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I love writing shorter pieces for magazines, but nothing quite compares to the first time you get assigned a Library of Congress catalog number. Or the second time. Or, in my case, the seventh time. I'm now in the thick of working on my eighth book, Rin Tin Tin...here's a little preview. I've also contributed to a number of other books. Click on the covers or title of each book for more info.
Of all my books, Lazy Little Loafers has had the most interesting backstory. I originally wrote the text as a humor piece for the New Yorker under the title "Shiftless Little Loafers" (Shouts & Murmurs, July 22, 2006). I meant it to convey the cranky, slightly churlish tone of a probably childless narrator complaining about how babies seem to get away with murder.
After collecting my favorite profiles for Bullfighter, I decided to gather the pieces I'd written in which "place" was the protagonist. These certainly aren't typical travel pieces -- you will find no hotel or restaurant suggestions, that's for sure -- but in each one, I felt the sense of where the story unfolded was almost as important as the story itself.
I couldn't be prouder of my dog -- after all, besides being handsome, occasionally obedient, good at barking, and essentially noble, he's a damn good writer. Although left to his own devices he will eat literally anything, Cooper exhibits a little more discretion in this cookbook.
My editor at the Boston Globe, Ande Zellman, asked me to write a column for the Sunday magazine defining the character of the region. Since I was from the Midwest and found New England strange and fascinating, I grabbed the assignment and wrote the column for a year, choosing a different strange and fascinating New Englandism (for instance, the use of the word 'wicked'; the New England boiled dinner; the wretchedly incompetent driving) to analyze each week. The week I wrote my last column (I was about to move to New York, so it seemed like a good time to bow out) a small publisher interested in collecting the columns into a book contacted me. It was a great way to end the year and leave New England.
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In 1994, I headed down to Florida to investigate the story of John Laroche, an eccentric plant dealer who had been arrested along with a crew of Seminoles for poaching rare orchids out of the a South Florida swamp. I never imagined that I would end up spending the next two years shadowing Laroche and exploring the odd, passionate world of orchid fanatics. I certainly never imagined that I would willingly hike through the swamps of South Florida -- but that's what writing a book does to you. I found myself as passionate about the project as the orchid fanatics were about their flowers, and that is ultimately what the book is about.
This is a collection of my favorite profile pieces, most of which were first published in the New Yorker, with a few from Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside. The subjects range from the well-known (Bill Blass) to the unknown (a ten-year-old kid) to the formerly known (the 1960s girl group The Shaggs). Also included are a dozen Talk of the Town pieces. One of the pieces in the book, "The Maui Surfer Girls", was the basis of the movie Blue Crush.
In 1985, I started traveling around the country spending Saturday night in as many different kinds of communities as I could. I've always tried to figure out what people of all ages, races, classes, regions, and backgrounds have in common (and what they don't have in common, too), and Saturday night seemed like a perfect lens to use. I spent Saturday nights with teenagers and old people, in a nuclear missile silo and at a Park Avenue dinner party, with a bar band and at a black church social and with a suburban babysitter, and occasionally (very occasionally) at home.