Saturday, June 20, 2009

Raw Feed for Bootleg Books

You went down to Brooklyn last week to tape a segment for a show called Bootleg Books. You're not sure exactly where or when the show airs, but here's some raw footage.

In the future you will have to make sure you remember what your book is about before you are interviewed.

Mr. Bill says, "Moron."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Everchanging Family

"Hey, Mr. Bill!"


"Last week I went out to Long Island for my aunt’s art show. My mother and brother were there, too. I told them to go into The Family Changing Room. But when they came out the family was still the same."

"Do I know you?"

The Mystery Plant

Some years ago you went to the island of St. John with a friend. Together you snorkeled with hawkbill sea turtles, and hiked, and sailed. Early one morning you went bird-watching with a guide who pointed out a plant, the leaf of which, she said, would grow in air if you pinned it to a curtain in the sun.

You put a leaf from this plant in a zip lock bag and brought it home. Then you forgot about it. One day long after you and your friend said good-bye and you were feeling sad, you remembered the leaf. You took it out of the zip lock bag and put it in the sun.

Nothing happened.

After a while you decided to put it on some dirt and moisten it. Soon the mystery plant started to grow.

You showed the plant to your daughter, who had also been to St. John several times. You told her you thought it was called an air plant. She said she thought it was called a life tree.

The mystery plant/tree kept growing and you began to grow more mystery plant/trees from its leaves. On several occasions you tried to look up the mystery plant/tree on the Internet, but you were never able to figure out precisely what it was. The only thing you knew for sure was that it wasn’t The Toilet Tree that is so prominently featured in Is That A Dead Dog in Your Locker (ß plug).

Meanwhile the mystery plant/tree has continued to grow, and indeed, now it does look more like a mystery tree. You have several dozen of them. If anyone out there in the blogosphere knows what the mystery tree really is, you would like to hear from them.

Mr. Bill says, “Boring!”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why You Wrote Boot Camp

Some of the research for Can’t Get There From Here involved speaking to homeless teens on New York’s lower east side. During one interview, a young woman mentioned that she’d run away from home when her parents threatened to send her to a boot camp.

A short time later you read an article about “transporters,” professional kidnappers who parents hire to “grab” their children and “escort” them to boot camps. It sounded shockingly excessive, but you knew from your own experience that sometimes a young person can be so angry, rebellious, and out of control that it is impossible for a parent to force him or her into a car to take them somewhere they don’t want to go. And probably impossible to keep him or her in that car/plane/train long enough to get him or her there.

But there was another aspect of boot camps that you found equally disturbing – the idea that until a child reaches the age of 18 he or she has no legal right to prevent parents from sending him or her away.

You do believe that in the vast majority of cases, sending a child to a boot camp is an act of utter parental desperation. Parents do it because they absolutely believe that it is the only avenue left to prevent a child from self-destructing, either from drug use or some other unlawful and dangerous activity. You have heard a number of stories about young people whose lives were turned around for the better after being sent to a boot camp. But, as you point out in the book, you have also read about young people who have died in such camps.

Among the many problems with boot camps is that most are run on a for-profit basis. In other words, their purpose is dual-fold: 1) To save young people from themselves and 2) To make money for their owners. Like a hotel, a boot camp has a certain number of beds it needs to fill to make this money. And also like a hotel, it can’t make money by turning people away.

So who can really judge who should be sent to a boot camp and who shouldn’t? Should a young woman be sent away because she insists on making “an unacceptable choice of boyfriends”? Should a young man be sent because he refuses to accept his parents’ choice of religions?

One thing you discovered during your research: there are plenty of boot camps that would accept both.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


The clock is ticking on the dedication for WISH YOU WERE DEAD.

You had lots of fun at Book Expo America (BEA), the big book convention at the Jacob Javits Center in New York over the weekend, handing out your card and telling the recipients not to take it personally. But how can you dedicate this book to anyone without them taking it personally?

"I have good news and bad news! The good news is, I'm dedicating a book to you! The bad news is, the title is WISH YOU WERE DEAD. You won't take it personally, will you?"

You can imagine the dedicatee pulling the book out to show to a friend:

Dedicatee: "Can you believe he dedicated a book titled WISH YOU WERE DEAD to me?"

Friend: "Wow, he must really hate you."

Dedicatee: "True that."

Friend: "I'm glad he didn't dedicate that book to me."

Oh, well.

Wait! You just had an idea!!!!!!

(see below)

You'll dedicate it to Mr. Bill!

"Hardy har har!"