Book Trailer (and other stuff)!

My editor Loan Le at Atria made this very fun and very funny book trailer (whose size I’m going to have to figure out how to get right) for A Better World. Though it’s silly, it captures the essence of the story and the things A Better World lampoons in what I hope is a thoughtful way. It’s not every writer whose editor does this kind of thing and I’m very appreciative.

My dad used to tell me that his favorite painter Velazquez never finished everything – it was taken away from him, or he’d have worked on it forever. My dad felt I was similar in disposition, and I’ve lately been noticing the evidence, as I keep thinking of lines I want to tweak in A Better World. I’ll have time for this, though I’m not convinced it’s as necessary as I tell myself. I just finished reading Elmore Leonard’s Black Dahlia, which I suspect he wrote straight through with few edits. It’s nonetheless riveting, nonetheless, and even when he hits wrong notes I don’t care.

This week, I went over cover and sales copy with my editor. It’s hard to know how to sell something or what slant to take when a book doesn’t fit an exact box. I spent a good fifteen hours on two pages of material, changing clauses and specific words like I was solving world peace. In our last exchange my editor wrote: You’re done! And I thought: Okay, yeah, that was a little much for all involved.

Juan de Pareja, one of my dad’s favorite Velazquez paintings. de Pareja was a painter in his own right, and Velazquez’ slave for twenty years. There’s a good article about him here.
This is The Calling of St. Matthew, a painting BY Juan de Pareja after he was freed, with a self-portrait on the left. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Anyway, I’m onto finishing a short story, then writing one more for that research I did in Death Valley. It’ll be fun to announce the anthology for that story, as a lot of you will probably have read the genre classic it references. After that I’ll work on the next book, which I’ve outlined and for which I have about fifty written pages.

School started in Los Angeles on Monday. My husband and I suddenly have time to work again, which is great, though it strikes me as crazy that kids should be in school mid-August. The good news is, they’re now attending the same school and they take a bus.

My kids and I watched “American Beauty” last night. There’s still a lot to like about it, though some of its politics are dated (and the Suvari side plot is treated… badly). For instance, Kevin Spacey’s character craps all over his wife for her dinner music selection. Meanwhile, though she works too, there’s no evidence he’s ever cooked, bought groceries, decorated and cleaned the house, or kept track of their daughter’s schedule. Sure, she’s a shrew. But maybe she’s got reasons. Even so, the movie’s still a great/weird indictment of… everything.

Speaking of Annette Benning, who makes the role of the housewife in “American Beauty” tolerable, I have two recommendations – “Girl Most Likely” a Kristin Wiig vehicle from 2012, in which Benning is at her charming best, as a wacky, gambling addicted mom who shacks up with her “international spy” boyfriend Matt Dillon. This movie is a total joy, and I think a reference to the 1973 Stockard Channing TV movie “Girl Most Likely to…” As a kid watching too much television, I saw this movie repeatedly on WORTV Channel 9 in New York and was fascinated. It was written by Agnes Gallin and Joan Rivers, about a smart girl who can’t get a date because she’s not pretty. But then she goes crazy. Like, CRAZY.

I’m in the writer’s guild and the strike continues. It’s a strike I agree with and enough has been said on it that I don’t need to say more. But I guess the one note here is, if AI could paint line Velazquez, would it feel the same? If a random algorithm wrote my work, would you still want to read it? Or would the weird part that makes a thing art– the funny conversations and meandering and sinkhole choices that don’t make sense except for an internal logic — feel like mistakes when there’s no human on the other end?

That’s it for now. As I catch up on books on my nightstand, I’m also looking for recommendations. Send any you got.







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