blog

Category: Writing

Aug 17, 07:40 AM

Title Search

A novel is never really finished until the final set of galleys are turned in to the publisher, but I finished a third draft of my latest in June and finalized the details of a deal with Knopf, my longtime publisher this past Friday. The working title is Thin City, which I like a lot, though I’m not sure my editor shares my enthusiasm. We shall see. Titles are a bitch. For me they usually come right at the beginning or at the last minute, as pub date looms, though this one came to me somewhere between the writing of the second and third drafts. Manhattan is literally a skinny island, and many of its inhabitants are obsessed with their weight. The book finishes with the middle of the recession that began in 2008, a time of thinning portfolios, shrinking net worth and receding expectations. And I think of Nick Caraway looking forward to “a thinning briefcase of enthusiasms, thinning hair…” as he contemplates his thirtieth birthday and beyond. These characters by contrast are approaching their fiftieth birthdays. (Fitzgerald never got there so perhaps it was appropriate for his protagonist to be so depressed about thirty.) My new novel picks up the story of Russell and Corrine Calloway, the married couple who made their first appearance in a short story I wrote in 1985 called “Smoke” and who subsequently appeared in Brightness Falls and The Good Life.

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Sep 25, 12:48 PM

High and Dry

More of my friends seemed distressed than impressed when I quit drinking for August. The feeling seemed to be that I was letting the team down at the height of the season. “Why the hell would you pick August of all months,” asked one friend. The answer is that toward the end of July I realized I was entering a crucial period in the composition of the novel I was working on, closing in on the end of the first draft.

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May 8, 02:09 PM

The Weight of the Word

At five in the morning on October 3, 2011, Turkish police raided the home of Ayse Berktay, a writer and translator, seizing personal papers and files, without an arrest or search warrant. She was eventually charged under Turkey’s anti-terror legislation with “membership in an illegal organization” for allegedly “planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilizing the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furor, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK),” a banned pro-Kurdish party.

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May 1, 07:48 AM

Ghosts of New York

The timing was eerie. Last week the Boston Marathon bombings reminded New Yorkers of that day almost twelve years ago when our city was thrown into chaos and our sense of invulnerability shattered forever. And now the apparent discovery of a piece of the wreckage from one of the two airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center, wedged in a narrow alley near Ground Zero, the improbability of the discovery, and of its remaining undiscovered for so long underlined by the fact that the alley is only an inch wider than the seventeen inch width of the fragment.

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Jan 4, 08:52 AM

Stupid Twits and Nasty Snobs

My two New Year’s resolutions are: to do more fly fishing, and to read more Edward St. Aubyn. I’ve been aware of his work for a long time; Donna Tartt is among quite a few readers I admire who have urged it on me. I finally got around to reading the Patrick Melrose novels over the holiday and I was blown away.

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Aug 29, 01:45 PM

No Mythical Creatures

The last time I saw Gore Vidal was at a book fair in Austin a few years ago, and I was saddened to see him in a wheelchair, looking terribly shrunken. I prefer to remember the night of our first meeting at his grand apartment in Rome, where I was spending a week promoting the Italian publication of Bright Lights, Big City. At that time we shared an editor, Gary Fisketjon, and Gore had invited me to dinner when he heard through Gary that I was coming to Rome. The first time I ever met him was when he answered the door, and while I’d seen him often on television I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the man—he was tall and broad and he seemed more like a movie star than an author.

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Jul 23, 12:37 PM

A Writer's Town

Back to work on the novel after a hiatus. I work in the mornings and later in the afternoon I either go to the ocean to swim or the bay to paddleboard. My house in Sag Harbor is on Upper Cove, and about mile down the shore is the house where John Steinbeck spent much of the last two and a half decades of his life. It’s a beautiful property, a peninsula shaded by oaks. The current owner called me up last year and kindly offered a tour and a cocktail. The house itself is a modest mid century two-bedroom which has most of Steinbeck’s furnishing and books intact. He wrote The Winter of Our Discontent here, in a little hexagonal hut perched above the water, and watched the ospreys, who infuriated him by failing to use the nest he built on his property, instead nesting across the cove. I too have built an osprey platform on a twenty-foot post at the end of my dock, but the ospreys have so far spurned it, although they seem to be thriving. I see one or two every day that I’m on the water, and sometimes they use the nesting platform to devour a fish they’ve plucked from the cove.

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Mar 29, 07:50 AM

Best Revenge

I’ve unsequestered myself with a vengeance. Returning to the city after a two month absence, to a premature spring no less, is like falling in love again. I’ve eaten at some of my favorite places, Babbo and le Bernardin and Il Posto Accanto, as well as Danny Meyer/Floyd Cardozzo’s new place in the financial district, North End Grill. And in the interest of helping others eat a little better I attended Topaz Paige Green’s star studded benefit for the Lunchbox Fund at Del Posto. Topaz knows everybody and she’s a great philanthropist, having created the Lunchbox Fund to fund meals for schoolchildren in her native South Africa. Check out their website.

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Mar 5, 09:43 AM

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

They said it couldn’t be done—well, a few friends and blood relatives expressed skepticism about my intention to spend two monastic months writing in Bridgehampton. But until the last day of February and I hadn’t once moved more than a few miles from my desk. Last Wednesday I finished off Chapter 21 before heading in to the city for Nicole and Kim’s anniversary dinner at Indochine, which was a thorough re-immersion into the Manhattan high life. I then flew to Chicago to eat (twice) at Charlie Trotter’s before this great chef retires. Also eating one night at Ria, chef Danny Grant’s place, which recently got two stars from Michelin. And I even managed to eat at least one Chicago-style dog.

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Feb 12, 02:17 PM

February is the Cruelest Month


Some friends came over for dinner on Saturday, one a writer finishing a novel, who didn’t ask any questions about my novel or my schedule. The last thing he wanted to talk about was writing and I don’t blame him. Another friend, visiting form the city, said he felt sorry for me, isolated out here in the winter—he knew Anne had been in Florida all last week. I tried my best to convince him there was no need to feel bad for me, that I was actually having a good time and glad to be writing full time.

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