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Dan Bergstein is a writer whose work has appeared on Twitter.Read more...
Part III: Flat-pack Your Ego, Darling. You're Nothing Special!
By the way, what is love? The writer Hjalmar Söderberg called it "nothing but the lust of the flesh, and the incurable loneliness of the soul." This kind of gritty, unromantic realism endears the Swedes to me. They don't expect happiness. In America, we consider happiness our birthright. The Constitution instructs us to pursue it. We're brought up to think if we're not happy there's something wrong. To my way of thinking, this is asking for trouble.
Here's a little poem that says it all:
Ångest, ångest är min arvedel,
min strupes sår,
mitt hjärtas skri i världen.
-- Pär Lagerkvist (1916)
Angst, angst is my heritage,
my throat's wound,
my heart's shriek in the night.
Isn't that cute?
Another verse, from a song, which is actually Danish, sums up what is, to me, a typically Scandinavian world view: "Life is not the worst that we have, and pretty soon, coffee is ready!" This is my kind of philosophy.
In Sweden, being ordinary rules. Remember, you're nothing special! Or, as Swedes might express it, you are "Inte mycket att hänga i julgranen!" (Trans: Nothing to hang on the Christmas tree!)
On the "yta", or surface, Sweden doesn't really seem that different. But the more often I return, the deeper that "yta" is scratched. For one thing, the following scenario would never have played out on the home front. I made a "våldgästade" (trans: "violent visit", or unexpected visit) to my friend Lene's apartment one Sunday afternoon. Now, this is a vibrant and beautiful thirty-one-year-old woman. She was happily occupied with a task I couldn't fathom. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"I am making washcloths" she replied.
I just thought about that for a while. There is a scene in Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits where a neurotic and glamorous neighbor visits the calm domestic scene of chez Juliet, played by Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina. "What are you doing?" the neighbor inquires. "Stringing peppers," replies Masina. "Ah!" cries the woman, "if I could string peppers, I would be saved!"
Swedes don't need yoga. They find inner peace through home economics. How many men do you know who make their own pants? How many bachelors, of any sexual proclivity, who bake fresh bread twice a week?
I lost my virginity in Central Park. I danced every night at The Mudd Club and Studio 54. I've lived in Paris. I was on The Sopranos. David Bowie bought me a cheeseburger. Now, there's little I want more than this, my remote Scandinavian backwater. Wait -- I take that back. I need New York too -- like the turkey needs the axe.
As an illustrator I can work, via e-mail, from anyplace there is internet access. New York and Sweden. I want both. Toward that end, I am now in the process of applying for a Swedish green card. I was complaining of the difficulty and expense of this bureaucratic nightmare, when Lene pointed out that I was blessed to have marvelous lives on either side of the pond and had no right to grouse. She said, "We have an expression in Sweden: It's like you want to have your cake and eat it, too." I corrected her. "No. It's like I want to have my cake, eat it too, and then I want more cake!"
I had a frank conversation with immigration. It went something like this:
LR: I'm an American citizen, but I want to buy a house in Sweden. What are the rules for residency here?
IM: So you're married to a Swede?
LR: No, I'm not married.
IM: Oh, so sorry. So you're living with a Swedish man, then.
LR: No. But I once was married to a Swedish man.
IM: Okay, then!
LR: But we divorced in 1985.
IM: That's too bad.
LR: You're telling me!
IM: So, you have children in Sweden? Swedish children?
LR: No. No children.
IM: No children? Oh, well. Perhaps a Swedish company employs you.
LR: No, not employed.
IM: No job?
LR: I'm freelance.
LR: But I have a lot of friends here.
IM: Oh, friends don't count.
IM: But what reason could you possibly have to want to live here?
LR: The way you're talking, you make me feel like I have no reason to want to live at all. No man, no job, no children…Wait! I have an ex mother-in-law in Helsingborg.
IM: That doesn't mean anything.
LR: But she loves me very much!
IM: Look, we here in Sweden are very liberal. You don't have to be married. But to live here permanently and get a green card, you have prove you are in a serious personal relationship. Like for a couple of months or something.
LR: A couple of months? Is that all you people care about? Sex? I have to be having Swedish sex?
IM: Well, yeah!
LR: I'll see what I can do.
The city of Gothenburg was built on highly absorbent clay. Legend has it that this clay makes one sink in and stay. There might be something to that because while you are reading this, I'm on my way.
Rosenwald wrote New York Notebook and And to Name but Just a Few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue. Her work can be enjoyed on www.rosenworld.com.Read more...
Part II: Even Lisbeth Salander Shops at Ikea
It's no coincidence that Swedish authors have produced two of literature's most heretical characters. Rebels! Misfits! Horse lifters! Girls! Lisbeth Salander, according to her creator Stieg Larsson, was meant to be a modern apparition of Pippi Longstocking, picaresque protagonist of the children's books written by Astrid Lindgren in the 1940s.
The thing to remember with these radical gals who answer to nobody and follow no rules is that they are, and must be, entirely fictional. Because whether you're a pierced and tattooed bisexual master hacker with a mohawk in Söder or a freckle-faced, crimson-pigtailed orphan in Villa Villekula, living with a monkey in a green sailor suit and a polka-dotted horse and possessing "the strength of ten policemen," there's one rule that supersedes all others in Sweden: Jantelagen*.
What does it mean? Fit in. You don't want to stick out! Even drop-dead rebel Lisbeth Salander shops at IKEA and eats Billy's Pan Pizza.
- Jantelagen is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticises individual achievement as inappropriate. -- Wikipedia
Because of equality and fairness, there's something called "the Swedish standard" and it's pretty high. It means one can buy a Château Pétrus even in remotest Lapland. Liquor is sold only in state-run stores, popularly known as "Systemet." The System. The System closes weekdays at 6, closes at 1 P.M. on Saturday, and is closed Sundays. The most Swedish thing one can do is to go to Systemet on Saturday at Noon. You will take a "nummerlapp" (a number from the Turn-o-Matic) and wait calmly and patiently for your turn to insure a desperately rowdy weekend. Enterprising drunks outside the shop might sell you a low number for a few kronor. Otherwise, bring literature. Wait.
Even after years of psychotherapy, my most burning issue is a complete lack of patience. Seemingly, Sweden has been designed especially to help me learn this virtue. There are not enough people in Sweden, so even at better restaurants, salad, bread, and water are on the sideboard. Help yourself. I'm thinking, "No. Help me." The waitress, the cashier, the mechanic, the cleaning lady, and you are all equals. Not only is the customer not always right, the customer is just plain lucky to receive service of any kind. Tipping is nominal. There are no false smiles. You'll never hear, "Hey! I'm Pernilla! How're you folks doin'?" Never.
Beer is available in strong, medium, and light versions. The most oft-spoken words are "En stor stark." A big strong one.
My favorite Swedish words are "Undulaut" and "Förnuftig." "Undulaut" seems like it should be some punctuation but actually means "parakeet." "Förnuftig" means "clever," and it has always seemed like something made-up the Swedish chef would say.
In addition to a lot of baking, sewing, and indoor hockey, Sweden has an extremely active yogurt culture. Almost frantic. Choose between "filmjölk", kefir, and forty-five kinds of the stuff, which is available in Japanese style, Russian style, "farmer" style, among others, each in a stupefying array of flavors, including cloudberry. You can buy no-fat, low-fat, medium-low-fat, medium-fat, medium-high, and "call your cardiologist" versions of all these things as well as "long" filmjölk, whatever that is.
Swedes squeeze food out of tubes. Liver paté, mushroom/cheese spread, crab paste, and the infamous "Kalle's Kaviar" (lumpfish roe) are very popular. My favorite is black pepper/cognac. There are special gizmos in refrigerators to hold the tubes. They squirt this stuff onto knäckebröd (crispbread), which they store in the special cupboard above the fridge. For fourteen years.
Swedes also eat a lot of korv (hot dogs), usually with mos (mashed potatoes). When they speak English they invariably say "smashed potatoes," and I can't correct them; it's too charming. Then there are the ketchup udders. At every korv kiosk (hot dog stand) there is a shocking lineup of assorted mustards and ketchups, each in a long, squeezable rubber udder. There's no other way to describe them. Udders.
The most serious television news shows interview political figures with a charming and homey milieu, including flowered curtains, blond wood, colorful pillows, pastries, and coffee. Nightline, take note: Why not macaroons? And ask The Daily Show: wouldn't Michael Moore enjoy a freshly baked cinnamon bun? How about banana bread for Fareed Zakaria?
You can buy herring in any gas station. Many of my friends, both men and women, use "snus" -- chewing tobacco, either loose or in small pouches. Tucked into their lower lips, this habit results in a distinctive, puffy demeanor. Loose candy is sold by the kilo, everywhere. Try some Body Parts, Salted Herring, Pirate Money, Squid, Coke Bottles, Fried Eggs, Pacifiers, Tongues, Rats, and Peppered Skeletons.
Whatever their sex lives may include, many Swedish people sleep in single beds. Together. Peculiar. But cozy. And they all travel with sheets and towels. You can try saying, "You don't need to bring your sheets and towels; I have everything here," but they will bring them all the same. They cannot be stopped.
If you go on a vacation with a Swede, watch out, because when exposed to direct sunlight, they tend to burst into flame.
On every street there are five or six hair "salonger." Most have frightening English names, like "Klipper Krazy." There is even a "Sweeney Todd" salon in Stockholm. With what seems like one salon for every twenty-five citizens, it's surprising that Swedes have a hair left on their heads.
Toilet paper is packaged in gigantic, 24 roll bales, wrapped in clear plastic with a handle on top. People run around in public with these, constantly and shamelessly.
Swedes don't talk, except at the movies.
Christmas means one thing. Festive Pigs!
Eye drops are illegal. Crazy glue is illegal. Hair dryers never get really hot. Sweden protects you.
I realized something. I gravitate toward this safety, cleanliness, and order with the rabid enthusiasm that most people look forward to an all-expenses-paid luxury vacation in the tropics and a big Lotto win.
Oscar Wilde said that simplicity is the last refuge of the complex. I could have taught him a thing or two.
Rosenwald created the animated App "David's Diary" together with David Sedaris and wrote All the Wrong People have Self -Esteem. Please visit www.rosenworld.comRead more...
Part I: "Respect the Cheese Form!"
If you're from Topeka, you can go to Kansas City. If you're from Kansas City, you can go to Chicago. If you're from Chicago, you can go to New York. But if you're from Manhattan, where can you go? By the time I was 40, I had to go to Sweden just to calm down. I've spent nearly half my time there ever since.
There's been some confusion. These are not the people who drill holes in cheese. They are not a fondue people, nor do they yodel. Their trains are sometimes late, their mountains are unimpressive, and their chocolate is adequate at best. No. These are the people who brought you The Nobel Prize, the Volvo, the smörgåsbord, free day care, suicide, and full frontal nudity. These are the blondes. Enormous blonde herring-scented nauseatingly fair-minded nymphomaniacs in clogs.
When I lived in Paris, nobody said, "Paris? Why Paris?" But now they ask, "Sweden? But why?" And I don't know how to answer. Sometimes I say, "Because nobody in Sweden has anything better to do than chat with me!"
I'm an artist. There, I said it. For the arts, New York is just so...obvious. New York is for exposition, but Gothenburg, Sweden, where I hang out, is an "arbetarstad", a worker's city. It's a good place to produce. Volvos, Hasselblads, and, in my case, oil paintings. Animations. Illustrations. Books. To work. In laughable obscurity.
How did I end up here? I'm a lifelong colony bum. Earlier, I'd been to Yaddo and an artists' residency in Vermont. So, in the sweltering summer of 1999, I wrote a brazen e-mail to fifty different artists' residencies, all over the world. Normally, they have mile-long waiting lists, but I dared ask them all for a residency starting "right now," adding that I did not expect to get a grant. "I am happy to pay," I informed them. The residency in Sweden, in my opinion, was so shocked to see the words "happy" and "pay" in the same sentence that they insisted I drop everything and rush right over. They didn't even want to see my slides. The place was called something that, to my ear, sounded like "constipated." I've been returning every Summer since then, but because the guest studio program is now kaput, this year will be my last residency.
Looking back, I reminisce about my first. I don't keep a diary, but humor me.
It's June of 1999. Dear Diary: This summer there have been approximately three days of sunshine since I arrived on June 6th. This has, officially, been the coldest, rainiest summer on record in seventy-five years. I won't complain, however. I prefer to complain about the stinky, fetid, rat-infested hell, the human gridlock that is my neighborhood back home: Broadway and Canal street. I choose this, my Northern Nowhere Land. In addition to my studio, I share the office where I do my illustration work with seven people, most of whom are called Lena. Most Swedish women are named Lena, and all Swedish men are named Stefan. The other day I was using the osthyvel (special slotted cheese slicer) on a hunk of "grevé" cheese, and Lena, Lina, Helena, and Lene started yelling at me. "We always know when you've been in the cheese! It looks like a ski-slope!" Apparently it is of great importance that every slice be an attempt to even out the cheese level. All Swedes are brought up with this habit. I call this enlightening episode: "Respect the Cheese Form!"
"Lagom" means "not too little, not too much. Just Right." The Middle Road. Social Democracy. Fairness. Even-ness. The classic metaphor for "lagom" is the stalk of wheat: if it grows taller than the others, it's mowed down. Show-offs are not to be tolerated. But apparently "lagom" can also be expressed in cheese.
I have learned some Swedish, although everyone over the age of six speaks English as well as I do. Although Swedish is a word-poor language, they have a few gems that we don't. They have a word for the crime of washing dishes in a sloppy, superficial way. "Fuskdiska!" Just what it sounds like, "hjärnsläpp", or "brain drop", describes the blank moment where we might complain of early Alzheimer's. There's an onomatopoetic word for a person who is "dreamy, rootless, undecided" with a hippie quality: "Flummig." You can call someone a dust bunny, or "torrboll." But only if they're really boring. And back in the day, there was an expression for a cell phone: "juppinalle", or "Yuppie Teddy Bear," which has fallen out of use because not only yuppies but also every eight-year old is hugging and cuddling a cell phone. Sweden is the most wireless nation on earth. I just made that up, but it's true.
Swedish invective is adorably tame. You can tell someone off by saying, "Dra dit pepparn växer -- i sydamerika!" This means, "Go grow peppers in South America!"
To round out our Swedish lesson, let me correct a misconception. Contrary to a cruel international myth, the word "IKEA" does not mean "wobbly" in Swedish. Wobbly is "ostadig." "IKEA" is an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. Aren't you glad you asked? Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea's billionaire founder, says in his 1999 book, Leading By Design: The IKEA Story, that his youthful affiliation with the Nazi Movement in Sweden was "the greatest mistake of my life," but in my opinion that honor should go to the ineluctably hideous "Byholma Marieberg" armchair.
When the catalogue comes, if I am in the right mood, I am proud to say that I now have the language chops to translate your "Bestå Burs" desk, your "Klaviatur" lamp, and your extremely wobbly "Ekby Järpen" shelving. Unfortunately, I am never, ever in the mood, because I've decided it's better for you not to know.
Incidentally, back in the '80's, I was briefly married to a Swedish illustrator whom I'd met in New York, where we lived together. We divorced so amicably (in 1986) that we still travel together, and he corrects my Swedish spelling and grammar for certain stories I write. Also, he is handsome, brilliant, and perfect. One day, I came back from Tokyo -- where I'd had an art exhibition -- and remarked how meaningful it was that "clean" and "beautiful' were the same word in Japanese: kirae. "So what?" he said. "In Swedish, we use the same word, "ren", for both "clean" and "reindeer."
I love Sweden. It's boring, but in a good way.
Rosenwald draws for The New Yorker, wrote All the Wrong People have Self Esteem, and holds workshops called "How to Make Mistakes on Purpose." Visit www.rosenworld.com.Read more...
On April 16th, the Pulitzer Prize committee announced there will be no winner in the fiction category for the 2012 award after the committee failed to select the best novel of the year from three books nominated by Pulitzer jurors. What went wrong?
BOARD MEMBER 1: Thank you all for coming. I'll keep this short. We need to decide which of these three novels is the best of the year. The winning novel must receive a majority of the votes. Understood? First we have…um, yes?
BOARD MEMBER 2: I'm a bit hungry. Is it okay if we order first?
BOARD MEMBER 1: Of course.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Brilliant!
BOARD MEMBER 2: Agreed. Waiter? We'd like one large pizza please.
WAITER: What would you like on it?
BOARD MEMBER 1: Pepperoni, of course.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Oh. Hmm…
BOARD MEMBER 1: What? You don't like pepperoni?
BOARD MEMEBR 2: A bit obvious, isn't it? I mean, I know the point isn't to be cunning, but still…pepperoni? That topping has been played out since the '70s. I want something new. Something…fresh. Give me a topping that transcends topping. Perhaps a topping that is not only a parody of other toppings, but also a fine example of the very thing it is mocking. Do you understand?
BOARD MEMBER 3: A topping that both defines and redefines toppings? Interesting. Like celery…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Yes! Or eggs. Waiter, do you have egg pizza?
BOARD MEMBER 2: Celery then.
WAITER: We don't really have that either. I mean, I could put some lettuce on it from the salad bar.
BOARD MEMBER 1: And there's the problem, isn't it? He's now being different simply for the sake of being different. Pepperoni is fine. Pepperoni will do just fine.
BOARD MEMBER 3: If only the pizza were not a pizza at all, but more of a pancake. [sigh]
WAITER: We don't have pancakes. This is a pizza shop.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Right. And we came here to eat pizza, not pine for pancakes. So do we want pizza?
BOARD MEMBER 2: Well, since they don't have pancakes, I'm just going to have some Diet Sprite.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Agreed. I'll eat later.
BOARD MEMBER 1: So no pizza? Fine. Whatever. On to the business at hand. Of the books brought before us, we shall select…what is it?
BOARD MEMBER 3: Stop right there. I'm already voting for David Foster Wallace's The Pale King.
BOARD MEMBER 2: But you haven't heard the other nominees?
BOARD MEMBER 3: Doesn't matter. The other two won't be as good.
BOARD MEMBER 2: How can you know?
BOARD MEMBER 3: OMG! Have you read David Foster Wallace? He's, like, soooo good! He's my favorite. DFW all the way. Easy decision.
BOARD MEMBER 1: That seems a tad presumptuous. The other two books are Denis Johnson's Train Dreams and…
BOARD MEMBER 2: I'm picking Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Why?
BOARD MEMBER 2: I dunno. To be ornery. You should pick it, too.
BOARD MEMBER 3: No! Pick Wallace! That dude is a word ninja! For reals.
BOARD MEMBER 1: We shouldn't be fighting about this. The last book, and my personal favorite is Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Lame.
BOARD MEMBER 1: It's not lame! It's wonderful! And if you read more than just Infinite Jest you would know…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Wait. OK. OK. I change my vote. I'll vote for Swamp Land--
BOARD MEMEMBER 1: It's Swamplandia!
BOARD MEMBER 2: Whatever. I'll vote for Swampmania, but you have to--
BOARD MEMBER 1: Uh-oh. I know where this is going…
BOARD MEMBER 2: You have to officially say that the Pulitzer Board officially says that there's no way in hell Superman could beat Luke Skywalker. Officially. And none of this, "I said so on Twitter" crap. I want a signed, notarized, Pulitzer document with that foil stamp…and a ceremony.
BOARD MEMBER 1: But that argument makes no sense. Superman is powerful all the time. Luke has to focus his Jedi mind. By the time Luke stretches and gets in his yoga position, Superman would be using his light saber as a toothpick! And if Superman's powers come from Earth's yellow sun, on Luke's home world of Tatooine, with its two yellow suns, Superman's powers would…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Then I'm not voting for Swampman.
BOARD MEMBER 1: You're being a jerk about this.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Guys! Guys! I'm dressing up as my favorite Infinite Jest character for Comic-Con this year. I'm going as Orin Incandenza! Dude! You should go as Hal! OMG! You have to! We could all dress up as the Incandenzas! This is going to be so crazy-awesome!
BOARD MEMBER 1: No. I won't do that because none of you would dress up as the Lamberts from The Corrections for Halloween last year and I was the only one, and because of that, no one understood that I was Gary Lambert. It was so embarrassing having to explain my costume all night.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Ugh. You're such a baby.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Am not!
BOARD MEMBER 2: Are too!
BOARD MEMBER 3: You know what the best part of a David Foster Wallace book is? The words and the story. And the characters. Guys! It's so good! It's like reading a hug!
BOARD MEMBER 1: Maybe I will vote for Wallace…
BOARD MEMBER 2: If you vote for David Foster Wallace, then I'm not letting you stay over tonight.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Guys, I don't like you when you're like this.
BOARD MEMBER 1: You're right. We're acting immature. Maybe we just won't have a winner this year.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Fine.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Good.
BOARD MEMBER 2: I'm glad.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Let's just pick the book with the most verbs.
BOARD MEMEMBER 2: You counted the verbs in The Pale King, didn't you?
BOARD MEMEMBER 1: We could choose the book that takes the longest to read…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Or we bury the books and see which one last the longest.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Let's tie each book to an ostrich, put the ostriches in the ocean, and the first ostrich that flies wins? Some say ostriches can't fly. The water will be the motivating factor; the only thing that's keeping the ostrich on the ground right now is the lack of motivation.
BOARD MEMBERS 1: We're not getting anywhere. I say we give up.
BOARD MEMBER 3: I say we don't give up.
BOARD MEMBER 2: I say we don't give up, but we should also open this award up to not just books, but other forms of fiction. This is a fiction award? We should include lies. And dreams.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Interesting.
BOARD MEMBER 3: And carols! We should include carols. Not just Christmas carols, either. Everyday carols.
BOARD MEMBER 2: For far too long carols have gone unrecognized by this prestigious establishment.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Right. So the fiction award shall go to the best novel, or lie, or dream, or carol. But then that opens the door for other forms of fiction, like incorrect signs and all religions that I don't believe in.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Duh.
BOARD MEMBER 1: And we mustn't forget about Puppet Theater and…my dear God. What time is it?
BOARD MEBER 2: April.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Well, this year is a wash. But at least things will go smoother next spring. Thank you for coming. We did some wonderful work here.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Gosh. It looks like rain.
BOARD MEMBER 1: No it doesn't. It's just overcast.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Really? You think it's overcast? Clearly that's not a cloud.
BOARD MEMBER 1: What is it then?
BOARD MEMBER 2: Dinosaur ghost. Or maybe a whale ghost. Hard to say.
Dan Bergstein writes often for Grin & Tonic.Read more...
Dear Marian, Todd, Stacey, Dora, Qing, Boomer, and Hyacinth,
I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to read this month's book club pick. I've been swamped with work lately, and as much as I wanted to be able to come to the meeting and participate in the discussion, I wasn't able to knock enough items off my to-do list to ever get around to reading Time Management for Dummies. Between the book club and my daily naps and avoiding calls from creditors and my faltering life coaching business, it's a challenge to find enough hours in the day. But I'm committed to joining you next time -- and I'll even bring brownies!
Dear Fellow Book Clubbers,
I deeply regret I didn't bring brownies to last night's meeting -- or show up at all, aside from driving by and honking a few times while I was on my way to the dentist appointment I inadvertently scheduled at the same time as the meeting. It wouldn't have mattered -- I forgot to read the book. I intended to finish it -- or at least start it -- but that would have meant buying it, and by the time I remembered I was in a book club, the bookstore, if there even is one around here, was probably closed, and I couldn't find my library card, let alone recall where the library might be, and, anyway, don't they have those rolling schedules or something like that? And work -- well, I should say the search for a new job -- is taking up more time than even exists. It's obviously not your fault, but perhaps if we could schedule these get-togethers in a more convenient location for me, it would be easier for me to join. Even though the meeting has passed, I'm still planning to check out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, although I suppose my energy would best be spent on reading next month's selection. Or the month after's, to be absolutely safe. Has it been decided yet? I'll get back to you with some suggestions, as soon as I take my computer out of the freezer.
I am filled with remorse for missing this month's meeting, especially after you rescheduled it to take place at my house. I know -- the address I gave you turned out to not actually be my house, but I was embarrassed about the mess in my living room, and so I figured we'd meet at my neighbor's house, but I forgot to tell him, and I forgot that he likes to shoot at intruders -- and I meant to show up and smooth over the whole misunderstanding, but I fell into a hole in the ground that I may have accidentally dug myself. This isn't just an excuse for forgetting and, like, scheduling a massage for the same time as the meeting. I really did fall, and it ruined the tray of brownies I had prepared in the shape of bookmarks -- if bookmarks were square, like brownies-- and also made me forget all about the meeting. It wasn't until I crawled out and stumbled home, in the wee hours of the morning, that I even remembered the name of the book -- To Tell the Truth, of course -- and all the wonderfully incisive comments I would have made if not for the terrible and absolutely verifiable (if only I'd paid the bill to keep my security camera turned on) accident. I hope you'll forgive me and I look forward to putting this awful night behind me, filling in the hole, and joining you next month.
I know, I know -- another woe-is-me story, but, really, I have an explanation. This is hard for me to admit, but I have a problem with alcohol -- drinking it, brewing it, bottling it, everything -- and that's the real reason I haven't been able to make most of these meetings, read the books, or remember anything about them if I did read them, which I don't remember doing. But it is coming back to me now that I not only don't remember any of these things, but I also don't even remember not remembering them. My addiction may also explain why some of you saw me sneak in through the window last night, steal the rum cake that Carol had brought, and make a citizen's arrest of the golden retriever in her yard, who was only trying to be friendly and did not want more than a small slice of rum cake. I now remember this month's book, at least -- Breaking Addiction -- and I even read a few words before I passed out in the waiting room of the veterinary hospital where I brought Carol's dog after I accidentally bit her instead of the rum cake. I have no idea where the book itself came from. I might have stolen it when I was in the kitchen stealing the cake -- and Carol's car keys, which I should be passing in the next day or two. I'm seeking treatment -- it's a wonderful facility, I will have plenty of time to read, and I absolutely can't wait to come to next month's meeting clean and sober, fully informed, and bearing delicious brownies, which I plan to make in the shape of olive branches, if olive branches were square. I truly appreciate your understanding.
Dear "Book Club",
Okay, okay, okay -- why didn't you tell me? If only I'd known the "book club" meetings were just an excuse to eat cake and gossip (and drink!), I would have been there months ago! If one of you had just admitted that no one reads the books -- if you'd even hinted at it -- I would have been your most loyal member. I had such a wonderful time last night with all of you, spreading rumors, trading medications, pillow fighting, and dressing up the dog to look like a Jain priest that I don't see why we should wait a whole month to do it again. I'm reading War and Peace right now -- and we all know that "reading War and Peace" means "watching a marathon of Jersey Shore while laughing at people who read books and pay their bills on time." Come on over -- I'll even make my brownies again, this time in the shape of Snooki, or at least Snooki's square friend -- and this time I might remember to turn on the oven. See you soon!
Jeremy Blachman was, until recently, a member of a book club.Read more...
"The fragrance market is awash with celebrity fragrances, but nothing has yet come out fronted by a Major League Baseball team. That's changing with the launch of a New York Yankees fragrance." -- Ad Age
When you enter the party, they look away. You hear the muttering, feel the heat of their scorn. They resent your prosperity. They reject your success. They glower at the interlocking "NY" on your cap and your blue and white face-paint. You are the Yankee fan -- the fat cat who loves to buy pennants, the one-percenter of baseball, the scourge of underdogs everywhere. In many ways, they hate you even more than they hate the Yankees, whom they hate more than life itself.
This summer, let's bring something new to their party:
The pungent aroma of 27 world championships.
This year, let's fill the bases…with Eau de Yankees, the perfume that blends the rustic charm of the farm system with the boldness of the Bronx.
It's a little bit Goose, a little bit Catfish. It's the mustard spice of Mister October with a Mister Coffee jolt of Joltin' Joe -- and it's just for you: The gluttonous, never-satisfied Yankee fan, who wants every free agent, every championship -- every year. With Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter, you should consider yourself the luckiest fan on the face of the earth. Instead, you always demand more, and you deserve the kind of fragrance that can stop a rally.
Eau de Yankees comes in five Hall of Fame scents:
MIDNIGHT YOGI. Ninety percent oil of sage, the other half mental. So strong that nobody smells it anymore. Go ahead, layer it on: It ain't odor 'til it's odor!
YOU GO, BOSS. This blustery blend of race horse, assorted barks, seed of bombast, nitrous oxide, and police-grade pepper spray will clear out any front office underlings. It's the smell of a bad trade. Wear it to a signing, or a firing -- or both!
LOVE, A-ROD. Tempt, tantalize and enthrall yourself with this surprisingly delicate, five-tool mix of rosehip, goldenrod, crushed gopher balls, natural diuretics, and Starlet o' Hollywood. Now, with every successive whiff, detect a growing tinge of lemon!
JEET 3000. This smooth, long-lasting blend of leather, vanilla, gold, frankincense, and myrrh will capture the heart of any lady -- without coughing up a ring! Become the Captain of all noses!
MARIANO, MON AMOUR. Close their rally, close their game, and close their nostrils with this bat-cracking blend of baby oil, smoke, gas, and bullpen. They'll smell your stuff from 60 feet!
Choose the scent that defines your style. Or better yet, wear them all at once. Because the Yankees aren't just your team: They're the way you roll -- in your star-studded, Empire State of mind. No one will ever accuse you of smelling like a Marlin fan. You'll wear the fragrance of Donald Trump, Jay-Z, and Jack Nicholson. You'll share an overpowering cloud with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Richard Gere, the lady who played The Nanny, practically the entire cast of The Sopranos, and that guy in Libya who shot Muammar Gaddafi. You'll be part of a Bleacher Creature wave that fills the House that Ruth Built with the cheese that Ruth dealt.
Remember, Yankee fans: They hate us anyway, so let's earn their enmity. Rage about our failure to sign Albert Pujols. Whine about the lack of a seventh starting pitcher. Ask Rangers fans when Josh Hamilton becomes a free agent. Complain about luxury taxes. Grow a beard. Wear an eye-patch. Cackle. They can dismiss our taunts. But they can't hold their breaths forever.
This summer, let's punch Boston in the nose!
Eau de Yankees…when the pennant just isn't enough. (In spray or gel! Now with Anabolic HGH and musk!)
Hart Seely's new book, The Juju Rules: Or, How to Win Ballgames from Your Couch, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this month.Read more...
"Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food. Therefore, everybody is in the market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli." -- Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court during the Court's hearings on the health care reform law.
FBBI AGENT (outside a Manhattan supermarket): Federal Bureau of Broccoli Investigation, Ma'am. I need to inspect your groceries.
SHOPPER: Oh, honestly! You people always stop me for these random searches.
AGENT: Sorry, Ma'am -- I'm just doing my job.
SHOPPER (pointing at another shopper leaving the store): Why don't you pick on him -- that guy who's practically running down the block? He only has that one little plastic bag, and I'm carrying these three huge reusable totes. And I just missed the bus, thank you very much.
AGENT: Ma'am, if you would just put down those bags for a minute, so that I can…
SHOPPER: You know that guy is a lurker.
AGENT: A lurker?
SHOPPER: What is this -- your first day? They wait inside the store until the FBBI agent stops someone else and then they make a run for it.
AGENT: If you'll just put those bags down, we can…
SHOPPER: I have broccoli -- just take my word for it. And I have to pick up my kid from school in fifteen minutes.
AGENT: Please put the bags down.
SHOPPER (putting bags down): There go three more lurkers! You can tell by the regular shape of their bags that there couldn't be any broccoli in there. It's all Honey Nut Cheerios and Texmati and V-8 and juice-boxes and Cracker Barrel and…
AGENT (leaning over and poking through bags): Did you say V-8?
SHOPPER: Yeah. What of it?
AGENT: I believe V-8 has broccoli as one of its ingredients.
SHOPPER: This must be your first day.
AGENT: It is. But that doesn't mean…
SHOPPER: Tomatoes, beets, celery, carrots, spinach, lettuce, watercress, parsley, and that's it. You think we don't know from ingredients with this law? You've got a lot to learn out here, buddy. You've got your tokeners, we call them -- they pinch off a floret in the produce aisle, jam it under the plastic wrap of a ground-chuck package, and you can't do anything about it. You've got your bringers -- they take old, spoiled broccoli with them to the store and then put it in their bags when they leave. Then there are the fakers -- they walk around with rubber broccoli toys and ornaments in their purses and stick them in their grocery bags after they leave the checkout line and hope you FBBI guys just look and don't smell. And the Direct dodgers -- they order online and get around the law…
AGENT (still searching): Ma'am, I don't see…
SHOPPER: Speaking of smells, did all of Congress buy Gas-X stock before they passed this law, I'm wondering. I tried to get some when it went into effect, but the price was already through the roof. And how are you going to settle the Rabe Question? R.A.B.E. is planning demonstrations outside your offices, you know.
AGENT: R.A.B.E.? Ma'am, I'm afraid I don't see any…
SHOPPER: Rabe Against Broccoli Exclusivity.
AGENT: Well, maybe you're right -- I do have a lot to learn -- but that won't put broccoli in these bags. I'm afraid I have to write you up.
SHOPPER (takes out a head of cauliflower from one of the bags): What do you think this is?
AGENT: Cauliflower. Don't tell me you're going to try to pull…
SHOPPER: You bet I am. Brassica oleracea -- the exact same species as what you federal vegetablists call broccoli.
AGENT: I don't want to arrest you, but you're making this unnecessarily…
SHOPPER: Cauliflower United v. United States Senate. The case is pending. Go ahead and take me in. I say it's broccoli, and I say the hell with it.
Daniel Menaker is the editor of Grin & Tonic.Read more...
"We know that we haven't been playing well and that we need to start turning it around." -- Former New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni
One of the most promising and brightest teams in professional basketball, the Wichita Pilgrims, is in serious need of help after suffering a 166-12 loss last night which worsened their 26-game losing streak. That is, made it a 27-game losing streak. How could such a team, which only weeks ago was wildly successful and a trending topic on Twitter, become the Charlie Brown of the sport?
"I blame the injuries and other unfortunate events," said assistant coach Richard Broderick. "[Starting center] Samson Gulliver is still dealing with a torn Achilles and this reoccurring dream -- which he often involuntarily re-enacts during games -- that he's falling. We can't expect him back on the court this season." Gulliver has been criticized for his injury after reports from a bar in Daytona suggest he tore the tendon on a dare "to see what it was like." Other injured players include forward Wade "Hmm" Thompson, who is recovering from poorly-timed Lasik surgery, and point guard Popeye "Popeye Rollins" Rollins, who had his knee replaced with a falcon's skull in an ill-advised attempt to "fly like the falcon."
"I can't lie," said head coach Nick Wall. "It's not good. A lot of our players are out from injuries, and two of our point guards have become Sufis, with all the obligations that kind of conversion brings with it. And Fred? Well, Fred went looking for that noise that, as he put it, was 'intermittently all up in my head -- you know what I'm saying,' and we haven't seen him since. It turns out that the sound was just a faulty smoke-detector battery in the locker room. So we got that taken care of. Tell Fred, if you see him. Thanks."
The team began the season on a four-game winning streak, and many thought the mighty 'Grims would finally take home a championship. But that all changed after two of their star players, Omar Brown and Timothy "Yoda Spit" Billings were traded to a local car dealership. Pilgrims co-owner Jimmy Legree defended this transaction by asking reporters, "Haven't you ever made a mistake?"
"You have to understand," said Wall. "Our General Manager [Greg O'Brien] loved this car he saw at this dealer we drove past on the way to the Staples Center. He had to have it. But the GM, well, he doesn't have the best line of credit, and we were only in town that one night. So he traded a few of our players for the BMW. I'm not saying it was a wise decision, but it's a hell of car. Really is. And Brown and Billings? Well, they had a rough patch, but I'm told they're hitting their sales quotas this month. Damn proud of 'em." Wall went on to explain that the BMW gets wonderful gas mileage and handles "like a Glock, or a vanilla milk shake with chocolate syrup."
With the two star players gone, the team took the opportunity to rebuild. Their first order of business? Signing the stadium janitor's son as the starting center. "Oh man," said Wall. "That would have been one hell of story, right? Poor janitor's kid gets the chance of a lifetime and wins a championship? Wowzers. We even sold the story to Disney before the first game." 14-year old Justin Fallon's first time on the court ended abruptly when after only seven minutes he yelled, "Will you guys please, please wait up!" as his teammates ran back on defense. He then spent several crucial seconds texting about how insulted he was to his friend Trevor. He was abruptly traded to the Chicago Bulls under the NBA's "pig-in-a-poke" rule, for three very nice jackets.
The Pilgrims needed help, and all hope was placed in the hands of Mike Kinnley, the UCLA star power forward. "Listen," said Wall, sweating. "I like Kinnley. He's a hell of a player. Always came to practice. Good guy. Did some amazing things for our organization. Really. But it was just too damn hard to overcome his penchant for killing otters. To me, they were only otters. Seriously, it was a non-story, but the media made those 138 Wichita River otters into some kind of big deal."
The team then put a bunch of orphans from China on the court, none of whom had ever played the sport. "Hahaha," said Wall. "OK. That was my idea. I figured, you put all those first-time players out there, beginner's luck has got to shine down on a few of them. Right? Had to! But it didn't." Wall then tried to build a team out of dogs after "seeing it in that movie." The current roster still has two dogs, Sparky and Thor, but Sparky is out of commission due to a hernia and Thor won't be playing anytime soon due to his habit of urinating at the foul line.
Just last week, several members of the team formed a bluegrass band, and so on game nights their priorities are often elsewhere. And center Hamilton "Thermos" Lorp will only play with his friend Raj Grupa, and Raj isn't playing because one of his socks keeps getting bunched up in his shoe. Even the team's trainer, Stelton Smith, has often been absent from the locker room, after deciding to make and sell his own jewelry on artsy.com. "I wish him luck," said Wall. The team's new trainer is now a rather shoddy iPad app called "Hurty Be Gone," which may or may not be responsible for guard Alvin Kim's diagnosis of "too much foot skin," which in turn led to a botched pedicure in the locker room.
Yet still the team gives it their all every night. You can tell by the look on their pained faces that nothing is left on the court. Or off it, either. That said, the team decided to forfeit tonight's game due to a general malaise, and excitement about the upcoming new season of Game of Thrones.
"Look -- it's one hell of a show, you have to admit," Wall said to reporters yesterday.
Dan Bergstein is currently trying to adapt The Help (the film) into a book, and then into another film, and then, finally, into a statue.Read more...
DEREK JETER, shortstop of the New York Yankees, having been called as a witness on behalf of the defense of LIFE OF E'S, after being duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:
Q Mr. Jeter, I am going to ask you a few questions. I'll ask that you speak clearly and direct your answers to the jury. Understood?
Q Can you tell the court where you were the evening of December 7th, 2011?
A I was at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Brooklyn.
Q What was the occasion?
A I was with other members of an organization I belong to called Life of E's.
Q Can you explain for the court the exact nature and purpose of this organization?
A Life of E's, to quote our mission statement, is "an exclusive society of thoughtful and committed citizens invested in the preservation and advancement of the mutual condition of its members."
Q In your own words, Mr. Jeter, what is that mutual condition?
A Basically, we're all famous people who have the letter "e" as the only vowel in our names.
Q What year did you join this organization?
A My rookie year -- 1996. The society threw me a welcoming party hosted by Werner Klemperer.
Q The actor who played Colonel Klink on "Hogan's Heroes"?
A That's correct. He was a great mentor to me. I remember he said to me that night "One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."
Q Whom was he quoting?
A Our society's founder, Helen Keller. Then Mel Ferrer presented me with a baseball player figurine with a plaque that read "Life of E's Most Valuable Player (Except for Pee Wee Reese)." That made me laugh.
Q Mr. Jeter, what was the purpose of your visit to the Brooklyn Marriott on the night in question?
A Life of E's had booked the ballroom at the hotel for our annual Celebrit-E Karaoke Night. It's a fun event. When I'm on the mike, I pretty much stick to hip-hop. Ellen DeGeneres is partial to singer-songwriters. Jewel and Cher often finish the night with a duet. I like Cher a lot. She gave me a T-shirt once that I still have. It says "Click on this E-Male."
Q In your opinion, Mr. Jeter, was the night's karaoke event a success?
A A success? No. No, it was not. It was anything but a success.
Q What happened?
A Well, when I got to the lobby that night I saw Cher standing by the front desk and we exchanged hugs. She starts telling me about her cab driver, a Hindu with a lisp, which reminds her of a dirty joke she once heard from Bert Wheeler. We then turn and tell the person behind the desk we'll be getting set up in the ballroom, but there's a problem.
Q What was the problem?
A They had double-booked the ballroom. Cher goes completely ape. She's screaming "That's impossible!" and whipping her hair extensions around. I duck to avoid her hair and then I...then I...Sorry. This is still very hard for me to talk about.
Q Take your time, Mr. Jeter.
A Then I turn and I see what -- "who," I should say -- is pressing up against my shoulder, pushing me to the side and wedging herself in between me and Cher.
Q Who was it?
A Julia Roberts.
Q The movie actress?
Q What was Julia Roberts doing at the Marriott in Brooklyn?
A As it turned out, meeting with her own organization, the Sequoias.
Q The Sequoias?
A It's like Life of E's but its members have all the vowels represented once each in their names.
A No kidding. The hotel had double-booked us with the Sequoias. As Cher and Julia Roberts start having words, I ask if there are any other venues available but all the hotel's facilities are filled up. Meanwhile, most of our people are showing up in the lobby and wondering what's going on. Renee Zellweger comes over and says, "I think I just saw Evita outside having a cigarette with a Supreme Court justice."
Q Patti Lupone and David Souter?
A Yeah. And sure enough, seconds later, they're both walking up to the front desk to where we're all standing. And others keep coming. Here comes Arlo Guthrie. Then Greg Louganis. Pretty soon everyone is aware of the misunderstanding and no one's happy about it and no one's backing down. I really don't like how things are going so I suggest to my people that we find another location for our karaoke night. But Cher and Ellen DeGeneres aren't having it. They're flashing their teeth and Phil Donahue is snarling back at them. It's really getting to be a Yankees-Red Sox kind of situation, but then, in an instant, all of the Sequoias back off. They all back away and bow down. They all just bow.
Q What were they doing?
A They were actually prostrating themselves.
Q Why were they prostrating themselves?
A Their leader had arrived.
Q Who is their leader?
A Emmylou Harris.
Q Emmylou Harris is the leader of the Sequoias?
Q Yes, what?
Q That's what I asked, Mr. Jeter. Why?
A I'm sorry?
THE DEFENSE: May I approach, Your Honor?
THE COURT: You may.
THE DEFENSE CONTINUING:
Q Mr. Jeter, I'd like to clarify your last answer. To the best of your knowledge, Emmylou Harris is the leader of the Sequoias because her name includes a single appearance of each of the vowels as well as the letter "y" which, in the case of the name "Emmylou," is being used as a vowel?
A That's correct.
Q This fact, judging by the reaction of the other members of the Sequoias upon seeing Emmylou Harris, makes her some kind of god in their eyes?
A Super-deity -- yes.
Q In your opinion, was it the godlike powers of Emmylou Harris and not the actions of the members of Life of E's that were responsible for the nearly $91,000 in property damage which was created that night in the lobby of the Brooklyn Marriott?
A For the most part, yes.
Q For the most part?
A Well, Emmylou Harris shows up and Cher, as always, calls her "beaouitch." Then Emmylou Harris calls Cher "One-E," her put-down for Cher. Cher then gets a hand on Emmylou's throat to, you know, choke her, but Emmylou sends Cher flying into a baggage rack. Then, using her powers of levitation, Emmylou lifts the whole front desk and crashes it into one of the lobby's walls, nearly crushing two Hasidic men who are at the hotel for a night of speed dating.
Q Holy smokes.
A Yeah. And then, suddenly, there was a blinding white light.
Q A white light?
A It was coming from the front door of the hotel. After adjusting my eyes, I see it's an old man. I've never seen him before this moment. He's old...like mad old. Wispy white-beard old. I look around, and the others are all whispering "It's him! It's him!"
Q Did the others tell you who it was?
A Yes. But I cannot say his name.
Q Is he in this courtroom today, Mr. Jeter?
Q Could you please point at him and describe what he's wearing?
A He has on a red-and-white plaid hunting jacket.
THE DEFENSE: We ask that the court recognize that the witness has identified Pete Seeger.
THE COURT: The court recognizes that the witness has identified Mr. Seeger.
THE DEFENSE CONTINUING:
Q You did not know Pete Seeger existed until the night your society and the Sequoias ran into one another in the lobby of the Brooklyn Marriott?
A No, I did not. I had been told stories -- rumors, mostly. They call him the Great Wimoweh. Nobody speaks his real name. He's our leader, our god.
Q So, when Pete Seeger showed up that night, he and Emmylou Harris proceeded to engage each other in supernatural combat. Is that correct, Mr. Jeter?
Q Mr. Jeter, do you see Emmylou Harris in this courtroom today?
A I do not.
Q Do you know where Emmylou Harris is today?
A Bellevue Hospital, I believe. It is rumored she went mad after the Great Wimoweh enlisted a close friend of his to sing to Emmylou, over and over again, the classic refrain from "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." The friend was happy to volunteer because her name contains the same vowels, in consecutive order, famously sung in the song.
Q Mr. Jeter, is the name of that friend Celine Dion?
Q Thank you very much.
THE COURT: You may step down, Mr. Jeter. We will recess until two o'clock at which time we will have the closing arguments.
THE DEFENSE: To avoid any suspicion of bias, Your Honor, my client asks that instead of "closing arguments" the court use the term "clsng rgmnts."
David Levinson Wilk writes for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. (And yes, the period at the end is correct, as the show does not use a question mark in its title.)Read more...
The world my grandfather grew up in had a very different idea of biographies from the one we have today. Scan the shelves of any bookstore and you will find the life stories of the famous, the notable, the accomplished -- artists, titans of business, legendary entertainers, sports heroes, prolific substance abusers. And while the Everyman is celebrated in our novels and short stories, he has never really gotten a foot in the door of nonfiction. It is exceedingly rare in this day and age to encounter, on those same bookstore shelves, the life story of the man or woman down the street.
In my grandfather's village, deep in the old country, there was a tremendous hunger for well-written, deeply-researched works on the lives of ordinary people. The bound editions of these humble lives gave my grandfather his livelihood; he kept a biography shop in town. He also wrote biographies, such as Enid Fredericks: The Postal Worker Years and James Barrington: Psoriasis Sufferer, but his primary function was as a collector and dealer.
In that time and place, biographies were less literary and more social. Very often, they were simply vessels for common gossip. One example that captivated my grandfather's village -- and brought him a lot of business – was the rivalry between two elderly ladies who escalated a petty argument by writing unauthorized biographies of one another, including bilious anniversary editions. The first two volumes are generally regarded by the opposing clans as the best: The Dull and Dreary Life of Olga Pasternak, by Hilda von Ness (1936), and Pathetic, Jealous, Gassy Hag: A Life of Hilda von Ness, by Olga Pasternak (1937).
Perhaps most fascinating is the way biographies served as a line of communication among far-flung villages -- a way to share the life stories of people whom one would never otherwise meet. In his travels my grandfather would collect biographies from other villages and return with them, stocking the shop's shelves with the lives of others. I imagine him sailing into port like some proud explorer returning home with sacks of exotic spices (though this is only a fantasy -- he traveled by horse, not ship, and he feared spices).
Sadly, my grandfather's success in the old country did not translate to his life in America. With an immigrant's boundless optimism, he paced the streets of New York looking for a biography shop that might hire him. Finding none, he passed his hours writing biographies of dockworkers and deli men, notably Seamus Peeves: You Call This a Life? and Hey, Cold Cut Man: A Life of Emanuel Wisp. Their lives fascinated him, and he produced thousands of well-sourced pages, yet he labored in vain. The New York publishers laughed at him and he fell into a deep depression.
His sorry state was amplified by yet another struggle. Around this time, my grandfather fell in love with a pretty American girl, who returned his affections. But he had a terrible time convincing his would-be in-laws that they should let their daughter marry an unemployed biographer, to say nothing of a biography shopkeeper without a shop to keep. The pretty girl's father -- a captain-of-industry type who read only financial pages and restaurant menus -- mocked him relentlessly. A man of great wealth and influence, he tried to dissuade his daughter from marrying, using all the resources at his command, including billboards.
It was only when my grandfather offered to write a biography of him that the old man relented. Desperate to please, my grandfather glossed over the man's corruption, backstabbing, incurious mind, and genetic mutations. The result was a hack job painting him in a glowing light, titled A Hero in Our Midst: A Life of Abraham Fontana. Though my grandfather sold the book to a New York publisher, on the strength of Abraham Fontana's stature in the world of business and politics, it was the shame of his life: an untrue account, a farce. Years later, on his deathbed, he lamented that this book, his sole success, would have been unworthy of a place on the shelf of his old biography shop.
Though I am the only one equipped to write my grandfather's biography, and know that the story of his life is worthy of telling (at least as much as the life of Abraham Fontana, who went on to be Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York, and in his amateur laboratory discovered an effective treatment for thigh chafing), it is out of respect that I hesitate. As for the old biography shop, it's still there, operated by the grandson of Hilda von Ness, unchanged except for the addition of a café.
Gregory Beyer is a senior editor at The Huffington Post.Read more...
Never thoughted you would right book? Not any more. Here at selfyoupubish.not we take the work from bookwork. If you have idea, we make book happen. You want typed? We do that. Printed? In most cases yes. You know how book has words on two sides of page and computer machine sometimes often only on one? We fix. You know about spaces between words? We do, and that is why we are what you need to help you make book. Maybe you want cover on book? We can. You want two cover on book? We talk. From A to V*, we handle all your book-related need.
We have ghosts and we have writers, ready to service for you. Extra ghosts, even. That is because we are best in industry. You like page number? We do odd, and, for limited time, we also do even. We make pages up to 999 numbers. More than those be extra but we can do too. Do you know spelling? We often do, and have people to check for us when we don't. Wonder why people buy some book and not some book? We know things or two about stuff like those, and when you pay us money, we tell you some of it.
Don't believe what we like to say? Ask a satisfied costumer, like we have done it:
"For the last time, I am a person who puts clothing on theater actors. What do you want from me?"
"Just telling me if you are satisfied."
"Satisfied with what? My life? This lunch you're interrupting?"
"Your life, maybe?"
"Yes, I have been perfectly satisfied with my life. Before you started harassing me. Now leave me alone!"
See, satisfied. We know more like that. We give you their location places so you can find them. Do you like chapters? We hate but can make if you must. We do beginning and middle. End optional but strongly recommending. Fictions, not-fictions, we make books of every things. Some people have world-wide weblog they want make book. We do that. Some people have box of ideas they want make book. We do that too. We put both together and make two book, price of three. Or you have four book, price of five. Five book are price of seven.
So now we convince you want book, you must go to website or call on top of phone. Go to selfyoupubish.not on your computer machine or click your phone in the wall. You need new phone? We have yes. Or maybe you need brand name drug medication with no prescription. We do it. We do it all. selfyoupubish.not. For every you need needs. Murder for hire too. We possibly joke that way.
*W, X, Y, 3 include for additional money cost.
Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer and has written for McSweeney's, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications that fall somewhere in between.Read more...
Dear February 29th,
Boy, I miss you so much! Where have you been? Having a blast, I'm sure! Smiley face!
This month felt really short without you by my side. Why don't you return my calls? I hope you're not confusing me with some other hot "date." Ha-ha. I hope you're not pretending to be September 31st again. Wasn't that so funny? That was so funny. We laughed so hard!
Those were the days, and now these are the days.
Dear February 29th,
Are you getting this letter? Is my mail caught up on some federal holiday? It must be.
God, being in a long-distance relationship is the pits. Sometimes I look across to January 28th and 29th and think, wow, you guys have got it so easy. I broke all of my resolutions this year just to spite those ungrateful lovebirds. They don't understand our love, how it lasts for really long intervals of time.
March 1st heard a rumor that you went to New Year's Eve's big party this year and danced with the hostess herself. But I told him that was impossible. You were observing the Jewish calendar this year, celebrating New Year's in September.
Dear Febby 29th,
Nothing is new here. Everyone says hello. Last night I played cards with Valentine's and Groundhog and March 1st. We were going to invite President's but everyone always forgets that guy. Groundhog says HEY! He says you better be careful, leaving your girlfriend all alone with these choice once-a-year occasions. Ha-ha!
Oh my god, I just called me your girlfriend! I think we're really moving to the next level.
I know that you need your space, but I would share a diagonal calendar square with you if it meant you could stay forever.
Dear February 29th,
Sometimes you fit into my schedule, sometimes you don't. But that doesn't mean our commitment was a one-month stand. I know what you did last winter, and I'm contacting the Ides for advice. And don't ask me if it's "that time of the month." It's always that time of the month -- the time that it happens to be. What is that anyway? Philosophy?
Dear February 29th,
Today, March 1st and I spent the night together. We were hanging out and it was getting late and then we just suddenly meshed around midnight. I'll spare you the details -- no "in like a lion" jokes. After all, he's been close to me all along, literally a second away 75% of the time.
Anyway, I thought you should hear it from me. March 1st and I know you'll need a place to crash in four years. You can come between our shared vertical from time to time, but never between our hearts.
Hilary Leichter teaches in the undergraduate creative writing program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.Read more...
What follows this Introduction is not a traditional cookbook. There are no recipes, the measurements are imaginary, and the photographs, as you will soon discover, are gruesome images entirely unrelated to food. But ever since my first combination bakery/exotic zoo opened in an abandoned spaceship in 1996, I've been asked by literally tens of diners to put together a guide they could use at home to re-create some of my most edible culinary creations. This is the first of eight incorrectly-numbered volumes.
I never intended to write a cookbook. I'm functionally illiterate, and allergic to the gluten that makes up a deliciously crusty yet still chewy sheet of paper. But ever since I was weaned from my mother's milk at age eleven, food has been a tremendous part of my life. My great-grandmother was eaten by Prussian nobles. My uncle laid his own eggs. Mealtime in my house growing up, there was a series of culinary debates: jelly versus jam, micro greens versus macro greens, whether to remove my sister from the pickling liquid. We foraged for berries in the local parks. We dug for truffles under the railroad tracks. We slaughtered animals in the pet store at the local mall. It was perfection.
I first learned to cook as an indentured servant peeling string cheese at a labor camp for convicted money launderers. I discovered the joys of finding an earthworm in your applesauce, or a bloody sock in the cavity of a Cornish hen, trussed with the hastily-removed vocal cords of a retired opera singer and stuffed with a mixture of moisturizer and marbles. I went to culinary school on a barge off the coast of the Czech Republic, harpooning underwater Al Qaeda operatives and turning them into both sweet and savory miniature cupcakes. These experiences led me to my first restaurant, Gristle, where I served nine-course breakfasts at midnight and spent the rest of the day ghostwriting college application essays for the Somali pirates who hand-pounded our pots and pans from sheets of only the finest radioactive scrap metal.
You need no special equipment to cook the food in this volume, just a centrifuge, a Bowflex exercise machine, and a food-grade elasticized polyester hairnet. Much has changed since I began in the industry. Now most local supermarkets sell many of the ingredients that used to require mules to smuggle them across national borders. From whole-grain milk to butterscotch dust, the entire culinary world is at your fingertips for as long as they haven't been sliced by a knife-wielding robot sous chef. I'll show you how to preserve your own artisanal body hair and inject flavor directly into your veins, with barely a scar left behind.
From pink peppercorn sausage marmalade to tree stock, and a petrified duck who will scare the filling right out of your peanut butter ravioli, this book will offer a step-by-step guide to creating meals that only the instructions in future volumes will enable your guests to forget. You, too, can caramelize your most valuable possessions, in the comfort of your home kitchen. Enjoy, and happy emulsificationing.
P.S. Many thanks to my book agent, whom I would never have met if not for the introduction from my leavening agent.
Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer and has written for McSweeney's, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications that fall somewhere in between.Read more...
Dear BBA Members,
I write to you with great concern. Like much of the print-book world, our existence is being threatened by the rise of e-books. And while the media covers this issue as it affects publishers, booksellers and authors, they ignore the plight of people like us, the loyal and devoted Book Burners of America. As we approach our Annual Bonfire Gala, proudly celebrating the 80th anniversary of when Brave New World was first set aflame, we offer a guide with answers to your most frequently asked questions about how e-books will affect our mission.
1. What are e-books?
E-books (short for "evil-books") are electronic versions of books that can be viewed on computers, many cellular telephones, and a variety of stand-alone devices, none of which are nearly as flammable as mass-market paperback editions of Lolita.
2. Why are e-books so dangerous?
E-books are dangerous because they cannot be destroyed by conventional means, like a campfire or a warehouse explosion. If print books that we find offensive are like Green Eggs and Ham, easily flushed down a garbage disposal, think of e-books as the mutant, flesh-eating creatures I can only assume populate something that would be called an Animal Farm, complete with adjustable font size and a built-in dictionary.
3. I usually use a thick black marker to cross out the objectionable words in books I read, so that I can safely enjoy great works like Cabin, The Verses, and Moby. Can I do that with an e-book?
No. While ink will indeed black out parts of your screen, skilled amoral e-book users will be able to scroll up and down to see the hidden text. The only way to truly ensure that dangerous material cannot be seen is to black out the entire screen. This, of course, has the side effect of making it impossible to read anything -- a long-term goal of ours, but one which, for now, remains unrealistic.
4. Can't we simply print out copies of our e-books and burn those printouts? There's nothing I would like more than to toss a few copies of Ulysses into the fire -- I expected a presidential biography about a serial adulterer, not smut.
We can, but because e-books exist in computer files, burning one printed copy of an e-book does nothing to change the overall supply of that book--which is, sadly, inexhaustible.
5. I wrote an offensive book about Mark Twain fornicating with a unicorn, and the only copy of that book exists on my flash drive. So can't I destroy my own book by burning my flash drive?
Yes. If no copy of that file exists on any other device, you can indeed destroy your own book by burning your flash drive. However, if you are in the habit of writing about fictional creatures having relations with animals, it may be more effective for us to burn you than your flash drive. Our new Exploratory Committee for Author Incineration may be in touch.
6. I accidentally bought an offensive e-book -- I didn't realize what George would be so Curious about -- and would like to symbolically burn it. May I print the receipt from my purchase and toss that into the fire?
We're sorry -- you "accidentally" bought an offensive e-book? This unfortunately triggers an automatic forfeiting of your membership in the BBA. We'll have someone else bring the potato salad to the after-fire barbecue.
7. I can bring potato salad, but I don't have a recipe. Are we allowed to read cookbooks, or are they on the list of objectionable works?
It depends. We've been burning the ones with recipes for deviled eggs, chicken breasts, and grapes (of wrath or otherwise), but aside from that, you should be fine.
Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer and has written for McSweeney's, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications that fall somewhere in between.Read more...
Russian Nesting Doll: So, doctor? Am I...am I, you know?
Doctor: (looks upset) Yes. Yes, you're pregnant.
Doll: Oh, that's just wonderful! That's just the most wonderful news. What’s wrong?
Doctor: (glances at his chart) Well, there's more. Would you like to have a seat?
Doll: I can't. I can't sit down.
Doctor: Oh, right. Well, I want you to brace yourself.
Doll: Oh God.
Doctor: I don't quite know how to say this.
Doll: Oh God.
Doctor: So I'll just say it. Your baby is pregnant, too.
Doll: Excuse me?
Doctor: It's mind-boggling.
Doll: Doctor, what are you saying? I’ve heard of teen pregnancy, but...
Doctor: There's more. Dear Lord, there's more.
Doll: Oh goodness.
Doctor: Your baby's baby is...well, pregnant, too.
Doll: If it could, my jaw would drop.
Doctor: It's truly mind-boggling!
Doll: <Russian expletive>!
Doctor: Exactly. Before we can know anything for certain, we must unscrew your waist and empty everyone out until you are completely hollow.
Doll: (small voice) Will there be pain?
Doctor: Of course.
Doll: Will there be side effects?
Doctor: (nodding) Absolutely.
Doll: Will there be drugs?
Doctor: There is always vodka.
Doll: My husband is in the waiting room. He needs to know about his child, and his child’s child, and his child’s child's...
Doctor: Yes, I think he should come sit down and talk with us about the situation.
Doll: But he can't...
Doctor: (opens door to waiting room, takes a good look at husband) Oh no!
Doll: Sit down.
Doctor: Okay. I'll sit down for the both of us (collapses on exam table).
Doll: And my three sisters are parked outside with their kids, waiting for the good news.
Doctor: Good God -- it must be a clown car!
Doll: Actually, it's a hybrid. They're all very compact. My mother fits in the trunk. Should we write that down?
Doctor: I think you need to consult a specialist.
Hilary Leichter teaches in the undergraduate creative writing program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.Read more...
A guide to the art and artifice of writing blurbs for books.
1. Use "I should have known" at the start of any quote you decide to give. As in "I should have known Meghan Askew would write the best vampire-leprechaun novel of the decade." Or "I should have known that I should have known that 'Maura's Tears' would sweep me away into a maelstrom of [whatever]."
2. To keep yourself somewhat closer to being honest, use "of the decade" only for books published in years ending in 1. Or 2, at a stretch.
3. Use "thrilling," even if the book is about nucleopeptides that mimic topoisomerase. "Thrillingly" is OK, too.
4. Ditto "prodigious" except for books about child prodigies.
5. Come up with a clever variation of "I couldn't put it down." Some ideas: "I should have known that you wouldn't be able to put it down, and neither would your aunt." "It's so thrilling, you'll be afraid to pick it up. And when you do, you won't be able to put it down." "Go ahead--try it! Go ahead. I dare you. Try to put it down. Oh, you're sure you can? You are? Well, let's see it, then. What's stopping you? Go ahead. There's the table, and there's nothing else on it--plenty of room. No one's looking. You're alone. So go ahead, by all means. See? I thought so!"
6. Make grand comparisons. Here is a menu of just some of the many books that may be used for grand comparisons: "War and Peace," "The Joy of Cooking," Deuteronomy, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," "Tropic of Cancer," "Gilgamesh," "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," "Peyton Place," any book by Sinclair Lewis or John Irving, "Catch-22," "A Brief History of Time," "Go the F___ To Sleep."
7. Always describe the process of becoming absorbed by the book. Some examples: "Fred James is one of the few writers who keep trying to set sail upon thrilling narrative waters alone, only to find readers swimming alongside and clambering to get on board." "If the prodigious James Fredericks were a literary-journalistic shark, anyone who has started 'The Agony and Ecstasy of Isometrics' would instantly become his pilot fish."
8. "Not since" is always good.
9. If you didn't have time to read the book, open it completely at random, read whatever sentence your eye falls on--I just found "The man walked sideways, toward the corner of 7th and A"--transcribe it, and then say "Now, that's what I call writin'!"
10. For funny books, always say, "with an undercurrent of plangent melancholy."
11. For sad books, always say, "with a prodigious comic undertone that in some measure redeems the melancholy."
12. "Redeem" and "redemption" are always good. "Redemptive" is the best.
13. Assuming you are a writer, be bitter, as in "I might just as well string myself up--'Damien's Curse' is that good." Or "I threw my computer into the furnace after I read 'Some Statistical Variations in the Populations of Small Towns in Central Nebraska.' "
14. "Howlingly funny" is always good.
15. "Kafkaesque" is so good that the American Association of Publishers is considering making it mandatory for blurbs for all books--including cookbooks and the Bible.
See also: Flap Rules.
Daniel Menaker is the editor of Grin & Tonic.Read more...
"[The Slow Movement] ... emphasizes slowness in the creation and consumption of products as a corrective to the frenetic pace of 21st-century life."--The New York Times
Don’t rush into it, but we hope you’ll join us at The Snail's Page, the literary program at the carefully-paced vanguard of the Slow Reading Movement. We believe that as with every other activity these days, reading has become rushed and frantic--wedged into the five minutes of the subway from 96th Street to 72nd, or in ten-minute audiobook snatches on the morning commute to downtown Austin or in the short time your grouchy husband or wife allows you to leave the light on in bed at night.
We believe the time has come to slow down the very act of reading, to stop tearing through books as if they were time bombs or a Milky Way. As a guide to the practice of Slow Reading, we offer the following suggestions about how to read the first sentence of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:
"It"--OK, this is a good place to pause. Close the book and look at it, pick it up and inhale the odor of your basement room in the freshman dorm where you first read it. Remember the lovely visit from Tawnee, the yogic freshman cheerleader. Oh, Tawnee! Take some deep, calming breaths, and consider the incredible utility of pronouns. Do we thank "it" and "he" and "which" and so on? Not nearly often enough. Thank them all now. See? We just used "them." And then "We." Thank all pronouns. Appreciate the brevity of "it" and sympathize with this word for all the antecedental burdens that it must bear--including, in this sentence, itself. Try saying something of any length without using it, or other pronouns. It's very difficult. Just try it. We can wait. You just go ahead and give it a whirl. Then wonder who first used the word. Imagine some Angle or Saxon in the Midlands of England in the Sixth Century yelling at his son, who is trying to set the thatched roof of his hovel afire, "Cut it out!" Where did that come from, he wonders, and you wonder too.... Where did "it" come from?
For that matter, how can it be that words in any language actually work to represent things and actions and ideas? How did that sentence about the Angle delinquent manage to conjure in your brain a picture of a snotty-nosed Angle eight-year-old with filthy hair and a demonic grin already featuring a few rotten teeth, dressed in burlap or whatever they wore back then, in the mud just over a sty reaching up toward the low-hanging thatch roof with a torch made of a small sheaf of reeds he lit from the pathetic peat fire in the fireplace of that one-room hovel with his mother hunched over trying to patch burlap garments with dried scrub from a fen? For that matter, when you say, "I'm eating some cake," how does that work? Why don't you have to actually eat some actual cake in order to let someone else know that you're eating some cake?
It's a mystery. Just like "it." Say "it" over and over again--itititititititititititititititititit--until you achieve what Buddhist monks call samprajnata. It is not merely empty-mindedness but a vast stillness that is indescribable to the typical level of waking state--in other words, in .... other .... wordzzz zzzz.
Tomorrow--or maybe the next day: "was"
Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.
Writing is not easy. A good writer approaches the job with the utmost sincerity, knowing that it's rarely as simple as putting pen to paper, finger to keyboard, or chalk to sidewalk. If you're a first-time writer, or a veteran looking for help, here are the seven steps every writer must take in order to capture his Muse.
Step One: Free your mind.
The journey begins with a single step. Relax and focus your mind only on today's work -- not necessarily the first word, but even the first letter of the first word, or even just any old letter you're fond of -- instead of tackling the entire project.
Step Two: Seltzer.
Doesn't a tall class of icy cold seltzer sound delicious right now? Maybe with a slice of lime? Your lack of seltzer is no doubt what's holding you back from greatness. If only you had seltzer, then the words would pour out of you…like seltzer out of a seltzer bottle and maybe just as bubbly. Check the fridge. Maybe there's still some club soda from the New Year 's Eve party. Is club soda the same as seltzer? What club served it first? That's a pretty boring club. Am I right? Hahaha…yeah.
If you're out of seltzer and/or limes, consider taking a trip to the store and procuring some. You should buy a few bottles in case your writing hits a hot streak. It's strange that the store is never out of seltzer. Does seltzer go bad? It's probably a recession-proof industry. Talk to your financial manager about this. If a runner is one who runs and a camper is one who camps, is a seltzer one who seltzes? Look this up when you get back home; it may be just the thing your first paragraph needs.
It seems silly to have driven all the way to store just for some bottles of seltzer and a lime. Don't let the trip go to waste. Buy two or three limes and some other items you need. You know what goes great with seltzer? Everything. Go ahead and pick out some snacks, but nothing with cheese powder. Get some of those pickles you like, too. It's OK if they're not on sale. Treat yourself. A good writer will buy the lesser pickle; a great writer will demand to be satisfied. Which are you?
The pickles can be your reward for all the writing you're about to accomplish. And the pudding. Get some pudding. Reward yourself with a six-pack of pudding cups -- the packages that look like they have only three and then -- surprise! They have six, three of them upside down. Ingenious! But the pudding-cup treat is ONLY if you finish writing 2,000 words today. Well, OK -- if it's past 3 o'clock, go ahead and adjust your word-count goals accordingly. Any deficit can be made up this weekend, or over President's Day.
Seltzer should only cost about 79 cents a liter. Ever notice that the number 79 appears, like, everywhere? You will now. There should be magazines at the checkout. Buy some. A great writer must stay relevant. There is nothing sadder than an out-of-touch author unaware of trends in movies and in Sudoku puzzles.
Make the checkout line move faster by shifting your weight from one foot to the other and sighing impatiently. (This is what a lot of writers do.)
While waiting to check out, you can also use the time to formulate ideas and characters. The people in line with you could be the inspiration for you fiction. It's OK to stare. This is how Fitzgerald would develop his characters, maybe. There's this old lady fumbling in her purse for her Club Card. She has on sunglasses! Come on -- a character bonanza wrapped up in an outsize winter coat that smells of mothballs. Figure out a mnemonic so that you won't forget to put her in Chapter 2. How about "What a card! She probably doesn't even like club soda. Or seltzer. The only way to figure out how big a moth's balls are is to examine them in the sun…"?
When you get to the cashier, you and your seltzer, buy some batteries too, because you never know. Keep the receipt because you feel in your heart that you can adequately explain to any IRS agent that if ever there was a business expense, this is one. But be prepared to retreat to only the seltzer as a deductible.
Return home and move on to step three.
Step Three: Pudding cup.
Go ahead and eat a pudding cup. The sugar rush will inspire. There are five left, don't forget -- not just two, as a less observant individual might surmise.
Step Four: Check your email.
You may have missed something while you were out preparing to be a writer. Who knows -- maybe Groupon is offering 50% off on a literary agent's commission.
Step Five: Become aware of your surroundings.
You'll want to pay careful attention to any noises in and around your work area. In particular, keep your ears open for clicks or hums and spend the required time first investigating the sound and then abolishing it by turning something off or going back out to the store to buy earplugs. It will no doubt be a different store, more than a mile away.
Step Six: Pudding cup (part 2).
Eat a celebratory pudding cup. If you didn't write anything today, you should still enjoy the pudding. Simply deduct one pudding cup from tomorrow's reward.
Invite some friends over -- fellow-writers. They will all be as ready as you are to watch the NFL League Championship games, even if they are a few days away. You will almost certainly get some great insight into human psychology and innovative cursing.
This one took Dan Bergstein three pudding cups to write.Read more...
It has long been known that, during their political careers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were bitter rivals, frequently dueling with competing ideas, slashing verbal attacks, and, on one occasion, butter churns. But toward the end of their lives, the two became the closest of friends, who bonded over their love of both Enlightenment philosophy and designer shoe-buckles. Through the efforts of our tireless historical research team, Grin & Tonic has obtained some of the hard-to-find letters that these two fathers of our country wrote to each other in the autumn of their lives.
My Dear Thomas,
Greetings from Massachusetts! Weather here is pleasant enough, and the family is in excellent health. It is still most tremendous to think of the tireless work we committed to the building of this great nation. What young men we were, and what lofty dreams did we capture. On a separate note, I have enclosed several random Renderings. Many are of dogs. Some are of infant newborns. Yet more are of these very same infants dressed to resemble dogs in costume. And still others depict small children dressed in dogs' apparel.
I have the Honor to be &c
My Good Friend,
I bid you salutations from Virginia. Upon glancing at your excellent likenesses of babies, dogs, and babies dressed as dogs, et seq., I was compelled to Laugh aloud. In fact I am doing so at this very moment. I have enclosed to you a humorous list that you may find of interest: The Paramount Ten Ways To Know if Your Neighbor Is a Federalist. I think you will find it illuminating. I particularly commend Number 5, which reads "Every other sentence they utter contains the phrase 'concurring testimony of experience.'" Too true!
I hope I may call you a close friend in perpetuity,
My Good Fellow T.J.,
Touché, old friend! Your wit is ageless. To pass the time, I have begun a new project -- one wherein I establish a new and bountiful Farm, bursting at the seams with produce fresh from the Earth and livestock healthy as the day is long. Virtually the best part of this new Plantation is that it exists purely as a conjecture! I believe that I will name my new estate Farm Towne.
May peace win out,
A cheery shout of "What's afoot with you?," kind Sir! For my own part, I have included a Survey that I recently took part in, entitled: Which Delegate of the Continental Congress Are You? I filled it out and it said I was Alexander Hamilton! What the flummery is that, I ask you?
Wishing you a beneficent day,
Jefferson, my man,
A most exalted greeting to you. Truth be told, there is no actual reason for this Missive. I have sent this foot messenger through rain, sleet, and snow, from Virginia to Massachusetts, in order to "give you a Poke," so to speak. So poke me back!
Poke! There is something about our correspondence that appears to have led us both into a kind of lax frivolity, but there is no denying the easy Gratifications thereof.
After this point, the two men began simply exchanging engravings of Canadian tourists in humorous situations, minute descriptions of how they spent each day, ( "swept the hearth clean -- twice!" and "At the Olde Inne, purchased two tankards of ale at supper @25 cents each!") and complaints about the courier service's "villainously convoluted Policy of Confidentiality." In even the most subtle ways, our forefathers remain an inspiration for "TLOTF and the THOTB" to this very day.
Josh Perilo has written extensively for print and television. His credits include stints at The Fine Living Network, FX, and MTV. He also writes a weekly column on wine called "The Penniless Epicure" for the Manhattan-based Our Town and Westside Spirit newspapers.Read more...
"In the evening, the 14th floor, featuring the Poetry Garden, Writer's Den, and magnificent granite bar, transforms into Bookmarks Lounge. Bookmarks serves such signature cocktails as the Great Gatsby and the Capote."
-- From the website of The Library Hotel
And may we also recommend:
A Sidecar Named Desire: Cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice, shaken well over cracked ice. Served by a kind stranger.
The Gripes of Wrath: A dusty glass of 1933 vintage California Zinfandel with a shot of bitters. To-go orders only.
The Turn of the Screwdriver: The appearance of a drink but is it? One part clear spirits and two parts juice of orange. Be sure to turn the glass 180 degrees clockwise before imbibing.
Catcher in the Rye and Ginger: If you really want to hear about it. Served with a splash of sour mix in a repurposed ashtray and garnished with maraschino cherries suitable for lobbing at phony adults.
The Tequila Sun Also Rises: A double-barreled shot of Tequila and orange juice, no adverbs. Served in a clean, well-lighted corner of the bar.
Martini Chuzzlewit: Mix, stir, and serve, in a 5 to 1 ratio gin and dry vermouth in a cocktail glass with a twist of Meyser lemon. Sit alone at the bar and drink while hoarding all the peanuts. Go on, you pig.
The Imperfect Storm: Vodka, rum, and tequila, shaken violently. Served in a schooner rimmed with salt and garnished with strands of seaweed.
Three Cups of Tea for Me: You're in the wrong place -- but okay, we'll accommodate. A shot of sherry in a strong cup of English breakfast tea. Served in a crock.
And in addition to our regular menu entrees, we offer these daily specials:
Tuesdays with Morrie: Smoked Salmon Rushdie on a stale bagel sprinkled with rue and served by a cranky old man who excoriates you for wasting your time in a joint like this when you could be busy finding meaning to your worthless life.
Lake Wobegone Wednesdays: Cheeseburger, apple pie, and a milkshake. An All-American meal served only to above-average customers.
The Dish That Is Thursday: Is it lamb or beef? Couscous or polenta? Is the waiter a waiter or is he just waiting? And are you a diner or a food inspector? Nothing is as it seems in this deliciously suspenseful mystery meal.
Friday Night Lights: Baby quarterback ribs, barbecued chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn bread. Available only on flatbed tailgates in the parking lot.
Me Talk Pretty One Saturday Night and Sunday Morning: A Channel-spanning platter of poisson et chips, or a mixed grill of boeuf avec bangers and mash, or Shepherd's tarte with a dessert of trifle flambé.
Brooke Sunny is Sheila Bilak, Ruth Bonapace, Patrick Dunn, Suzanna Filip, Eric Lehman, Janice Maffei, Ricki Miller, Robert Morris, Holly Preston, Patrick Redmond, John Rosenblatt, Dan Sarluca, and Daniel Menaker.Read more...
Having reported on the worst novels of 2011, I feel it's my duty, based on advance galley proofs, to warn readers about which novels to avoid next year. Of course, these are just my opinions, but, then, it was just Alexander Fleming's opinion that Penicillium notatum might secrete a substance that could kill bad bacteria.
A Pillow for Sam, by T. F. Juniper
When young hot-shot journalist Samantha Collins is diagnosed with pink eye at the age of 27, she spirals into a state of depression and fear. How can she recover? Will she recover? How will her friends react? Can she have children? These questions are asked, but the reader is never given any reason to care about the answers. Oddly, Juniper tries to weave in bits of humor in this novel. As someone who has suffered through conjunctivitis, I can assure you it's no laughing matter. This novel takes liberties with the science, and the "humor" is greatly misplaced (to the retina) and offensive.
Murder of Trust: A Jack Jordan Mystery, by Louis P. Gladstone
Every great detective needs a gimmick, and Jack Jordan’s well-known trait is that he really likes soup. That’s it. That’s the extent of his supposedly unique personality. The idiosyncrasy is obviously shoehorned into sentences such as, "I’ll get to the bottom of this, like a lentil sinks to the bottom of a bowl of soup." Well, for one thing, by no means all lentils sink to the bottom of their soups, and for another it doesn’t help that Det. Jordan’s sidekick, Caribbean Pete, is only there to offer his catchphrase, "Uh-huh."
Dragon Tomb, by Arthur G. Guth
While Guth’s fantasy story has an intriguing plot, too much of the book is spent explaining where the various towns are located. A map would have been helpful. Instead, the reader must endure page after page of explanatory itineraries, such as the following: "The hero traveled West, past some other towns. One of the towns was oval-shaped. And then he turned a little bit, and went kind of to the South. There’s a mountain there. Did I mention that? So then he keeps going, and there’s a valley that’s not that big. I mean, it’s not small, but it's OK. He doesn’t spend too much time there. There’s also an ocean, but don’t worry about it. Then there’s this path, kind of. And a hut. But the hut is on the right. It’s far."
The Long, Tepid Summer of Our Forsaken Love, by Lachryma Jones
A debut novel that shows it. Why on earth would Dori Mastroianni, the beautiful CEO of a large soft-drink corporation, fall in love with Nikolai, the fruit-stand vendor on the corner of the street where she lives? Especially when he turns out not to be the head of a top-secret intelligence gathering agency trying to gather-- well, intelligence, about new methods of soda carbonation that can be used to make America's enemies explode one at a time? I said, not to be. He turns out to be a fruit-stand vendor who handles melons with particular grace. Maybe that's it. In any case, when Dori's board of directors get wind of their affair, they ask her to-- You know what? I'm not going to tell you what happens, because I don't know. I stopped reading when the language barrier prevented Nikolai from comprehending Dori's sexual demands and he just stood there.
The Treasure of Spider Island, by Richard Hawkes
This is nothing more than Finnegans Wake, but with pirates.
Like Immanuel Kant, whom he admires in some ways but not in others, Dan Bergstein takes a "constitutional" every evening.Read more...
Perhaps it’s petty to list the worst novels of the year, but I assure readers that this list has nothing to do with my inability to sell my novel, “A Prayer for Jonas” to a publisher. (It’s "Indiana Jones" meets "The Help" meets the videogame Tetris. Looking for an agent or someone with a printer and plenty of ink cartridges.)
Here are the worst works of fiction of 2011:
Deathline, by Hank Knight
Horror novelist Hank Knight’s book is about a horror novelist, Jeremy Solad, who is writing a horror novel about a horror novelist named Gertrude Willow, who is suffering from writer’s block. The odd part is that while Knight’s novel is drivel, Gertrude’s book-within-a-book-within-a-book went on to win the Sacramento Publishing Award and is being turned into a Lifetime Original movie, much to Knight’s chagrin. Knight has said in several interviews, “Guys, you don’t get it! You’re totally missing the point. Come on!”
Love Isn’t Fare, by Gladys Jones
Chick Lit strikes again. The twist is that the protagonist, Alicia Flyrt, meets the man of her dreams when the two strangers share a taxi, but Alicia doesn’t catch his name. To find him, she takes a job as a cab driver in hopes that her Prince Charming will one day hail her. It’s a cute story, as Alicia deals with a wide variety of eccentric cab passengers on her quest for love. The troubling part comes with the unnecessary, though brutally honest, Euro-crisis subplot.
Tree Imperfect, by Eugene Prendergast
While most alternative-history novels prefer to ask, “What would happen if the Nazis won WWII?” Prendergast is more interested in asking the question, “What would happen if the US Wilderness Act of 1964 was never passed?” The answer, according to book’s author, is the formation of a lawless continent rife with sinister sex, rampant crime, and a race of cybernetic bears called H’liucks. While the concept is original, Prendergast’s prose becomes far too preachy toward the end when he finishes each horrific description of a violence and tragedy with, “See!? How messed up is that?!”
Vamp7re, by V. V. Eels
The world doesn’t need another vampire novel, but Eels attempts (and completely fails) to make something new by introducing a series of original rules for her creations. As explained on the fourth page, “Vamp7res can only feed on women during the three-quarter moon. Vamp7res are fast but cannot tie knots. They glow in the dark when they lie. They can’t tell time and hate the smell of boats. A Vamp7re cannot bite you if it’s almost your birthday. Vamp7res can only be killed with wheels or hoofs. They can go out in the sun, but if they say verbs in direct sunlight, they will die … as will their best friend. Vamp7res are good at kissing and can turn anything into a ladder. If a vamp7re touches milk, the milk will turn to glass. And they have great difficulty spelling the word ‘bureaucracy.’” When the author was asked why she spelled vampires with a 7, she answered, “Because of a love. Also, Vamp7res can communicate with clouds and tusked animals. And they can see the future of most water fowl.”
Storm Ranger: The Becky Rothschild Chronicles Book 18, by Tracy Sinclair
Eighteen books into the popular YA series and author Tracy Sinclair has run out of ideas. In this volume of supernatural babysitter Becky Rothchild’s adventure, the main character must fight an evil envelope, and she spends eight chapters describing how she would have changed the final season of "Frasier." As usual, Becky is helped along by a cast of new friends including Mr. Man (a man who "wears jackets") and a new love interest named Sex Joe. The reader gets conclusive proof that Sinclair’s heart isn’t in her writing during the final chapter, in which Becky defeats the evil envelope by using her heretofore unmentioned magical yam, which "does stuff that you can't even imagine."
Dan Bergstein writes a lot of funny humor writing.Read more...
Death Punch: A Ted Iconoclast Adventure has been set in Pretenzi Refurbished, a typeface based on painstaking historical reconstructions of the original Pretenzi Moderne type used in the only three issues published of the London-based avant-garde magazine STAB! (April-June, 1924), which folded because it was unwisely launched in London, Missouri, where the proposed twelve-part series "A Denunciation of the Anti-Symbolists" was met with polite befuddlement.
Although to the untrained eye Pretenzi Refurbished bears a superficial resemblance to Sabon, the two typefaces could not be more different. While Sabon tediously employs the same width in both its italic and Roman forms, Pretenzi Refurbished wittily makes the italic and Roman letters the same width, but does so as an ironic protest against the insatiable demand for variety enshrined by our consumption-maddened culture.
Also, the dot on the "i" in Pretenzi Refurbished is a mathematically precise hexagon (get a good magnifying glass). This is my own innovation, as Pretenzi Moderne sort of doesn't have the courage of its own convictions in the i-dotting department. If square-dotted "i"s are the sort of thing that makes you comfortable, though, feel absolutely free to go find yourself a book typeset in Sabon. Something full of simple declarative sentences and a lack of interest in rocking the boat.
Pretenzi Refurbished is emphatically NOT a "pathetically obvious copy" of Underbyte, as alleged by a recent and cowardly -- cowardly! -- anonymous letter you might have seen in November's Type Hype. (Personal to Jerry G.: You made the same lame pun on "Arial" in your "Kerning Korner" column. EVERYONE TOTALLY KNOWS IT'S YOU.) Underbyte is the philosophical opposite of Pretenzi Refurbished. Pretenzi effaces itself, its graceful forms effortlessly gesturing in the direction of meaning. Underbyte is a seizure-inducing strobe of self-advertisement. Pretenzi is a brisk morning stroll through the park. Underbyte is a hungover walk of shame back from your co-worker's condo in the asbestos district.
Finally, if you are reading this on one of those electronic devices that encourages you to mess with the size of the type or pick your own font: don't even think about it. Let me just say that "painstaking" is no exaggeration. My hands are cramped, and I can feel a cluster headache coming on. Typesetting this book was an agonizing labor of meticulous love carried out in the face of braying opposition from a lot of people at the publisher's offices who you might think had better things to do with their time. It's a perfect marriage between an allegedly page-turning, high-stakes adventure that takes you from the peak of K2 to the depths of a Uruguayan lithium mine and beyond (so I gather, from the flap copy -- too busy with the typeface to finish the manuscript) and an elegant, austere work of typographical artistry.
If you do find that the type makes the words just a little hard to decipher, get yourself a pair of reading glasses. Or, better yet, download a book set in Simpleton Old Style. Between us, I hear that Death Punch isn't very good, anyway.
Bill Tipper is the Managing Editor of The Barnes & Noble Review.
Illustration by Thea Brine.Read more...
While so many news outlets and unmarried aunts will list their favorite fiction books of year, few have the courage to rank the very worst nonfiction titles. Lucky for you, courage is my middle name (in Sanskrit). Here are the least best nonfiction books of 2011:
Your Dog Has Fleas: A Veterinarian's Story by Dr. Michael Romano, available at most garage sales.
The rise and fall of Michael Romano in the cutthroat world of veterinarian science reads like an Academy Award Winning script, but this reader felt too much of the struggle was exaggerated. Do rookie vets really compete in underground "dog fixing" battles? Is there really such a thing as a swingers club called the Kitty Kats for high-rolling veterinarians? And do vets have that many dog-catchers and ASPCA officials in their back pockets? According to this book, "Duh!" The book comes with a CD of the author's son's band playing "Sympathy for the Devil" to accompany the brazen words.
Internet Directory (2011 Edition) by Judith Mitzmiller, available at Judith's craft table at the Richmond Craft Bazaar.
Once again Mitzmiller challenges the hotshots at Google and attempts to catalog the entirety of cyberspace in one single paperback volume. Sadly, as in years previous, she comes up short. While her section on "Peony Websites" is as comprehensive as you'll ever need, the quarter page section on "Russia Things" is more than a little lacking. Those interested in finding websites about "Petroleum Engineering" or "Lady Gaga" should look elsewhere. And Judith comes dangerously close to editorializing when she lumps all adult-themed websites in the "No!" section, often underlining the most intense and writing "Eww!!!" next to the entry. That said, perhaps we must commend her for finally including "Jewish Sites," though the obvious font change to something she calls Times Romanowitz seems a little questionable.
Johnny Carson: An Unauthorized, Unofficial, and Uncertain Biography by Sara Wallbert, available at the lost and found at many airports.
The timid Ms. Wallbert spent twenty years researching the life of the talk show legend for this book, but the author seems afraid of possible legal action. To her credit, the book is factually sound, but each sentence takes care not to be too sure of itself: "Carson first met Ed McMahon in Palm Springs, probably." "Carson kept to himself during these years, maybe." "He was, in all likelihood, about to more or less change the late night TV landscape."
Is It a Raisin? by Mark V. Ringer, with a Foreword by Julia Roberts, available in the garden section of most stores due to a computer error.
This book is part photo essay, part game in which the reader is shown a photograph of a raisin-like object and asked to guess if the object is, indeed, a raisin. The concept is novel, but with more than 90% of the book's 16 photographs obviously displaying small pebbles or rabbit feces, the challenge is too-easily won. Please note: the Foreword is written by a Julia Roberts, not the Julia Roberts, which explains all the mentions of "Mistic Pizza" [sic], a movie the writer did not appear in, and seems not to have even seen. She does, however, have quite a lot to say about the possibility of raisins on other planets.
Famous Ducks by Cheryl Altman, Richard Stanwick, Steven Tobias, et al. Available at a few Dollar Stores or in covert verbal transactions with Tobias himself.
This book starts strong -- Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Scrooge McDuck, the Aflac duck -- but it loses steam around the fourth page, when it begins offering vague entries such as "That duck from Charlotte's Web" and "Duck Dodgers," who we all know is just Daffy in a new costume. The book's definition of "famous" is further called into question when the authors start listing such third-tier waterfowl as Donald's on-again off-again girlfriend Daisy, who was never all that famous. Finally, the book's definition of "duck" breaks down completely as one of the final pages lists "the Vlasic Pickle mascot." Hey -- Storks aren't ducks, et al.
Hollers and Cents: Understanding The 'Conomy by R. J. Lick, buried under the magazines in your orthodontist's waiting room.
The foul-mouthed R. J. Lick uses his unique voice to help simplify the economic crisis with such insights as, "Airlines? Don't even get me started." On the plus side: This book rhymes, mostly.
The Rothman Plan: Six Months to the Perfect Stomach and an Unoccupied Afghanistan by Dr. Phillip Rothman, available only early in the afternoon on Tuesdays.
Rothman's attempt to combine weight loss and foreign policy is noble but unsuccessful. Too much of the book is spent reminding the reader that the Rothman Plan isn't crazy if we all just give it a chance. The real meat of the book is far too idealistic, with no real-world practicality. Sure, eating only raw food and running eight miles a day should lead to weight loss, and Iranian leaders could indeed "honestly examine their own childhood anxieties," but the chances of either happening are, let's face it, slim. The pocket map/calorie calendar is handy, however.
Crisis of Shadows: Debunking the Missile of Truth by Siobhan Milton, available wherever sales associates are unapproachably smug.
This book has no real focus and exists only to stir up trouble and get its author on TV. Here's chapter four, in its entirety: "According to science, gay marriage leads to forest fires and low birth weights. Tom Hanks isn't a good actor. All dentists are pedophiles, statistically. There's nothing wrong with teaching children how to smoke. Jesus was just OK. We must tax dyslexia."
Dan Bergstein is available for weddings and other festive occasions.
(A brief guide to writing the book descriptions that fill the space where, if you were to take the jacket off the book and lay it out flat with the outside of the jacket down, it would be the part that is farthest to the left, unless the book is in Hebrew and then, to be honest, I'm not sure where it would go)
- Always use "stunning," except when the book is about the history of the stun gun.
- Pair -- as in: "In this thrilling and dramatic story, about a brief but passionate affair between a brilliant and stunning movie star who is also a track and field champion and an expert and charming bow-and-arrow hunter and gatherer and a handsome and debonair backgammon and kung-fu master who comes and goes between the mysterious and dangerous jungles and rivers of Brazil and Argentina and the grand and glittering avenues and skyscrapers of New York and Hong Kong, you will be swept up and carried away by the dynamic and emotionally taut relationships and fates of the characters and their families and friends. "
- Always use "deeply."
- For that matter, always pair "deeply" with another adverb, except "profoundly." In No. 2, come to think of it, it should be "…about a brief but deeply and feverishly passionate…" etc.
- Use items in a series as often as possible. "In this stunning, deeply passionate, and thrilling tale of guns, gangs, and gambling…"
- Use alliteration.
- Infinitivize at least once per flap -- as in: "To read this stunning and deeply moving and thrilling novel is to be swept up and carried away …" etc.
- Use one or two but no more than two direct quotations from the text. They may be full sentences -- "'He was a genius, a stunningly evil genius'" -- or fragments -- "He was a 'stunningly evil genius,' we are told at the beginning of this deeply and dramatically thrilling novel." But in any case they may take up no more than 10% of the flap copy.
- Use "we" at least once per flap.
- In addition to "stunning," use at least three of the following adjectives for every flap: "Enthralling," "gritty," "original," "remarkable," "magical," "ground-breaking," "arresting," "dazzling," "heartbreaking," "compelling," "devastating," "captivating."
- Find a way to work in "best-selling," even if it has to take the form of something like "Often compared to the stunning best-selling novelist _________..."
- "Backdrop" is always good. "Against the stunningly dark and somber backdrop of pre-war Latvia," or "With the stunning backdrop of Oahu in the early Twentieth Century," or "We are deeply and dramatically moved by this stunning narrative and its remarkable and brilliant backdrop of Hollywood at its most dazzling and compelling."
- You may continue from the front flap to the back flap but only if the book itself is more than six hundred pages. (Not sure how to work "stunning" into this rule.)
- Use one and only one interrogative per flap. "What will the stunning and compelling climax of this deeply and subtly thrilling drama told against the backdrop of the amazing Maori culture and mythology of southern and central New Zealand?" or "'Why twenty and not twenty-one or twenty-two?' we may go so far as to ask." or "Where will the gritty treachery and betrayal end?"
- Try to end the flap with the word "resolve" or "resolution." ("Stunning" should always be placed near the beginning.)
- Forget "subtly."
Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin and Tonic. His most recent book is A Good Talk.
Life can be difficult, according to the new novel Beach Wave: The Wizards of Keys by first-time novelist/computer program Heather T. T. Brightbee. The Brightbee Fictioneer program was created by [REDACTED] Publishing in order to bypass the sluggish and costly steps of hiring writers to create books. Using a complex algorithm which closely studies today's best-seller trends, the Brightbee has constructed what [REDACTED] is calling "the perfect novel."
The book tells the story of Persephone Solitary, the new girl at a wealthy prep school. She is dealing with the death of her father, the death of her secretive Uncle who owned an underground mansion and launderette, and the death of her best friend, who now talks to her via a divine telephone that only Persephone can answer.
The quiet and intelligent Persephone ("Sephy") is quickly seduced by the dark and handsome Noah Ravenlion, another new student. Together – andwith the help of three other new students, one of whom is (spoiler alert!) a Freemason, plus an English teacher who can travel backward in time but only about three seconds -- Sephy and Noah race to find the secret of the thirteen keys.
The story clunks along awkwardly at first, but things pick up in the second chapter, when Sephy inherits her grandmother's attic. What follows is a scene dripping with tension, mystery, sex, spiders, and regret. It's difficult to review the novel without giving away certain plot points, but at the risk of being coy, I will say this much: the roguish werewolf vs. sexy were-lobster battle left nothing to be desired. Who wins the fight? Answer: The reader.
Some may object to Noah's subsequent chapter-length self-help monologue in which he describes how to live a fulfilled life without GPS. But the speech's impact is brilliantly heightened by that fact that Noah delivers it while he and a completely nude Sephy are trapped in a mannequin/puppet factory that, ten years ago to the day, was involved in a suspicious fire related to a local Kingsford charcoal cult.
In any case, "author" Brightbee knows what her readers want, and her readers want dragons, psychic children who were right all along, and a sassy elderly woman who offers harsh advice with a shovelful of sugar. This last would be Mrs. Happley, the raunchy, tell-it-like-it-is, 76-year-old Sunday school teacher who follows Sephy and the gang around saying her charming catchphrase, "Me-oh-my! Sweet potato pie!"
The dragons may seem shoehorned into the story, as they appear only during one car chase when Sephy and Noah race to the museum to locate the Sixteen Phantoms of Rembrandt, but there are hints that the dragons will play a larger rule in future books, as will the mermaids, Billy Todd (the orphan without a home who possesses prodigious piano skills), and the monstrous Man Frog who wants only to be accepted. Still, there are enough dragons, mer-people, talented orphans, and frog folk to keep even the most diehard genre enthusiast satisfied.
But this novel boasts more than just sex, secrets, non-threateningly attractive monsters, self-help, and short words. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by Chapter 16, which jettisons traditional prose for the sake of a challenging but not too difficult Sudoku puzzle. (Hint: Find the 6's first.) And toward the end of the novel, there is a seamlessly integrated three-page interview with the cast of Mad Men.
If I have one real complaint about this book, it's that the cover is TOO good. True, the evocative image of a child's hand offering a broken yo-yo to the ocean may be -- just may be -- as powerful an image as ever created. But no ocean ever looked as ocean-y as this one. Still, the recipe section in the back is a godsend, and the complementary pedometer can change a life one step at a time.
Has the Brightbee program succeeded in generating the perfect bestseller? According to the blurbs on the back of the book from such literary heavyweights as Jonathan Franzen and "Jane Austin," the answer is yes.
Dan Bergstein now leads in most polls.
10:00AM: The lights are down in the Dayton Convention Center, where hundreds of journalists await Mead CEO David Woodman's unveiling of the latest glittering product. Rumors swirl: five-color pen? A no-rip spiral-bound notebook? Or, as Woodman has coyly suggested, an improvement on the company's flagship sheet of paper?
10:02AM: Woodman takes the stage to a rock-star ovation from the paper-geek crowd, dressed in his trademark relaxed-fit chinos and short-sleeve white collared shirt with a wacky Mead-product tie -- today's is a cascade of expanding files.
10:05AM: Woodman spends a few minutes crowing about Mead's successes the past year: sales of 2-inch binders are up 27%; they've opened their first iconic Mead Store in China, employing two dozen "Mead Notables" to handle customer questions; and Mead has just sold its one hundred millionth 1.5-inch binder. Yes, yes, we know, Mead owns the paper-products industry, get on with it…
10:07AM: "What we are unveiling today is a paradigm shift in information processing," Woodman intones. "It will change the way you present and receive data; it will change the way you think."
10:08AM: From the ceiling descends an opaque rectangle haloed in light, with the new product obscured behind it. It might be a sheet of paper -- yet, from my seat fifty feet back, it seems a tad small…
10:10AM: Whoa. *rubs eyes, pinches self* My estimate of the size wasn't inaccurate. Mead has created the SlimPaper, the world's first 8.25-by-10.75-inch piece of paper, shrinking the preexisting letter-size sheet by a full quarter inch. The crowd's collective intake of breath is audible. Woodman beams; the iconoclast lives for moments like this. Um, anyone not buying Mead stock right now?
10:17AM: Okay, what you're all waiting for: the specs. In addition to the length-width minimization, Mead's engineers have thinned the sheet from 0.1 to 0.08 millimeters -- breaking a barrier no one thought possible. For a 500-sheet ream, this translates to a full ten millimeters. And formerly twenty-pound bond paper now weighs nineteen pounds, fourteen ounces -- with no loss in sheet density. I've been covering the paper industry for twenty-five years, and I'm flabbergasted.
10:25AM: So it looks good, as we say, "on paper." But how's the performance? Woodman demonstrates with a standard ballpoint, scrawling some words: "Who wants…" The pen glides effortlessly over the surface, with sparkling crispness and enviable ink receptivity. Woodman's full sentence takes shape: "Who wants my old laptop?" It garners hearty laughter from the journos. Next, Woodman whips out a four-color and clicks on the red. Then the green. Then the blue. The primary colors pop. One imagines it's what it felt like gazing upon a Mondrian at the Met in 1942. And that's not all; Woodman says the SlimPaper backgrounds will come in pure, cloud, downy, ivory, cream, and off, with the Christmas rollout of a special-edition U2 sheet in pitch-black.
10:32AM: Woodman draws concerned gasps when he slides his index finger along the SlimPaper's edge. But he holds it up: Look, Ma, no blood. "At Mead, we're very concerned about safety," he says. "That's why we've invented revolutionary MicroRounding™ technology, to virtually eliminate paper cuts." He receives a standing O; there's not a single parent in the room who hasn't lost sleep over what we assumed were the necessarily intrinsic perils of paper.
10:38AM: Enough boring office work; how does the SlimPaper handle the fun apps? Woodman doodles, and doubts about the sheet size vanish -- the 88.6875 square inches easily accommodate stick figures, dialogue balloons, and "three-dimensional" cubes. Then he plays a glorious full-page game of Hangman, calling on the crowd for letters. "K-I-L-L-E-R-A-P-P." Good one, Dave.
10:45AM: Woodman ticks off the other advances: 105% recyclability; thirty-year non-yellowing shelf life; enhanced airplane constructability. "But what we're most excited about," he says, as he folds a fresh SlimPaper in half, "you'll have to see to believe." He counts aloud with each new fold -- two, three, four -- as the sheet thickens. He reaches eight, a mischievous gleam in his eyes. "Hmm," he muses, "I sort of feel like folding this piece of paper a ninth time." My colleague Victor Lassiter, of the New York Record of Paper, can't control himself. "If you can fold that paper again, I'll eat it," he shouts from the front row.
10:48AM: Woodman grins and, with the ease of a seasoned origamist, folds the paper a record-breaking ninth time. The room bursts into applause. Lassiter shakes his head, a smile on his face, and walks on-stage to eat his words. "Fortunately for Vic," says Woodman, "the SlimPaper is completely edible, with hints of rosemary and tarragon." He unfolds the piece and rips it in two, and the men -- sometime-nemeses infamous for sparring in the press -- enjoy a late-morning snack together.
10:50AM: Sales of the SlimPaper will commence tomorrow, at three different price points depending on ream size; the cost of the now-obsolete BrightPaper is expected to drop accordingly. And Woodman announces an exciting new partnership sure to shake up the musty world of paper: The SlimPaper will be sold in a packaged deal with the scorching-hot Microsoft Zune.
Teddy Wayne is the author of Kapitoil.Read more...
Introducing the new bReader reading device! It includes everything the popular eReader offers, and so much more. The bReader combines the nostalgia for printed books with the power of technology and the lust for unnecessary though impressive add-ons!
The first thing you'll notice is that the bReader feels "real." To those who miss the smell and feel of a real book, the bReader is made from brand new library books that no one was going to read, and each device has been manhandled by 130 random strangers with sticky fingers, to give it that authentic, library feel. The case was also dipped in the tears and palm sweat of librarians.
Older customers often have a difficult time navigating the user interface of some eReaders, but the bReader has dealt with this problem head-on by hiring twenty-five members of our greatest generation to design and tweak the interface. Thanks to the wonderful designers, such as Edith Monroe (87) and Mort Sanders (84) the bReader now features the Assisted Living App (named by Mort himself). From the main page, users can use the app to easily find books, movies, very nice music, recipes, photos of grandchildren, produce prices, and, finally, reasonable shoe stores. But unlike other mobile devices and gadgets, no button pushing or even touching is necessary. The different items just pop up randomly, and without rhyme or reason. Stare at it long enough, and the item you're looking for is sure to appear eventually.
The new bReader recommendation app, Sir Picks-a-Lot, is also top-of-the-line and on the bleeding edge of technology, using an algorithm so complex that eight men died during its programming. Once you finish a book and rate it, the app will offer finely tuned suggestions for other books, and more. For instance, depending on how you rated the latest Jonathan Franzen novel, the app will advise: "You may also like Neil Gaiman's American Gods, cedar wood, the first twenty minutes of Ghostbusters, breaking up with your significant other, eggs for dinner, getting a haircut that suits your age, the ocean, women with hearty laughs, helmets, clock radios that have those flippy number tiles instead of purely digital readouts, and, finally, buying that turtle. Also, you have a little something on your chin. No -- other side."
Reading can be difficult, but the bReader alleviates all literary stress with the Buddy app. Having trouble with a particular sentence? Switch the Buddy into "Knowsy" mode and the voice of Sir Ian McKellen will help you sort it out, and read it to you slowly and with great patience. (Warning: Ian may sound condescending. It's just his way.) Or, switch to "Best Friend" mode and the friendly voice of Amy Adams will offer words of encouragement such as, "Wow. That sentence really is a toughy. I can't even figure it out, and I'm a computer. You're so brave for getting as far as you did. Why not watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey? Heard it's a good one! I love Teresa! Squeeeee!"
Reading in a noisy restaurant or at a party? Simply rotate the bReader in a counterclockwise motion and the polite but firm voice of actor John Goodman will say, "Shhh," so you won't have to. If you don't like John Goodman's voice, you can switch to Gary Sinise, Helen Mirren, or "Cockney Chimney Sweep". And for large crowds, switch to "Angry Tommy Lee Jones."
Children can enjoy the bReader too, thanks to the Lil' Book Worm app. The app will turn even the densest prose into easy-to-read children's literature by adding in fun elements of magic and adventure. Here's a sample from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: "The little girl grabbed the wizard's treasure map and ran for the giant boat called The Phantom Whale! Her best friend, the talking kitty, ran after her. Oh, and addiction takes many forms, from addiction to drugs to addiction to athletics. Anyway, the wizard's map began to glow…."
Along with the features mentioned above, the bReader includes thousands of fun apps. The Sownd Trakkkk app provides fitting background music for any book. (Creepy, detuned music box sounds for horror novels. Swelling orchestra numbers for romances. Slide whistle noises and tuba toots for self-help books. Flemish techno for non-fiction books about Flemish techno.)
And say so-long to lugging around book pedestals and lecterns. The Mag-Nut app applies a high powered magnetic field around the bReader, allowing it to float three inches above metal surfaces, thus saving your hands from purely mechanical toil. (Note: Activating this app will erase all data on computers within a 3-mile radius. May cause atrophied hands and spontaneous pregnancy.)
Yet more apps: The Smart Ass app will read books to you with sarcastic, ironic inflections. Example, "Call me Ishmael. [Duh!]" The Camo app hides the title of the embarrassing book you're reading and every so often will chirp, "Now turning the page of Dante's Inferno." Add your own haughty smirk for best results. The Gordon App is based on our friend Gordon who reads a lot. Activate the app, and Gordon's not-annoying-at-all voice will say, "Oooh. This is a good part. You're gonna like this," or "Get it? Did you get that? It's funny. Let me read it to you again." The Falconer's Glove app will call any and all birds of prey in your area! (It is recommended that you cover the bReader in a real falconer's glove before activating. And stand back.)
Finally, two more unique and crucial apps. The Annotated Buscemi app will add Steve Buscemi's annotations to just about every book. Curious to read his thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, or The Brother's Karamozov? Of course you are. And for those who fall asleep while reading, turn on the Priva-C app. The bReader is then is guaranteed to not silently judge you while you sleep, nor will it contact robbers online and alert them of your weariness. Can your eReader make that same pledge?
With so many apps, including the HapApp – an app that changes sad endings (Example: Marley the Immortal Dog and Me), this is the only bReader you can't live without. Why is it a bReader instead of an eReader? There's an app that will explain it.
Dan Bergstein is no longer a lineman for the Steelers or the county.Read more...
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.
A Division of Hao Yubin InternationalRead more...
Simon Winchester (The Professor and the Madman) chronicles singular individuals ("Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks") whose stubborn genius lashed a nascent nation together into a powerful and glorious whole.
Do today's fashion figures fail to loom as mythically as those of yore? Amanda Mackenzie Stuart celebrates the life and career of an iconic giants of yesteryear with empathy and panache.
Doug Dorst (The Surf Guru) brings to life a unique mystery from the imagination of co-author (and director of the upcoming Star Wars sequels) J. J. Abrams: a novel designed to look like a library book filled with news reports, postcards, and two lovers' mash notes.