Desperately seeking Charlotte

I spent the first couple of months after I published Scourge of the Righteous Haddock waiting for something to happen. I’m still not sure what exactly. Maybe a publisher would contact me and insist on republishing it. Or I would receive a message from someone I don’t know saying how much it meant to them. An independent bookstore would ask to carry it. Nothing earth-shattering, just some indication that my book existed somewhere beyond my own imagination.

It didn’t really happen though. Mostly, the sound you hear after publishing a book is silence made all the more deafening by the fact that you’re really listening, ear to the ground, in case you missed something. In case someone somewhere has an opinion they want to share and they can’t quite get to you despite the fact that you have a Facebook account, a website, a Goodreads account, and an Amazon author account.

I’ve stopped listening. I don’t really remember when, but it was probably around the time I began focusing more on writing Vestal and that task crowded just about every other preoccupation out of my head. So I’m surprised now, and gratified, when the subject of Scourge of the Righteous Haddock arises unexpectedly. A friend from the gym finished it the other day and we discussed the ending while we did our cool down exercises. It might not sound like much, but it was ridiculously thrilling and touching for me to get to talk to someone who read my book.

Then, over the weekend I received the following image from New Times‘ former news editor, Matt Fountain, who played bartender at my book release party in August:

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From this image, I can draw two conclusions: Matt is reading my book. And Matt is reading my book at a bar. It might sound strange, but I’m weirdly honored by the setting. Books are meant to be read everywhere and especially anywhere a reader is most comfortable.

While we’re on the subject of comfort, Matt later posted this on Facebook:

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While I was deliriously happy at my book release party and consider it one of the best nights of my life, the fact of signing books was not something I had considered. I didn’t plan a clever catchphrase or pause to consider that my squiggly signature was perhaps not all that aesthetically pleasing. At one point, there was a line of more than a dozen people curving around the garden of the cafe waiting for me to sign their books. Of course, I knew pretty much all the people there, and in fact many of them had contributed significantly to the book–artwork, cover design, moral support, editing. So a simple catchphrase wouldn’t have been appropriate even if I had thought to prepare one. It’s hard to be poetic or thoughtful on demand, especially when you feel like you have no business signing anyone’s anything. The mere fact of being discovered taking the book signings seriously might indicate I thought I deserved to sign books, that I was somehow important enough.

Matt posted this photo along with the line “Desperately seeking Charlotte.” Of course, my character named Charlotte is patterned after my favorite Charlotte (and author): Charlotte Brontë. So while I might not have had as much time or creative energy to write the kind of message that I really wanted, I stand by this piece of advice. Charlotte is imaginative, resourceful, talented, grounded, responsible, kind, and memorable. I think at the heart of what I was trying to say is the notion of prioritizing substance over the shiny, temporal creatures who tend to hold sway over men’s (and yes, women’s too) imaginations. It’s the relationship version of not judging a book by its cover which is partially unrealistic because everybody judges books by their covers, but also utterly realistic because some of my most meaningful literary encounters have been with books with god-awful covers. I have a book of Edith Wharton’s short stories that I picked up in college and I think it’s fair to call the cover a color blocking nightmare. But the stories … if you could listen to this post rather than read it you would have heard a happy sigh, because the stories are incredible. And my delighted surprise only enhanced my enjoyment. No packaging could have matched or prepared me for the wonder f those stories.

Part of me wishes I could remember the other things I wrote. Another part of me is very grateful that I can not, because I imagine it would cause no small degree of embarrassment to have a more extensive record of my brief flirtation with celebrity. One thing is certain though: If and when Matt does find his Charlotte, I’m taking credit.

 

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Comments

  1. Love the name of your blog! If you have a moment, please check out mine: ciciyl7@wordpress.com. It takes characters such as Jane Eyre and brings them into the modern world–cupcakes included. Cheers, Annabelle

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