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Yet another commentary about Adam, Kris, the state of our culture…

May 22, 2009 at 4:15 am

It’s a ridiculous time of the morning. Pitch black outside, wind whistling its special 15th floor seaside tune. I decide it’s time to get out my Idol angst.

Might as well. It’ll be next year and another season before we know it. Frankly, I could use the break.

Why did Kris win? Why would America settle for the less talented contestant? Why do we ask so little of ourselves when it comes to art?

Kris is a talented musician, don’t get me wrong. Adorable, what looks like a humble guy, and has his own knack for making a song his own. His voice is pleasant, sweet, a bit in the predictable, familiar timbre that we hear mostly in the country genre. Nothing wrong with that.

I may be a musical snob, but I still like country. Give me a good Hank Williams tune, a ballad by Trisha Yearwood, Allison Krauss or a croon by sweet, sweet Vince Gill any day.

But I guess familiar is what the public gravitates toward. Familiarity is safety for most of us and Kris was the safe choice.

What were we getting in the Adam package? First and foremost we were getting a bigger size talent than Idol’s ever seen. Maybe a little off-putting because of his theatrical nuances. Some said he was too “Broadway.” Is that synonymous with “too good?” Even I, at first, had a little trouble swallowing this odd prime time presentation. I have a pretty wide range of musical taste and Adam did make me twitch at first.

Then, as the season unfolded and I started to witness some unbelievably high notes coming from this androgynous creature, like others, I couldn’t wait to see what Adam was going to do next. His choice of song, his eyeliner, his hair, his get-up. His level of musical sophistication along with his originality was at once refreshing and a little curious. I loved all those things and found myself actually jumping up from my yellow leather couch and cheering.

I woke up the birds. I’m pretty sure they like Adam, too.  Can’t really speak for the cat, he’s very fussy.

All along I wondered how the television audience would receive this odd beast. He looked a little different than the rest, sounded a lot different, too. From the first I thought his talent was head and shoulders above the other contestants. And, I loved many of them, especially Allison and Danny. Yes, dorky Danny Gokey, whose soulful voice is as smooth as silk. Citing Allison needs no further explanation.  She’s scary talented.

So, it’s really not just a ‘singing contest’ as Randy Jackson always says.  If it were, Kris wouldn’t have outlasted Allison and Danny. And a few others. 

Again, it’s familiarity. It’s “give us more of what we’re used to”. It’s, please forgive me, sheep consciousness. There, I said it. Little to do with cultural sophistication. Little to do with taking risks.

That’s  just fine, though. I was impressed that Adam Lambert got as far as he did. I do attribute that to the power of good art to rise above the status quos. It can push our limits and make us a little uncomfortable. Dare I say it, even rap music has shown us some of that, forcing us to look at sides of life that fat and happy white America likes to turn away from. I am NOT a rap fan, but I do get its value. But, please, would you try to make it a little more melodic?!

Perhaps rap is a bad comparison, but you catch my drift. 

Art powered through once again. And, made it to second place. 

I say, bravo, Adam, and good for you Kris.

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Who will it be now?

May 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

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Dear Mr./Ms New Author

May 19, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Dear John Doe (author),

It comes to my attention that your expectations have exceeded the realities of book publishing. 

Why is my book not being sold at Wal-mart? Why am I not on the cover of Newsweek? How come we haven’t sold 4,000 books in the first week? My book’s perfect for Oprah, don’t you think? My friends told me that they couldn’t find my book at Barnes & Noble? Can you get my book into the airport stores?

Trust me, you are not the first to ask me these questions. They come as part and parcel of almost every author and for good reason. Why wouldn’t these things happen? An author, like you, puts their blood, sweat and tears into their book and, in turn, expects to be rewarded in kind. Your name in lights, plenty of books “face out” on the bookstore shelves, and a big fat royalty check coming in every few months. Why not? 

Reality isn’t that generous, I’m afraid. It’s kind of a sad math equation that if you sat down to figure out, in terms of how many books are published in a year, you probably wouldn’t be doing this. I’ve said it over and over and over, it’s a numbers game with nasty odds, too many books competing for too little space. And, space that’s shrinking by the hour with every multi-media distraction that comes down the pike. Couple that with the corporatizing of American commerce, in this case – as applied to books, and the prospects are none too rosy.

Would I suggest throwing in the towel? Would I suggest never betting on a horse or taking a big risk? Not me.

How would I tell you to keep doing what your doing, follow your heart’s path and keep your chin up. Bestsellers, even modest ones, do happen. Authors DO get on Oprah and store buyers often purchase large enough quantities of titles to actually show up when you look for your book. It happens. 

And when it does, it’s a beautiful thing.

Keep your eye on the ball (your book) and keep exploring. Look for novel ways to garner exposure for your book. It’s really a great time for this since the possibilities afforded by the internet are endless. Hire a marketing genius or just google “publishing your book” and you’ll unearth a ton of formulas.

Like diets, if you stick to them (the hard part), some actually do work. Persistence pays off, even if you find yourself in a whole different environment than you planned for. Maybe your book will turn out to be more of a calling card for your professional life rather than the main source of income for you. Maybe you’ll decide to help someone else on their publishing path. Maybe you’ll invent the next prototype for techno books.

But, don’t rule out the bestseller.

Bestsellers happen.

People still read.

Even when it doesn’t seem like the tide is turning your way, it’s not the end of book selling as we know it.

At least, not yet.

My dear author, I hope I have not dampened your dream or discouraged you from putting your hat in the circle or your fingers to the keypad. I’m hopeful that this smidgen of reality finds you in a place of literary optimism with at least one foot on the ground.

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Healing

May 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

 

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The twilight zone of flu (or exile in paradise penthouse )

May 17, 2009 at 7:59 pm

It’s Sunday night. Ever since returning from NY last Tuesday, I’ve put in but one full day of work at the office. I was waylaid by some airborne bug courtesy of Jet Blue, up until now my air carrier of choice. Although I loved watching American Idol live aboard the blue jet on my trip home Tuesday night, when I could barely swallow before retiring, I had to wonder. 

Not that any airline is exempt. In fact, I’m sure it’s the same no matter what you fly these days yet here I sit on the fourth night of my self-imposed quarantine. The bad news is that I don’t feel any better. The worse news is that I’m blogging about feeling bad.

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That wasn’t in my plan.

I’m heading to the office tomorrow (which is probably today, by now, when you’re reading this). By hook or by crook I’m going to give it my best shot then I’m taking my sorry, infected body to a doctor. Someone who’ll take pictures of my respiratory territory. Something’s amiss in there.

On Saturday night, when I ventured to the outside world for a not-to-miss, most exquisite production of Madame Butterfly, I had to leave after the second act. I heard that the last act brought the audience to tears. The soprano was beyond extraordinary.(I’m crying now) My heart melted from the opening of the curtain right up until my mid-production escape. Categorically, I would have called that behavior rude.

That’s how bad I was feeling.

So, why am I sitting here telling you all this? I’m just tired of not writing, of not being creative, of not feeling good. I can’t let this imported bug get the best of me. It’s already succeeded at getting the better. Now, I just need to get me better.

I want to tell you about NY. About my fabulous vegan dinner with Jane Velez-Mitchell. About how well the producers who I met with from GMA and 20/20 received our fall list of book titles. About how my contact at Ladies’ Home Journal was willing to go back to bat for me with another pitch about Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s memoir. How once again More magazine stuck me in a room with an entry level editorial assistant who I think is the assistant to another editorial assistant. And, from where I sat, about 12 years old (probably in her 20’s in editors’ years). Mary Jo who?

Then there was the hoisting of the little rolling red suitcase up the endless stairs at Grand Central Station’s tony little lunch place, Mezza something or other. After that, rolling it around some more for the hour I needed to kill between meetings. The day was such a spectacular paragon of spring in the city that I attempted to find a patch of green to pass the time but instead pulled up a piece of concrete in front of some 42nd Street cafe. Satisfied at my resting place I phoned home to the office for the media report. 

And, it was good.

So, bear with me as I move this beast of a bug from my body into exile or even better yet death and wish me some healthier time coming up real soon. The clock is ticking until BookExpo America (BEA) is here, I’ve got a gaggle of authors to tend to, and as much as I love the view up here in the paradise penthouse (and it is a healing one), it’s time to return to the living. 

Save me a chair. (preferably on a patch of green with a view of the great big blue)

Thanks for indulging me.

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