Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

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A Beguiling 20%

By on Jul 18, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

This month our nation celebrated its 242nd birthday. As I was sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium on July 4 watching a spectacular and patriotic fireworks display (following a wonderful midseason win) something quite obvious but strange occurred to me: I have been alive for over 20% of our nation’s history. That may not seem curious to you, but it does to me. No one in Russia, China, or most of western Europe can say that. It is only because we are such a young nation that our lives constitute such a significant portion of our nation’s entire state of being. I have been trying to put that in context. I am over a half-century in age, and the nation is less than five half centuries in age. For sake of context, I have tried to segment those de facto quintiles into what I have experienced as current events (the most recent 20%) and what I must study as history. Latest 20%: Age of economic triumph, the information age, and age of civil rights. Prior 20%: Age of two world wars, one Great Depression, and vast immigration. Middle 20%: Age of Civil War and Reconstruction. Second 20%: Age of Manifest Destiny & Industrial Revolution. Initial 20%: Age of our Founding Fathers, American Revolution, and the visionary foundation of secular democratic governance. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time for all that to have happened when you think about it. I guess that’s because it really isn’t. What’s 242 years? These days, it’s about three full lifetimes. If you time them correctly, you could talk to someone who talked to someone who knew someone who experienced Independence Day as current events. That’s just wild. Mind-boggling! And look how far we’ve come! Or have we? Well, we have sent humans to the moon and probes to Jupiter and Pluto. We have air conditioning, spiffy kitchen appliances, and running water in our homes (when we don’t run out). We have lots and lots of TV channels. We have supercharged computers in our pockets we call mobile phones. We have this Internet thing that has eliminated almost all barriers to information access and makes globalization a reality. Yet we still...

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Why Do We Do Difficult Things?

By on Jul 2, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve been out on book tour for the launch of my new novel, From Nothing. At one of the early talks I began with a simple question: Why do we do difficult things? I’m not talking about ordinary-difficult things like schlepping yourself to work every day or paying all your bills. I’m talking about really big stuff. Pick a career path. Marry someone. Divorce someone. Start a company. Write a book—without an advance check. Why do we decide to tackle extraordinarily hard challenges? Why do we embark on the kinds of things that change our lives? I’m going to give you the answer in just a few more carriage returns, but before I do, think about what your answer might be. Why do you do exceptionally difficult things? Is it for money? Is it for status and ego? Is it because someone else pressures you to do it? I think those enticements can play a role, but I don’t think it’s why most of us do difficult things. I think we do difficult things because we can’t not. Try repeating that in your head. Read the words “Why do we do difficult things?” Then answer aloud: Because we can’t not. If you’re not alone, say it rather quietly under your breath, but do say it aloud. If you are alone, shout it from your gut. Why do we difficult things? Because we can’t not. Excellent, I think I heard you that time! You’ll note the purposeful application of a solid double negative. Don’t worry, the grammar police aren’t coming for us, at least not this time. I want this message to encode in your mind: Because we can’t not. The topic of my book talk was why I choose to write for what amounts to the tiniest part of my income given the full span of hours invested. The question at hand was why I didn’t spend more of my time on lucrative business projects instead of sitting alone in a room for half my waking hours banging out words without much promise of real financial upside no matter how well I write. There are obstacles to book distribution at an enterprise scale that are beyond my ability to...

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It’s a Hard Rock Life

By on Jun 2, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

From Nothing, my third and most personal novel, has moved from my ownership to yours. I hope it will mean something to you. It certainly has been an odyssey for me. The book is rock and roll, the process of performing it no less so. As I write these words, I am preparing a number of public book talks, thinking about what I want to say about this story beyond letting it speak for itself. That’s always hard, and particularly difficult this time because I did choose each word in the book carefully. My dear editor and publisher at The Story Plant might say I deliberated on them too carefully, which is why this one took so long, but hey, that’s who I am. Spontaneity for me is a highly composed orchestration that only sounds top of mind when recited. Since the majority of my readers won’t hear me speak on this book, I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you. I also want to be extremely careful not to give away any spoilers, which is quite a task when I want to tell you everything. I will do my best to restrain myself. I have an eclectic process I use to write a novel. It begins years before I write a single line of expository or dialogue. I usually have a protagonist identified and a very rough roadmap of a plot that will deliver that character’s arc, but even before I begin the detailed process of outlining, I start a page of ideas I call “collecting.” That can take a decade, or in the case of this book, several decades, because this book began as a long abandoned screenplay treatment I wrote in my 20s. I share with you here some of the ideas and concepts I wanted to explore that landed over the years on that collecting page. Some of these have been transcribed directly from the many scraps of paper that got stuffed into my project folder. It all started with the notion of the soundtrack of our lives—to be fully confessional, the soundtrack of my life. I believe our music carries us through the bad times and encodes the good times. Each of...

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Sam and Rosie: An Odd Couple

By on Jun 2, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

I can’t defend Samantha Bee because the harsh, offensive language she used this week was wrong. I have been a fan of her show since it launched, but I actually think it has gotten progressively worse as she has allowed her indignation to overcome her humor. My sense for some time is that she is not currently at her best. Indignation is the call to fight. Humor is the sword that slays dragons. A strong producer could steer her back on track. I don’t see a lot of evidence she has one, and I think her talent is taking a hit as a result. If she looks to some of her peers and mentors, she’ll see where she may be losing ground on that illusive concept of “crossing the line.” I’d like to see her rebound because she does have a unique, important voice in our nation’s dialogue. When Roseanne Barr launched her latest damning tweet, I believe she was in an entirely different universe of free expression. Here are a few points on the false equivalency: 1) There is no equivalency between a random racist tweet and a few unnecessary hateful words deployed in the context of making a point about the morality of separating parents from children. Lenny Bruce pretty much died for this point. Context is inseparable from language. 2) Complain all you want about who should get fired or cancelled, but the two performers have different employers. It’s the employer’s decision to exercise a response to the free speech exercise of an employee or contractor. Had it been the same employer, there might be an opening to hypocrisy, but even then, don’t mistake what happened. These were considered business decisions. 3) If you want to know the true horror of our nation, do a few internet searches and see what some of Roseanne’s supporters are saying about the underlying truth in her remarks. The defensive outcry over an alleged double-standard does little more than fuel the fire of racism as some kind of macabre social norm too many people can easily dismiss as overblown. Racism is institutionalized hatred bolstered on ignorance. Celebrities choosing to fan that flame know what they are doing. To the contrary,...

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Why Tom Wolfe Matters

By on May 24, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

What more can I add to the multitude of tributes to literary legend Tom Wolfe? Certainly nothing unique, but given the inspiration he has provided me, it would seem irresponsible not to add a few personal notes. Wolfe is one of my favorite authors of all time. He was a writer who changed my life. I never met him, but I always felt like I knew him. Now I will miss him, but the library of his life’s work will forever be near me. It was his invention of New Journalism that changed the way we heard and told stories. He crafted a new set of norms meant to break all the rules that desperately needed to be broken. The storyteller belonged in the story, fact or fiction, a hard break from the false mandates of objective absolutes. He proved by example that a writer and his story are inseparable, no matter the subject matter. His biting critiques of hypocrisy are funny, eye-opening, and actionable. His characters are equally outrageous and believable. The unique style and consistent unpredictability of his prose are seldom short of stunning. When I first read his 1989 manifesto in Harper’s, “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast,” I knew the coming shift in literature was more than cosmetic. Allow me to borrow a passage from that essay on how the call to relevant storytelling so lit up my life with hope and gravitas: By the early 1960s, the notion of the death of the realistic novel had caught on among young American writers with the force of revelation. This was an extraordinary turnabout. It had been only yesterday, in the 1930s, that the big realistic novel, with its broad social sweep, had put American literature up on the world stage for the first time. In 1930 Sinclair Lewis, a realistic novelist who used reporting techniques as thorough as Zola’s, became the first American writer to win the Nobel Prize. In his acceptance speech, he called on his fellow writers to give America “a literature worthy of her vastness,” and, indeed, four of the next five Americans to win the Nobel Prize in literature—Pearl Buck, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck—were realistic novelists. Wolfe reminded us of our American...

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The Compartments We Devise

By on May 15, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

  We never know the full story when we look into someone else’s eyes. It doesn’t matter who it is. Our spouses, our children, our friends, our business colleagues—we all have chapters in our stories that are as yet untold or never told. It will always be that way. The best we can do is get better at listening, remain open to compassion, and craft compartmentalization strategies to balance the myriad conflicts that attempt to overrun us even when we appear to be at our best. Appearance is always deceptive. It’s why writers have something to write about. It’s why most of us like to read stories, see plays, and watch movies. We trust storytellers to reveal to us the points of backstory we need to piece together a coherent narrative. Sometimes we call that entertainment. Other times we call it the awakening inspired by a cautionary tale. Life instruction is much harder. Think about the people you will encounter this week. Which of the following might they be experiencing and trying to integrate into the disjointed career demands of their workplace and the to-do lists filling their calendars: Might they have a dear friend in the hospital with a terrible disease? Might they have just learned one friend is getting divorced and another divorced a year ago in silence? Might they be looking for ways to support people living far away whose lives are being devastated by a natural disaster? Might they have bet heavily on a seemingly safe investment and lost enormously in its bankruptcy? Might they have heard from the IRS that no matter how careful they were on their tax filings they are being audited? Might they have recently discovered their retirement savings will not sustain them as they had planned for decades? Might they have signed up for a critical deadline at work that is no longer achievable? Don’t fret; odds are not all of this is likely to happen, at least not at the same time. Yet no matter how well things may be going or appear to be going for someone, you can be assured strife of some sort is lurking behind the curtain. None of us are invincible. None of us can...

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