Dave Cullen's Blog: Conclusive Evidence of Dave Cullen's Existence--The GoodReads Edition, page 15

November 29, 2010

Any students, moms, teachers, cops, librarians or therapists on your list?

They have really embraced Columbine . Also: dads, lawyers, EMTs, firemen, detectives, profs, and school administrators. Or anyone who loves an absorbing read.

The paperback, with new material, is just under $10 at Amazon. The Strand ships autographed copies worldwide.

Sound dark for Christmas? People just want a great read—and something they would not have chosen. Will someone hesitating about the subject be happy you nudged them to discover an unexpected story?
You can now gift a kindle-book: it's $9.99. In physical stores, all Barnes & Nobles have it 20% off all year, because it won their Discover Award for best new nonfiction this year.

That's my completely shameless pitch. Don't be shy about passing it on. Haha. (Especially at book sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and Kindleboards.)

The intro video just passed 20,000 hits for the three months since we relaunched it. Thanks for all the links with anchor text Columbine shooting. They make a huge difference.



Also see: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.[image error]
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Published on November 29, 2010 09:09 • 56 views
Any students, moms, teachers, cops, librarians or therapists on your list?

They have really embraced Columbine . Also: dads, lawyers, EMTs, firemen, detectives, profs, and school administrators. Or anyone who loves an absorbing read.

The paperback, with new material, is just under $10 at Amazon. The Strand ships autographed copies worldwide.

Sound dark for Christmas? People just want a great read—and something they would not have chosen. Will someone hesitating about the subject be happy you nudged them to discover an unexpected story?
You can now gift a kindle-book: it's $9.99. In physical stores, all Barnes & Nobles have it 20% off all year, because it won their Discover Award for best new nonfiction this year.

That's my completely shameless pitch. Don't be shy about passing it on. Haha. (Especially at book sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and Kindleboards.)

The intro video just passed 20,000 hits for the three months since we relaunched it. Thanks for all the links with anchor text Columbine shooting. They make a huge difference.



Also: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.[image error]
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Published on November 29, 2010 09:09 • 38 views
Any students, moms, teachers, cops, librarians or therapists on your list?

They have really embraced Columbine . Also: dads, lawyers, EMTs, firemen, detectives, profs, and school administrators. Or anyone who loves an absorbing read.

The paperback, with new material, is just under $10 at Amazon. The Strand ships autographed copies worldwide.

Sound dark for Christmas? People just want a great read—and something they would not have chosen. Will someone hesitating about the subject be happy you nudged them to discover an unexpected story?
You can now gift a kindle-book: it's $9.99. In physical stores, all Barnes & Nobles have it 20% off all year, because it won their Discover Award for best new nonfiction this year.

That's my completely shameless pitch. Don't be shy about passing it on. Haha. (Especially at book sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and Kindleboards.)

The intro video just passed 20,000 hits for the three months since we relaunched it. Thanks for all the links with anchor text Columbine shooting. They make a huge difference.



Also: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.[image error]
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Published on November 29, 2010 09:09 • 59 views

November 24, 2010

I believe my agent warned me not to post things this personal on my blog. Hopefully she won't read it. Haha. Or my mother.

Tonight, I'm headed to the Catskills for Thanksgiving. Here's how that happened . . .

I met a nice guy at the gym last Thursday (David Barton Gym, in Chelsea), and we swapped phone numbers. He called Sunday morning, to see what I was doing, from his "country house."

Acountry house. Hmmmmmm.

It was beautiful up there, he said—great for hiking, and skiing in the winter.

"Skiing? Where the hell are you?"

He said the name a couple times, but I didn't really keep track of it, because I kept chuckling over the idea of it. It all sounded so stately and Presbyterian. Pinehurst Manor? No, something more Germanic.

He said it was about two hours up the Hudson. I had no idea there were mountains that close. I'd heard of the Catskills—as the butt of jokes in NY-centric TV shows. They didn't sound inviting, and I sure didn't expect them that close. I thought it was nothing but people on top of people out here, as far as a car could roam.

"You should come," he said. It was a gorgeous day up there. Hmmmmm.

I'm loving New York City, but I also started to get why people need escapes from it last month when I went up to New Haven (which I still owe you a blog post about).

There was a train leaving in 30 minutes. Otherwise, it would be another two hours, and I wouldn't be up there until sunset. OK.

Chances are he wasn't an axe-murderer.

I grabbed a quick shower, packed my backpack, and literally ran to the subway to get to Penn Station. I had just enough time, but then couldn't find the Amtrak tracks. I used up two of my three spare minutes searching, and then a kindly woman offered to help and walk me to the platform, but frustratingly slowly, and then it was the wrong place, and she was working me for a handout.

Ugh.

I got to the imaginary "gate" they have set up at the top of the escalator just after the attendant switched it off. He was reaching the rope across, but I ran past waving my ticket, begging him to let me go and he said OK.

I ran down the frozen steps, toward the train, where the automatic doors were sliding shut. There was just enough time to ram my fingers in before it sealed shut, but I wasn't sure whether it would bounce back or crush them. Surely not the latter, but I only had a moment, and decided not to risk my hand.

I sped down the track, looking for a conductor inside. Nobody in the first car, but the second one—there was a woman. I held my ticket up and pleaded. She looked at me, paused, then reached into her pocket. She pressed something against the electronic pad, and all the train doors hissed again and slid open. Ahhhhhh.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"ummmmmmm. I don't know."


My ticket said Rhinecliff. Oh right.


I assumed he had oversold the beauty, but quite the contrary.

Fifteen minutes outside the city, I was already sighing. And it kept getting better.

He was a nice guy, too. We roasted two chickens, meaning mostly he did. I chopped things and put myself in charge of fire-starting, music, consuming the Becks in his fridge and occasionally dancing in my socks on his polished-wood living room floor.

He brought in a stack of firewood, and some newspaper and said that should be enough.

I looked at the paper. "What's the fewest number of sheets you've ever started it with?"

He had never really counted.

Well what was the smallest possible number?

Two or three.

OK. I would do it in fewer than two.

I tried one, and failed. But I still had some embers. I tore off 3/4 of another sheet. I could still win.

It took nearly 30 minutes of blowing on it, and the house was so smoky we had to open the doors, but I got that thing raging.

Two of his friends came over and we had really nice time.

I actually started writing this entry on the trainride up Sunday afternoon, totally unaware of what the next few hours might bring. That was part of the thrill. The thrill of life, actually. I have roamed this planet well over forty years, and there are still an infinite number of things I have not experienced. I can never get to them all.

Once I got to Rhinecliff . . . who knew?

Obviously, I've written more since I arrived there. BTW, it turns out he lives a ways deeper into the backcountry, but best to leave it at that.

Here's what I wrote Monday morning, a few minutes after I walked back into my apartment on the upper west side:
He drove us back this morning. He gets to go in late on Mondays. Me, too, but I'll have to make it up later in the week.

I was tired today, but happy. I might have mentioned that in a previous post. I really am.
It's Wednesday now (right before the posting time-stamp, I hope. I really intend to post it this time.) I'm headed back up to the house tonight.


I have to get my work done early today, because we're driving up around sunset. I guess we'll miss the beautiful drive, but I've got to get some pages done before I can let myself go.

Tomorrow I'm taking off work, and it will be a Big Gay Thanksgiving with his friends up there. I guess it's the gay cityboys who like to retreat to the mountains on the weekends, and probably some who live there full time, and some straightpeople, too.

Yet another world to explore. And nice people to meet, I imagine. We had dinner with two of his friends Sunday, and they were great. 

Then I'm going to try to get some writing done up there over some of the weekend. A change of scenery often helps my work, and he was gracious enough to offer. He's a really nice guy, it would appear.

Have a great holiday, everyone. I plan to.[image error]
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Published on November 24, 2010 10:25 • 28 views

November 23, 2010

I'm happy to be a guest poster today on Slate's excellent XX Factor blog, with Columbine's Lost Lesson

(If you haven't read XX Factor, you're missing out. It's subtitled What women really think, and describes itself as "a conversation among Slate 's women writers and friends about politics, culture, and anything else that strikes our fancy." It's edited by Slate's Emily Bazelon, one of the smartest people writing today. Keep track of her, and look for her at award time soon for some stories she did this year.)

How cool to be a male guest. I hope I acquit my gender well. Here's a few snippets from my piece:
This week, the U.S. caught up with a story which has been big news in Australia for a week. From the New York Times site: "Twin sisters from Australia, who complained of bullying as teenagers, might have chosen to shoot themselves at a gun range outside Denver last week because of its proximity to Columbine High School, site of the 1999 massacre that became a global news event."

Last Monday, Kristin Hermeler committed suicide while her twin, Candice, shot herself but survived, at the Family Shooting Center at Cherry Creek State Park, less than 20 miles from Columbine. . . .

What's missing from much of the coverage is the meaningful Columbine connection to this suicide: depression. This remains the major unlearned lesson from Columbine. Depression drove one of the Columbine killers, Dylan Klebold. Yet it lurks so deeply in the recesses of our conception of the tragedy that it fails to register in an obvious case like this. . .
Last year, Dylan's mother, Sue Klebold, broke a decade of silence with a powerful essay in O Magazine describing the depths of Dylan's depression. She was candid about her failure and her husband's to grasp the significance or danger. Of course they didn't. Few parents do. Because we don't talk about it. Teachers and administrators are afraid to address it, and journalists shy away from our obligation as well.
The rest of my essay is over at XX Factor. 

Thanks to Mark Oppenheimer for pointing out another Columbine misunderstanding in the Hermeler story. I'm glad it wasn't just me thinking that.

And you can also listen or read a transcript to my appearance Saturday on Sydney's morning radio show AM, discussing the same case. A bit from me there:


"Fifteen people died a Columbine, meanwhile tens of thousands of kids are dying every year at their own hands by suicide, that is a much bigger story."[image error]
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Published on November 23, 2010 11:10 • 30 views

November 22, 2010

I'm still giddy over Patti Smith winning the National Book Award for Just Kids, and want to share a few cool things sent to me afterward.

WQED, the great NPR station in San Francisco, wrote to share this recent episode where Patti read from Just Kids for their weekly reading series, The Writers' Block. Listen here:



Betsy Lerner, the wonderful agent and adviser Patti I share, also had some memorable moments on her blog. First, she toasted the win the most appropriate way: a stunning passage from the book:

"Many would not make it. Candy Darling died of cancer, Tinkerbelle and Andrea Whips took their lives. Others sacrificed themselves to drugs and misadventure. Taken down, the stardom they so desired just out of reach, tarnished stars falling from the sky.  I feel no sense of vindication as one of the handfuls of survivors. I would rather have seen them all succeed, catch the brass ring. As it turned out, it was I who got one of the best horses."

Wow.

The next day, Betsy gushed and thanked everyone for the crush of phone and email congratulations. Then she said, "My mother congratulated me and then said, 'why do you think it won?' And that, my friends, is all you really need to know about me."

Hahaha. It's safest NOT to draw any comparisons to my own life publicly.

I still have all of Horses on my iPhone, and had the urge to play "Land" at a little dinner party up in the Catskills last night. Of the three other people there, I'd met one two days earlier, and the others two hours earlier. (Possibly more on this little adventure soon.)

I wasn't sure it was completely . . . appropriate. The song is still a little out there. And I suddenly worried it might feel dated. I hit Play anyway. They loved it. I think I'll see them again.[image error]
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Published on November 22, 2010 18:39 • 45 views

November 18, 2010

The Columbine Student Guide is now complete. It's online and free. (The Columbine Teacher's Guide and Columbine Online are in beta, coming soon.)

The idea came this spring, over weeks touring colleges and high schools, meeting thousands of students who had embraced the book. You guys really invigorated me.

Most of you were reading Columbine on your own, out of curiosity and enjoyment.* But a lot of you liked the idea of using the time you'd put in for school, too. And the best papers comes once a subject grabs hold of your imagination. 

I get similar requests as I skype with schools this fall, and emails come nearly every day from students trying to define a paper topic, or looking to jump-start your research. So only six months later (haha) . . .

The Columbine Student Guide. It includes sections to help:
Choose a topic. Extensive ideas for student papers, projects and class presentations. Research. Everything imaginable about the case gathered into one site, organized into categories for easy navigation: Journals, Killers, Attack, Victims, Depression, Evidence, Etc. Explore topics in-depth. Major topics include teen depression, PTSD, survivors and overcoming adversity. Resources. FAQ, author biography, book summary, bibliography, reviews, videos by Dave for students, next reads and more.Skype opportunities. Instructions on how to arrange a skype with me and your class.  It took awhile to compile all this stuff and then pare it back down into a simple format, but hopefully it will help. Thanks for all the input and encouragement. Let me know what you think.

Much of the material does double-duty in the upcoming Columbine Instructor/Teacher's Guide, but we've organized it differently so that each of you can get what you want quickly.

Please help spread the word to other students—and teachers and profs. Links on your facebook page, blog, discussion boards, etc., are invaluable. Help another student out. And help others discover the book. Thanks.
___
* A note on "enjoyment." I hear so many people berate themselves for starting to use words like "enjoy" to describe their experience reading Columbine. Please never apologize for enjoying a book. You are supposed to. It doesn't mean you enjoyed the tragedy, or feel good about it in any way.

Books are meant to absorb, transport and enlighten us, and all of those make us happier people. So forget the guilt and use any word that describes your authentic experience. That's what I think.

The Columbine Intro Video is also a great way to gauge your own interest, or to share with friends, teachers and classmates:

[image error]
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Published on November 18, 2010 10:34 • 49 views

November 17, 2010

Patti Smith won the National Book Award!

Amazing. It's nice to see these things go to great talents. Patti is right there at the top.

Full winners' list here. The photo was texted to me by my friend Dennis Grech, the lucky bastard who was there for Tom Wolfe. Look how happy Patti is.

(BTW, Amazon rank for big surprise fiction winner Jaimy Gordon's, Lord of Misrule: #322. Let's see what it is by morning. Not that anyone checks their amazon rank. haha.)

It was great 'watching' the ceremony by Twitter, but seriously, can't someone televise a single book awards show?

My favorite tweet of the night:

Holy shit Patti Smith is in tears. "please never abandon the book. There is nothing more beautiful than the material of the book."
(Various people had various versions of that quote.)

And Betsy Lerner, I have a big hug for you, too. I guess you can retire now. But don't. Please.[image error]
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Published on November 17, 2010 19:27 • 44 views
Sara Zarr has weighed in on the year she just spent on the judging panel for one of the four National Book Awards. (She's in the Young People's Literature category, where she was a 2007 finalist for Story of a Girl .)

Sara abides by the agreement not to divulge any arguments or near-miss books, but still offers a lot of valuable insight.

My favorite part comes when she quotes or paraphrases Richard Rodriguez saying that the reader re-creates the book when he reads it. Damn, I love the way he said that. I have always believed it.

"If that's true," Sara says, "and I think it probably is, that means 100 readers could have 100 different experiences of the same book. Which can be frustrating, but is also kind of magical and also tells you something about what it is to be a person, an individual."

Good word, magical. That's how I feel. That's what makes books and films and music so enthralling for me—from both sides of the creation.

The writer does most of the heavy lifting actually getting the damn thing onto the page. But then the reader takes over. Everyone takes it in differently, starting with basics like drawing in the landscapes and the faces and the buildings from the choice little details carefully provided by the author. (That's essentially why I refused to put photos in Columbine . That's the reader's domain.)

It gets much more complex from there: turning our five, ten or fifty pages on a character into a fully-developed human, assessing that person, possibly judging, chastising or second-guessing them. And then the ideas. Whoa.

Writing is the first half of the creation process, reading is the second half. Actually half? I don't know. I'm not going to quibble about the percentages, but each one is a separate act of creation and significant.

This sentiment from Sara really resonated with me, too:
Most of all, what I feel now, having been through this process, is: awards and good reviews are nice to have, and probably good for your career, and should be celebrated. If you get them, be proud. Other than that, they don't mean too terribly much. They certainly don't mean books that don't get them are failures, are unworthy, or should be dismissed.
I had the joy of riding the awards train last season. It was a thrill. It was maddening a few times, too. I had to look at myself a few mornings and admit I was more invested in the lists I was left off of--or more pitiful to whine about: making the group's long list, but not the short. I could admit out loud to close friends how ridiculous that was, but it still stung. Rationality could not sooth my feelings.

I'm wishing good thoughts this season for all the great writers appearing on these lists, and left off, especially the writers on their first book. I am thrilled at some of the deserving people making the big lists, and I'm surprised at some NBA omissions, like Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack and Laura Hillenbrand for Unbroken.

(I'm just personally relieved that it spared me the minor dilemma of rooting for her vs. my hero Patti Smith.) That just means that one group of five bright readers liked a handful of other books more. But Rebecca and Laura are definitely getting their due. I would not be surprised if they are each a tiny bit sad today, though. Maybe not. Hopefully they're more mature than me. Haha.

Reading Sara' reflections on all the unexpected pleasures she encountered while judging also makes me think about all the great books out there getting lost. Some of my friends have written incredible books. Some of those found a great big audience and made their way onto awards lists, others did not.

I believe my mentor Lucia Berlin was one of the great short storytellers of the last century, and I had the amazing fortune of being dropped into the final years of her life. Most readers have never heard her name.

(If you're one of the millions yet to discover Lucia, you might start with Homesick , winner of the American Book Award. (Awards, she won. A sizable audience, she's been denied.) I'd go straight to the amazing "My Jockey," which tells an entire story in one page.)

It's a scary thing, investing years of your life into a single work, and wondering if people will even notice. For get the bad reviews, what about no reviews? Or great reviews but few readers?

I think what most writers want more than awards are readers. I will confess to giddiness when I heard my name called a couple times, and I sure loved the adulation and the pat on the back, but I can just as honestly tell you that the main thing on my mind was the readers each award or list might bring. The awards don't do much there on the shelf. I want to see my book in peoples' hands.

I'm still waiting for that thrill, by the way: Of walking onto an airplane or a subway or wherever, and spotting a stranger with a copy of Columbine in their hands. Still has not happened. The closest I've come is in a bookstore, when they had a stack of them in the front on display. That happened several times, but it's not the same. The deck was stacked.


Next book, hopefully. Or who knows, maybe it will still happen on this one. Then I'll need to invent a new dream. Hahaha.

I'm just welled up with a lot of feelings about these awards and lists today. For everyone on them, I really hope you're relishing the ride. For all the writers out there left off some or all, the game ain't over yet. Keep writing. Write great stuff.[image error]
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Published on November 17, 2010 10:26 • 42 views

November 16, 2010

The National Book Awards will be announced at a dinner tomorrow night. (I'll be following the live tweets by the foundation that puts them on.)

My congratulations go to all the nominees, but I'm rooting like crazy for Patti Smith in the nonfiction category, for her memoir, Just Kids. (It's about her and notorious-in-some-circles photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.)

Patti has been a hero of mine since I first heard her wail "Because The Night" in the spring of 1978. I was a junior in high school. I think my allowance was 25 cents a week, so asked for her album Easter for my birthday and waited until June 3 to hear more.

I wanted it even more once I saw the stunning Mapplethorpe cover photo. (I had never even heard of him, but man, I liked the shot.)

My Catholic siblings were horrified by the exposed armpit. Hahaha. Seriously. It was 1978. We were sheltered Midwestern kids in the arch-conservative northwest suburbs of Chicago.

They were too embarrassed to take the album up to the checkout counter. They handed me the money and made me do it. If I dared. They were puzzled that I didn't seem grossed out.
I think it was the fourth album I ever got. I was barely aware of the punk rock movement tearing up Britain, and I'd never heard anything like it. I loved it.

But that was nothing compared to her first album, Horses, which was three years old, but brand new to me. It's still my favorite of hers.

After several months with Patti, I discovered Elivs Costello and then in rapid succession The Clash, Graham Parker, The Ramones . . . most of the bands that made a mark on me.

The Clash is my all-time favorite band. Graham's Squeezing Out Sparks is my favorite CD/album. These seriously changed my writing, but long before that, they changed me.

Patti Smith opened that whole world to me. And Horses, God. I still have it on vinyl. I gave away my turntable when I moved to NYC this summer, but I kept my copy of Horses. Just in case.

I can't tell you how much joy it's brought me. And "Land" is one of the most brilliant songs I've ever heard. It continues inspiring me. You can go anywhere with words once you hear what Patti pulled off there.

I riffed on it trying to get Dylan Klebold down in an early draft of Columbine , blissfully unaware that my agent Betsy Lerner, who was doing the first edit of my book was also Patti's agent, working on Just Kids through the same ten years.

I'm still not sure whether I ever showed Betsy those pages. But they got me where I needed on Dylan—internalizing both his depression and his burning desire to seek.

It must be kind of funny to Patti: being known for four decades as one of America's great, influential poets, to finally get a National Book Award nomination in the prose category, and nonfiction no less. Haha. Category, smategory, she's got the gift of words.

(I don't even want to quote my favorite line from "Land," because it may sound silly or foolish or immature out of context. It's not. And it still makes me smile, more than thirty years later.)

Here's the book summary, from the NBA site, btw:
In Just Kids, Patti Smith's first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work—from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.
So she will be at the NBAs tomorrow night, and my fabulous agent Betsy Lerner will be with her. (As of yesterday, Betsy had not figured out what she was going to wear. Hahaha.)

I'm thrilled for both of them. I've never met Patti, but Betsy is my primary adviser, mentor, and my guiding light. She came with me to the Discover Awards and the Edgars this spring and was so proud when I won. But I do believe she would have hugged me even harder had I lost.

Patti is blessed to have her. I think they're blessed with each other. Good luck tomorrow. Win or not, have yourselves a wonderful night.[image error]
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Published on November 16, 2010 10:28 • 126 views

Conclusive Evidence of Dave Cullen's Existence--The GoodReads Edition

Dave Cullen
Thoughts on books, writing and hopefully a few other passions from Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine."
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