Books are my life. Without reading, I’d be lost. Perhaps that’s why I’m baffled about the rampant indignation about the price of e-books. Are readers being forced at gunpoint to buy these books? Is there a cabal I haven’t heard about? Are publishers from Little Brown to Graywolf Press in cahoots to rob readers?
I don’t care how many people shed tears for the good old days, before we were so connected, before life sped before our tapping fingers: Web, thee did save me.
My sister and I may not have grown up rife with traditions–when when Jill and I hung our socks on Christmas eve, the flat unfilled sight of them the next morning may have reminded us that Santa didn’t stop for little Jewish girls–but darn it, we had the stuffing handed down from Grandma Millie. If we were on death row, our last meal would be the stuffing.
As I waited for my first novel to launch, I was told by the experienced:
1) “Don’t expect to get on Oprah.” (I wasn’t.)
2) Waiting for launch was “the quiet before the quiet.” (Hey, thanks for depressing me!)
3) “You don’t need to spend money on an outside publicist.” (Very glad I ignored that one.)
And my very super favorite warnings:
4) “Don’t get too excited.” and “Don’t pay attention to reviews or Amazon numbers.” (To which I should have answered: “And where should I get the lobotomy?)
“Don’t forget; Jewish people read an enormous amount,” my lovely (and Jewish) literary agent said before my book launch. “We really love books.”
I nodded. Yes, I knew that—at least I knew it inasmuch as I was Jewish and I read—as did my mother, my sister, and my daughters, but could I raise that sample to the status of landslide? Discerning what was true in my culture was fraught with difficulty. I grew up with a slight case of anomie, surrounded by a cultural belief that all-things-Jewish=equals families-pushing-one-towards-great-achievement, while, among other family oddities, my grandmother taught me to shoplift.
Heart-Break Men, Liar Song Men, I Didn’t Mean to Lie about Being Married Men: Songs from THE COMFORT OF LIES
The more relationships I have in my rear view, the more I organize my exes according to the sad-song scale: heartbreak song men . . . liar-song men . . . I-didn’t-mean- to-hurt you-but-oops-I-guess-not-telling-you-I-was-married-was-a-mistake men.
In The Comfort of Lies, pile-ups in the intersections of infidelity, adoption, marriage, parenthood and careers create perfect storms for desolate love music. I gathered a playlist eponymous of the particular sadness or strength of each character, and, of course, each rang in a past love nightmare of my own–thus creating a personal blues loop, allowing me to fall down the rabbit hole of melancholia, making me ever more grateful that I ultimately smartened up and married a non-sad song man.
Advice to writers is a funny thing (I’ve had my share of taking and giving) and when I have the opportunity (hubris?) to offer my opinions, I try to remember to preface my words with “this is what works for me.”
Oppositional advice can spin one’s head around. It often all sounds good, something that struck me as I caught up with recent (paper) issues of The Writer, reading first, in the November issue, the thoughts (on writing a novel) of Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author:
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
When I worked with batterers, people always asked why the women stayed. Why didn’t they ask why the offenders were violent? Is it because it’s easier to blame the victim? Is it because these abusive men scare us as much as they scare their victims, so it’s easier to confront them?
Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.—Khaled Hosseini
A few questions:
Why do some folks get in such an uproar when women simply ask for a fair shake, equal footing?
Why does anyone think women writers are exempt from institutional sexism? The Mad Men era was not long ago. The 19thamendment to the constitution, giving women the right to vote, was only ratified in 1920. Help Wanted ads were segregated by gender into the seventies.
Does everyone have sub-genres within genres for which they hold an unusual fondness?
I can’t resist a good infidelity story (really, can anything beat Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow?) I can rarely refuse the intricacies of inter-racial love (Meeting of the Waters by Kim Mclarin,) or a memoir about substance abuse (Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. I treasure reading about the layers of an unknown (to me) culture (A Fine Balance by Rohintin Mistry) or the heartbreak of emigrants navigating a new world (my current audio/car book is Shanghai Sisters by Lisa See,) but for a real roll in schadenfreude reading, I pick up a juicy novel about novelists.
Imagine this: Someone asks you to marry them, and because you are so eager (desperate?) to wed, you say yes—even though you don’t know them, don’t know what they expect, and don’t know what they’ll bring to the table besides the (gender-free) shiny ring they push up on your finger.
That’s kind of what it’s like the first time you enter a contract with a publisher. Perhaps some of you were a whole lot smarter and you knew what was coming, but more likely you resembled me: naïve, starry-eyed, gasping with disbelief and playing the Sally Field card: You like me, you really like me, twirling in a circle of happiness, kissing your agent through the phone, and having no idea what came next.