I was planning on going to the reading tonight, but last minute, decided that I would go last night and so rushed to the train and over to Greenwich Village to Three Lives & Co. for the David Mitchell reading. I had never been to that bookshop. It’s really cute and small, like someone’s living room. They are also already selling Philip Roth’s Everyman there, a couple weeks ahead of its street date, and as soon as I get some cash, I am going back there to get this book and hopefully they will still be selling it.
A bookstore employee, trying to encourage people to move further in, told me there was an open seat in the back corner, and so reluctantly I went and took this seat. This seat was in the far back corner, trapped among so many people in a really hot store, and also right behind the author’s seat, so I would have been staring at the back of his head. Yesterday, it was about eighty degrees and really beautiful, but this store was like the Strand of olden days, with no air conditioning, no open windows, and one pathetic ceiling fan swirling around, doing nothing against the mass of bodies gathered in this small space. I almost thought about leaving the reading before it started because I was so hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable, was thinking of just going the next day when it was going to be held at a gigantic chain bookstore that surely would have a comfortable temperature inside.
But I stayed, and he read, and I wiped the sweat from my brow again and again and didn’t mind because I was within arm’s reach of this person whose writing abilities I am envious of and whom I admire so much. The book sounded even better as he was reading it in his British accent. He was also totally charming, admitting guiltily that he had had a couple of pints before coming to the reading to ease his nerves, and how he hoped he had got the balance right, just enough to not be nervous, and not enough to talk nonsense. He answered questions afterward and of course, “What is your writing process?” was asked. I don’t think I have ever been to a reading without this question being asked. How do writers not roll their eyes and lose it if they must answer this every time they read. I rolled my eyes and it wasn’t even asked to me. Granted, I was surely more annoyed than I would have normally been because I was getting mildly faint and was ready to strangle anyone that asked any more questions that kept me trapped in this warm, overcrowded corner for even one minute more.
I ran into this boy, Ben, there, who I worked with for a really brief time at the Strand, and who is a really nice boy that I am always glad to run into. Talked to him while waiting in line to get my book signed. Talked about the heat of the bookstore, which was what everyone was talking about. I handed David Mitchell my book and I was so nervous. I had nothing to say. Totally starstruck. I felt like a little kid, really nervous and scared to meet Santa at the mall, but wanting to anyway, and not really knowing why. Under the spell of his beer and the heat of the place, he did all the talking, going on about what an amazing day it was, how beautiful this weather was, how he loves New York in this weather, that it is something about the buildings and their proximity, how the heat and sunshine sort of bounce off of them – and really, he was saying such a beautiful monologue, and I was so stunned and giddy to hear him riffing on the weather. And he signed my book saying: “Charlie, well. met on a divine day in NYC. David Mitchell 2006.”
And yesterday was divine. I stumbled out of that bookstore, still starstruck, went to Kmart, where I bought a generic white pair of Vansesque shoes. Went to Trader Joe's, bought some cheap wine, and came home, watched The OC with some of this decent wine and due to the wine, passed out around 11:30, unable to hold my eyes open as I tried to read.