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Original Essays | June 20, 2014 2 comments
I'm not a bookseller, but I'm married to one, and Square Books is a family. And we all know about families and how hard it is to disassociate... Continue »
Dennis CassDescribe your latest book.
When people ask me for the "elevator pitch" for my book, I tell them we can start in the elevator, but chances are I'll end up following you down to the parking ramp, where we'll stand awkwardly by your car while you hold your keys in your hand hoping that I'll go away. But here goes:
Head Case is an accessible survey of basic concepts in neuroscience. It's also a memoir about fathers and sons, prescription drug abuse and mental illness, and why some people shouldn't live in New York City. It's a popular science book for people who would never in a million years read a popular science book, and it might be the shortest book that has ever written about the human brain that's not aimed at children. Head Case is also about babies. And cigarettes. But not smoking around babies. There is also some stuff in there about cave people.
Frankly, in the four years I worked on the book I never once talked about it without the person across from me looking confused or uncomfortable. I need help. If you can find a good way to describe it in 25 words or less, lunch is on me.
I don't think writers are better liars in general, but they are the best liars when it comes to talking about how hard they work. I love it when I'm listening to the radio and I hear a writer talk about his or her disciplined schedule, how they get up at 4 a.m. every morning and write for six hours, take a break and then write for four more. I think, Really? You write when your kid is sick, or it's your wife's birthday? You write after Election Day, or the morning you get a bad review in the Times or when you're hungover, or bored with words, or fighting with your mom? Because I feel like I almost never write. There is always some bit of life getting in the way. But ask me what I did today and I'll say, "I got up at four, and wrote for about six hours, then took a break..."
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Why do you write?
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
This is one of those for-better-or-for-worse categories. You either like it when the writer takes center stage or you don't. I personally love it. As a journalist for ten years, I hate it when I read a story where something amazing happens and the author pretends like they weren't there to witness it. You're right there and presumably a person. React! In any case, each of the following books demonstrates how different writers put themselves in the story in different and interesting ways. Plimpton gets down and dirty, but still manages to keep his professional distance, while Buford goes native. The Thompson I think is overrated, but you can't deny the spirit of the piece, nor his courage in abandoning reality as a way of capturing reality. As for the Brown, I haven't read it, but I hear it's amazing, and this is my way of reminding myself that I need to get to it sooner than later. Finally, the Amis is on the list because this is the book I read when I feel like there is no point in writing any more. Sentence for sentence it's one of the sharpest, funniest, most human books I have ever read. Money energizes me and pushes me to be better than I am, even when I know I'll never beat it. If I were a racing dog, this would be my rabbit.