Last week I read from my new novel at Books, Inc. in San Francisco.
When I travel for readings, I send out invites to anyone I've ever known in the geographical vicinity — so I usually end up knowing a good percentage of the audience. But this time, sprinkled among the old friends and colleagues, a few notable strangers caught my attention as I read. One guy, stuffed into a shiny, light-blue warm up suit, got up midway through my reading, suddenly realizing himself in the wrong place. But I was especially curious about an older gentleman in a ratty beret and wool coat in the back row. After the reading he waited until people had cleared out, and then approached me, smiling widely.
"You live in Madison?" he asked, in a heavy French accent.
"Yes, I do."
"Do you know Elizabeth Brown?"
"No, I don't think so."
"She is a ballerina."
"Oh, okay. Madison is a pretty small town. And I have an interest in dance. So I'll keep my eye out for her."
"I met her in Alaska in 1951," he said, "I proposed to her in 1952. But ...