Proliferating readers! It was a joy and an honor to meet so many of you last week in New York and Boston. Over 100 people turned up at McNally Jackson where I had a long conversation with my first editor, Keith Gessen, during which my oldest childhood friend, the prominent novelist Dara Horn, was so carried away by the emotion of the moment that she threw a small plastic dinosaur at my head.
Wednesday’s reading at Brookline Booksmith was also attended by numerous valued readers of My Life and Thoughts, including my aunt Deniz and her oldest childhood friend, who doesn’t believe in pasteurization, and who had commemorated the occasion by baking a wonderful chocolate cake made with nonpasteurized buttermilk. We were joined for cake by super-guest-blogger Peli Grietzer, who attended the Manhattan event and the Brookline event, and asked questions on subjects ranging from Shklovsky’s Third Factory to a paragraph from my dissertation which it turned out I had sent him in like 2007, so you just tell me if he deserved some cake.
On Friday I appeared in a memorable (to me) double-billing with bootlicking fetishism expert Eli S. Evans at Brooklyn’s Bookcourt. Afterwards there was a somehow very long evening which ended in the n+1 offices with the consumption of an enormous bottle of champagne originally presented, on the occasion of his recent book deal, to Chad Harbach—who, however, being a reasonable person, had already left hours ago. At first I felt really badly about drinking his champagne. Later, though, I felt less badly, which is how you can tell it was good champagne.
Diverse readers! I don’t know what was more marvelous about the past week—seeing so many very dear friends, or meeting so many new readers, and learning about all the different ways in which people become possessed by Russian literature, or have cousins who were once possessed by Russian literature, or met a Russian person once in Lithuania, or have a great-great-grandfather who read War and Peace in the 1870s while working in the Underground Railroad.
I’m still incredibly touched, and a bit overwhelmed, because I never expected The Possessed to speak to such a large audience. Neither did my publishers, or my agent, or anyone really, not because they didn’t like me, but because the debut essay collection on Russian literature is typically not one of our society’s higher or more volatile commodities. Nonetheless, after Liesl Schillinger’s amazing review in the Sunday Times, The Possessed shot back up to the Amazon top 100, with foreign rights already sold in the UK (Granta), Australia (Text), Turkey (Doğan), and the Netherlands (Atlas).
I’m also happy to report that FSG has decided to extend the publicity budget to do a few more events. So, if you are a bookseller, librarian, educator, dictator, or anyone else capable of organizing author events and mobilizing people to attend them, you can now invite me to read in your community, without necessarily inviting me to sleep on your sofa! If this sounds like an offer you can’t refuse, please contact either me or, better yet, my publicist. Just don’t contact my intern, because events coordination isn’t in his contract, and his union would be on my head like a ton of bricks.