Friday, November 14, 2008

From Nashville to Philadelphia

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk on Vienna 1814 in the Senate Chambers of the State Capitol in Nashville. We had a wonderful crowd - thanks to all the people who packed the room, I enjoyed meeting everyone! Ed McClanahan and I decided to ride down to the Southern Festival of Books together. If you do not know Ed's books, do yourself a favor and get one now. What was it Bob Edwards said of him? "Most people who have had as much fun as Ed are dead."

Ed kindly indulged my curiosity about his adventures on the west coast in the sixties, not least with his friend Ken Kesey, the iconic psychedelic bus Further, and life in general as a Merry Prankster. The conversation spilled over, after arrival at the capitol, into the afternoon and late into the evening over an excellent dinner with Ed and Mark at Mambu's. The chefs, Anita and Corey, are fabulous. I look forward to reading Ed's latest book, O the Clear Moment, which has just come out. Here's a review in Newsday.

After Nashville, I headed north to give a talk on Vienna 1814 at the Napoleonic Historical Society Conference at the Union League in Philadelphia. What a wonderful weekend that was! The conference was outstanding in every sense, except for one: On Saturday, during a concert featuring music of the Grand Armée, news arrived that the Napoleonic scholar Ben Weider had died. If you don't know him, Weider was the author of several books on Napoleon, including Assassination at St. Helena Revisited with Sten Forshufvud and most recently Wars Against Napoleon with General Michel Franceschi. Just a few weeks before his death, Weider had donated about one hundred Napoleonic paintings, statues, snuffboxes, and other antiques from his personal collection to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This included, among other things, one of Napoleon's hats from the Russian campaign, one of shirts, and a couple locks of his hair.

Weider was president of the International Napoleonic Society and also served the International Federation of Bodybuilders (Mr. Olympia, Ms. International, etc.,.), which he co-established. So, in addition to having his books in my library, I have some of his weights in my gym. It was Ben and his brother Joe who brought an obscure Austrian bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger to the States in the late sixties and launched his career. J. David Markham gave a touching toast. The Napoleonic world has lost a champion. My condolences to his family and friends all over the world.

This weekend, I'll be doing a book signing for Finding Atlantis and Vienna 1814 at the Kentucky Book Fair. If you are in the area, stop by.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hitchhiker Typewriter

After the summer break, I'll be hitting the road again with Vienna 1814 for talks in Philadelphia, Nashville, Miami, and other places, including an evening at the Carnegie Center here in Lexington. Details on these and other events will follow in the upcoming months.

In the meantime, you can still snag a first edition of Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, along with the typewriter that he used to hammer out the novel. It's a Hermes Standard 8, complete with a well-worn "x" key and an End Apartheid sticker on the side. The machine will come in its carrying case, that is, a cardboard box that originally held copies of Starship Titanic, which he wrote with Terry Jones, Monty Python performer and medieval historian extraordinaire.

The seller, N V Books in Great Wolford in Warwickshire, is asking $25,084.74, down about $100 from last week.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Morris Book Shop

For readers in Lexington, my friends Wyn and Hap have just opened a cool new book store called The Morris Book Shop. The Grand Opening will be Saturday, July 12. Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo will perform. Jeffrey Scott Holland will be there with Weird Kentucky - I haven't seen Jeffrey in years! It should be a great day. The store has excellent taste: Wyn is currently reading, among other things, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, "a worthy successor to Orwell's 1984," and Hap a certain book about "the Napoleonic 'after-party' that shaped modern Europe."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bluegrass Festival

Vienna 1814 has been made a store or staff pick at other book stores around the country, most recently by Joan Gray at Diane’s Books in Greenwich CT, while also continuing to hit bestseller lists, like the one this week at Reagan Washington National Airport. Thanks again to everyone for all your comments and support! Also, by the way, check out the latest issue of Harper’s for an essay by fellow Kentuckian, Wendell Berry, “Faustian Economics: Hell hath no limits” (and also an ad for Vienna 1814, the “Party that Changed the World”). Tomorrow, I’ll be at the Bluegrass Festival of Books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. These events are a lot of fun, so if you happen to be in the area, come by and say hello.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

FreeKY Fest

All last week, my old college radio station celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a series of concerts and events that culminated in a twelve hour “FreeKY fest” on top of a building in downtown Lexington. The headliners were Apples in Stereo, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Do they ever? The band’s lead singer, Robert Schneider, is better known to my three-year old daughter as “Robbert Bobbert” – he is one of a handful of people she will give a real spirited high five. Cheers to all the organizers, performers, and everybody else who made the day such fun.

Another highlight (for me) was doing a two-hour music show on the station again for the first time in many years. I played some tracks from my late sixties British psychedelia collection, including Tintern Abbey and the Orange Machine. I also brought out a number of bands from the thriving Dunedin, New Zealand scene of eighties and nineties, as well as some exciting new bands that I really like, such as Ideal Free Distribution, whose 2007 debut features some wonderful material. Of course, I couldn't resist playing "Vienna" by Ultravox or, for my kids, "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog.

Speaking of college radio, I’ll be on WHRW-FM, Radio Free Binghamton early tomorrow evening to talk about other subjects I love to discuss, that is, Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thank You

So much to say, time just flies by . . . let me begin by thanking everyone for packing into Joseph-Beth in Lexington for my talk the other day – what a great crowd and what fun to see everyone! A big thank you, too, goes to all the booksellers who have made Vienna 1814 a store or staff pick around the country, like at Rainy Day Books and Schuler Books; thanks, too, to all the readers who have already sent Vienna 1814 to some bestseller lists, such as Harvard University Book Store, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and, in mp3 format, the top five nonfiction audiobooks on Amazon.

As I wrote earlier, I’m still enjoying being on the radio – today, I was on WKCT in Bowling Green and WEKU in Richmond. Actually it has been such a fun experience that I’ve agreed to go behind the mike in a different capacity, that is, as a disc jockey to host a two-hour music show, as part of a celebration of the station’s twenty years on the air. It’ll be my first time attempting to dj a radio show since my college days. Expect sheer chaos.

On Saturday, I’ll be at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest at Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green, where I’ll talk about Vienna 1814 and be on a history panel with some fascinating people, including Tasha Alexander, author of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which starred Cate Blanchett and picked up an Academy Award for costume design earlier this year. Historians on another "golden age" - late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century piracy - Benerson Little and Robert A. Prather, will also be there, as well as Robert McCammon, Mitch Albom, and Harlan Coben. If you are in the area, come out and say hello.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Screen Plays and A Mutiny in the Baltic

I haven't had much free time for pleasure reading the last few weeks, with the book launch and everything, but here's a new book that I wanted to mention right away for the many writers and readers who come by this site: Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse. Among the films are Gladiator, Troy, American Beauty, Lost in Translation, Monsters Ball, Aviator, and Black Hawk Dawn. Cohen, who also conducted technical research for the film version of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, discusses the hits, misses, and explains why, uncovering the "alchemy of the movie business." Cohen's site is here.

Speaking of Tom Clancy, David Hagberg and Boris Gindin will soon publish their book telling the true story behind the 1984 novel, The Hunt for Red October. It's called The Mutiny, the title referring to an incident in the fall of 1975 on board the FFG Storozhevoy in the Baltic. Co-author Boris Gindin was on board the antisubmarine warship when Brezhnev ordered it destroyed. The Mutiny: The True Events That Inspired 'The Hunt for Red October is set for release in May. Hagberg's site is here, and Boris Gindin, here.

Amazon's New and Notable Books

Good news . . . Vienna, 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna has just been selected as one of's "New and Notable" books in history. The other selection is Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, The End of Civilization.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In The New York Review of Books

Here is an excerpt from an ad for Vienna, 1814 that my publisher placed in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books:

"The Party that Changed the World . . . The Congress of Vienna was the most audacious and extravagant peace conference in modern European history. What began as a series of debauched parties changed with word of Napoleon's escape - and led to agreements that drastically reconfigured Europe's balance of power, ushering in the modern age." Some reviews of my book are also cited.

By the way, too, I just heard about a new charity organization that is trying to create book collections for cancer patients in hospitals and clinics around the state. It's called the Kentucky Books for Patients Project, and it's sponsored by James Graham Brown Cancer Center, Louisville University Hospital, and Spalding University's MFA program. For more information about donating books, check out the project's blog.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

On the Air

Years ago, I had a blast hosting a college radio show. But I have to say that I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that until I found myself behind the mic again for Finding Atlantis. In the next few days, I’ll be happily on the air again talking about Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna on five or six radio stations, beginning Monday morning with WTKF-FM in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. I can’t wait. I love radio. And I love talking about Napoleon and that glittering Vanity Fair known as the Congress of Vienna.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happy Book Day

These were the words I woke up to this morning, which my three-year old daughter proceeded to sing to the tune of "Happy Birthday" (and then "Happy Birthday" itself followed for good measure). What a wonderful opening to a wonderful day. Here's a picture given to me earlier today.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Congress of Vienna

Here’s a description of my new book from my publisher:

Vienna, 1814 is an evocative and brilliantly researched account of the most audacious and extravagant peace conference in modern European history. With the feared Napoleon Bonaparte presumably defeated and exiled to the small island of Elba, heads of some 216 states gathered in Vienna to begin piecing together the ruins of his toppled empire. Major questions loomed: What would be done with France? How were the newly liberated territories to be divided? What type of restitution would be offered to families of the deceased? But this unprecedented gathering of kings, dignitaries, and diplomatic leaders unfurled a seemingly endless stream of personal vendettas, long-simmering feuds, and romantic entanglements that threatened to undermine the crucial work at hand, even as their hard-fought policy decisions shaped the destiny of Europe and led to the longest sustained peace the continent would ever see.

Beyond the diplomatic wrangling, however, the Congress of Vienna served as a backdrop for the most spectacular Vanity Fair of its time. Highlighted by such celebrated figures as the elegant but incredibly vain Prince Metternich of Austria, the unflappable and devious Prince Talleyrand of France, and the volatile Tsar Alexander of Russia, as well as appearances by Ludwig van Beethoven and Emilia Bigottini, the sheer star power of the Vienna Congress outshone nearly everything else in the public eye.

An early incarnation of the cult of celebrity, the congress devolved into a series of debauched parties that continually delayed the progress of peace, until word arrived that Napoleon had escaped, abruptly halting the revelry and shrouding the continent in panic once again.

Vienna, 1814 beautifully illuminates the intricate social and political intrigue of this history-defining congress–a glorified party that seemingly valued frivolity over substance but nonetheless managed to drastically reconfigure Europe’s balance of power and usher in the modern age.”

This book was an absolute joy to write, and I have been thrilled with its reception so far – I hope you enjoy it too! Vienna, 1814 will be published next week in hardback, ebook, mp3, and cd, and it will be selected by some regional and national book clubs, including the History Book Club and the Military Book Club.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Like A Rolling Stone

In addition to Martin Scorsese's upcoming Rolling Stones concert film Shine A Light, check out Steven Kurutz's fascinating new debut Like A Rolling Stone, which will also be released in April. Kurutz's book will follow two rival tribute bands, Sticky Fingers and Blushing Brides, on the 2005-6 tour, meeting other acts along the way such as the Kounterfeit Kinks and the Red Hot Chilli Bastards. Publishers Weekly reviews Like A Rolling Stone here, and Kurutz's blog is here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Britain’s Star Warfare

Newly released documents from MI5 shed light on the astrologer Louis de Wohl, a self-styled Modern Nostradamus who was hired to wage “star warfare” against the Third Reich from his west London hotel (i.e. The Psychological Research Bureau). Read more about the file at the National Archives here, here, or track down Louis de Wohl’s many books such as The Stars of War and Peace. A copy of his Secret Service of the Sky, along with a signed letter from the author, is for sale here.

Death in the City of Light

Good news – here’s what I’ll be up to now, or rather continue to pursue, as the subject as long fascinated me, the story in Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace: My next book, Death in the City of Light, will tell the true story of a hunt for a brutal serial killer in Nazi-occupied Paris. My book, Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna will be published next week in hardback, ebook, and audio book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Beatles Flat

Three weeks ago, NASA sent the Beatles song “Across the Universe” on its own magical mystery tour, well, across the universe. Now the apartment that manager Brian Epstein obtained for the Beatles to cushion their move from Liverpool to London, in wake of the September 1963 record-breaking No. 1 single “She Loves You” is for sale. It’s a two-bedroom flat, about 986 sq feet, on the fourth floor of Mayfair’s Green Street, and it's the only place that the band lived together. Sotheby’s International Reality is asking £1.75 million for this slice of “Beatlemania.” See pictures of the flat and its renovated rooms on the realty’s website here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Napoleonic Buzz

This post inaugurates a new series highlighting recent books of interest for anyone, who, like me, devours accounts of Napoleon and the Napoleonic Age.

In Book Three of War and Peace, Pierre Bezuhov stumbles
onto the Raevsky Redoubt and witnesses the Battle of Borodino; Tolstoy paints an unforgettable portrait, but how accurate is it really? Read Alex Mikaberidze's first-rate The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon Against Kutuzov, (Pen and Sword's Campaign Chronicles) and find out. Mikaberidze's colleague at the Shreveport campus of Louisiana State University, Michael V. Leggiere, also has an outstanding new book, the first in a two-part study that examines Napoleon's brilliant campaign of the spring of 1814, and, at the same time, unravels the complicated series of events and forces that led to Napoleon's fall. Leggiere's The Fall of Napoleon: Volume 1, The Allied Invasion of France, 1813-1814 (Cambridge University Press) will be continued in The War in France, 1814. And don't miss the extraordinary excitement that followed shortly afterwards, when the victorious powers (and a horde of others) poured into Vienna to redraw the maps, divide the spoils, and celebrate, which will be told in Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. Of course I'm not exactly unbiased, given my obsession with the dazzling, though little-understood Congress of Vienna, and well, you know.

In the not too distant future, too, I look forward to reading my friend Jeremy Popkin's forthcoming history of the revolution on the French half of the island of Santo Domingo (Haiti), which had important repercussions not only for France, but also the young republic of the United States. I'm also very excited about General Michel Franceschi and Ben Weider's Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars, which was just published by Savas Beatie in December 2007. Read J. David Markham's excellent review here.

Rocket Men

Chris Gainor, author of Arrows to the Moon: Avro's Engineers and the Space Race, has a new book detailing the early history of rockets from ancient China to Yuri Gagarin. Ever wondered when the blast-off countdown began? Watch Fritz Lang's 1929 silent film, Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon/By Rocket to the Moon), where the rocket and space cabin, incidentally, were designed by the astrophysicist Hermann Julius Oberth. Gainor will undoubtedly tell many great stories in To a Distant Day (University of Nebraska, April 2008).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rogue Surfer of Malibu

David Rensin has an exciting new book about the legendary surfer Miki Dora, or Miki, Mickey, Miklos, or just Da Cat, a veritable virtuoso of the waves whose life spanned the emergence, and indeed explosion of surfing as a sport. Dora's skill and grace kept him in high demand as a stunt man in beach party films of the early sixties, and he later played himself in the 1990 film, Surfers: The Movie. Notoriously, Dora made little attempt to conceal his disgust at the sport's creeping commercialization. At the 1967 Malibu Invitational Surf Classic, for instance, Dora surfed past the judges, and, as Drew Kampion put it, bent over, dropped his black shorts, and exposed his naked ass to the gathered dignitaries and spectators.

It will be interesting to see what Rensin has uncovered about this iconic rebel surfer, and apparently, he has conducted many interviews of people who knew him well. I'm also looking forward to seeing what he has discovered about Dora's later adventures after he left Malibu and traveled the world, living by his longboard and his wits, that is, before credit card schemes resulted in a prison sentence. Dora died in 2002 of pancreatic cancer. Rensin's All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora will be published in April 2008.

1,071, 213 Words Later

Science fiction author Neil Gaiman's blog recently turned seven years old, and to celebrate, he is offering any one of his books to his readers as a free download. You can help him decide on the book. Pop over to his site, and cast your vote. Polls close soon.

Years ago, after one of my lectures on classical myth at university, several students stopped by my office to continue the discussion, and, in the process, enthusiastically recommended Neil's books. Same thing happened the following semester after my Norse mythology seminars. So, if you don't already know Neil's work, here's a good chance to sample it. American Gods currently leads the pack, followed by Neverwhere, Fragile Things, and M is for Magic. Vote for your choice here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kentucky Fried Oscars

Which state is Kentucky in, again? Okay I've never actually been asked that question, but it's a wonder and probably only a matter of time. In the six years or so that I lived and traveled in Europe, I was continually struck by what was by far the most common image of our state: Kentucky Fried Chicken. This was the case, too, despite the fact that KFC had been sold eons ago to Pepsi, and Harland David Sanders, or Colonel Sanders, had little experience of Kentucky before his fortieth birthday.

Our little state seems to excel at flying under the radar, merrily going about its business making booze, breeding thoroughbreds, and actually, in the last decade or so, producing some of the highest-profile celebs in the country. Two of the five Oscar nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role this year, for example, are Kentuckians: George Clooney and Johnny Depp, and another Kentuckian, Ashley Judd, is surely up for something, or probably should be. (Image of Clooney and Depp above is from People's best dressed of 2007 issue and fashionolic). Beyond that, Kentucky continues to thrive in the literary arts, a long tradition that includes Robert Penn Warren, Hunter Thompson, Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Grafton, Silas House, and Jane Gentry Vance, now Poet Laureate. Kentucky's Gurney Norman wrote the counterculture classic, Divine Right's Trip, and Ed McClanahan lives here as well as all McClanafans know, he was one of the colorful Merry Pranksters who lit up the psychedelic Day-Glo magic bus Further with his good friend Ken Kesey. There isn't time to recount all the music and arts figures in the area. Let's just say that many came, saw, and left, but others have stayed, like Star Trek's William Shatner, who lives right down the road.

Yes image and reality don't always march hand-in-hand, or at least in the ways we often suspect. It should be interesting to see which impressions of the region stick, and which ones change, if any, as thousands descend on the Bluegrass for the upcoming World Equestrian Games.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Havana Confidential

Award-winning true crime writer T. J. English has a new book exploring mobster Cuba under Batista, Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution. English has an excellent background for such a work, having written about everything from the Irish mob of Hell's Kitchen to a Vietnamese gang in Chinatown. So pour yourself a mojito, and enjoy. English's Havana Nocturne will be out in early May 2008.

The Graduate: A Sequel and A Look Behind the Scenes

Last month, Charles Webb published the long-anticipated sequel to his 1963 novel The Graduate, continuing the story eleven years later in Home School. Now, Mark Harris takes us behind the scenes of Mike Nichols's 1967 film, in his upcoming book Pictures at a Revolution. Harris will provide many more details on the difficulties of the legendary 100-Day Shoot. As for Dustin Hoffman, he had his own concerns about his post-Graduate future: He survived for a few months on the $4,000 he had saved while working on the picture and then registered for unemployment, lining up on East 13th Street every week to pick up a $55 check while he looked for acting jobs.

The New York premiere of the film evidently did not raise his spirits: ''That night, the suits, the tuxedos, I can't remember a single laugh,'' says Hoffman. It was disastrous. I saw a lot of Levine's friends there, and they all looked like, what is he doing on the screen? It should be Redford!'' Mark Harris's Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, will be published later this week by Penguin. Here's a link to his website, and an excerpt from his book in the upcoming February 15 issue of EW, online here.

A Verney Weekend

I finished Adrian Tinniswood's The Verneys about a year ago, and found myself rereading it this weekend, enjoying it just as much. If you don't already know it, Tinniswood's book tells the story of an eccentric aristocratic Buckinghamshire family swept up in the drama of the seventeenth century. One member became a pirate, another went insane, and Sir Ralph (1613-1696) kept just about every piece of paper, as did his son John, later Viscount Fermanagh. The Verneys thus draws on a wonderfully large family archive accumulated over the last few centuries.

My blurb on the back cover calls it a fascinating grand tour through a world turned upside down, showing the seventeenth century in all its splendor and brutality. Ross King, author of Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling and The Judgment of Paris, also on the back cover, calls it "A wonderful group portrait of an eccentric and ill-starred dynasty. Expertly handling the humorous words and unwise deeds of several generations of Verneys, Adrian Tinniswood breathes life into the turbulent history of an entire century." Take the quiz presented by Britain's Channel Four in conjunction with the book here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Congress of Vienna Site

The Congress of Vienna site coming soon . . . along with more on Napoleon and the Napoleonic Age.

I have been excited, too, to read the first pre-publication reviews of Vienna 1814. Most of these are available online, like the excellent one in Publishers Weekly and the recent one in Booklist, which called it outstanding, but here's an excerpt from a brand new one from the Library Journal. In its starred review, the Library Journal wrote: "King does a superb job of evoking the bedazzling social scene . . . This is a worthy contribution to the study of a critical historical event long neglected by historians. It should be in every European history collection." More to come on the Congress here and at the website, as we get closer to the release date.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Swedish Translation of Finding Atlantis

Finding Atlantis - the story of Olof Rudbeck and his search for Atlantis - was translated into Swedish in 2006 (Drömmen om Atlantis, hardback by Fahrenheit, paperback Månpocket). The translator, Frederik Sjögren, did an outstanding job. He has previously translated Bill Bryson, Mark Kulansky, and Ian McEwan, and has just published a translation of Frank Sch��tzing's The Swarm, film rights of which were purchased by Uma Thurman.

House of the Twenty-Four Hour Party People

In addition to the films Control:The Ian Curtis Film and Joy Division, the latter by Grant Gee, who has also directed Radiohead videos, and the book published a few days ago, Paul Morley’s Joy Division: Piece by Piece, there is another memoir on the way. Bassist Peter Hook will tell about his experiences with Joy Division, New Order, and the legendary Manchester club, Haçienda. (The cedilla was inserted in the Spanish hacienda apparently because “çi” would then resemble the “51” in the club’s nickname “Fac 51”).

Hook’s memoir should be an interesting read, given the history of the Haçienda, which helped launch indie/dance crossover, acid house, rave, and whole “Madchester” music scene that exploded in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Haçienda closed for good in 1997. Director Michael Winterbottom had to recreate the club in an Ancoats warehouse for 24-Hour Party People.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Napoleon at the Super Bowl

Garmin will feature Napoleon Bonaparte in its upcoming Super Bowl XLII commercial. I won’t say anything to spoil it, but it will be shown in the second quarter, or if you want to see it now beforehand, it’s here.

Write Us A Song, Mr.Guitar Man

After deciding to learn to play the guitar and perform in six months, with the help of everyone from Johnny Marr to Roger McGuinn, the adventures chronicled in his Guitar Man, Will Hodgkinson now tackles the challenge of song writing. This time, he’ll seek advice from many others, including Ray Davies, Keith Richards, XTC’s Andy Partridge, Richard Hawley and Chip Taylor, who gave us “Wild Thing” at the age of 22. Hodgkinson’s Song Man: A Melodic Adventure sounds every bit as exciting as his debut.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Byron’s Landlady

Andrea di Robilant has a new book about his great-great-great-great grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, the daughter of Andrea Memmo from his A Venetian Affair and the wife of Alvise Mocenigo. Lucia later became a friend of Empress Josephine, a lady-in-waiting at the court of Napoleon’s stepson, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, and eventually Lord Byron’s landlady, renting out the piano nobile of the Palazzo Mocenigo to the poet and his pets. Andrea di Robilant’s Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon, published last autumn in Britain and Australia, hit bookstores in the States last week.

Norway the Space Nation

For readers in the New York area, Pål Brekke of the Norwegian Space Centre (Norsk Romsenter) will present the next installment of the American Scandinavian Foundation’s series “Living in the Northern Landscape: Culture & Climate Near the Arctic Circle” tonight at 6:30 in the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Brekke will discuss, among other things, recent advances in solar physics, Sun-Earth interaction, and perhaps also the Andøya Rocket Range and the Svalbard archipelago in his talk, “Northern Lights & Satellites: Norway as a Space Nation.” Admission charge/free for students.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Slacker Manifesto" for Generation X?

Jeff Gordinier, editor-at-large at Details and Entertainment Weekly, has a book out later this spring that’s likely to spark a lot of discussion, X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking. According to the publisher, Gordinier will show “how Gen X innovations in art, comedy, technology, activism, and (gasp!) business have come to define the way we live now.” Generation X, the book will also argue, is “maybe, secretly, the ‘greatest generation’ of all” (Gordinier, X Saves the World). I'm looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meet the McMafia

Misha Glenny, author of The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999 and The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War, has a new book that will explore the political, economic, and criminal links of the borderless underworld that has emerged since the collapse of Soviet Union and the expansion of the European Union. The scale of this illegal international trade is staggering, and he will discuss everything from cybercrime to the “caviar mafia” of Kazakhstan. Glenny’s McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld will be published in April 2008.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

High Noon at the 9:30 Club

In 1982, the owner of D.C.’s 9:30 Club (now Nightclub 9:30) heard of two new interesting bands who happened to share the same name – one a post-punk quartet from the thriving D.C. music scene and the other a jangly band from a college town down south – and decided it would be a hoot to stage a battle of the bands. The challenge was made and accepted. The rules were simple: A coin toss would decide which band opened, and the victors would then rename the losers.

One member of the DC band described the evening: “The night came, and we lost the coin toss. No worries--we went on and played a killer set, got a lot of applause, then retired to the bar to enjoy our victory.” Then the other band took the stage: “I'm a little fuzzy about the progression,” he continued, “but I think the first song they played was Radio Free Europe. The crowd went silent, mouths hung agape, and when the last chord was struck, the room exploded. Crap.”

So ended the “Battle of the R.E.M.”s – the D.C. band included, by the way, Greg Strzempka, the future front man of Raging Slab and Chris Anderson, now Editor in Chief at Wired Magazine. (It’s Chris who is quoted above). Apparently, too, it was Mike Mills of the other R.E.M. who then renamed Anderson’s band: Egoslavia. Not bad! Chris's blog is here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winter Festival 2008

For readers in the Bluegrass region, this year’s Winter Festival will begin on Sunday, February 3 at Jessamine County Public Library. One of my favorite people, Jane Gentry Vance, Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, will read from her latest work, the Lexington Philharmonic will perform, and I’ll give a talk about my adventures in writing. There will also be a film festival, an open mic night, a Civil War Extravaganza, a performance by the Bi-Okoto Drum & Dance Theatre of Cincinnati, and other activities for people of all ages. Read more about the week’s events here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Vienna 1814: Book Club News

Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna has just been selected for the History Book Club and the Military Book Club for spring 2008. Details to follow as we get closer to the launch.