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October 2017

Uncovering the Story of the Washingtons' Runaway Slave

UnknownVisitors to President George and Martha Washington's home, Mount Vernon, can view the house, their gardens, a slaves' burying ground, and a reconstructed slave cabin. That the Washingtons kept slaves is no secret, but it took nine years of sleuthing for Erica Armstrong Dunbar to uncover the story of one young slave who got away.

Ona Judge was 22 years old when she fled the Washingtons' home, then in Philadelphia. The Washingtons were persistent in their attempts to reclaim her, by any means necessary, but through a combination of pluck, assistance, and good luck, she evaded capture, made her way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and later married an African American sailor and raised two free-born daughters. 

She could not avoid the poverty and bereavement she faced later in life, but her will to freedom didn't falter. As Armstrong Dunbar writes, she "never lost faith in herself. Every day that the fugitive opened her eyes, she knew one thing to be true: she would 'rather suffer death' than return to slavery."

Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave is a finalist for the 2017 National Book Awards. In the run-up to next month's announcement of the winners of that prize, we spoke to Erica Armstrong Dunbar, who in addition to writing Never Caught and A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City, is the Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware.

Amazon Book Review: How did you come to write Never Caught?

Erica Armstrong Dunbar: About twenty years ago, I was working in the archives on a different project and reading through eighteenth-century newspapers in order to learn more about everyday life in Philadelphia. I came across an advertisement for a runaway slave and I was instantly intrigued. The advertisement stated that a young woman who they called “Oney” Judge had run away from the president’s house and a ten-dollar reward was offered to anyone who would return her.

From the moment that I read that advertisement I knew that I had to find out what happened to the woman who dared to escape from the most powerful man in the new nation. Eventually, I turned my full attention to recovering Judge’s life and it became immediately clear that Ona Judge (Ona is the name that she went by at the end of her life) served as the perfect portal into the early days of the new nation.

Through Judge’s life, we are able to live through the founding of the United States and witness the birth of a nation through the eyes of the enslaved. Never Caught is the incredible story of a twenty-two-year-old woman who found the courage and determination to defy George and Martha Washington. It is also the story of the nation’s struggle over the original sin of slavery.

You have written about enslaved women previously. What did you learn in the course of researching and writing Never Caught?

Writing Never Caught reinforced what I have come to know about enslaved women and that is, no matter the situation, they worked in different ways to become free. A small number of women, like Ona Judge, made the dramatic and dangerous choice to run away. But the majority of enslaved women worked to find freedom in smaller ways such as slowing down their work production, pretending to be ill, and pleading with their owners to keep their children and loved ones by their side. This kind of work was unyielding and important because it led to survival.

What was especially challenging about researching Ona Judge’s story?

The most important thing for fugitives is anonymity. For the majority of her life, Ona Judge needed to live in the shadows, uncounted and hidden from slave catching forces that could carry her back to the jaws of slavery. Of course, this meant that the written record regarding Ona’s life was at best, quite thin. This was the case for most enslaved women who were illiterate and absent from historical documentation. It proved somewhat challenging, but I was able to lean upon previous research to fill in the missing spaces. Luckily, Ona Judge left behind two interviews at the end of her life that gave access to her voice.  

Why was Ona Judge’s story so little known, before you wrote Never Caught?

Ona Judge was one of those “hidden figures” for several reasons. I travelled a long and difficult journey to put together the fragments of Judge’s life, a journey that took me nine years to complete. As I stated before, her fugitive status made researching her life extremely complicated. However, Ona Judge’s life story forces readers to examine George and Martha Washington in different and difficult ways. Their connection and commitment to slavery is not often discussed, and Ona Judge’s escape and the relentless pursuit to recapture her, does not present the Washingtons in their finest hour. This is not the typical narrative put forth about the nation’s “first family.”

Was there anything that we know about Ona Judge’s character or experience that would have led her contemporaries to expect that she would become a runaway?

I think the answer to this question differs based upon the understanding of the word “contemporaries.” If we take this to mean the Washingtons or other elite white men and women who held people in bondage the answer would be no, there was no reason that they would believe that Ona Judge would attempt an escape. In their minds, Judge was treated well and possessed material objects that most enslaved men and women could never imagine. However, if we ask the same question with respect to Judge’s enslaved or free black contemporaries, well, the answer changes to yes. Every black person wanted freedom, and when pushed, anyone, even the president’s slave, would seek it.

How did your views of George and Martha Washington change in the light of Ona Judge’s experience as their slave?

I don’t think my views about the Washingtons changed dramatically during the course of researching and writing Never Caught. I knew quite a bit about George and Martha Washington from earlier research, however, I began to see the differences in their attitudes about slavery. George and Martha Washington were both slave owners, however George Washington began to have misgivings about slavery and eventually made the decision to emancipate his slaves in his will (only after the death of his wife). Martha Washington was not as convinced about the evils of slavery.

Other than your own, what three books would you recommend to readers interested in learning more about enslaved women in 18th century America?

Unfortunately, this list is relatively short. The number of non-fiction texts written by historians about enslaved women in the eighteenth century are few and far between. Here’s my short list:

Jessica Millward’s Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black Women in Maryland

Jennifer Morgan’s Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery

Annette Gordon Reed’s Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemmings: An American Controversy

What are you working on now?

It’s a secret! But what I’ll say is this, it is a book that asks us to reimagine another important moment in the history of this country, the Civil War, through the eyes of an enslaved woman. Stay tuned!

(Photo credit: Whitney Thomas) 

 

On "Wonderstruck" the Film with Author Brian Selznick

WonderstruckMovie_200Last week I saw the film Wonderstruck and it was everything I'd hoped it would be.  I first read the book the year it released, back in 2011, and when I'd heard Amazon Studios was making the movie I wondered how they would convey, on screen, a story that has one point of view told only in illustration.  Author Brian Selznick wrote the screenplay and his vision combined with the work of director Todd Haynes is as brilliant as the book.

I interviewed Selznick for the book Wonderstuck six years ago and called him recently to talk about the film.  Below is a transcript of some of that conversation, followed by a trailer for the movie which will be widely released on November 2nd and playing everywhere by November 10th. It's a pretty magical movie experience that I highly recommend whether you're familiar with the book or not.


Seira Wilson: How was the experience of writing the screen play for Wonderstruck?  What was it like to do that for the first time?

Brian Selznick: It’s been great! I keep having these very unique experiences and these very unusual things happening to me.  John Logan the screenwriter for Hugo took me under his wing…he encouraged me to make the screenplay what I wanted it to be, he encouraged me not to share it with anyone while I was writing it so I wouldn’t have any outside influences and then he just helped me make it into the format I wanted it to be in because, he said, it’s a very unusual type of movie that I’m writing.   The dozens of drafts that become the first draft--just make it what you want it to be.  So when I finally handed it to Todd Haynes, I had a screenplay that John thought was a viable, workable screenplay.  And Todd had some suggestions but nothing major, and really what Todd ended up shooting is what I handed him that first day. 

Seira Wilson: So the black and white silent film for Rose’s portion was your vision for the movie?

Brian Selznick: Yes, that was the first idea that I had.  I really wrote as much as I could into the screenplay in terms of what it would look like, what it would sound like, fully aware that there were going to be many changes but I wanted to set the groundwork. 

Because this book was very much designed around the interaction between the pictures and the words, I knew that once we lost that, because there’s no cinematic equivalent for turning the page of a book or for one story being told in drawings and one story being told in text, that I needed to find something that would parallel the way those two stories interact. 

So early on I had the idea to tell Rose’s story as a black & white silent movie, since silent movies are a part of her narrative, but also I thought it would be great to have the language of silent film because the audience would think that it’s silent because it's set in 1927 but then they would eventually discover that it's silent because the main character in that story is deaf and we're experiencing the world the way she experiences it.  

Then I thought we could film the ‘70s part of the story like a movie from the 1970s, so we could begin a little bit like Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, in rural America and then move into Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets for kids.  And those examples were written into the screenplay.

SW: Do you have a favorite book-to-film adaptation that you were working from in your head, wanting yours to turn out as good as ----?

BS: I’ve watched a lot of movies as inspiration and Todd, when he came on board, also had a lot of movies he was looking at as inspiration, but when I was writing the screenplay I was looking at movies from the two time periods, I was thinking about some of my favorite films. 

I was putting quotes into the screenplay--there’s a music quote from Being There, which is one of my favorite movies, there’s references to The Wizard of Oz, so there are elements from some of my favorite movies, but when I think about some of the best book-to-screen adaptations, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Wizard of Oz, it’s often the case—and Matilda—that the movie, in many ways, is better than the book.  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is way better than the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the original screenplay was written by Roald Dahl.  He added Slugworth to the film and made a lot of very, very, smart changes.  So I can’t say I wanted the screenplay to be better than the book, but I wanted the screenplay to be a framework for something that felt like it was always meant to be a movie.

SW: Sounds like you’ve been doing a ton of writing lately, just not on your next novel—or have you??

BS: Well… I do have a book coming out [February 27, 2018] that I made with my husband David Serlin that’s for younger kids called Baby Monkey, Private EyeIt’s about a baby monkey who’s a private eye, and it’s a 200-page beginning reader. It’s five stories about different crimes Baby Monkey solves and he’s a very good detective, solving crimes is very easy for him, but he has a very difficult time putting on his pants.  So most of the book is about Baby Monkey trying to get his pants on.  And then he goes and solves whatever crimes he needs to solve.   David wrote it and I developed it with him and did the pictures. 

And I’m working on a couple of theatrical adaptations of some of my work.  I’m writing a musical based on The Houdini Box so I’m writing the book for the musical as well as the lyrics.  It’s my first time trying to write lyrics, which are incredibly hard and very, very, challenging but exciting.  And I’ve begun my next big illustrated novel, I’m a couple of drafts into that…

SW: What’s the topic of that, if you can share it?

BS: That’s a secret!  But it’s coming along well, I’ve got an outline for the entire book, I’ve begun writing the text, and I will say it’s another book that will try to use words and pictures in an unusual way…  I discovered a lot about the interaction between words and pictures when I made The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and then Wonderstruck was an attempt to take what I learned from Hugo and do something different with it. Then The Marvels was once again an attempt to do something different based on everything I’d learned from the two previous books, and now the challenge is to take what I learned from all three of those books and try to do something new. 

So Hugo tells a single story, going back and forth with words and pictures, Wonderstruck tells two stories with words and pictures that are 50 years apart that interact with each other, The Marvels opens with 300 pages of pictures that tell a story that then becomes a kind of memory for the second half of the book which is told in words, and then I’ve got some ideas about what I think I’m going to do for the pictures in the new book. 

And I’m working on my first book for grown-ups, also.  It’s almost entirely pictures, and it’s a book about Walt Whitman, that'll be published in time for the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2019.

SW: I was going to ask you if you’re still collecting first editions of Leaves of Grass!? [We talked about collections when we first met since there are many in the pages of Wonderstruck and Selznick revealed that one of his is multiple editions of Walt Whitman's classic]

BS:  [Laughs] I wish more than anything that I HAD a first edition of Leaves of Grass but I don’t have that much money! What I have are just editions of Leaves of Grass, so none of them are from when he was alive. They’re everything from weird tiny versions from the 1950’s to modern editions, to reproductions—I have a reproduction of the 1853 edition.  I have about…oh, let's see, two or three linear feet of Leaves of Grass in my apartment.

SW:  I’m so pleased for you and the success of Wonderstruck, it's been really nice chatting about it…

BS:  It’s nice to be proud of two movies that were made from my books.  I think it’s very rare for an author to feel as happy about a movie based on their books as I am.  And I’m very grateful for that and I don’t take it lightly...

 

Check out the movie trailer for Wonderstruck--it's one you won't want to miss and you can find ticket info here.

 

"The Allure of the Unreliable Narrator" by Kaira Rouda

KrThe unreliable narrator has become a staple in fiction. But when it comes to novels, why would people turn to someone they know they can't really trust? We asked best-selling author Kaira Rouda, whose latest novel features a memorable unreliable narrator, to offer some insights into why readers are drawn to the unreliable.

 

Some of my favorite works of fiction feature unreliable narrators: classic novels like The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, my all-time favorite, Nick Carraway tells the reader from page one that he’s an objective observer, meaning most likely he isn’t. And today, psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators continue to be a significant trend in fiction. Consider the book that started the latest phase, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which has not one but two unreliable folks who happen to be married to each other. Nick and Amy were once in love, we think. And then there’s The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, featuring Rachel, an alcoholic, unemployed divorcee who commutes into London each day because she doesn’t want to admit she’s lost her job. Her story is sad, of course, but what draws us in is that we readers root for Rachel even as the horror of what is truly happening unfolds.

On the surface, some readers might not find such protagonists relatable, but at their core, these characters offer dramatic representations of an impulse that many of us do feel: an impulse to change or tweak or lie about our own personal stories, whether we’re comfortable admitting it or not. We tell friends that “everything’s fine” when we’re hurting. Maybe we don't want them to worry. Maybe we're embarrassed. Maybe we're scared to let ourselves show vulnerability. We soften the truth about real life for our children, or brag about things we don’t really have to our peers. The end result is the same: to some degree, we are misrepresenting our lives to those around us. And on a visceral level, even if we’re not aware of it, we recognize this impulse in unreliable narrators in fiction.

BestToday, social media provides an accessible platform for us to unreliably narrate our own lives. We can more easily filter and curate what others see or understand, since social cues like body language and tone of voice, which others might use to discern the truth, are manufactured or lost when we post online. And maybe we’re even aware when others misrepresent the truth on their social media accounts, but we Like or Retweet their posts anyway. The opportunity to share our selves and our worlds with a massive audience and to do so within seconds, allows us—maybe even pressures us—to hide behind more pleasant illusions, and perhaps even start to believe them ourselves. Like the narrators of our favorite psychological suspense novels.

I hope that’s what readers feel when they pick up my novel Best Day Ever. Paul Strom, the creepy protagonist of Best Day Ever, believes he’s the perfect husband, a loving father, and a successful businessman. He promises his wife, Mia, the first day of their romantic weekend together will be the best day ever. They’ve been married for years, though. Does she still believe the illusion? I hope you’ll read Best Day Ever to find out.

-- Kaira Rouda

 

 


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Hey There, You're Lookin' Kinda QWERTY

The Digital Age has claimed many casualties. The card catalog, for example, is fading from memory as computerized databases replace enormous wooden cabinets in our libraries. Cursive handwriting has all but disappeared from elementary school curricula as laptops become cheap and ubiquitous, also replacing typewriters in high school Business Machines classes, which I'm almost certain no longer exist, as well. Is this bad? No, not really. Card catalogs are—let's face it—a bit of a pain, and their contents aren't easily shared across networks. Practicing penmanship is boring, an ascetic, repetitive ritual often resulting in the literal pain of hand cramps. The left-handed among us (like me) don't miss it at all. And anyone who has typed well past the bottom margin of a term paper (again, like me) appreciates the automated aspects of modern writing contrivances.

But humans live in at least three dimensions, and as more of our experience is flattened onto screens, we make fetishes of the bygone ways and objects. Typewriters, especially the old ones, make powerful totems. These loud, heavy, mechanical beasts evoke a certain romanticism, whether it's a reporter on deadline, press card tucked jauntily in hatband, stabbing at keys with stiff index fingers, or a blocked author filling a corner waste can with crumpled sheets yanked from the carriage of an indifferent Underwood.

Anthony Casillo's Typewriters (with photographs by Bruce Curtis and an introduction from Tom Hanks) captures the beauty and strangeness of these contraptions from a not-so-distant era, collecting images, specs, and descriptions for 80 machines ranging from 1874's "Sholes & Glidden Type Writer" to the mod designs of the 1960s. In this excerpt from the introduction, Casillo describes the origins of his obsession, followed by some of the more iconic, and sometimes strange, examples. Presented, of course, in Courier.

 


Excerpt from the introduction to Typewriters: Iconic Machines from the Golden Age of Mechanical Writing

by Anthony Casillo

In the late 1970s, I stumbled upon an old, long abandoned, Oliver typewriter stored away in the back room of a typewriter repair shop where I worked in New York City. The Oliver was unlike anything I had ever seen before: an odd-shaped, green-colored monster with three rows of keys and typebars—U-shaped metal rods with type attached to them—positioned high above its carriage. It was old and deserving of greater appreciation than it was receiving there. It begged me to rescue it from that dark room—and potentially the trash heap. So, I packed the 30-lb (13.6-kg) orphan up and carried it home on the NYC subway during my standing-room-only rush-hour commute.

Once home, I began to explore this beauty a little further. The Oliver opened a door to a new world for me, one that ignited my curios­ity about the early history of the typewriter. Before this point, I had never given a thought to the early days of the typewriter industry. Back then, interest in old typewriters was almost nonexistent and most machines were dis­posed of at the end of their useful lives.

Shortly after the Oliver discovery, I was leafing through the classified section of a monthly typewriter trade magazine when another vintage machine caught my eye: a Blickensderfer typewriter from the 1890s was being offered for sale. The lickensderfer was a small manual typewriter that used a type element similar to the modern IBM Selectric typewriters that were popular in the 1970s. It was so much like the modern Selectric that I was repairing for a living back then, yet the seventy-five years that separated them made me curious about its history. There was so little information avail­able on old typewriters at that time, so I acted on instinct, and I took a road trip across two states to purchase and pick up my prize. After all, I thought to myself, when would I ever see another one? On my return trip, a voice inside kept telling me that not only had I just acquired something special, but also, on that day, I had now become a collector.

I went on a buying spree for the next few decades, searching for and acquiring as many interesting typewriters as I could track down. From flea markets, to auction houses, to estate sales, I crisscrossed the country in search of elusive machines. I believed anything could be anywhere and searched almost everywhere. In forty years of collecting, my only regrets are for the ones I didn’t buy, the ones that got away.

When I first became interested in vintage typewriters, collecting them was not a popular hobby. Finding another typewriter collector was almost as difficult as finding the actual machines. But over the past few years, there has been a resurgence of interest in mechanical typewriters—a renaissance of sorts. An object that had been deemed useless after the emer­gence of computers and relegated to the junk pile is now being celebrated. This revival seems to be both a combination of nostalgia and a desire to escape from modern technology. Unlike a computer, with all its word processing strengths and amenities, the typewriter offers a straightforward approach to the task of typing. A typewritten document isn’t merely typed, it’s created. Each key depressed immedi­ately becomes a permanent imprint on paper. Mistakes are not easily removed, generating a greater need for concentration and requiring an undistracted, direct connection with the hardware responsible for producing a document. Driven by the force of the creator’s own fingers, and coupled with the unique character­istics of the machine being used, every docu­ment produced has its own personality and charm.

Some remained faithful to their typewriters during a period of technological change that began in the 1980s with the introduction of the personal computer. They were the holdouts who refused to part with their trusted friend as technology marched forward, always keeping a place on their desks for tasks that a type­writer could perform more efficiently than their computer. For these people, the filling in of forms, addressing of envelopes, and other small tasks always seemed to get done more quickly on a typewriter, giving the machines an extended life as a secondary writing instrument in many offices.

And then there are the collectors who see beauty in old, twisted, and often rusted metal. It is not uncommon for a dedicated collector to travel great distances to procure an ancient typewriter for his or her collection. Filling basements, attics, and storage sheds with these old unwanted relics is routine for typewriter collectors on their quest to assemble a collec­tion and research the typewriter’s past. Some collectors have glass showcases in their homes to display the aristocrats in their collections. “History preserved,” as it is often said.

What follows in this book are highlights from my four-decade journey in collecting and researching typewriters; all the machines pictured here are from my personal collection in Garden City, New York. These pages explore eighty of the most historically important and eye-catching mechanical writing machines that were manufactured in the period between the 1870s and 1960s.

So many of us have a typewriter story to tell—whether we used the machines for papers in high school and college, or watched our grandparents type out letters on their cher­ished machines—stories that evoke fond memo­ries of a much simpler time. In the pages that follow, the typewriter will tell its own remarkable story.

. . .

For the past two decades, the death of the typewriter has been proclaimed repeatedly. Holdouts and niche applications that could not be completed on computers until more recently, such as typing labels and envelopes or filling in forms, helped keep it barely alive. It quietly limps along as many typewriters that are thirty or more years old are still actively in use today. The faithful, along with those who have recently discovered the typewriter’s charm and humble approach to writing, have ensured that it will be celebrated in its retirement for many years to come.


THE SHOLES & GLIDDEN TYPE WRITER (1874)

600Typewriters_The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer

The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer has the distinction of being the first commercially successful typewriter. Christopher Latham Sholes and Carlos Glidden, with assistance from a team of inventors and promoters, are credited with inventing the machine and bringing it to market. It was manufactured by E. Remington and Sons, an arms and sewing machine manufacturer in Ilion, New York. The Type Writer, as it was first called, was the landmark invention that helped transform business communication and industry in the late nineteenth century. Advertised as “a machine now superseding the pen,” the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer is ornately decorated with patriotic banners, flowers, images of young women, and landscapes. It types in uppercase characters only and is a blind writer, meaning one cannot see what is being typed. The user must raise the carriage up on its hinges to view their work.

It was on the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer that the QWERTY keyboard, the same keyboard arrangement in use today, made its first appearance. The Sholes & Glidden uses a spooled ribbon for inking and a bell to sound the end of a writing line. Both were innovative features that would be standard hardware on other typewriters for many years to follow. There were approximately four thousand units manufactured and sold during its four years of production.

SERIAL #1183 ORIGINAL PRICE $125

WEIGHT 30 lbs (13.6 kg)

DIMENSIONS 15½ x 16 x 15½ in (39 x 40.5 x 39 cm)


MERRITT TYPE WRITER (1890)

  Typewriters_Merritt Type Writer

The great parade of index typewriters in the 1890s produced a bewildering array of designs, including the one for the Merritt. Larger and beefier than its contemporaries, the Merritt offered a one-of-a-kind approach with its metal printer’s type.

The Merritt is an understrike linear index typewriter that uses a sliding rack of printer’s type which, when selected, is pushed up into a socket beneath the platen for printing. This method provides typing with a near-perfect alignment of characters, albeit a slow one. The metal type also provides a sharper impression than most other low-cost index designs using rubber type. Two ink rollers on either side of the printing point provide inking. They are mounted in a drop-in holder that is easily removable when ink needs to be replenished. With the aid of two shift keys, Caps. and Figs., the Merritt is capable of printing seventy-eight characters.

Although it was not promoted in advertisements, replacing the type rack with others of different styles of type can be easily done. The Merritt’s nickel-plated body mounted on a wood base makes it especially appealing to collectors.

SERIAL #9072 ORIGINAL PRICE $15

WEIGHT 6 lbs (2.7 kg)

DIMENSIONS 12 x 6 x 5 in (30.5 x 15 x 12 cm)


LAMBERT (1900)

Typewriters_Lambert

This curious little device was invented by Frank Lambert of Brooklyn, New York, who reportedly labored for seventeen years at perfecting his invention before it was eventually manufactured. Although its first patent was granted in 1884, production of the machine did not commence until 1900.

At first sight, the Lambert’s circular keyboard design resembles that of a vintage rotary telephone——not something one would expect to find on a typewriter. Depressing a button on the keyboard causes its center to pivot, resulting in the corresponding character on a type ring beneath it to lower for printing. A circular ink pad remains in constant contact with the type, insuring that the typeface stays inked at all times. A larger round button in the center is the spacebar, and a lever on the left allows the user to shift between upper- and lowercase characters and punctuation. Its black wooden roller, often mistaken for a platen, is a take-up roller with a clamp to grip the top edge of the paper and wrap it around the roller after it has been typed on. Printing takes place on a small flat area directly in front of this roller. Although it is sometimes misclassified as an index typewriter, the Lambert’s ingenious design fits the true definition of a keyboard typewriter——it requires only one step, the depressing of a single key, to print a character and advance one space along the writing line. The Lambert typewriter was moderately successful with several thousand units being sold before its manufacture was halted in 1904.

SERIAL #2024 ORIGINAL PRICE $25

WEIGHT 5½ lbs (2.5 kg)

DIMENSIONS 11 x 7¾ x 6 in (28 x 20 x 15 cm)


HAMMOND MULTIPLEX (GREEN, 1913)

Typewriters_Hammond Multiplex (Green)

The Hammond Typewriter Company had been well established for three decades when they introduced the Multiplex model to the market. During this thirty-year period the typewriter industry had undergone a transformation toward visible typewriters, yet Hammond enjoyed continued success with their nineteenth-century type-shuttle design. The Hammond Typewriter Company constantly sought to enhance the Hammond’s design by adding new features to the machine. The Multiplex is the result of that effort.

Unlike previous Hammond models that held one type shuttle at a time, the Multiplex can be fitted with two type shuttles at once. A typist can effortlessly change between two styles of type by lifting the turret at the top and rotating it one hundred eighty degrees to position a second type shuttle in place for printing. This design was incorporated into Hammond’s office models as well as their portable typewriters.

Small quantities of the lightweight aluminum Multiplex painted green were produced for the United States Army during World War I. President Woodrow Wilson is known to have typed many of his own speeches on a Hammond Multiplex typewriter. The Hammond Multiplex typewriter appears to have effectively improved on perfection.

SERIAL #AL207088 ORIGINAL PRICE $100

WEIGHT 11 lbs (5 kg)

DIMENSIONS 11 x 13 x 7 in (28 x 33 x 17 cm)


ROYAL QUIET DELUXE (1955)

Typewriters_Royal Quiet Deluxe

The Royal Quiet DeLuxe of 1955 is the result of a post–World War II makeover of an original design dating back almost two decades earlier. When first introduced in 1939, the Quiet DeLuxe included premium features such as a touch control to adjust keyboard pressure and Royal’s newly patented and trademarked Magic Margin: margins that reposition themselves with the touch of a button. Yet, with all its muscle, the Quiet DeLuxe presented itself in a dreary manner with an outer casing covered in a dull, dark, textured finish. In 1944, World War II caused a two-year halt in typewriter manufacturing, but when production resumed, in an optimistic post-war environment, the Quiet DeLuxe underwent a series of changes that would prove its best days were yet to come.

The post-war Quiet DeLuxe received two body style updates, but its most noticeable change came in 1955 when a variety of bright pastel color options were unveiled. A soft cream-colored keyboard was the icing on the cake, making the Quiet DeLuxe into one of the more remarkable looking typewriters of its era. A marketing campaign featuring full-page advertisements in national magazines portrayed a portable typewriter for the young, or anyone on the go, and offering little or no money down with liberal trade-in allowances and discounts. The Royal Quiet DeLuxe was now something to write home about.

SERIAL #AT3707723 ORIGINAL PRICE $129.85

WEIGHT 13 lbs (5.9 kg)

DIMENSIONS 11 x 12 x 5½ in (28 x 30.5 x 14 cm)

 


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The Lore of "Lore"

Lore on Amazon Prime Video'Tis the season—the spooky season—to be on edge, jumping at shadows, and wondering what's making that strange noise upstairs....

Podcast master Aaron Mahnke brings eerie tales of hauntings and curses and violent death to Lore podcast listeners throughout the year, but October 2017 gave scary story fans a new book—The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures—and a new television show—also called Lore—available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.

We chatted with Aaron Mahnke at the beginning of his book and TV launch tour about the surprising start of the podcast, New England's inherent spookiness, and whether he believes in ghosts. 

Amazon Book Review: How did your very popular podcast, Lore, begin?

Aaron Mahnke: Lore was actually a failed promotional attempt. I was a self-published fiction writer in my spare time. Supernatural thrillers, real-life stories with an odd or unusual bent to them. I live in New England and love the folklore and the stories of that area. I thought, “Well, let me add those elements into my books.” Little historical details that I could use. And I would find a lot and use few of them in the books. I had all these leftover [stories] and I thought, “Why don’t I give people something of value so that they can give me their email address? It’s a nice trade.” So I started writing what was I going to call my five favorite New England myths.

I wrote four of them. I looked at the word count. It was about 15,000 words, and I realized I was going to be delivering this as a PDF and expecting people to read this on their phone, pinching and zooming and all that. It was going to be horrible—a frustrating experience. When I realized I was going to give something that wasn’t valuable for their email address, I just dragged it to the trash can, and I was ready to walk away from writing entirely.

Aaron MahnkeBefore I let go, I remembered that I’m an audiobook guy. I’ve been an Audible member for years. I thought, “I have a microphone. Why don’t I record an audiobook version of these and put them in a folder and zip it up and let people download that?” That was the extent of my vision. I did one of them as a test. I sent it to a friend and I told him my plan, and he said, “Don’t do it.” I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because this is a podcast. You should put it out as a podcast.”

I fought him on it, but at the end of the day, I took his word for it, and I branded it, built a website, found out how to host an audio file for podcasting, how to connect it to the various podcast directories out there—Google and iTunes and all that—and I clicked Publish. It was March of 2015. That’s where it started.

It wasn’t a hit right away. There were nine downloads the first day. But in the last two and a half years, there’s been 91 million. So I’m pretty happy with that.

That’s really impressive. Especially as it wasn’t what your initial goal was.

Absolutely not.

So how did the Lore book and Lore TV show come about?

As the show grew, more people started to notice it just by the laws of probability. People in Hollywood were starting to listen to podcasts. I got emails from maybe two dozen production companies around August of 2015. And then I connected with Propagate. They just had all the right people and track record, and they are run by Ben Silverman, who used to run NBC. He helped create The Office. So at that point I was like, “All right, I think these guys are capable of doing this.” So then we went looking for a creative partner to help the show be a good-quality storytelling experience, and we partnered up with Gale Anne Hurd, who makes The Walking Dead, which is this tiny little show on TV that some people like. And then we just moved on from there. Pitched it around.

I wanted it to be on one of these next-generation networks, because this is where TV viewing is going, especially for a [series based on a] podcast, where people binge. You find your [podcast] show you want to listen to and you listen to all of them in two weeks. Being able to jump into Amazon Prime and watch all six episodes of the season makes sense. It fits the podcast model really well.

Monstrous CreaturesThe Lore books were a little bit more of a frustrating experience because I was a little dumb. Coming from a self-publishing background, I went into it thinking I didn’t want to go through a publishing deal for anything. So when editors and literary agents started reaching out to me, I turned them all away and thought, “I can do this. I can put them all in a book and go to CreateSpace and sell paperbacks. That’s fine.” But then the show got so big that I realized, “Maybe I can do more than just package up things by myself and put it out there. Maybe I can actually build a publishing career out of this.” So that’s when the book project happened.

Nice! So you’re narrating the Lore TV show, right?

Yes.

Was there anything that you learned from that experience that has changed how you do your podcast?

When I record the podcast, I’m by myself. I’ve got no producer, no director; I just make it up as I go along. It’s how I do a lot of things with Lore. But when I’m recording voiceover for the TV show, I have an earbud in one of my ears, my headphones are on crooked so I can hear myself on the mike, and I’m recording while they listen to me on the phone. My documentary producer will guide me through. He’ll say, “All right, let’s go back and do it again, and I’m going to underline words here. Those are the words I want you to emphasize when you say this sentence.” And so I had somebody else there guiding my tone and my emphasis. That was different. And I’ve brought a little bit of that into the podcast. But for the most part, they’re different entities.

I recorded the audiobook in my studio at home, just like I did the TV voiceover, and audiobook recording is different, too. Even though it was audiobooks that inspired me to start Lore, you still record them differently. There’s no music in the background. I’m not looking for huge dramatic pauses. It’s not oral storytelling; it’s more like, “Let me read you what this is really well.”

When you were doing the voiceover for the TV show and you were getting instruction to emphasize this and that, did it feel really awkward the first time? Like you were overemphasizing?

Oh, yeah. It felt awkward because I thought, “That doesn’t feel like the place that my gut tells me I should be emphasizing.” But if I stepped back and thought about it, Mark [the voice director] was right. The word my brain wants to emphasize is this word, but the word we really want to drive home is that one, because the next phrase has a word that’s contrasting with it, and it’s important that the listeners really make sure they hear that. There was a bit of awkwardness with the learning curve. Also, just having someone else tell me what to do. Not in the sense that I’m an arrogant guy, it’s just that I’ve worked alone so long doing this that to have somebody else on the other end of the line saying, “No, you need to do it this way,” was challenging for me.

You have to have the humility in a situation like that and say, “This is what you do for a living; you teach me.” Hopefully I’ll learn some things there.

My audiobook producer worked on the full-cast version of American Gods. That was her project, and that was probably one of the first full-cast audiobooks I ever listened to. Neil Gaiman is a hero of mine. She knew what she was doing, too, and I paid attention and learned from her, too.

To switch gears a little bit...When you were a kid, did you like spooky stories?

I did after a certain point. It was fifth grade for me. You remember the Scholastic readers club catalogs? I got sent home with one in fifth grade that had a book that was a collection of weird and unusual tales that were supposed to be true. A little bit of folklore, a little bit of legend, a little bit of history. I convinced my parents to buy it for me and fell in love immediately. And then our reading teacher wanted us to work on our handwriting—our cursive—which she called chicken scratch, and she said, “Why don’t you guys write a Halloween story?” And so that was my first writing experience. And that set the tone for the rest of my life. I’ve written ever since, and it’s always kind of veered toward the weird or unusual.

Do you ever give yourself nightmares?

Oddly enough no. My nightmares are about production. Like, did I forget to export that file? Did I forget to set up the webpage for tomorrow’s episode launch? Things like that—that’s what I worry about. Those things keep me at a distance from the gore or the horror-ficness of it all. So no nightmares for me yet.

Do people ever tell you that you give them nightmares?

Al the time. All the time. I’ve stopped apologizing and just kind of say, “You’re welcome.” [Laughs]

Do you believe in ghosts?

I walk into this with a really open mind. I firmly believe the people who have told these stories really believe they happen to them. And I think that, for me, that’s the important part to get across. The emotional part of it. Because that’s the heart of the story—there’s real conviction here by this person. Sometimes there’s a lot of witnesses. Sometimes there’s a few. I try to go in on the fence so that I can give both sides a fair shake.

How do you find the stories that you relate in Lore?

A lot of reading. I take a lot of notes when I’m researching a topic about ideas that pop up that don’t relate. Most of the topics I find in the middle of researching the current topic of the day. There’s an episode—episode 12—called “Half-Hanged” about Mary Webster, a woman accused of witchcraft and hanged outside of her home. I found her story completely by accident while researching a slightly different aligned topic. I found a dissertation, I think, that just explained her experiences there in Hadley [Massachusetts], and I fell in love with the story. I pushed the other one off to the side and immediately started writing Mary’s story. So sometimes that happens. Sometimes I find an idea and I say, “Well, let me just write down the pieces I need so I can pick back up on that next time,” and then I continue with what I’m doing. My list grows quite easily because of that.

Wicked MortalsSo what’s next for books?

Well, book one came out [October 10]. That’s Monstrous Creatures. The definition of a noun is a person, place or thing—and these three books fit those three branches. Monstrous Creatures is things; it’s the creatures, the unseen spirits, and such. Book two comes out at the end of May, and that’s called Wicked Mortals. Those are the people, people like H. H. Holmes, the serial killer from Chicago, and Kate Webster in London in the 1800s who chopped up her employer and boiled her body to get rid of the evidence. Offered a hot bowl of lard to some kids on the street.

Generous!

And they ate it. A little creepy.

And then the last book will be next October, and that one is Dreadful Places—so there’s the places part of it. It’s the city episodes and the tales that are located in one particular place like the Stanley Hotel, where The Shining was kind of inspired by.

Great! I loved this book, and I’m looking forward to the next two.

 

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Graphic Novel Friday: The Best Comics of October

Hellboy.in.hellNo tricks this month, readers, it's all treats as we draw close our capes and drop the best graphic novels into your plastic pumpkins.

 

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Across 500-plus pages, Katie Green’s memoir intricately and both softly and sharply details her struggle with eating disorders. An illness of the mind made manifest wreaks havoc on her body and family life, as a squiggly darkness battles Green’s attempts to expunge. It’s grim reading but with her struggle also comes, thankfully, a tale of recovery. In selecting it as one of our editors’ picks for Best Books of October, Adrian Liang wrote, “The impact of Katie’s loneliness and constant, low-level despair drives deep into the soul but paradoxically will open your own heart and eyes. You’ll finish this determined to look more closely at your friends and loved ones—and especially your children—to make sure you’re not missing what’s masked by a benign surface.”
 

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Originally a DIY guide for her daughter on how to navigate New York City, beloved cartoonist Roz Chast’s latest work is now part guidebook, part anxiety-ridden how-not-to, and all must-read. After moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn and eventually settling down to Connecticut, Going Into Town reads like a fond remembrance of an old flame but without the rose-tinted glasses (it is subtitled A Love Letter to New York, after all). My favorite bit of advice involves bus-riding: “Make sure you board the one that starts with ‘M’ or you’ll wind up in Queens or the Bronx or some other place that’s not in Manhattan.” Because is there life outside Manhattan, and if there is, is it worth living? Spoken like a true New Yorker (pun intended).
 

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Let the hand-wringing begin! DC Comics first flirted with post-Alan Moore Watchmen in the grumpily received Before Watchmen series of prequels, and now they plan to integrate the forever-scowling characters into the proper DC Universe. In The Button, referring to the blood-stained bit of flair worn by Watchmen’s Comedian, Batman’s investigations send him colliding into the villainous Reverse Flash (who is, himself, chased by the real Flash), leading them all to a showdown in an alternate universe. If this makes sense to you, congratulations—you’ll love the lenticular cover. Everything is at stake, of course, including the next year’s worth of stories, and the finer details, while lost on those unfamiliar with the previous Flashpoint crossover, are not lost on Jason Fabok, the most superhero-y of several credited artists, who intricately illustrates Batman’s Batcave(s) with obsessive detail. It’s all fun on a grand scale even if the poor characters seem so tortured.
 

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Can you resist an 18-inch-tall memoir by one of the greatest living graphic cartoonists? What if I told you that it included, along with an intricate, spiraling, and colorful history of his 30-year career, reproductions of some of his unpublished comics? It’s also, according to its official description, “A flabbergasting experiment in publishing hubris,” and that Chris Ware pile next to your bookshelf could use a new, oddly shaped object to catch your foot in the middle of the night.
 

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It’s almost Halloween, and all good goblins need a tome of deadtime stories to read to their hungry young. Enter Mike Mignola, Goblin King to those who prefer to read by jack-o’-lantern’s light (self included). This gigantic hardcover collects the final journey of Mignola’s greatest creation, Hellboy, as he traverses his destiny and the depths of the underworld. Through these pages lie murder, mystery, silent panels with cryptic, scaly creatures, and—at last—an ending. Plus, there is a robust sketchbook gallery where you can see the master at work, as Mignola writes and illustrates all 300 pages. Raise a goblet of your finest black liquid and bid farewell.
 
Quiet, there’s mischief afoot outside as we near All Hallow’s Eve. Mischief and...maybe something more? That crackle just now; it was only a wrapper from a piece of candy, was it not? Or perhaps it was the sound of leaves gnashing under boots. But your boots are by the back door where you left them—at least, they were last you checked.
 
Happy Halloween!
--Alex

Weekend Reading

BoyneIn this edition, a Halloween read, an uncomfortable Gay Talese encounter, something for kid chefs, and more.

Erin Kodicek: People take Halloween very seriously in my neighborhood. Two skeletons named Chivalry and Manners (funny/not funny) are lounging on the porch next door, a giant spider is perched over a house across the street, and there is a makeshift cemetery in the yard next to that, with certain neighbors' names printed on paper mache tomb stones (probably the ones who didn't lend them sugar or who have dogs that bark at all hours). All of this is getting me in the mood for a good ol' fashioned ghost story (or at least a nod to one), so I'm going to read John Boyne's This House is Haunted. In it a governess discovers that horrifying happenings are afoot at Gaudlin Hall, and she must dig into the house's dubious history if her, and her young charges, are to survive.

Jon Foro: Gay Talese paid us a visit in our offices once, stopping briefly on his tour for A Writer’s Life. At the time, we were working in the Columbia Center, a scalloped black monolith which, at 76 floors, has been Seattle’s tallest building since its completion in 1985. Our options for hosting the estimable journalist were limited to windowless, whiteboarded conference rooms or the communal kitchen. We chose the kitchen, where five or six of us gathered around a surfboard- or missile-shaped table, while Mr. Talese, probably unsure about what to say to this inscrutable group of tech strangers, demonstrated his signature note-taking technique using shirt boards collected from his dry cleaning. About then, an Amazonian from the company’s earliest days came into the kitchen with her lunch: last night’s leftover salmon. Everyone knows that you don’t bring old fish to work and exactly the reason why. But into the microwave it went, first for an eternal minute (whirrrrrr, beep! beep! beep!), and then another even longer minute, painting the room in wharf-reek while everyone pretended that this wasn’t unfortunately weird and uncomfortable, but not in a way that makes for a good story. Not long after that, the visit ended.

That’s my Gay Talese encounter. This weekend, I’m going to revisit his 1966 essay “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.”

Seira Wilson: When the wind kicks up and rain starts coming down, it puts me in the mood for baking and reading.  I’m going to enlist my 10-year-old for some help in the kitchen and test out an upcoming cookbook, Kid Chef Bakes (ages 8-12). We’ve made a few things from the author’s last cookbook (Kid Chef) and I’ve already picked out a couple recipes from this one: a glazed Lemon Loaf Cake and Upside-down Apple Cupcakes. I’m also going to re-read Wonderstruck this weekend.  Just saw the movie and loved it.  I read the book back in 2011 and had forgotten some of the special details that I was delighted to see in the film.  Now I can’t wait to go back and re-read the story in print again…

Adrian Liang: I had the great joy this week of meeting Shaun T, the force behind the Insanity, Cize, and Shaun Week workout programs. Reading his upcoming memoir, T Is for Transformation, was the second-best thing to meeting him in person. T Is for Transformation (November 7) resounds with Shaun T’s unique voice, and from recounting his abuse as a child to his big break in the workout business, the reader will be inspired by his positivity and go-get-‘em attitude. This weekend I’m planning on listening to Rick Riordan’s third Magnus Chase book, The Ship of the Dead. The first two books brought a new twist to Norse mythology (Thor does not come off so well), and Riordan is laugh-out-loud funny as well as insightful,. My tween daughter blasted through The Ship of the Dead when it hit shelves at the beginning of the month, and I need to catch up so that we can talk about it.

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Go Beyond the Puffy Coat with Patagonia Books

Patagonia-Surf
Image from Surf Is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez


You probably already know about Patagonia, the makers of outdoor gear and clothing—particularly that most ubiquitous of down jackets designed for mountaineering, but more commonly observed in upscale shopping malls and on the sidewalks of tech-industry neighborhoods. But if you're at all interested in tales of nature and adventure sports, you should be paying attention to Patagonia Books. Way back in 2007, Patagonia ventured into publishing with Yosemite in the Sixties, with subsequent titles following intermittently over the the next several years. Lately, the program has grown in both scale and ambition. While the list initially mirrored the obsessions (mountaineering, surfing, and fishing) of the company and its co-founder, Yvon Chouinard, additions to the catalog have ventured into a more active environmentalism, a course in line with their corporate ethos of sustainability and responsibility. And like their gear, the books are bomber—handsomely produced editions from outright legends. Steve House might not a household name, but those in the know might call him the LeBron James of climbing. Likewise surf-god Gerry Lopez, and Chouinard himself, a fly fishing evangelist/enthusiast of the highest order. Here are a few of my favorites; you can find more here.

 

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Yosemite in the Fifties: The Iron Age
Along with the aforementioned companion volume covering the 1960s, Yosemite in the Fifties documents the dawn of modern climbing through restored photographs and firsthand accounts of its outsized personalities, including legends Warren Harding and Royal Robbins, whose contrasting philosophies not only spurred a contentious rivalry, but also pushed each other to increasingly audacious accomplishments.
 

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The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre
An intriguing aspect of climbing is the occasional difficulty in verifying some of its accomplishments. In this age of adventure cameras, it's pics or it didn't happen, but new routes or notable summits in the pre-digital past required a level of trust—and it didn't always exist. Such is the case with Argentina's 10,262-foot Cerro Torre and Italian climber Cesare Maestri, whose claims of a 1959 first ascent were met with suspicion and outright derision almost immediately and ever since. Cordes's book is not only a masterful history of one of climbing's most contentious chapters, but an examination of its insular, often inscrutable ethics.
 

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Surf Is Where You Find It
Born in Honolulu, Gerry Lopez spent his youth chasing waves on Oahu's North Shore, where he soon became a legend—and champion—for his stylish technique and mastery of tubes such as the Banzai Pipeline. Not content to limit his innovation to the water, Lopez pushed the limits of surfboard technology, developing a line of short, high performance boards, while traveling the world to seek out previously uncharted waves. (He was also in Conan the Barbarian.) Surf Is Where You Find It collects 38 stories of surfing legends, accompanied by his own stunning collection of photos documenting a golden age of sport and culture.
 

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Beyond the Mountain
A world-renowned climber, House, along with partner Vince Anderson, won the 2005 Piolet d'Or for their ascent of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas. Beyond the Mountain (recipient of the 2009 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature) recounts that climb, along with other grueling "adventures" that led to it. It's an illuminating peek inside the head of an elite athlete—his motivations, self-doubts, and uncanny ability to push through fear—at the pinnacle of what is most often a solitary pursuit.
 

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Chasing Rumor: A Season Fly Fishing in Patagonia
It would be easy to fill up this list with climbing and surfing stories, but Patagonia is equally passionate about fishing. Chasing Rumor takes readers to the rivers of geographical Patagonia, where, in the tradition of all of the best fishing stories, the pursuit of legendary species of 20-pound trout leads to a deeper relationship with the land and its people, and a larger mission to preserve an irreplaceable element of its environment.
 

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Talking to Francesca Hornak about "Seven Days of Us."

Francesca Hornak - credit Billie Scheepers 2017

Spending the holidays with your family can be tricky at the best of times, but imagine a week together under quarantine conditions? That’s the premise of Francesca Hornak’s hilarious, romantic, and poignant new novel, Seven Days of Us. The set-up is this: Olivia, a young British doctor who’s just flown back from Africa, where she was treating patients with an Ebola-like virus, returns to her family home, Weyfield, to spend Christmas with her parents and sister. Each has a secret they’d rather not discuss, and none of them can leave: there’s a risk Olivia may have brought the virus back with her. Of course, things don't go quite as planned. This delightful novel will warm your heart on a cold night, and you may end up feeling that seven days with Olivia's family was not nearly enough. More please!

Amazon Book Review: You’ve been a journalist for the Times of London. How did your experience writing for a newspaper help you write this novel?

Francesca Hornak: It definitely helped me to meet tight deadlines! And it helped me identify with Andrew, Olivia's father, because I’ve been in his shoes, tussling with editors over minor changes and feeling that your stock of pithiness has run dry.

The themes and tone of Seven Days of Us strike a fairly optimal balance of light and serious, familial and romantic. Did you start with one of those threads, or were they all there at the start of writing?

I knew I wanted to write something family based and hopefully funny, but the romance and serious threads emerged as I went on. I asked two friends who treated Ebola in Sierra Leone all about their experiences, and after that there was no way to keep the serious notes down. Even though I changed Ebola to a fictional virus, Haag, I had to do their memories justice.

Did writing Seven Days of Us present any unexpected challenges for you along the way?

The medical details (even in a fictional virus!) were tricky to navigate. Keeping the rotation of narrators consistent each day was awkward too, because it meant Olivia always got the morning, and Jesse [an unexpected guest] the evening—I had to play around with that a bit. And emails turn out to be a nightmare to typeface and copyedit. I won’t put so many in any future novels!

Restaurant reviewing gets a bit of a skewering in your novel. Have you tried your hand at it? As a follow on: pompous critics are everywhere. Is Olivia's father, Andrew, identifiable to anyone?

I’ve never reviewed restaurants but I’ve always enjoyed parodying styles of writing, and British food writers do lay themselves open to satire… Andrew isn’t based on any one critic, though there are a number of male, middle-aged broadsheet writers he could have been.

What are three of your favorite novels, and why? Did the memory of them figure into how you approached writing your own?

A Visit from the Goon Squad because the social observation is so sharp—painfully sharp!

Hangover Square because it’s compellingly dark and unusual, with the best ever first line.

The Catcher in the Rye because you have to love Holden Caulfield, and his calling out of phonies.

I’d love to be able to write something as original, accomplished and enduring as any of the above, but they’re almost too good to think about while you’re writing—I’d get depressed! I do remember a particular scene in A Visit from the Goon Squad, though, that made me think: ‘If I wrote a novel that’s the kind of detail I’d want in it’.  It’s when Stephanie joins a country club where she doesn’t fit in, and meets the WASPy Kathy—and while they’re speaking she wonders how many golden bobby pins Kathy gets through. I love those kind of glimpses into character’s heads.

Your writing is strongly visual—anyone who’s read Seven Days of Us can picture certain rooms in Weyfield, Olivia’s family’s country home. What does the house say about its inhabitants?

The thing about Weyfield is that it’s only really Olivia’s mother Emma (who inherited the house) who feels an attachment to it—plus it’s a slightly unhealthy attachment. She’s hasn’t updated anything since her childhood so it’s a bit of a time-warp—and the kind of dusty house where none of the light bulbs work… Andrew and Phoebe (Olivia's sister) have both tried to colonise and modernise their own rooms, but basically it’s all Emma. I guess that says that this is a family that doesn’t communicate very well! It also says that Emma is quite a nostalgic, sentimental character, but also passive aggressive—she knows her family doesn’t feel at home there the way she does, but she isn’t interested in changing it for them.

I’d love to see the film based on Seven Days of Us. Anything in the works?

Thank you! The TV rights have been sold and script written, so fingers crossed.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing another multi-viewpoint novel, set around a members-only garden in north London. It’s a bit like the scene in Notting Hill (where Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts climb over the railings) but with more urban grit. If Seven Days of Us was about family, this is about community.

(Photo credit: Billy Scheepers)

 


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"You Can't Be What You Can't See": A Conversation with Jason Reynolds

JasonReynolds_200Jason Reynolds is on a roll. Last year his middle grade novel, Ghost, was a National Book Award finalist and this year he's published three new books.  In August, Reynolds released Miles Morales: Spidermana fantastic young adult superhero novel that brings the authors' enthusiasm for the classic character to the page (you can read more about it here). Close on the heels of Miles Morales came Patina, the follow-up to Ghost, and this month Reynolds published Long Way Down--one of the most powerful and moving young adult novels I've read all year. 

Long Way Down is written in short bursts on the page, a timeline only as long as it takes to go down an elevator, but in that short time  a young man experiences the powerful emotions that accompany a sudden loss and faces life-changing choices. 

Below is a short video of my conversation with Reynolds about his books, winning and losing awards, and what drives him to write.

*Long Way Down is one of our Best Young Adult books of October


 

 

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