The Beautiful Anthology

The Beautiful Anthology! I’m so pleased to be in this velvety book, exploring one of life’s hot topics alongside writers such as Gina Frangello, Melissa Febos, Greg Olear, Jessica Anya Blau, M. J. Fievre, Angela Tung, and more more more.  Check out the trailer, with music by Rich Ferguson.

And buy the book! It’s the only place my essay will live.

I wrote about being struck dumb by encountering a breathtakingly beautiful Thai boy, and at a time when I was de-emphasizing everything feminine about my own appearance. The man I mention in the essay is not the prototype for Piv, the main character in Currency, but the brief relationship I had with him definitely started me thinking about the collision of tourists and tour guides and how cultural position impacts gender roles. Plus, some of the hot bits are set in a hillside opium den. Or, well, it was more like an opium hut, actually, with mounds of garlic to lounge on instead of embroidered silk pillows, but still.

I will admit that before I wrote this essay, I thought that I was completely done with the subject of Thailand. Surely after a novel and promotion for it, and with my last visit there more than ten years in the past, I should move on. But I ended up really getting into telling this real-life story. Okay, I thought after I submitted it. So NOW I’m done.

Except, hmmmm. Speaking of opium dens. Last week I was riveted by a Talk of the Town in The New Yorker about a writer named Steven Martin, a long-time Bangkok hand who was a first a scholar of opium culture and who then became an addict. He still collects the paraphernalia.  He has a memoir coming out this week that I can’t wait to get my hands on–Opium Fiend. Seems like it could also be the germ for some fun fiction.  Never say never.

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Currency on TV

Last night, my excellent editor Gina Frangello was a guest on the TV show Chicago Tonight. Along with home-grown lit stars Audrey Niffenegger and Brigid Pasulka, Gina was supposed to recommend summer reads. Mark and I recorded the program, and I was all atwitter to see my friend and my book on the little screen. But we didn’t fast forward to the books segment. I haven’t watched TV in a week, maybe two, and I haven’t watched a local news broadcast like Chicago Tonight in who knows how long. It was relaxing and fun to sit back and be presented with the local take on local events, with the gentle host Phil Ponce setting a tone and pace not often seen on MSNBC or the Comedy Channel. I can see why people used to do this, I thought.

And then, it was time! Gina looked great, sitting there with a neat stack of half dozen books by her elbow. And there was Currency, in a dignified position at the bottom of the pile because of its generous trim size, title nicely visible on the out-turned spine. Mark and I were drinking glasses of Grand Marnier, and we clinked them. But within moments of the segment, I began to worry. There was no way no how these three authors were going to have time to tout five or six books each, not with the leisurely retro mode of the show. What, there needs to be all this literary banter? (“Is there an optimal length for a summer read?”) And why was Audrey Niffenegger chatting so relaxedly about God’s Behaving Badly. Just give a soundbite, lady! Phil Ponce was pitching the titles to the guests, and the first one he tossed at Gina was Marcy Dermansky’s Bad Marie. Oh no, I thought. Oh well. Maybe they’ll show them all at the end, said Mark consolingly. Brigid Pasulka had a lot to say about Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods. Would they get a chance to mention even two books each?

Why, yes, they would. Yes, they did. And there was the handsome host whose countenance I had admired on the sides of buses saying, within earshot of rock star Audrey Niffenegger, “Tell us about Currency, by local author Zoe Zolbrod.” Look, I’m not going for blase, here. I’m collecting authorial thrills, and that was one. Gina knocked it out of the park.

Just in case you don’t believe me, a video of the books segment can be found here.

And below I’m listing of all the books on the docket. Actually, I think I’m going to pick up Bad Marie. And Cardboard Gods sounds sort of brilliant. I already know Stations West and Some Girls are great to get lost in—and I’ve had the privilege of reading with both authors as well as with Marisa Matarazzo, another of Gina’s picks, on my book tour. Who has time to watch TV?

Gina Frangello’s Picks
Bad Marie– by Marcy Dermansky
Currency– by Zoe Zolbrod
Commuters by Emily Tedrowe (coming July 1)
Stations West by Allison Amend
Some Girls by Jillian Lauren
Drenched by Marisa Matarazzo

Audrey Niffenegger’s Picks
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
Misfortune, Wesley Stace
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G.W. Dahlquist
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
Time and Again by Jack Finney

Brigid Pasulka’s Picks
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson
Collected Stories by Flannery O’Connor