Archive for August, 2010
On Friday I’m going to a farm in upstate New York, near Jeffersonville, if you know where that is, which I don’t. The farm has a barn and cows. It does not have the Internet.
I thought if I somehow connected the barn and the cows with some kind of grass- or hay-based conduit it might be possible to access the Internet that way. But I’m not finding a lot of theoretical support for that approach.
Seriously it’s freaking me out a little. I usually set my anti-Internet software for like 45-minute bursts. A week? That’s … heavy.
There’s an “Internet” “cafe” in town, so I’ll cruise by there once in a while. Like maybe every 8 minutes or so. But I can’t promise any updates during the week.
Which shouldn’t disrupt your lives very much, given how crap I’ve been about updating. But The Magician King is due in October, and I plan on hitting that deadline. Also I might have some other interesting announcements soon. Or I might not, depending on how things shake out.
As soon as I get back I’ll be flying to Georgia for the Decatur Book Festival and DragonCon. Come visit if you’re in the area.
The cover story in Time this week is by me. It’s a profile of Jonathan Franzen, a novelist who is of great interest to me.
The Corrections was kind of a totem for me while I was writing The Magicians. It was a transitional love object, like a teddy bear — I didn’t like to write without my copy of it handy.
That and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I put one on one side of my desk, one on the other, and wrote The Magicians in the weird magneto-literary field they generated between them.
Franzen has a new novel coming out, his first since The Corrections, which was in 2001. (Weirdly it came out practically on September 11th.) It’s called Freedom. It’s good. Franzen writes in a close-third-person style that basically to me is the state of the goddamned art for literary prose.
— I’ll be making an appearance at the Decatur Book Festival on Sunday, September 5. I’d figured I’d be part of a panel, or some such, but right now it looks like I’m on stage alone. On the First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary Stage to be exact. Not sure what I’ll be saying/doing there yet, but the mind absolutely teems with possibilities.
— On that same weekend, in that same greater metropolitan area (Atlanta), I’ll be appearing at DragonCon. This is not something you could learn from the DragonCon website, from which my name is absent, but I assure you that it is a formally sanctioned appearance. I am not “bum rushing the show,” as the kids said in about 1845, when I apparently learned English.
— Yesterday I fulfilled a personal ambition by appearing on Bloggingheads.tv. I always liked this thing and wanted to do it:
I’m talking to Reihan Salam, a really cool guy who is way smarter than me. Reihan is a conservative policy wonk, and I’m a squashy liberal humanities nerd, so you wouldn’t think we’d have that much to talk about. But the weird thing is we’re interested in exactly the same things, we just come at them from opposite angles. So if you want to watch me shoot my mouth off for an hour — literally an hour — about things I don’t know enough about, I can make that happen for you.
Currently I am working full-time, plus writing the sequel to The Magicians, and doing night feedings for a 5-week old baby. So until further notice my status is and will remain: BONED.
(Also I’m writing an introduction to Cat Valente’s upcoming story collection Ventriloquism. When this book arrives it will destroy you. It is going to change things. As its herald I will be spared. But you? There is no safe harbor for you.)
But I do want to keep posting things once in a while. Like this.
Back in the day I did a few commentaries for NPR’s All Things Considered. It was fun but really labor-intensive, and it eventually emerged that I was sort of crap at thinking of ideas for them. So that gig kind of tapered off.
I originally wrote the following story as an All Things Considered piece, which they rejected. After that I submitted it to the New York Times Magazine’s Lives column. Where it was also rejected.
Finally I have found somewhere that would not reject it: this blog.
(This story also appears in The Magicians, as Penny’s unfortunate adventure in Oslo, ME. But it’s all true. Here goes.)
As a young man I was curious about where novels came from, so in the interests of literature I conducted a horrible experiment on myself. I purchased a 1985 Subaru GL, herb green, and set out Westward, with a capital W, from Cambridge, Mass., where I had graduated from college that spring.
It was September, 1991. My plan was to find a small town, some dot on a map in some large, squarish state, and really get to know myself. I would rent a room, get a job jerking soda, date a lonely, lovely librarian, and Write. Also with a capital W.
I should have known things were going wrong when I set out West from Massachusetts and ended up in Maine, but have you ever noticed what a monstrously wide state Pennsylvania is? It’s like climbing an escalator the wrong way, it just keeps on going forever. So like a swimmer trying to escape a rip tide, I turned perpendicular to it and drove north instead.
The town I ended up in was a few miles south of Bangor — it is, almost literally, where Stephen King novels take place. My first few weeks there were spent living not in a rented room, because rented rooms require money, which I didn’t have very much of, but in my car. I shaved in the bathrooms of diners, and I showered — well, I didn’t do a whole lot of showering. Eventually I found a room in a farmhouse owned by a retired schoolteacher.