Portrait of the artist

Portrait of the artist looking for the red EXIT signs?
Portrait of the artist looking for the red EXIT signs?

Had my photo/portrait/post office mugshot taken today as I begin the final week of my three-week stay at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where I’ve done lots of work on a novel — inspired by the life story of the real-life 1920s Italian anarchist with the unlikely name of Severino DiGiovanni — and where they have invited me four times in the last four years to spend time as a fiction-writing fellow because, nearest as I can figure, I’m a fellow who writes fiction.

Anyway, however I got here, I’m very excited about this novel. But I’m wondering about this photo.

A writer friend who’s very smart and very hip and very talented and very published just messaged me to say “Great picture!”

My brother, on the other hand, who I can always count on for his support because he’s blood, emailed back: “You look like a serial killer.”

So, let’s say early reviews are mixed. I myself don’t know what to think.

Do I look like an author? Do I have that intelligent, slightly bohemian, interesting, he’s-a-genius-but-an-approachable-genius look that I suppose all writers — or maybe it’s just me — crave?

Or do I look like I’m lost? Like I’m being interrogated by the NSA and CIA and FBI and KGB all at once in order to save time? Like I have amnesia and I’m wondering why I keep hearing nothing on the radio but country music and fire-and-brimstone preachers? Like I’m doing a screen test for Andy Warhol’s Incredible Plastic Inevitable?

Or like I’m just about finished contemplating and now I’m about to answer a reporter’s question: “What, Mr. DiGiovanni, is the meaning of life?”

Well, if I’m in the mood, and I think you’re all ready to handle it, I’ll answer that question in my next blog post — but in a pre-screened post that will be available only to people who, like my astute writer friend, with declare with great enthusiasm: “Great picture!”

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“Rip” on tour!

*Two more readings and book-signings have been scheduled for “Rip,” my modern-day satirical “retelling” of Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”

Admission to all events is free. Copies of “Rip” will be available for purchase.

I’ll be appearing Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. at the Irvington Public Library located at 12 South Astor St., Irvington, N.Y., which is located along the Hudson River in Westchester County, N.Y., just south of Tarrytown, and is — of course — named after Washington Irving.

A week later, on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m., I’ll be reading and signing books at the Field Library, 4 Nelson Ave., Peekskill, N.Y.

As previously reported, I’ll be appearing:

*Friday, Oct. 19, at 3 p.m., at the Orangeburg Library, 20 Greenbush Road, Orangeburg, N.Y.

*Saturday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m., at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library, One Library Road, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

*Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m., at the Port Jervis Free Library, 138 Pike St., Port Jervis, N.Y.

*Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m., at the Somers Library, 80 Primrose St., Somers, N.Y.

More readings will be announced soon, including an appearance later this year at the Holland-Alexandria Library in Hunterdon County, N.J., and at the public library in Highland Park, N.J. We’re still discussing dates and times. I’ll be hoping to see some old friends at the Hunterdon County event. I lived in Alexandria until a few years ago and was editor of the local weekly paper.

Searching for answers with a fine-toothed comb

I thought I was simply buying a replacement for the pocket comb I’d misplaced. But I was getting a lesson in life, courtesy of a Denver-based company called Handy Solutions whose slogan, according to the comb’s packaging,  is “Solutions for an Active Life.”

Right off the bat, the folks at Handy Solutions gave me something to contemplate. Does the fact that I comb my hair on a regular basis mean that I am living an “active life?” If I stopped combing my hair, would that make me a lazy bum? And where do bald people fit into  the active life/lazy life equation?

Beneath the company logo on the back of the packaging is this boast: UNBREAKABLE.

Is this bold confidence or ignorant arrogance? I bent the comb as far as I could bend it – and, I must say, it didn’t break. But UNBREAKABLE? Even if someone much stronger than me — Superman, for example — tried to break it? I wonder if the folks at Handy Solutions considered these possibilities before they made their remarkable claim (which, by the way, is backed by a guarantee — if the comb breaks, or if there is any kind of problem with the comb, I can return it “with a brief explanation” and the company will send me a replacement comb AND refund my postage.

Finally, the comb experts at Handy Solutions (“Solutions for An Active Life”) offer these  HEALTHY HAIR TIPS:

* Do not comb wet hair

* Comb hair in the direction of hair growth

* Clean comb before and after use

What happens if one combs one’s hair while it’s wet? By telling me to clean my comb before and after use, are the folks at Handy Solutions just being helpful — or are they trying to make some sort of not-so-subtle comment about my hair hygiene? And, finally, if we all combed our hair in the direction of hair growth, wouldn’t we all look like Moe from the Three Stooges?

We should all comb our hair in the same direction? What are we? Communists?!

Wait. I just examined the fine print and read, of course, this: “Made in China.” So this is what it’s come to…now we’re even outsourcing 99-cent pocket combs. Next thing you know, mark my words, Chinese restaurants are going to start popping up in every American city and town, and then China’s going to want to host the Summer Olympics, and before you know it we’ll all be ordered by the Communists to comb our hair exactly the same way.

It’s nearly Spring –“Rip” ends his winter slumber

Set your alarm clocks for Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m.

After slipping into some sort of slumber since I did a reading and book-signing in January at the public library in Tarrytown, N.Y., hometown of Washington Irving himself, “Rip” and its author will be back in “circulation” this week at the Pollard Memorial Library, 401 Merrimack Street,  in Lowell, Mass.

The free event begins at 7 and should last until about 8 p.m. I’ll talk a bit about my longtime affection for Washington Irving’s writing, I’ll chat a little about how I came to write my modern-day parody of “Rip Van Winkle,” I’ll read sample chapters from the book, I’ll take questions from the audience, and I’ll sign copies of the book, which will be available for purchase at the event. (I might also have something to say about Lowell native Jack Kerouac — his presence still permeates this gritty city, which just spent a couple of weeks celebrating what would have been the great writer’s 90th birthday).

I hope you’ll try to make it — that you’ll bring a friend (or friends) — and that you’ll help spread the word by passing this around to anyone and everyone within range of Lowell who you think might enjoy the book and the reading.

Here’s what the library’s website saying about the event:

The Pollard is excited to welcome local author Nicholas DiGiovanni to read from his novella “Rip”. Imagine Washington Irving sitting down for a friendly drink and spinning yarns with Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon, and you’ll get an idea of the flavor of “Rip,” DiGiovanni’s satirical retelling of Irving’s venerable story about ne’er-do-well Rip van Winkle. DiGiovanni brings Rip van Winkle into the Sixties, finds him gainful employment as a toll-taker on the Tappan Zee Bridge, and makes his long suffering wife a charter member in the feminist movement just starting to sweep the country. There’s a lot more packed into this story, but you’ll just have to read it for yourself. Suffice to say that once you’re done, you’ll understand why novelist Christian Bauman (In Hoboken, The Ice Beneath You) calls DiGiovanni “a master storyteller.” So come on down to this free reading and get your copy of Rip signed by the author.

Here are directions to the library:

Take I-95 or Route 3 to the Lowell Connector. Take exit 5B to merge onto 3A N/Thorndike Street. Continue on Thorndike Street as it changes to Dutton Street. Turn left onto Market St. Turn right on Cardinal O’Connell Parkway. Turn left onto Merrimack Street. Library will be on the right—a large granite building with “Memorial Hall” etched in the side. The library is next door to City Hall, another large granite building with a clock tower.

Here’s information about parking (note that if you parked in a metered space outside the library, you don’t have to pay after 6 p.m.):

The library has a free 2-hour parking lot on the corner of Moody and Colburn St. To access this lot, head north up Merrimack Street past the Library, turn right onto Cabot Street. Then turn right onto Moody Street. Follow Moody Street all the way back down to the library. The lot is on the corner as Moody turns onto Colburn Street (across from the Lowell Fire Station). There is handicapped parking on Merrimack Street in front of the library. There is also on-street metered/kiosk parking available around the library. Meter/kiosk parking fees are in effect 8am-6pm Monday-Saturday.

The meeting room where I’ll be reading is on the Moody Street/Coburn Street side of the building, the entrance right across the street from the library parking lot. If you enter through the front door, just head to the main desk and they’ll direct you to where I’m reading.

Thanks! I’ll be hoping to see a lot of friends, old and new, at Lowell’s Pollard Memorial Library on Thursday evening!

Don’t get caught napping! “Rip” now available as Kindle edition

Hooray! My short novel, “Rip,” a 20th-century parody of “Rip Van Winkle” (Rip is a toll collector on the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown…he and his ne’er-do-well friends, the Sleepy Hollow Boys, do battle with a group of feminists who take up the cause of Rip’s wife….) is now (finally!) available as a Kindle edition.

Here’s the link to obtaining a million dollars worth of laughs for just $4.99….That’s less than a Big Mac Meal….Way less than going to the movies…Less than (can you believe it?) the Sunday New York Times…In other words, don’t get caught napping like old Rip Van Winkle — buy your Kindle edition now!

Great writing! Great price! Great holiday gift!

My novel “Rip,” a parody of Washington Irving’s classic “Rip Van Winkle,” is available at these locations:

Nighthawk Books, 212 Raritan Ave., Highland Park, N.J.
Book Garden, 26 Bridge Street, Frenchtown, N.J.
Half Moon Books, 35 North Front St., Kingston, N.Y.
Whimsies Incognito, 35 South Broadway, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Market St. Market, 95 Market St., Lowell, Mass.

If you don’t live in the vicinity of one of these stores, you can order “Rip” online:

Great holiday gift (perfect stocking stuffer for the readers on your gift list)! Great price (just $12.95)!

Amazing! My book’s on Amazon!

My novella “Rip,” the funniest book since Dick Cheney’s autobiography, is now available for purchase through Amazon! (It’s only available in print form at the moment; Kindle edition should be available within a few days).

It isn’t just a great work of humor/satire/parody/stock market tips/advice to the lovelorn/travel writing/political analysis/historical fiction/zombie lore/fashion forecasts.

It’s also only $12.95, about the price of a large pizza (without toppings), which means “Rip” is the perfect Christmas gift for your more bookish friends, who will (if they find my book under their tree or in their stocking which they’ve hung by their chimney with care in hopes that Nicholas DiGiovanni’s “Rip” will be there) think that you are right on the cutting edge of American, nay, world literature.

They will be wrong, of course, but let’s indulge them (and me) in this nice fantasy!

Here’s what Black Angel Press publisher Steven Hart had to say about “Rip” —

RIP VAN WINKLE MEETS THE SIXTIES (AND FEMINISM)
IN A HILARIOUS RETELLING OF WASHINGTON IRVING’S VENERABLE TALE

Imagine Washington Irving sitting down for a friendly drink and spinning yarns with Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon, and you’ll get an idea of the flavor of Rip, Nicholas DiGiovanni’s satirical retelling of Irving’s venerable story about ne’er-do-well Rip van Winkle.

DiGiovanni brings Rip van Winkle into the Sixties, finds him gainful employment as a toll-taker on the Tappan Zee Bridge, and makes his long suffering wife a charter member in the feminist movement just starting to sweep the country.

There’s a lot more packed into this story, but you’ll just have to read it for yourself. Suffice to say that once you’re done, you’ll understand why novelist Christian Bauman (In Hoboken, The Ice Beneath You) calls DiGiovanni “a master storyteller.”

This handsomely produced Black Angel Press edition includes the full text of Washington Irving’s original tale, giving readers the chance to savor two great storytellers at once.

Visit http://www.blackangelpress.com and you’ll find a link to order the book through Amazon. You’ll also find links to “About the Author,” “About the Book” and “About Black Angel Press,” as well as information about other Black Angel titles.