[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
franzen comes alive
it was autumn then. early october, as i recall. i was pretending to be sick one day so i wouldn’t have to go to work. because i hated my job even then. more than mere words can express.
it just so happened to be oprah book club day. oprah was touting her next selection as “the great american novel.”
as an aside, i hate that phrase “great american novel.” first of all, why the singular article? can’t there be more than one? and why do we have to slap a nationality on it? are you saying there’s a “great canadian novel”? a “great finlandian novel”? or whatever the hell the adjective is for a novel from finland. anyway, i hate that phrase. plus, everyone knows the great gatsby is the great american novel anyway. come on, oprah. buy a clue.
so, since i’m looking for a new read, i jot down the title of this new “great american novel” and head on over to the bookstore. the corrections by jonathan franzen.
i hoisted it down off the shelf -- the book was giant-ass. i check out the blurbs on the jacket…don delillo? hmmm. interesting.
and then…well, then i saw it: the jacket photo.
my palms got all sweaty.
he had these pouty little lips. and these artsy little glasses. ooo…and a scruffy unshaven face. it was the whole rumpled-artiste thing. suddenly, i was a 17 year-old liberal arts major all over again.
i practically ran to the check-out counter.
i devoured the book. all five-hundred-and-some pages of it. it is, in my opinion, a classic. a brilliant commentary on society, the state of the family, the religion of consumerism, the general numbing of emotion through widespread use of pharmaceuticals. it just might be, dare i say it – a modern american classic. see how i didn’t say it was the great american novel? clever, eh?
the writing was deep and rich and descriptive. i’m a sucker for descriptive. i laughed out loud, i was touched. it had a great beat, and i could dance to it.
so, imagine my giddiness upon learning that the scruffy-faced author of my literary wet dream was doing a reading at a local bookstore.
that day, i left work early so i could go home and change my pants. see, the pants i wore to work that day were just a little too long. they’re nice pants, and they do nice things for my ass, but they’re a little too long. and they’re wide-leg pants, so the combination of the too-longness and the wide-legness basically caused me to adopt a walk that was similar to that of shaggy of scooby doo fame.
not exactly the chic-sexy-yet-still-literary-chick vibe i was hoping for. hence, the change of pants.
i got to the reading early enough to secure a second row aisle seat. perfect. i mean, front was available, but not advisable. why? too close...don't want to appear overly eager or desperate. after about 10 minutes, another chic-sexy-yet-still-literary 30ish chick sat down beside me. she leaned over and said, "so, i hate to ask this, but...do you think he'll be as cute as the book jacket picture?"
clearly, we were all here for the same reason: the literature.
unfortunately for me, and the woman beside me…and the other fifty chicks who were expecting book-jacket-photo-franzen to walk through the door, somebody over at that place where they took that book jacket photo deserves some sort of photoshop merit award.
i’m pretty sure you could hear a collective “oooh.” i think i may have even uttered, “rats.” i definitely heard a “shit” and a “dang.”
he introduced what he referred to as "an edited version" of one of the sections of the book, which he read from typed pages that had editor's marks on them [details like this are the real reason i sat second row, aisle seat. right.]. it was interesting to be able to notice some subtle differences in the printed version and the version on his scrawled pages.
and, the more he read, the more i listened to his voice, the more i thought that his glamour shot wasn't so far off the mark. there's just something about a smart guy with cute glasses and a scruffy face who writes masterfully....
after the reading, he offered to take a few questions. first up: some guy who was wearing a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches – dude, seriously, why not just stick a freakin' pipe in your mouth while you're at it – asked if franzen liked the character who had been speaking in the section he chose to read. while answering, franzen acknowledged that "these people behave very badly." perfect segue to my question, so up went my hand.
our eyes locked. i thought i caught the hint of a smile. he pointed at me and said, "second row, aisle seat."
oh, that is so me -- second row, aisle seat. i knew that would pay off. it just rolled off his tongue: "second row, aisle seat."
so, i asked, "you mentioned that these people behave very badly…i wondered if, when writing them, were you ever tempted to go back and rewrite some of their behaviors; alter some of their decisions; do anything to soften them a bit...to save them from themselves?"
i thought it was an okay question. i mean, it was an honest question. i was wondering it while reading the book. i have struggled with it myself on occasion when trying to write fiction. you grow attached to these “people” you create…aren’t you tempted to give them a pass every once in a while? cut them a break? make them more likable?
his response: "the answer to that is a resounding 'no.' i consider it a literary accomplishment to be able to write characters who behave badly."
damn, gina. i don’t think we need to use the word “resounding.” unless we’re trying to sound like a dismissive asshole. clearly, i’m a literary moron.
then, some other people asked lameass questions like, “how long did it take you to write the book?” and “do you like to write longhand or on a typewriter?” feeling like my question had been summarily dismissed, i felt compelled to silently scoff at these questions: “hey, retardo montalban, how about you just ask him what his favorite color is. that would be super interesting, i bet. maybe he’d say, ‘the answer to that is a resounding ‘orange.’”
afterward, i waited in a very long line to have him sign my book. you’d think that, given the length of time i had, i’d have thought of something pithy and charming to say. something like, “see how i don’t walk like shaggy from scooby doo in these pants? i saw the way you were looking at me...i bet you'd really like to shag me. and, even though you don't look like your glamour shot, i find you strangely attractive.” i think the use of “shag” gives it a rather continental flair that counterbalances the more pedestrian reference to "shaggy." dude, you want "literary accomplishment," i'll show you fucking "literary accomplishment." jackass. in a kind of hot way.
of course, if you’re a regular visitor, you know that i’m not exactly eloquent in the face of greatness. you know, greatness…like that time i met richard marx. and all i could say was, “wow…cool.”
so, it was my turn, and i step up to the table. and he looks up at me and smiles and says, “hi…interesting question you asked.”
“so…who should i make this out to?”
“no name. just signature.”
me like book. book good. fire bad.
so, i realize that i have about 2.1 seconds left with this guy who wrote this book that profoundly affected me and i’ve managed to bust out exactly one word that is polysyllabic, so i open my mouth and this is what comes out:
“i just want to say, thanks. not just for the signature, but for the book. it was amazing. i mean, it was more than amazing. it was a revelation. it was awesome! i mean, not ‘awesome’ in a surfer dude way, but in a more literal sense…you know, emphasis on the 'awe.' part."
sweet fancy moses.
he just stared at me. looking very confused. and, if i'm honest, more than a little nervous.
oh, yeah, baby…he wants me bad. and who wouldn’t? i mean, i’m fucking dazzling over here.
and, also, you don't look anything like your jacket photo.
[ed. note: think i exaggerate? well, check this out. although, in his defense, that's a very good picture of him compared to a very very bad picture of him. seriously, if he really looked like that second one, i never would have gotten all tongue-tied and said 'awesome.' never.]
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]