Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Writer's Almanac, supplemented

One of my favorite radio shows is The Writer's Almanac, in which among other things Garrison Keillor celebrates well-known authors on their birthdays.  Today he highlights Gene Roddenberry and Frank McCourt, two fine writers.  And I salute them.

I'm not well-known, at least not in Minnesota and not on public radio, but August 19 is my 65th birthday. Here is my addendum to Writer's Almanac:

One of my favorites.

Today is the birthday of the novelist and podcaster Joe Cottonwood (books by this author), born in Washington D.C. (1947).  His father was a chemist who loved the cheap paperbacks of the 1950s — detective stories and soft core porn — with their immodest cover art and equally immodest prose.  To the son, from grade school through high school these books were like wallpaper: normal, comfy, home.  Inadvertently they also served as sex education and literary training, some of which had to be unlearned.

Another fave
As a young man in the 1960s, Cottonwood took extended hitchhikes without money, backpack, or plan around the USA.  Later these experiences found their way into his first successful novel, Famous Potatoes, about a young man hitchhiking around the USA without money, backpack, or plan.  The book is often referred to as an underground novel due to its countercultural readership and its title.

After working 30 years in the building trades, Cottonwood wrote a novel, Clear Heart, about a crew of carpenters.  He recorded the novel as a serialized audiobook and released it as a free podcast.  Reading aloud came as a revelation: a rediscovery of literature as an oral tradition.  He says, "I realized that I have been writing podcast novels for the last 30 years, just waiting for podcasts to be invented." 

Cottonwood now has 5 podcast audiobooks available (free on iTunes), and is working on a sixth.  He lives in La Honda, California where he is the founder and emcee of what has become a fixture in the town: Lit Night, a monthly meeting in a bar where people read at an open mic to celebrate local writing and the oral tradition — and have a good time.

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