In this episode, Joe interviews New York Times bestselling author, Stacy Perman about her latest book, A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World’s Most Legendary Watch (Atria Books). She discusses the rivalry between gilded age tycoons, Henry Graves, Jr. and James Ward Packard, who commissioned some of the world’s most complicated watches. The informal but intense rivalry between these two collectors resulted in the manufacture by Patek Philippe of the “Supercomplication.” Delivered to Graves in 1933, it sealed his victory. The “Supercomplication” itself was sold for auction at Sotheby’s for $11 million!
Last weekend I was at Barnes and Noble when I found the book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport by Matthew Algeo. I came running over to my wife, who was in the children’s section with our one year old and showed her a book with five Victorian-era athletes in ridiculous garb.
I said, “I found my next interview.”
Mr. Algeo, who is in Mongolia, was very gracious and we set up a Skype interview. Because it was Skype, I set up two separate recorders, one for Skype and one for myself — I found that Skype recorder programs provide too much of an echo. While the author comes in clear, I am a bit on the fuzzy side — but I think it sounds ok anyway.
The book, which is about competitive walking races in the 19th century is really a fun book to read. This is because of the topic — who can imagine people sitting around and watching multi-day continuous matches with the competitors circling around a small track — and because of Mr. Algeo’s writing style, which is energetic and playful. He knows his topic is irreverent if not comical, and that makes for a great book.
I am right now perusing through some books for the fourth episode.
One thing I must note, that since starting this podcast it has really forced me to read and consider books in a way I had never done before.
The way I used to read a book was just to read it. I never seriously considered the sources being used or how well the book was structured. I suppose that since I’m doing these Podcasts that I am becoming a defacto critic, which isn’t necessarily a good thing — although it is fun.
On the personal project front, I have completed about 98% of the research and have received the fully executed book contract for my submarine tale. The main problem is finding the time to write. I have between 50,000 to 60,000 words of manuscript completed, which isn’t bad since the publisher wants “approximately 75,000 words.” But I do have a one-year old at home so it is difficult to write there -and writing at work is just bad form. Fortunately, I negotiated with my wife some release time to do some work at the public library. She’s my pre-editor editor and has a very good eye for narrative and description (she has a degree in creative writing). So she is getting the chapters before anybody else.
An interview with Matthew Algeo, author of Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport (Chicago Review Press). In this interview, Mr. Algeo recounts the origins of epic multi-day, nonstop footraces that captured the public imagination in 19th century Great Britain and the United States.