Monday, November 28, 2011


The mail has just come.  Envelope from Harvard University Press.  HUP is celebrating 100 years of the Loeb Classical Library - which they now plan to make available online!

NEXT time, I want a tattoo artist

Of course, tattoo artists come from a different world, one where people come in, request a drawing, the artist does the work and gets paid, often in cash. Some, writes Buckley, were frustrated with the geriatric pace of the publishing process, with one guy getting so peeved during the revision process that he kept yelling into the phone “Do you have any idea JUST WHO I AM??!”

Re Penguin backlist issued with tattoo art covers, curated by my ND publicist, Tom Roberge. More here.

Lunch with my mother and sister. My sister says at some point: "Sometimes I wonder, where did we COME from?" She enlarges.  The Vermont DeWitts (my father's family) are conservative Northerners. My mother's family - the Spurriers (grandmother) and Marshes (grandfather) are conservative Southerners. Where did we COME from?  (The spectrum runs from yellow dog Democrat (my mother) to, ahem, Independent (moi).  Independent as in Bernie Sanders is the only Socialist in the Senate but calls himself Independent to be polite.)

My mother, after a pause: Well, after the divorce there was so much going on, I never got around to getting in touch with people.  But I always thought Sutton Jett might have been a Democrat.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

christmas is coming . . .

My ex-father-in-law, Eric Levene, is a GP. A GP with an exceptionally well-stocked liquor cabinet. Christmas comes but once a year, and when it does his loyal patients think as one.  Kurosawa realised, after much anguish, that his film about a doctor curing TB patients was all worthy and boring; what was wanted was a doctor who was a raging alcoholic! With Shimura Takashi as drunken foil to Mifune Toshiro! How better to show appreciation for Dr Levene than to send him down the road of the incomparable Shimura Takashi! (By bearing gifts. Scotch, sherry, port . . .)

I tell a lie.

Dr Levene's patients are Eastenders. They are justifiably loyal to their GP; they wish merely to bring him good cheer.

Suppose, however, for the sake of argument, that you would like to gladden the heart of your GP (Am. "primary care physician") and suspect that all the other loyal patients are adding to an already overstocked liquor cabinet.  What is to be done?  Well, there's always a T-shirt.

Courtesy A Softer World.  Available here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

disgusted in topeka

pp has not had much to say about statistics lately.  So. Data. Cussedness thereof.

Lighting Rods took a long time to get published.  It was very different from The Last Samurai, so different that 50% (at a guess) of readers who loved TLS hated the book.  This is not encouraging to a publisher, whichever half of the 50% he happens to side with.

You'd never guess it now that the book has been published.  Reviews have been, for the most part, extremely enthusiastic.  (Sloth prevails over shameless self-promotion; I could throw in lots of links, but sloth, as I say, prevails.)  This does not really give an accurate picture of responses to the book.

My publicist, Tom Roberge, was swamped by requests for review copies.  Everyone who asked for an ARC did not write a review. Some loved the book. Others HATED it. The ones who hated it hated it so much they couldn't bring themselves to waste time writing a review.

The result being that, if you go by reviews, you'd be likely to see this as a book with a 3.8 GPA. A, A, A, A+, A+, A++, A-, B+, B+ . . . Because the people who HATED the book, the people who would give the book a C, C-, D+, or downright F -- hated it so much they couldn't write a review.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lee Konstantinou, author of Pop Apocalypse, has a review of Lightning Rods and slightly mad interview of me over at the LA Review of Books.  (Grappling with this interview meant that I lost a whole day that I could have spent hanging out with Joey Comeau, who did, admittedly,  use the time to write for his horror movie blog; there is also, admittedly, quite a lot in the interview about my longing to put the interview behind me and spend time with the writing half of A Softer World.)

The review is extremely funny (at least to me).  LK draws attention to the DeWitt fondness for the instructional, which to his mind is at odds with the cultural trend toward informality, relaxation. I don't know whether he is right about this alleged cultural trend -- he may well be, but then we now live in a culture where taking part in a marathon, or even triathlon, is commonplace.  At any rate, the thing I notice in myself is not so much this predilection as an inability to believe that other people don't really share it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

As Joey Comeau points out, there is a book called Outwitting Squirrels.  An extremely amusing book, I might add (if the pages available for inspection in Search Inside This Book! are anything to go by). What Joey may not know is that there is, in fact, an entire Outwitting series! Launched, it would seem, by the success of Outwitting Squirrels (which has sold 300,000 copies):

It began in 1988 with Outwitting Squirrels by Bill Adler, Jr.  Since then a number of Outwitting books have been published, including Outwitting Deer, Outwitting Fish, Outwitting Critters, Outwitting Neighbors, Outwitting Contractors, Outwitting Clutter, Outwitting Mice, and more.

You can be part of this success story.  Adler is not only a writer but a literary agent; if you would like to write an Outwitting title, you can find a list of available topics on the agency website (or propose one of your own). 
On Dec 1 I will be giving a talk on Language Games at the Center for Writers and Translators at the American University in Paris, details here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

meanwhile, over at asw . . .

Joey Comeau:

So, there a book called Outwitting Squirrels. The fact that there exists a guide to outwitting squirrels makes me happy in ways I can't even express. But even better? Customers who bought "Outwitting Squirrels" also bought Good to Go: Preparing for the end of life. You know, in case they don't manage to outwit the squirrels. They can make arrangements, let their families know what to do with their squirrel-ravaged bodies. 

Joey Comeau did come to New York, by the way.  It was kind of like hanging out with a friendly werewolf, which is what you naturally hope for in the writing half of A Softer World . . .  ASW today brought it all back.  I long to go to Toronto.

Monday, November 14, 2011

unendlich shameless self-promotion

Readers of pp will have noticed that the blog has dwindled to an outpost of the New Directions PR machine, not much happening apart from occasional announcements re the new career of Lightning Rods. This can't be very entertaining.  To the untutored eye, the position of pp would appear to be: We suffered for our art, now it's your turn.

A slight problem is that, as one goes through a succession of interviews and events, one puts forward ideas, one replies to questions, and each time someone or other decides that about 50% of the DeWitt offering is not what people are interested in.  You might think this is what blogs are for (ha HA), but it's chastening. No doubt we will recover our nerve in the fullness of time.  Meanwhile, the Man in the Machine, the unsurpassable Tom Roberge, has passed on links to some reviews.
The Winter issue of Bullett magazine has a story, That Obscure Object of Desire, of which my editor, Henry Giardina, says: The Turkish speakers in the office were very excited.

You can read it online here, but the print edition is much nicer: Henry commissioned an illustration from Amelia Saul, a young designer whom I met in Berlin, so the piece is accompanied by a full-page detail from one of the extraordinary, obsessive works I first saw in Amelia's apartment.  It's a fabulous thing.

PS The link to the site worked when I put it up, but doesn't now; am leaving it here in case it comes back.