The party goes global...

Free counters!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Jordan Times weighs in on Thinner Than Skin

Merry Christmas, everybody. Happy birthday, Mr. Jinnah.

The latest rave review of the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan's latest opus, Thinner Than Skin, comes courtesy of The Jordan Times. In a review written by the not-totally-Jordanian-sounding Sally Bland, the reviewer begins by saying:

"There are a few novels that sadden one when they end — not because of the ending itself but because of not wanting to let go of the characters whose life one has shared for a while. My first experience of this sort was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The most recent was Uzma Aslam Khan’s Thinner Than Skin."

Well now! That's some pretty rarefied company to be placed in, Garcia Marquez and all. And I must agree with the reviewer that this indeed the kind of book that leaves a little story-shaped hole in your soul when it's over... But that's a good thing, right?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another great review for Thinner Than Skin...

...This one courtesy of India Today, a pretty major news weekly over there on the subcontinent. The writer of the review, one Bunny Suraiya, gushes more or less nonstop about the book, which is nice. A sample:

"Every once in a while, along comes a novel that one reads more for the quality of its prose than for its story line. Uzma Aslam Khan's Thinner than Skin is one such. It is clear from the get-go that the author is in love with words. Every emotion, every sight, every sound, every taste is mined over and over again for new analogies, fresh interpretations, in what one may well describe as a virtuoso performance-a master class in the art of creative writing."

Well, that's mighty cheery. There's much more, too, so take a look.

And in other news, hey, another nice review for An Age of Madness has appeared on Amazon.com! Thanks, folks, they're much appreciated...

Friday, December 21, 2012

First Amazon review for AoM

It's always nice to see reader reviews showing up on Amazon.com and elsewhere, but they've been slow in coming aof An Age of Madness. Happily, the first one showed up a couple of days ago, and it's brief but very nice. So thanks, Elizabeth Dickie, though we have never met. (Really.)

And hey! Anyone out there who has read the book and has happy thoughts about it should feel free to posty something. For bettre or for worse, we are organisms who are easily influenced by ithers of our kind, and a handful of people saying "Yo! This book is all right!" is likely to lead to mroe people reading it, and saying in turn "Yo! This book is all right!" which will lead to more people saying etc.

Sorry I have to shill like this but hey, it's the times and all.

In other news, Australia banned semi-automatic assault weapons following a public shooting in 1996, and guess what? There's hasn't been a shooting since. Damn Australians! Knuckling under to tyranny like that, throwing away their freedoms, offering an example of another way forward, and so on.

From the Wahington Post's Wonkblog:

' Back in 1996, Australia imposed a much stricter version of the assault weapons ban [than the US ban that expired in 2004] after a mass shooting. The Australian version avoided many of the loopholes in the U.S. law: Not only did the country ban all types of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, but it also spent $500 million buying up nearly 600,000 existing guns from private owners.

As Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff pointed out, Australia’s law appears to have curbed gun violence. Researchers in the British Medical Journal write that the ban was “followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides.” '

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Too soon? Too bad.

Please read this essay by George Monbiot in The Guardian.

I continue to be wrenched by the killings on Connecticut. But I'm also wondering where all the memorial services, candlelight vigils and NFL memorials are for the kids we're murdering in Pakistan.

They have names, too. Not that you would know it, given the US government's policy of silence concerning civilian deaths from drone strikes:

'If the victims of Mr Obama's drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as "bug splats", "since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed". Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama's counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that "you've got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back".'

Bug splats. Grass that needs to be chopped. Imagine if someone described the Newtown kids that way. Just fucking imagine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I read the news today, oh boy.

My home state of Connecticut took a hit today. Say a prayer for the kids.

Monday, December 10, 2012

More love for Thinner Than Skin

Not surprisingly, the Man Asia Prize longlisting of Thinner Than Skin has led to some new attention on the book, including this nice review from a blog site called Eleutheropobia, which is setting out to review all 15 of the longlisted titles. The review begins thusly:

"Layered with prose every bit as lush and verdant as the glacial landscapes it describes, Uzma Aslam Khan's Thinner Than Skin is a thick, intense and richly rewarding novel set in the precipitous heart of Pakistan's semi-autonomous Northern Areas."

Well, that's certainly the truth! The review goes on to say many nice things, including that Thinner Than Skin is "a gorgeous book." Can't argue with that either, IMHO.

And by the way, "Eleutheropobia" is apparently a word that means "fear of freedom." Who knew?

ForeWord review in full for AoM

Here's a link to that Age of Madness review in ForeWard Reviews. It's a bit spoiler-y, so I hesitate to post it here, but what the hell it's already on the Internet so there's no stopping it now. If you plan to read the book but haven't yet, then maybe you should wait, but if you're curious, here you go.

You can get more info about the novel on Amazon's page.

Once again, thanks to the fine folks at ForeWord Review for their kind words about the book. I gather the magazine is aimed generally at librarians and other industry types, and I appreciate the openmindedness with which the writer of the review has approached the book. Cheers.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thinner Than Skin makes the Man Asia Prize longlist!

Canadian / Indian edition
Okay, this is a big, big deal.

Thinner Than Skin, the recent novel by the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan, has been selected for the longlist for the 2012 Man Asia Prize. This prize is the Asian version of the better-know Man Booker Prize, which creates literary celebrities more or less overnight (Yann Martel won the Booker a few years ago for Life of Pi, and went from obscurity to superstardom). In 2006 or so, the people who run the Booker Prize decided to acknowledge the groundswell of literature coming out of Asia, both written in English and in translation, and set up a prize specifically for the region.

US edition
The longlist consists of 15 books, and can be seen here. Titles include some pretty big names, such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak, and some hot books from 2012, like Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis and Tan Twan Eng's The Garden of Evening Mists.

In any case, it's terrific that an indie author like Uzma, published by a small press like Interlink, is able to catch the attention of such a high-powered committee. It just goes to show the strength of the book. Comments from the Prize committee concerning Uzma's novel can be read here.

By the way, some of the online stores are claiming that the book will take weeks to ship, as they have run out of stock. Actually, the publishers are  rushing more copies as we speak, so Amazon.com and Amazon.ca should have them much sooner than they currently claim. So don't be wary about ordering.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How was my UConn reading,? Just ask Zarrin.

I had a fine old time reading from An Age of Madness at the University of Connecticut's Co-op Bookstore yesterday afternoon; there were about 15 people in attendance, mainly UConn students, who were alert and attentive throughout the whole thing and asked a pile of great questions at the end. It was a good time and it's always heartening to see that there is still such interest in stuff like, y'know, books and storytelling and so forth even in this age of Xboxes and Twitter and American Idol.


But hey, don't take my word for it. The cheerful and enthusiastic Zarrin Ahmed is a UConn journalism student who was covering the event, who took a bunch of pictures of me while I was talking and who wrote a very flattering article for the student paper. She got some of the details wrong (I was 40 when I published my first book, not 30) but overall the paints a very nice picture. You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hey, thanks, WNBA!

The Women's National Book Association, who sponsored that reading even at the Strand Bookstore in NYC back in September, have pinned me as an author they love and An Age of Madness as a book they love. Cheers, folks. Check out their pinboard here to see other people who are well worth reading as well...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Great review from ForeWord Reviews

Hey folks, happy December. Hope you're enjoying the snow...

You know what I love about winter in New England? Flocks of Canada geese parked along the side of the road, taking a rest in fields before winging on their way. Just hanging out, catching their breath, getting ready to move on. I saw this on Thursday morning, driving home from work, and I saw a smaller group again today. It always cheers me.

Anyway.

Those fine, fine folks over at ForeWord Reviews--a magazine and web site, for those of you unfamiliar with it--have seen for to give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to An Age of Madness, for which I am grateful. Reviews have been slow this time around, but the ForeWord folks display their typical canniness and discrimination in their Winter 2013 issue when they say, among other things:

"The book's greatest strengths lie in solid character development, the skillful creation of a distinctive voice, and a deliberate approach to plot revelation that rivals the best books of the mystery genre."

Well, thanks! That all sounds great. There is much more too, but I don't want to quote anything at length as they review has not yet appeared online, nor has the Winter 2013 issue yet been released as far as I know.

If you're curious, check out the ForeWord web site--you're bound to come across some interesting books. They seem cast their reviewer's net a bit further than most, which is something I value these days.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Upcoming UConn reading event

First of all, yesterday was my birthday, so hooray me.

Secondly, I will be reading at the Co-op Bookstore at The University of Connecticut in scenic and lovely Storrs, CT on Tuesday, Dec 4 at 4:00pm. There is more info on this page here. Anyone in the area who wants to stop by and say howdy, please do!

And for you students there in Storrs... Hey, my father went to UConn, as did my brother and any number of people I knew in high school. So I'm, you could say, connected. Want to come over and ask me a question about writing or the writing industry? I'm there, dudes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another terrific interview

Heard of The Short Form.com? Me neither. However, today they're running an excellent interview with Uzma Aslam Khan, which is lively and entertaining and not to be missed. Much like Ms Khan herself.

Hey, don't forget my reading down at UConn just one week from today. I'll post details in a day or two in case they have become misplaced in all the holiday shananigans. Hope to see you there...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The funniest video I ever saw on YouTube

Africa raises funds and awareness for those poor people in Norway. Gotta love it.

During the 2004 US presidential election, when the fiasco in Florida was requiring recounts and court orders and God knows what, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe offered to send election monitors to the US to ensure free and fair and transparent elections. Had to love that, too.

Thanks to the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan for bringing this to my attention.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Cover for Thinner Than Skin Canada / India editions

First off, I hope everybody had a cheery Thanksgiving.

Secondly, I hope we can keep the Black Friday insanity to a minimum (see below).

Thirdly, the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan got her books in the mail from her Canadian and Indian publishers this week. They're sharing a cover, and it's a doozy, to wit: 


If that doesn't look like a terrific book, hey, I don't know what to tell you.

Interested Canadians can check it out here.

Readers in India and South Asia generally can look here, or look here, or if you prefer, look here.

And of course, American readers can see it on its Amazon page and elsewhere.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I despise Black Friday

I was born on Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving not just for this reason but because it represents something that runs counter to the American ideal, something that could even be described as profoundly un-American: being satisfied with what you've got. Thanksgiving is, at its core, an exercise in, yes, giving thanks, which is to say, feeling appreciation for what we have been given and have worked for in our lives. Family? Career? Lots of shoes? Whatever--take a day off from the daily pursuit of more more more, and sit back for an afternoon and just feel grateful. It's a holiday unlike any other that I know of, in any other part of the world. Sure, there's probably something like it somewhere--Slovakia or Guinea-Bissau or someplace--but I don't know about it. And what matters to me, as I say, is that the whole impulse is so profoundly counter to what this nation often foists upon us. We can stop yearning after more, if even for a day, and that's great. Crack open a beer or bottle of wine or 7-Up, dig into the turkey or salmon steak or plate of tofu, and hang out with some people you like and may or may not be related to. Tell some funny stories, maybe watch some football, go to bed early. Nice.

Now, what happened when I was out of the country for 13 years was that this other thing, this anti-Thanksgiving, grew from some little statistical anomoly--hey, lots of people go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving--into a repulsive orgy of consumer frenzy. Black Friday is gross--there's just no other word to describe people pushing and shoving and fighting and, Christ, sometimes shooting each other for that extra-cheap, extra-widescreen TV. But what takes it from being just repugnant to actually infuriating is its juxtaposition with Thanksgiving. Its as if some asshole somewhere said to himself, "Well, let's see, Americans are actually kind of humble and grateful and decent for a day... So what we can we do to appeal to their basest, most grasping, most selfish nature? Oh wait, I know. Eighty dollar TVs at Wal-Mart, but you have to get there at 3a.m. and there's only one in store. Great!"

Thanksgiving is very close to being lost, and that's a fucking shame.

Thanksgiving is probably the day I like my country the most, but the pimps who run the show have decided that a day of thoughtfulness and gratitude cannot be allowed to stand without a corresponding day of greed and cynicism. Already, Black Friday is a bigger deal to some people than Thanksgiving Day itself. Many of the people I work with, who tend to be a good deal younger than I am, look forward to it with a glee that borders on frenzy. In many places, Black Friday sales actually begin on Thanksgiving Day itself, which is even more infuriating. Within a few more years I don't doubt that Thanksgiving will be the afterthought; the real holiday, the real reason to celebrate, will be the day that you can get up at two in the morning and rush to the store to fight the other suckers to buy shit.

Now, that may be a more accurate representation of American values than the urge to sit quietly for an hour being thankful, but I still can't help feeling that something will have been lost.

So listen: I'm officially resisting. I'm staying home on Friday, not going out unless it's to go out for a walk or a swim or something. I invite you to join me. Don't buy anything this Friday--don't even buy food (you've got leftovers, right?) or gas (where do you need to go, anyway?). Just stay home, or go to work if you need to. But don't go to a store, for God's sake. We all have enough crap already, don't we? Let's just be grateful for what we've got. For a second day in a row. We've got the whole rest of the year to sit around wishing we had more.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Please see this movie.

It's called 5 Broken Cameras and it's made by Emad Burnat, a Palestinian whose village was cut in half by the Israeli apartheid wall back in 2005. He had a camera at the time, so he started filming what was going on, as the village began a series of nonviolent protests in the face of the IDF's increasingly militant interventions. Inevitably, people get killed, and it ain't the soldiers with the guns and tanks who die. Whatever you may know or think you know about politics in the Middle East, please seek out this film and watch it.



There are clips on YouTube, along with interviews with the director and so on. Favorite YouTube comment: "Israel takes IRONY to a whole new level." That just about sums it up.

The movie will be available on Amazon on January 15, 2013.

It will also be available on Netflix.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Would have liked to see this

Some arena rock bombast to get your week rolling...



Saturday, November 10, 2012

TV thoughts

So here I am, wading throughall 56 episodes of SyFy channel's TV series Sanctuary, which ran for four years from 2008 to 2011. I'd never heard of it before reuesting it for review over on PopMatters, but the synopsis on Amazon sounded like it had potential, and I do love me a cheesy sci-fi TV show now and then, so what the heck. I requested it and it arrived soon after, all 18 DVDs' worth, and now I'm about halfway through. It's okay. It's fine. It's a bit silly, and there's too much CGI for my taste, but it's not horrible by any stretch.



The thing is, watching this has got me thinking about TV in general, and how far it's come in some ways since I was a kid, and how little it's changed, too. And I started thinking about my favorite shows. So here's my top five, for what it's worth.

(For the record, I never got into The Sopranos, or Mad Men, so they're not on here. I've never seen True Blood or Deadwood either.)

#1. Game of Thrones

A while back I wrote up a fun little blurb on Game of Thrones, which easily ranks as the most popular post I've ever written for this blog. Over 4500 people have read it so far, accounting for something like 10% of all the hits I have ever gotten on this blog. Which is sobering in a way... but then I figure it's because Game of Thrones is the best TV show ever made, and I feel better.



So then. An incredibly intricate fantasy world, terrific acting, snappy dialogue, great visuals and intelligently rendered themes. Yup, plenty here to like, and not much to dislike (though maybe some of the nudity gets gratuitous. No, really).

#2. The Wire

A close second would be The Wire, which I think is still the #1 choice for plenty of people, including my lovely and discerning spouse. It's hard to think of a show more unlike Game of Thrones: after all, The Wire is gritty and grimly realistic, with its thematic concerns firmly rooted in the criminal world of Baltimore, Maryland. King's Landing this ain't! Yet there are similarities too, namely excellent scripting spiced with mordant wit and numerous "oh shit!" moments, plus a terrific ensemble cast of mainly unknown actors who manage to inhabit these diverse characters and bring them to life.



And yeah, Omar is the coolest character in the history of TV. Cooler than Tyrion Lannister? You betcha.

#3. Breaking Bad

While the first two shows were sprawling ensemble pieces, featuring maybe a dozen or more significnt characters and nearly as many storylines at any given time, Breakign Bad is a show that stays focused on its twin protagonists of Walter and Jesse. The story chronicles the downfall of high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who learns that he has terminal cancer and decides to posthumously provide for his family by making a pile of cash in hurry by cooking anf selling crystal meth. Hilarity ensues. Except that really, it doesn't, and everything just goes to shit, inexorably.



It's pretty much impossible to stop watching once you've started. Great acting, riveting performnces, etc.

#4. Battlestar Galactica

Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, and probably not as objectively good as the above shows--I mean it's about killer robots from outer space, what do you want? But it creates a terrifically effective visual feeling of claustrophobia and doom--which is probably a fairly accurate representation of what it would be like, running for your life in outer space--while at the same time keeping the storyline (mostly) compelling. The show pretty much runs off the rails in its final season, but until then it's pretty compulsive viewing. Edward James Olmos oozes gravitas as the commander of the fleet, which almost makes up for the watery performances of some of his supporting players.



Shakeapeare it's not, but a good time nevertheless.

#5. Spartacus

And while we're on the subject of guilty pleasures, here's mine. Plenty of greased-up Roman gladiators? Check. Plenty of horny Roman nobles? Check. Plenty of over-the-top, ludicrous violence? Check. A storyline that, ludicrous or not, still manages to get its hooks in you? Check.



If you're not afraid to be seen enjoying something like this, then you owe it to yourself to check it out. Oh and the first two or three episodes of the first season are lame. Get through them and things get better. Promise. Oh and in case the above clip doesn't make it clear enough, this show really isn't for kids.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Uzma Aslam Khan: Thinner Than Skin

Here are some photos from last night's rocking reading by Uzma Aslam Khan, who read an excerpt from Thinner Than Skin to an appreciative audience at Booklink in Northampton:


As you can see, the turnout was solid -- roughly 20 to 25 people, which was a very nice crowd for such a tiny shop, also considering the wretchedness of the weather outside (not visible in thes pictures, alas, so use your imagination).


A fair number of local college students were in the mix, which was nice to see. I mean, I assume they were local, and hadn't been bussed in from like Wisconsin or something.


Uzma's uber-cool publisher at Interlink, Michel Moushabeck, provided a brief introduction and even pounded away briefly on his Middle Eastern tabla in order to get everyone in the mood. It worked.


After reading, Uzma shmoozed and signed books. A fine time was had by all.


Thanks to all the folks who gave me permission to use their pictures publicly on this blog!

As mentioned previously in this space, I myself will be giving a reading at the University of Connecticut Co-Op Bookstore in Storrs, CT on December 4 (Tuesday) at 4:00pm. I can't guarantee that it will be as lively and engaging as this event last night, but I can guarantee that I'll do everything in my power to make it so. So please, if you're interested and in the area, drop on by.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Uzma Aslam Khan reading in Northampton Nov. 8

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan will be reading from Thinner than Skin, her new novel published by Interlink Books, on Thursday, Nov 8. This is short notice (sorry about that) but I really hope that anyone interested will be able to come out and hear her. For those of you who never have -- she reads very well indeed, and Thinner Than Skin is a terrific book.

The readind is at Booklink in Northampon at 6:30pm, so if you need yet another incentive to hear her, you can come enjoy the lively scene of Noho before and after the event. So, if you're free Thursday evening, swing on by and check it out. And ask a question! And of course, Uzee will sign your book, etc.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reading event at the UConn Co-op Bookstore

Continuing my whirlwind, sometimes-successful-sometimes-not-so-much publicity tour for An Age of Madness, I will be reading at the University of Connecticut Co-op Bookstore on December 4--that's a Tuesday--at 4:00pm. Here are the details.

Considering that I'm a Connecticut product, I'm very happy indeed to be doing something down in my home state. So far I've done events in Noo Yawk and Massachusetts, but nothing in between. In fact I haven't done CT events at all since reading from Fallen back in 2005. So I think I'm overdue.

If you're in the area (which translates, pretty much, as "anyplace in Connecticut"), please stop by and say howdy. I'll of course be taking questions and signing books after the reading.With any luck we'll get a few college students asking me stuff, and we'll just have a good time generally. Cheers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Don't Open That Door! #20: Teenage Cave Man (1958)


Yo folks, I am asking y'all right this very second to shuffle on over to my PopMatters column, Don't Open That Door! and hit the ever-popular Facebook Like button for the most recent entry: 1958's epic (in its own modest way) Roger Corman extravaganza, Teenage Cave Man. Never mind for a moment that Corman later said "I never directed a film called Teenage Cave Man." It's great anyway--trust me! And so is my writeup. trust me on that one too. It stars Robert Vaughn, who would go on to fame as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and who was not even remotely close to being a teenager at the time this movie was made. Ah, Hollywood!

It's helpful to me to get as many Likes and Tweets and so forth for these columns as possible. The more I get, the more likely I am to be able to keep on writing up these old movies, which I love. So please, do me a favor and keep spreading the word.

Okay, enough groveling. Ahem. On to this week's column, which begins thus:


"Hear me, O my people! The Law commands that none of our clan cross the river, for lo, death lurks there in the form of hideous monsters and pools of quicksand! And besides, our tribe has bodacious babes a-plenty in snugly-fitting outfits, so why bother? Unfortunely, the old geezers running the tribe are a little cracked, leaving our youngsters, such as Teenage Hero Boy, to wander past the river and into the Forbidden Lands, seeking sustenance and so forth."

There's much more in this vein, and it's all a good time. So as I say, take a gander at the piece and pass it on. There will of course be another one next week (The Unearthly aka House of Monsters) and, if you're new to this, there are 19 earlier incarnations for you to enjoy...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cooking Tips for Bachelors: Hurricane Sandy Edition

Listen, I hate to brag, but I invented this entirely ass-whoopin' butternut squash soup recipe the other night, and -- no -kidding -- it just might be the best soup I ever tasted. So here you go. In honor of the storm of the century (um, we're only 12 years into the century, kids), I present to you Dave's Entirely Accidental and Amazingly Tasty Butternut Squash Soup. Whip up a pot, fire up the propane stove, and enjoy the blackout.

INGREDIENTS:

2 onions
2 cloves elephant garlic
2 small golden potatoes
Bulb of anise
Butternut squash
7 cups veggie stock
Salt + pepper
Cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp butter
Chopped up cilantro, rosemary
Red pepper
More salt + pepper

Fry the onions on highish heat till pretty brown. Chop the garlic into chunks and throw it in there, along with the peeled and cubed potatoes. While the potatoes are cooking, chop up the anise bulb and mix it in. While that’s cooking, peel and cube the squash and throw that in. Add maybe a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper and mix everything up.  After the squash has cooked a bit and absorbed some of the other flavors, add 7 cups of water and bouillion cubes/stock powder. Bring everything to a boil and let it simmer a while until the veggies get soft, then take it  off the heat and let it cool a little. As it’s cooling, drop a cinnamon stick in the mix for 10-15 minutes.

Take out the cinnamon stick, then puree the soup in the blender bit by bit. It will be quite soft and should smoothen right down. Put it back in the big pot and add some more salt + pepper along with the butter, then the chopped rosemary and cilantro and the red pepper. Don’t heat it but let it sit a little so the pepper warms through.

Serve with crusty garlic bread. Yowza.
 

This is not my dog. This is my co-worker's dog. He is named Rocky. He looks like a bat, or perhaps a fennec fox. He has never tasted my butternut squash soup, but all evidence points to the likelihood that he would devour it as he devours everything else.

He is about the size of my hand and is willing to eat or hump pretty much anything he sees.

He is a small rodentlike creature but he is also, I  have to admit now after many days of resisting, quite cute. I fought this realization for several weeks but I must now admit defeat. He is very cute. The batlike ears have a lot to do with this. I do not call him Rocky, however; I call him Yoda. He is starting to recognize this name, and respond to it, much to my delight.

Tonight we are awaiting the arrival of hurricane Sandy together.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We Live in Financial Times

Yo!

My good buddy, playwright Julia Lee Barclay, is responsible for writing and directing some genuinely offbeat, out-of-the-box theatrical experiences. One of them, entitled We Live in Financial Times, is going to be performed as a stage reading down in Washington, DC on November 5. You can get a bit more info about the performance at this site here.

I've read the play, and I have to say it is a mind-bending piece of work, replete with audience participation, meta-referential bits, free-floating weirdness, and plenty of good old-fashioned bolshy agitprop attitude. It's pretty much unlike anything I ever wrote, with the possible exception of Monster, 1959, which is probably one reason I think it works so well. It manages to be by turns hilarious and infuriating, and if it usurps one's expectations of how theater is supposed to work--well, good!

It is, in other words, well worth a night out. So if you're in the area, drop by 5th and K Street and check it out.

Julia also maintains an ongoing blog, which isn't so much about her playwriting as it is about some stuff going on in her personal life, and also about the book she's working on now (which is inextricably tied up with her personal life, as you will see if you check out the blog).

Some links to her work, and/or reviews of it, can be found here and here and here. There are more links on her blog.

She's a good egg, this Julia person, and I've known her, on and off, for 32 years. If she' can put up with me for so long, she must be a very nice person indeed. So take a look!

Below, here is what Julia herself has to say about the evening:


"Dear friends of reality,
 
If you live in or near Our Nation's Capitol and don't want to spend the Monday night before the elections biting your nails, pacing, drinking yourself silly or watching endless political prognostications most or all of which will prove wrong, here's another option:
 
Come to a staged reading of my play We live in financial times, Part 1: Blackberry Curve at the estimable Busboys & Poets on 5th & K in Washington, D.C.. Performance Monday, November 5 at 6:30pm in The Cullen Room. For details go to:
 

"We Live in Financial Times is a darkly funny theatrical shell game wherein the conventions of character and story (in the form of Mike and James, investment bankers alone with an angry female voice they do not understand) collapse and attempt to frantically reassemble. Global capitalism as tragic farce."

The fabulous actors include Phil Dickerson, Marietta Hedges and David Paglin. I'm directing this one...

We are especially excited to welcome the economist Dean Baker along for a talkback. He's the guy who predicted the 2008 crash before it happened and guess what? No one listened. I think we best be listening to him now...yes?"

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Listen to silence, not to others."

The always compelling Uzma Aslam Khan has a lively and engaging interview posted here in Pakistan's news weekly The Friday Times, in which she talks about writing, her new novel Thinner Than Skin, the state of Pakistan (as well as the State of Pakistan), husbands (ahem) and life in general. It's a terrific interview and well worth a look, so please, go take a look!

Thinner Than Skin is, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, a terrific book, so if you or your book club are looking for something to read, well...

Here's an extract from the interview:  

"AA: Being an English novelist of Pakistani origin writing for an international audience, do you feel pressurized into conforming your writings to the themes of so-called 'South Asian fiction'?

UAK:You can't think about this while writing. Not only does it have nothing to do with story-telling, but I doubt many people can know what the market wants, even if they wanted to know, which I don't. That said, though we can't guess the demand, we can examine certain patterns. Some years ago, I wrote an essay titled "Brown Man's Burden". In it, I say that today's 'Asian' novelists face an unspoken list of dos and don'ts. The most insidious rule on the list is the "freeing" of Muslim women by the West, an obvious draw in the current political climate, in which the West seeks to justify its wars through feeding the public the same hackneyed image of "oppressed" women-in-veils.
          Some years ago, a publisher tried to put a cover of a veiled woman on my novel, Trespassing. I fought that cover and finally had it changed. But at some cost to myself. So, to answer your question, do I feel pressured to conform? No. Does the pressure exist? Yes. And the particular type of pressure outlined here is put on writers who happen to be women. Slurpy tales with sensational titles like "Married by Force" still adorn the front displays of major bookstores, and covers with eyes behind a veil continue to multiply like bunnies. It makes it harder for those trying to fight these trends to be heard."

The entire interview bounces around numerous topics, all of which manage to be fascinating. You don't need to have read Uzma's books to be interested, although by the time you're done, you might want to!

For the book's Amazon page, click here.

For the entire interview, click here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New England Mobile Book Fair this Friday!

Hot on the heels of my Strand event in New York City comes my reading at the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, MA at 7:00pm this coming Friday, October 26. For more information, check out NEMBF's own site here.

The Mobile Book Fair sounds like a terrific bookstore--they reportedly have over 1,000,000 books in stock, all new, all discounted, which makes it sound like my kind of place. (I mean, I looove used bookstores too, but as a guy who only gets paid for a new book, I appreciate the focus here.) This will be my first visit to the shop, but I suspect it won't be my last, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm also looking forward to seeing some folks who may have missed out on the NYC events but are able to come to this one. If that's you, well, see you there...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Am I really that twitchy?

Camera don't lie, kids...

Unbeknownst to me, the Women's National Book Association and/or The Strand Bookstore decided to videotape the entire author panel event on Wednesday, and also unbeknownst to me, they posted the whole darn thing--all 86 minutes and 52 seconds of it--on YouTube for all to, err, enjoy.

As an exercise in humility, I present this warts-and-all version of myself and my fellow panelists as we introduce ourselves and answer a few questions. If you're lucky you might hear me say something borderline enlightening, but y'know, keep your expectations low.



I don't expect anyone to actually sit through this whole thing, but if you do, you'll get extra credit. So there's that. Also, count the number of times I say "Um," and if you get it right I'll PayPal you a dollar for each one.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

WNBA event was a blast

Okay, so you probably can't tell by this picture, but the event last night at the Strand Bookstore, sponsored by the Women's National Book Association, was great fun. Despite the fact that I look about as animated as someone delvering his own eulogy, the crowd was appreciative and the energy was palpable:


And yes, I'm wearing my hipster T-shirt from Brooklyn pop-rockers The Mast.

Check out those stacks o' books! This was held in the rare book room up on the third floor, which is stacked floor-to-ceiling with, well, rare books, or at least books that are too valuable (being first editions and so forth) to just leave in stacks on the floor or shelves downstairs.

And as you can also see from this photo, there were actual human people in the audience last night, listening to what we were saying or at least sitting upright and laughing at all the right moments, which is pretty much all I ask of any audience. I'd guess there were about 50 people there, including maybe 6 o 8 from the WNBA, which is a hefty turnout indeed by Dave Maine standards.

There were five authors there, and we each stood up and introduced ourselves for about 5 minutes, talking briefly about our most recent books (which was, in my case, An Age of Madness). Then we all took questions from the lively and likeable moderator, Roz, and after that we took a couple more questions from the equally lively and likeable audience. Then we signed books, drank cider, and shmoozed for half an hour. A fine time was had by all.

I was particularly entertained by fellow panelist Ben Ryder Howe, who talked about his nonfiction book My Korean Deli. Ben is a WASP-y Boston guy who somehow found himself in possession of, yes, a Korean deli in New York City, which he ran for several years with his wife (Korean-American) and mother-in-law (Korean, now living in America). He is hysterical and the book looks pretty great too--a funny reflection on serious things, which can be an effective approach to such material. So take a look if you're interested.

Questions ranged from conversation-starters like, "How do you decide how to begin a story?" to considerations of things like how technology affects the way one writes. There was a question about revising and one for me about writing a first-person women's point of view. (My answer: it's not that tough, because we basically all want the same thing. I don't know if that's true or not--though I tend to think so more often than not--but it went down well and a couple of people even came up to me afterward to tell me that they liked what I'd said.)

So thanks again to the WNBA, and to the Strand, and to everyone who came out last night to hear us. It was a good time, and maybe one we can repeat at some point down the road...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My latest web obsession

So, what am I listening to right this moment? I’m glad you asked.

Right this very moment, I’m listening to 200 More Miles by the Cowboy Junkies, a double live album that came out in the mid-90s but which I only recently picked up. Actually, I got it for free, in the mail, when someone sent it to me. Cool, right?



I can hear you right now: “Dave! Tell me more!”

So, okay, my latest web obsession is this site called SwapaCD.com. You can probably figure it out from the name. Basically, people join the sit in order to mke a list of all their old CDs that they no longer want. Once they’;re posted, other members can claim them (or, if they are listed already on their Wish Lists, the claim is made automatically). Once claimed, the person posting the CD is asked to print out an address label to the person who has requested it, wrap it up nicely so it doesn’t shatter, and drop it in the mail. Once the person receives it, s/he marks it as received. At that point, the sender gets credited with having sent it, and then s/he can request a CD from any other member. Hey presto—socialism at work, or something!

So, it’s not exactly free. In addition to the original cost of the CD, you need to pay postage to mail it, which will be roughly one or two dollars, depending on how much packaging you use (and therefore how much postage you need). Plus, the SwapaCD site charges 49 cents per transaction—that’s how they make their money. So, two to three dollars altogether. Is it worth it? Sure.

So far I have received the Cowboy Junkies record, plus an Oasis album (Heathen Chemistry), and I have a handful on their way—Ziggy Marley, Astroqueen, Vivaldi flute concertos, Carmina Burana. The site is great for swapping out old stuff you never listen to anymore for new stuff you might listen to a bit. It’s not good for stuff you absolutely must have right away—there’s quite a wait for popular titles, and even if the disc you want is available immediately, you’re still at the mercy of the other person to get it in the mail, not to mention the Post Office who needs to deliver it. (I’ve been waiting for Astroqueen for two weeks; it was mailed from Maine and should’ve taken five days at most.) But still, there’s much more fun than not-fun about the site, at least so far. And hey, if you want to stock upn on old Norah Jones albums, you’re in luck—there’s something like 156 available copies of her first record, so, no waiting for you!



The other potential negative thing is that you’re at the mercy of the sender as far as the condition of the discs goes. So far, the two I’ve received have been pristine—they look brand new, like they were gifts that just didn’t do it for the sender. But I’ve been told by others that CDs can run the gamut, condition-wise, from brand new to unplayable. Of course, there’s an option on the site to say “I received an unplayavble disc” and then you won’t be charged. But it’s not fun, I imagine, when it happens. Fortunately for me, it hasn’t happened yet. We’re all in the same boat, right? We all want stuff to be in good shape.

So I encourage everyone to go join. The more people there are involved in this thing, the more records there will be in the mix, and the more to choose from, and the shorter the wait for what we all want. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More info about the Strand Bookstore event in NYC

Check out this link for photos and thumbnail sketches of all 5 of us authors who will be appearing on Wednesday night at the Strand Bookstore. Looks like a colorful bunch!

Thinner Than Skin is great; reminder of NYC event

Ho there, just a couple of reminders for today. First: the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan's latest novel, Thinner Than Skin, is out now and widely available at such outlets as Amazon.com. If you haven't read her other books, you're in for a treat, as this one's a scorcher. If you have read her other stuff, well, you know how good she is, so go have fun.

And yes, it's a great title. And a great cover too!

On a completely unrelated topic, my appearance at the Strand Bookstore in NYC is looming large--just four days away now as I type this. I will be there on Wednesday, Oct 17 from 7 - 9pm, along with a number fellow writers Ben Ryder How, Elizabeth Nunez, Marisa de los Santos, and Alix Kates Shulman. We'll be discussing our books and the state of the publishing industry (I guess), along with whatever else anybody wants to ask. This is all part of the National Women's Book Association's events for October, which is Reading Group Month, and An Age of madness has been selected as a "Great Group Read" by these fine, discerning readers. So there you go!

Tomorrow I will perhaps write something about this addictive new sit I have joined, called SwapaCD.com. You can probably figure out what it does. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Reading groups!

It's been brought to my attention (by my hard-working and much-aapreciated publicist, Billy) that there are any number of reading groups scattered across these United States, some of whom might have an interest in reading one of my books--particularly An Age of Madness, given its recent publication and its involvement with National Reading Group Month. So let me take this moment to say to any potential reading-grouper (groupie? No, probably not that): Hey! I'm available! Give me a shout.

In the past, reading groups have read one or the other of my books and then, through the magic of email, they have submitted to me questions which I then answered and returned, spurring (I hope) some converation that might have gone in an unexpected direction. That was fun, and people seem to enjoy it.

These days, however, I'm here in the US, meaning that through the magic of Skype or--at least in the NY/NE area--through the magic of the internal combustion engine, I can come face-to-face with people, either by arriving in person or Skyping over the internet. I'd be happy to do this. I would in fact be thrilled to do this. Writing books is a strange, somewehat isolating discipline, and having the opportunity to interact with people who have taken the time to read something of mine is very gratifying.

So, if you're involved with a reading group and you'd like some face time, give me a shout. Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you. Or just email me directly at dmloveletters@yahoo.com. If you're in NY or New England, there's a good chance that I'll be able to make the drive to see you in person (if that's something you want). Don't be shy. It's fun...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Don't Open That Door! #17: Tarantula

Hey, remember that great giant-spider movie from the '50s where there's this huge hairy tarantula on the prowl in the desert and these guys are watching it next to a truck, and when the spider comes their way they get all panicky and try to start the truck but the truck won't start and they keep trying and trying as the spider gets closer and closer and everybody's freaking out and you're watching all this trying not to piss your pants? Well, that's this movie.


It's also the latest in my PopMatters column, Don't Open That Door!

And it's also the first screen appearance of noted actor-director-guy-who-talks-to-empty-chairs-at-political-conventions, Clint Eastwood. Really! (Though you won't see him, because he's wearing a fighter pilot's mask, but he's under there, promise.)

Here's the opening paragraph:

"Small-town Arizona mainstay Doctor Matt is concerned when a horribly disfigured body turns up in the desert, bearing the signs of an obscure disease that takes years to develop. The body’s former employer, reclusive hermit and crackpot Professor Deemer, declares that the man did indeed die of acromigalia, despite having no symptoms only days ago. Doctor Matt argues that the disease, whose Latin name means “death due to a really atrocious makeup job,” couldn’t have developed so fast, but Professor Deemer—you can tell he’s a scientist by his British accent, and besides he’s got a lab rat the size of a golden retriever—remains adamant. Doctor Matt gives in. Local lawman Sheriff Jack takes the opportunity to rub Doc’s face in it, too, and that’s that."

There's a lot more laughs and chills, so please, mosey on over to PopMatters and read the whole article. And if you're so inclined, give it a Like on Facebook, or a Tweet or a G+. The more the merrier!


Event update: Better than a reading

I just received word from Rosalind Reisner, the woman who will be moderating the Oct 17 event at the Strand bookstore in New York City, and it looks like my understanding of the whole she-bang was slightly off base. This will not, it turns out, be a reading. (The crowd roars in appreciation.) Rather, the four of us writers will be given a few minutes to introduce their books, then Rosalind will ask questions in an attempt to spur a lively and spirited discussion about -- oh I don't know, writing and books and the state of the publishing industry and whatever.

Mixed in with all of that will be the chance to take questions from the audience, and of course some time at the end to shmooze and sign books.

This all sounds pretty fun, and potentially a lot livelier than just a serial reading, in 20-minute chunks, from a bunch of worthy authors. The event runs from 7:00-9:00pm in the Strand's Rare Book Room, upstairs on the third floor. Here's some more information about the event, and about the Strand in general.

See you there? I hope so.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thinner Than Skin available now!

Hey all, Uzma's newest novel, Thinner Than Skin, is now on sale at Amazon and some other outlets, including Booklink in Northampton, MA (where I took the picture below). It's a terrific book and a real page-turner, so please check it out and support independent aithors (yay!) and publishers, like Clockroot (double yay!).


If you can't find it, look toward the top third of the photo. It's facing you.

For more info from the publisher, take a look at Interlink/Clockroot's page for the book.


I've said this before, but: Cool cover, eh?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wordstock event cancelled

It saddens me to say this, but I will not repeat NOT be appearing at Wordstock in Portland, Oregon later this month, as originally planned. This has nothing to do with any problems with Wordstock or its organizers; it's just that I am unable to get out to Portland as I'd originally planned.

My apologies to anyone who might have planned to see my event. It's unlikely that this will be too helpful, but I will be reading at the Strand bookstore in New York on October 17.

My publisher and publicist are working to line up some other events on the west coast, so fingers crossed that they work out... 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Library Journal shines a light on An Age of Madness

Hey-oh, take a gander at Library Journal's announcement of "Twenty Great Reads for National Reading Group Month" -- and guess whose book they decided to mention by name (and cover).

Reading Group Month is October -- as in, right now, yee-hah -- and I'm excited to see what happens as fallout from it. Apart from my reading at the Strand Bookstore in New York on October 17, and at the New England mobile Book Fair on October 26, there may well be more events lining up. Stay tuned for details.

Meanwhile, Library Journal gives this background for the whole concept:

"Titles were selected on the basis of their appeal to reading groups as a means of stimulating conversations about a range of topics from family dynamics to world events. The committee also chose to focus attention on titles from small presses like Red Hen, Other, and Grove and lesser-known mid-list releases from major publishers. A starter packet includes a flyer and a WNBA/NRGM bookmark, and librarians, booksellers, and reading groups are welcomed to use any of the materials found on the NRGB website for 'October is National Reading Group Month' purposes."

The Journal goes on to call An Age of Madness "a penetrating story," which just goes to show what terrific taste they have over there. Thanks, folks.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

TNBBC's take on KGB

Lori over at The Next Best Book Club has also blogged about our KGB gig -- the vids are the same but she has a few insights of her own, plus a photo or two. Drop on by and tell her hi!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

KGB footage found!

...Uh, that is, a video of me reading at KGB Lit Bar in New York on September 16, as taken by the supernaturally energetic Lori over at The Next Best Book Club. Not that other KGB, sorry.

Here's part 1. It looks dark and grainy because the place is just incredibly dimly lit and the wall are painted blood red besides. But you sort of get the idea maybe:



And here's part 2:



A reminder: I will be reading at the Strand Bookstore in Manhatten on Wednesday, October 17 with a bunch of other immensely talented people, 7:00-9:00pm. Will most more info about that soon.

Meanwhile, huge smooches out to Lori for taking the time and trouble to do all this -- not just setting up the event and filming it, but splicing and editing and posting and everything. You are, as I have said before, my #1 fan.

I am wearing a TNBBC Book Addict T-shirt. It rules. Buy one from Lori here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Right now, at this very second, I am...

1. ...Sitting at a car dealer in's in Northampton, Mass.

2. Waiting for my car to be repaired.

3. Tasting the pizza I had for lunch.

4. Shivering to too much air conditioning.

5. Anticipating a hefty repair bill.

6. Listening to Nickelback.

DISCUSS: Which of these is the most tragic? Support you argument with concrete examples and logical conclusions.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow (or the next day, or the day after that) for another exciting episode of "A Writer's Life."