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Author Podcast: Alan Eisenstock

abstract:

BookBuffet interviews Alan Eisenstock, the author of Ten on Sunday: The Secret Life of Men, a memoir that promises to let you listen in to what guys talk about when "hanging" over a regular Sunday game of basketball, offering deeper insight into the very nature of men's intimacy and relationships.

article:

July 04, 2003
— Alan Eisenstock is the author of three books, Ten on Sunday: The Secret Life of Men (Atria, 2003), Sports Talk: A Journey Inside the World of Sports Talk Radio (Atria, 2001) and Inside the Meat Grinder (St. Martin’s Press,1999). He contributes regularly to Referee Magazine and has been published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Smoke, Emmy, Written By, Runner’s World, and Detroit.  Previously, in another life, he wrote and produced dozens of sitcoms.

Interview

BookBuffet spoke with Alan Eisenstock about his latest book, Ten on Sunday: The Secret Life of Men.

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BB: I’d like to talk a bit about you, a bit about the book and your writing process, and a bit about life through the issues you bring up in your book. I was intrigued by the premise of your book. I think it has many aspects that readers would find interesting: the male bonding perspective, especially “the secret lives of men”; the personal life changes you speak of; and a insider’s look at Los Angeles and “the industry”—Hollywood.

How has the book been received, and do you think it accomplishes what you set out to do?

AE: From my point of view, the book has accomplished what I set out to do, for all the reasons you mention. The book has been very well received by both women and men. In fact, the feedback has been overwhelming, very rewarding and a little surprising. I hadn’t expected quite the response I’ve gotten from women. I set out to write a novel-like non-fiction book about a male bonding experience I had with these men every Sunday morning in my backyard. I think the book explains the uniqueness of male intimacy—it’s different than female-to-female intimacy. What Ten on Sunday does is let you eavesdrop on the conversations men have with each other, and get a glimpse into something that women don’t normally get to see.

BB: As a veteran television and film writer who made the jump to writing novels and freelance journalism, tell us how this has affected your approach to the craft of writing?

AE: That’s an excellent question. I’ve been waiting for someone to ask this question. There is almost no comparison. Writing for television is a group effort. I also had my writing partner, as well as a team of people who gave input every minute of every day. Writing for episodic television, which I did most of the time, was very structured, very intense, very deadline oriented. Since I was a producer as well, I often had to multi-task and audition actors, check out sets, approve wardrobe, hair, deal with the network, the studio, all of this, it seemed, at the same time. We often worked through lunch. We’d bring in food; you did everything in a mob.You had something to do from the moment you arrived in the office until you left for home, which was often late. I finally had them put in my contract that I got to leave work at 6 P.M.

In considering the career switch, I did worry about the reliance on that structure, that intensity, and daily deadlines. I wondered if I’d be able to generate it for myself. It so happens that it worked out for me. I write on my own time, in my own home, and on my own—I dictate how that happens.  It has allowed me to do things with my family, my kids at different times of the day that I wouldn’t have had the freedom to do previously. Like take the kids to school instead of only seeing them at bed time. I love being able to car pool.

BB: One review of your book read, “A moving, lyrical look at the true nature of intimacy among men”. Publishers Weekly called it, “surprisingly unsentimental” and Booklist, a “breezy memoir”. What do you have to say about either your writing style or the nature of the male intimacies you portray in Ten on Sunday?

AE: There is a part in the book that answers this when I comment that women can be intimate with each other without considering themselves close and men can have profound “closeness” without becoming intimate. The writing and dialogue reflects how this group of men interacted and how the relationships developed into significant friendships without having to actually “talk” too much about issues—as a group. One on one, men open up a little more. But you wouldn’t find a guy talking in detail about an issue. Men act. For example, I didn’t have to say or ask anyone for money when things were tight. They just knew and acted.

BB: In the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book you state that the book derived from an essay written for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and that “everything in this book actually happened exactly the way I wrote it. Some events have been expanded or exaggerated and some time frames have been switched around…some characters are composites…embellished”…

Writing a memoir is a little tricky in that the character development is based on real people and real life situations from your perspective. What went through your head when you were writing about loved ones and personal friends?

AE: Well, I wanted to be accurate about this. It is a memoir. But then I started to realize that I needed a dark character—you know the old story, there’s always a jerk in the room and if you look around the room and don’t see one, it’s YOU. [laughs] I decided I had to create one, and that meant that I had to make changes to some of the other characters to create the necessary tension. Duff doesn’t exist. Phil insisted that I keep his name. He said “This is my only chance to get in a book, so you better keep my name in. In fact, if you change my name, I’ll sue you.”

I wrote the essay for the LA Times Magazine back in September 1999, a little after that last Sunday game when I sold the house. When I saw those guys walking down my driveway for the last time, I was overwhelmed by emotion—the finality of it, what the game had come to represent to all of us, it just hit me. After the essay came out, my agent said, “I think there’s a book here”. I began the book shortly after that.

BB: I checked out your website. This is a fact of life now for authors, isn’t it? You seem pretty web-savvy; what other obligations and responsibilities do you see authors taking in the arena of self-promotion?

AE: Yes, I’m very happy with the website, that was a good investment. It’s got biographical info, articles I’ve written, reviews, links, etc. It’s pretty much an author’s business card, portfolio, and press kit. The industry is pretty tough and I think new authors pretty much have to be their own publicist—unless you’re Michael Crichton or one of the big names.

BB: When I “google” your name I come up with a website devoted to television comedy episodes...

AE: Yeah, that’s probably me.

BB: You’ve written three non-fiction books with sports themes, and your next non-fiction book, The Holy Thief, is about a Rabbi who was previously a convict. How are you writing this: in the first person through the voice of the Rabbi? Are you going to have license to develop it in a more fictional way?

AE: This is an as-told-to biography told in first person, in the Rabbi’s voice. The Holy Thief is a true-life gangster story, a case study of redemption, and a book of feelings and ideas, written in a unique voice, the voice of a man who has taken the journey from Hell to Holiness. The book will be uplifting, funny, spiritual, and emotional.  And it will be a hell of a story. He is the most amazing guy, the story had to be told. I think it will be widely received.

BB: How did you find out about BookBuffet?

AE: Katie at Village Books [in Pacific Palisades] spoke very highly of you; she’s a big fan. We had a fabulous signing at her store the other night. It was just fantastic. About 50 people came out, including all of the guys in the game. I had them all read aloud from the book. It was like reading a script for the audience. They really stunk. It was hilarious.

BB: Given your male bonding experience with basketball, what are your thoughts on male oriented book groups?

AE: There’s this very cool woman, Kathy Patrick from Jefferson, Texas, who has a website called beautyandthebook.com. She organizes book groups across the country in chapters, which she calls Pulpwood Queens. She now has about 15 chapters with a total of about 400 members. She goes on road trips, loads book club members onto buses and they travel from independent bookstore to bookstore going to author interviews and book-signings. She wants to start a chapter of men, called Timber Guys, but so far she can’t find enough men to get a chapter together. She’s already selected Ten on Sunday as her September Pulpwood Queens’ selection and she wants to use it to begin the Timber Guys. I’d love to see men book groups get started. I just don’t know many of them that exist. I know of one but it’s a very iffy thing. I think they read one book a year.

BB: Thank you, Alan, it has been a pleasure. I wish you every success with Ten on Sunday and your future works. Thanks for taking the time to speak with BookBuffet.

AE: The pleasure was mine.

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