Announcement: My new project.

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Some time ago I announced that I was beginning on a new project. It is now time to tell you about it, and to ask for your help.

It will not be a huge surprise for you to learn that I intend to convert the blog posts known as “The Congo Memoirs” into a book. I have contracted with an agent, and I am currently writing a proposal for the book.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve also been working on the problem of the book’s overall structure, and considering what else it will contain besides the 28 existing Congo Memoirs. Oh, and I should mention right away: This is not a memoir. The very first thing my agent said to me when we met was “… please don’t use the ‘M’ word again. Thank you…”

So far, this is what I’ve got:

1) There are a bunch of individual stories that I held back when writing the Congo Mem….oomph .. ah … Stories. The Congo Stories. I’m adding them in.

2) That set of stories was actually the second time I’d been to the Semliki. By also describing the first, much shorter, visit I can talk more about the regional cultures, geography, ecology, etc.

3) I am including a healthy dose of the science that was going on, which I largely glossed in the blog posts.

Many of you have very kindly said that I should do this. Others have presumably thought this without saying it. Still more have, I assume, been hoping I won’t. But to those of you who are behind me on this, I thank you for your encouragement, and now I ask for your help.

This is a work of non-fiction (plus or minus) so ultimately I will not be the only one deciding what goes in it. My agent has already made excellent suggestions and the publisher, if we get a publisher, will have input as well. But in this case, you as future readers of this book can have meaningful input early on in the process. Tell me what you like, don’t like, what there should be more of, less of. Throw me your two cents and I promise you they won’t go to waste.

And, since this is not going to be called “The Congo Mem….oomph .. ah … Stories” I need a title. I need a title that will be used for the book proposal I’m writing now. If it is a good title, it may stick. Or it might go away.

Which one of you has my title?????

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55 thoughts on “Announcement: My new project.

  1. I was just thinking “Drums along the Congo,” but I see someone else already wrote that book.

  2. How about; The Congo – Stories, Definitely Not Memoirs….

    When my brain isn’t all mushy from the overstuffing of this last week of several fucking tests, I may have a better suggestion…

    Call of the Congo…..

  3. Congo Memoirs seems a perfectly cromulent title, but if your agent disagrees …

    I don’t know whether you would consider tipping your hat to Hallet appropriate (e.g. “Zaire Kitabu”) so passing on to alternatives, possibly “Semliki Days” (I fear that there’s some allusion there that I don’t recognise).

  4. I’m thinking the title, and cover, should play up the bad old “memoirs of a great white hunter in a benighted savage land” schtick. Title: DOWN THE [insert suitable name-of-river here] WITH GUN AND CAMERA. The typography of the cover (logo, blurbs, etc) should be reminiscent of those Days Gone By… and the cover image should have the *superficial appearance* of something in the neighborhood of “white man enlightens the savages”, while at the same time, anybody who looks at the details will see that it *really* depicts a bunch of normal (and black-skinned) folk tryna save a white doofus from some idiotic mess that *he (the white doofus) himself* is fully responsible for.

  5. I’m glad to see there’ll be a book. Count on me for at least a couple copies and touting you as a “local author” to a few Capital District independent booksellers and the Albany Public Library.

    Please do keep the overall “storytelling” tone, but I’m pleased to see that there’ll be more culture, geography and science content too.

    Title possibilities — hmmm. , Prester John and Heart of Darkness are already taken. How about Surviving Research in the Congo?

    BTW, if you want an experienced, free set of additional eyes for proofreading, just ask.

  6. Including a map (a little better than the ones that already appear) would be very useful in keeping track of all the places that are mentioned.

  7. CPP: Do you know what “bongo” means? It actually depends on what language because the same work appears in KiNguana as well as Lingala. Totally different meanings, both potentially appropriate. It’s meaning in KiLese is not appropriate.

  8. What about, “I Personally Elected Al Franken to the Senate While Writing This Book!”

    The title alone will assure a place in the NYT Best Sellers.

    I wud be honord to prufreed the draf 4 u.

  9. “Heart of Twilight, The Prequil”
    “Jungle Tails”
    “Out of Congo”
    “Monkeys in the Mist”

    This is a natural for me: I live near Canoga Park, California which of course everybody pronounces: “Congo Park.”

  10. *squee*
    Exciting! I’m so happy that you’re really doing this. I definitely agree with chezjake that your story telling tone is always wonderfully thrilling to read, please keep it.
    For a title, hmm.

    “Never forget the Empties.” ? Or your title for one of the actual posts “The Lion that ate the Earthwatcher.” was a good one.

  11. Do you know what “bongo” means?

    I haven’t the faintest idea what it actually means in those languages. All I know is that it is used in English to refer to a cool-ass fucking drum.

  12. Return To Our Roots – A White Man’s Journey Through The Congo

    Fox News Sucks – Why They Are Neither Fair Nor Balanced and My Journey Through The Congo

    Lost Cities Discovered – My Journey Through The Congo

    Congo Caravan – My Journey Through The Congo

    Naked Prey – My Return To The Congo

    Buy My Book! Lessons From The Congo

    Conga Lines and Congo Tries – A Scientist Discovers The Real Africa

    Obama Goes To Ghana – I Go To The Congo

    …so what do I win again?

  13. King Kongo: Beyond the Beer Line.

    Whether or not the book takes off, the game rights should be worth something…

  14. “The Hippos Will Kick Your Ass, Michele Bachmann”

    “Greg Laden and the Fire Ants”

    “Greg Laden Writes The Congo”

    “The Evolution of Greg Laden in the Congo”

    “The Definitive Congo Book For Young People”

    “I Forgot the Sunscreen: My Journeys to the Congo”

  15. Hmm … structure …

    I know … yes, it is a crazy idea. Structure the stories like those kids adventure books where the reader gets to choose what the hero does. Typical decision point is something like, ‘you come to a river. There is a boat with an outboard motor. You:
    1) cross river and ignore boat Turn to page 55.
    2) get into boat and go upstream. Turn to page 85.
    3 get into boat and go downstream. Turn to page 37

    It would be interesting to read and write.

    You can include multiple time lines, what you did last time, what you did the time before, and what you might have done into a combined liminal state like Schrodinger’s cat with more choices. You can have multiple endings. With each being equally true from slightly different perspectives.

    It would be an interesting foil to explore the nuances of the African experience where different people, having different expectations and views can share experiences but produce widely divergent story lines. It also provides a mechanism that blurs the event enough that people written about, possibly even the author, cannot be prosecuted or blamed for events.

    The final product will, despite the non-linear structure, more closely resemble reality in that multiple readers will be able to see and experience the human reality in such places where hero and villain, observer and participant, past and present, all exist at once.

    Reading your “Congo Memoirs” posts I got the feeling that the nuanced, multifaceted, looping and interlocking story line would support such a radial structure. I would buy it.

  16. Greg, I have no snappy titles but you did ask for general feedback. I think including more about the actual customs of the people in the various areas you were living in (esp. the Efe) would be great — I was really interested in that so would have loved more coverage.

    Although I’ll probably still buy it even if was just a printout of your blog posts…

  17. MOAR Mishunariez!

    I also vote for “Beyond the Beer Line” and expect lots of pictures.

    And, more about the people you worked with and studied if they are retribution-proof by now

  18. Beyond the Beer Line: Anthopology in the Congo

    “Beyond the Beer Line : An Anthopologist in the Congo” would work better, although I would replace “An Anthropologist” with something less likely to scare people away.

    (now we could say we don’t want the kind of person who would be scared by long sciency words in the first place, but that book would be really awesome and I think it should get into everybody’s hands)

    “Lines of the Congo” maybe ? A bit boring. “Beyond the Beer Line” is really good, it’s just begging for a subtitle or something.

    “The Lion, the Hippo and the Anthropologist : Beyond the Beer Line in the Congo.”

  19. I second Caravelle — “The Lion, the Hippo and the Anthropologist : Beyond the Beer Line in the Congo” is an excellent and compelling title. Much better than witches and wardrobes!

  20. Quick note: I originally used “Congo” in “Congo Memoirs” because I was concerned that people were not thinking about “Zaire” and I originally intended to make a connection between the modern issues in DR Congo and my experiences in the old country. But the word Zaire is certainly up for grabs.

  21. The reason the “M” word is not to be uttered is because the market is flooded with “M’s” (as it often is, I suspect) yet publishers are more wary of them because of things like (but not limited to) a million little pieces guy who personally chose to change the rules of memoir writing in a way that pissed everybody off and ruined it for everyone.

  22. But the word Zaire is certainly up for grabs.

    “Anthropologist to Zaire” with an alphabetical theme? Obviously chapter 2 would be “Beer.”

  23. “Congo” Wait, Crighton took that, didn’t he. How about “Congo: Bigger, Longer, Uncut”? Shoot, been done already. Let’s try “There and Back Again: An Anthropologists Holiday”. See, this is why I’m not a writer. I seem to have a distinct lack of originality.

  24. “Not Quite in the Missionary’s Position: The Anthropologist Beyond the Beer Line”?

    Or: “Research Beyond the …”

    Like? Probably depends on whether you’d want to get into the mission activity there.

  25. Joe: That title is a lock in for a chapter or a magazine article for sure.

    There actually is a problem with the beer line tag that I’ll explain at another time.

  26. “African Nights.” People will pick it up to see if there’s anything about sex in it. “Congo nights”?

    Titles can’t be copyrighted, so you can use a title that’s been used before; works with the same title are distinguished by author.

    Never mind: “Congo–beyond the beer line” sounds better.

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