Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Joe McGinniss, author of Fatal Vision, The Big Horse, Never Enough, etc., has moved into the house next door to Sarah Palin and her family. He is currently writing an unauthorized biography of her.

Now she can see Joe McGinniss from her house. He rented the one next door to hers in Wasilla. His is the one on the left in the picture below.

He's not her biggest fan. He wrote an article in March 2009 for the now defunct magazine Portfolio on the failed natural gas pipeline project she touted during her term as governor. He bid almost $60,000 in a charity auction to have dinner with her, but lost.

Journalists write unauthorized biographies of public figures, whether they're happy about it, or not. Sometimes the bombshells they drop don't affect them, such as Albert Goldman's biographies of Elvis, and John Lennon, because the subjects are dead. I think that's a little neater--Kitty Kelley's books are about living people, including Oprah, and Nancy Reagan. People love to hear the insider stories....

I can't imagine what a writer would get from moving in next door. Seem's a bit much....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good Writing Lives Forever

In yesterday's New York Times, there was an article about Chaim Grade, a Yiddish writer who passed away in 1982. His widow had not allowed scholars to examine the papers that filled their small Bronx apartment. She died this month, and it is thought there may be many unpublished works by Grade waiting to be discovered in their home.
Grade had a good reputation while he was alive, but had been overshadowed by the Nobel Prize winning Isaac Bashevis Singer, the only Yiddish writer to be so honored. There were many great Yiddish writers in the past century, including I.L. Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, and Israel Joseph Singer (I.J. was I.B. Singer's older brother--their sister Esther Kreitman was also a writer, but we don't have any books by her in our system.)

There are other examples of writers who had posthumous revivals. In the late 90's there was a renewal of interest in Dawn Powell, a novelist who had died with virtually all of her work out of print. Zora Neale Hurston, was a writer from the Harlem Renaissance whose work had fallen into obscurity until an article by Alice Walker was written about her. (I recommend the audio version of her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, read by Ruby Dee.)  It helps to have a champion--John Kennedy Toole's champion was his mother, who brought the manuscript of his novel A Confederacy of Dunces to Walker Percy, who helped get it published. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981, twelve years after Toole's death.

I like to think that these writers can still receive their accolades in the Great Beyond...or at least, that they had confidence that their work had merit, even though they never lived to hear it praised. So if you are a writer, and haven't been called by the Nobel Committee yet, take heart. You might be in the same company as Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, Jane Austen.....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Is Your Life an Open (Face)Book?

I was looking up email addresses for newspapers today, and happened upon a couple of articles about local officials who'd posted photos of themselves on Facebook, doing things which, well, let's just say that they'll probably not use these same photos in campaign literature. There were also quotes shown, which, well, you wouldn't repeat them to grandma. Not my grandma, at least.

Many people use the library computers to get online, and they do their Internet business--email, Facebook, personals ads, etc.--at the library. I remember when computers were introduced in public libraries, and there were fears of allowing people to do anything more than "serious" research. I knew of libraries that did not allow users to access email, or shopping websites. Of course, email was 90-95% of what people wanted to do...

To learn more about social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, go to the Troy Public Library. They are offering workshops on these two sites. Twitter will be the focus on Monday, the 17th, at 6:00; a Facebook workshop will be held the following night, at the same time. Call them at 274-7071 for more information. You never know when you might want to run for public office.

In the meantime here's a few links to articles on Facebook privacy:

Tell-All Generation Learns to Keep Things Offline

7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you...

Does your favorite author have a website? More often than not, the answer is yes. Authors spend a lot of time working alone, in quiet rooms, so they often welcome the opportunity to connect with their readers in a casual way. A website gives them a chance to keep their fanbase informed of upcoming releases, and publicize titles of earlier works they may know about. Also it can be one more creative outlet, or outlet for wackiness, like Dave Pilkey's Extra Crunchy Website o' Fun. (Dave is the author of the Captain Underpants books.)

Some author websites have a lot of the author's style in them, like jkrowling.com, author of the Harry Potter series. Not surprisingly, it's a pretty slick website. For something a little more homey, check out murdershebaked.com, the home of Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swensen mystery series, whose titles include The Cherry Cheesecake Murder, The Key Lime Pie Murder--you can see where this is going. There are recipes in each book, and more recipes on the website. (I haven't read any of the books, but I can recommend the recipe for the Black Forest Brownies in The Carrot Cake Murder.) Prolific writer  noraroberts.com falls somewhere between the two, and features freebies (send a SASE to get a free magnet) as well as links to interviews, a message board, etc.

If a book started as a blog, as many do these days, the website can contain additional material that didn't make it into the book. The Julie/Julia Project was the blog that became the best-selling book Julie and Julia : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen : how one girl risked her marriage, her job, and her sanity to master the art of living, by Julie Powell, and then a movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep in Oscar-worthy form. (Yes, I still think she should have won.) The blog's still up, with the comments removed. Other blogs remain active after the publication of their companion book, including The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, and No-Impact Man, by Colin Beavan. The thriller and mystery writer J.K. Konrath has a site that features a lot of useful insights into self-publishing. I would read more of his books but I'm waiting til the nightmares I got from Afraid stop. How he can be so funny, and write such scary stuff, I dunno.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reading Programs Are Everywhere

If you haven't noticed, summer's coming, and that means the libraries are getting ready for their Summer Reading Programs. The point is to keep kids reading while they're out of school, by offering incentives for meeting a self-set goal. Some libraries have developed programs for adults, too.

The public libraries aren't the only ones with reading programs--many stores, restaurants, sports teams, etc., have programs, too. I don't fault them for promoting reading, but they're working the cause in order to drum up business, develop their customer base at a young age, and make money.

This year the libraries in our system were invited to participate in a circus reading program. One of my cohort s objected to it on the grounds that the circus promotes animal cruelty. I've been to enough circuses myself to feel that I'd rather support the ones without animal acts. It's a tough enough life for the human performers--I toured the circus train when I was in college and the individual compartments for the clowns were less than six feet long. (Of course, when you see how many clowns can fit into a Volkswagen Beetle maybe that's spacious.)

I'm not a vegetarian.  But I think the days of wild animal shows are over...or should be.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don't tell your kid he's smart....just give him a book...

Like New England weather, parenting trends change quickly, and drastically. I was born in the Spanking Era, which segued into the Free to Be You and Me Period, and started my own family in the Days of Wooden Toys, Slings, and Positive Reinforcement. It seemed like wherever we went, any kind of class or activity, someone was handing all the kids a Certificate of Participation, so no one was left out of the awards-getting. Praise, praise, praise. Was that the right thing to do?

An article in New York magazine, from 2007, by Po Bronson, entitled "How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise", says no. In short, the studies cited contend that telling kids they're smart meant that they didn't know how to handle failure when it came their way. Instead, the kids who'd been praised for their effort showed more persistence after they performed poorly. This makes sense--there is failure in real life. You don't get an award for showing up in real life.

You can't blame parents for wanting the best for their kids, and getting it wrong anyway. The path to Baby Einstein was paved with good intentions. I will tell you one thing to do, and I will guarantee that it will work, or at least, it will do no harm: Read. Read to your kid. Read with your kid. Give him a board book. Take him to the library and let him pick out a stack of picture books. Check out a book or magazine for yourself, and show her it's fun to read. We have books your kid can read to you, too.

Reading to your kid improves vocabulary, because they're exposed to more new words on the page than they'll hear in spoken conversation. Reading to your kid develops their listening skills. Reading to your kid should start early, as early as you can. Reading to your kid is fun, too. You can laugh together at Freddy the Pig, or Walter, The Farting Dog.

Don't be afraid of what your kid is reading. Kids like boogers, and slime. Reading Captain Underpants or a Gossip Girl novel is not an indicator that a child will fail to be a useful member of society. She's  in school, learning away, maybe she needs something easier to read for relaxation. And I often hear parents in the library saying "That book again? You've already read it twice! Pick out something else". Re-reading a book is okay--maybe it's comforting and relaxing to read it again, maybe the child will pick up on something in the book that he missed the first time.