Lisa Rogak’s Holiday Gift Suggestion

Lisa Rogak is the author of more than 40 books; her most recent is A Boy Named Shel, a biography of songwriter, poet, cartoonist, and children’s book author Shel Silverstein. She’s also the author of an unauthorized bio of Da Vinci Code scribe Dan Brown… but her taste in international bestselling thrillers seems to run a bit more upscale, as her holiday gift recommendation demonstrates.

lisa-rogak.jpgWhenever one of my friends sees me headed their way with a fiendish glint in my eye and a book in my hand thrust out in their direction as if in greeting, I know they’re going to react in one of two ways: Either they quickly glance at their wrist —whether or not it is adorned by a watch—and offer up some lame excuse about how they’re late for a clambake, or they get that deer-in-headlights look and start to sprint towards me in a dead run, anxious to see what it is I’ve discovered this time…

I tend to read some pretty obscure books in the course of my research, with usually ten or more fighting for my attention at any one time, and so I do occasionally wonder about those who eagerly accept a copy of The Only Way to Learn Astrology, The Ghosts of Williamsburg, or Opus Ultimum: The Story of the Mozart Requiem from my outstretched hands. But this year, the book I most often pushed upon them is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a beautifully-written Gothic novel translated from the Spanish about a boy, a book, and a nonstop twisty mystery that usually succeeded in tearing my attention away from more important things—like deadlines—whenever I had the nerve to put it down.

And now it’s my friends’ turns to look at me wide-eyed, because I rarely read novels. But The Shadow of the Wind literally took my breath away.

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27 November 2007 | gift ideas, guest authors |

Philip Schultz, “What I Like and Don’t Like”

I like to say hello and goodbye.
I like to hug but not shake hands.
I prefer to wave or nod. I enjoy
the company of strangers pushed
together in elevators of subways.
I like talking to cabdrivers
but not receptionists. I like
not knowing what to say.

I like talking to people I know
but care nothing about. I like
inviting anyone anywhere.
I like hearing my opinions
tumble out of my mouth
like toddlers tied together
while crossing the street
trusting they won’t be squashed
by fate. I like greeting-card clichés

but not dressing up or down.
I like being appropriate
but not all the time.
I could continue with more examples
but I’d rather give too few
than too many. The thought
of no one listening anymore—
I like that least of all.

From Failure; two other poems from this collection, “Specimen” and “My Wife,” appeared in Ploughshares. He will be reading from Failure at the Village Community School (272 W. 10th St.) on Monday, December 3, “book party, holiday party and general good cheer to follow,” according to the event listing.

Schultz is the founding director of the Writers Studio in New York City. In an interview back in 2000, he talks about how his poetry upended his original literary aspirations: “I always wanted to be a fiction writer. I went to Iowa as a fiction writer. In my early 20s I was lucky: stories, whatever I sent out, was published. I got an agent, and I thought I’d be a novelist. Poetry is something I did with my left hand. But all that I wanted to achieve in fiction was happening naturally in poetry. The poet was supporting the fiction writer; usually it’s the other way around. But in fiction I was absolutely obsessed with writing “agenda” material, talking about material I couldn’t distance myself from to write a story. I went to poetry as a relief from that. The more frustrated I became in one, the more successful I became in the other. “

22 November 2007 | poetry |

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