Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In the habit of

Looking south along the Great Lawn in Central Park. 8:00PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012. Cold and sunny in New York, the first day after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Toni Goodale invited me to a cocktail reception and “app demonstration” that she was hosting with her husband James, for Richard Mason, the South African-born novelist whose latest best seller is “History of a Pleasure Seeker.”

A blurb from the Seattle Times on the back of the paperback which the Goodales were giving their guests last night, says it all: “Just try to resist ... A Continental Downton Abbey plus sex, with a dash of Dangerous Liaisons tossed in.”

(Coincidentally, Dan Stevens, one of the Downton Abbey stars who is currently appearing on Broadway in “The Heiress, is featured on the app, and was there last night.)

James and Toni Goodale.
The Goodales are very active in literary circles in New York, and are major fund-raisers and supporters of Paris Review and PEN. Jim Goodale is a leading First Amendment lawyer who has represented the New York Times in every one of its cases that went to the Supreme Court, including the Pentagon Papers. He’s also one of those New Yorkers active in many projects, committees and institutions. For several years he even had a Sunday television talk show, “Digital Age.” All that’s a very small part of his awesome CV, however (http://www.jamesgoodale.net/).

Toni Goodale has long been active in fundraising for PEN and numerous other organizations and philanthropies in New York. Like her husband she is a New Yorker who gets a lot done all the time. The couple also raised a family, and are now enjoying the gift of grandchildren.

The Goodales both have welcoming personalities. Their guests always have a good time. Among them are writers – biographers, novelists, media people, as well as executives, diplomats, lawyers, public relations consultants, editors, publishers, political figures and the occasional banker or billionaire. As a social milieu, it is a gathering of people, many who are prominent in their fields, who like conversation and all matters of public life that are reflected in their host and hostess. And it’s always fun.

I put forward those extended, however brief descriptions of the Goodales because among other things, they are not promoters of mass market products – such as an “app.” So when Toni told me the party was for Richard Mason and his new “app” (which they are calling an “e-lumination”), I was curious.

  Screenshots of the app.
Was it another way to promote a book or was it another kind of book? You may already know about, as word travels fast these days, but I did not. I probably wasn’t the only one in the room who didn’t know. Someone told me all the Wall Street investment bankers are in love with it, however. It being the “app.” They see dollars. “It’s the future.”

Richard Mason set up a projector to demonstrate the app on an iPad. You buy it through the iTunes store. Anyone with an iPhone or a Mac already knows that the user possibilities are seemingly infinite. The e-lumination is an e-book that can become an audio-book, make still images move and expand, answer FAQ about a variety of subjects including things and thoughts about the author, the contributors and about copious references in the story such as geography and culture. It can add music, and follow several routes to illuminating the experience of “reading” it.

Several asked me if I’d read it/use it. They were really asking themselves. I was asking myself too. I’m not in the habit of reading a book online. I do read almost everything else online daily – blogs and certain magazines and newspapers. I get the Times but I mainly read it online. Except for books.

Books have another something for me. A book – for me – is a life, a personal experience, a virtual nostalgia that harkens back to when my mother first read to me. Often when I close a book that I’m enjoying, I’ll say out loud to myself: “I love this book.” And I mean the book, the thing itself, as if its pages are unmined treasure. That is surely a romantic notion, and that is also my personal relationship to books, all books – even the ones I will never read or don’t want to read.

However, it’s a brave new world out there, and we are all part of it. The e-lumination may serve several purposes for the author, the publisher, and the reader and/or listener. All good. As long as they can read (not something to be taken for granted in these post-Modern times of omnipresent technology).
The author/innovator Richard Mason. Marlene Hess, Frank Wisner, and Judy Cormier.
Diahn and Tom McGrath and Kelly Rutherford. Shirley Lord Rosenthal and Peter Heywood.
The author, who has written five books, by the tender age of thirty-five, is also a pianist and an entrepreneur. He’s what in another age would have been called a Renaissance man. He showed us his original manuscript of the novel of “History of a Pleasure Seeker” – written entirely in longhand on a bound pad large enough to be a sketchbook. It was almost an astounding sight, as if going back in time, this man on the cutting edge of cyber-technology who meticulously sets his words by pen to paper. He told us that by writing in longhand he forced himself  to ponder what he was writing rather than rush along.

This e-lumination project required a lot of talent outside of publishing, so the author was involved in media production. You could tell he enjoyed the experience of working with others.
More shots of the app.
Dan Stevens is an integral contributor. I have been a devoted Downton Abbey watcher despite my infrequent use of the TV. I haven’t seen Stevens in “The Heiress” on Broadway yet, but I hear from friends that he’s wonderful. Downton Abbey has made him famous and set him on the road to stardom. On meeting he does seem like “Matthew Crawley” in terms of character and personality, in a way -- although far more animated and relaxed.

However, he has that empathic, noble kindness about him that makes Matthew so magnetic. He’s also younger (he turned 30 this past October) than he seems in the character. It may be the maturity of the character he plays. He told me he loves the stage, and loves playing on Broadway. Right now he and his wife and their two little ones are living on Central Park West. The show runs until next February.
The man Stevens flanked by Brill and Lacey making a wish. Ken Burrows and Eric Jong.
When I asked if I could take his picture and he agreed, two guests Cynthia Brill and Kathy Lacey suddenly appeared by his side. It seemed only right. He kinda reminds of a young Elvis in this photo, surrounded by his fans.

In the crowd: Erica Jong and Ken Burrows, Joe Armstrong, Paula Zahn, Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin, Jim and Kathy Hoge, Cynthia and Steve Brill, Gita and Sonny Mehta, Arthur Sulzberger, Pat Schoenfeld, Gay and Nan Talese, Diahn and Tom McGrath, Liz Robbins, Ernie Pomerantz and Marie Brenner, Frank Wisner, Jurate Kazickas, Sarah and Mitch Rosenthal, Warren and Olivia Hoge, Shirley Lord Rosenthal and Peter Heywood, Kelly Rutherford.

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