Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Long Way Gone, A Long Way Come

First of all: did I miss a meeting? Why has everyone slowed their blogging down so suddenly? Have we found some other means of blatant self-absorbsion I should know about?

Speaking of which, it's another long-ass day here in photographer's assistant/studio manager world, after racing to a press junket to photograph M*rk Wh*lb*rg to no avail because the press credentials didn't include photographers. But I saw ol' Marky Mark in the lobby as he came in, and we caught eyes and I managed to smile. I think it was a smile.

Yesterday I went to see my college Creative Writing workshop classmate Ishmael Beah read from his new book, A Long Way Gone. I should mention that Ishmael and his book leapt to #2 on the New York Times bestseller list for hardback nonfiction. And that I first found out he'd finished the book (of which I remember workshopping chapters in college) by opening the Sunday Times a couple of months back and finding his (very attractive) face on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Funny, how you stumble across old friends. (Do you like how he went from classmate to friend in the blink of a bestseller?)

Ishmael and I had the same advisor during our four years at Oberlin, and took several workshop classes together. In addition to being an eloquent and deft writer, I remember him as being sort of the epitome of a good guy, and not half-bad to look at, either. Dan Chaon, our advisor, says there's no more deserving person than Ishmael for this success, and I was so proud to be there in the crowd in Somerville as he read and handled questions. When I said hello, he asked me if I was still writing, and with some amount of relief I said I wasn't. Because how do you compete with #2 on the bestseller list? Besides, I mean, being #1.

I'm reading the book now, and last night I rolled for hours with nightmares, not of rebels in Sierra Leone, but of intruders of all kinds - in my apartment, in my parents' farmhouse, in the woods as I ran and threw myself in ditches to hide. My nightmares are self-fabricated, induced from Ishmael's documented real ones. Read the book. Maybe in the daylight. Okay, cue the Reading Rainbow music: "But don't take my word for it..." Watch John Stewart fall all over Ishmael here.

Who wouldn't be blown away by a human like this? Makes you want to step it up a notch, in whatever way that means to you. Which I'm pretty sure is his greatest success of all.

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