Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 14 Dec 09 13:49
ANd they're getting harder and harder to find.
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Mon 14 Dec 09 14:40
Here's where I demonstrate what a full-service author I am... head over to http://store.portagenewspapersupply.com/servlet/StoreFront and you've found 'em.
Gail (gail) Mon 14 Dec 09 14:59
They are awesome for anybody who takes any kind of notes in short phrases, unless you actual do outline indentation across a page. I was always too lazy to do that. Charlie, do you have multiple notebooks for multiple projects -- and if not, how the hell do you find stuff in those? I love notetaking on paper, but the retrieval is much more difficult after being spoiled by computer and internet search!
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Mon 14 Dec 09 15:28
And here's where I demonstrate what a disorganized author I am. While I do manage to keep each project in its own computer file(s), the longhand notebooks are quite random. I pick one up to suit my mood when I start working -- maybe a Clairefontaine, maybe a Miquelrius, maybe something from the Japanese stationery store in S.F. The result is that I may have a single notebook whose pages hold work on a screenplay from years ago, a scene in "The Enthusiast," a humor piece I wrote in July, and today's work on the new book. Not what you'd call a system, but it reminds me that I've gotten things done sometimes, which is bolstering.
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 14 Dec 09 16:21
Hi, I'm Ed, and I'm a buying pens at Kinyukonia's Stationery Annex in San Francisco addict. I've only hit the hard stuff once, at a branch of Tokyu Hands in Tokyo, but I've chipped again and again in Japantown. However, I can't make heads or tails of most of the stuff I find in old notebooks, because I can't read my own notes a lot of the time. The notes lasted as notes until they could be processed, and after that...
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Mon 14 Dec 09 16:59
What's really disconcerting is to pick up an old notebook, find a batch of dialogue between two characters, and be unable to remember who these people are or what the project was. It all gets a little kaleidoscopic sometimes...
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Tue 15 Dec 09 06:07
Here's my strategy, notebook-wise. Put the initial project in the front of the book. Then, when that notebook happemns to be the one at hand when you need to make notes abotu something else, start on the back page and work backwards. Then, when you have to use it again, start randomly in the middle. Then fill in the interstices as necessary, as random as possible. Put as many phone numbers, email addresses, recipes, bus schedules, etc. as you can. Then vaguely remember that the notes for that journey, contact, story, etc., are in the blue notebook. The real fun is in the hunt, and even more fun is sending the notebook to a fact checker with vague instructions on how to find what they need.
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Tue 15 Dec 09 07:12
So glad to know my system is spreading.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 15 Dec 09 11:30
When you are working on fiction, do you read other fiction? If so, does the style or voice influence what you are doing, one way or the other?
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Tue 15 Dec 09 16:02
An excellent question, and one that's bedeviled me at times. I do worry about being "infected" by another writer's style if I read fiction while writing fiction. But I read some fiction anyway, since (a) writing a novel takes a long time, and life is too short to go without fiction for that long, and (b) I think novelists should read what other novelists are doing. It's an R&D kind of field. There are advances. I think the bedrock solution is to have a distinct sound for what you're writing. Once you get that sound solidly in place (which may happen well after the start of the writing), I think you're safer reading other people. I like to think "The Enthusiast" has a pretty particular voice. That voice wouldn't be at all appropriate for the book I'm writing now -- I'm still working on the sound for that. But in the case of this new book, the threat from fiction is somewhat diminished by the need for research -- I'm busy reading a stack of nonfiction that's already a tall tower, and growing.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 16 Dec 09 01:13
Charlie, I loved The Enthusiast, and so did my wife--which is kind of a rare thing (we usually don't read the same novels, and more often than not when we do, we respond very differently to them), so I can personally attest to at least one unique facet of your book's excellence. Also, having been an editor at two enthusiast magazines over the past decade, and having written for many others over the past two decades, I thought your depiction of the world of enthusiast-mag publishing was eerily accurate, right down to the megalomaniac publisher. By the way, my favorite magazine title was Cozy: The Magazine of Tea. I still chuckle over that, a good two months after I read the book. I want to say that as I read the book, I laughed out loud and just plain delighted in the humor, in the dry wit of the narration, in Henry's acerbic take on modern culture. But what is sticking with me now are the darker undercurrents: what happens to Henry's dad (both early on and later), what happens to Barney, what (and who) is behind what happens to Barney, etc. Even though Henry's perspective eventually becomes more wholesome (if I can use that word), I'm still chewing on those other elements. I'm imagining you intended for me to feel more resolved about it by now. (I'm trying to speak generally about these points so as not to give anything away. Hope I'm succeeding, without being too cryptic.) Anyway, if I were able to formulate a question or three about the book, I'd ask things like: What were you aiming for with that juxtaposition of the lighthearted and the more unsettling? Do you think "enthusiasms" are a distraction from the more serious issues or situations in life? (That's not intended as a loaded question; I'm curious to hear what you might have to say, even--especially--if you don't think that at all.) Would you say that Henry is or becomes a kind of enthusiast, and if so, what kind? (If that wouldn't be telling, that is.) In any case, thanks for one of the more pleasurable literary discoveries of the last few years.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 16 Dec 09 08:58
(Just a reminder to offsite readers, if you want to ask Charlie Haas a question of your own, you can email it to <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Wed 16 Dec 09 09:31
Phil, thanks so much for liking the book, and for the excellent questions. > What were you aiming for with that juxtaposition of the lighthearted and the more unsettling? It may sound pretentious (or flip), but I was aiming for an impression of life. (Not a documentation, just an impression.) I think one of the hardest and most crucial things we do in life is to deal with that juxtaposition all the time -- absurdity and irony in such proximity to tragedy and loss. Not just in proximity, but marbling through one another. Not just marbling through, but each side being a lens through which we view the other. I have great affection for some purely comic novels and some purely tragic ones, but I think my favorites will always be the "serious humorists" who mix their emotional notes in imitation of life. So Stanley Elkin is a very big deal to me, and I think "The Franchiser," to which "The Enthusiast" owes significant debts, might be his greatest book. Recently I read another very good example, Jane Gardam's "Old Filth." I'm sure the people reading this will think of favorites of their own. > Do you think "enthusiasms" are a distraction from the more serious issues or situations in life? Yes, to differing degrees depending on the enthusiast in question. I think the distraction can range from healthy to crazy. We all know people who've disappeared into a "hobby" and not come out. On the other hand, try taking my enthusiasms away from me. One of my formative moments was when Jon Carroll sent me to Las Vegas to cover an Elvis Presley fan convention on the first anniversary of Elvis's death in 1978. Those people were pretty obsessed. I think one of the seeds for the book was planted right there. > Would you say that Henry is or becomes a kind of enthusiast, and if so, what kind? Terrific question. I'd say yes, although the whole business hinges on different shadings of the word "enthusiasm." Early in the writing it became clear to me that, if this character spends all that time hanging around other people's enthusiasms, the question will arise: what's his going to be? And I didn't think we were talking about another crazy sport or hobby, but about a policy toward life that would enable him to notice the beauty (and, yeah, deal with the losses). Or, as my wife said when we were talking about having suspense in the story, "The suspense is, will Henry become a real boy?" I think she's right, and I think he does.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 16 Dec 09 12:00
> I think one of the hardest and most crucial things we do in life is to deal > with that juxtaposition all the time -- absurdity and irony in such > proximity to tragedy and loss. Not just in proximity, but marbling through > one another. Not just marbling through, but each side being a lens through > which we view the other. Yes. Well said.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 16 Dec 09 13:57
Great answers, Charlie, and beautifully expressed. Thanks. And I loved your wife's observation. Pinocchio lives!
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Thu 17 Dec 09 17:22
I do hope someone asks me something soon. As it is, I'm being forced to work on my new book.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 17 Dec 09 18:42
What's your new book about?
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Thu 17 Dec 09 19:21
For the cause of helping you to productively procrastinate, I'll add another question--have you tried and failed to caulk a shower yourself? You described that so well that I went to look at my showers, to see how well they were caulked.
Charlie Haas (charliehaas) Thu 17 Dec 09 22:26
Maria, thanks for that. I have replaced bathroom wall tiles, but have not caulked a shower. (Were yours OK?) David, the new novel is a family / historical saga that involves the checkered history of "alternative" movements (political, social, psychological, musical, dietary, sartorial, and more) in the 20th Century. I'm intrigued by the fact that "the '60s" had started by 1910. I have the late eden ahbez and a number of other interesting people in mind. So far it's difficult and a lot of fun.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 17 Dec 09 22:59
Is Eden Ahbez the guy who wrote "Nature Boy"? Charlie, did you ever read T.C. Boyle's "The Road to Wellville"? It's about American health nuts in the 1890s or so. Funnier'n shit.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 18 Dec 09 00:47
Is this one going to have a mixtape, too? The Enthusiast, for those of you who foolishly haven't gotten a copy yet (it's in paperback! Cheap!), has one of those study-guide things at the end that the publisher, presumably asked for, and among the ways Charlie subverted that was to have a mixtape, with a song for each character. Ingenious.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Fri 18 Dec 09 07:32
>Charlie, did you ever read T.C. Boyle's "The Road to Wellville"? >It's about American health nuts in the 1890s or so. Funnier'n shit. And if you like that, you'll love Sarah Ruhl's play "In the Next Room," which is about one of the Kelloggs' (Boyle's book is about the cereal magnates, who started out as health spa magnates serving corn flakes to the guests) lesser known techniques--pelvic massage, used to relieve the pelvic congestion thought to cause hysteria and neurasthenia. In the play, the massage is provided by an electric vibrator with a very special tip for the gents. I got your book (amazon got it to me in like 18 hours) and really enjoying it. Will jump in here asap.
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Fri 18 Dec 09 07:48
(Our showers were caulked very neatly--I imagine by a professional. Though it looks like we need to re-do the grouting in one of them.)
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 18 Dec 09 08:01
There's also a pretty neat movie of The Road to Wellville, which includes things described in #72.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 18 Dec 09 08:42
Charlie may have seen "In the Next Room," aka "The Vibrator Play," because it premiered out here at the Berkeley Rep.
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