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Author Archive: "Louis Bayard"

Have You Smelled the Milk?

Someone asked me not long ago to describe my perfect day. I answered without hesitation: a day of uninterrupted reading.

As part of this fantasy, of course, I would probably need to grow a bigger butt because I find I can never sit as long as I'd like to. Also, my children would have to be magically and benignly spirited away: They have been known to tear books out of my hands. And come to think of it, the rest of the world would need to go away, too, except for Yo Yo Ma and someone to take drink orders.

But here's the part I would never have to worry about: finding something to read. That's the heaven-sent quality of books. You finish one, another rises to take its place. This blessed superfluity is, I think, one of the things that keeps me alive.

That is, until I add my own book to the teeming hordes. Then mortality suddenly enters the picture. Because, in the face of all those other titles, my ...


Slash and Burn

Among the more intriguing details to emerge about Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin is her purported efforts to ban books in her home town of Wasilla, Alaska. According to Time magazine:

Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

As my fellow Powell's blogger Brockman has already noted, there's something almost touchingly disingenuous about asking a librarian to help you ban books — a bit like asking a fireman to throw a lit match into a dry forest. And speaking of bonfires, the specter of Fahrenheit 451 naturally hovers over any attempt to slash ...


The Mouths of Babes

So my eight-year-old son tells me he has a great title for my next book.

"What is it?" I ask him.

"The Dead."

Now is probably not the time to tell him about the James Joyce story — you know, the one with Gretta Conroy and the late Michael Furey and the snow falling faintly upon all the living and the dead, etc. But it probably is time to wonder if my son will grow up to be a homicidal maniac.

Don't get me wrong. He's a sweet kid, a gentle kid. He's never been in a serious fight with anyone. He's about as far from an alpha boy as you'll find. But he does have an interest in mayhem.

One might even call it a pronounced inclination. Whenever a Netflix movie arrives in the mail, Seth has one and only one question: "Is there killing in it?" The correct answer is always: "Yes." His biggest dream is someday to watch Bride of Chucky. He demands to know how ...


A Glimpse into Humanity’s Future

I don't think hotel rooms should be smarter than people.

In New York last week, while signing stock at local book stores, I stayed at the Essex House on Central Park South. It's a lovely place — no, really, it's lovely — but by the time I left, I felt a bit like the supermodel in In and Out who doesn't know how to use the rotary phone and, in a panic, starts pressing the dial holes. That's pretty much what I was doing with my hotel room phone. Room Service was no longer a simple button or a number string but a component in an intricate tele-screened Venn diagram. I tried pushing the screen, I tried pushing the nearest buttons... I was reduced finally to calling the hotel operator, who gently reminded me that I could have called Room Service directly. "No, I can't," I told her.

This was nothing compared to the lights, which clicked on the moment I entered the room — an unfurling carpet of electricity — and then clicked off as soon as ...


Winning Friends and Influencing People

Given that I'm blogging for a nationally recognized book retailer, this will sound disingenuous, but it's true. I stink at promoting myself.

This fact is brought home to me every time I'm around other authors. A couple of years ago, at the Virginia Festival for the Book, I was signing books with a mystery writer so much my superior in self-publicity that I began to wonder if we were in the same business. Arrayed on the table before her: business cards, a custom-made nameplate, bookmarks bearing the cover of her latest title, a special mini-easel for displaying said title, and Xeroxed copies of her Big Review. "I wish we didn't have to do this," she whispered, even as she reeled in one passer-by after another. "Would you care to read my book?" she called. "Would you care to read my book?" Even if the person in question didn't care to, she managed somehow to extract his e-mail address, which she filed away in her database, from which she would then send monthly e-blasts of her progress.

And then there was me. The table in ...


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