"Mirror Image" (Poisoned Pen Press) now at your bookseller's.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

In my view, Memorial Day ceased to exist some years back. Now the focus is only on the "Memorial Day Weekend," which means different things to different people.

To Hollywood, it's the weekend of the fourth Indiana Jones sequel.

To chain stores, it's a weekend selling barbeque grills, picnic tables and lawn dart sets.

To school kids, it's the last 3-day weekend during the school year. The Fourth of July weekend, coming during the summer break, doesn't count.

To the automobile industry, it's a 3-day blow-out sale of all the new models they've been having trouble moving off the lot since January.

To the news media, it's a 3-day vamp, re-treading old stories and controversies, until---Thank God!---Tuesday rolls around again.

And, of course, to countries outside the United States, it's just another 2-day weekend, followed by another Monday.

However, before it was merely embedded in a 3-day sale-a-thon, Memorial Day itself was a day when the nation reflected on those who died in various wars, here and abroad. Regardless of one's position on the various wars we've been involved in, I think it's still a good idea to remember the sacrifice of those who've served.

Not a highly original or controversial position, I know. But there it is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hollywood on the Couch: KCRW Radio Interview

After reading an article of mine called "Hollywood on the Couch," NPR producer Matt Holzman asked me to guest on his weekly show about the entertainment industry.

In case you're interested, the first of that two-part interview aired this week on KCRW-FM's program "The Business," and is available for listening from their site.

Here's the link: Click here: Hollywood on the Couch — KCRW | 89.9FM

If so inclined, let me know what you think. Thanks!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Everyone has a list of his or her favorite books on writing.

Everyone also knows the better-selling ones, and I can pretty much recommend them without reservation: Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. And for the mythological underpinnings of narrative, Joseph Campbell's justly-famous Hero with a Thousand Faces.

I'm also a big fan of William Goldman's book about movie writing, Adventures in the Screen Trade. (I once mentioned it glowingly to a studio executive I knew, who exclaimed, "I hate that book!"--a ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one.)

However, I'd like to suggest some other books, personal favorites, that I think speak more powerfully and tellingly to the inner life of the writer. Though not all these books are about writing specifically, the issues explored are relevant to anyone living the writer's life.

In Praise of What Persists, edited by Stephen Berg. A collection of essays by a variety of writers detailing the personal experiences that influenced their work.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. A great book on the dynamic--and often crazy-making---process of striving for quality, however you define it.

The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard. Elegant and personal, as well as hard-nosed and pragmatic. Wonderful reading.

Life Work, by Donald Hall. A beautifully-written book by the much-honored poet and man of letters, exploring his obsession with--and consolation from--a life devoted to the craft of writing.

Mastery, by George Leonard. A primer on the value of practice, the consistent doing of a craft. A strong rebuttal to a goal-oriented approach to creativity--and to life.

The Courage to Create, by Rollo May. The title says it all.

On Moral Fiction, by John Gardner. Densely written, frankly pedantic, and inevitably self-righteous--and those are the things I like about it. A stirring, sometimes maddening call-to-arms on behalf of writers taking what they do--and its effects on society--seriously.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sixty thousand perfect words. A masterpiece of lucidity, banked emotional fire, sustained tone, depth and heart. I try to read it once a year, just to clear out the cobwebs.

That's just a sampling of my favorite writing books, of course. An eclectic group, I admit. There are other worthy books I could've included, by writers as diverse as E.B. White and Ray Bradbury, Ben Hecht and Stephen King.

But for now, I'll stick with my list. Good companions on the writer's journey.

Naturally, if you have any favorite writing books to add to my list, I'd be happy to hear about them!