September 28th, 2016

My Last Book Reading by Anthony Galvin

Fifteen books in, and I was finally asked to do a reading in my local bookshop. In the town I grew up in. Among people who knew me, and knew my people. My first instinct was to say I was out of the country, then get on the blower to a travel agent and take the next flight to Ulan Bator.

Dead-or-Alive-1-1

Instead I rang my brother, who assured me there were two type of authors: those who relish the idea of reading their own works, and those who cringe at the prospect.

When I arrived at the bookshop I discovered there is a third kind of author; the kind who would rather undergo root canal work without anaesthetic than read from one of their own tomes. It has always been thus with me. I publish my fiction under a series of pen-names for a reason.

In school I never read homework assignments to the class. In college studying journalism I never shared my work with my fellow students. In my twenties I was short-listed for a major national poetry award. I had to read one of my poems at a literary festival, after which the prize would be awarded. Even if I was not the lucky winner, I was in the money. But I couldn’t do it. I tried to send an actor in my place, but the organisers said no. So I pulled out of the contest and gave up my chance to be the next TS Elliot.

When I walked into the Ennis Book Shop I was not feeling the warm glow of ego about to be stroked that many authors feel on these occasions. Instead my morning porridge was sitting like a brick in my stomach, and my feet were arguing with me. They wanted to walk briskly in the other direction.

The owner of the bookshop walked up to greet me. Normally this is a good thing. But she was frowning. I suspect I was too. I have known her slightly for thirty years. I went to school with her brother. I was certainly not going to read my book in front of her.

“Bad news,” she said. “We’ve sold out of your books. We don’t have a single copy for the reading.”

Might this be light at the end of the tunnel? I had a box of Dead or Alive in my car, but I said nothing. I let the frown on my face deepen. Then I smiled. “I have an idea,” I said.

It was still a strange morning. But it went so much better than I had hoped. I went to the classics section and picked up three of my favourite books. Then I turned to face the crowd.

Crowd? Not a single person had shown up for my reading. About six people were milling around browsing the shelves. I looked to the owner to introduce me and draw the small crowd over. But she just gently shook her head and seemed to disappear into the background. I was on my own.

If you are going to make a fool of yourself don’t hold back. I opened my mouth wide, took a deep breath, and plunged straight in, speaking for a few moments about why I loved Moby Dick. I have a loud voice. Foghorns fade into the background when I speak. Everyone turned to look at the madman in the corner talking about whales.

I opened the book.

“Call me Ishmael…”

Moby Dick was followed by Anna Karenina, then I ended on A Tale of Two Cities. Was it a success? I enjoyed myself for ten minutes. People did stop to listen, and I got a gratifying round of applause at the end. But I didn’t sell a single book, mine or Melville’s. Such is the glamorous life of an author.

Now I am back at the keyboard, wrestling words into saleable order. I hope it is another fifteen books before I am asked to do a second reading.

See more about Dead or Alive, Anthony Galvin writing as Dean Carson, here.

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