On August 12, I’ll be appearing in New York at the Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble, 66th & Broadway, at 7:30 p.m. Also, if you’re one of those lucky New Yorkers who escape to the Hamptons, that weekend I’ll be doing two events out there: a reading/Q & A at East Hampton’s BookHampton Friday, August 13, at 5 p.m., and Authors’ Night at the East Hampton Library on Saturday, August 14, beginning at 5:30. It’s dubbed “the premier literary event of the Hamptons” with numerous authors present to sign books and meet with readers, but its less glitzy, more practical function is to benefit the East Hampton Library, a place dear to my heart for a lot reasons, most immediately that over the past couple of years, I spent many hours of my Augusts working on Mr. Peanut in its stacks (while my wife and kids played on the beach and felt little, if any, pity for me at all). If, by chance, you find yourself in Scotland in late August, I’ll be doing a moderated discussion and reading with Leanne Shapton at the Edinburgh Book Festival on August 29, at 8:30. On September 23 at 6 p.m., I’ll be at the Grey Parrot Gallery in Atlanta, GA, and finally at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, the Central West End store, on October 20. I’ll post the time of that event when I have it.
Speaking of time, it’s something of which I had precious little while touring. I was in New York on July 12–14, doing a ton of media in the run-up to my reading that Tuesday at McNally Jackson bookstore on Prince St. My agent, Mark Kessler, had flown in from Paris, where he lives, to accompany me over the next several days and also just to hang out, since our relationship is almost entirely conducted on the phone. On Monday, we made our way out to Brooklyn, to sign stock at Bookcourt and Greenlight, two terrific stores, though admittedly I was sad at the latter not to get a chance to meet Daryl, who’d reviewed the book for the Huffington Post’s Indie Booksellers’ Top 15 Beach Reads (Mr. Peanut was subsequently voted #1), so that I could thank her in person.
The highlight of Tuesday was sitting down with Edward Champion at Le Pain Quotidien on 57th St., host of The Bat Segundo Show, a brilliant, supremely erudite guy who has interviewed every author out there it seems (his library of conversations is remarkable) and whose podcast regularly airs on his website. The interview isn’t up yet, but it was the most philosophical talk I’ve had about the novel’s structure, not to mention the most in-depth with regard to its intertextual use of Hitchcock’s films, particularly in the Sheppard section. Be on the lookout for that, and, if you haven’t listened to Champion’s show before, check him out. Anyone interested in books needs his site on their list of favorites.
Wednesday was easily the wildest day of all, complicated by weather (it was pouring on and off), traffic, and the frenetic schedule. Early that morning, Mark and I made our way deep into the Mothership to do an interview on Fox’s The Strategy Room, worth the trip just to feel the sheer hum of information beaming from that building and to eye the shockingly tall, staggeringly gorgeous women anchors, all of whom have clearly been drinking a different brand of vitamin water than I have. I’m no shorty, but every time we stopped at an elevator bank, I felt like I was back at a seventh grade dance, eye-to-sternum with a dreamboat. Next, we took the train downtown to do The Leonard Lopate show, a substantive interview that lasted over fifteen minutes but felt fast-paced—Lopate, the consummate professional, has a remarkably light touch in conversation, and has an amazing ability to keep the conversation broad and deep at the same time. Being there was one of those writers’ bucket-list appearances I’m thrilled to have checked off (though I hope to appear on Mr. Lopate’s show again). Afterward, we headed down to Warren St. to sign books at Mysterious Bookshop, then I did a phone interview with Alec Harvey from The Birmingham News sitting on a stoop on 96th and Lexington—we had to head all the way back uptown for reasons too embarrassing to discuss—then jumped back on a subway to Prince St. for drinks with my wife and friends before the reading at McNally Jackson. I’m happy to report that the New York subway system is in fine working order; it took us a mere 18 minutes to get uptown on the express from City Hall. We had time on our hands afterward and took the local downtown to enjoy the air-conditioning. As for me, I dozed.
The reading at McNally was attended by nearly a hundred people and it was overwhelming to look out over the audience and see friends from elementary school, high school, college, and Nashville; to have family present as well as many of the great people I’ve worked with at Knopf. To see Larry David wandering the store, who is, like the anchor-trons at Fox, very, very tall. There was a party at the apartment of my editor, Gary Fisketjon, afterward, and which carried on late enough to make catching the early flight to Boston pretty rough.
But Mark and I made it, it was a gorgeous day up there, the humidity had abated, it was brilliantly clear, the Charles River was crazy with sailboats, and I arrived in time for an appearance on The Literati Scene with Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon, a couple who, like Stephen Usery and Edward Champion, are doing great things for the book world in their own local way. There was lunch after a six-minute videotaped interview with Mr. Concannon and the conversation about e-books over the meal was lively, but I had to split for another interview with Robert Birnbaum, whose work appears regularly on identitytheory.com. (As with The Bat Segundo Show, I’ll post the interview when it’s up.) Birnbaum is a barrel-chested guy, has a full head of white hair plus a full beard. All the dude needs is a captain’s cap and you’d think he was Conrad’s Marlowe. His interview focused a great deal on my work with Gary Fisketjon, as well as the editing process of Mr. Peanut. Afterward, I signed a beautiful book he’s been putting together for his son, Cuba, full of inscriptions and pictures of the writers he’s interviewed over the years, as well as a baseball. (Note to self: steal version of this idea for your own children.) Next, we piled into a car and signed books at four different stores around Boston (Newtonville Books, New England Mobile Book Fair, Brookline Booksmith, and Porter Square Books). The Big Dig has been a success, by the way. Traffic wasn’t too bad.
I read at Harvard Bookstore that night–the event was taped for WGBH–and not only was Bookdwarf’s Megan Sullivan in attendance (her early spring post about the novel was responsible, I think, for a lot of its initial buzz), but so was my childhood babysitter, Alex Macarron, who brought her lovely family in tow. The reading went great, the Q & A was a riot (there was some banter about the Clinton’s marriage vs. The Gores), and Mark and I ate at Grendel’s Den afterward—a place my wife and I ate at many times during the summer we lived in Boston.
Concluding this leg was a visit to Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, a pleasure on numerous levels, though I’ll admit I find that town about as confusing to navigate as an Escher design. I did morning television, ABC 33/40’s Talk of Alabama, and later that evening got to hang with local book maven and Booksmith owner, Jake Riess, whose store has a tremendous following, a huge First Editions club, and a remarkable gallery of writers who’ve appeared there over the years. Our friends, Caroline and Stephen Gidiere, were co-hosting the event. They supplied wine, beer, party bags of peanuts, not to mention a ton of cool friends. Even better, I got invited to read at a local book club (which is a perfect excuse to come back to Birmingham) and to the Southern Voices Conference in February (another excuse). I read the scene where Marilyn and Richard Eberling have brownies at her home with Chip—a scene I’ll be reading regularly in the coming weeks—followed by dinner at Botega, another Frank Stitt work of genius. How come Birmingham has so many unbelievable restaurants? Why is it that it takes two days to recover from a hangover when you get older? And is my deadline for Ladies and Gentlemen, my book of short stories, really coming up? I was just starting to get the hang of this “being an author” thing. Now I have to sit down and be a writer again.
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In a final bit of Mr. Peanut news, I’ll be appearing at the Perth Writers Festival in March 2011. Meanwhile, I’ve included this picture from Mississippi of a truck that does highway signage repair and looks, to me, like some kind of bug on wheels. Another gift of touring…