Trying My Hand at Short(er) Fiction

19 January, 2012 | Categories: Graham Moore, Signings, Writers and Writing | By: Graham

I wrote a short story called “It's Not About the Dog” for my friend Michelle Meyering's literary journal The Rattling Wall. As indicated, the story is not about a dog. But there is a dog in it. So it's not totally dog-less, or anything like that.

As per below, I'll be reading from the story at the Hollywood Standard, in LA, on February 4th, along with a bunch of other writers who are awesome. Come if you're in town, and if you'd like anything signed I'm sure we can tend to that as well.
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A Story About the Time I Met Christopher Hitchens

11 January, 2012 | Categories: Graham Moore, The Sherlockian, Writers and Writing | By: Graham

The living have an odd tendency to want to possess the dead. We’d like to claim them as our own: To discuss them in a way that centralizes our own experience of them relative to others around us. “Oh, I remember when he and I…” That sort of thing.

So I’m trying to be very wary of that impulse. I really don’t want to pretend to know Christopher Hitchens any better than I did. We had only two interactions, once at a cocktail party and once over email. We weren’t friends or anything like that. But starting from when I was about 17, I have read almost every word he published — hundreds of articles and essays, over a dozen books, a volume of output so impressive that it makes every other writer I know seem lazy. I suppose that one could say that Hitchens read every word that I published too, a claim that is factually accurate only in that I have published exactly one book, which he read about a year ago. We are not so much a mutual admiration society as we were two people, the first of whom utterly worshipped the second, while the second seemed vaguely amused by the first on the rare occasion that he was reminded of his existence.

However, over the years I have been lucky enough to get to meet a small handful of my heroes. And every single one of these experiences has been kind of awkward and disappointing and cringe-worthy — with one exception. And that’s the time I met Christopher Hitchens.

So here’s what happened: My novel The Sherlockian was edited by a brilliant man named Jon Karp. As luck would have it, Jon was also Hitchens’ editor. Well, maybe “luck” isn’t the right word, because a big part of the reason I signed with Jon in the first place was that he edited Hitchens. If Jon could make me sound half as smart as Hitchens… That was the thinking. Anyhow, when Jon was finished making my book intelligible, he sent a manuscript to Hitchens to see if he’d write me a blurb. (Little known Hitchens fact: He was a pretty serious Sherlockian. It makes sense when you think about it — the triumph of reason over tyranny, a certain resolute Englishness, etc.) Hitchens then wrote me a blurb that I quoted, ad neauseum, to every single one of my friend for weeks on end. They got pretty sick of hearing about it, but Christopher Hitchens had called me “ingenious,” and that’s basically one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me in my life. (My dear friend Alice, with whom I had spent many hours debating various of Hitchens’ essays while we were in college, in response to my sharing the blurb with her: “This is one of the proudest moments of my life. It’s a complicated pride, but that’s the best kind!”)

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Some months later, I was in Washington for a book launch party for my novel. Jon had sadly since left my publishing house, but my friend Tammy knew Hitchens socially, and she invited him for me. Much to my surprise, he accepted! Now, to just briefly touch on the super surreal part here: Because my mother is fancy, this party was hosted by Jill Biden at the Vice President’s residence. Right. So I was there with my family and my agent and my publisher and various DC dignitaries, and I saw Hitchens in the corner finally, and I snuck my way over to him, and we had the most lovely little chat. We talked for a bit about the first book of his that I ever read, and why it made such an impact on me, and he was gracious and funny and kind and wonderful for all the reasons that other people, who knew him far better, have done such wonderful jobs of describing in the last day.

As this was a year ago, he was already pretty sick. He’d found a way to surreptitiously steady himself against a nearby wall or chair without it looking like that’s what he was doing. He seemed tired, but still managed to stay for a few hours. And finally, as the evening was wearing down, I saw him across the room saying his goodbyes to the Vice President and Mrs. Biden. But as he was putting on his coat on the way out the door, he spotted me and dashed over. He grabbed my hand and thanked me for inviting him. And then, in a moment I will never forget as long as I live, he put his hand on my shoulder and said: “Congratulations. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you write next.”

For a young writer looking for inspiration, you couldn’t really do much better.
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So here’s to Christopher Hitchens, who, in my one meeting with him was simply kind when he did not have to be. Of how many people can that be said?

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Paperbacks: Like Hardcovers, Only Smaller

12 December, 2011 | Categories: Uncategorized | By: Graham

I should probably have mentioned this before its release, but the paperback version of the book came out two weeks ago. (Though by not mentioning it until now I get to really rival my own record for worst self-promotion ever, which I'm pretty proud of.)

Anyway, despite my total lack of promotional acumen, a bunch of people seem to have bought it anyway! I'm very proud to be able to say that almost one year to the day after its initial release, The Sherlockian is back on the best seller list.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2011/1130/Bestselling-books-the-week-of-12-1-11-according-to-IndieBound/TRADE-PAPERBACK-FICTION

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Thanks everybody!

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How Quickly the Reviewed Becomes the Reviewer…

14 March, 2011 | Categories: Uncategorized | By: Graham

The nice people at the NY Times asked me to review the new YA Sherlock Holmes book for them; here's the link.

full article here

There was something highly surreal about review someone else's novel for the Times, since it was just a few months ago that I was anxiously fretting my nights away waiting for the Times review of my own novel to appear. (Those nervous and sleepless nights were ended with a review that was so kind and gracious and flattering that upon reading it — in a hotel bar in Scottsdale, AZ of all places — I immediately started crying into my celebratory champagne. The waitress kept looking at me funny.)

Anyhow, it's funny to see how quickly the tables turn.

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On Writing Historical Fiction

21 February, 2011 | Categories: Uncategorized | By: Graham

As somebody who writes historical fiction — and some other things, but I seem to be in a historical fiction zone lately, so I'm just going to keep rolling with it — I think a lot about the ethics involved. Namely, what does the writer of historical fiction owe to the truth? Or to the subjects themselves? All writers of historical fiction take departures from historical fact. Hence the word “fiction” in the name. But that fiction is also blended quite heavily with dollops of genuine truth. Hence the word “historical.” This leaves the reader of these sorts of things in a bit of a tricky position, as it's always hard for her to tell what's real and what's the creation of the author. So how much does the author owe this hypothetical reader in making it clear, and also, maybe more importantly, what does the author owe the subjects themselves when he writes about the subject doing things and saying things and being engaged in things that never actually happened?

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David Seidler, who wrote the wonderful new film The King's Speech, is currently engaged in a bit of a war-of-words with the inimitable Christopher Hitchens on just these topics. It's a fascinating argument, and one dear to my heart.

Thoughts:

1) Don't pick a fight with Christopher Hitchens. It's not worth it. He's smarter than you are, and he'll win. Just… Don't.

2) As it happens, I'm fortunate enough that Hitchens actually liked my book, and wrote a very kind blurb for the back cover. So that makes me feel good.

3) I liked The King's Speech. A lot. It was great.

3) Both Seidler and Hitchens know world's more than I do about the history of the British monarchy, and the history of Britain between the wars, so I will not even begin to wade into this debate on historicist grounds.

4) However, I will wade in on the grounds of authorial license and responsibility. Seidler appears to have made a few things up in The King's Speech. Okay, cool. I made a TON of things up in The Sherlockian. His problem seems to be though that he denies having made them up. And I quote:

Hitchens also accuses Bertie of supporting Chamberlain in appeasing Hitler. Well, just about everyone in England, except Churchill, did the same. Hindsight is always 20/20.

The logical error between the first of those sentences and the second two is readily apparent. Think of Seidler's claim this way: “Hitchens says that person X held position Y. Well, just about everyone else in England held position Y.” He's admitting that, contrary to his film, person X really did hold position Y,which in this case happens to be Bertie and the appeasement of Hitler, respectively. Now, perhaps Bertie/Chamberlain were right to do so, and perhaps they was wrong. I won't make a claim there because I don't know enough about the subject. But it's disingenuous to claim that you didn't put that inconvenient fact in the film because it wasn't true; it was true, it was just inconvenient for narrative purposes, so it was left out. Which is all well and good, and I wish Seidler would have defended his film on those grounds.

5) The really thorny question here is “when IS it okay to leave out inconvenient facts for narrative purposes?” Hitchens seems to say “never,” or at least “never about issues so morally fraught and world-historically important.” I'm very conflicted about this position, as it grants the writer very little leeway to construct stories based on important or morally complicated real events. And aren't those the most interesting ones to write about?

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