LIFE SENTENCES begins with a writer at a book-signing that is, by her standards, not well attended. Where once she drew upwards of 200 people in a particular venue, she has a crowd of “only” thirty. But she quickly decides that thirty people is “downright respectable” on Valentine’s Day.
Let me be clear: I think thirty people is wonderful, any day. I still hew to the standard I set for myself when I first began keeping a private tour blog, which I believe was in 2005. (Yep, I honestly can’t remember.) At the time, I announced that I considered any talk that drew double-digits to be a success, but I promised to be honest about attendance. I wanted, among my writer friends, to be candid about my experiences on the road, but I didn’t want to embarrass booksellers. Because, generally, it’s not their fault. One bookseller, no longer in the game, told me about the night he had a Big Name and no one showed up, for no reason he could discern. It happens. And that’s why, now that I blog publicly about tours, I don’t dwell on this issue. I did warn my parents, en route to the library luncheon, that they must not be distressed if turnout was low, if it was only seven or so people. “Nine with you!” I added. Kudos to the St. Simons Library Foundation, which sold out the event.
And kudos to the Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur because: Almost fifty people on St. Patrick’s Day is way beyond downright respectable.
If you click through (menu across the top) to LIFE SENTENCES’ Facebook page, you’ll find Marjorie of Connecticut’s very kind plug for what kind of show you get when I’m on the road. I do try to be entertaining and I want to stress that most of the events are free, including tomorrow night’s appearance at the Carmel Clayton Library in Carmel, Indiana. Originally, they were going to charge and include a copy of the book. But they decided they’d rather have more people and fewer book sales, and I am all for that. As I said on the website, times are tough. I just want to see people. When I am in a bookstore, it’s my hope people will buy something, anything, not necessarily by me, because we need to support bookstores. But I understand that even the purchase of a paperback might seem unnerving for some folks.
Finally, a word on reviews. I’ve tried not to use this blog as a place to trumpet them. I place the links on the Facebook page, and they’re there for whoever wants to look. But I will say that the first week of the tour played out like a fantasy I gave up long ago. 1) There were actually reviews, quite a few, in high-profile places. That happens to certain writers — Richard Price and Dennis Lehane come to mind — but it has never happened to me. 2) They’ve been good. Not cavil-free, but very, very, very good. But this blog tries to walk a line between me, me, meism, and being a truly interactive place.
So permit me to quote this one opening paragraph, from the New York Observer:
“Laura Lippman is a virtuoso. Prolific, yes — after a dozen novels in as many years, she chased What the Dead Know, her spellbinding drama of taken and mistaken identity, with the sturdy 10th installment in her Tess Monaghan franchise, then published a collection of short stories and a Sunday serial in The New York Times Magazine. But the psychological texture of Ms. Lippman’s fiction — its pointillist attention to detail, its robust sense of moral order — neatly rebukes critics who would dismiss her as that unspeakably base creature, the crime writer.”
(By the way, understand that “unspeakably base creature” is tongue in cheek. The reviewer holds crime fiction in the highest esteem.)
In short, someone has finally asserted, for the record: Laura Lippman is not a hack just because she writes a lot.
But now we bring this blog back to its real purpose, lost as that might seem to be just now. Did you ever have a fantasy about how something might be, then finally give it up, only to see it happen at last? Was it sweeter, deeper, tempered? Did you feel that surrendering the fantasy was key to seeing it realized?
(Joe Wallace, at the risk of saying something I shouldn’t — I think you might have something to contribute here.)