Susan Orlean Discovers That It’s A Small World After All
Susan Orlean, the esteemed New Yorker staff writer, never expected that a publisher would approach her about turning her 1996 “Shouts & Murmurs” piece called “Shiftless Little Loafers” into a sweet children’s book retitled Lazy Little Loafers. “I was surprised,” she says “I thought it was a cranky rant.” The humorous essay—written before Orlean became a mother herself—was about how babies don’t do anything. (“After all, there are millions of babies around, and most of them appear to be extremely underemployed,” she’d written.) “The book’s editor suggested that the children’s book be told from the perspective of an older sibling, which made a lot of sense,” says Orlean. The editor also suggested several illustrators, and the one Orlean liked best was G. Brian Karas. The match was made without writer and artist ever having to meet or speak to each other.
The writer and illustrator finally met face to face this week (photo), as Lazy Little Loafers hit bookstores, at Orlean’s house in Pine Plains, after she discovered that Karas lives less than half an hour away from her. “When I learned from a friend that he lived in Rhinebeck, I said, Are you kidding?” says Orlean, sitting in the stunning living room with its spectacular view of Stissing Mountain. Another weird coincidence was that the red-headed baby Karas drew for the book looks an awful lot like Orlean’s red-headed son, Austin, now three and a half. “Brian got the spirit of the book exactly right,” she says.
Publishers Weekly agrees: “One of the wittiest new-baby-in-the-family books of recent years,” opined the trade magazine. “Karas (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!) matches the wry text with deadpan cartoons of jaded babies ferried in limousines or beaming as they lounge in strollers, and his handsome palette of browns and golds (with a little photo-collage thrown in for punctuation) captures Manhattan in all its autumnal glory.”
Now that the neighbors know each other, they will be appearing together on Sunday, September 7, at 4 PM, to sign their book at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck.