Tuesday, March 25, 2008

fun at maxwells

So, we did two book releases for In Hoboken. A normal one, at Farleys on the Delaware...very nice evening. Thanks to Julian there, and all who came out, and stayed for the party after.

And there was Maxwells. For those who live elsewhere, Maxwells is...well, hard to describe. The New Yorker calls it the best club in New York, and it isn't in New York. It's in Hoboken. Some of us used to drink there. Some of us used to work there. Some of us used to live there.

It had been an awfully long time since I'd visited.

We started, of course, with a reading. Because that's what you do at these things.

And then it was time to strap on.
I should have stuck with the reading, but...what the hell, man.

A quorum of the Camp...for the first time, I think, since The Bottom Line, 1998.

Kids and drunks. Gotta love it.

Carbone is impressed.

Moments after the picture below was taken, we strolled off-stage and decompensated into a vicious fight over blue M&Ms.

Many, many thanks to Annalee Van Kleeck for the photos. And huge thanks to all of you who came out and packed the joint. It was the most fun I've had this decade.

Monday, March 24, 2008

word on the street

So, I try hard not to get too promotional gloppy and horn-tooting here on the blog. But there is one little thing I've made a tradition of, so indulge me for the day. That's the first review. Y'know, us'n authors are supposed to be all cool and uncaring but I can't lie on this score: the first review is a groovy thing. You work 3 years on something, it's nice to wake up one morning and read someone saying, "Hey, this novel doesn't suck." The first review of The Ice Beneath You came from Publishers Weekly (which, back in the day, was the location of all first reviews; not so much anymore). If I recall correctly, Voodoo Lounge got a three-way tie for first review, because I heard about Details, Booklist, and Bookslut.com all on the same day.

And for In Hoboken? Turns out of all things the first review is fromThe Star-Ledger (for those of you who don't live in the greater New York-New Jersey area, that's the paper that used to slam down on Tony Soprano's driveway every morning). Can't argue with the cosmic appropriateness of the venue.

The Star-Ledger
"Ambling to their own beat"
Sunday, March 23, 2008
In Hoboken
a novel, by Christian Bauman

In 1995 gentrification is merely nibbling at the edges of the "mile-square city." Bauman's characters live in sixth-floor walkups; use pay phones, not cells; eat in unretrofied diners. Some commute to day jobs across the Hudson. But music is the passion that draws them together -- wood music, folk songs they write and play on acoustic guitars, earning "tens of dollars." There's also an artist, and a pair of buddies right out of Simon and Garfunkel's "Old Friends" who spend the day at the local behavioral institute, formerly the mental health center.

Remarkably, for an ensemble story, Bauman has created nearly a dozen fully rounded characters, each of whom could be the core of a novel.

Thatcher Smith, 24 and newly released from the Army, and his high school friend James, recently released from Rutgers, both amble in slow diagonals when they walk, a block up, a block over, taking it all in, the crowd flowing around them.

That's how Bauman tells his story, too. Marsh is a middle-age dad with a lifelong polio limp, eking out a living promoting marginal groups to marginal album labels. Quatrone is the painter who lives with his 80-year-old mom in an apartment downstairs from James. Bruno, who works in Manhattan, had a minute of almost-fame on a Bananarama tour in the '80s. Lou is a singer whose departing lover schleps her to a shrink for "closure."

A lot of comic stuff about language here, but so deftly interwoven you have to read the novel at James' walking pace to notice. Orris, one of the day patients -- clients, they're called -- at the behavioral institute where Thatcher works as a file clerk, remembers that when one of his friends died, the hospital staff didn't want him going to the funeral. "They think the funeral might be disturbing."

A lot about Hoboken, too. Elysian Field, where Alexander Cartwright's home team lost the first recorded baseball game, 27-1, to the New York Knickerbockers. Guglielmo Marconi -- who, it could be argued, made Frank Sinatra possible -- lived in Hoboken. Willem de Kooning supported himself as a sign painter for a year before crossing the Hudson.

Quatrone explains to Thatcher how de Kooning's early work has changed over time because of the materials he used. "Materials decay." Like a song, Thatcher thinks: You play it, and it's yours. And then immediately it's not.

Bauman's throwaway lines resonate. He's wise enough to let the echo do the work. Having helped his son move furniture into the sixth-floor apartment, James' father says, "I worked my whole life to keep you out of this." This being the Hoboken that energizes Bauman's people and his story. No easy revelations or resolutions. The material is frayed at the start, loosely woven at the conclusion, a year in the life.

Tempting to call the book a tour de force, but that suggests a neon light flashing a*c*h*i*e*v*e*m*e*n*t. What's amazing about "In Hoboken" is you're unaware of the writer's hand.

Having been on the receiving end of reviews that -- even when positive -- were clearly written by someone who didn't "get" the book, I can't tell you how nice it is to have the first review of In Hoboken be by someone who so clearly got it. A nice feeling. And now I can go back to pretending I don't care what the critics say...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

all of the ladies attending the ball

Me and GG are feverishly working on compiling a list of every song mentioned in any way inside In Hoboken. Can you smell the smoke? Gears are turning and burning. Not every day you can get Woody Guthrie, Blue Oyster Cult, The Dorkestra, and Sinatra on the same playlist.

List to come soon. As well as pics and stories from last week's release events at Maxwells and Farleys. (Odd, that: the release parties have come and gone, the book is available on Amazon, yet it's still not "officially" released. Whatever. If you need a bookstore to make your purchase, it's coming, man, it's coming.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

get your red hots...

And oh look, Amazon has it in stock as of today. Beat the hordes in the book stores two or three weeks from now.

And you know you want free shipping, so you might as well order two or three copies.


5 days to Maxwells

Okay, I'm officially psyched for Tuesday now. And to celebrate, more pictures! Gregg sent this next one over, a view of Maxwells from back in the day...

Followed by my all-time favorite photo of The Marys...

And then, for some reason, Don cut his hair. Nobody knows why. Here he is at the first Camp Hoboken photoshoot in NYC, circa 1996 I think. From left: moi, Gregg, Con, and Don.

And to round it all off, a man I haven't seen in a long time...he'll be flying into Newark on Tuesday afternoon just in time to join us Tuesday night. Seen here on the woodline up in High Camping at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival somewhere back in the mists of time, using a Bud bottle as a slide on his guitar, the legendary Rich Grula.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Margaret B. Jones

So, this whole thing. I wrote about this for IdentityTheory the last time it happened, January 2006. A short essay called "Jumping for that Elusive Truth." Slightly different context...same general idea. And my opinion hasn't changed much.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

NPR stories

Sorry about the drippy slog of photographic nostalgia I thrust on you the last few days...what can you do. For a completely different slice of self-indulgant memory, here's this:

Two of my favorite pieces I've done for NPR's All Things Considered over the years were the two about music. The first was called "Rules of the Road," a memory of Godfrey Daniels, Passim, and Caffe Lena, among other places and things. The second is one of my all-time favorite things I've ever written. It's called "Traveling Companion," and is about my then-seven-year-old daughter Kristina (now 19!) keeping me company on a road trip up to the Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass. (Those links above will take you to the audio at NPR's site. For the text of the pieces, see the links to the right.)

In Hoboken comes out officially in eleven days. I got a couple of copies of the printed book in the mail yesterday. As I've said, I dig Melville House's design for it. And the proportions are slightly odd, too, which is cool. It's kind of square-ish. Big fun.