Saturday, August 25, 2012

R.I.P., Hero

The day after Neil Armstrong took this step in 1969, our family visited my nearly 100-year-old great grandmother. She had lived most of her life in Ferno, Italy ("ferno" means Hell in English), but spent her final years in New Jersey. We were all excited about the moon landing, and my grandmother tried to explain to her -- in the soft, melodic, mostly-Italian, part-English language they had developed between themselves -- what a spaceship was. But the words didn't seem to exist. So, much to the frustration of my grandfather, "Bisnonna" never understood how this could be possible before she died a few months later.

UPDATE: I included this story in an email to NASA in 2019, when the agency was looking for stories about the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Writing Life

These are hard times for writers. Certain celebrities who are already wildly successful in other areas – and I’m looking at you, Steve Martin, and even you, Rob Lowe – have already written books that are well-crafted, thoughtful and entertaining. And don’t even get me started about the book I’m currently reading by first-time novelist Karen Thompson Walker. It’s simply wonderful.

There’s no way that ordinary mortals can compete with this stuff. And I am – if nothing else – an extraordinarily ordinary man.

But even in the face of this cold reality… I am also a writer. I can’t help it. I write all the time.

Oh, I write daily as part of my job, but that’s only part of the story.

  • Exhibit A: I kept a diary about my family life from the day my first daughter was born until the day she became an adult.
  • Exhibit B: Cleaning out the garage last week, I stumbled upon journals that I had filled with words years before she was born — and that I had forgotten about.
  • Exhibit C: Old college friends can tell you horror stories about my single-spaced, multi-page typewritten letters that I used to produce – and sometimes mail, sometimes not - in the dark time before everyone used computers.
  • Exhibit D: “My Life of Crime”

This is a book I wrote more than 10 years ago. A love story set in New York and New Jersey. The initial version was a tad meandering – footnoted, no less, with stories within the footnotes… as if I were Nabokov instead of Van Book (his anagrammatical and exceedingly less talented evil twin).

I revised “My Life of Crime” for my second daughter, at her request, for her 18th birthday nearly two years ago. It still has mighty literary pretensions. Note how even the cover resembles the Bantam edition of “The Catcher in the Rye”— except in reverse and as if on a legal pad. But I have no illusions about the book’s sales potential. It has none; it’s just something I did for the love of it.

So if anyone reading this wants a copy of “My Life of Crime” – and I’m assuming that only a friend would venture onto this page and read this far - please email me at, and I’ll send you a version in the format of your choice.