It's just plain strange coming out of hiding. For the last bunch of years, I get up, brush my teeth, and write. That, to me, is multitasking. I don't generally have to be anywhere; I'm often confused about what day of the week it is; and I wear the same pair of jeans without a break until they learn to ask for a day off on their own. And then the book
hits the stores and my week suddenly breaks down clearly into days, those days into hours, and those hours are all accounted for and doled out to the kind folks who may want to talk to me about my novel. Some of these interactions involve sitting face to face, or being photographed, facilitating the changing of clothes. (I'm afraid I'm going to end up like Ronald McDonald, the kind of person where, if he wasn't in his yellow jumpsuit, if you say, spotted him, in a smart John Varvatos two-button, and a tie, you'd wonder who that red-headed man was. That's how I feel about my blue sweater at this point. I really need some new stuff.) The nights are spent giving readings.
The first reading was at the New York Public Library where I was interviewed by the wonderful Ben Karlin, who was the executive producer at Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. At first I was worried about anyone showing up, and was sure it would be my mother sitting alone in a big hall with the sound of crickets echoing off the walls. Then I got worried that it would be full, but that no one who wasn't related by blood would make it into the room. I like to worry. And, as long as I'm admitting that, I also like to feel guilty. If my week of guest-blogging ends up with a theme it will probably be related to one of the two. Anyway, standing at the podium, reading from my novel ten-years-in-the-making, time just stopped. You can have real out-of-body experiences when giving readings. On the last tour (yes, I had a book, eight years ago ? if you've managed to find this blog, then go ask your parents about the stories, they might remember), when I was a million cities in, I can recall, say, thinking about a dinner I'd had with a friend, visualizing this dinner, and then, in the middle of that memory, deep into it, noticing that there was a crowd facing me, that I was up on stage and in the middle of a talk. I'd suddenly realize that I was not having dinner with that friend but thinking about it, and realize that I was in fact giving a public reading. Now an audience that is really, really attentive and really absorbed may, as a group, be staring up at you with the same expression that they would stare with if, say, you had suddenly stopped reading and were facing them, dead silent, while you remembered a dinner you'd had. And I remember in my head, thinking: Are your lips moving? Is your finger moving across the page? Nathan, very carefully check and listen and see if you are still reading aloud. I always was. But it's a scary moment.
That doesn't happen the first night. The first night, as said, time stops. So you think, facing the same listening-attentively and/or stunned-into-shock faces, and you think, this page is taking six hours to read. I have a better idea. I shall stop reading, and for the audience's entertainment, I will stand here and weep, or run from the stage screaming. Both would make for a fine show.
Time had not actually stopped. Talking to Ben Karlin was great fun. And then we went out to eat.