You may have heard it on galleycat first: Harper Perennial editor Michael Signorelli has just acquired FLATSCREEN, the debut novel from Book Court bookseller Adam Wilson. You can read all the details below, and join me in wondering: what kind of cat does Adam have? Adam, this is important info your marketing team needs to know to start our relationship off on the right foot. Pics please!
Harper Perennial Acquires Adam Wilson’s Debut Novel
Editor Signorelli Sneaks in Publishing’s Last Deal of 2010
NEWYORK, NY (December 29, 2010) – Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is closing out 2010 with the acquisition of Adam Wilson’s debut novel FLATSCREEN, a coming-of-age story about a young man trying to become a new person in a world where nothing is new. The novel is scheduled to be published early 2012.
Editor Michael Signorelli acquired world English rights from Erin Hosier of the Dunow, Carlson and Lerner literary agency.
“Adam has such an easy and energetic way with language. The book is hilarious and, yes, oddly heartwarming, too. Harper Perennial is the perfect home for FLATSCREEN,” said Signorelli. “We became aware of Adam through his blogging and his stellar bookselling at Book Court. Acquiring Adam’s novel is like a last-minute present to myself. This and last week have been so quiet, hardly anyone’s around to tell me ‘no.’”
“I’m grinning ear to ear. Reminds me of losing my virginity; I’m overwhelmingly joyous, nervous, and so relieved that it’s actually happening,” said Wilson. FLATSCREEN has already garnered amazing praise. Sam Lipsyte calls it “one of the most hilarious and commanding debuts I’ve read in a long time.” Gary Shteyngart says “FLATSCREEN is the novel that every youngTurk will be reading on their way to a job they hate and are in fact too smart for.”
Adam Wilson is a graduate of Tufts University, and the Columbia University MFA Writing Program. He is a Founding Editor, and the Deputy Editor of The Faster Times, a budding international online newspaper. Along with his editorial duties at TFT, he is also currently the pop culture blogger for BlackBook Magazine, where he writes a popular twice-a-day blog. He has thrice been a finalist for Glimmer Train story prizes, and was also a finalist for the 2009 Canteen Prize for New Writers, and the Gulf Coast Fiction Prize. In 2007 he was honored as a Distinguished Lecturer by the Lewis and Mildred Resnik Institute for the Study of Modern Jewish Life at SUNY, New Paltz. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat.
As we get ever closer to Christmas, here’s another guest post from one of our authors: the esteemed Andrew Shaffer, whose new book, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, comes out just after the new year and would make a great “I returned crap people bought me and now I have all this store credit” gift for yourself.
Hide the Pickle by Andrew Shaffer:
December 25, 2008. It’s early morning, a light dusting of snow on the ground outside at my parents’ house. Coffee is brewing. Three generations of family are gathered around the artificial Christmas tree, in anticipation of a “surprise” that my mother has promised. “This year, I thought we would start a new tradition,” she says. “We’re going to play ‘hide the pickle.’”
Cue wide eyes, confusion, nervous laughter.
“Is this like ‘hide the sausage’?” my brother asks.
My mother ignores him, explaining instead that “hide the pickle” is a Czech tradition — and the first of us to find the pickle ornament hidden within the Christmas tree will have the privilege of opening the first present of the morning.
I called “BS” on the story and hit the Web to find out more about this supposed “tradition.” According to Internet lore, “hide the pickle” is actually a German — not Czech — tradition. One version of the legend, frequently copied from the Internet and packaged with glass pickle ornaments sold in the United States, reads:
A very old Christmas eve tradition in Germany was to hide a pickle deep in the branches of the family Christmas Tree. The parents hung the pickle last after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning they knew the most observant child would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas. The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year.
A team of writers at About.com found several flaws in the legend. First, St. Nicholas visits German children on the 5th or 6th of December, not early Christmas morning. Second, children open their presents on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day. “But the biggest problem with the German pickle tradition,” according to About.com, “is that no one in Germany seems to have ever heard of it.”
“Growing up in Germany, celebrating Christmas often at my sister’s house in Stuttgart, living then in the south in Freiburg, I never came across a pickle on a Christmas tree,” wrote one anonymous poster in an online forum. “This thing must have been hidden very well!”
Some people see “hiding the pickle” as nothing more than a perverted American hoax. On Cafepress, you can buy a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, “I got your Christmas pickle right here!”, complete with a rather phallic vegetable adorned with a Santa Claus hat. However, there are two separate legends purporting to be the origin of the pickle tradition, according to B. Francis Morlan:
One is a family story of a Bavarian-born ancestor who fought in the American Civil War. A prisoner in poor health and starving, he begged a guard for just one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and found a pickle for him. The pickle by the grace of God gave him the mental and physical strength to live on.
The other […] is a medieval tale of two Spanish boys traveling home from boarding school for the holidays. When they stopped at an inn for the night, the innkeeper, a mean and evil man, stuffed the boys into a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn, became aware of the boys’ plight, tapped the pickle barrel with his staff, and the boys were magically freed.
Again, I called “BS.” A single pickle gave a prisoner the will to live? A pair of boys freed from a pickle barrel by Santa Claus? Puh-leaze. “Hide the Pickle,” it turns out, is as German as German chocolate cake. It’s an American myth that has taken off only recently. In some areas of the United States, it’s blown up: Every December, the quaint Michigan township of Berrien Springs (population: 5075) holds its annual Christmas Pickle Festival. “Be sure to attend the annual pickle parade led by the Grand Dillmeister!” the town’s official website proudly proclaims. Recently, Jimmy Fallon played “hide the pickle” with actress Kirsten Dunst on his late night talkshow, where he repeated the myth that the game is a “German tradition.”
Who’s to blame for propagating the myth that “hiding the pickle” is an ancient German tradition? If you want to be cynical, you can point a finger at the burgeoning pickle ornament industry. “Even families with many wonderful holiday traditions already in place can make room for this charming Christmas event that delights the old and the young alike,” the description for an “Old World” pickle ornament reads on Amazon. (The pickle, like most glass ornaments, is made in China.) One customer, who ordered two pickles from the Amazon seller, left this rather prickly review: “They arrived quickly, and very well packed; however you can see the lines where they were cast, which takes a lot away from the ornament. I suppose I expected more from an Old World Christmas ornament.”
I’ve had to make a conscious decision not to venture further down the Internet rabbit-hole in search of the “truth.” The ornament that my mother purchased was made in the Czech Republic, so it was marginally more “Old World” than the cheap imports from China for sale on Amazon. If I could accept a decorated tree (bastardized from a pagan tradition) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (originally an advertising campaign for Montgomery Ward) as synonymous with Christmas, what right did I have to argue that a glass pickle was somehow in-apropros? My family’s inaugural game of “hide the pickle” was a success — we all had a laugh at it, and the younger kids had fun hunting through the tree-branches. Despite my skepticism at the origins of the tradition, I’ve come to acknowledge “hide the pickle” as, if not quite an essential part of Christmas, at least a Christmas-y type thing to do.
I love best-of-the-year lists. While I don’t necessarily need to be told to put Freedom on my to-be-read pile, I do get a kick out of seeing the books on each list that don’t appear anywhere else, the books that may have slipped under my radar or that I might need another nudge about. How else would I remember that I wanted to read Jay Varner’s Nothing Left to Burn after I read Rebecca’s initial review, or ever hear of at least half the books in The Millions’ Year in Reading series? So here’s my contribution, in no particular order. The caveat, of course, is that not all of these books were released in 2010. Some are from the future!
Lit by Mary Karr
I love memoirs, but I find that I end up reading too many that feel far too slight. I come away thinking “okay, that was a nice read and I enjoyed it,” but rarely do I feel as emotionally affected as I did while reading Lit. I don’t want to make it sound too heavy, because it’s not, but Lit really made me think about my own life, about where I’ve come from and where I want to go. I would say this has now become an all-time favorite. Special honorable mention goes to two similar books: Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss and David Carr’s The Night of the Gun, both of which gave me insight into various things about my family and my life (though I swear to you nothing in my life is as messed up as The Kiss.)
Faithful Place by Tana French
My two favorite genres are coming-of-age novels and literary thrillers, and while we publish tons of great coming-of-age stuff, I wish we did more literary thrillers like Faithful Place. I’m a pretty fast reader, and so for me one of the signs that I’m falling in love with a book is when I find myself stopping to re-read lines, even whole paragraphs, just to savor the language for an extra moment. I bawled during this book; not at the end, but at random sentences throughout that were so beautiful I couldn’t help myself.
There Is No Year by Blake Butler (coming April 5)
I can easily imagine someone not loving most of the books on this list as much as I do, but I can’t see anyone hating them. I can see other people getting frustrated by, not understanding, and just plain disliking this book. I haven’t read a book that challenged me this much since college—but I LIKE being challenged. The imagery in this book is completely, viscerally stunning, but nothing about it is handed over on a platter. Yet at its core, it combines two things I love very much—stories about families in crisis and stories of horror.
In the spirit of the holiday season, we’ll have a couple of our authors dropping by with guest posts over the next few weeks. But, since harper perennial books can be a little quirky, and since I myself am decidedly not super-Christmas-y, I’ve asked them to share holiday stories that are light on sweetness and inspiration and heavy on humor and ridiculousness. First up is Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and the forthcoming Drinking Closer to Home (both of which I love love love) with a tale of some slightly risque Christmases—read all the way to the end to see some of the ornaments Jessica talks about!:
It started out with no trees. Just a present or two on Christmas morning. And then, when I was seven, we moved to California where we lived on a shiny brand new cul de sac with two and three-car garages attached to each home. In December, Christmas lights lit up the neighborhood as if proper holiday lighting was the law.
My brother, sister and I accepted that we’d be the only house without twinkling lights, but there was no way we were going to stand for this no-tree business. We insisted and my father bought a live, potted fir that stood about three feet high above the two-foot pot. The tree was stuck in the family room and that afternoon my mother made special dough that we formed into Christmas Balls with our hands, or cut into shapes with cookie cutters. The dough ornaments were baked in the oven, cooled and then painted.
Ours was a rebellious family, however, so among the dough shapes was a penis my older sister made—it looked like a three-inch pointy baguette with perfectly circular dough balls framing it at the top. Many of the gingerbread man cut-outs were decorated with penises and there were gingerbread women, too, with breasts and large painterly triangles of pubic hair.
While we three kids decorated the tree, my mother sat at the piano and played Christmas carols that we belted out as my father groaned, oy oy oy oy, his hand slapped on his forehead, his face clearly showing the fact that he could not believe that this was his Jewish wife and these were his Jewish children.
The tree was planted in the backyard on the first of January, and every year this process was repeated, with the trees getting a little bigger each Christmas, the ornaments becoming more detailed and complicated (although always a couple of naked gingerbread men thrown in for fun) and the holiday songs getting louder and louder.
After ten years of potted trees, my father gave in and bought a big, dead tree. Every branch was covered with the accumulation of homemade ornaments that had been made over the years. On the top of the tree was a white feathered bird with rhinestones on its open fanned-out tail. The penis ornament, as always, was front and center where it would be sure to catch our friends’ eyes. We must have been out on Christmas vacation already as I remember that everyone in the family was home, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. There was a knock at the door. My brother went to open it and then he called from the entrance hall, “Dad, the Rabbi’s here!” And boom! my father picked up our first dead tree, our largest tree ever, tree stand and everything, opened the garage door and sailed the thing off onto the oily, cement floor.
Rabbi came in. The room looked funny with an empty spot next to the sliding glass door that looked out onto the deck. There were wrapped presents, scattered strangely as if they’d just been kicked about. Rabbi glanced down at the gifts, looked up at my father and never said a word.
Most of the ornaments survived the trip into the garage. A few naked men and women broke an arm or leg. But the penis ornament, the most sacred ornament of all, survived intact.
As you know if you follow us on twitter, yesterday we launched our fall 2011 list. At launch, we only talk about our paperback originals, since our sales team is already familiar with the hardcover reprints (books like Joyce Maynard’s The Good Daughters, Armistead Maupin’s Mary Ann in Autumn, etc.) So I thought I’d share with you some of the titles I’m most excited about. Please keep in mind that this is a personal list—there are lots of other great books on our list that many people out there will love, but they’re not particularly in my wheelhouse. (Someday I should get Peter Hubbard, who edits most of our philosophy books, to write a guest post on all of his wonderful titles that I barely understand.)
Onto the books:
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
Get ready to hear a lot about this book, because I’m going to start talking about it now and keep mentioning it constantly until next fall. It’s the story of Tom Violet, a struggling novelist with a soul-sucking office job whose father is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Tom has a lot of problems: the aforementioned job and pain in the ass father, a terribly inconvenient crush on his assistant, a suspicion that his wife is sleeping with a guy she met at the gym, and, of course, the desperate desire to publish his novel. He’s kind of an idiot sometimes, but he never stops being sympathetic. I fell in love with him a little bit.
I’ve heard it compared so far to Tom Perrotta, which I think is accurate (and I am a big TP fan.) I’m hoping that maybe the editor will let me post an excerpt once we get the final manuscript in, but for now, check out Matthew’s blog, The Norman Nation.
Okay, I’m not going to get quite as gushy about the rest of these, but they’re still good:
Practical Jean by Trevor Cole
First we had Bad Marie, now we have Practical Jean. Equally darkly funny but very different, Practical Jean is the story of a woman who decides to kill all her best friends. Not because she hates them or anything, but because she loves them so much that she wants to prevent them from experiencing the suffering she’s just seen her dying mother experience. But before she kills them, she’s going to give each one of them one perfect moment of happiness. Of course, murder isn’t quite as easy as it looks, and hijinks ensue.
Stasiland by Anna Funder
This is nonfiction—stories about people living behind the Berlin Wall—and I have to admit that if I hadn’t been reading an excerpt to prepare for launch, I might not have given it a second thought. But the stories are so compelling, and the writing so good, that I am super excited to read the rest of it.
Others that I will most likely like:
Swing Low, Miriam Toews’ memoir of her father’s depression
The new Dennis Cooper novel, which its editor, Michael Signorelli, called “the most fucked-up literary mystery ever written” (and which also relates to fathers)
Dan Fante’s memoir of his life and being John Fante’s son (so another father one)
Insomnia, Blake Butler’s book about his insane trouble sleeping
So I guess maybe with Domestic Violets, Swing Low, the new Dennis Cooper, and Fante, the theme of this season is “messed-up fathers”? Well, it’s certainly a theme I can relate to.
Yesterday, we talked about books that everyone loves that we’re just “ehh” about. There was lots of lukewarm feeling in the comments for books like One Day, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and other titles that don’t start with one. After all, no matter how many people consider a book a classic or praise it, there’s always going to be someone (or many someones) who just don’t get the appeal.
Today let’s talk about the flip side: books that live up to the hype. Books that when you read them, you want to smack yourself for waiting so long. Looking back over the books I’ve read this past year, here are some of mine:
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard: Though this will be published by our friends at Ecco this winter, it was Jason Rice of Three Guys One Book whose love convinced me to pick it up (that and the cover, which I’m in love with myself.)
What are the books you’ve read that completely deliver?