Support Upcoming Book Signings
Humorist Roy Blount Jr. tells the story about a reading he was supposed to give at a bookstore in support of his new book.
He showed up at the store at the appointed time, sat at a table piled high with his books and waited for the public to come streaming in.
And he waited and waited and waited. Customers walked past him and browsed the shelves, but no one requested a signature or even asked why he was sitting next to pile of books with his photograph on them. After a few hours, he gave up and left the store. He didn't know anyone in the city, and he was a trifle depressed, so he went to a bar and drank more than he should have. At closing time he staggered back to his hotel room, collapsed face first into the pillow and fell fast asleep.
When he looked in the mirror the next morning he screamed: "My God, I've been shot!" In the middle of his forehead there was an obvious bullet wound, a scab of brown dried blood covering the injury. But when he looked more closely, he realized it wasn't a bullet wound; it was the remains of a piece of chocolate that had been placed on his pillow the night before.
The stories writers tell about sad bookstore signings abound. Poet and novelist James Dickey swore that after the publication of "Deliverance" the manager of a bookstore in Atlanta had him sit in a canoe with his pen poised to sign books for customers who never came. Dickey probably didn't need to go to a bar to get drunk. He was probably drunk when he got to the bookstore.
But my favorite story was told to me by the late George Garrett, poet, novelist, playwright and short story writer. He'd been invited to a university to give a poetry reading during a campus-wide literary festival. There were many events going on, and he was assigned to give a reading in the lounge of one of the dorms. He found the dorm and went directly to the dais that sat in the corner of the almost empty room. On a couch in front of him two students sat waiting, so Garrett introduced himself and began reading from one of his favorite poems. He was about halfway through the poem when one of the students interrupted him. "What are you doing?" the student asked.
"I'm giving a poetry reading," Garrett answered.
"We were just studying," the student said, and the two students got up and left the lobby.
"I hold the record for the worst attendance at a poetry reading," Garrett claimed. "Minus two."
We're lucky to live in an area that supports author readings and signing. The Weymouth Center sponsors the Sam Ragan Lecture Series - on Feb. 13 Lee Smith will read in the great room at 3 p.m. - and The Country Bookshop has a rich ongoing series of authors who appear to promote their books. Here's the schedule of February appearances at The Country Bookshop:
Thursday, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m., Southern Pine's Tom Scheve will read from his debut novel about a rural North Carolina man who discovers a stone with magical healing powers that brings everyone in Surry County to his door.
On Monday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. former governor Jim Hunt will join journalist Gary Pearce, chief speechwriter and political and policy adviser for Hunt, in a discussion of Pearce's book "Jim Hunt: A Biography." Reservations are required.
On Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the Weymouth Center, in Southern Pines, Oscar "Andy" Hammerstein III, grandson of the legendary lyricist of "Oklahoma!" and "South Pacific," among others, shares the story of "The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family." Reservations are required.
On Thursday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m. Patti Digh, author of "Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally" will share ways to live a deeper, more meaningful life every day.
Support these writers and the bookshop. We don't want to send anyone away with a chocolate wound to the head.
Stephen Smith's recent book, "A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths," is available at The Country Bookshop. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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