Living in Austin now, again, and trying to re-enter the literary scene I've been neglecting for the past few months, I decided to go to a couple of author readings this week at BookPeople (the largest bookstore in Texas and pretty much the coolest place ever, overall).
Two nights ago, Kansas-based fiction writer Laura Moriarty, author of The Center of Everything, made an appearance to promote her second novel, The Rest of Her Life, which she described as a book about "blind spots." During the Q&A session, she explained that her characters are hybrids of herself and actual people in her life, but that, thanks to human nature, those people never recognize themselves in her books. She explained that one of her characters was a lot like her but "eats beef jerky, and I've been a vegetarian forever." (I'm always happy to hear people say they're vegetarians.) She also talked a lot about her love of gossip and how it actually can have a positive effect on some community relationships, and she explained that she likes to read back issues of People magazine for their time-capsule qualities. On a couple of occasions, she referred to her hometown of Lawrence as "the Austin of Kansas" and after the reading she told me that she and the late William S. Burroughs used to have the same hairstylist and that even though he's been dead for several years, his posse is still hanging around town. The working title of The Rest of Her Life was Never Even Saw Her, because it's about a teenage girl who accidentally kills someone with her car and has to live with the consequences.
You can read more about The Rest of Her Life at the Hyperion website.
An entirely different crowd turned out the next night to see Daniel Pinchbeck, a long-haired, 40-something psychedelic writer from Manhattan (not the one in Kansas), who was promoting his second book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl.
Pinchbeck started by showing a video about his book, which the crowd of aging hippies and young psychonauts seemed to dig well enough. He went on to talk about crop circles, alien abduction theories, shamanism, Mayans, and various hallucinogenic drugs I'd never heard of--one of which he claimed to have the equivalent effect of 15 years of psychotherapy. He passed out leave-behinds for an online magazine he works on called Reality Sandwich ("evolving consciousness, bite by bite"). The event had an appropriately intoxicating, tribal sort of vibe to it, but...I don't know, something was missing. Maybe it was reality...or relevance...or the understanding that even after you achieve a higher level of consciousness, you still have to take out the trash and do the laundry. You still have to go to work.