Book people will wait. That's what I always learn at these things. The stores know that no one is any hurry and they all have books to read. It's what, about six, they hand out tickets at six-thirty, the reading doesn't start until seven-thirty, and there are about a hundred people in line, maybe more. I am guessing that I'm number fifty or so. The car is parked at a meter and I don't trust it--hoping that they ticket before tow around here. I'm sure that's the case. Today my first look at Denver for real, not just the airport--I am in what you might be able to call the Kenmore Square of Denver, LoDo, aka lower downtown where there is the crisp tang of student hipness in the air, and the ballpark is right around the corner. Everyone has glasses. You can picture this. I am one of these 'types' of people and I am not sure that I want to be. they kinda creep me out.
Tickets are handed out, and I sprint back to the car to feed the meter. The max is two hours and I leave for the bookstore at seven. Car is parked on the side of the cheesecake factory and I can smell their dumpsters. Hour and a half is plenty of time for a nice reading, q and a, etc.
Inside the reading room it looks like the Middle East, maybe before a Sonic Youth show. Crowded. There are more than a few tall lanky guys with curly hair here, eerily resembling the author. They look a little like John Bohannon--I knew him in college. get in touch, John.
Eggers says he didn't make it to the last reading here. Something about JFK. "Lawrence Krauser is weird. Don't stay in a room alone with him. McSweeneys.com is a nice family .org is a copy in some way weird, I had to stop looking at it" he says.
Readings from Amazon.com reviews of his book that have nothing to do with the book. They are mildly funny; he uses Amazonian language--4 of 8 people who read this review found it helpful--as a punchline and it goes over very well.
'This is a quarterly we publish three times a year.'
He 'had to' put some pieces of his own (under pseudonym) in the last McSweeney's edition because the page count had to be in multiples of sixteen or something. I'm sure he couldn't find anyone else's stuff. Here Dave, have a page of mine. These are the dog pieces by 'Daniel O'Mara.' 'Dear captain of industry, I am a dog named Steven, I run really goddamn fast, etc.' The presentation is much funnier than the actual text. There is a longer dog story in the 'Speaking With the Angel' collection edited by Nick Hornby. I have this book; if you want to help a school for autistic children, buy it. If you want good reading, look around a bit more. (This might be overly harsh; there is a fine story in there involving a prime minister's night out that I did like.)
Chris Ware cartoons go up on an overhead projector. There is a certain smugness in the air from people who read 'Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid...' and know who the guy is. Okay, I am one of these people. Again. The cartoon is really just an extended riff on an old (New Yorker?) cartoon that shows a frog in a wheelchair wheeling out of a restaurant. Sign on window says: 'special--frog legs.' I have never been at a reading where the featured author presented someone else's work. There is a banjo in the story. A woman from the audience mimes each comic frame; she's pretty good.
There is theme music to McSweeneys now, as performed by 'They Might Be Giants.' It sounds all right.
There's also a McSweeneys store in Park Slope. They rent shoes. By the hour. You are not allowed to leave the store in them.
Reading from AHWOSG, two more audience volunteers are recruited to sing Journey songs as Eggers reads the part where he and Toph are headed off to California and he is singing. This is the worst Journey rendition ever, It has to be. It's quite a scene, these women singing and when they finally sit back down everyone exhales in unison.
Questions! I get nervous because Eggers has not mentioned the hideous defacement contest. I have shown mine to the people sitting to my left and right, hands are smudged blue from the watercolor and he has not mentioned this contest and I want to ask him about Elizabeth Klemm as well, so finally I get the hand in the air and ask about the defacement contest and he says well, do you have one and there's a moment of confusion while I hoist it up as he says bring it up later but then I tell him there's sort of a question that goes with it, so he takes it as it is passed up podiumside and reacts to the not-quite-dry paint as though the book has bitten him, but hoists it for the crowd and there is laughter. I have helped make people laugh, this is good.
Elizabeth Klemm is real, he claims. I tell him she doesn't exist anywhere. We have searched, here at phaxda.com--he makes a joke, laughter, about private investigators tracking her down. He has her email. I picture David Foster Wallace giggling as he signs up for his firstname.lastname@example.org account. Eggers hands the book back. This question gets asked everywhere. Many of the same questions get asked everywhere. He swears she is for real.
More questions, a talk about the Webb-Waring institute for cancer. Eggers has donated 100,000 which deserves the applause. He looks sheepish, cornered. The director gives him some sort of framed collage--the centerpiece is a picture of the author wearing a suit. It looks surreal and weird. Eggers think so, I think, because he makes an awful face. He makes faces constantly.
The Robert Guillaume look-alike contest has not happened yet but the evening is already running long. If anyone else has noticed the omission they are not complaining. I won't either.
Book signing time. He has paints and glitter and proceeds to use them. Extensively. I am number 56 and it takes well into an hour for the first twenty people. The woman on my left starts a watch, and one on my right describes the people getting their books signed. I dutifully chart. research!
This guy a few seats in front of me has a ransom note demanding the contest prize, defaced cover, and the knife used to deface the cover. The crowd gets antsy and he has a knife. I try to be funny 'one dead, four wounded in book-signing melee.' No one is amused. We have been here for well over two hours. Car has a ticket, I know it.
The guy with the ransom note is promised a mint copy of McSweeneys number 1, per the contest. Sigh. He was a few ahead of me. I don't really care, I just want to get the book signed and leave. It's now well after ten, headed for eleven. The bookstore woman says Amy Tan did 200 books in one half hour last week. No one received parking tickets.
Finally, I am front and center. Aha! Dave Eggers does not believe it is the actual cover of his book at first, but it is. His name can be seen faintly through the watercolors and the back flap flips open to his picture, the one with the dog that is not his (whose dog is it, anyway?). Says that he can't take my little project home with him because he has only one backpack and it's pretty full but he dutifully signs an inner blank page. I am to give my mailing address up, and I too will get a copy of McSweeney's #1. Dual winners! Says he wants to see the cover again--I will scan and put it here. I am given an email address to write with the web page location, and that is the end.
Except for my parking ticket.