Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nether, netherland

The internets are abuzz that President Obama is reading, of all things, a literary novel--Joseph O'Neill's Netherland.

Things are going to get better.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wheaton Hills Book Club

The Rivards hosted the dinner, and the neighborhood came out in full force for the Wheaton Hills Book Club discussion of Angels of Destruction last night, the birthday of William Shakespeare, Shirley Temple, and my dad. These are the folks who see you out mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or cracking crabs on a hot summer day, and so it is passing strange to switch identities and be writer and readers for a few hours. But these conversations are often the most interesting part of the whole publishing process, the chance to hear others' reactions and questions, and to realize the great leap from imagination to the page. What begins as a stray thought turns into a very public display, one that is slightly uncomfortable yet gracious and warm and downright neighborly.

Robert Frost famously said that fences make good neighbors, but perhaps books can sometimes hurdle fences?

Thanks to one and all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Jackets

photo Bodelian Library, University of Oxford
Since they're running out of the hardcover edition of Stolen Child, I've put up the paperback over there. In so doing, I got curious about the whole history of dust jackets. Seems the first one - dating from 1829. More info from the blogs of the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


A magazine from Germany -- Phantastische -- arrived yesterday with an interview and a review of The Stolen Child. The German paperback comes out in May. One of the fun parts of the whole publishing experience is seeing the different interpretations by cover designers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Madrid in New Mexico

A couple of years ago I revisited the little town of Madrid, New Mexico with my sister, and we walked down to the old ballfield. The grandstand was in danger of collapsing in on itself, cacti grew in the outfield, and the bones of some mice littered the floor of one of the stone dugouts. I had known that the field once was home to the Madrid Miners, a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920s and '30s. Standing out on the empty field, you could almost see the ghosts of the ballplayers running across the diamond.

I stumbled across Midori Snyder's blog The Labyrinth the other day and was pleasantly surprised to learn about the archives of Pinky Werner, whose grandfather ran the Madrid Coal Mine. Photos of old Madrid, the Miners, and the ballfield in its heyday!

Part of Angels is set in the little town, and one of the characters has a Madrid Miners jersey framed in her living room. Now I know what they look like.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Strange and Dubious Angels

A lot of people (well, one person) have been asking about the origins of the strange and ambiguous angels in Angels of Destruction, and several works were the inspirations for the book.

There are the angels in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the transcendental moment in Emerson where, when crossing a bare common in the snow, he becomes one with infinite space, and the thing with feathers in Emily Dickinson's poem.

Late in his life, the painter Paul Klee also did a series of very unusual angels which strike me as charged images. And the song "Strange Angels" from the album of the same name by Laurie Anderson with the angels who "clean out the refrigerator..." Note the resemblance between one of Klee's angels and Ms. Anderson.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is it about a bicycle?

April 1 is the day of fools, but also the feast day of the late St. Myles na gCopaleen, AKA Flann O'Brien, AKA Brian O'Nolan, who passed through the mortal veil on this day in 1966, leaving the world a sadder place. Myles is the patron saint of acerbic alcoholics, the nom de guerre of the author of "Cruiskeen Lawn," a daily column that ran in the Irish Times for a quarter-century, and the person responsible for Flann O'Brien. Quite possibly the funniest writer going, he can be reached through his three classic novels: At Swim-Two-Birds, The Third Policeman, and The Poor Mouth (available in The Everyman's Library edition) or through the The Best of Myles, a collection of his newspaper columns.

I spent a lot of time with Myles in the 1990s, working on my dissertation, and this blog is named after a character in The Third Policeman, and it isn't often that one can refer to a bicycle as a character, having a discernible personality and so forth, but there you go. Myles is a funny fella and a damned fine writer.

Lift a glass in his honor down at the snug, for his like will not be seen again.