On today's menu:
1. Last October, fellow debut novelist Anna Keesey (Little Century) and I were squished up against a mutual wall in the Texas Monthly editorial offices during a party kicking off the Texas Book Festival. The room was lousy with writers and loud with writerly conversation. Somehow, Anna and I found each other in the midst of all that literary chaos. Even though we'd never met, we instantly bonded. I think we could both smell the fear sweating out of our pores and recognized the uncertainty in each other's eyes. We'd both worked long and hard on our books and now, suddenly, they (and we) were cast out into the world like we were loin-clothed innocents hacking our way through a panther-filled jungle with a penknife as our only protection. In a wonderful, brutally-honest essay at Bloom, Anna has one of the best descriptions of the writing process that I've ever seen:
You must imagine me crouching, an unbent paper clip in my hand, trying to pull a lumpy woolen scarf through a keyhole. This is what writing a novel was like for me. It could be done, but it was painstaking work. A few millimeters would come, but then a bunching, or a knot in the wool, compelled retreat—that precious progress had to be poked back through and drawn forward again. The bit on this side of the keyhole, though perhaps gay in color, looked ragged from the journey. On the other side—who knew? Perhaps some dexterous artificer was behind the door knitting away, and if I remained patient and picked and pulled and picked and pulled with the little tool at my disposal, then as much as I pulled she would knit. But it was also possible that I was working in vain, that there was nothing much there, and what emerged from the keyhole would be weathered, ugly, and too short to wear.Read the rest of her essay here.
2. At Salon, Adam Mansbach has a confession of his own about book tours:
A lot can go wrong on a book tour. For instance – stop me if I’m getting too technical here – nobody shows up to the reading. When this happens, you’re forced to spend about 20 minutes with an apologetic, pitying bookstore employee, attempting to strike the right blend of self-deprecation, cavalier disregard, and passive-aggression toward the bookstore for failing to promote the event in any way except by placing posters in the bathroom of the store itself. This bathroom is not for customer use.Mansbach's tongue may be lodged in his cheek, but he speaks the Truth. I should know--I've had more than my fair share of complimentary bookstore lattes (though I never had anything but grateful glances to the patrons who cocked an ear to hear me read from Fobbit).
Ultimately, the bookstore employee will treat you to a coffee drink of your choosing (quadruple espresso) in the bookstore’s cafe, which generates 83 percent of the bookstore’s annual revenue. You will cast spiteful glances at all the people sitting in there chilling and sipping lattes and not attending your reading a mere 75 feet away.
3. Board games for book nerds. Moby-Dick: The Game of the White Whale, anyone?
4. Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie speaks! Here he is in a short newsreel at the unveiling of a statue of Thomas Hardy:
Photo by Diane Prokop
Do you ever get the overwhelming urge to yell at an author during a reading? Sometimes I want so badly to break the church-like atmosphere of quiet that hangs like a bell jar over the audience, I can barely contain myself. Apparently there are others who feel the same. After Franzen mentioned yet again his dislike for Amazon, a woman with less impulse control than myself broke the evening’s respectful silence when she yelled loudly into the hallowed Schnitzer Concert Hall that she had bought her copy of Freedom on Amazon. Take that, Franzen! He was unflapped though, and sweetly suggested readers could shop at Barnes & Noble – he does. That got the ball rolling, and someone else shouted “indie’s,” and then, “Powell’s!” And then everyone slipped back under the bell jar.