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,
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. When I looked at the calendar it was all cluttered up with cocktail parties and clambakes and semi formal dinners for a hundred in Southampton. August in the Hamptons is not for the shy and retiring. I didn’t want to offend my friends by skipping all of these events but neither did I necessarily want to wake
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.
Berktay is one of more than 1,800 people, including writers and academics swept up in mass arrests of supporters of Kurdish rights in Turkey. She is a member of the pro-Kurdish Party for Peace and Democracy, which has 36 elected members in the Turkish Parliament.
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. If not for the events in Boston this piece of metal might seem even more like an ancient relic, a reminder of a long ago era, because in recent years the memory of those incredibly vivid days after Sept
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. I was also thinking about Truman Capote around the same time since I’ve accepted an assignment to write an introduction to Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the Folio Society. Not that that novel has much in common with St. Aubyn’s work. But Capote’s often announced, long-awaited and never completed final novel, Answered Prayers, was supposed to be a big panoramic satire about the beau monde, about postwar high society, that conglomerate tribe composed of pedigreed Americans, Hollywood celebrities and various
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. Even before he opened his
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
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.
It’s an interesting experience too, returning to Manhattan in the present after being absorbed in Manhattan 2005 and 2008 for two months, the timeframe
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 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.
I wish there was a word to denote a period of work sequestration (in the sense
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. New York and all the rest of the world will be waiting when I get back. In the meantime solitude is welcome, and in fact, when you’re really writing there’s a powerful feeling that company of any kind is the