October 15, 2014

Spark Life interview and various other recent KD/KDA links


So YA etc. author Kathryn Williams interviewed me about King Dork Approximately for Sparknotes as part of their "Teen Read Week" and the result can be read here. I reveal my most-hated childhood nickname, which of my characters I most "relate" to, how uncomfortable it was to write about Tom Henderson making out etc. in the Slut Heaven Rec Center girl's restroom with the broken lock (answer: not very), and what my favorite toothpaste is.

Also they have posted a "sneak peek" excerpt.

Other recent links I've maybe noted elsewhere but not here:

-- YA authority and aficionado Professor Steven Bickmore includes King Dork on his list of ten adult novels that have stayed with you. Thanks, Steve!

-- Emily Maas and Popcrush list ten YA books they wish were required reading and include King Dork on it. I've always been a fan of the idea of making the consumption of my product mandatory, so this feels like a step in the right direction. Well done, Emily.

-- Tiffany of Beneath the Jacket reviews the cover of King Dork Approximately and pronounces it "pretty cute". Design success!

-- Our own Nathan Pensky pushes back against complaints about the creeping "likability" standard in American letters. Fair enough, but in my defense, I'm really more of a curmudgeon and pedant than a snob.

-- Mahnaz Dar's review of King Dork Approximately in The School Library Journal (scroll down) is very kind. Excerpt:

...Portman has crafted a perceptive protagonist, whose brilliantly wry observations will keep readers laughing and whose voice is infused with an all-too-believable mix of innocence and cynicism...
Well, shucks that's kind of exactly what I was going for so that's nice to hear. Also kind of a relief...

-- another very nice review by Miriam from the Bookpeople Teen Press Corps:

...My favorite character is Roberta (the female robot) because she’s really quirky and random. Her personality helps tie the book together...
No writing I've ever done has been as much fun as coming up with the Robot's various notes...

More to come, at least, let's hope so.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:23 PM

Katrina & Toby


I have managed to time each of my books to coincide with the birth of each of Katrina's three children, more or less. (cf. here, and here.)

(And yes, that's the "stunt book" but a photo-op is a photo-op.)

note: bad link now fixed.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:50 PM

October 14, 2014

Comings, Goings, Doings, Recordings


So, Porchlight was fun. I played "King Dork Approximately" and "Cinthya with a Y" and everyone seemed to have a pretty good time during it, from what I could tell. (It's hard under the bright lights. You can't see the faces of those you are torturing with your "art," like a police interrogation in reverse.) Before I played "King Dork Approximately" I made the observation (also noted in the book) that many, many songs can be played to the tempo and basic arrangement of "Cat Scratch Fever", the "slow" ones and the "fast" ones alike. And as with my previous Porchlight appearance (in which a stray reference to Quiet Riot's version of "Cum on Feel the Noize" led the sound guy to play that song as the outro music) "Cat Scratch Fever" played as everybody filtered out. It was a nice moment, and maybe the nicest moment involving "Cat Scratch Fever" that has ever occurred.

I'm headed off to Austin this weekend for the Teen Book Fest, where I'll be doing the same sort of song and dance plus participating in a panel on music in books (with Gayle Forman, Len Vlahos, and Kevin Emerson, moderated by Posh Deluxe of the Forever Young Adult website.) My understanding is that it is free and open to the public so if you happen to be in Austin and coming to this sounds like something you'd like to do, well then go right on ahead and do it:

Saturday, October 18th:
Texas Teen Book Festival, St. Edward's University, Austin, TX, where I'll be on a panel called Come On Feel the Noise about music in books, along with Gayle Forman, Len Vlahos, and Kevin Emerson.

Also, there are a few shows lined up for the book release week. The line-up for each is still being worked on, but I'm trying to make them all as memorable as possible. (The Andromeda Klein release party at Cato's featuring the exotic magic of Stallion will be hard to top, but I think we can do it, if only we believe in miracles.) I will post more details as I get them.

Sunday, December 7th

1-2-3-4 Go! Records, 420 40th St., #5, Oakland, CA, 94609. 7 PM.

Line-up TBA. Books will be available there in advance of the pub date (December 9th) so if you buy one there you will have two whole days to feel special.

Tuesday, December 9th

Housing Works, 126 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012.

Hosted by Beth Lisick, featuring Chris Gethard, Emily Gould, Jami Attenberg, and many more TBA.

Friday, December 12th

Book release launch event party thing presented by The Secret Garden Bookshop, location and time TBA but it'll either be at the store (2214 NW Market Street, Seattle WA 98107) or at a space nearby, in the evening. Line-up TBA.

The Secret Garden was one of the most important early supporters of King Dork, and contacted me out of the blue before the book's release to try to arrange something at the store. This led to a fairly ramshackle funky punk rock style book tour of the NW built around it, put together by me and (mostly) my old pal Rebekah. It had its ups and downs along with many shining moments, but the Secret Garden event itself, held in a cupcake restaurant with a bare stage, no PA, and a strum, stomp, and shout set by me is one of my favorite gig memories ever. Those gals are great, and the store deserves a whole lot of credit and support, and I'm sure this thing is gonna be fantastico. So mark you collanders, Seattle-ans.

Saturday, December 13th

Barnes & Noble Downtown, 600 Pine St., Suite 107, Seattle WA 98101. 3 PM. This will be a bookstore appearance/signing, and I'll be playing songs too most likely.

And then, later that night...

The Kraken Bar and Lounge, 5257 University Way NE, Seattle WA, 9PM.

Line up TBA. This is a show show, if you know what I mean. I'll be playing a set, possibly electric w/band, or partially so. More on this as it develops.

Monday, December 15

Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco. Details TBA.

There will be more to come, so watch this space.

Also, as participants in the Social Media flow have no doubt noticed, we recorded some songs over the weekend and I would say they are coming out great. More of that action to come, though at this point it's not 100% clear what it's in aid of or what's going to be done with them. Again, stay tuned.

Finally, pre-order King Dork Approximately!

And... that's about all I got right now.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:21 PM

October 10, 2014



Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:01 PM

October 09, 2014

Got Added, Oct 13

Was chatting with my old pal Beth Lisick about this and that she asked if I felt like doing a "sneak peek song" at the Porchlight Litquake show this Monday, and I was all, "yeah I can't see why not."

So I'm gonna be there amid the obliterati, playing a King Dork Approximately song most likely. These shows are always a great time, so come on by.

Monday 10/13, Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, doors at 7, show at 8.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:02 PM


Dusting off the old beast:


(btw, I am, they say, a notable user.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:18 PM

October 08, 2014


Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:37 PM

September 22, 2014

Something poppy and old-school

This is a "show" update, the same list posted below, but I added the details for the Portland Barnes & Noble thing on October 2nd.

It's funny that after all the frantic guitar upgrading I did in the past year's quest to free myself from the dreaded old confirmation-present Yahama, I find I'm still going to be playing it on this trek because the new fancy guitars don't have cases that are anything like air-worthy yet, and this trip is going to give United Airlines around ten chances to break whatever I do bring, which seems like tempting fate too much and I really want to come out of this guitar odyssey with at least one non-broken guitar left. Still working on that problem. But I cleaned up the old beast as best I could, and it is, if nothing else, what it is. Have a few drinks before the show and I'm sure you'll hardly even notice.

Also, here's a link with info on all the people on the Austin panel about music in books. Gayle Forman is kind of the superstar of the group because of the big huge If I Stay, which is incidentally the only novel I know of that references my band, to wit:

"So listen up family. At my funeral no one is allowed to wear black. And for music, I want something poppy and old-school, like Mr. T Experience." He looked up at Willow. "Got that?"

"Mr. T Experience. I'll make sure of it."

There's an endnote explaining that the song she had in mind was "Love American Style" because it was on a mixtape she got from someone once. And the above dialog is partially addressed to the unborn baby in Willow's belly. Pretty funny. So, my place in history is now more or less assured. Remember that when you write your next book about rock and roll.

So, herewith, the "events". See you in Seattle or New York or wherever:

Wednesday, September 24th, 6:00 PM

University Book Store, 990 102nd Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

Saturday, September 27th/28th

Anderson's YA Conference, Hotel Arista, 2139 City Gate Lane, Naperville, IL 60563

Monday, September 29th 7:00 PM

McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012, in-store "conversation" with my editor, Krista Marino

Thursday, October 2nd 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble, 12000 SE 82nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97266


Saturday, October 18th:

Texas Teen Book Festival, St. Edward's University, Austin, TX, where I'll be on a panel called Come On Feel the Noise about music in books, along with Gayle Forman, Len Vlahos, and Kevin Emerson.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:19 PM

September 10, 2014

Unless You Go in Expecting It To Solve All of Your and the World's Problems, American Beauty is a Pretty Good Way to Waste Two Hours

The linked reassessment of the film American Beauty is pretty silly, but the metafilter commentary on it was interesting enough to spur me to spend some of last night's insomnia watching that movie for the second time. First time around, I found it trite, heavy-handed, and pretentious, mostly, and disliked it, mostly; this time, I realized there's a great deal more ambiguity and complexity than I'd given it credit for. It's definitely worth another look, even if it was probably overpraised in its time.

(It's certainly not a "bad movie" simply because the character is a narcissist, or because he thinks bad thoughts and does bad things, or is insufficiently concerned about the welfare of his family or the plight of fast food workers, or because of anything to do with the members of the Supreme Court or 9/11. What is with people expecting fictional characters to be unambiguous superheroes or unobjectionable moral paragons? That they're not is what makes stuff interesting.) Anyway, I found the film to be at least as good a way to waste two hours as I Know Who Killed Me.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:21 PM

September 03, 2014

Stuff I'm Gonna Be Doing

A few things coming up.

Wednesday, September 24th, 6:00 PM

University Book Store, 990 102nd Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

Saturday, September 27th/28th

Anderson's YA Conference, Hotel Arista, 2139 City Gate Lane, Naperville, IL 60563

Monday, September 29th 7:00 PM

McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012, in-store "conversation" with my editor, Krista Marino

(Probably going to be doing something in Portland in early Oct. as well, yet to be confirmed as far as I am currently aware.)


Saturday, October 18th:

Texas Teen Book Festival, St. Edward's University, Austin, TX, where I'll be on a panel called Come On Feel the Noise about music in books, along with Gayle Forman, Len Vlahos, and Kevin Emerson.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:37 PM

I'm Blushing

Seth Christenfeld of guyslitwire revisits King Dork and has lots of nice things to say.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:33 PM

Oh Carole

Lexington Green of Chicagoboyz turns up this gorgeous demo of "Pleasant Valley Sunday"...

...and links to my old "Monkees Derangement Syndrome" essay.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:59 PM



Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:56 PM

September 02, 2014


The Booklist review of King Dork Approximately can be viewed by subscribers only, but you can read it here, and here:

How do you survive high school without succumbing to institutionalized “Normalism”? That is one question asked by self-professed loser Tom Henderson in this long-awaited sequel to cult-favorite King Dork (2006). There are other questions as well: How do you get female attention and increase chances of “ramoning” (having sex)? And what would make a good band name? In the wake of last semester’s scandal, Tom is finishing his sophomore year at a new school that is disturbingly friendly and spirited (“Go Badgers!”) yet still holds girlfriend potential. Unfortunately, life at home isn’t as rosy. Though lacking the mystery of King Dork, this novel’s subtle plot is carried by a voice sharp with humor, sarcasm, and intelligence. Small but important revelations result in Tom’s growth and ability to better navigate the “normal” world. Because the novel is packed with music, book, and movie references, readers’ cultural literacy will get a definite boost. Utterly enjoyable, this book’s culture-meets-romantic-confusion focus makes it a teen take on Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (1995), and it should hit home with social misfits and “subnormals.””
Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:53 PM

August 29, 2014

When People Say Nice Things about My Books, and I Am Alerted to It, I Will Link

Posh Deluxe of Forever Young Adult previews stuff, including King Dork Approximately:

(Pre-order here.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:03 PM

August 22, 2014

I Hear Ya Brother

It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can’t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing, or if someone decides to misrepresent what you said as saying the wrong thing. There are so many ways to step on a landmine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.
-- Freddie deBoer, subbing for Andrew Sullivan.
Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:06 AM

August 19, 2014

It's Good

So there's a new (ish) Judas Priest album and it's pretty darn good. At least one probable enduring classic ("Halls of Vahalla") and many other strong contenders, a good mix of heavy and melodic with a good dose of the contemplative lilt of the battle-scarred viking princeling in a forest clearing pining for the fjords. I've heard complaints about "muddy production" and I know what they mean, but I'm not sure I don't prefer the grit (or whatever it is) and anyway it's plenty clear enough. (And though it's possible I'm just kidding myself about this, the vinyl really does seem to sound a lot better than the included mp3s.) The "deluxe" version (five extra tracks packaged as a double vinyl) feels more like a full album to me for what that's worth. Five razor sharp throwing stars from me.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:45 PM

August 16, 2014



Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:46 PM

August 08, 2014


"A murderer is rather like a peer: he pays more because of his title. One tries to travel incognito, but it usually comes out."

-- Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:34 PM

July 30, 2014

Black Mountain Rag

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:23 PM