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Lunching with Lemony or Periwinkle Perils

I've just back in New York from touring for my brand new kids' novel, Another NASTYbook: The Curse of the Tweeties. Some highlights...

My tour starts off in San Francisco, with a little literary lunch at the ever-wonderful Zuni Café. At table with me are writer Daniel Handler, who's of course notoriously associated with mysterious master of misery, Lemony Snicket, and Andrew Sean Greer, author of the marvelous Confessions of Max Tivoli. Over aperitifs (Campari and soda, Austrian rieslings) I ask Daniel how Lemony's doing. Has he, um, seen Lemony recently? (I'm sure he gets tired of the question!) "Oh, he's fine, I see him all the time," Daniel sighs. (Regretfully?) "Lucky you," I murmur. A plate of periwinkles arrives, in honor of a memorable romantic dinner Andrew had here one time. We get digging with toothpicks and properly chatting. Daniel will be reading War and Peace this summer, he announces. I tell him to check out another Russian, the émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov, who died a few years ago and is the most influential literary figure of recent generations. For example, Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan) tips his Russian hat to him. "Read The Compromise," I suggest, mouth crammed with delicious string French fries. "Sensational!" We order more drinks, and then the entrees: haggis for Daniel, sorbet of pork cheeks for Andrew, an awkward but tasty whole baby shark sashimi for me. (As I recall). Lots more drinks. We talk movies, and noisily toast that masterpiece, Shaun of the Dead. I yell about the genius of Kung Fu Hustle. More drinks. For dessert, some kind of delectable French-style steamed bread thing. Then someone says the wrong word: RUM. After a couple bottles, one of us challenges the others to see who can throw his chair the farthest from where we're seated, on a little balcony. We lurch up whooping to get started, but the Zuni staff wrestle us protesting down through the other diners and toss us — like chairs — out onto the sidewalk. What the heck. Daniel gives me a copy of his brilliant new book, Adverbs (seriously brilliant). "Lemony Snicket was the first person who saw every word of it," he hiccups. "Terrif," I hiccup back. "Periwinkles..." hiccups Andrew, summing up our fine time. And so we reel our separate happy writerly ways in the San Francisco sunshine.

Next day, more responsibly, I give a reading from Another NASTYbook, plus Q&A, for thirty middleschoolers at 826Valencia, the flagship operation for Dave Eggers' 826 non-profit centers for tutoring kids in writing. This is a terrific nationwide operation, with other 826's in New York, Chicago, LA, etc. Led by national exec director Ninive Clements Calegari, the staff here are all young and super capable. Afterwards I get a tour of the new McSweeney's offices across the street.

First phase of book tour over. On to a late-afternoon plane for LA...

Oh, changing the subject: Tonight, May 8, is the James
Beard food writing awards
. My girlfriend, Anya von Bremzen, is nominated for her super-tasty book, The New Spanish Table. (What a great couple years, researching and home-testing the recipes.) She wrote an essay about it earlier this year for Fingers crossed. I'll let you know how the judging turns out. Anya is up against superstar chef Mario Batali's new tome in the "international" category, so things won't be easy.

Books mentioned in this post

Barry Yourgrau is the author of Another NASTYbook: The Curse of the Tweeties

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