why?  Well, I stayed at the Palmer House for AWP 2012, and so this way, I can write off some of my expenses.
      Also, it’s gorgeous.
      While I was staying there, I grabbed a flyer about the history of the Palmer House and gleaned two great details:
      * The floor of the barber shop was tiled in silver dollars.
      * The owner was so sure that his hotel was “The World’s Only Fire-Proof Hotel,” he promised that if any of his guests were willing to pay to remodel and replace their room’s furnishings, they could set their hotel suite on fire and close the door.  Potter Palmer vowed the fire wouldn’t spread, and he was willing to prove it.
      When I saw those details, I knew my character’s rich, bad-boy husband wouldn’t be able to resist setting his hotel room on fire, and that he’d want to show her that floor tiled in silver dollars.
Silver-dollar floors and hotel fires?  Man, I can't wait to read Day's book!   (But of course I'll have to bide my time since she's still in the middle of writing it.)

6.  How would you like the job of re-creating Edith Wharton's curtains?

7.  This has always been my kind of dream scenario: stranded in isolation for 520 days with nothing to do but read.  Some people think of deserted islands (I love coconuts, but I'm sure I'd get permanently sick of them along about Day 241), others pretend a prison sentence would be a good thing (okay, except for the shower-rape episodes), and then there's always a long hospital stay (yes, but what if you got a roommate who only wanted to watch Wheel of Fortune all the time?).  Engineer Diego Urbina had a different opportunity for a read-a-thon:
      On June 3, 2010, six men filed through the weedy, Soviet-era campus of the Institute of Biomedical Problems, in Moscow.  They made their way past friends, family, scientists, well-wishers and a bronze-toned, gigantic statue of the astronaut Yuri Gagarin before entering a vaulted hall that contained a mock-up of the type of spacecraft that could one day ferry humans to Mars.  The men climbed aboard.  Behind them, the hatch sealed shut.  They didn’t come out for a year and a half.
      The Mars500 expedition was the world’s first full-length test of what it would be like for astronauts to travel to and from Mars, which is much farther from Earth than the moon.  For five hundred and twenty days, the international crew—three members came from the Russian space agency, two from the European space agency, and one from the Chinese space agency—lived as if they were in flight, eating Russian space food, moving through the capsule’s diminutive rooms via tube-shaped metal hallways, performing scientific experiments to see what was happening to their bodies and their minds, sometimes losing contact with mission control, and only occasionally getting word from their families.
      Like real space travellers, they also had lots and lots of downtime.
Urbina, who said he likes books but doesn't normally have a lot of time to read, decided to pack his bags for the faux-Mars trip with a small library of novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
      While he expected to like Márquez, in the weeks following “takeoff,” Urbina, who recently turned thirty, began to find that the stories were helping him in ways he hadn’t anticipated.  “The themes Gabriel García Márquez writes about were very similar to what we were going through,” said Urbina.  “He’s talking about loneliness, his stories take place over long periods of time.  I felt so identified with the characters.”

8.  I just stumbled across these absolutely riveting fake covers for well-known books.  Levente Szabó is a graphic designer worked in Brussels, and currently he’s redesigning the covers for some of his favorite books.  You can find links to the galleries here at The Millions.  There were so many I loved, I just decided to post all of my favorites:

And my favorite:

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