I'm on book tour at the moment. A week ago, I left my home on a little island in the Bahamas and flew to Toronto. From there I went to New York. Now I'm in San Francisco, about to go to L.A. I quite enjoy touring, but it is, I have noticed, a strangely infantilizing experience. Everywhere I go, I am accompanied by a charming "escort" who does the driving and the schmoozing, who makes sure I have enough clothes to wear and that I get to readings on time. The lovely woman who looked after me in Canada actually walked me across busy roads. And when I had to stop at a pharmacy to buy a toothbrush, she insisted on coming in with me to help me choose the right one.
I always start out on these trips, protesting that I am a grown woman who can look after herself, thank you very much, but sooner or later I surrender. I grow woozy and helpless. I start to enjoy having my hand held. Christ, by the end of the week, I will probably be writing this blog in crayon.
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One of the few things that escorts cannot take care of for you, alas, is your audience. At a reading in New York, a man in large green flying goggles jumped up and cried out, in an anguished voice, "Liberal humanism, cats, dogs, God — how do we get stuck in these ruts?"
The room grew quiet.
"Gosh," I said, in this very calm, liberal, "I-embrace-all-my-readers-even-the-crazy ones" tone, "let me think about that and get back to you."
But the guy knew a brush-off when he heard one. "Hey, I'm trying to open things up for you," he said, "so you can talk at length." He sounded as if he were on the verge of tears, although, because of the goggles, I couldn't be sure.
"Well thank you for that —" I began.
"I have another question!" he shouted. "How did you get your name?"
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Oddly enough, I have found myself feeling quite nostalgic about Goggles since I got to San Francisco. Here, I have given two readings, and each one was attended by exactly three people. They were a different three people at each reading, of course, and I'm not including the several members of bookstore staff who were present at these events. But, still. It's never a good moment when the store owner leans over and says gaily, "Why don't we just forget the reading and go out for a nice chat over a glass of wine?"
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Heigh ho. Tomorrow, I'm headed for Los Angeles, where I'm pretty sure the lines for my big appearance at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard are already forming.