The art really is in isolating yourself and letting as few things into your head as possible. To only admit those things into your head that come from a direction where no one else ever looks. That is the difficult thing.
One of my most highly anticipated reads for winter 2011 is Jessica Anya Blau’s Drinking Closer to Home. I was a BIG fan of Jessica’s first book, Summer of Naked Swim Parties (nudity, drinking—gotta love a woman who tackles the important topics of life), and I know I’ll love this one. In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied with this interview she did with Larry Doyle, author of I Love You, Beth Cooper (also a fave) and the new Go, Mutants! (who clearly likes to put commas in his book titles.)
Six Questions for Larry Doyle
Larry Doyle is the author of the best-selling book, I LOVEYOUBETHCOOPER. He also produced and wrote The Simpsons for several years, wrote Beavis and Butthead, was the entertainment editor at New York Magazine and wrote a bunch of Hollywood movies. Oh, and he regularly writes very funny pieces for the Shouts & Murmurs section of The New Yorker.
I caught up with Larry at Evergreen Café in Baltimore, where we often sit together and work. Larry was working on the webpage for his amazing and hilarious new novel GO, MUTANTS! (HarperCollins, June 22th). I was working on this interview.
You know the last author I interviewed was Audrey Braun who hung up on me because she was in the middle of buying No. 7 Breast Cream at Target. You wouldn’t blow me off for breast cream, would you?
It would depend largely on why I needed the breast cream, and how urgently. As a former journalist I would also recognize the color value of having you, as the reporter, accompany me while I was buying the breast cream, though this might work better if I was Eva Green, or anybody whose breasts the reader would like to imagine being smeared with cream. I suppose the true corollary of this for a male author would be penis cream, in which case I change my answer to, “Where can I buy this penis cream, and what does it do?”
GO, MUTANTS! takes place in high school in what appears to be both the past and the future (at once). One of my favorite characters has breasts that become gigantic and a head that progressively shrinks. Was she based on anyone?
Every man’s ideal woman. My, that was glib, and sexist. And untrue, since the character, even after her head shrinks to the size of a baseball, still won’t shut up. I probably should have stopped with the first offensive remark. I would also like to change this answer, please, to: “The character is based on a dear friend of mine who bravely battled this condition for a number of years before discovering, to her horror, it was being caused by the increasingly large quantities of breast cream she was rubbing on herself every night. She’s all right now, thank God, but doesn’t date as much.”
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be you. I mean you have one character who is a drunkard—a detached head soaking in fluid who wouldn’t mind if her husband whacked their daughter so she could have a nice body to go with her head. When does this stuff come to you? In the middle of the night when you can’t sleep? While you’re at Whole Foods buying fruit?
I don’t see your point. Are you saying that other people’s families aren’t like that? I was simply working in the new realist school, like that guy who wrote that book but then wouldn’t go on Oprah, the tool. (Oprah: I would never do that to you.)
I read GO, MUTANTS! in one sitting while in bed one night. I was laughing out loud (waking up my husband who became rather irritated with me) and often re-read funny bits just to laugh again. Do you crack yourself up when you’re writing? Or are you your own wife who’s heard all her husband’s jokes?
I don’t laugh in bed. I consider it coarse. I’m surprised you’re not divorced.
The only time I laugh at my own stuff is when it’s been such a long time since I wrote it that I’ve forgotten . At my present rate of alcohol intake, this is approximately three days.
This is a two-part question: which character in GO, MUTANTS! most resembles you? And, if you were a character in the book, which other character would you want to have sex with? I’d want to do it with Johnny, the radio-active ape-boy, by the way. Jelly is too gelatinous. And J!m is way too longish a person for me (also, the shedding skin really doesn’t turn me on).
I’m the radioactive ape-boy, of course. (Note to readers: this is sadly untrue. I’m J!m, the sullen teen, only I’m not even long. Don’t tell Jessica.)
I would like to have sex with J!m’s mom, the platinum blonde catwoman. And yet, I don’t like cats. I like dogs, but wouldn’t want to have sex with a doglady. I can’t explain it, or rather, I shouldn’t.
Last question. If you could live in the GO, MUTANTS! world where there’s a sort of 1950’s rebellious innocence and a year 2040 mega-connected-cyber world, would you? Or do you like the here and now?
Well, obviously the world of Go, Mutants! is one that any reader will want to return to again and again. As a practical matter, one has to consider than in the book, five U.S. states are radioactive wastelands (and France is gone, for what that’s worth.) Assuming I didn’t have to live too near one of those, and was the rightful king of this world, I would choose fiction over reality any day, as my wife will attest.
If you’ve become as excited by the world cup as I am, you might want to check out one of these two books we just published (convenient, isn’t it?):
Africa United is the story of Africa told through the one thing that unites it—soccer. As Newsweek says, ““Bloomfield’s book presents the perfect contextual backdrop for understanding how football intersects with everyday life, politics, and national identities in this part of the world.”
How Soccer Explains the World is a look at soccer as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy. Named one of the five best sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated and called “an insightful, entertaining, brainiac sports road trip,” by the Wall Street Journal, it’s now available in a new edition with updated material.
It’s been a sad few weeks here at Harper Perennial. First, we lost the amazing Sebastian Horsley, and now comes the news that Russell Ash, author of Bizarre Books, passed away last week at the age of 64. I didn’t know Russell, but it’s fairly obvious from Bizarre Books (which features such books as The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories) that he was a great writer with an amazing sense of humor. Rest in peace, Russell.
For those of you who don’t know, ALA is the American Library Association, and this weekend is its annual conference in Washington, DC. We’ll be representing (Jen aka Book Club Girl, Kayleigh, and Stephanie will all be there), but I thought it would be helpful to give you a preview of all the awesome harper perennial and harpercollins-related stuff going on at the convention. With my commentary, of course. So here’s our schedule! Or just come say hi at booth #2513. Our library team doesn’t bite unless provoked.
Friday, June 25
3:30 – 5:00
From the Inside(rs) Out: Book Editors and the New Titles They Love
Room 103A, Convention Center
Featuring our editorial director, Cal Morgan! Fun Cal Morgan facts. He likes pizza. Last night he bought a copy of Alone With You by Marisa Silver.
5:30 – 6:30
Gayle Lemmon signing bound first chapters (i.e. you will definitely be among the first to read this) of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana in the booth.
Saturday, June 26
8:00 – 9:00
Auditorium Speaker Series
Nancy Pearl with Mary McDonagh Murphy (author of Scout, Atticus, and Boo)
10:00 – 11:15
Room 147A, Convention Center
Kayleigh and Bobby from our library team present hot titles for fall!
10:00 – 11:00
Mary McDonagh Murphy signing in the booth
11:30 – 12:30
Katrina Kittle signing The Blessings of the Animals in the booth
(seriously, go get a copy. I will refrain from begging, but you can read about my love for Katrina and this book here.
Emily Gray Tedrowe signing Commuters
(another fave. and Emily is a debut author. Support her! She deserves it.)
12:30 – 1:30
Kathryn Caskie signing The Most Wicked of Sins
(I would love to know how much overlap there is between harper perennial fans and avon romance fans. I’m guessing more than you might think.)
2:00 – 3:00
Jessica Anya Blau signing Summer of Naked Swim Parties
(I loved this one when it came out—it’s EXACTLY the kind of book I like to read. We’re gearing up for Jessica’s new one, Drinking Closer to Home, in winter 2011.)
4:30 – 5:00
Jonathan Weiner signing Long For This World
(I constantly get this confused with a novel by the same name that came out seven or eight years ago. This is about eternal youth. The novel was about that disease that makes little kids look like old people.)
Our editors are very talented people. They acquire. They edit. They . . . sing?
Yes, in the case of Rakesh Satyal, who’s edited some of my favorites, including Jason Mulgrew‘s Everything is Wrong With Me. Here are some of his finer performances. I challenge you to watch without smiling!
I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand much about the downfall of our economy. (But can people who know a lot about finance also give you all the first and last names of nearly every Real World or Road Rules or Real World/Road Rules Challenge participant? I think not.) Diary of a Very Bad Year, our first book done in conjunction with n+1, is perfect for both me and those people who know what a subprime mortgage is*. It’s a collection of interviews with an anonymous hedge fund manager who spills the beans about what’s really going on in the world of finance, and we’ve made this lovely video for it:
“We can’t all be stars because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as I go by.” Sebastian Horsley
Lately, everyone on twitter’s been talking about books that changed their lives. Some have even been taking it quite literally, naming their own books (because writing a book certainly changes your life) or books by their spouses or books they’ve worked on. Sebastian Horsley’s Dandy in the Underworld is that kind of book for me.
Way back before I worked in marketing for Harper Perennial, I worked in a different, way less cool department here at HarperCollins. I had many duties (talk to me about my days writing back cover copy for romance novels!), but the one I liked best was working on the Harper Perennial catalog. I was already an avid, ferocious reader of Harper Perennial books, and I was eager for any contact with them, even if I was so far removed as to be in another dept. One day, I was dropping off some catalog pages in the office of our publisher, Carrie Kania, when I saw some bound manuscripts of Sebastian’s book, with this incredibly intriguing cover:
Carrie told me to read it and tell her what I thought. It was already bought and slated in for an upcoming season, but she still cared about what I had to say. In my old dept, no one cared what I had to say about books. I’m pretty sure it was this moment, and then reading and loving Dandy in the Underworld, that made me set my sights on joining the Harper Perennial team, a quest that involved a lot of patient waiting, a lot of mentioning how happy I would be to work there, and a lot of blogging here to show what I could do.
This morning we got the news from London that Sebastian died last night. Now, of course he’s not the first Harper Perennial author to die, and not even the first one to die while I’ve been working here. But while we’re always upset, while we always mourn the loss of any of our literary legends, Sebastian was more than just an author to Harper Perennial. His writing and his antics (including being prevented from entering the US for his book party on the grounds of “moral turpitude”) made us think and made us laugh. Carrie had this to say about him:
“Sebastian was a thoughtful, sensitive, caring and genuine person. He would scold me now for calling him genuine, as he always felt that he was a genuine fake. But as an artist, writer, dandy – friend – he left a genuine impact. His book, Dandy in the Underworld, will live on as a benchmark of an artist trying to understand what is truth.
His heart, simply, was too big for this world.
He will be very missed by his family, his friends and all of Soho.”
Though I never met him (see the aforementioned moral turpitude and not being able to enter the US), I’ll be thinking about Sebastian today.
Today marks the prodigal return of Harper Perennial Pets, the series where we examine the creatures behind our employees and authors. I have been delinquent on obtaining pet photos and stories, but I hereby promise that I will make a better effort to bring you more pictures of cats and dogs . . . right after this look at A. Manette Ansay’s bearded dragons!
My daughter had a hamster who ate breakfast with us each morning, crawled around the house in her little green ball every afternoon, and rattled her wheel each night between midnight and five AM. When Explorer died, very suddenly, I did the usual thing; I promised my daughter another hamster. A few days later, we went off the the pet store, and we came home with—
a bearded dragon.
This hadn’t been part of the plan, or at least, it hadn’t been part of mine, but my daughter informed me, when we got to the pet store, that Explorer could never be replaced, so the thing to do was get another kind of pet. Dogs were discussed, briefly, and to close the door on that conversation, I suggested we look around and see what else was there. Minutes later, Genevieve was holding a pale, unpromising-looking wisp of a thing that, except for the price tag, seemed like any other lizard scampering down the sidewalk in front of our Florida home. When she tried to stroke it, it snapped at her. Then it opened its mouth and gaped. “Hungry,” said the salesclerk, himself a bearded individual, who claimed to have two full-grown “beardies” at home. “They watch TV with me,” he said. “You can walk them on leashes. They’re just like dogs.”
Did somebody say dog? Within minutes, we were walking out of the store, me lugging an enormous aquariam, an ultraviolet light, bedding and a rock, and Genevieve cooing through the breathing holes of a small cardboard box.
“It’s kind of puffing up,” she said, pleased.
“As long as it’s not breathing fire,” I said.
Of course, as soon as she saw “Diamond,” my boyfriend’s daughter had to have a bearded dragon, too.
This is how I came to live with Diamond and Sahara, two full-grown bearded dragons, the largest nearly two feet long from tail to tip. They do watch TV with us, and sit on shoulders while homework gets done, while piano gets practiced, while laundry gets folded—and they really do ride around on my hat. The kids play with them like dolls, designing cardboard houses for them, riding them around on a plastic sleigh. Last week, we even celebrated their birthdays. My daughter created a menu that included “sushi” (mealworms rolled up in lettuce leaves); “potato chips” (crunchie shed skins from cockroaches) and “pinkie pie” (thawed dead baby mice.) There were flowers on the “table” (an old cookie sheet); there were lit candles (on the counter, out of reach.) As I watched the dragons tear up their place settings, happily flicking their tongues, I thought about how beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, how love is what we bring to the particular table we set.
“I still miss Explorer,” my daughter said, putting a consoling hand over mine, “but the dragons, you know, are family.”
As you may recall, our pick this month was The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. But, although Kayleigh wrote a great post about her reading experience, I have found myself completely unable to pick up this book. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes when I know I HAVE to read a book, it becomes the last thing in the world I want to read.
I hate admitting failure, so I hereby swear that I WILL read this book before the end of the year. But in the meantime, I didn’t want to wait any longer to offer up books for next month’s english 101 . . . Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird!
If you’re sad that the Tony Awards are over, or if your favorite didn’t win, cheer up with this video from our friends at Smith Magazine, featuring Tony Award nominees with their six word nomination stories!
Long before I worked in the Harper Perennial marketing department (back when my job involved writing back cover copy for mass market romances), I read Rachel Shukert’s first memoir, Have You No Shame? Recommended to me by my ex-boyfriend’s mother, HYNS is a collection of essays chronicling growing up Jewish in Omaha, Nebraska, and it was so funny that I couldn’t believe all the people drooling over Sloane Crosley (a perfectly worthy endeavor) weren’t drooling over it too.
So when I found out that we were publishing Rachel’s next book, I was beside myself with excitement. Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour is just as funny as HYNS but perhaps even more widely appealing. Who wouldn’t love the chance to bum around Europe? To have accidental threesomes while in search of cheap dental surgery? To cry at the Anne Frank House (and not about Anne Frank)? To finally (sorta) grow up?
I’d also like to point out that Rachel is the only author I’ve almost seen Precious: Based on the Book Push by Sapphire with, a months-long endeavor of illness, hangovers, and mismatched schedules that ended when I watched it on a plane to Tokyo, wishing a) that I could actually hear anything through the crappy airplane headphones and b) that Rachel were there beside me. That is to say, she is one of the authors I most enjoy spending time with, whether with her book or in person, and I think you will too.
Hey, guess what? I’ve decided it’s recommended summer reading this week on the olive reader! Each day this week I’ll post about a different book I’d take to the beach this summer, if I hadn’t already read them all. Yesterday I talked about Katrina Kittle’s The Blessings of the Animals. One reason that book was a slam dunk for me was the “animals” part—I love them (and don’t even talk to me about animals with jobs, because I’ll start to cry.) Today I’m covering another genre that’s often a guaranteed hit for me—coming of age novels.
Delilah is just out of high school, living with her dad in LA, wishing he would let her go to art school. To try and absorb some artistic instruction, she starts working as a nude model at some local art classes, even though she’s not exactly thrilled to take her clothes off. Still, things are going relatively well in her life . . . until her dad starts losing his mind, and her long-lost mom shows up with a terrible secret about him that Delilah can’t decide whether or not to believe.
It’s a novel that makes you want to take sides between Delilah’s parents, but to me the best thing about it was the realization that both of them screwed up, and screwed her up, more than they ever intended. She has to learn to grow up in spite of them, not with their help.
I loved this novel, and I hope you will too! That’s why I’m giving away five copies. Just comment and tell me the best or worst thing your parents did or are doing to help you grow up and fend for yourself in the world.