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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guest-Blogger Dylan Landis: 5 Magnetic Spaces

One of the books I am most looking forward to reading is my fellow Sewanee Writers' Conference alum Dylan Landis's Normal People Don't Live Like This, a novel in stories which is already--- it won't even be published until September 28th--- generating a hive 'o buzz. You'll be able to buy it on shortly, but better yet, meet the author and get an autographed copy at Washington DC's venerable Politics & Prose on Sunday October 11th @ 1 pm. Dylan Landis shares an unlikely background with Edith Wharton: prior to embarking upon her literary career, she was an expert interior design writer. So it's no surprise that when I asked her to guest-blog with 5 in-some- way-relevant-to-her-book links, they were all about spaces. Read on.

I'm obsessed with ruined houses, grottoes, rooms that appear in dreams, underground places that invite trespass--even hoards and the distress that hums from deep within them. None of these mysterious spaces made it into the books I used to write on interior design. Five links I find magnetic:

1. I was fifteen when my diary got read at a friend's house, and never kept another. But visiting Paris I kept a travel journal for Leah, a teenage girl in Normal People Don't Live Like This, and she adored the exquisite bone-bejeweled rooms of the Paris catacombs; she took notes down there for hours, and it led to the story "Delacroix."

2. This dreamlike aviary at the Villa Arvedi in Italy was photographed by photographer Douglas Busch (who builds his own cameras); a copy hangs over my writing desk. Two of my characters, both mothers of teenage girls, have repeating dreams about finding a secret room. This could be one of those rooms.

3. The Collyer Brothers could barely squeeze through the accumulated hoard in their 12-room Harlem mansion; it subsumed 84 tons of inherited and scavenged stuff--newspapers, pianos, chandeliers, a horse's jawbone, clocks, and eventually their own bodies. E. L. Doctorow's new novel, Homer and Langley, mines the story; so does the Frank Lidz bio Ghosty Men.

4. Heartbreaking and mesmerizing: the abandoned Cane Hill Asylum in London—where both the vacant rooms and scattered patient records have stories to tell.

5. It's illegal to set foot on North Brother Island in the East River of New York, where an overgrown quarantine hospital still stands--along with the cottage where Mary Mallon, whom the press called Typhoid Mary, spent her last years. (I'm writing a novel about her now.) Photographer Rachelle Fernandez captured the haunted quality that survives here.

--- Dylan Landis

P.S. Dylan Landis's work is featured in Richard Peabody's latest anthology of Washington women writers, Gravity Dancers.
---> To view the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Digg Dialogg with Timothy Geithner

A journalistic Rubicon has been, well, perhaps not crossed, but waded into. Looks kind of sludgy in there, and with plenty of piranhas. The idea is, the diggosphere comes up with the questions for Mr Geithner, denizens vote by "digging" and then on Tuesday August 25 at 8 am EST Mr Geithner will respond to the top questions. You may hereby digg this post. More anon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

La Sombra del Sabino, September 6th & Why Attend a Bookstore Reading?

I'll be reading from and signing The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire on September 6, 2009 at the ever-luscious La Sombra del Sabino in Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico (reading in English, Q & A in Spanglish)--- apropos of which I (finally!) posted this little "roundabout," "Why Attend a Bookstore Reading?" with answers provided by varios amigos, among them, Sandra Gulland, Solveig Eggerz, Leslie Pietrzyk, Richard Peabody, Richard Beban, Kathleen Alcala, Tony Cohan, Daniel Olivas, and more.

Hasta pronto.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Trailers for Books: A Selection

Trailer for 'The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire' by C.M. Mayo from on Vimeo.

Working on the soundtrack for a video shot in Mexico City by Deborah Bonello... meanwhile, just had a fascinating conversation with Julia Sussner, specialist in narrative architecture, who made the trailer for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (watch the 47 seconds here) (or click above). It's not yet an established genre. Anything goes. Herewith a few widely divergent examples:

For Sandra Gulland's historical novel, Mistress of the Sun

For Miranda July's short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You

For James Howard Kunstler's novel, World Made by Hand

For Stephanie Bennett Vogt's self-help book, Your Spacious Self

For Steven Hart's The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway
Note: You might want to mute the sound on this one.

For Penny Peirce's self-help book, Frequency

For Anat Baniel's self-help book, Move Into Life

I'd be interested to know about more unusual and/or especially good book trailer videos. Suggestions?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fall for the Book Festival: Bill Miller over at Art Taylor's Art & Literature

Delighted to announce that I'll be reading from and signing my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire at the Fall for the Book Festival in Virginia this September 26th (details at my events page). What's Fall for the Book all about? Check out Art Taylor's interview with festival director Bill Miller over at Art & Literature.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Edward Swift in San Miguel de Allende: How to Build a House Without Losing Your Mind

Definitely on my top 10 list of books read this year: Edward Swift's memoir of growing up in the Big Thicket in East Texas, My Grandfather's Finger (University of Georgia Press, 1999). More about that anon. He's not only a very fine writer, he's also an artist, and his works, like his writing, have a playful charm. Here's a portrait of the artist (taken by Yrs Truly last month) in front of his gallery in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

He's not only a gallery owner, he's also homeowner and he has some wise things to say (read the article here) about building a house in Mexico and in particular working with such a talented architect as Jesús Zárate. Angular and light-filled--- and filled with his own art--- Swift's small house is surprisingly spacious. View more pictures of this remarkable house on Swift's website here.

More anon.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Enjoy the Season: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire @ Bethesda MD's Barnes & Noble

"Enjoy the Season," says the sign--- which I hadn't noticed until, thanks to my amiga C.R., I saw this photo of Yours Truly giving the spiel (note carte-de-visite of the then-prince Agustin de Iturbide y Green circa 1865 to the left) at the Bethesda Barnes & Noble Bookstore back in June. A book tour is a sort of season, after all. This was one of the last events in the cram-packed book tour arranged by my publisher, Unbridled Books, that started at Washington DC's Mexican Cultural Institute and then to California (Palo Alto, Berkeley, Corte Madera, Pasadena, LA, La Jolla, Del Mar), and on to Albuquerque and (whew) four events in a blazing zig-zag across the great state of Texas--- so I was pretty well wiped out by the time I got back up north to Bethesda, Maryland's Barnes & Noble. But in fact, this was one of the most fun of all the events. Several of my writing friends attended this one (among them, Leslie Pietrzyk, Carolyn Parkhurst, Ann L. McLaughlin, and Paula Whyman), as well as many Mexican friends and a leading expert on Mexico's First and Second Empires, Clark Crook-Castan, author of Los movimientos monárquicos mexicanos (Collección UDEM, 2000). I'll be posting something about this work very soon. The thing is: a book tour is about so much more than selling a book. It's about understanding the book in deeper ways as people make comments and ask questions; it's about seeing old friends and family; meeting new friends; and learning about other people's work. A book tour is a season of surprises.

More anon.

Artist Statement

What if novelists made paintings to show what their writing is all about? Seems to me this is the flip-side of the tradition of visual artists offering up an "artist statement." A few examples of the genre by painters:

Kelley Vandiver's Artist Statement

Holly Sears's Artist Statement

Edgar Soberon's Artist Statement

Alas, I'm a lousy painter. But if I could choose a painting to represent the way I think of my writing, or rather, its intent, I might go for Holly Sears's "Lift" or Kelley Vandiver's "Light Shown in the Darkness" or maybe Edgar Soberon's "Nightshade." Or maybe-- if a sculpture counts-- Edward Swift's "Alien Jumping Rope in a Party Dress."

More anon.