Friday, April 20, 2007

Back from Los Angeles; An Afternoon with Gore Vidal; Bestseller Lists

The smell of sunburning flesh has always reminding me of being six or seven and running around the pool like a savage in my little swim trunks while my mother scurried after me with a huge canvas bag all filled with SPF 15. So Los Angeles reminded me of childhood from the start, because I started burning from the start. My agent David Kuhn installed himself at the Chateau, and in that great tribute to American artifice seemed to also find something of youthful selves. David is always brilliantly efficient, but in Los Angeles exhibited an unjaundiced buoancy that tugged on your heartstrings and made you want to hug him.

I took lodgings at the slightly less ethereal Standard, just down the street. There was a pool and it was surrounded by bodies both hard and soft, and there was a tank behind the check-in counter with a girl in it. Apparently the place was once a retirement home. I was in Brazil during the early part of May, and while staying at the Fasano in Sao Paulo am pretty sure I saw a pair of ghosts. You would think that the Standard would be full of ghosts, given its own former incarnation, but Andre Balasz must have exorcists on retainer, because there was only the here and now, or the there and then, depending on how you view it.

Shawn Simon, the very lovely and sweet producer who optioned Mergers, was one of the most perfect hosts I have ever known, and made me forget that I was a visitor for great parts of the trip. We had a dinner the first night with Steve Golin, the Babel producer, and we talked for hours about the tragedy of American healthcare and the life of Winston Churchill and the subtle cruelties of capitalism. He would have stood out as incredibly earnest and thoughtful in any setting. Between he and Shawn the book could not be in better hands. Towards the end of the night the talk turned to Gore Vidal, and Shawn offered to arrange a meeting with him the next day.

Twenty four hours later I was having dinner with the two of them, and having begun a tour of human history with an account of the Persians some four hours earlier was listening, quite rapt, to Mr. Vidal's impression of Eleanor Roosevelt. Somewhere inbetween Aaron Burr had gotten shot, Amelia Earhardt had fallen in love with Gore's father, and the American republic had been lost and abadoned in favor of a national security state. He railed against the New York Times Book Review and William F. Buckley Jr. and Truman Capote. He spoke with admiration of Saul Bellow. We talked about the unrecoverable potency of the sort love that you feel at around the age of fifteen. It was an indelible experience.

There has been good news on the book front, which I am happy to relate, and for which I have my every reader to thank. Mergers has, in its first two weeks on sale, made the Barnes & Noble College Bestseller List, the Bookhampton Bestseller List, and the Palm Beach Daily News Bestseller list. All of this suggests to me that the novel is finding a resonance and a readership. As I have written before, it is daunting to love and labor on something for private in so long, and then send it out into the world. And as I have also written before, it is apparent to me that the novel is now in very good hands.

Dana Vachon, New York City, 4/20/07

Friday, April 13, 2007

Many Thanks; A Second Printing

I want very much to thank everyone who came to the Barnes & Noble reading last Thursday, and the Felix party this past Tuesday. Moreover, I want to thank the early readers of my novel, whose support has pushed it into a second printing just six days after its initial run. There is an undeniable sadness that comes in parting with something that you have loved and worked on for years in a state of very pure intimacy, then having it become so public, so quickly. But it is true that the reader is the one who completes the book, and I have never had any illusions about the truth that we write to be read. So it is quite touching to see the book taking its first steps with all of you holding its hands. As for the debate around the novel, I must quite guiltily confess to enjoying it immensely. Some of you are buying the book in bulk. Some of you are throwing it against your walls. Most of you seem to be reveling in the novel's many charms and forgiving it its flaws as you move through the story to see what happens to Tommy, Frances and Roger next. One person even found a recurring pattern of references to 5th century Rome, and to him my most sincere congratulations. What I've realized is that the book is yours now, and this is to say that it is in very good hands.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Barnes and Noble reading tonight, 4/5

I am doing a reading this evening at Barnes & Noble in Chelsea, at 7 o'clock, and of course my thanks in advance to all of my friends, family, strangers and forgiving former corporate partners who are making the trek down to see it. This is a huge day for me not only because Mergers is being published, but also because, two years ago on this day, Saul Bellow died. I'd had my heart broken, or at least injured, for the first time when I met Eugene Henderson in 1998. He had a voice that said "I want," (a sentiment that would grow to define many subsequent generations), and somewhere in the reading of that book I decided that writing a novel had to be the very best thing that you could hope to do with your life.

Tonight I am going to read from the MoMA chapter of my novel, because it is a New York crowd and Yves Grandchatte is one of my favorite characters. But afterwards I am going to read one of the final passages from Henderson, the one with Smolak the Bear and the rickety roller coaster, and I hope that we can all take a moment to enjoy the work and revere the memory of the American master who died on this day two years ago.
-Dana Vachon