S. and I went to see Michael Chabon at Salon 615 and motherfucking Karl Dean showed up to introduce him! I repeat, the motherfucking Mayor of Nashville showed up to introduce an author at a public event, an author who then went on to read a passage from his book all about a couple of teenage boys spending their summer blissfully fucking away.
I am having to revise my opinion of Karl Dean from “Blandy McBlanderson” to “Not-So-Blandy McBlanderson.”
For those of you who aren’t from Nashville, Karl Dean comes across like a guy who only gets enthusiastic about squash–both the sport and the vegetable, I guess. I was aiming for the sport but he also seems like the kind of guy who would, weirdly, run the city and cultivate his own blue-ribbon squash as a hobby.
So, to see him show up and be so loose and at east and obviously delighted? Well, my friends, it knocked me slightly off-kilter. I don’t want to have to take up any of my brain thinking thoughts about the mayor. And yet, this coupled with The Handmaid’s Tale? Fine, I’m admitting, I’m giving him a spot, way down in the bottom land, prone to flooding, where I will let a little stand of “Eh, the Mayor. He’s okay.” bloom.
Anyway, Michael Chabon. He was really good. He read a lovely part of Telegraph Avenue, his new book, and then he answered questions. He was really great at the question and answer part and seemed prepared to jump-start questioning if necessary. And he talked about writing in ways I found really interesting. I was glad to hear him talk about how hard it remained, how he saw himself making the same mistakes he did when he first started out.
And then he stayed and signed books. I was among the last half-dozen people and he was just as witty and charming to me as I imagine he was with the first person. I don’t know, maybe in real life he’s a terrible person. But as a model for the kind of person you should come across as as an author? He’s got that down.
The only strangeness of the evening, and something I still haven’t quite shaken, is that the woman in line behind me, who had been chatting up the woman in line behind her for most of our wait, suddenly started talking to me, which, fine, and launched into a graphic story about her rape, and how the police blew her off. And I still feel like I was completely inadequate to the task of that, last night.
There is something called for in that situation. Not only don’t I have that something, I am not even sure what that something would be. I listened. I said how terrible it was and how sorry I was. But then we were at the table. It was my turn to get the book signed. And she was my mother’s age. Should I have waited? Tried to… what? I don’t know.
I got my book signed. I went home. And the whole way home I was angry. Angry that she’d told me. Angry that I’d failed to respond to her with some skill set I don’t even have.
I don’t know. It’s just fucked up, the whole thing. And, though I know people who can, I am not the kind of person who can respond compassionately to fucked up situations with strangers in ways that are open and generous and actually help that person.
And yet, you know, maybe she didn’t want help? I mean, I don’t know. Since I don’t even know this woman’s name. I don’t even know enough about her to speculate.
Maybe she just wanted to say it out loud, to have someone who reminded her of the people who had raped her hear what had happened to her.
I don’t know.