Saturday, August 22, 2009

My New Favorite Author OR "What the H*** Did I Just See"

My new favorite author is Pete Dexter. I haven't read anything by him yet--I plan to remedy that very soon--but I saw the self-deprecating, wily and laugh-out loud funny author on Book TV a couple weeks ago and he is now my new favorite-author-that-I-have-yet-to-read but must. Any author who can make me laugh out loud like that goes on the must-read list.

Book TV, on C-Span2 on the weekends, features interviews with authors as well as author appearances and more. According to the Book TV website, they feature nonfiction authors, but from time to time a fiction author will slip through, as Pete Dexter did when Book TV recorded an author panel at BookExpo America, on which Mr. Dexter spoke last (perhaps because no authors, wisely, wanted to follow him).

A diminutive man in his 60s with expressive, wily eyes that he frequently widens to often comic effect, Dexter opened by thanking the booksellers (at the request of his publicist), bemoaned his booksales, and off-handedly suggested two alternative marketing plans for his upcoming book, Spooner. One involves substituting Spooner for the Bible in hotel rooms and for swearing-ins ("You could put Spooner in there and nobody'd know," he pleaded. "I'd be so happy.") Plan two involves replacing the book jackets of Spooner with the book jackets of a certain blockbuster author whose book is coming out the same month.

I'll refrain from describing his appearance in too much more detail. You can watch it here, and his self-deprecating, offhand comic timing is difficult to replicate on the page. I'll just say that I loved his unfiltered, uncensored appearance, and his alternative, digressive method of describing his book, Spooner: "I can't tell you what a novel's about . . . but I thought I could tell you some of the things in it. Alphabetically. ("We have two asthmatics. One of which is the protagonist's mother, and the other is a bulldog, and they're violently allergic to each other and they meet at a party in South Dakota at a meeting of the Great Books Club and kill each other. We have two burials at sea that don't go well. . . ." )

The host of the author panel, Joe Scarborough, put it well when he said of Dexter's appearance:
"What the h*** did I just see?!"

Book TV is a great way to introduce yourself to new authors. If you don't have cable tv, you can watch many of the broadcasts online at www.booktv.org. You can also watch excerpts on Book TV's YouTube page.

To learn more about Pete Dexter, who received the National Book Award in 1988 for the novel Paris Trout, an excellent source is the library's Contemporary Authors database, which you can access from our Research Databases page.

Dexter's latest novel, Spooner, due out on September 24th, is characterized by author Susanna Moore as: "a novel of picaresque vitality--outlandish, anecdotal, profuse, funny, profound."

Other novels by Pete Dexter include:

The Paperboy
Paris Trout
God's Pocket


Linda K. said...

I haven't watched BookTV but I've discovered new authors, or at least new to me authors, via our British television DVD collection. I love the Midsomer Murders series and started reading Caroline Graham's books (her books are the basis of the series)after finding her name in the credits. Another favorite "new to me" author is W. J. Burley, the author of the Inspector Wycliffe series and DVD collection. Unfortunately now that I have found this author I have also discovered that the books are out of print! Hopefully the TV series is popular enough to revive the books and we'll get some reprints some day.

Anonymous said...

I never would have thought Dexter was that funny! Maybe I'll have to give his books another try!

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