Monday, July 30, 2007

Promotional Post Number Three

On September 10th at 8pm we will have a large and informal party for The Unheard at Sweet and Vicious, a very cool lounge down on the corner of Spring and Bowery. We'll have some free books (and some not so free ones), some drink deals, and hopefully, many inebriated toasts. Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Review

Just got a really nice review from Penthouse. I love their work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Promotional Post Number Two

Here are some other upcoming book events. As always, I’ll post more information as it comes.

Oct 2: A reading at Dutton’s Bookstore at 11975 San Vicente Blvd, LA. Evening, time tba
Oct 8: A reading/boozing at The Half-King 505 W23rd St, NYC, time, tba
October 18-19: I’m giving the keynote lecture at The Clarke School's 28th Annual Conference on Mainstreaming Students with Hearing Loss. The conference is in Springfield, Mass and the only one of its kind in the country.
Nov 7: There will be a reading and signing at the League for the Hard of Hearing in downtown Manhattan. 50 Broadway, way downtown NYC, time tba


Thursday, AJ and I drove to Nashville (940 Miles and yep my back is sore) to help her sister and brother-in-law finish the renovation of a recently purchased house. It was a long day’s drive marked by endless traffic jams and, up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sudden summer thunderstorms that hit like gunfire. Otis and Amos came along for the journey and resigned themselves to the hours with a look that can only be described as “you cheap SOBs, couldn’t you just fly?”

I’d been to Nashville once before, almost twenty years ago, when I was paid to drive a car across the country from Boston to Colorado with a friend who would become a Rabbi. All I remembered about Nashville was that it was between Knoxville and Memphis. We were in a hurry back then and didn’t take in the sights.

This time we arrived in town at 3:30 in the wee hours and set to work the next morning. Nashville seems to be a group of neighborhoods arranged in random order, like jigsaw pieces from a bunch of different puzzles. But this neighborhood, Woodbine, had an easy, open feel. Lots of low ranch houses on nice sized plots, and people sitting on their front porches stroking their dogs’ ears as they watched the evening come on.

In fact, it was like visiting an America that I thought didn’t exist anymore. I met a guy, Jason, a true to life Hobo. Apparently there are legions of them – did you know that out in Iowa there is a yearly national hobo convention? They have a parade and a 10k fun run. A gifted, largely self-taught musician, Jason’s spent years hopping freight trains across the country. Falling asleep in the Dakotas and waking up somewhere in Texas. He was shingling the roof of the house. Helping him were some men who lived at one of the oldest communes in the country, a huge farm about an hour outside of town called, helpfully, The Farm. For almost 40 years, as the country has turned inexorably away from its utopian leanings, The Farm has been running on the hoary ideals of brotherhood.

Good days, good people. It struck me that back in the eastern sprawl, where it costs a couple thou to rent an apartment and money appears to melt out of your pocket as you walk to the corner grocery, that economic stresses have precluded this kind of rambling, unconcerned path through life. And I think because we no longer live that way, we’ve started to judge it harshly. But there is nothing wrong with rambling. Just don’t smack into anyone. And even if you do, it should be ok, because you weren’t going that fast to begin with.

"Can you imagine living here?” asked AJ and I could.

And then my cousin Moriah, in Nashville for a year to clerk for a judge, got punched in the face by a mugger. Who then grabbed her purse, jumped in an SUV and promptly billed a $100 dinner to her credit card. Which goes to show…what exactly?

“Wow that never happens in Nashville,” all the good Nashville people said to her.
“You look kind of Elephant Manish where you got hit,” I added.
“Thank you,” Moriah said.
She’d spent summers in law school working for legal aid, defending the very same petty criminals who had knocked her out. Now the police we’re out looking for her assailants, and the shoe was on the other foot and you couldn’t help but want to jam it up someone’s rear end. You strange, stupid world! Your children's superstars kill dogs for fun. Villagers starve so we can have our bananas cheap. How does it end?

And then I spent an afternoon in a bedroom of the new house painting the walls for the tenants-to-come, a dark rich red that appeared to be dripping blood or some kind of disturbing sexual fluid. And then we were sitting on a porch, drinking beer, tabulating all the ways bottle caps could be removed without bottle openers while dogs tussled and another day skittered off through a slow, pleasant dusk. And then I was back in the car at four in the morning, driving east through another thunderstorm, weaving around trucks huffing and puffing up the Smoky Mountains, full of that beautiful understated feeling that comes with driving your sleeping loved ones through the storm. Soon gas will be seven bucks a gallon, hurricanes will make landfall, and we’ll bomb another country or two and say we had no choice in the matter, but in the meantime, dawn was breaking and we were making good time.

Promotional Post Number One

On Sunday, August 5th, The New York Times Magazine will have an excerpt of The Unheard. Called (with apologies to Phil Spector) “Wall of Sound” it will be on the magazine’s last page. I’ll have a link up as soon as one’s available.

Also, on September 8th, I’ll be doing an interview with Scott Simon of NPR’s weekend edition. I think I’ll be one of the few people to do a radio interview without having ever really listened to the radio. We'll have that, the book, Gallaudet, cochlear implants, pit bulls, Flight of the Conchords, the fate of Major Tom and lots of other interesting stuff to talk about -- this should be fun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To clear up some confusion...

...that's Amos on the left, Otis in the middle, and me bringing up the rear, as they train rigorously for the triathlon in Fahnestock State Park's beautiful Canopus Lake. Next stop, Lake Titicaca!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hey! You look familiar

Hey all

Muchos exciting Nuevos.

First off, gracias for coming on back to this site. I know its been a long time away and all of you have many other things on your plates. Work, family, a pepper steak, and it’s summer and the weather’s been nice (at least out here in the northeast).

Much news to share. First, my book, The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness in Africa (alternate titles: A what man in Africa, Africa on 40 decibels a day, Africa? I thought this was Jersey, and my favorite: Are You There God, It’s Me Josh), is due to be released on Sept 4th. Along with the crack teams at Henry Holt and ICM, as well as the secret weapon, the amazing book publicist/superaunt Judi Davidson (aka The Unpaid), I’ve been busy trying to rev up the publicity machine. Will there be parties? Yes, there will be parties. And yes, you are invited and I hope to see you there. There will be readings, too. In NY, Massachusetts, DC, and LA thus far. I’ll post the schedule for all these events as the time approaches. You can pre-order the book here.

In the meantime, we just got this review from Publisher’s Weekly:

The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa
Josh Swiller. Holt, $14 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8210-4
Although doctors diagnosed Swiller’s deafness early enough to fit him with hearing aids, the young man from Mantattan’s Upper West Side still felt different. As a young adult he drifted from college to college, job to job, relationship to relationship, never quite finding what he was looking for: “a place beyond deafness.” He found that place in the mid-1990s, when the Peace Corps posted him to a remote corner of Zambia. During his two-year stint working in a run-down health clinic in a rural village, he fought for irrigation projects and better AIDS facilities. He befriended a young local who played chess and provided constant counsel in the ways the young white American could—and did—run afoul of local tribesmen (and women) and their age-old ways. Deafness would have provided a unique sensory filter for anyone, yet while Swiller may have his particular aural capabilities, he also has literary talents—an eye, a voice and a narrative talent—in abundance. A story in any other Peace Corps volunteer’s hands might have been humdrum, but in Swiller’s becomes intensified, like the rigors of day-to-day Zambian life, through deprivation. (Sept.)

PW is the prime early reviewer in the country. That is, bookstores and libraries and reading groups take their lead from its choices, so hopefully this will lead to more attention, more sales and I may some day pay off my credit card bill and student loans. Some call me a crazy dreamer, but that’s only because our society has been so corrupted that crazy dreamers who used to wish for a world full of international goodness and kindness now just wish for balanced bank accounts and buy bracelets for Barack.

But I digress. In addition to planning events, we’re placing book excerpts and lining up radio interviews. Many things are in range and its exciting and I'll have the information for you shortly. Also, my website, will be up soon, and will have all this information and more. But it ain’t up yet either, so I imagine this update feels a little like fooling around with a girlfriend/boyfriend in junior high – everything’s there, more or less, but you just got to wait to get the full effect.

I can say this for sure: The Unheard will be reviewed in several national magazines in the fall, which will be nice. Outside, GQ, and my personal fave, Penthouse will all give it some space. I believe the Penthouse review will be written by my old friend, Nameand Addresswithheld, and will begin, Dear Penthouse, I never thought I’d ever write to you but you’ll never believe what happened to me…

It’s been a long slog to get the book to this point, round after round after round of edits, during which I read my own words so much I began to see messages to Satan in them and also we had a bit of a struggle to get the right cover before finally coming up with this one:

Which I really like, though I look about twelve. It captures the feeling of the book.

I have to thank Supurna Banerjee, my Henry Holt editor who has read the book more than I have, and yet stayed enthusiastic to the end. Also Dana Trombley, my amazing publicist at Holt. And AJ, who has put up with far too many moments (days? weeks?) of artistic self-indulgence and mood-swinginess. Ugh.

On a personal front, two and a half months ago AJ and I moved from Brooklyn to the bucolic village of Cold Spring, about an hour up the Hudson (that's the view from town up above). Our Brooklyn rent went up a bundle and our landlord was constantly confusing our comings and goings with his eight campaigns in WWII (bless him for that, but we were just getting the paper) and so while looking around the neighborhood and considering renting one-bedroom shoeboxes and walk-in closets, we thought, let’s try something different for a change. Now I’m sitting on the front porch of our cottage as I write this, looking out over the Hudson river, over acres of trees, hills shaped like the faces of reclining Indian chiefs, and a man riding a motorcycle while wearing a helmet with buck antlers welded on it. Are the antlers a homage to the history of this place? Or is he just a buttface? It’s the circle of life. At least thanks to the implant I can hear his motorcycle’s 950 cc engine just fine. Neither Amos nor Otis know what to make of him either, though they too, seem to be enjoying the country living. They have become champion swimmers. Otis especially, is just a few bike lessons from competing in triathalons.

Meanwhile the world continues to burp up news stories that just make you shake your head or bang it against a wall. They’re swimming at the North Pole! They’re turning the corner in Iraq! Posh and Becks are here! But we’ll get to that in future posts.

So to sum up: Book: done. Blog: back. Hills: beautiful. Parties, excerpts, readings: a-coming. Penthouse: buy it for the articles. soon.