After a decade of researching and writing the book, it’s done. With tremendous help this past year from many people, particularly my wife, Noemi, and friend, Julie, I finished writing (what I am now calling and hoping to stick with) Seltzertopia: The Effervescent Age.
I haven’t written much on the blog in recent years – my time has been split between the book itself and the Facebook group. But if I hope to return here one day, then I figured I had to mark this remarkable moment.
I have written this book three times. The first was just to figure out the chronological history of seltzer (boring). The second was an attempt to shape this history into a narrative (forced). The third attempt – inspired by the Pittsburgh Seltzer Work – took me to the end (I love it!).
And now that writing is over (I don’t pretend I am done – I am sure edits are down the road) it’s time to start sending it out to agents and publishers.
We’re in a new phase. And after being in and out of writing for so long, now I am facing something new. And it’s exciting.
And that begins renaming this blog. It is now Seltzertopia: The Effervescent Age. Give Me Seltzer has served me well, but it’s time to move on as the book has found its voice.
Last week for the first time I put the book together, end to end, to learn it is 250 pages. I like that. Feels just right – not to long and not to short. And now I have a draft of a manuscript I can shop around, currently title: Spritz – the Effervescent Story of Seltzer. More to follow…
So this month I finished the book proposal and we have begun to shop it around. Last week I was excited to get my first book rejection. Why was I excited? Because after more than 5 years of thinking about and writing the book, a reject somehow makes it feel all more real. And I know there will be many rejections before the book finds it home, so this first rejection means we are on out way!
So why was it rejected? The editor felt like the book has a limited audience with readers mainly in NY, FL, CA and Pittsburgh. You can imagine what I think about that…
William B. Keller, the focus of one chapter in my book, single handedly organized the fledgling bottling industry, which included seltzer bottlers, over 130 years ago. That’s him in the upper left. To MY right is his great-great-granddaughter, who just HAPPENED to be meeting her early-morning biking group right outside my hotel I was attending in Berkeley for business this morning. She was invaluable a year ago when I was writing about her family and it was so exciting to get to meet living history in person.
What do Jedis and seltzer delivery men have in common? Find out in my latest piece, and VIDEO, for the Forward:
Seltzer delivery is a dying art. Once, hundreds of “seltzer men,” as they liked to be called, drove the city and walked the streets of New York, carting cases of pressured siphons through rain and snow. Now, less than a dozen remain and, like Jedis with their arcane knowledge and mystical allusions to better days since passed, they move amongst us, largely invisible to the untrained eye.
Eli Miller is 78 years old, easily the oldest of the remaining seltzer men. In research for my upcoming book on seltzer, “Give Me Seltzer”, I contacted Eli for an interview. To my delight, he invited me to follow him along his route, if I could keep up. What follows is a brief collection of images and sounds from that day.
I just posted, for one week only, an except from the draft of my forthcoming book on seltzer. Please check it out before its gone, leave your constructive feedback, join the “fan” page, and tell your friends!
And here is the video of my life reading, which will also come down in a week as well:
Sarah Elton’s lovely post today makes me want to see Seltzer Works, the documentary she mentions about one of Brooklyn’s last seltzer men, Kenny Gomberg—and wish we had a seltzer delivery service in Jamaica Plain. I can’t find one, but I do find Give Me Seltzer, a blog I’ll start reading, by one Barry Joseph, who’s at work on a history of seltzer he intends to make definitive. He’s got seemingly everything about current brands, and also equipment and its history.
The writer goes on to recount his conversion by his stepdaughter from tap to seltzer water when he received a Sodastream machine.
Notch another one up on the side of seltzer!
This morning I almost skipped my subway stop on the way to work, three days in a row, engrossed as I was writing away, but today I managed to notice it in time and get off at my station. Phew!
I mentioned in a recent post that my recent ability to refocus on this project was seeing seltzer everywhere. Specifically, I’ve seen it in three unexpected places that suggest that, damn, if only I’d had the book done by now I’d be moving them like latkes during a Chanukah bash!
First, there was a recent article in the journal Science, of which I am NOT a reader, documenting a study analyzing the “taste of carbonated water.” Absolutely fascinating. I only learned of it through hearing it on my NPR Podcast.
The best image from the study, as it is so bizarre: what a rat’s tongue looks like tasting seltzer! Specifically, sour-sensing cells and the enzyme lighting up a mouse tongue:
You can almost see the ads now – “This is rat’s tongue. This is a rat’s tongue on seltzer.”
The second November appearance, which surprised me the most, was in Entertainment Weekly magazine, my source for all things movie, television and music. It lets me know what I need to consume to be cool. Well, according to their latest What’s In and What’s our report, I can now add seltzer to the list!
Believe me when I tell you, I can’t imagine a more unexpected place to see seltzer come up and I sure wish I could find out why now, of all times, they choose to give their nod to the fizzy fun.
Finally, and this one is only a little more gross than a rat’s tongue:
“Are you pouring on the pounds?” this NYC Subway ad asks, in both English here, and, elsewhere in Spanish. “Don’t drink yourself fat.” Instead, drink water, seltzer or low-fat milk.
It’s hardly a surprise to see the health benefits of seltzer touted – that’s one of it’s most common cultural narratives. But it was still a surprise to see drinking it encouraged in a public health campaign, picture underneath a photo realistic image of… what IS that, anyway? I’m sticking with seltzer.