Books That Matter to Martha Frankel

 In Writing
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photo credit: Franco Vogt

A writer can dream, can’t she? Martha Frankel dreams big and then lives it. In her own words: “Here’s how lucky I am:  I got addicted to internet poker, lost a fortune, but then sold a book about it. And my family still loved me after they read it.”

That’s about her memoir Hats & Eyeglasses (Tarcher Press 2009). She’s hobnobbed with and interviewed the dreamy stars – Leonardo, Queen Elizabeth (Taylor, that is), Spike Lee, and others.

And in 2010, Martha had a sort of Judy Garland/Andy Rooney-meets-download (2)Woodstock dream: She and a band of other writers approached the then-local bookstore owner in Woodstock and said, “Hey! Let’s put on a show, invite our favorite writers, bring book loving readers & writers from around the world, and stage it against the gorgeous backdrop of the Catskill Mountains.”

So, she and a veritable village raised that dream into the Woodstock Writers Festival that turns a robust five years old this spring (no easy feat for a festival to reach that age).

In this week’s Books That Matter feature, Frankel reveals the book she imagines living in, hints at the mystery-porn book she’s penning, and reveals the book title she’s most proud to say she’s never read.

What one book most took off the top of your head (or otherwise just changed something profound within you? What did it do for you? Maybe a book that lit you up as a child or that turned you on as a young adult or last week that salved some pain or turned your thinking upside-down.

When I read To Kill A Mockingbird, I so wanted to be Scout. There were two things at work—- Scout was wild and could run around and play all the time; Atticus was so understanding and so not Jewish and I wanted to think that someday I’d be able to say, “Say hey to your boy…” and not sound like I came from the Bronx.

What one detail do you still recall from that book?

Boo Radley, and how much he scared me, how I searched behind every door for years, sure he would be waiting to hurt me. I wasn’t exactly sure what “hurt” meant, but I knew it was dark and dank and that it would change me forever. And somehow, as much as I feared him, I was secretly upset when Boo wasn’t there. If he was, my life might finally have some kind of oomph! On reading it now, there’s nothing on the page that’s so scary—it’s Scout’s imagination, which is THE most terrifying thing in the world, of course.

The book I imagine living inside of is ___?

Richard Russo’s Straight Man, about a hapless chairman of an English department who cannot get out of his own way. For no other reason than this book made me laugh more than all others.

What one book have you most often re-read?

John Irving’s The Cider House Rules, because not only does the story hit on so many things I believe in— a women’s right to choose, being of service, what we owe those we love, adoption— but you also get Dicken’s.  The main character, Homer Wells, reads both Jane Eyre and Great Expectations to the other orphans. It’s like a great added bonus.

What kinds of books are you most appreciating or seeking these days?

Mysteries, because I have started writing a piece of fiction that is so filthy that I decided to make it a mystery so it won’t wind up in the porn section.

I will read anything written by _______?

Kurt Vonnegut, but that’s probably because he’s dead and he’s not gonna write any clunkers. I’m not quite that loyal to any other writers.

Survey: Roughly what % of books do you read digitally versus in paper?

I spend so much time on my phone—- texts, emails, facebook, twitter—-that when I have time to read, I almost always go to a real book. That said, having the kindle on the iPad on a plane is heaven. so probably 90% still in book form

In a sentence or two, what’s your forecast for the future of publishing?

Not as dire as others think. I see people reading everywhere, they just do it on their devices. I’m all for change.

If you had five days off to read books next week, which books would you at last read?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I have started it 3 times, but it’s big and I’m always busy. Cannot wait to sink my teeth into it. I loved her first book, The Secret History, and I want to read The Goldfinch before someone ruins it for me.

The book I am most proud and self-satisfied to say I’ve never read is___?

50 Shades of Grey. Although does anyone actually “read” it? Because I have done that other thing with it.
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If you liked this feature, you also might be curious about the books that matter to Box of Crayons CEO Michael Bungay-Stanier.
And if you’ve got a book that matters burning inside you or a sprawling manuscript, peek at what’s coming for you.
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