Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unhealthy Mental Excitement

For whatever annoying reason I can't locate the exact blurb that Donald Barthelme gave for Nog upon its original publication, though I do recall it being something to the tune of ". . . full of unhealthy mental excitement."

Bud Parr recently pointed out to me that Barthelme included Nog in a list he made of books he'd recommend reading, which he passed on to his class at the time at the University of Houston. I haven't read most of the books Barthelme lists, but those I have read I genuinely loved.

In particular, I've been reading Max Frisch recently. I loved Homo Faber, which I finished a short while back. I was inspired to read Homo Faber knowing that Rudy Wurlitzer had adapted the book into the screenplay for Voyager, a film directed by Volker Schlondorff and starring Sam Shepard. And I've started I'm Not Stiller, a used copy of which I picked up at Spoonbill and Sugartown, though recently reissued by Dalkey Archive. So far, I think its incredibly brilliant.

I'm looking forward to reading more Frisch, as well as the rest of those recommendations made by Barthelme. It is wonderful that his list survived.

Friday, November 06, 2009

If I Was in NYC I'd be at Philoctetes

Francis Levy, author of Erotomania: A Romance, is one of the co-directors of the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination. They host truly valuable panels, films, and discussions on a wide range of topics.
Here are some upcoming events:
Nov. 7 - The Future of Healthcare, with participants: Robert Doar, Jonathan Jacobs, Diane Meier, Helen Morik, Gregory Nersessian.
Nov. 8 - The Wingdale Community Singers (band that Rick Moody is in).
Nov. 12 - Poetry and Microgenesis, poetry reading and discussion with Jason W. Brown and Steven Meyer.
Nov. 14 - Mathematics and Beauty, with participants: Eva Brann, Brian Greene, Mario Livio, Barry Mazur, Elaine Scarry.
Nov. 15 - The Inventions of Bob Dylan, with participants: Christopher Ricks, Matthew von Unwerth, Sean Wilentz.
The Philoctetes Center is located at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, at 247 East 82nd Street in NYC.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Is It Contagious?

from Amy Koppelman:

I started a company called Is It Contagious? Books. We publish children's books designed to explain and answer questions about the most common diseases. Our first titles are "Is Cancer Contagious?" and "Is Epilepsy Contagious?" Our next title, "Is Diabetes Contagious?," will be available in December. While these topics may sound depressing, many families will face them at some point.

The book idea started several years ago, when a close family member got cancer. [My children] asked [my husband] and I so many questions, most of which we couldn't answer: "What is cancer?" " Why does it happen?" "How is it diagnosed?" "How is it treated?" "Is it Contagious?"... Later that night, I began looking for cancer books for children. There were several on the market, but they are either very childish (a story about a dinasaur's mother) and/or scary (pictures of tumors and children with bald heads). Our books are different.

Please visit us at: isitcontagiousbooks.com. There you will see sample pages of the books. I think you'll agree that the books are well written and Vern Kousky's illustrations are both engaging and informative. [from Eric O.: Vern Kousky is also responsible for the cover design for I Smile Back.]

This is more than just a business to me. My mother-in-law died a little over a year ago. Walking through the hospital hallways and seeing both children and adults stricken by cancer and various other diseases made me realize that I had to do more with my life than just write novels about unhappy women. My hope is that these books will help dispel fear and enable better dialogue between family members, doctors, and friends. In truth, there is no explaining the inexplicable. My mother-in-law was a vibrant, loving, devoted mother and grandmother. Is Cancer Contagious? couldn't explain her death, but it certainly would have made it easier to answer some of the complicated questions my children asked.

Please know that while Is It Contagious? is set up as a business, a substantial percentage of each sale goes to a like-minded charity.


Amy Koppelman is the author of I Smile Back.