Monday, May 30, 2005

The San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting feature on Sunday on writer Michael Lewis, who lives in the Berkeley Hills. He seems to write one best-selling book after another. Moneyball was a big hit in my house, and now he’s come out with a small book that is a testimonial to his former coach, called Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life.

Reporter Paul Wilner did a particularly nice job explaining how Lewis ingratiates himself with his subjects:

“Lewis is offhand about the journalistic techniques he has used to persuade otherwise extremely preoccupied people, like Beane and Clark, to give up large chunks of their personal and professional time to an almost complete stranger. He's not opposed to using juice when required; Eisenhardt, whom he'd met while doing a City Arts & Lectures interview with Larry Ellison, offered to be a go-between with the A's.

In Clark's case, "I was literally pedaling a bicycle around Silicon Valley. Tabitha had a Knight Fellowship at Stanford; that was why we came out here in the first place, in '97." In recent years, Soren has largely forsaken her pop-culture roots to pursue a career as a professional photographer. "All this (new economy) stuff was just starting, and I could see the financiers of Silicon Valley were leapfrogging the hotshots on Wall Street. I realized after a while that what I was looking for was the guy who was always after the new thing, always on the edge. Someone mentioned Clark's name to me, the fact that he'd been involved in Silicon Graphics before Netscape, and that he was a guy who was morphing over and over again.

"I was in a diner across the street from Stanford and thought, You've really just got to find this guy. So I went to the pay phone, saw he was listed and put a quarter in. The woman who answered the phone gave me another number, which turned out to be a little office where he was building his boat, a computerized yacht. He answered the phone himself, and said, 'I'm just over here, coating the boat. Come on by.' He gave me the address, four miles down the road, and I rode to his office.

"What I found, which is often true, is that very quickly I had a sense of whether I want to keep writing about this person. He was sort of humored that I was interested. It wasn't like he was being inundated by journalists. Nobody was calling him.

"I also was of interest to him because he was about to choose a Wall Street investment banker, and I had worked there. But maybe the bigger point is that I did my best to not get on his nerves. You don't want people groaning, 'Oh, this guy's coming over and he's going to irritate me for two hours.' At the very least, I'm innocuous."

devorah major, during her tenure as poet laureate for San Francisco, got people from the battle-scarred streets of the city to write about senseless drive-by shootings and the sadness and destruction of violence. She writes about her experience in her new book, The Other Side of the Postcard. You can see her complete introduction at California Authors.

“In creating my project I wanted to show how the music of truth laid on the rhythms of compassion could build the world we want, not by shying away from the realities of our streets, but by embracing them in their totality, and seeing them full of beauty and inspiration as well as cruelty and destruction. Although San Francisco was starting point of the project, the poems reach through the specificity of place and time to truly embrace the world. No matter where you live, you can find your block, your city, your observations, your insights. Perhaps the names will be different, but the spirits will be familiar.

Lovell Taylor is a teen who has seen too many street memorials, perhaps has even helped to build a few. His harsh understandings explode on the page:

“I am that bullet that makes you bleed
I am that person in yo bad dreams
And you wake up and scream
I am that person who hides from da sun”

Impassioned, celebratory, difficult, loving, troubling: poems from around the Bay Area filled my post office box. Some poets spoke of homelessness; some, like Writers Corps teen poet Yvette Buckner shared their despair:

"I don’t exist in this place
I have no face, just a voice you hear
Crying out silent tears
Moving through the crowd of death
Fighting a war that never ends”

If you’ve needed an overview of the whole lit blog scene, the Daily Telegraph from London has a description. (via Complete Review)

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