26 thoughts on “Hannibal & Me: The excerpt in Salon.com

  1. Congratulations. Not only is it great exposure for the book, but I think the words — even if they’re not what you expected — are quite effective. I think it’s quite interesting how much the process of analyzing another person’s life story helped you gradually construct parts of your own life narrative.

  2. So the surprise is what effect my own words have on me when taken, so to speak, out of context.

    Well it is, after all, Salon… Imagine what “People” might have published.

    But a young adult β€” having to choose a career, sexual partners, political affiliations, and so much more β€” needs to believe that he knows who he is. So he begins making up a story line, with himself as the hero. And that’s what I was doing, too.

    Aren’t we programmed to do this from almost birth? Aren’t all little girls “princesses?” and all little boys “dragonslayers”, or “knights in shining armor”, before they become “cowboys” or “cops” at playtime?

    The excerpts intrigued me, and whetteed my appetite for more. And isn’t taht what it was supposed to do?

    Thinking about Andreas the “analyst” and what he has become and where he might be going, I recalled that I think of history as the “stories of kings”, of important people that impacted the world and the future that came after them. How many stories have you read of the bank clerk who retired as the branch manager? Wasn’t that also “success?”

    • Eureka: you’ve grasped the spirit of this whole enterprise — which is to treat “the branch manager” and “the king” as equals when it comes to life lessons.

      After this Chapter whence the excerpt, it becomes very clear that the story is about YOU (not “Me”, so Hannibal and Me is Hannibal and The Reader), drawing lessons from how “kings” reacted to situations you will find, or have found, yourself in.

  3. The passage leads me to expect that “Hannibal and Me” is kind of Bildungsroman (I got as far as “B” in the German dictionary. Slacker.) and maybe it is.

    Did you expect your audience (here with the help of your editor) to focus on your life? Probably not. But it makes sense. That’s the story. Your Hannibal is our Economist correspondent.

    • I “personalized” the first chapter after coming under extreme pressure to do so. I do reappear in the book a tiny bit, but really it becomes ABOUT my main characters and (if I did my job right) about YOU.

      So, for instance, YOU are supposed to see yourself suffering with Fabius and floating on the Antarctic ice sheet with Ernest Shackleton (seemingly different situations), thereby realizing that sometimes disaster is something you “flow with”, do NOT resist, etc etc

      You’re supposed to be crushed and devastated with Scipio and Eleanor Roosevelt when he lost his uncle and father and she her husband (after reading Lucy Mercer’s letters), in order ultimately to feel the liberation they did when they began the lives that we now know them for. And so on.

  4. Reading your posts, I’ve always wondered why your vocabulary seems so much more varied and colorful when it comes to words that start with letters from the first half of the alphabet. Now I know.

  5. Congratulations on being excerpted in Salon. For having one’s book publicised, it doesn’t get much better than that.

    I found your own story – of your escape from the Bank to join……..well…….not quite the Circus, but the next best thing, to be of great interest. You wished – in the words of Joseph Campbell – to Follow Your Bliss, and you did.

    You escaped the fate of most of us who didn’t Follow Our Bliss, and who all day work at jobs we hate. At the end of each dreary day we’re another day older and deeper in debt, and end up owing our souls to the company store.

    By the way, did your dictionary – the one you memorised all those words from – have “eleemosynary” in it?

    • Please! “Eleemosynary” is so basic a word that no dictionary would need to define it.

      OK, seriously: Somehow I must have missed that one, even though it was an E. But let’s catch up now: I looked it up and it means either dependent on charity or charitable.

      But the interesting thing (as usual) is the root: Latin eleemosynarius, which explains the German Alemosen, and thus the English alms. Orgin: Greek eleemosune, compassion. The sune/syn at the end must be the “together” (as in: SYMpathy), or the COM in compassion.

      In any event, please be eleemosynary with me in the coming weeks because I am eleemosynary in the other sense.

  6. Congrats on the review, Andreas! Very freaky to see one’s words in another context I imagine.

    On the subject of our dearly beloved Shackleton, did you see the Guardian article in the last few days that they recently buried Frank Wild’s ashes next to Sir Ernest’s on South Georgia Island? I think they did it to coincide with the 100th anniversary last week of Amundsen’s reaching of the pole.

    • Thanks, Solid Gold. I didn’t see it in the Guardian, but I did see it in the NY Times or somewhere like that. Amazing story, no matter how many times it’s told.

      You, btw, might like the chapters that have Shackleton in them, because my approach has been to take the obvious thing about obscure people or (in this case) the not-so-obvious thing about famous people.

      I’ll just give one hint: Ice > float > wu wei > Taoism

  7. congratulations on being featured!

    i haven’t read the excerpt… will return. very glad to learn you didn’t choose the subtitle πŸ™‚ hard to imagine you a “seething, angry man”.

    the comment section, where i landed after clicking “the front page” seems to have polarized the commenters.

    • tehe,

      actually, it’s my humble opinion that the editor that wrote the title and subtitle, and “omitted” bits from the excerpt did you a disservice. or perhaps the commenters were predisposed to dislike bankers? the word “Job” seems to be in focus for them.

      one comment got it straight away…”who do we become, when faced with those two great impostors”.

      best wishes for the new year!

    • Both “job” and “bank” are pretty big words these days. No wonder that’s where the focus goes.

      A bunch of commenters figured out where the book is headed, though.

      I like the choice of the personal excerpt for Salon. It’s immediate and current. Most of us aren’t ready for Hannibal first thing in the morning. Even Eleanor seems a little chilly before the first cup of coffee. None of the focus on “you” (the reader) is lost when the reader begins by suffering together with you (the author) at the bank, before graduating to the Shackleton on ice.

    • That’s why I accept that I can’t be the one doing 1) the jacket cover 2) the marketing copy 3) the excerpt selection etc etc.

      I’m too close to it.

      You probably nailed it, Jenny.

  8. I have to ask. Let’s hear about that dickensian boarding school. I’m imagining the Four Yorkshiremen.

    Was it gravel for breakfast or cold gravel for breakfast?

    • A New England prep school, pretending (aesthetically) to be English. The Dickensian cruelty arose more from what the inhabitants did to one another than from the meals, horrendous as those were.

      More to be said, obviously. But not here.

  9. Great reading. I’m very excited for the book to flesh out these themes. A couple minor things that amused me:

    I always thought it was Salman Rushdie who originally wrote that line about “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” I checked an old speech of his to see what made me think that. When he spoke out at the the 200th anniversary of the 1st amendment during the fatwa, he described the philosophical game where you choose different famous (or non-famous) people to throw out of a hot-air balloon that can only safely hold one. Students, for example, argue based on the people’s merits and faults, but are judging them as abstractions not living people. Rushdie goes on to relate his own situation with the public debate over him and says, “I have now spent over a thousand days in just such a balloon; but, alas, this isn’t a game. […] Trapped inside a metaphor, I’ve often felt the need to redescribe it, to change the terms.”

    Somehow I misremembered that as Churchill’s famous line.

    Also, it’s the first time I’ve seen Hannibal’s brother’s name, Hasdrubal. It then occurred to me that there is a baseball player named Asdrubal Cabrera (which may be the only insistence I know of that name). Unexpectedly, to me, a Carthaginian name made its way to Spain or Venezuela, anyway.

    Obviously, you didn’t intend to surprise me with these little easter eggs, but that’s part of the beauty of writing – unintended teaching. Thanks.

    • It’s not a coincidence that you get a lot of Carthaginian/Punic names and place names in Spain and the former Spanish colonies: Hamilcar, Hannibal’s father, conquered Iberia for Carthage and Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother-in-law, founded Cartagena, “New Carthage”. And lo, today you have Cartagena, Colombia.

      Hannibal, btw, meant ‘favored by Baal’ (Han’Baal) and Hasdrubal meant ‘helped by Baal’.

      Their clan name was Barca (meaning lightning. Compare: Hebrew Barak, Arabic Buraq). Let’s see…. a little camp of the Barcas, what should we call, let’s call it….

      Barcelona.

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