Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writers who put the fun back into writing

I don't know how many book signings I've attended.  Well over a hundred, more likely upwards of two hundred, the one I attended last night striking me as no better and certainly no worse than any other.  

The signing was for an author who had published his second novel and who has the certain knowledge that his next four, already written, will appear during the next two years.  This second novel is considerably more accomplished than the previous one, which itself was substantial.  

I have been at book signings where the work at hand should not have in my opinion been contracted in the first place, and the subsequent sales figures bore out my judgment, thus good fortune for the writer to have had any acquisition editor than me.  The depressing part of last night's signing was the line of the author's friends and acquaintances, stepping forth to get their copies autographed, wanting in some way to take the magic of being published home with them, the author's personal note in the flyleaf an E ticket to the Disneyland of publishing.  

The satisfying thing about last night was the author's easy-going acknowledgment that this book, five years in composition, was literature, that it not only told a splendid story, it did so in ways that represented the use of language at its highest.

The author and I share a number of similar feelings about writing, about story, about language and, yes, about literature.  I attend the book signing out of recognition of the author's fierce dedication to his craft and to a promise I made to his father some years back, when his father was alive, to look in on the kid from time to time, argue with him, talk to him.  

Because of my admiration for the father and his own creation, I was easily able to give and keep my word.  The father, dead some five years, is better known than I believe his son will be, having crafted a world in which a beagle and a group of kids demonstrated an abundant understanding of the human condition.

My favorite signing of all was where I appeared out of friendship to Dennis Lynds, with whom I sat for nearly two hours, the two of us the only non-employees in the book store.  We repaired to a place where beer was available and I listened as Dennis outlined his next book.

It is certainly nice to be paid, to see royalty checks, to be read.  But the real party is in the day-to-day living with the story that becomes the vision that becomes expanded in such unexpectedly wonderful ways. 

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