Saturday, November 15, 2008
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I have always liked "reading" through the Atlas, and I suppose that is an extreme example of "non-narrative prose."
Yaeger continues to be annoyed by the misuse of the English language. A meterologist by education, he is irritated in the extreme by the overuse of prepositions on the part of television weathercasters (A cold front is moving "up into the region," or even, absurdly, "on over into the state").
"It goes without saying" that he really hates THAT phrase.
Yaeger has a blog, too. He also recommends this group effort language blog whose contributors include Geoffrey Nunberg, one of my favorite linguistics experts.
I've never seen so many band members on stage at the same time. I didn't get an absolutely complete list, but here is the general lineup:
- Mitch Albom
- Dave Barry
- Sam Barry
- Richard Belzer
- Roy Blount, Jr.
- Kathy Goldmark
- Matt Groening
- Vicki Hendricks
- Carl Hiaasen
- Frank McCourt
- Ridley Pearson
- Jenine Sabino
- Amy Tan
- Scott Turow
- Steve Watts
Mitch Albom did an Elvis imitation. I'll say no more about that.
Amy Tan performed lead vocals on "My Boyfriend's Back" while the backup vocals and instrumentals accompanied in a variety of keys. Most of the time Dave did tell everybody what key the number would be in, but for that one song, apparently the information wasn't entirely disseminated. Oops. Amy apologized and said they hadn't had time to rehearse it. Dave just laughed at her (and himself, and the rest of them--and maybe at us, too, for listening to it.)
Frank McCourt played harmonica and performed vocals on a rousing version of "Don't Fence Me In" and then later did an encore with the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better."
The band didn't leave out their standards, "I'm in Love With a Proofreading Woman" and Kathy Goldmark's composition, "The Slut Song."
Sam Barry's rendition of the gospel tune "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a favorite of mine and a reminder that the Barry brothers share the burden of having grown up as "preacher's kids." They have my sympathy on that score.
Joining the band at various times were Dave's wife, Michelle Kaufman, and their daughter Sophie (singing "La Bamba" with mucho gusto) and the fiancee of Rob Barry, Laura Schweitzer. Laura's sparkly diamond ring was visible to the back rows as she belted out "I Love Rock and Roll" -- she's gonna fit right in at the Barry house.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Any friend of Cesar Chavez is a friend of mine.
Peter Matthiessen: his new novel is called Shadow Country. It has been criticized as a rehash of a trio of novels previously published, but he said he spent seven years completely reworking the story, which was originally written as a single book. The problem was that the original book was 1,300 pages long and it frightened the publisher, who insisted on breaking it up into three separate novels. Matthiessen wasn't satisfied with the result and now he thinks the final project (at 900 pages) is much better. The committee for the National Book Award agrees; it's on their short list for the soon-to-be-announced 2008 prize.
I was not familiar with Matthiessen's work before but he has been an activist and envionmentalist for a very long time. He's working on global warming issues relating to native people and polar bears. He also advocates for other native American issues, and would like us to join him in pressing for the release from prison of Leonard Peltier. Peltier has been locked up for 32 years; everyone else who was convicted in the 1975 Pine Ridge Reservation incident has been released. It wouldn't be far-fetched to consider Peltier a political prisoner. Even the judge who sentenced him is in favor of releasing him at this point.
When asked during Q&A what can we do about global warming, Matthiessen replied, "I like to think we can all do something. Cesar Chavez, who was the greatest man I ever met, used to say that instead of sitting back and saying 'what can one person do' if everybody did something, no matter how small it might be, we could turn any situation around, eliminate injustice, poverty, pollution, whatever."
After expressing his admiration for Chavez, Matthiessen declared that his "prime enemy in life" is Exxon-Mobil, noting among other things that "they have never paid a cent" in damages relating to the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Then someone asked what his next project would be and Matthiessen said, "Well, it's been 30 years since I cleaned my office, I'm starting on that now." He is also "taking notes" for a new novel but says that at 81 years old he isn't planning any more heavily researched nonfiction projects, because "time is not on my side."
Roy Blount story: Barack Obama was a guest on "Wait, Wait, Don't tell Me" before he was a candidate. He talked about being a senator and how he was surprised to find that each senator has his own desk on the Senate floor--also that previous senators had carved their initials into the wood of the desks the way school children sometimes do. Asked whether he would follow the tradition, Obama replied that in view of the fact that he was the only African American senator, he was thinking of using spray paint, instead.
We later ran into Blount in line for crepes, and I took the opportunity to express my appreciation for his performance with the Rock Bottom Remainders. In point of fact, his rendition of "Oh, Boy" was one of the best numbers they did and the one that stuck in my head the next day. He was rather sheepish and said he thought the band had more fun than the audience did, and that he appreciated "being indulged." He agreed with my expressed opinion that the crepes were the best food available at the book fair. (Most of the other choices involved deep frying or sausage, or both.)
One of the fun parts of Roy Blount's presentation was seeing Carl Hiaasen, who shared the stage with him, crack up listening to Roy's stories. The same was true of the Frank McCourt/Dave Barry pairing. Dave was about to fall off his chair at several points. I did not take notes at that event. Dave discussed his book The History of the Millennium (So Far) and later he autographed my copy of it--this is the first personalized Dave Barry book I've ever had, after all these years. Frank McCourt signed my Achenblog Bookbag so now it has four signatures -- quality, not quantity, is what I'm going for.
Carl talked about his golf book, The Downhill Lie, a Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport which I have discussed elsewhere. He told all the goriest stories from the book and someone got up afterward and said, "I just want to thank you for your presentation. I've been trying to lose weight, and after those stories (the rats, the toads) I'm going to find it easy to skip lunch today."
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What we didn't see:
- Salmon Rushdie
- George Hamilton
- Michael Cunningham
- Wally Lamb
- The International Pavilion
- The Comix Gallery
- Art Spiegelman
- Jim Morin
- Linda Gassenheimer
- Sister Souljah
- Senator Mel Martinez
- Scott McClellan
- Russell Banks
- The Write Out Loud Cafe
- Alan Cheuse
and hundreds of other people and events...
...and, believe it or not, I didn't buy as many books as I had planned. Because I didn't really have time to shop. But we did have a great time.
Aside from the book fair itself, we did a little sightseeing around Miami. Saturday night we sauntered around Bayside Mall and ended up having dinner at the same Cuban restaurant we patronized last year. It's authentic Cuban food at a reasonable price; why go elsewhere?
We stayed in Miami Beach, at a very funky hotel called The Whitelaw. On Sunday afternoon we hopped on the local shuttle bus - for 25 cents you can tour South Beach. We debarked at Lincoln Road and walked up and down the pedestrian mall there.
I went for a run on the beach both mornings we were there. Miami Beach has a great boardwalk, mostly well away from the street traffic. The weather was hot on Saturday but cooler on Sunday--clear blue skies and gentle breezes, nothing at all to complain about.
I meant to take more pictures, but this is all I ended up with--and at least one of these is Seasea's; on Sunday night I commandeered her camera and downloaded everything she had onto my laptop. Did not even give her a chance to refuse. (Thank you, Seasea--and thanks also for coming all the way to the other corner of the country to share the Miami Book Fair with me.)