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Author Archive: "Tony Horwitz"

A Very Abridged Primer on Writing

Yesterday we left off on the subject of 16th-century swine, which just goes to show the relevance of history. So click on the book cover to your right, add to cart, and proceed immediately to checkout!

I feel compelled to say this, because the book tour I'm not blogging about is beginning to look like a CDC watch list . My next stop is Virginia, home of ham, and I'm also headed for Chicago, Hog Butcher for the World, St. Louis, famed for its brats and pork steak, and Buffalo, where I'm staying at the home of a sausage magnate.

Yes, I've heard: eating pork has nothing to do with the flu formerly known as swine. Tell that to the Egyptians, who know from plagues and yesterday started slaughtering their 300,000 pigs. Meanwhile, next door in Israel, where pork is made kosher by calling it "white steak," there's already been a swine-flu case.

So I'll be laying off the bacon, though a pig will appear later in


Stinky Corn and Spanish Swine

A few posts ago, I pointed out a problem with blogging about books. Namely, I could be using this time to write an actual book. Such as the one I just contracted to write, and that's sitting neglected while I squander the first tranche of my book advance.

My point was theoretical, of course. Like most authors, I welcome any excuse to take a break from the coal-face of my computer screen , by which I mean the Word document icons on my desktop that look like miniature pages turned down at the corner and covered in actual text. Mine bear labels like "Book" and "Book Notes" and, most optimistically, "Book Chapters." Hackers alert: if you crack my PC, you can have those files. They're blank. Just please don't take the family photos or mess with my fantasy baseball team. I'm currently in second place.

Anyway, heeding the need in these troubled times to conserve our resources, I'll continue the mission of my last post, which was to recycle research from the book I've just ...

Time to Go Back in Time

This blog is off to a roaring start. My first post, Attention Must Be Paid, took its title from a famous line in Death of a Salesman. Yet no attention was paid me whatsoever. I really am the Willy Loman of book salesmanship.

Then, on day two, I told of a conversation with a librarian friend, whom I consider witty and winsome. This time I did provoke a strong reaction — from my friend. She accused me of portraying her as a waspish crone who drinks dandelion wine and disapproves of James Joyce and any other example of modernity. The sole reader comment on yesterday's post suggests as much. I have therefore appended a correction/amplification* below.

Since I as yet show no signs of swine flu, which would allow me to malinger and die in order to escape further embarrassment on this blog, I'll move today to safer ground: the distant past. That's the principal subject of my book, A Voyage Long and Strange. It opens with a visit to Plymouth Rock, where I learn that most Americans, including myself, know almost nothing about the


In Which We Fret About the Future of Books

Having pledged not to blog about my book tour, I should blog about books — specifically, my book. But this gives me pause. Aren't blogs the enemy of The Book? Instead of reading this right now, couldn't you be reading a book — ideally, one of my books? And couldn't I be writing one instead of blogging about writing one?

Being an addictive sort, I have another concern. Is blogging a gateway drug? Once I'm hooked on short, evanescent dispatches, can a Twitter habit be far behind?

On the book tour I'm not blogging about, I took a break from the hard work of speaking to adoring readers to attend a friend's birthday party. Christina works at a New England athenaeum — essentially, a fancy old word for library that you don't often hear these days, outside of spelling bees (tip for students: Athena–eum). Christina doesn't just work at the Providence Athenaeum, she lives and breathes its antique air and regards 1838, the year of ...

Attention Must Be Paid

Hello. Like most previous guests in this space, I'm on book tour. But I promise not to blog about that, unless something awful and amusing happens, which it won't. Book tours are the literary version of political campaigns; they're so carefully scripted that a revealing or spontaneous word is rarely heard. Authors and their handlers are on message 24/7.

Also, book touring has the same effect on me as visiting the South. My manners improve, at least temporarily. At home, I may lick my plate, curse my dogs, hide behind a newspaper to avoid my mother-in-law, or threaten to lock my sons in the basement if they don't shut up. But you'd never guess that from meeting me now. On tour, I'm a traveling salesman: the customer is always right, even if he bellows an inane question at my reading, or asks me to inscribe a book to his goldfish . Also, I'm terrified that author "escorts," whom I always pump for gossip about other writers' bad behavior, will gossip about me to the next writer they schlep from airport to hotel to reading. So I'm relentlessly ...

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