Five Thoughts

1) Scharffenberger chocolate is excellent. Factoid: they make as much chocolate in a year as Hershey’s does in a day.

2) Did Google really change the name of its shopping site, Froogle, because people didn’t get the pun? Or was it because retailers don’t want shoppers thinking of frugality, even the suggestion? I suspect both.

3) Lorrie Moore’s recent story in The New Yorker reads like a novel excerpt and proved to be a novel excerpt—reviews this week about a new Moore novel which shares the plot and characters of the short. The same with J. Franzen’s earlier in the year, though his has not been proved yet by the release of the forthcoming long work. We’ll know when it hits, because everywhere we’ll see the ubiquitous tag, “From the author of The Corrections…” (A media blitz I’d be grateful to be the focus of.) But so Why the charade, New Yorker? Why not just name these works for what they are? They often don’t function like short stories, not having that self-sufficiency and natural drawing to a close or epiphany. They are paced like novels and read like novels, and frankly wouldn’t it be good advertising for the novel to know that this stellar passage comes from it, and good advertising for the writer to dispel the impression that he or she writes shaggy dog stories?

4) If installing a handrail into wallboard and stud or support beam where a handrail previously existed, and you line up two of the three holes from the old holes with the new bracket, or arm, but must pre-drill the third—the packaging calls it a pilot hole—and it calls for a 3/32-inch drill bit, but your bits are floating free of their original case which has the measurements, yet the bits have the measurements engraved on them at the base in print so small it can barely be read with the naked eye, especially in an unlit stairwell, and anyway you can’t find the one that says 3/32, though there is one that says nothing strangely—you’re sure of this no matter how hard you squint—what you can do is basically just use the bit whose diameter is slightly smaller than the screw.

5) Many people have asked me about Javascotia’s sales figures. I had supposed that if something catastrophic or marvelous had happened regarding sales, I would be informed. I wasn’t informed anything, so for quite a while knew nothing. Perhaps this was a fear-based passivity. Anyway, eventually my curiosity got the best of me, and finally inquired, and learned that JS has sold “just over 1,100 copies.” This is, the publisher says, completely in line with expectations: “… in this climate, [this] is what we would expect for a first novel from a new author—so, as you say, neither catastrophic nor magnificent!”

So on the one hand, we have Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol coming out last week, being printed in 6 million copies or something absurd. But that’s genre fiction and a rare mass market superstar. On the other hand, this Guardian article from 2007, the year my novel was taken on by Penguin, in the country, obviously, where my book sold, states: “The average sale of a hardback book by a first-time writer is 400 copies.” So there you have it. I am above-average. Like Scharffenberger chocolate.