Friday, May 23, 2008

An Evening with Leif Enger

Peace Like a RiverLeif Enger, who maddeningly does not have a website, made an appearance at The King’s English in Salt Lake City last night. Before we proceed, I must disclose that I LOVE Peace Like a River. It’s due for a rereading (right after I finish So Brave, Young, and Handsome), so I’ll likely post a review of it then.

As you might have guessed, Leif Enger’s new book is So Brave, Young, and Handsome. I haven’t finished it yet, but the fifty or so pages I have read were quite delightful. Quite.

Anyway, we (me with my husband and brother, neither of whom had heard of Leif Enger prior to being dragged to the signing) appeared at The King’s English and were ushered by Betsy into a small alcove of books with about twenty chairs. While we were waiting for Leif (which, by the by, I have always pronounced, incorrectly, as “Leaf”), the husband and the brother skimmed through books by Mary Roach, whose titles include Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.

Leif arrived and after a somewhat awkward summary of the new book (which included at least five usesSo Brave, Young, and Handsome of the word "implacable") and introduction by Betsy, the reading began. We were a little disappointed once he started talking that, as a Minnesotan, his accent did not in the least resemble that of the cast of Fargo. However, Leif was very amicable and invited audience participation in a way that reminded me of my favorite college professor. He read aloud to us in an engaging manner, almost but not quite as if he were reading to children.

Then Leif invited us to engage in a discussion (an interesting and more inviting way of saying "let us now commence with the obligatory Q&A"). The crowd consisted of mainly fifty-somethings, most of them obviously associated with the English Department at the University of Utah. Trust me, they were. The Q&A proceeded with the audience members making obvious and uncomfortable references to their books, writing groups, and writing students. The most exciting moment came when, asked who his favorite author was, Leif responded that it was currently Tobias Wolff (who also lacks a website) and his book Old School. (Old School, along with Peace Like a River, currently has a place in my current top five favorite books of all time.) Leif took it all in stride and politely answered the interminable round of insipid questions. Afterward, we were all offered coffee and wine while we waited in line to have our books signed.

Leif & IHaving attended two other book signings in the last week, I am a seasoned signing linestander. First, I prepped the books for signing by marking the pages to be signed, and then I made the hard decision to ask Leif to just sign the books without inscribing them to me (increasing their sale value one hundred years from now). Unfortunately, Leif just asked me my name and proceeded to both inscribe and sign my books while we made uncomfortable small talk about the rankness of the Great Salt Lake. I also turned into gushing reader and mentioned that Peace Like a River is one of my top five favorite books of all time. Blah.

The reading was great fun, and, as I've mentioned before, I like supporting my favorite contemporary, and therefore living, writers. Here here.

This post is cross-posted here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Because I Sort Of Miss Myspace

True statements are bolded. [Commentary.]

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers [what does this even mean?]
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home [I never counted, but I don't think so]
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 [piano, clarinet]
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively [the Mormons—I think not]
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs [it was mostly me, baby]
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp [does Girls’ Camp count?]
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels [sometimes]
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course [does working through an interminably large workbook count? I didn't think so]
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family [until I started paying them at about 16]

Oh, What a Literary Weekend!

Friday night, I met Stephenie Meyer, vampire authoress extraordinaire. The thousand-seat venue was, of course, packed. The doors opened at 5:00 p.m. The event started at 7:00 p.m., when Stephenie took the stage and answered preselected questions for maybe fifteen minutes. Then we (me, my mother-in-law, and three of my sisters-in-law) waited for three more hours for our turn to have our books signed. We went. We met. We had our books signed. Good times.

On Saturday, my sister-in-law Maren and I went to the Provo City Library to meet Shannon Hale, fairy tale authoress extraordinaire. Shannon was scheduled to arrive at 2:00 p.m., but had not shown by about 2:35 p.m. Whilst we were waiting, Maren and I made two predictions, both of which turned out to be true.

Prediction #1. Our spot in line was directly in front of the elevators. I predicted that Shannon would step off of this very elevator and we could just convince her that this was the front of the line. Well, my prediction held partly true—Shannon did get off of the elevator right in front of us, but we did not attempt our line lie.

Prediction #2. Maren mentioned that she thought that Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer were good friends. Maren then postulated that Shannon was late because she was hanging out with Stephenie Meyer. As we finally reached the front of the line and engaged in witty banter with Shannon, the truth came out. Shannon was late because she was hanging out with Stephenie. Maren and I, in our line-waiting, chocolate-enhanced silly moods, reacted to this news as if we were thirteen year olds. We turned and pointed at each other and screamed something like “We knew it!”

I have to say that meeting Shannon Hale was better than meeting Stephenie Meyer. Poor Stephenie Meyer was already in her third hour of signing books (with at least two more hours ahead of her) when we finally reached the front of the line, and we could tell she was a little past her peak. On the other hand, we reached the front of Shannon’s line about forty-five minutes after she arrived. Shannon was pleasant and engaging and told us a funny story about Libba Bray. She also personalized our books.

I’m glad that I live in an area that authors actually visit. I really want to support current writers and their work. Leif Enger is going to be doing a reading and a signing in Salt Lake next week, right during book club. Dilemma.

This post is cross-posted here at the secret blog.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Standing in Line

Today I arose at an ungodly hour* to go and wait in an interminable (well, it did terminate eventually) line to get tickets to stand in Stephenie Meyer’s presence with a thousand other lunatics. There’s no explaining it. People slept outside. They brought tents and children. They voluntarily SLEPT ON CONCRETE. Then after the pleasure of standing in line, we all forked out the cashola for one freshly minted copy of The Host plus an additional $10 for the event ticket. And there I was #475. Granted, I did not spend the night. I arrived at 7:00 a.m., freshly showered, hair properly coiffed, and bedecked in appropriate clothing. Does that make it better?

The only reasonable entity in this whole scenario is Borders. Borders sold 1000 copies of The Host in a little less than an hour. 500 in Provo; 500 in Murray. Not bad. Even with the 40% discount for us lucky Borders Rewards card holders. That’s me. A Borders Rewards card holder. Worth the 8:00 a.m. opening and the extra staff at the bargain price of just-barely-above-minimum-wage. Definitely worth it for them. The marketing genius. I bow down. Well, mostly I just stand in line and hand over the moolah.

Now the above ranting may make me sound bitter about the line-standing. And now that I put it in print, I think I am. A bit. Mostly because I see more line-standing in my future. Standing in line with the other 1000 ticket holders to fight for six seats together in the giant auditorium. Standing in line, again, with the other 1000 ticket holders to get THREE BOOKS EACH signed by her holiness. Probably standing in line to get overpriced bottled water and will-shrink cotton t-shirts.

This is how deep my love of the books goes. I do. I love the books. I just like ‘em more in the godly hours.

*Any hour prior to me getting nine hours of sleep—all other hours are, by elimination, godly.

This post is cross-posted here at the secret blog.