Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Managing Marketing

Red slide turtle in Liz Christy community garden on Bowery and Houston. Photo (c) Liza Bear 2001. My plot is at M'Finda Kalunga on Chrystie St. Despite good intentions I garden about as much as I blog.

Publisher pays lip service to book as joint venture with author (sic), but the reality is elsewhere. Literary chores and email pleadings take up all week. So I miss the Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and Abel Ferrara screenings at NYFF. It's hard for DIY ers to give up freedom of choice. Marketing rules the roost! Still, I chip at the fortress. Production manager breaks silence and agrees to meet author half-way on use of sans serif for display type and sizing of photos. :)

I'll let the rain water my plot.

Of the bewildering array of people supposedly responsible for PR (here they call it "marketing product management") one is on maternity leave, another has broken her wrist, a third is on vacation. So the task of writing the copy for the website falls on my editor and me. We ping pong drafts furiously across the internet. By Friday at five, when it's a wrap for the corporate world, we've agreed on the wording, but now marketing says copy has to fit back cover of book as well .... I go to my bookshelf and study closely the Penguin edition of Gertrude Stein's Writings and Lectures.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Writing a Book, One Blink at a Time ...

Yes, a very sobering way to write a book. Try blinking your eye for each letter of each word of each sentence you are thinking. And not just a paragraph to fill the blog cage but for an entire book. That's how Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former editor of Elle, dictated his redemptive memoir, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). Letter by letter, blink by blink on hearing continual recitations of the alphabet. Julian Schnabel directed a screen adaptation of the book, oui, en Français, with Matthieu Almaric in the lead and a mostly French supporting cast and crew.

The film was
screened at the NYFF yesterday. Whatever you might have thought of Schnabel's press conference showmanship--I was a bit taken aback-- his Best Director prize from Cannes and his cameraman's Janusz Kaminski's Prix de la Technique are well deserved. They successfully told the story from the point of view--both visual and psychological-- of a character who has "locked-in syndrome" ie almost complete paralysis, except for the movement of one eye, while remaining totally lucid (the result of a massive stroke). Kaminski's camera brilliantly rose to the challenge of recreating monoptic vision. The voice-over of Bauby's ironic interior monologue works well, and the decision to use the original northern French seaside hospital location and medical personnel who had treated Bauby add to the film's authenticity.

So no more kvetching about literary chores.

[I would post a clip from the pc here, except that I just shipped my camera back to the repair shop for a "redo" and can't upload.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A film about a typeface

For some reason the publisher outsourced the copy-editing, design and production of the book to a conglomerate in Madison Wisconsin rather than doing it in-house. Author interaction is strictly rationed, but I made my suggestions anyway.

Correction: design decisions are made by publisher in Connecticut, to the extent that they are made at all.

To console myself, after fedexing the mss back to Madison
on time, I go to a screening of Helvetica, a fascinating documentary by Gary Hustwit about the origins and ascendancy of the famous typeface, and a good examination of graphic design in a social context. Watch for it at the IFC if you are in New York, or later on DVD.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Samira Makhmalbaf

Samira Makhmalbaf dropped out of high school at
15 and got her father, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, to teach
her filmmaking. Her first feature,
The Apple,
which she made at 18,
was shown in competition at
Cannes, as was
her second film, Blackboards. I
originally interviewed her for Elle and later for
Boston Globe.

Photo copyright Liza Bear 2000

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Moscow Literary Lion

I saw Gleb Panfilov's hilarious film Tema [The Theme] at the NYFF after it was released post-Glasnost.

It's about a Moscow literary lion not too happy with having to toe the line. In the depths of the Russian winter he seeks out a country retreat to write only to find, to his chagrin, that everyone in the little town, from the traffic cop to the museum tour guide, is also a writer.

Immediately after seeing the film, I rang Betsy at Bomb from the payphone at Lincoln Center.

The interview with him is the first film interview that I did and the first in the book. The title is from a quote of Panfilov's,"beyond the frame of the permissible". My friend the great photographer Jimmy de Sana took the portrait of Panfilov, and it's not in the book. But de Sana's portrait of Inna Churikova, who stars in the film, is . . .

Photo copyright Jimmy de Sana.

laboring on labor day

My bedside reading right now happens to be
Max Perkins: Editor of Genius.
The book fell open at the page where Hemingway takes off for the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Havana to read proofs at his
leisure. I made it to Fire Island for four days but without the mss, so I'm back at the local café with the red pen to meet my deadline.

Photos: India Amos