Sunday, April 29, 2001 ::: I read an interesting article about margaret cho in the blade. She, of course, has a web site, which has some excerpts from her book. And she is coming to washington! on may 11! I am so there.
Wednesday, April 25, 2001 ::: On Monday, I went to go see Dave Eggers, Author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I was going to go home and write a diary entry but my computer was grumpy and I was tired and hungry but I wanted to get it all down before I forgot too much. Blogger has been grumpy recently, so my preamble appears today instead of yesterday, but I guess that sets things off rather nicely and stuff. so the description of events begins below.
Tuesday, April 24, 2001 ::: The reading was at a church on connecticut avenue north of dupont circle and kind of near my gym. So I left work and got off on the north side of the station and walked up connecticut avenue and discovered that it was this episcopal church that had completely escaped my notice previously even though I am always walking there since it’s the way to the gym from my apartment. There was a small crowd gathered early and I was initially a little nervous that there wouldn’t be any tickets but there was a woman there at the door with a fistful of nice green tickets and I took one and walked into the church.
The first thing I noticed was that it smelled like a church, a smell that I had completely forgotten about until recently. This church also had a wood roof, which I think is uncommon in catholic churches, with which I am very familiar and being constantly bored during mass as a child, I became intimitely familiar with the decor.
It was already somewhat crowded when I got there and it continued to fill up as I waited. I hadn’t brought anything to read and so was rather bored and eavesdropped on the conversations around me and generally attempted to get a feel for who made up the audience, which seemed to by slightly geeky students and lest I fail to include myself, slightly geeky recent college graduates. The people sitting in front of me, however, didn’t seem to fit the pattern and were also rather religious about saving a large number of seats. The woman sitting next to me mentioned that she actually attended the church on a regular basis as she moved the books covering the pew to the floor to make room.
So after sitting around for a while, during which time I read all the articles in the paper that I had skipped in the morning, including a toadying puff-piece on christie todd whitman, and also writing out my shopping list, things finally got started.
First, someone from the bookstore talked a bit to introduce dave eggers and do some general promotion and the like, and then yielded the floor to him. And so I finally got to see him in person. Eggers is handsome, with tanned, bronze skin and curly brown hair and has a definite stage presence. The feel is very much like the same feel that comes out of the book, that he is a smart entertaining guy who is generally fun to be around and is also very very good at telling stories.
He charmed the audience with his initial impression and behaved almost like a standup comedian it seemed (but a good one). He chatted up the audience and bantered and this is where my chronological sense of the evening begins to get a little fuzzy, but after talking with a woman in the audience about her sweater, he invited her up on stage for a reading of a section of the book about a PTA meeting. I generally thought book readings were clumsy attempts to speak things that sounded much much better when written, but this particular reading really brought the passage in the book to life. The informal tone of the book is a tone well suited to the spoken word. The woman who read the dialogue of an inquisitive parent was excellent.
Also, there Eggers read from McSweeney’s the facetious letters to heads of major corporations from someone writing from the point of view of a dog. In the magazine, they look stupid. But when read aloud, they are really really funny in a michael mooreish way, but without the cringing feeling of embarrassment of crashing the GM stockholders meeting.
Oh, and I almost forgot. the people in front of me for whose benefit all that seat-saving was being done included none other than dave eggers’s brother who is as I remember from the book a motivational speaker and a republican. He looks like dave eggers, if he had become and motivational speaker and a republican.
So then, arthur bradford (once again, exact chronology hazy) came up and read a story with guitar accompaniment which was hailed as being a new thing, but no one brought up alice’s restaurant but that would have been spoiling the moment I guess. The story was the sort of thing that I believe was better read out loud than quietly with a book. which is good, because that is how it happened, along with the smashing of the author’s guitar towards the end, at which point he produced a new guitar, this whole course of events eliciting shock and amusement from the audience, who were probably also slightly disgusted by hearing a story which prominently featured a slug. Springfield, Virginia, by the way, is heavily populated with slugs, or at least it was when I was little. but I digress.
So then Amy Fusselman read a bit from a book of hers which is coming out which is about her father and his death and his days on a liberty ship in WWII and about trying to get pregnant though she didn’t read those parts. maybe because she was pregnant at the reading and that would have been kind of weird. I don’t know. The passage in question was kind of ok I guess, but not perhaps a little too serious in tone for what was otherwise a rather light-hearted evening. dave eggers and amy fusselman both have very good hairdos.
So then there was a reading from the paperback version of heartbreaking....genius which is briefly alluded to in the hardback and involved a whale. Very very interesting but then I’m a sucker for charismatic megafauna.
So then there was a question and answer session which was really kind of a disappointment as most of the questions were not very interesting and also mostly about toph and there was naturally not going to be any sort of informative response on the “where is toph now?” question. I hadn’t really gone to ask questions. What sort of questions would I ask? people always ask about what authors or books influence writers, but they never ask what magazines they read. But I thought of that after I had left. So I didn’t ask any questions. In general, the question and answer session left a bad taste in my mouth but I don’t really feel like going into detail about it. Afterwards there was a book signing, which I didn’t stay for but as eggers was signing with glitter and magic markers I am sure that it was very fun. I was very hungry and the church pews were hard and uncomfortable and so I made my way out of the church and onto the street.