14 July 2006

A Day in the Life, Part 2: She Meets a Hero

I saw T. Coraghessan Boyle last night. Heard him. Touched him. I didn’t go all five senses on him, though, (barely) restraining myself from sniffing or licking him.

T. Coraghessan was darling. Brilliant. Much more personable and charming (and taller) than I imagined. He started out talking about writing and his background and his process. He read the first chapter of Talk Talk (and did a great job reading it; not every writer can read his words well), then answered questions (keep reading for the answers to many of those questions).

I also learned how to pronounce his name: cor-RĂG-uh-son. (Mary, practice it in front of a mirror before the next visit, okay?)

He mentioned (as Rita Mae Brown once told me) that he finds it strange that his publisher rarely includes Atlanta on his book tours. This is a short tour — originally just seven cities, now expanded to thirteen — and he requested that Atlanta be among the seven.

Invisible Lizard: He wore red Chuck Taylors with his black pants, cool black T-shirt with silk-screened fish, and light blue sports coat. And the necklace he’s wearing on the Talk Talk cover.
We then queued up on the front porch of The Dump (the apartment house in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind). He signed my book, warmly shook my hand and chatted me up a bit (he chatted with every person; very cool). He loved my necklace.

The book and the necklace:


I can’t quite make out what he wrote between my name and his; I think it reads “You’re a hot little minx, aren’t you?”

My Missed Opportunity

I’m dogsitting for my sister this weekend. She was a little anxious about my getting to her place so late, so I promised her I’d be there by 9 p.m. Got in line at 8 p.m. to have my book signed, so timing was good. Or, it appears, wasn’t. Behind me was this cute farmer/artist, with long, wavy black hair and a cute personality. He chatted and flirted and blushed when he looked me in the eyes. He told me about his crops, his books, why it wasn’t raining in Marietta, his favorite breakfast spot (he’s going to keep an eye out for me, because I simply must try it), and how close his farm is to my mother’s house. I wanted (oh, God, did I want) to ask him out for a drink … but my love for my canine nephew won out, and so I left alone. And spent the rest of my evening watching that beloved dog sleep on the couch.


Because I am a writer and a student of great writing (and because I’m one huge nerd), Professor Bastard will be glad to know that I took notes during T.C.'s chat. Among the things I learned from my Authorian hero:

  • He disagrees with the basic writing adage. His writing adage: Write what you don’t know, and find something out.
  • He does not think deep thoughts all the time, only when he’s writing. If you see him walking down the street, he’s probably thinking “Kill. Screw. Eat.”
  • He usually comes up with the title of the book first.
  • He had the idea of a book about identity theft, but couldn't get started once he completed his research. Then, he had an appointment with his recently divorced dentist, who kept talking about the hot deaf woman who had been in earlier ... and Dana and the Talk Talk story were born (with a nod to the dentist in the first chapter).
  • His favorite of his novels: Water Music, his first
  • He completed East Is East in a cabin in the mountains ... wrote the last word ... went for a hike to relax ... couldn't ... and came back in to write a short story.
  • His first two novels each took three years to write. His latest, Talk Talk, took eight months (excluding research).
  • He turns in a manuscript and that's what published. A little copy editing, that's it. His editor and publisher — both of whom he's been with since college (since college!) — don't bother it. They did, however, cut Dana's novella from the end of Talk Talk; that's now running in the current McSweeney's.
  • He hasn’t watch television since 1972.
  • He was a history major until he read a Flannery O’Connor story in an English class. He then became a history/English major.
  • While attending the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he was taught by or became friends with Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and John Irving.
  • He writes every day. After he finishes the day’s writing, he reads it aloud to his (he claims, long-suffering) wife. He loves to listen to the meter of the words as they’re spoken aloud.
  • As a professor at UCLA, he teaches just 39 days out of the year.
  • His favorite writers writing today include Louise Erdrich (who doesn’t love her?) and his friend Richard Ford (who will be at the Margaret Mitchell house this fall).
  • He does not like genre fiction because it’s flatly written. There’s no dimension, no beauty of the language.

And, that, ladies and gentlemen, was the beautiful end to two crappy days.

UPDATE: Click here for an interesting post on T.C. Boyle.



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30 Comments:

At 7/14/2006 12:26:00 PM, Blogger patrick said...

do you flirt with men everywhere you go my dear?

 
At 7/14/2006 12:38:00 PM, Blogger barista brat said...

great story!

and i totally agree with him about the write what you don't know. i think acting is just the same.

i'm pretty sure sir anthony hopkins is not a cannibal, although he played one rather convincingly.

i could be wrong...

 
At 7/14/2006 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

PATRICK: No, sir, I do not. The farmer/artist started it, and I happily played along. But I do love flirting with men. It should be an Olympic sport, and I think I could score at least a bronze. I know I'd make the team.

BRAT: He was wonderful. I want to call in sick for the next week and read everything of his I've missed, and reread my favorites (East Is East and The Inner Circle). He said a volume of his teen-related stories published just for teens -- I didn't catch the title -- but it might be a good reader for you since you write to that age group.

 
At 7/14/2006 02:15:00 PM, Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

Talking to writers that can paint images with words is amazing. People with that kind of talent are mesmerizing and you can indulge whatever you need to indulge to be present.

Because, after all, isn't being present in the moment what life is all about?

That is why podcasts will never take the place of sitting on the porch with your feet proped up with a hardback book and a nice glass of something (sangria is my personal favorite).

 
At 7/14/2006 03:26:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Exactly, Keith. I'm about to hang it up for the day, open the doors (it's raining out), and sip my way through Talk Talk this evening. As it's a hot, humid night, I think I'll drink a crisp white wine.

 
At 7/14/2006 03:43:00 PM, Blogger Benny said...

Beth, great notes! I'm so jealous. I haven't been to a quality author visit in such a long time. Actually, the last author signing happened on accident- I was coffee-ing in a Barnes and Noble when my table was suddenly overrun by a horde of enthusiastic grandmothers and housewifey types. Turns out, Nora Roberts was in-store (code-red). She looked just like Tom Petty in the Don't Come Around Here No More (I mean the suit and nostrils, not the hat) and you could tell she was fed-up with answering questions about sequels.

I can't believe TCB turns something in and that's that! Damn. My WIP took 8 months to write, but it's been draft-after-draft for the past year. The Very Nice Lady has Mother Superior patience. And when she sells the sucker (fingers crossed), I hope my editor says, "Okay, Copeland. Here's what's going to happen." And sends me a pair of scissors as a gift of congratulations.

Now I need to read why your other two days were so crappy! I got behind. :-(

 
At 7/14/2006 06:52:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Benny! I didn't know you had a WIP. Do tell ...

I haven't been to a great author visit in a long time, either; maybe David Sedaris a year ago. Need to get out more often. Richard Ford is coming this fall, so I'll be sure to check him out.

 
At 7/14/2006 07:09:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Excellent notes on flirting, authoring, reacting. I've never been to an author reading/signing but should really do something about that.

 
At 7/14/2006 07:19:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

As much as you love to read, Dale, you really should. It's fascinating to hear them talk about the process and their inspiration. And it's fun to see who's a curmudgeon and who's a neat guy (like T.C.).

You should try an author flirting, too. You'd be good at that.

 
At 7/14/2006 08:10:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

Beth,
I love to listen to you or in this case read your writing when you are so excited. You have a love of life that many could learn from.

My favorite thing you wrote about TC is that he has not watched TV since 1972. We would all be smarter and more creative if we stayed away from the boob tube.

Pet the dog for me and say hello to your cats.

 
At 7/14/2006 08:41:00 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Sounds like you couldn't come up with a better way to end your bad streak. Sounds marvalous, I'm very jealous!

 
At 7/14/2006 10:18:00 PM, Anonymous DJ Cayenne said...

Beth, I am very jealous of your literary experience. I tried to go (wrong day) and had already made another commitment for the correct day (don't ask). Thanks for the detail.

 
At 7/15/2006 02:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's wrong with flirting with every guy (or at least, every farmer) you meet?

 
At 7/15/2006 07:19:00 AM, Blogger Invisible Lizard said...

He left me the same cryptic scrawl in my copy of Drop City. You can see it here. If you ever figure out what it is, let me know.

 
At 7/15/2006 08:08:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

It looks like CNN Amistad. That can't be right.

 
At 7/15/2006 11:01:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Con amistad is Spanish for in friendship. I prefer the hot minx translation, though.

 
At 7/15/2006 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

RANDY: Thank you; that's the nicest thing I've read in days. And Hobo's head has received the Randy pat.

BILL: It was s'wonderful, s'marvelous.

DJ CAYENNE: I know where you were. We'll not speak of it again ... although I'm dying to know how it was.

ANONYMOUS: Thanks for your support, my doppelganger.

INVISIBLE LIZARD/DALE: Please read the above comment.

 
At 7/15/2006 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous HollyC said...

I'm checking the on line catalog for the Dawson Co library for this author, will keep you posted

 
At 7/15/2006 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I have lots of T.C.'s stuff I can loan you, too. I've always loved his work.

 
At 7/16/2006 01:56:00 AM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Sounds like it was big fun!

"He disagrees with the basic writing adage. His writing adage: Write what you don’t know, and find something out."

I avidly agree, it is the only way to break out of a rut.

 
At 7/16/2006 06:30:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Write Procrastinator: One of the best author talks I've been to in years. I'm going to try that adage this summer ...

 
At 7/16/2006 12:39:00 PM, Blogger kfluff said...

Hi Beth--Just found your blog. What a trove! I'm so glad to see someone else swoon over Boyle. I know I should be taken aback by "Kill. Screw. Eat." Instead, I'm charmed. Thanks for the great details!

 
At 7/16/2006 06:28:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

kluff, T.C. (or, as we friends call him, Tom) was just wonderful. Much more charming that I imagined. Quirky, funny, animated, happy. Inspired me to focus on my own writing.

I hope you come back; I'm on my way to check out your blog.

 
At 7/16/2006 08:20:00 PM, Anonymous benny said...

I have a WIP. It's a "literary novel" that will only find its way to readers if I send them free copies. It's about sex, mostly. ;-)

 
At 7/16/2006 08:21:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

BENNY: I'd love to read it, especially after reading your posts and literary references. And I love sex. I'll even pay for it (your WIP, not sex). cup_coffey@yahoo.com

 
At 7/16/2006 08:32:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Beth, Did I mention how great that necklace is laying just above the hot minx inscription? Meant to. Har har.

 
At 7/16/2006 08:37:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Thank you, Dale. You are a man of impeccible taste. It's good to know that there are still a couple of you around ... even if you are in another country. Go Canada!

 
At 7/18/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger Benny said...

Beth! Ha! I'm not sending free copies till it's in book form. It's too embarassing this early in the game.

But you should try that line on the next hot guy you get in front of while waiting to get a book signed by your favorite author. Because I'm sure HE'S got a WIP. Everyone does, you know. ;-)

 
At 8/19/2006 11:23:00 AM, Blogger The Palate said...

dear beth,

what a great followup post. i have never seen such great notes before from anyone who's attended one of T.'s signings and i definitely will be linking to it shortly on the "Restore Coraghessan Campaign" blog.

and just for the record, he has watched TV since 1972, it's just been sports-only television (baseball, football, hoops). he just doesn't like to admit it! ;-)

p.s. love the necklace, too!

 
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