I’ve seen people reading my books in bars, libraries, cafes, breweries and bookstores and the moment always discharges a blast of literary happiness. Rarely, have I ever said anything to the reader when I see such a thing. No need to ruin the moment with talk.
Today, another such moment occurred, and it easily topped them all. I was pulling my car around the front of a grocery store, where the line of homeless people waiting to deposit cans and bottles into the machines was seven or eight deep. I noticed one homeless man sitting on the sidewalk waiting his turn. He was leaning against the store and reading a book. It was my book chat homeless man! I slowed down. He was reading my book, The Great Birthright! Earlier that morning, I’d stocked it in a half dozen nearby street libraries. And there he was reading my novel about Oregon’s socialist ocean beaches and the evil California developer trying to privatize them. (You can join the homeless bibliophile and purchase your copy from this blog!)
I smiled. I laughed. I said, “Hell yeah!”
Then it hit me. We’d have to chat up the book on our next book chat. It very well could be this afternoon! What if the reader who loved Ivanhoe hated my book? What if he gave me a bad review right there on the sidewalk when he was drinking malt liquor or smoking a cheap cigar?
I relished that possibility, almost more than I relished the possibility he would love the novel.
For the record: there is a very good chance I am the only American author in the history of American literature who witnessed a homeless man reading that author’s novel while sitting on a sidewalk and drinking malt liquor or smoking a cheap cigar, or doing all three at the same time!
Top that Jonathan Franzen or Jennifer Wiener! Yeah, you too, Ernest Hemingway, although you are dead.