Category Archives: Books

SHERMAN YELLEN’S OWN LIFETIME:  THE AWARD-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT, LIBRETTIST, SCREENWRITER, AND LYRICIST ON OLD NEW YORK AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD,  CENTRAL PARK NOW, AND BECOMING  JOHN ADAMS, MAYER ROTHSCHILD, AND THE OBSERVANT CHILD IN HIS NEW MEMOIR ‘SPOTLESS’ ·

 

Sherman Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the 1970 musical The Rothschilds, with a score by Fiddler on the Roof songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, which he and Harnick have recently reimagined as Rothschild & Sons. Sherman wrote the libretto for the Will Holt and Gary William Friedman musical Treasure Island, winner of the Broadway World Best Regional Musical Award (2012). Among his many theater works is his satirical sketch “Delicious Indignities,” which appeared in the New York and London revue Oh! Calcutta! His straight plays on and off Broadway include New Gods for LoversStrangers, and December Fools.  

Sherman was librettist and lyricist for Josephine Tonight, an original musical he wrote with the late composer Wally Harper, about the early life of Josephine Baker, which The Chicago Sun-Times called “a shining new musical” and which the D.C. press praised for being “so hot that it sizzles.”

In his youth he worked as a librettist with legendary composer Richard Rodgers. Together with Sheldon Harnick they recently revised the Rodgers-Harnick musical Rex about Henry VIII. This new version had a successful premiere in Toronto.  Yellen’s teleplays have won him two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America broadcast on NBC, as well as an Emmy Nomination for his Hallmark Hall of Fame version of Beauty and the Beast starring George C. Scott. Sherman’s screenplay adaptations of classic novels range from Great Expectations to Phantom of the Opera. He has received awards in Arts and Letters from Bard College, and he is a frequent contributor of essays on the arts, literature, and politics to online publications such as The Huffington Post.

Sherman recently published his autobiographical novella Cousin Bella–The Whore of Minsk, available in a volume, which also includes his holiday short story A Christmas Lilly,” and a collection of three plays, December Fools and Other Plays (December Fools * Budapest * Gin Lane).  Sherman is married, the father of two sons, Nicholas and Christopher, and has three much loved granddaughters. He has lived in London and Los Angeles, worked in Berlin and Budapest, but home was, is, and always will be New York City.

Sherman Yellen talks, with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new memoir Spotless: Memories of a New York City Childhood.  The second part, of this three-part interview, will appear, 6/28.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x 

How are the Yellens, the Rothschilds, and the Adamses the same; how are they different?

When I write about people I can only do so by connecting them to myself, my character, my beliefs, and my experiences.   All three: the Yellens, the Rothschilds, and the Adamses come from very different cultures, but what they share is a deep belief that the world must be better, and we must work to make it so.   It may sound foolish but, while writing these very different works, I became John Adams, Mayer Rothschild, and the little boy who inhabits Spotless, the saga of my family.  If we don’t bring ourselves to everything we write, there can be little truth or passion in the writing–it becomes a dry history rather than drama.   The trick is to find some part of yourself in every character you write, even the nasty ones.  For a while I had the joy of being John Adams, Mayer Rothschild, and, late in life, the observant child that I was.   

Did you ever believe that you would excel in writing about families–or how would you describe your new book?

I’ve always had a deep interest in families–what holds them together, what pulls them apart–probably flowing from the closeness of my own family– both my first family, the one in Spotless,  and the second, with my wife, Joan, which has lasted nearly 64 years.  I am deeply interested in how we remember those who are gone:  For me, Spotless was an attempt to recall and recreate what I had experienced as a child of the ‘30s and ‘40s–to go deeper yet into that world of my grandparents and parents: their journey, from European and Lower East Side poverty to affluence, and the cost of it, for everyone who traveled that very American path.   It is summed up by critic/novelist Christopher Davis who said, “Spotless is a story of family love trapped in the old world’s hurricane of desire to share in American dreaming.”

How did you decide on the title?  Tell us about it.

The title Spotless has several meanings–it certainly has little to do with that questioning, and somewhat judgmental, child on the cover of the book, a born observer:  indeed, the title has more to do with my mother’s use of the word to describe the character of a friend, a housekeeper, or the kitchen floor in our apartment.  In a sense it was her ideal.  She came from a world where half her family died of TB–spots on the lung were the sign of that disease.  To be Spotless was, for her, to be safe, healthy, and to be alive.  

You write that hardship “doesn’t often make people better, it just makes them harder.” You are referring to the Depression and the ‘40s.  Have you noticed other periods when people became harder–and have there been times when they seemed otherwise? 

My observation is a generalization, and, like most, it is only partially true.   There are people who rise up from their own despair to help others in the worst of times, but I have observed that many who have suffered are locked into their own cages of suffering, and they have not found a key to escape.  I do believe that we learn and grow more from kindness than from suffering.  Corny?  Maybe.  But I have found the truth in this over a long lifetime.

What do you miss most about the New York you grew up in (the book brings up cultural references, such as Baby Peggy, Olive Thomas, and Sonja Henie)? 

I miss so many of the old pleasures of the old NYC: the trolley cars in the Bronx, the double-decker buses on Fifth Avenue, the old Schrafft’s restaurants, where my parents took me for a Sunday lunch, and I miss the mom-and-pop stores that helped to create the New York of neighborhoods–I miss the old Reuben’s Restaurant, of the 1950s, which allowed my wife and I to dine with our schnauzer Gus seated beside us–before the health police took charge of the city.   I love the spirit of that city, before real estate became the King of New York, driving the small shopkeepers out and bringing in those ubiquitous banks and chain stores.  And I miss the affordable price of a theater ticket, and the smaller, more human scale of the city.  An example of that is the old MOMA.  I would go there with my friends and girlfriends, as a teenager at the High School of Music & Art–a kid who loved fine art–and it was a welcoming place.  Today, it is a glass palace, an expensive tourist spot, not the warm, second home for many art-loving city kids.  Needless to say, I loved the New York that didn’t have a Trump Tower and kept its Trumps sequestered in Queens.

I am not one who subscribes to the idea that the high cost of living in NYC is proportionate with the cost of living in the past.  Baloney!  The world was affordable for those who were not in the one percent.  It was there for most of the residents–even during the Depression.  I miss the courtesies that made for a gentler city, and oh Lord, do I miss those marvelous movie theaters–growing up, as I did, in the golden age of Hollywood.  Nothing short of heaven itself can replicate the grandeur of the old Loew’s Paradise, on the Grand Concourse, and its sister theaters throughout the boroughs.    I do not miss the bigotry of that time, but we may have traded it in for the repellant hard-nosed ambition that I often see today.   But oh, the beauty of Central Park now–almost nothing compares with it in the past–and the everyday mix of races and classes in NYC makes me proud to be a New Yorker.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x

 

(c) 2017 by Sherman Yellen (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Yellen family photos: Courtesy of the Sherman Yellen. All rights reserved.

Central Park: Fodor’s Travel Guides.

NICHOLAS HYTNER: ‘BALANCING ACTS: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4—LINK BELOW) ·

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08nkrc6

The inside story of twelve years at the helm of Britain’s greatest theatre. It is a story of lunatic failures and spectacular successes such as The History Boys, War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors; of opening the doors of the National Theatre to a broader audience than ever before, and changing the public’s perception of what theatre is for.

It is about probing Shakespeare from every angle and reinventing the classics. About fostering new talent and directing some of the most celebrated actors of our times. Its cast includes the likes of Alan Bennett, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren.

Intimate, candid and insightful, Balancing Acts is a passionate exploration of the art and alchemy of making theatre.

Today Hynter describes his typical day as the theatre’s Director.

Written and read by Nicholas Hytner
Produced by Simon Richardson.

BOOK: STEPHEN GREENBLATT ON ‘HAMLET GLOBE TO GLOBE TWO YEARS, 190,000 MILES, 197 COUNTRIES, ONE PLAY’ BY DOMINIC DROMGOOLE ·

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Greenblatt’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/21; via Pam Green.)

HAMLET GLOBE TO GLOBE 
Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play 
By Dominic Dromgoole 
Illustrated. 390 pp. Grove Press. $27.

It began, we are told, as a whim lubricated by strong drink. In 2012 the management of Shakespeare’s Globe — the splendid replica of the Elizabethan open-air playhouse, built on the bankside of the Thames in London — was considering possible eye-catching new initiatives. In the midst of the merry collective buzz, the theater’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, impulsively said, “Let’s take ‘Hamlet’ to every country in the world.” No doubt even crazier cultural ideas have been proposed, but this one is crazy enough to rank near the top of anyone’s list. Yet it came to pass. An intrepid company of 12 actors and four stage managers, backed up by a London-based staff that undertook the formidable task of organizing the venues, obtaining the visas and booking the frenetic travel, set out in April 2014, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. They did not quite succeed in bringing the tragedy to every country — North Korea, Syria and a small handful of others eluded them — but they came pretty close. One hundred ninety countries and a series of refugee camps later, the tour reached its end in April 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/books/review/hamlet-globe-to-globe-dominic-dromgoole.html

WAYNE ALLENSWORTH’S AMERICAN SHOWDOWN: THE AUTHOR OF ‘FIELD OF BLOOD’ ON MODERN WESTERNS, FRONTIER SITUATIONS, AND THE BEST BOOKS AND FILMS IN THE GENRE—INCLUDING HIS OWN ·

Wayne Allensworth worked as an analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service from 1991 to 2002.  He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 1998.  He is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine.  His short story, Man of the West, was nominated for a Western Writers of America Spur award. He has contributed to the following collections: Exploring American History (Marshall Cavendish, 2008); Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario (Chronicles Books, 2006); Immigration and the American Identity (Chronicles Books, 2008); and Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia, edited by Marlene Laruelle (Johns Hopkins University). He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Wayne Allensworth saddles up with SV’s Bob Shuman to talk about writing the epic, the poetic, and the tragic in a two-part interview—Part 2 will be published 4/25.   Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD at the end of this post.

Wayne, tell us about your new book—would it be fair to call it a “Western”?

 The themes and setting make Field of Blood what some might call a “modern Western.” I think of the book as taking place in an imagined present— a small Texas town is transformed as the American Southwest gradually melds with Mexico.  America is merging with Latin America, with all the dislocations, conflicts, and moral dilemmas that arise out of a clash of cultures.  We aren’t quite there yet, but are headed in that direction at a rapid pace. If the elite of both countries had their way, that’s where we would be now. That was my starting point.

I tried to imagine what that would look like. It’s very much a frontier situation.  The rule of law is breaking down where the old America is passing away, the globalized world bringing with it chaos and disorientation.  The corruption and frenzied violence of today’s Mexico are crossing the border.  That’s what’s coming. You might say that the drug cartels and their accomplices are a criminal counterpart to trans-national corporations, both out to take advantage of the erosion of borders and national institutions.  They share an interest in dissolving boundaries, doing away with the old institutions, and exploiting the situation for profit, no matter what the cost to ordinary people. 

My characters are struggling with the new reality and their own sense of identity, as well as a sense of loss.  I tried to get at the surrealism of globalization, and the bizarre situations it creates.  America is being forcibly merged with Latin America, but it doesn’t stop there, not for us or them. It’s really an anti-human and anti-humane world, one without reference points, that benefits the most ruthless among us the most.

In this setting, I set up a situation that forces people to take sides in a way that is especially pronounced on a frontier.  It’s the kind of dilemma that leads to an inevitable showdown. That’s very much like a traditional Western, but in a modern, or post-modern, setting.

How did you become interested in Westerns–and what is it about them that made you want to write them?

My grandfather told me stories about the Old West when I was a boy.  I heard stories about Quanah Parker, the range wars, about his meeting Frank James, and seeing Geronimo.  Westerns are uniquely American, they are elemental, dealing with fundamental issues—survival, identity, loyalty—and they are about us, about our people and how we came to be what and who we are.

I read Westerns my grandfather would pass along to me after he had read them, books by writers like Louis L’Amour, Ernest Haycox, Jack Schaefer, and Alan LeMay.  Later on in life, I read Larry McMurtry, Charles Portis, and Cormac McCarthy.  McMurtry wrote his great epic Western, Lonesome Dove, in an urbanized, technological era when Westerns had fallen out of fashion.  I think he revived the Western.  McCarthy wrote his masterpiece, Blood Meridian, as a metaphysical Western, one that drew on authors like Melville and Conrad, but the violence and stylistics of the novel were from a later period. McCarthy took the Western to places it hadn’t been before.  You might call some of these books “modern Westerns,” books like McMurtry’s Horseman Pass By, McCarthy’s border trilogy, and his No Country for Old Men.  Modern Westerns, especially, have an elegiac quality about them; they are stories chronicling the passing of an era, the passing of the old America, its values and way of life.  But that sense of something dying out, that something we’ll miss, the good and the bad, is part of a lot of Westerns.

Westerns were once a very important genre in America cinema, and movie Westerns and Western books drew on each other. It was a two-way street, the books, dating back to the dime novels of the 19th century, to the authors I’ve mentioned.  They provided much of the raw material for movie Westerns, and the films provided a lot of the imagery used in subsequent Western stories. The great movie Westerns, films like StagecoachRed RiverShaneHigh NoonThe Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, gave the genre its stock of characters and themes, and the imagery of a mythical West.  Directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks set the standard for movie Westerns and made them art. Movie stars like John Wayne and Gary Cooper became the face of American Westerns. John Wayne, in particular, became a symbol of the American Western.  Clint Eastwood took up Wayne’s mantle to a certain degree. He was in Westerns on TV and in the movies, and, together with director Don Siegel, made modern Westerns like Coogan’s Bluff and, some would say, Dirty Harry, which I’ve heard called an “urban Western.” 

I think films like Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country and his best movie, The Wild Bunch, drew on the somber tone and texture of elegiac Westerns.  The Wild Bunch took Western films into some of the places Cormac McCarthy would take the literary Western.  Peckinpah made modern Westerns like Junior Bonner and The Getaway, while films based on McMurtry’s books, Hud and The Last Picture Show, contrasted the Old West with the new one, the ideal of the West as we like to think of it, and the realities of modern life.  That kind of movie is still with us—just look at the success of Hell or High Water.

Thank you so much.  Looking forward to next week.

Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD: Field of Blood Prologue

Read Part II of this interview: http://stagevoices.com/2017/04/26/wayne-allensworths-american-showdown-ii-the-author-of-field-of-blood-on-the-epic-russian-intelligence-western-assumptions-and-asking-his-characters-to-make-hard-choices/

Wayne Allensworth photo (c) 2017 by Elizabeth Allensworth Merino.  All rights reserved.

(c) 2017 by Wayne Allensworth (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved. 

‘OLIVIER’ BY PHILIP ZIEGLER (LISTEN NOW ON BBC 4—LINK BELOW) ·

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03bq9ct

Published when the National Theatre turned 50 in 2013, Philip Ziegler’s biography, based on previously unseen letters and diaries, tells the story of Laurence Olivier as he developed his craft, focusing on his career path from early school days through rep theatre to Hollywood, before returning to triumph in his greatest role ever, as the first director of the National Theatre.

Episode 1:
Born at a time when theatre was at a low ebb in Britain, and after a rather unpromising start in life, the young Laurence Olivier enters the acting profession and begins to shine.

Reader: Toby Jones

Producer: Clive Brill
A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4.

 

ON TIME, WITH DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PART II: THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF “YOUR BEST AGE IS NOW” CALLS FOR SOUL-SATISFYING LIVES, CALLS OUT CULTURALLY INDUCED FEAR ABOUT AGING, AND CALLS UP THE ADOLESCENT WITHIN ·

Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. is a nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, and author. She is a relationship contributor for Investigation Discovery Network’s Scorned, and has hosted TLC’s reality show One Week to Save Your Marriage and GSN’s Without Prejudice? Dr. Ludwig is a regular guest on CNN, Fox News, and Headline News, discussing psychological and lifestyle issues as well as the criminal mind. She has appeared on Today, Entertainment Tonight, 20/20, World News Tonight, Nightline, The View, Fox and Friends, Steve Harvey, The Wendy Williams Show, and is on the medical board and a contributor for BELLA Magazine. She also writes for the Huffington Post. Dr. Ludwig lives in New York City.

Dr. Robi Ludwig helps Bob Shuman through the golden years, in the final part of her Stage Voices interview.  

One quality a survivor in the aging wars must cultivate?  

I see two qualities being crucial:  cultivating a little bit of moxie–and resiliency!

What are people missing about themselves, people who do feel that age is creeping up on them? 

I’m not sure that people are missing anything, but there is a culturally induced fear about aging—somehow we believe we will become less in some way: less relevant, less wanted, less noticed.

This is what I address in Your Best Age Is Now, that we are improving in so many ways as we age. We continue to make new brain cells, showing that we are not “losing it”; many midlifers describe feeling more confident. We are able to problem-solve better; we become wiser and better able to plug into what’s important. We know what we want out of life and from the people in our lives. Many even describe themselves as getting better with age: having a better body, and looking better. Our personalities continue to change all the way into our 60s. We become more conscientious and agreeable. Due to the changes going on in our brains, we become more likely to see the world and the people in our world through a more optimistic lens.

How would you advise a woman who wants to–or has to–change careers after age 50 and is scared?

Don’t follow your fear, follow your plan.

It’s important to do some preliminary research about the field you’d like to go into.

Reach out to any connections you’ve made over the years who might be able to help you. Sometimes it’s our acquaintances who are the most helpful when it comes to providing new connections.

Don’t give up your day job before you fully explore what opportunities are available.

And be willing to get some experience via exploring this new career, as a hobby or via an internship. Sometimes volunteering one’s time can lead to the perfect opportunity for that new career transition.

Are women’s concerns about aging differently than men’s?

I think women in the past had it harder than men. Society was certainly tougher on the aging woman than the aging man. But things have changed. Men can be just as hard on themselves about the aging process

What do you recommend to your clients—or what do you see as first steps that they are taking—to break the cycle of being defined by age?

First, I advise them to get acquainted with the new science about midlife. It’s a lot more positive than what we’ve been led to believe. Then, it’s important to get in touch with your teen energy, since there are similarities between midlife and adolescence:

-Learn how to say “Yes” to life

-Get in touch with your inner moxie

-Find both older and younger role models

-Live with a “You Only Live Once” attitude

-And surround yourself with supportive friends and family

We really do lead more with our essence than our age. I think this is an important point for all of us to keep in mind.

How do you beat feelings of age, should they come up?

I follow the advice in my book Your Best Age is Now, and I continue to follow my passions and the fun in life.

Who did you give a copy of your book to at the holidays?

I gave a copy to some of my closest friends: mother and sister, and they were both very appreciative.

Thank you so much for talking with us.

View Your Best Age Is Now, from HarperOne, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Best-Age-Now-Soul-Satisfying/dp/0062357190/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490750224&sr=8-1&keywords=your+best+age+now

Visit Dr. Ludwig’s Web site:  http://drrobiludwig.com/

Read Part 1 of the Dr. Ludwig interview:  http://stagevoices.com/2017/03/29/robi-ludwig-on-time-the-psychotherapist-thinks-through-the-aging-crisis-counters-hollywood-expiration-dates-and-celebrates-the-new-release-of-her-paperback-edition-of-you/

(c) 2017 by Robi Ludwig, Psy.D (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

 

WILLIAM DANIELS: THE ONE SCENE THAT GOT ME TO PLAY MR. FEENY ON ‘BOY MEETS WORLD’ ·

(William Daniels’s article appeared on Vulture, 3/10; via Pam Green.)

William Daniels has had a long career as an actor that included performances in The GraduateTwo for the Road, and 1776, but what convinced him to join the cast of a kid’s show on ABC? As Daniels explains in his new memoir, There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others, it was the Shakespeare references. Michael Jacobs, who created the show, based Feeny on his high-school drama teacher, and convinced Daniels to join the cast by writing a speech about Romeo and Juliet that he would deliver to the show’s titular boy, Cory. Most of the Shakespeare references ended up being cut, Daniels explains in the excerpt below, but the character remained a powerful presence on the show, and in the lives of millions of viewers. 
—————

Over the years you fine-tune your acting ability. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable of giving a lousy performance now and again, but on the whole you reach a point where you’ve increased your level of achievement. And it’s at that point, assuming that you are financially secure, that you have to protect your reputation by choosing carefully the roles you commit to. It was with that in mind that I expressed my doubts about taking on the role of George Feeny in a half-hour sitcom called Boy Meets World. At a meeting with the show’s author and executive producer, Michael Jacobs, already an established playwright and sitcom creator, as well as a movie producer, I told him I didn’t want to play a high school teacher who’s made to look foolish for the sake of some cheap laughs. I had too much respect for the underpaid, underappreciated teachers of this country to portray one of them as a fool. Michael told me about Bob Stevens, a Shakespeare-loving high school drama teacher he had had back in New Jersey who was his mentor and a man he greatly respected. With this teacher as his inspiration, he created George Feeny. Michael was very persuasive and assured me that he would never have me play an idiot, so I came on board.

(Read more)

http://www.vulture.com/2017/03/boy-meets-world-mr-feeny-william-daniels-memoir.html?mid=facebook_nymag

View There I Go Again on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/There-Go-Again-Feeny-Others/dp/1612348521/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489356723&sr=8-1&keywords=William+Daniels

ALAN LIGHT: ‘WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4) ·

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08gwsjb

Inspired by the Oscar-nominated TV documentary, Alan Light’s biography draws on Nina Simone’s early diaries, rare interviews, childhood journals and input from her daughter Lisa Simone Kelly to paint a picture of the classically-trained pianist who became a soul legend, a leading civil rights activist and one of the most influential artists of our time.

Episode One
“I was born a child prodigy darling. I was born a genius.” Nina Simone

Music journalist Alan Light is the author of The Holy of the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah, and Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain, among others. He was editor-in-chief of the music magazines Vibe and Spin, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times.

Writer: Alan Light
Abridger: Pete Nichols
Reader: Alibe Parsons
Producer: Karen Rose

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

Photo: Respect Magazine.

PUSSY RIOT FOUNDING MEMBER AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST MARIA ALEKHINA’S MEMOIR TO METROPOLITAN BOOKS ·

(from Publishers Lunch, 2/10.)

Pussy Riot founding member and human rights activist Maria Alekhina’s memoir of her time in the Russian prison system, to Riva Hocherman and Sara Bershtel at Metropolitan, in a pre-empt, by Melissa Flashman at Janklow & Nesbit on behalf of Claire Conrad at Janklow & Nesbit UK.
UK rights previously to Helen Conford at Allen Lane, by Claire Conrad.
French rights to Adrien Bosc at Seuil, in a pre-empt, by Rebecca Folland at Janklow & Nesbit.
Translation: Rebecca Folland at Janklow & Nesbit

 

MICHAEL ANTHONY INTERVIEW, PART II: ‘CIVILIANIZED’–FROM PULP/ZEST BOOKS ·

Michael Anthony is the author of Civilianized, “an intense memoir” (Kirkus) about his return to the U.S. from a combat tour in Iraq. He is also the author of Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He has written for the Washington Post blog, the Business Insider blog, as well as several others, including a year-long stint as a feature writer and the editor of the “War and Veterans” section of the Good Men Project. He lives in Boston and can be contacted through is website: MassCasualties.com.

Michael Anthony Gives Part II of an Interview, regarding his new book, with SV’s Bob Shuman.  (Read part 1:  http://stagevoices.com/2017/02/05/michael-anthony-is-back-from-iraq-in-his-new-memoir-civilianized-from-pulpzest-books/ )

Back at it:

Name two books on war, other than your own, that you would put in a time capsule.

All Quiet on the Western Front and Catch-22. Both of those books are the most amazing books on war I’ve ever read. They’re novels, but they capture the heart and essence of war better than any other books, memoirs, or novels, that I’ve ever come across.

I’ve given Catch-22 to many people to read, veterans and civilians, and it’s interesting because I’ve had a handful of civilians all say something similar to me about Catch-22, which was something along the lines of “I wasn’t too crazy about the book; it was too absurd, not realistic enough.” And on the reverse, all the veterans I’ve given a copy of Catch-22 to all comment that it’s “Hilarious, and such an accurate portrayal of the ridiculousness of the military and war…” Both books show the true reality and absurdity of war:

Do you worry about the U.S. becoming involved in another war—and have you become a pacifist?

I’ve come to believe, unfortunately, that war is a part of human nature. The bible talks of wars against good and evil, and Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist, speaks of our cousin chimps and apes fighting wars over territory and supplies. On both sides of this issue, creationists, religious people, scientists, and evolutionists seem to believe that we’re here to fight. Whether it’s in our DNA, through evolution or part of our souls, it seems like it’s something that’s here to stay. I think that at the end of the day all we can do is hope that we’re on the right side of the war and that history will be kind to our version of things.

What is the best way to support someone coming back from deployment?

I think the best way to approach someone isn’t in a veteran vs. civilian conversation, but more as just two people having a conversation.

Asking questions such as “Seen anyone die?” and “Almost die yourself?” are very personal questions.  They could be the equivalent of asking, in a sense, “When’s the last time you masturbated?” or “How much money do you make?” and so on. War, and the feelings and experiences that comes with it, are very personal. We’ve glorified it and pacified it, though, in movies and TV shows, so it makes it seem okay to just go up to a vet, just back from the war, and ask these questions.  Maybe he or she did see someone die and maybe it was a friend, or maybe someone was killed and the death is still haunting him or her. My suggestion would be just to have a normal, caring, honest conversation, but don’t push the boundaries unless it seems as though the veteran is the one looking to talk about those things. 

What’s the best review you ever received from someone who was sent to Iraq or Afghanistan? 

The best reviews and notes I receive from veterans are always when they say that my writing has helped him or her in some way. That’s it. Clear and simple. Whether they’re saying I inspired them to write a story about their experiences, or whether my writing helped them make sense of their own experiences, or whether it helped them to reach out to friends/family, or anything in-between, that’s what matters. The best notes that writers get are just those that let them hear that their work moved and inspired a person, and when I hear that my work has inspired a veteran to go seek help, to reach back out to a friend, to think more deeply about things, or even to write a story themselves, those are always the notes that make it all worthwhile.

How do you stay involved in veteran affairs?

 Throughout the years I’ve volunteered and worked with and reached out to many different veterans and groups so that there’s always a contact who’s looking for help in some way. Whether it’s to help fundraise for a veteran group or charity, help build a house for a disabled vet, or just meeting up to talk, there’s no shortages of ways to help out veterans.  Unfortunately, there’s also no shortage of veterans in need of help, so instead of sticking with one charity and helping in one way, I’ve gone the route of volunteering at dozens of different types of veterans charities. I think the novelty of volunteering with different groups has kept me from burning out after all these years. 

Thank you, Michael.  Good luck with your book.

View Civilianized on Amazon: Civilianized

(c) 2017 by Michael Anthony (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.