Entries from August 2011

Talking Heads: Life During Wartime

From Stop Making Sense, 1984. Almost 30 years ago — ouch.

Categories: Music    Tags: ·

San Francisco, 1906

San Francisco after the quake

San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906 (via Shorpy).

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: · · ·

Ted Williams, 1939

Ted Williams, 1939

Photo by Arthur Griffin. (via)

Categories: Sports    Tags: · ·

The origin of Roy Hobbs

Eddie Waitkus

Phillies first-baseman Eddie Waitkus, Clearwater, Florida, 3/9/53 (source). On June 19, 1949, Waitkus was shot in the chest by a deranged fan, Ruth Ann Steinhagen, in a Chicago hotel room. The incident inspired the similar episode in Bernard Malamud’s The Natural.

Categories: Books · Sports    Tags: · ·

We built it for ourselves

We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.

When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.

Steve Jobs, 1985 (via)

Categories: Creativity    Tags: · · ·

A blurb from Joseph Finder

While I was away on vacation last week, I received this jaw-dropping blurb from the perennial bestselling author Joseph Finder:

A novel like this comes along maybe once a decade. William Landay’s Defending Jacob is a tour de force, a full-blooded legal thriller about a murder trial and the way it shatters a family. With its relentless suspense, mesmerizing prose, and a shocking twist at the end, it’s every bit as good as Scott Turow’s great Presumed Innocent. But also something more: an indelible domestic drama that calls to mind Ordinary People and We Need to Talk About Kevin. A spellbinding and unforgettable literary crime novel.

Thank you, Joe. But next time could you try to be a little more enthusiastic?

Categories: My Books    Tags:


And we have a cover at last. To see it in glorious high resolution, look here.

Defending Jacob - front cover

Categories: My Books    Tags:

Public Writer, Private Writer

Preparations continue for this winter’s publication of Defending Jacob. The cover art is locked in (sneak preview soon). Yesterday I spent six hours being photographed on Boston street corners in various brooding writerly poses. This morning comes news that the book has sold in China, making it the rare product that we export to them. (Hang on, America, just a few more books and I’ll get this darn trade deficit turned around.)

But the strangest bit, to me, is that I will soon go off on a “pre-publication tour.” In September and October, I will visit regional trade shows for independent booksellers in New England, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, southern California (Long Beach) and northern California (San Francisco). I am delighted to do this, of course. Author tours, pre- or post-publication, are rare today. Not penny-on-the-sidewalk rare — unicorn rare. So I’m very grateful to my publisher for putting increasingly scarce resources behind my book.

At the same time, I can’t help thinking that I am a hell of a lot less interesting in person than I am in my books. In person, I am a perfectly pleasant guy, I suppose, but no author can replicate the intensity and intimacy of a good reading experience. Most authors I’ve met? Meh, the book was better. That’s the nature of reading, which requires the reader to conjure the author’s voice out of squiggles on the page. Inevitably the voice you, the reader, create in your head has a special quality. It seems to come from inside you, it seems to originate in your own thoughts. A good book hijacks the inner voice that burbles constantly in every reader’s head. That’s what makes the medium so powerful: the story takes place inside the reader’s consciousness. No wonder the author’s voice seems so familiar and authoritative.

The author’s voice is not my real, conversational voice, of course. When you read my books, you hear only my most articulate, well-crafted sentences. My best and most refined self. That’s what good writing is. The rest — the clumsy phrases, the not-quite-right words or metaphors, all the inarticulate flubs that characterize ordinary speech — is edited out. Even my realistic dialogue is not quite real, the quotation marks notwithstanding. It is shaped, polished, crafted, improved. Every stammer and stumble is calculated for its precise effect. It is the way you would talk if you had a writer scripting your life. (How great would that be?)

Surely readers know all this, but they crave the writer’s personal presence anyway. They want to meet the awkward, bashful, inarticulate writer behind the exalted, hyper-articulate authorial voice they’ve heard in their heads. That’s why there are bookstore readings and author tours and Oprah (well, there used to be Oprah). Continue reading →

Quote of the Day

It is quite possible — overwhelmingly probable, one might guess — that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology.

Noam Chomsky

Categories: Books    Tags: ·

Ford XL-500

1953 Ford XL 500 concept car

1953 Ford XL-500 concept car (via). Cool.

Categories: Design    Tags: