Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Back in Action

I finally stopped home after the first leg of the tour, and a really fun lecture series I gave on Shakespearean locations in the Mediterranean (and Aegean) for Harvard. It was really wonderful to discuss the plays while on a ship headed to the very places we were discussing. The company was also very stimulating - a very broad range of accomplished people in very diverse fields.

I started by discussing Shakespeare's language and biography, with an emphasis on violence in his day. My second lecture was a Jungian analysis of Othello, the third a talk about Orson Welles's Othello, and I wrapped it up by looking at Romeo & Juliet in popular culture, from West Side Story to Dire Straits.

What was so interesting for me, in revisiting this field that I last studied formally about ten years ago, was all the ways in which my study of literature - and Shakespeare in particular - influenced my writing. It's very indirect of course, but plugging into some of these narratives again gave me a really fresh perspective on how I came to writing and some of the themes I've chosen.

I have a few more tour stops (San Diego, Orange, Milwaukee, Florida, Oakland) but am now home for the most part, getting ready to dig into something new.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Word From New Orleans

Before leaving on the second leg of my tour, I wanted to post a few emails I got from a courageous doc in New Orleans....


Dear Gregg,

I have been reading your novel, "Minutes To Burn" for the last 10 days since the hurricane destroyed my home and too many others here in Biloxi. I'm a physician at the VA Hospital here, and have had to live in my office since Katrina hit in order to be available for duty 24/7. I just wanted to say that I think reading your novel helped keep me sane and in balance through this trial. I started it August 29, at a MOTEL 6 in Hattiesburg, reading by the light of my cell phone while the storm passed outside. I've read a little each night before sleep. Usually I read a book nonstop, but I tried to meter it out to make it last awhile. I really looked forward to getting into the story at days' end; just a little fantasy to get my mind off of this difficult reality. It helped to realize that at least there aren't any overgrown mantids running around loose here.

I'd like to send it to you for an autograph, if you wouldn't mind" to keep as a personal memento of Hurricane Katrina. I can tell my kids, "This is the book that kept me from going nuts during that time."

Thanks so much.


I wrote back telling him that I'd gladly send along a few books to those in the trenches, and I asked what those of us outside the wreckage could do to help. He emailed back:


Gregg, thanks for your kind offer of assistance. Currently I don't have a
mailing address, and have been told not to attempt to receive mail at the
hospital right now. I don't believe any mail is being delivered down here
yet, anyway. I will be glad to take you up on your offer when I have

What we need most down here right now are homes for the 30% or so who have
none. Not much L.A. can do about that, I know. People are actually becoming
institutionalized from long stretches in shelters! I am becoming fond of my
little office as a place to live! Isn't that bizarre?! Those whose homes are
not so badly damaged are being quite generous in accommodating friends and
relatives. FEMA keeps talking about trailers, but they have yet to appear.
Rentals are few and far between. Many have already permanently left the area
seeking new homes and jobs. What people have really lost isn't just houses,
but their HOME, their community, their social contacts and support networks.
That's the real devastation here. It will take years to regain that sense of
community, if we ever can. It won't be the same, that much is certain.

The main thing that will help in the long haul is an assurance that the
country doesn't forget about us down here. Once the media coverage moves on
to the next big story, people will think about other important things, as
they should, but for us it will remain a day-to-day effort just to keep
going, keep rebuilding, trying not to get too discouraged or depressed as
the losses hit home. I know we're in for a long and tedious process of not
just economic but also emotional recovery. It's just beginning.

You really can't imagine what's going on here unless you see it and feel it
for yourself. TV just can't capture it. People are being tremendously
courageous, no doubt about that, but underneath we are one hurting group of
folks. So much uncertainty and insecurity. You can see it in people's eyes.
We are all learning how to live a day at a time, because there is no other
way to cope. The big picture is just too immensely awful to contemplate!

Hey, maybe you could come down here and write a book about us. Not exactly
your genre, but it would be a great morale booster.

Anyway, thanks again for your kind wishes.


I think it's important in this attention-deficit-disorder world to remember those who need our assistance down there after the media spotlight passes on. I have friends fighting in Afghanistan who feel the same way. Despite the allure of Taradise, there's still a war (or two) going on, a city being slowly rebuilt. Our thoughts are with those on the front lines of disaster, and we won't forget you.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Biggest Tour Oddity

In each city I'm heading to on my TROUBLESHOOTER tour, I have an "escort," a person who picks me up and drives me around to various bookstores and to my events.

Today in Boston, after about twenty minutes in the car, my escort and I figured out that we're - quite distantly - related.

Doesn't get much odder than that.