Monday, December 22, 2008


1. Roz Tritton. Best Dentist in the World.
2. Julien Kwan. Best Apple Service Provider in the World.
3. Ed Park. Best Editor in the World.
4. Joey Comeau. Best Interviewer in the World.
5. Dan Visel. Second Best Interviewer in the World.
6. Extremely Fabulous Esmond. Bester Schlusseldienst in der Welt.

1. 2007 was a baaaaaaaaaaad year and 2008 was another baaaaaaaaaaaad year. Which meant that chunks fell out of teeth at times when the mind, maddened by publishing wankage, could not address tooth-related problems. For month after month after month after month. A filling came out at one point, and it was not possible to get to the Best Dentist in the World, so I went to a local provider, who said helpfully in German that there were two possibilities, one was that he could smooth out the tooth, the other would cost 50 euros, instead of elaborating on the 50-euro alternative (replacing the filling) he just ground down the tooth.... Time passed, time passed, I knew I should floss, I flossed and a chunk came out of said tooth. So then there was just a HOLE, and the tongue could feel gum, and this is the Beckettian life, the Beckettian tramplike life where teeth fall away and you accept that George Washington had a wooden tooth, but fortuitously I had booked an appointment with the Best Dentist in the World.

So I went over to Oxford, and the Best Dentist in the World did not put in a wooden tooth. She confabulated with Lucy, Best Dentist's Assistant in the World, and Lucy had a clever idea, and she manage somehow to build up this non-tooth and bond the build-up to the gum, using the substance proposed by Lucy (BDAITW), and miraculously there was an actual tooth in a place where no tooth was to be seen again. A second appointment was magicked out of thin air a week later, and another hole was transformed into tooth.

So, well. A commenter asked recently whether a writer needed an income and a room of one's own. What a writer needs is the ability to summon at will, for a book, the equivalent of the Best Dentist in the World AND the Best Dentist's Assistant in the World. You heard it here first.

2. Yeeeeeeeeeeears ago YT attempted suicide and was called back from the brink by heartrending messages on her cellphone. (She now has no cellphone.) She explained to her mother and sister that when things were very bad it was impossible to talk, but textual communication was still possible, it would help if reliable e-mail communication was in place. YT's mother has a horror of computers. Four years went by and e-mail communication was not in place. But MEANWHILE YT had accumulated many laptops (2C2E). What if YT's mother could use one of the laptops, whose only flaw was a damaged screen? YT persuaded her mother to come to Berlin, and meanwhile asked Julien Kwan, of, AKA, whether he could fix the dodgy laptop.

JK said, There'd be no point buying a new part, which would be 500 euros or so, but if you could get a defekt iBook off eBay I could swap the screens for about 70 euros.

So I checked out and bought a defekt iBook for 38 euros and took it in to Mr Kwan. Who turned it around in an hour and a half for 75 euros.

When I first met Mr Kwan, I was in Hornstrasse and his premises were the souterrain of a building in Grossbeerenstrasse. I sublet my apt in Hstrasse and moved to Crellestrasse, Mr Kwan coincidentally moved to Vorbergstrasse, just around the corner. So the Best Apple Service Provider in the World is just around the corner.

3. In autumn 2007, I think, Ed Park asked whether I would like to write something for The Believer about statistics. We talked back and forth and a film issue was in the works and I volunteered to write about Sergio Leone, having once spent 7 years on a book about a character obsessed with Leone. The piece was harder than envisaged, and my father was dying, and I proposed to Ed a different piece on the Realpolitik of the film industry. I sent the piece in, Ed liked it, had worries about word count, made suggestions, I revised, he rethought, the final piece was close to the submitted piece but better. Ed's first child, Duncan, had recently been born; he was fielding this among sleepless nights; remained helpful, charming, intelligent throughout. Wow. Wow. Wow. Pre-Ed I'd assumed there was no point trying to publish ANYTHING, EVER, because all editors were short-cuts to the cuckoo house. Post-Ed I misguidedly allowed many editors to see new work, under the impression that other Eds might be out there. Sadly, I think there's only one Ed. Ed, Ed, Ed, Ed, Ed, why don't they give YOU the top job at HarperCollins/Bertelsmann/Bla? We live in hope.

Ed's oulipian novel, Personal Days, has recently been published. Ed contributes to a blog, The Dizzies, Personal Days has its own blog, Personal Days, but if there are other Eds out there we have yet to be informed. (PD has had many, largely favorable reviews; bafflingly, none mentioned Oulipo. Was this because they thought readers would be put off by mention of Queneau, Calvino, Roubaud & gang or did they simply not notice? We think we should be told.)

4. Late last summer, I think, I got an e-mail from Joey Comeau of A Softer World, asking if I would give him an interview. Unusually for an interviewer, Comeau had read The Last Samurai AND Your Name Here. He sent four interesting questions. So giving this interview involved thinking at leisure about four interesting questions from a reader who had read two (count them, 2!) books. A Softer World is also an indispensable webcomic. Charmed, disarmed.

5. Later last summer I got an e-mail from Dan Visel, asking for an interview. Visel had also read The Last Samurai and Your Name Here, and he also sent some interesting questions. So giving this interview involved thinking at leisure about interesting questions. BUT Visel, who is allied with Institute for the Future of the Book, is hosted by NYU; there was some sort of problem; so the interview, to the best of my knowledge, has yet to appear. (In other words, things have gone wrong that are not DV's fault, so he is still Second Best Interviewer in the World, comes in handily ahead of the kind of interviewer who hasn't read anything I've written and knows nothing about me, but is sadly pipped to the post by Mr Comeau, who has total artistic control.)

6. Extremely Fabulous Esmond. Crossed my path, if memory does not deceive, back in 2007. When I had locked myself out of my apartment for the, hm, who's counting, well, latest of many times. Esmond cracked the lock of the apartment and was unimpressed, anyone could break in any time. He then saw that there was a better lock, a lock with a bolt. Asked if I had the key. I did. Spent about 20 minutes gouging detritus out of the hole in the floor where the bolt was supposed to go, lubricating, facilitating, end of story there was a bad-ass lock in place which no casual burglar was going to mess with. Charmed, disarmed.

Want to see my blacklist? Want to know how LONG it is? No, no, no, no no.


Andrew Gelman said...

Hey, I had lunch with Ed a few weeks ago and he never asked _me_ to write something for the Believer about statistics! What gives?

Jenny Davidson said...

I thoroughly agree re: the loveliness of Parkian editing - it is impossible to go back to the regular kind afterwards...

Jim H. said...

So I'm sitting there in the dentist's chair, stoned out of my mind on inter alia nitrous oxide. He's a nice guy with adept fingers. Gentle. But he'd just reamed the nerve out of the three root points of my molar which I'm pretty sure hurt really bad except for the rest of the stuff I was stoned on. Anyway, I ask him (with all that dental equipment, including his fingers and some sort of dam in my mouth) what's that rubbery stuff he's exuding into the space formally occupied by feeling and he says, get this, he says "gutta percha."

"Wait, wait, wait," I scream, tears of laughter gushing. "Gutta percha?" (I find out only later that everybody can hear me all the way down in the waiting room, and they're all having a jolly good time of it, too). "Gutta percha? You're turning my tooth into a goddamned golf ball?" I'm uncontrollable, laughing like a fiend and, truth to tell, he's kinda laughing too at this point. As is his assistant. So, he turns up the nitrous and I get dizzy to the point of passing out and watch my tooth, with brain attached, go sailing down the middle of the fairway.

I hate going to the dentist, too. Sorry for the bad time with your teeth.

Jim H.

Andrew Gelman said...

Oooh, Jenny's comment makes me so envious. I've never had an editor for anything. (I mean, sure, all my books have had editors at the presses, and these people have been great, but they haven't really been editors in the traditional sense.)

I think that's why I always want collaborators when I write things--I need the feedback and constructive suggestions, and since editors aren't available, coauthors will do.

The funny thing is, I've always wanted to be an editor. My dream career (if I could not be a statistician) is to be a Maxwell Perkins-style editor. But my impression is that these people don't really exist anymore. At least not like they used to.