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Someone Found A Letter You Wrote You Me on the Radio

Here’s the link to a radio show I did last week. It was a sixty minute call in show, and after a while I got a little restless. It was then I spied the power bar I had brought in for lunch. If you listen to the interview, I want you to tell me if you can detect when I started chowing down on the power bar. More,  I want you to appreciate the kind of special guest and self-promoter I am that I would begin to NOSH during a radio interview. Imagine, what I could on television!

I had another interview the next day; I limited myself to my special raspberry drops, Les Framboises. My dad would buy us these tins at Broadway shows and I was in love with the fancy calligraphy and, of course, the tin itself which seemed like treasure, or better yet to hold treasure. As it turns out, this was also a mistake because I always bite down on hard candies. I wonder if the sound of me spitting out the raspberry drop can heard on the interview? That would be awesome.

This is an open letter to Stephen Colbert. I swear, if you have me on your show, I will remove a wrapped cheeseburger from my pocket, unwrap it, and eat it instead of answering your question. I will eat an entire Carvel cake in the time it will take you to ask me  a follow up question.  This goes for Stewart, Letterman, Rose, Handler, and Fallon. (I’m not going to get into it, but Conan being off the list is not an oversight.) Let’s make television magic!

Who Can Take a Sunrise


Oprah Will Resume Book Club On September 17–And No, It’s Not FREEDOM

“Just under a year after selecting Uwem Akpan’s SAY YOU’RE ONE OF THEM, Oprah Winfrey is ready to pick another book for her audience to read. Newtonville Books blogged that they were notified by a Macmillan sales rep of the impending announcement, to air on September 17, when the Oprah-stickered edition will release.

Let’s face it, the Oprah pick is the grown up equivalent of the Wonka gold ticket. The industry is atwitter with expectation. We’re talking a couple million copies and that’s just domestic. I’ve almost never met an author, even the most sane and sober, who didn’t at some point betray his intelligence by suggesting that he would be a terrific guest on Oprah. Except for what’s his name. Oprah is hard and wet. She is fat and thin. She is straight and gay. She is everything and everything is me. Do you remember when she started to give Phil Donahue a run for his rug? For me, friends, it was a thrill to see a hugely overweight woman demand so much share. Sure, she’s made some mistakes, but the girlfriend sells our hotcakes. Long may she wave.

And now, my question for today. If you got the gold ticket, the tap from Lady O, what do you think it would bring: money, readers, fame, disaster, pussy, time, ocean, booze, or a new roof. What would you want? What would you get?

Now You Won’t Stop Calling Me, I’m Kinda Busy*

Good god, how do the bloggers do it every day? I know people who get paid to do it, so that’s one thing, but right now I have a fever and some kind of all-over body ache and I can’t even keep the goldfish down. (The ones by Pepperidge Farm, not the kind that silently judge you while you make love with your spouse.) Anyway, I wanted to at least say hi and leave you with something, anything, to keep you hanging on till Lerner gets back.

These images are from a website called Better Book Titles by a comedian named Dan Wilbur, who was bummed everytime he went to the bookstore to browse and couldn’t tell from the cover or jacket copy what the heck the book was supposed to be about. So he made new covers so America could get the gist. Some of them are funnier than others, you know, but this is the best thing I saw today through my fever haze.

Is The Girl With the Pearl Earring Tattoo worth reading? Cause when books get this popular I simply skip em.

* This post was written by Erin Hosier, who has studied under Betsy Lerner for 2666 years.

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.

I Saw the Movie and I Read the Book

Is that going to be on the exam?

Please take moment, treat yourself to a good laugh, and watch this hilarious book trailer for Gary Shteyngart’s new novel Super Sad True Love Story:


Now, please take out your number two pencil and answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have the new “skill set” for becoming an author?
  2. Have you fully grasped the new technology as the “game changer” for marketing books?
  3. Define the meaning of the word “whore.”
  4. True or false: we are guilty of fetishizing all things Russian: vodka, matryoshka dolls, novelists
  5. The durability of Jay McInerney. Comment.
  6. Mary Gaitskill.
  7. Gary Shteyngart: brilliant buffoon or pretty poseur?

I’m thinking of making a trailer for the revised Forest for the Trees due out in October. I think I’ll start by visiting authors’ graves. Then, I’ll interview James Franco and compare notes about our experience as MFA students. I bet we feel exactly the same way. Then I’ll download something. Then I’ll ask James Franco to join me and August in the hot tub. Would it be too much to ask him to recite The Most of It by Robert Frost? Then we’ll go on a publishing lunch date and pretend to enjoy it. Then we’ll marvel at our iPads. Then we’ll end at Yale where James Franco is teaching. And then we’ll kiss.

What’s gonna be on your book trailer?

Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night

Literary Novelist Turns to Vampires and Finds Pot of Gold

Justin Cronin at an annual book industry convention in New York last week.
Chad Batka for The New York Times — DOESN’T THIS LOOK LIKE A LOT OF FUN??

Published: June 1, 2010

Justin Cronin is the author of an epic, multimillion-dollar, 766-page novel that stars bloodthirsty creatures that run in packs and savagely kill people at night. And he’s planning to turn it into a trilogy.

Dearest darling readers of this blog: Take a moment to read the NYT article about Justin Cronin if you haven’t already. And then tell me, WTF, why isn’t that US? Why aren’t we buying our daughter a pony. Why didn’t we initiate a game “Let’s Plan a Novel Together?” (I actually play this with my daughter all the time but we’ve never gotten past the first few sentences.) Why didn’t we sell film rights to Scott Free Productions with John Logan writing? Why are we not Justin Cronin. And try as I might to hate him and his good fortune, he seems great. Kids, for the umpteenth time: a vampire novel! Please!

What I really want to know, though, is how do these articles make you feel? Hopeful? Inspired? August?

Long Live the King Yo

Dearest Readers of This Blog:

I am late out of the gate with this post due to marrying a Catholic with a large family who takes Easter seriously (I did not know this going in), and a flat tire on the Palisades Interstate Parkway at approx mile 3.5. All of the usual things happened: a man, resembling a serial killer stopped to help. The flat bed tow truck driver relieved of us $40 in what was, to all, an obvious scam.

This morning a NYT article on David Remnick was puffier than my pillow. He takes the subway! He makes time every day to chat with the little people! He writes lovely thank you notes! He gets up at 5:30 am to start writing and, after he puts the kids to sleep, he burns the midnight. Just want to say, for the record: I do all that. And I would go man to man with him on thank you notes. Mine perfectly drip with sincerity and ass-licking cant so subtle and sublime you might think I actually cared. Oh, and one other difference, small, I don’t run The New Yorker. That.

I’m Singing In the Rain

Dear Betsy,
Honestly, how important (or not) is it for a writer to have a blog? I started one over a year ago to try and promote my work, but I decided to stop for a number of reasons, at the top of the list that I wasn’t updating it every day. I write longer pieces, and I felt that my audience (barring 37 friends) wanted shorter. I also began to feel like a hack; I don’t read blogs (except yours and those of a few foodies), I read books. I write books, and I hope they will be published. Have I squelched my chances by removing myself from the cybersphere?
Your Fan,

P.S. I also hate Facebook.

Dear To Blog or Not to Blog:

You shouldn’t blog. You tried it, like you might try sweet and sour soup, or snowboarding, or tinting your eyelashes and you determined that it wasn’t for you. It’s not a crime not to blog. It’s tempting in this rapidly changing world to think you have to cover all the bases: website, blog, facebook, tweet, and god only knows what’s coming down the pike. Some people are not temperamentally cut out for it. I think Robert Lowell would have blogged, not so Elizabeth Bishop. Walt Whitman and Alan Ginsberg would have blogged; Emily Dickinson might have tweeted. Sylvia Plath would have blogged. Anne Sexton would have been all over Facebook.

Some writers have made tremendous use of the web to promote their work. I think the best example is Chuck Palahnuik. Not that he needs my plug. His site, aka The Cult, is pretty amazing with forums, writers workshop, galleries, chat rooms and a store! If anyone wants to know what to get me for any occasion, I really like the t-shirts.

Look, it’s certainly an advantage if you have a huge presence on the web, especially if you are starting out and want to show a publisher that you have a following, a platform to use their word. Of course it is. But you can’t make yourself someone you’re not. As far as I can tell, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lorrie Moore don’t blog.

What do you think out there? How important is it to B-L-O-G?

When You Got Nothing, You Got Nothing To Lose

National Book Awards  failed to recognize two of my clients. Big mistake. 


I was going to tell you what books have influenced John Cusack (thanks to O Magazine), but I’m in too shitty a mood. Instead, this is an open letter to John Cusack’s agent and manager: WHAT THE FUCK? How come you guys can’t get him anything better than some dumbass martian kid movie and that other widower one that stares at me from my video store shelf like some filthy sock puppet that the dog doesn’t even want. Do I have to remind anyone how hot and sensitive this guy was? And I was a Sean Penn girl myself. Okay, I’m sure we don’t need to elaborate on that (Hamm v. Byrne, etc.). Still, I’m a book agent and I think I could get him a better movie part. A monkey could. Proof: In production he has something called “Hot Tub Time Machine,” and in development, “Cosmic Bandit.” I rest my case. Or is there something about him we don’t know, something some genius publicist has kept out of the papers? If so,  she works hard for the money. Does everybody know some secret about Cusack but me?

Okay, I’m feeling a little better.Here are the books that influenced Lloyd Dobler:

JC: Fear and Loathing, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bob Dylan Chronicles, The Great Thoughts, The Shock Doctrine

 Here are the books that influenced Squeaky Lerner:

BL: Carrie, In Cold Blood, I Am Third, Helter Skelter, Ariel.

And last, I just pulled this quote from Cusack on IMDB: 

“Martian Child was just a movie the studio [New Line Cinema] offered me and it was the best job I could get at the time. It was about a relationship between a guy and another kid, and I thought that was good. It was a sweet movie. They offered it to me and that was the extent of that. Grace Is Gone was something I REALLY wanted to do.”

Now I feel REALLY bad. I’m going to rent Grace Is Gone, aka Unwanted Sock Puppet. But seriously, I think it’s time for him to do an HBO tv series, if anyone at WME is listening. Hello? John, call me.

I’m Rubber and You’re Glue

Michiko Kakutani ripped Jonathan Lethem a new one in her review today of his new novel, Chronic City. She is, of course, famous for this kind of attack but it’s been a while and I was growing old and getting fat reading about luminous this and numinous that. These are, by far, her two favorite words. I hate those words. Moving right along. She called the novel, in case you missed it,  “tedious,” “overstuffed,” “a lot of pompous hot air,” “insipid,” “plasticky puppets,” “lame and unsatisfying.”

I’m not particularly interested in her taste, agenda, what have you. What I want to know is how Lethem’s feeling. Does this mean another ten years in therapy or is he able to shrug it off, so many books behind him, his literary stature seemingly secure. I’m writing because when I read a review this rabid, I get scared. And I think about what it is to put yourself on the line as a writer. It’s easy to forget about the vulnerability involved when it looks like a published writer has it made what with publications, teaching positions, awards and so forth. When one of my clients gets a bad review, I want to say, hey, c’mon, my kid deserved a B+. That wasn’t fair! Then we spend lots of time talking about how fucked up the review was, how wrong, how the reviewer had an agenda, how it doesn’t  make a difference in the overall scheme of things. And sometimes I say, don’t forget, tomorrow that newspaper will be used to pick up dog shit. (Though, of course, most people use plastic baggies.)

Well, Michiko just sold at least one book for Mr. Lethem. I’ve never read him and now I’m totally intrigued. It’s like when my mother says she hates a movie; I rush out to see it the next chance I get.