Monday, September 30, 2013

Music of the spheres, music of the gears

A friend recently sent me a link to a performance of Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231, popularly regarded as an orchestral homage to the steam locomotive. Listening to Honegger reminded me of Pierre Schaeffer’s Etude aux Chemins de Fer, a piece of musique concrète—“real” sounds of life, in this case the sounds of locomotives, put together as music. Music evoking machines, and machines evoking music. Evoking? Achieving? You be the judge. An orchestra playing Honegger is on YouTube here, and Schaeffer playing locomotives is here. Happy listening.

Above: a sketch from Locomotive of a musician, maybe, on the Johnson bar.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On with the tour

On rolls the Locomotive book tour. Above is the train that brought me to Washington for the National Book Festival last weekend—very similar to the train that brought me to Philadelphia tonight for some school visits and a store appearance tomorrow. (Thursday the 26th! Towne Book Center! 6:00 P.M.!) There have been a lot of flights up to this point on the book tour, so it’s nice to get some honest train travel in, even if a modern Amtrak engine makes it hard to work an 1869 theme. What else on the tour? I have signed books, I have met great readers, I have met great booksellers, I have been to great stores, and at the National Book Festival I had the privilege of giving a presentation on the National Mall with my parents and some friends in the audience. I have done a lot of school visits, and in doing so have seen a lot of kids sitting on their rears on gym floors. (When did we stop building auditoriums in schools, with stages and seats? I oppose this development.) In small bits of free time I’ve seen music in New Orleans, a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Kansas, a county fair in Ohio (horses, rabbits, pigs, roosters), and I’ve been licked on the neck by a ferret in Minneapolis. (Thank you for that, Wild Rumpus.) It has been exhausting and fantastic and the tour is not over yet. (The full schedule is here.) Thank you to everyone who has come by for any part of the tour—from all the friends I was so glad to see at the book launch at BookCourt three weeks ago, on to the nanny and two girls who found themselves rather by accident at a Locomotive reading at Hooray for Books in Alexandria, Virginia, this afternoon. One of the girls, dressed all in pink and sparkles, went and found herself a copy of Pinkalicious as soon as I finished talking trains, and then clutched it to her chest like a life preserver. But the kind nanny bought a copy of Locomotive, and so I think the kid may not be out of the woods yet.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book launch, book tour

Here’s a photo (click to enlarge) of Corinne, Utah, on the route of the first transcontinental railroad. This was taken by A. J. Russell sometime between 1864 and 1869 and is online today thanks to Yale’s Beinecke Library. The resolution on the original scan, at the Beinecke web site, here, is so good that you can almost fall into it. Zoom way in, and on the left, just back of CITY BAKERY, there’s a sign, not easily readable, but readable:


Now that is a local, independent bookstore, and local independents are on my mind; last night there was a launch party for Locomotive at BrooklynBookCourt. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for organizing, to BookCourt for hosting, and to everyone who came! It meant a lot to see a lot of familiar faces in the audience. And local independents are also on my mind because as of today I’m off for the next five weeks (!) on a Locomotive book tour that’s going to take me to local independents across the country. This afternoon, the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina; tomorrow, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C.; Saturday, Octavia Books in New Orleans, Louisiana; Tuesday, a signing at the Saint Louis Public Library in Saint Louis, Missouri. The tour goes on from there but I’m taking things one step at a time here on the blog. The full tour schedule is here. All wishes for smooth travel currently being accepted. I look forward to sharing Locomotive transcontinentally. I hope I’ll see some of you on the road! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Locomotive news: Wall Street Journal, Court Street party

“Mr. Floca manages not just to tell the story of one eventful journey but to summon the great rail enterprise as a whole: the sweat, ingenuity and ambition that went into building it, the smells and sounds of it, and the stunning, varied topography those first tracks traversed in the American West. Here young readers will also encounter possibly the most lucid explanation of how steam power works ever to appear in a children’s book.” So concludes Meghan Cox Gurdons review of Locomotive in this weekends Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Ms. Gurdon and the Journal for the review! The full review is online for Journal subscribers here. Tuesday is the book’s publication date. On Wednesday a book party will be thrown at BookCourt on Court Street in Brooklyn. Details are here and here. I hope to see you there!