Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blogging in the City


JAN BROGAN: Here at Jungle Red, we promote writers.  Ourselves. Other mystery authors. Friends. Friends of friends. Anyone we just happen to think is interesting. I'm pushing the envelope a little today. I'm promoting my son.  

You've heard me hear talk /write about him as Spike, which is what we've called him since birth, but he writes under his actual given name, Frank Santo.

Spike/Frank lives in Brooklyn and blogs about the literary world  for PageViews, which is a new initiative by the New York Daily News. The blog, which I actually read even when my son isn't posting, isn't what you think of when you think of the New York Daily News.  Less Daily News, more New York. It's sophisticated, edgy, witty, and controversial as it covers everything from the publishing world's latest phenom to Sunday's episode about Madmen ( and exactly which serial murderer were they all talking about anyway.)

Editor Alexander Nazaryan started the blog in December with the goal of being the "best source for cultural and literary reporting on the web," and while he says it's not there yet, the blog has been getting a lot of attention.  Frank (I'm having a really hard time calling him that) started there in February, and I'm not just bragging when I say he's had great success in only two months. (okay, maybe I am bragging just a little.)


What do I mean by success? Two weeks ago, he found himself quoted in People Magazine.  His blog about literary speed dating was tweeted across the universe and got picked up by the Paris Review.  His review of Fifty Shades of Gray made its way to Jezebel before it hit People.  And last week, a post he did about the Rolling Stone expose on Dartmouth hazing went viral and got more than one thousand Facebook recommends. (the counter stops when you hit 1K)

So please welcome Frank Santo to Jungle Red.



JAN BROGAN: Tell us about Page Views:  

FRANK SANTO: I’m not really sure what the overall concept of the blog is other than that I hope it is a place that fosters intelligent discussion about culture and has its own unique voice.The key to its success is probably consistency, we have at least three posts a day, and its becoming a daily destination for people interested in the literary world (whatever that is).

JAN:  Your editor puts says the concept is to have a blog about book and culture that was both sophisticated and could laugh at itself.  And I'd say you definitely laugh at yourself when you explain in your  review of Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James, just how excruciatingly uncomfortable it was to be reading that book as a young male on a crowded New York subway.  But the review was also interesting because it was the male perspective of a book about female fantasy.  How difficult was it to write that review and how shocked were you to find it quoted in People Magazine? 

FRANK: Well it wasn’t as difficult to review that book as it was to read it. It was hard coming up with a way to review the book that would be more interesting than “this book is really tedious, don’t read it.” So pretty much the only unique angle I could take was to write it from a male perspective. I was pretty shocked to see my name in People Magazine. I think it was because I said 50 Shades was pornography. 

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/03/its-all-porn-to-me-one-mans-review-of-50-shades-of-grey


JAN: His review was kinder than his answer would indicate, but let's say I'm still not going out to buy the book.  Back to the interview, what did you learn about your experience going undercover at a literary speed dating event?

FRANK: I learned that literary speed dating is goofy in a fun way. Everyone there was in it for the story, which was kind of nice. I think people liked it because it would have been easy for me to make fun of all of those speed-daters, but instead I kind of connected with them. They were just people seeking out a good time, like most of us.Waiting-for-a-stranger-to-roll-her-eyes-my-adventures-in-literary-speed-dating

JAN: As a Dartmouth alumni,  you took issue with Janet Rietman's expose in Rolling Stone, but not in support of fraternity life. I was really proud because you stuck up for all the students at Dartmouth trying to make it a better place, but tell us about how you approached your rebuttal piece and the reaction it's had.

FRANK: I just think Rietman relied on a false characterization of Dartmouth students in order to drum up populist outrage.  Hazing and fraternities are unneccesarry, but they aren’t the result of some kind of elitist conspiracy.  It happens at plenty of non-elite schools, so her whole 1 percent  vs 99 percent  angle was contrived. I don’t put a lot of stock in the positive reaction my post received  because it was mostly Dartmouth people who liked it, and they’re obviously going to be biased. But it was nice to have people say it meant a lot to them though.
http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/04/confessions-of-an-actual-dartmouth-student-rolling-stone-vomits-all-over-ivy-leagu

JAN: One of the best things about the Pageviews blog are the creative story ideas. Short pieces about what we happen to be wondering about at the exact moment we are wondering. Where do the assignments come from?



FRANK:  My editor is the one who comes up with most of the assignments. He has a great feel for what kind of things will get picked up by bigger websites and re-broadcast across the Internet. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can, see where the assignments take me. It's been a lot of fun so far.

JAN: What has been your favorite blog assignment so far?


FRANK: Probably the post I wrote about an art and music program for the kids at the Homeless Shelter, where I volunteer one night a week. I had the most invested in that story because I knew all the kids I was writing about and the organization I was profiling means a lot to me,That's not the kind of post that goes viral, but it gave me a lot of satisfaction.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/03/art-start-showcases-talent-of-at-risk-youths


JAN: Frank/Spike has a day job and no access to the computer until after 4 pm, but he'll check in then to answer any questions you might have.


In the meantime, if you want to find out which Springfield they really meant when they wrote the Simpsons, check out: 

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/04/springfield

And come back tomorrow, when I have Jodi R. R. Smith, author of The Etiquette Book, give us tips on how to network at mystery or any other convention.




37 comments:

Lucy Burdette said...

Wonderful interview Jan--thanks for introducing us to Spike! And Frank, it's gracious and brave of you to appear on Jungle Red.

This is fascinating--I love hearing about the ideas and how they are tweaked to become cutting edge stories. Do you also make suggestions to your editor? or brainstorm with things he proposes?

Looking forward to reading some of your articles...

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jan, I had no idea that Frank Santo was your son! I've read both his literary speed dating and 50 Shades of Gray pieces and thought them both well-done. His was just a name that popped up on the internet with these two articles, and I made a mental note to keep an eye out for more of his stuff. It's clear that the writing gene runs strong in your family.

Frank, I haven't had a chance to read your piece about the kids at the homeless shelter, but will get to that right away. Does it bother you that posts like the literary speed dating or 50 Shades of Gray will always get more attention than something with more real substance, such as this one? Is that just the nature of the game in the media today, or is there some way to bring more attention to such work?

And congratulations on such a stellar beginning! You obviously have a bright future ahead of you!

Jungle Red Writers said...

Thanks Lucy and Linda.


Linda,,Frank actually works with disadvantaged adults every day until four o'clock, so he'll check in when he gets back but I'm sure he will LOVE to answer your question.

~jan

Ramona said...

I also read Frank's piece about being embarrassed while reading 50SoG and thought it was an amusing approach to the review. Great writing.

Linda's comment about lighter pieces getting more attention than ones of substance brings up an interesting dilemma--to me, anyway, as part of a media family. People complain constantly about the barrage of bad news, but they also complain constantly about the barrage of fluff. Any thoughts on how to balance this?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yay, Spike! SO great to see you here..and congratulations. Fun that Linda was a fan--and had no idea of the connection!

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? How has your mom's success affected you?

Susan Elizabeth said...

That sounds like a horrifying subway ride for Frank! Bet you're grateful for the Kindle, huh?

My favorite part of Frank's review is, "It manages, miraculously, to be at once pornographic and deeply unappealing to men..."

I haven't read the book yet, but that sentence neatly sums up what I've been hearing about it.

Jan Brogan said...

Ramona,

You are so righ about the media dilemma. Good news is written off as fluff. I try to remind myself when I read another horrible story about someone getting murdered or doing or saying something outrageous - that the reason it's NEWS is because it's unusual OUTSIDE THE NORM.

I also find it in medical writing. Editors want cutting edge, but they are also suspicious (rightly so) of anything cutting edge.

Jan Brogan said...

Susan Elizabeth,

I love your comment about the Kindle -- which makes us all grateful sometimes (except mine malfunctions a lot, I've noticed) But it makes me think of a great quote by Celtic star Ray Allen, who apparently is a big reader, he said he always feels like reading the Kindle version is "cheating on the book!)

Linda Rodriguez said...

LOL, Jan! I think your remark sums up a lot of different areas of the world right now--"Editors want cutting edge, but they are also suspicious (rightly so) of anything cutting edge."

Dru said...

hi Jan,

I didn't know that Frank was your son. I just happened to see this section on the Daily News website and have been enjoying it.

Congrats for a nice addition to the Daily News website...now the paper is worth reading again.

Jungle Red Writers said...

Oh Dru --

That is like music to (this mother's) ears!

Yes, Linda, so true.


~jan

Rhys Bowen said...

Jan, congratulations on raising such a literary and articulate son.
Frank/Spike--how brave of you to come on your mother's blog! Where did the nickname Spike come from?

I loved this interview and will check out your stories in future.

Nancy Martin said...

Having written some pretty racy romances back in the 80s--books that I'm now revamping for the e-book market (hey, why let those rights go to waste?) I'm struck by Frank's observation that 50 Shades is tedious reading. Because boyhowdy, I am finding my own books incredibly dull reading--espcially the sex, which is detailed and graphic. In the 80s, we were still functioning under the belief that the female fantasy of women being *forced* was the way to write erotica because the forced element took away the guilt that came with the less-than-admirable behavior. (He made me enjoy myself! It wasn't my fault!) So that fantasy feels dated to me as I cut and revise. (Mostly cutting! Now that I've been writing mysteries for 10 years, the sex feels way, way TMI!) But one of my daughters points out that her generation kinda likes the same forced enjoyment fantasy because she'd liked the bedroom to be the one place where maybe she doesn't have to be the one who takes responsibility for everything. (She's feeling the pressures of career, motherhood, wifely duties, huh?) So..... 50 Shades is still pushing the same, uh, buttons in women, but for different reasons?

That's disheartening to me. Or maybe--like Frank--I'm just finding it deeply unappealing. Hm.

Deb Romano said...

Mom/Jan:

You have every right to be proud of Spike/Frank! (BTW: bothmy father and my brother were blessed/cursed with odd nicknames so I know what it is to have trouble referring to a relative by his actual name!)

I will now spend the rest of my lunch break reading your son's blog.

Jungle Red Writers said...

Thanks Rhys--

Nancy, Hallie's sister, Nora Ephron wrote an essay once that I read, I think in The NEw Yorker or maybe Esquire, where she wrote to the effect that- if men knew our sexual fantasies it would kill the feminist movement - I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it. And that she would never, ever, ever admit to her fantasies.

I keep thinking of that with the runaway success of 50 Shades.

It's kind of scary - and I agree COMPLETELY injurious to advances in say....the prosecution of rape charges - to think about using this fantasy as a means of selling fiction.

I like your daughter's explanation though. And for the record, I read somewhere where male CEOs are the biggest fans of bondage - being the bondee- because they like to let go of the responsibility.

~jan

Jungle Red Writers said...

Many thanks Deb!!! Yes, it's just impossible for me, or anyone in our family, or even his grade and high school friends to go with the whole "Frank" thing.

And Rhys, the nickname came up because he was named for my brother who passed away. My brother's name was Frank but we called him Poncho, never, ever Frank (until he became a lawyer)

When Spike was born, my parents wanted me to call him Poncho. But Poncho Santo?? (And then explain that he is mostly Irish and Polish? with not even a smidgeon of Spanish or Italian or Portuguese?)

Anyway, his hair stood up in a mohawk at birth, so I went with Spike.



~jan

Susan Elizabeth said...

Ha! Love the comment about cheating on the book with the Kindle. Kind of like how I broke up with my VCR when I met the DVD player. We tried to remain friends afterwards, but I just had no place for a VCR in my life (though I do miss it from time to time).

Jungle Red Writers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

Jan, this is wonderful, and Frank/Spike (what do your friends call you? Can we be so familiar with you?) I love Page Views! I'd read your Fifty Shades of Gray piece, having no idea you were Jan's son, and thought it astute and funny (as if I needed any more convincing that I didn't want to read this book.) Just read Literary Speed Dating--fabulous--and am looking forward to keeping up with the blog on a daily basis.

Thanks so much for coming to Jungle Red!

Darlene Ryan said...

Like so many others I read and enjoyed Frank's 50 Shades of Gray piece. I had no idea, when I was picturing this embarrassed young man with his Kindle, that it was your son.

My question for Frank/Spike is what's your Mom's nickname?

Rhys Bowen said...

Spike/Frank what do you like to read?

Hallie Ephron said...

As someone who excels at proud motherness, I'm skootching over to make room for you, Jan. Going off right now to read your pieces, Spike. Welcome to Jungle Red@

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Just reading the sports, here, just a GUY reading the sports! Spike, you are hilarious...and so talented!

Jungle Red Writers said...

That is actually my favorite line in that piece, too, Hank!

~jan

fsanto said...

@Linda Rodriguez

What a great question. It is definitely a little bothersome that all I have to do to ensure a post gets a lot of hits is put "porn" or "sex" in the title. That being said, I can understand how a homeless shelter isn't that interesting to some person just trying to find a link to be entertained by on the internet. Especially when there are so many pictures of cute cats to be had. I think the best thing to do is find a balance - write interestingly and with depth about topics that will attract a large readership, and try to slip in substance where I can.

fsanto said...

@ Romona

In a similar vein, it is tricky to balance fluff with bad news. Most of the things that will grab peoples attention are either bad news or sentimental schlock, for whatever reason. Luckily I write for a literary site, there aren't many terrible tragedies to report on. With regards to fluff, I usually just try to have as much fun as I can writing the piece and hope it comes through to the reader. That way, even if the story is inherently not that interesting, at least the reader got to laugh

fsanto said...

@ Hank Phillipe Ryan

I didn't always want to be a writer specifically, I'm just not very good at anything else. My goal is to be a fiction writer, and I wrote a very mediocre novel in college to that end. Hopefully PageViews gives me some good exposure, if anything it makes me feel more connected to the world of writers.

fsanto said...

@ Nancy Martin

That's a very interesting observation. As both a woman and published sex writer you are eminently more qualified to write a review of 50 shades than I was. For this interview though, I can't comment about anything sexual because I know for a fact my mother will be reading all of these posts

fsanto said...

@ Rhys Bowen

I read mostly stupid articles about the Red Sox and Patriots, but when I'm reading fiction I tend to read the types of books I wish I could write. My favorite books are probably Catch-22, Lolita, and A Confederacy of Dunces. For whatever reason I don't have a current author I'm especially thrilled about (other than my Mom). But I'll keep looking.

Nancy Gardner said...

Thanks for introducing us to Frank, Jan. You are justifiably proud!!!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Did you read the Boston Globe piece today by Brian McGrory? He wrote about being UNABLE to give away tickets to Red Sox opening day? Sigh.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Frank, your mom is justifiably proud of you. You're a very witty writer. Thanks for visiting today. And *sigh* about the "sex" or "porn" in the title stuff--but then humans have always been that way, even back in classical Rome.

As to the mediocre novel, most of us have one or (usually) more of them hidden away or even, as in my own case, destroyed. They're the novelist's training wheels. I'm looking forward to reading your first (and subsequent) published novel(s).

Mar (aka mar annabelle jacob) said...

Congratulations Frank and best wishes on your career

And to you also Jan, You have to be so proud of your son !!

Jungle Red Writers said...

Thanks Mar!

~jan

Jungle Red Writers said...

And Hank, I READ the McGrory piece, AND watched the game (loss)
last night....sigh

~jan

Donna Baier Stein said...

Jan, you must feel such pride!!! And Spike/Frank, what a wonderful blog post... I'll look forward to reading more of your writing**

Dana Rey said...

I just read the review and it was fantastic! I thought maybe that the effects of 50 shades to women directly translates to the effect of porn to men. Funny how revolting it is for both when they are given the opposite.