BOOKS | ‘Two Dumb Ducks,’ Maxwell Eaton’s latest charmer

TwoDumbDucks“Two Dumb Ducks,” the latest from Maxwell Eaton III.

Noted children’s author, contributor and very good friend Maxwell Eaton III publishes his fourth book today.

“Two Dumb Ducks,” a Knopf title, introduces us to Steve and Carl, two entertaining foul who battle against the scourge of the seagull. Max and I have been corresponding about his new protagonists. Here’s a part of that conversation:

Q: A new book. Fantastic. Why ducks?

A: It was Two Dumb Crows for a good number of drafts until the alliteration gods cast their rays of inspiration upon this desert domicile, whereupon I changed the characters to long-billed dowitchers. Then Editorial had a suggestion.

Q: Steve and Carl. Any inspirations there?

A: There needs to be balance when writing and illustrating what might otherwise turn out to be cutesy. And nothing balances cutesy like “Steve” and “Carl.”

Q: A: And what about cans and socks? Cornelius? Zanzibar?

A: Cans and socks seemed like things ducks might come across when crossing the road from one side of a swamp to the other. And when it came to Carl’s sock friends, I suppose, in retrospect, Cornelius was a bit of a subconscious nod to a Wes Anderson flick. And Zanzibar, a nod to my East Africa aficionadic acquaintances.

Q: What about the gulls? Do you hate seagulls?

A: The trick is to pick unsympathetic antagonists. And hairless cats didn’t work in an aquatic setting.

Q: The book sends a strong anti-bullying message that very much connects to the conversation of the day. Obviously, you’re making a deliberate comment. Why?

A: The comment is more about how you chose to deal with problems and view solutions. When I was in elementary school the anti-bullying curriculum was fairly impractical. In fact, I’ve used it here as the backbone of Steve and Carl’s initial failed attempts. Ask the bully why they’re calling you dumb. Tell the bully to stop. If these work for you then great, but I want to show kids that it’s alright to deviate from the standard (and often useless) solutions and to adapt to the situation. If each bullying scenario (or any problem for that matter) if different, then each solution may have to be different. When (spoiler alert!) Steve and Carl wake up resembling muck monsters and the seagulls flee in terror, they realize that they’ve temporarily solved their problem. The seagulls aren’t really being hurt. And Steve and Carl aren’t directly threatening them. They just happened to be covered in pond scum. It’s completely passive. And, even better, it’s completely consistent with their own sense of fun and weirdness. Even if it didn’t discourage the seagulls, they’d probably still be playing in the mud. You’re talking about the same birds that are obsessed with aluminum cans and dirty socks. So I hope that readers experience “Two Dumb Ducks” not as a book about stopping bullies in their tracks, but as an example of how to go about dealing with unique challenges in creative ways that don’t hurt anyone and allow the individual to be true to him or herself.

Q: Who are you trying to reach? Are you hoping to maintain a relationship with your “Max and Pinky” readers? Are you hoping to attract new readers?

A: I think “Max and Pinky” Heads will appreciate Steve and Carl. And, of course, I would hope that some will discover the duck book only to be led back to the pig and the bald kid. But for a sappy instant I really do just want them to enjoy the story in front of them and not think about the collected works of the socially inept, marginally employable, consistantly disheveled author sitting at his desk drawing neckties on beavers.

Q: Tell me a bit about the book’s promotion. How can fans connect with you?

A: The best way to connect with an author is to write them a letter. Authors truly are attention starved creatures desperate to spend half a day or more responding to-, buying a stamp for-, and then mailing a letter in return. And if you think they’re the kind of author whose mail might be filtered by assistants or interns, simply mark the envelope “PERSONAL.” That works for congressmen, too. But, as far as promotion goes, keep your eyes peeled for further interviews and media of that nature.

Q: You’ve moved on from “Max and Pinky.” Will they ever ride again?

A: Max and Pinky have bogged themselves down with infighting and passive-aggressive displays of inter-agrarian one-upmanship. The sink is full of dishes. The barn is listing dangerously. And nobody has seen the horse, Chuck, since “The Incident.” For now, Max and Pinky are going to sit tight while a few other pairings hog some of the attention.

Q: What other projects are on the burner?

A: “The Flying Beaver Brothers” first and foremost. In a transparent attempt to stalk my first readers throughout their subliminally scarred lives (read The Mystery backwards in a mirror), I’ve upped my audience’s age bracket with a graphic novel series about two beavers (brothers, I believe) that surf, skateboard, and indulge in detrimental levels of napping. I’m hard at work on the first two stories as we speak and will have concrete release dates soon. But more on that later!

Eaton offers readers a chance to preview “Two Dumb Ducks” at

Eaton lives in Arizona with his wife, Kristin. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2004. We talked last year about his extensive creative process.

Contact your local bookseller to purchase a copy of “Two Dumb Ducks” today.

“Two Dumb Ducks”
Maxwell Eaton III
Alfred A. Knopf, Oct. 12, 2010
Hardcover, 32 pages

BOOKS | ‘Take Ivy,’ at last

TakeIvy‘Take Ivy,’ the iconic collection of photography that is considered a bible of classic American style.

At last. For those of us unwilling to tender bids of as much as $1,000 on eBay, there is salvation. ‘Take Ivy,’ the iconic collection of photographs that is considered by many as the bible of traditional American style, is at last available for the masses. My copy arrived in today’s mail.

At $24.95, the book, published yesterday by Powerhouse Books, is an affordable winner. Originally published in Japan in 1965 by Fujingahosha, the venerable magazine concern, ‘Take Ivy’ is a journalistic exercise. Photographer Teruyoshi Hayashida and reporters Shosuke Ishizu, Toshiyuki Kurosu and Hajime Hasegawa. In their forward, the authors write:

… Here is a report entitled “Everything About the Ivy League” with photos that our team of reporters collected during our one-month fact-finding trip.

As the name suggests, the classic buildings on Ivy League campuses are literally adorned with green ivy. Tranquil school grounds are covered in lush grass. Dormitory lights remain lit until late at night. Classrooms are compact to accommodate a small, but elite group of brilliant students. The vast dining halls accommodate hundreds of hungry students at one time. Our camera successfully captured scenes of typical and beautiful American campuses in both lively and tranquil times.

Each Ivy Leaguer wears clothes in his own way while maintaining an appropriate student look. The meaning of freedom can be found in what the students wear at their residential campuses. [We] believe that this book serves an invaluable documentary of appropriate dress codes on campuses. …

‘Take Ivy’ accomplishes that mission, but we already knew that. Several excellent blogs, including The Trad and A Continuous Lean., posted images from the original Japanese editions ages ago. Men of Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton figure most prominently, as do a lovely collection of ‘old boys’ navigating the concrete and granite canyons of Manhattan.

I suppose the joy of the book is that it’s a book, by which I mean that I still enjoy the process of turning pages and assessing photography as editors intended. On the whole, I would say it’s the third-best catalog of 1960s photographs I own, behind Slim Aarons’ oeuvre and Bill Eppridge’s “As it Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties.”

One disappointment is that the color reproduction seems poor, especially when compared with the images I’ve enjoyed at the aforementioned blogs. I’m sort of motivated to splurge for an original copy to make a comparison. For example, in the scans I’ve seen elsewhere online, the Dartmouth green is decidedly green. In the Powerhouse edition, it often seems black. Still, other frames, particularly in the section on Bermuda shorts, seem to reproduce beautifully.

The glossaries, on the upside, are charming. They include brief discussions of the Eight, anecdotes about the raising of Old Glory over each campus, President Kennedy and the the tradition of working and playing hard. The Japanese authors also offer a dissertation on Ivy League vehicles that includes a note on the 1960s obsession with vintage vehicles.

And, finally, of course, is an outline on traditional style, at its apex in 1965. Going barefoot, school colors and madras are all discussed in brief before the authors present a nice little guide to the wardrobe essentials.

So, reproduction issues aside, get thee to a bookstore!

‘Take Ivy’
Powerhouse Books
First English Edition, 2010

TELEVISION | ‘Mad Men’ Season 4 previewed

Everyone and their uncle — including the President — are counting the days until Don Draper and Co. drop in for their annual visit. Anticipating their return, major media outlets have started to preview the fourth season of ‘Mad Men,’ which premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 25 on AMC.

The New York Times
Television critic Alessandra Stanley’s detailed preview fronts the Sunday Arts and Leisure section this weekend. Stanley’s report is the most detailed and revealing I’ve yet read. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce — the agency formed in December 1963 when Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper and Lane Pryce broke away on news that McCann Erickson had acquired Putnam, Powell and Lowe and Sterling Cooper — is apparently off to a start, if not a running start. December 1964, when the action gets under way, finds the agency struggling to secure accounts, per Stanley’s report. Don is living in Greenwich Village while Betty Draper is now Betty Francis. Fans who tired of the Drapers’ marital discord and collapse will be happy, Stanley writes, as much of this season is firmly focused on the struggles of the new agency.

USA Today
Bill Keveney talks with the cast, who promise a season full of changes and challenges for their characters. Keveney’s preview has fewer clues than Stanley’s, but a set of cast interviews, presented in a sidebar, are well worth a read.

The Journal News
Westchester County’s daily paper carries a locally-oriented season preview that includes a map of local points of interest referenced over the past three season. Folks in Ossining speculate with culture writer Chris Serico on what season 4 has in store for the cast; there’s a map from artist Chris Brown; and Liz Johnson, the paper’s award-winning food editor, offers tips on how to throw a party Betty’d be jealous of. Also, be sure to check out this interactive map, which debuted last summer but has been updated.

Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times, in a preview piece published Thursday, probes the top 10 mysteries its writers hope are addressed in Season 4. Among these are: What happened to Peggy and Pete’s baby? Why didn’t Greg Harris land that residency at St. Luke’s? Did Paul Kinsey dump Joan?

New York Post
The Post takes a look at the three female leads — Betty, Joan and Peggy — and how the women of today relate to these archetypal 1960s characters.

As I come across more reviews and previews, I’ll post them here.

BOOKS| ‘Take Ivy’ re-release available for preorder

Take IvyThe cover overleaf of “Take Ivy,” a collection of photographs taken of the 1960s that focus on Ivy League style.

Aficionados of classic American style rejoice: “Take Ivy,” the coveted photographic collection is due to be released, it seems.

As was earlier reported tonight over at Ask Andy, the compendium of photographs taken on Ivy League campuses by Japanese photographer Teruyoshi Hayashida in 1960s is now available for preorder at An August 31 release is set for the title, which is currently on offer for $24.95.

The book, authored by Kensuke Ishizu, Toshiyuki Kurosu and Moto Hasegawa, was first published in 1965 and has since been released a couple of times. The book, whose title plays on Dave Brubeck’s classic “Take Five,” plays on the Japanese affinity for both jazz and classic American style. It remains unclear if the book’s text will be translated to English but no matter. The photographs, which you can explore over at The Trad, speak volumes themselves about enduring style.

To give you a sense of both perceived value and demand for the book, I turned up a used copy this evening for $2,000. This reprint is welcome news for the thrifty.

“Take Ivy”
From $24.95

OLYMPICS| Weibrecht, alpine luminaries on Sports Illustrated cover

SIAndrew Weibrecht, Lake Placid’s own, is on the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated with U.S. Ski Team colleagues Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso. Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Andrew Weibrecht, the “War Horse” wunderkind of the U.S. Ski Team, figures prominently on the cover of the March 1 issue of Sports Illustrated. With him are silver-and-gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, whose Vancouver hardware collection includes all three medal varieties, and silver medalist Julia Mancuso. The four are the focus of “American Flyers,” a feature by Tim Layden.

Congratulations, again, to Andrew, for earing a bronze in the Super G last week in Whistler.

BRIEFING | Crisis at Pegu Club, the Normandie sails again and pay walls

Good morning. It’s been ages since I put together a briefing, and I’m trying to get back in the habit.

• Mario Pulice, creative director at Little, Brown, has lent the contents of his apartment — largely furnished with relics from the French Line’s piece de resistance, the Normandie, to the South Street Seaport museum. The furnishings, including a piano and chairs that were part of the legendary liner’s celebrated Art Deco interiors, will be part of a forthcoming exhibit, Decodence. The Normandie entered service in 1935 and was a favorite of Hollywood types and the Kennedy Clan. She met an early end in 1942, when she capsized at Pier 88. The Times reports.

• The Pegu Club, epicenter of craft cocktail subculture in New York, was cited Jan. 19 for violating city health codes, the Times reports. In serving an Earl Gray MarTEAni without informing a customer that the cocktail contained egg white, which might have contained salmonella, the gin joint earned a citation from a city Health Department citation. Audrey Saunders, the luminary who owns the place, immediately stopped serving the drink. Read on in the Times.

• Bruce McCall, the humorist and artist, eviscerates today’s Type A parents in a wonderful little essay in this week’s New Yorker.

• If you haven’t yet seen it, you must explore New York Magazine’s hilarious dissection of the the Urban Woodsman. The bearded, buffalo-plaid wearing hipster is now an urban tribe, the magazine has decided.

• The Lancaster, Penn., Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era, the Fayetteville, N.C. Observer and the Global Post will soon launch pay walls provided by Press+. The system comes from Journalism Online, a venture started by Steven Brill, the entrepreneur behind Court TV and other projects, and his partners. The Times reports. Take a look at some screenshots.

• Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Atlantic, reviews of the disturbing results of a recent Kos poll of today’s Republican party. “Marinating in paranoia,” as Sullivan writes, a majority the Party of Lincoln’s followers believe homosexuals should not be allowed to teach in our schools, that Sarah Palin is more qualified for the presidency than Barack Obama and that the president is a socialist and a racist. Heaven help us.

What are you reading?

BOOKS | A trio of Auchincloss titles

AuchinclossThree of Louis Auchincloss’ novels: “World of Profit,” “Portrait in Brownstone” and “The Embezzler.”

The death last Tuesday of Louis Auchincloss, the patrician chronicler and critic of Old New York, was deservedly overshadowed by the J.D. Salinger’s passing. Auchincloss, who worked by day as an estate attorney, while popular, is not being taught in very many college English courses.

Still, there’s good stuff in his oeuvre. My grandmother was a fan, apparently, as these three first-editions were part of her library. “Portrait in Brownstone,” published in 1962, deals with what the Times called the “social mountaineering … of a prosperous Fifty-third Street clan.” The Denisons, of whom Auchincloss paints his portrait, don’t get very far up Manhattan’s peak, scrambling along the way with one another over perceived insults and the prospect of financial insecurity. “The Embezzler,” which appeared in 1966, eviscerates Guy Prime, a white-shoe Wall Street titan who embezzles $350,000 from the country club he helped birth and wean. Prime, who narrates the novel, laments his moral decline, a central fact in most, if not all of Auchincloss’ books. Jay Livingstone, hero of “World of Profit,” published in 1968, is an aspirant Jew who seeks to cast off his background for the social realm of Manhattan’s Protestant elite. The world he finds there is far shabbier than the one he came from.

This trio has sat on my shelves since college. (Missing from the series, of course, is Auchincloss’ greatest triumph, “The Rector of Justin,” published to acclaim in 1964. I suspect this book is on a shelf at my parents’ place in the Upper Delaware Valley.) The covers of these books, while clearly dated, are nonetheless graphically pleasing. As a newspaper man, I’ve always been particularly taken with the cover of “The Embezzler,” which immortalizes the much-lamented stock pages. They all have the look of “Mad Men” props and I’m surprised that Auchincloss hasn’t warranted a mention on the show. (Though few major literary figures have yet been mentioned, it’s obvious that Matthew Weiner is a student of the writers of the day. Cheever’s influence, for instance, is transcendent.) Don Draper, it could be argued, is as much an Auchinclossian character as he is a Cheeverian one.

These turn up cheaply at used bookstores and make for good reads, especially for those interested in the rapidly vanishing Manhattan of yore.

FRONT PAGES| Brown takes Massachusetts Senate seat

Today’s Boston Herald.

Scott Brown, the former model who has served five years in the Massachusetts State Senate, won a resounding victory in yesterday’s special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Brown seized on the growing discomfort of independent voters with the Obama administration and the Democratically-controlled Congress to defeat the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, the commonwealth’s attorney general.

Brown took 52 percent of the vote to Coakley’s 47 percent. While Coakley performed well in cities, Brown dominated in Boston’s suburbs, where independents are in the majority.

The Republican victory imperils the congressional healthcare reform package, as the Democrats have lost the ability to prevent GOP filibusters in the senate. Brown, who posed nude in Cosmopolitan in 1982, has vowed to vote against the package as it currently stands. Kennedy, who died last summer, championed healthcare reform for much of his career.

Here are today’s front pages:

FIND| ‘The Lake Placid Country: Trampers’ Guide,’ 1922

MapA detail of a map from “The Lake Placid Country: Trampers’ Guide.”

When I was the editor of the Lake Placid News, we ran a series of feature stories on historic hikes — walks along forgotten trails around the northern Adirondacks. One of my writer’s key guides to this series was “The Lake Placid Country: Trampers’ Guide.” I recently acquired a copy of this little piece of Adirondack history.

Trampers GuideAt left, the cover of “Trampers’ Guide.”

Published in 1922 by the Adirondack Camp and Trail Club, an offshoot of the Lake Placid Club, the guide was assembled by T. Morris Longstreth, a prolific travel writer whose work includes a long list of books on the Adirondacks, among them the great “Mac of Placid.” “Trampers’ Guide,” features 60 hikes of various difficulty in and around Lake Placid and the surrounding High Peaks. Longstreth’s writing is terrific in its simplicity and accuracy. Many of these hikes could be similarly described today. The book also includes a few automobile drives, a suggested canoe route around Placid Lake and a wonderful introductory passage that includes this gem:

“Lake Placid has an exhaustless wealth to offer. It is a wild Eden with a little arboretum of knowledge in the center; or rather, it is a nucleus of civilization set within a beautiful wilderness dedicated to adventure.”

The greatest treasure of the “Trampers’ Guide,” though, are the wonderful maps that are appended to its pages. My copy has four, though it have had included more when it was published. The best map, which details trails around the village and Mirror and Placid Lake, is attached to the book’s cover as an endpiece. The others detail the Ausable Lakes in St. Hubert’s, the Heart Lake area and the roads and highways around Lake Placid.

Does anyone know more about Longstreth? Neither the Times’ nor the Lake Placid News’ archives yielded an obituary. Does anyone have any other maps from this guidebook?

Take a look at these maps:




FRONT PAGES| 50,000 feared dead in Haiti quake

VPToday’s Virginian-Pilot, published in Newport News, Va.

The photos were heart-wrenching and there many of them. I imagine many newspapers ended up with photo pages in their editions today, hoping to show readers the vastness of Haiti’s sorrow.

Here’s a selection of fronts from around the country, many of which are anchored by a photo of Cindy Terasme, who screams Thursday after seeing the feet of her dead 14-year-old brother Jean Gaelle Dersmorne in the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in Port-au-Prince. It was shot by Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert.

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