Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I just came back from Carefree, Arizona.
Yes, it sounds like a joke: Carefree, Arizona. Is that a real place, you may ask - like Good Head, Idaho or Cunnilingus, New Mexico? The answer is yes. Carefree is a town in the desert north of Phoenix - one of those retirement communities where senior citizens long for birdies and huge villas are stuffed with life support equipment.
What was I doing there? Am I retiring, too? No, I'm too young for that, thank you very much, but once in a while, I need a vacation in a place where it doesn't rain - and Carefree brags about having 330 sunny days a year.
We arrived in the middle of a thunder storm, of course.
And I do mean thunderstorm. We're not talking the kind of sissy rain you experience in Portland, Oregon or Copenhagen, Denmark. It rained so hard that the cacti in the desert screamed for mercy.
The raindrops were like bullets, but at least we got a casita facing the desert and the glorious mountains.
Here we spent six days doing absolutely nothing - something I've become an expert at since I'm a writer. At one point, I called the front desk because I dropped Vanity Floor on the floor and wanted someone to pick it up for me.
I had bell boys chewing my food, too, of course. Why else would you go on vacation?
Since we're huge fans of wild life, we did find the strength to venture into the desert looking for bobcats, mountain lions, and wild pigs. But the only thing we saw was golfers racing around in their gay little carts. Wild life gets the hell out when Mr. and Mrs. Frostbite from Wisconsin start practicing their golf swings. So does everybody else who is sane.
We did run into an abundance of cute wild bunnies though - more than you'll ever see at the Playboy Mansion. But four days after we arrived we jumped with joy: ten wild pigs were feasting on the green at the ninth hole. Much to our dismay, they didn't look dangerous at all. Actually, they looked like they'd been groomed at the resort's Golden Door Spa, a place so new age that they added taxes on anything non-tofu.
So all the dangerous animals of the desert left us totally unharmed. Not even a skinny coyote dropped by for an eggnog. Sometimes I went out into the wilderness and stuck a few fingers down the snake holes but the local rattlers were too busy sleeping to take the bait.
So we were stuck for Christmas in the luxury of the Boulders Resort with its landscaped cacti, its scarily cheery staff (goood moooorning, how aaare you tooodayyyy, Siiiir?), and something as obscene as a Chelsea fan playing the piano in the bar.
Christmas day I finally got my wish. I woke up with a tiger staring down at me. In a daze, I reached for my gun, just to be on the safe side .... but slowly it dawned on me that the tiger didn't move. It was a white tiger, too, with a big red bow. I immediately named it Generic and carried it around the resort like a happy toddler.
Finally I'd had a taste of real Arizonian wild life.
Friday, December 17, 2010
When people lower their voices in cafes, I always eavesdrop like a bellboy.
And I make no secret about it, either. I move a little closer to my neighbors' lattes, take out my pencil, and write down what they say word for word in my filthy little notebook.
I'm an author after all, so it's my divine right to look for inspiration wherever I go. But sometimes people get upset. They start to fidget and smell in the strangest of places, but I just smile and keep on taking notes.
"Excuse me," the odd cafe guest complains, "we're actually having a private conversation here."
"A private conversation?" I laugh. "Excuse me, but do you live in the Baroque period?"
"Where's your powdered wig? This is 2010, remember? Privacy is dead, so just continue talking about your nephew's crack addiction. I might be able to use it in a novel one day," I smile reassuringly. "Or at least I'll write some tweets about it..."
So does my eavesdropping sound crude, you think?
It's not at all - it's almost sweet and innocent. Something from a bygone era. Why? Because privacy is a word that has lost its meaning a long time ago.
I'm not even talking about Wikileaks and Facebook. Who cares about cry babies who can't use a condom? I'm talking about our online and offline lives.
Frankly, we've all become as transparent as spring water. Every single of us is surrounded by hackers where ever we go. Our cell phones rat on our geographic location; our basements are on Google Earth and can be spied on by Martians. Facebook will use facial recognition soon, meaning that you'll be tagged every time there's a photo of you getting a ... facial?
We're in a middle of a cyber revolution where none of us can hide. And hey, it's going to get even 'better' during the next few years. By 2014, most of us will have websites dedicated to our balls - we just won't know about it, unless we google ourselves obsessively.
So next time you meet a novelist, listening in on your conversations in a real cafe, have a little compassion. Soon the word real will be a thing of the past, anyway...
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Oh my God, another revolution has happened in publishing - a revolution of much bigger importance than Wikileaks or global warming:
Amazon.com has given authors access to bookscan numbers!
That's right. For the first time in the history of man, writers can now go online and see how much their books sell. Isn't that wonderful? Now there are more reasons for us to celebrate than ever. Or slash our wrists with Swiss pocket knives.
When I heard the news, I immediately logged into my Author Central page on Amazon.com and checked my numbers. The last copy of The Tsar's Dwarf was sold in New Bedford, Rhode Island. Wednesday at 2.22 pm. To a woman in a brown coat. Now if only I could get the pin code to her credit card as well.
A lot of publishers and literary agents don't want authors to go online and study their numbers. They're afraid we're going to be depressed about our sales, but how could we be?
Every time I'm unhappy with my ranking, I just concentrate on the millions of books that have sold less than mine.
Some of them are haiku poets from Tulsa, others are autobiographies of porn stars; a few are well-written self help books for child molesters.
Even Dostoevski has a book that has done worse than mine - the Serbo-Croatian version of The Double. It's from 1963, mind you, but any time I can beat Dostoevsky, I'm going to enjoy it to the hilt.
So I absolutely adore the bookscan on Amazon.
My novel The Tsar's Dwarf is a cute little slut that still gets around after two years on the American market. But even though it has done well for a translated novel, the time probably hasn't come to buy that condo in Palm Beach ...
Link to my Author Central page on Amazon.com. If you're an author yourself with books on Amazon, you can sign up, too, so you can find out how many books you sell in say, Fairbanks, Alaska or Johnson, Vermont. But hey, don't forget your wonderful indie book sellers. We want them to survive as well.
The all-important 'small' book stores were very supportive when I was on my American book tour two years ago. As you can tell from the picture, even Obama showed up to my reading at The Booksmith in San Francisco.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I met Camilla Overbye Roos back in the eighties. She served at a birthday party of mine and did a memorable job, spilling red wine on my mother and charming the pants off a middle aged fashion designer.
About a year ago, I met up with her for the first time in over twenty years. During that time Camilla has been very successful. Around 1990, she became an actress in Hollywood working with people like David Lynch. She made the cover of Life Magazine in 1993 as a young starlet. And hey, she had a small part in an unknown film called Titanic where she played Kate Winslet's Norwegian friend.
She has also directed several prize winning documentaries, among others Queenas about Latino transvestites in LA.
Now Camilla and I are enjoying a Vietnamese dinner together, but we're not talking about her past in Tinseltown; we're not discussing how she used to play backgammon with Leonardo di Caprio on the set of Titanic; we're discussing something of much more importance: whether ghosts can have a hard on.
"Yes, they can," Camilla says taking a bite of a huge Vietnamese spring roll. "I used to live in the El Royale in Hollywood and we had a ghost that haunted the apartment building - he used to walk around in his bathrobe with a great erection. I kept on telling the others, send him up to me, why don't you send him up to me?"
I watch the spring roll disappear into Camilla's mouth.
Never trust an actress when she goes weird on you, I tell myself. Especially not if she has worked with David Lynch.
According to Camilla, the name of the ghost was Mr. Felcher. Everybody knew him because he had lived in the building in the flesh (so to speak), but now he had taken his boner with him to the Afterlife.
Mr. Felcher started haunting his own apartment - then he was seen in three other apartments as well. The four places had one thing in common; they used the doorknobs from the old place. Why a ghost would be emotionally attached to a doorknob is beyond weird, but the well mannered lady who was the first to spot Mr. Felcher's boner blushed when she told the management about her sighting.
"His bathrobe was open," she gasped, "wide open."
Mind you, even in Hollywood horny ghosts are a rarity. And it doesn't make it better that felcher is a description of a sexual act that doesn't go down well in the Bible belt. Unless you happen to have an anus, of course.
Ghosts are souls that refuse to leave the earth. They feel they have unfinished business, so they stay around trying to contact the living. Mr. Felcher was probably scared that he couldn't flash any archangels in the Afterlife, so he hung around El Royale looking for a blow job.
Actually, El Royale was a good place for any one who wanted to fulfill his sexual fantasies. Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman, Michelle Williams, and Diane Lane lived there. So did Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon, and Billy Zane who probably could have gotten a quickie with most female ghosts.
"I loved living in El Royale," Camilla tells me, "but as I said, I never saw Mr. Felcher. I lived in the wrong apartment."
Apart from this tragedy, it's hard to feel sorry for my friend. Even though most of Camilla's Titanic scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, she still lived on the Mexican set for months, hanging out with Leonardo, Kate Winslet, and other beautiful icebergs.
James Cameron, the director of Titanic, was fond of her, too. Actually so fond that di Caprio begged Camilla to come on the set on her days off because she had such a soothing influence on the volatile director.
But now Camilla is back in her native Copenhagen after twenty years of la dolce vita in New York, Hollywood, and London. She has three small kids who are living it up in their Danish apartment. And she's studying psychology. So would you if you had lived in Southern California.
And Camilla doesn't seem to miss the old days at all. Not even Mr. Felcher with that great metaphysical boner of his.
****An earlier version of this entry was published here in July 2009.