Ubunthu

We just learned that The Go-Giver has been available for a while now in Afrikaans, under the title, Die Weg-Gewer: ’n Storie oor ’n Kragtige Sake-idee. You can find it here on the publisher’s site. While we can’t read Afrikaans, and neither Babelfish nor GoogleTranslate has developed Afrikaans-reading ability yet, we couldn’t help noticing that on the publisher’s home page, where they feature books by such authors as Eckart Tolle and Suze Orman, the book they choose to quote at the top of the page is . . . yes, you guessed it, Die Weg-Gewer! Earlier this year a reader, Willem S. Eksteen, posted this note on The Go-Giver blog: This principle is very strong in South African society, and we have a national spirit of giving which is called “Ubunthu,” which strives to promote giving and cooperation between the variety of groups that make up our diverse nation (also labeled the Rainbow Nation by one of our Nobel laureats, Archbishop Desmond Tutu). Ubunthu. I like...

Unexpected Side Effects of Economic Implosion

A friend forwarded me an email from someone about doing a Twitter search on the phrase, “working on my novel.” “It’s like a car wreck,” the guy had written. “We were annoyed that everyone slowed down to look, but now we’re mesmerized.” Entries he’d found included: “I was working on my novel bc that’s what my whole day of solitude was for but the right song came on. Damnit.” and: “Maybe I should stop procrastinating and start working on my novel. I started in the seventh grade. I’m in the tenth now with no progress.” and my personal favorite: “Working on my novel. Trying to stay awake.” Funny thing: my literary agent has been screamingly busy lately. The other day I asked her why, and she said, “With the downturn in the economy, suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork with manuscripts they want to see about publishing.” During the Great Depression, despite crushing unemployment and financial hardship, 60 to 70 million Americans still packed into theaters every week to part with a precious 15¢ or 20¢ and be entertained, uplifted and inspired. If you’ve always thought about writing but never given it serious effort, maybe now’s the...

What I’m Reading

I am often asked some variation of the “How do I get started as a writer?” question. Here’s the best answer I know, and it’s in three parts: 1) just start writing; 2) be willing to right crap [later edit: Ana points out that should be “be willing to write crap”—I think I just demonstrated the point!], and then edit and improve like crazy; and most of all 3) read. You can’t write if you don’t read. Good writing = good reading. If you want to exhale, what comes first? (All together now: inhale!) Someone (Jeremy Bergeron) just asked me what I’m reading at the moment, and what I recommend. Here goes: Right now I’m reading The Age of Gold by H.W. Brands. I recently wrote an editorial on the California gold rush and the “American dream” mentality, and ran into this book while Googling the topic. It looked fascinating. I hit Amazon’s “One-Click” purchasing, and now I’m 418 pages in. What an amazing book! Extraordinary history of the California Gold Rush. Can’t put it down. I never knew this stuff! Also reading Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox; I write about that one here. What an inspiring author! I love this guy. If you haven’t read his first memoir, Lucky Man (2002), you’re missing out. Am about to read Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond, on recommendation of a friend (a waiter at my favorite local restaurant, named Steve [the waiter, not the restaurant]), and just started 10-10-10, by Suzy Welch (wife of GE’s Jack), because an author I’m working with says this is a good...

Looking Up to Michael

Michael J. Fox is the kind of person who makes people feel good just by walking into a room. In 2002 I delighted in reading Fox’s memoir, Lucky Man, which recounted his childhood and charmed career, his exit from alcoholism, entrance into Parkinson’s and exit from TV acting, and did it all with an extraordinary grace, charm and utter authenticity. Now I’m reading his follow-up, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. (Early on he says, “As the title for this new book, Always Looking Up works on a couple of levels. First off—let’s just get this one out of the way—it’s a short joke.”) I love this guy — love him. His energy, his honesty, his passion, his humility, his devotion, his self-deprecation. His delight in life and language. And let’s put this point on that sentence: the man has no ghost writer. There’s no JDM skulking in his literary shadows: the dude writes his own stuff, word for word—and he’s a master. “Sometimes people ask me my secret to a long and happy marriage … [Here it is:] Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty.” “Was there enough of me left to be the man that up until now I had never known I wanted to be?” There is a sheer delight in the writing, in the words, in the crafting and tossing of phrases, in the act of writing, that is both exuberant and exhilarating. I have the full unabridged book on my Kindle, and am soaring through an abridged audio version in my car with Michael himself working his way through each...