The German-language cover for Buddhaland Brooklyn by Pendo Verlag, my publisher in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
My Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, created the eye-catching split cover for The Hundred-Foot Journey that was adopted in the U.S. and the UK and helped turn that book into an international bestseller. The talented artists at Allen & Unwin have once again created an outstanding example of cover art, in my opinion, with this warm and elegant front flap for Buddhaland Brooklyn (see above left). I can honestly say that both the Scribner cover (right) and Allen & Unwin’s efforts, each very different, are very pleasing to my eye. May both houses be rewarded for their efforts.
Here’s my take on two family tales that I recently saw in New York.
I’ve just seen two terrific plays on Broadway that made me think deep and hard about families and their mix of stifling and grounding features. Here is the upshot of my musings, posted on the Barron’s website, where I regularly write a blog. Please follow me on Penta, Barron‘s personal affairs publication, to get regular restaurant, book, theater, film, art and culture tips.
I just read The Arts Of Intimacy, a fascinating book written by Sarah Lawrence College’s Dean, Jerrilynn D. Dodds, with co-authors Maria Rosa Menocal and Abigail Krasner Balbale. Not surprising the book was named as a Book Of The Year, by The Times Literary Supplement, and won the 2010 Albert C. Outler Book Prize. It’s crammed with startling information about how Spain’s Christians, Jews and Muslims lived side-by-side, their weaving cultures at times melding, opposing, and reinforcing each other in a fascinating period that runs roughly from the 10th century to the end of the 15th century (when Ferdinand and Isabella stamped out Spain’s religious pluralism during the Inquisition.)
On every page I learned something new: how Gibraltar is named after the Berber conqueror, Jabal Tariq; how the dhimma, the relatively tolerant method with which the Muslim rulers had governed the Jews and Christians during 700 years of Islamic Spanish rule, was initially adopted and adapted by the new Castilian Christian rulers; how the Mozarabs (Christians who spoke Arabic) distrusted the Catholic Alfonso VI when he retook Toledo in 1085 (they rightly feared their autonomy would be curbed) and were frequently inclined to support the parting Islamic rulers to the south.
But most of all I love this, just one example of how the living “arts” meld and mix opposing cultures: one popular and distinct form of Andalusian poetry was called “ring song,” or muwashshah in Arabic, and began with a very formal and classic verse in Arabic (or in Hebrew) before circling around to its final lines, which were usually impertinent and in a vernacular language. (That local language was usually a form of Romance, or Mozarabic, which was a local take on the Latin spread through Europe by the conquering Roman Empire almost a thousand years earlier, and a near-extinct language still spoken today by a minority of Swiss living in the Alps.) The first formal and classical stanzas of the muwashshaw were often “sung” by men waxing lyrical about a beautiful woman, and the woman finally answering, in the local tongue, with a slap-up-the-head rejoinder.
Fantastic stuff. Forgive the writer’s narcissism, but I was so taken by The Arts of Intimacy because Dodds and her co-authors are examining (albeit from a different angle) the colliding and accommodating and adapting that miraculously takes place when people of different cultures meet, that I, too, find myself exploring in my novels, The Hundred-Foot Journey and Buddhaland Brooklyn.
On August 9th my US publisher, Scribner, will be releasing the paperback version of The Hundred-Foot Journey. Here is an advance peak at the cover. It’s inspired by the successful Allen & Unwin cover in Australia, where my little book hit the best seller list, and includes a “literary destination” teaser quote from America’s National Public Radio.
I think it’s terrific. Very pleased.
The Hundred-Foot Journey has entered the public lexicon. That pushy woman, Madam Mallory, has made it on to Wikipedia, with her own entry, before her creator. I am staggered by her impertinence. Check out her line item under “Fictional Characters” with the name Mallory.
When my agency informed me that I was signed up for a blog tour, my initial reaction was, “Say what?” The Internet is changing all our livelihoods, including the review biz. Across the country, stay-at-home Moms and Sci-Fi geeks and all other forms of passionate book lovers have started their own book reviewing blogs, building highly literate communities and networks that are deeply attractive to publishers. These so-called “amateur” reviewers are increasingly professional: their websites are supported by advertisements and the publishers ply them with review copies and “give-aways” (review surfers and book-chat participants can win a free book.) I recently had the privilege of meeting some of these Internet self-starters at Book Expo America.
But, from a marketing and publishing perspective, it’s best these lit-bloggers post their reviews around a book’s launch date, rather than arriving in scatter-shot fashion. The literary market is a very noisy place and by organizing the on-line reviews into a “blog tour” – a different blogger’s review appearing every day for several days – the chances are greater a book will make itself heard over the market’s cacophonous din. Too further sweeten the experience for their following, some bloggers ask the author to write an essay for them, or answer on-line questions, as is happening on my blog tour.
If you want to see this all in action, here are the dates and hotlinks for the literary websites participating in The Hundred-Foot Journey‘s blog tour. Check them out. They are well worth the surf time.
July 5 & 6: www.devourerofbooks.com*
July 6: www.myfriendamysblog.com*
July 7: www.zenleaf.blogspot.com
July 8: www.jo-jolovestoread.blogspot.com.*
July 9: www.peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com.*
July 10: www.bookloons.com*
July 10 & 11: www.litchick.typepad.com*
July 11-13: www.chaoticcompendiums.com*
July 12 & 13: www.bookNaround.blogspot.com
July 13: www.luxuryreading.com*
July 14: www.rundpinne.com
July 15: http://bookscandycorn.blogspot.com/*
*These blogs will also be giving away FREE copies of The Hundred-Foot Journey.
Other book blogs have said they will review the book over the summer, but couldn’t commit to the blog tour due to scheduling conflicts. A special thanks to Allie Greenwald and Anne Speyer for organizing the tour, and, of course, the peerless Rose Marie Morse.
For some reason I am aching for Paris. When I was 28, my then agent, Artie Pine (father of my current agent, Richard Pine), negotiated a book contract with Bantam Books that was, for me, a huge amount of money. I was commissioned to write an unauthorized biography of the eccentric but talented French fashion designer and businessman, Pierre Cardin, the subject of a cover story I had written for Forbes. My wife, Susan, and I were living in London at the time, but I convinced her we should move to Paris for a year. And why not? Our daughter had not yet been born.
The editor of Forbes, Jim Michaels, was furious when I informed him of my plans to go off and write a book, and sent me this incredibly nasty note, which he posted publicly for everyone at Forbes to read, pretty much suggesting I would fail. (I have lovingly preserved his note. Terribly upset at the time, but molified by my friend Dick Stern, I eventually realized it was a great compliment Jim was so upset. Sure enough, a year later Jim asked me to come back to Forbes, which I did. We never had another single terse exchange of words over the following decade we worked together.)
But I am drifting off point. Susan and I bundled our belongings into a Volkswagen Polo, with the steering wheel on the right hand side à la Grande Bretagne, and drove to Paris. We found a walk-up on Rue Rollin, a cobblestone alley in the 5th arrondisement. It was the classic “atelier,” everything you imagine Paris to be. There was a light-filled bedroom with high ceilings, overlooking the interior courtyard, furnished with just a bed and a massive gilt mirror stolen from some grand maison. The yellow-walled living room had a nasty carpet which we tore up; that room doubled up as my “study.” A tiny kitchen, WC, and bathroom off the main hall completed the 50 square meter apartment.
Both Descartes and Zola had lived on that very same alley, a few doors down, and around the corner Hemingway, in his similarly cramped walk-up at 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, had written, in “A Moveable Feast”, about Rue Mouffetarde and Place de la Contrescarpe at the end of our little lane. (Naturally, these streets also found their way into The Hundred-Foot Journey.) We didn’t know about Rue Rollin’s illustrious literary history when we took the apartment, and later took this as a good omen. These narrow lanes of the Quartier Latin are by no means “elegant” Paris – but they are, in their medieval way, deeply beautiful and atmospheric.
Every day Susan and I had to go out to the markets to buy produce for our dinner from the artisanal bakers, butchers, and fishmongers along Rue Monge. The tiny refrigerator in our apartment could, Parisian-style, only hold a day’s worth of food. I remember fondly the delicious tedium of that daily shopping excursion: loaded down with our bags of leaks, fresh clams, tuna in olive oil, arabica coffee, frisée salad, thick-crusted bread, ripe Comté cheese, Badoit, and beef tomatoes, we’d climb No. 5 Rue Rollin’s five flights of steps, stoop-shouldered and panting, to our tiny flat.
The wooden stairs were polished to a high gloss and smelled of beeswax.