Monday, April 28, 2008
For the last few weeks I have been ensconced in my office, furiously making corrections to my manuscript. I have been in copy editing purgatory, that never-never land between a mess and a finished book.
I now appreciate the merits of a copy editor. I thought I had turned in a fairly clean manuscript, but my copy editor caught dozens of mistakes. I would spell a company's name one way on one page and another way fifty pages later. And he caught those discrepancies.
Those errors were easy to correct. What was excruciating was fixing my footnotes. I have been researching the life of Isaias Hellman for eight years now and have gotten information from a half dozen libraries, dozens of newspapers and books, and visits to places around the world. I thought I had documented the sources of all my information, but I soon discovered that I was missing a page number here, a folder number there, or a title or publisher. It took hours and hours and more hours to track everything down.
The photo is a picture of my office after I had finished. Papers everywhere.
Here is a close up of a page of my footnotes. The copy editor's comments are in red and my corrections are in blue and green. The picture below is my manuscript, finally completed! It's close to 470 pages, which will be about 380 in book form. Now I am just waiting for the finished cover.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
John King, the Chronicle's architectural critic, talks about the new Cody's Books on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley and how bookstores contribute to neighborhood life.
Lisa Margonelli won a Northern California Book Award in nonfiction for her book Oil on the Brain: Adventures From the Pump to the Pipeline. Cristina Garcia won the fiction prize for A Handbook to Luck. Robert Hass won the prize in poetry for Time and Materials. You can find a complete list of winners here.
Lucky authors can be on their very own trading cards. The latest to get this honor? Bonk author Mary Roach.
The Grotto, the San Francisco Writers' Collective, has started its own blog.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I attended a fascinating conference over the weekend, one that was stimulating and depressing at the same time. It was the California Studies Association conference at
There were many incredible panels, including one on immigration and the border, one on the
But my favorite panel, of course, had to do with books. It was called Writing California, and it examined the work of four distinguished authors: John Steinbeck, Carey McWilliams, Wallace Stegner, and Mike Davis.
Rick Wartzman, a BusinessWeek columnist and former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, talked about his upcoming book Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, which will be released in September. The Grapes of Wrath is set in
Phillip Fradkin, the author of a new biography about Wallace Stegner, talked about the writer and teacher. Peter Richardson, the author of a biography about the writer Carey McWilliams, talked about he was “one of the most important writers of whom we have never heard.”
UC Berkeley Professor Richard Walker discussed the works of Mike Davis, a prolific writer who came to great public attention with the publication of City of Quartz. It was wonderful to hear
What stood about these authors is that they all wrote elegantly and prolifically about
“Maybe there is no such thing as a
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Still, what a thrill.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
My old journalism school colleague, Sam Roe, won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for the Chicago Tribune’s investigative series on the hidden hazards in Chinese-made toys, car seats and cribs. The companies making the toys apparently knew that they posed choking hazards, as did the federal government, but no one did anything about it. Several kids died as a result.
In these days of gloom and doom in the newspaper industry, the Pulitzer Prizes serve as reminder of what journalism can do: that old adage, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Now people are looking first to the Web for their news content. Many newspapers are still turning out important stories but the ranks of decently-paid reporters are growing thinner.
Sam and I graduated from the
Friday, April 04, 2008
Interior of San Francisco Public Library
Interior of San Francisco Public Library
There are so many book-related awards that it’s hard to know which ones to trumpet and which ones to ignore. Since this blog deals in part with the Bay Area literary scene, I try and mention prizes and contests that concern local authors.
It’s April, award season. The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced on Monday, always an exciting day in the publishing and journalism worlds.
The book critics of the
Here are the nominees:
* Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra, HarperCollins
* The Great Far Away, by Joan Frank, The Permanent Press
* A Handbook to Luck, by Cristina Garcia, Alfred A.
* A Far Country, by Daniel Mason, Alfred A. Knopf
* Locke 1928, by Shawna Yang Ryan, El
* The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance, Fritjof
* Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline, Lisa Margonelli,
* Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately
Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution, Thomas McNamee, The Penguin Press
* Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, Robert
B. Reich, Alfred A. Knopf
* Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race, Richard Rhodes, Alfred A.
* Ticket to Exile, a memoir, Adam David Miller, Heyday Books
* Back on the Fire: Essays, Gary Snyder, Shoemaker & Hoard
* Storming the Gates of
Politics, Rebecca Solnit, University of
* Poor People, William T. Vollmann, Ecco
* The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific, Julia Whitty,
* Frail-Craft, Jessica Fisher,
* Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005, Robert Hass, Ecco
* Expectation Days, Sandra McPherson,
* The Second Person, C. Dale Young,
* Embryoyo, Dean Young, Believer Books/McSweeney's
* Translation by Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, by
Robert Alter, from Hebrew, W.W. Norton
* Translation by Alison Anderson, The Palestinian Lover by Sélim Nassib, from French,
* Translation by John Balcom, Driftwood by Lo Fu, from Chinese, Zephyr Press
* Translation by Carol Cosman, Exile and the Kingdom by Albert Camus, from French,
* Translation by Anne Fountain, Closed for Repairs by Nancy Alonso, from Spanish,
* Penguins, Penguins Everywhere!, Bob Barner, Chronicle Books
* The Apple Doll, Elisa Kleven, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
* Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra, Wendy Lichtman, Greenwillow Books
* The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry, Henry H. Neff, Random House
* Why War Is Never a Good Idea, Alice Walker, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, HarperCollins
Local critics read the books, discuss their merits and pick the winners. All of the nominated books will be saluted at the ceremony, but only six authors will walk away with the honors.
- Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems
A book signing and reception with the authors follows the Awards Ceremony in the Latino/Hispanic Room from 2:30-4:00 pm. Nominated books will be on sale at the
Thursday, April 03, 2008
That observation may seem mundane, even obvious. But I came of age in the 1970s when teenagers regarded drugs as recreation, a way to change life’s tempos. Since I never developed a drug habit, I had little reason to reexamine my assumptions.
But as the Sheffs’ searing books make clear, using drugs is a form of Russian Roulette. You might smoke some pot and snort coke and never get that bullet in the chamber. On the other hand, the bullet can fire in the first round.
The evening started out with an announcement by journalist Gary Pomerantz, who also served on the Beyond Borders Advisory Board, that David Sheff’s book Beautiful Boy will be #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list this week. The crowd roared and clapped at the news. Nic's young adult book, Tweak, is also selling briskly.
It’s not surprising to hear this. In the age of memoir, this one speaks to an enormous audience. Drug addiction pervades our society and the treatment options are poor. So hundreds of thousands of Americans are left to muddle through a hodge podge of rehabilitation centers, detox clinics, hospitals and the like.
Throughout the tour, audiences have shared their own stories about addiction and that was also the case last night. One woman stood up to ask if love would help her brother through his addiction. The sad answer was no. Nic Sheff said that while he was gripped by drugs, all he could think of was himself. He rarely pondered how his family was reacting to his drug use and he certainly wasn’t thinking about their best interests.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
For a laugh, read Ed Champion’s April Fools' Day posts.
I was very happy to see this film deal reported in Publisher’s Marketplace:
Mark Kurzem's THE MASCOT: UNRAVELING THE THE MYSTERY OF MY JEWISH FATHER'S NAZI BOYHOOD, to Heathcliff Productions, in a significant deal, by Sarah Self at The Gersh Agency, on behalf of Robert Guinsler at Sterling Lord Literistic.
The Mascot is the amazing story of Kurzem’s father, who escaped annihilation during the Holocaust and lived like a pet with Latvian soldiers during the war. He dressed up in miniature Nazi uniforms and had to pretend he was not Jewish, all the while living among soldiers who were hunting other Jews. After the war, he moved to
I went to see novelist/performance artist Alison Larkin on Sunday in a benefit for PACT, an adoption alliance. I went because I was intrigued by Larkin’s new book, The English American, but left with a deeper appreciation for the conflicts and identity crises that can face adopted children.
Larkin was born in
From that, Larkin wrote The English American, a very funny novel with an adoptive heroine at its center. The protagonist has a happy childhood, but still wants to uncover her roots. For a taste, consider these opening words: