Saturday, January 28, 2006

Fantastic Night

Let me first state that I support independent (and second hand) book stores. The booksellers in my street (four stores total) and I have a first name relationship, and that's not because they wear a name tag (they don't).
Still, when a run to a post office to pick up a book delivery from the Netherlands (Autobiographical Notations: Words and Images by Shinkichi Tajiri) took us to West Seattle's Westwood Village, I was the one who insisted on checking out the new Barnes & Noble store.

In 1999, when my book Creative Acts of Healing came out, and I was planning a book tour from Seattle, WA. to the eastcoast, a friend in the New York publishing business told me, that I shouldn't be surprised if the larger chain book stores wouldn't pay me for the books they bought.
"Knowing that, you should still read at their stores, you need them, even if they don't pay."

What he said turned out to be correct. In the case of Barnes & Noble that is. In one store in the middle of Indiana, ten people bought my book, I know that for a fact —buyers came to have their copies signed— but I never got my pay.
At Borders Books though, a friendly store manager, sorry that nobody showed up for my reading, sat through my —one woman for one man— presentation and bought ten copies, for which I got a check in the mail.

So when I entered the signature behemoth on Monday the 16th (Martin Luther King Day), it was with reservation and even slight apprehension. I noted there were not too many literary magazines availablele; the focus in Westwood was on home decoration, crafts and sports.
Therefore it was to my great surprise that I did see piles of Night on a central counter. I picked up a copy and noticed Oprah's sticker.
Puzzled I stared at the book cover. A sales girl in her mid twenties, her cardigan barely covering her lingerie, raced across the floor to cater to my needs.
"That book's fantastic!" she said, smiling her pearly whites bare.
More puzzled, I opened the book, was it really Elie Wiesel's Night she called "fantastic?"
"Have you seen him on Oprah, fanTAStic, would you like to get a copy?
I decided she could not have read Night Even a highschool student knows better than to call this book "fantastic". Incredible, heart rendering, I would have bought, but fantastic? No.

I put the book back on the pile. Wiesel visits Oprah, and before the show has aired local time, a bookseller calls one of the most important memoirs about the Holocaust fantastic. As fantastic as she no doubt called James Frey's A Million Pieces, or Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments: of a war time childhood. What would Wiesel say about that?

Meanwhile I'm cured from visits to the mega book stores. I'll stick to my personal neighborhood booksellers, the people who know their stuff, their customers, and above all authors and their work.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Binjamin Wilkomirski, James Frey Lying Like

What do Binjamin Wilkomirsky and James Frey have in common?
De eerste klap is een daalder waard/ First strike counts double.
But you may fall on your face.
Both men lied. The question is, who did they lie to first?
To their editors, to the people who bought their stories, to the readers who bought their memoirs, or to themselves?

Binjamin Wilkomirsky claimed to be a child Holocaust survivor, who lived through the brutal treatment of his people's oppressors. James Frey claimed to have undergone root canal treatment without Novocain, to have spent nearly three months in jail, instead of a few hours and to altering the facts of his girlfriend's suicide.

Do these men see lying as a craft, something you do well in order to con people, or is lying part of their delusional make-up, the sorry state of mind they're in. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.

The first time I learned about Wilkomirski being a fraud, was in Granta. Not long after, there was a program on NPR about his deceit. A few months later I attended a Poets & Writers' event where Kathryn Harrison, author of The Kiss and Victoria Wilson, her editor discussed the difference between the fictional account of the author's relationship with her father, Thicker than Water and the memoir she wrote about the same many years later.
I asked the editor what she would do if Wilkomirski came to her with a next manuscript. "I would let him write it as non-fiction, but sell it as fiction," was her reply.

Some publishers may have learned from the experience with Wilkomirski. The author of Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, was discovered to be a fraud in 1999. Had his story been told as that of a neglected child, it might or might not have been picked up by a publisher. What would have mattered most, was the writer's merit, the literary quality of the book. Wilkomirski used the Holocaust as a metaphor for his own utter despair. That I believe. Which doesn't mean I condone such appropriation.

James Frey wrote the story of drug addict, a junky. When he offered the manuscript as a fictional account, it wasn't accepted. Possibly because there's no literary merit to his writing. Apparently he didn't change anything in the manuscript when he presented it as a memoir. Conclusion: People (publishers) buy sob stories. Sob stories with a heroic touch, and a jubilant ending are gobbled up, while beautiful writing lies by the way side. Pitiful.

If only anybody had really read Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times "Cry and You Cry Alone? Not if You Write About It" of April 21, 2003. Or better yet, learned from the Wilkomirski case.

Blake Eskin responded to Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood with his investigative A life in Pieces: The Making and Unmaking of Binjamin Wilkomirski.

Let's see who will come up with an answer to A Million Little Pieces. No doubt it's going to be another scattering title.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kinky Friedman for Governor

Hi Y'all,

Did you see Kinky on 60 Minutes? If not, don't miss him this Wednesday on the Jay Leno show!

And what about Molly Ivins on her future vote, last Monday 1/20?

If I were a Texan, I'd know what…
Amateurs do it out of love.

I know I'm not from Texas, I know I'm not from Texas, but I sure hope Texas wants him anyway
(free after Lyle Lovett).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

INDIEFLIX at Sundance Film Festival

INDIEFLIX co-founders Carlo Scandiuzzi & Scilla Andreen Invited to speak at Sundance Film Festival
Tuesday, January 24, 2006- 11 A.M. Film Center


How do today’s filmmakers find their audiences? Amid thousands of independent films and exciting new technologies for distributing them, the challenge of drawing eyeballs to a film has never been so daunting. How do you compete with millions of websites and a virtually exploding blogosphere? In many ways, marketing now controls the film universe, and savvy marketing strategies mean the difference between success and failure of a project. What are the best ways to create awareness and buzz, and what are the most promising technological outlets? What do bit stream, MySpace, Listserv, ethnic niches, and grassroots outreach offer that traditional marketing cannot? This discussion gathers distributors, filmmakers, and marketing professionals to demystify the tricks of their trade.

Open to all Festival credential holders and the general public as space allows.

Carlo Scandiuzzi & Scilla Andreen

Abel Tasman's Journal & Polygoon Journaal

Abel Janszoon Tasman's travel log is going to be published by Waanders Uitgevers. The book, simply titled "Journaal" should hit the shelves in the Netherlands by March.
By typing "Journaal" in the search box before March 2006, you'll be directed Polygoon Journaal during WW II, a smart 5-piece DVD collection shedding a light on the news the Dutch were presented with before watching a movie in the theater. Founded in 1919, Polygoon created titles for silent movies. In 1921 the company started producing promotional films, or commercials for "Carlsborg" a mining company and flour factory "Holland".
In 1924 Polygoon made the first "Holland Nieuws", shot by camera men whose assignment was to fill a reel, no matter what. Thus providing wonderful footage for "stock shot archives".
From 1946-1986, movie theater visitors would become well acquainted with the distinctive Stem (voice) of the Polygoon Journaal: Philip Bloemendal. In 1999 The Voice passed away, but Philip Bloemendal's voice may still be heard.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Marfa, Texas

We're planning a trip to Texas. From Seattle to Galveston is a long drive. On the fourth day we hope to cross the New Mexico, Texas border, push on to Marfa. We would like to have our Saturday eve dinner at Maiya, an upscale Italian "Go Gourmet in the Trans Pecos" (according to Texas Highways) restaurant. Or (more likely) we'll order pizza.
On Sunday we'll take the morning and afternoon tour offered by the Chinati Foundation.
Perhaps Little Dog will get to visit Kathie Compton.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Panama Hotel in International District

My favorite place to meet for a chat is the tea house of the Panama Hotel in the International District. Beside preparing a good pot of white (or other) tea, the baristas make a mean cup a Joe as well. Excellent strong java served in a cup with a saucer. No wonder the ladies love the place. Owner/ artist Jan Johnson has performed miracles with the once dilapidated building. She brought the place back to life. Once the center of "Little Tokyo" in the Seattle International District, the Panama Hotel may very well be called a revival center. If you check in at this reasonably priced, clean hotel, you can discover the International District, walk to Pioneer Square, and if you're up to it, to stunning Seattle Central Public Library designed by OMA.

With some exceptions the undersigned, SPL tour docent by conviction, volunteers her time for architectural tours on the first two Fridays of the month at 12:30 PM. In February she'll be there only on the 24th.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

De Kring

On the 23rd of september 1922, a group of artists and intellectuals in Amsterdam, looking for a place to call home, founded an association they called De Kring (the circle). For decades all activities took place in a loft. A thorough renovation in 1997 allowed for expansion to the floor above, where one now can dine among friends and colleagues. The lower level, now is the lounge, with bar, billiard, easy chairs, and reading table.

An evening at De Kring.

The waitress told us we could take a seat at the narrow members’ table, which easily set twenty diners. We were the first, and wanting to make the most of our first night in Amsterdam, I chose to sit in the very middle, leaving room for adventure on both our sides.

Who would sit next to us? Whom would we meet? After ordering drinks and entrees, I left for the powder room. We clearly had arrived at the right time. When I returned, the restaurant was abuzz with activity. I noticed Eefje Asser(1922-2002), mother of our friend David get up from her chair next to Gary.
“Let’s take a separate table,” she said to her husband Eli Asser, who had taken the chair next to mine. Reading her mind, I knew she didn’t want to sit next to whom she considered a total stranger. Hugging Eli from the back, I smiled at Eefje saying, “Imagine, running into you two like this, what good fortune.” Recognizing me, she took another look at Gary, “Oh, my goodness, it’s you guys, well now I’m staying.”

The wine arrived and all of us toasted with playwright Lodewijk de Boer (1937-2004) to my left, who was dining with a Scandinavian colleague seated on Gary’s right side. The man to Eefje’s left, who was digging into his steak and thin French fries, put down his knife to lift his glass as well, saying something to Eli about the latter’s play in progress.

Gary’s steak, “frites” and salad, and my kidney stew arrived. Eli and Eefje wished us “bon appetit”, the Dane and Lodewijk nodded in unison. We wouldn’t all be served at the same time, but we shared each other’s company. Good times at the common table.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Once upon a lifetime, I lived in Groningen in a squatters' house at the Martini Kerkhof, the Green which used to be a cemetery behind the Martini Church. The above view of the Martini Tower is what I could see from the attic window.
Martini Kerkhof or Martinikerkhof is listed online.