Displaying articles for: October 2011

Press Release


Today, I am announcing that Gabriel (Gabby) Rafsonmunjon, Publisher of Narhwal Books, will be leaving the company on June 30th to devote more time to covert data mining and developing his electronic punctuation headband. Gabby will be weaned from his corner office gently, using the Tawnee Li Technique, which involves Taser reconditioning followed by the attentions of a pretty Korean Grief Counselor. We will also create large photographic reproductions of his current panoramic city view, tape them to the windows of his apartment, and then have them removed one-by-one over the course of thirty days. He will have closely supervised visitation rights to Narwhal when it proves unavoidable.


Gabby played a crucial role in the integration of Pants on Fire Romance Books and Narhwal when we joined forces two years ago. His installation of a public-address system which played "I Could Write a Book" every hour on the hour instantly united the staff in annoyance. In working with his colleagues and trying to mentor younger editors, he has demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of sycophancy. Gabby’s own list of books, while varied and eclectic, has a kind of organic unity not often found outside mycology. He acquired and edited Your Best Day Is Tomorrow: How to Take the "FU" out of the Future by the Reverend I. P. Daley; Man Alive: The Great Boise Lead Pit Mine Fire Disaster Rescue and Salvation Thing by Billy BeJesus; Lacey: A Novel of Unmentionables by Teddy Ceaucescu; the recondite For Smarties series (Parathyroid Pathology for Smarties, Rule Utilitarianism for Smarties, etc.), in cooperation with the Mononomial Press, founded as a charitable tax shelter on Grand Cayman Island by Iman, Bono, and Stimpy; Your Best Day Might Have Been Yesterday: The Pleasures -- and Pitfalls – of Nostalgia by His Holiness the Rama Lama; Just Another Dame: The True Story of a Media Bust by Jane "Jane" Bobane; Your Best Day Is Today: How to Carpe the Ol' Diem by Professor U. B. M. Weakliegh; Nuke Anbar Province: And I Mean Now! by Generalissimo Macho Picchu; The End of the Last Day of the Twilight Hour of Our Late Summer Love by Lachryma Duct; and Your Best Day Is Never, a posthumous work by Samuel Beckett.


Gabby is also the author of two volumes of minimally acclaimed short stories, Tea Service Afternoons and Miracle-Gro Days, the second of which the Newark Star-Badger included in its 2004 "Remaindered for a Reason" list. His epic novel, Let Me Out of Here!, written under the pseudonym Frieda D. Tayni, was made into a MeTooTube Mini starring Tom Cruz, Lovey Pryce-Pointe, DeBoss McGuffin, and Pferdy (who also directed), and screened exclusively on the transcontinental flights of Airbrush Airlines. He is co-founder of Partners for a Generally Pretty Good World and devotes much of his free time to being a Big Second Cousin Once Removed to inner-city ragamuffins. I hope you will all join me in wishing Gabby an enthusiastic and long overdue farewell.


Replacing Gabby, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Gilgamesh, formerly King of Urik, as Publisher of Narwhal Books and also as He Who Has Dominion over the Armies of the Vengeance of the Gods. Though not deeply acquainted with editing or publishing, Gilgamesh has many impressive credentials. He is the subject of what many scholars consider the first book ever written. So there's that. He also slew Humbaba, and he refused the advances of Ishtar. He has completed his court-mandated course in anger-management and has become a world-renowned tatter. I feel certain that Gilgamesh will bring to Narwhal the kind of focus and energy on new initiatives that we need in order to energetically focus our energies on new initiatives. You had better join me in welcoming Gilgamesh to Narwhal Books. 


Norah Jott


Narwhal Books

A Division of Hao Yubin International


Oliver Twisted


Dear Chuck (if I may):


Have read your ms. -- the one about the orphan boy who falls in with the ring of pickpockets? -- and I see some real potential here. It needs work, though -- in my perhaps not that humble opinion, given my history with Patterson, Rendell, etc. That character Nancy, for example. The bimbo? (I wish there were another way of putting it.) We need more specifics, I believe. You write that she wasn't pretty exactly, but that she had good color in her face. Great, great! But, well, what about the rest of her -- her "lineaments," as you might say? Can you, er, fill them out a little more?


I was thinking, for example, that there could be a scene where she is partially, well, unclothed, shall we say, and the orphan boy is an unseen witness to this accidental display. He is overcome by the sight of her breasts, the blue veins pulsing underneath the lovely skin, and -- sorry, sorry. It's your book, of course, but maybe you see what I mean.


But that's not the main problem. First things first. Do you know how long this opus is? You may be thinking of the bearable lightness of an e-book, my friend, but I want to sell some hardcovers that our customers don't have to take out of Costco in a wheelbarrow. And I'd rather not run the risk, a la the scalding-hot-coffee case, of some litigious jerk's saying he was reading in bed one night and the book crushed his ribs. So as your publisher, I won't hear otherwise: we have to make Oliver even skinnier, trim a lot of the fat -- so that the bones at least appear from time to time. All that stuff with Mr. Bumble. A clever name for him, all right, but who cares? Let's get back to Nancy.


Speaking of lawsuits: the villain character, the head of the pickpockets, the one you keep calling "the Jew"? What the Dickens! You can't be serious. Listen to me: he's a non-denominational villain. Maybe a Unitarian, if you must.


Or, of course, we would probably all be better off, in terms of commerce, if he was a non-denominational alien or even just a supernatural type. Have you seen the kind of numbers the vampire books put up? The thing is, they have this very powerful sex drive, only they often have to have sex with minds, not bodies. It's like putting your cellphone in the microwave. A lot of these characters have to be physically chaste, even though they're throbbing with, you know, urges to mind-meld or whatever it is they do, and maybe that's why your guy becomes a pickpocket in the first place. You can weave a fabric out of these two threads if anyone can. Oliver (could he maybe be named after the other one -- Chad? Or maybe Ian?) could be seen as a sort of tragic character, really.


One more thing about Nancy. Do you think that one night, when the orphan kid is lonely and miserable, she should maybe take pity and comfort him a little? I'm not talking a whole initial scene, but, you know, she hugs him, and she gives him a little -- well, rub. Just a suggestion. As I keep saying, I'm not the writer here. But it could be a sweet little moment, don't you think?


That's all for now, except that I love that pen name, Boz. Love it. But if you don't mind, I'm just going to add an extra "z." Bozz. A little gangsta, you know? Fits in with the pickpocket motif. Trust me on this one.




Ken Clappitt

Editorial Director

Excelsior Press


Charles McGrath, former Deputy Editor of The New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.


A Farewell to Pigskin


Huddle up. Arms around shoulders so the enemy cannot eavesdrop. Inhale the scent of men and sweat and clear-gel deodorant.
Charles McLaine, your opponent in the "Co-Ed Naked Twister" T-shirt is as full from deep-dish pizza as a woman with child. Sprint for three seconds, then button-hook for a pass that is good and true and tightly spiraling. Yes, my brave comrade, drink deeply of your Arctic Shatter Powerade.
Wilson, run past the New Jerseyan with vigor and manliness in a post pattern. You will be served by your agility gained playing soccer in the streets of Madrid and your dexterity from rolling cigars in Havana. I know you have not been to either place but there is not the same brute economy of language in "playing tennis on the courts of Darien" and "rolling marijuana cigarettes at Middlebury."
Billy, streak past the plane of the end zone marked by the Old Navy sweatshirts. You may be guarded by a woman but she has a masculine name and a short haircut and superior footwork. Do not ask for the ball; the ball asks for thee. If it arrives it will be accurate and lobbed and hurt your chest because you have butterfingers.
O-line, I need torrents of time, not just up to Seven-Mississippi. I am like an aged yet wily matador, and the nose tackle is a lusty bull, and you are a castrated picador without his lance, and Billy is the rodeo clown who creates a diversion. I no longer have the grace under pressure of my youth because of the accident. I seldom talk about it but in the company of huddled men I feel comfortable making oblique references. Rehab was cold and ruthless. I will never again ski in the Alpine mountains of Switzerland. Okay, you all had a good laugh last week -- once more, while selecting the color of my knee brace on eBay, I clicked erroneously on "Hot Pink."
Charles McLaine, within the huddle there is no texting! I do not care if you had a fight with your girlfriend. Women will distract you on game day with their long dark hair that would get in their eyes if they ever crouched in a three-point stance.
As official quarterback I have made a separate peace with both the savvy McLaine, Wilson & Weinstein Legal Pads and the fearsome Green Visors of the CPA Flag-Football League. Therefore, it is immaterial to me which side first reaches 49 points during this three-day weekend festival of Columbus and wins a postgame round of beer that is cold and refreshing and low-carb and earns them the right to speak about themselves in the third-person.
That you have already forgotten your assignments makes me question if that really is Powerade inside your wineskins. You are all a generation of lost wideouts. I will diagram the play in the brown and sterile earth with this retractable pointer. We are the Christlike figure of "X"; they, the feminine "O". The receiver routes intersect like Edenic vines. The offensive line drops back into pass protection like the Praetorian Guard -- that is you, Weinstein.
We are summoned to action by Phil's obnoxious fake snoring. Behold the plan. Commit it to memory. Execute it with precision and an absence of holding penalties. Break!


Teddy Wayne is the author of Kapitoil.


Occupy 24th Street


Attention fellow-writers:


We are taking back our craft and our lives! Next Saturday at 3:00PM join me as we stage the biggest literary protest since that time we met at Roger's house and agreed that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't all that great.


Inspired by our fellow freedom fighters marching on Wall Street, our protest will be a grassroots effort promoted through various social media outlets. However, due to the grammatical errors, not to mention the thematic clichés and pacing problems found on Facebook, I never use that pedestrian website, or any website. Instead, I use the Area Arts bulletin board at Java Kate's Coffee X-Press to connect with friends and followers. As is no doubt obvious, if you are reading this, I've posted this notice there, next to the flyer advertising the gently used bike.


I also don't use Twitter because I think we all agree Twitter is simply the CB radio fad of the 2000's. We can easily reach the same number of people using brightly colored buttons worn on hats or pinned to canvas bags or, if -- like so many in our trade -- you're young and a bit deranged, pierced through the nasal septum. Speaking of CB radios, I'm using one right now! I find comfort in analog radio technology. The sound and experience is much warmer and truer than Internet communication. So far I have attracted two people to our cause, but unlike the "people" you meet on Twitter and Facebook, the folks you connect with through CB radio are real. That's marketing penetration no website can match. 


Please use similar methods to help spread the word. We will need to seek out other writers suffering during this most difficult time. Places to find writers include coffee houses, high schools, therapists' offices, and other high schools. Also, if you see anyone riding a bike and wearing a scarf, that's a writer. Get the word out!


Once organized, we will march on 24th Street -- a site we've chosen because like life itself it has no meaning until we writers give it meaning. There we will show the world that we're mad as hell, and taking it any more is no longer an option. I'm sure you are as angry about the current state of publishing as I am, and together we, unlike the books many of us write, will not be ignored! 


Our demands, like those of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, are a bit unfocused at the moment. That doesn't matter. First we march! Then we decide what, specifically, we want. Holding back these emotions will only make matters worse in the long run. It's time to yell! Yell words -- which also just happen by a fortunate coincidence to be the raw material of our craft.


And here are a few chants you should yell: 


"The Left is Right" -- This slogan obviously reflects our feelings regarding the desire to begin a book on the left hand page. For far too long our art has been hindered by the fat cats at the printing houses who tell us that every first page of a novel must be on the right hand side. It's 2011! If I want my novel, House of Glass: Book 17 of the Whisper Chronicles, to begin on the left-hand page, then that should be my…well…right! Get your laws off my book!


"E-crooks!"or "E-overlooks!" -- E-books have made it too easy for readers to skip over the Acknowledgments page of our books. We demand new technology to prevent this. All the hard work put into crafting elegant ways to thank people goes unnoticed. This may not mean much to the rich e-publishers, but they're not the ones fielding the angry phone calls from my under-appreciated editor, fact-checker, dentist, medieval-cape expert, accountant, bee historian, wood specialist, and Aunt Clara -- without whom my novel, "Bees," would never have been published or as medically accurate. 


"Rights Ahoy!" -- We demand to retain not only all movie rights but, almost as important, statue rights. If the book is made into a statue, we must have full creative control of the project. 


"Review Boo!" -- Those who post online reviews must prove they have read the book by taking a simple exam. And all negative reviews must end with, "But hey-- what do I know?" Can we also control the type size of reviews, with a 9-pt. ceiling, maybe? And restrict the font to Dingbats?


"No more ghetto!" -- Our work cannot simply be confined to one specific area of the book store! We want all our books treated equally -- suspended from the ceiling via stretchy rope that will dangle and wave the books in front of customers' faces. Or maybe a little higher, so that they have to jump to get them. I think that's called incentivizing. But of course we will demand that stores provide hydraulic lifts for the disabled.


To the ramparts, ye scribes. Thee hath nothing to lose except maybe a little dignity, which thee can go some distance in restoring by using old-fashioned nouns and pronouns.


Dan Bergstein is a writer for SparkNotes.com and (O.K., O.K., obviously) Grin & Tonic. 


July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).