1. The auction for the lunch with Hugh Jackman that Laura branted breathlessly about last week is really starting to get depressing. Why? Because the bidding is up to $7750 already! -- with the next bid set to hit $8750! At this rate, Laura will never be able to afford it! (Not that she was able to afford it when it was still at $5000, but that's beside the point.) Laura is really happy for the charity that will be the recipient of the money and it goes without saying, of course, that a price can't possibly be put on lunch with Hugh Jackman -- its value goes beyond money -- and she just hopes that whoever ends up with the winning bid in ten or eleven days loves and admires Hugh Jackman half as much as she does.
2. Laura's love affair with the sinfully snarky and Ashley-Judd-obsessed "The Mock Dock" site -- and with "Mockerena," the writer of the site -- continues. The most recent entry on themockdock.com about Laura -- "I Am Angry at Barnes and Noble and Borders" -- involves a visit made by "Mockerena" to her local Barnes and Noble and Borders stores in search of Laura's books, only to find out that not a single copy of any of Laura's books were stocked in either of the stores. Laura is used to this kind of thing -- so used to it, in fact, that she's stopped meandering over to the "Z" section when she's in a store so that she's not disappointed and annoyed that she's bent all the way down and contorted herself into a ridiculously unflattering position (the "Z" sections are always on the lowest hardest to reach shelves) only to confirm her worst author-related fears: that she's become irrelevant in bookstores. Anyway, yet another love-filled shout-out to The Mock Dock -- this time with an added layer of gratitude for the fact that someone besides Laura's parents are as concerned about her lack of bookstore presence as they are.
3. Laura's written before about Nia Vardalos, writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and how they became friends over the past few years (eagle-eyed brant readers will remember that Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone, had optioned Laura's fourth novel, Piece of Work, for Nia to adapt and star in [though the option since dropped]). As always, Laura hates to appear as if she's namedropping, but she and Nia have had a terrific long-distance email-friendship with even a few in-person visits thrown in. One of those visits took place this past spring when Laura was in LA for her niece's bat mitzvah -- Nia invited her over for coffee and so Laura just hopped in her sister's Volvo wagon and, you know, drove to Nia's beautiful house and, you know, parked out front and walked up the walk and went inside and got a tour of her house and sat in her kitchen and drank really good and really strong coffee with cream (just the way she likes it) and talked and even met Nia's terrifically talented husband, Ian Gomez, who couldn't have been nicer. No big deal. HAAAAA. Laura was especially thrilled to be there because she got to hear about, and actually meet, the little girl Nia and Ian had just adopted. Laura's writing about this now, many months after the fact, because Nia wrote a terrifically moving piece for the Huffington Post about adopting her American foster child, something she'd announced a few months ago to help promote National Adoption Day and The Alliance for Children's Rights. The piece ran a few days ago and got many appreciative and passionate responses, not only commenting on Nia and her husband's happy story but also thanking her for the information about this little-known-about and even-less-understood adoption-option. Here's the link to the piece called "The List" and here too is the link to a piece written by Lisa Belkin for the New York Times' Motherlode blog. Feel free to pass the links onto all your friends interested in adopting....
4. Laura got her photo taken for the "Q&A" piece that's going to run on February 15 on Get Over Yourself! in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. Laura's sharing this little piece of news now not just to self-promote her forthcoming self-promotional article, but to comment on how much labor went into a simple picture-taking session: beautificational-labor, that is. Whenever Laura has to have something like this done, and thankfully it's not that often anymore since as you may have heard, her books are almost never found in bookstores anymore! -- she basically has to start from scratch with her external grooming and have everything done. This usually entails 1) haircut 2) haircolor 3) hair blow-out 4) eyebrow shaping 5) manicure 6) clothes. This is quite involved, not just time-wise but money-wise since, as most well-groomed women know, being well-groomed isn't cheap. Looking well-groomed and well-dressed -- well-groomed and well-dressed enough to get your picture taken -- takes time and money, both in short supply with Laura these days. But despite all that, on Tuesday she dropped Ben off at school, ran into Lexington Center to have her hair blown out, went around the corner to have her nails done, and was then going to go around yet another corner to have her eyebrows shaped but there wasn't time. Then she went home, got changed into a new black long cashmere cardigan sweater (Eileen Fisher, on sale) and dress (Diane Von Furstenberg, on eBay), and a new pair of boots (Aquatalia, that she'd bought on sale in advance of her speaking gig in LA -- she figured she should finally get a new decent pair of boots since she's been wearing her beloved black-suede Michael Kors boots for the past six seasons), and did her own make-up because she was just too fucking (461) cheap to pay to have her make-up done. Laura also hates salons and can't stand to be in salons for too long -- she thinks it has something, if not everything, to do with the fact that they force you to sit in front of giant floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall mirrors.
Anyway, once she'd spent the entire first half of her day getting groomed for the photo shoot, she then had to actually sit through the photo shoot, which, is another one of her least favorite author-related things in the world to do. The photographer, Tanit Sakakini, was terrific and lovely and empathetic (she apparently hates having her picture taken, too! oh the irony!), and Laura is keeping her fingers crossed that her incredibly stiff nervous uncomfortable shy body language isn't discernible in the final photo.
5. Laura and Ben are watching Jurassic Park. The first Jurassic Park. (Ben's watching and Laura's kind of watching as she brants.) Laura is reminded of the first time she saw the movie, which was when she was still working at Knopf, Michael Crichton's publisher at the time. The movie had just come out -- the "logo"-style design of the giant dinosaur-head having been designed by genius jacket designer Chip Kidd -- and everyone got to go see a special screening of the movie. This was back in 1993 -- almost 16 years ago which is almost completely inconceivable to Laura at this very moment! [so inconceivable, in fact, that she just redid the math on her fingers to make sure she did it right and unfortunately her highly sophisticated human-digit-calculator method is all-too accurate].
6. Speaking of her days in publishing, the shocking and sad news of the death of John Updike this week was another reminder of the years she spent as a book publicist. Laura spent a whole day with John Updike, back in the fall of 1995 when the Everyman's Library edition of his collected Rabbit novels was published. She remembers taking him to tape the Charlie Rose show, back when the Charlie Rose show was taped from the Bloomberg News Studios on Park Avenue, back before Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, and it was one of the best author-publicizing-and-escorting experiences of her long and highly miserable author-publicizing-and-escorting career. Laura never knew what she was going to get when she'd leave her office to be with an author for a day -- or a week (Julia Child) -- or two weeks (Michael Caine) -- or three weeks (Lauren Bacall) -- and it was often impossible to predict which of the big famous authors was going to be bad and which were going to be not so bad. Or even great. John Updike was one of the greats -- one of the very few: polite and courteous and curious and modest -- everything most authors, especially famous authors, were not. He opened doors for Laura (literally, not figuratively), asked her questions about herself, like where she was from (he lived a great part of his life in Beverly, Massachusetts on the gorgeous North Shore which was and is one of Laura's most favorite areas in the whole world), and what her job was like, and she remembered thinking that he was both a very ordinary person and a very extraordinary person. She remembers, too, bringing him into the green room for that interview -- watching as then Governor Mario Cuomo exited from his taping and meeting actor/director/brother of Penny Marshall Gary Marshall who was waiting for his taping, too. Gary Marshall couldn't have been friendlier or warmer, and Laura remembers thinking what a wonderful moment it was, and rare, so infrequentlyin her line of work were the planets aligned and she felt grateful for the amazingness of her job.
And as she's thinking of this and still watching Jurassic Park, she's reminded of the day she spent with the late Michael Crichton in Los Angeles during one of the annual book conventions, when Laura was in charge of getting him from signing to signing and to various other places. Not only was he one of the tallest people she had ever seen -- he was 6'9 -- but he was truly fascinating, a brilliant conversationalist, and a really nice person.
So many assholes write shitty books, and how lucky Laura feels to have met, however briefly, two of the most amazingly talented and civilized authors the world has ever known.
(Next Brant Teaser: Laura's experience today at a Pampered Chef home party!)