A&E

Books: Life after the dot-com bust

Taking a turn from covering the arts, Weekly A&E editor writes a novel about a down-on-her-luck cops reporter

Everything changes suddenly for a newspaper reporter on the Peninsula who lives to chase down police stories. She loses her cherished job in the dot-com bust of 2001 and learns her live-in boyfriend is cheating on her.

Finding herself with no job and no home, she's open to a radical idea. A friend's cousin has an apartment available in Hungary. With no knowledge of the language or culture, and, as she says, knowing no one in Europe, she takes the plunge. She moves to Budapest.

How will this turn out? You can find out in "Smiling at Strangers," a novel by Rebecca Wallace, a former Almanac reporter and the current arts and entertainment editor at the Palo Alto Weekly.

While Wallace, who grew up in Menlo Park, has been prowling Peninsula newsrooms since the 1990s and did live in Budapest for two years, the fictional account otherwise bears no resemblance to her life.

That hasn't stopped Wallace from playing the role of the protagonist, Catherine Giotto, on a Twitter account, @reporter1999, and tweeting from Catherine's world 12 years ago.

You can follow Catherine on Twitter as her life changes and a new world opens up in Hungary. Many of Catherine's tweets contain photos that Wallace took while living in Hungary from 2001 to 2003.

Followers have played along, reliving earlier days of journalism, from the 1990s boom to the early-2000s bust.

A couple of the admiring tweets:

• "#FollowWednesday: @reporter1999. A crime reporter in Silicon Valley tweeting as if it were the year 1999. Contextual history at its best!" @winguero (New York Times online editor).

• "There may be no more brilliant commentary on the state of newspapers today than @reporter1999." @jbonne (wine editor, San Francisco Chronicle).

"Smiling at Strangers" is out in paperback (234 pages) and e-book (Amazon and Nook); details at ballyhoopress.com. The paperback is also on sale at the Mountain View General Store, 705a W. Dana St.

Wallace, a longtime journalist and sometime actor, is author of another e-book, "The Assassin's Brother: The tragedies of Edwin Booth," a fascinating story of 19th-century America's most respected actor, and the brother of John Wilkes Booth.

Comments

Posted by esquared, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2013 at 11:47 am

Oh, hai. So that Trekkie cheated on you, eh?. What's that all about? May he suffer long and not prosper. Advice for Catherine, buy Apple and twitter (what's that, Catherine asks?) stocks. She gonna be rich. then again, if she rich, you won't write the book about her. I know, it's a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

P.S.
chose midtown as a neighborhood since I don't live in your 'hood and that's the one that has similar 'hood here in NYC.


Posted by Rebecca Wallace, arts & entertainment editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Dec 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Rebecca Wallace is a registered user.

Nice. Most people have told Catherine to buy Google. Maybe she should buy all three (with Hungarian forints), and then the sequel will have her chasing crime stories with the aid of a solid-gold jetpack.

And good choice. Midtown Palo Alto is exactly like NYC.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

But is the book any good? I don't care about the tweets or any of that, I want to know if it's a decent read.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Budapest, nice place to visit but wouldn't want to live there.


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