Category Archives: Books

The Upstage Club, Asbury Park: An Interview with Author Carrie Potter Devening



FOR MUSIC’S SAKE: Asbury Park’s Upstage Club and Green Mermaid Cafe – The Untold Stories
by Carrie Potter Devening
255 pages
To order: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000411026
Or: http://theupstageclub.blogspot.com/

A short time ago, I reviewed a new book (http://bit.ly/ovt5v5) by the daughter of club manager Tom Potter, about the people who created, performed at and frequented the famous Upstage Club in Asbury Park, New Jersey. While The Stone Pony is the bar that is most associated with the early days of Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and dozens of other Jersey Shore bands, it was actually an after-hours club called The Upstage where most of these musicians met, made friends, jammed, formed bands and cut their musical teeth.

Now in Part Two, I talk to the author, Carrie Potter Devening, about creating the book, the many friends who helped her make it a reality and her vision for the future of The Upstage Club.

This Hard Land: When did you first become interested in the history of the Upstage Club?
Carrie: I’ve been interested my whole life, mainly because of my family history and my love for my Grandpa Tom (Tom Potter, manager of The Upstage Club) When I was in high school, I would often use artwork done by my grandfather to inspire me. He was a very artistic man. For example, I remember one assignment we were given was to do a black and white still drawing off a cardboard box full of my favorite things from my Grandpa. This included a book of poetry that my grandfather used to challenge me to memorize; the Spotlight Magazine article which featured Grandpa Tom; a set of his scissors and his license to be a hair stylist. I still cherish that cardboard box to this day.

Carrie: I knew the family history was very unique and that Tom Potter and his wife Margaret and The Upstage Club were very important to so many people who were part of the Sound Of Asbury Park (S.O.A.P) and desperately wanted the memory of the Upstage preserved. You could say that this book has been in my creative storage bin for many, many years.

This Hard Land: When did the idea of writing a book about it begin to take shape?
Carrie: I really didn’t think a book was feasible until my late Uncle Geofrey (Tom Potter’s oldest son), who passed away just a few weeks ago, came to Texas.

He had read Gary Wien’s book, “Beyond The Palace,” (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Palace-Gary-Wien/dp/1412003148) which goes into quite a bit of detail about The Upstage. He encouraged me to speak to Gary Wien. Gary gave me a really good indication of how folks who had been part of the Upstage scene still felt about the club.

I had kept, literally, hundreds of slides (Tom Potter collected slides of photographs), I had his old scrapbook, and basically two big old storage bins full of memorabilia, including the famous Green Mermaid painting. None of these photographs had ever been published or really seen by anyone, including some great shots of Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven, Southside Johnny and basically all of the musicians who jammed at the Upstage. It was a real “treasure chest” of pictures and artwork that was just sitting in storage. So I took stock of all I had and said to myself, “I think I have the beginnings of a really great book here.”

In December of 2003, I got on a plane and flew to New Jersey and Asbury Park for the first of what would be more than a dozen trips. I checked into a room at the Manchester Inn in Ocean Grove, which sadly no longer exists after it burned to the ground. But for the longest time that hotel was my home base away from home, each and every time I came to Asbury Park.

First thing I did was meet face-to-face with “Beyond The Palace” author Gary Wein, as well as a friend of my grandfather, David Mieres, who showed me around town. The next few days are kind of a blur as I met so many wonderful people who became instrumental in making this book happen. Beofre I left I had met with so many people including Vini “Maddog” Lopez and Ilene Chapman, who’s been for the longest time very involved in Asbury Park’s music scene. It was a fantastic introduction to the people and places of Asbury Park, New Jersey.


Dan and Eileen Chapman Inside The Upstage Club

Carrie: Coincidentally, and I swear I had no idea this was going on, Bruce was performing one of his Holiday Shows at the Convention Center in Asbury Park the very next night. Fortunately and with a little help from my friends, I was able to get into the show. And once I was inside I got it into my head that I had to make the most of my visit, including introducing myself to Bruce. So here I was, this young “whipper-snapper” from Texas with a shopping bag full of my Grandpa’s slides and completely full of myself. I was lucky enough to go backstage for a little white and said a quick hello to Southside Johnny, who was also performing at the Holiday Show. Of course, Southside was his usual self, cracking jokes and asking me more questions than I asked him. It was very funny.

But when it came to meeting Bruce, things got a little sketchy. Apparently he was struggling from a bad cold, but he still took time between the sound check and the show to meet me. He was very kind but a little shocked that such a small person from Texas had such a big idea. I think I kind of caught him off-guard, going on and on about my how I was Tom Potter’s granddaughter. And he told me that he wanted to meet with me some other time to talk about the project. I’m still hoping that we can meet someday soon so I can hand him a copy of the book.

But the show was great, and it gave me a chance to meet a ton of people, so that was awesome. After the show I hung around and was introduced to several key individuals. That was the night I met Vini “Maddog” Lopez who was very nice to me and he has become a true friend and solid supporter of this project.


Carrie and Vini “Maddog” Lopez

This Hard Land: What happened next?
Carrie: Well, when I got back to my hotel I was informed that some important people were coming to meet me who were interested in helping me with this book. This turned out to be Dan “The Tape Man” Eitner and his wife Nancy. I can honestly say that without their love and support, I don’t know what I would have done. Dan is one of the most generous, thoughtful individuals that I have ever met. Ever since that first time I met Dan, he has helped me tremendously.

Dan just knows so many people and he has always had so many great ideas. Even now he’s constantly sending me inspirational emails and text messages that keep me going. I like to call him my unofficial “marketing director.”


Dan and Nancy Eitner On The Boardwalk, Asbury Park, N.J.

Carrie: Really, when I think about it, I have been truly blessed by all of the wonderful and generous people who have taken an interest in this book. And I have to give a ton of credit to Joe Petillo and Tom Jones, who were both extremely helpful. Joe was actually an original member of Margaret Potter’s house band, The Distractions, at The Upstage. Tom Jones runs the Halo Group in Los Angelos and has an incredible media background.

When things were not looking very promising for the future of the building that The Upstage was in, Joe and Tom, as well as a number of original Upstage musicians decided to hold a “Last Jam” inside the Upstage, which I wrote about in detail in my book. In fact, Tom videotaped that jam for a documentary that he’s been working on about The Upstage. Both Joe Petillo and Tom Jones really gave me the strength to continue during the most difficult part of this journey.


Joe Petillo, Carrie and Tom Jones

This Hard Land: What was it like the first time you got a chance to climb those steep steps and walked into The Upstage?
Carrie: You know in the movies when people finally reach the summit and they hear a choir of angels singing? That’s what it was like. In fact there’s one Disney remake, titled “The Secret Garden,” and there’s this scene where a little boy is entering the garden. That’s exactly how it felt. In fact, I get a little misty-eyed every time I think of it.

But getting upstairs wasn’t all that easy. On my first trip, I just walked into the old Extreme shoe store with a few of my new friends. There was an older Asian man running the store and no matter what we said he simply refused to let me go upstairs. He kept saying it wasn’t up to code and that I could get hurt and that kind of thing. I told him about my grandfather, Tom Potter, who ran The Upstage and how I had come all the way from Texas to see it. I tried everything, but he said it was too much of a safety liability for him to take a chance.

Well, then I turned on the water works. I got very emotional and started crying, saying, “I’m not leaving this store until you let me go upstairs.” (laughs) Finally, he gave in and grabbed the keys and up the stairs we went up, the whole group of us. And that’s when I heard the choir of angels singing. I felt like I was finally getting to see what I had been dreaming about for so long.


Steep Steps leading To The Upstage Club

This Hard Land: What was it like up there?
Carrie: Well, there wasn’t much left, just a few tables. But what was really cool was that much of the original art was still there on the wall. The paint was peeling a bit, of course. And there was the huge metal wall where Grandpa Tom used to put all the speakers. But a lot of the original artwork was still intact. The funniest thing was that when I went into the bathrooms there was all kinds of original writing on the walls and somebody had put up “Steel Mill.” I thought that was very, very cool.

But really, it remains today much like it did forty years ago. All of the fixtures are intact. And we had a great time, posing with various people for photos and checking out the place. Every time I come back to Asbury Park, I make sure to stop by and visit the place to make sure it’s all okay. I really hope that the new owner preserves it as much as possible. It really deserves to be preserved in some way as a museum and as a place for young people to come together. That’s my dream.


Carrie with Writer and Rock Historian Robert Santelli Inside The Upstage

This Hard Land: That first trip must have been quite inspiring for you.
Carrie: Oh, for sure. As soon as I got back to Texas, I got right to work. I started the Upstage.net website and I began asking people to send me their memories of the place. One of my biggest challenges was transferring the images from my grandfather’s slides, along with other illustrations to computer images that could be used for the book.

But one day while everything was on hold, my old high school art teacher, Paul Wilkins, and I were talking and I told him about my project and he was very excited about it. He immediately offered to help me transfer the slides. Paul and his wife Beverly took an immediate interest in this book and I’ve spent whole weeks at their house working on the book.

I would work for hours and hours on his computer until my arms were so tired I could barely lift them. Paul taught me the basics of this software program and let me go wild with it. He provided the tech support and gave me the creative freedom. In many ways, Paul and Beverly and Dan and Nancy were for me, what Tom and Margaret were for the kids who played at The Upstage. I could never have done this book without the help of many, many good friends.


Robert Santelli, Carrie and The Legendary Carl “Tinker” West

This Hard Land: This book is, I think, a living and breathing testament to the kind of community that existed back in the 1960’s when The Upstage club was thriving and everyone sort of helped each other, lending guitars and amps. As for you, what are your plans? And what kind of vision do you have for the future of The Upstage?
Carrie: Well, I just had a new baby and as much as I’d love to dedicate all my time to mass marketing this book, I just don’t have the time. But I want so badly for this book to be a success, so buy a copy for yourself or somebody you love. It is a great gift and the holidays are coming up and I think anybody who is truly interested in the history of The Upstage would really learn a lot from this book.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do what I can. I’m going to keep flying to Asbury Park to do a number of book selling events in Asbury Park in the next few months, I plan to stay involved in helping to lobby city officials so the new owner can get what he needs to use this historic building most effectively.

Most of all, I’d like to see the building continue to be preserved. And I’d love to see it used as a sort of living museum and a place where young people and up and coming musicians can come together. That’s was my grandfather’s dream and now it’s my dream too.

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“Jaws – Memories From Martha’s Vineyard”

On a recent visit to Martha’s Vineyard, I was browsing through the books inside the A Bunch Of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted it. It was a large coffee-table sized book with the title, Jaws – Memories From Martha’s Vineyard. Being a longtime Jaws fanatic and knowing that much of the movie was shot on Martha’s Vineyard (and in the waters off the coast), I began poring through the pages of this gorgeous 296-page masterpiece of a book.

I was only 15 when the film was released, and looking through the pages of this exciting new Jaws book took me instantly back to those teenage years, not to mention the incredible heart-pounding suspense of Steven Spielberg’s seminal film about a Great White Shark that wreaks havoc on a busy, beach community and just won’t go away.

The book was compiled by author Matt Taylor and Jaws expert and memorabilia collector Jim Beller. For the first time ever, the two men have put together a shark-sized, treasure trove of behind the scenes photos, drawings, production notes and stories from the folks who were there during the making of the film, both Islanders and filmmakers who came to Martha’s Vineyard to make a movie of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws. According to the Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard web site (www.mvremembersjaws.com), this is a “one of a kind collection sure to please even the most diehard Jaws aficionados.”

The pictures of the making of the film are absolutely riveting, like this one of a young Steven Spielberg filming one of the attack scenes from the front of the bow of the Orca, the boat that eventually tracks down the Great White Shark in the film.

Hundreds of locals had to be hired as actors, extras, production assistants and laborers. And the book includes eyewitness tales and tidbits along with interviews with many of the Islanders who participated, many of whom became movie actors for the first time in Jaws. Also interviewed in Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard: Jaws Production Designer Joe Alves, Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb (who also acts in the movie), Location Casting Director Shari Rhodes and many more.

The book features countless stories about Bruce, the first name of Spielberg’s attorney and the name given to the mechanical shark(s) that were used to create the special effects, back in the days when directors like Steven Speilberg insisted on shooting on location with as much authenticity as possible. When Jaws premiered, it set just about every box office record and became not just a blockbuster of a film, but a part of movie making history. Plus it made “going in the water” an unnerving endeavor for quite some time.

Now all of the memories of the making of Jaws have been compiled into one huge coffee-table book (the book’s website features the warning: You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Coffee Table. Indeed, this is being called the greatest “making of a film” books ever compiled. The book is available in two formats, a softcover version and a special signed and number “Limited Edition” hardcover copy that also includes a DVD and an actual 1″ by 1″ piece of the Orca II, used in the film.

This is truly a must-have book for any fan of the film Jaws. As temperatures continue to soar into the 90s and higher, this book is a tremendous way to revisit a time and a place long ago. All you have to do is buy the book, and then simply find yourself a nice cool spot where you can “really sink your teeth” into Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard.

For more information on how to purchase your copy, visit http://www.mvremembersjaws.com

(I think I might need a bigger blog!)

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“2030: The Real Story Of What Happens To America” by Albert Brooks – A Review

(Originally published in May 16th issue of Cincinatti’s City Beat weekly newspaper.)

Albert Brooks, one of the most creative and influential comedians and filmmakers of the last 40 years, has turned his attention to writing fiction with his suddenly serious yet wholly entertaining first novel, 2030: The Real Story of What Happens To America. In his futuristic tale, Brooks envisions a dystopian America in which we’re living longer but not necessarily happier lives. The novel conjures a crippled United States brought to its knees by fiscal insolvency and a killer earthquake in Los Angeles. Ably avoiding the clichés of most apocalyptic fiction, Brooks’ 2030 is a thoughtful forecast of the not-too-distant future that raises key questions and offers promising possibilities.

Brooks is at his best in 2030 when describing lifelike robots, wristwatches with video screens and fast electric cars. A cure is finally found for cancer and people are living much longer lives. But dissension grows among younger people left to foot the bill, in the form of violence and efforts to eliminate “the olds.” When an earthquake levels Los Angeles, America, already deep in debt, is forced to let China rebuild, in exchange for (gasp) shared ownership of L.A.

Although Brooks fails to create many truly three-dimensional characters, he compensates with a slow-building tension in 2030 that reaches a climax when hijackers threaten to blow up a ship carrying 2,500 seniors. Fortunately, disaster is averted at sea and, back at home, L.A. is transformed into a majestic city; a model for all others in need of repair. At last, America begins to mend.

Brooks ties up all of his loose ends and wraps up his novel with an ending that is certain to surprise readers. In 2030, Brooks leaves us on a note of optimism and hope, something we can all desperately use. Grade: B

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When Human Lives Collide

“Half my life ago, I killed a girl.”

That’s how author Darin Strauss begins his confessional autobiography, Half A Life. In this magnificent book, Strauss, who was already a best-selling, award-winning author of three novels, including Chang and Eng about the famous conjoined twins, decides to tell his own story. It’s a tragic, yet redemptive tale in which Strauss finds a way to see the past in a different light and in doing so sheds much of the guilt and self-doubt that he’s been carrying around for more than two decades.

Half A Life is a profoundly personal story of an accident in which a teen-aged cyclist veers into traffic and is struck by the car Strauss was driving, causing a collision which takes the young woman’s life and leaves Strauss with nothing but questions, guilt and self-doubt. But what makes this book so evocative is the author’s ability to remember and recall the “tic-by-tic second” sequence of events that happened one fateful day long ago and followed Strauss for the next two decades. Strauss is not afraid to detail every horrifying, guilty-ridden, grieving moment and the myriad ways the accident continued to haunt him. Half A Life is a courageous recollection of a tragic accident, rendered in an intimate and fearless fashion by the man behind the wheel.

Half A Life begins where it must begin — at the scene of the collision, with a detailed description of every move, thought and emotion. Strauss recounts the tentative moment in which he emerged from the windshield-cracked car, walked over to the side of the road and peered into the “lifeless” eyes of Celine Zilke’s, her body twisted like a ragdoll on the street:

“The eyes were open, but her gaze seemed to extend only an inch or so. The openness that does not project out is the image I have of death: everything present, nothing there. She lay on the warm macadam in oblique angles-arms bent out and up, foot settled under the knee. In the skin between her eyebrows there was a small, imprinted purple horseshoe of blood.”

Strauss takes the reader along with him on a seemingly never ending string of events; the distraught visit to the police station, the author’s unsteady attendance at Celine’s funeral and Strauss’ awkward return to classes. Darin Strauss recalls the wildly insensitive and inappropriate comments made to him by classmates and family members in the wake of the accident. He remembers with vivid recall his interaction with the victims family and how he was told that he would now have to live not one, but two lives, in Celine’s absence. Throughout “Half A Life” Strauss’ inner voice resonates and with each mile marker he passes he remembers new doubts, questions and uncertainties.

As if his own shame and irresolution isn’t enough, Strauss also relates the endless litigation brought by the victim’s family, including mortifying court appearances in which he is asked questions like, “Were you drunk?,” or “With five other cars around, why did she swerve into your car?”, and perhaps the most incredulous, “How far did her body fly?”

Strauss writes:

“Through all this, there was the courthouse threat of financial devastation — a thief taking up ominous position outside every job, every apartment, rubbing his hands together. Everything could at any moment be taken away…to keep Celine with me forever.”

When the author goes to college he remembers not knowing who to trust or whether to tell new friends and lovers about the accident. Years later, Strauss writes of the absurd tension and embarrassment of attending his 10-year high school reunion, all of it a haze of embarrassed baldness and pot bellies. The author enters therapy (doesn’t help), gets married (helps tremendously), and has some kids (helps some more). In the end, Strauss finally takes an emotional journey during which he experiences an essential epiphany of self-knowledge.

“Half A Life” is a somber reflection by Darin Strauss into how we are all connected to one another, yet at the same time, still seperate and apart. It is a redemptive realization rendered in a series of almost poetic pondering and exquisite beauty. Half A Life demonstrates this great writer’s ability to finally make sense of an event which for so long made no sense.

But more than anything, Half A Life, is a heartfelt confession in which the author allows himself a healthy dose of long-deprived self-forgiveness.


Director Tom Shadyak

Meanwhile, in the fascinating new documentary, “I Am,” Director Tom Shadyak came himself to understand how all living things are intrinsically connected to one another, after he was involved in a near fatal cycling accident.

Shadyak, is best known for being behind the camera for nearly a half-dozen wildly successful, albeit lightweight slapstick comedies. Films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, and The Nutty Professor. Not necessarily highbrow material. But every thing’s different in I Am. Shadyak narrates this hopeful documentary that he says he conceived while recovering from the cycling accident that almost killed him. He says that during this period he began asking himself more serious questions like, “What’s wrong with the world” and “What can I do to make it better?”

Shadyak says he realized during his convalescence that problems like poverty, hunger, and war (to name just a few) needed to be addressed soon or else our species would be doomed. So he set out to ask experts around the world, people like Desmond Tutu, the late historian and sociologist Howard Zinn and linguist, philosopher and political theorist Noam Chomsky, as well as many other scientists, physicists and big thinkers the big question: How do we leave our quest for greed and excess behind and replace them with lives spent improving the planet Earth and its inhabitants?

Shadyak quickly found, as expected, that there are no easy answers, but in I Am he takes us around the world to ponder things like, maybe there are limits to how much we need, perhaps less actually is more and perchance the whole quest for more, more, more is a giant lie. Shadyak portrays isolated, indigenous people sharing and helping each other (oh, what a concept,) as do just about every species of living things. The now enlightened Shadyak illustrates that most breeds of animals behave on a model of what is called “consensus thinking”: in other words, the majority decides. For example, if the majority of a flock of birds decide to fly in one direction, then they all fly in that direction.

Perhaps most critically I Am reveals to viewers how problems like war, hunger, and poverty are merely symptoms of a much larger endemic problem, whose solution is not competition and capatalism but cooperation. Shadyak uses his own sense of fun and humor, his curiosity, and his masterful storytelling abilities to portray the simple mystery and magic of our universe – a universe which we can either learn to work in concert with or be seperated from through extinction?

The message for all who see this remarkable film is that the answers to all of these complex questions which will define our future are within us all and it is up to us to recognize our basic connection to all living things. Shadyac shows how his own journey has transformed him into a new and better man, who has given up his expensive, wasteful and ultimately destructive lifestyle.

The films shows, in the end, that the real answer to the question is:

(For more information visit the films web site: http://www.IAMTheDoc.com.)

(Special thanks to the beautiful Janet Graham for her assistance and inspiration with this blog.)

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Another Borders Bites The Dust

It felt something like a wake, inside one of the four Michigan Borders Bookstores going out of business and selling everything but the kitchen sink (if they had one.)

A group of about 40 vulturous remaining customers picked through the near empty book racks and remains at the Borders Bookstore in Dearborn, Michigan yesterday, trying to take final advantage of a six-week long going out of business sale. That store, along with Borders bookstores in Utica, Grosse Pointe and the smaller Arborland Borders in Anne Arbor are being forced out of business as part of a bankruptcy protection plan. Borders Group Inc., which is the second biggest retailer in the entire state of Michigan, filed for bankruptcy reportedly because of an “inability to adapt to the changing habits of readers.”

Meanwhile, cashiers tried to maintain a professional countenance despite no longer having a job to go to and with few other options for work in the area. One cashier told me “they’re not hiring” at the remaining 28 Borders stores throughout the state that will remain open. And the unidentified cashier confided that a nearby Barnes & Noble store is barely staying open due to similar losses.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the employees, but I personally had mixed emotions as my fiance and I selected 25-plus titles and walked out with two heavy bags of former bestsellers – $425.00 dollars worth of books for just $30.00 and change.
While it is a crying shame to see another “brick and mortar” bookstore sell everything that wasn’t nailed down, I was also thinking about the countless wonderful Independent bookstores forced out of business by these monolithic bookstores.

In total, Borders is closing down 200 of its stores as part of this liquidation, which if successful will fetch between $131 and $148 million dollars. And the future for Borders is definitely not bright, with plans in the works to close another 75 in the not-so-distant future.

The one-time giant 40 year old retailer has no one to blame but itself for it’s losses and closings. According to an article in The Detroit News (http://detnews.com/article/20110216/BIZ/102160379/Borders-files-for-bankruptcy–closing-4-stores-in-Michigan) Borders Bookstores nationwide have lost more than $600 million dollars over the last four fiscal years. The bottom line is that Borders failed to “adapt to rapid changes in the book market,” most glaringly due to the huge number of consumers who are now buying their books online from companies like Amazon.com, now the world’s largest bookseller. The article sites the other cause as Borders “tardy entry last year into the growing electronic reader market dominated by Amazon’s Kindle and rival Barnes & Noble’s Nook.”

Still, call me old-fashioned but there is nothing like the pleasure of going to a bookstore simply to scout the shelves. Even though Amazon now allows consumers to look inside books for sale and, in many cases, even read the first chapter absolutely free, it simply doesn’t compare to how if feels to pick up a book, feel it’s weight in your hands, touch the cover and skim through it’s pages or even sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and get acquainted with a book and it’s author.

But money talks and you-know-what walks, so I bid a sad adieu to another bookstore and try and prepare myself for what author Aldous Huxley called the “Brave New World.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an actual old-fashioned book made from paper that I need to get back to reading.

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“Except The Music” – An E-Story From 40K

In a time when people have fewer hours each day to spend reading, short fiction and essays are becoming increasingly more popular. I recently happened upon an exciting and wonderful new electronic/digital e-platform for publishing outstanding short fiction and informative essays. It is called 40K, based in Milan, Italy and according to their web site (www.40Kbooks.com) it specializes in “novelettes and original essays, translated into many different languages.”

40K offers insightful essays and entertaining fiction, keeping in mind that the reader has a limited amount of time in any given day. Their e-books can be read in approximately an hour, depending on the speed of the reader.

The price is certainly right. For anywhere from .99 cents to a couple of dollars, readers can select stories that are then electronically downloaded to whichever computer or e-book they prefer. 40K’s site offers an assortment of genres, including essays on digital, as well as creative life. The short fiction is separated into thee categories: Fantasy, Literary, Sci-Fi and Steampunk.

In an interview on 40K’s web site (www.40kbooks.com) by author and MIT grad student Livia Blackburn with 40k’s editorial director Giuseppe Granieri, Giuseppe says:

“Our novelettes are the result of a need that the print market cannot satisfy: e-books create a new market for relatively short fiction. I’ve always liked this form of fiction because it’s more difficult than novels. It’s a great challenge for a writer. Novels can have pauses, faults: a long story wins by points. A novelette, as Julio Cortazar wrote, needs to win by knock-out.”

And as for the essays 40k publishes:

“Our essays, relatively short and strongly focused, are a solution for another functional limit of paper. With digital books you don’t need to fill hundreds of pages with the same concept, and you can better filter the information you give to your readers. It’s a matter of value: you can transmit a strong concept while requiring a lower investment from the readers in terms of reading time. Time is always valuable—in many cases, more valuable than the price. Nobody can read everything; we have to choose. So if you can explain a complex concept while requiring a manageable time investment, it’s a very good thing.”

I decided to sample a short fiction title offered by 40K, “Except The Music (A Sophisticated Story),” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. One of 40K’s techniques to entice readers is through some very edgy and colorful e-book design. In this case:

“Except The Music,” is an unusual story from the very first line: a strange and mysterious question posed by a woman who’s name we never find out who wonders aloud after a sexual tryst, “Where do musicians go to die?”

The honey-brown haired beauty posed the rhetorical question as she lay on her bed watching her lover, a world famous pianist named Max try to find his shoe and finish getting dressed. Max was attempting to somehow gracefully extract himself from the home of a women he’s just met and taken home after a post-performance mixer at the North County Music Festival, an annual classical music festival, located somewhere on the Oregon coast. The 45-year old Max fumbles his way out the door only to realize that he’s forgotten the name of the woman he’s just made love to, an embarrassment which will continue to haunt the well known classical piano virtuoso.

Backstage the next evening, Max’s spies his new lover, sitting in the fourth row. However, absolutely no one including Max’s long time friend, mentor and festival originator Otto, has any idea who she is or what her name is. In hushed tones, the 80-year-old world famous violinist Otto scolds Max, mostly in jest, for his obvious indiscretion the night before. This, despite the fact that we learn Otto was himself a legendary womanizer in younger days. It’s the old case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Soon tragedy strikes when Otto suffers a heart attack. Despite efforts to resuscitate the legendary performer, Otto passes away. Max struggles to announce the sad news and is then thrown into the job of running the remaining nights of the festival. Max and his paramour bump into each other late at night in a parking lot where the woman offers Max solace before disappearing in the fog.

On the final night of the festival, during a performance by the other musicians of Mozart’s Requiem Max finally learns the true identity of this strange and mysterious woman and learns a lesson that his mentor, Otto, could never have taught. It is a rewarding and redemptive end to our story, and the beginning of new life for Max. It was also a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

As Otto was know to call out after a masterful performance, “Bravo,” to both this author and Bravo to 40KBooks, the medium for this tales telling and hopefully many more to come.

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The Social Network – From Harvard Prank To 25 Billion Dollars

My fiancee and I were fortunate last night to see an special advance screening of the new Facebook movie, “The Social Network,” billed as the film that Facebook doesn’t want you to see. It’s a great teaser and it’s true. Based on a book by Ben Mezrich, who also wrote “Bringing Down The House” about the bad boys and girls at Harvard who figured out how to use their brains to beat the house at the casinos of Las Vegas. That book was made into the film “21.”

This film is more about the genesis and probably tougher on the kids in Crimson who started what they called “The Facebook.”
The screenplay was written by the excellent Aaron Sorkin, who takes his fast and smart dialogue he used on “The West Wing” and turned it up to warp speed. These brilliant students like co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his best friend and co-founder Eduardo Saverin don’t just think at a million miles a minute, they speak that way too. In the beginning they just wanted to be cool. Little did they know the hazards that lie in their respective futures. And little did they know they’d go from being best friends at Harvard to archenemies in the cut-throat business world.

The movie, which takes place frequently at Harvard, was actually filmed at Boston University (which is a victim of a quick verbal insult – talk about biting the hand that feeds you) and Wheelock College. The filmmakers begin with the birth of Facebook from a night in a dim dormroom where Mark uses Eduardo and a formula he’s familiar with. This computer hacking technique gives them access to photos of woman at every house on campus and the ability to create a tiny version of the current Facebook.

This “Mashbook” which allows all Harvard students to scrutinize and compare women catches the attention of a couple of big, rich men on campus who are trying to create a social dating site called “Harvard Connection,” which leads to a partnership with more partners, or more importantly INVESTORS!!!

And so we’re up and running. In a big way. Mark decides to expand the Harvard early-version of Facebook to other Ivy League campuses. But along with the great big ideas come also the dirty little lies. Mark lies to Eduardo about his association with some of his partners. Mark lies by not keeping the “investors” in the loop. Finally, after meeting the founder of multi-millionaire founder of Napster, Sean Parker, played with great flourish and deviousness by an ultra-confident Justin Timberlake. Mark finally yields to Sean’s suggestions to move to California, along with all of the other partners in this growing endeavor. In other words, the web is growing more and more tangled as Mark continues to take more and more initiative without the initiative or consent of his partners.

And that’s when the problems begin. As the company gets bigger and the zeros multiply, the lawsuits against a nationally flourishing Facebook stack up. The original “Harvard Connection” twin crew members and investors sue Mark Zuckerberg. And here’s where the actor playing Mark, Jesse Eisenberg really starts to show his range. The scenes during depositions with room after room after hilarious. It’s evident to everyone that Mark is the smartest person in the room, with or without the law degree. Eisenberg may play the part nerdy at times, but it’s soon clear he is a creative genius with an obsessive streak for greatness. Others who excel are Mark’s college buddy Eduardo Saverin, who as brilliant if not as crafty or zealous as his buddy Mark. And I would be remiss, if I didn’t give big kudos for Trent Resnor for his incredible soundtrack. It sets just the right tone for this tale. Smart, evocative words and music.

In the end, when all the cards come tumblin’ down and all the lawsuits (for now) settled, it almost seems like the days of the first “Wall Street” film, when the means didn’t matter, just the end. And greed is good. Everybody gets big-time settlements or payoffs and Mark Zuckerman remains still, the youngest billionaire in the world.

This is a film that raises many hard questions. For instance: When all is said at done and the billions are made, does loyalty matter in business? Does friendship and creative control matter?

Or is it just cash that is king in the hard, cold world?

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