Free-Floating Hostility

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hostylefax Part Deux

As promised, a quick round-up of the Mary Gordon book tour's stop in San Francisco:

Tuesday morning: The Hostylefaxer arrived in Berkeley. I was picked up at the train station by Arlene, the escort who has been hired for my mom. I didn't know being an author meant you got an escort, but apparently this is a thing. Arlene, as it turns out, is the bomb, and knows a lot of funny stories about authors behaving badly, though she sadistically refuses to use names. She held up a copy of Pearl in lieu of a sign with my name on it. We drove to a bookstore called Mrs. Dalloway's (Mike: "Sounds like a big party") and met Mom. Mom was in unusually high spirits, having drawn an audience of 70 people in the middle of the day. She had, however, had to edit her reading extempore, because the owner of Mrs. Dalloway's happens to be the daughter of McGeorge Bundy, to whom Pearl makes a disparaging allusion.

Next to San Fran, for a radio interview on KCUF with Febra Bagel-Jerks. Febra was a little off. Not actually hallucinating in the studio, but strange. In the pre-interview she told us about the bereavement center she runs, and about how her show has huge followings in Australia and Japan. She asked my mom to sign her copy of Good Boys and Dead Girls because that was the book she'd taken the most flak for owning. She got stroppy with my mom for not talking enough while she was testing the volume levels and got stroppy with me for asking her to mention the website, though she subsequently helped herself to so much of it that I wondered what morons used to ask my mother before she had a website. During the interview Febra congratulated my mom on her tenure ("Um, thanks. I've had it since 1994"), asked her what it was like being one of eight kids (Um, I was an only child. My mother was one of nine.), and displayed very little control over her own train of thought. Mom was frantically trying to make eye contact with me the whole time, especially when her cell phone went off, but I kept my eyes glued to the floor to avoid absolute collapse.

The hotel, as I have mentioned, was quite swanky, though Mom said the one she stayed in before was even nicer. There were complimentary yoga baskets, among other amenities. However, they did fail to answer the phone when mom was being called for a radio show. She took them to task and got a free bottle of wine out of it. We got manicures while watching Oprah's interview of a woman who has had so much nose surgery she has to open her nostrils with Q-tips every morning.

That evening meant another reading, this time at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books. The young woman who was introducing my mom was a lot nicer than Febra about plugging the website, though she got into trouble with Arlene for saying someone looked beautiful in a photograph "even though she's older." The reading was a success, though Mom couldn't be convinced of it, and we met the brother-in-law of Harold, who was our mail man back in New Paltz. We ate dinner at the fancy restaurant at the hotel, leading me to my discovery that I no longer enjoy eating out.

Not much happened on the second day except that Mom and I got into a furious argument about reproductive rights for the mentally handicapped that ended in us not speaking for several minutes, though that might have been influenced by the presence between us of a fruit and cheese plate. She also confessed that certain schools of literary thought make her feel "like I'm the only dog in a room full of cats, and there I am gnawing on a knuckle bone while the rest of them have just finished exquisitely disemboweling a vole." You heard it here first, an FFH exclusive.

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