By Steve Weddle
This weekend I stopped by Hiram's Bait & Tackle for morning coffee. Hiram was a little worked up about the hurricane coming. He was in Florida for Andrew, so it's kind of a sore spot for him. We talked for a while and I passed on the mess of croakers he offered. I didn't feel like spending my weekend morning cleaning croakers, and I sure wasn't interested in eating any when any other food was available. The coffee was $1.49.
On Monday I had a book come out in France. The book is the French translation of Country Hardball. It's called Le Bon Fils, which means "the good son." You can get a copy, if you'd like. You can even read one of the translated stories for free. (PDF download)
When the book published in 2013, I stood up at some bookstores and said some things. I went to some places and signed some books. There were posters. There were mailings and ads. There was cake and whiskey, stacks of books, reviews and chatter. Interviews. Posts. Having a translation of your book published is different.
A few hours after the book officially published on Monday, I was at Hiram's again, having a cup of coffee. I asked him about a three-hundred-year-old rapier. (He's a bit of an expert on slender, pointed swords. I don't know why.) We talked about rapiers, about Spanish versus Italian influences, and I finished my $1.49 coffee, which was the same price it had been before I was an international author.
The New York Review of Books worked on outing Elena Ferrante. You can read about that in the Independent and elsewhere, of course. In the New Yorker. The Washington Post. Other places. Most of the Bookternet was very mad with the NYRB for outing Ferrante. I don't know if the same people were as mad when Ron Rosenbaum hunted down pee-drinking J.D. Salinger. Or when folks tried to work out details in the life of Thomas Pynchon. Seems to me that the Ferrante case is somewhat different. I don't want to talk about that. Invasion of privacy is bad. Authors should be able to remain safe and sound. Etc. The point that's been missed most places that have complained about the NYRB outing piece, I think, is that having the Ferrantes and Salingers and Pynchons writing is wondrous. Marvelous. Delightful.
When many of our authors are engaging with their readers on Twitter and Snapchat and Facebook and Instagram and email and blogs and elsewhere, having a little mystery about the author is pretty magical. Engaging with your favorite authors is wonderful, too. Seeing Joe Clifford eat a pepper is great fun. Sharing song recommendations with Kent Gowran and other writers is pleasant, comforting, and helpful. Drinking in a bar with Jay Stringer or watching Alafair Burke's nachos get swiped is part of a life of wonder, certainly. But having a little mystery around the author of a book you're reading is, well, it's rather like living in a world with clouds, isn't it? I mean, you can have the sunlight shine on everything, but sometimes life is more interesting when the mountains are hidden by clouds.
One of the reasons that I hate, detest, and cannot stand magic is that it isn't magic. It's a trick. It's misdirection. When I was a child, I was promised magic. I was promised men with enormous wings. I was promised dragons. As I grew, life became old men pulling loose coins from behind my ear. I want magic back. The mystery. The wide eyes and caught breath. I love that magic. I don't want to chat with Pynchon on Twitter or know how he felt about the Mets' wildcard loss. I don't want to know what Elena Ferrante's favorite coffee flavor is or see a photo of her dinner. I want some magic. I want wonder.
I recently returned to Spotify and could use your help with a writing playlist. Jay Stringer has a Tom Waits playlist on Spotify. Others have mostly ambient music. Others have rain sounds. Here's what I have so far, and I welcome your help. Thanks.