Monday, December 03, 2001
One of the coolest things about being an author (and, for that matter, having an occasional rock star as an assistant) is that every now and again it'll open some cool doors -- viz. today, when I got to spend a wonderful afternoon with a small daughter and an assistant at The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. The place was closed to the public and Sharon and Amber (assisted by Bill) introduced us to all the owls, eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys and even the vulture. It was fascinating, and magical and odd. It also made several sequences by T.H. White much more understandable.

The strangest moment was meeting the sad little ricketty owl who was found by some people as a chick, handed over to a vet who, a vegetarian himself, attempted to bring up the owl on a diet of fruit and grain. ("When we got him he was so sick we had to feed him mouse milk shakes. Well, mouse slurry.") I mean, a vet. Sigh.

I loved the whole trip and did a chunk of my holiday shopping in their gift shop, which helps keep the birds in mice.

Maddy wanted a tiny owl of her own. Lorraine loved the owls, but was less enthusiastic about watching the whole mouse-eating business.


Dear Neil,
Here's a question you may have gotten within the last month. Do you have any professional views on the literary controversy surrounding Jonathan Franzen, author of _The Corrections_, and the Oprah Book Club? Would you allow a private, nonliterary organization to place its logo on the cover of one your books if you were in a similar situation as Mr. Franzen?
Miss Benai

I don't think it is a literary controversy. I think it's a promotional controversy. (The arguments aren't about the book; they are about how the book was promoted.)

An author, mostly, gets a say in what goes on a book's cover. Oprah's Book Club (picking a 'private nonliterary organization' more or less at random here, mostly because I can't think of any others) doesn't place its logo on a book's cover. The publisher, with the approval of the author, does.

I guess that if I wanted to do the Oprah thing, I'd take the logo and the TV appearance and the 750,000 sales. And if I didn't want to, I'd say no, and forego the logo and the print run. (It's a pretty hypothetical point, and one it's easy for me to be virtuous about, as I can't imagine Oprah ever picking the kinds of book I write for her book club.)