Friday, May 11, 2007

A pair of literary stars ...

... Last night, I introduced Elmore Leonard at the library. What a cool guy. I pray I'm in his shape when I am nearing - as he is - birthday No. 82. He didn't read from his latest novel. He just told stories about writing, why he stopped doing screenplays - too many people have a say in what you're doing - what a pleasure it is just to write what you feel like, and how you have to hear the characters talking. He explained that it's his characters who tell the story, that he has to work through them because - as he put it - he doesn't have the words to do the telling for them. He was laid back, down-to-earth, wry, sly, and - as I already said - just plain cool.
The Montgomery Auditorium holds, I think, about 300 people. It was pretty much filled for Elmore's appearance at 7. Most of Elmore's fans left when he did, but a few stuck around, including yours truly, to see the next author on the bill: Chuck Palahniuk. At least twice as many people as the auditorium could hold came to hear him. So there was 20-minute delay while they set up an audio connection for people to hear him in the lobby.
He put on quite a show. He would toss a bridal bouquet (yes, you read that right) to everyone who asked him a question. He read a couple a stories and some fan letters (the letters sounded like Palahniuk stories). He brings to his often gruesome fiction an engaging, rather gentle manner, somewhat like a slightly deranged Mr. Rogers. His fans love him and they were all young. I was without doubt the oldest futzer in the audience. But I enjoyed the event as much as anyone (hey, I reviewed Diary and liked it).
The whole event was the literary equivalent of a rock concert. When Chuck announced that he was going to read one his more notorious stories, "Guts," the audience cheered, the way they would if a rock star said he was going to perform a legendary hit.
I kept thinking on the way home how newspapers are desperate to attract younger readers, but haven't a clue as to how popular this guy is with just the people they're looking for. Never have I had a greater sense of just how out of touch newspapers have become.
One final note: Both Elmore and Chuck made the same point: Both think that the great pleasure of writing fiction - for the author - comes from finding out what happens in the end. In other words, neither knows what the ending is going to be until it occurs to them as they write.
Update: Andy Kahan at the Library sends me this link. Apparently, something like 900 people showed up.
Update II: I didn't notice what some posting as Rabitte did: "i laughed when i saw that some elderly folks stayed after elmore leonard was done and got about halfway through guts before walking out. " This elderly folk stayed to the end.
Update III: I think it worth linking to Katie Haegele's Inquirer review of Rant - Spreading rabies and an odd sort of wisdom and this one in the NYT: Appetite for Destruction: A Messianic Monster, Trained in Pain.


  1. Hey, who you calling elderly? Not you, surely?


  2. I'm so jealous. I argued with myself over going to the NYC reading, and now I wish the half that wanted to go had won.