Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Legend of Approachably Reclusive, What It is and How It Came to Be
There's an excruciatingly wonderful local bookstore here in Denver, Who Else? Books, which is part of the Broadway Book Mall (an institution founded on the principle that a dozen book stores can easily share one space and one cash register, an insight that I wish many more book stores would catch on to for their continued survival). I hardly ever go in there, but when I have a new book coming out, it's Ron and Nina Else that I alert to the fact, and it's their store where I tend to do readings, signings, and all the other odd Ritual Dances of Attracting the Money Fairy that writers do.
For the last few years, whenever she's announced an event that involves me, Nina has used expressions like "somewhat reclusive," "semi-reclusive," "kind of reclusive," and so on. The most recent one, though, was my favorite: "approachably reclusive."
What she means, I think, is that when I do show up, I like hanging around and talking with people. Enough dedicated fans turn up to see me read that the activity seems to be worthwhile for all of us (or maybe they are just curious whether anyone who writes like that can actually sign his name, or remember to hold the book right side up?), and I usually enjoy visiting with them and hanging around, though I'm a pretty dull guy in real life, and often find that once we're in a personal conversation, my readers are more interesting to me than I am to them.
I don't think that's false modesty; they're always seeing things in my books that I didn't know I'd put in, or taking off on tangents more interesting than anything I'd thought of, and I seem to pull in readers from eccentric backgrounds with interesting personal stories.
The rest of the crowd, usually, is my friends (and some of them are now relatives, since I recently married into a large family of people who read), and only a few of my friends are writers (many of them don't read much). I acquired them over the decades from school, work, or church, or living down the hall, from dating their sisters or joining a volunteer political organization with them, and about all they have in common with each other is that I like their company. Usually after the reading part, if I can, I like to circulate and introduce new people to each other – too many interesting people in the world have not met – and do all that meet and greet stuff.
Then I go to a nearby pizza place, consume a couple glasses of wine and half a pizza, go to bed early, and avoid seeing anybody other than family for a couple days to recover. For me, a big dose of people demands huge amounts of energy, especially interacting with them – I find performing much easier, and am much less drained when I speak, sing, or act for a crowd of a thousand than when I spend an afternoon in the bar making conversation with five people I don't know.
So there you have it. Approachably reclusive. I have a large circle of friends and a biggish family and hardly any of them have any interest in, or anything to do with, books, science fiction, marketing research, theatre, or anything else I do professionally. Hey, my grandfather was an enameler in a bathtub plant, and a man with seemingly millions of friends (at least from what I remember, trailing behind him to social events when I was very small), and I don't remember him ever talking about bathtubs or enamel. I'll talk but prepare for it to be dull.
I love getting mail, though, and although I'm a highly unpredictable correspondent, I usually write back, though in some cases it can take disgracefully long periods of time.
So, here we are:
•An invitation to occasional correspondence about almost anything, even writing and books. (I'm not activating comments because I am unwilling to spend time and energy on making you all play nice with each other, defending what I happen to say so as not to appear to endorse your silly objections by silence, or responding to anything promptly. I'll try to do occasional mailbag roundups whenever enough material has come in that I think is interesting, and I feel like doing that instead of working).
•A bit of that self-promotion that all us writer types are supposed to do constantly nowadays. (I just wish I had a self to promote, as that would doubtless make it easier; my consciousness resembles a meditating monk with severe monkey mind, except without the monk). There'll be a pointer over in the sidebar or somewhere to tell you where to buy stuff connected with me, and I'll mention things as they become available, but I figure we can stay fairly commercial-free here.
•A sort of central clearinghouse for my other more specialized blogs; I intend to develop a few other projects by blogging them (in some cases with comments turned on), and I'll refer to those here as I start them. I'm thinking something about massaging data and analytics/metrics, a couple book projects that I'll probably develop interactively on line, and something or other about the book-doctoring work I've done as a sideline for many years. "Approachably Reclusive" is where you'll find pointers to all that.