Sunday, December 5, 2010

Browsing the bookstore

Fought the crowds today and wandered through our favorite Barnes & Noble in the city, the one on the Upper West Side that's shutting down in just a few weeks, to be replaced by a clothing store. Because there's a distinct lack of quality clothing stores in New York City.

Some observations.

* One book in particular caught my eye in the new releases section. Fury: A Memoir, by Koren Zailckas. The book, from the author of Smashed, has earned rave reviews. But apparently no one is concerned that the book ruins any chance I'd ever have of using my name in a future memoir. Salman Rushdie used Fury for the name of a novel and Faulkner had it as part of one of his most famous works. Those classic works are different, those are fiction. This is a memoir. I think the word Fury should have been saved for someone with that name who was penning their autobiography, or, at the least, it should have been reserved for someone writing a biography of a person named Fury. Now what can I name my memoir that could possibly sound as cool as Fury? Zailckas: A Memoir by Shawn Fury doesn't quite have the same ring.

* It's not a new book but is one I hadn't seen before. Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam. Another entry in the seemingly never-ending list of books that are a detailed history of something you'd never think needed a detailed history. Like books on salt, cod, toilets and menstrual cycles, this one looks fairly fascinating, as author Skye Moody attempts to figure out where everything that washes up on shores comes from. We're only a few years away from the story of Floss, and how it changed the world.

* The Best American writing books are always popular gifts. Each year I buy the sports one and usually pick up the crime, science and essay titles as well, along with the non-required reading entry. They're great anthologies and for writers, something to strive for. The sports one this year was, as usual, superb. Buy the book for all the stories, but I'll give a link to one of the best. It's Mike Sager's profile of Todd Marinovich, which ran in Esquire in April 2009. For the longest time Marinovich was the poster boy for everything that could go wrong for a kid under the direction of a sports-crazed parent. I can remember watching a special on Marinovich when he was maybe a junior in high school. Even then the stories of his father, Marv, were legendary. Todd was raised from birth to be a quarterback and, in many ways, his dad's plan worked. Todd played at USC and in the NFL. Of course, it ultimately didn't work out, unless Marv's plan also involved turning his son into an often-jailed addict who squandered his physical talents because of the emotional problems caused, in large part, by his upbringing. Sager's story catches up with both Marinovich men. The only problem is, instead of seeing it as a warning about what not to do, many parents might read the story and regard it as a how-to guide. "Sure, the kid did some heroin, but he got a Division I scholarship!"

* Speaking of dads who might not have done the best job of preparing their prodigies for life in the real world, I saw this book: His Father's Son. Earl and Tiger Woods. It's by Tom Callahan, who knew the late Earl Woods very well. He details Tiger's upbringing and also writes about Earl's, um, issues with women. The issue being he liked them a lot, especially ones who weren't his wife. This, as you may have read, also became an issue in Tiger's life.

* Today Michael Lewis is probably best known for his books Moneyball and The Blind Side. But before he became one of the top nonfiction writers in the country, he worked for Salomon Brothers. He had a brief career there but it led to his first book, Liar's Poker, which I finally bought today. Lewis made a lot of money with Salomon and he's made a lot of money as a writer, thanks to his best-selling books and magazine work. How valued were Lewis's contributions? When the short-lived Portfolio magazine started, a rumor circulated that Lewis made $12 a word for his 4,000-word-plus features. This in a business where a dollar a word is considered to be a pretty good deal. Many people dismissed the rumor and Lewis eventually left for Vanity Fair, where's probably pulling in less than $12 a word but quite a bit more than a buck a word.

Still, I'm sure he'll be grateful for the $2 I added to his next royalty statement.

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