Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Soup Vs. Art

[From Gianna, God help me.]

The end of an era.
I was so filled with emotion after reading Liz’s blog about our “relationship” and how little she will miss working with me that I really wanted to take some time to respond in kind. I am most touched that Liz took the time to find a photo of me that would give the most courageous of heroes second thoughts should I need resuscitations of the mouth-to-mouth variety. (Actually, after just glancing at it again, I doubt anyone would bother with the Heimlich either. I do not look great in that photo. Or just in general.) But here we are now and it’s my turn. Get your hankies out.

Liz Facts

She edits every single thing I write. Not just the blog stuff, although this too (awkward right?)[quite awkward indeed], but emails, eulogies (fact) everything. I can’t spell, am terrible at grammar, and am not sure of the proper use of whom and who. Nor do I care. I blame my love of rap.

Gianna with Buzz Aldrin. Lest you
think she only exposes me to...
her exposure, check out the buttons
on that top.
 Liz has a photographic memory. That is the only reason I ever mooned her. [For the record, she’s mooned me three times. –liz] I also think it added to her insomnia. […yes.]

We once ate at Taco Bell and charged it on our American Express. The total for two was $3.40 and it gave us great pleasure to know that when the bill came in and I wrote on the Amex statement “Dinner with Liz Sullivan,” someone in NY was going to think, “These two are sad sons of bitches.”

One of my favorite conversations – so I will insist it was one of Liz’s favorite conversations (co-dependent much?) -- was when we had one of our many post-“Dope Man” / Ethel Merman /NWA performances about what "NWA" meant. I had to laugh because really? One middle class white woman talking to another middle class white woman about the band name and merits of their lyrics as they roll on up to Amarillo in their company Jeep Liberty? Really? Easy-E was rolling in his grave I am sure. Although Austin is located south central in Texas (that one is for da fans).

Liz loves wildlife and camping. I know. It surprised me too. She can name, well, pretty much any animal, she may even do bird calls (I may have made this up but she is pretty well schooled on birds in general) and she loves to camp. She is a National Park lover. I know. I think it has something to do with tall trees. She fits in. [I don’t do bird calls, but I can imitate a ring wraith….]

Ways in Which I Have Made Liz’s Life Better (or Attempted, Anyway)

I have Liz’s best interests at heart. I always have. I guess you could say I know what Liz wants more than she does! For example, Liz will say, almost in passing, that she is ready to begin dating again since her long term relationship ended a couple years ago. Well, I know her well enough to know this is the ultimate green light for me to start looking around in a pretty serious way for available men. Alas, as anyone who travels for a living knows (Hello Lady Gaga, hello Jonas Brothers, hello truckers on the down low...) it’s hard to meet men! So I really had to put my thinking hat on. But then, voila! It came to me; it was perfect! …Of course, Liz being Liz – she was immediately opposed to it. My idea was simple: hit up some hot spots (classy hot spots, y’all) along our route, some places that single men were known to hang out. Here are a few names, and then I will tell you why Miss Priss was just too good for them.

• Jesters
• Clemens
• Stringfellows
• T.L. Roach

The Walls.
Never worry where your man is.
*All of these she found objectionable for the same reason: they are Texas State Prisons. (I should have mentioned each of the names above actually end in “Unit,” as in Jesters Unit, that's too much typing). Uh, hello, you’re single and each one of these state sanctioned facilities (very nice, by the way) holds hundreds – hundreds of single men. Some educated, or into reading (possibly porn, but I read People Magazine – isn’t THAT porn?), some love the outdoors (or would if they could), there are even a few non-violent (unlike a certain cat she lives with). She could see them three times a year; honey, you play your cards right (and I am not saying she is this kind of girl), and she could see all four three times a year! Anyway….no dice. So I gave other options.

Buster Cole – She said NO because this was a State Jail (what a snob … prison is too rough and jail is too …. run of the mill). It’s so obvious she went to a private college. A UT Grad would jump on this.

Richard LeBlanc – She said NO; even though this is a pre-release program facility, she still considers it a prison. Hmm. Super snob. Ridiculous! How is she ever going to meet someone? What if he is the one, but he is just waiting for the state to get his $200 and a job lined up? Ugh! Liz drives me so crazy!

James thanks.
Ernestine Glossbrenner Unit – I am going to say right up front exactly what I said to Liz: “These guys are fixer uppers, but sometimes that’s fun! ” This is a substance abuse unit, and I think anyone who read A Million Little Pieces knows that these guys can be pretty sexy and pretty passionate. And I may be stating the obvious here, but how cool will it to be able to say to your grandchildren, “We met in the Ernestine Glossbrenner Unit” (though maybe hold off on saying “unit” until the little ones know what prison is). You know the ending to this right? Liz said NO. I guess Liz never had a substance abuse problem. [Diet Coke and chocolate. –liz] Anyone ever see Liz around a batch of fresh, homemade, chocolate chip cookies? Anyone? Exactly. [Back away from my cookies.] Judgmental people often have the hardest time finding love.

Duncan Unit was my last ditch effort in finding love for Liz, and I will admit it was half-hearted. Although this is just a hop, skip, and jump off the side of the road, it’s also a geriatric unit (no pun intended), and, well, Liz is still a young gal….what’s the point?
Things I Wanted That Liz Did Not Want

I like a good scandal. I like to add fuel to a decent rumor; why not? When Liz and I first started traveling together (which was about 32 seconds after she started with RH), we became sort of inseparable (we call them “the days of wine and roses”). Well, not long after, a rumor started that perhaps we spent a lot more time, a lot more time together than we actually did (wink wink). I enjoyed this rumor more than Liz. So what I imagined doing while at sales conference was this: one morning (or every morning), while dressed only in pajamas and my name badge, I would run crying from Liz’s room, sobbing “Why does she break up with me every sales conference?” Clutching my catalogs in one hand, my highlighter in another, pushing past my co-workers as they came out of their own rooms—pure poetry. And of course when someone asked me what was wrong, I would say “I can’t talk about it, Liz wouldn’t like it.” And then I would scurry away and act slightly afraid. I sort of still get excited thinking about it. That, my friends, is a good time. Liz thinks it’s a “career killer.” Really? Charlie Sheen is on tour!
Top 5 Lies Liz Has Told You

Seriously, don't touch me.
And don't put your gassy kid in my lap.
 1. She loves to pretend she is uncomfortable with physical attention. Not true. She loves it. Craves it even. Touch her. Don’t ask, just do it. Caress her, run your fingers through her hair, down her back. Give her bum a little pat. I do, she loves it! [I do not love it.]

2. She doesn’t sleep. Not True. She sleeps all the time…mostly on conference calls or during foreign films. Yep, she can’t look at pictures and read words at the same time; it’s too much for her, confuses her and makes her sleepy. Nods right off. [Sleep is for the weak and I love foreign films.]

3. Astros fan. Biggest Lie. She is a die-hard Yankees fan. Has at least one Derek Jeter jersey – she sleeps in it. True, I saw her wearing it when she dozed off watching Das Boot (it’s her go-to nap film). [I own a copy of Das Boot, actually. And I hate the damn Yankees and Jeter in particular. Go 'Stros!]

4. Always prefers book version to film version – okay you know this is not true right? You know she owns The Scarlet Letter film with Demi Moore. She keeps it hidden…but trust me, she owns it.

5. She doesn’t love me. Not True. She absolutely does. [Absolutely true.]
This is going to seem a bit off the rails but stay with me, I am going to tell you how I feel about working with Liz.

Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin wrote this amazing play called Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The main plot involves aliens trying to figure out people on earth. Trudy, a homeless woman, is their guide. They are really stumped by a few things. Goosebumps, for one. Another thing they really can’t wrap their alien heads around is Andy Warhol’s version of Campbell’s Soup and an actual can of soup (trying to figure out which one IS art and which is NOT art. Trudy keeps showing them the can of soup and then the Warhol art, “THIS is SOUP” and “THIS is ART”…total confusion). They also want to experience the theatre, so off they go – the ultimate NY experience. They have an amazing time. They come back and report to Trudy how great the show was, how truly humbling it was to be a part of so many people gathered in the same place at the same time feeling the same thing. Laughing together, crying together, feeling joy. They go on and on about sharing the experience of life with so many people, all strangers at one time…and Trudy realizes that they hadn’t been watching the stage at all. The aliens had been watching the audience the entire time. They said Trudy, “The play was soup, the audience…that was art.”

Anyway, my point is this: working for Random House, that was soup. Working with Liz…that was art.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Changes in Book Land

Hello UT Press!

The astute among the dozens of you devoted readers no doubt searching for photos of big ass steaks might have noticed the slight alteration on our little blog disclaimer.  (Did you know that our blog has a disclaimer?  And would you guess that it was added because the powers that be wanted to distance themselves from whatever might pop up here?)  Specifically, my esteemed colleague Gianna decided that the pleasure of working with me was simply too much to bear (no, really, that's what she said) and when an opportunity arose to become sales manager at UT Press, she opted to switch jobs. 

While we will continue our joint blogging, I can't pretend that the new reality is hard on me.  I've learned so much from Gianna over the last four years.  Such as....
  • Everything can be construed as a "that's what she said" joke, and TWSS is our version of WWJD.  I think we need wristbands.
  • If you pass something outlandish while in the middle of nowhere, you absolutely should turn around and drive back, even if it requires backtracking several miles, and especially if the spectacle could be perceived as offensive/ if you're photographing a 50 foot crucifix in the middle of West Texas.
  • The rap classic "Dope Man" is actually a feminist anthem about the hardships of whoredom.  My former colleague preferred to recite the lyrics in the voice of Ethel Merman.
  • This is the worst song ever.  And Gianna loves it....particularly the speaking parts.

  • My body will be dumped from the I-10 bridge crossing the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana.
  • Be weird, try new things, but always, ALWAYS remember that bookselling ultimately involves sharing one's passion for great books.
This is the UT mascot.
It is a castrated cow.
(Let the hate mail commence.)
While we're at it, I'd like to dispel a few rumors:
  • Gianna isn't my girlfriend and we aren't married.  I will survive.
  • Also, she didn't die.  We still talk.  How else would I keep up with my celebrity gossip?
  • Gianna wasn't my boss even though she sometimes bossed me around and once sat in my lap. (Isn't that what bosses do?) 
  • We never committed a felony...we may have committed a misdemeanor or two.
  • I am not "freakishly tall."  She's just obnoxiously stunted.
And some revelations:
    This is the Knopf mascot.
    It is the noble and dignified Borzoi.
About once a week Gianna emailed or called me asking for a copy of that email she needed and accidentally deleted.
  • Mooning, according to Gianna, is not considered harassment if she's not my boss (and we've established she wasn't).
I've asked Gianna to bring me lunch at least once a week for the last four years, and every single time she's either asked me to wait outside (if it's raining or cold) or told me that she left it by my door.  I'm starving!  And I might die from exposure!
  • Secretly Gianna loves me.

God help you, UT Press.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Le Cirque des Reves

Last week the Random House sales force gathered in Florida for our annual in-person sales conference (pro: no six hour conference calls; con: must wear shoes...and pants).  Want a sneak peek at one of the biggest buzz books slated to come out in the fall?  Here you go.

The Night Circus is the first novel from Erin Morgenstern, a magical, cinematic story of two fated lovers and the most amazing fictional setting since Hogwarts.  In the book, two rival magicians debate magic theory through the duels they stage between students of their schools of study.  When one magician pits his daughter Celia against a rival orphan named Marco, the location for their showdown becomes a mystic circus only open at night.  The rivals create endless mazes, a garden made of ice, a maze of clouds, a tree of granted wishes, all in with a wonderful black-and-white backdrop of tents, circus performers, and charmed guests.  Le Cirque des Reves--The Circus of Dreams--is a fantasy world where attendees (and readers) go to escape and experience the endless possibilities and romance...the mysterious, fantastical, heroic, adventurous, liberating definition of that word, not the mass market rack at the grocery store variety.  The romance of silent movies, the allure of the object behind the curtain, the thrill of the unexpected--I love this book.

This cool book trailer captures the whimsy and charm of the book.  "Keep dreaming in black and white" indeed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gianna's Thoughts on the Most Important Holidays

Mole Day? Huh?
The calendar is packed with important holidays that are, among other things, a call to action. Why the hell do we need St. George’s Day? Who wants to give a rose and a book to a loved one? We already have really great, important holidays! Mole Day comes to mind. When we reach a certain age and, if you’re like me, have spent way too much time in the sun, it's very helpful to have a reminder to check yourself for new or suspicious moles. Turns out, however, that October 23rd is less a call to action to body check yourself for moles and more about chemistry (or mass? I saw the word 'chemistry' and stopped reading) or some brainy thing, that’s actually what Mole Day is so you know – party your ass off kids. Or actually party your pants off literally – on No Pants Day which is the first Friday of May (Liz calls this every Friday but for the hardcore No Pants Dayers it’s the first Friday of May). One is encouraged to leave your pants behind and wear boxers, briefs, panties, bloomers or I guess nothing at all if you are staying at home. It's pretty gross.

Some holidays just annoy me in a general way, like Friendship Day (I don’t get it), National Hug Day (I just find this creepy), Groundhog Day (that’s right), Sweetest Day (just one more 'fuck you' to the lonely) and Pi Day (I am bad at math and find this offensive). I sort of got excited when I saw International Cannabis Day/Four Twenty but only because I glanced at it and thought it was International Cannibal Day and thought "Now there’s something!" But no, it's just weed with its own stupid day – maybe because I live in Austin where every day is cannabis day but; this holiday annoys me. I know for sure that if it didn’t have four twenty after it I wouldn’t be bothered at all – it’s the four twenty that gets me...obviously because I had to ask what it meant. But some holidays send me over the edge....

Celebrating Ninja Day will get you a dirty look from me, and trust me I learned from the best, so it's nothing to mess with (my dirty looks...or the ninjas). But if you are over the age of 13…no, if you are over the age of 8, and you are celebrating this little gem; International (International…nice touch) Talk Like a Pirate Day I dare you, I dare you to do it – I will slap the shit out of you on 9/19. I blame you Johnny Depp.

So here is my point – a holiday that consists of giving a rose and a book to a loved one on April 23rd – St. George’s Day –really is a pretty fantastic idea. I mean this as a national holiday would make us seem … you know…well….it would make us seem better than a country that has a No Pants Day. Plus Austin…we could tweak that rose to a bit of weed and a book.

So let me give you a book right now; a flavor of St. George’s Day….

Kissing In Manhattan by David Schickler. I love this book because it sticks to your bones. I find it really hard to believe that 1. I read it ten years ago and that 2. I have only read it one time. You might say "Well if it’s so good Gianna why have you only read it once?" And to that I say to you, "Why so mean?" I truly feel as though I have just read it; I never have to search my mind for the stories or most titles or which are my favorites. I feel really very close to it. I think about this book often; I know exactly where both copies are on my shelf (have one in HC and one in paper to loan out). I treasure this book; each story has such independent and significant beauty and then you catch yourself with a bit of a smirk on your face, the humor sneaks up on you. There are two stories that, for me anyway, just took my breath away. I think when we give gifts, any gifts – if we are thoughtful gift givers, that is what we want to do – we want to give something with meaning and something that lasts. Kissing in Manhattan. I hope you love it.

Now what color rose would you like?