Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Greg Olear and Jeff Pearlman Discuss Their New Books
Friday, 11 November 2011 14:22

When the undergraduate writing faculty at Manhattanville College gets together, it's an aspiring writers dream come true with so many talented writers in one place. On November 2, 2011, the faculty came together for a reading and social in the Current Periodicals Room of the Library.

In front of a full audience, professors and working writers Jeff Pearlman, Greg Olear, Jonathan Tropper, Paul Levitz, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Anthony Rudel, Kris Jansma and Liz Eslami shared selections of their work. Olear and Pearlman each had a new book out in October.

"I was surprised that there were so many (authors) introducing their books to students," Eduardo Salgado, a Manhattanville sophomore, said. "Some of the authors' books seemed really interesting."

It wasn't just a great experience for the students in attendance, but also for the professors.

"It's great. It's a nice treat," Olear said. "It's nice to be here; there's great teachers and professors and the department is great. I'm certainly pleased to be a part of it."

Olear's new book, Fathermucker, is a day-in-the-life of a stay at home dad. Not the typical fodder for undergraduates, but in a reading last spring, Olear noted that the book nonetheless went over well with his students. It could have to do with Olear's down-to-earth character, Josh, or the pop culture references easily meshed within the context of the novel. On the first page, Olear keenly references Mister Spock, Patrick Swazye, and the children's television show, Go, Diego, Go.

"My wife encouraged me to write about our life, what we were doing," Olear said. "I've always wanted to write about parenthood and fatherhood and how it's changed and stuff like that. That was the seed of it."

Surely, Olear, the father of two young children and a work-at-home dad for a spell, knows about parenthood, but what about the references to current celebrity news?

"There is a big overlap between what he knows and what I know," Olear said. "We really did have a subscription to US Weekly. It was one of those magazines that came every Friday. You know you are very bored when you are home with kids, you get pleasure out of these things that any normal person would roll their eyes at and rightly so. US Weekly being one of them."

While Olear took material from his own life to create his characters and their lives, Jeff Pearlman was working on a biography of sports icon, Walter Payton. With little knowledge of Walter Payton's life, Pearlman spent two years conducting 678 interviews with those closest to the football player.

"I knew very little about him," Pearlman said. "No one knew how he got his nickname, "Sweetness", his depression when he was done playing, all this stuff I knew nothing about it, it made it really sort of fascinating to me."

For Pearlman, the release of his book Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton was an emotional ride. Just days before the book came out, Pearlman was hit with several big names associated with the late Chicago Bear dismissing the book after a particularly poignant excerpt appeared in Sports Illustrated.

"I was not (expecting that response) but that was my own stupidity or blindness, I don't know how I didn't see it coming, but I didn't," he said. "I took it very hard. This has been like a tale of two emotional experiences. The first two weeks were horrible. I lost eight pounds from stress. I could not eat for two weeks. I put almost three years into this project and to see it dismissed like that was really hard."

However, once the book was officially released, critics and the public saw the bigger picture and the biography quickly climbed the New York Times Best Seller List.

"People started actually reading the book," Pearlman said. "The people that were criticizing me hadn't actually read the book, then people started reading the book and I still haven't gotten a bad review. It's been selling great."