Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bad Ass Author Blast! Southern Gents

In this age of rapid technological change to reading experiences, we've decided to highlight one of the ways that remains constant--readers and authors connecting.  Books can be purchased in almost any format--as I (Liz) sit here in my hotel room tonight I am aware that I could currently have access to books in paper format, on my e-reader, on my iPhone, on my computer...I could probably load one on my iPod if I so chose.  What I can't do from my hotel room is encounter an author in the flesh.  (If Gianna were allowed to do the posting on our blog, there's little doubt that she'd make a snide comment about authors, flesh, and my hotel room.  I'm sorry.  Know that I bear the burden of her dirty mind every single day.)  Bookstores, libraries, schools, and festivals still offer an experience unavailable online, and are one of the reasons we love our jobs and know how fortunate we are to meet the geniuses who create some of our favorite works.  We are starting a new series on our little blog here--the Bad Ass Author Blast--to highlight these special moments that separate the virtual from reality.


I was working at a bookstore in Hollywood, Florida (take a moment to be jealous…it's okay), when Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ was published. The staff loved the book; we were selling it hand over fist and we begged the publisher (they would soon be employing me…those silly fools!) to send Rick to sign stock. We were told, “ No, it was impossible, his schedule was absolutely crazy.” So we did the tactful thing and begged some more. This time we were told, “ No, its not going to happen and you know…lose our number.”  

We gave up, and we only resented Random House a little bit. About two weeks after we were told no for the second time, a very scruffy but oddly sexy man walked in our store. Wrinkled T-shirt, jeans that had seen a better day, his hair was crazy messy, yet he looked oddly familiar.  Yes, so familiar, like 300 copies sold at our store familiar. Holy shit! Yep, it was Rick Bragg. I walked up to him and he introduced himself and said in that sweet sweet accent that I will forever and always love, “Well, when I heard what y’all were doing for my book I just had to stop in.” He signed several hundred copies that we had been hoarding for the holidays in the back room. If memory serves we sold over 700 copies of the book that season, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.


It was November, about six years ago, and normally bookstores shut down their events for the year in December in order to clear space, time, and staff to deal with the holiday rush.  I was a buyer and inventory operations manager at BookPeople, and by that November, I had perused hundreds of catalogs, ordered tens of thousands of books, sat in on a few hundred meetings, and was barely reserving enough energy to make it through the holiday insanity.  When a publicist calls and offers a President, though, you don't say no. 

The President was Jimmy Carter.  When I was four, I was interviewed by the podunk Woodville, Texas, radio station (along with 30 other four year-olds) in an informal Presidential poll, Reagan versus Carter.  I'd never heard of Reagan.  I told the radio guy--with a heavy Texas drawl that only existed for about a year--that I would vote for Jimmy Carter because he's "cuuu-uuute."  Seriously, there's a recording of it.  And because everyone else in the world knew who Reagan was, and that he was an actor, I was the only kid who voted Democrat. I have been a Carter fan (and a Democrat) ever since.  I have great respect for his diplomatic efforts post-Presidency to try to bring peace and alleviate suffering around the globe.  Also, my father loved Carter and his books.

So the whole staff rallied to the cause of hosting a former President--no easy task any time we're talking about the Secret Service, and particularly for this tour since the book involved discussed the Palestinian/Israeli conflict (Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid) and had generated protests at earlier tour stops--and my task on the day of the event was to stand next to the President and take books from him after he signed.  It's generally accepted in the book industry that Jimmy Carter is the fastest signer in the business.  That day he signed 1,500 books in about an hour and fifteen minutes.  He was the octogenarian but we the ones who were exhausted.  What's truly remarkable, though, was that Carter managed to talk and make eye contact throughout the signing.  He greeted the customers who'd waited in line, some of them all night, and he didn't take any flak from the obnoxious, confrontational guy who wanted to talk about 1970's politics. 
Photo: Austin Chronicle
That's Carter in the chair, and that's me with the
dark hair to his right.

What made my day, and the memory that stays with me, was that the former President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner also talked to me throughout the whole event.  Our event was on December 13th, the last stop on his tour, and he told me about how he would be taking his great-grandson out to cut down a Christmas tree after he returned home to Georgia.  He talked to me about his family.  I'll never argue that Carter was the most effective President, but as a man of principle who attempts to live honorably, I think he's one of the greatest world leaders of the last century.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Kathryn Harrison

For anyone who's bothered to read more than one post on our little blog here, it should come as no surprise that we're both huge fans of Kathryn Harrison's writing.  Her book The Kiss helped to define the contemporary confessional memoir and established Harrison is one of the premier writers at work today.  With her new novel Enchantments, we took the opportunity to reach out to Harrison and she obliged us with an interview.  Enchantments tells the story of Rasputin's children, who go to live with the Tsar's family after their father is murdered.  The Tsarina Alexandra hopes that they possess some of the healing powers of the Mad Monk in helping her son Alexei--nicknamed Aloysha--cope with his hemophilia.  Though the girls aren't mystics, Marina (nicknamed Masha), the older of the girls, becomes the friend and confidante of Aloysha and tells him stories to distract him from the pain of his disorder and the uncertainty of survival during the Russian Revolution. We asked Harrison about books, Russian history, Rasputin, and her works.  If you like smart, talented writers, you should be reading Kathryn Harrison.

Generally Horrible Questions: Kathryn Harrison

1. What's the latest book you’ve read that you just can’t stop talking about?

I’m working on a biography of Joan of Arc, so all the books I’ve been reading for the past year have pertained to her, or to her time and place. I’m surrounded by stacks of them: translations of the transcripts of the trials that sent her to the stake and posthumously reversed the guilty sentence; interpretations of what it means to hear and see angels; history books like Huizinga’s The Waning of the Middle Ages; cultural anthropologies such as Clothes Make the Man: Female Cross Dressing in Medieval Europe by V. R. Hotchkiss; old standards on religion & mysticism—Frazier’s The Golden Bough, Wm James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, Jung’s The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by …. books that fascinate me but that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to another reader. [On the contrary, this is a reading list that would make a terrific syllabus for a college course--one we'd like to take.]

2. Your historical novels are incredibly rich in detail. Is it true that The Seal Wife, The Binding Chair, and even Enchantments are in some way tied to your grandparents?
Yes, I was lucky to have been raised by grandparents whose very different early lives unfolded in exotic places. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know stories my grandparents told me, stories that will inform my writing forever. It began when I was very young, at bedtime, in the dark, when I was falling asleep, that liminal time, consciousness slipping toward the fantastic, toward dreams. And as an only child, who spent a great deal of time alone, I entered those landscapes when I was awake and daydreaming, there were no other children to distract me, to pull me back into the present world.

3. The Kiss was recently re-issued by Random House. Originally published in 1997, how do you imagine it would be received and reviewed if it were to just be released in 2012?
I think it would play out the same way again: different journalists, reviewers, but the same basic response. What’s different now?

I remember bumping into Molly Haskell about a month into the original publication, and when she asked how I was doing I admitted I felt bewildered by the whole fracas, and that I’d imagined the quality of the writing would have protected me from critics anyway. She just laughed and said, That’s the very thing that’s making them angry—because it’s too well written. It’s a book they’d like to dismiss, but they can’t.

I hadn’t understood that—I’d worked to make it true, but I didn’t see the price of succeeding: anger. Not from everyone of course. It was strange, as a writer, to be told it was a topic that wasn’t for literature. Not for a writer like me to own.

I think it would still be a book they couldn’t dismiss. It would still make people angry. I hope it would. 

4. I’ve read _______ and I am so ashamed?
There is no book I’m ashamed to have read.   

5. I have never read ________ and I am so ashamed?
There is no book I am ashamed not to have read. A few I wish I could read in the original language. Especially Japanese novels.

6. Which of your books would make the best movie?
Exposure has been optioned, over and over, and there has been interest in The Seal Wife. Those two strike me as more easily translated into film.

Directors have asked about rights to The Kiss ever since it was published, but I never considered selling that book. Too easy to sensationalize, to destroy the control I exerted over the subject.

7. What book or author would you recommend for the first-time reader of Russian History?
Father Grigory Rasputin
Off the top of my head? Maybe Hoskings’ Russia and the Russians. There’s so much Russian History. One could start closer to our own time, with Pipes’ Concise History of the Russian Revolution. It might be more fun to read Massie’s biographies of Romanov Rulers; he sets the context so well that it’s a form of reading history.

8. Where you able to find or read any of Marina Rasputin’s memoirs?
All of them. Dreadful. Whitewashed portraits of her father. But who could blame her?  

9. The character of Masha in Enchantments is a Russian version of Scheherazade. Which of her stories to the hemophiliac prince Aloysha is your favorite?
Perhaps the courtship of his parents—Alexandra’s cloud. And I had fun with the coronation, the chance to transform an outright disaster/tragedy into a spectacle different from the historical one. In terms of the life she was trying to eclipse, I felt the tsar’s cutting down the trees in the way that he did was one of the more successful metaphors. I felt satisfied (well, almost) with that scene.  

Rasputin's daughter is the woman with the crop.
10. Rasputin’s daughter lived an incredible life before and after the revolution. She was a cabaret dancer, a lion tamer who travelled with the Ringling Bros Circus, and even survived a bear attack in Peru. Do people live those kinds of lives anymore? Can we blame cable television…please?
I’m happy to blame television for many things, but I don’t think it can kill the imagination, or the spirit, of adventurers. Or even of discriminating viewers. The particulars might change—circuses not being what they used to be, for example—but there will always be extraordinary lives. (And there is great cable TV. A couple of my favorites: Six Feet UnderTwin Peaks—better than most movies.) [If not for Twin Peaks Liz wouldn't talk to logs....]

11. Liz or Gianna?
I have to go with Gianna because she’s not as tall. [Hath not a giantess eyes? Hath not a giantess hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a shrimpy one is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? ...And beside, the correct answer is always Liz.]

12. Perhaps we are mistaken, but is this the first time you’ve ventured into the realm of magical realism?
I think so, yes. Although I can point to antecedents in Poison.

13. Worst job you’ve ever had?
At seventeen, in a nursing home, as glorified candy-striper. Drastically depressing.

The Romanov Family
14. Do you think there’s a version of a contemporary Rasputin influencing a country’s leader today in the way that the mad monk impacted Romanov Russia?
Probably, but I don’t know who. [We nominate Gianna for this role.  She would make a great womanizing, prophetic, cult leader--fully worthy of assassination.]

15. Favorite of the “Golden Era” of Russian literature: Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, Pushkin, Bulgakov, or Chekhov?
I return to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita more often than to any one book by the others, but I do love Gogol and Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy is a bit too rational for my taste—I prefer the feverish, and the playful, and the impossible. [And we love giant, talking, devil cats!]

Monday, May 28, 2012

Battle, Memory, and Sacrifice

(Liz) We poke fun at most topics, but Memorial Day is different.  My great uncle was a World War II vet who rarely discussed his experiences in Europe during the war.  One Christmas, though, at a family gathering, my mother and aunts gathered around my grandparents' organ and started singing carols.  The older generation joined them, and some of us in the younger group listened.  When it came to "Silent Night," my grandmother, great aunt, and great uncle sang the song in German--they were Pennsylvania Dutch--and then my great uncle began telling the story of his Christmas Eve in France during the war.  He and a buddy, also from Pennsylvania, sat down on a log in the snow to eat and sang "Silent Night" in German after they'd finished their rations.  They were cold and tired and far away from home, and so they didn't really react when they brushed some of the snow off of the log and discovered it was the frozen body of a German soldier.  That German soldier would have been singing the same song, and in the same language, had he lived.  I think of this story at Christmas now, and on Memorial Day.  It was a story that it took my great uncle 50 years to tell, along with another that involved my great grandfather shipping a contraband pistol (bought off a Houston cop) to him in pieces because his army rifle kept jamming.  These are men and women who place their lives in danger, and some, like the German in the snow, die in service.  Many come home forever altered.  For this sacrifice, we offer our respect, and because war is a common topic in our industry, we offer this collection of classic, new, and upcoming titles that best capture the struggles and heroism of the soldiers who fought.
From Photojournalists on War, University of Texas Press, Nov 2012

The American Civil War

What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War by Chandra Manning (Random House)

(Gianna) This excellent book is reminiscent of Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, which I read many years ago. What this Cruel War Was Over uses letters and diaries by soldiers from both sides and races. While Manning’s writing is very good, it’s the first person accounts from soldiers that make this book so mesmerizing. Any given day, somewhere in this country there is a debate about the Civil War. What This Cruel War Was Over makes it clear that Union and Confederate soldiers felt that slavery was the root of the war. This is a must for any history aficionado’s library.

World War I

The Absolutist by John Boyne (Other Press, July 2012)

(Liz) While this novel comes out in July, I wanted to include it on this list because I feel like it accomplishes several goals sometimes missing in war novels.  Boyne is best known for his children's book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but The Absolutist is an adult novel addressing the gray areas that often complicate conflicts; rarely is there a black-and-white, good-versus-evil war.  The Absolutist approaches the trench warfare of the Great War through the eyes of Tristan and his close friendship with Will.  The meet in basic training and ship off to France together.  The trenches as describes by Boyne are, well, shitty.  They are cold, filthy, nasty places where horror and mundane mix into an unending terror siege.  Will and Tristan are confronted with an act that challenges their ideas of good and evil in combat, and in choosing different paths they offer redefinitions of cowardice and heroism.  The Absolutist is a book that demands discussion, particularly given the moral ambiguities of more contemporary wars.  It's a great novel.

World War II

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House)

(Gianna) I am sure I will get some heated comments for what I am about to say, but here it is. If you don’t think you want to read about war and are only willing to read one book about World War II, it should be Unbroken. If you aren’t a biography lover but will give one book a chance, it should be Unbroken. If you are only going to read one book this year, it should be Unbroken. Read Unbroken.

On May 27th 1943 Louis Zamperini’s bomber crashed in the Pacific leaving three survivors. Zamperini, Russell Allen Phillips, and Francis McNamara would fight for survival on a raft in the middle of the Pacific for weeks. And that's only the start of Zamperini's struggle for survival.  You will not be able to put this book down. Read Unbroken.


July, July by Tim O’Brien (Penguin)

(Gianna) I’ve written about my love for Tim O’Brien a few times and If I Die in a Combat Zone and The Things They Carried has made probably every list we’ve ever done on this blog. But another really great book by O’Brien that touches on the Vietnam War, is July, July. It's another reminder that war shapes a generation, and changes not only those who go to war, but those who do not. July, July is the story of a 30th reunion of college classmates. One by one, O’Brien tells their stories, among them, a Vietnam veteran and a draft dodger. As I write this I am realizing that we haven’t had a new O’Brien book in a decade.  I do hope we get one soon.

Dispatches by Michael Herr (Vintage)

(Liz) The classic of war reportage from Vietnam.  Period.  It should be required reading (and often is).  Herr captures the sights, sounds, and actions on the Vietnam War, including acts of heroism and issues of moral ambiguity.  This is the war front and center, as observed first hand.


Photojournalists on War; The Untold Stories from Iraq by Michael Kamber with an Introduction by Dexter Filkins (UT Press November 2012)

(Gianna) Probably the most important book I’ve ever worked on. Three dozen leading photojournalists from around the world (New York Times, The Guardian, Magnum, Times of London, Paris Match, and Reuters, among other publications) discuss their unpublished work (another way to say unpublished in this case is censored by their editors). These are first person, eyewitness accounts of the Iraq War. Yes, some essays are hard to read, some photographs tough to examine – but the least we can do is be a witness to the realities of war.

The Long Walk by Brian Castner (Doubleday, July 2012)

(Liz)  Memorial Day shouldn't be a one day tribute of barbecue and water sports.  The struggles that soldiers face continue long after they leave the battlefield.  (That's how I rationalize putting forthcoming books on this list.)  Brian Castner volunteered to serve as an Air Force officer in charge of dismantling bombs in Iraq.  If you saw The Hurt Locker, Brian was the guy in the bomb suit walking up to explosives, and he chose this constant tightrope walk between life and death.  He was great at what he did in the war, and he thrived on the adrenaline.  Half of The Long Walk describes the long, exhausting training that these soldiers endure just to be able to walk up to a bomb and take it apart safely, as well as the minutes of excruciating tension and he works on these explosives.  The other half of the book, though, describes Brian after he returns to the US and his wife and children.  As he adjusts back into his former life, he discovers that the Crazy has come with him and he is still fighting, if only with his own head.  What I like about this memoir is the quality of the writing--it's superb--and the realistic portrayal of heroism both in and out of war.


Gianna and her fleet week pals in New York
last week.  Semper Fi!
Laura Hillenbrand and Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children (, a charity that provides school supplies to needy children through American troops.

Other charities to consider 

Wounded Warrior 

Military Working Dog Adoptions

Books for Soldiers

Homes for Our Troops

Friday, May 25, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Katie Adams

The giant beer is a dead giveaway that this woman
is an editor....
I met Katie a few years ago, when Other Press became a distribution client for Random House (which means that the RH sales force handles the rep duties and our warehouse ships the books) and Katie attended sales conference.  I find the Other Press list of titles and staff invigorating--new voices, fresh perspectives, and a lot of energy make them a joy to represent.  Katie is one of those people who starts talking about the book she's working on and her enthusiasm is contagious; because of this infectious joy I'm willing to overlook that she roots for the Red Sox and has never made me brownies.  She doesn't know that she's supposed to make me brownies, mind you, but why should I have to state my needs so explicitly?  She reads this blog (She's our fan! Possibly the only one remaining!).  She knows I'm not right in the head.  Anyway, in the last year Katie left Other Press to accept a job with Liveright, a newly re-formed division of Norton, but in spite of her abandonment she was still good enough to answer our horrible questions.  She's our first editor....she might have been drunk when she agreed.

Generally Horrible Questions: Katie Adams

1. How’d you become an editor? Tell us your life story.
The long story is a boring one: lifelong reader, naturally bossy, etc. But the crucial lucky break came when I was a senior at Columbia. I was taking a graduate seminar on Dickens, and one of the grad students asked me about my plans after graduation. I murmured vague thoughts about publishing, and she said, “Oh, I used to be an editorial assistant at FSG, give them my name and get an internship there during your final semester.” At the time I’d never even heard of FSG (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, one of the absolute best houses in the business, as I quickly learned), but after a few days of typing out permissions forms for Robert Lowell poems and photocopying Michael Cunningham’s new novel, I was hooked. [For those keeping track, Katie has mentioned Columbia University, graduate seminars, Dickens, FSG, and Robert Lowell.  We love a woman who embraces her nerdiness so openly.]

What book do you point to with pride and think “I worked on that?”
Well, I’ve been so lucky – I’m proud of all the books I’ve had a hand in, whether as an editorial assistant, desk editor, or acquiring editor. But my first real pinch-me moment was probably when Claire Messud wrote a glowing full-page of Mrs. Woolf and the Servants, my first acquisition, in the New York Times. An intellectual endorsement from Messud (a genius) about a book on Virginia Woolf (possibly the greatest English writer since Shakespeare): “an absorbing and complex portrait of Woolf’s particular relation to domestics and domesticity.” Heaven. [Here's the problem--there's too much we like about this statement to mock it.  Virginia Woolf?  LOVE.  Claire Messud?  LOVE (and she has a new novel coming next spring!).  Katie's really short.  We're also starting a rumor that she has six toes on her left foot.  Spread the word.]

What are the best and worst moments in your editorial career?
The absolute worst (so far) was probably when I was an editorial assistant. I sent a deal memo, which contains all of the nitty gritty – and might I add, confidential – details about an author’s book deal, to the wrong person. I meant to send it to the foreign publisher with whom we’d done the deal, but instead I sent it to a fierce literary agent with the same first name, who must have thought she could do even better by the author, because she later picked him up as a client! That was a lay-face-down-on-the-office-floor moment. But really one of the hardest parts of the job is the books that get away, for whatever reason, and then it’s death by a thousand cuts as they come out to rave reviews. ["The books that get away"--is this code for Fifty Shades of Grey?]

Bests, I’ve had a few. Michael Crummey is one of my favorite authors, and when I found out that he hadn’t read Moby Dick (the horror – his latest book features a whale for God’s sake!) I immediately rushed him a copy. Not only did he love it, he wrote a beautiful essay  about reading it. I felt I’d given a little something back to him after his book had given me so much. But there are smaller moments as well. Just last week an author from my last job emailed to say that his daughter had been accepted to her first choice college. I love these personal tidbits I get as the relationship deepens, and I was so thrilled for this proud papa. [Zorro pooped in his litter box for the first time in four years last week!  Send me brownies!]

Any author gossip that you’re willing to reveal? Don’t worry—no one reads this blog.
Ha! If there’s one thing I know about authors, it’s that they find any and every mention of themselves online. [Exactly!  We need the hits from people other than the ones searching Google for free porn!  Tell tales!  Make stuff up.  We certainly do.  Gianna and E.L. James are the same person.]

As a Red Sox fan, describe in detail how much you hate the Yankees. Feel free to rationalize the designated hitter rule for us too; we’re National League fans.
The Yankees are the guy at the bar who hits on you so loudly and so publicly that you can’t tell if he’s actually serious. His ego is performance art. Depending on your answer, he’ll either perform the swaggering jerk that gets the girl, or he’ll perform the impervious couldn’t-care-less reject, but regardless it will be ALL ABOUT HIM. That’s the Yankees. [We were just going to say that they're assholes.]

As an impartial sports fan of New England descent, Astros or Cubs?
I used to empathize with the Cubs, but now I’m kinda mad at Theo Epstein [former Red Sox GM who is now the Cubs GM], plus the Astros no longer suffer under the curse of Roger Clemens, so…Astros. [And Liz's love for Katie lives on....]

What book(s) made you squeal with delight and led you into the dark world of publishing?
The true first would have to be Mickey Mouse’s Picnic, which my sainted mother read to me thousands upon thousands of times. Then it’s a straight line through Where the Red Fern Grows, Mrs. Mike, The Thorn Birds, Persuasion, To the Lighthouse, Bartleby the Scrivener, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Hours, Olive Kitteridge. Or so I say today. [First, Mickey Mouse is the evil overlord that has oppressed the maligned Donald Duck for decades.  Liz is quite serious about this topic.  Curse you for your duck bigotry.  The other books on your list, though, make us happy.]

What are you working on now that has you excited?
Oh so much good stuff. There’s a work of history called For Adam’s Sake, slated for next spring, which reads like Downton Abbey set in 17th century Connecticut. There’s a beautiful, crushing memoir coming next April called My Foreign Cities, about a young couple who, due to illness, have to live their whole marriage in the ten years they know they’ll have together. And a truly fabulous novel called The Last Summer of the Camperdowns about a young girl, a long summer, and a big secret. [Spoiler: she has cooties?] It’s the perfect summer book: “That dear old house. If there is a heaven, I will spend eternity on the back porch, sipping ice tea and eating radish and mayonnaise sandwiches, listening to the birds chirp, watching the mulberries ripen, hearing the waves roll in, reading Sun Tzu when my father is looking; Trixie Belden when he isn’t.” I have the best job in the world. [And cooties.]

You’re married to an editor. Tell the truth: are you better?
It really depends on what you mean by better. I’m definitely more emotional/obsessive about work (and everything), which can drive my authors crazy or make them feel like centers of the universe. But my brilliant husband is utterly unflappable, a crucial piece of the job for which I’m still searching. Also, when we took a sample Wonderlic test (given to college athletes to determine intelligence before they turn pro) my husband scored higher. And he’s also taller. I appreciate this question because it gets at the goal of marriage, which is to determine a winner and a loser. [Exactly.  We're sure you're aware that the Liz and Gianna battle for supremacy rages on.]

Liz or Gianna?
Liz picked Galore as her favorite book of 2011. For that, Liz would also win against either or both of my parents. [Excellent.  And the answer, of course, is always Liz.]

Gilda?  She's a bitch.  How could one NOT choose Zorro?
Liz’s cat Zorro or Gianna’s dog Gilda?
Gilda! Cats are too judgmental. [...You're dead to me (liz).  Unless you send brownies.]

What are your biggest grammatical pet peeves? And what’s your position on the Oxford comma?
Your/you’re. Its/it’s. Two complete sentences joined by “and” but no punctuation. YES to the Oxford comma. Long may it reign. It’s one thing to cast aside these rules in an email, but in your manuscript…for heaven’s sake! [Most of our emails disregard all punctuation and are typed as "TWSS" for "That's what she said.  Most of our email correspondence is a violation of multiple codes of conduct.  Or involves poop.]

Will you edit Liz and Gianna: A Joint Memoir? We guarantee nudity and violence.
Liveright published this book.
I think it's about a dump
or something.
Only if the book jacket can look like the movie posters for Face/Off. [Absolutely!  GIANNA IS JUST LIKE JOHN TRAVOLTA...or rather, just like his masseur.  She confessed that if Travolta offered her $400, she'd make him a regular client.  She's classy like that.  Also the Face/Off cover would be ideal since we look so much alike.]

Tell us about Liveright, the new line at Norton.
Liveright is the rebirth of one of the great names in publishing. Boni & Liveright (later just Liveright) had a remarkable heyday in the 1920s and 30s. Led by boozy, chorus-girl chasing, literary savant-whisperer Horace Liveright, they published a remarkable array of stars including T.S. Eliot, Anita Loos, Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Parker, Hart Crane, early Hemingway, early Faulkner etc etc etc. W.W. Norton bought it decades ago and decided to re-launch it this year in order to bring back some of the Liveright classics (books like My Life by Isadora Duncan and The Theater of E.E. Cummings) and to recognize and further draw upon the talents of my amazing boss – a legend in his own right – Bob Weil. [With the Liz and Gianna memoir on the list, you'll be legendary yourself.  What is the record for fastest career-ender for an editor?  Judith Regan with the OJ Simpson book?  We can top that. Gianna's even a boozy, chorus girl.]

Thanks Katie!

(By the way--the best thing about harassing an editor?  All of her answers were spelled properly.  Gianna would never send in a blog post with such polish.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gianna's Trip: A Recap

Zorro looks great on a National  Rifle Association flag.
[I have to fly to Amarillo tomorrow, I haven't unpacked 90% of the boxes from my move, and I can't properly display my NRA flag because Zorro is sleeping on it.  What?  Doesn't everyone own an NRA flag? Anyway, Gianna is currently hoofing it back from her second New York trip in two weeks, so I thought it only fitting that I procrastinate by posting this piece about her first trip.  Also, I think it's worth stating that even though we frequently travel for work, on these work trips we rarely have a moment to play tourist.  Days are long, the food sucks, and some days you want to give the finger to the world.  I compensate by swallowing down my rage and taunting the cat.  Gianna copes in other ways...I think she might be on the crack rock.]


I know how much our little Lizzy likes to keep our readers (sorry, reader) abreast of how she spends her days. I always thought my days were far too boring to share, but after reading Liz’s last account where there was not just one, but two pictures of what appears to be a morbidly obese cat sitting on a nearly empty, but buckling bookshelf--I know the camera adds 150 pounds so maybe Zorro just looks chubby--I now think "Gee, people will read just about anything."  I mean, I have a cat…plus I am going to New York City! The Big Apple, the land of a thousand bad accents, and one collectively crappy mood. So excited, picture me as Babs in the boat scene of Yentl (Papa, watch me fly!).

It's not often that Gianna
makes a Babs reference.
I mean, look out Empire State! I am headed your way with my University of Texas Press catalog, and if there is one thing I know for sure about the city so nice they named it twice, it's that they love to read about anything other than New York, written by people not living in New York. They’re a lot like Texans I guess, modest and curious beyond their borders. [If everything's bigger in Texas, doesn't that mean that Zorro is average sized?]

No line at the taxi stand at JFK--a promising start. My cab driver can’t be bothered to help me with my suitcase (perhaps sensing that it is loaded down with catalogs, advance reading copies, and cash). Hey, no worries pal, I got it; this old feminist can change a tire, put up drywall, and lift a heavy suitcase. (I can’t actually change a tire. I also cannot put up drywall and am not completely sure what drywall is. But I did carry my own suitcase). [For the record, Gianna helped to rip a hole in my drywall the other night.  If I'd actually read this piece earlier I would have watched her more carefully.]

This *might* not actually be
Gianna's taxi driver.
Halfway to Manhattan my driver asks where I’m from and when I say Texas, he makes a sad sound and then says, “Oh…George Bush.” So I say as upbeat as I can, “And don’t forget Rick Perry!” He makes another sad sound. I ask where he's from and he informs me that he's from Angola. Then he says in a voice you would hear from a preschool teacher, “That’s in Africa.” I say, “Yes, West Africa, of course.” Now I immediately regret saying this because I’ve sort of insinuated that I might know more about the geography of not only Africa, but, God help me, my own country. The reality is I can probably name five countries in Africa, and, you know, if pressed, half the states in the US. I’m very much a USA Today reader…lots of pictures. So yeah, sure enough, the old son of a bitch says “Are you familiar with Africa?” I have no choice but to say “So do you like George Bush?”

As you can imagine the conversation fizzled after that. Good thing, though, because a sporting event on the radio was about to begin and the national anthem was playing. My African pal turned it up and began to hum along. I think it's one of my sweetest New York moments ever.

After rolling up to the incredibly plush, celebrity laden, Roger Smith Hotel (new bar on roof!) and my pal once again makes a point of not even pretending to get out of the cab to help with my suitcase (seriously, I got it!) I head up to my room, drop my bags, and hit the Duane Reade. A bag of pita chips: $164, nail file: $332, and a bottle of water: $1,287. [Anyone else curious what one could do with water, pita chips, and a nail file?] Then I hit the streets hardcore. In other words, I went back up to my room and worked until 9:00 pm preparing for the next two days of meetings.

When not complaining about travel,
Gianna pitches UT Press books
I’d fill you in on the next 48 hours but most of it is even less exciting than a cat on a shelf (it’s the Elf on a Shelf for the non believers!) so let me skip to my last day. After spending $5.00 on toast (I know talking about how expensive shit is in New York is about as lame as talking about the heat in Texas…but truth is…sometimes it's just so damn hot you have to say something), and finishing my final two meetings, I shot right to the airport. Good thing I got to the there early, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to board my flight, get to the end of the runway and then be told we had to return to the gate because an engine light wouldn’t go off. Let me tell you something, if I were to turn around every single time an engine light went on in my car, I would never get anywhere!

Good news, though, they know they won't be able to fix it within two hours so they have secured us a different plane which would take off in 45 minutes. I mean, just hearing that shit you knew it was a lie. Glass half empty. We did get a $10 gift voucher though (that’s four pieces of toast y’all!). Three hours later and the only thing keeping my spirits up is Liz’s nearly constant John Travolta / massage therapist updates. [I am a wealth of information on a variety of topics.] So a little more than three hours later I am on the plane headed home.

We had to listen to the flight safety twice, and each time I could have sworn it said that the flight attendants would come by and do a cavity search. Obviously I misheard because I never did get searched. In other words…American is no Southwest.

She's the Dolly to my Latifah.
Or the other way around.
More good news, and the cherry on top of my trip was the in-flight movie. Joyful Noise (written and directed by Todd Graff of Beautician and the Beast fame) starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah (the greatest onscreen couple since Peppermint Patty and Marcie); I simply could not get enough. I would say it was only slightly better than watching any episode of Glee (calm down Randy, calm down). [Feel free to comment; I'll happily forward all tacky comments on to Gianna.] Thank God Kris Kristofferson had the sense enough to die in the first five seconds of the movie. Oh…spoiler alert. I want to be clear that I watched every single frame and highly recommend it to anyone stuck on a plane or in prison, if it’s free.

Side note, the original itinerary home said the flight time was three hours and thirty minutes. The flight time for the make up flight was three hours fifty minutes. A last little F.U. from the city that never sleeps.

Touche New York….touche.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Liesl Freudenstein

The great Liesl Freudenstein
As I've perhaps mentioned, last fall I added some new states to my Book Land territory, including Colorado.  My first official act as a rep for the (What's the state slogan for Colorado? Former Land of Tebow for a Year or So State? Mile High State? Rocky Mountain State?) state involved joining my Random House colleague Michele at Boulder Bookstore for a staff presentation.  While several reps from adult publishing lines presented titles, after we finished, the children's book buyer for Boulder Bookstore stepped up and presented books for little people.  Three things struck me about Liesl Freudenstein: 1. she knows her stuff, 2. she probably would smack me if I made a Sound of Music joke about her extremely German/Austrian name, and 3. she's probably a seriously disturbed individual.  I mean that in the best way.  I thought, "Here's someone who gets the joke....or might be drunk." I'm always impressed by adults who can sell children's books and not transform into troll princesses with pink tiaras and Seussian speech patterns.  A few weeks ago I asked Liesl if she'd be willing to answer our horrible questions, and since she indeed IS a disturbed, possibly inebriated individual, she readily agreed.  So here you go, our first ever blog post dedicated to the children's section of Book Land.  I hope you've been vaccinated properly.

Generally Horrible Questions: Liesl "Von Trapp" Freudenstein

Less important: what Liesl and her hubby are reading on
their Greek vacation.  More important is what they're
drinking.  Am I right?
1.     How did you get in the book business?
I got in the book business to foil my dad's ambitions for me.  He wanted me to be an astronaut or at least a rocket scientist, but being a hard core rebel, I choose book selling.  Also, there was a bookstore down the road and I hung around so much they gave me a job.  [So...loitering and stickin' it to the man lead to bookselling.  I guess it's better than prison.  My sister is a rocket scientist, by the way.  It's overrated.]

2.     Why children’s books?  Was there a book that drove you to it (Finnegan’s Wake, perhaps?)?
I did every other job EXCEPT children's as obviously that is the SCARIEST and most DIFFICULT type of book selling and buying and it requires an expert.  Oddly, as soon as I had a child I was dubbed an instant expert and all of my shifts were in children's from then on.  When I had two children-I was dubbed an expert times two and given the buyer job.  [If this isn't an afterschool special promoting abstinence, I don't know what is.]

3.     What book(s) changed your life?
Truly I loved Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills-my dad thinks this was the beginning of the end of my astronaut ambitions.  That and a deep mistrust of the laws of physics.  Give me magic! [Your father seems obsessed with the space program.  I can give him my sister's phone number. He'll appreciate you more afterward.]

4.     You have offspring (sorry).  What’s the best book to read aloud?  Twilight
Twilight does not make for a good read-aloud the dialogue is too stilted and there are too many silent longing glances.  Fortunately, my daughter is here to help me with the question.(pause for the asking of the  question...)

She votes for Redwall because it has "lots of fun accents and it's very entertaining with all of the songs and descriptions of food-it's fun to listen to mom read it."  I take that back, she can no longer help-Redwall is exceedingly difficult to read out loud--too many accents,  so many lengthy  picnics plus there is poetry and singing too.  [Sometimes Gianna reads me passages from Fifty Shades of Grey. That book is awesome for the tweens!]

5.     Seriously, how much do you love Twilight
I have never read I disqualified now? [Our love for you is undying.]

6.     What children’s book should everyone give their kids but has slipped under the radar?
We (previously mentioned daughter & I) think Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell is brilliant. Whimsical, half graphic, and a mystery to boot.  I also think that every child should have a copy of When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach.  Not as much teen angst as Twilight, but the look on the mother's face when the baker gives her son a real dinosaur is way better than anything Bella could express. [Wait--Bella has expressions?]

7.     What’s the last adult book you read?  (Twilight is not an adult book.)
I just finished Karin Slaughter's new book--'cause when I'm not reading about teen drug use, depression, identity crisis, and the end of the world, I like to read about serial killers. [This answer is damn near perfect in every way.]

8.     As the first children’s book specialist featured on this blog, is today the greatest day of your life?
Today is truly the best day of my life--I hope it's as good for you as it is for me....oh, except for that time I was interviewed by Erin Zlotnik for her blog-she was my first. [You didn't save yourself for us?  Insert follow-up abstinence comment here.]

9.     Liz or Gianna?
I don't know Gianna, so I'm wondering what she's like.  [Gianna says she can be whatever you want her to be.  However, the correct answer is ALWAYS LIZ.]

10.  Harry or Voldemort? Or that older, frumpy woman in the pink suit from the movie trailers?
Harry-at least he has a nose-too creepy without a nose.....but the snake thing is interesting.  [This is a trick question.  The correct answer is "whoever Maggie Smith plays."]

11.  Amuse us with an anecdote from the land of little people.
Are you calling me short? [Yeah, I call everybody short.]  I just had a lovely conversation with a child regarding his vast Lego collection, how many books he has (at least 500 including sticker books), and how many blocks(millions and millions), and how l should really, really get more books, because well, he "has all these" as he completely dismisses my entire Lego section with a casual wave of his hand.  Kids are like that, tellin'  it like it is.  [Um...children should be seen and not heard...or not seen and not heard.]

12.  A friend of mine makes me watch Yo Gabba Gabba with her kid.  Also, she didn’t name her son after me.  How should I handle this situation?
That's tough!  I would offer to babysit, then give him a recording of the Barney song, play it until he has it memorized then send him home with it.  [I'm pretty sure that I'm not legally permitted to babysit anymore, but I like the way you think.]

13.  What’s your latest book love?
I am very excited for The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There-by Catherynne Valente.  I loved the first book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making very much; it has a great voice capturing what makes books like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland so wonderful.  A mix of dreamworlds and childhood  and unexpected complications--just like growing up. Plus it's an awesome title.  I also love a whole box of RH books I just received from Erin...I haven't opened it yet--I'm waiting for privacy--but there are bound to be some really awesome books in it like a kid's version of 50 Shades of Grey-maybe 25 Helpings of Mudpies?  [We are now searching the Urban Dictionary for the definition of "mudpie."....Yikes.  There are eight definitions and we aren't bold enough to put any of them on here. Definition #9 would be "cause for termination."]

Thanks Liesl!  You do Children's Book Land proud.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

10 Cool Things: Left Bank Books

So last week I (Liz) was moving, and I didn't manage to post anything to the blog.  I'm sorry.  I have no excuse.  To make amends, though, we're featuring a new bookstore.  Here you go--10 cool things about a St. Louis institution that isn't either beer, the Arch, or the (expletive) Cardinals.  

(Gianna) I want everyone to sit down. I am about to write some pretty great things about St. Louis. That’s right, St. Louis, home of my arch enemy in baseball. I would like to think that I am a big enough person to put these
A bench needs a great reading quote from Frederick Douglass.  
things aside. Turns out I'm not, so Liz has agreed to delete any negative comments about the Cardinals. Go Cubs! [I will not.  Cardinals are the flesh-eating bacterium of the National League.]

1. You may think that you have a pretty good idea what your local bookseller is like, but chances are you’re wrong. Thanks to the Left Bank website which profiles their booksellers in-depth (think Cronkite), we get a closer look. Daniel misses his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle slippers, April believes that George C. Scott would best play her in a movie of her life [I think the same is true for Gianna, actually], Erin is brave enough to admit that the author she loves to hate is Mitch Albom (get in line Erin…get in line), and Jonesey loves to hate John Kennedy Toole which makes Liz very happy [so incredibly Jonesey single?]. And then there is our favorite bookseller finding. When asked what was in the trunk of his car, Stu answered, “Books, I have soooo many books, which is distressing because I no longer have anywhere to put bodies.” It's funny because it’s the Midwest. [I'd put Pujols in my trunk, which is why it's just as well I drive a Jeep.]
Fun people, cool store merchandise,
and "we're the gayest store ever."

2. You have nothing to do? You live in St. Louis and you’re bored? You must be stoned, brother! Just in May alone you could have met Madeleine Albright, Alison Bechdel, John Sanford, pitcher John Smoltz [not a Cardinal], and Vanessa Williams. And PS…the month ain't even over.

3. They have a lesbian reading group! [This is what we could Gianna's surreptitious reading of Fifty Shades of  I stand corrected.]

Thanks for the warning. I'm sure the Mayans were aware
of this possibility too.
4. Oh, they have a gay dude reading group too. Man, lesbians can’t have anything for themselves…except Ellen.

5. Left Bank has a very cool “Friends of Left Bank Literary Society” (which sounds like something Dan Brown may write about one day). For a modest membership fee you are privy to year-round discounts, two private book sales per year and that’s not all, friends. You will also be invited to private receptions with authors. We’re not talking just any old authors either. We are talking Anothony Bourdain and David Sedaris types. Can’t get that at Amazon when you buy a waffle maker and a book. [I think "waffle maker" is a euphemism for a "The Anti-Christ is a Cardinals fan!" bumper sticker.]

6. Like any good independent business, Left Bank has a close knit relationship with the community. Oh, and Jarek as lunch with the mayor at least once a week.

David Sedaris street party!
7. Open since 1969 bitches!! The opening of Left Bank Books was the single biggest news story of 1969. Well, that and the landing on the moon. Oh, sorry, I mean the supposed landing on the moon. Of course there are those that say the opening of Left Bank was actually filmed in a Hollywood studio. Something to do with shadows and wind. The second location opened in 2008 downtown, with no such controversy.

Hillary Rodham Clinton!  I'm sure she was
"greeted" properly when she walked in.
8. This store is truly unique. Here is an example. Owners Jarek and Kris personally greet each customer with a light but meaningful peck on the cheek. And by cheek I mean mouth. I usually go to the store three times to mix it up.

T.S. Eliot lived in St. Louis.
He gets a statue.
9. You only go places Yelp approves of? Don’t blame you. Left Bank has 4 1/2  stars out of 5. I assume Kris got a little handsy during her customer greeting shift mentioned above. That may have ended up costing 1/2 star. It could also be the only reason they got 4 1/2 stars too. Can’t be certain.

Spike, bookstore cat, named one of the
best bookstore cats in the country,
and the official bookstore cat of
Book Expo this year.
10. Lastly they have an excellent and active Facebook page (unlike ours). "Like" their page and you will find excellent musings such as this:

Kindle Commercial "It's only $79 AND it reads just like a real paper book."
Left Bank Books Commercial idea #431 "It's only 14.95 and it IS a real paper book."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Liz's Week: A Recap

Okay, I just sent a text message to Gianna warning her that I was feeling punchy and planned to post something to the blog.  Her response?  "Ok!"  That's support.  I know that usually I'm the less outrageous of our duo, but I am procrastinating from packing for a move next week, I haven't slept in days, the super-bright full moon is freaking me out at night, and I have enough allergy medication in my system that I'm getting dizzy when I walk around.  Oh, and I'm watching Twister on TV even though I have nightmares about tornadoes but I A) will watch anything with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and B) I want Bill Paxton to be ripped apart in a storm.  Maybe this is the time it will happen.  Cross your fingers.

Did I mention I'm procrastinating?  I'm moving in five days and making real progress.  This is the picture of my living room I sent to my pal/colleague Stacey yesterday:

And this is the picture at this moment. (Yes, that's Helen Hunt contemplating the death of her father years earlier as the monster tornado approaches the movie theater.  She's an Academy Award winner, you know, but I think this is as good as it gets for HH.)

Anyway, this is a book blog about our adventures selling books, and it's been awhile since we posted anything about our jobs as reps in the Book Land trenches.  This week I sold to three accounts in Houston, and I also drove around the publisher for Random House Audio and RH Travel, who was in town giving talks about travel books.  I'm not making this up--the publisher for a division of Random House uttered these words: "We want to be in your blog!  We love it!"  Right.  I've seen Jerry Maguire.  Everyone loves Jerry's mission statement until Bob Sugar takes him to lunch and fires his ass.  I will not be dining with RH supervisors at any point in the future.  My point is that people who probably shouldn't know about this blog are reading it, which makes me an idiot for telling this story.
Amanda D'Acierno,
VP and Publisher,
wants to be in the blog.

So on Thursday I gave a book presentation at a school parents meeting.  This event was scheduled at the beginning of the year by a woman who'd seen my dog and pony show at a school book fair luncheon last November.  Random House is actively encouraging reps to give presentations and perform direct-to-consumer marketing, so in theory my participation with the PTA gatherings is considered a positive career move.  I should say that I know next to nothing about schools in the Houston area other than that Rushmore was filmed at St. John's and my mother attended Bellaire.  Oh, and there's this other woman who saw my book fair presentation for the Briarwood School last year, found me on Facebook, friended me, and also has a kid at this school where I was giving my talk on Thursday, and she's referring to herself as "your biggest fan" and "your stalker."  She doesn't look like Annie Wilkes from Misery and she's never called me "dirty birdy," so I'm going to assume that she's not dangerous...but she is a nurse like Annie Wilkes.  (I watch too many movies.  This is what happens when you can't sleep and are procrastinating when you should be packing.)

Anyway, I knew nothing about this school.  The publicist traveling with the audio publisher, though, was all "Oh, Duchesne! The Catholic school!  That's where Chris Gillespie went to school."  Chris Gillespie works with Knopf and I think she's a Vice President.  She's smart and cool and I seriously hope she doesn't read this blog.  The point is that someone who's directly tied to the New York offices of Random House attended the all girls Catholic school where I was giving a book talk the following day.  I'd sent a list of summer reading type titles--my favorite books in hardcover from the spring and books new in paperback for book groups--weeks earlier to both the school contact and Georgette from Barnes and Noble who would be selling books at the event.  I didn't really think about the list after I sent it because they were all books I'd read and liked and were easy for me to discuss.

Here's a real conversation when I arrived at the school and ran into another woman who'd attended an earlier presentation of mine:

Mother of Duchesne student: Liz!  This is exciting.
Liz: Hi!  I'm so glad they'd let me do this.
Mother: We can't do understand that this is....well....
Liz: A Catholic school?
Mother: Some of the people are pretty conservative.
Liz: Gotcha.

Parents Association moms and the school head mistress.
What I was thinking, though, was "How is this PTA type gathering different from other PTA type gatherings where I've done my dog and pony show?"  The answer, of course, NUNS.  I have great respect for nuns because they seriously dedicate themselves to lives of service and the alleviation of suffering.  They are humanitarians.  I've met nuns in the hospital before, and occasionally sold books to them when I worked at BookPeople.  My presentations, though, tend toward the irreverent.  (My friend Elizabeth just had me call her house phone to see if she'd properly forwarded calls to her cell, and then mentioned that she's going out to fly kites with her family today.  I'd hate her except that I'm not exactly packing anyway.  Okay, I still hate her.  Also, Bill Paxton is going to survive.  This movie sucks.)

Nuns.  I wouldn't be dropping as much profanity, then.  (An aside, as if this entire post isn't just one long parenthetical statement--my stalker Facebook chatted with me the evening after the presentation and referred to the headmistress as S. NameOfNunICan'tRemember.  And I'm so unaccustomed to nuns that I thought the "S" stood for "senora," and I wondered how she could be a senora--a married woman--and still be a nun.  And then I thought that it's because she's married to Jesus/the church, which of course I was basing on my vast movie-watching knowledge of Catholicism and though this perhaps sounds disrespectful I don't mean it that way.)  Georgette from Barnes and Noble introduced me to the 35 or so women sitting on folding chairs in a building that was once the maintenance shed but was still nicer than my high school gym.  Oh, and Georgette told them that Zorro the cat weighs 75 lbs.  He's not a puma, for crying out loud.  He's just a little pudgy.  Also, one of the reasons I bought a house was so that I didn't have to fill out another apartment application and state that my pet weighs less than 25 lbs.  It was too close for me to not feel like I was lying on an official document.  As I mentioned, though, I picked the books weeks earlier and didn't think about them...and then I was talking about them.

(I've now flipped channels to Memphis Belle because I love David Strathairn.  Did you know that every member of the plane crew was ranked as a sergeant or higher?  That's weird right?  That there aren't privates?  Heh.  Privates.)

I love Harry Hole.
One of the books I was discussing happened to be Jo Nesbo's The Snowman.  I've presented this title before because it's the logical follow-up for people who read Stieg Larsson.  Also, it's typically a hoot discussing this title because the main character--who's Norwegian and I'm sure his name is St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Norway--is named Harry Hole.  It cracks me up.  Harry Hole!  It's a full book, in fact it's a whole series of books, about Harry Hole.  Are you following me here?  I said "Harry Hole" at an all girls Catholic school in front of 30 PTA moms and at least 3 nuns.  I am absolutely certain that people were praying for my damned soul on Thursday night.  Senora HeadMistress seemed to recover, though, and came up to me afterward to discuss another book I'd presented, Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison.  I did not mention that Kathryn Harrison's first book, The Kiss, was a memoir about an incestuous affair with her father.  See?  I do have restraint.

This is what I do for a living...for now.