Thursday, July 29, 2010
Every time I bury my nose in a book, I can go adventuring, even when physically getting to places away from home is impossible.
I've had the great good luck to stumble on works by several writers who have taken me from Anchorage, Alaska, to San Francisco, Calif., and New York City via Kim Severson's "Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life;" via Elizabeth Gilbert's self-explanatory tome titled "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia;" and to the Massachusetts coast via local author Bruce J. Jones' "Slow Eddie, A Cape Cod Story."
Severson struggled with her homosexuality from a young age and was an insecure reporter working in Alaska when she won a food writing post with the San Francisco Chronicle. She credits much of her personal growth and confidence as a writer to insight gained while visiting with and interviewing eight famous and not-so-famous culinary artists. She overcame a serious drinking problem while in Alaska and became a food writer for the New York Times in 2004. Her book is funny, heartwarming and thought-provoking.
Gilbert's book has crossed from best seller lists onto the screen with Julia Roberts in the role as Gilbert. Also a professional writer like Severson, Gilbert got a plumb assignment when her editor paid her an advance so she could afford to travel for a year. The idea was she'd come up with a book on the experience by journey's end. She worked on it while in Italy, India and Bali. She left the states, still staggering under the weight of a broken marriage. It took a couple of years for her to get over the guilt and self-loathing. But she's uber introspective and this is what I enjoyed most. All the self-examination. But she also enjoyed and painted vivid pictures of her surroundings and experiences and made some tremendously interesting friends en route.
"Slow Eddie" is Jones's first novel. A member of the Whitman College Class of 1967, he is currently its associate director of admission in the New England Regional Office. He writes about four friends, including one guy who hails from Pasco and who specifically mentions enjoying Clarette's restaurant in Walla Walla, who connect in high school and at Harvard. The friends struggle with issues of social standing, loss and love while living on the Cape.
Bruce's biography describes him as an award-winning writer who has published extensively in New England press and periodicals. He worked 37 years in public schools in California, Connecticut and Massachusetts, mostly as a high school counselor, and is starting his sixth year at Whitman. He covers New England and is responsible for the South and Southeast from his home on the Cape. Wife Maggie Sullivan is a native Cape Codder. Son Kyle Sullivan-Jones is a member of the Whitman College Class of 2008. They reside in Barnstable Village, Mass. Three of his four kids and all three grandchildren live in Washington state, and his oldest, Aaron Jones, is an emergency room physician at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.
He has published sporadically since the 1970s, more since the mid-1990s when he did a lot of creative nonfiction and also wrote assigned articles for Cape Cod Magazine and South Shore Living. He even had a feature article on the U-B's page one on Jan. 1, 2001.
"Slow Eddie" took eight years to reach fruition, he said. He "wrote it at white-hot speed when 'it was alive' eight years ago -- up at 4 a.m., couldn't wait to get home from work to start writing again -- that went on for about two months then I let it breathe and kept going back to it as new ideas would percolate while I was walking or cycling or driving." He put about 7,000 miles on a rental each fall in New England while doing his work for Whitman.
"You go through stages when you think the novel is a piece of xxxx then come back to it and re-work sections. Finally share it with some people (including classmate Craig Lesley, an acclaimed Northwest writer) who say 'it's good.'"
His book is in a lot of indie stores and at local big boxes.
"The fiction reviewer for Barnes & Noble in New York City gave it a thumbs up and placed it -- a big deal for a self-published (iUniverse) book. It's selling well locally and on Amazon, Kindle, etc. But Oprah has yet to call," he said.
Since readers are asking for a follow-up he is considering another book. " ... The characters 'started talking' again once I had the novel in hand."
But what he "really should write is my 'Quick and Dirty Guide to College Admission,' something I'm an expert on after being a counselor, an admission officer and going through it with my own kids."
Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or afternoons at 526-8313.