13 April 2009

The Coffee, Women, Pizza, Light, Architecture, Gondolas, Pesto, Food, Wine, Food

The other day I received an excellent letter from my friend, author Todd Walton. I had asked him for some words about his new collection of stories.

The new book is titled “Under the Table Books, A Novel of Stories,” written as well as illustrated by Todd Walton and published this month by Lost Coast Press in Fort Bragg. Todd and his wife, cellist Marcia Sloane, currently are on a book tour through the Pacific northwest.

When they’re in town you can find Todd and Marcia performing music and stories together. Todd is a composer and guitarist as well as a writer of whimsical, moving, stories. His most recent previous collection was “Buddha in a Teacup” and you also can find his work in audio format.

This is Todd’s letter:

Dear Tony,

I hope you have a splendid time in Italy. I've never been, but I hear nothing but good things about the place. The coffee, the women, the pizza, the light, the architecture, the gondolas, the pesto, the food, the wine, the food.

(Since you asked,) "Florence" is really my story. All of them are. And this is the largest work I've published. Some of these stories are recorded on the CD I made with Marcia: “I Remember You.”

The outside story about this book is as follows:

In 1992 (living in Sacramento) I wrote a collection of eight or nine stories (I have a copy around here somewhere) entitled “Under the Table Books.” The stories were set in an anarchist bookstore, but they (the stories) were not otherwise connected. Consciously. I made fifty photocopies of the collection and sold them at readings. The copies went fast and reaction was swift – write more of these goodies, they make us happy.

I spent a couple years writing more bookstore stories. The characters turned out to know each other and the stories added up to a novel. I made a few copies of that second edition and illustrated it with a dozen or so black and white photographs. I gave these copies to a few trusty readers. Reaction was swift. Make more copies and spread them around. But first I moved to Berkeley.

Once settled in Berkeley, I decided to replace the photographs with pen and ink drawings, and in 1995, for the third edition, I created one hundred and fifty bound photocopies and gave them to friends and sold them at readings. The copies went fast and reaction was swift – get this book published!

I showed the manuscript to four literary agents. Reaction was swift and unanimous. "You will never convince a mainstream publisher to take a chance on this crazy thing."

Ten years went by. Then in one amazing stretch of five days in 2005 I received four letters and three phone calls from people (of all ages and political persuasions) encouraging me to reissue “Under the Table Books.”

So I read the book for the first time in a decade and was greatly inspired to write new stories to go with the old. One thing led to another and I wrote forty-four new chapters. I then shuffled these new tales into the existing manuscript and rewrote the whole thing. Then I put the book away for a year, rewrote it yet again, and made fifty copies for all the people clambering for copies. That was in 2006. Now it is 2009 and “Under the Table Books” has finally been published. Just in time to save the world.

It really is a novel, though the stories may be read as free-standing stories, though I think it ultimately succeeds more profoundly as a novel. The End.

Thanks and bon voyage, Todd


“Under the Table Books, A Novel of Stories” by Todd Walton. Lost Coast Press hard cover $26.95. ISBN 97819354489020. Illustrations by the author.

Todd Walton’s web site

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