In this bunny eat bunny world, we’ve seen celebrity authors come and go. Mostly come, in droves, especially after Harry Potter put a spotlight on the profit potential of the children’s book biz. Ca-ching.
Everybody’s making millions!
For many of us non-celebrity authors and illustrators, dressed in our dreary clothes, clutching our cold coffee cups, it’s hard not to be a little, urm, disgusted at times. The crappy book by the “star” that gets a ridiculous amount of undeserved attention.
But that’s life, so we deal with it, and try to keep our petty thoughts to ourselves.
However, I hasten to add: not all celebrity books suck. Jamie Lee Curtis wrote some good ones, as I recall. Fred Gwynne — Herman Munster! — made a sincere effort to create singular children’s books. By that I mean, my sense is that they actually worked on the books, actually respected the idea of a children’s book, and got into it for the “right reasons,” however we might differ in defining what those reasons are. It wasn’t just a way to cash in on something.
Anyway, this fresh, new effort by B.J. Novak is brilliant. Yes, absolutely, he came up with a clever idea. A great idea. But then he pulled it off over the course of an entire book. That’s not at all easy. And it’s beautifully published, too. Great job, all around.
Kids today, they sure do love the meta.
Enjoy this book with no pictures, folks. Go ahead, stomp on that link, surrender to the video. It makes me wish that I had a room full of kids to read this one too.
Both of my parents smoked. I grew up in a cloud of cigarette smoke. We’d go on long drives for our summer vacations in Vermont, seven children and my parents packed in a station wagon, and they’d smoke for seven hours, windows closed. Mom made dozens of sandwiches for the road, wrapped in wax paper. We chewed and gagged, swallowed and coughed. Things were different back then. Not complaining, it’s just the way it was, especially growing up in the 60s and 70s (born in 1961). So I guess I’ve always had an affection for smokers, or at least sympathy.
When I watch Mad Men on TV, I see my parents’ world re-imagined, an era that speaks to my soul.
Anyway, this is funny . . . Hat tip to the “Ellen” show.
Know this: Unemployment in Spain is at 26 percent. The country, and its people, are going through a very tough time. High taxes, plunging salaries, confusion, bitterness, anger, fear, desperation — with record numbers applying for jobless benefits.
So one recent day at the unemployment office in Madrid, a flash mob of musicians came along to brighten the day, at least for a few minutes. Watch, please.
Burt Lancaster starred in a literate little 1968 film called “The Swimmer,” based on a short story by John Cheever. I’m certain that I watched the movie as a kid, probably on The 4:30 Movie during Burt Lancaster week. Growing up, I don’t have many memories of Mom ever telling me to turn off the TV, except when dinner was ready, so I saw pretty much everything. Unlike much of it that never left an imprint, “The Swimmer” always stuck with me (btw, it’s currently available on the cinematic wasteland known as Netflix Instant).
Here, check out the trailer.
That inspired device — swimming home by pool-hopping across the neighborhood — initiates a journey into the past for Ned Merrill, a journey of self-realization and heartbreak. The movie did not make much of a splash at the box office, though some critics liked it and, from what I can gather, it still has it’s devotees. According to Variety: “A lot of people are not going to understand this film; many will loathe it; others will be moved deeply.”
I’m telling you this because I gave the movie a subtle nod in Before You Go. In this scene, Corey and Jude are hanging out on the roof of Jude’s house, which was something I used to do as a teenager, just get on that roof, look down on suburban Long Island, and dream of my escape.
“Check out that sweet swimming pool behind Ansari’s house, all lit up with floodlights.” Corey whistled. “Man, that water is calling my name. We should grab Vinnie and the guys, sneak out, and go pool-hopping some night. I wonder how many we could do. What do you think, Jude, if we swam our way across town? Hopping from pool to pool. That would be a trip.”
In the book, they don’t make that journey. The idea begins and dies right there on the roof. But I got it from the old 4:30 Movie, and can still hear that great theme song today, because it’s from the soundtrack of my life.
Back in September, the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group invited me to participate in “something special” that they had cooked up for Banned Books Week (September 30 – October 6).
Essentially, I was one of several authors invited to place three copies of MCPG’s most challenged books in public places during Banned Books Week.
I said, “Count me in.” And added, “Thanks for asking.”
A couple of weeks later, a letter from Marketing Director Elizabeth Fithian came along with three beautiful books: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander.
“Enclosed are the books we ask you to place in public areas. Please add a personal note in each book and if you are willing to do so, add your signature.”
I was concerned that the books might just sit there, or be disposed of, unless they were properly identified, so I adhered labels with that key word, FREE.
Here’s a closer look:
I enjoyed lurking about, leaving those terrific books in public places. Yes, that includes a bathroom. It was sneaky and mildly subversive and mostly fun.
Elizabeth also directed me to this two-minute video you might enjoy, put together by the Association of American Publishers: