Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lost Season 5-Destiny Calls

Here is the poster for Season 5 of Lost. The new season starts Wednesday January 21, 2009! Before this summer, I had never seen even one episode of this show. Then I took the first three seasons out of the library and watched them all obsessively—3, 4, 5 episodes a day. The library only gives you a week, so basically I watched three seasons in three weeks. Do the math: 21 days and 69 episodes. Season 4 was less stressful: I bought the DVD set, and there were only 13 episodes due to the writers strike. So now I am officially caught up, after completing Season 4 this past weekend. It's going to really suck having to wait a week between episodes now.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-NYC Annex

Well, they finally just opened (yesterday) the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York, on Mercer Street in SOHO. I checked it out today and want to share my take on it. But first, a rant.

I can't be the only person to wonder why the original museum is located in Cleveland, especially since the induction ceremonies have always been in NYC. I'm sure the city of Cleveland isn't happy about this fact, as they are losing a lot of tourist money. For instance, Major League Baseball has their Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. And guess where they have the induction ceremony? That's right, Cooperstown. They make a whole weekend out of it, with fans booking their hotel rooms months in advance, then descending on the town and dropping loads of cash while getting to see the new inductees, along with returning HOF members. But, whatever. At least NYC now has a branch of the R&R HOF and I don't have to go to Cleveland.

Photo: Richard Perry/The New York Times)

I bought my "preview" ticket online. It was $26.01 for the ticket, $3 service charge, and $1.50 extra because I wanted to pick up the ticket at the Will Call window. Total $30.51. Coat check was free. The tour starts in a room designed to look like a pub/rock club, with brick walls, wood floor, multi-colored stage lights, and stools arranged to face a large video screen. A history of Rock & Roll film is shown—all live performances—while quotes about the artist, concert posters, and accompanying footage are simultaneously shown on the other walls. The sound system is good, and loud, and I found myself tapping my foot throughout this segment.

When this part is over, you enter the exhibit part of the museum, and are given an iPod-like device with headphones. As you wander through the displays, music appropriate for each artist automatically plays. There seemed to still be some glitches here, because more than a few times the wrong artist played, or it stopped altogether and I had to hit the play button again. But all in all, it was OK, and a neat idea.

Photo: Richard Perry/The New York Times)

I don't want to give too much away, and ruin some of the surprises, but I will say the Beatles memorabilia was a little lacking, especially since two landmark events happened in NYC: the Ed Sullivan Show appearances, and the Shea Stadium concerts. These were not represented at all. They had one of Ringo's bass drum skins with the Beatles logo (see above), a prototype Vox hybrid guitar/organ of John Lennon's, some postcards the boys wrote to fans, and that's about it. Then elsewhere there was a studio piano Lennon used on some of his 70s records (but didn't own), but of more interest to me was his hand-drawn "Hair Peace" poster used during his and Yoko's famous bed-in for peace honeymoon (see pic below. Yes, that's the best I could do). I just stared at the poster, and envisioned John hunched over a table, or laying on the floor hand coloring the letters.

Bruce Springsteen fans will be happy, as a whole small room is dedicated to the Boss. Included is the actual 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible that he owned in the 70s! Fans of the recently departed CBGBs will feel at home, with a small recreation of the famous club that includes the awning, some of the grungy bar tables and stools, graffiti covered doors, and even a urinal! No, you can't use the urinal.

Other highlights were an Elvis jumpsuit, Johnny Cash's cowboy boots (they were so high I wondered how he got them on—or off), a guitar smashed by Prince, and David Byrne's famous big suit.

The featured exhibit (in the large room before you exit) spotlights The Clash. Here they have handwritten lyrics, the outfits they wore on stage (including the military-style ones used for the Combat Rock album and tour), guitars, and even an old manual typewriter Joe Strummer used to write some lyrics. A live Clash concert is continually playing, and I stood there for quite a while just watching this exciting band do their thing.

Was it worth the 30 bucks? I think so. I spent nearly two hours going through all the exhibits, reading the handwritten lyrics, watching the videos, and listening to some good rock and roll.

NY Times article

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vatican forgives John Lennon for Jesus remark

In a March 1966 interview with Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard, John Lennon was quoted as saying, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

A teen mag in the US reprinted the quote in July and all hell broke loose. Southern radio stations banned the Beatles' records, albums were burned, the KKK protested their concerts, flowers stopped growing, the earth stopped spinning. Well, the last two things aren't true, but you wouldn't know it from some peoples reactions.

Now, 42 years later, the Vatican has forgiven John, saying that the "more popular than Jesus" remark was "a boast by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll."

They have a point. On the other hand, at the time, the Beatles probably were more popular than Jesus with the kids. You're just not allowed to say it, I guess. Which led to Lennon's retraction/apology:
John: "If I had said television is more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I think - as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way."

Reporter: "Some teenagers have repeated your statements - "I like the Beatles more than Jesus Christ." What do you think about that?"

John: "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

Reporter: "But are you prepared to apologize?"

John: "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."

Check out the Beatles Number 9 blog for the full text of the original 1966 article.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Always and Everywhere

I want to tell you about an ambitious project, a benefit to help a family through a rough time. My good friend Laura Bowman, who is an Atlanta-based painter and artist, has written and illustrated a children's book to help raise money for her friend Margie, who is suffering from cancer. Always and Everywhere is a children's book featuring Margie and her 2 kids, Claire and John Mark. It assures us that mom is always with us.

The book launch and benefit will be held Thursday, November 20, at Mason Murer Projects, 325 E. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA. and includes a book signing and silent auction of the original artwork. All proceeds go to the Margie LaSalle Cancer Fund. If you can't make the event but would still like to help the LaSalle's by purchasing a book or bidding on the artwork, please go to the website at Always and Everywhere.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roof Whirl Away by Tom Saunders, reviewed

I'm a fan of the short story. Written a few myself. So as a reader, I appreciate the form, and like to sink my teeth into a collection as good as the latest from Tom Saunders, Roof Whirl Away, which follows his 2004 debut collection Brother, What Strange Place is This?

26 stories in all, Saunders's characters are complex, real, flawed, and people you can either relate to, or feel that you know. And if you don't, you'll know them by the end of the tale. Saunders grabs you from the get go and doesn't let go. Here is the opener to the story "Bonny Craigallen," which leads off the collection:

I don't do the violence any more. I don't use my fists and I haven't touched a gun since the business with Garner. Anger flows through me nowadays, it doesn't get stoppered-up inside, an acid to burn and scar. It's no longer necessary to what I do. But I can still remember what it was like to be a dangerous man. The authority of it. The pride. The adrenaline. To front up another fledgling hard bastard and know you've gone further, oh so much further than he has.

Powerful stuff, and a strong voice.

There are many stand out stories in Roof Whirl Away, like the touching "Lasting," which is loosely based on the life of the 19th century English naturalist and writer Richard Jefferies; or the aging rock star of "Sunburst Guitar," whose prized Hofner guitar is stolen by a teenage street performer; or the hilarious "Big," which features adult star La Hooters McDade (Martha to her friends), who just needs a little R&R, some time off from being the larger than life La Hooters McDade.

I tried to pace myself while reading this book, so I could extend the pleasure as long as possible. But that didn't always work. I'd turn the page and be onto the next story without even realizing it. Roof Whirl Away is one of those books that makes me wish I owned a book store, so I could put it up front and spread the word about it. But I guess I just did! If you are a lover of the short story, do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy.

To purchase Roof Whirl Away, click on this link:
Roof Whirl Away

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ringo is very busy

And get off my lawn, you damn kids!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Death Cab For Cutie @ Radio City

In my continuing Death Cab For Cutie obsession, I went to see them live at Radio City Music Hall Monday night. Here is a pic I took with my cell phone:

Even with a crappy, low-res cell phone picture, it looks like I was pretty close to the stage, right? Well how does FIRST ROW grab you? And the amazing thing is, I bought this ticket on Saturday. How did that happen? You got me. The seat was actually in a section they called "the pit," which consisted of about four or five rows that were actually in front of the normal front row. Maybe it was added at the last minute, I don't know. But hey, I'm not complaining.

Oh, and by the way, they were great!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I will possess your heart

OK, I've been obsessed with Death Cab For Cutie lately. If you're not familiar with them, check out this video for I Will Possess Your Heart, the first single off of their new cd Narrow Stairs.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Roof Whirl Away by Tom Saunders

Tom Saunders, one of my favorite authors, has just released his second collection of short stories, Roof Whirl Away. It follows his 2004 debut collection Brother, What Strange Place is This?

Spike magazine said this about Saunders's writing:
"One is tempted to view Saunders as a musician first and a writer second because his stories ring like fine crystal."

From the back cover description of Roof Whirl Away:
...The stories in this book are both varied and stylish, with a whole range of vivid characters caught in moments of reverie, indecision and drama.

Yeah! I just received my autographed copy in the mail, and I can't wait to dive in! I'll post a review when I'm done.

To purchase, click on this link:
Roof Whirl Away

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Five Star Literary Stories hits milestone

I while back I blogged about Five Star Literary Stories. They seek out the best of the best—short stories that is. This is how it works: an editor of a publication nominates what he/she believes is one of their best stories, and gives the reasons why they think this. Then another author reviews the story. And of course a link is provided so you, the reader, can enjoy the story for yourself.

Five Star just hit a landmark, their 25th review! So check out the site, and discover some great stories and excellent writers.

Five Star Literary Stories' statement:

Five Star Literary Stories combines three integral facets of the writing life: publisher, story, and reviewer. Each story is editor-nominated and considered one of the best the mag has published.

I was lucky to be one of their first reviewers. Check out my review of "I've Got Dreams to Remember" by Andrew Bomback.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Anniversary; 9/11 books

Unbelievably, it's already the seventh anniversary of 9/11. It some ways it doesn't seem that long, yet on the other hand so much shit has gone down politically, militarily, etc. that it does seem that long.

I recently read a great book called Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11 by Damon DiMarco. DiMarco recorded these oral histories within a year after the attacks (in this edition he even followed up with some of the interviewees five years later to see how they were coping). He interviewed survivors, relatives, rescue workers, and those involved in getting everything up and running again, like Verizon workers who were vital in getting Wall Street reopened.

Another non-fiction book is the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. This is a must read for anyone interested in the rise of modern terrorism, and the chances we missed in preventing 9/11 from happening. 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer is another must read, a gripping account of what happened between the time the first tower was struck, and the secong one fell. Then of course, there is the 9/11 Commission Report, even available as a graphic adaptation.

There are hundreds of non-fictions books on the subject, but how much good fiction has been written? Maybe the true stories are compelling enough, and we still need to hear them before we want to read fiction.

The most notable fiction are Don DeLillo's Falling Man, Ken Kalfus' A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Have I missed any? Let me know.

I'd like to share with you my own little contribution to 9/11 fiction. It's called nineleven.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sexy Beast

Here she is, my 2005 Toyota Matrix sporting new rims and tires. Look at that sexy beast! Now all I have to do is actually wash the car—inside and out—and I'll be good to go. Doesn't it look so much better than before?

Friday, August 22, 2008

On Chairs

I just moved into a new, bigger apartment (the reason for my recent lack of posts) and need to buy an arm chair and a smaller comfortable chair for my small "library." Sounds easy, right? Wrong. I think I've visited every store I can think of, either online or in person.

I've actually found a couple online that I like, but when you go to the actual store, they don't have them. Internet orders only. Well, besides the fact that I'm impatient and don't want to wait for an order to be shipped, I'd actually like to see the chair before I purchase it. Maybe even sit my rump in it and see if it is comfortable, and something that I'm going to want to use for the next decade or so.

So all of this leads me to the promised land of New Jersey and the magical kingdom of IKEA. And believe it or not, I'm actually excited about the trip. This is what my life has come to. It reminds me of Will Ferrell in Old School, when he first shows up at Mitchapalooza and gives the reason why he doesn't want to drink:

Frank: I told my wife I wouldn't drink tonight. Besides, I got a big day tomorrow. You guys have a great time.
College Student: A big day? Doing what?
Frank: Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time.

Of course, he does drink, and reverts to his old "Frank the Tank" days:

Maybe there's hope for me yet.

UPDATE 8/24: I went to the Paramus, NJ IKEA on Friday night, and bought the exact chair I had in mind:

This chair was designed by Nobura Nakamura, who clearly is a genius. The chair is stylish and comfortable. In fact the first time I really sat in it, I was asleep within fifteen minutes. I opted not to get the footstool, but may go back for it. Hell, I may even get a second chair!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The case of the missing hubcaps

That's my car below, a 2005 Toyota Matrix. I love it. Stylish, good gas mileage, tons of storage space in back, chick magnet. What more could you want?

Last year I lost a hubcap. Not the end of the world. I just figured I'd order another one. Before I got a chance to, however, I lost another one. Only the two front ones remained. Round about this time I began to notice other Matrixes were also missing hubcaps. (This is on the lower model, not the fancy-ass XRS version, which has actual chrome rims.) In fact, just about every other Matrix I saw was missing at least one hubcap.

One morning last week I left my house to go to work and noticed the front passengers side hubcap had also gone missing.

....And then there was one.

Where have all the hubcaps gone? Why don't they stay on the wheels of Matrixes? Why is Toyota selling cars that don't hold onto their hubcaps? Is Toyota aware of this problem? Or could this be some Detroit-led conspiracy? After all, Toyota is kicking ass and taking names, leading the pack with their hybrid Prius. Or maybe it's some sicko with a hubcap fetish, lurking in the bushes and popping off the hubcaps one at a time to feed his sick desires?

Well, I still have one left. It's only a matter of time before it joins its hubcap brothers, leaving my wheels naked and my car looking like some Manhattan gypsy cab. But I have to admire its tenacity. Maybe it'll stick around after all.

UPDATE 8/22: I've order new tires and new rims. Yes, real rims. No more hubcaps needed! Right after Labor Day I should have them on my car. If my last remaining hubcap sticks around till then, what should I do with it?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pearl Jam ripping the roof off the joint

This is Pearl Jam at the VH1 show honoring The Who. They did Love Reign O'er Me and The Real Me. Check out bassist Jeff Ament on The Real Me (6:50), he's definitely channeling John Entwistle. And check out guitarist Mike McCready jumping around/windmilling/smashing his guitar in homage to Pete Townsend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cubicle Global Warming

There was a flood in my office the fourth of July weekend. So last week, my co-workers and I spent a soggy, smelly four days in the office trying to work, and trying not to inhale too much of the mold spores that were surely growing under the soaked carpet and behind the wet drywall. Facilities brought in heavy duty fans to try and dry things out, but basically all they did was circulate the moldy basement smell.

So the heavy guns were brought in. We were given the day off on Friday and a crew was hired to set up huge tubes piping in hot air, along with heaters, fans, dehumidifiers, and something called an air scrubber. This is what we came in to Monday morning:

It is hot in here now, but it is also dry. Very dry. All the moisture has been sucked out of the air. By the end of the day Monday, my eyes were dry, my throat was dry, and my colon was dry. Well, maybe not my colon, but who knows? Whatever, at least I get to wear shorts to work for a while.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back when gas was $3...

No, not for a gallon, for half a tank!!

Good old P.I. Jim Rockford gassing up his gold Firebird while working a case. His fee? $200 a day plus expenses. Nowadays, the expenses would kill you. I'd insist my P.I. drive a Prius.

This must have been around 1976, when gas was 59 cents a gallon. So old Jimbo got 5.08 gallons of petrol in return, roughly what $22 would get you today.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The little book that could

If you're a reader who likes to discover new authors, here is a gem for you: The Understory, by Pamela Erens (Ironweed Press). The novel has just been shortlisted for the 2008 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (winners to be announced September 5), and back in April it was a finalist for the 2007 LA Times Book Prize for first fiction.

Congratulations and good luck, Pamela!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Lost Marathon

So, until two weeks ago, I was probably the last person left to have never seen an episode of Lost. And now, somehow, I've watched half of the series, having just finished Season 2 on DVD (yes, I know you can watch it on for free, but I don't like the sound of that little message that says I agree to give ABC "total access" to my computer while downloading their stupid little viewer).

Watching 48 episodes in two weeks is an impressive feat, but because I'm still two seasons behind the rest of the world, it would be pointless to offer up any of my own pathetic little theories. What I want to do instead is mention the eerie resemblance between Henry Ian Cusick, the actor who plays Desmond, and a young Eric Clapton:

It's distracting. When Cusick is on screen, all I'm thinking about is how much he looks like Clapton, and how someone should get on the ball and make a biopic about Clapton right now (are you out there, Martin Scorsese?). The timing is right, too, with the recent publications of both Clapton's and Pattie Boyd's autobiographies. Just work from those two books, hire actors to play Pattie and George Harrison, and by all means acquire the rights to the songs, and you've got a hit biopic on your hands which would include a hot soundtrack.

Okay, I need to get working on Season 3 now...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Into the Sunset on Reader's Circle

I've created a web page specifically for my novel, Into the Sunset. It includes the back cover sell copy, links to reviews and interviews, and contact information. I'll update it as needed.

Also, Into the Sunset is now live at Reader's Circle, a great site that connects book clubs with authors, and lets a book club set up a phone chat with the author. Check it out!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Interview with an Amorous Woman

Recently, I reviewed the excellent erotic novel Amorous Woman, by Donna George Storey. Now, I'd like to share with you a revealing interview I conducted with the author.

Donald Capone: The novel opens and closes with Lydia—the title character in AW—back in San Francisco, having sworn off sex forever. Of course, I doubted her word from the beginning. Will the Amorous Woman return to her old tricks? Is there a sequel in the works?

Donna George Storey: That’s a very good question. Amorous Woman is my first novel and I discovered in the writing process that—as all of those how-to-write-a-novel guidebooks suggest—my characters soon developed wills of their own and didn’t always listen to me when I wanted them to do or say something for the sake of my plot. So I’m not sure I can predict what Lydia will get up to with American men, but I’m pretty sure it will be new tricks rather than old ones. So far there is no direct sequel in the works, but I am in the early stages of writing a novel about another amorous woman whose desires take her on an exotic journey. Except this time it’s not to Japan, it’s a trip back into the erotic mysteries of twentieth-century America.

DC: Many readers will take AW to be autobiographical, especially since it is written in first person (always one of the dangers of first-person narration). What percentage of it is autobiographical, and do you get strange looks from relatives now?

DGS: Although my real-life adventures in Japan were not quite so wild and edgy as Lydia’s, much of it is drawn from my own experiences. For example, I really did have dinner in a deluxe, three-hundred-year-old restaurant in Kyoto with a charming dentist one beautiful August evening and had an informal marriage meeting (a.k.a. blind date) with a salaryman who’d traveled to Europe on his own. About 50% of the book comes from my firsthand experiences plot-wise, but all of it incorporates my sensual reactions to Japanese culture, which I hope gives the reader the flavor of taking their own trip to that country. My close relatives have gotten used to my erotic writing years ago, but certain friends may be shocked when they read the book now that it’s available in the US. I’ll keep a watch for strange looks!

The author in front of Chimoto restaurant—serving fine dinners to dentists and their guests since 1718

DC: Memoirs are still going strong. Did it ever cross your mind to pitch this as a memoir to ease the road toward publication?

DGS: No, writers get in a lot of trouble for that and although they say any publicity is good publicity, I’d rather not take on that stress. There are so many memoirs from Japan travelers, no need to add mine to the crowd, plus I enjoyed the freedom fiction provided to let me express my truths about intimate relationships between Japan and the US.

DC: How did AW land with NEON, a British publisher?

DGS: This is in part another answer to the last question. One reason I wasn’t tempted to write a memoir is because I didn’t really know I was going to write a book at all. Orion in the UK wanted to start a line of high-quality erotic fiction to be called Neon, and they asked erotica editor Maxim Jakubowski (he does the annual Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica) to commission twenty-some novels from authors he knew. He asked me if I had something and I put together a proposal from an idea that had been simmering for a while. Apparently they liked it and asked me to be part of it. The book came out in the UK last fall.

The author wearing traditional kimono in Japan (1984)

DC: Any plans to translate AW into Japanese for publication in Japan?

DGS: I would love for the novel to be translated into Japanese. The Japanese have traditionally been interested in Western views of their culture and I think my novel provides an unusual perspective. Because it’s inspired by one of their classics, the 17th century Life of an Amorous Woman, I’m sure many readers would recognize aspects of the story I borrowed, such as the frame of two younger men asking an experienced older woman to educate them by sharing the story of her sexual adventures. I also tried to transcend stereotypes and give the reader more complex portraits of the Japanese. AW has no gangsters with missing pinkies or slobbering businessmen bent on world domination while dabbling in white slavery on the side. Even the housewives have interesting secret lives—writing pornography!

The author NOT wearing a traditional kimono

DC: Asteroids are heading toward Earth. Scientists predict there will be no survivors. You are chosen to pick the complete works of three authors to go into a time capsule for future intelligent beings to discover. Who are the three authors?

DGS: I’m going to be mostly selfish with a bit of civic duty thrown in. I have to go with Alice Munro’s complete works as my first choice for the time capsule. She captures the complexity and magic of the ordinary so well. Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, a great Japanese novelist of the twentieth century, does an excellent job of describing the confrontation of Eastern and Western sensibilities. I’d also pick the complete works of Richard Rhodes, a nonfiction writer who is known for the Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb, as well as other books about nuclear energy, and the horrifying Masters of Death about the SS-Einsatzgruppen. That will give these intelligent beings a pretty good idea of the horrors we humans wreak. Rhodes also wrote an interesting memoir called Making Love: An Erotic Odyssey. It’s not pretty reading either, but it struck me as an honest confession of the sex life of an American male in the 20th century. Those are pretty rare.

DC: Give an example of how NOT to write an erotic scene.

DGS: First, the scene:

From the moment dreamboat-handsome Reginald walked into the room, all eyes were upon him. Yet his gaze was fixed only on beauteous Belinda, whose blonde mane and melon breasts bespoke her career as a supermodel. Belinda walked toward him, as if enchanted by those steel gray eyes. She was already flushed and moist between her legs. He took her arm and led her from the ballroom to the library, locking the door behind them. At once they embraced, their lips fusing, their clothing dissolving into puddles of cloth on the carpet. Then they were on the carpet, too, Reginald making love to every inch of her flesh with consummate skill. His magic tongue on her womanhood brought forth countless climaxes. The piston-like thrusting of his hips coaxed out dozens more. “Aaaaaaaah,” she sighed. “Arrrrgghh,” he groaned. It was sex beyond their wildest dreams—and to think they hadn’t yet been introduced, hadn’t yet spoken a single word to each other.

Next, the analysis: This scene sucks for all kinds of reasons. First good erotica needs tension and surprise—none here! The characters need a reason to be together—don’t see that either, right? I define good erotica as that in which the sex is physically and emotionally believable. Maybe guys have great sex with total strangers, but I’ve not yet met a woman who’s had her top experiences under such circumstances. Finally, avoid clichés or use them wisely or ironically. And I was definitely using them ironically here. You won’t find anything like this in Amorous Woman!

DC: Requisite question: Who would play the lead character, Lydia, in a steamy HBO mini-series based on Amorous Woman?

I think Amorous Woman would make an excellent HBO mini-series, rather like “Sex and the City” Japanese-style. Charlotte goes to Kyoto and turns into Samantha, with plenty of witty Carrie observations on international relations thrown in! I like Lauren Ambrose for Lydia. She has the right look, an erotic dynamo all wrapped up in strawberry blonde innocence. Ken Watanabe would make the perfect Kimura—flawless English, exquisite charm, sexy as they come.

Donna George Storey has taught English in Japan and Japanese at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley. She holds a Ph.D. in Japanese literature and has published over seventy literary and/or erotic stories and essays in Gettysburg Review, Fourth Genre, Best American Erotica 2006, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica and elsewhere. A story published in Prairie Schooner received special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004. Her first novel, Amorous Woman (Orion, 2007) is the story of an American woman’s (very steamy) love affair with Japan inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s classic 17th century novel of the pleasure quarters. She is also the author of Child of Darkness: Yoko and Other Stories by Furui Yoshikichi (University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 1997), a translation from the Japanese with critical commentaries. She currently writes a column, Cooking up a Storey, about her favorite topics—delicious sex, well-crafted food, and mind-blowing writing—for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Half of a Yellow Sun, Five Star Literary Stories

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about an exciting new blog that highlights short stories that are "editor-nominated and considered one of the best the mag has published."

I hope you check out their latest review. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun" is reviewed by Susan Lago, and was nominated by Beverly Jackson, editor and publisher of Ink Pot. This story went on to win an O. Henry Prize in 2003, so please check it out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A sexy, erotic, literary read

The cover of the erotic novel Amorous Woman by Donna George Storey has a seductive-looking Japanese woman tempting you to come hither and read the story that is clearly for "adults only" (as the cover warns). The prologue has the title character, Lydia, looking at her reflection in an airport mirror and swearing off sex in any form as she departs Japan for the United States, her homeland. Lydia isn't Japanese—she's a blonde American—but the reflection she sees (or imagines she sees) could very well be the Japanese woman from the book's cover. Lydia is in love with Japan, and her move there was an attempt not just to become Japanese, but to become part of Japan itself. Yet she'll always be a gaijin, a foreigner.

Lydia had moved to Japan to teach English, and to immerse herself in the Japanese culture. What follows is her sexual awakening, one that is driven by a fantasy life that barely stays one step ahead of Lydia's sexual reality. In fact, one feeds off the other. And don't forget, this is an erotic novel, and nothing is left to the reader's imagination. Yet, Amorous Woman is so much more than just the sex. Lydia's sexuality awakens, true, but so does her yearnings for romance, her lost father, and for just plain more out of life. This leads to a self-destructive lifestyle, as far as relationships go, that escalates to a point of no return.

The book begins with Lydia back in the States, telling her story to two young men who are her students (now she's teaching Japanese to Americans set to work in Japan). We get to hear the story along with them, and learn what happened to drive her out of the adopted country she loves. And what a story! Author Donna George Storey holds a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Stanford, and like her character Lydia, spent time in Japan teaching English. She knows the territory. Storey's writing is very descriptive, and brings you right into Lydia's fantasy world of Japan. From the traditional marriages, to the fine restaurants (serving exotic, dangerous dishes like fugu), to the "love hotels" where married people go to cheat on their spouses and live out their wildest fetishes, to the hot springs resorts in the mountains north of Tokyo:

The bathhouse was deserted, the water smooth and glassy. Hot spring baths in Japan usually follow a guiding fantasy, transporting the bather to a rocky grotto, a tropical garden or terrace with the perfect view of Mount Fuji, even if the mountain itself is an image set in mosaic tile. This inn was more ambitious than most. The soaring cross-beamed ceiling, glowing pedestal lanterns, and swimming pool-sized cedar tub brought to mind the cathedral of a cult that worshipped both purity and indulgence. I was more than eager to make my own offering on its altar.

Lydia affairs aren't only with the men of Japan, but with Japan itself. And we get to go along for the ride. But what eventually makes the love affair end, what drives her back into the arms of America? What happened in Japan to have her swear off sex forever? The answer to those questions is why this book is a page turner—and not just because of the hot, steamy sex scenes.

But does the Amorous Woman really change her ways when she gets back to the States, and live a chaste life? Or will the old pull of sex draw her back into a self-destructive lifestyle? Will she ever find love again? Will the two young businessmen she is telling the story to revive her amorous ways by the end of the tale?

Maybe this isn't the last we've heard from the Amorous Woman. It's definitely not the last we've heard from Donna George Storey.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's official: American Cool is a great book!

Susan DiPlacido's hot collection of short stories, American Cool, was the runner-up in the 2008 Beach Book Festival, romance category! Congrats to Susan! The book is also a semi-finalist in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards (better known as the IPPYS), erotica category. The winners will be announced May 23. Good luck!

To purchase American Cool:
Barnes & Noble

UPDATE 5/23: The IPPY awards were announced today. Susan DiPlacido walked away with a bronze medal! Congrats Susan!

37. Erotica
Gold: Erotic Interludes 5: Road Games, edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman (Bold Strokes Books)
Silver: Sex Libris: A Book About What Everyone Thinks They Know, edited by Christopher Meason (Welcome Books)
Bronze: American Cool, by Susan DiPlacido (Rebel Press/iUniverse); Slave to Love, by Nikita Black (Cajun Hot Press)


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Five Star Literary Stories

If you are a lover of short stories, check out this new site, Five Star Literary Stories. Their statement:

Five Star Literary Stories combines three integral facets of the writing life: publisher, story, and reviewer. Each story is editor-nominated and considered one of the best the mag has published.

So, if you're short on time, and can't comb through the many outstanding online journals out there, if you want to just sit down with your morning cup of joe and read a great story, look no further! Five Star Literary Stories is now online!

I am thrilled to be one of their first participants. Check out my review of "I've Got Dreams to Remember" by Andrew Bomback.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Funnymen by Ted Heller

It's been a few years since I first read Funnymen by Ted Heller (it was published in 2002). I read so many books, and my memory is shot anyway, so it was time to give it another go (Heller is also the author of one of my all-time favorite comic novels, Slab Rat.)

The "funnymen" of the novel are the fictional comedy duo of Fountain & Bliss, loosely based on the legendary team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The narrative is unique, set up documentary style, as if Heller himself had interviewed all the major and minor characters of the Fountain & Bliss world. All of these characters (and boy are they characters!) tell of the meeting, union, and rise of the loony comedian (Bliss) and the girl-chasing crooner (Fountain), from the Catskills in the 1940s, to Hollywood of the 1960s, and beyond—past their eventual breakup, and into old age. Each character tells his/her version of events in a unique, identifiable voice, which I know (as a writer) is a hard trick to pull off.

The storytelling in Funnymen is engaging, spot-on, satisfying, exhausting, and more importantly—funny. When the laughs come (and there are plenty of them), it's because you as the reader know the characters so intimately, that you get the joke on every level, as if you are laughing at a long-time friend or family member.

So that's two great novels now from Mr. Heller, but the question is: When is the next one? It's been six long years since Funnymen was published. Ted, if you're out there, help me out. I need some more Heller. I'll be a first reader for you if you need one. Call me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ron Currie, Jr. Wins Young Lions Award!!

Ron Currie Jr. won the 2008 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award for his debut novel God Is Dead last night! Hosted by Young Lions co-founder Ethan Hawke, the ceremony included readings of the nominated work by actors Amanda Peet, Brian O'Byrne, and Michael Shannon, as well as Hawke.

Big congratulations, Ron!

The other nominees were Ellen Litman (The Last Chicken in America); Peter Nathaniel Malae (Teach the Free Man); Dinaw Mengestu (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears); and Emily Mitchell (The Last Summer of the World).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

American Idol is now officially just a popularity contest

American Idol is dead to me now. I seriously don't think I'll watch the remaining weeks. What a joke. Jason Castro and Brooke White are still there? Jason is horrible, and he doesn't even give a shit anymore. Brooke was cute and sincere and vulnerable in the beginning; now she is just annoying and frankly not improving week-to-week as champions usually do. Yet Carly Smithson—who I think should have won this competition—gets eliminated, and on her best week to boot. Disgraceful.

AI has always been somewhat of a popularity contest, but that is all it is now. Basically what happened last night was David Archuleta won the competition. There is no more suspense. It's over. No need to watch from here on out. All the dedicated AI fans (like me) are now denied the final Top Two face-off that should have been: Carly vs. David A.

What a joke.

Here is Carly's exit interview

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ron Currie, Jr. Nominated For Young Lions Award

My friend Ron Currie, Jr. is a finalist for the 2008 The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. His fantastic debut novel God Is Dead, soon to be released in paperback by Penguin, has been nominated. This is an award to honor the work of American writers under the age of 35. The award (which includes a $10,000 prize) will be presented by Young Lions co-founder Ethan Hawke on April 28th.

Past winners include Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated; and Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves. This year's nominees are: Ron Currie, Jr. (God Is Dead); Ellen Litman (The Last Chicken in America); Peter Nathaniel Malae (Teach the Free Man); Dinaw Mengestu (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears); and Emily Mitchell (The Last Summer of the World).

Good luck, Ron! I'll be at the ceremony, and I'll post pictures and the results the next day.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pete Best finally gets his revenge?

Some hoodlum, some terrorist, some down-right evil-doer has beheaded Ringo Starr! Not the real Ringo, but his topiary counterpart. Italian artist, Franco Covill created the life-size Beatles topiary to honor Liverpool's favorite sons, and to celebrate Liverpool's European Capital of Culture status.

But after Ringo made a comment on a BBC interview that he missed "nothing" about the city, he became a target of these evil-doers. Last time someone just squashed his poor little Ringo head; this time the vandals cut it off completely, and absconded with the leafy noggin.

The head is still missing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!"

One of the classic film lines of all time, from one of my favorite movies, uttered with total disdain by Charlton Heston. (There are many other great quotes here from 1968's "Planet of the Apes.") Heston died Saturday night at the age of 84.

I loved "Apes" as a kid. It was just so cool, so scary, so shocking at the end, when astronaut George Taylor (Heston) finds out he is still on Earth. Everything about "Apes" is great, including the eerie music throughout. I can just hear it now, as Heston's horse approaches the remains of the Statue of Liberty on the beach, and the viewer finds out at the same time the character does that this is Earth, and humans blew their chance at ruling it.

Heston starred in many other classics, including "The 10 Commandments" and "Ben-Hur" (for which he won a Best Actor Oscar®). Then he became the spokesman for gun rights as the president of the NRA. Another famous quote of his was that they'd have to pry the gun "from my cold, dead hands." (I wonder if this came to pass.) But for me, he'll always be George Taylor, the rebellious human fighting the man (er, ape) in "Planet of the Apes." So long, Charlton.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Plastic Soul

If you're a John Lennon fan, you might want to check out this collectible item. An 18" John Lennon action figure—with sound! He actually speaks two phrases: "Power to the people" and "All we are saying is give peace a chance." For ten bucks more you can add on an attachable Yoko Ono figure, also with (screeching) sound. (Just kidding.)
John Lennon 18" Action Figure with Sound

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Into the Sunset reviewed

Mary Akers, co-author of Radical Gratitude, has reviewed my novel, Into the Sunset.

"Into the Sunset is a lively, engaging, romp-of-a-read."

Read the full review here:
Mary Akers

Into the Sunset can be purchased at:

American Cool reviewed

Susan DiPlacido's great collection of stories, American Cool, is reviewed in the April edition of The Short Review. And don't miss the lively interview they did with Susan.

Buy American Cool

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Amazon's Thuggery

It seems Amazon is blatantly trying to take over and control the POD (Print-on-Demand) industry. They are demanding that publishers use their BookSurge subsidiary, instead of other companies, like Lightning Source. If the publishers don't use BookSurge, Amazon will disable their books' buy buttons.

This is also an attempt to get authors considering the self-publishing route to use Amazon's CreateSpace service, instead of other publishers like iUniverse and Read more about it in this Publisher's Weekly article, which also includes a link to Angela Hoy's (co-owner of inside info on the matter.

There is also a petition against Amazon's actions, here.

I guess iUniverse hasn't been cut off yet, because my novel is still available. Though I do wonder what will happen when the "1 left in stock" is sold. Will Amazon reorder after they deplete their stock of these type of books?
Into the Sunset

Amazon responds

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Return of Jezebel James

So, I was sucked into watching an episode of this new sit-com starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose. Posey plays Sarah, an editor for HarperCollins' children's division. She has everything in life—a million dollar loft in Brooklyn, a successful career, good looks, and a good relationship with her boyfriend—everything except a baby. Since she can't have children of her own, she persuades her flaky younger sister Coco (Ambrose) to carry a child for her. Laughs are now supposed to ensue.

I wanted to like this show for three reasons:
• I, too, work in children's publishing, though not for HarperCollins. There is a lot of humor that can be mined in book publishing.
• I like Lauren Ambrose, who was great as the sister on Six Feet Under.
• Parker Posey

Now, granted, I missed the pilot episode. But I did catch the second episode. I'm still waiting to laugh. Seems they had everything in place for this situation-comedy. Everything but the comedy part. There was one long scene where the free-spirited Coco is alone in Sarah's mansion (which by the way is a joke. Doesn't Jezebel's writers know the sorry state book publishing is in these days?) and can't figure out how to use the TV and stereo remote controls. The hispanic maid who doesn't speak English had to show her. It went on too long, wasn't believable (what 25 year-old doesn't know how to use a remote?), wasn't funny, and is an old joke anyway. Ha ha! She can't use a remote! Someone get me the oxygen!

Ron McLarty plays their father, but in this episode he was only in it for a minute. According to the show's official website, his character is "a man who takes other people's crap, fixes it, and then dumps it at his daughter's house." Last night's show had him dropping off an ancient humidifier that he told Sarah not to stand too close to, and not to put near a window. I guess that was supposed to be funny. The interesting thing about McLarty is he actually does know something about publishing. He wrote a great novel called The Memory of Running. He should run away from this show as fast as possible.

Now, I know there is a chance the show may improve. Look at Brad Garrett's Til Death (which Jezebel follows). It was horrible when it started, unwatchable even. But they revamped it and now it is actually pretty decent. Not in a I-have-to-Tivo-it-if-I'm-not-home sort of way. But in a if-I'm-home-and-my-TV-is-on-anyway-I'll watch it sort of way. But Garrett's talent and long history on Everybody Loves Raymond saved that show. Jezebel doesn't have that going for it.

So, in conclusion, maybe the writing on Jezebel will improve over time, so the two good lead actresses have something to work with. And maybe new writers with some edge will come on board who could actually skewer the publishing industry. Unfortunately, shows aren't given time to develop like that anymore. And it all comes down to good writing. And this show doesn't have it right now.

Update: Just saw this online:
Fox has pulled the low-rated Parkey Posey sitcom "The Return of Jezebel James" from its schedule after just three airings.

The show pulled in just 3.2 million viewers when it debuted March 14 with back-to-back episodes, the network's worst performance in the 8 p.m. hour since fall's "The Next Great American Band."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Idol recap

Hey, I guest blogged on Susan DiPlacido's blog. I pinch hit for her weekly American Idol recap. Check it out: Neon Fiction

Monday, March 17, 2008

Radical Gratitude

Radical Gratitude
And Other Life Lessons Learned in Siberia
by Andrew Bienkowski and Mary Akers
published by Allen & Unwin, ISBN 9781741754223

Part inspirational self-help book and part memoir, Radical Gratitude is an involving, quick read. Mr. Bienkowski, a therapist for more than 40 years, recounts the time his family spent exiled in Siberia during WWII, and how the life lessons he learned as a small child still influence him to this day. The goal of this book is to pass those lessons along to the readers. Lessons of gratitude, hope, perseverance, faith and love.

The inspirational part of Radical Gratitude is written in first person, and allows Mr. Bienkowski to break down each "lesson" (as he calls the chapters), and draw from his past to show his inspiration for different treatment philosophies. This is all good stuff, and he gives practical, useful advice in not only helping others, but also in helping ourselves. Helping ourselves live a better, stress-less life, keep a positive outlook, and have hope for a better future, as well as how to appreciate the present, and be grateful for things most people take for granted on a daily basis. Things like simple kindnesses, food, and shelter. And you know, as the reader, that he speaks from experience, that when he was a child in Siberia he didn't know where the next meal would come from.

His concept of "radical gratitude" is the "idea that we can learn to feel grateful, even for the terrible things that happen to us in our lives." In fact, they will make you a stronger person. His horrifying experiences as a child have given him a better understanding of life, for which he is grateful.

I found the memoir part of the book, which alternated between third and first person narration, truly fascinating. Bienkowski's family, which consisted of his grandmother and grandfather, mother, younger brother, and himself were forced from their home and relocated to Siberia by Stalin after communist Russia invaded Poland (his father was in the Polish army fighting on another front). Stripped of their belongings and money, they were forced to live in a hut with virtually nothing. To make it through the first long, hard winter, Bienkowski's grandfather starved himself to death so the rest of the family could survive on the meager supply of food that was left. I detect co-author Mary Aker's skillful hand here, in bringing to life the story of this close-knit, loving family surviving against all odds in an unforgiving environment (both physical and political). I found myself right there with the family, feeling what they felt, seeing what they saw, and hearing what they heard:

The long winters had taught Andrew that the presence of wolves was a cause for fear. And yet something had been shifting in his mind when he thought of wolves. Summer, the villagers taught him, was not a time to fear wolves. In the summertime, wolves are well fed and happy. They are raising families far from the village and humans do not interest wolves.

So instead, Andy listened to the wolves as if they were singing a song. Each wolf had his part and each took up before the other left off, so that a continuous chorus of wolf voices surrounded him out there on the plain. As far as he knew, everyone else in camp was asleep, and the wolves sang for him alone.

The grandmother and mother were courageous and tenacious women, choosing not only to live and protect the two young children, but to not compromise their principles along the way. The grandfather, of course, made the ultimate sacrifice for his family. The thing I loved most about this part of Radical Gratitude was that I didn't know the outcome. Obviously Andrew survived to tell the tale, but who else lived and whether or not the family made it out of Siberia to reunite with Andrew's father was a mystery. This was very cinematic to me, and the clear, straightforward storytelling kept me turning the pages.

The Bienkowski family's story is truly inspiring. For this I am grateful that Mr. Bienkowski and Mary Akers decided to share it with the world.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Me, interviewed

Donna George Storey, author of the erotic novel Amorous Woman, has interviewed me for her blog. Read the interview here.

Read her review of my novel here:
Into the Sunset

Into the Sunset is available at Amazon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Declare Independence!

Seems Bjork has pissed off a few people in China. During a recent concert in Shanghai, she ended her concert-closing song "Declare Independence" by shouting "Tibet! Tibet!" China has ruled Tibet since 1951, and it's a touchy subject there, with talk of independence taboo.

Come back to America, Bjork! We need some independence here, too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Rise of the New "House that Ruth Built"

In 2009, the New York Yankees will move into their new home, right across the street from their current Stadium. I'm really excited about it, and have seen the construction from the Major Deegan Parkway as I've zoomed past. The new Stadium will have more of a retro look, very similar to the original Stadium with the coliseum-like look of the outside, and the famous white facade once again circling the entire inside of the park, and not just the back of the outfield like the current Stadium has, which was remodeled in the mid-70s.

I've been following the progress on a great Yankees blog called Sliding Into Home, who have a whole separate page dedicated to the construction, complete with frequent updated photos. They have some great shots, from all different angles. I'm not sure how they're getting all these amazing images, but check them out for yourself:
Sliding Into Home