I just almost choked on my vitamin. Good morning!
Maybe it was the excitement of Raleigh’s Own Clay Aiken on GMA, singing “Can’t Live If Living Is Without You.” (That might not be the real title, but you know the song I mean, right?) What is it about Clay Aiken that so fascinates me? I wasn’t even watching Idol when he was on it. I think it’s the whole NC connection, to be honest. Even with his new shaggy do, and fancy clothes, when he opens his mouth he still sounds like someone I could have gone to high school with, or might bump into at the supermarket. How nerdy is it that I like that? Oh, don’t answer that. I don’t even want to know.
But I can’t write about Clay Aiken, or GMA, today, because I promised I was going to write about all things literary. (Which is why I also cannot write about how, after much contemplation, I have decided that I can’t give up on America’s Next Top Model. If I did, what would my friend Adam and I have to talk about? But again, I can’t write about that. Not now, anyway.) So: this week, there are two books coming out that I’ve been looking forward to. One, John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, I have been lucky enough to be able to read already, and it is VERY good. If you loved Looking For Alaska, his first book—and you did, right?—then you will love this one. And I’m not just saying that because John and I bonded while gambling together in New Orleans this summer at ALA. I’d say it anyway.
Also this week, Lee Smith’s newest, On Agate Hill is released. Now, I owe a lot to Lee—I fully believe I would not be where I am, career-wise, if it wasn’t for her encouragement and support, probably not even published at all—but before I knew her as a person, and worked for her as an assistant, I loved, loved loved her books. Fair and Tender Ladies is my favorite, followed closely by Me and My Baby View the Eclipse, but from what I hear this newest one is equally good if not better. Lee’s doing a bunch of readings around here this week, and of course I will be attending like the crazy fangirl I am, sitting in awe of her, as always. Being a writer is a fabulous thing, but like any job, it can also be confusing and challenging and make you want to tear your hair out at times. If you’re lucky, though—and I am, in this respect—you know someone like Lee, who has been there, and knows just what to say to make things better. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have reached out to her in the midst of stressful writing times or in the face of some huge professional crisis, and she always talks me down from the ledge. “Sarah,” she said to me once, years ago, “editing a book should not be like having a hysterectomy.” And you know what? She was right. Then again, she usually is.
Also in books, I just finished reading Bel Canto, which is one of those books that everyone is always asking if you’ve read yet. In fact, when I bought it, someone came up while I was at the register and said, “That’s a great book!” which is the kind of publicity you just can’t buy, as an author. Now that I’ve read it, I do see what all the fuss was about: it’s well written, the story unique, and I loved the shifting points of view, which felt very close even though they were all in third person. Impressive. Then, last night, I finished What Did I Do Last Night? by Tom Sykes, a book I’d started and then had to put down, which was a big mistake, because once I picked it up again I sailed through it, it’s a great read, a memoir about his addictions and life as a journalist. I think it comes out next month. Next week, when I’m on vacation, I have a stack of books waiting for me: The Tender Bar by JP Moehringer, Veronica by Mary Gaitskill, Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. What can I say: I am ready to read. Bring it on!
Finally, yesterday I was asked two questions in comments that I felt I should address. The first was about how I watch a lot of TV, and someone wondered when do I write? The answer: every day, from 2-5 or so. It’s a schedule I’ve been on since my waitressing days, and it works for me. Yes, I know it’s only two or three hours, but if all’s going well, I can get quite a bit done in that time (internet procrastination notwithstanding). I don’t watch TV during the day, ever. It’s more my reward, for when the day is done and I clock out, step away from the computer and shift into downtime. Also, two people asked yesterday for an update about Just Listen possibly coming to television. Well, I don’t have a lot of news right now, but I can tell you that the book has been optioned by a fab producer who wants to develop it into a movie and, possibly, a series on Lifetime. What does this mean, really? Not much, right now, other than someone is interested in the book, which is a great thing. But if and when anything else happens, I promise I’ll let you know first. Okay, maybe second, after my husband. But second’s good, right?