The Westport Public Library is an impressive facility on the banks of the “mighty” Naugatuck River. On the lower level is the MacManus Room, where readings and other events take place. There is a raised stage, seats, a podium, a screen for video projection. On the walls are drawings by Westport artists. It’s a nice room for a reading.
Some of my MFA peeps showed up–Elizabeth, Christine (who was instrumental in landing me this gig), Jane, Chris and Cisco. There were a couple of folks from the creative writing course I teach here in Ridgefield, and several locals who showed up to see what the author had to say. Among these was a retired police officer and former Westport police chief, a voluble gentleman who warned me beforehand that he asks a lot of questions and, as a former cop with 35 years on the job, he always got confessions.
I read for about 20 minutes, having chosen 3 sections from the novel that revolve around the mysterious carry-on bag. My hope is to get listeners interested in the mystery–what’s in that bag?–so they’ll buy a book. I sold three copies.
Although I’ve done dozens of readings over the years, and no longer get very anxious beforehand, I always feel a little awkward at the podium, a little bit like a fake. While reading from the book I constantly wonder how it’s going over–it can be so hard to tell–and am almost always sure that people are bored, restless, annoyed, offended. There’s a fair amount of profanity and sexual content in CARRY-ON, and I think twice about reading that material, especially in front of an elderly audience. Last night I tried to lighten the mood by recounting the story of my mother’s horrified reaction to the sex and profanity in the novel. I’m not sure it worked, but no one ran out of the room in a huff.
The library staff seemed quite pleased with the reading, thank goodness, despite what seemed to me to be a low attendance. They have a lot of events at the Westport Library, so perhaps they’re accustomed to small turnouts.