The Mental Aftermath of the Nicole Krauss Reading, Or: The Question Nicole Krauss Asked Me

So, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I got to go to the Nicole Krauss reading at the Tattered Cover Colfax location with a fellow writer, Melissa Pilakowski.  It was a really good reading and I had a lot of fun going and getting a chance to hang out with Melissa.  However, when Nicole Krauss was signing my books she had a question for me that I’ve been turning over in my head since.

She noticed that I had all three of her books: Man Walks Into a Room, The History of Love, and Great House.  She asked if I had read them all and I said that I had read Man Walks Into a Room and The History of Love already, but I was saving Great House until after the reading.  This made her look a little puzzled and she asked why.

Now, I’m not sure exactly at this point what I said.  I get nervous when I get up in front of an author at a signing line.  I’m not sure why, but I do and this was no exception (I just smiled and didn’t talk one time when Anne Lamott laughed at the “I put out on the first date” t-shirt I had on at her reading).  I think I said something about how I didn’t want to have already read what she was going to read from so it would be new to me.  Regardless, I’m sure I stammered and said something idiotic because I was nervous.  Doubtless she was glad that I moved on then, since I wasn’t going to say anything interesting anyway, and spared her the need to call security.

Thinking back on it, I tried to think why I tend to not read the book an author is reading from before going to a signing.  A lot of times it isn’t even an issue because that’s where I buy the newest book, the one he or she happens to be reading from.

However, there are times, like this one, where I actually held off.  I suppose some of it is wanting to preserve that sense of discovery that hearing a reading before reading the book can offer.  If I’ve read it already I get to hear the author speak and hear their thoughts about their work, but I would carry my own thoughts I had already formed in.  I already get that from hearing authors talk about books that have been out for a while.  With the new books there is a different possibility.  The possibility to discover a new book that I will then want to read even more based on what the author said, even though I obviously wanted to read it already.

I believe there is also my sense of literary greed that must be considered.  Going to a reading is going to make me want to read more of an author, or at least usually.  It certainly did in this case.  If I’ve already read all of their books when this happens, then what am I supposed to do?  I’d be stuck.

Additionally, for once, an author can introduce me to the book and can set the tone for how I will read it.  Granted, writing has to stand on its own, but once in a while I suppose it doesn’t hurt to let the author read some to me first to color how I will read and to cause me to hear the author’s voice as I read.  I think it makes for a different kind of reading enjoyment.  A different connection.

I keep thinking about this and the only real conclusion I can come to, despite all the reasons I’ve listed, is that I do it.  For some reason it seems like what I need to do.  I’ve never even really questioned it, like an instinct.  The zen of going to readings.  I can’t figure out if this answers the question or not.  I’ll probably keep thinking about it either way.

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About David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson enjoys typing about himself in the third person, although he does not generally enjoy speaking in such a fashion. However, he is concerned about the Kierkegaard quote "Once you label me you negate me." He worries that if he attempts to define himself he will, in fact, nullify his existence...
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4 Responses to The Mental Aftermath of the Nicole Krauss Reading, Or: The Question Nicole Krauss Asked Me

  1. melissapilakowski says:

    I think there are advantages either way. By knowing the story prior to a reading, you’re able to compare the voice in your head to the voice of the writer–in which, I loved hearing Nicole breathe life into her characters. She’s a very capable reader as well as writer. There is truth in what you say as well. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

  2. melissapilakowski says:

    I also kinda stumbled up there. I told her my students huddled in the back were reading her book this quarter. I could tell she wanted to know more…I didn’t know what more to say. Thinking on my feet is not a skill in possess in my repertoire.

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