Just did my reading at Elliott Bay, another terrific bookstore — between Elliott Bay and Powell's, I'm reminded all over again of the importance of the brilliant independent bookstore in American literary life: where smart people lead other smart people to books they will love. Thanks to all of the employees in both stores who worked hard to make these events happen.
The last two nights I've read from the piece I did for GQ called "The Great Divider," which is about a drive I took along the Mexican border this time last year. I also read "Nostalgia," a highly somber look at my own mortality, also from the new book.
Yesterday, as you'll recall, I saw Justin Timberlake. Today I'm staying at the Fairmount in Seattle. This is also, as it happens, where the Tampa Bay Bucs are staying, in advance of tomorrow's game. They all came through the lobby as I was checking in, wearing their jerseys for some reason. So all day I felt small and effeminate by comparison. I was in the elevator with a bunch of them, and it felt like they were my dads and I was their kid. A little chubby, balding kid. Who (1) was older than them by decades and (2) was disappointing to them because he didn't know much about football. One guy was talking about a great tackle his brother (who apparently plays for Nebraska) had just made, against Wake Forest. There was much technical football talk flying around. It was like being in an elevator with a bunch of very large mechanics discussing an exotic car: they spoke in a kind of Football Code. They also have a security guard on their floor — "he kind of glowers at you if your elevator happens to open on that floor" — which I found odd. He is much smaller than any of them. Beautiful girls come and go, and he seems to let them.
It was quite a contrast from yesterday, when, at the Heathman, just after seeing Justin Timberlake, I believe I rode down in the same elevator with Baryshnikov. No kidding. He was in town for some dance festival. I didn't recognize him at first — he was wearing camo pants and sunglasses and had his baseball hat pulled down low and wasn't dancing, not even when, beginning to suspect it was him, I began to hum "Swan Lake." But when we got off the elevator, he was greeted with reverence by two impossibly tall leggy women, which was when I began to suspect something.
Tomorrow I go to Oakland, for a 3:00 reading at DIESEL. Who knows what celebrities I will encounter there? Perhaps Winston Churchill, or Patty Hearst.
This is the stage in the tour (ie, Day Three) when I sincerely start to get tired of yapping about myself. Back at home, I am always wishing I could be somewhere yapping about myself, but turns out, three days is about my limit, and even I start to get bored.
So I will take this opportunity to stop yapping about myself, and eat the last chocolate-covered complimentary strawberry on the tray, and go to bed.
Goodnight, and thanks.
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George Saunders is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow and the acclaimed author of several collections of short stories, including Tenth of December, Pastoralia, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, as well as a collection of essays and a book for children. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
Books mentioned in this post
George Saunders is the author of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella