Journalism and the price of progress

This is a guest blog by Judy Wieder, former editor-in-chief of The Advocate, the first woman to hold that position; and author of the memoir Random Events Tend To Cluster, a look at her life in the tumultuous years of fighting for human – and animal – rights. 
Research for Random Events Tend To Cluster

Necessity truly is the mother of invention. This includes the biggest invention of the millennium: the World Wide Web.  Slowly revealing itself as a miracle of communication—though one that’s hell-bent on replacing all other communications—the miraculous WWW has many sides, some bright as the sun, others murky as the night.

Officially established in the late 80s, by the early 2000s, a series of global catastrophes (natural and man-made) thrust the web into our lives like a speeding ambulance. Whether using its communication tools to find people lost amid the rubble of deadly terrorist attacks, or buried under the boulders of sudden earthquakes, or stranded on their rooftops after hurricanes, or swirling in the aftermath of  tsunamis—our need to locate and rescue each other made the Internet an information hub of unsurpassed  proportions.

Then the internet began speeding up the news coverage. The minute something happened anywhere, people knew about it everywhere. But is that always good? Something got lost in the immediacy of absolutely everything. And that something was our understanding.

Excerpt from chapter 10 of Random Events Tend To Cluster:

“Thankfully, amid Hurricane Katrina’s worst screw-ups in the history of emergencies, some agencies and individuals respond heroically. The Coast Guard rescues 34,000 stranded survivors. The Humane Society and other animal groups save more than 15,000 animals left behind by evacuees who thought they’d only be gone for a day.

From the ashes of government failures, new technologies for better crisis response are created. Emergency websites, maps, blogs, chat rooms, and help lines are posted and updated—all creating one online disaster community that will soon facilitate the rescue of so many people buried in 2010’s Haiti and 2015’s Nepal earthquakes; as well as those caught in 2017’s Hurricanes, Harvey and Maria.

As tech becomes the story of the new millennium, for me it becomes a good door through which I can leave my work of nearly 15 years. An LGBT Internet company buys our parent company. As with most online media, the “editorial wall” standing between content and advertising, blows over completely. Everywhere I look this once paramount wall is replaced by some mercurial gibberish ushered in by computers, the Internet, cellphones, tablets, and social media. The “highway of information,” as the Internet was once called, is now a shifty piece of work snapping up sound bites of things that have already taken place. For a nanosecond, we think we know something; we even pass it along to others who are grateful because now they think they know something. But, really, we’re all just echoes. What does it mean if we don’t understand it? And how can we understand it without context, backstory, investigation, questioning, and real analysis by professionals who know something to begin with and are willing to study to find out more? Without the connections that surround each breaking-news event, awareness goes on a very undernourished saga. Uncontextualized content is a moody, excitable thing that will leave us all anxious and starving.

Privately, I continue wondering how long we journalists are going to be okay with our content fighting for air amid a playground of advertising and product placement. Without authentic anything, who is going to be our Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye) who grabs the media before it plunges way past mediocracy and crashes hard into clear evidence of a society in the toilet.”

Excerpt (c)  Random Events Tend To Cluster

Published by Lisa Hagan Books, 2017 www.lisahaganbooks.com

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Webinar: Explore the Replacement Child

FIRST OF ITS KIND WEBINAR TO DISCUSS REPLACEMENT CHILD SYNDROME, THE UNKNOWN PHENOMENON

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 1 – 2 pm EST.

To register for the free webinar, visit ReplacementChild.net for additional information.

Experts weigh in on the often ignored but traumatic effects of being the “Replacement Child” and how it affects the people around them and the world.

(NATIONWIDE) Lisa Hagan Books, in collaboration with Psychology Today, a top mental health site that has dedicated itself to exploring the connections between mind, body, and spirit, will host The Replacement Child: The Unknown Phenomenon, a webinar focusing on Replacement Child syndrome on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 1pm EST.

The Replacement Child is one who is conceived or adopted to fill the absence of a deceased child. Although the term “Replacement Child” was coined over 50 years ago, it has little to no presence in psychological and psychiatric studies and media.

The purpose of the webinar will be:
• To bring awareness to Replacement Child Syndrome and the effects it has on individuals and their families;
• To gain a more in-depth understanding of the Replacement Child phenomenon;
• To provide insight for professionals in the fields of psychology and psychiatry; and
• To introduce the idea of incorporating Replacement Child syndrome in post-secondary and doctoral psychology and psychiatry programs

Moderated by Hara Estroff Marano, Editor at Large for Psychology Today, the participants will be:

Barbara Jaffe, Ed.D., author of When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healinghttp://www.barbaraannjaffe.com

Abigail Brenner, MD, co-author of Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script http://www.abigailbrenner.com

Rita Battat Silverman, co-author of Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script http://www.ritabattatsilverman.com

Judy L. Mandel, author of Replacement Child – a memoir http://www.judymandel.com

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#writering: #LGBT icon on Hollywood

Judy Wieder is the author of Random Events Tend to Cluster, Lisa Hagan Books, 2017, her memoir of life at the forefront of the LGBT equal rights movement. This article first appeared on her blog, Intuitionsmedia.com.

Calling them “monsters” is too easy

By Judy Wieder

What’s wrong with making these people monsters?

Harvey Weinstein is the earthquake under the volcano. Bullying women (or anyone) into giving favors—sexual or otherwise—has been going on since the Greeks and Romans—maybe even the cavemen. In this decade alone, alleged sexual predators facing law suits include Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Woody Allen, Bill O’Reilly, Casey Affleck, and the president of the United States.

Though it goes on everywhere, politics and the entertainment business in particular are so jacked-up with this conduct, it’s considered part of the landscape, part of the power, perks and payoffs. What, then, triggered this sudden resistance and potential reset?  If we stay with the metaphor, volcanos erupt when nearby earthquakes destabilize the the area; and earthquakes happen when the pressure building below the earth’s surface can no longer be contained. In other words, the victims said, “Enough!”

Like the proverbial candle in the dark, passed around to light thousands of other candles, when a handful of irate women hit their tipping point and tipped—the spark ignited. I believe at least half the energy blasting up the Weinstein Volcano was amassed over the last 10 months while women waited, stunned and seething, as absolutely nothing happened to Donald Trump after his “Grab them by the pussy/No one respects women more than I do,” psychotic break.

It was time. One thing or another was going to shatter the spell America’s been under since the election, and Harvey pulled the shit card! The mass awakening of the previously silent majority (“me too”), is the long-overdue opening we’ve been hoping for. It’s hard to be an abuser without a victim. And its hard to be a victim when you’re being heard! Speaking out can wipe out both the victim and the abuser in one powerful voice: the abuser loses control, and the victim gains it.

I too have traded my dignity for the wrong perks and carried that regret around for years— just read chapter three of my book (Random Events Tend To Cluster). It took me a very long time to tell myself, let alone others. But, despite the present and heartening roar of the betrayed, I see a very seductive trap we could easily fall into: That ol’ black and white, good and evil, simplification of “the problem.” This month, most of our successful news and entertainment media (you know, the “fake news”), have featured Harvey Weinstein in deliberately distorted photographs. This, of course, is a form of editorializing, clearly executed to make him look like a monster, not a human being. (And believe me, I have no sympathy for this man. That  is not my point. Neither is obstructing Freedom of the Press. Whether subtle or blatant, facts and opinions are all we have to help us navigate our world today. But we, alone, must sort out what is true by dragging it all through our own “shit-detectors.”)

I believe it’s far too easy to take a criminal like Weinstein and portray him as a monster, the “other,” something not human. What do we gain by doing that? Maybe that makes us feel better? Safer? “We could never be him. He’s a monster. Not human like us.”

Unfortunately he is human. Just like the Nazis were/are human beings. Trying to put them in a subhuman category will never allow us to understand them or their actions; thus guaranteeing a rerun. If we never know what drove an entire nation—in the middle of the “sophisticated” 20th century—to try to solve their economic problems by destroying millions of their fellow Europeans, especially the ones they saw as different from themselves—what’s to stop a sequel? Certainly not the terrified deniers. All those “good Germans” who stood around and said nothing were as bad as the Nazis; the entire holocaust could not have happened without them. And yet, they too were just other people. Not treacherous creatures we’ll never meet again. Without enlightenment about the past and present, these easily repeatable catastrophes await us tomorrow. The signs are everywhere.

When we hide any tragedy (sexual harassment, genocide, hate crimes, mass shootings) behind “they were monsters, villains, crazy terrorists, the axis of evil”—then they’ll be back. They’ll be back because we don’t know what happened in the first place. If we label a powerful mogul a “Monster,”  that person can hurt us. But if we let ourselves see someone—anyone—as human, everything changes. Information is available. Education is possible—not just for criminals, but for victims. And knowledge is power.  All the “monster” power we assign these people, can dissolve. Without fear, there is clarity: “Ohh, he’s just a jerk?? I thought he had something I needed, so I gave up my control; I handed him my power.”

Monsters are for Halloween. Damaged people are year round. I’ve always heard the first step to solving a problem is correctly identifying it. Deep breaths.

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#writering: shattered ceilings

Above: Judy Wieder, author of Random Events Tend to Cluster, and 5-year-old Janet Jackson.

What a life. Judy Wieder is the unicorn; a smasher of ceilings every which way. She was the first female editor of The Advocate, the oldest LGBT publication in America, where she published talent such as Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Ethridge.

In a world of no women, she wrote pop songs and hit number one. She was so talented, she was soon working for Motown. Can you imagine, female AND white at the hit factory in Detroit? Did she and her colleagues understand they worked in a place that – like Sun and Abbey Road studios – would become a monument to music? Something big was happening there and the air had to be charged with rock and roll energy. Let’s do an interview with Judy and see what it was like…….

The title – Random Events Tend to Cluster – is the perfect way to sum up a life. In Judy’s case, her life does not seem so random. Far from it. Each step has been towards the right to be an individual, to be equal, respected and free. She marched through one of the wildest times in 20th century America – the 60s, 70s and 80s – and came out the other side. She helped shape the world of women’s rights and the LGBTQ community in more ways than we can ever know.

Thank you, Judy. We owe you a lot.

Beth Wareham is the editor-in-chief of Lisa Hagan Books, a writer and editor based in New York City.

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#writering: get jiggy with it

#writering is a random blog  by Beth Wareham, editor in chief of Lisa Hagan Books.

Memoir seems to fall from trees these days…and the maddening thing is that sometimes it’s by someone who hasn’t lived long enough to fill up 75 pages.

Not that I’m saying Judy Wieder is old; I’m saying she’s lived. Oh boy has she lived. She broke barriers left and right, including writing for Motown and becoming the first female head of The Advocate. She’s lived in some of the coolest places on the planet. Her human rights activism is renowned.

One of the reasons Lisa Hagan Books wanted to publish Random Events Tend to Cluster is the reason big box publishers did not. We loved the imaginative leap she took by including a look into important lives being lived in other parts of the world.

The times we live in shape us and so do the people. We read and take their stories inside. Here’s how Judy put it:

Why I wrote my memoir this way

Why did I write my memoir in this format? Why didn’t I just tell my own story? Why complicate each episode of my life by mixing in the stories of people whose only apparent connection to me is that we’re living in the same timeframe. If I wasn’t consciously connected to them then, why bring them in now? What will these layers add to my story?

Like anyone’s existence, mine did not unfold in a vacuum. The world and its commotion have been reaching out and into my life since I was born—whether I registered it or not. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more and more aware of all the influences around me and what I do with them. Watching the news can break my heart. Hearing a great melody can lift me. Getting a call from an old friend can make my week. My feelings link me to everything.

But even that kind of connectivity gets more subtle when, say, an emotion I can’t deal with during the day gets pushed away, only to come back in an unsettling dream the same night. Then that dream spills over and influences my spirit and behavior the next day, which, in turn, produces still another dream! Are my days influencing my nights, or are my nights influencing my days?

To me, it’s the chicken or the egg, and it doesn’t matter. Everything is bound together in some manner. Actions and reactions are taking place continuously throughout the universe in a very real, scientific, holistic, systematic way. Although it’s now impossible for me not to see this, the truth is, I didn’t have to see it for it to be happening all along. “It” didn’t need me to catch on. I’ve lived long enough to experience that things don’t always happen to me in the moment they occur. They “happen” when I comprehend them. That’s when the event finally “emerges.”

Although I have always been aware of—and interested in—significant occurrences taking place around me, never did I grasp the astonishing synchronicity of how the universe works until I sat down to write this memoir. Twenty-twenty hindsight allowed me to notice the historic events going on in the world during particularly meaningful episodes of my own life. Was that a coincidence? Was there a connection? Would my life have unfolded the same way if these other events hadn’t happened? I’ll never know.

Again, if you don’t consciously know about something, can it affect you? And what are the many forms “affect” can take? What if it’s affecting the people around you? Won’t that affect you? For example, on the day I was born in 1944, I had no awareness that my father was in Basic Army Training on the other side of the country from my mother, who was in hard labor with me in New York City. Like so many isolated WWII wives, my mother was surrounded by other anxious, first-time mothers whose husbands were God-Knows-Where, fighting in Europe or the Pacific. Or maybe they hadn’t even made it through the day’s battles?

From notes I’ve kept about details my father and other relatives told me, I am able to revisit what was going on while I was being born in a bustling midtown Manhattan hospital. But for me, a missing piece didn’t fall into place until I found my old notes from a trip I’d taken to Amsterdam in the 90s. I’d visited the famous Anne Frank Haus there several times, even making friends with a staff member. She let me see the actual pages surrounding the days of my birth, March 22, in Anne’s original Diary. From this information, I learned that Anne and her older sister, Margot, spent their long hours hiding in the secret Amsterdam Annex playing cards and talking about boys. Their “silly, banal” conversations about one particular boy hiding with them, distracted Anne from the unspeakable terror of the fast-approaching Nazis. It’s clear from her diary that Anne had no idea she and her family were only weeks away from being discovered, captured, and ultimately destroyed by the Gestapo. Only her father survived.

By understanding a little of Anne Frank’s day occurring at the same time I was being born 3,641 miles away in New York City, I can feel a much deeper understanding of my first day on earth. What was happening to Anne in Hitler-occupied Holland, was directly connected to the rising panic and dread surrounding me in that hospital.

Because there are literally thousands of historical events that take place every single day, what I picked from the world to write about in each chapter of my book, is not accidental. Naturally there is a great deal of information about me hiding in any of the story choices I made to layer each chapter. What we are drawn to says a lot about who we are. Like the friends we choose or the clothes we wear.

So why did I write my memoir this way? Because I believe it’s a fuller picture, a whole-r truth. My life, without something from the life of the world at the same time, is incomplete. And so, I have included a small selection of influences that I imagine were shaping me, as I was getting into shape to live the adventures I now share with you.

 

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#writering: eat the memoir

Beth Wareham is the editor-in-chief of Lisa Hagan Books and this is a random blog for anyone interested in books, writing, editing and publishing. 

People read memoirs to find out about interesting lives. I read them for the recipes. Think about Nora Ephron. Teaching Carl Bernstein how to make the salad dressing and then walking out haunts me. (Plus, I can now make it myself.) Now that was a woman, mixing dressing and walking out of a marriage and into an  extraordinary, successful and creative life.

Below is a recipe from one of our best, HIVE-MIND by Gabrielle Myers, a late summer jewel from her blog (click on her name above):

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Summer’s last swing in California weighs in figs hanging so low you bang fruitfulness with your head as you walk down streets. Fall fruit reminds us of life that we are just stupid to ignore. Smell the fat belly hang of a fig and wake up to life. Be here with the pollen’s sticky aroma and fecund life. Cut figs into eighths, lather them in Balsamic, olive oil, and mint, and sprinkle relish richness into the fatty folds of roasted tri-tip. Live, and poison everything with your version of life

1/2 pound Candy Strip figs, washed, stems removed, cut in 1/ 8 ths
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon mint, thinly sliced

1. Wash, dry, remove the stems, and cut the figs in half and then in quarters.
2. Gently place the fig bits into a small bowl.
3. Add the Balsamic vinegar, oil, and salt, and fold the ingredients together.
4. Set the fig relish aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.
5. Right before serving, thinly slice the mint and stir it into the fig relish.
6. Spoon the relish over grilled tri-tip or eggplant slabs, pan-roasted pork or salmon.

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#writering: publishing disasters, part II

Beth Wareham is editor-in-chief of Lisa Hagan Books, an independent publisher. #writering is a random blog about all things publishing, writing, and editing.

The first post on publishing disasters led to requests for part II. I aim to please. Enter Mary Carlomagno, former national events coordinator for Barnes and Noble. Mary was our “go to” person to get the ear of the then giant retailer. Mary had the power to assign your author to a plum store in New York for a signing or a strip mall ten miles outside of Boise.  Mary could make you look like a marketing genius or just another cube lurker. You didn’t mess with Mary.

In addition to brokering events nationally, Mary oversaw the big signings at the flagship store in New York.  Movie stars. Sports icons. Presidential candidates. These events often included a lot of cameras and lines that snaked around the block. NYPD had to manage the street with barriers. And there was Mary, curls flying, keeping it all in order.

Feels like those days are gone, but maybe not. Someone always comes along that seizes the imagination and a new line forms. Whether this event is about theater, art or celebrity, it doesn’t matter. It’s still a lot of fun.

Here are some of Mary’s favorite memories for her life working the lines:

“I went to the back of the store to see if he was ready. He was. He stepped out, a 7-foot basketball player, in a wedding dress with full make-up. He asked me if he looked pretty and I said, ‘of course you do, honey. Now go sell some books.”  The same man went on to attempt getting North Korea and the U.S. to be “Sister” countries. The project failed.

“Hunter S. Thompson required a bottle of 75-year old Scotch and Cabernet all day long. If it ran out, everything stopped.”

“I was working with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith when a woman approached me and rambled on for many minutes about the last time she saw me in the student center. Then she walked off.  Steven looked at me, laughed and said, ‘you have no idea who she is, do you? Happens to me all the time.’ Then he pulled me to him where he sat and kissed my side. I’ve not washed it since! I LOVED that guy!”

“A former First Lady, turned Senator, turned Secretary of State turned Presidential candidate needed something soft to stand on as she shook hands with each person in the line – she had signed her name on the books beforehand. I had to run to Bed Bath & Beyond down the street to find a ‘soft landing’ for her campaign-weary feet. I grabbed what looked best – a bath mat – and that’s what the New York Post wrote about the next day: the bath mat.”

“Whenever Whoopi Goldberg signed, she liked to answer the phones in the store for awhile. She was amused by callers reacting to her distinctive voice.”

“Cindy Crawford demanded hot chocolate with mini marshmallows in the green room. She wanted other things I’ve long since forgotten but I remember no one but the staff could touch anything.”

“I almost had to call 911 several times when women were fainting at the sight of L.L. Cool J.”

So, that’s Mary. She’s got a lot more but isn’t spilling. So I’ll throw in a few of my own:

I was pulling up my Spanx in front of my desk when Stephen King walked in and kissed me on the neck.

I went to the bathroom and there was Leonard Nimoy, lost.

I went to the bathroom and there was Yogi Berra, lost.

The cast of Jackass pitched me a book and the one who had been on “World’s Stupidest Criminals” asked me out.

Now that the cubicles have so taken over the business, all of this wild activity might be gone. I hope not. Publishing was and can be EXHILARATING, almost as good as a raucus party in hotel suite overlooking New York City.   There is glitter and thought and crazy and chaotic and I say it was just really good for the industry, all this “show business” of yesterday.

I say, let’s get our goofy on.  Throw some heat and create some energy. Everyone still loves a good performance. Get out of your cubicle and get it on.

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#writering: publishing disasters

beth wareham is co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books as well as a longtime New York City based editor, writer, and publisher. #writering is a random blog about anything involved in writing, editing and publishing.

Harvey makes me think of disaster stories. I actually collect them. But only the publishing kind. Believe me, there are a lot of them and, from a group of people that wants you to think they know everything, these bumbles are especially hilarious. In fact, I have a whole network of highly placed publishing executives ready to offer up more, anonymously of course. And the publicists! Oh, if those horrible dirty cubicles could talk!

If those workspace walls could remember, they’d report episodes like this:

*A harried contract publicist writes down the wrong code and overnights several hundred ‘dumps’, a display rack for bookstores, to book reviewers and media, instead of a review copy of the book. The bill? Almost $20,000.

*After her book tour, a British princess turns in a bill for cowboy boots, a purchase she made to “fit in.”

*An author barricades himself into The Plaza Hotel, complete with handguns and a lot of whiskey, and refuses to come out. The publisher talked him out and he went on to die and have his ashes blasted from a cannon. The publisher sent a representative to the blasting ceremony.

*20,000 copies of a cookbook – the entire print run – are lost in the warehouse. The publisher refuses to print more. The books are never found.

*While reading from the podium, a Brooklyn novelist whips out her boob and begins breastfeeding in front of a deeply confused audience.

*In an industry where NO ONE is given more than economy airfare, a future governor of California turns in a bill for private jet rentals.

*A manuscript accusing the American military of a vast conspiracy goes missing. It is never found.

*Urban Publishing Legend: A highly sophisticated player and editor goes to the company Christmas party.  He parties hard and needs to heave. Seeing a purse behind a couch, he uses it. The next day, publishing pulsates with news of E___ throwing up in the boss’s handbag.

*An author locks the door during a radio interview and proceeds to mock her publicist who is trying to break down the door. The interview is national and you can hear the pounding in the background.

*The shortest publicists are ordered into purple gorilla suits for a promotion. Only the tall people come to work that day and we don’t fit.

*When a famous novelist cannot get his check, a publisher kicks a hole in the wall of her office, screaming at the top of her lungs. The damage from her flat sensible shoe is immense. The wall? Particle board.

*A famous self-help author is on tour in San Francisco. His media escort swings by her house so they can grab a sandwich before the next interview. When she walks into the living room with ham and cheese, the author can’t be found. He’s nude in her bed, calling her name.

*An editor-in-chief outs an employee at a company-wide marketing meeting. We watch, horrified, as only corporate workers bees can. Same editor-in-chief calls every Latino male “Juan,” for no apparent reason.

*An editor signs up a book by “USA Today” publisher. Only the “USA Today” is a tiny magazine on Long Island. Sales department is sad.

*An editor gets ready to publish a collection of gardening columns from the New York Times, without getting permission from the New York Times whose name is on the cover of the book. Publicity stops him. He gets mad at publicity.

*Author of a chocolate cookbook gets drunk and shows up at book signing. His name is spelled wrong on the poster announcing the event and he trashes the place. You know, like The Who in a hotel room….

*A company publishes a made-up book about a made-up event in the Middle East, pitches  it to the most successful news show in the country, which happens to be a part of the parent company. Story is found out to be a lie, news show must sideline reporter, and book must be recalled, spraying poo on all parties concerned.  It’s called synergy, people!

*The wrong version of JK Rowling is published as an ebook. Publisher retracts it and reissues. And that’s freakin’ JK Rowling. Imagine what they might do to you.

*Urban Publishing Legend: Acquiring editor of first JK Rowling books overpays by a few thousand and almost loses job.

*Three publishing executives collude to fix prices in the face of the 2007-2008 economic crash. They are caught, lie to a Federal judge, and are fined a total of $60,000,000.00 in an already sinking industry.  Personal character and morality leave the stage, a foreshadow of the Trump era. None of the publishers lose their jobs but their legal staff does! And so it goes, big fish still swim sluggishly in murky waters of their making, in their shrinking sea…

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#writering: Don the Bomb

#writering is a random blog blathering on about writers, books and publishing

52873-Don+delillo+famous+quotes+2.jpg

by Beth Wareham of Lisa Hagan Books, an Indy publisher.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of a “literary gathering,” you do not know the wonder of a room of fashion victims trying to beat one another over the heads with words. I listened to two New York Times critics go down for the count over whether France was on the uptick, culturally-speaking, or not.  I got bored, wandered away, and there was Michi, describing a performance piece where monkey brains were consumed. (You should have been around when Art Garfunkel asked Michi out. What a to-do.) It was a party, Michi, and you just made my cheese spread and cracker look unappetizing.  Nothing has more “literary” pathology for study than one of these events. The war is always on and it’s all words.

Enter the man above. When he walks in a room, even those that have not stopped taking for decades shut up.  The very definition of “walk softly and carry a big stick”, “don’t open your mouth unless you have something to say,” and “outsider artist” ooze from this man.  He’s not your plaything or your patsy; he doesn’t perform for the mob. He’s in a leather bomber amongst the bad tweed and sensible shoes. He works his way across the room and all the posers and nattering nabobs part. They know the King of the Jungle when they see him.

Random facts:

*Don DeLillo has never gone online. He sees it as a complete assault on his individuality and his life: He does not know there are ebooks of his work. He may know now, but he didn’t for years.

*He was obsessed with the image of a man falling through space many years before he wrote Falling Man. (He wrote that book using a simple chronology, didn’t like it, and rewrote it starting in the future and backtracking to 9/11. Don’t try that at home, kids.)

*When Underworld was first published, critics received no additional information about the book. How could you capture the 20th Century with a press release? The book, however, is the finest novel about that most violent 100 years in human history.  The last word of the book is very famous.

*His editor and publicist almost came to blows over what kind of condiments Don liked on his sandwich. Silly? You bet. But that’s how ridiculous it gets around this great American novelist. Everyone wants to please him because he is great. Oblivious to all of these machinations, Don DeLillo lives in a part of the atmosphere where we can’t get.

*DeLillo is obsessed with the 1951 MLB playoffs when outfielder Andy Pafko ran to the left field wall and watched Bobby Thomson’s 3-run homer fly over his head. DeLillo opened Underworld with this scene, wrote about the event for Harpers Magazine, and published a novella entitled Pafko at the Wall in 2001.

If you haven’t read the great man’s books, I humbly offer my reading list: White Noise (the first book I read and simply the best with its “airborne toxic event”); Libra, a novel imaging Lee Harvey Oswald on his journey toward a world-shattering act; Falling Man, his novel of 9/11; and finally, a sweeping look at the 20th Century, Underworld.

“A writer’s writer” does not describe him. DeLillo is a law onto himself and will remain so forever.  DeLillo is the consummate individual, a term I think he would like.

Do right by Don DeLillo. Turn off all the gadgets that allow you to read this and sit down with one of his books. Don’t read criticism or look to the opinions of others. Don’t natter with nabobs about him, ever. This read is for you, the one thing that cannot be replicated. Let your particular arrangement of molecules collide with DeLillo’s story and see what comes about.

Because all truth must reside in one individual before it spreads, DeLillo wants you to step up, quit bullshitting and walk the walk. He wants you to read and think, activities in short supply these days. (See references to “the base” in mainstream reporting…)

Yup. That guy is the real damn deal and he’s not letting anyone off the hook. Think for yourself, folks. Read. Stop acting like cows. We are individuals responsible for ourselves and our actions. Anything else is just nattering and nonsense, a series of “literary gatherings” filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Ask DeLillo, he knows.

 

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#writering: Meeting Jeannette Walls

#writering is a periodic posting of blather about writers, books and publishing by Beth Wareham of Lisa Hagan Books.

 

Jeannette Walls

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I met Jeannette a long time ago (a decade ago!) in a tiny room in the center of an airless midtown tower. She was with a young colleague signing stacks of her first memoir, The Glass Castle which would remain on the bestseller list for 7 years.  A childhood remembered, it is by turns delightful and horrifying as her family bounced from desert shack to a dilapidated mountain shanty.  Jeannette and her siblings slept in cardboard boxes rather than beds. Her father – often drunk – and her mother –  depressed and refusing to get out of bed – seemed unable to care for their children. And just when you believe you can’t take it any more, Jeannette takes you to her father’s boyhood home, examines his mother, and this hell makes more sense. Jeannette’s love for her family is unwavering, even to this day. All of Jeannette’s childhood is bearable to us because it was bearable to her: She emerged full of human grace.

Somehow in that sad little book-filled room, Jeannette looked like she does in the photograph above, a yearling at the edge of a field, sun back-lighting her . Maybe it’s that  mane-like hair. Or it’s the eyes that have that equine ability to be look deep while scanning the perimeter for potential predators.  She gave an impression of being vulnerable and she was very kind. Her gaze was direct and strong: In retrospect I’d even describe it as unbroken. In fact her third book was called Half-Broke Horses.

I remember thinking, she’s no gossip reporter.  She’s already a writer, a philosopher, something quiet, dignified, not reporting on Beyonce or Justin Timberlake. I don’t know how long she kept at that job, but I can’t think of a more improbable pairing. I see Jeannette in that sunny pasture walking among her horses, blending into the sunlight.

I am hoping the movie version of Glass Castle remains true to the book; the trailer makes it appear like happy Hollywood malarky. It’s the darkness of that book that makes the story so amazing: Those two deeply flawed parents raised remarkable children.

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