Saturday, October 30, 2010

Corrections: The Oklahoman

C Street reader Kelley Duncan writes:
The conservative Daily Oklahoman (and owned by the arch-conservative Gaylord family)  is mistakenly referred to as the "Tulsa Oklahoman" in your recent book "C Street". The Tulsa World is a largely centrist to occasionally liberal daily. 
Keep up the good work. No good Okie -- and I try to be -- should be unaware of the shady (and just plain weird) behavior of our politicians. 
Thanks, Kelley. I'll correct this in the paperback. The error occurs on p. 120. Defenders of the Family and C Street are fond of accusing me of massive and grave errors. This post is my response: Send me a correction, and I'll make it. Writers always make errors. What's important is the effort you make to avoid doing so -- I paid fact checkers a nice chunk of my advance to go over every page of the book, with instructions to think of themselves as interrogators and of every sentence as guilty until proven innocent -- and that you then make the correction when you find an error, as you always will, if you're honest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Dragons, Rock Like Fuck

The other day, a cab to the airport, driver says, "Too many people have, what you call -- opinions. That's how life works. If you can afford it, you can put your opinions out there."

I guess I can afford it. Tonight's my last night to work on the manuscript of my next book, Sweet Heaven When I Die, to be published next August. It's a collection of essays, some previously published, some not, all of them re-written to comprise, together, some kind of organic whole. Organic like Frankenstein, that is, with a lot of pieces stitched together -- anarchists, Yiddishists, evil twins, Willa Cather, blimps, sunflower disguises, miners, magicians, and a band called the Dragons, with an album called Rock Like Fuck. The original title of the book was Sweet Fuck All, Colorado, after a bar I stopped in on the way to South Park, and it also features a sweet, waif-like New Age healer who believes she's part fairie and likes to punctuate her spiritual statements with the word "fuckin'" because she believes it provides grounding. Not sure what it provides me -- an out, maybe, from all these years of seriousness about fundamentalism and democracy. Thank fucking God, I'm free at last.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jay Kirk, Kingdom Under Glass, 2010

Here's an effective opening sentence for a book: "He felt heartsick when he saw the gorilla start its death tumble." And then a very functional second sentence: "It was coming right for him."

They're from Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals, my pal Jay Kirk's first book, to be published by Holt in November. I met Jay when we were both fellows at the MacDowell Colony, a sort of artists' retreat where writers and painters and such are given cabins in the woods and three meals a day. Evening entertainment is usually comprised of ping pong and presentations. Jay and I paired ours, since I'd been given a magnificent "cabin" -- heated flagstone floors, a loft, more space than I could fill with all the documents I needed to write The Family. I read an excerpt about Jonathan Edwards, which wasn't as boring as you might think -- there was sex, Satan, and blood. Jay read an excerpt from Kingdom, then very much in-progress. It might have sounded less promising even than Edwards: its subject is a 19th century taxidermist named Carl Akeley. But Akeley didn't just stuff animals, he hunted them -- he once strangled a leopard with his bare hands -- all in the service of "knowledge," or maybe it was art, or maybe it was just for the thrills of the Gilded Age and a rising empire that sought to freeze the world behind glass. You can see the results and decide for yourself -- Akeley created the New York Natural History Museum's Hall of African Mammals. But don't just go and gawk -- read Jay's book, as I'm starting to do today, for an important piece of the story of how Americans first came to see wilderness as "nature."

Also, authors: covet this cover:

You Should Talk United States

Up late unpacking old boxes, I find an old notebook, circa 1998, I titled "American Deadpan." Notes toward a novel I wrote three chapters of and left behind like old chewing gum once I got all the flavor out of the story. That's how writing fiction is for me: greedy, delicious, and, ultimately, unsatisfying. So I never returned to the novel (which was going to be about Yiddish, communism, porn, and the Unabomber) but now I'll return to the notes, which include, among other sundries, a list of expressions I overheard in conversation or borrowed from other books with the intention of re-using. (That's also known as stealing.) Here are my favorites. I didn't record their sources.

*You should talk United States.

*He's like a girl who gives from under her dress for a ride in a car.

*You wouldn't be his wife without he's a fine man.

*Take your troubles to God.

*I am become an Irish.

*I got misery in my legs.

*He's a Sunday thinker.

*He was a good actor, but he always picked the wrong character.

*It's been an enjoyment to listen to you.