"A friend asked yesterday if this blog is addressed to anyone in particular? I said yes– it’s a love letter to someone I haven’t met yet."
So much has been happening lately that I’d like to share some of it:
1.) The Ghost in Love is now shipping!
You can also order it here: http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Love-Novel-Jonathan-Carroll/dp/0374161860
2.) To celebrate the release, we have launched a brand new trailer.
You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaadiIAac_Y
3.) In the sad light of Paul Newman’s passing, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post about my encounter with him. You can read it here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Carrollblog?format=xml
4.) The countdown has begun to my US book tour in October. I very much look forward to seeing you there.
I wrote this last weekend after hearing Paul Newman had died. A number of you asked that I reprint the piece I had written some years ago, THE HUSTLER, SMOKING, which is also about Newman. But after thinking about it, I decided to write something new. This article will be published online at The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) some time this week.
I met Paul Newman on the set of THE HUSTLER, a film my father had written the screenplay for. I was a boy and quickly bored by the slow going of a movie set. What I remember most about that day was every time Newman had a break in filming he would come over, sit down nearby, and perform goofy tricks for me. He smoked Salem cigarettes and must have done four different tricks with the pack alone. I was mesmerized and thought this was the greatest guy in the room. The fact he was around the corner from becoming the most famous movie star in the world meant nothing to me. That day he was your favorite uncle who whenever he appears, is full of jokes and tricks and wonders just for you.
A couple of years later I was in Los Angeles on the 4th of July. My family went to a party given by a friend of Newman’s. The actor arrived that day with a bunch of his children. He had on a bright orange flight suit—the kind jet pilots wear. Even then I thought how cool it was for a guy to wear that on just any day. I waved to him but he didn’t wave back. There were a lot of people at the party and he disappeared into the crowd.
Half an hour later someone touched me on the shoulder and before I had a chance to turn around he said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got firecrackers. Want to go shoot them off?” Fireworks of any kind are sex to 12 year old boys, so I would have gone with Dracula if he’d had some. But turning around I saw that great orange suit and off we snuck. He knew exactly where he wanted to go—way down back in a field behind the house. It was just the two of us and we trotted to get there, he was in such a hurry. He kept looking at me and grinning—two adventurers off on a secret mission.
When we got to the spot, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bunch of small firecrackers. He lit one, tossed it and we jumped back. It exploded with a great loud satisfying BAM! He handed the next one to me along with the pack of matches. I lit mine and it immediately blew up in my hand. Both of us stood stunned, staring. I don’t remember if it was blackened or bloody, but something must have been wrong because Newman immediately snatched me up, threw me over his shoulder and ran full speed for the house. I was fine. No big deal. Hands washed and a couple of Band Aids later I went back to the party.
Paul Newman running with a kid on his shoulder, only a father then, scared the boy was hurt, ready to do anything to make it better. That’s how I will remember him.
by W.S. Merwin
Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for
or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I
have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me
as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let
me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I
began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already
part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you
from what we cannot hold the stars are made
"I have many strengths, and one of them is that I can take pain, not give pain. I don’t consider anyone who can give pain brave, I consider anyone who can take pain brave. That is why I consider a woman a stronger gender because she can take much more pain than a man.”
Asif Ali Zarari, the new president of Pakistan
In a perfume store, he sprayed a new men's cologne onto the back of his hand and sniffed it. Fantastic! A beautiful, exotic smell. He had to buy it. But he remembered how often in the past he had done just that and been disappointed. So he waited a while and sniffed his hand again. Ooh, not so good. Then a few minutes later and he liked it even less. Now that it had had a chance to dry on his hand and mix with his body chemistry, the cologne smelled like insect spray. He thought it's just like the experience of encountering certain people: The first time you meet them you think they're fabulous-- what a personality, they're so good looking, so funny, etcetera. But the longer you knew them and the longer you spent in their company, the more they came to smell like bug spray.
Thanks to NG for sending me to Amazon.com to see the first reader's review of THE GHOST IN LOVE. It's so well written and thoughtful that I put it here with thanks to the reviewer:
Jonathan Carroll's whimsical and wistful fantasy on the human condition wittily and insightfully explores many introspective topics, among them life, death, the power of love, and most importantly, who and what we are. Each of us is an amalgamation of various attributes, but for our particular discussion, primarily a disparate blending of individual memories and personality traits. Carroll portrays memories as actual living breathing entities, snippets of time that can be replayed and relived, with our present disposition being a collective and delicate balance of these memories, and thus ourselves, at different stages of our lives. As far as our traits are concerned, he takes the generic term "the personification of evil" literally, creating actual human beings that are physical representations of various aspects of our makeup, with many of them fighting among themselves for dominance or harmony, all with the principal intent of helping us to better understand ourselves. The point implied is that we can be our own worst enemy. Everyday is a constant emotional struggle between serenity and chaos, with one never knowing which side will win out, which directly segues into the major theme of taking control of our lives and our destinies. Despite this focus on conflict, the story is undeniably a poignant and spirited affirmation of life and love, with its positive spirit being infectious. No one said life was easy. It is not a world of universal verities, with most of us needing to live and learn as we travel down this wondrous yet perilous journey. We must all choose our own individual paths, but while at it, do it with gusto. While reading Carroll's fable, it was difficult at times making sense out of the nonsensical, but that just may have been his intention, and in the process creating an appropriate metaphor for life itself.
A couple come out of a candy store. Both of them have small bags of M&M candies in their hands. Both of them tear off a corner. The man brings his bag up to his mouth and empties a big load into it. The woman reaches into her bag, takes out what looks like one blue candy and puts it in her mouth. She chews it for some time. In the meantime the guy finishes his first load, brings the bag up to his mouth and empties into it all that's left. His cheeks bulge and he chomps down. Having finished her one M (& M), the woman reaches in and takes out one more. The guy crumples up his bag and tosses it.
I realize I have just witnessed one of the profound differences between the sexes.
Marcello Mastroianni was once asked how many films he had been in. The great actor thought a moment and said, "I'm not sure-- over a hundred." The interviewer then asked "How many of those films were any good?" Mastroianni said, "A few-- ten maybe." "But why would you spend years making bad films? Why not wait till a good script comes along and then make one that's worthy?" Smiling and unaffected by the insult, Mastroianni asked the journalist, "Do you like what you do? Do you like writing?" The journalist said yes. "Well, I like acting. I would rather act than not act. Why should I sit around waiting for a good script when in the meantime I can be doing what I like now? Do you wait until only good article assignments come before you write? I doubt it. If you like to write then you write the best way you know how about everything. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. But all of it is what you want to do with your life."
These people who never seem to stop talking always fascinate me. Two young mothers with baby carriages get on the bus, chattering away to each other. They talk without pause for ten minutes and then one gets off. As soon as the doors close and the bus pulls away, the remaining mother starts talking to her child who is so young that it can't even goo-goo answers back. But that doesn't stop Mom so long as she has a captive audience. She keeps talking to the baby until she pulls a cellphone out of her pocket and makes three phone calls one right after the other in the time she has left before her stop. Coincidentally a few hours later, I am on the same bus line going in the other direction and who should get on but chatty Mom. What is she doing as she enters the bus? Talking on her phone. Whenever I encounter one of these motor mouths I cannot help think how does their partner deal with it? Do they ignore them? Or do they actually listen and respond to this 24/7 barrage? Maybe they somehow create a psychic screen that shuts their mates' white noise out for periods of time.
"You can't get to wonderful without passing through all right."
A very nice clip from SS:
Of the many words written about David Foster Wallace after his death, I like these the most. They're from McSweeney's Magazine. Those of you unfamiliar with his work, Wallace was most famous for a novel entitled INFINITE JEST, a difficult and manic 1000 page hunk of a book that you either loved or hated. Many people lied about having actually read it. It's the kind of novel quite a few bought, never opened, but left out on the coffee table to impress visitors.
I never met the man, but to Mr. David Wallace I owe my current situation in life. And he left a pretty funny voicemail. My wife and I have a mutual friend who several years ago realized that we were the only two people he knew who had completed Infinite Jest. On her side, she had implored him to find someone with whom she could discuss the book so she could ask the question she'd been dying to ask such a person, Was it worth it? On my side, we were driving to a ski trip, discussing books, and he mentioned Pynchon. Of course Wallace came up. He asked if I had read Infinite Jest; I said, Yes. He stared at me in the rearview mirror and said, I know someone who will sleep with you. Nine months later (these wheels turn slowly), he brought us together at a Halloween party. I walked in early and she was already there. Mike introduced us—Steve, Karen, Karen, Steve, Infinite Jest, go—and walked off. I talked about it for a minute or two, then said, Yeah, I liked it, but it probably wasn't worth it. The rest is, as they say, history.
Except. There's more: the voicemail. Karen and I fell in love, got engaged on the side of a mountain, and planned a shindig. At the reception, among all the toasts, a family friend stands up with a tape player. She recounts the tale. She turns on the player. David Foster Wallace is saying, Uh, um, this is really a strange and almost horrifying thing, but I hear that a couple, Steve and Karen, are joining themselves in holy matrimony because of my book? He goes on to give a funny, rambling, beautiful benediction that we'll always treasure.
So, Mr. David Foster Wallace, thank you for the possibly-not-worth-it tome, dozens of incredible essays, a heartfelt voice from beyond, and a beautiful life with my wife and little boy.
Writers, if you're having problems finding personalities or personality quirks for your characters, use Sleeping Beauty's seven dwarves as guides.
Sneezy is always sick-- a complainer, a hypochondriac who annoys people with never ending stories of his physical woes.
Sleepy is too buzzed out, stoned, or distracted to ever get the point or be taken seriously. He's the one in the crowd who always says "I don't get it" at the end of the joke or "Huh?" when something is described or explained to him. You like them but you wouldn't trust them with your credit card.
Dopey is the follower who does everything he's told because he knows he's not the sharpest pencil in the drawer.
Do little personality sketches of these guys when you're stuck on your characterizations. Almost invariably you'll find all sorts of things in those sketches that you can assign to your own people and their stories.
The cold days arrive early this year. People are wearing heavy coats and you notice many of them are very wrinkled. They were hastily taken out of closets and worn without a cleaning or an ironing to ward off this unexpected chilly weather. The city starts rearranging its furniture-- waiters are dismantling the outdoor cafes, shopkeepers are putting heavy sweaters, hats, and long scarves on display mannequins in windows. Banners are up advertising Fall pumpkin and harvest festivals. Fewer vagrants sleep outside. The parks are empty now at night rather than the buzzing center of action, especially for teens who use them as their social hub in warm weather. Now only dogwalkers, joggers, and creeps are the ones you see there. The small street stands selling roasted chestnuts and potatoes are opening up. Young children are having their usual great time picking up the horse chestnuts that have fallen from the trees. People turn their house and headlights on earlier. Often the evening skies are full of vibrant haunted colors. You take your own winter coat out of the closet and smell it. Some of you is in that smell, some of last year, a few different colognes, wool.
"The rapport between a reader and his or her book is almost like that between lovers. The relationship grows, envelops a life, lays out new prospects and ways of seeing oneself and the future, is filled with moments of joy and sorrow; when it's over, even its memory enriches as few experiences can."
from BOOK BY BOOK by Michael Dirda
"A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman."
some interesting things to think about here (thanks KE):
The woman gives her order and then puts a plastic bag in front of her on the table. With a big smile she opens it and takes out a book she obviously just bought. She is radiating happiness as she skims through it, reading passages here and there, going backward and forward. After looking to make sure no one is watching (she doesn't see me), she brings it up to her face and smells it. I know exactly the feeling: One of life's great small pleasures-- feeling up a new book you just bought. I watch her on and off for a while until it's time to leave. Never does that smile leave her face. Never once does she put her new book down. I have to see what it is, so I make a roundabout detour towards the exit so I can catch a glimpse of the title: THE LAST WITNESS-- I Was Hitler's Telefonist, Courier, and Bodyguard.
LIGHTCAGE is making a series of video clips to promote THE GHOST IN LOVE. The first is finished and was just posted today. If you're interested, follow this link to YouTube.
In the time they had lived together, one of the things Ben taught her was that whenever you are upset, cook something delicious and difficult to prepare. Even if you end up giving it away or throwing it in the trash after you have finished, the effort and mental concentration required to make it will make take your mind off the problem for a while. She'd watched him do this twice. Both times he emerged from the kitchen with a marvelous meal and a more peaceful heart. The food tasted great, but what she revered was Ben's way of resolving difficult personal issues. German loved physical work. She loved using her hands. She loved being with a man who, instead of brooding or sulking, put his hands to work when he was troubled to make something fine and worthwhile.
from THE GHOST IN LOVE
The American novelist David Foster Wallace died yesterday. Here is the graduation speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005. It's very beautiful and inspiring.
"After the death of his wife, Edmonds had gone through analysis because of the unrelenting guilt he felt. The analyst said guilt was like a traffic light: A pedestrian comes to a red light. He looks both ways, sees the coast is clear, and decides to cross the street anyway. Guilt is that traffic light. Stop-- don’t do this because it’s dangerous/bad/selfish… Don’t smoke that cigarette. Don’t have that affair. You see the red, recognize the warning, and then decide if you want to go anyway. If you do cross the street against the red, you don’t think what have I done? Was I wrong? No, you get to the other side and keep on walking. The analyst said holding on to guilt is like carrying that red light around with you, which is ridiculous."
from the new book
I received the first bound copy of THE GHOST IN LOVE yesterday from the publisher. As always on examining the first copy of a new book, I skimmed through the pages, instantly remembering where I was and what I was thinking/feeling when doing this section or that one. It's astonishing how strong the memories of writing something are when you hold the finished book. It's sort of like re-reading your diary, only more so because two things are going on at once-- you're re-reading part of a story that you created, but alongside that you're also remembering what you were thinking and how you felt while writing it. There's a section at the end of the story where three people are standing on a staircase about to do something dramatic. Looking it over yesterday I vividly remembered coming to that part of the story and being both furious and frustrated because for the life of me, I could not figure out what was going to happen next-- either to the characters or to the plot. It literally took days to work it out in my head and even when writing it I was full of worry about whether it would work effectively. But now it's out of my hands. As I've said so often before I believe when a book is finished, the author becomes just another reader of it and his opinion is no better or worse than the next reader.
We will be posting the first chapter of THE GHOST IN LOVE here on the site today. Click on the picture above of the sleeping woman and then download the chapter.
An old woman coming out of a beauty shop with a brand new hairdo. It's so high and puffy that it could be white cotton candy. But she looks so happy and proud of it. She's got a great "check me out" twinkle in her eye as she walks away down the street.
A short time later while passing an ice cream parlor, I see an old couple sitting together at a small round table inside. Both are very dressed up and look like they're on a date. In front of each is an ice cream sundae as tall as a lamp. They're not talking but they're sure attacking those sundaes.
A big macho man is walking two pit bull terriers. The guy is trying to look tough and cool but the dogs are so goofy and in love that they keep getting in his way and tripping him as they jump on each other and play. You can tell from his expression he doesn't know whether to laugh or be annoyed.
Four young teenage girls walking together in a line across the sidewalk. They are dressed almost identically and all of them are screaming into cellphones.
Big thanks to all of you who have invited me for coffee, a meal, a chat, a Bar Mitzvah, etcetera when I am in the US on the book tour for THE GHOST IN LOVE in October. Unfortunately the schedule is pretty packed so there's not going to be much room at all for anything other than the business at hand. But I would love to see you at the readings, meetings, signings and shake your hand if you can find the time to come. It's one of my favorite things in this business-- saying hello and thanks to people who were kind enough over the years to give you their full attention for a few hours or days.
by Rick Agran
On a rainy day in Seattle stumble into any coffee shop
and look wounded by the rain.
Say Last time I was in I left my black umbrella here.
A waitress in a blue beret will pull a black umbrella
from behind the counter and surrender it to you
like a sword at your knighting.
Unlike New Englanders, she'll never ask you
to describe it, never ask what day you came in,
she's intimate with rain and its appointments.
Look positively reunited with this black umbrella
and proceed to Belltown and Pike Place.
Sip cappuccino at the Cowgirl Luncheonette on First Ave.
Visit Buster selling tin salmon silhouettes
undulant in the wind, nosing ever into the oncoming,
meandering watery worlds, like you and the black umbrella,
the one you will lose on purpose at the day's end
so you can go the way you came
into the world, wet looking.
Those little islands of leisure in the middle of a city-- the cheap plastic tables and chairs in front of a hot dog stand. The wooden picnic bench outside the snack shop, next to the taco truck, or the shaved ice push cart where people sit in summer and eat the treats they just bought. The three folding chairs under a tattered striped beach umbrella at the gas station where three guys sit, looking like they haven't moved since the last election. Most of the time people sitting in these small oases look pretty happy. Like they're taking a mini vacation from their day; a few minute sneak-away from the job, their responsibilities, what the world expects from them. It's also interesting to watch the expressions on the faces of the passersby: Often they smile or look wistful. You can tell they're thinking how nice it'd be to spend ten minutes in the sun or the shade doing nothing but sipping a cool one or eating something delicious and naughty.
Early in the morning a junkie is walking toward me. He is extremely thin, his mouth is half open, and he's wearing no shirt which in itself is odd because it's warm at 8 am but not *that* warm. He walks with the small slow stuttery steps of the very old or the very ill. I cannot see his eyes but even from thirty feet away it is clear he's living somewhere between this world and another. About ten feet away he stops and bends over. On his back is an enormous, very detailed tattoo of a dragon. It goes from the bottom of his neck across his entire back and down into his trousers. It must have cost a fortune and is a very powerful image. The contrast between what he is and what is drawn on his skin is stunning.
by G.E. Johnson
Once after dinner a woman and I walked past
An empty basketball court and she says,
"I played on a team my junior year in Belfast,"
And I say "Want to shoot some?" She says "Yes,"
Though she was wearing a long black dinner dress.
She kicked off her high heels and she caught
My pass and with great finesse
Drove to the baseline, jumped and shot
Swish. Two points. We played for awhile,
Man in a black suit, woman in a long black gown,
I loved her quickness and her heads-up style,
Her cool hand as she beat me hands down--
Her jumpiness, like a blackbird in the night--
Her steady eye, her feet about to take flight.