Franzen is the Kanye West of Authors…Ramble

When Kayne West approached the Grammy stage to snatch Beck’s golden statue for Best Album of The Year, claiming it should have gone to Beyonce, he tried to make it a joke- at first. We all know the fall out, Kanye (for a completely different POV click on Kanye’s name) wasn’t kidding. He went on to say he doesn’t want to perform again at The Grammys until they change it to reflect popular sales. Hmm, then he went on to say it was an insult to artistry, but he hadn’t even listened to Beck’s album, Morning Phase, which had been hailed as a critical darling in indie circles. I also want to say his intro for Kanye’s own performance said it was his “most personal” and point out there is nothing less personal than using Autotune.

I’m not anti-Autotune, but let’s not kid ourselves. Here’s a link for Kanye and all the other people, who, instead of wanting to explore and make an informed rant, is Beck’s Morning Phase:

Well, now let’s turn to another accomplished, lauded artist, one who has graced the cover of TIME magazine for his work, won the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Jonathan Franzen. Franzen has chosen to take many jabs at women’s fiction writer, Jennifer Weiner. While he hasn’t read her work, he says no one has told him it is a “must read” and she is using a real issue – the lack of review space given to female writers, as a platform to get attention when she doesn’t deserve it.

Dude. Come on, if you had read her work, I would think you had some valid points, but you are not A) her target demo B) too busy to take the take time to read it the way Kanye, who likes to call himself an arbiter of all things cultural, could have taken the time, pre-Grammys to listen to every album in the category of Best Albums that was nominated. If you never read or listen to music outside of what you like, how can you really know what is good and what is not?

As someone who has been paid to be a music programmer (Yahoo! Music & Vh1), and a writer, I have listened and read works I was not naturally drawn to, and found it not only expanded my knowledge, it expanded my own creativity. I don’t always agree with awards, mostly they are a broken thing, but they do help curate what is interesting.

I have read many award winning literary books which I found to lack a strong plot or interesting characters or deliver a good ending. How is Kanye’s lack of respect any different from Franzen’s? It negates their point, which might otherwise presented have been valid. If you are going to diss someone at least know what you are putting down and acknowledge that’s not going to be given to you as a suggestion because your crowd is caught up in one scene.

When you make statements, that have some merit, but no foundation of their own, it not only disrespects the other artist, it disrespects their fans. How likely am I to buy Kanye’s next album or his ridiculous Adidas lineKanye_3

How likely am I now to read another Jonathan Frazen book? The answer to all those questions, is highly unlikely, even if they have critical acclaim. Why should my cash line their pockets when they clearly value their own taste and are unwilling to leave room for anyone else’s? Fans who started the #whoisbeck Twitter campaign are also in need of some more cultural exposure. Why must we tweet about our own ignorance or make statements in the press about it? Why not show the courtesy to make an informed opinion and allow that while not your taste, it can be very important to other people.

My friend Courtney Smith’s book, Record Collecting For Girls, has a chapter on guilty pleasures. It was inspired by our conversations. I don’t believe in having musical guilty pleasures. If it speaks to you, if it helps you, touches you, makes you dance or feel good in any way, then go right ahead and enjoy it.

9780547502236_p0_v1_s260x420 However, Courtney calls bullshit on that in her book and says anyone who doesn’t say they have guilty pleasures is either boring or lying or an asshole. That was the chapter she read on a book panel we did during her book tour. I started with the question “did you call me an asshole?” We have lively debates to say the least, but during that panel people asked me the most questions because they wanted to know about the popular artists that I got to work with in pop music over obscure indie bands — yes, even in Brooklyn! Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.

Popular doesn’t mean bad. Jennifer Weiner is a fun, great writer who writes heartfelt stories about women that I can relate to, in fact, she is one of the reasons I got a dog. She wrote in her novel “Good in Bed,” every writer should have a dog. So, thank you, Jennifer Weiner for not only providing me and many other women with entertaining fiction we want to read. Thank you for standing up for female authors getting equal press coverage. Thank you for using the platform you EARNED for sticking up for everyone else who does not have it.

The Real Fashion Bitches…Ramble

Our favorite canine fashionista, Mrs. Sizzle asked for Elle to come to Lincoln Center for a Fashion Week this past Saturday. As soon as we arrived it was a whirlwind of activity and visual adventures in every direction.

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Mrs. Sizzle has partnered with Swatch for a new line called Me and My Pet. See the Frenchie-faced watch I am showing Elle in the photos? Maybe it’s time to start wearing a watch again, instead of relying on my smartphone for the time.

From Hound & Tooth – a new fashion law of adorable socks for dogs, to Andy Duran and his blonde pomp, to Ruby Fang and Fashionsta Beca Alexander, Elle loved being in the spotlight. We even met a nice teenager walking away from Lincoln Center.

However, as the temperatures dropped, our excitement turned to disappointment. While waiting in a long queue outside Marc Jacob’s BookMarc, Elle started to shake. Despite a 6 p.m. kick-off for a charity event with Love Magazine, the line did not move for two hours. That was, until the arrival at 7 p.m. of Kendal Jenner. I am here nor there with Kendal, but I really wanted Elle to meet Marc’s dogs- Choo Choo Charlie and Neville Jacobs. It was a bummer to realize the non-moving queue was orchestrated to create maximum buzz around Kendal and Gigi Hamad switching places while hundreds of people froze for several hours in a line that wrapped around the block.

Once Elle started to shake we left. Fashion is a wonderful source of inspiration and fun, but Elle’s health comes first. Once I started walking, I realized my toes were numb. Thankfully there was no frostbite, but we still felt the ice.

Summer Reads: August…Ramble

A few months back I received a Klout perk in the form of a novel. My apartment is basically a small library- whatever you read, I’ve got a book for you. One of the money saving tips I’ve picked up along the way is to read all the unread books you have in your apartment before you buy anymore. Of course, there’s also the actual public library (for now, they might close down the one near me but then I’ll go to another one.)

Picked up this book and now I’m having a week of ‘book hangovers':

HIGH:  THRILLER: I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a journalist who moved to Australia and co-produced one of my favorite films of all time – Dead Calm. This is his first novel and wow, mind blown. It’s riveting. Sometimes I don’t read book jackets so there are no preconceived notions going into a book. I only knew it was a thriller going in and the twists and turns have been completely amazing. A former head of a deep undercover pre-9/11 team (think Scandal Papa Pope’s job) who investigated the spy community, is drawn back in to locate an elusive terrorist who wants to unleash biological warfare on the United States.

I AM PILGRAM

I AM PILGRAM

There are times in life when I’ve seen reports and thought ‘Why did you show the weak points in a public location so someone could blow it up?’ This book has a few of those moments and since I didn’t read the description I was confronted with 9/11 memories of my own (insert tears), and yet, this is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in the thriller genre. I used to review thrillers and had to stop because I was becoming afraid to leave my apartment! I could hear the ‘dunt dunt’ of Law & Order when turning the lock. Aiya, the hazards of a writer’s imagination. This book is good enough to make me turn Mac Culkin again, but no, I read it whenever I can. The other night I was leaving a party and this guy, who had been flirting with me asked “Wait, you’re going home now (it was 1 A.M.) to read?” I pulled out I AM PILGRIM, told him it was riveting and made my exit. Doesn’t every New Yorker have reading material on them for transit time? (Okay, Candy Crushers, try reading more than a few paragraphs once in a while.)

The point is, this book is incredible. I want to write this well, this intricate, weaving together various elements that surprise the reader and keep them on edge. If you know anyone who likes thrillers, get them this book! Four 1/2 of out of five stars (1/2 star taken off for scaring the crap out of me!)

EH: LIFE ADVISER: Stirring The Pot by Jenny McCarthy – this is her 8th book. I’m going to preface this by letting you know I’m not a parent, so your right to choose and her right to choose what to do about vaccinations for kids, is not my battle. One of my friends sent belligerent tweets after I posted a photo of myself with Jenny, who was bright and charming in person, as I had known her to be pre-parenthood. (Yes, I have worked in entertainment and met her back in the day.) I privately responded to her and understand where she is coming from, but I wish she had not lumped me in there like I was supporting Hilter in a public forum. Everyone is welcome to their beliefs. That’s not what this book addresses and at least Jenny takes a stand, unlike so many watered-down celebrities.

The outgoing, bubbly blonde bombshell proves she is still a ringleader who can hold her own with Howard Stern. Reading a Jenny McCarthy book feels like spending time with that one girlfriend who you always had an amazing night out with, followed by her holding your hair back and then made you eggs and bacon to cure the hangover in the morning. McCarthy explains overcoming her fear of public speaking, mastering motherhood or at least a few life hacks to doing the best you can and not beating yourself up about it and also comes strong with TMI.

While entertaining, about 3/4 of the way through it seemed to go off the rails and I couldn’t finish it. The subjects didn’t flow naturally and were too random for me. I didn’t see the point in learning about her practically debilitating monthly periods. It wasn’t endearing, it was like, oh shit, that sounds really awful, but what does it have to do with girl power? There are fun moments that made me giggle so if you need a good beach read that even you with the A.D.D. can handle, this one is for you. (2 stars)

3. YA/SCI-FI RED RISING by the handsome (okay, sorry but he really has great eyes and that’s worth noting and he has a soap opera worthy name!) Pierce Brown is the first in a trilogy.9780345539809_p0_v1_s114x166 It took a few chapters for me to get into this book, there’s a lot to set up and take in, i.e. similiar to The Hunger Games, instead of districts, humans are given status by color *okay, yes that happens in our society but this is the future so colors are Red for Miners, and Gold for the Elite Class.

According to YA novels, the future is very totalitarian and we’re heading for more overt (hello NSA and yeah, hope you love my tweets) government ruling. Yet, this novel, once engaged is hard to put down, extremely hard. The main character, Darrow is a member of the Red race (thus the title), who’s wife is executed by the government and thus, he is recruited into a rebel group aiming to take down the Gold group. You might be thinking, hey future + violence + last man standing = Lord of The Flies/The Hunger Games and you’d be right, but you haven’t read this book and it is really great. Brown has met his calling as a writer and weaves a tale that combines all these elements of survival into a heart pounding read.

P.S. the sequel, Golden Sun

is out in January.

 

Book Review: Melt…Ramble

Melt by Selene Castrovilla (Release Date: November 6, 2014)

I’ll stop the world and melt with you. I’m glad that song is referenced in this brutally violent tale of love and abuse. Melt reminds me more of Romeo & Juliet, than The Wizard of Oz, which is meant to be the backdrop to the story. Perhaps, that is because the author’s favorite writer is Shakespeare. The family strife, the forbidden love, the two souls loving each other so much they hurt and nag the other person to protect them from pain, and the self-doubt of that fragile love is definitely akin to Shakespeare’s tale. It’s a story I’ve never liked very much, even as a hormonal teenager. Replace the deaths in that story with violent abuse in this one.

This was an extremely hard book to read, tales of abuse are not what make it to my summer must reads, but I was given an ARC and found it a fast read. Perhaps, it’s the way the prose are used to express the Joey, the main character’s point of view, that make the book both intriguing and disturbing. He’s a wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid, who’s family has been held hostage his whole life by a cop, his father.

Dorothy, named after Dorothy Parker, is the strong, but also self-righteous main female character, who holds herself above the new friend, Amy, she has made, because she grew up in Manhattan so she will do whatever she wants in her new home in the suburbs. She wants Joey, allows her hormones reject any of the obvious warnings of his darkness, his own violent tendencies. She wants to save him but she comes off as being a nag to me. She gives Joey a copy of Catcher and The Rye for his birthday because Holden Caulfield reminds her of him. Aside from the economic differences between Joey Riley and Holden, it’s a huge insult. I would never give that book to someone I was in love with – we all know Holden is a broken mess.

Joey, of course, hates the book but reads it because she gave it to him.

Overall I found this book used the poetry device well, but it drove me crazy the amount of times the word “melt” was used. We get the point. Would I have picked this book up on my own? No. Did I find it interesting? Yes. It’s a dark tale. I liked the Joey and dated a guy like him. When guys tell you they are bad news and they are not going to change, they usually don’t, which is why I found Dorothy’s nagging him after he was upfront with her so annoying. The last guy I dated manhandled me once, we’re done. He was a fireman with more than a foot taller, with 50 pounds on me. It’s not okay to grab a woman. That’s real life, in this fictional tale, based on real life, Dorothy still pines for Joey. Naturally she would, he was her first love, but she doesn’t learn, she inserts herself again into harm’s way for a front row seat to more violence.

Dorothy likes to think she knows more than other people at sixteen, more than her parents, which is typical, but the first serving she gets of violence shatters her. Is this book advocating not giving up on someone? Saving someone who doesn’t want to be saved? There can be no positive ending to this tale in life or in fiction. No one is innocent, but inviting violence into your world because your hormones are on fire is avoidable and irresponsible for your own safety.

Am I happy to move on to Daniel Levine’s adult fiction novel Hyde next? Absolutely. Take me to Ole London Town to hear another kind of monster’s tale.

Summer Reads For Everyone…Ramble

I read. A lot. As a writer you there’s a saying ‘you can only write as well as the best book you’ve read’. I’ll read any topic matter as long as the story interests me. Here are my suggestions for summer reading:

FOR HIPSTERS/INDIE MUSIC LOVERS (redundant) and LITERARY LOVERS:

Wonderland by Stacy D’Erasmo – a densely literary ode to the life on a rock tour, D’Erasmo’s vivid descriptions of creating music, the intricate characters who feed off the industry and the struggle for the main character to make a comeback as an artist, is inspirational. I’ve personally written a chick lit (oh I can feel the daggers of your judgement publishing industry) manuscript (I have several interested parties in publishing, not everyone wants or rejects the same thing), about a rock star manager, and found this a realistic portrayal of how an artist’s brain works. Sex is something that comes naturally, love is always complicated and not enough. Living up to her famous father’s artistic imprint, the main character Anna is in her 40’s, taking one last shot for breaking through the indie scene into the mainstream. Anna reminds me of a red headed version of Liz Phair who’s “Exile in Guyville” was well-received and commercial pop was widely rejected. If you like music and don’t want to read another biography, this is really amazing and well written.

FOR HISTORICAL ROMANCE READERS & THOSE WHO LOVE GREAT BANTER:

Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloise James is charming. The seventh in her Desperate Duchesses series, (they stand alone), the extraordinary Ms. James builds tension between the two main characters to the point of extreme delight. Thorn is a ‘bastard’ and Lady Xenobia, left an orphan of a free-spirited Marquis. Forced by her circumstances to raise her own dowry, Lady X became an interior decorator. She decides it is time to retire and marry, but accepts her final job to transform Thorn’s new estate, as well as him, into the ideal English Gentleman’s prize in order to win approval for marriage to the sweet, dimwit, Lala. The banter between Thorn and Lady X will have you laughing out loud. It’s like indulging in your favorite dessert and finding out the ingredients are more beneficial to your body than vegetables (sign me up for that).

FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO ‘LEAN IN’ WITH A SPOON FULL OF SPICE

#GIRLBOSS by  Sophia Amoruso is her memoir of her rise from a shoplifting dumpster diver to heading up a multi-million dollar fashion company, Nasty Gal. She keeps it real, and you won’t be able to stop laughing. While other career books tend to be dry, Amoruso shows off real-world tips that will help you achieve becoming your own GIRL BOSS!

More tude than Iggy

 

A Few Of My Favorite Things…Ramble

2013 is winding down in a storm of Christmas parties. I made it through, barely, but still have enough brain power to write this post while angry movers toss around someone’s valuables, cursing at their lot. Ah, the joy of the holiday season!

This was …a year.
Song: Bastille’s “Pompeii”


Books:
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer – You can go home, but it won’t be the same!

Cover of ‘What Did The Fox Say’, well clearly the Kerry Washington version ‘What Did My Girl Say’ from SNL. Who dat who dat who dat bitch?

Perfume:
While Chanel No. 5 is wonderful, this year I was given Chanel No. 19. It is a musky scent, which can be worn on it’s own or blended with your summer scents, to tone them down through winter. If you are looking for a gift that is a little adventurous this is the one!

Celebrity Moment: After a lifetime of love for fellow Aussie, Kylie Minogue, I finally got to enjoy some champagne with her.

Scoundrel:
I would be remiss in summing up my year without mentioning a scoundrel named Theo M., who inspired me to write an entire new manuscript. I finished the first draft during NaNoWriMo, in a new genre for me. I’m working on the sequel so cross fingers they sell in 2014. Theo may not know how to be a real hero, like Ryan Gosling’s character in ‘Drive’, but he pushed me creatively, so he has value as a human being. (*if you listened to the song ‘Real Hero’ you’ll know what that sentence means, if not, it is a song that holds special meaning). Sometimes people come into our lives and betray us at a level never thought possible, but focusing on the good aspects, helps the healing process. That might sound cheesy, but living with so much pain and misery is not where I want to dwell.

In 2013 I became a better writer, cook and had my gall bladder sucked out through my stomach (closest I’ll get to an alien experience). I was pushed beyond my boundaries like never before and hope that continues in a mostly positive direction in 2014. I want to thank all the incredible authors I met this year. Thank you for the great advice and support including Helen Fielding, Erica O’Rourke, and Kwana Jackson in addition to the always amazing Shoshi, in a category all of her own.

Merry Christmas!

Why Helen Fielding HAD to Kill Mark Darcy/Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy…Ramble

Fourteen years have gone by since there’s been a new installment of Bridget Jones’. Well, then is it any wonder to gush like crazy over the return of chick lit’s leading lady and her creator? If there wasn’t a Bridget, there might not be a Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and The City) or an Andy Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada) or countless other great books that made us laugh, cry, relate and let us know, we’re not strange creatures from outer space if we are singletons.

Mad About A Boy

Recently spoilers were printed in the UK that quickly made the rounds to the US media. Helen Fielding had killed MARK DARCY! When Helen was asked by Vogue’s Valerie Steiker, culture editor last night at Housingworks Book Store, if she expected the swift reaction via Twitter from fans, she said no. She didn’t expect to be sitting at home in her pj’s like Bridget, watching the telly, and seeing updates about Syria, then the next story saying “HELEN FIELDING KILLED MARK DARCY!” She didn’t expect a man to run out of a restaurant she had just left yelling at her “You murdered Colin Firth!” right after the news broke. When I asked one of my friends to come to the event she said “Bitch killed Mark Darcy, she is dead to me.”

The hard part was having to tell Colin Firth. After all, the BBC version of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”, of which Colin played the most memorable Mr. Darcy, inspired Fielding’s character Mark Darcy. For Ms. Fielding, Colin/Mr. Darcy/Mark Darcy is a hybrid creature and she cannot separate them. She wanted to tell him about the character’s end in person but, their schedules were so conflicting she had to tell him over the phone. She said it was like a death, she asked him if he had someone there with him.

However, Colin/Darcy/Mark Darcy did not disappoint. How very British of this clever man to take it in good stride, and announce that it was a fictional character and no one had actually died. So, as a fan, when I heard the spoiler I was quite upset. However, as a writer, we are constantly told to kill our darlings, throw thunderbolts at our characters to shake them up, to challenge them and create conflict and new goals. For Ms. Fielding, Mark Darcy is a gentleman. He would never leave Bridget and their two children, so he had to die. “It’s far better that he dies and lives on in memory untarnished, like Jesus. He’d never be a fuckwit.” Indeed would you want to read a book about a happy marriage? We love Bridget for her struggles, for her self-doubt, for her bumbling through social situations and love.

Colin/Mr.Darcy/MarkDarcy

Colin/Mr.Darcy/MarkDarcy

Fielding said the way in which dating has changed now with social media, is the amount of things that can be silent and have to be interpreted.

Fielding has often be thought to be Bridget. She created Bridget as a means to write columns so she could keep her own life private. There are, of course, many similarities. She admitted she is overly ambitious in the kitchen and the blue string incident did happen to her. Her friends know she is usually going to overreach in that area and takeout will be ordered. Fielding is now divorced, a mother of two and living in London and in her 50’s. Bridget Jones is a widow, 51, and a mother of two living in London trying to sort out social media and modern dating. I can just say Poor Bridget! Let the comedy ensue.

When the Q&A was opened up to the audience I asked Helen if there was anything she had wished from the book had made it into the films and vice versa (oh self brag moment: Fielding said “That is a very good question” – oh yes, I have professionally interviewed people but a compliment from Helen/Bridget –for now she is a hybrid of those two personas for me–is quite amazing). Ms. Fielding answered yes and sometimes things get confusing. There were things she wanted to put into “Bridget Jones: Mad About A Boy” but had happened in a previous book or film. One thing she would have loved to have in the films was Bridget Jones interviewing Colin Firth the actor. (Note: if you own the 2nd film there is an outtake of exactly that but I didn’t bring that up since she seemed a bit tired from a full day of press). So, in actual real life, Helen met up with Colin Firth in Rome where she was Bridget Jones for the night out with Mark Darcy! And, they’ve also had phone conversations where Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy.

Indeed Helen Fielding is so charming and so humble when it comes to the success of Bridget. Ten minutes into the event, she admitted she was quite relieved and happy with it since she stressed about the VOGUE part of the evening – dressing up for it, accessorizing properly and wearing hard-to-walk-in-heels. I love that she removed those uncomfortable heels and let us all just have them sit there and admire them. Hurrah for Helen/Bridge.

Helen Fielding Sans Heels

Helen Fielding Sans Heels

Helen spoke about how men and woman just communicate differently. Bridget’s motto is KOB = keep buggering on & of course, she does. Women will go out, have some drinks and have a laugh about their problems. Whereas, (Fielding kept saying she is not a sociologist), a male friend went out with another man who was getting a divorce after twenty years. She asked him afterwards why the couple is getting divorced and her friend responded he didn’t know, they talked football all night.

When asked what she would be if not a writer, she replied a doctor. She said if anyone wasn’t feeling well she would be quite happy to assist them. Oddly enough, five minutes later the last “question” was really more a drawn out statement, when a woman three chairs down from me began moaning. If you were on the subway, you just move away from that kind of insane moaning, we’re New Yorkers, we used to it. However, this poor elderly woman who had come on her own was slumped over, unconscious in a bookstore! Guests and Fielding sprang into action. The fire department came and took the woman to a hospital. I want to say, as relieved as we all were she regained consciousness, thank you to you Ms. Moaner. You saved us from a seemingly, unending, pointless statement that was taking down the whole event and instead, gave us a chance to see Helen-Bridget as doctor in action.

The best question from Vogue was, if this book becomes a film, will Mark Darcy be present in flashbacks. Fielding said he would be well represented and that she’d like to be part of the casting! Oh ah.

Finally, it was lovely to have a bit of chat with Helen during the book signing afterwards. I was very happy I got to discuss the “Chick Lit” genre which so many in publishing “eschew” , which is the tone and genre I write in and Helen was surprised and told me to keep on going with it. The great thing is I got to inform her that Mad About A Boy is #1 in the Fiction Satire genre on Amazon. She was so happy. I love when you get a few moments with someone you admire, for whatever reason, and they are made happy by something you said to them. Thank you Helen-Bridget. I am glad you wrote another installment and shocked Britain by writing about a woman in her 50’s- gasp, dating!

Having a laugh with Helen

Having a laugh with Helen

Keep Writing & LOVE chick lit! Helen Fielding

Keep Writing & LOVE chick lit! Helen Fielding