The Coolest People in Books: 250 Anecdotes

Alcohol

  • At one time, newspaper reporters used to drink — a lot. During one drinking session, Paul Galloway, reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, became perturbed — make that very perturbed — about something that editor Jim Hoge had perpetrated. Mr. Galloway became so perturbed that he decided to do something about his perturbation, so he went back to the Sun-Times offices, picked up a chair, and threw it as hard as he could at the window of Mr. Hoge’s office. Big mistake. Mr. Galloway recounted later, “Something I had not foreseen was that the window was made of Plexiglas. The chair bounced back and almost hit me.” Mr. Hoge was not present at the time, and he need not ever have become aware of the event, but Mr. Galloway was still perturbed, so he insisted that the City Desk log the event, although the City Desk assistant advised him, “Forget it, Paul.” The next morning, Mr. Hoge was at his desk, and he perused the log, as was his custom. He also called Mr. Galloway, who now regretted having insisted that his action of the previous night be logged, into his office. Mr. Hoge said to Mr. Galloway, “So, Paul, I understand you have a problem with our interior decoration.” Mr. Galloway replied, “No, sir! I find it excellent! Nothing whatsoever wrong with it! Enviable, in fact!” Mr. Galloway was a very good writer, and Mr. Hoge was a very good editor, and very good editors realize that very good writers can occasionally disagree with very good editors, and so Mr. Hoge said, “I’m relieved. Now get back to work.” Another of Mr. Galloway’s stories is about the time — 2 a.m. — he was standing guard in the Army. His Major sneaked up behind him and said to him, very clearly and loudly, “Sheep.” Mr. Galloway was puzzled by the word, but he stood at attention and said, “Yes, sir.” The major again said, very clearly and louder than before, “SHEEP!” Mr. Galloway realized that, of course, the Major must be under a great deal of pressure and therefore his mind had snapped, but he again said, “Yes, sir.” The Major, clearly angry, told him, “Don’t you ‘yes, sir’ me! Sheep! SHEEP!” Mr. Galloway said, “Would you like me to get you a sheep, sir? I will get you a sheep as soon as I’m off watch.” The Major shouted, “NO! YOU’RE A MORON! I DON’T WANT A SHEEP!” Mr. Galloway asked, “What would you like, sir?” The Major shouted, “I WOULD LIKE THE GODD*MNED PASSWORD!”[1]
  • Author G.K. Chesterton delivered some proofs to his editor one night. From his bag he pulled out his corrected proofs — and a bottle of port and two glasses. Unfortunately, his editor confessed that he did not drink alcohol. Shocked, Mr. Chesterton said, “Good heavens! Give me back my proofs!”[2]
  • Jerry Spinelli, the author of Maniac Magee and Stargirl, gets interesting letters. A boy once wrote to invite Mr. Spinelli to visit his school so he could meet the school’s pet duck. One year later, the boy again wrote Mr. Spinelli to visit his school so he could meet the school’s pet duck — but to hurry because the pet duck was getting old.[5]
  • One author who loved his cat was Edward Lear, writer of nonsense verse. His cat was named Foss, and Mr. Lear so loved Foss that in 1881 when he had a new villa built in San Remo, Italy, he had it built exactly like the old villa that he was moving away from. That way, Foss would feel right at home.[6]

April Fools Day

  • One day in 2010, , a Web site that allows authors to self-publish their own books in various print and electronic formats, announced a new way of publishing one’s work: “We recognize electronic books and the internet are a passing fad, so we are now offering the tried and true hand-written scroll.” Of course, this announcement was made on April Fools Day.[7]
  • Karen Cushman started writing books in her middle age, and she has certainly been successful. She spent a lot of time raising a family, which included reading children’s books to her daughter, Leah. When Leah started reading young-adult novels, Karen did, too, and she realized that she enjoyed this kind of reading. In 1989, at age 47, she told her husband about an idea that she had for a book, and her husband told her to write the book. (She had been talking about writing for a long time.) In a newspaper interview, she explained why she started writing when she did: “When Leah was in her last year of high school, I felt like this psychic space was opening up in my head. It’s that space that was filled with, ‘Does she have her lunch money? What is she doing this weekend? Who’s driving?’ All those questions were going out, and I had room for other questions, like ‘What if there were this girl…?’” Her first book, Catherine, Called Birdy, was published in 1994 and was named a Newbery Honor Book. Her second book, The Midwife’s Apprentice, was published in 1996 and won the Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medal is given to the best children’s book published in the United States each year. The Newbery Honor Books are the runners’-up.[8]
  • Authors sometimes have interesting experiences, possessions, and opinions. When he was a young boy, Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, was walking on a road when a man on a motorcycle passed him. Soon, the motorcyclist came back, stopped, and told Philip that just ahead on the road was a dead man. Then the motorcyclist left to call the proper authorities. Young Philip had to make a decision: go home by a different route or continue on and see the dead man. He continued on and saw the dead man, who was lying peacefully on the road as if he were taking a nap. Young Philip was a little disappointed in the sight. One of the places where Mr. Pullman has done his writing is a small potting shed, crowded with trash and remarkable objects, including a six-foot-long rat that was used in a Pullman theatrical adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes short story. What Mr. Pullman is most passionate about, he says, is this: “Silence. If I were a judge, and someone came to my court and was found guilty of killing their neighbors because they played loud music all day and night, I would let them go with my blessing. There is too much noise in the world, and little of it is welcome.”[9]
  • In the young-adult novels by Robert Cormier, the bad guys often win. For example, in his novel The Chocolate War, the good guy — Jerry Renault — is murdered. He isn’t murdered literally, but he is beaten — physically and mentally — so badly that he totally gives up and does not believe that there is any use in trying to fight the bad guys. Mr. Cormier’s bad guys are very vividly written, and one day his wife, Connie, looked up from one of his manuscripts that she had been typing and asked him, “Who are you? We’ve been together all these years, but sometimes I wonder.” By the way, the plot of The Chocolate War was suggested by a real-life event in which Peter, Mr. Cormier’s son, was asked to sell chocolate for his school, but he did not want to because he was busy with other activities such as schoolwork and football. In Peter’s case, his parents wrote a note saying that they agreed with his decision not to sell chocolate and Peter returned the 25 boxes of chocolate to the school. Like Jerry Renault, Peter was the only student not to sell chocolate, but unlike in Jerry’s case, nothing bad happened to Peter.[10]

[1] Source: Roger Ebert, “Paul Galloway: A beloved legend.” Chicago Sun-Times. 3 February 2009 <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090203/PEOPLE/902039997>.

[2] Source: Robert McCrum, “A thriller in ten chapters.” The Guardian. 25 May 2008 <http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,2282065,00.html>.

[3] Source: Suzan Wilson, Stephen King: King of Thrillers and Horror, p. 67.

[4] Source: Gary Paulsen, Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books, p. 102.

[5] Source: John Micklos, Jr., Jerry Spinelli: Master Teller of Teen Tales, p. 68.

[6] Source: Marilyn Singer, Cats to the Rescue, p. 102.

[7] Source: Lulu.com. 1 April 2010 <http://www.lulu.com/>.

[8] Source: Susanna Daniel, Karen Cushman, pp. 14-15, 20-24, 80.

[9] Source: Susan E. Reichard, Philip Pullman: Master of Fantasy, pp. 11, 19, 82.

[10] Source: Sarah L. Thomson, Robert Cormier, pp. 7, 39-40, 59.

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