[Names have been changed to protect the innocent]
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Karen hands back my wedding invitation and smiles. I feel guilty not having invited her to the affair—I’ve limited the work guests to three—but her eyes light up as she wishes me the most sincere congratulations.
Back at my desk in the Book Room, I return the invitation to my pocketbook, placing it right next to the invite to Ethan Hawke’s book release party. I still can’t believe I’m going. When a galley of Ethan’s new book circulated into the Book Room, I had asked Mitch if I could review it. He had looked at me with a wry smile and said:
“Only if you do a Q&A with him, too.”
After retrieving my jaw from the floor, I said: “Uh…are you sure?”
I wasn’t reluctant so much as skeptical. This phone interview was my first major assignment. I was surprised that Mitch would trust me with someone so high profile.
That was already a couple months ago. And now, here, I consider both events—the party and my wedding—and am grateful to have tomorrow’s distraction. It will keep my mind off Thursday and occupy my nerves.
I sit at my desk, quite literally twiddling my thumbs as I download random songs off Napster. Anthony walks in carrying a couple books tucked under his arm just as I’m wobbling my head to the opening riff to “Sweet Home Alabama.” He nods approvingly and, almost dropping the books, joins me on air guitar as he goes over to the shelves in the back. He places the books on one reviewer’s pile, then comes back around and holds out his hand so I can slap him five. He lip-syncs as he heads toward the door.
As Anthony exits, Mitch passes through and immediately rolls his eyes. I lower the volume, then think better of it and shut off the music completely. Mitch, him being head of the book review department, is one of three people from our office, including myself, who’s been invited to the book release party. The Executive Editor isn’t attending, and neither, originally, planned Mitch. He simply isn’t interested, is unfazed, him having already met his fair share of celebrities. He’s been in the publishing business for quite some time, and in this business it seems that everyone and their mother wants to write a book. Celebrities are no different, though they’re the ones with a better shot at publication.
The problem: I need Mitch to go to the party. My mom won’t let me go anywhere by myself the day before the wedding. My sister-in-law, Talia, plans to join me at a book reading in Central Park tomorrow afternoon. But my mom insists I have a guardian everywhere I go, even to the party, especially the party, like I’m some little kid.
After I had begged Mitch the other week to be my chaperone—as a wedding present, I stressed—he finally agreed. Actually, it was more of a sigh, then an “Okay, fine,” followed by another simultaneous sigh and smile, completed with an exasperated expression that said “oh that Esther.” Which was certainly good enough for me.
Mitch, standing in front of my desk, clears his throat.
“Are you excited about tomorrow?”
“Of course. I’m going with my sister-in-law to see him speak in the Park first. Jonathan Safran Foer’s doing a reading there, too. And there’s a book signing.”
Mitch nods, then grins.
“So, what are you going to say to Ethan at the party?”
“I don’t know, uh…” I look down at the open pocketbook on the floor next to my desk and smile. “Maybe I’ll invite him to my wedding!” I joke.
Mitch laughs, gives me the “oh that Esther” expression, and then looks at the clock.
“You can head out for the day.”
“For the week!” I say as he exits the room.
“See you tomorrow,” he calls from the hallway.
Ah yes, tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Today is the day. Well, it’s really the day before the day, but it’s the day I get to distract myself while meeting a famous movie star. I’m a fan of Ethan’s earlier work—Reality Bites, Dead Poets Society. Well, mainly Dead Poets Society. It’s my favorite movie. I mean, as in, I’ll watch it every time it’s on TV/favorite movie. And it’s not just Ethan’s character, but everyone, and the whole story, and the movie as a whole, and its individual pieces. I feel a strong connection to this movie, see the art behind the subtle details and expressions. The boys rushing up and down the stairwell. A flock of birds launching from the trees at dusk. A lone owl sitting on a branch in the shadowy woods. The boys escaping the dorms to go to the woods and, in their own way, continue the tradition of the Dead Poets. I capture Todd’s expression as he struggles with an English assignment, catch the mischievous sparkle in Charlie’s eyes as he comes up with another scheme, am captivated by Mr. Keating’s lively class lessons, feel Neil’s despair at his father’s disapproval and Knox’s longing as he pines over his love at first sight. All these things become a part of me whenever I watch this movie, and I am enthralled. This is why I like Ethan Hawke—if only because of this movie alone.
Talia and I, having sat through the readings in Central Park—first Jonathan Safran Foer’s excerpt from Everything Is Illuminated and then Ethan’s—join a long line of people, mostly women, and wait to get Ethan’s autograph. It occurs to me that it’s just a scribble on a page in a book, but I want to meet him before I actually meet him. When we finally reach the front, I hand him a reviewer’s copy of Ash Wednesday. He looks up quizzically and I explain that I work at Publishing World. His publicist, or publicity manager, or whomever she is, leans in and smiles during this thirty-second exchange. Then Ethan signs the book, I leave, and the trail of book-toting fans continues.
Later—after Talia and I trek to the west side of the park and then say our goodbyes and see-you-tomorrows and “Have fun!”—I meet Mitch outside the party venue. He’s half smiling, half “let’s get this over with.” After a feeble attempt to shake off my nerves, we go inside.
I scan the room for any recognizable face, but nada. I suppose I had expected it to be filled with artsy celebrities, Robert Sean Leonard and the like, but for the moment I see none. I stand uncomfortably next to Mitch as we wait. Finally, after half an hour, Ethan walks in. I watch him weave through the crowd of guests, him with his untucked, dark button-down shirt, him with his stringy, brown, shoulder-length, face-framing hair. As I stand there and gawk it occurs to me that, oh, well okay yeah, he’s really just some person after all. I start to feel a little less star struck, a little more sensible. Then Mitch catches Ethan’s eye and introduces himself.
I don’t pay attention to what they’re saying. I have no idea what they’re saying.
“…and this is my coworker, Esther…”
I flinch and smile nervously when Ethan extends his hand. Seeing that there’s no one else around, I figure it’s meant for me, and we shake. And then, just as we’re doing so:
“…You spoke with Esther on the phone,” Mitch explains. “And now she has something to ask you.”
My hand drops.
No. Fucking. Way.
I stand there, stunned, more than just a deer in headlights. This expression does no justice to the situation. I stand there, motionless, like I’m watching some alien starship land within inches of my paralyzed face.
Oh no he didn’t.
Seriously? Ask? Something to ask you? What the hell am I supposed to say now?
I panic, am speechless for what feels like an eternity but is probably only a matter of seconds. And then, put on the spot like this, not having enough time, being in a once in a lifetime situation, wanting to strangle Mitch, literally strangle Mitch…
“Hi,” I say sheepishly. “Well, um, I want to thank you for inviting me to your party…”
As I speak, I unzip my pocketbook and reach in. Might as well go all out.
“…and in return…”
I feel for the wedding invitation I had shown off the previous day, pull it out.
“…I’d like to invite you to mine.”
I hand Ethan the invitation, and for a moment he does nothing but stare at me, completely dumbfounded. I imagine he’s trying real hard to hide it. He squints his eyes and tilts his head in a sort of smiling, sort of skeptical way, and I have no idea what he’s thinking other than that, surely, this girl is bat-shit crazy.
Ethan looks at the invitation, then back at me, then considers the invitation again.
“Oh, wow,” he says, again the half smile, again the half disbelief. I’m vaguely aware of Mitch, now off to the side, grinning his ears off.
“Well, uh, thank you,” Ethan continues. He reaches out to shake my hand again, and then, what I imagine is him switching into fan mode, he says:
“Wow, thanks so much. You know, I’d really love to attend, but, it being the kickoff of my book tour, and now my wife’s in China, so you know…”
Embarrassment doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. I am absolutely, positively beyond mortified.
“…But, you know, I’m going to take this invitation…”
“…and show it to my wife, and put it up on my wall…”
Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously? What am I, like, twelve?
And yes, it occurs to me that this forced fan-like behavior, at a professional event no less, does, indeed, make me look like some teeny-bopper gushing over her movie star idol. But the situation was forced, and I couldn’t think, and I went all out, and I want to kill Mitch, seriously kill Mitch, and—Ethan extends his hand yet a third time.
“It was really nice meeting you.”
As he cups my hand in both his own, he looks at me almost thoughtfully, like this is one for the history books, but that maybe amongst this craziness he’s found a little respect for my brazenness. Or, at least this is the silver lining that my mortified self is trying to believe. Then he lets go of my hand, smiles at me, nods at Mitch, and—our worlds having collided for what was only a few bizarre minutes—moves on to the rest of his celebrity/author existence.
I scowl at Mitch. I don’t bite my tongue because there are no more words that I can possibly say at this moment. I look at Mitch and then walk right past him to the exit.
Outside, we say our goodbyes as I spot my parents’ car up the block.
“Well, how was it?”
“What was it like meeting him?”
“It was fine.”
“Did you say fine or fun?”
I trail off, still in shock, wondering what the hell just happened, what kind of drugs I’m using, how I could ever tell this to my friends. Then, I think:
Some crazy fucking wedding present.
an ode to the multitudes, inheritors of earth
whose mental eyes are blind;
to the cities of Babel who built anthills in the sky
to touch the face of God.
an ode to the awe-inspiring
inventors and innovators and makers of myths and stories and images,
and man of the limelight hour.
an ode to scaling TV towers,
skyscrapers and arching garden bowers;
to glaring white signs of wood and holly,
in all man’s folly.
a praise to multi-million dollar enterprises,
and sweaty-palmed multi-million dollar executives;
to antennas and satellite dishes and satellite gods that probe the womb of the earth;
to the virgin birth of silver-screen heroes,
and to painters of the American Dream.
a tribute to drama, our queen;
to the glory of the seen;
to computer-generated flawless faces plastered on the page;
to the bold and daring reinterpretations of Shakespeare, our sage;
to the darkened world of the popcorn-soda-twizzlers-m&m stage.
an ode to the hidden shadows of man and a vegetable audience;
an ode to an age whose simple, humble past remains forgotten,
and whose outer beauty—
though radiant in its viewer’s eye—
contains a hidden core
— September 23, 1999
September 11, 2001
The sky over New York City is flawless. Refracted sunlight dances on my arm as I fade in and out to the low hum of the New Jersey Transit bus creeping along the highway’s twists and turns on our approach to the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s 8:46am when I’m jolted awake by a loud, rushed voice. It takes me a moment to realize that it’s the bus driver, takes me another moment to interpret what he has just said, takes me yet another moment to follow the direction of the driver’s arm as he points a wavering hand towards downtown Manhattan.
I arch my head in the opposite direction of the turning bus as we round towards the tunnel, my mind trying to catch up with my eyes and ears. As I look around I pause on an old family friend. He’s on the phone with his wife, who tells him there’s news that a plane has flown into one of the Twin Towers.
At first it is believed to be a small commuter plane. Or, more accurately, at first it’s difficult to believe at all. But I can see something there—something, if only a bit of smoke, perhaps. And yet still definitely something. We enter the tunnel and snake through the lighted tube beneath the Hudson River.
As I rush through Port Authority I hear news of a second hit, this time in the other Tower. It’s shortly after 9am. I opt not to use the subway. I exit onto Eighth Avenue and swing a right, and it doesn’t occur to me that I’m headed downtown, 23 blocks closer to the “accident.” I suppose part of my dazed mind, with its limited knowledge of what is happening at present, reasons that I ought to get away from landmarks such as Port Authority. I suppose part of my nonsensical mind believes that as long as I get to work I will be safe. I’m on Eighth and 39th as I pull my cell phone out of my bag, planning to call my fiancé and father, but before I can dial a number it rings in my hand.
“Mazel Tov!” I hear through the earpiece, my friend Eli calling from Israel to wish me, with oblivious enthusiasm, congratulations on my recent engagement. “I just heard the news! Mazel tov!”
I’m speechless for a moment, and then, after a brief thank you, my mind quickly picks up again as I rush out the bits and pieces I’ve heard during my commute. My pressured babbling reaches a point wherein I lose track of what I’m saying just as the words leave my lips. I pause, breathe, and then summarize:
“Something’s happening here.”
Eli, when I finish, responds:
“My dad works in Tower One.”
Somehow, my feet take me down Eighth Avenue to the PW offices on 17th Street in Chelsea. I head up to the sixth floor and find that most everyone else is in a similar state of disbelief. TVs and radios murmur in private offices. Coworkers scuttle back and forth through the cubicles. I go to my desk in the book room and try to log onto my e-mail, but I keep getting an error message. I try AOL Instant Messenger instead, surprised and relieved to see my buddy list pop up. I see one of my fiancé’s school friends online and tell him to pass along that I’m at the office and that I’m okay.
At 9:50am, the bulk of us, having left our desks and detached our eyes from the blaring TV, gather in front of the huge picture window stretched along the south side of our building. From this sixth story window, we watch in suspended time an unobstructed view of the smoking, blazing Towers, not 2½ miles downtown. In the distance, we see fragments from the buildings splintering out from the sides.
Are those chunks of metal? Concrete?
My phone rings at 9:55am—it’s my father, who tells me he’s in the Bronx with my brother, heading up to the Tappan Zee Bridge in the hopes of crossing back over into New Jersey. I’m still on the phone at 9:59am when my colleagues and I stare out the window in shared horror and disbelief as the South Tower, in a matter of 10 seconds, collapses in one rumbling, raging storm cloud of dust and debris. I’ve no idea where I find the words to speak.
“The building is falling!” I cry into the phone.
“What?! What building?” My father is frantic. He thinks I’m referring to the one I’m in now. Added to the mix of overwhelming terror, I become frustrated that he can’t understand what I’m saying.
“No, the Tower! It collapsed! I’m looking at it right now! Oh my God, the whole Tower just collapsed!”
I feel someone’s hand on my shoulder, a feeble attempt at comfort. There are no more words to say, nothing in this moment that can possibly make anything better—but it’s the meaning behind this action, the attempt to, at the very least, try to alleviate the heaviness of the moment, that makes an impact. Weak and uncertain… firm and strong… it’s no matter. All that matters is that it’s there. I have no idea whose hand it is.
The rest of the morning is blurred. My father tells me to walk to the East Side to meet my parents’ friend, Paul. I go on foot, joining a mass exodus of people heading shocked, confused, uptown to unknown destinations. I zig-zag my way across town and uptown, noting a van shooting up Sixth Avenue that, aside from half the front window, is completely covered in a thick layer of off-white dust. I walk up through the streets, noting the overcrowded buses picking up passengers at no charge. I opt to walk. I don’t want to be in a vehicle. I want to be on my feet. I want to feel the ground beneath my feet as I make my way into uncertainty.
Paul drives us to the George Washington Bridge in his leased yellow Beetle. I’m not sure why the bridge is open. All I know is I’m horrified going over this bridge, counting every second as we inch closer and closer to the other side. It’s as though, somehow, if we could only get to Fort Lee, we’ll be safe. If we can only get onto Route 4, all will be okay. And once I am delivered safely to my parents’ house in my familiar, Bergen County suburb, all will be well with the world.
Former patent examiner Travis Brown explains it all in Popular Patents: America’s First Inventions from the Airplane to the Zipper, a September title from Scarecrow Press. With profiles of more than 80 inventions, the book provides the historical evolution of each invention, a biographical sketch of its inventor and a description of how the invention was made. Also included are brief histories of U.S. patent laws, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and U.S. patent models. “We think it’s going to be a great gift book,” notes Shirley Lambert, Scarecrow editorial director. “It gives quite a bit of insight into the patenting process,” she adds, predicting that the book will appeal to both men and women alike, sparking their interests with its meticulously researched details. (Fall 2000)
PW Daily for Booksellers January 22, 2002
Geared toward Stephen King fans and science fiction buffs alike, the January 9 release of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red (Hyperion, $22.95) [reviewed here], edited by the fictional Joyce Reardon, Ph.D., will soon be accompanied by King’s made-for-television miniseries, Rose Red. Both the fictional diary and the miniseries center on a haunted mansion in Seattle—a place that seems to have a mind and spirit of its own. The book, set in the early 20th century, tracks the haunting experiences of Ellen Rimbauer, wife of a wealthy industrialist. Ellen takes the reader through eerie encounters at the mansion, and page by page, her character transforms from innocent and submissive to frighteningly powerful and obsessive. Ellen’s diary entries are accompanied by a handful of explanatory notes by the “editor,” supposed professor of paranormal studies Joyce Reardon.
The people mentioned in the diary, as well as Reardon, are all characters in King’s miniseries, which was created for television and will air January 27, 28 and 31 on ABC. In addition to commercials and billboards in Times Square promoting the movie, fans can find information on production here [Web site since updated] for the luxurious inn where the movie was filmed. Another site to check out is [Beaumont University link no longer available] which markets the “diary” and brings to life Professor Reardon’s character. While the university Web site offers real links to paranormal sites, many links are mysteriously (and conveniently for the Web site creators) “under construction.”
Since both Rimbauer and Reardon are fictional, the lingering question is: who wrote the actual text of the diary? Could it really be King? While the bestselling author has never been published by Hyperion, he always has a number of projects in the works and fans may still wonder if penning this mysterious diary isn’t right up his alley. The name of the university, Beaumont, mentioned in the miniseries and in the editor’s notes to the diary, is of particular interest. Fans will recall King’s partially autobiographical writer-character from The Dark Half, Thad Beaumont, who—like King—wrote under a pseudonym (Richard Bachman), whom he then attempted to kill off. Could Beaumont University’s Professor Reardon be following in the footsteps of her pseudonymous predecessor?
Readers, of course, will have to make their own conclusions. Be not surprised that many of the themes in Ellen’s diary are reminiscent of King’s works. After all, the diary is a tie-in—almost a prop—to the Rose Red miniseries. It is important to note that although the King movie tie-in and the mystery behind the book’s author certainly add to the allure of the whole production, the diary stands alone as an intriguing and well-written work of suspense, science fiction and black magic. – Dena Croog
With the recent publication of The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel (Scribner, April 2012), Stephen King fans may need a refresher course on the 7-book (now 8-book?) series. Read on for an interview with Robin Furth, personal research assistant to King and author of the The Dark Tower: A Concordance.
PW Daily for Booksellers (July 16, 2003)
Book of the Day: Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Concordance, Volume I
When Stephen King set out to write the last three books of The Dark Tower series, there were so many characters and places to juggle that he needed a research assistant to categorize them all for easy reference. He enlisted Robin Furth, whom he had met while she was in the Ph.D. program at the University of Maine. Furth, who loves folklore and fantasy worlds, jumped at the challenge and created a concordance that she says was “a lot bigger than he expected.” They decided to publish the extensive Concordance in two volumes through Scribner, with Volume I being released in July of this year and Volume II accompanying the last Dark Tower book in late 2004.
The Concordance is released in good time, set to stock shelves along with the re-released editions of books one through four of the Dark Tower series, (Viking) the first of which (The Gunslinger) has been revised by King. The U.K. edition of the Concordance is being published by Potter & Stoughton in October, and according to Furth, it may be published in Germany and France as well.
Will Furth’s Concordance help build up excitement for the November 4 release of The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (Donald M. Grant/Scribner)? Furth said she hopes her book will serve as a reference for Dark Tower readers and will interest new readers enough so that they pick up The Gunslinger or the other books in the series. We at PW know one thing for sure: “Tower junkies” will be swarming all over this one.
PW‘s Dena Croog spoke with Furth about the daunting task:
PW: What kind of difficulties did you encounter when you were compiling the data?
RF: When I did the first four books for Volume I, it was funny because I went to [King’s] office and they gave me what was available. So I indexed using a British version of the second book, and then a U.S. version of a trade paperback for one and the larger edition for the final books. So when it came to publishing it, I had to re-index the whole thing!
PW: Had you read the Dark Tower books before starting the Concordance?
RF: I had read quite a few of Steve’s other books. When Steve said, “Do you want to do this, do you want to take this job?” that was the first time I read them, and it was pretty amazing. They’re quite haunting books. Since I’ve been working on them, it’s really affected my dream life. Sometimes it’s humorous, like well, one point, when I was indexing for the first volume, I’d be in the middle of a dream and I’d turn around and there’d be Oy behind me, you know, walking along, and I was, “Well what are you doing here?” Sometimes they get scary—I had dreams about Blaine and the Crimson King. It’s quite haunting in other ways, with the characters, feeling like one of them is looking over my shoulder. Certainly Roland. He’s got quite a presence, I think, on the page. Also with his fan base you can really tell that he’s got a presence in the popular imagination.
PW: Did you refer to the numerous Dark Tower Web sites when you were creating the Concordance?
RF: I didn’t really. At the end of the first volume, when I started on the second volume, I thought I really have to know what’s out there and see what different people are saying. That was quite amazing—to look through and see these really amazing Web sites, some of them really beautiful and really imaginative. You know, the amount of time that people have put into it. So it was nice because I felt, “Gosh, I’m living in a shared world here.” You know, because I’ve been pretty much plunged in Mid-World for over two years now.
PW: Would you say that the Concordance is a good preparation for someone who is about to read the fifth book?
RF: Yeah. What I’ve found really amazing with the series was that there are stories within stories within stories. There are so many folk tales woven in and bits of Mid-World history. If someone is really interested in tracing certain aspects of Roland’s world, they can look it up and find page references and cross-references. One of the things I really wanted to do was make a bridge for people who had read the original Gunslinger and don’t have the new version, or that only have the new version but haven’t seen the original, because there are new characters. Other characters were deleted. Some plot twists were added. Also with the maps, I wanted to show the differences. In the new version of The Gunslinger, Roland and Walter are being pulled southeast, like they are already being pulled by The Beam. I thought that was really interesting that [King] added that in. My maps are kind of silly, but they were really fun to work on.
PW: Many of King’s other books also tie into this series.
RF: Well, that’s what is really amazing, when you read Insomnia, Bag of Bones, or you know, The Eyes of the Dragon, Hearts in Atlantis. I mean there are echoes. Seeing the Crimson King come up in other books–I mean Ralph Roberts [from Insomnia] meets the Crimson King–and you think, “Wow.” It just makes it such a dream world. It’s like this world of books–you open this door, and here’s this imaginary landscape where all the countries of the different books are all the same landscape. They’re all interconnected. There’s a story, but it’s always hinting that there is another landscape behind the book, and then another history behind that. The whole idea of a multi-verse, and the Tower. All the different worlds spinning. I like that it is so layered, and that I re-read and I find something new. I think that’s fascinating–the folklore and the stories there. It’s like Stephen King is drawing from a very deep well.