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Areas of My Expertise

3:45 a.m.

Yo yo yo, here it is, my last blog of the week. Did y'all know this week is the first time I ever done a blog in my life? I always said I would never do that silly shit, and then here I am, doing it — and enjoying it, too.

Tonight I got my 50 pages of the FOUND book off to Amanda. Every week I battle snowstorms and race to FedEx and get there the minute before they close. They hate me over there, I make 'em stay late. Next week, I pledge, I will get there an hour early.

I got a couple last stories I want to wind y'all down with. The first one involves John Hodgman of This American Life and the New York Times Magazine, and his new book The Areas of My Expertise. John is one of those guys, like another radio friend of mine, Jonathan Goldstein, who, like, every single thing they do or say is funny as shit. You get ten-word emails from these motherf--kers and you're laughing all day about them. Funny dudes, man. John's book is a hilarious invented almanac where he tells stories explaining many of the world's great and minute wonders, but all of these stories are made up. It's like he turned his demented brain inside out and we get to read it.

It turns out that John wrote almost his entire book in a wonderful little cafe/bar in western Mass called The Lady Killigrew. And the Lady K, run by a real sweet, smart, kick-ass pair named Matthew Latkiewicz and Sarah, has actually hosted a few of our FOUND shows in the past. Well, sparks in all of our minds were f--kin' flying or whatever, and before long it was all worked out for John to do a reading when his book came out IN THE SAME ACTUAL ROOM WHERE HE WROTE IT!!

Now, to back up a minute, I actually wrote this book of stories, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, back in 2000 while I was living in the mountains a half-hour outside of Taos, New Mexico. So on the 50-city tour that me and my brother Peter just did, we were sure to schedule a stop in Taos. It was so cool and intense to be back in Taos, five years later, reading from the book I wrote when I lived in the area. It really made for a wonderful and surreal night. But we had our event in a bar I'd never even been to before... John did his Lady K reading in the same goddamn spot he wrote the thing! I think that's so cool. From what I heard from people who were there, the roof damn near blew off the joint... yeah, Hodgman definitely brings the ruckus.

Anyway, his book is great.

Also, one more book shout — my friend Abram Himelstein runs a fantastic program in New Orleans called the Neighborhood Story Project where high-school kids (his students) document their neighborhoods and churn out beautiful, affecting books. I've gotten to know some of these kids over a few visits down there, and they are great, great kids, they just blow me away. These books are INCREDIBLE, and all proceeds benefit the project and the kids, all of whom had their lives deeply f--ked up by Katrina. Buy 'em all — or at least check out my favorites: Ashley Nelson's The Combination, and Arlet and Sam Wylie's Between Piety and Desire.

Finally, I want to close by following Susan and Peter's lead and telling my little Powell's origin story. So yeah, in 2002, on FOUND Magazine's Nation of Millions tour, I wandered into Powell's to see if I could get them to carry FOUND Magazine. A lady at the counter said I should talk to someone named Kevin Sampsell, but that he wasn't around that day. So I left a copy of the magazine and a note for Kevin and wandered off.

Within a few days, Kevin emailed me the nicest email ever, and told me he was already down with FOUND, and asked me to send him a shitload of magazines. Then, when I self-published my book of short stories, Kevin was unbelievably supportive, he just really got behind that shit. Next thing I knew, we were doing an event in Powell's, me and my little bro, with 300 people packed in there! Now, a few years have passed, and the more I've travelled and met other DIY folks, zinesters, etc., the more I have come to respect and appreciate the absolutely incredible efforts of Mr. Kevin Sampsell. He is so widely loved and revered by people all around the country, and for such good reason: he is a tireless warrior for indie publishing, small presses, and DIY writers everywhere. It's not an easy fight, but Kevin fights it because this shit matters that much to him. And in a world where the things we write don't always matter to a whole lot of people, his generosity and genuine interest is solid gold. I ain't saying this shit because I owe him money or anything and am trying to get out of it, I say this because he should know how much he is appreciated. Dude's a kick-ass writer, too, no joke. I love his book A Common Pornography so much that last year when I was trying to teach my dad how to write stories, I used Kev's book as our one and only textbook.

Anyways, I best be out. Thanks Dave Weich for letting me jibber-jabber all week and thanks especially to any of you who checked out what I had to say. I hope you like the books I suggested. I know Byron will.

Peace — Davy

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Areas of My Expertise
    Used Hardcover $1.95
  2. The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas:... Used Trade Paper $8.00

  3. Between Piety and Desire
    New Mass Market $18.50
  4. Found II: More of the Best Lost,... Used Trade Paper $6.95

Davy Rothbart is the author of Found II: More of the Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World

6 Responses to "Areas of My Expertise"

    Georgie December 16th, 2005 at 11:11 am

    Yup — we sure are lucky to have Kevin at Powells. He is super! You'll see him pop-up here and there on this here blog with his tips on small press gems and interviews with small press giants like this one with Joe Biel. Thanks Davy, for being such a motherf__ing entertaining blogger. Good luck with the newest issue of Found.

    ing December 16th, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Hiya. I guess Hodgman's book is on backorder -- Arr! I work at this little store in San Fran and everyone's mad to get it.

    I do these reviews on short story collections -- well, actually, on writers of short stuff. I'll be sure to review you soon, yeah?


    Davy December 17th, 2005 at 10:54 pm

    hi georgie-- cool! yeah, the 2nd FOUND book will be out next may, and i'm sure i'll be visiting you guys on the spring tour, so i hope to see you soon.

    hi ing - that would be awesome for you to review The Lone Surfer. i worked hard on it and of course i'm eager for people to check it out! thanks a ton, keep me posted

    Samps December 18th, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks, Davy. Ya gonna make me cry over here.

    One of my favorite things of this year was being able to include an unpublished Davy story in my anthology, The Insomniac Reader. Real solid stuff. You can always depend on Davy to bring it. A true entertainer.

    See you next year, D.


    Dave (Post Author) December 18th, 2005 at 7:35 pm

    ing: The Hodgman is one of the pleasant surprises of the season. That said, I shouldn't have been surprised at all because Sean McDonald at Riverhead sent me a pre-publication copy -- and Sean is never wrong. Lesson for 2006: Next time Sean sends me a book, force our order office to stock up beyond all reasonable expectations.

    The good news is that The Areas of My Expertise is now back in stock.

    Ashley Nelson January 6th, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Davy u r da best, Glad u enjoy da book and wish u all da best with FOUND BE COOL

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