Friday, January 29, 2010

Back to Basics

Every once in a while I realize how far I've strayed from the original mission of this blog: To chronicle my shameless self-promotion.

Today I'm back on task, with a handful of media hits to report.  They came about thanks to two posts I put up on my Classics Rock! blog yesterday--one about J.D. Salinger, the other about Howard Zinn, both of whom passed away on Wednesday.

Ron Charles at The Washington Post, who haunts Twitter, generously devoted a tweet to the Salinger post, then devoted another to my piece about Zinn.

Today's edition of Shelf Awareness, the publishing industry newsletter, featured both posts in their lead news story, which was about Salinger.'s "Bullish on Books" blog included Classics Rock! in a roundup of Salinger coverage.

Just a short while ago, the New York Times "Paper Cuts" blog also posted both links.

And another widely read industry newsletter, GalleyCat, featured them as well.

I should also mention a near miss--a low brush with media coverage.  Earlier this week I had the chance to be considered for a segment on a national network morning show.  They were looking for parents of teens who could talk about the challenges of raising teens in today's world.  Since my daughters now spend most of their time away from home and my son is about to get his driver's license, I didn't think that my family was exactly the demographic they were looking for.  Plus I knew my wife would flat out refuse to do it and my kids would never speak to me again.  When I got back to the producer to say we probably weren't right for the segment, she said that was fine, because the concept had completely changed: Now they were looking for a family where a college grad had moved back home with the parents and "isn't budging."  She specified that they were looking for "exasperated parents," which strikes me as a redundancy.  I told her we weren't right for that one either.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Librarian Songs

Flavorwire has a list of the 10 Best Songs About Libraries and Librarians.  Couple of issues:

Biggest omission:  "Marian the Librarian" from The Music Man.  Surely this is the grandaddy of all librarian songs, but perhaps it's just too ancient and unhip to be considered.

Biggest stretch:  "Fun Fun Fun"  by the Beach Boys.  You can hardly say that this song is about libraries or librarians.  A library is mentioned in passing as a convenient lie the young woman in the song tells her old man so she can go out cruising--no one in the song actually sets foot in a library.  And apparently it's not a very good lie, since her daddy sees right through it and takes the T-bird away.

Most of the songs on the list seem to be about having sex in the library or sexual fantasies about the librarian. I'm working on a few myself:

"Horny for Your Hornrims"

"The Book of Love is Overdue"

"I'm Dewy for Your Decimal System"

"Hit Me! (With Your Late Fees)"

"Shhhhhhhhhh!ake it, Book Baby"

"I Can't Relax (When We're in the Stacks)"

"(Just Can't) Keep It Down Please!"

"Slippin' It Into Your Return Slot"
Songwriting...not my thing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keeping the Poe in Poetry

Edgar Allan Poe's 201st birthday last week was marked more by what didn't happen than by what did.  For decades a mysterious visitor has left roses and a half-drunk bottle of cognac on the writer's grave to mark the occasion.  This time, he was a no-show, leading to speculation about whether he was dead or incapacitated or what.

I figured there could be any number of reasons why he might have been unable to make it this year, and that he might be in the market for a belated birthday card to make things right with Poe.  So I came up with five possible Poe-inspired greetings that would suit the occasion, which you'll find on The Huffington Post.

To give you an idea of their tenor and tone, here's a sixth that I just made up:

I missed your big day--am I red in the face!
And so is everyone else in this place.
To honor your birthday we threw a masked ball.
It was fun, 'til the Red Death strode into the hall--
Then blood started oozing from every pore
And guests began dropping like flies to the floor
While the ebony clock tolled out our last hours.
Sure hope that your party was better than ours!
By the way: As noted previously, musician/composer Eric Woolfson created two albums of music based on Poe's works, a stage play based on his life, and described Poe as "the man whose life and works inspired me probably more than any other." Woolfson passed away in December; in January, for the first time in decades, the mysterious "Poe toaster" fails to show. I'm just saying.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Robert B. Parker

Mystery writer Robert B. Parker, best known for his series of books about Boston P.I. Spenser, died earlier this week, reportedly while sitting at his desk. 

I've been thinking about the time I almost worked with him (what might be termed "a low brush with fame").  I was working at Delacorte Press in 1994 when they were gearing up to publish Parker's All Our Yesterdays, a non-series novel about a family of Boston cops.  My entire relationship with him consisted of one phone conversation when I called to introduce myself as his publicist.  He seemed to be a very pleasant man.  He had a Spenser novel coming out from another publisher at about the same time with the title Walking Shadow.  I asked him if there were any significance to the fact that both titles come from the same soliloquy in Macbeth.  As I recall, he dismissed it as the result of "too much education."

Soon afterward I left the company and had no further contact with him.

In 1989, Parker completed Raymond Chandler's last, unfinished novel Poodle Springs.  Will someone step up to complete whatever Parker was working on in those last moments as he sat at his desk?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Traditional Media Provide Second Wind

I've been thinking about this story reported in GalleyCat earlier this week.  It's about a book called Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe.  The book was released to "sluggish" sales last September, but two months later it enjoyed "an unexpected sales bump--defying publishing expectations with her late-blooming book."

What's interesting to me is that the author attributes the book's late success to reviews in traditional print outlets.  It started with "a lovely review" in the November issue of O Magazine.  Following that, the book was named one of the best books of the year by both the Washington Post and New West.  Then came reviews in The New Yorker and the Atlantic

The lesson for me is that publishers shouldn't dismiss the power of those old fashioned, old media, stone age print reviews just yet.  The traditional media outlets may still have some juice left in them.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Publishing Shows a Prophet

Several big names in publishing have come out with their predictions about the future of the industry: Richard Curtis, Bob Miller, Jane Dystel, Richard Nash, and probably a lot of others too.

I couldn't wait to get in on that action: Whatever you say you come off sounding like a sage, and you can relax in the certainty that no one is ever going to check back to see if you were right.  I could do that in my sleep!

As a matter of fact, that's exactly how I did it.  In the style of Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, I had myself put into a clinically induced R.O.M. state (Resonant Olfactory Music)--the level of sleep where snoring occurs.  It's just like R.E.M., except there's no indie band named after it.  There I experienced a prophetic trance that produced several startling predictions about what's in store for the book business.

You'll find them in their entirety on The Huffington Post.  If you don't have time to read them all, let me sum up the future of publishing in just two words:  Rodeo clowns.