A Novel Idea

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What to do when my wife jets to Portland for several days?  Watch TV?  Surf the internet?  Play first person shooter games online with my kids and similarly quick triggered strangers? Well, there’s this odd Facebook Event that I’d been invited to, you see. 


It’s odd entering a restaurant to a silent main dining area but hearing ample noise upstairs.  And, as one speaker roughly put it, “There’s a lot of people into reading here.  On a Wednesday night.  In Canton, GA.  But, I like it.”  Note the emphasis on the town.  Unlikely as it seems, yes, there were over 60 people filling all the available seats on the un-cramped but not quite spacious second floor of The Snug, a self-described gastropub.  The event was clearly a win-win for the venue and the organizer. 


Raffle ticket in hand (there were drawings for books by the authors), I had just a few minutes to say “hi” to my surprised artist/art enthusiast friends (they knew it would be a game time decision for me…), fly back down the steps for a better draught beer than they offered upstairs, then reclaim one of several remaining stools. 


And, at that point, it is no longer a socializing occasion, because everyone is gathered to listen to various authors read from their books, on this occasion with a detective/mystery theme.  I know, I know, gentle reader! My wife leaves town, and I go crazy on a week night.  I can’t be trusted.

The evening works out… decently.  I’ll start with the negative to build to better things.  I know the bar area has to wash their dishes, and the cycle isn’t that long.  But the sound of spraying water while trying to concentrate on a reading is a bit of a challenge.  Okay, that’s it for the negative side.

I’m used to audio books, but those are voiced by professionals, and if a work starts off kind of slow,  you trust in it and give it time to get a glimpse of the characters and where the tension begins.  Here, and I think without exception, the authors similarly read from the beginning of their books, some with a brief introduction to the scene, others will a fuller description.  But I can’t say that one to two chapters reliably pulls a reader in.  I’d rather skip to a juicier scene with an appropriate intro, but overall, I caught the gist of a character or the direction it might go, and both the crowd and authors seemed more than satisfied.

Also, I cannot say that the longer the description, the better the reading.  I can say that some of the “author background” stories were more interesting than the content of the books – at least as briefly introduced.

For example, two were current or former police officers.  Here’s a paraphrase from a female author who used to do solo patrols in Atlanta. 

“I’m covering my beat on a weekend night, driving slowly down one of those streets with my window down, where every other house has been demolished.  All of a sudden, this woman rushes in front of the car waving her hands.  ‘You’ve got to help me find my husband!  He’s cut!  He’s goin’ to bleed out!  You gotta help me!” 

Her:  “How did he get cut?” 

The lady:  “I cut him!”

After questioning further why she stayed in a relationship with someone who she fought with often, the lady grabbed her crotch and said, “because he loves my Cooter Pot Pie!”

That was better than anything in the books.  Maybe that character appeared later.

The second most humorous moment was when an author said, “Hang on.  I have to turn my book on.”  Hello, technology at a book reading.  I didn’t expect you!

The authors had varying experience both in writing and reading to an audience.  For me, Thomas Mullen was the highlight, in no small part due to his introductory background into policing in 1940’s Atlanta and the constraints on authority for black officers regarding white suspects.  It also helped that he is an experienced reader and the selection that he read from immediately drew interest, rather than a more genteel introduction to setting and characters. 


In any case, it was a different kind of evening and one that I enjoyed.  Next time (which is a “beach reads” theme), I’ll let my friends know I’m coming, arrive sooner, try the food, and socialize a bit.  A novel idea!

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for the lovely review. And yes, next time try the cheese curds or the trout dip.