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Don’t Tell Me Not To Live


Last night, I had the great honor of escorting my friend and client George Hodgman to the National Book Critics Circle Awards; his book Bettyville was a finalist. Ittook place at New School’s beautiful auditorium that looks like the inside of a deco egg. It was a star-studded event. To the left of us, Helen McDonald sans hawk. Directly in front of me Paul Beatty who I’ve loved since his first book of poems. Wendell Berry seemed annoyed to be receiving a lifetime achievement award. Everywhere in attendance proud editors, agents and family members. Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland won in George’s category, autobiography. No complaint there, but still I have to admit that in the moment before the winner’s name is announced, I found myself hoping with the fervor of a small child making a birthday wish. We consoled and celebrated over a long and delicious dinner with friends where much publishing gossip was exchanged. A meal in itself. When I think about reading the first pages George shared with me and sitting with him last night, and all the work in between that went into Bettyville, I feel so fortunate. Publishing doesn’t always fuck you over,

Long as I Know How to Love I Know I’ll Stay Alive

08hodgman3-master18051q6c2lxz4l-_sx329_bo1204203200_Congratulations to my dear friend and client GEORGE HODGMAN on his NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE nomination. New York Times Bestseller Bettyville available in paperback  March.

Are you the kind of person who prepares his acceptance speech or wings it?

THe Best Things In Life Are Free

Just sayin’ (this year’s Forbes list)

James Patterson $90 million
Dan Brown $28 million
Nora Roberts $23 million
Danielle Steel $22 million
Janet Evanovich $20 million
Jeff Kinney $17 million
Veronica Roth $17 million
John Grisham $17 million
Stephen King $17 million
Suzanne Collins $16 million
JK Rowling $14 million
George R.R. Martin $12 million
David Baldacci $11 million
Rick Riordan $10 million
El James $10 million
Gillian Flynn $9 million
John Green $9 million

What is the point of this post? To make you feel bad. No, no. It’s just a vicarious thrill. I love lists in general and lists about richest people or most successful things in particular or worst dressed. Every Monday morning the first thing I look at in the newspaper are the highest grossing movies and at the end of the week the bestseller lists. I know there’s more to life, only what?











You Better Let Somebody Love You Before It’s Too Late









I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel and I probably never will. Still: respect. His obit said he bypassed children’s books as a child and read military history. Lord have mercy. I’ve always believed that obsessions from childhood dictate what we write, but that is really something. Also from the obit, “Mr. Clancy said none of his success came easily, and he would remind aspiring writers of that when he spoke to them. ‘I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,’ he once said. ‘You do it and you keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kissed you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.'”

I played golf for two reasons: to drive the cart and to have a makeshift egg cream which my dad made at the halfway house by mixing cream soda and Yoohoo. THe three rules he would repeat over and over: keep your head down, eye on the ball and follow through.

Though I also have to admit, and possibly from working with Patti Smith, that I have seen mystical things happen, but pretty much only when you are in the deep center of your work, completely obsessed and working like a mad man. (Do mad men work hard? Hmmm?)  But it can happen: a simile arrives unbidden and so perfect that you have ask yourself: did I pull that out of my ass or what?)

Any other decent sports metaphors out there for the writing racket?

I Feel Like A Number

It’s that time of the year when Publishers Weekly releases its “Facts and Figures 2010” issue. I fuckin’ love this issue. It’s pulling back the curtain on real sales figures which publishers, agents, and writers all lie about, inflating their performance like a frat boy on a Sunday morning. Plus, it’s just damn fascinating to see what sells and sells. Going through the list this year didn’t yield any major surprises or screamers. Though a new fiction king was crowned:

Number 1 fiction: the Stiegster. THe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet Best (1,900,000)

Top selling LITREE fiction at #7: you got it: Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom’s Just Another Word (761, 701)

Number 1 non-fiction: The Decider (2,653, 565) Honorable mention to Laura at #12 (605,000) Spoken from the Heart. (As you know, I prefer to speak from my ass). Chelsea Handler and Jon Stewart are in the top ten, big swearers both. Keith Richards is #4 (811,596); that should buy a lot of blow.

Mark Twain #22. Jay-Z #26

In Kase you were wondering, Kardashian Konfidential  by Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe sold 117,674 copies.

Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by love bug Amy Sedaris sold 154, 458. Brother David sells (420,473) with Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. What I’d give to go to their Thanksgiving.

Some celebrity stats: Sarah Palin’s America by Heart (797,955) Sexy Forever Suzanne Sommers sold (218,340) I am Ozzy came in at 145,364. Me by Ricky Martin sold 135,000. Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi (180,000), Condy’s Extraordinary Ordinary People clocks in at 116, 643. Is it Just me? Or is it Nuts out There by Whoopi Goldberg (it’s you) sold 108,866).

Do you read the bestseller list? Do you care?

Oh, Mirror In The Sky, What Is Love?

Whenever assistants ask me what to look for in manuscripts, I always say page turners or prize winners. There is an assumption in my directive that the two are mutually exclusive. That’s a big topic which I’m not prepared to get into while watching The People’s Choice Awards.

What I’d love to find out is which you would rather have, assuming you could only have one, a big prize or a bestseller? Literary acclaim or ca-ching? Reputation or readers? Apples or oranges?

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face*

I have a bad habit. Okay, I have several, but here’s the one I’m most proud of: I think I can tell how somebody writes by looking at their author photo. And basically that’s how I decide which of the Important Books to skip, because really, who has time to read them all? Before you have a freakout about how mean I am, I swear it’s not a beauty contest. It’s more subtle than that. There are some bushy browed dogs out there who still do it for me, who really seem to inhabit their faces the way the voice inhabits the page. I’m looking at you Philip Roth. Not a beauty, but a Dick That Gets the Job Done. Ditto Bukowski, says my friend Sean. Maybe Fran Lebovitz isn’t a conventional beauty, but I like the vibe she gives off in a photo.

Jonathan Franzen, not so much. I mean, way to man up for the cover of Time, homie. I know he’s America’s Author, but all I see is America’s milquetoast. I suppose he’s conventionally handsome and the article mentions his perfectly tossled hair, but I look at his face and I think of the word limpid. I flash back to how he deprived Oprah’s masses of his gifts on the grounds that he didn’t want to, or something. I see pictures of Jonathan Franzen and I think of all the emo narcies who ever tried to teach me to crochet. Five bucks says he sits down to pee.

This is why I haven’t finished The Corrections and why I’m making it my Life’s Goal to make it through the new novel. I have a feeling it’s a much more rigorous Forrest Gump. Even as I write this I feel that guilty tug of you guys in my ear: You don’t even know what you’re talking about. All the reviews are raves. Read it before you judge. But I’m telling you I’ve already made up my mind.

Botox. I’m not against it. There is a way to use injectables in moderation, so that you still look like you’re made of flesh. But Mary Karr: frozen in bitchface. Can’t read her stuff, don’t like her attitude. I imagine if she were a visual artist, she’d paint in menstrual blood. Her perma-scowl makes me want to pick a fight about the origins of her stupid faith.

For Botox done well, see John Grisham, Jackie Collins and Justin Bieber.

Who can’t you help but loathe on sight?

* Erin Hosier, whose blog style is “on the rag,” is not the same person as Betsy Lerner, whose blog style is “perimenopausal” and on vacation.