I think you can still buy Levy’s Rye Bread in New York. Years ago in the subways that company advertised with a series of posters of apparently non-Jewish types (Buster Keaton, a native American, a NYPD cop, a choir boy, African- and Asian-Americans) happily chomping on its product. Very politically incorrect and ethnically inaccurate in today’s world, but in the sixties the ad campaign made its point and helped propel its creator, legendary adman Bill Bernbach, into the Advertising Hall of Fame. (To keep things contemporary, I must note that Bernbach–a founder of Doyle, Dane & Bernbach–is considered an inspiration for today’s “Mad Men” television series.)

A non-Jewish San Francisco friend, whose book club has invited me to speak early in 2011, commented, after reading the book herself, that it would be helpful to have some terms explained. So, I’ve developed a glossary, which is actually included in the ebook version of After the Auction.

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It’s been a weird summer.

Architectural boat tour of Chicago, August 7, 2010

For family reasons, we spent a huge amount of time in our old hometown, Milwaukee, and environs. The highlights were a week at beautiful Lake Geneva, WI, with kids in shifts, followed by a fabulous weekend in Chicago with my brother’s family and our kids from Beijing.  Thankfully, it was a remarkably sunny and warm summer in the Midwest. Ok–except for the night of the flash flood, during which Nicolet High School (my alma mater and our kids’) was so badly damaged that school is opening two weeks late. We were fine and definitely better off than the unfortunate driver who, in his Cadillac

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This author thing is a new experience for me, of course, and people are naturally curious as to how it’s going.  I’m not on the best seller list, but my status on Amazon varies from 100,000s to the 400,000s in rankings of books sold.  That doesn’t count what I’m selling myself via the web site or in person.  And I’m flattered by those who’ve posted favorable reviews on my Amazon page.

But, important as sales are, that’s not my sole criterion in assessing how After the Auction is “going.” I am intrigued by the reactions of readers and SHOCKED that many I’ve heard from like/love it.  Why am I shocked?  Let’s face it–this is a new venture for me–writing fiction.  From the trials and tribulations I’ve had–for instance, not hooking up with any of the myriad of agents I queried–let’s say that I had considerable self-doubt.

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Yes, there IS sex in After the Auction.

Now, for those of you who haven’t bought or read it yet, doesn’t that make it more urgent?

But, no, I will not tell you what page it starts on. The book’s not that long. Even if you’re a reader who hunts straight for “the good parts,” it won’t take you that long to get there.

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Book Expo America 2010 was my first Book Expo, other than a pre-Expo writers’ conference last year, so I’ve nothing to compare it to, in terms of the volumes of volumes represented at this annual event, the largest book fair in the world.  If it was bigger and more extensive in the past, I wouldn’t know.  But, the place was packed; if you’ve ever been to a convention or other expo at the Javits Center in New York City, you know that it’s cavernous, seemingly miles, definitely many Manhattan blocks.  There were more than 2000 exhibitors, reportedly 500 authors, conferences, speakers, and Barbra Streisand (yes, she has a new book coming out–on design) the opening act of Expo special events (we opted for Broadway that night).

The biggest exhibitors are the major publishers–the MacMillans, Random Houses, Knopf–of this world, despite their b…… and moaning about how tough the business is.  These exhibit areas are lavish, with video, state-of-the-art signage, giant logo-ed carpeting. Not surprisingly, Google was there too, and Amazon and Barnes & Noble–as well as major distributors to independent bookstores, including Ingram and Baker & Taylor.    There were whole aisles–several of them–of displays by university presses, as well as hundreds on lesser known small publishers.  Plus, the e-book and audio book people.  And printing companies, collective promotion companies, foreign publishers (from Belgium to Israel to Saudi Arabia), and the San Francisco Writers Conference, the only entity like it I saw with a booth.  Attendee categories range from exhibitor to agents to booksellers to librarians author to book club member (how Eli registered: husband of published author was not a category!)

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It’s taken me a while to get to this post about America’s so-called national pastime, which no one is playing right now, because there’s a blizzard in New York City  (I hope it stops and melts and that airplane traffic normalizes, because we’re going there next week).   Bob Herbert‘s October 17 column in the New York Times really got to me, given its timing relative to the book price wars conducted by Target, Walmart, and Costco, among other purveyors of fine literature.  Herbert strikes me, in general, as a voice of conscience, decrying ills and inequities in this country and elsewhere, recently to the point of sharply criticizing those that he’d hoped President Obama would fix or try to alleviate–and isn’t.

The column I’m citing, timed during the baseball championship games leading to the World Series, focused on the the fancy new baseball stadiums in New York, including the Mets’ new home named for its corporate sponsor, Citigroup, of federal rescue funds fame.  Herbert makes the point that, even for many families not desperately hurt by recession and unemployment, a jaunt to these new palaces of sport is an expense worthy of considerable thought.  Between tickets and concessions, baseball has priced itself out of the ballpark.  Herbert, recalling his childhood when “even the scalpers’ tickets were affordable,”  regrets that today’s youngsters of modest means have no access to America’s pastime, and people sleep on the street while one magnificent, luxury box-lined field after another opens.

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I learned about this new genre on our summer vacation.  Once they started reading and writing, those women in the shtetel* had their own best-sellers.  Soap opera drama, Yiddish versions of classic European themes like Bovu-Bokh, a tale of chivalry. (Bodice busting romances?) Of course, women weren’t permitted then to learn Hebrew, the language reserved for the sacred texts.  But they devoured newspapers and books written in Yiddish.  After all, it was the mamaloshen**.

My husband, Eli, and I recently spent a week in the Berkshire Mountain area of western Massachusetts.  It’s a bounty of glorious nature and culture: Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Jacob’s Pillow Dance Center; the fabulous Clark Art Institute; the Norman Rockwell Museum and others; theatre festivals.  We were busy and enjoyed it all.

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