Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Block: BEAUTY AND DYNAMITE by Alethea Kontis

Ok, ok, I'll be upfront and say I'm going out of order in posting this Book Block. Alethea is a personal friend of mine, and I'm currently reading the book, so I really wanted her to write something up about it for my blog. She graciously complied, with the caveat for me that I should say something about her before the Book Block piece. (Plus, it fits in with today's theme about blog posts as essays. Are they essays? I think they are!)

How do I explain Alethea Kontis? I met her through our online writer's workshop, Codex, back when I was still in college--so maybe 2005? We had both gotten into Codex because we had attended Orson Scott Card's Literaray Boot Camp, although in different years. I suppose that was the beginning of our bond...

Alethea is a magic fairy princess of a person. She is incredibly human and honest; she tells you how things fall like she sees them, all with just the slighest bit of gentility as befits a Southern gal. She has the best accent, one I can't even begin to replicate, but which probably comes from her having been raised in a Greek family that's lived in both Vermont and South Carolina, among other places. She's funny and kind and always spares an ear to listen. Oh, and she's a kick-ass writer too.

She was my gateway drug to Doctor Who, has convinced me to voluntarily eat green chiles in cornbread, and owns the coolest house. She's also the only person in the world who is allowed to call me Jenny-Hime. I love her dearly.

Her book is well worth reading.

(And to give you some context to the essay, Alethea's day job is as a book buyer for Ingram.)

Written by Alethea Kontis

Title: Beauty & Dynamite
Publisher: Apex Publications
ISBN: 978-0-9776681-7-5
Trade paperback - $15.95
Category: Nonfiction...sort of.

I brought Wil Wheaton to our staff meeting a couple of weeks ago. Our director has a bullet point on every agenda called "What are you reading?" After discussing how our weekly attempts to save the publishing world are as futile as trying to reverse the entropy of the rest of the universe, she says, "So, anybody reading anything good?" Most times I don't contribute, because I'm not into the hip literary swag they all picked up at the latest trade show I wasn't invited to. And some days I do contribute, because I feel the sadistic need to shove the existence of genre down their throats.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I brought my freshly-devoured copy of Just a Geek to our staff meeting. I had read it all in one sitting the previous morning, and the cascade of little epiphanies it triggered in my brain warranted my force-feeding it to the "team" that particular Monday.

I didn't realize it would be such a brain teaser. Half of them didn't know who Wil Wheaton was, of course, to which the other half blustered incredulously. I had to explain that no, it was not a novel, but instead a collection of personal essays and blog entries about his personal life. The director's eyebrows furrowed as she studied the cover. "So it's a memoir?" she asked. Sure, why not? As close as any other 21st century memoir. She looked skeptical. "How old is he?"

"He's my age," I said, and caught the book when she tossed it back to me. Judging by her expression, thirtysomethings have not lived enough life to warrant having anything useful to say. You've got to be Alan Alda, or Jane Fonda, or Barbara Walters, or Ernest Borgnine to have written anything about your life worthy of being called a "memoir" by the literati.

Only...I didn't grow up with Alan Alda, or Jane Fonda, or Barbara Walters, or Ernest Borgnine. I was an outcast, introvert genius who came home from school every day and watched Star Trek: The Next Generation like it was a religion. I didn't care about all those other people with lives from a generation I couldn't relate to. I cared about Wil Wheaton, who apparently liked the same music I did, and made the same Nora Ephron references I make, and went through a lot of crap I could relate to.

And it's not like blog-essay-memoirs are a new thing. David Sedaris has been laughing at himself and inviting people to leave him on the back of the toilet for the past decade. John Scalzi has Your Hate Mail Will be Graded, selections from a decade of his website Whatever (with an introduction by the aforementioned Wil Wheaton). Brian Keene has three wildly popular (and award-winning) volumes so far chronicling his own adventures: Running with the Devil, Sympathy for the Devil, and The New Fear. In turn, Brian has written the introduction for Beauty & Dynamite, a gorgeous little book of heartwarming and heart-wrenching essays by up-and-coming celebrity genre princess Alethea Kontis.

David and Wil and John and Brian -- it's an honor to be listed among these gentlemen. They are intimidating company. But I have something they don't. That's right: ovaries. Plus, my book is far prettier. It's going to look great on the top of your toilet tank.

Where To Get The Book: Apex Publications, Amazon

Alethea's Website:


Damon said...

Excellent, Alethea. Καλή τύχη για το βιβλίο σας!

Against my editor's warnings, Dr. Who and Star Trek: TNG both pop up in my new book, Distraction. There's no reason why philosophy and science-fiction shouldn't be pals.

And I don't see why Wheaton can't write memoirs/recollections at his age. Proust started Remembrance of Things Past, his masterwork of memory in his late thirties...

Anonymous said...

It's called resentment. People who are older than those writing a memoir are then reminded that they have not written a memoir by that age, and that they probably have nothing to write about. This leads to the fear that maybe they'll never do anything worth writing about. But surely they must have more to write about than a thirty-something! So why is anyone reading the memories of a thirty-something, and not the memories of someone more experienced... like them?

Yes, we 'older folks' (in my case, early 40s) can be dang jealous at times...

Anonymous said...

By the way (back on topic), I, too, think that book would look far nicer on my toilet tank. The essay was quite entertaining, and also proves Jenny's point that blogs are the home of essays.

Good job!

lotusloq said...

I enjoyed your essay and took a journey over to your blog. Fun stuff! Here and there! Nice to get to know you. Thanks, Jenny!

tkersh said...

Long time/first time etc!

Book looks cool -- but what IS it? Love the Wil Wheaton story, but is it an anecdote, an excerpt from the book, or ...? Maybe Althea's describing her own book in meta-prose by describing Wheaton's?

Given the category "Nonfiction: Sort of", it could be a memoir, but I can't tell. Even following the Amazon link gives me a blurb that tells me where the story doesn't start and where it doesn't end. Maybe it's one of those avant-garde fiction books where the main character takes on the author's name?

Voyaging to Althea's website where a good deal of real estate should be given over to a giant promo poster, I can find nary a link.

Oops, there it is. Hidden under "Bibliography" (which has a dry academic sound and where I only click out of desparation), there's an icon and a title (no blurb). Clicking through, all the way down on paragraph 4, I get the one sentence THAT WOULD MAKE ME BUY THE BOOK IN A HEARTBEAT:

"...a world of Blood Oaths and road trips, broken hearts and mended cars, comes alive with the strength of one woman's conviction that the world is there to be befriended."

PLEASE don't make us work to find out what your book is about!

Most of us won't waste the time on detective work and just go back to our already tottering To Read pile.

All the best!

Alethea said...

Thanks, everyone! (Damon, I only understood about half of that sentence...probably because I'm only half Greek.)

tkersh, with regards to the book advertising -- thanks for making the effort! B&D is indeed also a collection of blogs and personal essays, including contributions of personal essays by friends (many of whom are also authors) who tend to hyperbolize a bit (in one I'm a gun-toting librarian, in another I'm a dame with hot gams and a problem for a PI).

The publisher's website will always have more info than Amazon. (Jenny provided the link above.) My website was recently redesigned and replaced the giant billboard B&D ad on the right of the homepage with upcoming events. I'll get my webmistress to put the B&D banner ad back at the top, above the quotes. Thanks!

pixydust said...

I just joined Codex, but I haven't had a lot of time to play over there. Looks like a really fun place. My eyes crossed a little when I was weeding through all those posts, though. Yowser.

The book looks wonderful! I love the cover.