Reading #2 – Ridgefield Library

I love libraries. I fondly recall the Canton (Ohio) 25th Street branch library, which I used to ride to on my blue Schwinn. I would leave my bike outside (unlocked) & enter the large, open room, usually headed straight for the “Film” section, where I read books about Kubrick, Eisenstein, Bergman & other heroes. In the basement they showed weekly films projected in 16mm on a wrinkled pull-down screen. That’s where I first saw DUCK SOUP, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, & many others.

The Ridgefield Library is an even more amazing resource. In addition to the usual library offerings–you know the books–they also show films, not to mention the tons of children’s activities, concerts, & readings. They are very open to helping local authors & musicians promote their work. I’ve done a couple music events at the library, & my writing workshop (I teach in the local continuing ed program) has held several readings there. So it made sense for me to approach them with a request to hold a reading of my new novel. Our local independent bookstore, Books on the Common, was kind enough to pitch in & handle book sales before & after the reading.

I was a little anxious about the event. I wasn’t sure how many people would show up. I’d done a pretty good job of getting the word out–there were flyers all around town, I’d sent out a million email alerts, & the local newspaper had published a long profile of me the week before, but one never knows if folks will trek out on a January Wednesday night to see some guy–another writer–read his work. Fortunately, a whole bunch of friends & friends of friends showed up to listen & buy books. Included were current & former students of mine, neighbors, & several colleagues from the Fairfield University MFA program.

Having recently read the novel’s opening pages at the MFA program’s residency in Mystic, I wanted to choose a different section of the book–not only because some audience members might come to both readings, but also because it’s dull for me to read the same thing twice. So I chose two sections that, while separated by many pages, work well when read together. They had actually been published together, years ago, in the literary magazine Skidrow Penthouse.

It’s a weird thing, these readings. Though I’ve done dozens of them, I am never absolutely sure how things are going over. Sure, people might laugh where they’re supposed to laugh, but that doesn’t mean the piece as a while is working. Even afterwards, when the audience applauds & people shake my hand saying complimentary things, I remain skeptical. Also, I’m always a little disappointed by my writing: “Why did I chose that word?” I think as I’m reading. And “Oh–I should have gone in that direction; why didn’t I think of that???” This, combined with my discomfort with attention & praise–in turn combined with my child-like need for attention & praise–make for a strange experience.

Which is probably why I look so dazed when people ask me to sign their books. We sold 16 copies, plus those copies audience members brought with them (all bought at Books on the Common)–a success! Thanks to all those who came.

Next up–a brief reading in Chicago at the AWP conference, followed by an evening at the hipster KGB Bar in NYC on March 22.

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