New York

All About THE PATH OF NAMES: Behind the Book, Q&A, & Giveaway!

Because I have the last name "Klein" and I live in New York City, a lot of people I meet here assume I'm Jewish -- an assumption that I'm fine with, even as I called myself the "imprint shiksa" for my first few years at Arthur A. Levine Books. So while it's entirely possible that Ari Goelman's agent sent me the manuscript for The Path of Names because she thought I might have a religious connection to the material, I fell in love with it for my own reasons:
  • Some of the realest kid characters I've ever read in a novel, with dialogue that exactly captures the way kids can switch from snarkiness to sensitivity in a turn.
  • With that, a terrific sense of humor and jokes that made me laugh out loud more than once.
  • A 12-year-old heroine -- Dahlia Sherman -- who loves performance magic and math more than popularity and fashion, and who holds herself a little apart from her peers in part because of that lack of shared interests, and in part because she fears their rejection. (This was probably my real point of identification with the book, I do confess it.)
  • A totally original combination of elements:  A contemporary Jewish summer camp story set in Pennsylvania and starring Dahlia, crossed with a story about a yeshiva student named David in the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1930s, both shot through with fantasy and mystery.
  • A terrific title. 
  • A kind of magic I had never seen before in a fantasy novel -- and when you've read as many fantasy novels as I have, that's saying something. 
The challenge such books face in the publishing industry is that they'll often be regarded as "only for Jewish readers" -- just as books about girls are only for girls, or books about gay kids as only for gay kids, or books about Latinos are only for Latinos. If you aren't yourself Jewish, then you should read it and help us explode those stereotypes; and if you are Jewish -- and especially if you went to a Jewish camp as Ari Goelman did -- then you'll find even more to recognize and enjoy in the book. It is certainly the only book I've edited ever to be written up in The Times of Israel, as "A Jewish Harriet Potter." And it's also received a starred review from Booklist.

I'm delighted to welcome Ari Goelman to my blog for a Q&A.

What novels were the biggest influence on you when you were a young reader (ages 8-18)? As a middle-grade reader I loved the Susan Cooper ‘The Dark is Rising’ series, especially the novel The Dark Os Rising. I also loved the book The Silver Crown, and (as I got older) pretty much any high fantasy I could get my hands on, starting with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and ending with ... whatever the latest high fantasy was. As a slightly older teen reader I discovered Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny – especially loving Brust’s To Reign In Hell and Zelazny’s Lord of Light. Which, now that I think about it, were both pretty centrally concerned with magic and religion, albeit in a totally different way than The Path of Names.

There are so many interesting ideas packed into this book -- summer camp, Kabbala, magic (real-world and fantasy), mazes, Lower East Side history. . . . Where did it start for you? How did these other elements develop in it? I think it started with a summer camp story, and evolved from there. Once I decided to set the story in a Jewish summer camp, I thought, “Hmm. Jewish summer camp – Jewish magic. That seems to make sense.”

Then, once I started thinking about Jewish magic, that naturally led to Kabbala and the rest. I’ve always been interested in the somewhat forgotten elements of Jewish folklore. I was raised as a conservative Jew where the party line was, ‘We don’t believe in magic. Or the afterlife. Or demons. Or witches...’ I was a young adult before I started to come across references to all the Jewish superstitions that saturated the Jewish world for centuries before the Enlightenment.

Described in that way, it might make me seem a little smarter than I am. Here is the way it actually worked: I’d be in synagogue for a cousin’s bar mitzvah or such, and there’d be a mention of an anecdote in the Talmud about a rabbi hurling lightning at another rabbi. The lesson would supposedly be something about tolerance or arrogance. But I would sit there thinking, ‘A rabbi hurling lightning? That is so cool! I would love to read a fantasy story about that.’

As far as the parts set in the Lower East Side, my grandfather grew up in the 1930s Lower East Side, and I always loved the stories that he and my great uncles would tell about their boyhoods in the tenements. When I was older I discovered that he had visited the spot in rural Pennsylvania which ultimately became my summer camp some fifty years before I was a camper there. I loved the thought of somehow combining those two milieus.

The fantasy magic in the book is based in what I understand to be a very esoteric Jewish religious practice – the Kabbala – but the book isn’t religious at all. Dahlia and the other kids spend very little time contemplating God. You also have a provocative epigraph where you quote Bernie Cloud:  “Religion is just magic, but with more words.” How do your own relationships with religion and magic emerge in The Path of Names? I think I very much share the ambivalence towards Judaism (and organized religion in general) that is evidenced in The Path of Names. It was fun to write a story where all the Jewish magic works. The world would be so much simpler if you could verify religious belief systems with some sort of physical manifestation ... say, calling down lightning on your enemies. Religion aside, I find magic and the supernatural creeps into most everything I write. I’m not totally sure why this is. Like I mentioned before, I’ve always been an avid reader of fantasy literature. Maybe it comes from my general interest in ideas of power and resistance, especially when they’re operating in ways that are secret, or at least hard to see. I have this sense (which I think is pretty broadly shared in contemporary society) that power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few in ways that are hard for the rest of us to see, let alone to resist. Also -- let’s face it -- magic is fun. It would be fun to be a thirteen-year-old with the power to change things, even if the odds seemed stacked against you.  

What is your favorite part of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, etc.) and why? Oh geez. That’s a hard one. On the one hand, writing the first draft is definitely the most difficult part for me. You’re staring at the blank page, and you have so far to go before it’s done, and it probably won’t be any good anyway, and shouldn’t you work on a new blog post, or maybe go start on dinner or something? Contrast that to revising, where you have a manuscript and you’re reading it and making it better. On some level, I’m scared of the blank page in a way that I’m not scared of revising. Now here’s the complicated part – difficult as it is for me, the mingled feeling of fear and distaste ... and excitement when I write that first draft is the reason I write. That feeling of creating something new is the best part. If I go a few days without writing something new, I start worrying that I’m never going to write anything again. I don’t like that feeling. 

A couple of reviews have praised the book for having the main character, Dahlia, be a smart girl who loves math. Did you envision the protagonist of the book as a girl from the beginning, or was that a deliberate choice later in the process? What challenges did you face, if any, in writing across gender, and how did you overcome them? I always saw the protagonist as a girl. When I wrote the short story that eventually grew into The Path of Names, I had this very clear memory of a girl at my summer camp complaining about how another girl wasn’t friends with her any more. I ended up making Dahlia far more independent than that girl, but there was never any question that the main character would be female. The challenges that I faced had to do with uniquely female things – for instance, how much would a thirteen-year-old girl notice the curviness or the lack of curviness of her peers? Being married to a former thirteen-year-old girl who is happy to answer these kinds of questions was invaluable in overcoming this obstacle.

You have a five-year-old and a set of very young twins at home. Plus you teach. How do you work in any writing time? Do you have a set schedule or process? The short answer is: it’s hard. Not just to work in writing time, but to make the most of the writing time I have, given the exhaustion of being a working parent with three small children. More often than not, one or more of our beautiful little people is sick or getting a tooth or just generally dissatisfied with their sleeping arrangements and would like to express their displeasure repeatedly at 1:00 a.m. 1:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m. and so on. I’ve discovered that I can do a pretty good job at some tasks when I’m tired, but writing a novel is not one of them. There’s too much to hold in your head, and too much concentration required. Having said all that, I do try to write to a set schedule, as I think the alternative is a ‘no writing’ schedule. I am still making progress in my ongoing writing projects, just not nearly as fast as I would like. 

What are you reading now?  I just finished reading Steven King’s The Wind at the Keyhole which I thought was great, especially the two stories-within-a-story. I have just started Seer of Shadows by Avi, but I’m still too early into it to have formed an opinion. I’m also reading Harry Potter to my five-year-old (who would probably like me to point out that she’s almost six), and I’m enjoying it through her eyes all over again. 

Please visit Ari's website.


GIVEAWAY! Though The Path of Names is in stores now (hint hint hint & hint), you can win one of my three remaining copies of an ARC of the book by leaving a comment below with any of the following:  one thing that you've never seen in a fantasy before and you'd like to; your own provocative epigraph (or epitaph, if you prefer); or the identity that people mistake you for based on your name, if applicable.

See This: "Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective"

The Guggenheim Museum in New York right now has an extraordinary exhibit called "Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective." Ms. Dijkstra is a Dutch photographer who takes large-format pictures of human beings at moments of change and transition, and their humanity is so much on display, so rich and beautiful and specific and true, that these single images feel like entire character studies. She specializes in pictures of children and teenagers, like this one above. . . . The instability of the way this boy is standing, his slightness and off-centeredness; the vulnerability established by his near-nakedness and his size vs. the endless sea behind him; his watchful gaze, not fully trusting or warming to the photographer -- and rightly, as she's caught so much of him; and the promise of the man inside him, learning how to look strong, how much of himself he should give away:  I find this image (and nearly every other picture in the show) both wonderful and heartbreaking in its ability to see and capture all of that. I want to read novels about all of her people.

The show included five video installations that likewise focus on individuals, in locations ranging from a dance club to an art museum, against simple backgrounds, so their actions and words speak for themselves. This one, for instance, "Ruth Drawing Picasso," was nearly six minutes of a single shot of a girl making her own sketch of a Picasso painting (this visitor-shot excerpt is just 42 seconds):

And as boring as that may sound, the film kept me fascinated for all six minutes, simply because it felt so wonderfully rare and fresh to do nothing but look at another human being for a sustained period of time, as Ms. Dijkstra does. More than that, Ruth doesn't seem self-conscious about being watched, as many of the kids in the dance-club videos do (and as I always do on camera); she sighs, draws a line, scratches it out, gropes for a pencil, looks around at her friends, looks up at the painting and down at her paper again, draws another line. . . . It's such an honest portrait of the creative process, and of a human being in general, that I felt my heart warm toward Ruth for all of her particularities, including those I recognized in myself. Thus the exhibition did what the best art (to me) always does:  It made me love the world more, and the people in it, in all of our vulnerable, pained, ephemeral glory, and made me feel thankful we're all here together -- with Ms. Dijkstra and her camera to capture us.

At the Guggenheim, Fifth Avenue and 89th St., through October 8.

All-Blogging August (Plus Ask Me Anything)

This year has been a whirlwind where I've flown somewhere every single month, edited a bunch of books, ran a half-marathon, spoke at five writing conferences, attended three weddings, and started planning my own. It's been a lot of fun, but my dear and beloved blog has definitely been a casualty of this busyness, as I've barely been able to keep up with one post a month, much less the one a week I aim for. And that "dear and beloved" isn't sarcasm; I subscribe to E. M. Forster's doctrine that "I know what I think when I see what I say," and I've missed my opportunity to think out loud here.

But I am going to be home in New York for all of August! So I'm trying something slightly crazy for me:  posting every single day of the month. I want to catch up on writing about some great new books that came out this year, explain the specification experiment from June, talk about repetitions, do some Quote Files, recipes, and poetry, fulminate, ruminate, extrapolate. If you have any questions you'd like to see me answer about writing or publishing (or heck, anything else), please leave them in the comments or send them along via e-mail to chavela_que at yahoo dot com. . . . I can't promise I'll respond to everything, but I appreciate the prompts. 

Here is the best thing I saw today, just outside my building on my way to work:

A young man rides his bike on the sidewalk toward me and an older lady.
Older Lady: You should NOT ride your BIKE on the SIDEWALK! You're supposed to be on the STREET! Our traffic laws give you your own lanes -- on the STREET! 
Young Man, as he rides by: Okay, Officer!
Older Lady:  I'm not an officer, I'm a concerned citizen! SCOFFLAW!

In honor of this awesome lady with the admirable vocabulary, I challenge you to use "scofflaw" in a sentence.

A Walk Up Greene Street, with a Little SoHo History and Class Warfare Thrown In

Second in a series on the fascinations of wandering New York.

We had another lovely day here in New York on Sunday, so I decided to go back to Occupy Wall Street and donate some apples -- redistribution of income at work! I arrived right at lunchtime, and was impressed by the pasta and salad the protesters were serving to anyone who wanted a bite. It was just as nice a meal as those offered by the soup kitchen that my church runs (Sundays at 2 p.m. in the church basement, should you need a bite), and all prepared without a real kitchen, as far as I could tell. I also saw the library, full of books on all subjects for all ages:

I missed seeing Screwy Decimal, but she has a picture of the children's library sign specifically. 

A block north stands the Freedom Tower, also known as One World Trade Center. It will be the tallest building in the United States when it's completed, at 1,776 feet. I don't feel particularly enthusiastic about this, nor do most New Yorkers that I know (who are not Larry Silverstein). But Mr. Silverstein must needs be satisfied, and so up it goes:


From there I walked north to SoHo. "SoHo" is an abbreviation for "South of Houston Street" (the street is pronounced "How-ston," not "Hew-ston," for anyone who wishes to sound like a local), and roughly covers the area between Houston Street to the north, the Bowery to the east, Canal Street to the south, and the Avenue of the Americas to the west. It has been through many, many iterations as a neighborhood, beginning in the Victorian era, when most of its famous cast-iron buildings were constructed:


As manufacturing moved out throughout the twentieth century, artists moved in, spreading south from Greenwich Village and taking over the light-filled lofts for studio space and cooperatives (that link is worth reading if you're interested in nutty artists or New York history):


Where artists go, galleries open; where galleries open, rich people come; and where rich people come, luxury shops follow. And as a result, forty years after Fluxhouse closed, Soho is one of the best neighborhoods in New York to shop for European clothes and modern furniture design -- if you're in the 1%, as the good stuff doesn't come cheap. I loved these coffee-cup sculptures, each one bigger than my head, at Adriani & Rossi (a mere $250 each):


Across the street was a doubled reminder of the neighborhood's origins:  a sign over the receiving door of the long-gone Baker Brush Company, presumably from when brushes were manufactured in SoHo; and a piece of fascinating street art over it -- a totem-like collage face: 


At the corner at 89 Grand Street stood Ingo Maurer, a lovely lighting design store. Wouldn't it be fun to have this exploding-dishes chandelier over your table at a dinner party? It would make your guests feel like anything could happen.


More street art on the next block:


And in an alcove in front of an empty storefront:  a carefully arranged pile of plastic and some sheets, meaning that this is probably someone's bed.

That someone sleeps on the sidewalk on the same street as a $250 coffee cup sculpture, or this Gaga-worthy fur coat at Isabel Marant, is the same kind of injustice that has led the Occupy Wall Street protests to exist.


At the same time, I confess I love the goofiness of this coat (and the chandelier, and the coffee cups) -- not as something I'd wear or need to own myself, but as a beautiful thing that gives delight. So I don't really want all these things to go away. . . . Only for that sleeper on the sidewalk, and everyone, to have proper housing, and a job, and regular meals, and medical care, before a woman actually spends over a thousand dollars on a coat that makes her resemble a yak.

How to solve this problem equitably, I do not know.

So. More haunting graffiti, on the base of a lamppost:


And just like Crosby Street, Greene Street is paved mostly in brick:

Right across the street from Isabel Marant is one of my favorite places to window shop:  SICIS Next Art, an Italian furniture maker that is frankly, joyously crazy -- the interior-design equivalent of Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.


My favorite thing I've ever seen there was a mosaic bathtub shaped like a high heel, where the bather sat in the toe and water poured down the arch.

At 107 Greene is another favorite place to browse -- the Taschen bookstore. Taschen makes gloriously nutso, beautiful, and huge art books. (Also art-porn collections, should that be your thing.) I go there to marvel at the specs of their books -- the size of the bindings, the quality of the paper, how no expense is spared in foil or glossiness or embossing. The shop functions almost like a book museum, as you can see:

Magda Sayeg likes to wrap things in knitting. You can see her work right now outside the Apple Store (currently undergoing renovation) at the corner of Prince & Greene. 

There's also a knitted bicycle at the base of Greene Street, outside the ACNE clothing store. (Yes, that's the brand's real name; it stands for Ambition to Create Novel Expression, and it's a Swedish line. Presumably they didn't know what it meant in English.)

If you look up from the tricycle, you can see another wonderful piece of art, the marvelous trompe-l'oeil ironwork at 112 Prince Street:

And here's the view back down Greene St. from Houston -- which you all know how to pronounce now, yes? Yes.

I really enjoyed doing this -- the walk, the pictures, the sheer pleasure of looking for and at beautiful and interesting things, all on a sunny, crisp autumn afternoon. Thank you for sharing my stroll!

A Visit to Occupy Wall Street (Plus a Small Ramble on Economics)

We had crazy beautiful weather in New York today, so I went into Manhattan and visited Occupy Wall Street, the protest/live-in at Zuccotti Park (at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street). It seems to be a combination of an extremely uncomfortable but good-humored slumber party and a mass Speakers' Corner for all kinds of liberal causes, including:
  • Wall Street reform
  • Corporate reform
  • Electoral reform
  • Constitutional reform
  • Ending the Federal Reserve
  • Globalization (the link is about Steve Jobs, but it ties in)
  • Stopping fracking in upstate New York
  • Bringing an end to nuclear power
  • Freeing Leonard Peltier
  • The environmental movement in general
  • Marxism (with a table handing out The Internationalist)
  • Anarchism 
  • Fox News (a sign:  "Fox News:  I Don't Care About You Either")
  • Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.
I saw a man holding a sign that said "I'm 48 and this is my first protest," and many, many young people who could probably say the same. But the overall mood was cheerful, not angry or violent. A group sang "We Shall Not Be Moved." A drum circle inspired dancing. People shared their cookies, literally. And I came away really admiring the people who are there, bearing witness to their causes and their belief that what they're doing makes a difference. It reminded me most of the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington at more or less this time last fall -- that same sense of humor and even pleasure among the protesters, enjoying a beautiful day and the presence of like-minded people; but also with an underlying edge, not yet at but perhaps approaching desperation, in everyone's sense that the systems are broken, in the deep-seeded desire for change. . . .

The best witness to this need is perhaps the Tumblr associated with the protests, We Are the 99 Percent. If you have any measure of human sympathy in your soul, the stories there will hurt your heart -- and you perhaps have one of your own to add.

Naomi Klein gave this speech at the protests yesterday. It is powerful, and you should read it.

At the same time, I fear the movement's insistence on remaining leaderless and specific-demandless will end up undermining it in a media world that demands stories, meaning characters and plots. (Which may also just be human nature.) Nicholas Kristof's excellent column last week spelled out what the Occupy Wall Streeters should be asking for.

I work for a corporation. I believe in capitalism, because it seems like the best method yet devised to channel human beings' inherent self-interest into an economic system, and because all the communist experiments we've seen up to this point in history seem to have run aground on that self-interest, and then often crashed right over the rocks into repression and horror. I also believe in strong government regulation of capitalism and corporations; a social safety net; single-payer health care; public education; and paying taxes to support all of these programs. And globalization lets me have cheap electronics, clothes, shoes, and mangoes, and I love mangoes.

But I -- we -- have to look at the consequences of all of these things; and we also have to remember that change begins with our own desires, and to regulate those desires, as little as we like to do so. I often think about this quotation from Confucius, which appeared in a July Quote File on government:
To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.
If we could all want only what we need, and not more; if we could recognize that we shouldn't have mangoes, honestly, because getting them here is pretty terrible for the environment; if corporations across the board could agree that demonstrating growth every quarter isn't the most important thing, and instead value being a good corporate citizen and supporter of its workers; if there were some way to make American manufacturing costs the same as Chinese ones, without sacrificing environmental regulations or worker rights; if I spent less time on Twitter or playing Scrabble, or even "virtuous" activities like reading or writing, and more time volunteering or working for social change; if I could be willing to do what's best for all (environmentally, economically, altruistically) instead of what's just best for me at any moment . . . In a lot of ways, if we could not be America, and I could not be an American, with our historic, almost inborn emphasis on individual liberty and free will -- our genius and our curse.

It's easy to blame the 1%, and God knows they deserve a lot of the blame for the current economic mess and should be called to account. Things can and should be more fair. But 100% of us are responsible for how we spend our money and our time. I admire the protesters on Wall Street for providing a model that runs so idealistically against the grain of our present American life, and I hope their protests continue. Because however debased our president's carrying-out of his ideals may be at the moment, these words remain true:  We are the change we have been waiting for.

A Walk Up Crosby Street

When it comes to subways in New York, I've always been an orange line commuter: the F for the eight years I lived in Park Slope, and the B for the last 2.75 years in Prospect Heights. But this summer, I've discovered the pleasures of the big yellow Q train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. First I get to cross the Manhattan Bridge on the southern tracks, allowing a much better view of the Brooklyn Bridge:

(image stolen from this nice blog here, as I failed to take such a picture this morning)

And then, after I get off at Canal Street, the first stop in Manhattan, I get to walk up Crosby Street, one block over from Broadway, and I never fail to see something interesting. For instance:

The window of De Vera Objects at 1 Crosby, featuring a small statue wearing a gorgeous dress made out of paper:

Across the street, above Jil Sander, some watchful mannequins:

A glimpse into the garden and windows of Imperial Number Nine.

Just outside the Vespa shop at 13 Crosby, provoking dreams of Roman Holidays:

The Saturdays NYC Surf Shop and Espresso Bar (not kidding) at number 31:

A view of the brick street itself, many times patched, which makes me think about all the years and vehicles and changes those bricks have seen:

At the corner of Broome and Crosby, the multilevel parking platforms that I never fail to find fascinating, especially if I’m lucky enough to be there when they’re taking a car down; not to mention a very New York skyscraper, billboard, and water tower:

Some wonderful artistic graffiti by New Yorkers who walk at night:

The window at All Saints, a UK clothing chain at 512 Broadway, filled with Singer sewing machines:

In the lobby of the very posh Crosby Street Hotel, a giant head made of joined letters (which is what my head feels like some days). They do a glorious afternoon tea here, though I find it a little too posh and formal to be cozy.

And then I turn left at the corner of Prince St. and walk over to Broadway and go to work, inspired by the diversity and energy of the city and all its beautiful things.

If You Like It, Then There's Only One Thing You Should Do.

So last Saturday morning, James and I decided to go for a run around Prospect Park, as we often do on weekends. We got dressed in our running clothes, and I noticed he was wearing a jacket over his long-sleeved shirt and exercise pants. "Aren't you going to be hot in that?" I asked, since it was sunny and the temperature was in the fifties.

"I can just tie it around my waist," he said.

I shrugged, and we locked up the apartment and set out for the park. We stretched on the plaza just behind the farmers' market, then ran along the north side of the park with our respective iPods. (That day I was listening to the greatest hits of Bruce Springsteen: "Badlands," "Thunder Road," "Hungry Heart.") I was still transitioning back to running outside after the winter's treadmills, so I was determined to complete a whole loop without stopping to walk.

One of my very favorite places on Earth

As we ran down the west side hill, James said, "You know, I think we should take this cross-country route my brother showed me." I said sure, and we turned left on the road that cut east through the park above the lake. As we approached the first bend, he said, "Let's go up this hill."

I said, "No, I want to do the whole loop."

He said, "You really should see the view from the top."

I said, "No, I've seen it before, come on."

He said, "It's a shortcut, just trust me on this." (Which I didn't, because I've been running around the park for at least as long as he has, and I knew that running up Lookout Hill was no shortcut.)

But we went up the hill, with me grumbling at climbing the stairs. ("It's good for our glutes!" James said.) The path switchbacked to the west, and I said, "You do realize that we're going backwards now, right? Not the direction we want to be going?" He just nodded and encouraged me to keep running. We went over a terrace and ended up at the circle on top of Lookout Hill, the highest point in the park. I figured we'd go round the circle and run back down to continue the loop.

But as we started around to the left, a man in Victorian dress and spectacles hailed me: "Hello, fair lady!" Cheerful greetings from people in eccentric costumes are not that unusual in New York, so I figured he was some kind of actor doing street theatre in the park, and stopped to hear what he had to say. James slowed down alongside me. The man in costume pulled out a scroll and read from it: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of . . . more fortune!" And he went on to deliver a speech liberally laced with Jane Austen quotes, all demonstrating his avarice. He ended by suggesting that we speak to his friend a little farther on, "Though I warn you--the stupidity with which he was favored by nature guards his courtship from any charms."

I felt both delighted and deeply confused by this turn of events, so I looked at James and said, "Do you know anything about this?" It was his turn to shrug. The next man, in similar costume and with a similar scroll, offered a similar speech, including "In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love -- myself."

About midway through this fine peroration on his own charms, my brain started thinking, This has to be what I think it is. Is it? Oh my, is it really? This gentleman concluded by looking around for an additional list of his good qualities. James held up a scroll of his own and said, "Is this it?" The man examined it and said, "No, I think you should read this one."

And James did, quite nervously and sweetly. I won't share everything he said, but he got down on one knee (as mandated by my favorite movie), and he also invoked one of my favorite descriptions of marriage of all time, from John Stuart Mill's On the Subjection of Women, in saying that he hoped it's what we might have as well:
On the contrary, when each of the two persons, instead of being a nothing, is a something; when they are attached to one another, and are not too much unlike to begin with; the constant partaking in the same things, assisted by their sympathy, draws out the latent capacities of each for being interested in the things which were at first interesting only to the other; and works a gradual assimilation of the tastes and characters to one another, partly by the insensible modification of each, but more by a real enriching of the two natures, each acquiring the tastes and capacities of the other in addition to its own . . . When the two persons both care for great objects, and are a help and encouragement to each other in whatever regards these, the minor matters on which their tastes may differ are not all-important to them; and there is a foundation for solid friendship, of an enduring character, more likely than anything else to make it, through the whole of life, a greater pleasure to each to give pleasure to the other, than to receive it. . . . What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and capacities with reciprocal superiority in them -- so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and being led in the path of development -- I will not attempt to describe.
And with such a prospect before me, dear reader, I said yes!

James gave me his late mother's engagement/wedding ring, which was just my size; and the last week has been a flurry of informing friends and family, accepting congratulations, and starting conversations about dates and locations for the grand party we hope to throw for those same friends and family. (I'm from the Midwest, he's from the Bay Area, and we live in New York, so we have the entire United States open to us.) The two gentlemen in costume were friends of James's, unknown to me; James wrote the scripts with all the Jane Austen references to please me, featuring characters with defects (greed and vanity) that would highlight his own suit in turn--"classic literary foils," he says. He rented the costumes for them from a shop in Midtown.

Mr. Avarice and Mr. Vanity

And James had to wear the jacket because it carried both his proposal and the ring! (I've forgiven him for making me run up the hill.)

My Weasley and me

Thank you for your good wishes, all!

Ten Things I've Learned in Ten Years in New York

Yesterday, August 28, was my ten-year anniversary of living in New York City. I spent the day hiking in New Jersey, but I also spent some time reflecting on what I've learned:
  1. Getting rid of my puffy 1990s bangs = Idea of the Decade.
  2. New Yorkers are people like people anywhere else -- often in more of a hurry and in closer quarters, and consequently sometimes ruder; but also capable of great kindness, especially in times of great need.
  3. A lesson of 9/11: I will never, ever claim that my religion is the only right religion, or my God the only and only right God.
  4. Another lesson of 9/11: Any non-New Yorker, who wasn't here that day, who invokes 9/11 for their own political or religious ends: should be punched in the face. (I do not follow through on this -- I walk away. But they deserve it.)
  5. Heaven is going to look like Prospect Park in Brooklyn on a summer Sunday: people of all ages and races chatting, eating, snuggling, listening to or making music, throwing Frisbees for dogs, running, reading, dancing, with a library nearby to answer all our questions.
  6. The goal of a work of art, literary or otherwise, is to create emotion. The book editor's job is to assist the author in identifying and achieving that intended emotion.
  7. One of the easiest and frequently best ways to make conversation, get to know someone, and/or get them to like you is to ask questions. Fifty percent of men in the dating pool do not know this. (I've tried to stick with the other fifty percent.)
  8. Humility and self-confidence, or good manners and self-assertion, do not have to be (and indeed should not be) mutually exclusive.
  9. In my real life (not my reading life), I tend to like the opposite of drama, and as interesting as dramatic people's lives are, and as boring as mine looks in comparison, this is okay. (A corollary to that: If a situation or person is making me crazy with the drama, I should deal with it and be done with it.)
  10. I'm very lucky to have had such a good ten years in the city, and I'm looking forward to a good and unpredictable ten more.

More than "Nothing Left to Lose"

I adored these lines in Sam Anderson's New York magazine review of Freedom, Jonathan Franzen's new novel:
Few modern novelists rival Franzen in that primal skill of creating life, of tricking us into believing that a text-generated set of neural patterns, a purely abstract mind-event, is in fact a tangible human being that we can love, pity, hate, admire, and possibly even run into someday at the grocery store. His characters are so densely rendered—their mental lives sketched right down to the smallest cognitive micrograins—that they manage to bust through the art-reality threshold: They hit us in the same place that our friends and neighbors and classmates and lovers do.
YES. I LOVE "text-generated [sets] of neural patterns" that make me believe they're real. I also loved The Corrections, and clearly at some point I'm going to have to read Freedom (she says, glancing guiltily at A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book sitting untouched on the Grown-Up Books shelf . . .).

While we're talking freedom, I think that any politicians who would like to express opinions about the relative positions of certain kinds of New York City real estate should be forced to live in the city for six months before doing so. New Yorkers are a diverse group, and thus we know that getting along in such close proximity requires letting others exercise their rights so we can exercise ours; living and let living; remembering without fetishizing; and frequently, shutting up and not being stupid. Would that certain politicians could learn the same.

How to Get a Seat on a Crowded NYC Subway Train

  1. Consider positioning yourself on the platform to board either the first car or the last car on the train. You'll have a longer walk to the stairs at both your home station and your destination, but as a result those cars are usually notably less crowded.
  2. If a train pulls in and it's stuffed to the sliding doors, think about waiting for the next train. Frequently riders will grab the first train that comes along, especially after an extended wait. These trains often end up overloaded and uncomfortable, and chances of getting a seat are practically nil. However, these crowded trains are often quickly followed by near-empty trains, as everyone in a hurry pushed onto the previous train, and the ride as whole in these trains is much more pleasant.
  3. After boarding a crowded train, move out of the doorway and into the seating area as quickly as possible. All successful seat-getting on the train depends upon correct positioning within the seating area.
  4. The best place to stand in the seating area depends on the layout of the train. In an "H" train, where the seats form a "H" shape (broken vertically through the middle by the aisle) between each set of doors, the ideal location is at the joins of the lines, as near as possible to the corners created by the vertical three-seat and the horizontal two-seat. On one of the new trains with blue benches bisected by a central pole, the ideal location is midway between the pole and the end of the bench. On a train with gray benches lining the sides, however, you can hang anywhere along the bench in front of a Likely Target.
  5. Observe your fellow seated passengers carefully to determine the Likeliest Target. A Likely Target is anyone who is currently sitting down but likely to stand up somewhere along the course of the route (and well before you reach your destination). Likely Targets vary with route and location. On the 2/3 line from Brooklyn to Manhattan in the morning, a man in a business suit is a 3-1 bet to get off at Wall Street, and so he makes a great Likely Target if you're going further uptown. A 19-year-old on the F train with an NYU patch on her backpack is likely to get off at West 4th; a woman in scrubs on the uptown 6 train at Bleecker St. is a terrible target because she's probably bound for the hospital complexes on the Upper East Side. Consider the possibilities of transfers as well; a woman in hose and sneakers (signifying heels in her tote bag) on the Q train might very well transfer to the 2/3 for Wall Street at Atlantic Ave., so she makes a great Target if you're at Prospect Park. Look for several Targets in one seating area to increase your chances of success.
  6. Once you've chosen the Target, grab the horizontal pole above his/her head, assume a wide stance for balance and to assert your future right to the seat, and hang on. Do not loom or get in the Target's personal space. (You can take hold of the central pole in the aisle, if the train offers it, which potentially gives you access to Targets on both sides; but beware that people standing directly in front of Targets then get first dibs on those seats.)
  7. As the train approaches a station, particularly a good transfer point, watch your Targets and their seatmates carefully. Is anyone gathering up a bag or folding away a newspaper? If the space in front of that person is free, move into it, even if s/he was not previously identified as a Likely Target. If someone else is standing in that space, respect the right of your fellow Stander to take that seat first.
  8. When the train stops and a Target rises, back off to give him/her space to move out of the train. Once the Target is clear of the space, you can drop a purse, umbrella (dry only), or newspaper into the seat to identify it as yours until you are able to sit down. Note that if you have competition from a fellow Stander for the seat, this technique may get you some dirty looks.
  9. Turn around so you are looking into the train, pull your legs together and all personal belongings to you, and sit down. This is an especially useful technique if you are taking up residence in a middle seat and need to squeeze between two people. N.B.I.: Men almost never want to sit in middle seats. N.B.II: Men are also notorious for opening their legs wide once seated. This is annoying, men. Please take up the width of your seat space and no more.
  10. The following people must always be given the option of taking a seat before you, or offered your seat if you're sitting and they're standing: pregnant ladies; young children; parents holding young children; anyone with a cane/crutches/other obvious impairment; the elderly. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you're sitting and need to offer your seat to someone, you should stand up as or after you catch the person's eye, because many people will not take the seat they deserve if you remain sitting down when you offer. (You can say "I'm getting off at the next stop" as you offer the seat, whether it is true or not; it will ease their conscience at taking the seat and grease the wheels of the transaction.) It is also polite and admirable to offer your seat to women wearing heels (because a lengthy standing train ride in those babies is both tricky and tiring), people with lots of bags, or people who just look like they've had a really long day.
  11. If you are not tired and there are few seats on the train, or if you're within two stops of your destination, ignore these rules and don't sit down -- let one of your fellow New Yorkers catch a break. Good seat karma will come to you in turn.
Happy subway riding and sitting!

Reason #14873 to Love New York City: the Masstransiscope

Last week I was sitting on the B train on my way into work, looking out into the blackness of the tunnels as we left the DeKalb station for Manhattan, when I saw odd flashes of light on the northern side of the train. This in itself was not unusual -- there are lots of strange lights in the tunnels -- but the lights came at regular intervals, and more than that, they seemed to reveal abstract shapes: geometric figures forming, germinating, blossoming against a white background, like an animated film. I stared openmouthed, but nobody else on the train seemed to notice this amazing display. The next day, I watched carefully after we left the DeKalb station, and it happened again: black pillars, white background, with brightly hued boxes opening and unfolding, blue jellyfish shooting away to the horizon. And again nobody else on the train seemed to notice -- it seemed to be my own private artwork, or hallucination.

So it was a pleasure to discover this website and video explaining the phenomenon: the Masstransiscope.

It is an artwork, installed by the artist Bill Brand in the abandoned Myrtle Avenue subway station in 1980 -- a series of paintings that work on the zoetrope principle to give the appearance of movement. The video above shows three contemporary news reports; you can also click here for a modern (if fuzzier) view, complete with a brief pause in the tunnel for an anti-terrorism message. This is by far the coolest New York thing I've learned about in some time, and I'm grateful to Mr. Brand for creating such a wonderful installation and brightening my morning commute.

Full Circle

All good stories have beginning, middles, and ends. This blog first mentioned Barack Obama on July 6, 2007, when I suggested the candidate hire Keith Olbermann as a speechwriter. The discussion heated up in the primaries (the post I made after Hillary's win in Texas and Ohio received the most comments of any non-HP-related post here ever), and returned in these last two months before the general election, culminating in my attempt at a St. Crispin's Day speech* below.

The climax, of course, happened off-blog on Tuesday night, and for me and for most New Yorkers, it was pretty fantastic. I spent the evening in Rockefeller Center with James, Melissa, and several other good HP people; you can read Melissa's account of the countdown here. That night and the release of Deathly Hallows will stand as my two most magical all-New York nights ever -- the biggest excitement, the biggest relief, the happiest.

Quickly followed by sobriety, because even before Barack's speech was over, he had called for service and sacrifice, and you could see in his face the weight of the last two years and the worry of the next four. But there was a kind of relief in that too -- for we, the people at least: the relief of leaving behind old, unbound, selfish ways and taking up a common purpose, which might not be easy, but which will have the honor of work and discipline if we can do it. One blogger I read somewhere pointed out that the natural place to channel the energy of both Obama's and McCain's legion of volunteers was into a national service program: If we could all give an hour a week to make calls for or blog about a political campaign, why couldn't we spend that same hour now at a local soup kitchen? If I could take a weekend to go to Pennsylvania for Barack, why couldn't I take another weekend for Habitat for Humanity? I don't have a good answer for why not, and so I hope to try to keep that energy going in my own life, if at a rather lower degree of insanity than this campaign caused in me.

So this is my last Barack Obama election post until 2012 -- a happy end for now, and a hopeful resolve going forward, into our new beginning in January 2009 and beyond.

* Man, what's happened to Kenneth Branagh in the last decade? It's like God said, "You divorced Emma Thompson? You fool! You shall be punished! Here's a role in Wild Wild West."

More New York City Coolness

Since you were interested in New York City activities . . .

James and I rode bikes down to the Brooklyn shore for his birthday recently. Here I am with the Verrazano-Narrows bridge (the one for which I crashed the Marathon).

On that same jaunt, we randomly found a Norwegian festival in a Bay Ridge park. Here James poses with a Viking ship.

Self-portrait in a multilayered mirror, taken at the Olafur Eliasson exhibit at P.S. 1 last Saturday. I highly recommend both that exhibit and its MoMA half for beauty, simplicity, and elegance. It's closing soon, so go! Go!
Finally, Angela Gheorghiu performs in Prospect Park in Brooklyn last night as part of the Metropolitan Opera's "Met in the Parks" program. It was a gorgeous evening, 75 and sunny, and New Yorkers covered the south end of the Long Meadow to picnic and see Ms. Gheorghiu, her husband Roberto Alagna, and the Met Orchestra and Chorus perform selections from The Pearl Fishers, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Nabucco, and others. After a ten-song program, the couple did, I think, eight encores, which was a bit much -- but as they included "Nessun dorma" from Turandot (surely one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever) and "O Sole Mio" from Trovatore (yes? they also turned it around and sang "It's Now or Never" by Elvis, which, I had never realized, uses the "Sole Mio" melody), I cannot complain.

Hooray for New York!

Live from New York

On Thursday night, my book group met in Soho for dinner*, with gelato at Ciao Bella afterward. It was a beautiful night, and I got the gelato in a cone, so I decided to walk partway home -- at least across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is probably my very favorite walk on Earth. I strolled through Little Italy, Chinatown, and the arches of our beautiful Municipal Building**, then began the long, lovely walk across the bridge itself. About halfway across, I noticed some bright red, white, and blue lights down on Fulton Ferry Landing***, set up around a metal stage, and as I didn't have anywhere to be particularly, I decided to check it out.

First I came across this:

(Image from here.) It's the Telectroscope, which allowed me to see two very nice security guards at the London Bridge at 2 a.m., and we gave each other a transatlantic wave. Then I continued on towards the red, white, and blue stage, which stood behind a large, open gate, with a thin guy in a black t-shirt standing guard.

"Hey, would you like to be in the audience for the Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular starring Kenny Chesney?" he said.

I'm not a big country music fan, but this opportunity clearly was too absurd and/or awesome to pass up, so I said yes, he issued me a little American flag, and I went to stand by the stage. It was decorated with bright red, white, and blue stars bearing the Macy's logo, so I figured they were pre-taping a concert segment to precede the fireworks on the Fourth. (Which makes sense -- the Landing must be mobbed on the Fourth, as it has a prime view of those same Macy's fireworks.) My fellow audience members seemed to be half tourists, half extremely bemused New Yorkers. The three twentysomething Brooklynites behind me talked loudly about how they were only hanging out here until 9:30, and if something hadn't happened by then, they were going to leave and go to the bar because they were missing the Lakers game for some country singer and that was just not cool. A guy from Texas to my left pointed out the Watchtower building to his companion and told her it was owned by the Christian Scientists. (I kept my mouth shut.) Various women in cowboy hats waved their "I Love You Kenny!!" signs hopefully and started "Ken-NEE, Ken-NEE" chants to encourage him to appear.

And right about 9:30, he did, along with his excellent backing band. They taped a performance of his song "Never Wanted Nothing More" three times; I had never heard it before, but in listening to the lyrics, I was amused to note they mentioned his truck, his woman, and the Lord, thus scoring a perfect country-music hat trick. And Mr. Chesney seems like a very nice guy, albeit deaf to all the women screaming "I Love You Kenny!" -- I guess if you hear that from perfect strangers every single day, the words could lose meaning pretty easily, which seems a shame. If you watch the Spectacular on the 4th, I'm standing in the audience off to Kenny's right, enthusiastically waving my little American flag and, by the third go-round, singing along. God bless America, and God bless New York for providing such goofy-cool experiences.

* My terrific book group has been together since 2001, with a variable membership but always the same format: We read a current children's or YA novel and gather at a restaurant appropriate to the setting, theme, or subject of the book. Some of the books we've read this year include
The Luxe (Dove Bar, West Village); The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Bubby's, TriBeCa); and most recently The Hunger Games (Bread, Soho).
** Seriously, if you're going to get married at City Hall, don't you want your City Hall to look like this?
*** Also one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in New York for its incredible view of the Bridge and the lower Manhattan skyline: See here for the view, and don't forget to visit the Brooklyn Bridge Ice Cream Factory (the white building in the background when you look back at Brooklyn).

Cai and Coffee

This afternoon I went to the Guggenheim to see the Cai Guo-Qiang retrospective "I Want to Believe." As I wandered up the spiral, my emotions alternated between amazement at the sheer spectacle -- ninety-nine stuffed wolves hurling themselves at a glass wall! nine cars perpetually exploding in midair! -- and amusement at the typical art-world gobbledygook that explicated it on the gallery cards. It wasn't until I saw these videos on the top floor that I too believed:

"Transient Rainbow," exploded over New York's East River in 2003:

"Black Rainbow: Explosion Project Valencia," 2005:

The Education Center at the museum also featured a wonderful little exhibit on Mr. Cai's "Everything Is Museum" project, where attendees were invited to propose their own unusual museums. If I could, I would take a Wal-Mart and declare it a museum for a day, with no form of economic activity to be done there for a 24-hour period. In fact, visitors wouldn't even be allowed to touch the things on the shelves; they could only look at them, the same way we look at art objects in museums, to consider their creation, provenance, aesthetics, and use. Mr. Clean may mean more than we think.

Then I went to dinner with friends and a really terrific concert, with a cafe au lait in between, which is why I am awake at 2:43 a.m. Nonetheless, a good day.

A Grave in Green-Wood

I was going to post just the picture of this gravestone -- seen in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on Saturday -- under the headline "A Tale to Be Told," as I imagined everything from deep depression to outright madness to marvelous (sane) round-the-world adventures for Mrs. Cunningham. (The adventures would have been disapproved of by her scandalized Victorian family, hence the "troubled soul.") But the wonders of Google revealed the true tale, so I leave it to you: You can enjoy your own speculations, or you can click here.

Green-Wood makes a lovely day out for New Yorkers, by the way; the landscape is beautiful, the atmosphere peaceful, and the grave markers and names as varied and interesting as New Yorkers themselves. (Though I must say I didn't see anything to equal my favorite epitaph, spied on a gravestone in Edinburgh, Scotland: "She lived respected, and died regretted." That is a good life.)

Plaices & Names

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the American Museum of Natural History in hopes of seeing their "Mythical Creatures" exhibit. It was sold out, alas, but I then wandered the halls enjoying the many animal exhibits, including the wonderful names and physiognomies of some of the creatures. I offer these now in hopes they will bring a little natural, nomenclatural, polysyllabic delight to your day:
  • Bloodbelly Comb Jelly
  • Cookie-Cutter Shark (a truly creepy but cool fish -- read the link to find out why)
  • Stoplight Loosejaw (also awesome)
  • Black-Blotched Porcupinefish
  • False Cleanerfish
  • Juvenile Snook
  • Sheepshead Seabream
  • Tripodfish (check out the picture -- it's one of those creatures that proves that if God is the Creator, he has a sense of humor)
  • Powderblue Surgeonfish
  • Jericho Worms (fascinating and weird)
  • Stonechat
  • Eurasian Wryneck
  • Alpine Accentor
  • Common Siskin
  • Yellow-Hooded Wagtail
  • Ruddy Shelduck
  • Whooper Swan
  • Great Bustard
  • Black-Faced Cuckoo Shrike
  • Superb Lyrebird
  • Crimson Rosella
  • Glossy Drongo
  • Nkulenga Wood Rail
  • White-Bearded Bulbul
  • Lemon-Rumped Tinkerbird
  • Cameroon Sombre Greenbul
  • Variable Sunbird
  • Fiscal Shrike (always appears at tax season)
  • Rattling Cisticola
  • Spectacled Antipitta
  • Broad-Billed Motmot
  • Cinnamon-Bellied Ground Tyrant
  • Scale-Throated Earthcreeper
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Pomarine Jaeger
  • Common Stilt
  • Bufflehead

Cinematic New York City Sightings

Before I forget, two fun location notes: The climactic faceoff in Michael Clayton occurs in the cavernous second-floor lobby of the Hilton at 53rd and 6th Ave. -- aka the location for the SCBWI Midwinter conference. You can stand where George Clooney stood!

(Mmm, George Clooney. . .

What? Oh. Sorry.)

And in I Am Legend, one scene takes place on Mercer Street between Prince and Spring Streets, directly behind the Scholastic building -- you can actually see the Scholastic Store sign off to the right. It's good to know Clifford the Big Red Dog survives the viral apocalypse.

Both films are highly recommended, by the way, the first for standout performances and crackerjack writing and plot construction, the second for incredible special effects, cinematography, and suspense. (James and I spent the half-hour after I Am Legend discussing our emergency plan in case of a terrorist attack, however, so don't go see it for a light good time.)

Miss Dynamite, Episode IV and Last

(My thanks again to KTBB for allowing me to share these.)

November 7, 2007. Miss Dynamite inspected the fire-engine red of her lips with satisfaction. It had been a long time since she'd been undercover -- though it seemed like just last night that Norman Conquest had been trying to get under her covers. Probably because it had been just last night. She checked the chambers in her .45. Harry Potter done, and the sad sack was still looking for a bit of magic. Good thing she didn't need Veritaserum to see through him. She flipped her new bob, put on her FMBs, and tightened the belt on her trenchcoat. “Empire State Building, and step on it,” she told the black-and-yellow.

The observation deck was thumping as she worked her way through the crowd. (Was that Tony in the corner playing turtledove to not-Mrs.-Lane? Men.) She found her quarry sipping a neat gin—not quite tall, dark, and handsome, but tall, bespectacled, and English would certainly do. She pushed back a blonde tress and gave him a come-hither. His gin may be neat, but she could be neater. He came hithe.

“Of all the Book Expo parties in all the city, you walked into mine,” said a voice at her back.

Damn. This was no time for sad sacks (although she could use a bit of the old 1066 on the English don right quick). She put a boot in a tight spot to shut up Norman and tilted her head at the quarry. He took the hint. Soon they were all alone, high above 34th Street, with the lights below glittering like Mrs. Astor's insurance policy.

“So, Philip,” said Miss Dynamite, pocketing a key and pouring a bit of the good stuff, “ever thought about who you'd like to work with after The Book of Dust?”

Behind them, Norman pounded on the glass door, but she only shrugged and rolled her eyes. It was the Empire State Building, after all—and just another big hairy ape beating his chest.

Miss Dynamite, Episode III

[N.B.: The inside joke here is my longstanding crush on the New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane, who is not only a hilarious and insightful reviewer (see the description of Legolas's takedown of the mumak at this link), but, I believe, the world's closest living embodiment of Lord Peter Wimsey. Placetne? Hell yeah.]

February 8, 2004. Cads will be cads, but he'd been one cad too many, thought Miss Dynamite as she replaced her revolver. "Farewell, my lovely," she whispered as she let herself out. She needed a drink, she needed a vacation, she needed a whole lot of life insurance, she needed a barge with purple sails with a Tony who knew the difference between hardballs and highballs. What she had was a coat, a pen, and a manuscript.

"Grand Central, and step on it," she told the cabbie. The Campbell Apartment was all lit up for the holidays, and she'd been a very good girl. The Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith sat in front of the Campbell like an expensive Christmas present, and it unwrapped itself into something tall, dark, and handsome.

"Damn," she said as she took Handsome's arm. "I thought I was through for the day."

"Hiya to you, too, Gorgeous."

"You're still wrong."

"I thought we'd called it quits."

"I like long, slow goodbyes."

He took a break to get a grip and a Manhattan. "Still a Bellini and nothing else, doll?"

She set him straight and gave the manuscript to Charlie behind the bar. No sense in being careless. With a guy like Norman, you played your cards close to your chest, and he'd dealt the Knave of Hearts once too often.

"That guy over there's giving you the eye," he said, putting down his drink and picking up his cigarette, before he remembered the mayor.

"A Manhattan's not a Manhattan in Manhattan anymore," she commiserated, eyeing the guy right back. He winked, and Norman saw it.

"That goddamn Anthony Lane!"

She gave both of them a cool smile. Here was a Tony who knew the difference.