Here are a couple of fun things concerning my upcoming book Hidden City for this Friday.
Thanks, once again, to illustrator Amy Schimler-Safford for posting clips from the art for Hidden City. View her post by clicking here.
And, Publisher’s Weekly included Hidden City in their Spring 2018 preview post! Look under the publisher’s name (Eerdmans) for the one-sentence blurb. Click here to visit their post.
I spent part of my birthday this year working on a new project at one of my favorite spots in Boston– the New England Aquarium! Sometimes, the best way for me to get unstuck on a manuscript is a small switch– from cursive to print handwriting, notebook to loose paper, one pen to another. Anything that makes the manuscript look different can give me just that little bit of distance needed to find what needs to be fixed. Sometimes I change the font or spacing on the computer, or change the paper orientation from portrait to landscape. And sometimes, I head outside to a different place that helps me be in a different mindset. On this particular project, I was frustrated every time I opened my notebook. So, I went to a place that makes me happy. And, sure enough, once the frustration was gone, the words flowed out. Thanks, Aquarium!
The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea: This conspiracy-weird-humor cult-classic novel has definitely left its mark on pop culture, and it's certainly one of the things I was making reference to way before I actually read it. A sensible read given how fond I am of RAW's humor re the Principia Discordia and the like, but to be honest I think the Principia is quite a lot funnier. Still, if you read that and decide you'd like more of the same but want something that's heavier on the narrative, a lot less G-rated, and about a kajillion times longer, Illuminatus! is pretty good.
Class by Paul Fussell: Fussell's musings on the American status system are most interesting when he's relating other people's take on the subject (e.g. the idea that class politics might be divided among factions of "The Guilty" and "The Cross" certainly seems to have some present-day relevance). Most of the book is Fussell's extensive cataloging of differences between social classes in America. To put it another way, Fussell defines the middle class as being motivated largely by anxiety about their (in)ability to rise in the class hierarchy, and the bulk of the book by that view is mostly middle-class-baiting. Many of Fussell's observations seem to have stood the test of time pretty well. Some seem bizarre. (Is "vodka with water" really an upper-class drink, and was it ever? A little on that topic turns up this interview with "The Gronk", who is certainly rich and (semi?)famous, but would a pro-athelete be upper-class in Fussell's taxonomy? Fussell says that it's a middle-class mistake to focus too much on profession, but he also might have something to say about that nickname.) The book concludes with a chapter on the role of college in the status system, which is one of the more interesting bits given how the higher-education bubble has developed since. In Fussell's view, the problem is that college is advertised based on average increases in earning potential, but this conflates selective universities (which help) and non-selective colleges (which don't). That problem seems to have been "fixed".
Minimalist Parenting by Christine K. Koh and Asha Dornfest: The book this most reminds me of is Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. It certainly has a similar philosophical bent. But Caplan's book had a pretty clear thrust of argument (people underestimate the benefits of parenting and overestimate the returns on certain kinds of parenting effort, therefore they underestimate the number of children they should have; instead of stressing out about the prospect of parenting, maybe consider having (more) children and just being lazier about it) and it backs up that argument in the sort of way you might expect an economist like Caplan to do. Minimalist Parenting, likewise, is what you'd expect from two bloggers, basically an organized collection of "lifehacks"; less in the way of numbers, more in the way of "try it and see".
In the news today are a bunch of obits for director George Romero. Pretty much all of them focus on Night of the Living Dead, and to be fair, it's the work he is best known for.
But let's pause a moment and remember his movie Knightriders -- the closest thing the SCA has to its own motion picture. Legend (maybe true, maybe not; I honestly don't know) has it that Romero happened to attend a particular SCA Crown Tournament, and was swept up by the drama he saw there; his producers weren't thrilled by the idea, and said, "Enh -- maybe if you add motorcycles and a good soundtrack, we'll think about it". So he did.
Knightriders has always been on my personal list of Movies Every SCAdian should see. Not because the club portrayed is the SCA, mind. It very much isn't: it's essentially a traveling RenFaire where they joust on motorcycles. But the feel of the group, I've always thought, reflects the SCA beautifully. You have the folks who are dead-serious about The Dream, who see something better in the ideals of their club. You have the stick-jocks who are here for the sport and the babes. You have the craftsmen who are making it all possible, and, yes, you have the folks who are just here to party. (There's even poor Patricia Tallman, better known for Babylon 5, in her first major role as the token mundane who is enamored by the whole thing but doesn't quite seem to get it.)
The movie gets a bit full of itself at times, and some people mock it mercilessly, but I love it -- not least for Ed Harris (in my favorite of his roles) as King Billy, who is trying desperately to keep his people both safe and united, and to pursue his dreams while everything around him is falling apart. He is a wonderful study in obsession, illustrating both the advantages and problems of having a strong leader.
If you haven't seen it, check it out. It's not the most brilliant movie ever, but it's wonderfully human. For pretty much every character in it, I can say, "Yeah, I know folks just like that". That's one of the higher compliments I can pay a director...