In case anybody's interested, I'm doing a reading, playing, appearance thing at the SF Public Library on Friday, Oct. 27. (SF Public Library - Civic Center, 100 Larkin St Lower Level-Koret Auditorium, 4PM.)
Did you know that there is a Grammy category for "Children's Spoken Word Album"? Well, you do now. The King Dork audio book is on the ballot, as it turns out. As I understand it, "voting members of the Recording Academy" vote on this ballot to determine short lists for all the categories. It's a rather complicated process, I gather. I don't believe I've ever won a popularity contest of any kind in my life, but there's always a first time. Isn't there?
It's due next week. Anyone who votes on that can contribute to the madness by voting in category "Field 18, Children's #76, Children's Spoken Word album, #11."
So I didn't win that Quill Award. Thanks to everyone who voted for King Dork, of course, but the result was never really in doubt. As expected, a millions-selling dragon book got more votes than a thousands-selling dork book. And the award for Best Book in the Universe went to this.
I had a nice time at the awards ceremony dinner, though. I had never been to something like that before. It was in the whale room of the natural history museum. There were a few dozen large, round tables set up underneath the whale, a stage set at one end, and a control center in the middle of the room with two large teleprompter screens. I was mesmerized by the teleprompter, and spent most of the event staring back at it. Whenever the presenters would deviate from the script, the teleprompter guy would give them a short grace period, after which he would express his disappointment by flashing the text, or making it really huge. That would have made me feel pretty guilty, but it didn't seem to faze the presenters much. Donald Trump, it was said, hadn't liked his table so he refused to read any of his lines. He just stood there and made the other guy (co-author Robert Kiyosaki) read both parts of the teleprompter's snappy dialog. Entertainment was provided by American idol and babymama expert Fantasia. Anderson Cooper is far smaller and more sprite-like than he looks on TV. Harry Connick Jr.'s hair is almost preternaturally floppy. That Paolini kid was very friendly, and a good conversationalist. I congratulated him for winning by flashing him the Live Long and Prosper sign across the table, and he returned the salute without missing a beat and without a trace of irony. Which I really enjoyed.
The best part, though, was that Judy Blume was seated at my table. If fame is reckoned by numbers of people who are aware of and affected by a person's work, she was certainly the most famous person there. She is a very nice, sweet, unpretentious lady and we had a terrific conversation about books and Holden Caulfield. The person who introduced her to me in the elevator on the way down to the whale room mentioned that I had been very eager to meet her (which is true - I couldn't shut up about it since I learned she was going to be at our table.) "So," she said, "are you going to produce something out of your underwear for me to sign?" In fact, I just happened to have a copy of Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret with me, though I assured her it had never in fact been anywhere near my underwear. Here's what she wrote:
How cool is that? I mean, really.
Tony from Minneapolis myspaces:
Umm... okay so I'm a 15 year old boy that is a sophmore in high school, and in english we were reading catcher in the rye. (remind you of something you wrote?) So there is this one kid in my class that refuses to do any homework or read or get off his lazy ass for anything, and our english teacher loves him. She finds him a troubled young boy, and deserves sympathy, like a Holden-y character.
So anyway, back to Catcher, so we had a quiz on the book, and one question said (and I kid you not) "why did Stradlater punch Holden?". So by this time, I already read King Dork all the way through, so I obviously wrote down the same answer that Tom wrote down for his quiz. And you know what?!? My english teacher just circled "Jane Gallager" and gave me all the credit! I'm seriously thinking about lending my King Dork book to my english teacher. I was telling my sister about what happened, and she told me I had to write you. I was wondering what you thought about it. It's kinda scary actually....
That Litquake thing was - well, here's an account of it.
Everyone, including the big shots, were very friendly backstage. Everyone got a tote bag.
Dan Hicks read from The Catcher in the Rye. I could hear a few giggles from scattered, evidently King Dork-aware, people in the audience when he pulled it out, which I found kind of fun, but which seemed to puzzle him a bit.
Ray Manzarek played "Riders on the Storm," predicted that eventually we all would move to Napa to become "gentleman farmers" like him, and lamented the fact that the Aquarian Age never quite all the way came about (though he hinted that "doing the right thing" in November might give it a second wind or something.) He was a super nice guy and his hair was perfect.
I had a great time catching up with my buddy Chuck Prophet. He played a song that played with and developed the conceit of the old Barry Mann tune "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp)" Afterwards he was chatting with Ben Fong-Torres about it and I heard Mr. Fong-Torres say that Barry Mann would love the song. "I'll send him an email about it." I don't know why the idea of Ben Fong-Torres emaiing Barry Mann about Chuck Prophet strikes me as so funny and charming. It just does.
My bit was delayed till last, and everything was running late, so I got on and off as quickly as I could. This was definitely the most PBS-y thing I'd ever done, and not only because of the tote bags, and I wasn't sure how the audience would respond. But they seemed to dig it and were laughing like crazy at the French class scene from KD and the song "I Wanna Ramone You." I was relieved. And apparently, my feet went all akimbo, like those of a puppet whose controlling strings had gone slack.
Afterwards, someone told me they heard Ben Fong-Torres singing "I Wanna Ramone You" to himself backstage. Maybe he'll send an email to Barry Mann about it. I mean, one never knows, does one?
A couple of years ago, spending New Year's Eve in a tiny, spooky, slightly hobbit-y village in Norfolk, England, I happened to be talking to a lady who worked in the British publishing industry. When I mentioned that my first book was being published in America the following year, she asked what my favorite books were. (Publishing people invariably do this when they find out you're crashing their party - it always feels like an exam. People can most often size me up pretty accurately just by looking at the shoes, but publishing people seem to need more data.)
"Um," I mumbled. I'm not good at this question. "Code of the Woosters?" I said, hopefully. "The Long Goodbye?"
"What about Die Vegas?" she said.
Die Vegas? I had never heard of it. Sounded kind of edgy, and possibly German. A nihilistic prose poem relishing the future destruction of Nevada's greatest city? Something to do with birds?
I weighed my options: pretend that yes, Die Vegas is my favoritest book of all time that I had neglected to mention just because it was so obvious; or admit, in a breezy manner, "Die Vegas? No. Sounds edgy and possibly German. Is it any good?"
I was still trying to work this out when she said, "surely you've read Die Vegas. Being an American writer." Not German then. She said the word "writer" in such a way as to imply that the jury was definitely out on that one. I felt exactly like the sort of person who had never read, and probably never would read, Die Vegas.
"No," I said. "I haven't." Pause. "Sorry." There was another lengthy pause, after which she dematerialized imperiously.
"Is it any good?" I said, to the empty air. My lack of familiarity with Die Vegas had ruined New Year's Eve. I wondered if I'd ever live it down.
Two drinks and around forty minutes later, it hit me. I'm usually much better at scaling the British accent barrier.
"Dave Eggers!" I exclaimed, to the probable surprise of the pint-laden barmaid.
Speaking of which, I just received the schedule for the Litquake opening night on Friday:
Dave Eggers and End of Suffering
"Dr. Frank" Portman
Ellen found this link. Our Bodies Our Selves is apparently still available here:
As I mentioned, John Green is blog-touring for his new book, An Abundance of Katherines. Today's stop is this here blog. As I've written and recorded approximately a zillion breakup songs, and since John's novel is perhaps the ultimate breakup book, he decided to present a list of MTX songs, annotated to reflect how they might relate to the book. Like a book soundtrack, sort of. (And Hollywood, call me when you make the movie - I'm sure we can work something out.)
He sent the text. I added mp3s to make it more fun for his readers who, let's face it, have probably never heard of me or my band or of any of the songs and will have no earthly idea what he's going on about.
(The album title links link to my Little Type administered web store, in case anyone feels like buying anything. All the albums are available, except for Our Bodies Our Selves. It - the record, not to be confused with this bok - is apparently permanently unavailable and out of print. There are a couple of used copies on Amazon for around $35, if anyone's interested... I'd surely beat that price if I had any, but I'm afraid I don't, not even one.)
OK. Take it away, John Green.
The MTX Does "An Abundance of Katherines:" A Short (But Well-Annotated) Playlist
Preface: My new novel, "An Abundance of Katherines," is about a very smart guy named Colin Singleton, who has dated 19 girls, all of whom dumped him and all of whom were named Katherine. In some ways, The Katherines part is fictional, but the getting-dumped-over-and-over-again is completely autobiographical, and I might never have survived all that heartbreak had it not been for the songs of the Mr. T Experience. They're just the perfect band to serve as a soundtrack to my book. So without further adieu, here are some songs about girls:
1. "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be," from Love Is Dead. At the beginning of "An Abundance of Katherines," Colin has just gotten dumped for the 19th time. This song wonderfully captures his thought process.
Money line: "Sure I'm gonna miss you, but let's not skirt the issue: From now on, everything is gonna suck."
2. "Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend," from Our Bodies, Our Selves. I mean, obviously, this is the best song ever written about being heartbroken and single. When I was a sophomore in college, after this girl Jeanette broke up with me, I listened to this song--I'm estimating here--11,000,000 times. I also requested it before an mtx show in Cleveland, and they played it.
Money line: "Nixon had his puppy; Charles Manson had his clan. God forbid that I get a girlfriend."
4. "When I Lost You," from Revenge Is Sweet... and So Are You. This is just a great song about breaking up. It also makes reference to the "advice squad," the people who constantly try to tell you how much happier you are now that you got dumped. "Katherines" features a very hard-working, one-man advice squad named Hassan.
Money line: "I'm calling to a heart that there's no room in."
5. "New Girlfriend," from ...and the Women Who Love Them. What Dumpee has not been tempted to call up an ex and play this song?
Money line: "My new girlfriend is better than you. She's got bigger breasts and a higher IQ."
6. "Will You Still Love Me When I Don't Love You," from Our Bodies, Our Selves. One of the things about being a chronic dumpee like Colin or myself is that you spend a lot of time wondering what the person who dumped you is feeling. Like, are they also devastated? Are they also lying on the linoleum floor of their kitchen for days on end, getting up only to pee? Or are they just heartless? Whenever I imagine what Dumpers are like on the inside, I think about this song.
Money line: "I can't stay with you. I've got better things to do. But while I'm away it sure would be great if you would wait for me, cherish my memory, keep my picture by your bed, and remember all the things I said."
7. "The History of the Concept of the Soul," from Night Shift at the Thrill Factory. Probably the best smart-kid punk rock song ever.
Money Line: They are all money lines, but I particularly like "Plato was a mystic in his own Platonic way."
8. "I'm Like Yeah, But She's All No," from Love Is Dead. The song title distills Colin Singleton's entire year-long relationship with Katherine the Nineteenth into seven words.
Money Line: "Boy meets girl. Girl teases boy. Boy looks for something to destroy."
9. "Sackcloth and Ashes," from Love Is Dead. This is a song about a preemptive dumping. You like a girl, but you're not even cool enough to get dumped by her. You just have to dream of one day getting close enough to her to get dumped by her. Colin Singleton has known a couple Katherines like this in his day.
Money line: "You can only dream about the places that she's been, 'cause in your sackcloth and ashes, they're never gonna let you in."
10. "Jill," from Yesterday Rules. A lot of mtx songs about girls are funny/sad, but this one--while it has its clever moments--is just very moving. And the money line is just brilliantly phrased.
Money line: "I can't stop not knowing why I never don't feel like crying."
11. "Lawnmower of Love," from Revenge Is Sweet. The perfect last song to an "Abundance of Katherines" mtx playlist, because it reflects a lot about the end of the book, but of course I can't tell you about the end of the book. So we'll just move on to the...
Money line: "We're just standing in front of the lawnmower of love."