It’s morning in Los Angeles and it’s raining. All the low wet houses and then the Sony film studio. I’m near the ocean, but not that near, and my book tour is over. Not really, I still have eight events in the next eight days, five in San Francisco, three in New York. After that I’m on a farm for a while.
Last night, in Los Angeles, I gave a lecture on using your life in your writing. There were more than thirty people and I sold at least 40 books. It was tremendously efficient. After, we were standing in front, and two policemen walked by. They were walking very quickly, one holding a pistol in both hands, the other with a large shotgun. We stood out of the way as they passed. They were like animals. We watched them move slowly down the street, shining a light in store fronts. Then a helicopter appeared overhead, casting its own light, the size of a car, on the boulevard.
Back up for a moment to the night before in the Hustler Club. A man dressed like Jesus, the host in what looked like a white suit splattered with paint, the crowd full of porn stars. I was with a woman who has a book coming out. She’s married to a famous musician and is herself a kind of beautiful that defies description, though you only get to say that so many times. “A beauty that defies description.” Why? She has long dark hair, two small nose rings, a tattoo on her belly that I asked to see. So, there is a description of her beauty. She’s average height, settled into her life with her house and baby. Well dressed but modest. An easy beauty that doesn’t require make-up. Tattoos along her arms you can see when she leans forward and her sleeves ride up her wrist. A small hole above her lip where she used to have a piercing, or else a remnant of something else.
But there were other beautiful women at the Hustler club, all of them describable. There was the host’s girlfriend, a thin, Asian woman in a collared white shirt buttoned to her chin and a long black skirt. There was a message in her clothes, well pressed and forbidding. Her skirt, which ended past her waist, accented, or created, a vision of an hourglass. She had a long face, black and white patent heels with clasp buckles across the top of her feet. She was taking pictures with a large camera, like something from the fifties, though it was probably digital and cost thousands of dollars. And when I first saw her I thought she was a journalist, or an intern, maybe a graduate student.
Near the back doorway stood a porn star or a stripper or a well kept wife in high heels with a smooth, fake (or real, or painted on) tan. Her breasts were the products of excellent surgery, or else a special bra. She wore her clothes like packaging and was with her boyfriend, or her husband, or her boss. One of several similar looking men wearing tucked-in black t-shirts and expensive jeans and tan cowboy boots, with craggy faces, faces that looked like they had been beat on for fifty years, and long white hair. These older men with their thick, tough skin. Why did they have so much hair? They weren’t wearing wigs but they had as much hair as children.
There were more than three describably beautiful women in the Hustler club. The one I was with, the writer, wanted to know about marketing her book. She would be on television but was interested in actually connecting with her readers. I understand that desire, even if it doesn’t add up. It’s a desire that is also like writing. We talked about doing readings in people’s homes. She would have to bring her child. I should have encouraged her to create a lecture or a class around her book. But then it’s her first book, so that might be difficult. Maybe a class that has nothing to do with the book but includes a copy in the price of admission? We talked about book trailers (worthless, unless you have your own vision and make it yourself, and still of dubious value) and the point of flying to three or four cities where you have a lot of friends and hoping to get some attention in the local newspapers (a poor choice as far as investments go, but maybe if you can do two or three events in the same area…).
And then, yesterday, with my friend Josh, I was talking about this very thing, but from a different angle. I had found out, while I was in San Antonio, that The Adderall Diaries was very close to a National Book Award Nomination. It was awful. I woke in the middle of the night imagining my life if I had been nominated for a big award. But Josh said it probably wouldn’t have meant that much and I knew he was right. Things only really matter when you imagine them, or in anticipation, or in retrospect when you’ve had enough time to suss out the true meaning behind a series of events. For the most part it’s cumulative. A notice in the newspaper, someone reviews your book on their blog, a television actress with 30,000 twitter followers mentions a reading you are going to give. And then, early in the day, you add it all up. You don’t get a number, you get a hypothesis. You continue anyway. Why? Because writers are optimists.
art by Laurenn McCubbin