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Patchett Up Your Pity Party, Ann

Proving once again that its editorial team now prefers thoughtless and narcissistic essays over writing that chronicles the human condition, the Atlantic has commissioned Ann Patchett to throw a pity party about book tours. Look, if you’re an author and you can’t be bothered to have a bit of fun with a book tour, then you should either (a) insist on no book tours (as Denis Johnson and John Twelve Hawks have) or (b) stop bitching and moaning. Unless you suffer from Asperger’s or a Napoleon-like hubris, it takes exceptionally little skill to listen to someone and to remain patient even when a person has a predictable question that you’ve been asked four hundred times. (And besides, people are damn interesting, even when they ask obvious questions.) If you have any kind of brain, you can turn that question around into something complex and get the reader to think differently. A novel of yours from six years gets discussed? Tough titty, sweetheart. Once you’ve released the books to the public, they are no longer yours. Works you may deem greater or more significant won’t necessarily be what the audience deems greater or more significant. And what’s wrong with that? I don’t care if you’ve won the PEN/Faulkner or the Nobel. If you can’t appreciate the privilege of a literary life, then you deserve all the flack you get.

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3 Comments

  1. Pretty much every author who has ever been on an intensive book tour complains at some point about how grueling it is (and having seen a few up close now I sympathize with this) — many publicly. Like Patchett in this essay, they always follow that up with the caveat that they realize how lucky they are compared to many of their colleagues. So, I don’t see where the read of her being ungrateful is. She’s just being honest.

    But, anyway, I love Patchett’s essays, and this was no exception.

  2. It’s a piece of fluff, but I’m with Gwenda. I don’t see any ungratefulness. What’s wrong with observing that book tours are grueling and people ask silly questions (something I often/always observe when I attend author appearances)? I advise E.C. to lighten up.

  3. A larger question is: are we moving into a era with so few independent book stores that book tours are pointless? You mention Denis Johnson and John Twelve Hawks. I bet there are lots of other authors that are starting to wonder if the whole exercise is pointless.

    I went on book tour four years ago and sold about ten to twelve books in each city. It seemed like a lot of money spent for a very small benefit. If the tour leads to publicity and an interview, it makes sense. But there are too many authors sitting alone at that table.

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