One of my favourite things in the whole wide world is hearing authors talk about their books. And ideally not just hearing, but seeing, as up close and as personal as their status will allow.
This being DC, there’s plenty of opportunities to see big names, and the book comes in as a handy way to get to hear them speak, and generally experience the thrill of breathing the same air as such figures as former (vice) President Gore – who was incredibly smart, and shook everyone’s hand – and Justice Sonya Sotomayor, whose humility and personableness blew my socks off. (I took copious notes at both of those events, as well as Salman Rushdie’s and Junot Diaz’s book talks in the autumn, and one day they might make it into a blog post.)
And that’s cool: I mean, it’s more than cool. I get a little giddy on such occasions.
But I think I like the books signings at Politics and Prose best,. A few weeks ago,
Scottish novelist Ian Rankin was visiting. I’ve never read any of his books – not being a huge fan of crime novels – but we’ve bonded on Twitter over a mutual love of the West Wing, so I thought I’d go and meet him in person. He was funnier than I expected, and so kind and approachable. And I duly bought the book, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and intend to read it over the summer, aka the time when I get to choose my own reading material.
And while I was there, I spotted a book I liked the look of: The List, by Karin Tanabe. It’s the kind of thing I love, and had in fact just been craving: DC insider stuff from the perspective of a woman. It was inspired by her time at Politico (cue the giddiness, though I think she has cured me of my longing to work there) and so, yes, she’s a journalist and therefore can actually write. (I wanted to have finished her book by today, but sadly have been buried in hundreds of pages of Russian lit, not through my own choice. I’ve read the first couple of chapters, though.)
Not only can she write, she’s also funny, and beautiful, and yes, personable. I love that about authors – not the big time Salman Rushdie types, but first time novelists especially. (My first visit to Politics and Prose was to hear Erin Morgenstern speak just after The Night Circus had been published.) The authors who are not jaded or pretentious about their writing. (That’s what I liked about Ian Rankin, too, despite his veteran-ness.) Who are, I think, still excited to be published and getting to do the book tour thing.
So I was excited that I hadn’t, in fact, missed her Politics and Prose visit. It was today, and it was fun, and, as always left me on a high: I think in part because I always imagine myself signing my own books at P&P one day, and in part because, well, it’s so nice when you meet authors who are, well, nice, and who say or write nice things about your writing, and answer your daft questions about whether it’s okay to put real live people in your novels. (Yes, yes, you probably can guess who is going to guest star in mine.)
Karin Tanabe reminded me of Melissa Fitzgerald – the dark haired, beautiful, funny and smart thing, I guess, but also the fact that I met them under similar circumstances: showing their work in their home town, where many of their friends were present. (In Melissa’s case, it was the Philadelphia premier of her moving documentary, After Kony: Staging Hope.) Also, their generosity towards us mere mortals without publications of roles in amazing TV shows under our belts I think they would get on.
And now, it’s high time I got off this computer, because it’s the weekend, damn it, so I’m going to take a break from Crime and Punishment and spend a bit of time with The List.