Monday, January 24, 2005

The New York Times > New York Region > The City > Shadows on the Wall

Shadows on the Wall

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
The Gothic hulk on Central Park West, once a cancer hospital, then a scandal-ridden nursing home, is being reborn as a luxury condominium.


Published: January 23, 2005

ON a late night in the early 1980's, Mary Beth Polasek, accompanied by her then-husband, Ted, and a friend named Charlie, ventured into the old castle on Central Park West and 106th Street. Guided by the beams of their flashlights, they creaked up the stairs to the top floor, passed through a wide hall, then entered one of the turrets. The circular room was vast and empty, and littered with chunks of plaster. The high conical roof, damaged years earlier in a fire, gaped open to the elements and the dim stars.

Long ago, the building had been the notorious Towers Nursing Home, and long before that, the renowned New York Cancer Hospital. Now it was an abandoned ruin. Everyone in the neighborhood simply called it "the castle" because its gray stone walls, five turrets and gabled dormers all gave it the countenance of a Gothic fortress. Like any castle worthy of the name, this one was gloomy and forbidding. Stray cats slinked through the weeds and rubbish. Next door, the Castle Hotel ran a brisk trade in prostitution and crack.

Ms. Polasek should have been afraid that night, but she was not. "I've seen a lot of ghosts since then," she said recently. "But I didn't see any that night. I wasn't spooked. We were young and foolish. We were crazy, happy kids."

Before leaving, Ms. Polasek rescued a few discarded artifacts. In one room, she came upon an "unspeakably lovely" antique wooden toilet. In another, she discovered sepia-stained photographs of men and women spilling out of several open suitcases. Ms. Polasek, an artist, took the photographs home and set them into a collage. "They must be the people who lived there," she said. "I wanted to save them."

Only later did it occur to her that their spirits might have been present the night she entered the castle. Or, more to the point, that they are still there today, looking down in shock from their spectral perches as 455 Central Park West - as the castle was recently christened - is reborn as a luxury condominium.

Ms. Polasek will not be among those moving in. "As much as I would love to have $7 million for an apartment," she said, "I would never want to live in a building that I think is probably haunted."

This sentiment is shared by many who have lived near the castle through its long demise and, now, its astonishing transformation. Whether they believe the castle is literally haunted by the dead or only figuratively haunted by the past, many Manhattan Valley residents find its restoration strangely unsettling, not to mention utterly incongruous with the dilapidated ruin they came to know and even love.

Next month, with most of the units in its new adjoining 26-story high-rise already taken, 17 apartments in the landmark castle will be finished and ready for occupancy. Priced from $3.5 million to $7 million, the apartments will feature cavernous circular living rooms with lofty ceilings and splendid park views, and will include such amenities as a spa, an indoor lap pool, and 24-hour concierge service. As the sales brochure puts it, residents will be bathed in "surpassing opulence" and "timeless elegance," while "reverently preserved architectural details echo a grander age."

Not to be heard among the echoes is a word about the actual past of the building. The omission is slightly ludicrous but entirely predictable. As anyone who has lived in New York longer than a few weeks knows, the past is easily discarded in this city. Buildings change, their contents shift, and eventually just about everybody who knew what was once where forgets or dies.

This truth is hard enough to accept when it applies to a favorite corner restaurant; harder still when it applies to a building with a troubling past. Surely such buildings have earned themselves immunity from forgetfulness.

In fact, though, they have not. Addresses that once seared themselves into the city's consciousness - the Kew Gardens foyer where Kitty Genovese was slain by a psychopath in 1964; the Greenwich Village brownstone where Joel Steinberg beat his daughter and wife in the 1980's - are forgotten. The Octagon Tower on Roosevelt Island, once home of the forlorn New York City Lunatics Asylum, is about to be incorporated into a mixed-income housing development. The former Asch Building near Washington Square, where 146 people perished in the 1911 Triangle Waist Company fire, now thrives as a biology building at New York University.

Continued . . . (click on link to read entire article)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

collectedstories: short story contests

Winter 2005 Short Story Contests
January contests, February contests, March contests"

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Literature Page - Read classic books by famous authors online

The Literature Page is your place to read classic books, plays, stories, poems, essays, and speeches online, brought to you by the creators of The Quotations Page.

Our collection currently includes 226 works fBy Type: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Short Stories, Plays, Poetry, Essays, Speeches
By Category: Mystery, Romance, Horror, Adventure, Sci Fi, Comedy... [More]

By Author: Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe,
George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens... [More]
[All Authors] [All Titles] [All Categories] [Search by Title, Author, or Text] rom 85 authors. We add new titles regularly.

Title Author Added
The Efficiency Expert (1921)
Edgar Rice Burroughs 01/13/2005
The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)
Charles Dickens 01/13/2005
The Country Doctor (1833)
Honore de Balzac 01/10/2005
Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)
Charles Dickens 01/10/2005
O Pioneers! (1913) Willa Cather 03/28/2004

Turning the Pages

Turning the Pages
Discover the British Library's award-winning system Turning the Pages. Just click on the links, wait a few moments, then turn the pages of our great books."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Casey: Quotation Mark Question

In reference to the line-by-line you did for "Forever Flower," I am confused about the usage of quotation marks when one person is speaking and there is a paragraph change.

Can you please clarify?

Thank you.


Librarians' Index to the Internet -

Librarians' Index to the Internet
Great reference tool.

The Literature Network: Online classic literature, poems, and quotes. Essays & Summaries

The Literature Network: Online classic literature, poems, and quotes. Essays & Summaries
Site has accessible books on line broken out by chapter. News - UK - Writers will add chapter to aid efforts News - UK - Writers will add chapter to aid efforts


JM COETZEE, the South African author who has won both the Booker and Nobel prizes, is one of the world's leading writers who will be contributing to a new anthology to raise money for tsunami-hit countries.

He joins at least 13 others, including fellow Booker Prize winners Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood, in New Beginnings, which will be published by Bloomsbury on World Book Day (3 March).

The book will consist of the first chapters of the next books from some of the most popular and acclaimed writers in the English language. From the United States, Stephen King and Scott Turow will offer a taste of books which are not yet on the schedule of their publisher.

From Britain, Mark Haddon, author of the best-selling Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, will offer a sneak peek at Blood and Scissors, his black adult comedy which is not due to be published until 2006.

New Beginnings will also be the first opportunity to look at Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down, his first novel for five years; the latest novel by Nicholas (The Horse Whisperer) Evans; and an as yet untitled piece by Tracey Chevalier.

Alexander McCall Smith, the only Scot on the list, has contributed the opening chapter from Friends, Lovers, Chocolate, the second in his series about Edinburgh moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie.

'Im very impressed with this project, and certainly by the speed with which it has been implemented,' said McCall Smith last night.

'And from the authors point of view, it is also good to let the public know what direction their work is taking.'

Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes, Paulo Coelho and Vikram Seth complete the provisional line-up.

All proceeds from the book, which will be priced £5, will go to charities working in the 12 countries ravaged by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Backstory: "Backstory
Where authors share the secrets, the truths, or just the illogical moments that sparked our fiction. Brought to you by M.J. Rose"

January Magazine | Book Reviews & Author Interviews

January Magazine | Book Reviews & Author Interviews

Friday, January 14, 2005

BookAngst 101: 'Does a rose by any other name....' Further considerations of the malodorous connotations of the term "Midlist"

BookAngst 101: 'Does a rose by any other name....'
Further considerations of the malodorous connotations of the term "Midlist"

Check out this fellow blogger link.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Guardian Unlimited Books | Quizzes (books)

The Guardian/Waterstone's children's books quiz

In December, we ran a Christmas competition in association with Waterstone's, testing your knowledge of a wide range of children's titles, from traditional classics to contemporary fiction. Those of you who've been kept in suspense can click here now to find the answers; alternatively, if you missed the competition the first time round, we've turned it into a quiz, with answers provided at the end.

Click on the header link and take the quiz.

Dave Barry - Elegy for the humorist. By Bryan�Curtis

the middlebrow Dissecting the mainstream.

Dave Barry
Elegy for the humorist.
By Bryan Curtis
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2005, at 2:49 PM PT

Dave Barry, who quit his syndicated humor column last week, has been playing dumb for 22 years. Whenever someone suggests that Barry is our noblest social commentator, that he regularly makes the lions of the New York Times editorial page look like bozos, Barry points out that this is impossible, because, unlike most Timesmen, he takes great pride in making booger jokes. Let us ignore that objection and repeat the suggestion. Dave Barry is—was—the most heroic newspaper columnist in America. He hides his considerable candlepower behind a jokester's guise of "Don't trust me, I'm just the comedian!" Or, as Barry once put it, "Readers are sometimes critical of me because just about everything I write about is an irresponsible lie."

Barry began his writing career in humiliating fashion: Slumming for a company called Burger Associates, he flew around the country teaching businessmen how to write interoffice memos. He also produced a syndicated humor column that ran in a few tiny newspapers and that practically nobody read. Barry came to the attention of Gene Weingarten, the editor of Miami Herald's Sunday magazine, Tropic, after freelancing an article on natural childbirth for a Philadelphia newspaper. "I read it and realized it was the first time in my life I had laughed out loud while reading the printed word," says Weingarten, who now writes a humor column for the Washington Post. Barry began freelancing a monthly column for Tropic, which became biweekly, then weekly—and eventually landed Barry a full-time job at the Herald, where he camped out for the next two decades. Weingarten and his heirs eagerly deployed Barry as humorist, reporter, and quixotic political correspondent, such as the occasion when he began an interview with then-Gov. Bob Graham with a question about harmonica safety.

Weingarten suggests, tantalizingly, that Barry is something of a great brain—a strange thing to say about a man who enjoys covering exploding livestock. "Dave had astonishingly high SAT scores," says Weingarten. "His humor is informed by an astounding intellect." One week, when Tropic converted itself into a kind of Devil's Dictionary, Weingarten instructed Barry to come up with a definition for "sense of humor." Barry disappeared from the office for a few days. He came back with this: "A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge." Then he promptly went back to writing about exploding livestock.

Barry evades questions about what makes his writing funny. (In a column, he once suggested it was his copious use of the word "weasel.") Weingarten says Barry codified one rule of comedy: "Put the funniest word at the end of sentence." A second rule might be: "Put the funniest sentence at the beginning of the story." Barry writes some of the jazziest opening lines in the business. This is partly out of necessity, since Barry's column usually runs about 800 words. It can take up to a minute or two to unwrap a humor piece by the New Yorker's Ian Frazier or Steve Martin, compared to mere seconds for one by Barry. Among Barry's best openers:

Without my eyeglasses, I have a great deal of trouble distinguishing between house fires and beer signs.

I have received a disturbing letter from Mr. Frank J. Phillips, who describes himself as both a patriot and a Latin teacher.

Obviously, we—and when I say "we," I mean people who no longer laugh at the concept of hemorrhoids—need to come up with some kind of plan for dealing with the yuppies.

Like most Americans, I was thrilled to death last February when our wealthy yachting snots won the coveted America's Cup back from Australia's wealthy yachting snots.

At the Miami Herald we ordinarily don't provide extensive coverage of New York City unless a major news development occurs up there, such as Sean Penn coming out of a restaurant.

Next, we move to Barry's third rule of comedy, which is to change subjects as frequently and jarringly as possible, often beginning with the second sentence of the article. Last July, for example, Barry began a column wondering why breakfast-cereal mascots—Toucan Sam, Cap'n Crunch, et al.—were uniformly male. A few hundred words later, Barry had forgotten about that idea and was asking whether we should ditch the phrase "the birds and the bees" for a zoologically correct expression, "the dogs."

Because he's read by boomers and teenagers alike, Barry is often thought of as a guileless, domestic funnyman. And, true, Barry wrote plenty of sweet columns about his son, his dogs (Earnest and Zippy, themselves comic icons), and his lifelong battle with recalcitrant air conditioners. But Barry wrote an astonishing amount about politics, too. Few know, perhaps, that his book Dave Barry's Greatest Hits contains two columns about airline deregulation. And another about tax reform. And another about the defense of Western Europe. And that in his book about American history, Dave Barry Slept Here, he inveighed, comically, against the Hawley-Smoot Tariff ("the most terrible and destructive event in the history of Mankind"). And that from the Democratic Convention—he's covered a half-dozen—he wrote that poor John Glenn "couldn't electrify a fish tank if he threw a toaster in it."

In 1987, after the New York Times published a bleak article about South Florida ("Can Miami Save Itself?"), Barry's editors dispatched their man to New York to give the Times its comeuppance. Barry returned with a wicked 4,000-word story in which he gently pointed out that Ed Koch's Manhattan was a carnival of urban decay and drug paraphernalia, too. Where the Times' story had been heavy-handed and sober, Barry was impish and hilarious, reporting, "[W]e immediately detect signs of a healthy economy in the form of people squatting on the sidewalk selling realistic jewelry." The denizens of Times Square, he observed, were "very friendly, often coming right up and offering to engage in acts of leisure with you." After catching a cab at LaGuardia Airport, Barry formulated the three immutable laws of New York taxis:


Barry (not the Times) won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary the next year. And perhaps his gifts as a political satirist point toward a second act. In his valedictory, Barry refused to rule out a return to column-writing. Here's an idea: As soon as William Safire shuffles off to the Old Columnists' Home, put Barry smack dab in the middle of the Times editorial page. Barry confessed a few years ago that he's a raving libertarian—just the kind of dyspeptic crank who would take pleasure in thumbing Washington in the eye. Give him 14 inches twice a week and let him write whatever he wants. Why settle for another graying libertarian when you can have a libertarian who makes booger jokes?

Bryan Curtis is a Slate staff writer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Chronicle: 1/14/2005: Lawrence and Alex's Great Publishing Adventure


Our sentimental education in the ways of publishing began two months before our book of humor, Sense and Nonsensibility, was to be issued by Simon & Schuster. Over lunch at the publishing giant's corporate headquarters in Manhattan, our publicist revealed a highly confidential fact: 'Advertisements don't sell books.' When we registered our surprise, he assured us that this was the typical reaction of first-time trade authors. 'Ads are totally pass�,' he said. We were therefore immensely relieved when, over dessert, he revealed that Simon & Schuster was not planning on running any ads for our book whatsoever. 'Let the publisher of Eats, Shoots & Leaves waste its money on full-page color spreads in The New York Times,' we snickered. We knew better!

Our spirits remained high when our summer publication date quietly passed. Patiently we waited for reviews to appear. Two early and enthusiastic notices in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal prepared us for the coming flood, and we openly wondered whether David Levine's caricature in The New York Review of Books would flatter or ridicule us. But weeks went by, and nothing further appeared. No Booklist, no Kirkus; not even our own campus newspaper reviewed our book. This prompted our ever-helpful publicist to share another trade secret: 'Reviews don't sell books.'

Frankly, we were flabbergasted. "Really?" we exclaimed. "Not even good reviews?"

"Oh ... good reviews." he sniffed. "Yes, I suppose they can help, but even then. ... "

The process was starting to appear mysterious. "How do books sell?" we asked.

"When people buy them," our publicist confided.

We had occasion to muse over the significance of this lapidary insight as we monitored our Amazon ranking. It remained stubbornly at 1.5 million. That figure was far higher than the total number of volumes housed in Amherst's venerable Robert Frost Library. How could that be? Our Amazon site already had more than its share of glowing five-star reviews written by our respective siblings, partners, former lovers, children, and close or indebted friends, not to mention ourselves. Suddenly we saw the flaw in our strategy -- it assumed that people were aware of our book's existence, and did nothing to steer the would-be buyer to our bargain-priced volume. Promptly we hired work-study students to insert exuberant plugs for our book into otherwise-lackluster reviews of our competitors' works. Amazon's listing for David Sedaris's latest was soon flooded with comments like, "Entertaining. Great for the bathroom. But if you want something life-alteringly hilarious, you're better off with Douglas & George's Sense and Nonsensibility." Or, for The 9/11 Commission Report: "After reading this sobering and important document, I was glad to unwind with Douglas & George's gem, Sense and Nonsensibility."

Within days, our Amazon ranking had broken through the glass ceiling of 100,000. A week later we were under 10,000. And for one glorious, improbable day, we were at 485.

Emboldened, we turned next to bookstores. Even our publicist agreed that bookstores remain an important venue for book buying. But an exploratory trip to our local Barnes & Noble confirmed our worst suspicions. All six copies of our book had been relegated to the bottom of the humor section, sandwiched between the latest Garfield and a book of knock-knock jokes. Stealthily we moved these copies to the head of the "New and Noteworthy" table. (To make room, we cleverly stashed the new Ann Coulter in the "Pets and Domestic Animals" section.) In the coming days, we printed up our own "Staff Pick" cards and penned glowing endorsements in neat calligraphy. I laughed till I herniated a disc in my lower back! I gave this book to my teacher and now we're having a lovely affair!

Our stock quickly sold down, but not before B&N got wise to our guerrilla tactics. Our adversary turned out to be a goateed young employee, clipboard in hand, who periodically would check to make sure the proper titles were on display, all the while removing any interlopers. And so began an elaborate game of following Mr. Goatee around the store and moving the books back to the very table he had just removed them from. (At times, my co-author would distract him with pointless inquiries about the new Kant biography, while I shifted our books to the New and Noteworthy table.)

Keeping our book well placed gradually turned into a full-time affair, requiring trips to the bookstore at first twice, then three times a day. Fortunately I was on sabbatical and could afford to make these constant shuttles to and fro. My co-author had no such luxury. His teaching suffered; his students' papers languished ungraded. Yet by enlisting the help of our mothers, we were able to keep our book prominently placed in five Barnes & Nobles and Borders bookstores for months at a time. That left the book stranded on the lonely humor shelves in roughly 6,500 other bookstores nationwide. Like all guerrilla operations, ours started small.

Next we tackled the problem of readings. Our humor was directed at academics, so we concentrated on bookstores in large university towns. After dozens of phone calls, we managed to book ourselves at the Harvard Coop, the Brown Bookstore, the Yale Co-op, and a handful of other excellent venues. We found those readings to be wonderful experiences, especially when an audience was present. That, alas, was not always the case. Our experience suggested that for every 500 notices mailed, one person would show up. We arrived at this ratio after a reading for which 450 notices had been sent out. However sobering the experience, we learned from it. In particular, we learned the importance of professionalism: Even when the only person in the audience was a homeless person seeking refuge from the elements, we gave the reading our all. And our efforts were rewarded. Our sheltered friend bought two copies.

Media appearances remained the final frontier. We knew this could mean painful compromises of our artistic integrity; we recalled Jonathan Franzen's tortured decision to forgo an appearance on Oprah. After long discussions we decided that, if summoned, we were prepared to tattoo likenesses of Ms. Winfrey on our foreheads. But more than Oprah, one figure assumed mystical status. Terry Gross. The Voice. She had, in her time, interviewed some real duds. By our lights, we were brilliant candidates for her show: two professors, one an authority on war crimes, the other a specialist on the philosophy of math, writing humor in their spare time! And what about the tantalizing fact that we had scandalized many readers -- including famous professors -- who had taken our parodies seriously? I contacted a producer at National Public Radio who expressed interest. A few days later I called again, as per her instructions; now she had no recollection of our previous conversation and sounded doubtful, distracted, distant. I tried to disarm her with the very kind of warm humor found in our pages. "C'mon, aren't your listeners sick and tired of hearing about Iraq?" She hung up on me.

Undeterred, we audiotaped one of our readings, to which we added a digitally enhanced laugh track. We made a DVD video of another reading before a receptive audience of parents of our students. Copies were FedExed to Charlie Rose, Brian Lamb, Jon Stewart, John McEnroe, Dennis Miller, and Click and Clack. No responses. Perhaps we were aiming too high. Maybe we could generate buzz by interesting famous writers in our book. On, a Web site that lists contributors to the recent presidential campaign, we learned the home addresses of many of our literary lodestars. Philip Roth. David Foster Wallace. Wallace Shawn. Roz Chast. Reassuringly, they had all given to Kerry. We bombarded them with books and heard nothing in return. Not even a "If you contact me again I'll be forced to seek legal redress." We considered desperate measures to attract media attention. We would fake our own alien abduction, take the president of our college hostage and threaten his beheading. Tasteless and, worse, unlikely to bump sales.

Which leaves us where? Now, five months after our pub date -- a date filled with such giddy expectations -- our Amazon ranking has slipped to 158,000. Already we can see our book, the fruit of years of labor, indifferently picked over on remainder tables.

And yet our colleagues, more accustomed to academic publishing and its minuscule markets, think of us as great successes, conquering heroes of the trade world. When they ask us to divulge the secret of how books sell, we gaze off into the distance and speak in sage aphorisms. When people buy them.

Lawrence Douglas is an associate professor of law, jurisprudence, and social thought at Amherst College. He and Alexander George, a professor of philosophy at Amherst, are the co-authors of Sense and Nonsensibility: Lampoons of Learning and Literature, published by Simon & Schuster last August.

Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 51, Issue 19, Page B5

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Rescued by Stephen King

Rescued by Stephen King

Longtime writer Ron McLarty finally sees print

Tuesday, January 11, 2005 Posted: 4:19 PM EST (2119 GMT)
Ron McLarty

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ron McLarty wrote an 800-page novel at age 24. When publishers showed no interest, he wrote another and another. After the third, a novel called "The Memory of Running," he finally gave up sending manuscripts to publishers.

But he kept writing.

McLarty went on to finish 44 plays, nine novels and assorted poems without ever publishing a word. He supported himself as an actor through voice-overs, audiobooks and advertisements. He appeared on Broadway in 1972's "Moonchildren" and 1991's "Our Country's Good," and on TV in such series as "Spenser: For Hire," "Cop Rock" and "Sex and the City."

Then last September -- after a lonely 35-year literary odyssey involving a thoughtful audiobook producer, a small-town librarian, and novelists Danielle Steel and Stephen King -- Ron McLarty got published at age 56.

Top publishers in the industry all placed bids for "The Memory of Running." It was roughly 15 years after McLarty wrote it in 1988 and two weeks after King wrote an Entertainment Weekly magazine column in which he called McLarty's manuscript "the best novel you won't read this year." Viking, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., eventually won the auction with a two-book deal for just over $2 million.

Warner Bros. has optioned the book as a film, to be directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who turned the third "Harry Potter" novel -- "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" -- into a critically acclaimed film. (Both Warner Bros. and Entertainment Weekly are units of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

McLarty's novel, the story of a 42-year-old alcoholic's quest for redemption on a bicycle trip across America, hit stores in late December. And in the author's mind, there is no parallel with his own late-life turnaround. He was always a writer with a day job.

He has been an insomniac since he was a child in East Providence, Rhode Island, where his father worked in an oil refinery and his mother was a teacher. As an adult living in Montclair, New Jersey, he would write at home from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m., before leaving for auditions and work in New York. McLarty says he has been following the same routine since his early twenties, when he left the army for the stage life in New York.

"By the time I went to New York in the morning to do auditions, I already felt successful," he says.

'Lucky me'

As McLarty tells the story of how the publishing world belatedly discovered his books, the gray-bearded actor continually interrupts the narrative to express amazement, alternating "wonderful" and "mind-boggling" as the words illuminate his face. He enunciates slowly, "lucky me ... lucky ... lucky me."

The book is only part of his later-life reversal of fortune. A widower, he met actress Kate Skinner six months before his book was auctioned. They were married in Maine on New Year's 2004.

McLarty took a break from moving into a new apartment near Central Park to talk to the Associated Press about his book. He planned to have a medical checkup and a stress test the following day.

"I'm going to find out anything that's wrong, so that I can work for another 25 years," he says. "It's not like this happened at 37 -- I'm 57."

McLarty's first break, he said, came in 1997, when Steel insisted that Recorded Books, her audiobook publisher, use McLarty, who had recorded a number of her books for other companies. McLarty soon befriended executive producer Claudia Howard and gave her his manuscript to read. She loved "The Memory of Running" enough to arrange for it to be recorded.

"It was the first audio-only novel I know of," Howard said.

A librarian in Middleburg, Virginia, liked it so much that she invited McLarty to give a reading.

"He told me this was the first time he was perceived as an author," said agent Jeff Kleinman, who first met McLarty at the reading.

When McLarty decided two years ago to renew attempts at publishing, Kleinman decided to send out "The Memory of Running," which had stuck in his mind since listening to it four years earlier. About the same time, McLarty auditioned unsuccessfully for the ABC-TV miniseries "Kingdom Hospital" created by Stephen King, who became a big audiobook fan while recuperating in 1999 after a car hit him near his home in Maine.

"The Memory of Running" begins in Maine. Smithson Ide, a worker in a G.I. Joe toy factory, visits his hospitalized dying parents after a car crash. McLarty began crafting the story while his own parents lay dying in a Maine hospital following an auto accident.

At the audition, King asked an incredulous McLarty whether he was the novelist, Ron McLarty. McLarty rushed immediately to Recorded Books to tell Howard. "'Send him a copy! Tell him I am the Ron McLarty,"' he said.

Howard sent King the recording and a request for an endorsement.

No regrets

While McLarty was driving across the country to Hollywood for television work in the summer of 2003, Howard called and told him to pull off the road. In the trunk of his car was the handwritten manuscript of "The Memory of Running," along with his complete works, which he always took with him, occasionally picking up one or the other to rewrite parts.

Howard began reading him an Entertainment Weekly column that Stephen King planned to publish.

"I heard stunned silence followed by glee," Howard recalled.

"'The Memory of Running' is the best novel you won't read this year," King wrote in the opening sentence. "So why can't you read it? Because -- so far, at least -- no publisher will touch it with a 10-foot pole." King's spokeswoman said the author was not available to talk to The Associated Press about McLarty.

King's Entertainment Weekly column worked like an expertly crafted provocation. The auction picked up immediately after word of the column leaked out. Within two weeks of its publication in mid September 2003, McLarty had his contract.

Looking back at the long road to publishing, McLarty said that writing had always nourished him. He remembers a photograph of his basement in New Jersey, which his three children jokingly called, "the pit of despair."

"I used to stick all of my rejection letters with pins to the ceiling," McLarty says. "There was a sea of them."

But McLarty, who just finished his 10th novel, has no regrets.

"I am not saying that I would not have liked to be successful over the last 30 years, but on the other hand, I like enjoying this now without feeling I deserve it," he says. "Twenty-six-year-olds don't say wow."
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Flogging the Quill: Eliminate weak, wasted, and wrong words

This is an example of improper word usage at "Flogging the Quill."

Immediately thought of CH. Btw, if you click on the heading of a post, by following the arrow, you will connect to the website enabling you to view the article.


Eliminate weak, wasted, and wrong words:


This is an example of improper usage. Many writers use 'eyes' when what they really mean is gaze, or glance, or stare. Some examples in which I take the usage to the next logical step.

Her eyes were on the floor. (Luckily, no one stepped on them.)

His blue eyes bored into her. (And then blood gushed from the two holes in her belly.)

She felt the woman's eyes searching for her. (It tickled when they slid across her face.)

His tired eyes land on me as he glances around the room. (Then they drop to the floor and bounce across the room.)

My eyes follow the headlights. (I ignore the wrenching pain when they leave their sockets.)

Roger kept his eyes on the road. (He realized his mistake when the ice cream truck ran over them.)"

Flogging the Quill

Found another great blog, "Flogging The Quill," recommended by Publisher's Weekly. An editor offers writing tips and displays examples of edited material.

Worth checking out.


Absolute Write Water Cooler @

I wanted to let you all know about one of the best writer's boards I have found on the net. Of course, this is strictly my opinion. However, I definitely think Absolute Writer's is worth a browse or two. They have all types of subject headings on their board and good market leads on occasion.

An agent as been frequenting the Bewares and Background Check forum to answer questions regarding publishing. Very interesting read.

Please check it out when you have an opportunity.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Twenty rules for writing detective stories (1928) by S.S. Van Dine

(Originally published in the American Magazine (1928-sep),
and included in the Philo Vance investigates omnibus (1936).
by S.S. Van Dine (pseud. for Willard Huntington Wright)

THE DETECTIVE story is a kind of intellectual game. It is more � it is a sporting event. And for the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws � unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding; and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them. Herewith, then, is a sort Credo, based partly on the practice of all the great writers of detective stories, and partly on the promptings of the honest author's inner conscience. To wit:
1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.
2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.
3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.
4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It's false pretenses.
5. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.

6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.

7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader's trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic se'ances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.

9. There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn't know who his codeductor is. It's like making the reader run a race with a relay team.

10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.

11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn't ordinarily come under suspicion.

12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.

13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.

14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure.

15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.

16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no "atmospheric" preoccupations. such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.

17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.

18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.

19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader's everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.

20. And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author's ineptitude and lack of originality. (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. (b) The bogus spiritualistic se'ance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. (c) Forged fingerprints. (d) The dummy-figure alibi. (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. (f)The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. (i) The word association test for guilt. (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth.


Maud Newton: Blog

I buy every issue of Open City. I can't say that about any other literary publication.

Like many of its contemporaries, Open City offers a mix of traditional and experimental offerings, but here the blend actually works, managing to be lively and harmonious at once.

When I pick up a literary magazine -- or any volume that collects short stories from different authors -- I flip around. I skim. If I find a story I like, I start over and slow down. Reading cover-to-cover doesn't tend to work for me. Many of the offerings are disappointing, and I end up doubting myself: maybe that Barthelme rip-off has some deeper significance; perhaps this story about a young woman's forced marriage would move me if I only read past the fifth page; it's possible that the culture does need twelve writers exactly like David Foster Wallace.

I read Open City randomly, too, but for me the final ratio of stories finished to stories skipped is much better than with many more popular magazines like, say, McSweeney's. And some of the stories stay with me. I've read Greg Ames' 'Physical Discipline' and Cynthia Weiner's 'Amends' three or four times each since the 17th issue appeared in the summer of 2003.
I attribute much of Open City's appeal to the editors' willingness to feature new writers' stories alongside work from more established names. In an October, 2000, article for Slate, one of the editors, Thomas Beller, wrote about his frantic efforts to track down an unknown writer, Vestal McIntyre, when his short story, 'Octo,' was uncovered during a mass reading session after sitting in the slush pile for six months:

It was a 34-page story about a slightly disturbed 12-year-old and his pet octopus, Octo. By Page 18, I was moved and amazed by it and convinced it should end there and already formulating my case for cutting the second half of the story. Then I read the second half of the story. It had been a cold day in January, the sky white with clouds, and at dusk it had begun to snow. We raced out to my car and drove to the address on the cover letter. There was no phone number and he was not listed. He had submitted the thing six months earlier. For six months "Octo" had sat in our slush pile! I was terrified that he had sent it elsewhere. We pulled up to Rivington Street; he seemed to live in a huge school building that had been converted to apartments. We found his name, buzzed, and stood there while snow fell in fat dry flakes around us. It was very exciting. But no one was home. Then Vanessa Chase, who was part of the search posse, spotted the name of a college friend, who was home, so we first paid a brief visit to the friend who greeted us at the door with a look of confusion and slight embarrassment to have been dropped in on, and then we went to Vestal McIntyre's door and I shoved a note under it saying please call, we want to buy the story. His roommate called later that evening and said he would call from work, which turned out to be the graveyard shift at Florent, a restaurant that is open until 5. Sometimes it's a wild scene of club-goers and transvestites and outré tourists, but it was Sunday and snowing and when I burst into the place it was empty.

For the first of an ongoing series, Beller agreed to answer a few quick questions about the prospects for unpublished writers at Open City. (His co-editor, Joanna Yas, was traveling, but wrote in to say, in essence, "what he said.") Beller's answers confirm that the McIntyre story is an anomaly and that most slush pile submissions ultimately are rejected -- but also that a handful of unpublished writers who send in good work will receive an acceptance every year.

How do you guys approach slush pile submissions these days?

Fear, loathing, anticipation, curiosity. Think of a slot machine. Any given day you get a combination of those four options, sometimes all one flavor, sometimes a mix. And there is a broad mix of readers. Another slot machine whirring at the same time.

What's the average turnaround time for the manuscript of an unpublished, unagented author?

2-4 months. (more...)

Posted by Maud at Wed, AM


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Quotable Writers' Quotes

"A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it to be
God - Sidney Sheldon

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and
took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. - Oscar Wilde

The reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He
writes because he has something to say - F. Scott Fitzgerald

My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly -
John D. MacDonald

A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world- John le

At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the
solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable - Raymond Chandler"

Monday, January 03, 2005

Gallery of ''Misused'' Quotation Marks

From the Curator:

You've "seen" them.

Maybe on a sign at the "grocery" store, maybe in an ad in your "local" newspaper. Perhaps even in a "memo" that circulated throughout your company.

They're quotation marks, and they turn up in the strangest of places.

I get a lot of e-mail from people suggesting that I add a section for misused apostrophes. Sorry, folks, but it's not going to happen. First of all, the reason I started this site almost four years ago was because I was at once amused and mystified by the peculiar usage of quotation marks. Misused apostrophes usually aren't that funny; they're just annoying. Even if I wanted to do such a site, I just don't have the time (especially since apostrophe misuse is much more widespread, I think, than misused quotation marks). A friend of mine has been thinking of doing a misused apostrophe site, so if he ever does I'll let you know. In the meantime, you may want to take a look at The Home For Abused Apostrophes -- not a lot there, but high quality choices.

Now, enough "ranting" -- on to the latest additions...

This was on a homemade sign at a flea market:
all swimsuits are clean and "sanitized"
At least they're clean!

more to see on the website url listed above.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Ask the Agent -

At this Forum, Andy Zack, The Zack Company (a literary agent), is hanging out answering questions from writers about agents. He is only there to answer questions and asks that no one pitch him. His site address is available for submission instructions. This is just a section of the thread I wanted to share with you. Please feel free to visit the site and review the entire thread.

How do agents (as far as you know or from your own experience) keep track of queries, partials or complete? Do you have a system?

Or let me put it this way: If in a query, I mention a recommendation and send you a synopsis and bio, should I include the same information in the partial or complete ms package so that you don't forget (so-and-so recommended me or what the story is about in a nutshell)? Or do you keep a file so that you can quickly reference previous correspondence, so the author doesn't have to keep telling you the same thing?

I can't speak for other agents, but all we do is keep an alphabetical file of queries for which we've requested more material. When the material comes in, we attach the original query and then put it in the reading pile. The reading pile is ordered by date of ORIGINAL query, not when the requested material came in. That way, the first author to query us is the first to get his material read. We developed this system when we were requesting material only two or three times a year, in great big batches of queries that covered three or four months. Now we request material on the fly and the system may have to change, but that's how it works now.

We do not log anything into a computer. And I don't know that you need to include a copy of his request letter, though if the letter was personal and commented on various matters, it's not a bad idea--saves him from having to look it up. I would, however, mark the outside of the envelope 'Requested Material.'

---------------------------------------------------------------------How do agents (as far as you know or from your own experience) keep track of queries, partials or complete? Do you have a system?

Or let me put it this way: If in a query, I mention a recommendation and send you a synopsis and bio, should I include the same information in the partial or complete ms package so that you don't forget (so-and-so recommended me or what the story is about in a nutshell)? Or do you keep a file so that you can quickly reference previous correspondence, so the author doesn't have to keep telling you the same thing?

I can't speak for other agents, but all we do is keep an alphabetical file of queries for which we've requested more material. When the material comes in, we attach the original query and then put it in the reading pile. The reading pile is ordered by date of ORIGINAL query, not when the requested material came in. That way, the first author to query us is the first to get his material read. We developed this system when we were requesting material only two or three times a year, in great big batches of queries that covered three or four months. Now we request material on the fly and the system may have to change, but that's how it works now.

We do not log anything into a computer. And I don't know that you need to include a copy of his request letter, though if the letter was personal and commented on various matters, it's not a bad idea--saves him from having to look it up. I would, however, mark the outside of the envelope "Requested Material."

Personally, I'm very environmentally concerned and I find it annoying when someone uses a giant USPS Priority Mail box to send me a chapter and synopsis. Chances are that any author will need a regular supply of materials when making submissions, so here's my suggested shopping list:

For sending out queries, get some #11 business envelopes and also some #10 business envelopes. Send out your queries in the #11, including a $10 SASE. This way, you will not have to fold the #10 and the agent will not have to unfold it.

Use large paperclips rather than small. The small ones fall off too easily.

Use binder clips for sample chapters. Don't staple them and don't use butterfly clips.

Get 10 x 13 manila evelopes for sending out sample chapters. The 9 x 12 envelopes are often too small and the 10 x 13 will work on anything from one to three chapters.

Should an agent request a manuscript, put it in a sturdy box (not just a Kinko's box). You can order fairly sturdy boxes called "literature mailers" from Viking Office Supply ( and Uline shipping ( Then put that into another box to actually mail it. You want your manuscript to show up crisp and ready-to-read.

Speaking of crisp...if you are printing your own copies, I recommend a paper of at least 92 brightness. If you are using an inkjet printer, use inkjet paper. If you are having your manuscript photocopied, speak with the copy shop to see what your paper options are. A good copy does make it easier to read the manuscript.

Also, make sure you DATE your query letter and any other correspondance. Make sure your name and address are on PAGE ONE of your query, preferably at the top of the page. Be sure to include your telephone number and your email address. DO NOT include your Social Security Number. No agent needs that unless they are paying you money.

If you are going to send out a fair number of queries, sample chapters, etc., you may want to open an online postage account. If you visit my site's Submissions page at, you can find a link to the one I use.

Andy Zack
The Zack Company, Inc.