Seattle – Elliott Bay Book Company
I was asked about reviews of Taipei. I remember saying that many of the reviews seemed to me like they were written by spambots. I was grinning, probably. I said other things, including that Benjamin Lytal’s review made me cry a little, in a good way. At one point I realized I’d been shit-talking book reviewers (or some other abstraction) for a long-seeming amount of time and stopped myself mid-sentence and said or thought something like ‘Jesus, I’m unconsciously ranting at length about book reviewers, I’m going to stop now and go to the next question.’
Portland – Powell’s
The editor of the Oregonian’s books section (Powell’s employees later confirmed to me that it was him, but they could be wrong) attended, I think, and asked in what sounded to me like an accusatory, non-curious voice if I was on drugs. Other people asked questions, then the person who was probably the editor of The Oregonian’s books section asked if I had read the Oregonian‘s review of Taipei. I said I had and he asked what I thought about it. I said something about how I felt like the reviewer disliked me as a person, and something like ‘you look like the author of that review, from what I remember of the author photo’ and he was silent. He left at some point before the Q&A ended.
Houston – Brazos Bookstore
In the front row was a teenager (with what looked like her mother and three of her much less interested – ‘dragged along’ it seemed – friends) who asked if I had done DMT. She said she had, recently, and at another point during the Q&A asked if I’d read The Cosmic Serpent. I said I actually had just started reading it and, as it seemed obscure to me, asked how she’d heard of it. She said she’d found it, without knowing of it before, in a used bookstore. She had an intense, laser-like gaze like she was on LSD or Adderall.
Austin – BookPeople
Something like 3 or 4 consecutive questions, from different people, were about video or computer games. Mentioned or discussed in these 3 – 4 questions, which I liked, and in my answers, that I remember (I may be wrong): Diablo II, Diablo III, Gemstone III, text-based multi-player role playing games, allocation of skill points in role-playing-games, Second Life, Super Smash Brothers, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Civilization, Caesar II, MechWarrior II, Descent II.
Brooklyn – Spoonbill & Sugartown
Someone asked something like if I was autistic or retarded. I didn’t hear, or clearly hear, the first time, and when he repeated the question I think he said ‘are you retarded?’
Los Angeles – Skylight Books
Michael Silverblatt (whose radio programme Bookworm on KCRW I’ve been listening to with high levels of interest since, I think, 2006) was in the front row, and asked about my interview with Joy Williams. I was amazed he’d read it. I felt comforted by his presence in the front row and sometimes grinned or smiled at him and had an urge to stop the event in order to sit by him and (I realize now, around 2 months later) listen to a clone of him, at the podium, answer questions, as I sat next to him, asked by himself. I was egregiously, slowly mangling a Terence McKenna quote, at one point during the Q&A, with unfocused eyes, when I became alert to an iPhone held toward me at an angle anticipating where, returning to concrete reality, my vision would focus. Michael had found the quote, which I’d emailed him a few days ago, in his email account and prepared it for me, on the iPhone screen, to read! It was this:
‘I often like to think that our map of the world is wrong, that where we have centered physics, we should actually place literature as the central metaphor that we want to work out from. Because I think literature occupies the same relationship to life that life occupies to death. A book is life with one dimension pulled out of it. And life is something that lacks a dimension which death will give it. I imagine death to be a kind of release into the imagination in the sense that for characters in a book, what we experience is an unimaginable dimension of freedom.
Photograph © Noah Kalina