Ellen Gilchrist once wrote about the “mysterious drawers of summer houses . . . secrets no real house would hoard or remember.” Somehow, this led to my theory about books in houses where people visit often, which may or may not be summer houses. I think they should be full of discoveries, even for the owners, that the shelves should be full of books waiting to be plucked like fruit. Idiosyncratic, united by nothing other than the fact that this one person (or two) happened to acquire them. My parents live in a beach town and their shelves are liked that, although I am still peeved they got rid of Kitty Kelley’s The Last Star, the biography of Elizabeth Taylor that I liked to re-read every summer.

On Saturday, I plucked Roy Blount Jr.’s “Long Time Leaving: Dispatches Up South” from my shelves and dove into several essays. But I think I liked “First, Tell Me What Kind of Reader You Are” the best. (It’s about what it’s like for writers to be asked what they do.)

“‘Oh,’ they say with a certain gracious almost-twinke in their eye, ‘what kind?’

“What am I supposed to say to that? ‘Living’? ‘Recovering?’ They’ll just respond, ‘Oh, should I have heard of some of your books?’ I know how to answer that question. And I’m damned if I’m going to stand there and start naming off the titles. That’s personal! Can you imagine Flannery O’Connor standing there munching brie on a Ry-Krisp and saying, ‘Well, there’s The Violent Bear it Away . . . ‘”

Actually I can imagine it.


8 thoughts on “Quotable

  1. I’ve gotten this slightly different one from yours many times. “Would I have read any of your books?” The answers to that are many. “Only if you like books about engineering.” “Are you interested in mortuaries?” etc. But I usually say as nicely as I can, “Probably not.”

  2. I get those identical questions! Also,”Should I know who you are?”

    “Maybe. Should I know if you should know?”

  3. Sandra, I’m proud that I can say I have read your books, Trying Hard to Hear You and Playing Murder are two of my favorites. I’m not an author, but if someone were to ask me what kind of author I was, I’d answer “A damn fine one, and you?”

  4. “Do you write under your own name?”

    Only when I am signing a copy of my own book for one of my many adoring fans.

  5. I remember being on a plane to a Bouchercon, and explaining to the woman sitting next to me what Bouchercon was. She listened politely and said she was going to Bouchercon, too. I asked if she was a fan, an author, an agent…

    This was how I met Laurie R. King.

    In my defense, I thought she was the wife of the gentleman sitting between us, and he had not heard of Bouchercon.

  6. What a great post! I’m forever seeding the shelves of my in-laws’ beautiful library in their home in the mountains. But only one visitor-from Italy, who visits bi-annually-seems to appreciate and read the treasures I’ve hidden in plain view. She’s a fellow crime fiction fan.

    On another note, I’m a book publicist at Vintage Books and I’m forever grateful that authors still want to go on the road (and are almost unanimously gracious about it!) even with these silly questions repeated daily. :)

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