Before the End – A short story with illustrations

January 2nd, 2010  by: No comments
My short story “Dreams Where I Can Fly” is out in Italy now in the magazine Internazionale. Which is strange enough to write, but seeing it was even more surprising. And wonderful, not least of which because of the illustrations that go with the story. I’m posting JPEG’s of the story and illustrations below. The illustrator is Guido Scarabottolo, whose Web site is here. The story is, roughly, the first chapter of my novel Shimmer. The illustrations could as easily go with the novel as they do the story. Internazionale appears to have changed the title to “Before the End.” At least that’s how Babelfish translates “Prima della fine.” I like that title. I may use it somewhere else. Thanks again to Keith Gessen for selecting the story for Internazionale.

Dreams Where I Get Food Poisoning

December 16th, 2009  by: No comments
n+1 logo Keith Gessen, co-editor of the journal N+1 and former book critic for New York Magazine, selected one of my short stories, “Dreams Where I Can Fly” (Raritan, Spring 2009), for publication in the Italian magazine Internazionale http://www.internazionale.it/sommario/?issue_id=419as well as listing it as one of his favorite stories for 2009. This was my thank you note to him, which, for reasons eventually explained in the post, I couldn’t send to him directly. This is really nice of you to list my story as one of your favorites of the year and it makes me think that I haven’t thanked you properly for selecting my story for Internazionale. I’m actually not sure I thanked you at all, let alone enough, because when you emailed me that you wanted the story for Internazionale I was ill, violently, terribly, deliriously ill with food poisoning. My hands were shaking as I typed my response and the ensuing follow-up messages — of which there may have been two or ten, I’m not sure — were typed between bouts of vomiting and fitful, delirious stretches of sleep. testata270I’ve had food poisoning four times now in my life and so it’s getting to be a kind of badge of honor, like the number of hallucinogenic wanderings you’ve taken before you’re 21. But like an acid trip, food poisoning – and, maybe especially, the drugs they give you to get over the nausea — leave you spent and deadened for many days afterward. A lost week, to be sure. It’s possible that if a very gracious and well-written Italian editor hadn’t contacted me more than a week after you and I corresponded, I might well have never remembered any of this. Or I might have written it all off as a low grade, historically unanchored flashback. Which, besides being unacceptably rude, would have been deeply unfortunate. So strange was that week of illness and its unexpected connection to the selection of this story that yet another week went by after I exchanged emails with the Italian editor before I remembered that, coincidentally, I’m going to be in Italy in March and could have coffee or wine or both (but not sushi, which will almost certainly still be off-palate then) with the editor, assuming that his spoken English is as good as his written. htmlgiant_logobAnd even that, the coincidence of my going to Italy for a trip planned long before you contacted me or I took that fated journey to my neighborhood sushi bar, all of it only adds to the dreamy dislocation of this entire event. Finally, because I’m seven paragraphs into this, I can’t not note that my confusion over all this only continued by my seeing this post via a cryptic automated Google alert email, the kind of message that usually announces that an “Eric Barnes” in rural Wyoming has been released on parole, but that this time listed my name next to the title of a story of mine, which led me to believe that the alert was, this time, about me. The last complication, I hope, is that while I was able to read your post yesterday, when I tried to go back to the post in the morning, the link would not work, which, of course, sends me back into a state of total dislocation over whether any of this really did happen. The subtext of all this, of course, is that while I appear to be writing this as a simple comment on your blog, I am in fact writing it elsewhere on my computer and will, when possible, copy and paste it into your blog as if it were the effortless ramblings of a thankful writer. In the meantime, I think I’ll post this to my own blog, just to alter the order of events on this a little bit more. Again, I’m glad you enjoyed “Dreams Where I Can Fly.” Thanks for giving it this attention.

Why I Hate Twitter

November 27th, 2009  by: No comments
I was recently followed on Twitter by someone looking for tips on make up. This is not an uncommon occurrence for me. How could I have known that giving my novel the title Shimmer would result in so many Web references − via Twitter, blogs and news articles − to lipstick, lotions and body rubs? Yet it’s one thing to receive a Google alert on how some new lotion “wrote the book on body shimmer.” It’s another to have someone actually go to the trouble of following me on Twitter because I used the word “Shimmer” in my Twitter bio. The truth is, I hate Twitter. Yes, there are many useful, funny, compelling and interesting things about Twitter. That’s not my point. (I also hate television, but love the Colbert Report. Hate, for me, is not all-encompassing.) All of which reminds me of a long email I wrote to someone recently about what place The Daily News, where I am publisher, has on Twitter and Facebook. This is a person who has never used Twitter or Facebook and who is deeply skeptical of them both. In hopes of giving him a view of the more entertaining − if not particularly meaningful − side of Twitter, I’d sent him a link to ShitMyDadSays. To my amazement, he though it was idiotic. I He’s not a remotely prudish person. I’ve sent him links to sites far more profane and controversial. He is the first person I’ve sent to ShitMyDadSays who didn’t find it either funny or outright hysterical. As we talked, though, I realized this person − the Social Media Skeptic − simply had no context for the joke. Your response is fascinating for a couple of reasons. I’ve sent that guy’s post to probably 20 people, all of whom had the same reaction I did: Hysterical, if slightly ashamed, laughter. These are people of a wide range of ages, backgrounds and experiences. The key commonality, though, is that all of them are, for better and worse, somewhat to very active in either Twitter or Facebook. And I think that highlights what seems so funny to me about his posts: Twitter especially and Facebook to a large degree are filled with pointless drivel. It’s drivel in the guise of self-important updates about what are, in truth, mundane daily activities, or drivel in the guise of highly self-conscious, always pre-prepared and varyingly ironic off-the-cuff comments about life. This guy’s posts, though, had the effect of breaking down those pretenses. He makes no claim to saying anything important. He offers no pretense that these are anything but mundane activities. And the fact that he is relaying someone else’s comments managed, maybe inadvertently, to inherently own up to the reality that these, like most all posts on Twitter and Facebook, are self-conscious and pre-selected comments. And he swears. Wildly. Openly. Breaking all rules of those people trying to capitalize on social media for purposes big or small, he is unabashedly profane, referencing bodily functions and relaying a callus, simplistic honesty that most every other post on Twitter either denies or hides. Let’s be clear: For me, 99% of what is posted and discussed on Twitter is total and complete drivel. For every Iranian democracy protester trying to rally support against a brutal dictatorship, there are 10,000 other people talking about which Britney Spears song is on the radio. Let me say it another way: Twitter can be an idiotic, pointless place to spend any amount of time. You’re not missing anything. This is not to say Twitter isn’t relevant or that people and companies shouldn’t be on Twitter and exploring opportunities in and around Twitter. There are far too many people on Twitter to ignore it now and it has far too much potential once it matures. But even direct communication between people on Twitter − and Twitter is, theoretically, a reasonably quick and effective means of communicating directly with someone else, especially on a PDA − even that communication is wildly contrived and self-important in the sense that you are, for the most part, communicating in full view of everyone who follows you now or might follow you some day. Think of an obnoxious stage whisper in the crowded bar of a chic restaurant − is that person really only trying to talk to his friend or is he in fact trying to be heard by the crowd? The obvious answer, of course, is that, whether the stage whisperer knows it or not, he absolutely wants to heard by the crowd. Put another way, if you really have something to say only to me, don’t Tweet it. Just send me an email or text. I’m constantly struck by the degree to which Twitter is an extraordinarily contrived space. The Web is filled with sites offering strategies for building one’s following on Twitter and virtually all those strategies involve embracing some sort of artificial means of attracting other people to your posts. “Ask questions that will start a discussion (whether or not you care about that discussion).” “Reveal something people don’t otherwise know (whether or not what you say is genuine).” “Be friendly and personal (whether or not you care about your followers).” In the marketing of the book, for instance, the publisher had me do a range of posts about the book virtually every day for six or more months. I posted everything from quick excerpts to photos of rough drafts to updates on book signings and interviews. All that made perfect sense to me. It was all obviously self-promotional and focused entirely on the book or, to a lesser extent, the writer of the book. Yet at some point someone mildly chastised me one day because I was only posting Tweets about Shimmer. “Try posting about cooking or what you’re doing today,” she said. In other words, delve into the inane. And I have to say that, to a large extent, they were probably was right. The fact is, the kind of strategies she suggested actually work, at least to the extent that the goal is to increase one’s number of followers. On my Twitter account for the book, I have sometimes followed New York City publishing people whose posts usually involve not literature or the precarious state of publishing or even something as relatively trivial as the pros and cons of various book bindings. Instead, they post about their cats. “I woke up and Friskie needed water. He ALWAYS wants more water!!” We’re talking 10 posts before 10 a.m. about cats, many of them part of a two-way conversation with other publishing professionals who share an obsession with their kitties. And a person like that, at this point in the lifecycle of Twitter, will have 1,000 followers. By that logic, I shouldn’t be posting about characters in the book, I should be describing what I ate for breakfast. (And The Daily News shouldn’t be posting updates on local construction, it should be posting updates on what color we’re planning to paint the bathrooms.) The irony with The Daily News, I think, is that we actually have a huge amount of information worth posting. Unlike so many other people and organizations on Twitter, The Daily News can post quick, accurate and timely updates on news and information of interest to an audience that can be targeted very effectively by the various tools available in and around Twitter. This is very different than my take on Facebook, by the way. The inanity factor on Facebook is only 70 or 80%, versus the 99% on Twitter. The fundamental difference, as you’ve probably read, is that on Facebook the connections between people are based almost entirely on a simple system of invitation and acceptance. I can’t remember the name of the guy who wrote the de facto manifesto on permission-based marketing [Seth Godin, “Permission Marketing”], but I heard him speak at a conference back in the late 90s and he was extremely persuasive that companies were on the verge of blowing the greatest marketing opportunity ever − email marketing − because we were failing to do a very simple thing: We weren’t asking permission. Facebook, however, is inherently dependent upon permission and so the connections between people, or between people and companies, are, relatively speaking, much stronger than on Twitter. It’s not surprising then that The Daily News has half as many friends on Facebook as we do followers on Twitter. There’s more wariness on Facebook, more a sense of trust and purpose that needs to be proven before a connection is made. Put another way, Facebook is that place where you reconnect with the old friend with the gross, crude sense of humor who told obnoxious stories about his father that you enjoyed in the privacy of the small kitchen of your first apartment. Twitter is the bar you’ve never been to before, where you’re forced to tolerate the drunk you’ve never met sitting at the table in the corner telling disgusting stories about his father. ShitMyDadSays was so startlingly funny because he was neither − or maybe it’s both − of the above. All that criticism of Twitter aside, I think it’s clear that The Daily News has a place on Twitter. It’s an extremely quick, easy-to-use medium capable of a highly targeted, even personally crafted delivery of what can and should be exceedingly relevant information. We just have to weather this phase of inane updates about cats. And the ludicrous updates about shit my dad says.
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Food Obsessions and Me

November 4th, 2009  by: No comments
At some point early on in the marketing of Shimmer, someone at Unbridled, the publisher, asked me to write up a quick blurb about where I like to eat in Memphis. It seemed like a simple request, I’m sure. My response: You of course have no idea how deeply you’ve stepped into one of the strangest of my habits. I am a person with many particular habits, rituals in a way, each day structured around a wide range of routines that in and of themselves don’t appear to be notable, but that can, to someone close to me, like my wife, Elizabeth, appear as precise and particular as a formal mass, conducted in Latin, starting at midnight. It’s disturbing to the unindoctrinated, but for those on the inside — in this case me — there’s a deep comfort in it all. My favorite breakfast of the moment is yogurt. Yoplait Light, any flavor. I’ve eaten yogurt for breakfast every day for approximately a year now. This is what I do. I eat the same thing for breakfast and the same thing for lunch for months or years at a time. I would do it for dinner as well, except Elizabeth won’t let me, which makes me love and respect her even more than ever. Her refusal is clearly a caring yet firm response to my obvious though unspoken cry for help, a plea manifested in my img_Lightobsessive need for yogurt at breakfast, a caesar with chicken at lunch. Before we were married and before I had children, I once ate frozen waffles for dinner for four months. I was in my twenties then and a frozen waffle didn’t have the same debilitating effect it would have on me now. The lunch habit gets awkward because I’m a relatively private person, but waiters, cooks and restaurant owners across Memphis begin to recognize me as that guy who comes in every day and orders a caesar with chicken. This is at once embarrassing, annoying, disturbing and, in the end, often helpful, because sometimes my order will get bumped to the front of the line, either as a nod to my regular patronage of the restaurant or out of some latent fear of what might happen if the Caesar Guy doesn’t get his salad right away. Maybe it’s a little of both. I’ve learned to mix up the restaurants I frequent for lunch, alternating my destination so that I appear slightly less obsessive to any one group of restaurant employees, while in fact I’m simply spreading my obsession across a broader geographic range and wider number of people who will, inevitably, recognize me elsewhere — at a store, in a bar — as the guy who eats a caesar with chicken every day.waffle_oc Even for me, though, there comes a time when I transition from one meal to another. It’s a rough and unsteady period for me, when I realize that one meal has run its course and I am in need of another. I’m in one of those states now, transitioning from a caesar with chicken to cheese quesadillas. A friend once asked if I would tell him when I came to one of these transitionary periods, hoping that I’d let him shadow me around as I searched for a new food, trying different options, failing, worrying, and distraught as I considered what new direction to follow. He wanted to take notes. Snap a few pictures. But I wouldn’t let him. I don’t like talking about this change from one food to another, feeling as I do that I’m betraying my true caesar-with-chicken self as I move awkwardly yet uncontrollably toward life as a quesadilla man. There’s something unseemly and adulterous about it all. caesar-saladOn a practical note, quesadillas are proving to be hard to find at more than a very few locations. It’s as if I’ve newly found myself to be a devout Methodist yet I live in Iran or Dubai. As a result, I am more and more often cooking quesadillas for myself, which means I’m eating lunch alone, and which worries me somewhat. Am I shutting myself off from the world in order to focus more intensely on what I eat for lunch every day? Maybe being able to admit this concern is in and of itself a good sign. I hope so. If you visit Memphis, you should eat a caesar with chicken at Quetzal near downtown or at Miss Cordelia’s, a restaurant and grocery on the Mississippi River. It’s deeply pleasant down by Miss Cordelia’s, quiet, with tug boats pushing barges up and down the river. You can also get beer and wine at Miss Cordelia’s and sneak it out to have a drink sitting on the riverbank. If you’re getting coffee, go to Bluff City Coffee, on South Main, near the galleries and an old brothel, Earnest & Hazel’s, that now functions for the most part as a bar. Bluff City Coffee has the best cappuccino’s I have ever had, anywhere. Go figure. I go there every morning, as you might expect, so if you see me, say hello. For dinner you should go to Bari on Cooper, which has great Italian food, then go about a mile south to any of the bars or restaurants in Cooper-Young, at Cooper Street and Young Avenue.
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William Eggleston and Tacoma

October 13th, 2009  by: No comments
I wrote this almost two months ago for another blog, but thought I’d put it up here.

I bought a book of William Eggleston’s photographs recently at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. They are the photos collected in the book titled Paris. Eggleston’s photos, when I first saw them more than ten years ago, were disturbing and thrilling to me in the way that it was, many years ago when I first started writing, disturbing and thrilling to read the short stories of Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.

And so I have always loved William Eggleston’s photographs.

Eggleston’s photos make me think of Carver’s stories and Ford’s stories.  Except that those are stories I love, but don’t like to read.  Because those are short stories about people I grew up with. Stories about family of mine. Friends of mine. Houses I’d lived in.

They were disburbing stories. Stories that articulated what had happened down the street. In my basement. In my car. Carver and Ford wrote stories about lost, blue collar places like Tacoma, Washington, where I used to live and where I used to sometimes sleep in those big plywood newspaper drop boxes that, back then, were positioned around town. I used to roam all day in the vast, forgotten woods on the other side of the city, woods filled with beer cans and tires and metal objects of indeterminate purpose, woods that we called the gulch. Woods that, these days, are increasingly known as  the Homes of Timber Ridge, The Villas at Pine Creek, but that back then were aimless and empty woods filled with purposeless kids in search of something, anything to do.

Let me put it another way. In every town or city that you might ever live in or visit, there are streets between neighborhoods, forgotten streets that city planners have lost track of, that neighborhood associations use as borders, that anxious commuters use as shortcuts as they race home. There are houses on those streets, houses that when you drive past them you at most glance in their direction. But mostly you forget them. Dark houses, with many objects in the front yard.

When I was growing up, those are the houses where I played.  Those are the houses where, later, I got drunk.

Those are the houses that Raymond Carver writes about. And that William Eggleston photographs.

Now, though, I’m a parent.  A husband.  A legitimate member of the business community.  My neighbors, they see me, see me mowing the lawn or see me taking out my recyclables, and they think I’m as normal as they are. Because nothing establishes normalcy and legitimacy like taking out the recyclables. Low fat milk cartons.  A container marked organic chicken. I’ve spent a lot of time creating this impression. I work hard at this.

And then I’ll see Eggleston’s photos. And I’ll know it’s all a lie.

I like to write about lies. Shimmer is about a lie. Not just the literal lie. There’s a deeper lie. Shimmer is a seemingly bright and well-lit book about companies and computers and the highly educated people who run such corporations. Except that there is a darkness in Shimmer, a darkness beyond the lie on which the company is built or in the deception carried out against friends.

There is the darkness of addiction, of a hidden, secret life not exposed to anyone else.

Eggleston’s photos seem to find those sorts of secrets. The dark secrets of people. The dark history of a place. The dark meaning of an object. A thing.

I first saw one of Eggleston’s photos on the wall of a restaurant in Memphis, which made me go find a book of his, The Guide. This was ten or more years ago now and they’re photos taken in the South and I didn’t grow up in the South but that doesn’t matter. That lack of geographic and historical connection only makes it better for me. Makes the disburbance worse. Because, again, these are photos of the people I grew up with. The homes I wandered through and the cars I rode in and the places where I spent all my time.

There’s a certain cloudiness about my looking at a book of photos by William Eggleston. The cloudiness of knowing, personally, the person whose work you are viewing or reading or to which you are listening. It’s not that I know Eggleston. Instead it’s the knowing of connection, of incidental connection.

For instance: I bought Paris at Square Books in Oxford, a beautiful bookstore I’d ended up in after a small event for my book, a reading at a book club in Como, Mississippi, a tiny farming town in Mississippi where I’d been invited to talk about my book to a book club of truly interesting and different and intelligent and, especially, thoughtful people, such deeply thoughtful people.

Which happens in Mississippi more often than you can ever imagine if you’ve never spent time in Mississippi. I’ve lived in New York and Connecticut and I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and Juneau, Alaska, and in those places a place like Mississippi or Memphis is as foreign as Paris. More foreign, maybe, because people there know they don’t have any experience with Paris, but think they know Mississippi, or Memphis.

But they don’t.

And so I happened to be in Oxford for food and wine after reading in Como and I happened to meet someone I maybe wouldn’t have otherwise met, Lyn Roberts of Square Books, and it was good to meet her, for reasons practical and impractical, and things like that seem likely to happen in Mississippi and Memphis and the South, all of which is many thousands of miles from where I grew up and where I thought I’d live.

And so besides meeting Lyn Roberts and thanking her for featuring my book in the Square Books newsletter and on their shelves and thanking her for inviting me, right then, to be on Thacker Mountain Radio, I also saw Paris, Eggleston’s book of photographs, there in Square Books and I bought it.  Which is the incidental connection of being in that place when they happened to have the book at the counter when I was talking to someone I wouldn’t have talked to any other time. And it’s the incidental connection of my knowing a few things about Eggleston.

I know his son, tangentially and briefly. We went to a Radiohead concert in 2003. I got too drunk there, because I love Radiohead and because I’d recently gotten divorced and seeing Radiohead with him and his cousin was a way to escape, a beautiful wonderful way to escape.

I know Eggleston’s nephew, Paul, a friend of mine who I like very much and who worked with me at a company that was, in many ways, the inspiration for this book, Shimmer, and who is one of those genuine people you meet in your life. Genuinely nice. Genuinely smart. Genuinely different.

I know Eggleston is a drinker. It doesn’t take a lot to know this. It’d be hard to read something that’s been written about him, even harder to live in Memphis, and not know that Eggleston’s a drinker. A drunk. An alcoholic, though how can you label a someone that way? How can you diminish a person so simply? I knew and know alcoholics. I always have. I grew up in a city of alcoholics and a family of alcoholics so for me to say this is not a simple thing, not a dismissive thing. It’s only a factual thing. In the way that Eggleston’s photos are factual, maybe.

That is a photo of a restaurant window. That is a photo of a puddle in the rain. That is a man who drinks too much. But it is all so much more. I know another thing about Eggleston: That David Byrne, the musician, likes Eggleston’s work.

I have liked David Byrne since the first moment I heard one of his songs, Crosseyed and Painless or The Great Curve, I don’t remember which and maybe it was both, I was certainly drinking when I heard it, but that was one of those moments, the moment of hearing one song after the other while listening to Remain in Light with a friend of mine who understood there was a world beyond Tacoma where he and I lived then. Beyond the paper boxes and dirty parks and littered forgotten homes on dark streets you drive on but do not notice.

A friend who listened to David Byrne and Brian Eno, not AC/DC. Not Def Leppard. Not Knight Rider.

And so he was a friend who helped open me to a world where I could listen to other kinds of music and live in other kinds of places and enjoy other kinds of art. Like William Eggleston’s photos. Photos that are painful and haunted and beautiful and possessed by demons, really. My demons, obviously, which break free when I look at some photo of a street corner, a home, a simple stack of chairs.

Or maybe they are demons within the photos themselves.

Maybe.

In truth, I think I hope that the photos have demons. I think anyone who writes − and maybe it’s true of photographers and maybe it’s true of musicians − I think we do what we do because of the demons. The dark memories. The empty moments. The embodiment of moments we spend so much time trying to forget. Eggleston’s photos have always reminded me of Tacoma, where I grew up and which is the place I fled.

I think that Eggleston’s photos − of Mississippi or of Memphis or of Paris − they remind me of Tacoma − your Tacoma, my Tacoma, anyone’s Tacoma, anyone’s place that they cannot really ever flee. It’s hard for me to look at one of his photos and not picture him, William Eggleston, there, in that town or on that street or in that building taking a photo. They are photos removed from the place they capture and yet they are photos that could come only from Eggleston, who was there, taking the picture. Holding the camera. You can see him. Feel him. Know that he is there.

Eggleston there in his photos. But unseen on the page. Me there in the book.  But unmentioned in the writing. The producer there in the song.  But unheard in the music. There’s a last point to make about Eggleston’s book of Paris photographs, which is this: It’s the first book in which I’ve seen Eggleston’s drawings.

They are simple, abstract drawings interspersed between the photos. At least I think they are drawings. They may be drawings, or oil paintings, or water colors. I’m not sure. And I don’t really care. In the same way I don’t understand the mechanics of music I like, the notes or the key or something as simple as the beat. Those are technicalities I don’t understand.

Because all I really care about is how the music sounds.

Or how the drawings look. How they feel in your hands. And how they make you feel, how they leave you unable to swallow and you can’t turn the page yet and you lose yourself to looking. Lose yourself staring.

Lose yourself to your demons.

Is it that in a photograph − a medium of art that almost anyone can confuse, rightly, with a tool of the family vacation − is it that in looking at a photo we inevitably inject ourselves into the scene? Isn’t that what every photo in a scrapbook or on Facebook or on Twitpic or on your desk at work or on your bathroom wall, isn’t that what each of those photos asks us to do? Imagine us here. Imagine yourself here. Imagine how good it was.

Except, of course, that Eggleston’s photos are by no means always photos of moments that are good. In the same way that childhood is not just bliss. Or love is not just beautiful. Or the present is not just what is happening now. Which is why I look at these photos and I am disturbed, my sense of now and love and childhood altered. Affected. Knocked slightly askew. I like that, of course. Disturbing as it is. I like it.

I like it very much.

Shimmer Update – Book Clubs, Tulsa & Thacker Mountain Radio

August 29th, 2009  by: No comments
Thacker Mountain Radio In some ways things have quieted down, but then I look up and realize they haven’t. I’m doing Thacker Mountain Radio at Off Square Books this Thursday at 6 pm, go to Tulsa for Tulsa BookSmart soon, and on it goes. I sent an update to some people on things that have happened and are happening for Shimmer. Here it is: A quick update on the book, book tour, reviews and the first day of school. Thanks to everyone who’s been at readings and signings, everyone’s who’s bought the book, and everyone who has simply put up with all these endless updates. Publisher’s Weekly, the trade publication for publishers, editors and agents, reviewed Shimmer: “Case’s slow but accelerating downward spiral drives the narrative…. The corporate intrigue should hook anyone fascinated by the collapse of Wall Street and the crimes of Bernie Madoff.”Publisher’s Weekly So did The Commercial Appeal, the metro paper here in Memphis: “…a sheen of elegance and terror; one is reminded, in Barnes’ language and locution, of Don Delillo’s scalpel-sharp delineation of American corporate culture and paranoia, and of David Foster Wallace’s penetration into the heart of the relationship between human consciousness and rapidly changing technologies.”Fredric Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal Southern Living reviewed the book: “[T]his page turner isn’t for techno geeks only. Bottom Line: Even the computer challenged reader will be wired into the intrigue.” – Wanda McKinney, Southern Living (I think it will be in the September print edition.) And there are more reviews of the book here: http://www.ericbarnes.net/reviews/ There’s a new interview with me, this one at Author Magazine: http://www.authormagazine.org/interviews/interview_barnes.htm I’ll be interviewed on BookTalk soon (on radio and the Internet): http://wyplfmbooktalk.blogspot.com/ (FM 89.3 in Memphis, or look for the podcast afterward at the link above.) I’ll be on Thacker Mountain Radio, courtesy of Square Books, on September 3 (on the radio and the Internet): http://www.thackermountain.com/show.htm Other interviews here: http://www.ericbarnes.net/video/ I’ll be at BookSmart Tulsa on Sept 15: http://www.booksmarttulsa.com/events/ A number of people have been nice enough to invite me speak at their book clubs lately, so thanks to them all. I can’t tell you how nice it is of them. Last week, I was at the local chapter of MENSA. Really. As if to prove it, they have a logic test on their site. “If two typists can type two pages in two minutes, how many typists will it take to type 18 pages in six minutes? ” 3, 4, 6, 12, or 36 http://www.mensa.org/workout2.php Photos of the book tour so far are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericbarnes2/ Either now, last week or next week, the book is, was or will be on that front table that you almost trip over every time you enter a Barnes & Noble. Which is great. (Inside baseball comment: I’ve learned a lot about book publishing in the last year and one thing I’ve learned is that books don’t just happen to be on that front table. The publisher pays to have the book put there. Go figure. Another thing I’ve learned: The front table is called “The Octagon.” As in, “This week, your book is on the octagon.” Which, of course, makes me think that I’ve not only finally published a book, I’ve finally made it as a professional wrestler. The wait was worth it.) And then I’ve been blogging, which is overly self-important and vaguely risky on a number of levels. But here they are: - Book Tour Secrets & Other Updates: http://www.ericbarnes.net/blog/?p=171 - The First Day of School: http://www.ericbarnes.net/blog/?p=187 Thanks. – Eric Barnes barnes@ericbarnes.net
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The First Day of School

August 17th, 2009  by: No comments
Perfekt Boy

Perfekt Boy

It’s the first day of school for most of our kids on Tuesday. All of the kids go to a great, truly remarkably school called Grace St. Luke’s here in Memphis. One of the kids has moved on to another school now, but GSL has shaped so much of our lives and the kids’ lives. It’s a sweet, smart, deeply goofy, nicely imperfect-in-a-very-genuinely-human-way-sort-of-way place. I can’t ever thank the people there enough. Because it’s about to be the first day of school, some friends of ours who have a child much younger than our kids were invited to a pre-school parent party for new parents this weekend. Somehow they mentioned this to me during what was, for me, a moment of clarity. They’re new parents, with their first child, a son, just days away from entering this new phase of his — and their — life. And so, based on many years at GSL and many nights and days at new parent parties, I sent them these suggestions on how best to act at the new parent party.

1. Always get drunk before you go, preferably in a smoky bar so that you can arrive smelling like cigarettes and Tequila. A bar with many smokers of clove cigarettes is, always, a plus.

2. Talk loudly about how exceptionally great your child is and how much smarter and nicer and stronger he has always been than all the other kids in the Montessori program he’s attended since he was 8 weeks old.

3. Make just enough jokes about your kid getting a free ride courtesy of the headmaster to make people question whether, in fact, you did get a free ride courtesy of the headmaster, at which point you should proclaim loudly that, of course, your child didn’t get a free ride courtesy of the headmaster. Then be oddly quiet for a full 30 minutes.

4. Complain about the vegetable platters “which were probably picked up in the discount aisle of the grocery store or something, I mean really, can you eat this?”

5. Tell the host their house is nice and everything but you’ve been walking around and you really are realizing how nice your own house is and how you’ve decided, tonight, that you really don’t need or want to sell your house. (Details on differences should be ad-libbed in context, with a special emphasis on paint colors, kitchen counters and bathroom lighting.)

6. [Can't be repeated publicly. Sorry. But you'll thank me some day.]

7. Emphasize your child’s many food allergies, even if he doesn’t have any.

8. Start a loud, confident, deeply self-assured monologue about how “teaching preschool” is pretty much “just babysitting” and how your child is “probably able to teach this class himself” because he already knows his colors and is “real good with adding.” This will absolutely, positively endear you (and your family and most of all your child) to all the teachers.

9. Bring your child to the party, even though children weren’t invited. And then have him start counting to 50. In French. Then, when it’s late and he gets cranky, demand that the host put a movie on for him.

10. Talk trash about Eric Carle. “I mean, it’s not like there’s much of a vocabulary to the books. And the pictures, I mean, I could draw those pictures. God knows my son could. I mean, he’s already an artist.”

Enjoy your first day.
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Book Tour Secrets & Other Updates

July 30th, 2009  by: No comments
ReadingIf I could write what I wanted to write, this would be a note about a man throwing chairs at one of my readings or the fairly hyperactive “meditation” a person was engaged in prior to a morning TV talk show. No one was injured in either instance, but they are great stories nonetheless. However, some combination of age, maturity and especially the cautionary place occupied by a new writer leads me to hold off on telling these sorts of stories quite yet. Time needs to pass, I think. Just a little more time. I’ve done 6 or so readings so far, visited untold bookstores, been on two morning TV talk shows, done interviews in print and on camera, and generally spent the last month talking way, way too much about myself. That, I’ve come to realize, is the nature of a book tour. Who knew? Other stories I’ll tell some day involve nearly taking the kids into some sort of “Members Only Men’s Club” in a rural town, the notable “personality quirks” of a few interviewers, and the deeply odd behavior of certain guests waiting their turn to go on morning TV talk shows. (Loud meditation was only the start.) The things I can say are bland but real: That bookstore owners and staff, the people at Unbridled, every interviewer and reviewer, and all the people who’ve come out to hear me read or get a book signed are all incredibly gracious and nice. Thank you all. Here are photos of some of the events so far: And links to some of the interviews and stories so far: And links to some of the reviews so far: Thanks again.
Categories: About Shimmer, About Writing, Posts Tags:

Shimmer Launches: Blog Tour, Davis Kidd and a Morning Interview

July 3rd, 2009  by: No comments
And so Shimmer is officially released. I had a great reading at Davis-Kidd this week. Thanks to everyone who turned out. There are pictures here and here. And I’m off to more bookstores over the next month. And I did an interview about the book on Live@9, a local morning talk show. See it here. Also, an interview on KATU, another local morning talk show. See it here. The Memphis Flyer did a nice story about me, here. As part of the official launch, there’s a blog tour underway, including reviews of the book from all sorts of reviewers. I’ll link to the reviews as they go up. Thanks to all the bloggers for reading Shimmer. Some of the reviews and Blog posts so far: Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6670528.html BookingMama: http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/2009/06/review-shimmer.html Collected Miscellany: http://collectedmiscellany.com/2009/06/shimmer-by-eric-barnes/ PassionForThePage: http://passionforthepage.blogspot.com/2009/07/shimmer-by-eric-barnes.html Starting Fresh: http://startingfresh-gaby317.blogspot.com/2009/07/shimmer-blog-tour.html Clark Isaacs:  http://newsblaze.com/story/20090522053819clar.nb/topstory.html Booksie’s Blog: http://booksiesblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/shimmer-by-eric-barnes.html BooksForFree: http://thisbookforfree.com/?p=1002 Write for a Reader: http://writeforareader.blogspot.com/2009/07/blog-tour-review-shimmer.html Beatrice: http://beatrice.com/wordpress/2009/07/20/eric-barnes-guest-author/ Bookfoolery: http://bookfoolery.blogspot.com/2009/07/shimmer-by-eric-barnes.html Linus’s Blanket: http://www.linussblanket.com/2009/07/shimmer-by-eric-barnes/ Am I allowed to comment on the reviews? I think I am. What I like most — besides the fact that these people took the time to read and write about my book, which is fantastic — is that, to varying degrees, each reviewer was a little surprised by some aspect of the book. Thrown off by the lack of violence, by the uncertain motivations of the narrator, by the increasingly sad and confused inner life of Robbie. Thanks to everyone. More to come.
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Strange Things Might Happen: How drinking gin influenced the plot of Shimmer

June 27th, 2009  by: 1 comment
I recently wrote a fairly creepy post for a great book blogger, Drey’s Blog. Drey had asked a number of writers to guest post on her site for her birthday. The request came to me through Unbridled and the requested topic post got just slightly muddled, I think, by the time it reached me. Not in a bad way. But what Drey had asked for was post about writer’s favorite summer drinks. I wrote a post about how drinking influenced Shimmer. And somehow, the post just turned out to be a little bit creepy. Here it is.
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