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A gift

May 12, 2010

An author gave me a gift a few weeks back and I’m still savoring it…so now I want to pass it along.

Mary Oliver.

That’s it, that’s all–go to the library, go the bookstore, and fill your mind with the work of this amazing poet.  It doesn’t even matter really where you start; whatever collection you find, you’ll claim favorites that will compel you to become a person who can memorize whole poems.  You’ll want to be able to carry them with you,  just in case.

Science fiction late at night

May 11, 2010

Here’s my late night confession:  I love science fiction.

Give me free rein to read, it’s what I’ll choose to close up the day with late at night.  The odd thing is I’ve never worked on a science fiction novel in all the years of publishing…and maybe that’s why it seems pure to me still.

This is the literature of ideas–it’s often the one place where I can see most clearly some of the thorniest issues we side step in real life.  The invented reality with the complex physical laws of new universes spinning just out of my reach lets me plunge in all the deeper into the human stories, the great what-ifs these writers fathom.

There was The Inverted World, a novel about a civilization that travels about in a ponderous vehicle and measures time in miles passed.  That single metaphor and all that came of the lives who moved in its odd configuration follows me about in the back of my mind though I read the novel years ago….There’s Orson Scott Card’s Ender series which grapples with xenocide and contains some of the most exalted passages about consciousness I’ve read and the most heartbreaking about impossible decisions.  A.A. Attanasio with his shimmering language, or Paul McAuley with his Confluence series which had such elegance and a heart that was mournful.  China Mieville whose last book was such an apt description of the world we find ourselves in now–two cities separated only by a delicate physics, two antagonistic realities forced to look past one another to survive…And the magnificent J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World

Like any other section of the bookstore, I’ve had my disappointments.  Plenty of novels I’ve stopped reading before the end, tired of adventures that were old, worlds that held nothing more than a faded version of what was in other more earth-bound novels.  But the best of them–I carry them about in my head for years because in all their strange reverberations they’ve mattered deeply.  What I’ve wanted always in these books is that crack that the best of them brings–that space between the life I think I understand and that which I have to stretch my mind about to see.  The science in these novels is about a way of seeing through to something just out of range, a poetry of life that stands clear of gravity.

Books, readers and the spark

February 8, 2010


It’s what I spend all day long thinking about and chasing:  How to find one or two or as many there might be for a book .   Here’s my image:  multiple performance spaces and in them, different groups of people patiently waiting for a show to begin and the author–my author–moving from one to the next through a series of doors…and at the end of the night, that solitary light burning next to a bed and someone’s head angled to catch a page or a screen of type.

I’ve been doing this for some time and it is always both changing and pretty constant.  Books need readers to stay on shelves.   Readers need new stories, new information to see the world in new ways.  There is something truly magical when you go one step further and you make that connection communally, when you have a room full of people all listening to the same words at the same time, asking questions out loud, telling their own stories.

And what do publicists have to do with this?  We are part of this team of people who are modifying a kind of natural order to bring these two worlds into the same time and space.

I feel like we are standing this year at a new kind of doorway and felt that it was time to start talking about what I am thinking about audiences and to hear from others about where they are finding authors or where they wish they would.  I want to discover what’s working and what’s feeling like too much work for everyone.   I know we are sending authors not only into all kinds of bookstores and theaters, but into virtual spaces as well as the homes of strangers but I am curious what it all feels like and looks like to those who have taken the time and chance to be part of the gathering.