Arrrrgh! Eleventh hour edits. Reading the same stories over and over, coming up with less and less to say. Somehow still coming up with basic grammatical typos in stories I've been working on for years.
My cellphone died recently. Like, it won't turn on at all. Every time I press the button, the screen comes up, stays a few seconds, and goes. I took out the battery and was literally blowing into it like an old Nintendo cartridge. Ah well.
I went to Pride in San Fran today. Not really my scene, as I don't like big crowds, but I had to check out the celebration. And it was a celebration. Flags waving. People dancing--more specifically, grinding--on window ledges. Literally millions of activists have been working hard for decades to get gay marriage passed in California. And while that's just a drop in the bucket as far as rights go, it means something. Everybody was right to be dancing as hard as they were.
I hadn't been to Pride in years. I forgot how many boobs, asses, and ding-a-lings you'll see there. Honorable mention goes to the S&M dudes in pony masks.
Getting ready for my book. I'm taking the promo one day at a time. I got together a press release and sent it to some websites/blogs on Friday. Today is final edits. And I booked a book launch! It'll be at Pegasus in Berkeley on Wednesday, July 24th. 7:30 pm. There will be a few surprises. I don't have time to send the release to all the sites I want to, so promo for Hard Times Blues will be mostly word-of-mouth. Like it's always been with my work.
The Piper's Christmas Gift
I've been reading books about NYC at the fin de siecle in order to get details right on my own book. Reading The Magician by Maugham. The dialogue, which mostly consists of rich people talking trash to each other, is stellar. I also read the first chapter of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and feel it's going to be a favorite.
Also read this great book:
It's got some great pictures of old subway stations, but most is left to my imagination. I have to piece together what these subways look like from descriptions in the text. One thing I love about NYC in general is the mishmash of architectural styles, so I adore reading about the tulip-shaped light fixtures and little nymphs engraved on the station signs.
I'm reading old issues of St. Nicholas online. Here's the great fan page that lead me to them: http://flyingdreams.home.mindspring.com/nick.htm. A beautiful site. Kipling's in thse 19th century issues, as well as Mark Twain's later Tom Sawyer stories. As a fan of children's lit, I could get lost in those archives.
St. Nicholas is altogether charming. It's interesting because I really don't think kids nowadays would be entertained by these innocent nursery rhymes and stories. Of course, many of the stories are horribly racist. Many of the writers don't like blacks. Or Native Americans. Or Russian Cossacks. And, my god ,the pictures! It's weird to look at beautiful illustrations where the Anglo are all photo-realistic, but share the same frame with cartoon stereotypes. The racism, besides being fascinatng from a historical perspective, is also relevant to my book. A major theme is how images affect children's self-esteem. My protagonists have literally no positive representations of blacks around them. The best they get is Little Black Sambo. When I was a kid, I often felt degraded and marginalized by the images I saw of black people. It had to be worse at the fin de siecle, when every book out there was "comical darky" this and "lazy Negro" that. Nevertheless, St. Nicholas is a brilliant magazine, packed with fun and information and a plethora of history. There's nothing like reading an account of electricity from back when it was first harnessed, and thinking, "little does this writer know..."
Oh, and I'm currently reading one of their Christmas issues, so it's doubly charming. Although I'm not Christian, I've been liking the idea of Christmas lately. Aside from the Nativity, everything about the holiday, from the tree to Santa to the yule log, is taken from the pagan. Santa is an avatar of Odin, for Thor's sake. And every year we get together to give gifts, not even aware of how are customs reflect the Winter solstice from thousands of years ago. Add to this the Nativity, what I view as the most positive myth about Jesus Christ, and certainly the most whimsical. Add to this the elaborate mythology about Santa Claus, which includes children writing letters. Letters! Add to this the Christmas carols, most of which are Victorian in nature, and you have one of the world's most thoroughly unmodern holidays. That's why A Christmas Carol, with its ghosts and Grim Reaper, will always feel right, while modern-day Christmas stories about department stores and setting up lights have to work hard for my interest. Everything about Christmas is so magical, so spiritual, so connected with images of night, and stars, and carolers, and men in stovepipe hats, and druids, and fauns, and New England villages covered in snow.The whole holiday feels like it belongs to some bygone age. I think I might have to start celebrating it, in some way.