From My Research Files...

One of the best things about writing MAGRUDER'S CURIOSITY CABINET was the excuse to spend ages staring at gorgeous photos like these, from turn-of-the-century Coney Island.  I have quite a photo file and there'll be much more to follow, so please come again!

 The Helter Skelter ride at Luna Park, Coney Island. 1905.  (h/t,  Shorpy )

The Helter Skelter ride at Luna Park, Coney Island. 1905.  (h/t, Shorpy)

 "Turning the tip" (which means, getting passersby to come see a show) at Dreamland, Coney Island, 1911 (h/t: Library of Congress).

"Turning the tip" (which means, getting passersby to come see a show) at Dreamland, Coney Island, 1911 (h/t: Library of Congress).

 Dreamland (h/t Library of Congress).

Dreamland (h/t Library of Congress).

I loved this last photo so much, there is a whole bit in the book written about specifically this view, waiting to hurtle down the track and dive into the lake in the center of the park.  




Six Months Out, aka Writing is Failure.

So, Magruder's comes out six months from now.  It's a weird time, mostly just waiting for something to happen.  Trying to focus on future projects--too many ideas and not enough time--while fighting off the urge to check Goodreads one more time.  

And also, err, NOT fighting off the urge to check Goodreads one more time.  

Blogger reviews are trickling in, mostly positive and generous and embarrassing.  Some others, not so much.  But this book was never going to please everybody; it was weird when I started and stayed weird to the end.  

Some people don't even like guacamole, what can ya do.

ANYHOW.  This quote from Doc Hammer of the Venture Brothers perfectly encapsulates how I feel as I wait (and tremble) for June.  He's talking about painting, but if you substitute "writing" for "painting," this is it exactly.  This is why publication is both thrilling and horrifying at the same time.  

"Painting is showing up and dealing with sucking, that’s the big tip, that’s what I want people to walk out knowing.... Painting is entirely failure, and if your painting wasn’t failure then you're not moving forward and you are not correcting your own mistakes. What’s the point of making another one if you’re so good that you have painted your masterpiece already. Every painting that a good painter does, they hate it, it sucks, and that’s what gets them going to do the next one so they can learn. That’s a hard thing to do: to have your occupation, hobby, life, be a place where you suck and you know you suck....

"I know that inside me is better. Dealing with my sucking and proudly saying this sucks is how I get up and do it again. I can’t let that thing get out there, I have to apologize for it with my next piece."

Thanks, Doc.  I best get cracking... 


Sissy That Walk

Today's extraordinary person sighting.... A woman at my gym, on the machine directly in front of mine.  She has her iPad balanced on the machine and is watching a video.  It's a video of a laptop. The laptop is showing a low-resolution clip of Little House on the Prairie.  

Let's get this straight.  She is watching a video of a video of a 30+ year old show based on an 80+ year old book about a family from 100+ years ago.  

In the show, there is a party going on.  Pa is playing fiddle, that guy from Soap is strumming on the old banjo.  Ma and the kids are holding hands and dancing, and the camera catches the shadows they throw on the walls.  Everyone is joyful and grinning--and in total silence, because the woman watching the video-of-a-video does not have headphones.  I think of offering her my extra pair, but she is bopping her head as though she hears the song, so I don't bother her.  She clearly doesn't need my help.

The credits roll, and then the video on the laptop ends.  Then so does the video of the laptop on the iPad.  The woman hits "play" and watches the sequence again.  Fiddle, banjo, dancing, end credits.  And again, and again.  And again.

I quickly find myself sucked into the video-of-a-video. I start to get it.  But instead of bluegrass, I am listening to Rupaul on my headphones because of course. I'm genuinely disappointed when she finishes her fourth viewing and gets off the machine.  

Sissy that walk, Michael Landon.  And you, too, iPad woman.

Real Talk on Writin' and Cryin'

I have a terrible for memory for most things, including what I've written.  So this comment from Salman Rushdie, about repeating himself unintentionally, really hits home.. 

My Danish translator emailed me very politely and said, ‘You know on page 215 of your novel such and such character says so and so. And as you of course remember in your previous novel, such and such on page 107 this completely different character said the same thing. I'm really interested to understand the inter-textuality and why it was that you wanted to connect this character to that character?' And then you pretend you did it on purpose. You can't just say ‘oops’.